Week 161

This past week, again, was most­ly about project Ebi. We kicked off the third iter­a­tion on mon­day with a review of the ver­sion we deliv­ered the fri­day before. What fol­lowed was a heat­ed dis­cus­sion about the rule­set. I felt it need­ed a bit more depth so play­ers would have more inter­est­ing choic­es. The trick is to not go over­board with the com­plex­i­ty, because we want the game to still have imme­di­ate appeal.

By the way, project Ebi has a name now and it is PLAY Pilots. The site is still cloaked but the process blog — where you can find many won­der­ful wee­knotes by Fource­Labs and Zes­baans as well as our­selves — is pub­lic. We’re also on Twit­ter and Face­book. Keep tabs on those chan­nels to get ear­ly access to the BETA

On tues­day I head­ed to Ams­ter­dam for a taste of Stump­town’s cof­fee — some­thing Alper had been bug­ging me about for ages — and a trip to Pris­tine for some acces­sories for my new bike. I spent the rest of the day at Alper’s stu­dio review­ing one of my stu­dents grad­u­a­tion the­sis. She’s designed a point-and-click adven­ture game with an inter­sex pro­tag­o­nist, an attempt to cri­tique gen­der con­ven­tions through game­play. Inter­est­ing stuff.

On wednes­day I con­tin­ued work on Ebi with the team. It was Bernard’s last day before his vaca­tion so we wrapped up an impor­tant part of the copy. In the after­noon I head­ed to the Ned­er­lands Film Fes­ti­val’s office to kick off the sec­ond pilot that is part of Ebi, which will be cre­at­ed by the awe­some crew at Zes­baans. They have post­ed their first wee­knote over at the project blog.

Thurs­day, I met up with a few of my stu­dents. Some still require help, but a few oth­ers are at the point that they looked apolo­getic when I asked when they would like to meet again. They’re in the final phase of their work, and I’ve done what I can. We’ll see each oth­er at the finals, which will be in august.

A first for Hub­bub, I had a chat with an pos­si­ble intern on thurs­day too. I’m still not sure if we’ve reached the point where we can offer a good envi­ron­ment for interns (I take the edu­ca­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ty we would have quite seri­ous) so we’ll have to see if we take one on board.

On fri­day, I was back at the soon-to-be new Dutch Game Gar­den on the Neude square — we’re mov­ing next week — to work with the Ebi team. Alper was most­ly hack­ing away at sign-in stuff for Twit­ter and also the new ver­sion of the game engine. Simon made good progress with the designs for the game inter­face and I was surf­ing for fun cus­tomiz­able gad­get to hand out to our play­ers dur­ing the first fes­ti­val we’ll appear at; Stekker Fest 2010. Would you fan­cy an eight­ies style sun­cap?

Also, a few of our Fource­Labs friends dropped by to dis­cuss tech­ni­cal mat­ters deal­ing with how we’d inte­grate the web game we’re build­ing with the phys­i­cal one they’re doing for Stekker Fest. They also showed some awe­some mock­ups of the whole set­up made with LEGO. They’ve also been play­ing around with high speed cam­eras, yield­ing awe­some footage. I’m sure they’ll share more details in their next post.

Week 160

So here we are at the end of week 160 which has been most­ly about project Ebi. Today we’re wrap­ping up the sec­ond iter­a­tion of the project. It’s crazy to think we have been going for only four weeks in total now and at this point we have a a first soft­ware ver­sion of the game run­ning with copy and design shap­ing up nice­ly too. My per­son­al con­tri­bu­tion hasn’t been that huge, it’s most­ly been about mak­ing sure the killer team I’ve assem­bled (if I may say so myself) can do its job.

In between writ­ing this, me and Bernard are play­ing with the pro­to­type, as Alper is hack­ing away at it. Mean­while Simon (back from a vaca­tion to Aus­tria, his father­land) is back in Rot­ter­dam pol­ish­ing some of the new screens we’ve iden­ti­fied after set­tling on a rule­set.

Aside from this I’ve spent some time again at the HKU talk­ing to stu­dents. This includ­ed a live demo of a game a few of them are work­ing on that involves brain con­trol. They’ve got­ten their hands on an Emo­tiv BCI and are fig­ur­ing out ways to make mas­ter­ing thought pat­terns as a play­er actu­al­ly doable. Stu­dents have all the fun these days.

Week 158

It’s the end of week 158 and I am sat at a table in what will soon be the new Dutch Game Gar­den. On the fourth floor builders are putting final touch­es to the stu­dio Fource­Labs and Hub­bub will be shar­ing. I am on the first floor, with a gor­geous view of the Neude square which is the scene of much sum­mery activ­i­ty. The city as the­atre.

This week has been main­ly about project Ebi. We kicked off a sec­ond iter­a­tion, after wrap­ping up basic func­tion­al­i­ty in iter­a­tion 0, this one is about adding the game spe­cif­ic stuff. Most of our ener­gies so far have gone into design­ing a good rule­set. We had a break­through on wednes­day and recon­vened today to for­mal­ize those ideas, and fill in the blanks. We now have enough mate­r­i­al to push for­ward on design, copy and engi­neer­ing. It’s that stage of that project where the shape of things starts to become clear and you can’t wait for it to mate­ri­al­ize so that you can touch it, use it, play with it.

In a short while I’ll be strolling through the cen­tre of Utrecht to the cur­rent and soon to be old Dutch Game Gar­den, for a farewell par­ty. We’ve had plen­ty of good times in Driehar­ingstraat 6, let’s give the old build­ing one more bash.

Week 157

Had anoth­er busy week, with time equal­ly divid­ed between projects Buta and Ebi.

The for­mer has come to an end with the deliv­ery of a video sketch yes­ter­day. Lead­ing up to that on mon­day we test­ed sev­er­al paper pro­to­types of games for peo­ple and pigs with farm­ers. The response we got from them was encour­ag­ing. Hav­ing processed this feed­back we set­tled on one con­cept that would be devel­oped fur­ther into a video sketch. After this we devel­oped a sce­nario, sketched a rough sto­ry­board and divid­ed up tasks. I hacked togeth­er a soft­ware pro­to­type of one half of the thing, which is aimed at peo­ple (using Pro­cess­ing and the Live­View screen­cast­er) while Irene built a to scale phys­i­cal mod­el of the instal­la­tion for pigs. I can’t share the video just yet but I’m sure it won’t be long before I can.

Ebi’s first iter­a­tion has come to a close today and I am hap­py to see we have work­ing soft­ware with pret­ty pic­tures and nice words, all thanks to the hard work of the team (hel­lo, Alper, Bernard and Simon). I was most­ly mak­ing sure these guys could do their jobs, as well as orga­niz­ing work that will need to be done by oth­ers in future. Next week, after iter­a­tion two, I think we will have a thing we can show you. Can’t wait for that.

And now, it’s time to close this damn lap­top and pre­pare for the afternoon’s game. I’m not a big fan of foot­ball but Nether­lands — Brazil is not to be missed.

Week 155 & 156

I have some catch­ing up to do with these. What can I say, things got in the way of writ­ing last week’s notes.

These past two weeks I have been push­ing to get a new project, code­named Ebi, off the ground. It is the next step in my involve­ment with the PLAY project in Utrecht. I’ve put togeth­er a team con­sist­ing of Alper, Bernard and Simon to build a game that will tie togeth­er sev­er­al oth­er play­ful things that will take place over the com­ing months at sev­er­al Utrecht events. We’ve had our kick-off and are now in the midst of the first sprint, with deliv­ery of a first rough sys­tem by the end of next week. Copy is being writ­ten, soft­ware is being devel­oped and designs are being made. It’s a plea­sure to see this ad-hoc team com­ing togeth­er so fast and get­ting down to busi­ness. That takes real skill, in addi­tion to the crafts­man­ship each brings to the table.

Oth­er than that, project Buta (anoth­er code­name) start­ed this week, which is a research thing at the new Design for Play­ful Impact group at the HKU. We’ve been doing field research and have been sketch­ing and pro­to­typ­ing ini­tial ideas. The sub­ject mat­ter is kind of con­tro­ver­sial, so I can’t share too much about it, oth­er than that it involves pigs. Yes, pigs.

In between, I dropped by the pre­sen­ta­tion of the U-turm project, a stu­dent project where I act­ed as advi­sor on. The demo worked nice­ly. With some addi­tion­al work on the game design I am sure it will be a hit in Dort­mund. I also attend­ed Layar’s one-year anniver­sary event, where sev­er­al things were unveiled that I had some part in, such as the all-new float­i­cons.

Look­ing ahead, I’ll be busy with Ebi for the next month or two and will also have to take some time to move into a new stu­dio, that I will be shar­ing with Fource­Labs in the new Dutch Game Gar­den on the Neude. Ace loca­tion, nice space, can’t wait for that to hap­pen.

Week 154

A very low-key, qui­et week this was. Part­ly due to the fact that I took the Mon­day off (gasp!) And part­ly due just to the fact that it’s one of those in between peri­ods. Old projects wind­ing down, new ones start­ing up.

One of those new projects I’ve code­named Ebi. It’s the next step we’re tak­ing with the thing called PLAY that I’ve talked about here before. I’ve been build­ing a team and we’re ready to kick off next week.

I’ve also seen my stu­dents again, dis­cussing the after­math of their mid-terms. Some are mov­ing ahead with­out trou­ble, oth­ers need some help. The trick is to fig­ure out which stu­dent needs which kind of feed­back.

And final­ly, you might like to know I met with Ianus and Alexan­der to talk about the next batch of This hap­pened – Utrecht events. There, it’s a chal­lenge to bal­ance our urge to make each edi­tion bet­ter than the next one with the fact that, essen­tial­ly, we’re doing it all for the fun of it, not for busi­ness.

Week 153

I total­ly for­got to post this last week; I’ll blame it on a com­bi­na­tion of excel­lent weath­er and too much work on my hands. We’re already well into week 154, but to give you a brief overview of what num­ber 153 looked like, let me just say it was more or less divid­ed between:

  1. prepar­ing for and sub­se­quent­ly run­ning a hand full of urban games at the NU Grounds fes­ti­val in Lei­d­sche Rijn (we had gor­geous weath­er and a lot of fun, can’t wait to run more)
  2. sit­ting on a mid-term exam com­mit­tee at the HKU (exhaust­ing, but when a stu­dent nails it, as hap­pened sev­er­al times, it’s a real treat)

I also attend­ed Kun­st­gras where a book pro­fil­ing sev­er­al cre­ative entre­pre­neurs in Utrecht (for which I was inter­viewed) was pre­sent­ed.

That all left me quite spent so I took Mon­day off. Which, I think, is a first in over 6 months. And now we’re in the sec­ond week after my return from Copen­hagen. It already seems ages ago since I stepped off that air­plane.

Week 152

This was the last week of my stay in Copen­hagen. Com­ing Sun­day it’s back to the Nether­lands. As usu­al leav­ing feels bit­ter­sweet. There cer­tain­ly things I’ll miss about being here, not in the least our love­ly apart­ment in one of the city’s nicest neigh­bor­hoods. And the many great cafés. But there’s a lot to be said for being in Utrecht, too. I have so much stuff going on there, it got a bit tir­ing towards the end man­ag­ing it all remote­ly.

So this week…

  • I went over to Malmö to meet with Dan Gär­den­fors at TAT and with Jonas Löw­gren at MEDEA. In both cas­es there is rea­son for fol­low-up; it looks like there might be a TAT-Hub­bub con­cept video about per­va­sive play and mobile UIs on the hori­zon, and I might come back to MEDEA to do some teach­ing.
  • I had a marathon Skype ses­sion on wednes­day. Talk­ing to all my stu­dents who are now ner­vous­ly prep­ping for their mid-terms. As well as ses­sions with Clau­dia and Karel in prepa­ra­tion of the urban games fes­ti­val in Lei­d­sche Rijn we’re assist­ing with.
  • I lec­tured (and ran a lit­tle playtest of an audi­ence game I’ve been tin­ker­ing with) at CIID. Look for a full report and anno­tat­ed slides at the Hub­bub blog, soon.

And now, it’s time to do a few more touristy things and then pack, and head home. The next wee­knote will be Dutch fla­vored again.

Week 151

So, some notes for the past week. They will be very short because there is not much to tell real­ly. It was one of those weeks with a lull in between projects, and also vir­tu­al­ly devoid of meet­ings, today being the excep­tion.

I went over to Like­Mind to catch up with my fel­low Dutch­man Mark, who seems to be doing great, liv­ing and work­ing between Copen­hagen and Lon­don. Not the shab­bi­est pair of cities.

I also had anoth­er chat with the guys run­ning the U-Turm project who seem to be mak­ing nice progress with the image track­ing side of things and are now real­ly get­ting into the game design. Which means, as I told them, they need to start iter­at­ing on the rules like crazy, doing paper pro­to­type after paper pro­to­type.

Aside from this I’ve been doing some prepa­ra­tions for PLAY, reach­ing out to cre­ative teams and indi­vid­u­als who I’d like to see be part of the pro­duc­tions we’re going to be run­ning. Get­ting lots of pos­i­tive respons­es so that is great. I also post­ed some back­ground on the work we’ve been doing so far for this at the Hub­bub blog.

Julius and Karel ran a suc­cess­ful sec­ond urban games work­shop in Lei­d­sche Rijn for Cultuur19 last sat­ur­day. We are now gear­ing up to assist with NU Grounds, a games fes­ti­val in the same neigh­bor­hood where there will be sev­er­al urban games on offer. That’s going to take place two weeks form now and should be good fun.

The rel­a­tive qui­et this week has allowed me some time to tin­ker with Pro­cess­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly the Box2D library that Mr. Shiff­man has put togeth­er. I’m just mak­ing a lit­tle sil­ly soft­ware toy with that to kind of flex my flim­sy pro­gram­ming skills. Noth­ing spe­cial but I might post some screen­shots and maybe a screen­cast lat­er any­way.

And also, I bit the bul­let, installed XCode, and had a go at Open­Frame­works, most­ly to have a look at some of the Box2D stuff out there that is con­trolled with OpenCV (a com­put­er vision library). That seems to be a real­ly nice basis for gam­ing in pub­lic space using urban pro­jec­tions and such. I don’t see myself work­ing in Open­Frame­works though, it real­ly is an increase in com­plex­i­ty as opposed to Pro­cess­ing. Still, by mess­ing with it, I can now appre­ci­ate it bet­ter.

Next week is going to be my last one here in Copen­hagen and looks like it’ll be slight­ly more busy, with anoth­er trip to Malmö and a lec­ture at CIID. After that it’s back to NL. Time real­ly flies.

Week 150

That’s a nice num­ber, 150. One-hun­dred-and-fifty. I like the sound of that. So what’s been going on this week?

I hopped on a plane last Sun­day to the Nether­lands for This hap­pened – Utrecht #6. Wouldn’t miss out on my own par­ty, of course. And I’m so glad I didn’t, because we had awe­some talks by Berend & San­neke, Matt, Sebas­ti­aan and Keez, plus a sur­prise appear­ance over Skype by Mr. Bux­ton. The room was packed, inter­ac­tion design­ers of all stripes were chat­ting away before­hand, dur­ing the break and after­wards over drinks. I had a blast and judg­ing by the reports that have been com­ing in, so have many oth­ers.

Before head­ing back to the Nether­lands the next day I man­aged to squeeze in a few meet­ings. One of those was for PLAY which, now that I’ve wrapped up project Tako,1 is ready to move into its next phase. We’re plan­ning to pro­duce sev­er­al play­ful ‘things’ for a num­ber of cul­tur­al events and tie them all togeth­er with a meta-game. It’s a mat­ter of get­ting all the right peo­ple on board now and get­ting going as fast as pos­si­ble. So I’ve a list of folks to con­tact in the com­ing days.

I think I broke a per­son­al record for the num­ber of Skype ses­sions in one day on Wednes­day, with back to back talks with my HKU stu­dents as well as a plan­ning ses­sion with Karel and Julius for an urban games work­shop they’ll be run­ning tomor­row in Lei­d­sche Rijn.2

And today, after spend­ing Ascen­sion day on a couch, plug­ging away at email and to-dos, I’ll be mak­ing the trip across the Øre­sund to Malmö in a bus full of mak­ers and inter­ac­tion design­ers to attend Thought­Made, which I’m real­ly excit­ed about; an exhi­bi­tion and talks includ­ing a can­dy machine con­trolled by Twit­ter. What more can one ask for?

  1. I need to write a report on that one at the Hub­bub blog soon. []
  2. A new devel­op­ment area of Utrecht I’d say is the clos­est thing to a real-world Sim City project that I ever saw. []