These all seem pretty good too.
A reasonable list, and sensible solution.
Fantastic, all of it.
Sneeze is the latest minigame inside Routes to be released. It's a bit like Boomshine and Every Extend, except using the common cold as your weapon. Children are easy vectors, the elderly are slow but you get more points for infecting them. Lots of fun, and great splatter effects.
"This story clearly illustrates the problem with ordering over the phone." Oh dear.
"A set of rudimentary exercises intended to prepare students of rhetoric for the creation and performance of complete practice orations (gymnasmata or declamations). A crucial component of classical and renaissance rhetorical pedagogy. Many progymnasmata exercises correlate directly with the parts of a classical oration."
"Our team of investigative journalists has compiled a database from four years' worth of company accounts to show how much the FTSE 100 companies make in pre-tax profits, and how much they pay in tax. We have published this data as a user-friendly interactive guide at guardian.co.uk/taxgap/data." But, as well as the user-friendly guide, there's also all the data. Bravo.
"Unlike other games, L4D brings this entropy to the surface — there's a palpable feeling of dread throughout, as if the world is relentlessly and mercilessly trying to turn you into a red mist as fast as possible." Not convinced entirely, but this is a really important point: the best games expose their mechanics in plain sight. The systemic nature of the game – the entropic tension between survivor and zombie – is clearly critical to it, and there's no point where that's not made clear.
"FreeAgent is an easy online accounting tool, perfectly suited for freelancers and small businesses." Lots of good support for UK-based business, especially when it comes to tax calculation.
"Templates are simple ruby files containing DSL for adding plugins/gems/initializers etc. to your freshly created Rails project." That looks very handy.
I've had this bug for ages. Basically: when you upgrade to Lightroom 2, keywords from Lightroom 1 aren't exported by default, making exporting to Flickr irritating, because you end up having to rekey some (but not all) keywords. This magic Lua script fixes everything.
Condition 1 weather in Antarctica is nasty! – Gadling | travel blog | news, stories, deals, and tips. Go there."During Condition 1 weather, winds gust at speeds of anywhere from 50 to 60 MPH and the wind chill hits anywhere between 75° F to 100° F below zero. Ouch. Not surprisingly, personnel are prohibited from leaving their buildings during these storms." Which gives them ample time to make videos like this.
"Most usability experts will agree, Dr. Donald Norman’s book “The Design of Everyday Things” is required reading for any aspiring user experience or product designer. But it’s also an excellent resource for game creators – even if it’s less commonly found on studio bookshelves." NGMoco's blog, on POET, and what it means for game designers. Not rocket science, but really well explained to a non-specialist audience.
Lots of (large) images; detailed, wonderful. A post to go back to and pore over
"I must admit that I would have loved to get this richness of backstory into the actual game itself, but the longer pipeline of game asset development and integration made that impossible." Clint Hocking explaining the background behind the fictional blog for Far Cry 2.
The blog of Reuben Oluwagembi, the fictional journalist you meet in Far Cry 2.
"A few weeks ago we released our shapefiles via the API, and while most people were excited, some folks were a bit confused about what it all meant. Which is why Tom Taylor’s beautiful Boundaries application is so exciting. It helps you visualize the Flickr community’s twisty changing complex understanding of place." Tom is on code.flickr.com! Hurrah!
"Renaissance ‘lace books’ have much to offer the modern digital designer, who also faces the challenge of portraying clear and replicable images in a constrained environment." A brief history of pixelfonts.
"Obama's FCC transition co-chair is a WoW player, and has played in two different endgame guilds, including Joi Ito's famous We Know guild." This is exactly the kind of thing I was banging on about at Gamecity. Presentation online soon!
"We're still going through the stats, but at the time of writing there were almost 170,000 messages on the Strictly [Come Dancing] board." Holy hell. Poor moderators. (And: for such an uninteresting story, as well!)
"If the Barack Obama presidency fails to unite us as a country, I'm going to hold out for a fast-zombie apocalypse." Iroquois on co-op, and the way Left 4 Dead sees online co-op – and the bad behaviour of players online – as design problems to solve, rather than to ignore.
"Who designs a character for gamers to never go near? Who spends the time to create the most terrifying creature imaginable, and doesn’t impose it on players? Well, clearly Valve. The temptation to have her be aggravated from great distances, to force her to attack when encountered, must have been there. But then she’d have lost her power. Her power comes from just sitting there. It’s that benign, ragged, vulnerable form. It’s the combination of singing and crying. Oh God, the singing *and* crying." John Walker examines the horror of Left 4 Dead's Witch. A little over-written perhaps, but he totally nails the fear the character instills, and the way you always notice her a split-second too late.
Mitch just isn't inspired by user-generated content, no matter how charming a core game might be. The comments thread on this one is really good.
"The next generation on from them – e.g. Jonathan Smith, Doug Church and of course Greg Costikyan (from whose classic essay on developing such a critical language the title of this post is lifted) are always eloquent, passionate and insightful speakers and spokespeople for their medium. Unlike Molyneux." Not too annoyed I missed this, given Matt's comments.
"…the players are there for their character, not for your story. Your story is just the path for their characters, the medium through which they can play their persona. Once the GM realizes this, they should then realize that respecting the player and the character is paramount to their story. And it’s a surprisingly easy skill to master, because it really is as simple as recognizing what the players and characters want, what they came to do and then give it to them."
"So we decided to treat Availabot as a world probe: it was decided that we would take Availabot through to the position of being factory ready, and in the process learn as much as possible about the processes of manufacture, and how to develop these kind of complex products with so many moving parts." And, best news of all: Availabot will be coming to market. Excellent.
"…this leads up to a discussion of two things: the OAuth protocol which aims, amongst other laudable goals, to help safeguard users’ passwords, and the distinctly unnerving trend which Jeremy Keith has christened the password anti-pattern, which really doesn’t." A clear, articulate explanation of the issues around authentication.
In 2000, a group of seventh-graders were asked to draw what they thought scientists looked like and describe their pictures. Then, after visting Fermilab, they were asked to repeat the exercise. Some of the quotations are genuinely excellent, cf "Some people think that (scientists) are just some genius nerds in white coats, but they are actually people who are trying to live up to their dreams and learn more." Aren't we all?
"At GDC 2006 Sony’s Lead Programmer – Tim Moss had talk titled “God of War: How the Left and Right Brain Learned to Love One Another”. I read it, remembered mainly that it was interesting they had used Maya as main tool and kinda forgot about it. Only recently I’ve found out that recording from this session has been made available (for free) as well. You can download it here. Combined together they’re really interesting and I recommend everyone to spend few minutes and listen to it while reading slides." Some interesting stuff – God of War pre-scripts a lot of things that other people might want to do in real time, and as such, makes some stuff simpler, and makes controlling the players' experience easier.
A detailed look at various techniques for greebling Lego models.
"To me, these bizarre sequences represent adaptations of classical Brechtian stagecraft to video games. The way we interact with a game is different than the way we interact with a staged fiction, and by manipulating the tools specific to game-interaction– the interface and the mission-delivery system– Kojima delivers that sense of alienating weirdness that's the hallmark of the Verfremdungseffekt." I like Pliskin's commentary here – the absurdity of Arsenal Gear was great, and much preferable to the boss-rush that followed it.
"The dissertation builds on available sociological approaches to understanding everyday life in the networked city to show that emergent technologies reshape our experiences of spatiality, temporality and embodiment. It contributes to methodological innovation through the use of data bricolage and research blogging 1, which are presented through experimental and recombinant textual strategies; and it contributes to the field of science and technology studies by bringing together actor-network theory with the sociology of expectations in order to empirically evaluate an area of cutting-edge design." Anne Galloway's PhD thesis, now online.
A remake of "You Have To Burn The Rope", in the style of an Intellivision game. They've changed an important play mechanic and given the game an entertaining twist ending. Fun.
Regarding the Pain of Others is a long-form essay by Susan Sontag, examining the representation of suffering (and notably warfare) through the display of photographs. Published in 2003, in many ways, it is a follow up to some of the ideas examined in her earlier On Photography.
On Photography is one of my favourite books on the subject; it made a deep impact at university, and I’ve been meaning to reread it for a while. Regarding the Pain of Others is interesting if only because (as later illustrated) Sontag revisits some of her arguments in that set of essays and questions them again, even disagreeing with her younger self – something that I’ve rarely seen a critic do.
It’s a slim book – around 100 pages – but it’s written very densely, with long, unbroken sentences and many subordinate clauses. At times, it feels like the book as a whole could have done with its screws being tightened, but Sontag’s language is clear and efficient; it was hard to quote short passages simply due to the number of themes being rammed together in single constructions. It clearly also took me time to get into it – most of my dog-eared pages are in the latter half of the book, even though there’s almost as much I could quote from the first half.
A worthwhile read, anyhow; lots of thought about the current media landscape, especially in America, even if at times Sontag is somewhat pessimistic about Western society as a whole. Despite it not being the easiest – or clearest – book to read on the train to work, it had a lot to say that resonated, and it provided much-needed historical context for the media of today.
On to the quotations:
p.60, on the similarity of “shooting a subject” and “shooting a human being:
“War-making and picture-taking are congruent activities: ‘It is the same intelligence, whose weapons of annihilation can locate the enemy to the exact second a meeter.’ wrote [Ernst] Jünger, ‘that labors to preserve the great historical event in fine detail.'”
p.67, on the contradictory nature of photography-as-reportage and photography-as-beautiful-artefact:
“The concern is that the images to be devised won’t be sufficiently upsetting: not concrete, not detailed enough. Pity can entail a moral judgment if, as Aristotle maintains, pity is considered to be the emotion that we owe only to those enduring undeserved misfortune. But pity, far from being the natural twin of fear in the dramas of catastrophic misfortune, seems dilute – distracted – by fear, while fear (dread, terror) usually manages to swamp pity. Leonardo is suggesting that the artist’s gaze be, literally, pitiless. The image should appall, and in that terribilità likes a challenging kind of beauty.”
p.70, on Sebastião Salgado’s portraits:
“It is significant that the powerless are not named in the captions. A portrait that declines to name its subject becomes complicit, if inadvertently, in the cult of celebrity that has fueled an insatiable appetite for the opposite sort of phootgraph: to grant only the famous their names demotes the rest to representative instances of their occupations, their ethnicities, their plights.”
p.76, on the familiarity of certain photographs as cultural artifacts:
“…photographs help construct – and revise – our sense of a more distant past, with the posthumous shocks engineered by the circulation of hitherto unknown photographs. Photographs that everyone recognizes are now a constituent part of what a society chooses to think about, or declares that it has chosen to think about. It calls these ideas ‘memories’, and that is, over the long run, a fiction. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as collective memory – part of the same family of spurious notions as collective guilt. But there is collective instruction.”
p.79, on the nature of memory (and with an awkward opening line, to say the least):
“Even in the era of cybermodels, what the mind feels like is still, as the ancients imagined it, an inner space – like a theatre – in which we picture, and it is these pictures that allow us to remember. The problem is not that people remember through photographs, but that they remember only the photographs. This remembering through photographs eclipses other forms of understanding, and remembering.”
“In the first of the six essays in On Photography (1977), I argued that while an event known through photographs certainly becomes more real than it would have been had one never seen the photographs, after repeated exposure it also becomes less real. As much as they create sympathy, I wrote, photographs shrivel sympathy. Is this true? I thought it was when I wrote it. I’m not so sure now. What is the evidence that photographs have a diminishing impact, that our culture of spectatorship neutralizes the moral force of photographs of atroicities?”
p.100, on the danger of juxtaposing images of suffering:
“…the Sarajevans did want their plight to be recorded in photographs: victims are interested in the representation of their own sufferings. But they want the suffering to be seen as unique. In early 1994, the English photojournalist Paul Lowe, who had been living for more than a year in the besieged city, mounted an exhibit at a partly wrecked art gallery of the photographs he had been taking, along with photographs he’d taken a few years earlier in Somalia; the Sarajevans, though eager to see new pictures of the ongoing destruction of their city, were offended by the inclusion of the Somalia pictures. Lowe had thought the matter was a simple one. He was a professional photographer, and these were two bodies of work of which he was proud. For the Sarajevans, it was also simple. To set their sufferings alongside the sufferings of another people was to compare them (which hell was worse?), demoting Sarajevo’s martyrdom to a mere instance […] is intolerable to have one’s own sufferings twinned with anybody else’s.”
p.103, on the problem that photographs suggest that as a society, we should “never forget”:
“…history gives contradictory signals about the value of remembering in the much longer span of a collective history. There is simply too much injustice in the world. And too much remembering (of ancient grievances: Serbs, Irish) embitters. To make peace is to forget. To reconcile, it is necessary that memory be faulty and limited.”
p.105, on the frustration of viewing images of suffering throughout the media:
“The frustration of not being able to do anything about what the images show may be translated into an accusation of the indecency of regarding such images, or the indecencies of the way such images are disseminated – flanked, as they may well be, by advertising for emollients, pain relievers and SUVs. If we could do something about what the images show, we might not care as much about these issues.”
p.108, on attempting to display photographs:
“Much of the current skepticism about the work of certain photographers of conscience seems to amount to little more than displeasure at the fact that photographs are circulated so diversely; that there is no way to guarantee reverential conditions in which to look at these pictures and be fully responsive to them. Indeed, apart from the settings where patriotic deference to leaders is exercised, there seems no way to guarantee contemplative or inhibiting space for anything noww.
Reboot 9: notes now online
15 June 2007
My notes from Reboot 9 are now online. Forgot to mention this when I did it last week, so am now making up for lost time.
When I say “notes”, I mean my notes on other people’s talks (as opposed to the notes on my own talk, which have been much requested and which are still in the pipeline).
Anyhow, do check them out if you’re curious as to what went on. They’re vaguely useful if you weren’t there; most things in [square brackets] are me extemporising, rather than anything the speaker said.
08 March 2006
(this may change at some point in the future; I’m still revising this stuff but thought I may as well put it out there).
Etech06 is going really, really well for me (so far): lots of things emerging in my head, at the least. One thing that’s coming out of quite a bit is a discussion of feedback loops.
Feedback loops are really, really important. Amy Jo Kim touched on feedback as an essential part of ludic design – without feedback, play isn’t satisfying (and play is what all early adopters are doing all the time). Feeedback is what generates challenge/reward structures in games. Feedback loops are how communities emerge – I do something, you do something back; it’s the implicit social structures Amy Jo mentioned. Derek Powazek is currently talking about the “new community” – and mentions MeasureMap.
And, of course, MeasureMap is all about feedback – I can see when I made posts, and when comments came; I can track popularity. I’m no longer sending blindly into the ether; I’m sending and tracking response.
And once you track response, you can write so much better; you can design so much better; you can act on the feedback and you get a loop. And that loop’s really important – it’s what keep things going. If there’s not a feedback loop, things tail off, fall away.
That’s why Google bought MeasureMap: they had Blogger already. People can post to the web; they can broadcast into the ether. Once you give them MeasureMap, they become successful, effective publishers. When people say “what’s the point of blogging?”, they say it as an outsider – they just think it’s publishing. They don’t know about the stat-tracking, the refining. Once you have a feedback loop – once you can see the influence (or lack of it) that you have… that’s when it all clicks. That’s when you get placed into a significance grid – your posts get located in space, time, relevance, authority, etcetera.
Play is about feedback; games are about feedback; publishing is about feedback. A lot of the stuff this morning about attention: it’s all about invisible, natural feedback – tracking eyes-on-screens. We can track hits; now we need to track attention. And when we can measure it, we can value it, and we can price it.
That’s the attention economy. Placing everything into this feedback loop of value.
If you’re a business guy, you see how you can price, monetize, and securitize that feedback. If you’re a player or a hacker, you see what loops you can join together in a mash-up, or where you can generate new feedback, what new variables you can track. And that’s the “connective tissue” that Derek’s talking about.