An interesting game tech workshop in Wales

Last week I took a day out from some rather intense Unity3d development to head off to North Wales to Bangor. My fellow BCS Animation and Games Dev colleague Dr Robert Gittins invited me to keynote at a New Computer Technologies Wales event on Animation and Games 🙂
It is becoming an annual trip to similar events and it was good to catch up with David Burden of Daden Ltd again as we always both seem to be there.
As I figured that many of the people there were going to be into lots of games tech already I did not do my usual type of presentation, well not all the way through anyway. I decided to help people understand the difference between development in a hosted virtual world like Second Life and developing from scratch with Unity3d. This made sense as we had Unity3d on the agenda and there were also projects from Wales that were SL related so I though it a good overall intro.
I have written about the difference before back here in 2010 but I thought I could add a bit extra in explaining it in person and drawing on the current project(s) without sharing too much of things that are customer confidential.

Why SL development is not Unity3d development from Ian Hughes

I did of course start with a bit about Cool Stuff Collective and how we got Unity3d on kids TV back on the haloween 2010 edition. This was the show that moved us from CITV to ITV prime saturday morning.
I added a big slide of things to consider in development that many non game developers and IT architects will recognise. Game tech development differs in content to a standard application, the infrastructure is very similar. The complication is in the “do something here” boxes of game play and the specifics of real time network interaction between clients. Which is different to many client server type applications (like the web)

After that I flipped back from tech to things like Forza 5 and in game creation of content, Kinect and Choi Kwang Do, Project Spark and of course the Oculus Rift. I was glad I popped that in as it became a theme throughout the pitches and most people mentioned it in some way shape of form 🙂

It was great to see all the other presentations too. They covered a lot of diverse ground.

Panagiotis Ritsos from Bangor University gave some more updates on the challenges of teaching and rehearsing language interpretation in virtual environments with EVIVA/IVY, the Second Life projects and now the investigations into Unity3d.

Llyr ap Cenydd from Bangor University shared his research on procedural animation and definitely won the prize for the best visuals as he showed his original procedural spider and then his amazing Oculus Rift deep sea experience with procedural generated animations of Dolphins.
Just to help in case this seems like gobbledegook. very often animations have been “recorded” either by someone or something being filmed in a special way that takes their movements and makes them available digitally as a whole. Procedural generation uses a sense and respond to the environment and the construction of the thing being animated. Things are not recorded but happen in real time because they have to. An object can be given an push or an impulse to do something, the rest is discovered but he collection of bits that make up the animated object. It is very cool stuff!

Just before the lunch break we had Joe Robins from Unity3d, the community evangelist and long term member of the Unity team show us some of the new things in Unity 5 and have a general chat about Unity. He also did a session later that afternoon as a Q&A session. It was very useful as there is always more to learn or figure out.
We all did a bit of a panel, quite a lot of talk about education of kids in tech and how to just let them get on with it with the teachers, not wait for teachers to have to become experienced programmers.
After lunch it was Pikachu time, or Pecha Kucha whatever it is called 🙂 20 slides each of 20 seconds in a fast fire format. It is really good, covers lots of grounds raises lots of questions.

David Burden of Daden Ltd went first. VR the Second Coming of Virtual Worlds exploring the sudden rise of VR and where it fits in the social adoption and tech adoption curves. A big subject, and of course VR is getting a lot of press as virtual worlds did. It is all the same, but different affordances of how to interact. They co-exist.

Andy Fawkes of Bohemia Interactive talked about the Virtual Battlespace – From Computer Game to Simulation. His company has the Arma engine that was originally used for Operation Flashpoint, and now has a spin of with the cult classic Day Z. He talked about the sort of simulations in the military space that are already heavily used and how that is only going to increase. An interesting question was realised about the impact of increasingly real simulations, his opinion was that no matter what we do currently we all still do know the difference and that the real effects of war are drastically different. The training is about the procedures to get you through that effectively. There has been concern that drone pilots, who are in effect doing real things via a simulation are to detached from the impact they have. Head to the office, fly a drone, go home to dinner. A serious but interesting point.

Gaz Thomas of The Game HomePage than gave a sparky talk on How to entrain 100 million people from your home office. Gaz is a budding new game developer. He has made lots of quick fire games, not trained as a programmer he wanted to do something on the web, set up a website but then started building games as ways to bring people to his site. This led to some very popular games, but he found he was cloned very quickly and now tries to get the mobile and web versions released at the same time. It was very inspirational and great to see such enthusiasm and get up and go.

Ralph Ferneyhough of newly formed Quantum Soup Studios talked about The New AAA of Development – Agile, Artistic, Autonomous. This was a talk about how being small and willing to try newer things is much more possible and needed that the constant churn in the games industry of the sequel to the sequel of the sequel. The sums of money involved and sizes of projects leads to stagnation. It was great to hear from someone who has been in the industry for a while branching out from corporate life. A fellow escapee, though from a different industry vertical.

Chris Payne of Games Dev North Wales gave the final talk on Hollywood vs VR:The Challenge Ahead. Chris works in the games industry and for several years has been a virtual camera expert. If you have tried to make cameras work in games, or played one where it was not quite right you will appreciate this is a very intricate skill. He also makes films and pop videos. It was interesting to hear about the challenges that attempting to do 360 VR films is going to have for what is a framed 2d medium. Chris showed a multi camera picture of a sphere with lenses poking out all around it, rather like the star wars training drone on the Millennium Falcon that Luke tries his light sabre with. This new camera shoots in all directions. Chris explain though that it was not possible to build one that was stereoscopic. The type of parallax and offsets that are needed can only really be done post filming. So a lot has to be done to make this giant 360 thing able to be interacted with in a headset like the rift. However that is just the start of the problems. As he pointed out, the language of cinema, the tricks of the trade just don’t work when you can look anywhere and see anything. Sets can’t have crew behind the camera as there is no behind the camera. Story tellers have to consider if you are in the scene and hence acknowledged or a floating observer, focus pulls to gain attention don’t work. Instead game techniques to attract you to the key story elements are needed. Chris proposed that as rendering gets better it is more likely that the VR movies are going to be all realtime CGI in order to be able to get around the physical problems of filming. It is a fascinating subject!

So it was well worth the 4am start to drive the 600 miles round trip and back by 10pm 🙂

Game mechanics are not …

I often get involved in conversations and projects about how to engage people with technology. This is, of course, often using game technology to connect people, to collect and show information or just to hang out and chat or meet. It covers nearly every project I do. It is as applicable to a TV show like the Cool Stuff Collective as it was to corporate life’s use of virtual worlds. There is always a line of confusion though. It is around what enables the technology and what you actually do with it.

“A pack of cards is not a game”

Building with any technology, whether it is pieces of paper with pictures on or with virtual environments across a network does not mean something is a game yet.
The best reference for all this is of course Raph Koster’s Theory of Game Design which I suggest everyone read 🙂

This book sets out a lot of the principles of what makes something interesting to do, to play. How and when repetition and skill gets trumped by boredom and familiarity.
I don’t want to get embroiled in the discussion of what “Gamification”is (too late) but very often it focuses on producing the equivalent of pack of cards. The mechanics of a potential game. This needs to happen but at it’s heart the question should be what are people going to do with the pack of cards.
Cards are a good example as most people have seen or played cards at some point. They are an easy form of technology to understand. There is a mathematical order to them, there is a visual design component. A real pack of cards also has a tactile element. Yet that pack of cards can be used for thousands of different types of game. It is the game mechanic that defines the game and the cards are just a small (but essential) component in the mix. I am sure many people have sat down with their family on holiday with a pack of cards and said “right what do we play then?”. The cards don’t tell you, they are just a medium in which to operate. So you can’t always expect a freeform environment to get people to play in. Some will of course, some people find enjoyment or mischief in any environment which leads to types of gameplay.
Card games very often feature chance. Luck places a big part however so can skill and experience. If you think of high stakes Poker games millions of pounds/dollars change hands on the turn of a card. However it is the ability to read people, to bluff and double bluff as much as the ability to calculate odds that apply. Yet the same cards can be used to play a simple game of snap. A reaction game, visual matches, fast reactions maybe a little sleight of hand as the cards are turned over.
Cards also have emergent game play. I know as a kid I used cards to layout race tracks for matchbox cars. People attempt balancing games making houses of cards and of course there are magic tricks.
So approaching a game of any sort we need to not just ask how the technology will work but find a few seeds of an idea of who is interacting with what and why. Is there jeopardy? is there luck? is there teamwork? However we should also not restrict ourselves to tightly defining rules. Allowing gameplay to be discovered.
Discovery though only really comes with familiarity or the need to break the rules. So any game needs some rules, some structure and an idea or most people (not all) are going to drop out or be less bothered. Something has to matter. There are lots of triggers to make things matter, but they don’t just happen. Someone has to make something, relate it to something.
Having been a gamer for many years I still find I play games both as a player and as a developer, I also realise I look at them as a game designer too. Why did that make me feel I needed to continues, what was so cool about that.
We all played games as kids, made up games, set rules and parameters, then found ways around them in a spirit of fun. Tapping into that as adults is much harder. People are less willing to think about why. So like many skills we all have it, its a question of unwrapping the gift of play and exploring it 🙂

Is Statue?

I had a all to rare go on Call Of Duty on the Xbox One yesterday. I downloaded the latest map pack and I was intrigued as I ran around an Aztec ruin against bots that I heard one of them shout “enemy over by the statue”. I had not really noticed specific voice prompts of that nature before. However after a bit of exploring, and obviously getting fragged a lot I found the statue and I was pleasantly surprised to see this.

I haven’t explored the other levels too much yet but I am as always intrigued by the level design and the spirit and atmosphere these design elements create.
Checking the other add-ons it I also noticed that COD has gone all Sat-Nav on us. There are additional voice packs for the game commentary and in particular you can have the dulcet tones of Snoop Dog keeping you up to date on the game. (‘big fan am I’ of the Yoda voice on my Iphone TomTom Sat-Nav app).
Whilst on the subject of persona, Kinect Sports Rivals arrived a few weeks ago. It has a number of sports to try some of which differ from the usual motion sports. There is go course tennis and ten pin bowling, but without the controller so no risk of launching one into the TV. There is Jet Bike riding across waves, football(soccer), shooting, and the intriguing rock climbing too. What I found even more interesting was the kinect being used to scan me and make an avatar. Often the web cam style face camera pastes textures on a standard rig. This however creates a cartoon character of you. So clearly there are a set of noses, eyes etc and it picks ones close to the parameters. It starts by scanning your body shape then asks you to get close in to look at your face. I ran this a couple of times as I was intrigued when it asked me to remove my glasses (which I thought was a generic message) but then put glasses on my avatar. When I took the glasses off before I started it did not ask me to remove them and I had a specs free avatar. You can of course customise the avatar once this scan has been done but it seemed to work very well.

As I mentioned its caricature 🙂

BCS Bristol – Guitars and games, changing peoples lives with martial arts

Yesterday I braved the inclement weather and headed of to a room at Bristol university to give one of my talks to BCS Bristol. I had arranged to do this some time ago, probably when we were moving house back in May so I had sent a possible title and was planning to send an abstract. However, I forgot! so the the invite just said “Guitars and games, changing peoples lives with martial arts” with Ian Hughes. I did have my usual bio in there so it was not all bad. Luckily there were lots of interested or intrigued people who came along last night and I had a great time sharing, telling the stories of my tech journey that got me to Choi Kwang Do. Explaining just how cool Rocksmith 2014 is and also showed everyone the Oculus Rift and let those that wanted to have a go. The presentation is of course a mix, match and evolution of many of my previous ones, but here is it, minus the many videos with some links to them instead. It also features links to the local Bristol CKD school as I said I urge everyone to just go and take a look at how friendly and invigorating Choi Kwang Do is.
Thankyou to everyone at BCS Bristol. Thankyou also for the very kind comments and great conversations afterwards. It means a great deal to me that I help people see things in a new light through sharing these personal experiences powered by game technology.

I should add that the 90 miles home was a good straight run in the car, hardly any “weather” to speak of. Quite a relief.

Project Spark – looking good

I signed up for the Microsoft Project Spark beta initially for windows 8.1 but soon cross platform for Xbox 360 and Xbox one. It is a game building tool/environment/experience. It is still of course in its early stages but I was immediately impressed by the build and adventure tutorial.
Being used to environment like Second Life, Minecraft and also programming environments like Unity3d everything is instantly familiar.

Objects are dragged into the environment from a palette. These objects are detailed models not just graphic primitives. People, trees, goblins etc. In that respect it is very similar to Disney Infinity. You are also presented with lots of terrain tools. Sculpting, shaping and painting the environment.
It is clear though that there is much more under the covers. Each object has a “brain” associated with it. This reveals a vast range of interactions and behaviours that can be added to any object. This is done in a very “scratch” or LEGO programming language way. A line consists of a When and a Do programming block. When “wads” Do “move” is the first one it gets you to do. However there are lots of lines that can be added and a huge range of detection, action responses.
Before you know it you are have a single player character, who can run jump and shoot, a mountain range you have created and a bad guy goblin who, when you click test, chases after your.
I set the predlets on it, letting them just follow the tutorial. They have a lot of minecraft building experience and have also programmed a little in scratch. They were both instantly hooked and interested.

Predlet 2.0 left to his own devices just started not quite following the tutorial. It was directing you to create a normal size person, normal size goblin, but a huge mountain and a larger than the default tree. Within seconds he was laughing and playing a little game of escape the giant goblins. He had rescaled the default goblin, cloned it and had giants something around after him. It was an inventive step that is where just letting kids loose on these tools is a joy.

There are some other interesting modes other than pure creation too. You can access a little big planet style carousel of user generated content and play other peoples creations. You can also take those and see how they work and remix them. There is also “crossroads” which is a create your own adventure. Here the environment asks you questions as part of game play. You discover a ? and you pick from a list. Gradually you create a whole mini adventure level but also play as you go along. There will be lots of templates in the future, but for now the one there shows the potential.
it is not all good news though. There is of course a cost to all this freemium game creation. The basic palette of objects and the styles of levels are constantly offering a view of things you don’t own. You are enticed to buy objects or styles etc all the time. Each object can be bought for cash or by earning and grinding game creation time. The balance of this and the potential cost and pester power of needing to have x to play y will be interesting. There is an option to pay an amount (the prices are likely to constantly change) which gives you access to all the content whilst that subscription is valid. There is an implication in some of the video streams by the developers that if you keep using Project Spark you will earn enough in game credit to pay for the next months full time access. So it seems they have the option to appeal to all sorts of people and ways of paying.
Of course we have to generally pay for content, 3d models out in the world are not usually free. Code, animation rigs etc all cost so it is not wrong to be charging for things. It will depend how much we can do with the base kit, what offers arrive, how much time is required to earn credits, whether there is a linkage of family accounts to help kids work together and earn credits etc.
For now, it looks great and offers an very good experience, has some great potential and I can’t wait till I get to see my windows 8.1 creations appearing on my xbox one and vice versa.
Got to go, a giant Goblin has 3d printed itself from predlet 2.0’2 creation and is stomping down the garden

Gameduino 2 vs Raspberry Pi?

Often when I use examples referring to the Arduino micro controller board I am asked about the Raspberry PI. It is often implied that the PI, with much more function, is “better” than the delightful simplicity of the Arduino.
Arduino’s are a programmable switch. They require almost no additional setup. They let people learn to code simple programs that, with the addition of a few wires, turn lights on and off, make sounds etc. It blends the physical and the digital( and is in my TV showreel). In it’s raw form its simplicity is its key.
The Raspberry PI is the other end of the spectrum. It is a full computer. Hence it can do everything Arduino does and lots more, but… it takes a different level of set up.
Typically getting a PI running requires the user to do some basic system administration, getting an operating system (picking one from the many available) and then plugging in keyboards and monitors. When you do though you then have lots of choice of languages to use, development environments etc.
Both are great, and so this is really not a versus platform war.
Recently I received my additional shield for the Arduino. (A shield is an additional bit of hardware providing extra function to the Arduino) This one is called GameDuino2.

Many other shields provide things like network connectivity, more ports etc. This Kickstarter funded shield instead adds a screen to the Arduino. However it is much more than that. The screen is touch sensitive and there is also a tilt sensor. In addition it provides hardware to be able to put interesting visuals on the screen. It extends the Arduino development environment with some more library calls and is specifically designed (as indicated in the name) for building games.
I have looked at the extensive tutorial code. It seems that it is brilliantly straight forward.


This will simply get the details of any touch interaction on the screen.
Whilst this might be straightforward to do on other devices like iOS, but the lack of expense and the simplicity of the environment to be able to develop or prototype a touch based application is fantastic. All the Xcode, developer registration etc needed to just begin to tinker is obviously off putting for many people.
There is much more though with GameDuino2 things like hardware sprites, audio and other game goodness.
Not only that though, to quote the kickstarter information “Does it work on the Raspberry PI? Yes, it hooks up directly to SPI port on C13 on the Pi. And Raspberry Pi software support is done, so the GD library and samples/demos/games all run fine on the Pi.” So you can combine both worlds.
Right at the moment though one of my Raspberry PI’s is being a dedicated set top box for the TV using the XMBC open source media centre version Openelec something the Arduino certainly can’t do 🙂
Either way go out, get one or both and enjoy coding and sharing.

COPPA seems to be the problem – Some companies are lazy?

It seems that this needs a breakout post as a follow on from trying to allow my 7 year old son Predlet 2.0 to use the online features of FIFA 14. In trying to manage his account(s) and finding I was not able to I ended up on the phone to EA support. After a little while of too and fro with 1st level support I was transferred to an more knowledgable person.
I was told, quite frankly, that because of US federal law and the COPPA(Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) regulations anyone under 13 gets more privacy protection. I was happy with that, it makes sense.
Next it seems that EA/Origin create an account based on the birthdate on Xbox One. Once they know the person is under 13 they create a Minor account. Again, it makes sense.
Next it seems that no-one in EA is able to edit the minor’s account regardless of the parents wishes until they are 13 (yes that is no-one!). The excuse being, US federal law doesn’t let them.
This is of course where it gets a odd, and incorrect.
COPPA appears to place more restrictions on what companies do with under 13’s, triggered at any point by any service anywhere asking or discovering a date of birth. Then making the company duty bound to protect the information further.
For EA this amounts to a total ban on under 13’s on pretty much any online title regardless of PEGI rating or parental wishes. By reading the parental approval I was apparently giving approval to this process not giving approval as a parent to allow access.
I wondered how any service anywhere could be used by kids, and comply with US law. I looked at the Moshi Monsters COPPA statement. That appears that they have put in the work and the words to cover COPPA (link is here)

As part of the registration process, we require demographic information (gender, country of residence and birth date); we encourage you to submit this information so we can provide you a more personalized experience. We limit the information we collect, both actively (i.e., what we ask kids) and passively (what we collect through use of web tracking mechanisms like “cookies”) to that which is necessary for kids to take part in a particular Moshi Monsters game activity.

I was directed to EA’s COPPA statement by the support on the phone.
They have a lot less text.

2. Why do you now need an age gate?
Changes to COPPA now require age verification for some of our games that use information gathered by the app and gameplay of the game. According to COPPA, players of these games now have to be age 13 or older.

3. If I’m under 13 years old, will I still be able to play EA mobile games?
For most games, yes. For games that require it, players will see the age verification check the first time you launch or log into the game on or after June 13, 2013. Once the verification is complete, you’ll be able to enter into your game.

For certain games, players under the age of 13 won’t be able to continue. We’ve worked to ensure this is not the case for as many games as possible. These are new requirements that weren’t in place when we first launched our games, and while we must make every effort to stay in compliance with such important laws, we hate that it comes at the cost of some of our players.

The US government provide a clear description of COPPA though here

As a parent, you have control over the personal information companies collect online from your kids under 13. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act gives you tools to do that. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the COPPA Rule. If a site or service is covered by COPPA, it has to get your consent before collecting personal information from your child and it has to honor your choices about how that information is used.

Nothing in COPPA says that kids can’t be on services. It says that parental permission is needed and security measures need to be in place.

So it is fairly clear that EA have taken the route of just to bothering. Deciding it was too difficult to protect the data. Which of course doesn’t bode well for the rest of us if the data is not secure. They have not provided the parental approval and maintenance tools though even at this basic level. As it stands right now they have an Origin account for predlet 2.0 bound to his Xbox Live account. They have captured his date of birth, yet they do not allow me as a parent to remove that account, or even see if the date of birth is correct?

The online features they use and the data collection they make, the communication options etc are all standard now. I would be more than happy if they use the parental approval system, or they just did not allow an Origin account to be created at all, which is effectively what happens which then cripples the online activity on any EA game on the Xbox One. You cannot logoff from origin, you cannot unbound an Xbox Live ID from EA Origin ID.

Whilst they could not recommend lying about age the implication was that it was better to have another Xbox Live account, with a “different” date of birth and create an EA Origin account with that. That hardly seems to be the right approach to have to lie about age or give access to a full adult account on systems just because EA don’t have the will or the ability to follow the rules?

So parents, if you want your kids to explore and enjoy online gaming activity, with your overwatch then avoid EA Origin games. Showing kids the right way to behave and interact online with one another seems to have to start by setting a bad example and bypassing a system because a large corporate entity can’t find a way to comply sensibly?

A mess with Origin, EA and Xbox One accounts for kids

As a parent/gamer with gamer kids I know that it is important to exercise some parental control over what games they play and where they play them. It is, though, parental choice that should be the overriding voice in setting up any system. There are some games that are not suitable in any way and there are others that are suitable with some controls and changes for any age to play. Each needs to more subtlety than the simple PEGI rating.
Here is the problem I faced this weekend. I have an Xbox One, mine is the primary account. The new terms of xbox live mean that the kids can have live accounts as family members. So I set them up their accounts, using their emails and dates of birth etc. I then upped the access control to that of teens for many things as below that was to restrictive and did not allow them the sort of access they need to have, with parental oversight and guidance, to learn about games and safety online.
Having played Battlefield 4 online myself with the voice comms with other players turned off there was only really a fun game of soldiers. No swearing etc. Now I believe that my 7 year old son is more than capable of enjoying that game in that mode, especially if I am in the room with him. He knows that the single player campaign is off limits. We have played split screen call of duty with bots before too. This is very different from the machismo and potential adult content that the story driven sections provide. It is almost a completely different game, yet it all carries the same rating as it is a package.
So, on the xbox one I logged in as him and was forced by EA the games makers to create an “Origin” account. I did, but it recognised his date of birth from the Xbox One profile and suggest a kids account, with my email as parent. I was happy with that as he didn’t need to be buying things on Origin or anything.
I then sparked up battlefield 4 with the aim of letting him have a go on the completely free of other people test range. Battlefield just hung. So I started up FIFA 14 and it decided that it would use the same Origin account, all very joined up. However it refused to connect too.
I followed the link to EA’s where I figured I would be able to manage the account somehow and check it was all ok. Unfortunately when you create a childs account it uses just an origin ID not an email. The people who build the web maintenance application have only provided a login based on email, NOT email or ID. So online there was no way to administer the account.
Origin login
I signed into my Origin account (using my email which is the same as predlet 2.0 parent email) and I was expecting to see “manage linked accounts” or some such arrangement. I could not see it at all.
So I now had his Origin account bound to his xbox ID with no way to disconnect the two and start again, nor to give approval to use the pieces of software I own that I would like him to use on the Xbox One?
I attempted a live chat with EA help, which first of all did not work on the Mac, lots of web page errors. Luckily I have windows too so I used that. I quickly downloaded the Origin client for windows and found by accident that it allows you to login with ID or email. So I was able to get into predlet 2.0 account and prove to myself it existed, but… still no options to change anything. Nor where there any different options in the PC client on my full adult account.

So I had a live chat conversation that went as follows.
The upshot was that there was constant confusion of xbox one and 360, I had to do a lot of verification that I was me, the account was linked to my account by the final advice was to download a massive EA demo on his account to prove something or other? I was not clear about that. Whilst going to the xbox one and starting it all up I was apparently away too long and the case was closed as Resolved !!! Which it is not!

I even tried logging into the xbox live account for him and changed his birthdate to see if it would trigger origin to “upgrade” him. That of course did not work and I should not have to do that.

Thanks for contacting EA Customer Experience, my name is Sumit. How may I assist you today?
How may I assist you?
hi. I created an origin account for my son on xbox one with my ********** as the parent email. I do not seem to be able to manage his account or see it anywhere. I want it to be an full account for him please
also I cannot login on the web as it is only an id not an email address, thought can log into it on the pc client with just an ID but I cannot do anything to it from my account
his id was ezoomspeedy
Let me have alook to the accounts
Please allow me some time
I want to allow him to play xbox live games such as fifa 14 on xbox one thnx
To proceed further with your request I would be required to verify the accounts
Lets go through the verification process so that i can assist you with your concern
Do you have access to **********?
I have sent you a verification email on your email ID ,Kindly tell me the code in that email.
Thank you
I can see a security question associated to your account ,Could you provide me the answer to that?
What is *************
Thank you for your co-operation,You have successfully verified one of your account
I have checked to the account linked to the id *******
I found that its linked to your email that is *********.com
though it is not showing up on my account as linked
But since the Date of birth criteria did not matched as to our policy its been considered underage account and no changes can be made to the account
However You can transfer the game from that account to your account and go for persona transfer
In persona transfer the ID xxxxxxxxx will be transferred to your account
no I already have an account
Which account ?
I have my own full account ***********.com
Can we just remove ********* altogether?
Yes that is there
So you want to use ********* on your account that is *******.com
Is it?
I want to leave **********.com my account alone
I want you to remove ******** or upgrade it to an adult account please
or tell me how to unlink his ********* account from his xbox one account
Let me look into ********** account in depth now
Kindly hold on so that i come up with relevant information for you
Thank you for waiting
Lets proceed with verifying your sons account
So that I can carry your request forward
May I know the country you are from ?
Are we connected ?
It seems that you are away from the Keyboard, please let me know if we are still connected.
hi sorry had a phone call
I am in the UK
NO problem
thank you
I would like to know the origin Id linked to your account?
******* is my ID and xbox handle
We are in concern with your sons account not yours
I would like to know the origin Id linked to **********?
ah yes. he is actually ******** on xbox
Thank you
Tell me which is the game linked to ******** account ?
we initially did battlefield 4 as I was happy that with voip off he was able to play the multiplayer game, but that failed to even load, so we tried fifa 14. both failed to connect
Kindly follow the steps to verify the account
First visit and sign in with your Xbox Live email and password.
Then click My Account in the top right corner of the page.
After that click Manage Devices.
Then,click See 360 purchase history.
lastly search for the Online Pass and the date associated with it.
Let me know that date after you do so
Let me know in case of any issue
It seems that you are away from the Keyboard, please let me know if we are still connected.
looking for the information
Did you see Online Pass?
no as this is xbox one not 360
So you did not found the online pass
Can you tell me the registration date of the game on the Xbox one if you know
with his account it was yesterday or day before
Can you download any EA Demo from Xbox market place
Let em know after you download any EA Demo game from your Xbox so that I can cross check and complete your account verification
Is it in progress?
Your response is awaited ?
Are we connected?
Since I’ve not heard from you, I need to end the chat session. Please feel free to contact us again. We’ll be glad to help you.
The chat session has ended. Please contact us again if you need further help.
You are not currently in a chat session.

It seems the battle to own us all as customers, provide these other centralised login and verification systems are just not designed or built properly. Once again I offer my expertise to the gaming industry in how to build web and integrated applications, because at the moment, to use corporate board room speak “it aint working folks!”
When all the apparent protections start not work with one another because each party things they know best it seems the system fails. This links to my previous bemoaning of the DRM and restrictions in streaming TV where I suggested that they want to DRM our eyeballs
I am trying to be a responsible parent, use the service available, not lie about dates of birth etc. In this case it would have been easier to create all adult accounts on the Xbox One, no one would be any the wiser. I could then apply my own physical control and chaperoning to the experience.
I am not sure where the “fault” lies but it would seem Microsoft and EA need to have a chat as I am sure I am not the only one facing this problem! Next post will be a bit more upbeat and positive I hope 🙂

****Update 21/1/14
I tried two routes to try and resolve this with EA.
The first was to take the advice of the parental notification email

Your child will have access to his or her underage account until he or she turns 13 years of age. When he or she turns 13, he or she will be eligible to register for a full Origin account.

If for any reason you’re concerned that this information is not correct or complete, or should you wish to have your child’s information deleted from our records, please refer to to to contact your Privacy Policy Administrator who will be happy to review, update or remove your child’s information as appropriate. Please note, however, that deletion of this information may result in the inability to access Origin and EA products associated with your child’s account.

After all I am asking for it to be updated or deleted?
The response to my email asking for it to be upgraded or failing that deleted and freeing it from the xbox one account was not very helpful. i.e. contact the live chat again ?


Thank you for contacting Electronic Arts Privacy Policy Administration.

Please let me share that underage account issue requires account ownership verification and all issues that require account verification are handled by the Phone Support or Chat support Team to maintain the confidentiality and security of your accounts. The Phone Support Team can be contacted on <0203 0141818> from 9AM-9PM GMT, Monday through Saturday. You may also use a VOIP service which should allow you to make the call. An example is Skype or Googletalk, which is comparatively quite cheap, if not free.

You can also contact us by logging into and selecting the “Live Chat” option to connect to an agent via chat. To do this:

1. Log into using your Origin/EA email or Pogo screen-name and your Password.
2. Before entering a Product for “Step 1: What type of issue are you having?” click on the “Do You Have an Existing Case?” link on the right.
3. In the “Select a Case” drop down, select your case number and issue from the available options.
4. Under “Step 2: Choose a Contact Method”, select Live Chat.

Thank you,
Vikas R

Bear in mind this is a response to an email telling me as a parent if I have concerns to just email the privacy ID. I have already tried to navigate the live help and it was not very helpful and very time consuming.

On twitter I also pinged @AskEASupport who were very quick off the mark and very responsive. They sent me a link to this page which was for Battlefield 3 on the the 360.

It stated

If you’re receiving an error restricting you from access to areas–or the entirety–of your any of your games due to any sort of “Underage Error,” this is caused by a problem with the Date of Birth on your Xbox LIVE account, which was entered during registration.

Unfortunately, our team is unable to assist with errors of this nature as they originate with your Xbox and its configuration, rather than the game being played.

For more information on Xbox LIVE online safety and privacy settings and child account settings (set by Xbox for users under the age of 18), please go here.

Please know that changing the parental permissions and other settings does not guarantee access to the servers, as Xbox may still deny access based on the age on the account. For further assistance or information regarding this error, please contact Xbox Support.

So it is saying its the xbox’s fault for sending the correct date of birth and that they can’t do much about that? The links on the page to xbox support also were no longer valid.

When I queried that it was suggest it talk to …. yes live chat again !

So lets just break this down a little.
There is an underage origin account with my as the parent. I cannot get that removed or changed without verifying who I am again, and verifying who the child is. So how exactly would I resolve that is someone used my email in error? The data flow for this is not really making much sense.

Protection is important. Very important. However the wrong protection is inefficient and potentially dangerous. You don’t go swimming in a suit of armour do you 🙂

**** Update 23/1/14

With a bit of extra clicking around randomly I managed to get onto his web page version.
Using the Origin PC client logged in just using ID not email (as it allows both) I logged in.
When I hit help on that app it then opened up the webpage but this time passed the login credentials.
It has an email address to set to ***************
I was not able to hit save and change the email, but I was able to set an extra security question on the account?

I manged to find a button to unlink the account from the xbox one. I was hoping that then sparking the Xbox One up and an EA game it would realize the account was not the one I wanted to use.
However instead it tried to login and then told me I could use it until I hit re-link. No option to change the id at all.

This is not a very good system!

Grow me a virtual universe – No Man’s Sky

I was excited to see the new project from Hello Games get a lot of blog and press time the last few weeks. If you don’t know who Hello Games are they are an indie development team who brought us the delightful cartoon fun of Joe Danger. A guy on a motorbike leaping and ducking around a number of tricky levels. It is hard not to bump into Joe Danger on every platform now, but I remember their stories of toil and trouble at Develop where they had houses mortgaged to the hilt in a last ditch attempt to get the game out. Whilst they have capitalised on, and followed up Joe Danger they have also been hard at work on an incredibly diverse project.
Joe Danger is a cute, side scrolling reaction game. It has a certain something, using an existing format but making it more fun, rather like Angry Birds has done.
The new work though is stunning in its claims. They have built a sandbox universe, not a sandbox city, desert or planet. No, a huge space of planets with detail on those planets. The claim is that everything is procedurally generated. Just to clarify, that means that rather than sitting drawing everything by hand, it is code that generates the places in a defined style. Behaviours of creatures, races, vehicles etc can also be put into this. Way back elite had a procedurally generated universe of names of planets. However you did not visit those planets and swim in their oceans. It was also not a shared space with others online. Terrain and in particular trees, or anything of a more ractal nature are often procedurally generated, like the famous Barnsley fern. This ramps that up a whole level. Of course in fractal maths complexity is the same at every level of abstraction so the detail of a leaf is the same as the pattern of the universe. It, rather like probability maths, tends to go against our common sense approach to the world. However when you ponder it a bit longer it does start to make sense.
With this sort of background information the video below gets even more interesting. Procedural generation at an atomic level. A world that your presence in influences its development. A place that is not technically infinite, but so big it would take more than a lifetime to explore. That is all very exciting stuff!

There is a good article with some more detail and a proper interview, rather than my speculation based on how I would do this over at destructiod
I am looking forward to this one though. Well done Hello Games welcome to the metaverse industry 🙂

CKD supercars

Further to my post on digital art I spent a good few hours last night on a version of the Choi Kwang Do logo so that I could plaster that on my custom paint work cars on Xbox One Forza 5. This is quite an undertaking as this is not pixel art. Various coloured stickers have to be manipulated to form the design. The font is not quite right but as this is often fast moving it is the general impression that is important.
****UPDATE 13/12/13 added video
Here is a mini video clip of all the various pieces of sticker used in this

What I really need to prove is that the Drivatar (that is my driving habits in an AI car) is actually using my design. This seems to be the case on the local machine for certain as my Drivatar and car paint work was appearing in other people races on the console. So if you see a CKD logo on a Subaru, Mini, LaFerrari or Viper let me know 🙂 It could be this is the next frontier of in game advertising. Rather like a tweet or retweet can become. If it is no longer just restricted to delivering your designs to people when you race on multiplayer.
It is approaching 5 years since I first put the Feeding Edge logo out for a test run on a Tshirt and a few other places 🙂 Here are some of the older ones
There is so much scope over and above banner ads and in game billboards to get a message across. Sounds like another use case I need to isolate and write up?