Geneviève Cardin of Baroblik handed the above Guest Check to me after one of my two gaming panels, and I thought I'd post it for interested readers. I don't hear much about Alternate Reality Games and related interactives going on in non-English languages. Cardin is a French Canadian working on some interesting projects--right now, she's doing a billingual (English/French) ARG known as The Rivard Project. She permitted me to keep her email address in the above photo, and she's looking for ARG-makers in the Montreal area, so drop her a line if you can help.
For those without graphics support, here's a list of Cardin's projects:
Ads will only be displayed in areas that had already featured fictional ads--not a major impact on the aesthetic of the game, and, arguably a method of increasing the world's "realism"
Most importantly, players can turn the ads off.
Players have been invited to submit their own advertisements for inclusion in the world. Great move, getting the players involved and feeling ownership over their environment--players are probably less likely to turn off ads this way
Ad revenue will bankroll further development of the subscription-based game rather than simply make the publisher richer.
Send Your Kids to GameCamp Toronto [Corrected]
Tagged Business, Event, Gaming, Groups, Places, Toronto
by Tony Walsh on April 16, 2008 @ 9:22 am
Andrei Petrov wrote in to tell me that GameCamp Toronto 2 will be held Saturday, May 3, 2008 at the Bahen Centre for Information Technology. Billed as "Toronto's game development showcase," the free event is aimed at "indie game developers, professionals and aspiring students." I'm sure the organizers didn't mean to suggest that "indie" and "professional" are mutually-exclusive terms.
I didn't attend GameCamp 1, but Ryan Creighton did, and posted a brutally honest review about his experience. Here's hoping that the GameCamp folks learned something from their debut event--I already know they're trying to do a better job of publicity, which suggests they're aware of the earlier problems and are trying to correct them. Nothing wrong with errors if they teach you something.
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.
The third installment of the Toronto Game Jam was announced to mailing list members today. Registration is now open for the frantic game-making event, which runs May 9 - 11, 2008. From the call-out: "It's FREE and open to anyone in the world with a modicum of game making ability. Coders! Artists! Designers! Musicians! All are welcome." Sounds like fun, if you can stay up for 72 hours straight.
Lastly, the Second Skin virtual world documentary will make its Toronto debut on April 21 and 23. I make a 15-second appearance in the film, so I'm totally biased when I insist that you go see it--more importantly, help the filmmakers get the word out to local media so that the uninitiated flock to the film in droves.
Meeting the people behind the avatars. Some extremely friendly and fun gatherings.
1,200 attendees compared to 400 last year. Impressive.
Huge, mainstream business interest in virtual worlds, social spaces, casual games this year. It seemed like there were lots of potential clients in the crowd for those working in VWs and related industries.
Major interest in VWs for kids from numerous parties.
Sponsored panels resulted in a lack of diverse and interesting viewpoints. I didn't pay $600 watch an infomercial.
Weak moderation in most panels--to quote Star Wars, "Stay on target... stay on target..."
Weak speakers in more panels than I would have liked--unfocused, self-promotional, dull. Boooo.
Same speakers on multiple panels (in a few cases). There's no good reason for this.
Beginner-level subject-matter in most panels. Nothing for pros to do here except network.
Most players in the kiddie-world space aren't doing anything interesting. Everyone's building consumer-driven, status-based spaces--buy your way up the social ladder.
Despite the low points, it's likely I'll go again next year. Definitely to the meetups if not the conference itself. I'll be interested to see how VWC evolves--will attendance continue to grow? For the next year or two, almost definitely. Beyond that, who knows. This internet thing is just a crazy fad.
Alignment: True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.
Race: Elves are known for their poetry, song, and magical arts, but when danger threatens they show great skill with weapons and strategy. Elves can live to be over 700 years old and, by human standards, are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. Elves are slim and stand 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. They have no facial or body hair, prefer comfortable clothes, and possess unearthly grace. Many others races find them hauntingly beautiful.
Class: Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.
Controlled multi-user environment: Simultaneous usage by multiple persons. Access is controlled by the person who created the spreadsheet--users can be set as collaborators or just viewers.
Presence indicators: All users sharing the spreadsheet are informed of the presence of others in the form of a chat window, temporary notifications, and a mobile avatar (see next point).
Real-time text chat: Plus voice if you use Skype.
Unique, mobile avatars: Each user is represented by a uniquely-colored outline on an individual spreadsheet cell. A simple avatar, but distinct, and user-controlled. It can move around the spreadsheet.
Spatial relationships between users: My avatar can be beside, above, or below yours.
User-generated content: All Google gives you is a blank spreadsheet. The users add the content. I don't think it's possible to add proper graphics to a spreadsheet, but it is possible to color a cell and to add colored text to a cell. It is also possible to lock rows and columns, which could provide a visual effect.
Dynamic content: It's a spreadsheet, so it's possible to put formulas into cells which rely upon and affect other cells.
Inhabitable zones: A spreadsheet can have multiple pages ("sheets"), allowing users in the same spreadsheet to occupy distinct areas--each area is visible only as a tab until clicked, allowing a mild degree of privacy, and a sense of "travel" between sheets.
Persistent world: A Google spreadsheet endures over time--it is a "live," changeable, but persistent environment which remembers its state after the users have logged out.
Communication with outside world: Users can opt to be notified by email when the spreadsheet has been changed, on a global, sheet, or cellular level. I believe a Google Doc can also be embedded in a web page.
Certainly a Google spreadsheet is not a fabulous virtual world, but I see potential for socializing and play there. The barriers to entry are definitely very low, and content creation is easy, too.
[Update1: added real-time chat to the list. Update2: added spatiality to the list.]
As I mentioned during a recent SXSW panel, one of the shortcomings of MMOs is a lack of meaningful personal history (i.e. the world doesn't remember you). Sean Duncan provides earlier thoughts on a similar note, quoting a piece by a WoW Insider writer.
Matteo Bittanti: "There is a growing interest in capturing the essence of gameplay as a performance, gameplay as it is manifested on the faces and bodies of 'those who play'..." I'm thinking about game-faces as unconscious storytelling devices...
Handsome, fit men in brightly-colored tights. What's not gay about 'City of Heroes?' Blurb about indie forum catering to CoH's GLBT community (a community officially recognized and supported by the game's publisher).
From the abstract for Jeremy Douglas' dissertation on Interactive Fiction: "...aesthetic and technical developments in IF... are analyzed in terms of language... narrative theory... game studies / ludology... and filmic representation..."
Imprisonment and in-world punishment as a recurring story in MMOs. Proposition: Let's put troublemakers in prison. Response: I'd do crimes just to see what prison was like. See: Second Life cornfield .
Garneau: "What’s the subtext of your game? What is it really about?" A good question for designers, but a better one posed to players. An easier question to answer for simpler video games--Pac Man is easier to explain than Paper Mario, isn't it?
I'm not really qualified to comment on Rosedale's move (I'm no business analyst), except to note that it follows Linden Lab's long-time CTO Cory Ondrejka's departure from the company late last year due to philosophical differences. It's curious that a replacement for Rosedale wasn't secured before the announcement--the choice of a new CEO will say a lot about the future direction of Second Life as a technology and social platform.
I kept waiting for something crazy to happen during the band's energetic set, but no. What would have been cool is for them to fire their drummer on stage... anything involving fire, actually. Oh well, will keep my eye on this project, maybe it'll blossom.
The Lost Ring has been in pay for a week, there are already over 100 screen grabs from the game trailer posted to flickr.
We need more alternate realities... the real world needs to be redesigned as a game...
Slide: "A game designer's perspective on the future of happiness"
Research around the subject of happiness... the science of happiness... we've started to see a backlash after a period of happiness study... one area of study looks specifically at what makes us happy and function well... it's been all over the popular press...
There's an amazing parallel between what makes us happy and the core tenets of game design...
Moderator: What constitutes immersiveness for a virtual world? 3D? 2D? HTML?
Crook- A casual MMO is like Puzzle Pirates, in terms of delivery platform, java, etc. Facebook and Travian are other examples. For me, a Casual MMO is a place where people gather online with some kind of game structure, like Club Penguin with a loose game structure. A casual MMO is an online world with reduced barrier to entry in terms of price or platform.
Hyrkin- A range of categories apply. Casual MMO success depends on the community and engagement between users.
Smith- Presentation matters, we've stayed from avatar-based virtual worlds. At the last SXSW, I heard a lot about avatar-based worlds, but that space is getting very crowded now. Room for other types of games, such as PMOG.
Hyrkin- Not being 3D has a lot of benefits; nothing to download, easy access, reduces barrier to entry. MTV has 4 virtual worlds, built around their shows, they came top us and asked for a Gaia-like experience. We had huge success with Virtual Hills in Gaia.
The idea for this so-called "Core Conversation" was pitched months ago, so I hope to freshen and expand the topic by identifying some areas in which video games have already adopted ideas and mechanics made popular by ARGs. Looking forward to the chat, hope you can make it.
Dan Hon case study: Cloverfield.
-- More people heard of the marketing than saw the movie (based on informal audience survey)
Rachel Clarke case study: Honda.
-- Puzzles built into posters, web site, game play engages viewers, every time you play the game it takes you closer to the brand
Roo Reynolds case study: Perplex City.
-- PC had a nice collecting element, but a great backstory, bits of everything in it... in my work in virtual worlds, I've been disappointed to not experience this level of depth (although VWs are good at turning people into participants)...
We chatted about how ARGs and video games relate, and how these two game-forms might learn from each other. There were at least 60 people in attendance, many of whom were probably expecting the original panel "ARGs: The Future of Entertainment." Given that we only lost a few people during our panel, and given the number of eyeballs focused on the panelists, I think it was a success. Attendees joined in the discussion during and after the panel--I'm hosting a follow-up conversation on Monday at 3:30pm if anyone at the conference is interested in further conversation about ARGs and video games.
7 tweens and teens on the panel, Goodstein moderated.
-- 12 yo: "goodreads.com" social networking and book reviews. "Purevolume.com" signed and unsigned bands.
-- MySpace, Facebook, "you can create your own layout," "customize your own designs," "communicate with friends and family after school"
-- MySpace, Facebook, prefers FB because of the add-ons "if everyone from my school wasn't there, I wouldn't be there", Digg.com, favorite game is Counterstrike Source
-- MySpace, "high five," helps her keep in touch with friends, "can't live without music," meet new people, talk a lot, make new friends. 12 yo in real life, 16 yo on MySpace
-- MySpace, "Mix Matters" music site, and "DATpif" (?) mix tape web site, keeps him up to date on recording artists. A gamer, plays sports games, plays Halo 3
-- 17.com for hair and makeup tips, Hipster.com for playlists and new artist discovery
-- MySpace, Runescape online roleplaying game, likes to make new friends with people around the world, 12yo in real life, 99yo on MySpace.
I started "Dungeon Mastering" a D&D campaign with some friends early this year, and it's a real pleasure to get back to the tabletop again after a quarter-century. Online gaming has its charms, but sometimes you just can't beat role-playing the way it was originally intended: Snacks, polyhedral dice, lead figurines; rulebooks and maps; Led Zeppelin on the tape-deck.
Mr. Gygax, thanks for the positive influence on my life. Your legacy lives on.