Despite being a surprisingly liberating piece of technology (in terms of getting me away from my desk where I can actually think about things), I'm still grouchy over a handful of iPhone oversights. Number one at the moment--the stunning lack of a copy/paste feature. Which leads to a few related thoughts:
1) Why does the iPhone, a mini-computer, insist on pretending its just a phone?
2) Let's please have a toggle between "Power User" and "Hapless N00b."
3) More iPhone gestures, please.
I get that the screen is small. I get that there aren't supposed to be buttons all over the place. But for us interactive-literate types, why not provide another layer of functionality? For example, at least one iPhone app I've heard of erases something when the phone is shaken gently back and forth. Nice. More gestures, please. And not cop-outs like plain old sliding or dragging, either. Here's my proposal for copy/paste:
Put your finger on the thing you want to copy, keep your finger down, and draw a "C" shape. The thing is copied. Then, put your finger where you want to paste the thing you copied and draw a "V" shape. The thing is pasted with a couple finger-flicks. Was that so hard? Christ.
Nearly every one of the dozen or so free iPhone games I've downloaded and tried are just plain awful. Most are barely games at all, or are simply slight variations on classic (boring) games such as Pong or Simon.
I had (seemingly incorrectly) understood there was some sort of quality bar that Apple set for its first round of developers. Clearly the bar was set very, very low. I don't understand the strategy here: my entire outlook on iPhone games and small developers is now tainted. Why pay for a game if the free ones are terrible? Is Apple trying to boost the major brands by allowing this indie crap into the App Store? Confused. Disappointed.
Because WebFlock is Flash based, it's accessible by over 90% of the web browsers out there: in other words, everyone can get in easily (unlike the recently-launched Google Lively, which requires a large plugin download and only runs on Windows-based PCs running Internet Exploder). Gotta like low barriers to entry.
Sheep CEO Sibley Verbeck reportedly puts the price of basic private-world hosting at "under $100,000" for a year of service. Well out of the range of any but rich corporations. Showtime is coughing up for the service, bringing an extension of its L-Word TV property to WebFlock after a successful splash in Second Life. I suspect many major brands will follow suit, as controlled spaces are much more attractive than "anything goes" sandboxes.
I'm happy to announce that my company Phantom Compass has partnered with IT GlobalSecure to offer security features integrated from the ground up into our digital and cross-media games. Phantom Compass is in the business of "productive play," and with IT GlobalSecure, we're going to be able to offer our clients and end-users expertly-crafted safeguards against hacking and exploitation. What's the good of a "serious" game if it hasn't accounted for security? From the press release:
Social gaming is growing rapidly and faces increasing security challenges: educational games include high scores that can be hacked, advergames and social games collect sensitive personal and demographic information, and many games need secure payment processing. The partnership between Phantom Compass and IT GlobalSecure brings the best in innovative game design and security to our clients and their customers.
Thanks to IT GlobalSecure's Steven Davis (author of the fantastic Play No Evil blog) for his support. With IT Global Secure, my company can offer a level of secure game data and systems design that other boutique developers aren't even thinking about, let alone capable of offering.
Toronto's Flash user group 'FlashinTO' held a public meeting last night that included brief presentations from a handful of local Flash designer/developers, including yours truly. Although I've been working the new media trenches here in Toronto for almost 15 years, and have been working with Flash since version 2, I'm way out of the loop in terms of who's doing what with Flash locally (aside from my clients and a few others). Glad to have had a chance to get a bit up to speed.
Other presenters included Andy Tipping of Mischief Media, Tim Willison of Oddly Studios, Tom George of DesignAxiom, and a dude who gave us a preview of an in-browser media viewer called "Radar." Good to be able to get a nice cross-section of what's going on around town, and meet some folks Flashing it up in Toronto.
I had the privilege and pleasure of mentoring 8 teams of talented and open-minded documentary filmmakers last week as part of the Producers Institute for New Media Technologies for BAVC in San Francisco. This is the second year in a row I've been invited down to share my game design experience with the Producers Institute. While last year was a fantastic experience as well, this year focused on projects acting as catalysts for real social change--this emphasis sets the Producers Institute apart from other cross-media labs and workshops I've participated in over the last couple of years.
Most of the work I do is commercially oriented, so it was a nice change of pace to work with people with a genuine interest in positive social impact. I spent most of my time consulting with Susana Ruiz (best known for creating Darfur is Dying) and her team--they're working on a game about the death penalty, imprisonment and flaws in the U.S. justice system. Not only is the game "about" these issues, but Susana's company Take Action Games specializes in actual results--what can a game motivate people to actually do? Darfur is Dying showed that game play resulted in communications sent to the U.S. government. It will be interesting to see what positive action this latest project will result in.
At the end of this week, I'll be flying from chilly Toronto to chilly San Francisco to reprise my role as a mentor for the Bay Area Video Coalition's "Producers Institute." Last year's institute brought teams of brilliant and enthusiastic documentarians together with a squad of knowledgeable mentors under the nurturing guidance of BAVC's staff to explore the intersections of linear narrative and designed interactivity--I expect this year to be just as productive and energizing.
Q: What’s wrong with the world? A: We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. Leona Helmsley’s dog made 12 million last year… and Dean McLaine, a farmer in Ohio made $30,000. It’s just a gigantic version of the madness that grows in every one of our brains. We are monkeys with money and guns.
"Look at all the debit cards available at supermarkets - impulse purchasing is powerful. If games cost what a paperback does, how many more would be sold?" Some interesting ideas from Steven Davis about price structuring and piracy, etc.
"...opportunity is found in new locations. We are seeing consolidation in the space and real build out from larger networks of applications including Zynga, Social Gaming Network, RockYou, Slide and similar companies."
The film is satirical in tone, but actually, worlds like Second Life which allow user-created content and real/virtual currency exchange are viable places for hiring out "sweatshop" labor, depending on what sort of work product you're looking for.
So-called "camping chairs," which pay Second Life users to linger in specific locations (known as "camping" in gamer parlance), pay a very low wage to workers in North America and Europe, but could actually provide a decent income in some countries. A few years ago, the New York Times reported that most Chinese gold farmers make under $0.25 USD per hour. The sweatshop featured in Invisible Threads pays in virtual currency equivalent to $0.90 USD hourly.