A quick manifesto assignment from last week. I think I could spend some more time fleshing this out to connect the dots. Some of the feedback was that it wasn’t very clear how the different sections related. But I think it’s a good start, and helpful to sort of reduce things down to some points.
We believe technologies should create and facilitate spaces for humans to work and play in their own way.
Technology must foster human relationships.
Technology must allow humans to act human.
Technology must be enjoyable to use.
Technology must democratize human power.
Technology must be adaptable.
Spaces must allow for emergent behavior.
Spaces must allow for arbitrary rules to be bent and broken.
Spaces must be potential spaces of possibility.
Spaces must nurture our humanity and individuality.
I’ve been playing around with the technical side of Streetview stuff this weekend, thanks to lots of help from Angelo. First is basically just taking “Streetview Zombie Apocalypse” game and re-skinning it to be”Streetview Super Happy Friendship Game.” I mainly just wanted to get in there to see how it all works. There’s a lot going on in there, and I certainly don’t really know what the hell I’m doing. But I was at least able to get in and change styles and sizes and insert my own artwork into the game, although I still have to figure out why the sprites are so small. I would also really like to be able to get some animated gif action up in there. But.. that’ll be coming soon.
I’ve also been looking into multiuser apps using Union Platform. It seems to be super powerful but I also don’t entirely understand what’s going on in the back end. The collaborative drawing app above is basically just two of their tutorials on one page (multi-user whiteboard + chat). The background image is also grabbed from streetview. I can change the things like zoom and postion etc within the streetview url in the code, but it would be nice to be able to create some interface for dynamically updating that. I would also really like to be able to stamp things (people, buildings, trees) onto the canvas collaboratively. I found a tutorial for creating an html 5 paint app with stamps, but I don’t even know where to begin to integrate those things together.
I also just started playing with Google Docs’ shared drawing. The image above is embedded from a shared drawing. Which should update as the image gets updated. Kind of ridiculous how easy it is to do this collaborative drag&drop drawing version using Google Docs… The only downside is no animation. but as a multiplayer 2D virtual world it does actually kind of work, oddly enough. It certainly wasn’t meant to be used that way but I guess it’s actually kind of nice because of that…
I was listening to a few of these podcasts from friends on play. The ones that seemed the most relevant to me were Episode 3: What We Mean By Gamey and Episode 6: Collaboration In Games. Some notes from the 2 episodes:
What we mean by gamey:
Gaminess is an immersion killer.
Things that don’t have a direct corollary in the real world kill immersion.
Points and achievements are an abstraction of progression.
Extrinsic motivations are artificial and gamey.
Breaking or changing the narrative rules kills it.
Present the rules of the world and stay true to those.
Collaboration in Games:
Some like local collaboration in the same space combined with virtual collaboration around the world.
Hard part is the symmetrical real time aspect.
Rockband is a good example of roleplaying to enjoy the collaborative aspect.
There’s a spectrum of collaboration from non-competitive to combative.
Successful collaboration usually entails different roles but the same goals.
Interesting systems allow for organic player collaboration & temporary alliances
So called “social games” lack any meaningful collaboration since there’s no greater goal.
Social games’ collaboration is usually driven by personal gain + developer values.
But social games also have to deal with asynchronous play.
Maybe they need some team based global struggle?
Needs to be able to communicate & play together for a shared goal.
Needs to enable emergent collaboration and emergent creation.
As scale goes up the sense of collaboration often goes down.
Are people collaborating or consuming?
There’s more room for social collaboration.
Before digital games almost all games were inherently multi-player.
A quick first stab at it what it could possibly be. I imagine that in the top down map mode you would be able to see where other people were in streetview land (not their actual, physical location). That way you wouldn’t have the problem of trying to show up in a place that was empty if you wanted to see other people too.
I also imagine the would be some vast inventory of objects you can add to the world. (not necessarily just couches)
And also by adding these things other people can build upon them. There would be some form of communication too, but I’m not sure if chat is the right one. I sort of don’t want it to look like Second Life or degrade to Chatroulette-like chat. Maybe it’s audio only but maybe it synthesizes your voice. Or maybe the webcam can read your expressions and translate it into a different pose or something.
More streetview stuff! Played around with a “working” interactive game salad demo, first with a little clay man and then with some footage of me dancing awkwardly, because I just happen to have that already keyed. (The video is a little wonky at the start. The black shouldn’t be there..) Got me thinking about what you can do in this space. I initially thought of it more as a prototyping tool for building objects. But maybe it’s more interesting as a prototyping tool for imagining how people can potentially use the space?
I also went for a comped version in AE because I felt like it would better convey what I was talking about. I like the idea of this dynamic people adding tool. Like, what if it was a tool for simulating/prototyping flash mobs? I sort of relate it to how people simulate massive armies. I would just prefer my armies to be full of people dancing in the street. I’ve had this deep desire to have a dance troupe for quite some time…
I’ve been trying to think about what it would be like as a multi-player experience, partially inspired by the ideas from conversations @ thatgamecompany the other day. I just think it would be amazing to be able to see other (non-static) people who happen to be in the same streetview space as you. When I was playing Journey the most pleasant surprise was when I was suddenly joined by a second person and we got to run around the space together. The question then, is what can the two of you do together once you’re there in street view land? Another thing I really like about Journey’s multi-player aspect was that you just sort of sing/shout at your friend, which keeps it all part of the same world.
Streetview space is really just as virtual as something like second life but at the same time because it’s backdrop is the real world (in all it’s blurry low-res glory) it’s so much more appealing to me. Plus there’s the fact that the avatars don’t have to be CG people, but in fact real people though perhaps animated in a sort of stop motion way. Stop motion is actually pretty fitting for that world since it’s all just photographic stills. I think it would also be sort of funny if the avatars also all have blurred out faces so there’s still some level of anonymity and it fits into the world. That doesn’t mean it would be limited to “real” things though. I can imagine the fact that you’re using photographic models as opposed to CG models it would open the world to a wider range of interesting creations.
One thing I really want to avoid though is thinking about this as an “augmented reality” thing, because I’m really not that interested in AR. Or at least not in the ways I’ve seen it implemented. It’s also not quite “virtual reality.” Perhaps it’s something closer to “real augmented virtuality”. Does that even make sense?
I feel like a lot of the technology to make this happen is already there. I started looking into the Google Maps API and it seems like there’s a lot of potential in there (see Streetview Zombie Apocalypse). I’m not sure how the multi-player aspect would work though. And I wonder if there is a way to make it include collaboration within the same physical space. Like can two people use it at once?
Anyways, things like this make me think it’s not too far off….
On Wednesday I headed over to Santa Monica to meet Robin Hunicke and Kellee Santiago of thatgamecompany to just chat with them about their emotion based games and their experiences as women working in the game industry. I was really grateful that they were able to take time out to just talk with me. I didn’t record the conversation cause I didn’t want it to feel like a formal interview, just a casual chat. But I sort of wish I did cause there was just so much good stuff in there.
But I took some notes and when I got back I tried to download all the nuggets by writing out what I could recall. It’s not word for word exact or anything, and unfortunately I sort of forget who said what but I have several pages of notes.
These are just a few of the nuggets:
More co-operative games are starting to emerge from the edges lately, especially puzzle based games. Most digital “co-operative” games in the past have tended to be about conquering or taking turns, and there’s a lot of room to expand the realm of co-operative play. They both sort of agreed stylistically speaking, pixel art is sort of played out, while generative graphics are sort of in.
A lot of games still look the way they do because there still just aren’t very many artists who program (and vice versa). And traditional big studios physically separate those people, whereas in smaller studios like tgc people tend to wear multiple hats. Having that mix allows for a tighter collaboration.
The environmental context of virtual worlds really influences people’s behavior. Kellee equated them to restaurants, for instance you would never act the same at a fancy restaurant with a date as you would at McDonalds. So if you want to change behaviors you have to focus on the environments.
Low level generative systems can be a good way to foster emergent change in behavior. Robin brought up how, for instance, someone dropping papers suddenly creates this temporary environment for strangers to help and interact. When there is a shared problem it’s suddenly much easier to talk to other people. It’s these little changes in our life that make us human.
Technology always goes through some growing pains. Robin explained how new tech starts as a concept that people have to grasp, slowly becoming a tool, then adopted by a small user base before ultimately being embraced by a larger user base. At the early stages it’s so experimental and people are trying to solve just basic problems of the thing so it’s hard to really “edit” it. But once things are sort of established and embraced it opens up and becomes very editable.
Designing a game that was artistic in the early days was just a whole step away from just trying to figure out the basic mechanics. Games went through this transition in the 90′s where it use to just be viewed as a kid’s toy and people started to realize it could be for adults too. But generally during the early stages the games weren’t really that good because people were so focused on what it could do.
The early games are very much a product of the people who were making them. And a lot of the people making them were into heavily rule based games and trying to beat computers to make them feel smarter. Very few were concerned with collaboration.
Some of the most interesting games come from outsiders with different perspectives. People who are approaching it with a different set of values and interests help add to the complexity. Kellee mentioned a lot of the most innovative games lately have come from companies with women in leadership positions.
Games are like the early film industry, and there was this idea of the auteur and this sort of alpha male culture. Games were sort of part of this subculture of alpha male types. Kellee says now that things are opening up for a wider range of audiences it’s not just including more women, but also other men who maybe didn’t fit into that alpha male type either.
It’s sometimes still hard to be taken seriously as a woman in the industry. Many people still tend to be unprofessional in the way they interact with women at industry events. It’s especially hard for young women who are trying to network while having to turn down unwanted advances. They proposed a little reminder card to give out at these events that say something along the lines of: “Did you ask her about the game she’s working on or her interests before offering to buy her a drink or telling her how cute she is?”
Afterwards they let me play test the new game they’re working on, Journey, which was really awesome.
Went to Game Empire with Matt to check it out (and bought Carcassonne) Lots of “hardcore” boardgames. I’d like to go back and actually play with some of the people there and do some experiments with them.
Met with Thomas from Lust briefly today. Interesting to hear his perspective on the work I’ve been doing. He seemed to be particularly drawn to some of the earlier ideas about rethinking interface metaphors but less interested in the game side of things.
Also met with Tim, who generally seemed into what I’ve been up to lately. I’m enjoying my little experiments so far and having fun doing my research, which I think is a good sign.
Finally got around to playing with the Sifteo SDK. After struggling a bit through the initial set up, I was able to load my own image onto the cubes by modifying an existing demo app. Super exciting just to be able to do this much! I feel like just being able to put my own art work on them (even just in their 8-bit glory) opens up a whole bunch of new possibilities.
As a side note I spent the majority of yesterday working on a brief essay for Norman’s class. I was writing about old American dime museums and amusement parks, which I find totally fascinating. I also found this quote to be totally relevant:
The amusement entrepreneurs examined the machinery arrayed before them, designed to employ a vast work force in producing millions of durable goods, and saw instead tools they could employ to create new forms of play for those vast numbers of bodies
Immerso, Michael. Coney Island: The Peopleʼs Playground.
I feel like we’re sort of in a similar time where tons of things are possible and people are just starting to understand what they can do with all this technology.
Went to Indiecade today. I sort of totally forgot it was happening until this morning. There were lots of interesting indie games there including a card game about applying to college. I talked to one of the game designers while playing for a little bit. He said the game had been very well received by both high school counselors and students. I asked about the impact the game had on students real life application process and I guess he said it made them think about it differently. I wonder how much of a difference the game actually makes to the high schoolers but it’s still interesting. Lots of just lovely looking games too.
I think the most interesting part was the talk/workshop by Mary Flanagan called Values At Play. I feel like this values centric design process is exactly what I’m trying to get at with things like the serial entrepreneur game. I like the notion of “Critical Play” and setting values goals as part of the design process. I find that many of my values align with the VAP toolkit pretty well. Although I would say Privacy is pretty low on my list of values personally, maybe because I’m an over-sharing online kind of person.
We also played a meta game called grow a game, which is basically a card game about game design. It is also closely related to the Serial Entrepreneur game. We have been talking about taking off the screen and into the card world for several reasons. One is that we like the idea of using actual business cards (or at least the format of them). I also like that it can become more multi player and more complex as a table top game. The other idea was a massively multiplayer real life game where you would be gathering cards from real people around the city. I think there’s lots of interesting ways to go with the general idea of generative start up creation.
I have been playing around with claymation as a material for both the 3D modeling and interfaces as well. Partially because I am really not very good with “proper” 3D modeling. And also because I have always loved claymation. I figure I should leverage the things I’m actually good at. Plus I feel like no matter how well rendered 3D is, there is always something very raw and expressive about clay. And it’s more real. These are the kind of things I grew up loving:
But now we have things like this:
(This took me less than 5 minutes to make with Xtranormal)
And all that machinima shit that got really popular a few years ago:
(MTV2 apparently had a whole series of these music video mods)
I think there’s definitely some digital nostalgia for these low-fi cg videos. And similar nostalgia for 8-bit style stuff lately. Maybe I’m just nostalgic about non-CG animation. I feel like the tools are there for clay to come back. The only problem is that the people who are into claymation do not seem to generally overlap with the people who are into making digital tools.
I’m thinking I would love to make a generative claymation animator or movie maker. Initially I was thinking just within the streetview interface. But I feel like even beyond that it would be great as its own thing. Obviously companies like Xtranormal stick to the CG stuff cause it’s a lot faster and easier to produce more of these things and it scales well. But with tools like Dragon, stop motion is significantly faster and more accessible than it has been in the past. I have seen some people play with code & clay a little bit but not very much. I feel like there is something there.
Also this quote from Paul Graham’s book Hackers & Painters (which I just finished reading the other day) makes me feel like I should pursue it just because it’s harder:
Use difficulty as a guide not just in selecting the overall aim of your company, but also at decision points along the way. At Viaweb one of our rules of thumb was run upstairs. Suppose you are a little, nimble guy being chased by a big, fat, bully. You open a door and find yourself in a staircase. Do you go up or down? I say up. The bully can probably run downstairs as fast as you can. Going upstairs his bulk will be more of a disadvantage. Running upstairs is hard for you but even harder for him.
What this meant in practice was that we deliberately sought hard problems. If there were two features we could add to our software, both equally valuable in proportion to their difficulty, we’d always take the harder one. Not just because it was more valuable, but because it was harder. We delighted in forcing bigger, slower competitors to follow us over difficult ground. Like guerillas, startups prefer the difficult terrain of the mountains, where the troops of the central government can’t follow.
I like the idea that as an individual I have more leverage to work on things that are not terribly efficient, but in the end perhaps more interesting to me. I also think it’s interesting because I had initially bought this domain last year thinking I would use it to sell stock hand-made stop motion assets, which is actually kind of related still. Creating that stuff is labor intensive but what if I those things were usable assets for many people?
Why are certain “jobs” more marketable as fun things to simulate?
For instance, why are there so many Military style games? I personally have no interest whatsoever in being a soldier, and those games have very little appeal to me. But apparently training young (mostly boys) to want to be part of the military is important for recruitment, and thus a valuable idea to instill into them as patriotic Americans.
But what other skills do we value?
If I could choose a fantasy job it would probably be a serial entrepreneur. Wouldn’t that also be a valuable skill for people to at least think about as an option? I don’t think I even knew what an entrepreneur was until after college. What if it became part of the world of fun? But without it being too much of an “educational game” of course. And how could this game actually bridge the gap between fantasy and reality?
Serial Entrepreneur: The Game
I’ve been talking with Matt about this idea for a game (initially just called Serial Entrepreneur: The Game) since it is sort of overlapping a bit with his business interests. The basic constraints of the game are fairly simple:
Jump up and up
Collect a certain number of connections/business cards
Collect 2 ideas
When enough cards & ideas are collected the ideas merge to form a new Startup
Create as many start ups as possible before your time runs out
If you fall, you end up back in a cubicle.
In the end you can use the generative logos to create actual business cards that can be printed.