Archive for September, 2011

Z-mail incremental updates

Written by on 28th September 2011 in Experiments, Thoughts with 0 Comments

Just a little incremental update to the Zombie Mail experiment. Newest part being the “Filters” page, where you could design & assign different types of zombies to different types of emails. And the Search eyeball on the bottom. Also animating my main character’s walk/shuffle cycle.

I sort of don’t want to over design the interface at this stage, but instead just get enough of it in there to get the idea across. I know there’s tons of details to figure out logically but I sort of want to keep it at a sketch phase for now, even though my sketch happens to be animated.

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Written by on 27th September 2011 in References with 0 Comments

I love this quote from Keita Takahashi, who made Katamari Damacy but has since left games for playground design (my bolding):

When making videogames, I’ve tried to develop them in such a way so they may be enjoyed by anyone. Also, I believe that things other than what’s usually considered the game, such as a settings/options screen, can be a part of play. Gameplay isn’t just inside the game; everything is the game. Everything should be part of the fun. With this approach in mind, a playground wasn’t something for children only—I want to make something they can enjoy together with their parents as well. That skill, or rather, attitude, is definitely there.

-Everything Is the Game

Also this quote from Mary Poppins, which I oddly came across at the bottom of a menu in a hotel restaurant this summer:

In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You’ll find the fun, and…snap! (snaps fingers) The job’s a game!

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Jesse Schell’s Lecture

Written by on 27th September 2011 in References, Thoughts with 0 Comments

I remember watching this video last year, but re-watching it again just now it’s clear how super relevant it is to the stuff I’m thinking about. Lots of great little insights in this, particularly about our emerging hunger for reality. Jessie is also a very animated presenter and it’s full of funny little things. And I think this pic is awesome. I don’t know who to attribute it to aside from The Internet:


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Googmazon Fresh

Written by on 27th September 2011 in Sketches, Thoughts with 0 Comments

This was an idea the came about after meeting with Tim and the rest of our thesis group. I talked to Bora about it yesterday too cause it seems to overlap some with her interests so maybe we can do something with it together.

Basically it imagines an interface like Garry’s Mod applied to Google street view. There’s also an additional interface element to let you Do The Timewarp and see what the place looked like at a different time. You can open up an (Amazon-like) inventory of props that you can drop into the street view and interact with and rotate. You can also attach other items together to create new things. When you’re done you check out to pay for your creation. Later that evening Goog-mazon Fresh delivery/printing truck and an operator appear at the site In Real Life to spawn your purchase. The next morning you go check out the spot and it’s there! Of course it’s subject to all sorts of errors and things, but there’s no returns anyways. And since you’ve paid for it no one can take it down!

It’s inspired by some of the Garry’s Mod stuff I was playing with this weekend but I think it’s also interesting how it relates to some of the Google Street view compositing things I did for Anne’s project this summer,as well as the 3D spam printer in the spring:



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Thesis Abstract. (version 0.3)

Written by on 26th September 2011 in "Official" Papers, Thoughts with 0 Comments

We live in a computational world with increasingly blurry lines between our physical and virtual lives. Our modern world is more orderly, more systematic, and more governed by algorithms than ever before. As technology gets pumped out faster and faster, ubiquitous computing pervades everything from our built environment to our front pockets. Technologists are often rushing forward, in the name of progress, without looking back to understand the effects (or missed opportunities) in their wake. Focusing on the “how” instead of the “why” these new pioneers develop faster and better ways of systemizing, quantifying, and tagging the world, making us more modular and predictable like the very machines we rely on.

But where is the space for human intervention and interpretation? How can we humanize technology instead of technologizing humans? Jonathan Harris’ work as a computer scientist, storyteller, and artist, has also revolved around this idea. He reasons, “people’s behavior is largely influenced by the context in which they live…When we design spaces (real or virtual), we need to take responsibility for the types of behavior those spaces are likely to encourage.”(1) What type of behaviors do our current real and virtual spaces value?  I value chance, subjectivity, and platforms for discovery through research “on open water” versus “on the ground,” as Terence Rosenberg calls it.(2) Following a hunch instead of purely scientific logic is a process too nuanced to be predicted by anything other than a human. With these values in mind, I want to hack together virtual systems and physical objects to encourage the co-existence of creative free play in both virtual and physical space. I want to reshape our everyday technologies. Starting points include: our banal office productivity software, smart but homogenous hardware, and environments where we encounter these systems & each other. I choose to not accept arbitrary systems of so-called technological and cultural progress. I too believe “deep within every rational system holding societies together are assumptions that, if taken to their logical conclusion, tend toward absurdity. As such, they are highly fertile terrain for artistic exploration.”(3) Our socialized beliefs about physical & virtual communities, the separation of work & play, craft & technology, and public space are all up for grabs. I want to hack into these assumptions by modifying, re-contextualizing, and repurposing the “new-yesterday-but-now-obsolete” technologies and built environments of tomorrow.

Not being an engineer, I realize I may not have the resources to be a technological tool creator. But in combination with people like product designers, architects, game designers, and programmers, perhaps we could be more than just consumers. By collaborating and leveraging my skills (as a designer, illustrator, animator, and maker) I hope to bring to life more nuanced, personal and meaningful experiences as “an alternative to the programmed myth that there is only one future on the flat graph that goes up and to the right.”(4) And perhaps in the process of exploring these interests, I can create a scaffolding to empower and inspire a diverse group people to take control of their own experiences and relationships with technology.


1 Jonathan Harris . World Building in a Crazy World . World Builders.” Web. 26 Sept. 2011.

2 Terence Rosenberg. The Reservoir: Towards a Poetic Model of Research in Design.” PDF file.

3 Hou, Jeffrey. Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities. 1st ed. Routledge, 2010. Print. 55.

4 Julian Bleecker. “Design Fiction: A short essay on design, science, fact and fiction.” PDF file.

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First Person Creator

Written by on 26th September 2011 in Experiments, References, Thoughts with 0 Comments

We went to Crash Space for a class on making 3D games with Valve’s Source SDK. I didn’t realize the SDK was only available on the PC side so I spent a good part of the time downloading Half-Life 2 and the SDK for VMware while watching him go through how to get things done. By the end I was able to make a room and texture it and be able to walk around in it. It’s kind of fun but a little too much for what I want to do I think. But the part that I thought was super valuable was talking about other platforms for 3D game making, which I spent today researching/playing. Here’s an overview of the various engines I’ve messed with this weekend, from Lo-Fi to Hi-fi

Minecraft ($20)

8-bit style block based ‘sandbox’ game. You have different elements and things you can put together in various ways. Also some 8 bit monsters you have to avoid when it gets dark out. Apparently the game already has a huge following (3 million downloads) despite the fact that it’s still in Beta.  I sort of like it but of course it’s pretty limiting. Not sure if it would be useful for my purposes yet. I think I like the idea of it more than the actual game..

Second Life (free)

I have never really been interested in Second Life, but I figured I should at least give it a go to see why not. For some reason it’s just always been terribly uninteresting to me. Maybe because even though you CAN make stuff it seems like its main purpose is more about going to various worlds and hanging out with random people. Just a glorified 3D chat room. I also realized I just think it’s horribly ugly, like the old MySpace of 3D worlds, which I guess has some charm. But I dunno, not into it.

Valve Source SDK & Hammer Editor (as little as $8 for one Valve game)

What I was originally going to the class for. Super powerful stuff if you want to get into the nitty gritty of making your own maps and things. But it’s PC only and the editor is like working in CAD. And there’s a whole bunch of stuff to tweak parameter wise. In order to test it you have to “Run Map” which loads up in Half-Life 2.

Garry’s Mod ($10 + a Valve game)

Garry’s Mod is the most exciting ‘sandbox’ game to me. It’s built off of Valve’s Source SDK so it works with the other Valve game assets if you bought the original games (Half-Life 2, Portal, and Team Fortress came with my pack). But there’s not actually any goals or missions or anything in the game. You just make stuff (and of course destroy stuff if you want).

Unlike other editors there is no separate “editor” view. Everything just gets spawned into the game realtime, resulting in a very bottom-up vs. top-down view of things. So if you’re placing things you have to walk around and see where it’s going to go. It’s not exactly like building in real life (you’re using a big physics gun to position and rotate huge things after all) but it gives more of a user-centered kind of view.  The rendering engine is also super powerful so things look pretty nice, and objects have physics built in already. Although sometimes I don’t understand the wonky physics. I was just trying to put some cars on the road and I kept accidentally throwing them across the way, which is only funny the first few times. I spent about 3 hours off an on messing with this today. Mostly just trying to figure out how everything worked. I had couches hanging from ropes on water towers and cars piled up and random houses and just a bunch of stuff. Favorite thing is probably the BBC radio which is just a little radio prop that streams live music from BBC. (It’d be cool to get a KEXP radio up in there too). The above screenshot is my little sculpture/playground installation : ) I like the idea of using it as a tool to prototype big interactive architecture installations.

Another really interesting thing is that you can also script things for it using Lua, which looks pretty simple. Also exciting are things like this Kinect + Gmod video example.

Unity 3D (free–till you want a commercial licene for a game)


I’ve heard Unity 3D come up several times in conversations. It’s obviously SUPER powerful and capable of making a wide range of games from the looks of their demo reel. And one of the guys at the workshop says they use it at work all the time to make marketing games for various movies and things. Still has a somewhat typical 3D editor view but also has a tab for the game view so you can test it out while in the editor. The above game is a free demo that come with it. Super nice graphics. And runs natively on the Mac. I think if I wanted to get more serious about building 3D games I’d dive into it more, but for now it seems a little bit over kill for my needs.


Garry’s mod definitely wins for me.. at least for now. Unfortunately no matter what 3D first-person game I play I get physically queazy after I play them too long. There is something about the crazy control views and things that messes with my equilibrium where I seriously feel like throwing up after playing too much. Jeremy wonders if taking Dramamine would make it better. It seems like it’d be weird to take a drug to not feel sick while playing a game, though kind of interesting. But this is one of the many reasons I prefer side scrolling games. (Another downside is I think I may have inadvertently gotten Angelo hooked to Half-Life 2 now.)

The weird thing is I’m not actually even that much of a gamer, though having played when I was younger I certainly have an appreciation for them. I don’t want to make some machinima movies or anything either though. I think the most fascinating part is the weird mash up of 3rd party content in gmod, where people are just creating their own assets to share. For instance there are tons of Minecraft assets you can add. Or there was a map that was made to look like an old school NES Mario Kart track where you could race with the Half-Life 2 jeep.

I’m mainly interested in these engines as tools for creating interactive prototypes for other things, especially larger scale architectural things. 



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Working hard (or Hardly working)

Written by on 24th September 2011 in Sketches with 0 Comments


A couple more sketches today for some various work/play project ideas. I realize these are all pretty silly, but that’s why I like them…

  • Desk Jockey Hero (spelled wrong I now realize) is like Guitar Hero. (And a little like Typing of the Dead) To play you have a replica of a desk top complete with a wireless keyboard and mouse and chair back. Push buttons to perform desk jockey actions like “click, search, and scroll” And since it’s portable you can play the game anywhere. I don’t know what the game interface would actually look like yet. Maybe it’s just a open window thing so you can augment reality with your gameplay.
  •  Flowchart Blocks recognizes that in today’s information economy it’s less important to be able to know how to fit blocks into appropriately shaped holes, and more important to be able to create arbitrary relationships between the blocks… I sort of drew this cause I thought it would be silly to have kids making flowcharts, but I sort of also think it would be a nice tool to have personally… The tops would be an erasable marker surface. I googled around to see if these existed already but I couldn’t find anything..
  • Elanor the Orator draws from Parappa The Rapper, Rockband, and Powerpoint Karaoke. And all the Skype video calls I’ve had this summer. Basically instead of pretending to be a rapper you pretend to be a public speaker on tour. Each level is a different conference. And as you level up you get nicer designed slideshow graphic elements to work with when constructing your slides in addition to a larger audience. I imagine that one of the upper levels is being at a TED talk or something. Scoring is based on words, gestures, and audience reaction. And the audience is actually other live people.
  • KeyPoint 1.0 is basically Keynote/Powerpoint + Tetris. Drop & Drop instead of the typical Drag & Drop. You’re not really trying to clear any rows though. Mostly just make a Dadaist presentation. When you fill the screen it goes to the next slide. Or maybe you have a time limit for each slide, Pecha Kucha style.

I really like the last two.. Though I think they’d all be pretty fun to build out prototypes of. I am liking this whole drawing comics as legitimate grad student work. I’ve also been doing some pdf reading today: Game Design & Architecture, Contesting the Public Realm: Struggles over Public Space in Los Angles, Play in the City: Parkour and Architecture.

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Written by on 24th September 2011 in Thoughts with 0 Comments

Questions from yesterday…

How can we hack together virtual systems and physical objects to allow free play to co-exist in both virtual and physical space?

  • How can we build virtual and physical spaces that support human creativity as opposed to homogeneity?
  • What happens when virtual play and physical play co-exist in the same space?
  • Why are most Future Kid Tech Play Environments just dark rooms with interactive projections?
  • Why have playgrounds become more and more boringly “safe”?
  • What can we learn from Adventure Playgrounds?
  • What are the implications for when “work” and “play” are no longer separate activities?
  • Why are certain jobs more fun to act out? (ie. fireman, doctor, vet, soldier, waitress etc)
  • What would happen if more obscure career choices were elevated to a “fun” status?
  • What are the affordances of combining high-tech and low-tech materials?
  • Why do we accept the arbitrary but standard interface metaphors for our everyday software?
  • Why has technology become more and more rectangular?
  • What can we do repurpose our quickly outdated technology for idiosyncratic desires?
  •  What are alternative ways to store & access information other than a database based on tables?
  •  How can we make work more fun not just for children but also adults?
  •  What types of highly specialized objects can compliment our homogenous screen based bricks?
  •  How can we integrate interactive media into physical space that allows for personal & meaningful experience and is not just reactive?
  • What happens when mashups move beyond the screen and into the real world?
  • What does a hacker’s mindset add to design? architecture? play?
  •  Who will design our future tools?
  • What opportunities are there for reframining the uses for our urban spaces?
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Zombie Mail v.0.1

Written by on 21st September 2011 in Experiments, Sketches with 0 Comments

A first stab at a wireframe/prototype interface for Zombie Mail. I was getting tired of just seeing sketches and needed to see something interactive to start thinking about the details more. The artwork is really a sketch of what I’d like it to be but i also sort of like the rawness of them.  There’s a lot of things to figure out, like dealing with text and the various zombie kill animations. But I sort of just wanted to get something out there for people to see sort of what I’m thinking about.. I think for now I might leave it in this state for a while and try some other things before coming back to this.

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Dead Tree Database

Written by on 21st September 2011 in References with 0 Comments

Hey! What do you know, the library actually has some interesting books! : )

  • Far from Equilibrium: Essays on Technology and Design Culture (red book)
  • Design of Children’s Play Environments
  • Habibi (from Amazon, not the library.. not directly related, I just want to read it)
  • Design For Play (green book)
  • A Hacker’s Manifesto
  • Mashup Culture
  • Playgrounds Design

So I guess I have some reading to do..


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