Burger King Breakups

12 01 2009


Burger King continue to pursue unusual interactive projects, this time with a facebook application that promises a free burger if you unfriend 10 people. The 10 get notified that you’ve done so, unlike when you normally remove someone on facebook, in whcih case they may notice their friend count drop by one but don’t receive any notifications.

Imagine being worth 1/10th of a burger to someone? It’s pretty brutal, but no more grotesque than the way many people assume they can or should act on social networking services.

(Via Infovore. CC image “Burger King Breakup” by Tito Slack ™)

Blitz 3D

2 12 2008


Midlands game company Blitz today announced new tech for making 3D games. That GI.biz piece links a few other announcements of games companies going into 3D tech. I wonder if it could actually catch on?

This kind of thing really excited me as a child, until I realised the only way to experience it at the time was in theme parks. Next to real roller coasters has to be the worst possible place to show off this kind of technology.

Lately my local multiplex has been offering some films in 3D for a few extra pounds on the price of a normal ticket. It had novelty value, but that seems to be it. Though people seem to have less of a problem wearing dorky NHS style glasses in the darkness of a cinema, after a screening of Beowulf in 3D I nonetheless heard them remarking quite caustically on how obviously things were made to stick out of the screen to emphasise the effect.

I have strong doubts about stereoscopic 3D on screens, but also suspect that interactivity could overcome all of them. For instance, Johnny Lee Chung’s head tracking 3D using slightly modified Wii hardware offers a much more striking effect than a traditional film, and people are developing technology to create 3D using standard TVs.

Would FPS playing be improved when playing with a true stereoscopic picture? I bet.

(CC image by barron)

Emote Launch First Game

24 09 2008

We’ve only had a vague idea of what UK based Emote are up to until now, as they’ve been keeping their technology close to their chest, only demoing it behind closed doors at GDC this year.

Some details on their first project are now coming to light though, with Develop reporting on a collaboration with Avalanche on a hunting title:

Online social games start-up Emote has announced that it is collaborating with Swedish studio Avalanche on a new free-to-play online title.

The title was first unveiled by Develop via interviews with the Emote team in April 2008.

Called The Hunter, the game seeks to build an online community of game hunters, able to use the social interface to post blogs and images of recent kills as well as collaborate in tournaments, challenges and competitions. The online nature of the title will see Avalanche regularly adding new content, and plans to actively encourage its community to share ideas and suggestions for new features.

We’d so far heard that Emote’s platform would enable players to interact with the same server from a lot of different platforms. The project above reads as social networking for hunters, kind of like Facebook crossed with Nike+ in terms of functionality.

How long before they can feed the interface back to hunters in the field, turning it into augmented reality?

(CC image of easter-egg hunters by Lyle58)

Infovore: Playing Together

28 08 2008

Tom Armitage has given a talk on games and social software entitled “Playing Together” at NLGD and also at Develop. We unfortunately missed it at the latter because we were running Games:EDU a couple of rooms away, but Tom has now posted text and images.

It’s a really broad ranging talk with some great thinking on what humans are and how we use games. It moves through the kind of social circles we engage in, how social software has drawn on playful experiences to cater to those, how people in turn find new ways of playing with things and each other, and what videogame designers might be able to learn from all of this. The large structure makes it difficult to quote from, so I suggest you go and read the whole thing.

And what do you discover about Nike+? You discover there’s a metagame to it. People start syncing late – filling up their run data and then only syncing at the last minute – to disguise how much they’re doing. They mess around!

Nike+ is ticking so many of our boxes: it’s asynchronous; it’s designed perhaps best for small groups; it turns running into a social object, putting it online. It’s a really great example of future for social play.

And it goes where I am: it’s a game that I don’t have to learn how to play. I already know how to run.

(CC image of volleyball by flyzipper)

Google Game Ads

14 08 2008

via Nicholas Lovell comes a rumour that Google are nearing a release of the in-game ad service they’ve been testing for a while. It’s most likely true given the recent release of Lively. Also, as Nicholas points out:

the opportunity for independent and smaller studios who fall below the radar screen of Massive, IGA or Double Fusion will be huge.

The current players of in game advertising are all chasing the short head while they struggle to create a big enough market, and it’s entirely possible that Google will eclipse them all with the long tail.

KZero: Virtual Pursuits Breakdown

25 07 2008

KZero have an excellent visualisation of different types of MMO and what age groups play them. There are many there I hadn’t heard of, all neatly categorised. Follow this link for a full size version, and this one for a post by them breaking it down.

(via the infringalicious Wonderland 🙂 Note to KZero – people copying your stuff on the web is a good thing when they point back to you).

PC Transitioning From CD-ROM to Broadband

17 04 2008

Discarded CD-ROM and floppy drives

Here’s the crux of publishing games for PC right now:

“Whether it really is all about piracy, or it just becomes the domination of consoles, or […] the ubiquity of gaming: there’s a way to get gaming so many ways now that thinking about the PC as a disc-based platform may in fact be old.”

I imagine those are pretty tough words for some publishers to get through, but it’s true: CD-ROM was a buzzword in the mid-nineties, and so was “multimedia” along with so many other now defunct terms. HD is (slowly) catching on, UK regulator OFCOM are talking about deploying optical fibre at reduced cost using existing utility conduits, private companies are planning to do the same with sewers, and broadband has already just about killed off commercial piracy in some quarters.

Some people I know at publishers claim that there will always be a market for physical product, and they’re probably right: Bandwidth can be at a premium in rural areas compared to cities, and some people really do like having each piece of media as a physical object (For instance, I have friends whose ongoing music collections are MP3s, but who also collect vinyl). What we don’t know is how big or small a niche each type of physical product will become: but “smaller” is the safe bet for most.

As consoles tilt toward HD formats and net connections a generation at a time, as a platform the PC is taking the same steps in a much more organic way. With boxed product sales shrinking and digital distribution (including web-based games) growing, the PC is in a transitional state. Unless something seriously upsets broadband development, or causes Blu-Ray to catch on for PC in a big way, it seems doubtful it will eventually settle back on disc based formats.

(CC image of discarded internal CD-ROM and floppy drives by Jeff Kubina)

Paramount Moves Into Games Publishing

28 03 2008


No details on how many people or how much money yet, but Paramount have followed Warner Bros and Disney into games, upping the size of their interactive team and first looking at lower risk projects like mobile and casual. Variety has the scoop. It reads as if they’re trying to spread the risk as far as possible, sketching the outlines of a very flexible business model:

“We are entering into deals now where we will be publishing games this year,” said Sandi Isaacs, Par’s senior veep of interactive and mobile. “There’s going to be a slate where in some cases we’re publishing, in some cases we’re co-publishing, or in others we’re funding development and another publisher buys it. It’s important for us to have a flexible model.”

Henry Jenkins Interview

19 03 2008

Henry Jenkins

Henry Jenkins has been interviewed by Steven Johnson at SXSW, and Gamasutra has a piece up on it. As ever with Henry Jenkins, it’s a torrent of incredibly valuable insight, and I recommend you read it. While his blog is prolific, the Gamasutra piece creates a nice snapshot of some of his thinking:

Asked Johnson, “Do you ever look at a new technology and think, that is just stupid?”

“It’s a momentary flash in my mind,” admitted Jenkins. “But people don’t do things, in the end, that are meaningless. We may couch potato out sometimes, but that’s meaningful to us as well. So the challenge is to dig in and figure out what is meaningful about it to the person doing the activity. It may not be meaningful to me, but it’s clearly meaningful to the people engaging in it. People aren’t idiots. They do things for a reason. And the reason is usually very interesting. “

On TV and work:

Whereas Lost seems to push us in a new direction in terms of what it is to engage in a television experience. “

“It’s amazing how much time people have,” Johnson added. “One person creates a map from 45 freeze frames – it must have taken 3 days – and they put it in the discussion frame, and then other people chime in with corrections and additions. But the time commitment is amazing. “

“Rather than pathologize that, and say what’s wrong with these people that they spend so much time this way, let’s ask what’s wrong with America that these incredibly intelligent people are given so few opportunities to demonstrate their intelligence in their workplace,” said Jenkins. “Right?”

Johnson is not someone I’m very familiar with, but he too has some great insights. He says of moral panic:

“The young people who grew up with these interactive media – what are they like?” Johnson asked. “If you look at the broad demographic trends, they are incredibly good. They are the least violent since the 1950s, they are the most entrepreneurial on record, and the most politically engaged generation since the dawn of the television. Do we have a crisis here or an incredible opportunity? People seem to be more engaged generally than they’ve been since the rise of mass media. The idea that there’s some kind of reason for a moral panic at this time is very strange.”

Games and Personal Development

13 03 2008


Ubisoft are making a weight management game. It sounds like Nike+ Lite (or maybe heavy). It’ll use a pedometer coupled with the DS and game mechanics to help people set goals and manage their weight. I love this kind of interactive work, and the technology to implement it has recently become a lot more basic and thus cheaper. Interactive has an incoming dark side though…

I’ve been using Nike+ since last October, and i love it. It’s a very game-like service. A sensor in your shoe connects to a sensor on an ipod nano, recording data and, as you run, periodically giving you vocal status updates on your pace, total time, distance covered, and distance to your goal.

Once you’re done, iTunes connects to the Nike+ website and uploads your run data, where each run can be graphed, compared to others, and mapped. As well as setting a mileage goal on the iPod each time you go out, the site also allows users to set and track long term goals, which keeps me motivated and thinking about running even when I’m not doing it.

Given that I prefer VLC to iTunes, and feel very queasy about Nike’s labour history, Nike+ has to be quite a compelling service to have snagged me so deeply. Tying things to game mechanics works, and providing access to data also turns people into self-educating geeks: From knowing virtually nothing and being prone to injuries in previous years, I’ve gone to knowing about running gaits, foot types and the right kinds of shoe for them, and as a result, am now able to run much further with far fewer injuries.

What’s really lacking is a social aspect. I know several people who use it, but we have no proper way to search, connect, share or look at each other’s data. There is no real way to communicate through the site or find others. The furthest it goes is to create challenges and either open them to everyone, or invite friends who’s screennames or emails I already know.

There’s a palpable sense of a next step that’s missing: That I’m on my own when I’m using Nike+, or that game mechanics are missing when I’m using Facebook.

It appears that this growing bubble of interactive services is going to turn my life into an MMO, and I largely welcome it. I’d like to shape its future development too, as I’m acutely aware that the technology is ethically inert. Jane McGonigal and Raph Koster talk about using games to save the world and that they’re the best medium to contribute to that, and I think they’re largely correct, but points and data alone are quite compelling when you present them to people in the right way.

Technically, the same kind of system could be devised to work with “sitting on your ass eating junk food and watching TV”. The Obama campaign is using Twitter right now, how long before a campaign actually uses game mechanics for influence? How sugar coated a pill could game mechanics be for drip-feeding people ideology or propaganda?

At first blush it seems like self-interest would limit the power ARGs and MMOs could have over people, but reading something like The System by Cao Yunwu makes it all too apparent that people are not always rational choosers. Of course there are going to be cultish, astroturf ARGs that exploit this one day.

(CC image by portfolium)