Cool bananas and wikipedia

This week’s Cool Stuff Collective a.k.a Show 10 is currently airing. I just spoke about the show a little in my panel at Virtual Goods World Europe and had to admit that if people tune in on Saturday on ITV they will only see me as a banana not as a tech geek. However…. that’s just awesome !
Monkey, Donkey and Bananas
The show has some great stuff in it, Monkey wins the lottery (apparently I helped him). The irony of it being the lottery may become apparent in a few weeks time, but I will leave that a mystery.
Sy get to play Harry Potter on the Kinect and does a pretty good job of sorting out the spells.
However in out very own “COOOOOOL NEWS” cue camera shake… The Cool Stuff Collective has made it to Wikipedia. It was already listed with no link as a CITV show but is very much alive and well on there now.
I already had some references too as epredator so I have reached the heady heights of having my very own bio page on there too with lots of references to all the other work I did with virtual worlds and with the media, Newsnight, Business Week, Sky News etc.
The page is is you want to go and contribute any extras for me, as you know we cant edit our own pages, so a big thumbs up to crowdsourcing at work.
I have donated to Wikipedia now too as it needs out support and I use it all the time, so if you have a spare few quid please help it out.
If anyone out there wants to write Sy Thomas’s page he needs one!

Augmented Reality – Evolution in 3 mins

On The Cool Stuff Collective this week, that just aired. I got to talk a little about AR. Whilst we did not show any of the more traditional camera/marker overlay for various reasons I think we covered a lot of AR ground from marker triggering with fiducial markers and creating magic mirrors all the way to the Vtech kids video camera that acts as a live AR magic lens. Then mentioning the display contact lenses as a future way of delivering information to us in physical world.
Magic cubes
It was particularly cool for me to be able to use the Junaio triggering Royal Mail stamps that kick in a video of Bernard Cribbins.
AR video camera
Its a real bind getting a video feed out of some of these smartphones, this was a Droid, but the Iphone is also very awkward. So whilst we did connect and did trigger the video and it really does work it was better for Archie Productions to edit in the actual video.
I think we may end up with some more AR content down the line though as there are some really good products and demos like the ones we got to see in Finland OEM 2010 using Total immersion D’Fusion.
For the program I had created a Junaio channel for Feeding Edge which you get a floating Cool Stuff text model floating above the Cool Stuff TV logo if you point at it. Its all very doable! Just did not come out on the screen too well without that pesky video feed and screen shots don’t do AR justice.
Also the website going live with some Uk only video did mean I could pop into SL and do some virtual world augmented reality.
lego universe via TV in SL
Epredator getting to see G33K me streaming into a media texture talking about another virtual world the brilliant Ledo Universe Online which goes live in a few days. You have to love the meta loop !
Also great to see the CYGLO tyres running on the TV more on those at

Grab an EvolverPro fully rigged model free before Aug 17th

Over at EvolverPro the guys are having a special offer that lets you download a model for free. Usually the fully rigged model (that you can use in things like unity) is $39.
I took the opportunity of both putting some trousers one of my avatars and downloading the rig whilst wearing my Feeding Edge Tshirt.
epred evolver
So I now have 2 fully rigged and poseable Avatars that I can use in 3d packages and in my Unity3d Demos.
To quote Tim Blagden from Evolver “one free character to anyone who enters the coupon code pro817 and clicks add between now and August 17th. Help yourself to a character and spread the word.”

The game changing in games – gamification

I was recently considering what the cycle of evolution has been in the games industry and why it is a struggle for some to see the scope of the change, whilst to others it is obvious.
I drew this picture to illustrate the evolution of not just the technology but of the social aspects of gaming.

It stems from the origins of the games arcade. Illustrated in Wave 1 above.
The arcades were places that people gathered, they were social hubs, even if many of the orginal arcade games were not really multiplayer. Of course asynchronous turn taking 1up and 2up etc were built into the earliest arcade games. High score tables were prevalent.
The arcades were viewed by many as the “Pool Hall” of my generation, feared as places kids hung out and got up to no good. However they were great places. Anyone go go in and try.
When the home computer revolution started in the early 80’s many of us were amazed that we were able to reproduce or create those same gaming experiences in the comfort of our own home. We did not have the ability, other than via posting tapes and disks or via magazine listings to share the creative work, but it did happen. Games companies formed out of many of these self organizing groups of people.
However in the consumer space that led to wave 2 above. People in their homes, separated with no connection to one another. Yes there were LAN parties and still the 1UP 2UP games but in general the LAN parties were not something everyone did. It required a certain commitment and technical expertise to go and join in. Wave 2 started to cater to the hardcore gamer based on the sort of experience that works best in isolation.
There was a quiet evolution going on, the web was forming, the MMO genre was forming, bulletin boards and early web pages started to share content between people. However it was still quite insular and and scary place for the non tech literate. Unlike an arcade you could not just wander in drop 10p and have a quick go.
Then of course the internet started to become all encompassing. Consoles started to connect, the PC world was already hooking up to replace the LAN party. More importantly though many game experience evolved, the casual games, that people could just have a quick go. If you had a computer and a connection, you could wonder in and drop your virtual 10p into a slot.
The barrier to entry to games dropped significantly, which also increased the acceptance.
More importantly though the web and social media have now become the new arcade. It is a socil space where various results of different games experiences jostle with one another just as the sounds of Space Invaders battle with the ripping noises of Defender in the old arcades. Genre’s sit virtually next to one another and people are once again connected.
Not just connected through the game mechanic, there are still single player stand alone games, but the results of the games, the joy or frustration are played out in space that is social media. We can feel a gaming atmosphere, just seeing a Farmville achievement flow past on a Facebook status or a tweet from someone enjoying the ending of Red Dead Redemption adds that gaming atmosphere to everything.
This return to the social element, the awareness of others experiences and the sharing of common interests is a cultural win for games. For games developers though this is going to be new.
In wave 1 the arcade consoles were developed and the arcade owners hosted the space. The two were not really tightly linked, one arcade console just happened to be next to another.
With the web arcade we have today the developers have to be cognisant of both the environment they are in and of the other experiences they share that meta space with.
The achievements in games that are shared in these spaces have their currency to the players of the game but also to prospective players and bystanders. In a wave 1 arcade you would (as a novice) have no idea if a score was good on machine x, y or z. Now though the game will produce a badge or certificate to say what you have done is actually really quite good.

It is an exciting time for games and for gamification as it is called. This wave 3 picture is the eco system it drops into, as much about people as the technology.

Things I have tried since Develop – Danger, Toys and Zombies

As everyone always says “I don’t have time for x,y,z”. However when it comes to games, virtual worlds, emerging trends and technology I find I have to interact with things and try them out in order to put them in context. Some of the things were just sitting there in some queue, hijacked by other pieces of work. The Develop conference inspired me to go and look at a few things.

1. Bejeweled Blitz on iphone (and other platforms). I find PopCap games brilliantly done, very addictive, but I don’t really want to play them that much. They tend to have the overwhelming feeling they will never end, like a Terminator they will just keep coming. My wife loves them though, and she is rather good at them. Going to the PopCap presentation about Blitz I thought I best have a go on my iphone before the competition to win an iPad. How cool is that, play Bejeweled Blitz for 1 minute (as thats the time limit on the game) highest score wins an iPad. I didn’t win as I am not up to speed on the thing. What blitz does though it make me want to play a bit more. First its only 1 minute at a time, second it publishes the top scores each week amongst your friend on Facebook. So it has some of that asynchronous social gaming in a casual form. So I find myself drawn to it and feel that competition, even though I know I am not up to speed yet i have a target.

1b. Plants Vs Zombies. I put this as related to Blitz as it is a PopCap game. It is another that I had avoided but thought I should give a try after hearing PopCap’s back story. It is a resource management meets space invaders game somewhat like the castle defence genre. It manages to be very addictive and engaging (though has no social component yet). I liked it though, placing plant weapons on a lawn to stop an advancing army of cartoon zombies is suitably mad that it was worth a bit of time playing 🙂

2. Kahoots on PS3 Minis. This is a puzzle platformer out of the Lemmings mould. Also though it is on the PS3 but one of the games that you can drop onto your PSP. So I did. I found myself again compelled to figure out the levels. You know the solution is in there somewhere but with its almost Portal style screen wrap around sometimes the solution is to fall off, which is great.

3. Joe Danger on PS3. Hello Games first foray, a brilliant look to a cartoon style side on bike game. Fluid controls, lots of stunts and combos. It turns out the predlets love it too. It gets a bit tricky but the head to head racing really got them going. Again solving the puzzles, a lot of repeat play make this one cracker of a game. I had seen about it but avoided the PS3 as I was busy on the Xbox. However both Kahoots and Joe Danger sparked my interest in PS3 again.

4. PS3 Home. I had not been in Home for a while again, as I thought there was nothing new to check out. Having talked with a Home developer at one lunchtime session I thought I should go back and check it out. Most of my gamer contacts being on XBL some of the shared spaces I have are not that interesting solo. However I sparked it up, patched it etc and found myself getting the Toy Story 3 “Andy’s Room”. Again this was to see what the predlets thought as much as my interest in how this form of interactive advertising was going to work.
It was somewhat magical to be wandering around, with the added out of context avatar of the predator.
Toy story 3 PS3 Home space

Yes these activities ate into some time, but only a few hours spread over a few days and shared with the family. Seeing how these things engage us socially, become part of our lives is as intriguing as the joy of the various games.

What is not in doubt is the connected nature of these experiences. They are not dumbed down nor less entertaining than a full on AAA hardcore gaming experience. They fit into small slices of time in lifestyles but enhance human bonds.

Heading for Brighton Develop

Tomorrow sees the start of 3 days in Brighton at the Develop conference. As I have mentioned before it is unusual to be going to a conference and not actually presenting. Though in part that is because Develop has grown up form a pure games development background and with things like Evolve as a track is starting to head towards what I do.

It feels like it will be an exciting one again this year as last year was great.
The past year I have met some of my game design heroes in various capacities and with an increasing crossover into the game environments, and the massive impact of things such as Kinect and Nintendo 3DS on the horizon we may be at an important crossover.
I will also be sharing the launch of the British Computer Society Animation and Games Development industry group which launches this month. This is very exciting as again it starts to show the crossover and connections. After all this is all tech, it needs more tech skills than ever, but blends with other creative endeavours.
If you are interested please contact me or want to discuss this group and maybe present or help in the future once we get going.
It will also be an outing for my new feeding edge tshirt so look out for me if you are there and say hi.

Ground control to mAYCh3rT0m – Nasa Moonbase online edugame

This week has seen the release of the free to play NASA Moonbase alpha game by virtual heroes.
It fits nicely into that area of education and a specific event or scene that has to dealt with providing education and online teamwork rather than being a free roam NASA virtual world. i.e. there is a task to get on and do right away.

It is a large client download, again as the assets are not constantly changing so as with most game clients they reside locally.
It places you in a situation of having to repair certain resources in a certain time. Chain reaction failures leading to mission failure if not done right.
It also poses the qualities of slowing you down precisely because you are in a space suit. You can hop along and try and jump to places but there is no rapid click fixing.
The is where the online teamwork fits in. Decisions to commit to fix a remote part has significant implications on being able to get back in time.
There are all sorts of tools, like remote control robots that come into play too.
It is a pity is a windows only client but thats the way it is.
I am going to experiment and see how the predlets take to it. The elder one will probably be ok with the task, the younger happy to bounce around.
With a bit of luck this sort of thing will get used in UK schools too as it offers the ability for LAN play rather than having to deal with the vagaries and perceived risks of other people on the internet.
It is always good to see interesting educational and entertainment projects emerge.
I would be interested to see if any team building activities occur in corporate circles using this, as it is not a fragfest but a slower teamwork task that many of the older non gamers of my generation can relate to having watched the space race and the moon landings.

Rezzable, Unity3d, Opensim FTW

The team at rezzable have a live demo up and running using Unity3d talking to Opensim and getting some of the geometry and packages from the opensim server.
Rezzable Unity3d Opensim
It is good to see this sort of experimentation happening and will lead to yet more people trying things out I think. I know there are more out there too so maybe there is some sort of unity3d coalition or opensource style federation that could get together and share to drive this forward?
As I have written before there are all sort of options(my most read post ever so it must be of interest) for how this can me mixed and matched, some of it is smoke an mirrors for user experience but none the less immersive.
The key is to consider other ways to achieve the goals of a particular virtual world expereince, from immersion to whether things need to be user created or not.
So well done Rezzable, and thankyou for sharing it so far 🙂

The power to create – Little Big Planet 2, WarioWare DIY, Second Life and Unity3d

One of the most amazing developments over the past couple of years has been the explosion in creativity tools that are available to anyone and everyone, combined with the ability to share creations with others over the net. The creations can be businesses, presentations etc, funny things, appeals for help or art. Amongst all that there is also games. I grew up in a time when there were arcade cabinets that we drooled over and pumped 10 pence pieces into, we were then treated to the home computer boom. We were given the ZX81/C64/Spectrum, later the Amiga as tools that let us , should we wish to learn our craft create all sorts of things. We did not really have a distribution network other than word of mouth and posting disks around. Something happened to the homebrew market as the PC rose to power. Things got complicated, programming kits and licenses got expensive so we managed to lose an awful lot of homebrew to what became a massively monolithic games industry.
Now there is a shift again. The creativity tools are back and on the previously closed and expensive to licence too platforms that took over.
If you are a gamer or a content creator, a Second Lifer, a designer or any remotely interested in computing and animation or an engineer or teacher you really need to try the original Little Big Planet creator tools on PS3. The whole point of Little Big Planet is They provided a palette of objects, rich 3d clip art if you like, combined with mechanical programming logic (motors, pulleys, switches, rods) which let you create all sorts of visually rich experiences with very very simple tools. Or you can just play platform levels with friends and have fun too. All those levels can be shared online. It has been a stunning success. As with all user generated content platforms the depth of human creative talent tends to astound the tool makers.
Now we have Little Big Planet 2 on the way and as a natural evolution of the tools we are going to see some fantastic creations in that. Take a look

The ability to combine things into an experience for others using gaming elements is not restricted to the PS3. The tiny little Nintendo DS (tiny only size not sales) has Warioware DIY. This is an extension of the minigame ideas of Warioware. You are presented with a quirky 5 second task with no real explanation and you figure it out. The graphics are often like something Terry Gilliam would do or are very cartoony, but the games work. Quick ideas executed well. The DIY game is really a collection of games but also the tools to create them yourself. A visual programming environment enabling you to create triggers and win condition combinations. For a programmer is may be annoying to go through the dialog pieces to get to the tools but for people who are not programmers it really starts to make you one. A small graphics and animation package and a music sequencer are also in the game/package. I have not tried it yet but apparently there is a Wii download that lets you get to and share/play you DS creations. That’s next to try.
The important thing here is an evolutionary path for talent to emerge from anywhere, for people to be able to find out if they are good at creating game ideas, combing graphics and sounds and having fun.
LBP2 and LBP approach it as aside to the basic game. Dropping you into a sandbox to play and helping you create amazing things right away. Giving a taste for creation and innovation not just consuming the levels thrown at you.
Warioware DIY makes you work a bit more, its a “go on then create a mini game then if you can” a bit of help but really a dressed up development kit.
UGC virtual worlds and places like Second Life or the more programmer extensible OpenSim also fit into this sort of homebrew model. Its a creation tool as much as a consumption tool with the added layer of events and people online thrown in.
These then can lead people who are interested and talented to tools like Unity3d. With that you are on a PC/Mac. You have all the tools available to you to write proper code, develop proper games from scratch. If you find you are a 3d graphics person there are lots of creation tools from free to very expensive, if you find you can do music or textures the tools exist likewise. Unity3d as a development environment lets you or a team work together to create things. The things created then will just work pretty much anywhere. The simplest being on a stand alone file on a website. Which of course means you have massive distribution potential.
As in a previous post the next large step of creating massive shared online experiences gets a little more complicated, but with people being able to do the things they can now with LBP2/DIY/SL/Unity3d in an out of the box type way is already amazing.
With a few tools, lots of middleware helping it is possible to create very engaging experiences and interesting art on any platform. The 4 way needs of programming, graphics, audio and story/game mechanics meet in various ways on all the creation platforms. The key though is that anyone, and I mean anyone! can have a dabble in any or all of them and find an outlet and talent they did not know they had, or fulfil their potential.
What are you waiting for go and make something somewhere.

More geek parody songs – Nerdcore evolving

One of the greatest things about the web is that whilst there may be the ability for anyone to share anything that is truly rubbish, there is also the ability to share things that for a niche audience they will appreciate and love. One such thing is this very clever, but very geek related parody of the Katy Perry/Snoop California song.

You will see if you click through ti YouTube Skyway Flyer has put the transcript of the lyrics too, in case anyone who is not so geeky has to look up Flux Capacitor.
I bumped into this one though on Buzzfeed. Yes another service to help us thread and aggregate interesting things.
It was here Buzzfeed (thanks to Rita King and Jerry Paffendorf for pointing me at it) lets you rate and badge content from elsewhere and then spread the word.
I have been dabbling with a few things on there as epredator
It is sort of categorized into LOL and GEEKY etc. For these geek parodies though I suspect they will fill up the feed very quickly 🙂 If they are as good as this one and the previous New Dork one then I am happy.
Nerdcore as a music form seems to be ever on the increase, creative people who are also tech geeks taking a tongue in cheek look at life and sharing it over the very medium they are spoofing.
Maybe I need to give it a go to. I have a smattering of musicality (though only a smattering), lots of kit and a world audience to find a few people who might like it. If nothing else the ballad of the metaverse may be a better way to share a story than an old school book. Though…. that may have to be a geek opera rather than a youtube short 🙂