Monthly Archives: February 2014

Feeding Edge – Five years

It is getting quite exciting now to see that five whole years have passed since I started Feeding Edge Ltd. Soon I will have to say Feeding Edge Est. 2009 in everything. I was looking at what the anniversary gift is for five years and it appears to be wooden things. That was quite funny as really it was the whole Second Life experience that precipitated the formation of this company and stepping out of corporate life. The social implications of being able to communicate and share and work globally clashed with more rigid old fashioned corporate structures. Some were less able to see the benefit of this evolution than others. I experienced some very strange a actions by people worried about their power base across the company. I am constantly amazed by how many of the core of the movement we had back then left the old company in various ways too. The first thing you create in Second Life, BTW, is usually is wooden box. So in a way I pre-empted this 5th anniversary celebration some time ago!
Predicting the future is of course very tricky. The past 5 years have been so diverse and interesting that I can only hope the next 5 are anywhere near that. I also wouldn’t change what happened in the lead up to Feeding Edge. 2006-2009 will remain an amazingly vibrant and overall positive experience.
We just got back from a very exciting snowboarding and skiing holiday as a family. The first time the predlets have experienced that much snow and height. I sing the praises of virtual, of game experiences etc but not at the expense of physical experiences too. It is hard not to come away with a positive outlook on the future when you spend the week in places like this.

The thrill of learning or mastering a new skill, of seeing things in a different way, a mix of adrenalin and gravity all add to the mix. Next time we go I may have to take more hi tech things with me like GPS goggles. Just need the phone companies to stop charging mad rates for data ! 15Mb for £1.99, I turned that on my iPhone for about 2 minutes and it was used up!

I have of course not been just doing one job or thing all these years. Just to reflect (for my own sense of worth and 5 yearly appraisal….)
32+ speaking engagements
39 TV show recordings of Cool Stuff Collective
9 game reviews on Gamepeople
10 articles in Flush magazine
1 academic paper Virtual worlds, augmented reality, blended reality.
Helped form and chair the BCS animation and games development group.
Became a STEMnet ambassador and helped my fellow ambassadors.
Plus a lot of unity3d and second life work including the ongoing virtual hospital to keep my coding eye in.

My office has moved too as has the family home. Change being the only constant in this industry. Something that we all have to roll with.
As a family we have also taken up Choi Kwang Do, now well over 2 years into that journey. I am learning how to be a coach and instructor and hopefully applying some of the peaceful attitudes we live in the art to work and life.
Looking back 5 years the massive explosion in accessible technology has been the most exciting thing. Many of the things that I have been an early adopter of are now part of everyday life for many people. Sharing experiences online being the greatest change I have witnessed. We still have a way to go to help people evolve and learn how to share, or not. Of course I hope that the next wave will help people explore richer environments on top of the text and photos/videos that exist now.
I am also very happy that nearly everyone who connects online is becoming a gamer. Whilst many attitudes to games are still rooted in 3d shooters, we now have the social gamers who see different styles of games and engage. They are not all the best games in the world, we do of course have the downside of being rinsed for money in pay to play. However again the etiquette and acceptable side of the business will settle.
It is not all good news put there though. We still have vast inequality in the world. Huge poverty problems even in so called developed countries. The richest are still gathering more and more of the planets resources and wealth. In part that is driven by technology. The ability for digitally transfer assets, trade and make deals. Many hidden away in systems we have no access too. We have the spying scandals, mass surveillance of the public, because it is so easy to do as we are so connected.
Amongst all this though I am optimistic we will achieve some equality through the sheer abundance of technology and it blending with the human spirit. As we have seen with open source movements people can work together on things that they care about regardless of location on the planet. If that is the case then just as the bad guys, criminals and corrupt can leverage it, so can the forces of good.
Knowing what is out there, what is interesting to experience to use and sharing it with people who may find an even more positive use for it is my mission. Taking a bite out of technology so you don’t have to is the company tag line. Looking, feeling, sharing and understanding the implications and the possibilities is my job. I don’t see any sign of running out of any of these things just yet!
I also hope that the predlets continue to be as inspired and amazed by it all too. They have an exciting future ahead of them

The biggest thanks for the support over the past 5 years goes to my wife. She to changed jobs from our old firm too, a few years after me. The move was to a much more rewarding yet much more responsible and higher level position. She commutes everyday to London and is the financial stability the family needs amongst the constant churn of my small company life.

So, future, I see you hiding there. Let’s get on with it shall we?

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.

BCS Animation and Games group AGM

Last night I popped down to Southampton Solent University for our BCS Animation and Games specialist group AGM (for which I am the chairperson). More on the BCS and the group is available We had the usual formalities and reports to make at the start but then I had to switch into performance mode to give another talk. Obviously I can’t keep doing the same one and the same subjects 🙂 I had created a new one that was about all the upgrades, and things that have come to fruition of the past year. Xbox One, Leap, Oculus Rift, Rocksmith 2014.
I was pleased to see a very large audience, some BCS members but a lot of students from the games design course at Southampton Solent. With an audience that are into games and tech it is hard to not tell everyone things they already know. However I took a lot of demo kit with me. In particular the Oculus Rift went down a storm as an experience.
I also like to share things that happen in life, so the anecdotes are useful as they are either a vehicle to help people hear about something new, or if they know about it to relate to shared experiences.
I had a brave audience member some up and use the Rift whilst I talked about it. Getting audience participation is always good fun for everyone.
Thankyou to everyone for coming, for all the great discussion and feedback during and after the session. I feel very lucky to be able to get such a buzz out of enthusing and sharing the tech that is part of my life.
As usual the pitch was more show and tell than slides but here are the slides anyway.
The videos are replaced with links to blog articles with videos embedded too.

Bcs Review 2013 tech in 2014 from Ian Hughes

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