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 149

I’m writ­ing these notes on a train to Malmö for a change. I was there this wednes­day and am back again to have a chat at Illu­sion Labs. I was put in touch with them by Ham­pus of The Aston­ish­ing Tribe, whom I vis­it­ed on wednes­day. TAT’s an inter­est­ing group, spe­cial­ized in the design of inno­v­a­tive mobile UIs. Their Rec­og­nizr con­cept video made quite a splash in AR cir­cles ear­li­er this year. I once gave a lec­ture on play­ful UIs at their office and even though noth­ing con­crete is in the works it would be inter­est­ing to col­lab­o­rate some more on that top­ic some time.

On wednes­day I also met up with my friends at InUse, whom I did some work with when I was last in Copen­hagen. That project dealt with appli­ca­tions of mul­ti­touch in a real-estate project. Over a Lebanese buf­fet lunch Mijo and I most­ly mused on what’s changed in UX con­sult­ing land the past few years and how that might devel­op into the future. We talked about ‘peak com­plex­i­ty’, the inter­net of things and strate­gies for design­ing deeply net­worked things. Good stuff.

To wrap up that day, I had a sur­prise meet-up with Karin of Ozma, (again thanks to the awe­some con­nect­ing pow­ers of Ham­pus). Ozma is a game design stu­dio work­ing very much in the same spir­it as Hub­bub, with a focus on “gam­ing beyond the screen”. It was very encour­ag­ing to dis­cov­er a com­pa­ny that’s been suc­cess­ful­ly work­ing in this space for the past four years. (And they’re not the only one, in Swe­den alone there’s also Fabel, The Sto­ry Lab and Grul…) One of the things we talked about is a cool plat­form they’re devel­op­ing for urban games that is not GPS-based, but runs entire­ly on SMS and is there­fore very use­ful for work­ing with tar­get audi­ences who do not have access to high-end phones (i.e. teens and tweens).

That wednes­day I head­ed back to Copen­hagen, my mind suit­ably blown, as you can prob­a­bly imag­ine.

Oth­er than that I have been enjoy­ing Social­square’s hos­pi­tal­i­ty on the Vester­bro­gade. Mar­tin, Mag­nus and I spent some time hash­ing out the details of the work­shop we’ll be doing and we man­aged to nar­row down the ques­tions we’d like to answer to a man­age­able set. I’m keen on hav­ing part of this project’s out­put be share­able with the world; in what shape or form we have yet to deter­mine.

My active involve­ment with Layar has gone on hold for the time being, but at the same time the first bits of my work for Layar are find­ing its way into the world. They’ve launched a new ver­sion of their app, which now sup­ports paid con­tent. (Android is out, iPhone should fol­low soon.) This was one of the first things I worked on for them, before mov­ing on to stuff that’ll hope­ful­ly see the light of day some­where over sum­mer. Design­ing the paid con­tent stuff involved deal­ing with a ton of depen­den­cies on process­es behind the scenes. It was an inter­est­ing chal­lenge to make it as fric­tion­less as pos­si­ble. Plus, the mobile pay­ment ecosys­tem is itself an inter­est­ing beast to deal with for a while. I also found myself design­ing for sev­er­al mobile plat­forms at the same time, which can real­ly mess with your head; both Android and iPhone have their own ‘gram­mar’ of inter­ac­tion (or more pre­cise­ly, one of them has some­thing resem­bling a prop­er gram­mar, the other’s is more accu­rate­ly described as a pid­gin). So design­ing in par­al­lel for both is a bit like speak­ing two lan­guages at the same time. Con­fus­ing, even to a Dutch­man.

All this, plus some more Skype calls with my HKU stu­dents (remind me to share some details on their work next time), anoth­er Skype ses­sion with the U-Turm group and the very final prepa­ra­tions for This hap­pened – Utrecht #6 took up week 149.

Week 148

So, the first full week of work­ing in Copen­hagen is behind me. I’ve most­ly been work­ing from our apart­ment in Nør­re­bro. Which is fine for now but I am look­ing for­ward to get­ting out more, and maybe doing some cowork­ing here and there. Wouldn’t want to turn into a real her­mit here.

Let me have a look at my cal­en­dar, what’s been going on?

Ah, so I had a meet­ing with Mar­tin and Andreas of Social Square (at the very charm­ing Gra­nola, where they serve very tasty mixed juices, by the way). We’ll be doing a mul­ti­ple day work­shop to look at their design process and dis­cov­er ways to use play as a tool for work­ing with clients. The ses­sion is sched­uled to take place in a few weeks. I just need to devel­op a more detailed plan for the ses­sion.

Nordic Game Indie Night

I crossed the Øre­sund on tues­day evening to attend the Nordic Game Indie Night, which was orga­nized by the Copen­hagen Game Col­lec­tive (whose Dark­room Sex Game I’ve blogged about here before). There were six games on dis­play, all from Scan­di­na­vian cre­ators. There was free beer. And there were a few talks, of vast­ly dif­fer­ing depth and enter­tain­ment val­ue. The set­up was nice though: the games’ cre­ators talked about each oth­ers work. The only prob­lem was that many weren’t very artic­u­late, and shied away from actu­al­ly crit­i­ciz­ing games. Some, though, like the guys from D-Pad Stu­dio, real­ly took the time to ana­lyze a game on dif­fer­ent lev­els. Oth­ers, like Cac­tus, seemed more inter­est­ed in drink­ing beer. How­ev­er, Cactus’s game Tun­ing was my favorite of the bunch, for its sheer mind-fuck awe­some­ness.

Apart from this, I’ve con­tin­ued work on Layar, had anoth­er round of men­tor­ing chats with my stu­dents and made some more prepa­ra­tions for This hap­pened – Utrecht #6. We opened reg­is­tra­tion for the lat­ter on mon­day, by the way, and were ful­ly booked in 58 sec­onds (and had some serv­er wonk­i­ness in the process). Crazy, crazy stuff.

Week 147

Well, the vol­cano did mess with my flight. Despite that, I am still writ­ing this from an apart­ment on Birkegade in CPH, where I’ll be spend­ing the com­ing 5–6 weeks. Here’s what my work­space looks like:

What my CPH work space looks like at the moment

Trav­el­ing here took up the whole of wednes­day. We went by train; Utrecht to Duis­burg, Duis­burg to Ham­burg, Ham­burg to Copen­hagen. They put our train on a freak­ing boat for a bit. That was dif­fer­ent.

So I’ve been set­tling in. Get­ting a bike, recon­nect­ing to old haunts, that sort of thing (I was here for a year in 2007–2008).

Apart from that, I’ve been tak­ing care of some last bits of work for Layar, doing some prep for This hap­pened – Utrecht #6 (reg­is­tra­tion opens Mon­day!) and talk­ing to my HKU stu­dents. I also had a first meet­ing with a group of Medi­aL­AB Ams­ter­dam stu­dents who are cre­at­ing a play­ful urban pro­jec­tion for ISEA2010 in Dort­mund.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a city to explore.

Week 146

Crazy, crazy week I am glad to have sur­vived. But wait, it’s not done yet. Tomor­row (sat­ur­day) I’ll be run­ning a work­shop in Lei­d­sche Rijn with local young folk, for Cultuur19. The aim is to design a lit­tle social game that’ll func­tion as a viral mar­ket­ing tac­tic for our upcom­ing urban games design work­shop in the same dis­trict. This is a Hub­bub mis­sion, and I am glad to have the sup­port of Karel who — besides cook­ing up crazy plans at Fource­Labs — is an occa­sion­al agent of Hub­bub.

This was my last week work­ing on site with Layar because I’m head­ing to Copen­hagen on sun­day. I’ll be stay­ing there for a few weeks, work­ing there — for Layar still, pos­si­bly for Social Square — lec­tur­ing at CIID and apart from that just tak­ing it a lit­tle slow­er. My apart­ment is around the cor­ner from the Laun­dro­mat Café in Nør­re­bro so that should be no prob­lem.

I was at Waag Soci­ety’s beau­ti­ful The­atrum Anatomicum last wednes­day to cohost a work­shop on games and archi­tec­ture as part of the Best Scene in Town project ini­ti­at­ed by 7scenes. I pre­sent­ed three bold pre­dic­tions for the future of games in the city. Look for a write-up of that one at the Hub­bub blog soon. The teams came up with inter­est­ing con­cepts for games in Ams­ter­dam and I enjoyed work­ing with all of them.

Going back to the start of this week, I turned 30 on mon­day. A water­shed moment of some sort I guess. Some­what appro­pri­ate­ly, we announced This hap­pened – Utrecht #6 that day too. Check out the pro­gram, I am real pleased with our speak­ers.

Now let’s just hope that vol­cano doesn’t mess with my flight in sun­day and the next note will be com­ing to you from love­ly CPH.

Week 145

It’s been a short­er week than usu­al due to East­er (which was a nice long week­end with friends and fam­i­ly, by the way). I’ve divid­ed up my time equal­ly between work at Layar — which for me has entered its last phase; a few more weeks to go and then I’ll be hand­ing over — and “oth­er stuff”, being:

  • Some prep work for This hap­pened – Utrecht #6. The line-up is shap­ing up nice­ly and we have an awe­some spon­sor again. Announce­ments will be made next mon­day.
  • An appear­ance at Vis­i­ble Cities #03 which was all about urban games. I had the plea­sure of shar­ing a table with Michiel, James and Juha; sharp folk all around. Some notes will prob­a­bly find their way to the Hub­bub blog soon.
  • Teach­ing at the HKU. Which can more or less be summed up by the tweet I post­ed after­wards: “Real­ly pleased with the hands-on men­tal­i­ty of my design stu­dents. Feet in mud, head in clouds, as it should be.”
  • And now, on fri­day, some loose ends to tie up before the last week­end of my life as a twen­ty-some­thing kicks off.

So there you go.

Week 144

In between the work I’ve been doing at Layar (which I can’t real­ly tell you much about still, sad­ly) it’s been a rel­a­tive­ly qui­et week.

On mon­day I got my pho­to tak­en for this book on cre­ative SMEs in Utrecht that I men­tioned in the pre­vi­ous wee­knotes. I had a chat with Lodewijk of Stekker Fest about the next phase of Tako and then head­ed off to Ams­ter­dam for Mobile Mon­day #15. As is often the case with MoMo, I end­ed up half pro­voked — I find the views of Sin­gu­lar­i­ty peo­ple a lit­tle prob­lem­at­ic — and half inspired — Boor­ei­land and Tinker.it! had some fine design work to share. The best part was the pleas­ant din­ner I had after­wards with Alexan­dra, Iskan­der and Peter.

On tues­day, after a day of hard graft at Layar I had a chat with Jeroen about Tako too. We’ve more or less fig­ured out the orga­ni­za­tion­al scheme we’ll need to push things for­ward so now it’s a mat­ter of find­ing a few more peo­ple to help run it. We have a list.

Wednes­day morn­ing was spent at the HKU; chat­ting with sev­er­al of my stu­dents about their progress. Com­pared to the ones I had last year, these guys are more hands-on and have all start­ed build­ing stuff already. That makes men­tor­ing much eas­i­er. In the after­noon I spent some time at Waag Soci­ety talk­ing to Ronald and Mar­ti­jn about a 7scenes work­shop we’ll be run­ning on april 14. If you’re read­ing this, it might be of inter­est to you. Have a look.

Yes­ter­day (thurs­day) and today are all about Layar again so not much to report there. Next week’s notes will dis­cuss just four work­ing days since it’s East­er here. I’m look­ing for­ward to a longish week­end catch­ing up with friends and fam­i­ly. See you on the oth­er side.

Week 143

I near­ly for­got about last week’s notes even though I wasn’t even that busy. So here I am writ­ing this on a sun­day from the couch after hav­ing had a nice fam­i­ly brunch and with a La Chouffe close at hand. It’s all good.

Since this is a sun­day I will keep it short and strict­ly chrono­log­i­cal for once. Mon­day start­ed off with a long inter­view for a book on Utrecht’s cre­ative SMEs. This was fol­lowed by a meet­ing with Alexan­der and Ianus to eval­u­ate the last This hap­pened – Utrecht and make plans for the next one. On tues­day I vis­it­ed the HKU for the first of what will become many con­ver­sa­tions that I’ll have with my new group of stu­dents. After­wards I hur­ried to Layar HQ for more design work, which basi­cal­ly took up the rest of the week (punc­tu­at­ed by a lunch with Alper about his trip to Austin and NYC and anoth­er one with James about the Urban­ode project he is plan­ning at VURB.) Lau­rens (of LouLou & Tum­my fame) has joined us at Layar bring­ing a whole new dimen­sion to the cre­ative work being done there. It’s excit­ing to be part of that.

So there we are, a brief review of the week. Now if you don’t mind I have a Chouffe to quaff and a few 3voor12 Draait pod­casts to lis­ten to. Bring on week 144!

Week 142

I am sat on the couch at home typ­ing this. iTunes is on shuf­fle (some Bur­ial at the moment). I’ve just had a Bi-Fi snack sausage (a guilty plea­sure) and some ice tea. I was kind of hun­gry, but now I’m ok.

Last week wasn’t as crazy as many recent ones have been. Still pret­ty busy, with some work in the evenings etc. But the pace is low­er. That’s a nice change.

Today I sort of wrapped up project Tako. Sort of, because although I’ve deliv­ered what was this project’s aim, it is part of some­thing much larg­er. So we’re already mak­ing plans for phase two. Any­way, I’ve pub­lished an anno­tat­ed deck of slides to the project’s par­tic­i­pants weigh­ing in at 100+. It describes con­cepts for play­ful stuff that can be added to the pro­grams of ten of Utrecht’s major cul­tur­al events. It also describes a metagame that can be used to tie it all togeth­er. The response to it has been good so now the next step is to actu­al­ly pro­duce a selec­tion of these con­cepts, which is super excit­ing.

I start­ed the week with a long dri­ve to the West­land for a slight­ly over­due eval­u­a­tion of Mega Mon­ster Bat­tle Are­na. Dario Fo, Daniël and myself agree it would be awe­some to put on an improved ver­sion of the show at oth­er venues because it real­ly is some­thing spe­cial, more peo­ple should see it. If you have sug­ges­tions for a suit­able event or venue, let me know.

On wednes­day I made a last minute deci­sion to drop by the great TrouwAms­ter­dam again for an evening on maps as art and new car­tog­ra­phy tech­niques. Amongst other’s Sarah van Sons­beeck was there to talk about her work. She men­tioned the project Alper and I did with her, which I found flat­ter­ing. The evening’s pro­gram con­tained a love­ly range of the super-artis­tic to the very applied and the hyper-ana­log to the pure­ly dig­i­tal. Good stuff. It reminds me of the fact that I want to do Hub­bub games that involve maps in some way.

In between, I’ve been bang­ing away at designs for Layar. It’s inter­est­ing to expe­ri­ence the rhythm of idea diver­gence and con­ver­gence in a project. It’s like ebb and flow. This week was def­i­nite­ly char­ac­ter­ized by a new wave of diver­gence, which means scram­bling to cap­ture all that emerges. Next week we’ll need to bring it all togeth­er again and focus things. Ebb and flow.

iTunes has start­ed play­ing an Inter­pol song now. I think I might grab some crisps after I’ve post­ed this.

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.