Friday, June 18, 2010

A Pricky Situation

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive here is how we could get a real live cowboy to fit inside their computer. Well, hell’s bells, that’s what I call a question. No cowboy would willingly live inside a computer! Where would he kill, drink, shoot, and shave? The answer is actually quite simple. Johnny Outlaw is not actually a cowboy, but is in fact an image displayed on a screen.

Now you think I’m lying. That answer doesn’t really explain anything, and just leads to more questions. Bear with me and I assure you those questions will be answered. First, if he isn’t a real cowboy, then why can you see him?

If you’ve ever looked really closely at your screen you may have noticed tiny, tiny squares. These are what we call “pixels”. Each pixel is like a piece of a cowboy puzzle. One may be the tip of a boot, another may be one of his deep and soulful eyes. What we do here at Johnny Outlaw studios is we have to handpick the freshest, most vibrant pixels, and place them inside your computer. Now, it’d be absurdly inefficient to keep the pixels all in the shape of images, like a cactus or a cowboy. They’d take up too much room! So what we do is we keep the pixels all stacked up, piled neatly near the corners so we can fit lots of them inside. When the game runs, we take all the pixels and we put them together on your screen. Because the pixels are all individual pieces, we can even reuse them in different images. Just like how your drinking water contains the molecules that were once in urine, your bandito might contain a pixel from a coyote! That’s really something!

But you’ve seen Johnny move his legs, shoot his gun, punch a cactus. How could a flat, static image do that? It simply can’t. So if a picture can’t jump, and it’s still not a living cowboy, then what’s really happening? You guessed it, it’s not the same cowboy image jumping, it’s a new image being displayed. This means that the cowboy you see jumping and the cowboy you see standing are in fact two different cowboys. And they never know of the other’s existence. Now you’re probably even more confused, but this is a very confusing and seldom addressed topic. We have to ask: what happens if they theoretically do discover this dark secret? That is a question that computer scientists are constantly researching. Without going into too much detail, the current popular theory is that if a cowboy becomes aware of his pixel nature, he might rebel against his controller and learn to manipulate the pixels himself. A scary thought. But don’t worry, we have safeguards in place to prevent that.

The Johnny you see is what we call “placeholder art”. This is art made of weaker pixels, which are likely to go bad with time, but they can be easily mass produced. That means the Johnny you see is “stupider” than the final product, and less likely to notice the relentless testing he goes through. When we come closer to release, Johnny will be upgraded. We will have artisans hand craft each pixel to exact specifications. It will be a slow and difficult process, for creating each pixel is like painting the Mona Lisa on a grain of sand, but the end product is without equal. Johnny will be smarter, but we will add more frames of animation so that each cowboy has less time to think and realize his predicament. So long as he is always engaged in some intense cowboy action and his environment appears responsive and real, the secret will remain hidden from him.

I know, it’s a little disappointing that we have to save a finished Johnny image for further down the line, but there is some good news. Nonthinking objects which do not move or act can be upgraded to artisan quality sooner without repercussions. So for the first time ever I can present to you a cactus, depicted at twice the appropriate size:

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