Deathmapping: Just Cause 2′s 11m Casualties

By Alec Meer on May 27th, 2011 at 11:30 am.

Someone needs to redub it with Kanye's All Of The Lights

This is extraordinary – a cartographic depiction of player deaths in Just Cause 2, creating a beauteous terrain map composed only of light-points. Each point represents one of 11 million fatalities caused by impact with terrain or objects. It’s a god’s-eye view of gaming.

As well as being a strange, mesmerising fusion of science and accidental art, it coaxes me into a wistful mood – when I played Just Cause 2, it was my experience, and a satisfyingly solitary one of exploration and carnage. But on PCs and consoles the world over, others experienced something very similar. Every corner I turned around would, somewhere, feature a player death: ghosts everywhere, an endless dance of death all around me as I blindly, selfishly staggered on my own disaster-strewn journey.

Edit – Teddy Leach spots my alt-text and does The Right Thing.

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97 Comments »

  1. pakoito says:

    That 11M on the title is a bad word choice :P I had to actually read the article to understand it was 11 millions and not 11 of March 2004 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Madrid_train_bombings)

    • gorgol says:

      Indeed.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Apologies if it caused offence, but we don’t write dates in that way in the UK (or in the US, so far as I know) so it’s extremely unlikely to trigger that association in the vast majority of our readers.

    • CMaster says:

      I’ve never seen dates written that way. Where is it common practice?

    • gorgol says:

      Its not common practice to write dates that way anywhere as far as I know. But in Spain at least its common practice to remember important dates by the day number and the first letter of the month, at least recently. For example September the 11th is referred to as 11S, and the 15th of May (the day in which the demonstartions started in Spain this year) is referred to as 15M.

      EDIT: no offence was caused to me btw, especially now that I know that you were unaware. But it was an unfortunate choice of word for Spanish people at least.

    • CMaster says:

      Interesting, and not especially insensible.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      What happens if something happens on the 15th of March, and then something happens on the 15th of May?

    • gorgol says:

      Teddy,

      I agree its not a particularly smart way to refer to dates, and I don’t approve of it. But the Spanish media incessantly refers to important dates by such acronymns. Don’t know why to be honest.

      The point remains however that Spanish readers will likely refer to that rather than 11 million. Just sayin’.

      EDIT: maybe you’ll be doing Spanish people a favour by keeping the title as it is actually, by highlighting how silly that convention is.

    • pakoito says:

      I’m not offended or anything, just pointed out so you just knew because it was not very probable people outside Spain is aware.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      I’ve always thought it a pretty stylish way of naming important dates. And I’d only have noticed it if you’d written 11-M, but I’m not proper Spanish.

    • Zanchito says:

      I’m spanish and I didn’t think of the date interpretation until I read the comments. RPS being a mainly british site I expect [number]m to always refer to quantities. Also, not offended in the slightest, there was clearly no intent, and most surely those events aren’t in the mind of foreing people (hell, they aren’t even in our minds all that much unless it’s elections time, when political parties use it as a weapon to throw at each other, or in March itself, when the media uses it to boost sales. Now, THAT I find disgusting.)

    • Tams80 says:

      While I respect the use of such a dating system, I don’t see why those who don’t use it should be made to feel guilty (not that that was the intent). I think the use of ‘m’ to represent millions is a far more common convention.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      Yes, yes. He was just pointing out the coincidence, and everyone’s said how unoffended they are.

      Gorgol: Is it that recent? The earliest one I can think of is 23-F, and that was nearly thirty years ago. Or is that a new name?

      (I adore how off-topic this all is. The death-map is cool too.)

    • The Infamous Woodchuck says:

      its funny to see you guys argue over something like this. and it appears that daniel is the fisrt one to noticed that this is very, very off topic :)

    • gorgol says:

      Woodchuck,

      Who’s arguing?

      Since when did RPS comment threads not go off-topic in places?

    • Zaboomafoozarg says:

      This, in part, is why Spain has been a non-factor since the 17th century. It’s that date format.

    • Felixader says:

      @Zaboomafoozarg: I doubt this is the reason. There are big countrys with even more confusing conventions regardings dates.

    • Lukey__b says:

      I find you all offensively inoffensive.

      In the NHS it is common shorthand of saying 11 months. I think this is being phased out to save money though.

    • Araxiel says:

      I thought the “11m” stands for “11 meters”. So this is about casualties that occured by people that fell from the height of 11 meters or that whre killed while being exaclty 11 meters high in the air.

      Yes, we Germans and our silly, silly metric system.

  2. Teddy Leach says:

    Ah, I saw this yesterday. Pretty incredible, really.

    EDIT: Done, my alt-text master: http://tubedubber.com/#hEoxaGkNcrg:HAfFfqiYLp0:0:100:0:0:true

  3. Richie Shoemaker says:

    I can sense that “deathmapping” is going to catch on, both as a phrase and a process. EVE has been doing it for years via the in-game map of course, but it’s never had much impact beyond offering fly-through warnings.

    • G_Man_007 says:

      “You were Death-mapped by that cheeky sod over there!”

      I can see that catching on too.

    • hotcod says:

      TF2 did this and actually used it to inform future level design if I remember right.

    • YeOldeSnake says:

      Brink also did this and Hydrophobia : Prophecy has taken it to the next level

    • dr_demento says:

      Bungie have been using it for map design since Halo 1, and their website lets you view interactive heatmaps for Halo 3 and Reach. I’ve never found them very useful but they are pretty!

  4. McDan says:

    Oh my word, that’s so pretty. For something composed of millions dying of course.

  5. westyfield says:

    TF2 did something similar, showing where chokepoints or lines-of-sight for snipers were. It was very interesting, as was Just Cause 2′s.

  6. DeanLearner says:

    It’s… well…. I…

    I love you guys, I don’t think I say it enough.

  7. Scatterbrainpaul says:

    If only this game had co-op, would probably be in my top ten games of the decade

    • gorgol says:

      I was thinking something similar. First time I hear about the game and I thought, must be some game to produce such an interesting deathmap, and on Googling it I found that its a action sandbox game. Just up my street I thought, but only of course if it has multiplayer, or more psecifically in my case, PvP. The game seems to beg for that, but doesn’t have it. What a shame.

    • Scatterbrainpaul says:

      Just did a quick google, and some people were working on a multiplayer mod, but there’s been no update on that for a year

    • iviv says:

      I’m pretty sure they got Cease and Desisted :(

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Mercenaries 2. Err, not that its playable anymore. And it didn’t have a parachute. But it was great.

      Also: chicken suits.

  8. stillwater says:

    I don’t get it. I finished Just Cause 2, yet barely ever remember dying by falling onto or hitting something. Did these 11 million players not realise that there’s a parachute?

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      Christian says:

      Or maybe you just don’t like experimenting and fooling around that much (in the game)?
      Most of my accidents in the game simply happened because I tried to do something and failed horribly (though failing to do something can be such fun in this game).

    • westyfield says:

      Pretty sure that vehicle collisions resulting in death also count, e.g. flying a plane into the side of a bridge.

    • propjoe says:

      The game made it difficult to trigger the parachute while being hurled from a motorcycle, and that happened to me a lot.

  9. Sinnorfin says:

    where they got the data from? the game communicating death event towards them?

    Looks nice however, but also kinda hard to believe its that evenly spread..especially with the cranes and bridge cables..

    • Iokanaan says:

      indeed, I guess they cosmetically enhanced the data. or they’re just bloody good level designers, and knew in advance how every side and rim of every building was inevitably attractive for kamikaze actions.
      I also have slight ethical problems with this. oh, what sad times are these when game developing ruffians can gather information at will of player’s lonesome rites.

    • Premium User Badge

      QuantaCat says:

      I think the player deaths just illuminate the underlying level. So more deaths, more light. I doubt there were so many deaths on the exact place as the roads are.

      Or its more like 11 billion.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I’m guessing a lot of the ones on bridge supports etc. are from the missions where you have to fly a fast plane, far too close to the ground, or indeed, under the bridge.
      Most times I tried those missions it usually ended in KERBLAMMO!

  10. Cal_74 says:

    Call me old-fashioned paranoiac but, if those death statistics are taken from single player games, I still have difficulties to find normal that companies are sneaking over my shoulder to constantly record what I do during my play-time.

    It reminds me of the statistics given by Bioware for Mass Effect. All the comments where about the stats regarding the gender of the character or the skipped dialogs but it seems that no one bothered that they just got such statistics at all.

    And I’ve got difficulties to follow the idea that the objective of such practices is to provide “better user experience” for the next projects since this information is more often used by the marketing department than by the creative team.

    • Premium User Badge

      Christian says:

      Hmm…nearly my thoughts.

      This data can be perfectly used to determine where best to show ads for example: “Hey, 50% of players fell down this mountain and landed on that spot. Let’s lace an ad for trampolines there” or something like that. Add an option to buy in-game-stuff in there and you’ve got yourself every marketing-guy’s dream.

    • deadlock says:

      In-game trampolines like?

    • Consumatopia says:

      I forsee prosecutors requesting a subpoena from video game developers so they can show the jury all the stuff the accused likes to do in video games.

      Certainly if I were selling health or life insurance I’d pay to get this data.

    • MiniMatt says:

      Oh crap, you’re right. My big brother sense was already all a tingle but I can see prosecutors (and the Daily Mail) having a field day with stats gathered. Anyone else here nuke Megaton in Fallout 3? I’m not sure if “it was my evil playthrough” is going to be a sufficient excuse for nuclear terrorism, genocidal rampages through various fantasy villages and decapitating children “just to see if I could or if the designers had wimped out and made everyone under four foot tall immortal”…

    • Hallgrim says:

      Oh my, what a wonderful way to provide evidence of someones “insanity”.

      “Your honor, I have here in my hands, evidence of the defendant’s dangerous psychosis!”
      *holds up Grand Theft Auto logs*

    • Consumatopia says:

      Further down the road I forsee a gamified version of the trap O’Brien laid for Winston and Julia. Achievement unlocked! Denounced the Party and sworn allegiance to the Brotherhood!

  11. Premium User Badge

    DavidK says:

    What an amazing thing.

  12. Premium User Badge

    mrwonko says:

    I like how the roads are clearly visible due to traffic accidents :D

  13. Vivian says:

    Skeptical. Enough people died on the side of buildings to make perfect, even shading of the silhouette? Oh yeah as Sinnorfin alread said.

    • Salt says:

      I assume planes crashing into buildings counts towards “death by collision with geometry”, which would help account for things like the side of buildings and suspension bridge cables.

      Probably the majority of my deaths in Just Cause 2 were from doing silly things in planes.

    • Phoshi says:

      I think all of my deaths are from crashing into things with planes, or at least all of the deaths after I realised how hilariously easy it was to get around by slingshotting.
      I have to admit I don’t particularly like the way every plane explodes killing me instantly if I clip the edge of the wing, but still.

    • Orvidos says:

      That’s what I actually find fascinating about this. To start with, it proves that sandbox players (myself included) are a bunch of moths-to-light type people.
      As for the major buildings in the game being well covered, I think that can be proved as actual for a few reasons, but the main “proof” would probably be the Casino. If you look at the title picture for the article, notice how it’s a lot thicker on the inner sides of the two towers? How many people do you think have tried to get a passenger plane through there, or do some tricky maneuver with various aircraft?
      Just that moths to flame thing again, I think. Still really fascinating, since things like the giant cell tower on the mountain are absolutely lit up.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    Sorry to pull the this card again, but this reminds me of the bloodstains you find while playing Demon’s Souls online that record the last moments of players and then broadcast them to the game of every other online player.

  15. Koozer says:

    I love the huge white splodges underneath the airship and the radio telescope. Ah, memories.

  16. Grinnbarr says:

    Also it may have just been me but did you notice the right balloon on the Mile High Club had more deaths than the left one (looking in direction of travel of the balloon). Maybe something about fast travelling there puts you above that balloon?

    • Persona Jet Rev says:

      I didn’t even know about the Mile High Club until I saw the video. I saw the contours and wondered “is that a zeppelin?” and it indeed is. And to top it off, it has an on-board disco and landing strip.

      Just Cause 2 has risen 12.8 points on my awesome scale, positioned now just slightly below actual zeppelins.

  17. Brumisator says:

    Pfft, pansies. I didn’T die once in Just Cause 2.

    that’s right, I used Godmode all the way through, the game is much more fun that way.

  18. F4T C4T says:

    I’d love to see a Super Meat Boy style replay of all these deaths.

    • Zelius says:

      That number would be incalculable. It would be like dividing by zero.

  19. obvioustroll says:

    They know exactly where I’ve died in the game? Am I the only one a little bit unnerved by this?

    *eyes everyone suspiciously*

    • D says:

      More likely they know that your IP has played the game, and that someone has died all the places that you did, but they aren’t allowed to connect your IP to those deaths. It’s anonymous usage statistics.

  20. banski83 says:

    Can anyone tell me what the name of the music track is they’ve used in this video? It’s beautifully haunting, very relaxing.

    Anyone know what it’s called?

    • DdCno1 says:

      I used a number of music-recognition sites and apps, but they all don’t know this one.

      I guess the music was composed by an in-house composer.

  21. Eidolon94 says:

    I just love how the Mile High Club and the ground beneath it is lit up like a christmas tree.

  22. Balm says:

    I don’t belive it.

  23. cheborra says:

    It would be interesting to include this view in-game

  24. Novotny says:

    I’ve often thought that given the span of history, we are surrounded by places that people died – particularly those of us who live in cities that have been active human settlements for millennia. How many people died, or made love, or give birth, within 10 metres of you in the last 20,000 years?

  25. Premium User Badge

    Fitzmogwai says:

    Ah, the faint scatter of deaths at the top of the sky from all those daredevil people who leapt from jet planes at maximum altitude and died instantly. Aeronauts – I salute you!

  26. Soon says:

    I work with point clouds all the time. Now I’ll be imagining each point marks the site of a grisly death. Although, considering some clients, that could cheer me up.

  27. Ricc says:

    It says the video has been done using Processing. Sweet. It’s an easy to use “sketchbook / IDE” that was meant for digital art and artists, that are not into hardcore programming, but want to make something with their computer that looks awesome.
    I recommend giving http://www.processing.org a look for everybody with a casual interest in programming and digital art. Even interactive things. I used it to make a Minesweeper clone quite easily. :)

  28. Dervish says:

    I found this rather frustrating to watch. I want to see zoomed-in views that show me what some of these strange-looking shapes are so I can speculate on the apparent patterns. “Hey if you map all the player deaths you get a rough outline of the level geometry” is not that interesting by itself.

    I suppose you can make out some obvious trends like the Mile High Club ground splotch, as other have said.

  29. scut says:

    Can we pleeeeeease get games that look like this?

    It would be so cool if Subversion implemented something like this for analysing data.

  30. Moonracer says:

    This looks too uniform IMO (especially the buildings). Though I guess I did die grappled to the sides of buildings a few times. I still feel like there should be more high and low concentrations of deaths. The highways looked right. Then again, Just Cause 2 had a very well done world map.

    I’d love to be able to control the camera and explore the island this way. I wonder if there are some special “cold spots” where few people died, or even explored.

  31. Stranglove says:

    I like that Square E have been so light hearted and merry about their game, making entertaining posters and this, amongst other things. It’s really rather nice.

  32. j6m says:

    Reminds me of subsurface laser engraving…

  33. Davie says:

    I want to know what those giant, angled straight lines are that stretch into the sky. Jet takeoff failures, maybe?

  34. Luomu says:

    I wouldn’t mind knowing
    1) who did this
    2) how they did this

  35. MythArcana says:

    This game absolutely rocks…for a console port, and I’m shocked. The auto-aim needs to go and I would love to enter buildings, but this is what GTA IV should have been and failed miserably. This is one of the few console ports I will recommend for PC users if they want mindless sandbox action.

  36. Jhoosier says:

    I finally finished the storyline, after months and months of having a great time in it. We need more games like this, although I agree with others that entering buildings and the more console-y aspects could have been left out.

  37. Droopy The Dog says:

    I especially like the pool of light directly bellow the mile high club, so many people panicking and forgetting their parachute.

    • Zelius says:

      I think that’s actually because of people trying to get the 1000 meter base jump achievement there. It’s one of the few places it’s possible. Probably opened their chute too late.

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      Wisq says:

      Ahhh, now this makes a lot more sense. I actually went just now and timed the fall – nearly 40 seconds – just because it seemed so ludicrous that people weren’t opening their chutes during that whole time.

      But what about that line of deaths underneath the MHC? I flew under it, didn’t find a cable or anything. Maybe it’s just hard to see (hence all the deaths).

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    DarkNoghri says:

    HARD SURFACE

  39. bigtoeohno says:

    I am exactly 1 of those little dots

  40. droid says:

    One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic, 11 million is a work of art.