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 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 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 141

It’s been a while since I spent time at my own desk in the Dutch Game Gar­den. It was nice to do this again yes­ter­day, hav­ing the city right out­side my door and kin­dred spir­its such as Fource­Labs upstairs. I wasn’t inside the whole time though, in the morn­ing I had anoth­er chat at EKKO about Tako. And in the after­noon I head­ed to Lei­d­sche Rijn accom­pa­nied by Julius to attend a work­shop con­cern­ing Utrecht’s bid to become Euro­pean cap­i­tal of cul­ture.

I kicked off the week with two days of work at Layar (now on my way to Ams­ter­dam in a divert­ed train for my third and last day of the week there). I’ve been col­lab­o­rat­ing close­ly with some of the engi­neers to shape some upcom­ing new… stuff. Things are devel­op­ing at such a high pace that it’s a real chal­lenge to keep up. It feels like being on top of a rodeo bull some­times, but in a good way. This means I need to be prag­mat­ic and fast with devel­op­ing and doc­u­ment­ing designs.

In between, I’ve post­ed a long over­due project descrip­tion to the Hub­bub site for Mega Mon­ster Bat­tle Are­na. It’s this quirky project — a cross between a game and an opera — that I was involved with last year. It feels good to final­ly have it out there for me and oth­ers to point to.

Oth­er in-between stuff includes a final review of sev­er­al grad­u­a­tion project pro­pos­als. I need to pro­vide feed­back by the start of next week, and then I’ll switch to coach­ing a hand­ful of stu­dents.

The week will be topped off with what is sure to be a fun fri­day at the BUROPONY stu­dio. I’ll do some work on their site, and in return have them do some addi­tion­al work on the Hub­bub brand. Scratch­ing each other’s backs, that’s how small cre­ative enter­pris­es flour­ish.

Week 136

On a train to Ams­ter­dam again, extra ear­ly so that I am on time for the sec­ond day of a work­shop we’re run­ning at Layar.1 It’s being facil­i­tat­ed by BERG’s Schulze and Jones, which is a real treat. With­out giv­ing too much away: we’re work­ing on new prod­uct con­cepts. Can’t wait to see what results from this ses­sion, since it looks like I might be devel­op­ing them fur­ther in the months to come.

I was doing some work this week­end, most­ly plan­ning the upcom­ing months since there’s so much inter­est­ing stuff on the hori­zon. I also popped over to Hil­ver­sum for a look at the games cre­at­ed dur­ing the local Glob­al Game Jam.2 Some 170 peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ed and I think around 40 games were cre­at­ed. The gen­er­al qual­i­ty was quite high. Some of my favorites includ­ed:

  • So It Floats, which fea­tures gor­geous water­col­or art and a bib­li­cal theme. You’re a mon­key try­ing to get Adam and Eve to leave par­adise. The game­play resem­bles ‘s games.
  • SSSSSOS, where you con­trol a tiny space ship try­ing to sur­vive a mas­sive bat­tle between two armies con­sist­ing of swarm­ing space ships. You can get them to engage each oth­er in stead of you by attract­ing and repelling them. It’s all dri­ven by nice­ly tuned New­ton­ian physics and is accom­pa­nied by adap­tive music.
  • Res­o­nance, which was strik­ing­ly well-round­ed for a 48-hour game. I’m not a huge fan of puz­zle games, but this had a good learn­ing curve spread across 14 lev­els. The musi­cal theme was a nice touch too.
  • Save Your Souls, a frus­trat­ing exper­i­men­tal game you con­trol with two mice, each tied to one char­ac­ter run­ning down a track. From play­ing I’ve decid­ed biman­u­al input devices are not for me.
  • What The Faql?, which I liked for its inter­est­ing social mechan­ic. Four play­ers col­lab­o­rate to get a cart from one end of a mine to the oth­er, but one of them is a ‘mole’ whose goal is to sab­o­tage the whole oper­a­tion. This play­er gets a small jolt of force feed­back from his con­troller at the game’s start.

All the games cre­at­ed in NL and across the world can be found at the inter­na­tion­al Glob­al Game Jam web­site. Have a look.

Most of the con­ver­sa­tions with project Tako par­tic­i­pants are now fin­ished. I had one more this mon­day, with the peo­ple who orga­nize the Inter­na­tion­al Franz Liszt Piano Com­pe­ti­tion.3 Not much else will be done this week, but I’ll need to start pro­cess­ing all the notes in the com­ing peri­od.

Now that the EMMA group projects have fin­ished the next phase for grad­u­ate stu­dents at KMT has start­ed. They have four weeks to devel­op their grad­u­a­tion project pro­pos­als, which includes a research com­po­nent. This phase was kicked off with a sym­po­sium on mon­day about cre­ative process­es in mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary teams. On fri­day, I’ll meet with the group of stu­dents I’m coach­ing (togeth­er with Irene van Peer) and review their plans for a short field study, which they’ll need to com­plete the next week. The results from this will feed into their final pro­pos­als. Can’t wait to see what they come up with.

  1. Get­ting to a train on time is not with­out its haz­ards these days, snow and ice make bik­ing to the sta­tion extra inter­est­ing. []
  2. GGJ NL is orga­nized by my friends at the Dutch Game Gar­den. []
  3. Where, inci­den­tal­ly, I final­ly learned the mean­ing of Lisz­to­ma­nia. []