Week 168

So, I got back from a one-week hol­i­day on Ter­schelling last week­end (which was love­ly, by the way) and imme­di­ate­ly dove into work again. So much to do at the moment, it’s a chal­lenge not to get swamped. Any­way. And it is one of those weeks where I need to look back on my cal­en­dar just to remem­ber what has been going on…

Most notably, two interns have start­ed at Hub­bub. They are work­ing on games for the sec­ond install­ment of the Learn­ing Lab, an exper­i­men­tal edu­ca­tion­al pro­gram cre­at­ed by Riv­er Insti­tute, which will be run­ning at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ams­ter­dam the com­ing months. Their first assign­ment is to design a game that will be played by Learn­ing Lab par­tic­i­pants (who are called “pio­neers”) today and tomor­row at the Nat­ur­al Net­work­ing Fes­ti­val. It is nice to have these guys on board. This week I reg­u­lar­ly sat down with them to review their plans but aside from this they are incred­i­bly self-steer­ing. They’ll be blog­ging about their exploits on the Hub­bub blog soon.

Also, I had a full day of work on Maguro yes­ter­day. We spent the whole day at the client’s office (a large gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion which I can’t name at the moment). The morn­ing was tak­en up by short pre­sen­ta­tions from the side of us, the design team. We also had the chance to talk to a selec­tion of peo­ple from our tar­get audi­ence and get a tour of their work envi­ron­ment. In the after­noon we sat down to brain­storm con­cepts, and came up with some inter­est­ing ones. I enjoyed get­ting a chance to see this orga­ni­za­tion from the inside, which due to to the sen­si­tive nature of their work is a lit­tle secre­tive. We decid­ed to use part of the workshop’s pro­gram to try out some mechan­ics that we might be using in the game, with­out the audi­ence being aware of it. That lead to some inter­est­ing results.

This week is book­end­ed by meet­ings for project Ika. This project is run from the still very new Design for Play­ful Impact research group at the HKU. On mon­day I spent some time with the peo­ple lead­ing the oth­er projects to get a gen­er­al sense of the pro­gram. Today I’ll be meet­ing up with the client for the first time.

And in between I’ve been doing more work on PLAY Pilots. I dropped by Zes­baans to check out an ear­ly ver­sion of their instal­la­tion for the Nether­lands Film Fes­ti­val, which is called The Stere­o­scope and is this kind of toy-like VJ-ing tool loaded with frag­ments from Dutch films from the past 30 years. Awe­some, awe­some, stuff. It’s already fun to play with, even though the cus­tom-built con­sole is yet to be fin­ished and the game mechan­ics haven’t been imple­ment­ed yet.

And final­ly, in oth­er news: we announced the next This hap­pened — Utrecht, and I uploaded a selec­tion of pho­tos from the Boc­ce Drift game Hub­bub ran a few weeks ago.

Week 164

I am sat at the stu­dio while around me Fource­Labs are putting the final touch­es to their instal­la­tion for Stekker Fest. I’ll be there tomor­row to hand out but­tons to play­ers. It’s the first in a series of three play­ful addi­tions to three fes­ti­vals that I am over­see­ing — first called project Ebi and now com­mon­ly known as PLAY Pilots. As such I can’t wait to see the response of play­ers. On the oth­er hand, I am sure it’ll be great.

The next project in the PLAY Pilots series is by Zes­baans for the Nether­lands Film Fes­ti­val. I had a few more meet­ings about that one as well, most­ly about get­ting some pro­duc­tion­al stuff sort­ed. It turns out get­ting big screens for a long peri­od of time is kind of expen­sive. Your learn some­thing every­day.

Last week we launched a first ver­sion of the PLAY Pilots web­site, which includes an online game. This week we’ve start­ed rolling out the first improve­ments. I have been plan­ning some changes and addi­tions to the rule­set. We’ve also start­ed work on pulling in the Wip ‘n’ Kip game data.

Apart from this, I have been doing some prepa­ra­tion for new projects; code­named Uni, Maguro and Fugu. More on those as things devel­op.

Week 162

Slight­ly over­due so I’ll keep it (very) short.

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.