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.
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.
Somehow, 100 robots have ended up playing 2 different Battle of the Band competitions on consecutive nights in Brighton: at The Providence on April 2nd and The Lectern on April 3rd.
So, which band is the best and which battle of the bands is better? Early indications favour The Providence, which seems to have a better PA, but The Lecturn is near the University. It could go either way.
Anything you can do, I can do meta: join us for both nights of the Battle of the Bands tour and see who we declare the winner of the Battle of the Battle of the Bands!
A couple of weeks ago the great and the good of web development descended on Brighton for the wonderful clearleft produced dconstruct conference and once again I’m glad I went along.
Steven Johnson kicked off with a talk about how Dr. John Snow’s innovative data visualization of a cholera epidemic and the wisdom of dead crowds helped convince people of the water borne nature of the disease. It was an interesting story, but it mostly ended up being a plug for his book and geoblogging aggregator outside.in.
Next up, Aleks Krotoski talked about how games had spent decades creating incredibly compelling user experiences in silos without much contact with each other the academic HCI community or the web. Meanwhile the web is very interested in creating similarly sticky experiences using virtual rewards to encourage participation. Aleks’ conclusion was that the two communities should talk and I agree.
Daniel Burka talked about similar themes in his talk about the evolution of Digg. The most interesting anecdotes where about how top diggers started off as a good incentive, but became a disincentive when new users saw how unachievable the scores had become and how the recommendation engine is now a good way to encourage some of Digg’s passive audience to get involved.
Matt Jones and Matt Bidaulph talked about their successful Silicon Roundabout startup dopplr. Jones talked about visual design and delighters which sounded a lot like Alek’s virtual rewards in games. SL uber-hacker Bidaulph talked made another gaming analogy, talking about how embedding dopplr in other sites and vice versa achieves a similar seamless experience to streaming maps in games: removing the load screens and jumps that used to bedevil console games and still are the normal experience when using the web. He also talked about the importance of using message queues and asynchronicity in services like dopplr which pull information from across the web.
Joshua Porter‘s talk on Leveraging Cognitive Bias in Social Design was the stand out talk for me. He talked about exploiting people’s tendency to pattern match to generalise isolated positive case studies on web sites and on framing account creation as something to do to avoid losing features rather than something that gains features as a way to play on the tendency to value losses greater than gains. His description of the how the 9x mismatch between customers (who over value the application they already have by 3 times) and developers (who over value the application they have developed by 3 times) creates a huge barrier to application adoption was particularly interesting.
Tantek Celik‘s talk about using hCard and rel=me links to create portable, auto-updating social network profiles and data to reduce the fatigue induced by inviting all of your friends to many social networks was the most practical session of the day. I’m going to try playing around with rel=me links and Google’s social graph API here soon.
Jeremy Keith gave a grandiose talk to end the day which wove together psychohistory from Asimov’s Foundation Series with Critical Mass and The Wisdom of Crowds to talk about how network effects and power law distributions cause some social software to explode in popularity while others wither, but that despite The Tipping Point being sold in business sections as a how-to book, it is fundamentally a retrospective and that predicting or engineering tipping points or network effects is notoriously hard. It was a great talk and the conclusion that social software is more of a lottery than a science is valid, but still: you have to be [in it to win it] (http://secondlife.com).
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.