My friend Alex’s wonderful dinnerware is now on sale at Etsy. Topoware “outlines” the dining experience similar to topographic maps.
Dan Saffer has posted a draft of the 1st chapter of his upcoming book on interactive gestures.
“The Mobile City is a conference on locative and mobile media and the city. The conference brings together academics, urban professionals and media designers to answer the question: what happens to urban culture when physical and digital spaces merge?”
Mr. Armitage creates an “idea-space representation” of the London Tower Bridge using some screen scraping and Twitter… A sign of things to come? When will I be following my house on Twitter?
The 2008 Game Developers Conference was a bit of a confusing experience for me. To begin with, I felt out of place. Anytime I introduced myself to someone—“I’m an interaction designer, I work freelance”—I would usually get a blank stare. (Not many independents making a living in the games industry it seems.) At a lot of the talks, I was struck by the huge gap between the practice of UX designers native to the web, and designers working in the games industry. I’m generalizing here, but I’ll give some examples:
- Game designers still don’t strive to understand their audience and the experience they’d like to have.
- Game designers still don’t understand the significance of the web. They very rarely embrace the web way of doing things.
- Game designers quite often aren’t able to think on different levels of abstraction about their medium, art form or whatever you want to call it.
If that doesn’t get me flamed, I don’t know what will.
GDC 2008 was huge. By far the largest conference I have ever been to. I heard someone mention the number of 16.000 but I could be completely off. The program committee obviously went for quantity over quality—I attended some really great talks, but also some really bad ones. In addition it was hell to figure out where to go. In hindsight I missed out on some great sessions. Apparently everything was recorded, but they need to be paid for—CMP apparently think they’re doing the games industry a service like this. I think not.
GDC Mobile in particular was a weird, depressing affair. The mobile game industry seems to have defined itself in such a way that there is no way for it to actually succeed. The majority are still trying to deliver a console-like experience on a small screen, completely missing the potential of the medium. Sigh.
Some themes I spotted:
- Techniques for enhancing creativity: Annakaisa Kultima, a (game)researcher at the university of Tampere in Finland presented game-like techniques for idea generation. I’d particularly love to play around with her NVA cards. Sam Coates and Graeme Ankers of SCEE showed how they’ve improved innovation and concept creation using a whole range of techniques including lateral thinking.
- The web way: There were some happy exceptions to the general ignorance of the power of the web. Justin Hall demoed PMOG—an exciting concept using the web as a gaming platform. Hopefully this will start a whole wave of “datagames”. Raph Koster blew me away with his very techy antemortem of Metaplace—a complete reinvention of MMOGs built from the ground up both with and as web technologies.
- Story, drama, narrative, blah: “The audience are not your mom. They don’t care about your stupid story,” said Ken Levine, writer and designer of the critically acclaimed BioShock. I’m still not sure BioShock is actually as revolutionary as people make it out to be. But Levine’s approach to story in games—having multiple levels of detail that can be consumed as the player sees fit and telling the story through the environment—makes sense to me. I enjoyed Peter Molyneux’s demo of Fable 2 mostly because of his criticism of American prudishness. “If this were Germany I’d be naked on stage right this moment.” Molyneux attempts to create drama through simulation. Offering freedom of choice, but choice with consequences. I wonder if this is a road leading nowhere…
- Mobile: Some people attempt to play to mobile’s strengths, with great success. DC of Pikkle in Japan showed a lot of crazy-ass Flash Lite games that are delivered over mobile web. These mobile social games completely circumvent the carriers and consequently disrupt the whole mobile market over there. Shades of Playyoo here—although Pikkle has the benefit of 90% Flash Lite player penetration, whereas in Europe we’re apparently on 20%. Equally true to mobile’s nature but offering a completely different experience is location based gaming. Jeremy Irish talked about the origins of Geocaching and showed wonderful work he is doing at Groundspeak. Location based games are full of emergent complexity. I enjoyed hearing that Irish tries to have players be in the world in stead of the screen when playing.
- Miscellaneous: Sulka Haro’s talk about Habbo was surprisingly thoughtful. Lots of good stuff on identity play and how Habbo’s lack of explicit support for it is not holding players back—on the contrary, less features seems to create more space for play. Takao Sawano of Nintendo delighted me with an in depth look at the evolution of the Wii Fit controller. Secret of the big N’s success is clearly the close collaboration between its hard- and software divisions. Rod Humble unveiled The Sims Carnival, EA’s contribution to the continuing democratization of creative tools (again reminiscent of Playyoo). Humble proved to be a very knowledgeable not to mention funny speaker. Seeing Ralph Baer and Allan Alcorn play PONG on the Brown Box was awesome.
There was more—I’d love to go over all the wonderful indie games I saw at the IGF and elsewhere for instance—but these were by far the most enjoyable sessions for me. If you’re looking for in-depth reports you could do worse than to start at Gamasutra. For me the real challenge begins now—digesting this and making it applicable for interaction designers on the web. I have a huge backlog of smaller posts lying around that I want to get out there first though (and this one has grown far too large already). So I’ll end here.
Don’t know why I did not post this before. Mr. Greenfield (of Everyware) will be publishing his next book himself. In short, it’ll discuss how ubicomp influences the metropolitan form and experience. Needless to say, I’ll buy this the minute it comes out.
Apparently the iPhone stands up to a proper usability test comparing it to other devices (such as the N95). Read all about it in this report from my friends at InUse.
Danah Boyd on the need for user centred social design: “Would it be possible for a culture of profitable startups to emerge that focus on niche audiences by going after the practices and needs that they experience?”
This is a rough transcript of my lecture at GDC Mobile 2008. In short: I first briefly introduce the concept of experience design and systems and then show how this influences my views of mobile casual games. From there I discuss the relation of casual games with the trend Generation C. Wrapping up, I give an overview of some social design frameworks for the web that are equally applicable to mobile social gaming. As a bonus I give some thoughts on mobile game systems mobile metagames. The talk is illustrated throughout with a case study of Playyoo—a mobile games community I helped design.
- I’ve included a slightly adjusted version of the original slides—several screenshot sequences of Playyoo have been taken out for file size reasons.
- If you absolutely must have audio, I’m told you will be able to purchase (!) a recording from GDC Radio sometime soon.
- I’d like to thank everyone who came up to me afterwards for conversation. I appreciate the feedback I got from you.
- Several aspects of Playyoo that I use as examples (such as the game stream) were already in place before I was contracted. Credits for many design aspects of Playyoo go to David Mantripp, Playyoo’s chief architect.
- And finally, the views expressed here are in many ways an amalgamation of work by others. Where possible I’ve given credit in the talk and otherwise linked to related resources.
That’s all the notes and disclaimers out of the way, read on for the juice (but be warned, this is pretty long).
Spotted this at GDC, dangerously close to being convincingly real.
Vlad Micu writes about GDC. Here’s a short report of my lecture (in Dutch). Vlad Micu schrijft over GDC. Hier een kort verslag van mijn presentatie.
My friend Mark is moving to Copenhagen and looking for a job at “a company changing the world”. Check him out.
My friends at CIID are organizing a cool event: “A 2-day symposium bringing together some of the most talented pioneers and practitioners of service design from all around the world.”
“Aviary is a suite of web-based applications (RIAs) for people who create. From image editing to typography to music to 3D to video, we have a tool for artists of all genres.”
“Soundsnap is the best platform to find and share free sound effects and loops- legally. It is a collection of original sounds made or recorded by its users, and not songs or sound FX found on commercial libraries or sample CD’s.”