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IndieCade:  Canabalt 's Adam Saltsman's Pursuit of the Infinite

IndieCade: Canabalt's Adam Saltsman's Pursuit of the Infinite

October 10, 2011 | By Mathew Kumar

October 10, 2011 | By Mathew Kumar
More: Indie, Design

As part of IndieCade in Culver City, CA, Semi Secret Software's Adam Saltsman (Canabalt) discussed his "exploration and pursuit of the infinite" through his game and game tool development.

Introducing "TUDs," Saltsman's concept of a unit for measuring "Time Until Death," Saltsman discussed the question of if the things we consume and create are a "good use of TUDs."

"One way that I think we can be really respectful of our time is to use these TUDs to pursue and explore the infinite, because TUDs are finite. But what the hell does that mean?" he asked.

Saltsman described one of his own main attempts to be working on Flixel, his open-source game development library for Flash.

"I think it's kind of weird to think of your framework as a creative work itself," he said, before describing that at IndieCade he had already met three people who had created their first game in Flixel and were continuing to pursue game development.

"These ripples of influence are really cool," he continued. "There's this tool called Stencyl which is being seen as a true competitor to GameMaker, and Stencyl is built on Flixel. So if Flixel was a stone dropped in a pond, instead of just rippling out, it's also causing other stones to drop in and create their own ripples."

Saltsman continued on to give some examples of "infinite things" that game developers could challenge themselves to explore, such as "decay and entropy."

"This is kind of opposed to the classical idea of games, that they are repeatable and that you can always play them the same way, but I think decay and entropy are things that are really important and affect us all personally; everything changes, we are all going to die... tomorrow is going to be profoundly different from today."

He noted, however, that he was hoping for developers to push it "way beyond weeds growing in Animal Crossing."

"There are some games that do this," he said. "I think Dwarf Fortress is really about decay and entropy, and there's actually a tabletop game that tries to deal with it called Risk: Legacy, where the rules actually permanently change the game board, cards and rules."

"I think that's really cool and a good way to use some of my TUDs left, because it's a way for me to contemplate that aspect of the infinite."

He did however warn that developers should be aware of the player's part in this, referencing Duchamp's concept of transference.

"Once your work is created, you no longer assign the meaning to it; you played your role," he said. "The meaning that is assigned to it is ultimately not assigned by you, it's assigned by the audience, the people who consume it and will spend more time with it than you did. You have to let go at some point."

However, he continued, "I'll spend the rest of my time I have left before I die chasing after these things that are infinite, and even if people don't end up assigning meaning to it, at least I will have created things that stand in opposition to our finite time left here as opposed to generating big piles of money or something."

Saltsman concluded, "If there's a final message at all, it's not a request or a mandate or anything, it's that I'm going to keep going after this stuff because it feels not only like a good use of my time, but a really respectful use of everyone else's."

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