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Ice-Pick Lodge forums • Counter shading concealment
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PostPosted: 03 Dec 2007, 01:11 
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I noticed a very interesting technique being used in Pathologic. In my study of biology it is called the "principle of counter shading concealment". It is also used in military applications but its use in a game is almost unique.

Counter shading concealment is a form of camouflage. The idea is that if the difference between two parts of a creature is greater than the difference between the creature and its background, then the parts of the creature become disconnected and hard to detect.

One example in Pathologic is the use of the mixture of a 3d face and a second photograph during dialogue interactions. Here two very different images of the same face are presented, producing a strong contrast inside of the game.

A second example exists in the form of the two church ruins and the spiral. During most of pathologic there is a sense of almost ordinary realism. Yet standing out in the open from the beginning there are these structures which are treated as ordinary and yet do not obey the laws of physics.

Instead of analyzing (and questioning) how the game portrays its subject matter we are unable to make any assumptions about what the game designers were thinking.

The difference between these two realities (or faces etc.) inside the game is greater than the difference between the real world and the game.

So that ultimately, instead of damaging immersion, the contrast inside of the game forces the player to accept the game's world as real and legitimate in its own right.


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PostPosted: 04 Dec 2007, 05:02 
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I can't respond with anything as deep or eloquent as that, but I'm interested by your thoughts.

I was also interested by the use of the photograph alongside the animated model for each character. Both are representations of the character; one is a real live person (an actor or model) pretending to be that character. The other is a digitally-created approximation of how that character should look. I think there's a choice as to which one you believe to be closer to the 'real person' and I generally choose the animated version. Strangely, the photograph seems more 'fake' because it's not part of the virtual world and I find it kind of hard to get away from the idea of the actor posing for that photograph. This is kind of interesting because I actually have thoughts about the actor, sometimes: Who are they? What brought them to this project? What did they think about what they were doing (posing for the photo)? Did they have an idea about the character they were portraying?

And of course the contrast between the photograph and the 3D model is perfect for Pathologic's ideas about what is real and fake, as elaborated on in the game.

Another thing I find interesting is how our imagination fills in the gaps that are left by the game's limitations... We compensate for things that are obviously artificial, making them more real in our minds. Like the fact that every factory worker looks the same; every kid (within each of four types) looks exactly the same. Yet our imagination can deal with this: We can still think of them as individuals and 'real' in some way at the exact same time as recognising each of them as a 'type' who can mend our in-game weapons, or trade bullets for needles.

(Note: It's late at night! I hope this post made some kind of sense :lol: )


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PostPosted: 12 Dec 2007, 06:48 
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I don't know about deep or eloquent, on my part - but thanks!

Yes, you are making a great deal of sense.

Thats the exact idea. The key is to get the mind to compensate, to convince the player to believe and create a vision alongside the actual one created by the game designers.

I also found that I imagined the game character to be the real one and the photograph as the "representation" (false image) of them. It is interesting how we tend to side with the game instead of reality. If it was the other way it wouldn't work.

I find your other observation quite interesting, I never imagined what the actors must have thought. If the actors and the NPCs could meet...what would both of them think. It makes one imagine a real, thinking, entity behind them. This had never occurred to me before.

What was your initial response to the spire and the churches?


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PostPosted: 12 Dec 2007, 21:11 
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What was your initial response to the spire and the churches?
I remember being excited as I climbed the stairs for the first time (on the Polyhedron and the 'stairways to nowhere'). They are certainly interesting (and gravity-defying) buildings. I think I was more struck and intrigued by the looming domes of the Abattoir, though.


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PostPosted: 12 Mar 2008, 03:38 
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And I remember falling from the stairs while climbing as my computer froze for a couple of seconds and wasting 15 minutes to get back there. Pretty much killed the excitement when I was playing first-time.

Now it feels differently. I feel like I am missing too many pieces of a brilliant puzzle. And it is beyond the stupid translation (dude, do these translation agencies only hire idiots!?)

It feels like going to the Theatre at midnight, right after the day is up, to watch a pantomime (haven't been in a theatre for years now, kind of sad I am going to the opera way more often).

It feels like walking through the Adherents 10 times a day hoping to get a new hint or - Oh, Dear! - a quest you miraculously missed before, anything to get a little bit more out of the game before it ends.

It feels like replaying the side quests numerous times just to see if and how they affect the events on the next days.

It feels like meeting the real people behind Vlad, Maria, Yulia (couldn't type a J, I apologise), Saburov, talk to them, get to know them and feel a special warmth by that.

It feels like building something like the Polyhedron, something in my field, but based on the same principles. Everyone who creates things would love to create something beautiful. I can only say that for one thing I have written and people fail miserably to get to its depth.

I envy you.

Nope, this is inaccurate.

I admire and applaud the ability to create something this different and complete.
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PostPosted: 12 Mar 2008, 08:42 
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Please check out the next Ice-Pick Lodge project: Tension. I am sure you'll like it as much as Pathologic... and maybe more than.
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Last edited by Firanve on 12 Mar 2008, 20:03, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 12 Mar 2008, 12:45 
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Checked out already, can't wait to play it. On the other hand thinking over some contribution to the story of Limpha which touched me big time.
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PostPosted: 30 Mar 2008, 20:08 
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I find both your thoughts very interesting, although I digress concerning the children/workers/murderers, they don't feel real to me at all, just a means to an end. Some are a threat I can't do nothing about except confront and then live with, and some I have to talk to because I need to survive.

I did look at the photographs quite often, sometimes I even had conversations with the quotes on instead of the animated character, it was like the game could become real if I only ignored what my senses were telling me and just saw the form, not the content.


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PostPosted: 09 Sep 2008, 01:03 
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Awe to the thread author. You've made such a deep analysis, I never even noticed that the game actually forced me to take its enviromental disorders for real. But I think, it's not that bad after all and we must give our gratitude to the designers that were able to deliver such consistent setting combined of real, subreal and unreal elements to the audience where one would never question why this building or photo or whatever is there, nothing seems put of the place, unlike, for example, the reactor at the very center of Pripyat in CoD 4.

The more I visit these forums the closer I'm to the idea that the westerners are really different from us in terms of perception. I usually try to take the picture as a whole, but foreigners tend to gradually build it step by step often pointing out very peculiar details. Good job.
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PostPosted: 13 Sep 2008, 23:39 
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I usually try to take the picture as a whole, but foreigners tend to gradually build it step by step often pointing out very peculiar details. Good job.
Then part of the Russian forum theorists are definitely amongst some of these, you know, western people. Their discussions are sooo in-depth, some dismemberment being usually involved.


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PostPosted: 13 Sep 2008, 23:56 
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Another thing that's totally out of place but which I only noticed now that I'm halfway through the third scenario!

The rats only chase YOU! The infected clouds only 'get activated' when YOU walk by!

As somebody above stated - when isolated, this is strange... but the whole game as a "package", as its own "reality" makes perfect sense and you don't really question the townspeople who look the same or the infected clouds.

P.S.: No, really, is it just me who found the rats more annoying than the clouds and the 'zombies'?? I swear I start shrieking whenever I see one and run like hell to the next store. Annoying *****!


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PostPosted: 14 Sep 2008, 00:07 
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I did look at the photographs quite often, sometimes I even had conversations with the quotes on instead of the animated character, it was like the game could become real if I only ignored what my senses were telling me and just saw the form, not the content.
Totally forgot that I actually wanted to reply to your post in the first place... Not sure if I got that right, but I think I do something similar.

When first playing the game, I simply focused on the 3D avatars of the characters while reading the conversation. But when I found myself 'pulled into' the story, I imagined them a bit more like the real photograph. I mean, they were still 3D models, but they looked like/represented the people in the photograph. It's kind of hard to explain.

Also, without realizing it, I adopted a voice for each of them, so while reading the conversation, I hear it in my mind in that particular voice I assigned to each character. So far, the most interesting are Saburov (a coarse, Godfather-like voice:D), Laska (quiet, soft and a bit sad voice) and Anna Angel (smartass-ish, but a bit paranoid).


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PostPosted: 14 Sep 2008, 02:12 
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So far, the most interesting are Saburov (a coarse, Godfather-like voice:D), Laska (quiet, soft and a bit sad voice) and Anna Angel (smartass-ish, but a bit paranoid).
Saburov sounds like Marlon Brando in your head? Excellent :D


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PostPosted: 17 Sep 2008, 14:24 
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Younger Vlad comes out a bit dracula-ish in my mind. ^^
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PostPosted: 13 Feb 2009, 07:41 
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Interesting comments, everyone.
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Awe to the thread author. You've made such a deep analysis, I never even noticed that the game actually forced me to take its enviromental disorders for real. But I think, it's not that bad after all and we must give our gratitude to the designers that were able to deliver such consistent setting combined of real, subreal and unreal elements to the audience where one would never question why this building or photo or whatever is there, nothing seems put of the place, unlike, for example, the reactor at the very center of Pripyat in CoD 4.

The more I visit these forums the closer I'm to the idea that the westerners are really different from us in terms of perception. I usually try to take the picture as a whole, but foreigners tend to gradually build it step by step often pointing out very peculiar details. Good job.
:oops: Thanks.

I find your comment about westerners very interesting. I've sometimes suspected that there may be some differences in worldview among those from further "east".

Of course, any society has a diversity of people and any large society has a diversity of cultures, all of which will have their own ways of interpreting the world, of knitting it together into a coherent whole or pulling it apart. But, I still suspect that there are always some people who are culturally prone to thinking in ways that few people in another culture would easily find (or "think to think of" so to speak).

I was thinking some more about this: Some Russian authors (thinking Dostoevsky and some Strugatsky brothers) have at least a few scenes where there is a great synthetic moment, when the meanings behind symbolism and the meanings behind the world seem to lose their distinctiveness and overlap. Its an interesting literary technique that I've only scene in a few places (eg. chapter eight of "the ugly swans").

The results can differ somewhat: A character and the things which they represent (class, role, philosophy) can become indistinguishable representatives of each other, or signs of an underlying reality can emerge which seemingly hides behind everything and isn't often clear, but which can be seen to tie past and future events together into some kind of pattern.

I think that is something which fascinated me about Pathoflogic: the world pathologic presents is a much more consistent world (in art and structure), despite its seeming contradictions, whether they be conflicts of physics, characters or plot ideas. Many differences exist but the sum of all of the differences is one unified whole - even when that whole should seem to be impossible to reconcile.

I think your observation may really have something behind it. All societies tell stories, sometimes for amusement, but they also often carry messages about the role of humanity and ways of interpreting the world.

Thank you for expanding the idea. If you have any more thoughts about Western Europeans, let me know. (I'm part Aboriginal and I've been trying to understand what makes them tick for some time (they're an odd bunch). Perhaps its because I've grown up around them that its a bit hard to figure out.)


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