A great video of the Brighton Mini Maker Faire last year by Andrew Sleigh showing the making of You’re The Boss 2. Applications for this year’s Maker Faire are now open and I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with this year!
There was a slide in the early talks that Cory Ondrejka used to give about Second Life about alien abductions in Second Life. One of the most exciting moments in Second Life for the early Lindens was when a resident constructed a UFO and flew around the world abducting other residents and then returning them to the world with a commemorative t-shirt. It was exciting because it was unanticipated. The Lindens had created a virtual world that enabled interaction and someone had taken it and run with it to create a fun and engaging experience.
The most interesting part of the code on line 155 which replaces the target’s position method with one which returns the target’s position, but doesn’t update. This allows the UFO to move the target while the position updates made by the target’s own code call the new read only position method. Tom Parslow‘s boids look especially mournful flapping around and turning towards the flock while being captured.
Luckily projects like Caja and Belay (which is being worked on by another ex-Linden, Mark Lentczner ) are working on the problem of making multiple scripts work safely in the same browser.
This evening I watched Nature — Mira Calix and Quayola’s audio visual piece which took video footage of flowers blowing in the wind and used motion tracking technology to generate music from the footage. As a concept it was interesting, unfortunately as music it was terrible. The beauty of the footage betrayed the folly of the concept: if a human were to compose music based on the beauty of flowers the way they moved in the breeze might feature, but wouldn’t be the basis of the entirety of the piece. The colour, form and memories triggered by the flowers would surely feature. Turning the flowers to a network of points modulating parameters reduced them to an interesting if psuedo-random system and the resultant synthesised music was predictably cold and pseudo random.
By contrast, a few days ago I had the pleasure to watch Manhatta, a black and white movie about Manhatten made in 1920 by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand and accompanied by a new soundtrack by the Cinematic Orchestra. Where Nature used machines to generate it’s soundtrack based on an algorithmic interpretation of the movement of flowers, Manhatta uses humans to generate it’s soundtrack based on the emotional impact of the moving image on the musicians. The result is infinitely more moving. The music adds emotion to the moving image, combining feelings of wonder, awe, fragility and insignificance — a uniquely human reaction to the images of the worlds most amazing city that cannot possibly be understood or rendered by an algorithm, no matter how clever.
Art is a human reaction to our world, not something that can be captured in an algorithm.
Back in 2005, while I was working on Second Life in Nottingham, before Linden Lab Brighton existed, I ran a workshop as part of the Screenplay “Boss Frenzy!” day at the Radiator Festival which allowed children to collaboratively create a computer game by drawing or making bosses with collage.
Dozens of people came to the Broadway in Nottingham and got busy with pens, pencils, paper, scissors, glue and magazines to design bosses for our “You’re The Boss!” shmup. We had an amazing time and created a charming and delightful game which I talked about on the original Second Life blog.
I immediately thought of it when we started planning the Brighton Maker Faire a couple of months ago and was delighted when the project was accepted. Unfortunately 6 years of bit rot had taken it’s toll and disaster loomed after discovering that I’d hosted the Game Maker files on the web space provided by an old ISP account and didn’t have them on my patchy backups. Luckily the ever amazing Torley had a copy of the executable and with the help of a decompiler I was able to recover the Game Maker files I needed to run the project again.
So, if you’re near Brighton on the 3rd of September and like the idea of collaboratively making an arcade game with scissors, glue and pens then please come along. If you have a Windows machine then check out the game we made in Nottingham in 2005. I think it’s still charming and delightful 6 years on. You can download it here.
This time round I’d like to make the game completely out of Creative Commons licensed works, so please suggest CC licensed books, comics and pictures that might make good source material in the comments, or bring them along on the day.
At the recommendation of John and [Alice] (http://www.wonderlandblog.com/ “Wonderland”) I took a break from [Develop Online] (http://www.develop-conference.com/developconference/develop_online.shtml?x “Develop Online”) to listen to Jon Blow‘s talk at Games:Edu this week and was totally blown away.
Jon talked about whether games are poised to enter a golden age similar to films in the ‘30s, when they transitioned from visual spectacle to an art form capable of touching people emotionally. Currently many games are broken by the conflicts between the game play rewards and the needs of the story. The canonical example is Metal Gear Solid, which pauses all interactivity to deliver exposition, but even more nuanced games suffer from the lack of control over the framing of the story. A narrative is likely to be much less powerful if the protagonist is jumping around while another character opens their heart. Equally the illusion of interactivity is completely broken by a character that refuses to acknowledge the player’s actions by simply reeling off scripted dialog.
I wonder whether games too often sacrifice interactivity in the pursuit of realism. When you can simulate a city full of cars, the desire to populate it with people is almost overwhelming, but without solving the hard AI problem the only way to add people that say anything nuanced is to script them. The world seems more real, but adding scripted people to the center of the world compromises the interactivity that should be fundamental to a game. When we read a book we accept a lack of agency as we are empathizing with a character and following their journey through the narrative. When we’re in a game the story should be ours and the world should respond to our actions. There will be limits to our freedom, but placing scripted characters in the world rubs those limits in our face. Many forms of art touch us without having to realistically represent people. No one would mistake the people in Guernica for real people, but the work touches us and the image could be interpreted as a game environment without solving the hard AI problem. Maybe games should spend more time trying to be Guernica and less time trying to be The Godfather.