Tuesday, December 20, 2005
And in other news - blimey. Bioware. They're ace. And they're looking for writing talent in the modding community. They rock!
I'm not really sure why; it started to happen when I was in my teens. I used to love singing carols in the cathedral, and very much liked the frankinsencey whiff of tradition around the festivities.
But... I don't know. Maybe it was just growing up, and growing out of the avaricious fervour of a kid waiting for santa.
This christmas is particularly odd. Last year I was in the death-throws of a relationship - it actually ended on the day after boxing day, and only got through christmas by drinking myself stupid. The memories are still raw, and combined with my now-regular burst of midwinter depression have proved to be a difficult storm to weather.
The nice thing, of course, is my new relationship; too soon, not what I expected, but nonetheless good. We've got work to do, yes: I need to stop being so reserved, uptight, offhand and cautious, he needs to wash his own socks occasionally; you know, the ususal domestic stuff. But it's... good. Working. Solid. Nice. Not the most exciting set of words to use about it, but to be honest, they're words I set great stock by, and think are much underrated.
So, this christmas will be a change; a new start, a going forward. And for once, it's almost worth celebrating.
Aaaaany-way. This long digression is a preamble to pointing to a small christmas celebration put together by the redoubtable Ms. Harpold, to which I've contributed a memory of a christmas past.
Friday, December 16, 2005
He'd initially sent it for the breakdown of race / gender / faciton stats - which confirmed my hunch that there really aren't many Lady Taurens in game. Only 19% of players have female horde characters, and only 11 % of Taurens are female in game, and only 18% of warriors are female... so - erm, no, I don't have enough data to work that one out, but I'm a minority in a minority of a minority - and I bet even more so as I'm actually a female player, and there are less of us.
Digressions aside, further down the blog is a discussion of how avatars signal their behaviours and interactions in game. There are obviously /emotes in game, but those are very deliberately signalled by the user. I tend to use a lot of /emotes, but it's something to do with playing with my real-life partner a lot of the time; we make a joke of our real-life status in game, so we'll often /kiss or /hug on meeting. I have a personal preference for /tickling in-game strangers, too - especially whilst on the zeppelin, which is idle time in game terms. I'm like one of those japanese tube perverts.
The fascinating thing is the analysis of the possible behaviours an avatar could display whilst the player was performing in game actions. For instance, if you consult a map, you're not 'seeing' the world; your character could signal this by having their face hidden behind a large unfolded map. Fiddling with objects in bags also takes a player away from concentrating on their avatar - so their avatar could appear distracted by ferreting through bags in game.
The problem of facial expression not being visible at a distance is simple to solve in WoW - you only see it when targetted on someone, and then only in the small character information lozenge that displays...
Simple observation of real life behaviours do map on to game worlds, and help bring a tangibility to the social aspects of the game. It would be interesting to find a game with rich charater interaction modelled into it, and compare the rates of 'anitsocial' play with a less-rich environment. It would be nice to find out if social behavioural cues help foster greater socialisation (sociability, or 'good behaviour') in game.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
This is one of the best CGI images I have *ever* seen.
The only downside I can see is the over-texturing on the skin - it looks a tiny bit too shiny, and a bit too textured; you'd be likely to take it in as a waxwork rather than a photo of a person.
There was a moment - a tipping point, I suppose, in trendy new parlance - a couple of years ago when an all-cgi image fooled me. I definately get fooled by CGI inserts in live action all the time - it's moreorless seamless in films these days. But when you're, say, playing a game, or watching something you're conscious is all computer generated, you're less likely to suspend disbelief.
There were amazing bits in Final Fantasy, but it still had the problem of the complete lack of 'heft' - none of the characters had bulk, or weight, or momentum. I spent a lot of time in art college studying human anatomy, makind drawings of people in movement, so I tend to spot when bodies aren't moving right, or are slack, or badly articulated. The most difficult thing seems to be to make figures look like they're standing - that their feet are in contact with the ground, and are bearing their weight. Look out for it - few animators bother to make feet articulate much.
Digressions aside - the point at which my brain finally got 'tripped up' was in Monsters Inc. Yes, I know it's a film about imagainary creatures. But there was a scene when the big furry one was stuck in a snowstorm, with the wind blowing through his fur, on his arm. And I caught myself processing the character as a Muppet - a real, big furry puppet. Then went... wow, that's some good fur animation to make me think that.
How long, then, until someone thinks to give animators lessons in the Alexander Technique, or Ballet, or similar, to give them enough physical awareness to create the full illusion of a live person?
Friday, December 02, 2005
I get a 'word of the day' email from them. Today's was 'Stonewall' - interestingly, no mention of its use to refer to the Stonewall riots, but I wonder if this is covered in the usage the dictionary covers... but anyway. They're also involved with a word search - they're looking for very early citations of words like 'cyberspace' - pre-1982, and 'bouncy castle' - pre-1986.
It turns out that they actually have a public lexicography project on the go; the only truly public facing element of it is the Science Fiction Citations word hunt. I thought it was worth pointing to, as I'd never heard it mentioned on the web before, and I know a whole big bunch of people who'd be interested.
Paging Cory, Piers, Ian, Nick and Ann!
Thursday, December 01, 2005
I really, really want to visit the area around Chernobyl.
I think feeding wild birds in the cold winter is a lovely thing. We're all set for a desperately cold one this year, so in part inspired by the desire to upset some Finns, I emailed my dad for his 'bird pudding' recipe. He makes it every year, filling half coconut shells with it, and leaving it hanging in the garden. It works - they have a fabulous selection of small wild birds, inclduding wrens, goldfinches, and once, memorably, a family of treecreepers. Robins in particular are very scenic at this time of year.
Anyway - the email from him (part typed by my mother, who is quicker on the keys) is another parental classic. I thought I'd share it here so you, too, can make bird pudding, and also marvel at my mother's ability to know exactly where the cheapest porridge oats can be bought, and her in-depth suet foo. I'd suggest M&S or even Fortnums' potatos, personally, because you don't want to be giving the poor birdies inferior food now, do you?
PLOWRIGHT FAMILY BIRD PUDDING
Dad wants me to give you the recipe. I dont know whether I have it correctly in my mind but I only know what dad puts in it ? no proportions so it will require a little experimentation to get the right consistency. It depends on the weather - if its cold the stuff will stay put and if it gets warmer then it might trickle out as the fat melts! Do you just want to put a dollop on the bird table or are you planning to hang it up in a container?
Any way, find the hardest fat which is suet but it will be in a packet shredded but if you warm the whole mixture to get it to come together I imagine the suet will melt so give it a good stir and then refrigerate.
add to the suet - any of the following...
- Cooked potato - not too much as its not the birds favourite
- Porridge oats (Cheapest asda or lidl or netto in plastic bag)
- Any nuts chopped
- Stale biscuits, cake, bread crumbs
- Seeds e.g. sesame, poppy (or buy a small pkt of wild bird seed)
- Dried fruit e.g. sultanas
Dad says its better to get butchers suet. It is in big lumps but will melt if you just break it up a bit. It should be in the greatest proportion in order to hold the additions
love Ma x
P.S. (obviously not taught my Grand mother to suck eggs) just melt as much suet as you can scrounge or charm from the butcher into large pan blend in what ever you can reheat if to stiff, then cool. old chips from your fish & chips are good
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
This piece of software is simple. It doesn't have a thousand bells and whistles on it, it feels like using a wiki, but not so much that someone who hyperventilates when taken outside Outlook would start panicing. It's intuitive. And it replaces the need to make insane numbers of charts with dates in excel.
It's like a cross between spreadsheets-used-as-reporting and scheduling, outlook calendar, a wiki, issue tracking software, upcoming.org and some kind of database.
The thing that it does, though, that I've never seen any software do, is allow you to work in fuzzy time.
So, say you had a project that you knew was coming up, but the best you could say was 'I think this is happening in the second half of next year, and it's probably a three month project, and it belongs to this category, and this is a quick summary, and I will need to think about this again in a month'. You could put in exactly that information, and it would appear in the long term view.
But the thing is, as projects got nearer, you'd get more precise information about them. So your long term view is... well, sort of logarythmic. For the first week from the current date you have daily tasks shown, which you'd derive from the database-come-wiki of issues and actions against each project-blob in the system. After that short term bit you'd maybe get four weeks with headline tasks. Then you get a quarters worth of monthly view, then it would go into quarters for maybe a year, then it would be maybe yearly until 3 years out, then just 'in the future'.
So it lets you see what's coming up in a timely way, and doesn't drown you in detail beyond what you immediately need to do.
Of course, it should produce nice reports - a quarterly plan, a plan by month, a risks-and-issues sheet, a daily to-do list for each person involved in one of the sub projects. The thing is, different people need to track different kinds of information, for different reasons. As these 'future fuzzy blobs' move towards the present, you can start adding streams within them, breaking them up and firming them up as they approach and your plans get clearer. The whole thing is about bringing just enough timely clarity to everyone involved, when they need it. So your management of the stuff gets more detailed as it needs to; and the system is bright enough to realise when facets of your blob are getting neglected, and reminds you to pay more attention to them.
The ability to zoom in and out of detail levels means you can use it to see that your year is shaping up with no peaks and troughs, and also to get right in to the nitty-gritty of stuff that really needs to be done this week or else...
And it should track changes to dates as they happen; so that project you pencilled in for July gets brought forward, but remembers that it was orignally planned for then. Thus, when you look at the way things have happened over a year, you can see what changes happened, rather than having to wrack your memory.
When stuff gets done, it gets remembered. And if you have information about how well that stuff did - say, some kind of stats, in the case of a web project, it lets you hold that data against the 'things that actually happened' - so you can see that thing X went out, and changed your figures in way Y, thanks to person Z who did the tasks.
If you really, really put some thought into how this could become useful - how it would help people keep track of stuff on a personal basis, and how those little personal to-do lists then aggregated up to give you an overview of progress - it could be utterly utterly amazing.
Basically, it's the web 2.0 of project management. But it's bubble up in a way that MS Project isn't - its about slowly taming the chaos one little bit at a time, not about making that tiny resource reassignment that suddenly means your project ends in 2015.
It's project management for the way that the disorganised work.
Now, if only I could be bothered to kick of a project to get it built...
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Anyway - ages ago I was talking to someone about Cyril Isenberg, (Eisenberg?) an academic who has the singular talent of being able to deliver a captivating lecture to an audience of children. He specialised in fluid dynamics, I think; as a kid this translates into bubbles and smoke rings, two things he demonstrated with great enthusiasm.
I want to say that he must be getting on in years now; he seemed old to ten-year-old me. Maybe he was only in his thirties, and hence I'm maligning him. But, it turns out he's written a book, and furthermore is STILL GIVING HIS LECTURES.
If you're in the Oxford area, I thoroughly reccomend you go and see this. He's ace.
Oxford University Scientific Society presents:
The Magic of Soap Bubbles
Dr Cyril Isenberg
Department of Physics, University of Kent at Canterbury
6th Week, Wednesday 16th November
Young people are always fascinated by the perfect spheres produced every
time a bubble is blown. These bubbles are surprisingly stable which has led
scientists to study their properties closely.
In this demonstration lecture, Dr Isenberg will illustrate some of the
properties on a grand scale, forming bubbles with spectacular shapes and
colours. Principles such as thermodynamics mean that the bubbles created
must obey certain geometric constraints, and so can be studied and applied to
solve mathematical problems, such as the construction of networks of roads,
pipelines and cables, and so on.
The bubbles also have a molecular structure similar to cell membranes, so
detailed studies of soap films can give an insight into more complex
Date: Wednesday 16th November (6th week)
Time: 8.15 pm
Location: Inorganic Chemistry Lecture Theatre, South Parks Road
£2 for non-members. Light refreshment will be served.
**The Oxford University Scientific Society, founded in 1882, holds weekly
lectures by prominent speakers in all fields of science. For our current
termcard, check out:
Monday, November 14, 2005
The preliminary talks between Time Warner and Google appear to be the most promising, sources said, in part because Google is already the search engine on the AOL service, they have partnered for years, and they have figured out a basic structure that would benefit both companies in a joint venture. One possible scenario is that Google would find ways to send more Internet users to AOL's network of Web sites, and the parties would share the increased ad revenue. Google is working on devising the best way to do that without compromising its search results. The focus is on increasing the number of users on AOL's network of sites by giving America Online a new way of bidding on keywords that trigger ads on Google.
Ages ago, when I was in an editorial / creative kind of a job, I tried to comission web talent - illustrators and so on - to create little cartoons for the BBC comedy site. It never really took off, sadly, as I left the role, and it never became a regular enough feature to build an archive and an audience. Shame. Never mind.
Anyway - Jon Burgerman did some ACE illustrations for us. They were very cool. And now those wise folks at Sony Europe have got him in to design a level for WipEout Pure on the PSP.
AND he's got a book out.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
This came up on boing boing, and I just had to investigate. You know, for research. The pages are somehow better for not being coloured in - whoever did them - by hand, remember, there was no Adobe IllustratorTM in those days - had an amazing eye for a line.
They're like Alphonse Mucha on hardcore and acid.
And would make *fabulous* stained glass windows.
Monday, October 31, 2005
Shoddy service from Be has led to an interesting little local history lesson, however.
Connection speed on ADSL is partly dependant on your distance from your local exchange - the longer the copper wire from the exchange, the more noise, and the worse your connection. Our housemate looked at a diagram of the dropoff rate and emailed me to let me know we're a mere 802 metres from our local exchange - which is Nine Elms.
I'd been wondering where our exchange was - partly, to be honest, because I'm a bit geeky about London Exchange mnemonics. I know there's a Battersea exchange too, so wondered if the housemate had the right one.
So - first stop is the list of London Director Exchange Names to check out if Nine Elms exchange matches our phonenumber. Lo and behold, Nine Elms, like my old Putney number, is one of the strangely named ones: MACaulay - my phone number starts 020 7622 - the 622 corresponding to M-A-C on an old dial phone. So I'm definately on Nine Elms... but why the funny name?
My first stop for local info is Google - a search on my postcode for Macaulay might give something away. There's a school and a road named Macaulay - so there is some local connection to the name. And it's related to Clapham Common northside, rather than the more Vauxhally area of Nine Elms itself. So, a quick google on Macaulay and Clapham brings up the local school's site - no information about where they got their name from on there. But a bit further down is this article - it turns out that Zachary Macaulay was a member of the Clapham Sect - a group of social reformers responsible for the abolition of slavery.
He was the father of Thomas Babington Macaulay - another abolitionist, and author of the Indian Penal Code. He also wrote history books - including Lays of Ancient Rome.
It seems that whoever decided on the strange Director Exchanges in the London Phone system had a small weakness for classsical history.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
So, it is with a disbelieving shake of the head that I reproduce a marketing email I recieved this morning.
We are pleased to announce our new name - Red Bee Media
As of 31 October, we will no longer be called BBC Broadcast.
We wanted a name that reflected where we have come from. When we were Broadcasting and Presentation we were known as B&P. As BBC Broadcast we have been known as BBCB. So an evolutionary step was to play with the sound ?B?.
The spelling as ?Bee? came from an internal brainstorm when we were looking at nature?s expert navigators, because as a company facing the digital future we need to help the consumer become equally adept as navigators. We have always used Red as our colour property and this gave added strength to the name.
We look forward to working with you as Red Bee Media
Just to reinforce the general mindless idiocy of this marketingese, it's worth noting that their brand spanking new website is currently showing a holding page:
This domain has been registered on behalf of a client by www.123-reg.co.uk
It's worth noting that there have been a couple of outbreaks of marketing idiocy in the last day or two - Apple's branding of the not-quite-cold Rosa Parks with their 'Think Different' logo was particularly sickmaking, too.
Sometimes, I wonder why I took a job based on marketing our deparment's output; I'm fated to be bad at it by the standards of the industry.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Friday, October 21, 2005
You don't have to download the latest version of iTunes in order to get at the juicy QuickTime7 goodness, by the way.
There's a cunning little link to a standalone installer, which at first glance looks like part of the feature set of QuickTime 7 Pro. But isn't.
So, here, in all it's glory, is the QuickTime 7 Standalone Installer, without iTunes.
AND - you don't have to type your email address in the box for the download to work, either.
That is all. Go back about your business.
It's particularly useful in cases where, say, a newspaper reprints content from a website with no payment or attribution. This kind of thing happens, and copyright gives the original author recourse under law to get recompense from the naughty thieving newspaper.
I'm less mad on the excesses of copyright (the Sonny Bono extensions, the insane over-controlling despotism of the RIAA etc) which I feel - although I couldn't argue cogently, that's what The Boyfriend is for - contain some erosion of the rights of the little guy. They seem to be there to protect huge corporate interests, who are already making more than enough money, thankyouverymuch.
There is a flip side to the anticopyright argument though: to the Creative Commons / CopyLeft approach, and its espousal of remix culture. well, yes, let's free up all that stuff for us to play with.
As remix, remake, remodel becomes shorthand for creativity, what happens to originality? To the completely new, to the fresh, to the 'my god that's so different and strange that I'm not sure if I like it' feeling you get from something completely without precedent? By opening up all of the output of human ingenuity to free reuse, do we risk overloading our young creative minds with choice, and freezing our culture in a permanent postmodern phase of bricolage?
My creative outlet has always been the visual arts, and I'll hold up my hands and say that yes, it's easier to remix than work from fresh. It's much easier to make a satisfying and rich collage than a completely original work. Borrowing someone else's beautifully nuanced image will make your work better... but does it thus loose some you-ness?
Good artists borrow, great artists steal. Does a genius remix? Is a cut and paste job enough to make us change our way of thinking about the world? Is the nostalgic tickle of a sweet juxtaposition enough, or are we making ourselves poorer in the face of cultural overload?
I don't have answers to this. But I'd be interested to know what other people think. Are we destoying our culture by plundering it? Are we tearing down the cathedrals to build new walls? And are utility and neccessity driving us to do it, or merely ennui?
Thursday, October 20, 2005
French gave a speech in Toronto this month in which he was asked why women were under-represented among the top ranks of creative directors.
He replied: "Because they're crap"
I think I'd quite like to remove this guys balls with a rusty spoon.
Just, you know, to make a point.
Particularly when the thing in question is a set of questions for your developers about the mechanics and difficulties of making a huge MMORPG.
And very particularly when the questions are posed by slashdot.
I find it utterly, utterly extraordinary that companies still think that sanitising responses into blandness is any kind of way to treat their customers. (Who, of course, pay the wages of everyone working in the company. Including the marketing muppets.)
But I guess that I'm unusual, in that I'm one of the crazy young internet things who are so awkward and don't behave the way marketeers think I ought. Or something.
And I follow the links from this Microsoft Knowledge Base page.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
I'm completely obsessed with the game at the moment; it's eating all my spare time, and I'm experiencing an odd split in my realities between regular life and life-as-a-dim-giant-cow-lady.
Yes yes, insert your own joke there.
The bleed between the people I know in-game and in RL is odd too - I'm playing with the marvellous Alice; and of course I'm usually sitting next to the boyfriend. The bickering gets quite amusing, but what my online chums never see is the shouting that goes on between the two of us if I fail to tank properly, fall off something, pull aggro, or any one of a number of failings I'm prone to, what with being a bit useless at playing games.
The surprising thing is that I'm finding being a big, stupid bumbling idiot who just hits things very, very liberating.
Anyway - I think it's only a matter of time before Alice and I end up in the same meeting, and one or the other of us uses our in-game names, or some other slang. It'll be entertaining.
Monday, October 17, 2005
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Sunday, October 02, 2005
What a good description of me as a whole.
Blogging - it's all about the buffs, you know.
Although I ought to warn Chris that I will, at some point, flex my Zoology degree muscles and take his post about evolution appart. But politely, at least... *winks*
In other news - I've been invited to a party by some marvellous trannies, on the basis of a hyperlink.
I consider it karma payback for the time I helped a drag queen sort her wig out in the loos at Revenge. Well, you should never let a queen go out in public if the back of their wig is a mess. It's only polite to help. Oh, that and being a good person to shop for girl pants with. And the time I put pins in the fairy called Pip and made zir weekend.
I wonder if it's time to run my life as something other than an elaborate personal in-joke? It's shallow, I know. But I do enjoy the feeling of being able to chuckle at the ridiculousness of it all on a regular basis.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Thursday, September 22, 2005
So... I'm listening to Joshua Shachter et al chatting away at Etech via IT conversations, and idly looking at a blog about tagging too.
Now... I like tagging. It suits my slightly messy mindset, and fits in nicely with the way that I remember stuff. It's fun, and useful, and simple and quick, so I use it.
There are quite a lot of discussions going on about tagging around work at the moment. Obviously, we have some seriously heavy duty IAs, Data Modellers and whatnot around, so the discussions tend to degenerate quickly into a 'It's sloppy/It's great' sort of place - more due to a collision of paradigms that anything else.
Mr Coates posted about one of these conversations the other day; and made a comment that (I think) came out of a chat we'd had. And this is where the link to tagsonomy.com above comes in:
Here?s an analogy. I visit a lot of thrift stores. The true cost of an item in a thrift store is a function of the time it takes me to find it, not the price (which is always cheap). A very large thrift store is more likely to have what I want, but at a greater discovery cost. Like del.icio.us, a thrift store is great for serendipitous discovery but not so good for known item retrieval. Put another way, del.icio.us wouldn?t be your first choice if you needed articles on Rousseau and the French Revolution, just like the Sally Ann wouldn?t be your first choice if you needed a smoking jacket, size 42T.
OK - so it's not as easy to pinpoint very precise information with a folksonomic system. I can't disagree with that. That's what google is for.
But the benefit you get from such a fuzzy, messy system works on the personal level. If you found it, and tagged it, you're more likely to be able to find it again under your personal filing system than, say, a Dewey Decimal system.
And the point where it becomes *really* useful to have things in big rummage bins is when you're browsing.
This is the pleasure of the charity shop (that's thrift store to you AmeriCanadians). It is the pleasure of having a mooch about; it isn't focused searching for one particular thing, it's finding something you didn't really know you wanted, but that gives you immense pleasure when you find it. For example, a copy of an out of print book by a favourite author. A Vivienne Westwood Tshirt for 50p. An insanely funny old record.
This is what del.icio.us offers; a way of finding websites you didn't know you needed. You can very easily specify the kind of thing you're interested in (well - as long as it's a bit geeky or involves naked chicks, in del.icio.us's case) using a tag then you can rely on distributed serendipity to find it. The numbers of people using the system mean that the work of looking for that exciting, tangential nugget of infotainment gold in the bottom of the brantub is distributed, and the things that would be overlooked are found.
It's about finding out something new, not checking up for that verifiable piece of information; about broadening the edges of your knowledge, not deepening it.
Does that make any sense at all? Probably not. But the thing to remember is that people use the web differently. And not just one person to another - an individual will use the web differently at different times; having a tool that suits your mood or mindset is only of benefit. We, the people wot make stuff for computers, tend to make stuff in our own image. Let's acknowledge that not everyone likes the way we make stuff.
Stop worrying about using one, or the other. Use both. Overlay two maps on to the territory.
And another point; the quote above assumes that time=money. This is a fallacy; I can afford to invest time into looking for that tux that fits. I will invest more time into looking for that tux that fits that is half the price of the one in the high-street shop. Financial and Temporal richness do not always map directly on to one another in the personal sphere; only in the sphere of business, and even then not very well.
Folksonomy is about the pleasure of the chase.
Loads of other folk - including BoingBoing - have pointed to this already. But just in case mates that read this haven't found it elsewhere...
It's a really useful guide to your rights if you need to return electronic kit that goes wrong.
And my boy wrote it. Isn't he clever? Aaaah.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Oh, Cory, really.
It's just you American types that refer to Lego Bricks in that funny plural form.
To the rest of us, it's always sounded dumb... :-)
Monday, September 19, 2005
Not sure how good the CSS might be, but it's fun, anyway...
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
In the course of trying to make an elaborately situationist and intellectual joke in french, I realised that I do not know the French word for toes.
Luckily, in this day and age, the internet will contain this knowledge.
I can't see that 'blogs' are a useful subset of 'the internet' - I do get a feeling that this is more about exploiting the 'claim your blog' ego-boost dynamic to favour static sites over personal opinion pieces in the google index?
Thursday, September 08, 2005
But anyway - I was interested to read of an alternative on kottke.org - pubsub.com. I had a quick look, found it... somewhat counterintuitive to use, but as I needed to reccomend some ideas for tracking celeb mentions on the web, I pointed a colleague to it.
About ten minutes later she came over and said 'Think you better look at this...'
A search on 'The Queen' had turned up some beautifully lurid blowjob porn.
So... I'll be rethinking that strategy then.
It's an all-to-frequent problem with engineer designed products - they forget the editorial and social buffers they need to impliment to make a product useful, usable, and for that matter, safe for work.
Wheeeeeeeee! Not currently linking to my profile, but a bit of JS piggeryjokery shuold sort that out.
Oh, I'm all folksonomied up. w00t!
The ever-spiffy 'Tips has posted a little heads up about SSX on the PSP. She's also mentioned that SSX is the only game her friend Paula will play, and enjoy.
Now, my ex, Sarah, generally despised computer games; had little interest in them despite being extremely tech literate, and used to get very bored of me playing Sim City, Civ, KOTOR etc for hours on end. To be honest, this played a small part in our eventual break up. I even got her the CSI game, as she was obsessed with the show and loved anything gory or forensic; it held her attention for all of five minutes.
BUT - the one game she would play was SSX. She loved it; we used to sit in bed on saturday mornings playing 'going down the mountain', as it got nicknamed. She had her favourite character (Zoe, in SSX Tricky; she's sassy and a bit punk; perfect) and became incredibly focused about winning tricking medals on each level, to the point of learning controls and mechanisms; she got at least as far as the Alaska level before getting stuck and frustrated.
The frustration set in when the time limits for racing down became too tight - she couldn't get to the next checkpoint in time, let alone fit in enough tricks in the meantime; the game punished her for preferring and developing skills in the freeform trick mode over the focused race mode.
We talked, once, about why this was the only game she liked. I can't remember verbatim what it was she said, but I absolutely remember the gist. It was this:
That she never died. No matter what happened, she *always* got to the bottom of the hill. It didn't matter if she came in last, or didn't win a medal; the fact that she could always 'complete' the level meant that the game didn't make her feel 'bad'. She didn't feel she'd failed.
I think producing games that still give you the feeling of having beaten something *even when you've failed to beat it* might be a key factor in designing games for non-gamers. It could even be the feeling that if you've failed to beat it, it just hasn't worked out right, like patience.
I see it in myself, too; I always play games on the easiest setting, and am a sucker for cheats; I loose interest as soon as the time required to build up skill to play the game is greater than the (usually very tiny) ammount of time I'm prepared to invest in playing. The number of games that are compelling enough to be more fun than work when getting over the difficulty-spikes approaches zero for me; of the 40 or so games stacked up in my living room, I've completed... two? Three? Certainly less than 10%, probably closer to 1% of all of the games I've played in my time.
It's an extension of playing styles, I think. I'd question if the kind of person who tends to develop games is likely to be the kind of person who temperamentally prefers a certain playing style that is at odds with the casual gamer.
Reaching more people through games will be about expanding the types and styles of games, not about agressive marketing or ubiquitous technology. Growth will come from careful thinking about content.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Versus the following Google Ad:
Missed an Episode?
Download Doctor Who
episodes to watch at any time!
Hmn. How does that work then, that 'not condoning copyright infringement'? Surely advertising that you *can* download a copyright TV show on their service is condoning infringement?
Friday, September 02, 2005
So, sending out pings to let people know about stuff (or, the email way of keeping in touch with no real effort involved, which I recently seem to remember having seen written up as a fabulously expensive piece of consultant research that we could have told them for free anyway) sometimes pays enormous dividends. On dropping my 'Hey, the husband is on Radio 3' note to a huge tranche of people I should really take more time and effort over, a friend dropped back a 'hey, me too!' note, and pointed me to his most recent musical collaboration.
It's really rather good. It sounds like a cross between the soundtrack to 'Crash' (the JG Ballard one, rather than the one doing the rounds in a cinema near you currently), Aphex Twin, and improvised Jazz.
I reccomend a listen. Oh, and read Mr Nik Newark over on the side bar there; he's teh funneh.
My husband is a composer. This saturday, one of his pieces is being performed on Radio Three. In the same bill as something by Peter Maxwell Davis.
The show is called PreHear, and is on at 10.40pm on saturday night. Take a transistor radio to the pub and listen to it just before last orders.
He's rather good, and quite listenable. Promise.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
I used to have one of the Five Revolutionary Seconds shots up above my desk; Self Portrait with Single Breasted Suit and Hare is one of my favourite photos. AND she did a jolly good desert island disks, too.
That is all.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Lillian Virginia Mountweazel, a fountain designer turned photographer who was celebrated for a collection of photographs of rural American mailboxes titled ?Flags Up!? Mountweazel, the encyclopedia indicates, was born in Bangs, Ohio, in 1942, only to die ?at 31 in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles magazine.?
A sudden flurry of Nihilartikel related goodness via the marvellous Mr Begbie.
Marvellous. I'd rather like to photograph rural American mailboxes and set up a fake exhibition.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
I've emarked a jam pan. I've got my mother's 1960s MAFF guide to preserving (and will OCR and publish to the web imminently...). Comedy disaster will ensue, but I'll feel like a domestic godess in the process.
Its a side of me that - when discovered - usually surprises people; certainly at work, people are amused to uncover my home-body leanings. It's something that is spectacularly hard to avoid when you're the offspring of a proper, oldskool Home Ec teacher. As I type, her old sewing machine is set up on the dinner table, and I've broken off from taking up a pair of jeans. Badly enough that mum would look down her nose at my shoddy technique, but well enough for me...
Gosh, this is rambly. But it ties up, really it does - with a rather charming new article about some 34 year old chutney that was confirmed edible by some Home Economists.
Conclusive proof that it won't be the cockroaches that take over the world in the event of a nuclear holocaust; it'll be the W.I.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
An ex of mine was a Meth addict.
Her particular thing was beading; she made dresses for drag queens for a living, and used to sit up for nights on end sewing bugle beads on to her creations.
One of her dresses is still worn by a Bette Middler in a Vegas drag show. At the time, my ex was so skinny that the dress actually weighed more than she did when finished.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
The following is, of course, nothing to do with the views of my employer.
And that's the point - how can my employer have a 'view'? It's an organisation of twenty five thousand people. I have problems getting a meeting of three of them to agree sometimes.
One of the interesting things about the way that people respond to our activities is that 'The BBC' becomes seen as a coordinated individual. A Corporation, in the literal corporal sense of the world - we're embodied. 'The BBC' does this, does that, thinks this. You see it a lot with companies that people have a very strong emotional reaction to, or investment in: other examples would be Apple, Google (Google does no evil you know. Well, appart from contributing to the worlds carbon burden by running so many PCs, or something) or maybe Exxon on the nasty side of the fence.
It's very upsetting, then, when you suddenly become the 'face' of a corporation. I've seen it happen to several of my colleages, and most recently to the lovely Matt. The light of scrutiny swings on to you, and it's not the most comfortable of positions to be in.
Poor lamb. He's going to be notorious for a while. But I'd like him to take comfort in the fact that he's part of a long, long tradition.
It wasn't marketing. Hell, I'm about to take over the marketing role in our department, and I can tell you we ain't that organised. Really.
But think about it - Matt works for a corporation that makes stuff thats so good, he cares enough about it to run with a joke he finds on a collaborative site on the web. So, he's involved enough with web culture that he 'gets' wikipedia. Spend enough time around media folk, and you'll realise that people like him are gold dust. Don't go hard on him - and don't go hard on the BBC. We aren't a faceless organisation; we're a collection of people who care enough about the products, and public service broadcasting, to work at less-than-industry-rates-or-so-I'm-told.
Look at backstage.bbc.co.uk. Look at the creative archive. Come on, guys; we're really trying. And we're not just having to work hard in the public arena to remain clueful; we're fighting these battles on the inside of the organisation too. We need you behind the people who will make the good changes.
Part of me hopes Matt is enjoying his new found notoriety, though. At least he hasn't been rung up by the singing potter from Moffatt.
Amusing in retrospect. Particularly the bit about riding britches.
Not at all the most obvious move, but I suppose you can string targetted ads along side the text content. Couple to that the ability to perform speech-to-text on the fly (presumably part of Google Video in the not too distant future) and suddenly, your personal phonecalls become searchable from your desktop.
I find this a strange, yet useful concept, as i am notoriously bad at remembering verbal information, yet spectacularly good at remembering clues from text.
The thing that is beginning to concern me is that there doesn't seem to be a plan behind what google is up to. Do all of these products integrate? Seing as Gmail is only just searchable through their desktop search bar, I'm sensing that maybe the searchmonster is beginning to split into seperate fiefdoms, and develop lots of systems that aren't even loosely joined.
God, that sounds depressingly familiar...
Thursday, August 18, 2005
First - standing up straight lessons. I'm still amazed at the change that Alexander Technique is making to my physical wellbeing. I'm really happy I took the plunge and got on with it.
Then - shopping and a beautiful lunch; vegetarian thali at the indian place in soho - with the most extraordinart vegetarian curry I have ever tasted; beans and greens and banana and gorgeous. Followed a marvellous lunch up with coffee in my favourite cafe; as usual, the eccentrics were in. An elderly gentleman, skewed of trouser and hard of hearing came in asking for apple pie; not something they stock. The proprietrice took him calmly in her stride; being charming and straightforward as he explained the cost and significance of all of his jewelery - worn in the manner of a retired soho spiv, it should be said. He went on to talk about knowing how to say goodbye and thankyou in Spanish and Italian being a vital skill; except ciao came out as 'Cee-Aye". He ambled off, with his potatoes (actually, palmiers) eventually.
One of the things I love about soho are the little pockets of culture that are unchanged since the 50s. In particular, knowing the foibles of these old places amuses me; one should never ask for a pint in the French, nor Cappuccino in Maison Bertaux. Quite how these traditions promulgate I don't know; I feel they're a joke on par with Mornington Crescent, a peculiarly english form of in-the-know humour.
The most marvellous thing, though, was a trip to see the Rebecca Horn show at the Hayward Gallery. Horn really is one of my favourite artists, and whilst this show was a slight dissappointment after the retrospective at the Tate a few years ago, it was still magical and unsettling to see her work again.
The compelling aspect of Horn's work is it's coded sexuality. She is one of the group of artists who rejected the cold calculatedness of minimalism and concepual practice in favour of a personal language, and an exploration of internal myths. Like Beuys, she draws on a personal object code, which is (to me, at least) all but impenetrable. Books, mirrors, reflecting pools, the symbolism of alchemy, eggs, suitcases... all of these appear regularly in her work. For her, they are part of a coherent personal language, which is what I have no access to. But those very objects are also numinous for me; they have a resonance and heft to them that sparks associations, semi-conciously. Her show at the tate was the first time that work has given me a sexual buzz in a gallery situation; her feather masks that enclose the face, and the head of the lover-being-kissed are perverse and beautiful and erotic and disturbing, all at once. Along side that are her twitching objects... that shudder slowly in to life, then so slowly ratchet themselves up to a shuddering release; watching them is like watching the mating dance of violins, or witnessing the erotic reverie of a carving knife. It feels voyeuristic, and intimate, and suffocating. I love it.
I wanted to sit and watch her films - but the sound was terrible. And frankly, they were like watching Fassbinder, and I am not clever enough.
Finally, after Pimms with mr Binding, we finished off the day with a trip to the cinema. UNplanned, so we went to see The island. I don't think I can possibly do the film justice by describing it. Suffice to say that it does away entirely with a second act, instead replacing it with a car chase and a lot of explosions. A LOT of explosions. And a car chase that was obviously conceived by watching the car chase in the second Matrix film, and deciding to piss on its twitching corpse, before packing it with semtex and blowing it up. And then blowing up the scenery. And driving through a building. Which blew up. With a sponsors logo on it. Madness, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Yes, a good day indeed.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Well, when I say preaching, I really mean standing in a rather well-appointed diningroom in Soho House, waving small shiny boxes at a variety of TV bigwigs, whilst physically shaking with terror. It didn't help that one of the people I had to convince about the changing way that people consume telly and narrative stories was Gareth Neame, who would last have known me as the slightly mad secretary in the office next door. As it was, he said hello, and then wandered off to talk to someone more interesting; let's hope he doesn't remember. Or was filled with terror that the young turks are at the gate, or something. After all, I had been for a drink with his ex-secretary the previous week, who is now head of development at a film company, completely changing their business practices, and being invited to parties on Paul Allen's yacht at Cannes. Besides which, frankly, mad armwaving girl in Soho House looks like abject failure.
The other of the terrible PA trio is also a head of development, and has just finished her first screenplay.
Must. Try. Harder.
Life does have a way of changing in odd ways though, and I'm hoping an upcoming change of job will also help to blast me out of my rut. As ever, the sides are particularly steep and slippery at the moment, as I find myself in a proper relationship. Does anyne else find that the fact of having another friendly body around the place seems to sap their will to do anything remotely constructive with their time? And just when I was looking forward to a year or two of creative singledom, too.
And so to my current situation. I am sitting in a rather untidy livingroom in a small flat in Brighton. The cricket - the cricket - is burbling away on the tv in the corner, and my boyfriend - my boyfriend - is noodling around sorting out camping equipment somewhere in the environs. We're off to Lost Vagueness, a weekend festival of... well, I'm not sure. But it does involve dressing up, some of my favourite new friends, and dressing up. Ah, the dressing up.
This moring was spent running around Brigton like loons, collecting random items of clothing like power-ups in an early platformer. Our booty consists of:
A Vintage sheepskin Flying Jacket
A pair of beige combat trousers
A pair of Khaki Shorts
A Dinner Jacket
A Tweed Riding Jacket
A German Army Peaked Cap
A Shirt, White, Mens, RN *
A pair of Russian Goggles
A Leather flying Helmet
A Scarlet Bow Tie
A PITH HELMET.
So, yes, the holiday has begun, we're off to endulge our love of dressing up like eeediots in a field (with GIN! Rah!) and I'm very much looking forward to it. Keep your eyes on the flickr stream for pictures of us making tits of ourselves on monday...
* An observation; all military clothing is labelled as if by taxonomists.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Monday, August 01, 2005
And then, tonight, this. And my dad just swore at me a lot down the phone. It's bad to hang up on your dad, right?
The computer switches it's self on, Found it flashing and whirring , but comlpletely siezed up.( Continued by Ma)......Dad says tha when you left you said - no need to switch off at the wall socket. He then switched off at the extension socket.
Dad continues, but I cannot make head nor tail of it so he says can you get in touch urgently - doesnt matter how late. We are trying to scan the plans dad has drawn for the neighbour!!!
On again showeed a blackand white, Ide check " Master disk check disabled PCI Device 16 !lots data Now responds to mouse, turned off came back showing a bit of XP very dim screen a few random keys showed
THey've moved over from Win98 to XP. This should be easier, right? It's the fear of the unknown that seems to get them - and when something untoward happens, they go straight into panic mode, with no way of beginning to diagnose the problem whatsoever.
The last thing I want is to have to spend another weekend sorting out a borked harddrive from powering up and down...
GCA/FA/MC d++(--)@>--- s:+(++)>-- a C++(+++)$>++++ !U P+? L>+ E? !W++(+++)$>- N@ !o K-? w O? M(+)@ V? PS>++ !PE Y+ !PGP- t$@ 5- X$@ R@* tv-$@ b+++ DI D G e+++ h-@ r+++()@* x++**(+++++)@
------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------
In advance of the London_Girl_Geek_Dinner I thought it best to lay out my credentials.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
A lovely little fragment of writing from Paul Ford at Ftrain.com. His is a blog that rarely pops into my RSS reader, but when it does his work is choice and delicate.
The concept of the temporal permeability of space in a city is something I've been thinking about recently. Strangely enough, this comes from hanging about on the backstage.bbc.co.uk mailing list.
Now, as this is a mailing list mostly concerned with APIs and feed hacking, that's quite an unlikely source of inspiration.
The conversations that go on there, though, are primarily about 'Look - here's a cool thing I've done! I've made a prototype that does this cool thing' - at which we all look at the prototype, and agree that it is indeed cool, and full of geek-fu, and give constructive suggestions.
However, the prototypes - because, after all, they are just proofs of concept - tend to be... well, not pointless. But they're things made for the sake of making them - to expose a bit of data, to scratch that tiny geek itch. They're useful for news, and factual services, but few of them have the user-focused thinking that would make them useful to the average joe in the street. A couple even have slightly sinister implications.
One in particular is an absolutely brilliant idea, but doesn't bear thinking about in an editorial way; it's a filter that automatically classifies news as 'Good', 'Bad' or 'Neutral'. cool, smart, neatly done. But... a user option that lets you turn off all 'Bad' news? That's deeply sinister.
The problem being, that - as with all interactive ideas - it's much easier to make interactive products based around objective facts. Making entertainment products seems to be harder; the element of play or fiction is much more elusive, and the entertainment urge is much more difficult to satisfy than the need to seek out (or browse for) information.
The point, I think, where there may be some cross-over lies in real space.
One of the most distinctive advances in special effects over the last few years has been 'Bullet Time' - the frozen moments used in the Matrix. This wasn't originally invented by the Wachowskis, believe it or not; it originated with an english artist, Tim Macmillan, who developed it in the early eighties.
Now, his breakthrough was to realise that film is basically a series of still photographs, arranged sequentially through time, giving the illusion of movement in space. All he did was change that to keep the time aspect constant: take a sequence of photographs at the same time, but with space as a variable. When composited back together, lo and behold you have a 'moving' image of a single moment in time.
So... I have been thinking about entertainment, and specifically interactive narrative. Conventional narrative is (roughly speaking) a series of fictional events occuring in a temporal sequence. In traditional stories you start at time point A, and the plot moves you to time point B in a linear fashion. Some clever types realised that the reader doesn't need to move from point A to point B in the same sequence that the events happen to characters - film picked up on this one too.
Then games came along. Suddenly, the 'reader' was uncovering the plot both by moving from point A to point B in game-time, but also by 'triggering' events in game space. So narrative exposition C would only occur once player had moved to point D, no matter if they'd already uncovered narrative expositions E and F by moving spatially through their trigger locations first. Some really good games - Knights of the Old Republic springs to mind - manage this brilliantly, with alternate storythreads uncovered depending on your virtual movement, and 'narrative zones' (planets) allowing a little more control over the consumption order of the narrative.
What happens, then, if you take the subtle paradigm shift of Time Slicing, and apply it to storytelling in the real world? How can you expose the stories of a city, and tell them throughout the fabric of that city? What happens when you hold up your PDA/Mobile/Tiny exciting video widget on a streetcorner, and it becomes a window into a Victorian melodrama? Or Chaucer's pilgrims suddenly walk across your screen? Or you get a phonecall from a paniced WWII spy? Or a text message from a dystopian future?
How can you follow those threads around the space of a city?
How can you string together temporal cuts of space to tell a story?
What happens when you overlay the works of Dickens on to London?
What might happen if you overlaid the fictional London of Neverwhere on to a tube map?
How are you alerted to the presence of a story in your physical location?
A few tiny glimmers of these located stories are begginning to appear on the web; today's Los Angeles from an Auto historical pictures/map mashup offers a start, as does the Grafeidia project, or the Hand Held History blue plaques project
Anyway. This is the stuff I'm thinking about. And hopefully, my new job will give me the space to be able to develop these in to some kind of practical ideas... Or perhaps I can just rely on Gavin Bell to get there first with the project he's thinking about, and wave that in front of management here...
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Scotty's beamed up.
I'm weirdly proud of Vicky, a co-worker and friend. She took over the BBc comedy site when I moved on to my current project, and has done absolutely amazing things with it.
And the most recent amazing thing: the ability to watch 'The Mighty Boosh' on broadband. A WEEK BEFORE IT GOES OUT ON THE TELLY.
This is amazing. Really. The rights situation alone must have been a killer to sort out.
So, yay Vicky. You are better than I could ever have hoped to be.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Predictably, the first bulk email hoaxes are now doing the rounds - about mobile viruses that allegedly exploit your ICE contacts to promulgate themselves. These are Lies.
What gets me is that otherwise intelligent people forward these warnings on, without bothering to check or verify the contents first. I'm finding this particularly galling because:
1. I work in a department full of on-line journalists, who should really know better. Checking your sources, anyone? Hmn?
2. I'm working from home, and retriving six emails about whether it's a hoax or not wastes my time.
Is it just my longtime net-user status that means I'm familiar and jaded enough with these scams to spot them? Or bother to take a minute to slap a couple of keywords into google?
But anyway - I long ago gave up sending on firm remonstrations about forwarding hoax warnings. The things are designed just to propagate through the email of idiots, so even my firm and reasoned (and admittedly slightly grumpy) rebuttals are adding to the problem.
Which is why the idea behind this site is... maybe a little misguided. Spam harvesting, anyone?
The Hoaxkill service: Let's get rid of hoaxes now!
Friday, July 15, 2005
It'll be a dreadful disappointment to you all, I know.
But it's just been pointed out to me that my profile blurb should be ammended to include the fact that I've fallen from the sacred path of Sappho, and happen to be getting my freak on with a big, hairy boy. Among others.
Anyway. A change is as good as a rest.
And, just to head this off at the pass, here are a few choice phrases for you to sprinkle in to your liberal teasing.
Bi For Now
Moved from Automatic to Stickshift
From Bean to Baloney
Using The Other Menu
... you get the idea.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Friday, July 08, 2005
A certain man has called us, "of all peoples the wisest in action," but he added, "the stupidest in speech." - Carlyle
So... we knew it was going to happen. It was no surprise.
I have an odd sort of affection for my fellow countrymen in situations like yesterday's bomb attacks. There's a charming national character trait that seems to turn us all into a mix of slightly panicy fishwives 'Oooh, I know, ooh, another one's just gone off... ooh, it'll be *hell* getting home, and what about that Mr Blair? ooh, no, I haven't heard from my friend, and they work right in it...' and the most wonderful, tremendously stoic Matter-of-Life-and-Death heroes.
The thing that I'm left thinking after yesterday, though, was actually, that the attacks were no big deal - a tiny blip on history. This is not to belittle the real suffering that those caught up in events are going through, and my best wishes go to them, and their loved ones.
But... we're used to bombs in this city. Not quite on the scale of Jerusalem, or Bagdhad, but nonetheless there has been a slow and deadly thudding heartbeat to London for as long as I can remember. The Soho Bomb, the Brixton Bomb, the Canary Wharf bomb, an IRA bomb at Victoria in a litterbin I missed by 10 minutes, a bomb in a baracks, police horses dismembered by a nailbomb... and the still-within-living-memory events of the Blitz and V2 bombardment - 168 killed by one bomb on New Cross Woolworths.
We're used to these extraordinary events. We have a shaky moment, check on our loved ones, shrug, and move on. If we're particularly shaken, we have a cuppa, or go for a pint.
If someone we know is directly affected, we rally round, offer more selfless and tender and non-intrusive support than you could imagine - simple kindnesses like tea, blankets, lifts. The 'English reserve' is dropped instantly, making those moments of kindness so much more significant. We try not to make the situation worse, we behave sensibly, and we let the professionals get on with their jobs, pitching in if extra pairs of hands are needed. This is a marvellous, marvellous way to deal with a crisis, however big or small.
I spent yesteday pretty much watching the news - there was no way I could get to work; I was on a bus to Vauxhall when they pulled all busses over and 'checked for suspect packages' - something that involved our driver listlessly walking round the outside of the bus, having a quick peer underneath, shrugging and driving on. I got to Vauxhall; no-one really knew what was going on, no transport was running, so I turned home. You see, that's a dull and unremarkable story; like the six or seven million other Londoners who were only aware of the problems through the media, whose days were just as dull and unremarkable as usual.
But, something about witnessing the events through those news reports is beginning to change the way we behave. It started with Diana's death - only the second time I have seen my father cry, incidentally. Then, having been glued to the 9/11 reports, we all know the media routine of people in deep, deep shock being interviewed by camera crews (for SHAME, camera crews. Can you not see that those people need care and help, not grilling?). We see the same snippets of video repeated again and again - the man being led from an ambulance at St Marys, the phonecam footage of the tunnel, the incident tent being erected at Aldgate, the bus, the bus, the bus, the bloodstained wall at tavistock square. And we absorb these images, and they send us further from our wonderful, calm, brickishness and into a fluttery hen-like panic. We wallow in it, indulging our emotions publicly. We reinforce the stress of events in a shared, bonding experience, because we're starting to enjoy the newly-sanctioned pleasures of public displays of sentimentality.
Once we've absorbed those images, we start to create ourselves as victims; as put upon innocents. We forget that we've been waiting for terrorist attacks forever - since we divided ireland, since we joined an illegal war, since we rolled over to a foreign power. Since we stopped questioning our government too closely, and became content with their construction of the world as a dangerous place, full of imaginary threats from 'others', from which they are protecting us. We fall into jingoism.
The biggest contrast was flicking from BBC reports to ITV reports. The reporting style was so different - the new BBC guidelines emphasise accuracy over speed, and it shows. The news was stately, calm, and focused. The ITV news was breathless, over excited, wildly speculative; sensationalist tabloid disaster porn, feeding the rubbernecking carcrash fetishist in all of us. Channel Four had a Richard and Judy Terrorism special, for christs sake.
Indeed, the stupidest in speech.
Anyway. A very long post on something I was meaning to ignore. And, just in case you were wondering why I feel this is an insignificant event, have a look at these other Deathtolls, and remember that sixty years ago the glorious RAF was responsible for a hundred thousand dead in 14 hours in Dresden.
Yesterday was not a big deal.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
I'm in awe of the kind of techies who actually build stuff for the web. Stuff that works, and is useful, elegant and clever.
I've never really got past HTML and a smattering of CSS, which is something that makes me sad.
Anyway - this is a very beautiful piece of AJAX work, that scrapes del.icio.us and turns its dry interface into a beautiful card-sorting type system. It lets you drill down through your tags to return bookmarks at tag confluences.
Damn, it's lovely.
Someone should make one that combines del.icio.us, technorati and flickr. And any other tag soup sites out there.
Monday, July 04, 2005
Saturday, July 02, 2005
An interesting article about the exploitation of Japanese youth culture, and the way that 'Japanese' is becoming a signifier for 'hip', whilst still being overlaid with pre-existing cultural assumptions and stereotypes.
I'm sort of guilty of the offhanded reduction-to-stereotypes the article describes. Yes, I'm fascinated by Japanese design, and have an over-romanticised idea about how cool the place must be, gleaned from a weird mishmash of bizarro adverts, Lost in Translation, and gaming magazines. So it's good to read a reminder that actually, you're romanticisng an entire culture; one that is not your own, and that you therefore have no pregiven access to the (um, there is a word for this, but I've forgotten it) 'framework-of-assumptions' that actually governs the workings of the culture. You're always an outsider.
Humn, anyway, this isn't particularly focused, but it's sort of a reminder to myself to actually do some background reading about traditional crafts culture in Japan, so at least I have some background knowledge to my Japanophilia. And also, to watch Topsy Turvy again, as it's gentle mockery of the splendidly patronising colonialist obsession with the mysterious orient that so excited the edwardians is a good grounder...
Friday, July 01, 2005
I've never experienced them...
But I know folk who buy chloroform from the internet, for shits and giggles of an... adult play variety.
Still, looks like more excuses to sue the medical profession. There were some shameful figures doing the rounds this week about the cost of litigation to the NHS; it's risen from c. £1million in 1995, to c£280million in the last year.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
User centred design has been adopted by the web industry for a while, so it was a strange experience hearing someone evangelising it to an assembled room full of 'puter game designers. To me, it all seemed obvious, but the tone of the questions at the end indicated that some folk had a Damascene Conversion during the talk.
Anyway - why am I posting my notes now? Well, they've been sitting on an internal wiki at work for ages, unread. I've been having all sorts of discussions about the model for playing styles, with all sorts of folk recently; it's been spurred on by sticking my toes in the water of the MMORPG world, and some chats I've been listening to about humour in games, and how that differs when you have real life people interacting within a game space.
I'll sign off by saying the interesting thing about the social aspects of MMORPGs is that they leak into RL. I greeted someone I've been playing WoW with in the street by doing a little Tauren lady-dance; exactly as I'd greet them in the game. And now, without further ado, I give you:
Player Centric Game Design
Talk given by International Hobo: Ernest Adams and Chris Bateman http://www.ihobo.com/
EA teaches game design at university and has written a book - Andrew Rawling and Ernest Adam on game design
Types of game
Tend to be the work of an Auteur - in the cinematic sense; someone with a vision who wants to create a whole.
Quality is entireldependentnt on the talent of the Auteur. Good auteur, good game. Bad auteur… well.
Analogous to film director, running a different crew each time - the game designer oversees the crew. The vision to make a game and the talent to oversee the management of the crew is a rare coupling in one person.
This is a good model for art house games, but a poor one for commercial propositions.
Technically Driven Games
Very expensive. ItÂ’s a way of making a game to highlight a cool new piece of tech development.
These games tend not to be big sellers - they make their money by selling on the technology created in the making of the game - e.g. the Quake engine.
Rare - the result of the visual design driving the game - an example is myst.
Rarely succeed as artists generally have little game design experience. They tend not to be fun’ to play – the gameplay takes second position.
Myst was at an advantage due to its tech timing -– it took advantage of CD rom tech.
Many Hollywood tie ins tend towards this type. A non interactive medium comes to game designers saying '‘here,– we've got cool stuff -– lets make a game'. They have problems when they'’re asked what the player should _do_.
This is hit duplication - this is a good game that is selling, lets make one the same.
This works very well with short development cycles. E.g. is Halo -– a clone of FPS, but tweaked to make it very good.
These tend to be bad when they're licensed products - just attach a licence to a game model with no thought as to whether that ties in with the licence *world*’.
Publishers are often a force in making games like this - they're risk averse.
It's not necessarily bad - borrow what works where you find it!
Kamasutra (www.gamasutra.com) online magazine talks about this - it'’s acceptable to reuse code, but not 'game abstractions'’ such as key assignment screens.
Currently each game reinvents the wheel -– it'’s a pre-Cambrian explosion of design solutions. E.g. each new game has a different controller configuration, a different way of organising your inventory, a different way of saving...
This is because medium is young - no accepted tropes in place, yet.
A better way of designing games could be...
Player centred design
Which puts the needs of the player at the centre of the design process
Problem is, you don'’t know what their needs are. And there'’s a huge variety in the audience so it'’s hard to get a representative sample. This could be considered anti commercial - but ultimately youÂ’re making something that people will want to be playing -– so should sell well.
How do you define players needs?
However, be aware that players assumptions are often wrong. Example is Resident Evil - where players asked to be able to drop items anywhere - which was done in a sequel, and really messed up gameplay. It went back to how it was.
You can'’t accurately predict player needs
Madden NFL -– 3 people complaining on a message board was taken as everyone hating it. Complainers often make disproportionate amounts of noise, and you'’re not hearing from those who are happy. Also audience often not aware of issues and decisions behind game design. Everyone wanted to be able to design their own plays in nfl madden -– but it was too easy to design an unstoppable play, hence breaking the game.
Look at theory - Flow, personality models, anthropology, game theory, game studies,
Game theory - is mathematical theorem. Bit heavy lifting;
Flow - concept that people are happiest at the level of their challenge -– too easy and they get bored, too hard they get anxious. In the middle is the flow state of complete absorption. Too much challenge is bad -– you'’re making people stressed when they'’re participating in a leisure activity. Some people actively enjoy such hard challenges...…
Using tools to look for behavioural trends can be very useful in game design - but using the models as gospel can be bad.
These models do give you new ways of looking at problems though. Use the models to test your designs after you'’ve created them -– not to design from the ground up.
These give you sets of tools for understanding the results of play testing and– analysing problems. They'’re a guide through the process.
Videoing people playing games, and talking about what they'’re doing.
Their responses frequently don'’t correspond to their verbal reports afterwards, as people create their own narratives around their experience in the game. Games with steep learning curves particularly prone to this -… player is very frustrated at difficulty at start -– but huge sense of achievement when they master and do well blots out the anger and frustration at the start. (Catalysis model)
Its expensive. 3-5 blind tests at a late stage (when problems are still solvable) is a good idea. You need to harness a wide type of playing styles, and take testers from outside the group of people involved.
Focus groups - tend to be run (and hijacked) by marketing concerns. Frequently the people involved with focus groups tend to be hardcore gamers. And they skew the results accordingly.
'I represent the audience'’. The odds that you do match the audience are extremely thin, Too many people are in game development for the love of games. You are atypical of your audience. Many people also work on the 'I wont make anything I wouldn'’t play' But someone has to make Barbie games...
Don't be in a commercial environment if you want to approach this way -– you have to sell your product, or you.ll put yourself out of a job. If you want to make games this way, join the mod community -– but this isn.’t a business model. Some mods may have taken off, but...
How do you grow yourself into unreached markets?
You have to think like people who don't play.
Balancing player needs with business needs
Choice of genre
Market stability - if I like platform games, I'’ll buy more of them. It'’s a formula that works,.
A genre game that'’s Rubbish? It'’s a mark against people making the game not the genre itself
Defined functionality. Player know the tropes and genre conventions -– they understand what they'’re getting
Craft vs. Market
Genre - defined by a particular set of challenges -– e.g. driving, rpg -– some users donÂ't enjoy some types of challenge.
Designing with Licensed IP
Bad software is bad software,– even if it has IP licence.
Player advantage -– familiar setting, a world they know, an experience they'’ll want to extend.
Licence implies thereÂ’s a group of people who already understand and enjoy that license setting
Must connect the game model with the license IP setting -– for appropriateness. E.g. the Barbie big tanks game wont sell heaps.
Licence IP - risks limitations for business
Manufacturing mentality among publishers. Must remember this is media, not a factory
Appreciate the IP
Original IP is often just a tweaked version of licensed IP anyway - Lara Croft = Indiana Jones with tits.
Mass Market vs. Niche market
Large cost of development = large audience to reap large profit
Nice markets - smaller costs -– smaller audience
Playing to a niche market on a small budget is ok. But playing to a niche market on a big budget is commercial suicide - you'’re putting your company at risk.
However - likely to be explosive growth in niche games -– over the next 15 years -– as move into under served markets.
Bear In mind all of these models and their limitations
Models used in the industry
EA Games Model
(reads press, plays demos, buys 25+ games / year)
(gets info from hardcore mate, buys maybe top 10 games each year)
(Picks up on games when they'’re being talked about widely - maybe buys only top 3 games each year)
|-- [size of market] --|
This is a simplification, but is primarily a marketing model - it doesn'’t tell you anything about the types of games that make it to mass market. You have to be making your game accessible or it will never reach the mass market
Audience Model -– DGD1
Demographic Game Design Model 1 - the 1 reminds you that it will be replaced by something better! Based on Myers Briggs Typology. I've posted a diagram over at flickr.
Type 1 Conqueror
Finds winning pattern and repeats indefinitely
Appeal is Challenge and Fiero (triumph over adversity)
(Fail, repeat, fail, repeat, fail, repeat model)
Type 2 Manager
Likes strategic puzzles and mastery
Enjoys a bit more stress, and feeling of resistance rising to meet them
Likes sim games, strategy games
(Small numbers -– no longer a mass market audience)
Type 3 Wanderer
Enjoys contact with other characters
Needs an emotional context to their goal
Not a high degree of challenge
Experience and finesse are drivers
Want to do it well, satisfyingly correctly
Involvement and role - will play multiplayer, but not to win
Type 4 Participant
Likes creating -– e.g. design of character. Spends a lot of time here
Sims - Photo albums, and stories
Creative aspect is not about gameplay - it'’s about using the game as a creative tool outside its internal mechanics -– is expression in game
Star wars galaxies - play with character creator for hours and hours
Audience model in MMORPGS
Casual players versus hardcore.
Only high degree of game literacy to be playing them, but allows all playing styles
Conquerors -– finishing quests
Managers -– resources
Wander -– joins conqueror parties, is led
Participant -– is the glue in the internal community
It'’s a limited but lucrative market. If you loose a key player to another game, their entire social network tends to move with them.
(Wikinote: See also the Bartle types - http://www.mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm - lots about this in 'Designing Virtual Worlds' IMcD).
Meeting Player Needs
What do they want out of a game? How do they interact with it?
Picking up box in shop, and able to understand the tasks involved in the game -– Who am I going to be?
If the player doesn'’t get it, marketing certainly wont get it.
You're Selling experiences.
Allows suspension of disbelief
Allows game world abstractions
Doesn'’t break the 4th wall (pulls the player out of the game world)
Simplifies reality to make modelling it manageable-– and learning it's rules manageable
Abstraction of world (Gta vs. The Getaway)
Realism isn'’t a goal in itself -– you'’ll always have abstraction
Internal consistency - not jolted out of world (e.g. encountering walking battle tanks in a WWII game that had been historically consistent until the last level)
Gameplay vs. Toyplay
Toyplay - the kind of game that is low stress, where the player sets their own goals e.g. the Sims, animal crossing. High emotional investment - toyplay is its own reward. Creating your own narrative about your experience
Gameplay - Has performance measures and standards to reach. Is goal oriented, with goals being external to the player
Part of game -– e.g. a strategy game where you understand that there are values attached to your character, you build up their stats
Or invisible -– e.g. halo -– just enough to support a fully immersive world
RPGs are schizophrenic,
AD&D -– lots of pencil and paper players who enjoy the manipulation of stats and want that maintained in computerised version
Computer allowed these people to play AD&D without a group of players -– it removed the logistical problems and allowed them to revel in mechanics.
Enjoyment of mechanics is dependant on playstyle
Do you enjoy running rules in your head?
Or do you enjoy story and plot more?
Does it need a story? Cut scenes just get in the way of some games - their only purpose is to give you a breather e.g. Bishi Bashi
RPG with no story would be pointless, though
Again -– depends on player type -– do they need a framework for their activities,
Tetris - no story
Super monkey ball -– shouldn'’t have a story
Could just be abstract weirdness
Aesthetics and style
Form and Function and beauty
Can it be functional, but not beautiful?
Better looking sells better - it piques the interest of the casual viewer more.
Look at things outside the world of games -– e.g., making a game looked at artefacts and craft traditions of tribal cultures from around the world
Learn about real world style and borrow it -– e.g. Grim Fandango
A challenge makes an artist happy
Provide them a framework then let them do something excellent within that framework
Need a strong director
Same visual style in setup screens as in gameplay
Overcoming energy barriers in learning the use -– e.g. a paperclip in an email programme means attach something to your post.
These are also culturally based -– may not translate well.
Field studies -– are very expensive to do, with a reasonable sample size
Game design is one aspect of HCI
Differences -– prototyping -– can't get feedback as early on in the system as you'’d like -– particularly in immersive games, as so much more needs to be finished
Need stories more in games
What happens if you get their motivation wrong?
Pick your primary market. If it happens to export elsewhere, that'’s great
US and UK market - share broadly the same set of cultural assumptions
As they share the same media base.
Is possible to make horrible mistakes -– e.g. the reversed Arabic chants in a Microsoft game
Needs to be sanity checked - are we making inappropriate assumptions
How does a game designer influence the IP owner
Arguments about your specialisation are a risk of working within IP Licence area
Just '‘merchandising' top them
Befriend them. Explain
Detailed communication, early
Mobile devices Â– does their constrained nature make them more appealing to certain types of gamer?
For the games literate -– don'’t want to play on a mobile as is a step down from usual experience
Majority market - impulse buys when bored on the bus.
Supermarket buying style -– sweets at the checkout
Is predominantly casual. Hardcore gamers need hardcore hardware
Not game literate - tend to be wanderers and participants
Conqueror -– is a console fiend
Manager -– PC based
Growths in niche market
1965 -– 3 networks in US TV
All programming was pitched at the lowest common denominator
Cable arrives -– increased bandwidth -– can super serve that niche audience through narrowcasting
Retail shop shelves are the bandwidth limiter of the games world - just have a few big distributors
Once you have piracy proof high speed distribution you'll be able to do cheap distribution and serve niche audiences better
Also -– put games in front of the casual market in alternate forms -– e.g. as a bundled package with your new TV...