Possibility spaces and algorithmic architectures

A screenshot of Sim City.

One of the con­cepts I plan on explor­ing in my talk at the Euro IA Sum­mit in Barcelona is ‘pos­si­bil­i­ty spaces’. It’s a term used by Will Wright to describe his view of what a game can be — a space that offers mul­ti­ple routes and out­comes to its explor­er. That idea maps nice­ly with one def­i­n­i­tion of play that Zim­mer­man and Salen offer in Rules of Play: ‘free move­ment with­in a rigid struc­ture’. Some exam­ples of pos­si­bil­i­ty spaces cre­at­ed by Wright are the well-known games Sim City and The Sims.

I think the idea of pos­si­bil­i­ty spaces can help IAs to get a firmer grip on ways to real­ize infor­ma­tion spaces that are mul­ti-dimen­sion­al and (to use a term put for­ward by Jesse James Gar­rett) algo­rith­mic. Algo­rith­mic archi­tec­tures accord­ing to Gar­rett are cre­at­ed ‘on the fly’ based on a set of rules (algo­rithms) that get their input (ide­al­ly) from user behav­iour. The exam­ple he uses to explain this con­cept is Ama­zon.

I’ve found myself in sev­er­al projects recent­ly that would have ben­e­fit­ed from an algo­rith­mic approach. The hard thing is to explain its charms to clients and to get a uni­fied vision of what it means across to the design team. I believe games might be a use­ful anal­o­gy. What do you think?

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 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!

Surprises in Animal Crossing: Wild World

20070112T155404

So I’ve been play­ing AC: WW for over a weeks now and I must say it has lived up to my expec­ta­tions. It’s a cute and quirky game that does not fol­low con­ven­tion­al game design rules. There is no way to die, no (real) way to loose or even win. In a sense it’s more like a toy than a game; you can play with it end­less­ly, there is no goal to reach (apart from dis­cov­er­ing all it’s lit­tle secrets).

Cockroaches

One of those secrets was par­tic­u­lar­ly fun to dis­cov­er. After a few days of play I con­vinced my girl­friend to give it a try. So she put the car­tridge in her pink DS Lite. While I was cook­ing din­ner, she went through the begin­ning stages (dri­ving to the town in a taxi, get­ting a job with Tom Nook). A bit lat­er, I picked it up again and went about my busi­ness (I think it was fish­ing, I still have a large loan to pay off after the first house expan­sion).

After a while I went back into the house and found (shock! hor­ror!) a bunch of cock­roach­es run­ning around my care­ful­ly kempt inte­ri­or. “We have cock­roach­es!” I shout­ed to my girl­friend while run­ning around the house try­ing to squash them. The appar­ent source was some apples lying around. “Didn’t the ani­mals tell you don’t leave stuff lying around the house?” I asked her. They had, but where should she put them (the apples) oth­er­wise? Good point.

We had a good laugh after that episode. Be care­ful who you play this game with; it might be a chal­lenge liv­ing togeth­er in the real world – Ani­mal Cross­ing is no dif­fer­ent! But the real genius of the game is in these things. It’s a rules based world for sure (leave apples around the house, get cock­roach­es) but the mini-nar­ra­tives that it allows you to build in this way is crazy.

Letters

Anoth­er exam­ple is the let­ters I find myself writ­ing to the ani­mals. I’m sure they’d be hap­py with any kind of let­ter, as long as I men­tion some spe­cif­ic words maybe (like ‘hap­py’ and ‘friend’). In stead, I’m writ­ing ful­ly formed sen­tences, and include lit­tle details that would be appre­ci­at­ed by real peo­ple. In that way, it’s allow­ing for sub­tle role-play­ing.

Charity

On the sub­ject of role-play­ing (and there not being a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ way to play the game); I know I should be hard at work pay­ing off the afore­men­tioned loan (to progress to the next ‘lev­el’). But in stead I find myself spend­ing a lot of time and mon­ey on present for the ani­mals, and dona­tions to the muse­um. That might be role-play­ing (or that might be my real per­son­al­i­ty influ­enc­ing what I find plea­sur­able in the game) but the coolest bit is that it doesn’t mat­ter; any way of play­ing is valid.

Have any oth­er peo­ple had sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences with the game? Are there ways to apply this log­ic (the pat­terns inher­ent in the game) to oth­er domains?

Some closing links:

Rough notes for T.L. Taylor — Play

MMOGs have roots in RPGs and MUDs.

Soft­ware and ser­vice.

Ulti­ma, EverQuest, Wow…

Social con­texts

MMOGs isn’t anti-social. Social isn’t icing on the cake. Social is the sub­stance of the game. It’s key.

On- and offline con­nec­tions mix.

Emer­gent social activ­i­ty. E.g.: “guilds”; trust, respon­si­bil­i­ty, rep­u­ta­tion.

Game devs aren’t giv­ing play­ers the tools to be social. Focus is on arte­fact first.

Rough map of guild — con­nec­tions between play­ers are offline

Tran­script of in game chat. Lots of offline con­nec­tions.

Friends are the Ulti­mate Exploit”

EULA: shar­ing accounts is not allowed (in EQ).

Col­lab­o­ra­tion and teams:

Com­plex coor­di­nat­ed actions.

Co-cre­ative cul­ture

Play­ers also pro­duce and design. Emer­gent cul­ture and tech­nolo­gies that change the game…

Play­ers change the prod­uct in deep ways.

Game in box is just part of larg­er game space.

WoW opens up UI for play­ers to change. Big dif­fer­ences between play­ers.

Cheat­ing — mod­i­fi­ca­tion of game is debat­ed.

IP — who should be the design­er, what’s play?

Sell­ing avatars on eBay. Game com­pa­nies own the avatar so it’s not allowed. Embod­i­ment — you don’t own your body!

In EQ there was a lot to do about fan­f­ic.

WoW in game protests. “Protest­ing in game is not a valid way to give us feed­back.”

Are game worlds pub­lic space? Or not because they’re corp. owned?

Com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of cul­ture. Design­ers want con­trol over play­ers / users. Let go!

Things that are hap­pen­ing in game are exam­ples of big­ger issues such as: UX, IP, mash-ups, P2P, etc.

Book: Play Between Worlds, T.L. Tay­lor.

Ques­tions:

What about scale? Do these thoughts apply to small­er games? We need small­er games to exper­i­ment with gov­er­nance and such.

Is there an end to the game? “End” is play­er-defined… Games should be bet­ter at help­ing peo­ple leave.

Can these games become the new plat­forms for pro­duc­tiv­i­ty? There’s a lot of mum­bling, but no-one knows. You pick up valu­able skills while play­ing.

Does this apply to alter­nate real­i­ty games? E.g. ILove­Bees… She did a piece on Majes­tic. Beta dur­ing 9/11. It was mixed with real­i­ty.

How can we use tra­di­tion­al ethno­graph­ic think­ing? The work isn’t com­par­a­tive enough to make any strong state­ments.

http://reboot.dk/wiki/Play