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  Can Game Controllers ‘Make Awesome Music’?  
 
 
Posted 2007-10-18 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
A plastic guitar or drum set might be an obvious choice for a music-game controller, but not everyone's ready to shell out for one-shot items ultimately destined for landfill. A smarter play might be to design music games for standard controllers instead--the challenge for users here is to squeeze great music out of an unfamiliar instrument.

My brother Joel has started doing some practical R&D towards the goal of "allowing anyone to pick up a game controller and make awesome music with it." A newcomer to game development but an experienced musician and audio engineer, Joel's got a great sense play, a brain for making things work, and a passion for sound. He's posted his first YouTube video. In it, he's using a PS2 controller as a MIDI device (musical instrument), triggering sounds and breakbeats through a combination of audio programs. Wild stuff. Can't wait to follow Joel's adventures in game development, but of course I'm biased :)

 
     
 
   
 
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  links for 2007-07-14  
 
 
Posted 2007-07-14 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘StarbaseC3’ Crosses Reality Barriers  
 
 
Posted 2006-09-20 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
‘StarbaseC3’ Crosses Reality Barriers
3D printed version of virtual-world spaceship.
The online community "StarbaseC3" now offers its members an opportunity to invade not only the virtual world of Second Life but the real world as well. Thanks to metaverse developers Out of Bounds Software and Cube Productions, usable ships with lasers and a targeting mini-game can be purchased for "Linden Dollars" in the virtual world. Miniature starships can also be purchased for real dollars as made-to-order plastic models through 3D printing offered by John McNeil of Xardas.com. The unpainted models range in size from about 3 inches to 12 inches, and cost between $15 and $150 USD plus shipping (although Out of Bounds' Hiro Pendragon says that the real models will also be able to be purchased for Linden Dollars).
 
     
 
   
 
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  SLEGO?  
 
 
Posted 2006-07-20 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Today, the Electric Sheep Company will be bringing LEGO's Mindstorms robots to the virtual world of Second Life, in partnership with Flashpoint PR and Linden Lab. In an earlier critique, I expressed dislike for the idea of building LEGO objects in Second Life (SL), since the virtual world already uses a LEGO-like building system. Since then, I've had a chance to mull over some ways LEGO and SL could be mashed up in more interesting and productive ways.

LEGO is no stranger to virtual, 3D space. Its LEGO Digital Designer toolkit was originally launched in 2003, offering not only a way to model easily with virtual bricks, but works as sort of a CAD system for LEGO builders--virtual models can be priced out and their pieces delivered in tangible form. An open LEGO CAD standard (LDraw) has even been developed for Digital Designer and tools like it. This standard could possibly be used as the basis of communication between LEGO CAD tools and Second Life, allowing LEGO creations built in Digital Designer to be automatically imported and recreated in Second Life (increasing the brand presence of LEGO in SL, and adding value for SL LEGO enthusiasts). On the flipside, imagine official LEGO bricks made for use in Second Life, and a system by which the relative positions and types of each brick could be exported in LDraw format, thus turning Second Life into a LEGO CAD tool (creating more business for LEGO, and adding value for SL LEGO enthusiasts). I don't know how feasible these ideas are (they are certainly not impossible), but my intention is to present examples of how LEGO and Second Life could be more meaningfully mashed up.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Electroplankton DS’: First Impressions  
 
 
Posted 2006-06-26 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Electroplankton is not a game, but it can be played on the Nintendo DS handheld game console. At worst, it's a toy, and at best it's a live performance tool. Users can interact with (i.e. "play") digital plankton, each with their own musical abilities and functions. Improvised and generative musical compositions can be created through Performance mode, but not recorded (except through outside means). Generative music can also be appreciated through Audience mode--basically, you can just set up Electroplankton to play crazy electronic music all day.

While I appreciate the well-crafted, intuitive interactivity, colourful, cute graphics and animation, I think Nintendo missed the boat on this title. It's totally overpriced (roughly $50 CAD) for a toy. At the very least, I would have expected compositions to be recorded, but better yet, shared through WiFi. Unfortunately, the audio seems to be comprised of samples rather than chip-based synthesis, resulting in sub-par quality. And my final gripe is that there's no built-in way to broadcast the images from Electroplankton to a video device during a performance, but that's really a fault with the DS.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Physical Avatar Indicates IM Presence  
 
 
Posted 2006-06-26 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Physical Avatar Indicates IM Presence
London-based design shop Schulze & Webb has created a toy-like physical avatar that is intended to indicate the presence of an instant-messaging buddy. Dubbed the "Availabot," the USB-controlled avatar is flaccid when one's IM buddy is not available to chat, and stands at attention when one's buddy is chat-ready. Furthermore, the little critter is customizable, combining standard and rapidly-prototyped body parts. Thanks to currently-available 3D-ripping software and rapid-prototyping tools, creating out a custom Availabot based on one's virtual world avatar or videogame character shouldn't be too difficult.

Realistically, the Availabot less represents consumer-oriented technology than artist-level technology. Most people have too many IM buddies and too few USB ports to make the Availabot a practical tool.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Toddler vs. Video Games, Round 1  
 
 
Posted 2005-12-28 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Last weekend I had the opportunity to sit down with a 4 year-old boy in front of a Nintendo 64 game console and observe how he played for several hours. This is the youngest gamer I have ever observed in action, and the findings were useful to me in terms of future design and interactive usability considerations for pre-school users. We spent some time playing Tarzan, Bomberman 64, Banjo Tooie, Hot Wheels Turbo Racing, and A Bug's Life.

Continue reading: Toddler vs. Video Games, Round 1
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  What’s Green and White and Red All Over?  
 
 
Posted 2005-12-15 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
This Christmas may be the bloodiest yet if Santa's crazed elves have their way. Luckily, eight mighty reindeer are on hand to stomp the crap out of the wee folk. In the tabletop game Elves Under Hoof, ultra-violent video games have turned Santa's workers into mindless zombies (although if you believe Henry Jenkins, this would never happen in real life).

One can only assume the game demonstrates how Rudolph's red nose glowed bright with burning rage during scenarios such as "Saving Private Reindeer," or "E-Day." Elves Under Hoof involves a hex-based map grid and tiny paper counters representing such essential holiday items as cookies and grenades. It is available as low-cost PDF download through the web site of its maker, Dan Verssen Games.
 
     
 
   
 
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  RFID LARP OK?  
 
 
Posted 2005-12-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Live-Action Role-Playing is definitely near the bottom of the nerd-barrel, perhaps floating only slightly higher than Fur-Suits. But swap LARPing's foam swords and fantasy characters for high-tech wristbands and hackers, and suddenly Live-Action Role-Play is for the cool-kids.

Weblog We Make Money Not Art explains how Spain's Differend Games has used RFID technology and a three-story fun-house to raise location-based role-playing gaming to the level of laser-tag. The game, called Négone, involves escaping from a secure facility: "...each player has a wrist console displaying your score, your character's health and tools obtained in the game...the adrenaline pumps hard as you explore the space - shooting down slides, climbing ladders or diving into a pit of small plastic balls. Every time you see a screen, you place your wrist console beneath it. This activates your helper, one of four pre-recorded characters from a hackers' group."

And if plastic balls aren't enough fun for you, by the end of 2007 the game will reportedly include robots. Hopefully one of the robots will malfunction, resulting in a hilarious real-life killing-spree. Only a real LARPer could possibly survive that.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Segway’ Tech Spreading  
 
 
Posted 2005-10-14 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Remember the Segway Human Transporter, formerly known as Ginger? If you've forgotten, you're probably not alone. The technology was so grossly overhyped that, once launched, it faded from public conciousness after a patter of quirky news stories. Segway (the company) knows potential extinction when it sees it, and is going the smart route in licensing their "Smart Motion" technology. Toy maker Wow Wee will incorporate Segway's know-how into their next generation of robotic toys, including Robosapien, Roboraptor and Robopet. I assume we'll be seeing something along the lines of Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons: Seemingly-impossible two-wheeled propulsion.
 
     
 
   
 
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... http://www.dino.co.uk/labs/2008/45-tips-when-designing-online-content-for-kids/ Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'


yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool


Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


...you get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock


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