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  Reporting From Oz  
Posted 2007-05-18 by Tony Walsh
Just a quick status report from my Australian adventure, which began May 14 and will wrap up May 26. I joined locals Gary Hayes and Guy Gadney a couple days ago for an afternoon of presentations at the Museum of Sydney. Unfortunately I was clobbered by an attack of The Nerves the second I took the podium, but I managed to recover quickly and deliver a decent seminar overall.

Yesterday I spent the day at AFTRS, workshopping student cross-media pitches with Jackie Turnure and Gary Hayes. And tomorrow morning I fly out to Tasmania for the LAMP residential, where I'll be joining a team of mentors working with linear media producers on the expansion of their ideas into new media experiences.

My internet access has been pretty spotty this week, and thanks the ineptitude of Telus Mobility, my new Motorola World Phone's so-called "global roaming" is utterly non-functional.
  Going Downunder May 14 - 26  
Posted 2007-05-14 by Tony Walsh
I'll be in various parts of Australia between May 14 - 26, lending my mentoring skills to the LAMP residential entitled "Story of the Future." Eight projects have been selected for expansion and development--I'm tentatively assigned to "Thursday's Fictions," a story-centric experience (based on a book and film by the same name) which asks participants to decide what they'd take with them if they had five minutes left to live.

Assuming the jet-lag doesn't strike me dead, I'll be speaking about "The Real, The Virtual and The Mixed" on Thursday, May 17 as part of "Mixed Reality, Branded Entertainment," a day of seminars hosted at the Museum of Sydney between 1 and 4pm.

Between May 20 and 25, I'll be working at the LAMP residential in beautiful Freycinet. I should have internet access during this time, but don't expect to be posting much (if at all) to Clickable Culture.
  Cramming on Storyworlds  
Posted 2007-04-02 by Tony Walsh
I'm doing some early research around the concept of "storyworlds," a term I need some schooling on. I've got my own ideas about what the term means and how it could be applied, based on previous game and cross-media work, but I'm looking for earlier work (or at least higher-profile work) in this area. So far, I've got Hamlet on the Holodeck to re-read, Hypertext 3.0 to hunt for, Storytron to dissect, and a thorough browse through Christy Dena's blog archives to embark upon. Basically I need to cross-reference what I think I know against what others have already put out there so I don't look like an idiot when discussing this stuff in the near future.

If you've got any must-reads in this area, or care to share your own definition of "storyworld," drop some comments on me, thanks.
  I’ve Gone American  
Posted 2007-03-30 by Tony Walsh
Ok, ok, I give up. I'm tired of fighting with spell-checkers, such as the one embedded into the Firefox browser I type each day's blog posts into. I have been mixing American and Canadian spelling (in my defense I am a citizen of both countries) since I started blogging back in 1999, and now it's over. USA number one, henceforth. Goodbye "rumour," hello "rumor." Now give me your oil.
  Why I Love Video Games  
Posted 2007-03-23 by Tony Walsh
Three sentences by Brinstar sum up for me why video games are special: "My current goal is to get the Golden Axe. It’s a long and convoluted process that begins with planting a red turnip, and ends with giving a scallop to an otter. Last week, I shot down a UFO with my slingshot." I'd like a T-shirt with that on it.
  Catch Me At ‘Virtual Worlds 2007’ Next Week  
Posted 2007-03-21 by Tony Walsh
I'll be whirling into Manhattan next Wednesday, March 28, for the first day of Virtual Worlds 2007, a business-focused conference on the future of marketing and media. I'll be trying to blog as much of the event as possible, although I suspect I'll be missing the first one given my plane's touch-down time. If you're going to be on-site, feel free to hunt me down to say hi or to express resentment at my constant bitching about your virtual world product. I'll post details on how to reach me closer to the event.
  ‘Virtual World Sustainability’ Still in Question  
Posted 2007-03-19 by Tony Walsh
Last December, I wondered aloud if Second Life was ecologically sustainable, given the large number of always-on servers powering the virtual world. At the time, user concurrency hovered around the 15,000 mark--these days it's more like 30,000, which makes my original question all the more relevant. With more and more computers (both server and client) being turned on to support the growth of places like Second Life, is the virtual world (and I mean any virtual world here) good for our environment?

Nick Carr got a lot more mileage out of the meme, finding that "an avatar consumes a bit less energy than a real person, though they're in the same ballpark." Carr's math picked up a lot of steam, even if its accuracy was debatable. Lots of blogs considered the question thanks to Carr's high-profile punditry--even William Gibson took notice.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear at a panel during this year's SXSW conference that the meme is still alive and kicking. Robin Hunicke carried it forward in a discussion about the 3D web, expressing concern at the consumption of resources related to virtual worlds, and adding that she travels more now because of games--not less. Speaking from personal experience, I've traveled by air more--not less--because of virtual worlds.

Continue reading: ‘Virtual World Sustainability’ Still in Question
  Puzzle Me This  
Posted 2007-03-19 by Tony Walsh
Ever since I got involved in alternate reality game design I've been keeping a storehouse of unused puzzle fragments and mechanics--the idea being that I can dip into my magical treasure-chest on short notice and pull out something good to develop or refine. Sources include newspaper clippings, scans of antique books (Roman-era encryption, anyone?), top-10 lists, factoids, URLs and my own scribblings.

Building this repository is lonely work, though, as a puzzle is essentially "lost" in the wild the moment its shared with anyone else. If it's a one-solution trick, then it's used up the moment players get their hands on it, but if it's more of a mechanic (i.e. a method of devising or solving a certain type of puzzle) it probably has a longer shelf-life, despite the novelty being ruined upon release. It really sucks not being able to bounce my storehouse of ideas off anyone else, not just for sanity-check purposes, but because it's hard to tell if some of the ideas are original. I've got a doozy of a contemporary code system burning a hole in my pocket, and I'm dying to know if it's been done before.
  Luncheon With the Stars  
Posted 2007-03-10 by Tony Walsh
This year's SXSW is turning out to be even more social than last year--not that the panels aren't interesting, just that the impromptu get-togethers are more engaging (as is the way with conferences, apparently). Today I had the pleasure of lunching with this morning's ARG panel, specifically with fellow Torontonian Evan Jones, displaced Brits Dan Hon and Alice Taylor, the wise Brooke Thompson, and the crafty Brian Clark. Fruity drinks FTW! I'd met everyone in the posse previously except Alice, who turned out to be as clever, punchy and charming in person as her writing suggests. Yay!

Over lunch I learned that "The Ocular Effect," (aka Fallen alternate reality game) a project I worked on last summer with Toronto's Xenophile Media, has been nominated for a SXSW Web Award in the "Experimental" category. Luckily Evan Jones (creative director), Thomas Wallner (co-producer), and myself (game designer) are all here in Austin in case the stage needs rushing.
  Three Rings Spins A New ‘Whirled’  
Posted 2007-03-08 by Tony Walsh
Three Rings Design, makers of the addictive swashbuckler Puzzle Pirates and the cunning Bang Howdy, is spinning up its new Whirled--a web-based social world featuring games and user-created content. Currently in closed alpha testing, eager beavers can sign up to be notified when the gates open.

I think "Whirled" is a great name. Why? Because weeks ago I soft-launched MiraWhirl, a slowly-evolving repository of items for virtual worlds and social spaces. MiraWhirl... mirror-world... get it? More on the intentions behind my own project later. In the mean time, I hope Lauren Wheeler, a project manager at Three Rings, will spill some details about Whirled during our upcoming panel at SXSW on March 11.
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