Pollinator — a casual game prototype made with Mobile Processing

I wrote a game about a bee and flowers today

Last sun­day I sat down and cod­ed a pro­to­type of a casu­al game in Mobile Pro­cess­ing. I got the idea for it the evening before: You’re a bee who needs to col­lect as much hon­ey as pos­si­ble in his hive while at the same time keep­ing a flower-bed bloom­ing by pol­li­nat­ing… Play it and let me know what your high score is in the com­ments!

Thinking and making

I’ve been look­ing for an excuse to get some expe­ri­ence with Pro­cess­ing (par­tic­u­lar­ly the vari­ant suit­able for devel­op­ing mobile stuff) for a while. I also felt I need­ed to get back into the mak­ing part of the field I’ve been think­ing about so much late­ly: Game Design. I agree with Saf­fer, Webb and oth­ers — mak­ing is an impor­tant part of the design prac­tice, it can­not be replaced by lots of think­ing. The things learnt from engag­ing with the actu­al stuff things are made of (which in the case of dig­i­tal games is code) aren’t gained in any oth­er way and very valu­able.

Get the game

I’ve uploaded the first ver­sion of the game here. You can play it in the emu­la­tor in your brows­er or if your phone runs Java midlets, down­load the file and play it like you’re sup­posed to: While out and about. The source code is pro­vid­ed as well, if you feel like look­ing at it.1

Pollinator 0.1

How to play

You’re the yel­low oval. The orange tri­an­gle in the top left cor­ner is your hive. Green squares are grass, brown squares are seeds, red squares are flow­ers and pink squares are pol­li­nat­ed flow­ers. The field is updat­ed in columns from left to right (indi­cat­ed by the yel­low mark­er in the bot­tom). A seed will turn into a flower (in rare cas­es a pol­li­nat­ed flower). A flower will die, a pol­li­nat­ed flower will die and spread seeds to grass around it. Move your bee with the direc­tion­al keys, use the cen­tre key to grab nec­tar from a flower. You can cary a max­i­mum of 100 nec­tar. Drop your nec­tar off at the hive (again using the cen­tre key) to up your score. When you first grab nec­tar from a pol­li­nat­ed flower and sub­se­quent­ly from a nor­mal flower, the lat­ter is pol­li­nat­ed. Try to keep the flower-bed in bloom while at the same time rack­ing up a high-score!

You’ll get 10 nec­tar from a flower (in bloom or not). Pol­li­nat­ing a flower costs 5 nec­tar. If you try to take nec­tar more than once from the same flower, you’ll loose 10 nec­tar.2

Improvements

Stuff not in here that I might put into a next ver­sion (when­ev­er I get around to it):

  • Ani­ma­tion — I need to get my feet wet with some script­ed ani­ma­tion. Thing is I’ve always sucked at this. For now it’s all tile-based stuff.
  • Bet­ter feed­back — For instance show the points you earn near the bee and the hive. I think that’ll make the game a lot eas­i­er to under­stand and there­fore more fun.
  • Menus, pause, game over — It’s a pro­to­type, so you get dumped into the action right away. (The game starts on the first key you press.) And there’s no actu­al game over mes­sage, the field just turns green and you’re left to won­der what to do.
  • Bal­ance — I’m not sure if the game like it stands is bal­anced right, I will need to play it a lot to fig­ure that out. Also there’s prob­a­bly a dom­i­nant strat­e­gy that’ll let you rack up points eas­i­ly.

The aim was to cre­ate a rel­a­tive­ly casu­al game expe­ri­ence that will almost allow you to zone out while play­ing. I think it is far too twitchy now, so per­haps I real­ly should sit down and do a sec­ond ver­sion some­time soon.

Mobile Processing

I enjoy work­ing with Mobile Pro­cess­ing. I like the way it allows you to pro­gram in a very naive way but if you like struc­ture things in a more sophis­ti­cat­ed fash­ion. It real­ly does allow you to sketch in code, which is exact­ly what I need. The empha­sis on just code also pre­vents me from fid­dling around with ani­ma­tions, graph­ics and so on (like I would in Flash for instance.) Per­haps the only thing that would be nice is an edi­tor that is a bit more full-fea­tured.3 Per­haps I should grab an exter­nal edi­tor next time?

Feedback

If you played the game and liked it (or thought it was too hard, bor­ing or what­ev­er) I’d love to get your feed­back in the com­ments. Any­one else out there pro­to­typ­ing games in Pro­cess­ing? Or using it to teach game design? I’d be very inter­est­ed to hear about it.

  1. Not that it’s par­tic­u­lar­ly good, I’m an ama­teur coder at best. []
  2. I’m not sure this is the right kind of neg­a­tive rein­force­ment. []
  3. The auto­mat­ic code for­mat­ting refused to work for me, requir­ing me to spend a bit too much effort on for­mat­ting by hand. []

Work with me in Copenhagen (or where-ever)

Panorama of Copenhagen harbour

Now that I’m over three months into my stay in Copen­hagen I thought it would be good to post a short update. Here are the facts, bul­let-wise (with apolo­gies to Mr. Tufte):

  • I have been in Copen­hagen, Den­mark since July 1st 2007
  • Until now I have most­ly been work­ing on Playy­oo, doing inter­ac­tion and game design
  • I also pre­sent­ed on Play­ful IAs at the Euro IA Sum­mit in Barcelona
  • No lat­er than July 1st 2008, I will return to Utrecht, the Nether­lands
  • Yes, I intend to con­tin­ue free­lanc­ing when I get back (I offi­cial­ly left Info.nl on Octo­ber 1st 2007)
  • I am avail­able for free­lance inter­ac­tion design gigs that involve social media, mobile tech­nol­o­gy and/or gam­ing
  • You can also invite me to speak at your event or com­pa­ny, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the top­ic of apply­ing game design prin­ci­ples to the user expe­ri­ence of prod­ucts and ser­vices

Oh and of course, if you hap­pen to be in Copen­hagen, don’t hes­i­tate to drop me a line when you feel like going out for some drinks!

Slides and video of my Reboot 9.0 talk

So I’ve been busy upload­ing stuff. The slides to my Reboot 9.0 talk are up at SlideShare. I uploaded a video record­ed by Iskan­der with his N70 to Vimeo. Final­ly, since SlideShare still doesn’t import the notes that go with the slides in Pow­er­Point, I’ve also put up a big PDF (almost 50 MB). Please refer to the notes in the PDF for all the Flickr pho­to cred­its too.

Slides

Video

Mobile Social Play @ Reboot 9.0 from Kaeru on Vimeo

Notes

  • There’s a bit too much um-ing and ah-ing for my tastes. I need to do more prac­tice, prac­tice, prac­tice before these things!
  • This will be the last time I use Darth Vad­er as the open­ing slide, I promise.
  • It’s too bad I didn’t have more time to go into the exam­ples that go with the last part. Next time: less stage set­ting, more meat.
  • Still, I had fun. :-) Thanks again to Thomas for hav­ing me, and all the cool peo­ple at Reboot for going easy on me.

Reboot 9.0 day 2

(Wait­ing for my train home to arrive, I final­ly have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to post this.)

So with Reboot 9.0 and the after-par­ty done, I think I’ll briefly write up my impres­sions of the sec­ond day.

Stowe Boyd — Good talk as always, offer­ing a new def­i­n­i­tion of ‘flow’. I guess his attempt to have peo­ple open them­selves up to the ben­e­fi­cial sides of being inter­mit­tent­ly con­nect­ed was a suc­cess.

Marko Ahti­saari — Inter­est­ing char­ac­ter with a good sto­ry to tell. His free mobile oper­a­tor for teenagers scheme made a lot of peo­ple curi­ous. (Free stuff always does that, it seems.)

Lee Bryant — Very fit­ting to the theme of human?, a touch­ing sto­ry of how for­mer inhab­i­tants of a Bosn­ian town used social soft­ware to recon­nect and rebuild the town.

Julian Bleeck­er — Cool stuff on new ways to inter­act with com­put­ing tech­nol­o­gy beyond the util­i­tar­i­an and effi­cient, into the realm of play.

Dave Win­er — An inter­est­ing char­ac­ter hav­ing a nice con­ver­sa­tion with Thomas. I enjoyed his off­beat remarks and dry wit.

Guy Dick­in­son — Anoth­er round of micro­p­re­sen­ta­tions, this time with me par­tic­i­pat­ing. I stum­bled sev­er­al times. Next time I’ll pre­pare a cus­tom talk for this. The oth­er pre­sen­ters were awe­some.

Ras­mus Fleis­ch­er and Mag­nus Eriks­son — Two cool young anar­chists with inter­est­ing ideas about file shar­ing and the future of music. Too bad large parts of their pre­sen­ta­tion were read from a sheet.

Leisa Reichelt — A care­ful­ly put togeth­er overview of ambi­ent inti­ma­cy, what it is and what it’s for. Next step: com­ing up with design guide­lines for these types of ‘tools’.

Matt Webb — Deliv­ered on the expec­ta­tions raised by his per­for­mances pre­vi­ous years. Inter­est­ing to see him move into expe­ri­ence design ter­ri­to­ry and hear his take on it. Very much applic­a­ble to my dai­ly work in design­ing web ser­vices.

Din­ner and the after-par­ty were great (although it seemed that the reser­va­tions scheme had gone awry, they had no place for us at our cho­sen restau­rant). I guess drink­ing and talk­ing into the night at Vega with a lot of con­fused locals around was a fit­ting way to end anoth­er great Reboot.

Reboot 9.0 day 1

So here’s a short wrap up of the first day. I must say I’m not dis­ap­point­ed so far. The over­all lev­el of the talks is quite high again. Here’s what I attend­ed:

Open­ing keynote — Nice and conceptual/theoretical. Not sure I agree with all the claims made but it was a good way to kick off the day on a gee whizz way.

Jere­my Kei­th — Good talk, nice slides, didn’t real­ly deliv­er on the promise of his pro­pos­al though. I would’ve real­ly liked to see him go into the whole idea of life streams fur­ther. The hack day chal­lenge sound­ed cool though.

Stephanie Booth — Very top­i­cal for me, being a bilin­gual blog­ger and design­er often con­front­ed with localisation/multilingual issues.

My own talk — Went rea­son­ably well. I guess half of the room enjoyed and the oth­er half won­dered what the f*** I was talk­ing about. Oh well, I had fun.

Ross May­field — Could have been much bet­ter if it hadn’t been for tech­ni­cal screw-ups and per­haps some tighter pac­ing by Ross. Still the work he’s doing with social soft­ware is great.

Matt Jones — Very pret­ty pre­sen­ta­tion, nice top­ic and Dopplr looks cool. I’m not a fre­quent fly­er but I can see the val­ue in it. Still not quite sure it will improve the con­se­quences of air-trav­el though.

Nico­las Nova — Came across as the high con­cept, the­o­ret­i­cal twin to my talk. Lots of cool per­va­sive game exam­ples. Nico­las always bog­gles my mind.

Jyri Engeström — Cool to see how he’s devel­oped his talks through­out the past Reboots. I guess he deliv­ered on his promise and stayed on the right side of the ‘I’m push­ing my prod­uct’ line.

The evening pro­gram — No micro-pre­sen­ta­tions (which to be hon­est was fine by me, being quite exhaust­ed). Good food, nice con­ver­sa­tions and plen­ty of weird gen­er­a­tive art, live cin­e­ma etc. All good.

On to day 2!

See me talk on mobile social play at Reboot 9.0

I got awe­some news the oth­er day: my pro­pos­al for a talk at Reboot 9.0 has been accept­ed. I’m very hon­oured (and a lit­tle ner­vous) to be pre­sent­ing at a con­fer­ence with so many smart atten­dees. Now to get my act togeth­er and cre­ate a kick-ass pre­sen­ta­tion.

If you have any­thing relat­ed to this (pret­ty broad) top­ic that you’d want me to address, please do leave a note in the com­ments.

One thing’s for sure: I’ll try to build upon what has gone before at pre­vi­ous Reboots, such as Ben Cerveny’s mind-blow­ing overview (MP3) of how play is essen­tial­ly becom­ing a new lan­guage for us to com­mu­ni­cate with and TL Taylor’s great talk on the dynam­ics of vir­tu­al worlds.

What I will be address­ing is still slight­ly unclear to me, but the direc­tion I’m head­ed is:

  1. Games can be social play, which means they can be used to forge and exper­i­ment with social rela­tions in a ‘safe’ way. This hap­pens whether you design for it or not, but can be nur­tured.
  2. When games go mobile, the bor­ders of the space and time in which a game is played are blurred. In this way, games bleed over into cul­ture in a grad­ual way.

Enough to chew on for one talk, I guess. Again, any ques­tions, com­ments and sug­ges­tions are more than wel­come. See you all at Reboot 9.0.

Mobile Social Play — my Reboot 9.0 proposal

Vadr

I’ve just sub­mit­ted my pro­pos­al for a talk at Reboot 9.0. It’s on the three areas I am most fas­ci­nat­ed with at the moment: mobile, social soft­ware and gaming/play. After attend­ing this great con­fer­ence twice it’d be real­ly cool to get the oppor­tu­ni­ty to present there.1

Take a look at it and let me know what you think2, I’d love to get some feed­back up-front so I can maybe work that in there. What do you want to know about this top­ic?

Curi­ous what this might be like? Take a look at the Pecha Kucha I deliv­ered on mobile gam­ing for a taste of what’s to come.

  1. If it doesn’t work out I can always turn it into a micro pre­sen­ta­tion.
  2. If you like it, vote it up!

iPhone

iPhone playing The Office

There have been so many posts on the iPhone late­ly that I’ll try not to add to the noise with things that have already been said. Web design­er Jere­my Kei­th and inter­ac­tion design­er Dan Saf­fer have both tried to gath­er all the worth­while posts on the top­ic, from dif­fer­ing per­spec­tives. I’m sure they’ll make for plen­ty of (more or less inter­est­ing) read­ing.

My own view is that Apple have proven once again that they’re great at inte­grat­ing tech that was already out there in a pack­age that offers a pleas­ing user expe­ri­ence. I’m curi­ous about the mul­ti-touch screen and the appar­ent ges­tur­al and tan­gi­ble inter­ac­tion it offers. I’m under­whelmed by their choice to have the device work only with Cin­gu­lar (which appar­ent­ly is kind of crap) and am curi­ous if they’ll do the same when it’s intro­duced on this side of the ocean.

In short: I’ll have to actu­al­ly use the thing to decide whether it’s as good as it seems; it’ll come down to not just the UI, but also the per­for­mance of the GSM, WiFi, cam­era, and on and on. For now, I’m hav­ing fun watch­ing the online demos (at least that’s one thing Apple is very good at).

A few weeks of Jaiku fun

Jaiku's logo

I’ve been play­ing around with Jaiku for a bit now. I first down­loaded the client and gave it a spin a while back (before the site was there). When they launched the site, I rein­stalled the client, and after some ini­tial screw­ing around with my N70, I got it to work. I should note, how­ev­er that Jaiku has become great fun even if you don’t have a S60 phone.

Thanks to the enthu­si­as­tic use of col­leagues Tom and Edgar I’ve got­ten a taste of what the ser­vice would be like if all my (non-techie) friends would be online. Espe­cial­ly Edgar’s reg­u­lar updates dur­ing his vaca­tion in Aus­tralia were… inter­est­ing. I’m still not sure if I enjoy see­ing his “hav­ing a cock­tail here and there” updates while I’m post­ing a mes­sage that I’m hard at work. Oh well.

I first encoun­tered (the con­cept of) Jaiku at last year’s Reboot thanks to Jyri’s talk. The talk was cool, and main­ly focussed on how IM-like sta­tus mes­sages inte­grat­ed with your phone book would result in some­thing Jyri and friends like to call ‘rich pres­ence’. It seems that (as is so often the case) real use by real users, com­bined with the intro­duc­tion of the web front-end is slow­ly but sure­ly trans­form­ing it into some­thing more like a per­son­al pres­ence pub­lish­ing chan­nel.

I find myself reg­u­lar­ly updat­ing my sta­tus mes­sage, be it through the S60 client, their text mes­sag­ing inter­face or the web site. I’ve also hooked up most of the RSS feeds that track my activ­i­ty on a num­ber of social web ser­vices. This might just be my obses­sive urge to cache all my (on- and offline) activ­i­ty some­where in an effort­less way, but I can imag­ine more peo­ple would enjoy using it once tying togeth­er the loose ends becomes more intu­itive.

I would also like to thank the Jaiku guys for being very help­ful, sup­port­ing me with all the N70 woes.

For those inter­est­ed in more, check out the fol­low­ing links:

Final­ly, if you hap­pen to be using the ser­vice and would like to hook up, my nick is ‘kaeru’. Let me know yours!

My Mobile Game Directions Pecha Kucha

Yes­ter­day I pre­sent­ed my talk on mobile gam­ing at the 6th Pecha Kucha Night in Rotterdam’s Off_Corso. I was pro­grammed as the first speak­er, which was excit­ing (and also allowed me to ben­e­fit from the pri­ma­cy effect, as my girl­friend point­ed out). Col­league Iskan­der was kind enough to record the whole thing on his N70 (fit­ting­ly) and I present it here for your enjoy­ment or aggra­va­tion, whichev­er you pre­fer (please take note that the talk is in Dutch). The slides I used are over at SlideShare.

I’m still not sure the sub­ject mat­ter was appro­pri­ate for the event, con­sid­er­ing the major­i­ty of speak­ers were either graph­ic design­ers, autonomous artists or archi­tects. The crowd might’ve been a bit under­whelmed by my com­mer­cial and pop cul­tur­al ref­er­ences. Oh well, I had fun, I guess that’s the most impor­tant thing.

Many thanks to Nadine and Bart of Hunk Design for let­ting me loose on stage. ‘Nuff respect to all the pre­sen­ters for tak­ing the trou­ble of prepar­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion. There were plen­ty of cool and inspir­ing ideas on show. Final­ly, thanks to the cre­ators of all the images I used, you can find the cred­its in the SlideShare show.

Update: I’ve delet­ed my YouTube account so here’s an embed of the video on Vimeo:



Mobile Game Direc­tions @ Pecha Kucha Night Rot­ter­dam from Kaeru on Vimeo.