Monthly Archives: August 2008

DIS:E Symposium, EICC, Edinburgh, 12th August

After EIF08 had finished I attended the DIS:E Symposium (I don’t understand why this was a separate event – politics?), which had a rather different, more academic feel.

First on was Richard Bartle (University of Essex) with ‘Games and Academia: A rant’.

He’s a writer and game researcher, co-author of MUD the first multiuser dungeon and is one of the pioneers of the MMOG industry.

His talk was about the divide between academia and the gaming industry, especially how the top games courses in the UK were run at ‘modern’ universities, ie former polytechnics, rather than old universities.

He went on to say that this is a problem because although this means there are plenty of trained people, there are too few ‘educated’ people. Hmm, not too sure what that means exactly! Anyway, the old established universities don’t regard computer games as an academically respectable subject because there are no ‘first class’ games specific journals and also there’s no money in games research.

I wasn’t completely convinced by everything said in this talk, but it was certainly a bit of a rant as billed!

Professor Austin Tate (University of Edinburgh) Innovative Education using Virtual Worlds

Austin is Director of AIAI (Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute) in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. I’m really interested in the emergence of virtual worlds, especially as they’re getting more specialist and applied to learning and simulation from art galleries to healthcare. The following notes are a bit lean, but I hope the links help you find more…

Timeline for virtual worlds
* 1978 onwards – multi-user dungeon & domain via early chat / IM
* 1990 onwards – MOO – MUD object orientated
* 1990 onwards – MMORPG
* Now – multi-user virtual environments and virtual worlds (MUVE/VW)
* Next – external content management and links to web services

The Virtual University of Edinburgh VUE, has a campus in Second Life. Its looking at new methods of teaching and new ways to do things – a bit more fun, more effective ways of doing things.

The VUE virtual campus has a building reminiscent of the college buildings and also features local Edinburgh buildings. It has art installations – they have a gallery open in Second Life that will also open soon in real life.

iRoom: a room for intelligent interaction related to virtual collaboration work. For example there’s a Paternoster tasting room – people have their own whisky tasting kits at home, but join in an educational and social experience online.

Other virtual worlds include Kaneva, Lively and Wonderland (which I’ve blogged about before here: .

There are some professionally licensed and private virtual worlds such as ProtoSphere – which is aimed at companies as well as educational establishments: http://www.protonmedia.com

Forterra Olive is also licensed and quite expensive as it comes with lots of applications and specialist worlds in areas such as refugee, medical and military: http://www.forterrainc.com/

Twinity allows closed walls and systems. It allows the user to let selected people into their areas: http://twinity.com/en

Anyway, there’s a lot of virtual worlds now – but they’ll almost certainly thin out as some survive and some don’t. Privately managed regions and controlled areas are becoming popular, especially for simulation for medical, government and military. It’s all extremely interesting :-)

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Gianna Cassidy from the Psychology of Music Research Group, talked about the relationship between music and games, here’s some notes from her slides.

Videogame play presents a valuable yet relatively untapped platform for musical experience:
* Exposure to symphonic scores eg Halo
* Increasing customisability of soundtracks eg GTA series
* Boom in music performance and creation games eg Rock Band

How music plays a fundamental role in videogame experience
* Forms a channel of communication, interaction and direction
* Enriches the game world – aiding the creation of context, setting the scene and semantic inference about protagonists
* Assist the player in navigation of the play space – directing the player through the sequence of game play and providing functional reference and feedback
* Developed from underscoring the characters actions and functional feedback from the environment to enriching, maintaining and manipulating the emotional context of the game world – aiming to create a seamless impression of gameplay.
* Music acts as an emotional glue between the player and the game – symbiotic communication of induced and expressed cultural. emotional and social content.

She went on to tell us about some research into gamers response to certain types of music in games – how it affects the rate of player activity, player physiology and emotional state – they used Wii Sports, Wii Star Wars and WiiFit games. As you might imagine self selected tracks had the highest arousal results.

Summary
* Music is a powerful tool to elucidate social emotional and cognitive processed and outcomes of our gameplay experience – an emotional glue and channel of information between the game and player.
* Music is a tool to regulate our social, cognitive and emotional interaction with games – it has both positive effects on accuracy, efficiency, judgement, attention, motivation, enjoyment, mood state, liking and evaluation of the game – mediated by preference, perceived control, contextual specificity and liking.

Edinburgh Interactive Festival 08, EICC, Day 3

After all the free Tattinger at last night’s BAFTA party it’s surprising I haven’t got a hangover, but after I discovered the samosas & spring rolls were vegan I stuffed myself with them to make up for the lack of a vegan lunch option.

Eyjólfur Guðmundsson, gave a very compelling talk on ‘Real politics invade virtual worlds – dealing with social and economic issues in EVE online‘.

This was a great talk as Eyjólfur who works as an economist for Eve online gave us an amazing insight into how money and politics work together in the EVE MMOG.

Set in a science fiction space setting of over 5000 solar system, players pilot ships around participating in various activities and professions from fighting to manufacturing.

Economics are a complex business when you’ve got players all around the globe trading Interstellar Kredits across 66 regional markets where pricing and availiabilty of goods differs from region to region. The things that are of value in Eve apart from ISK are minerals, ammunition, ships and ship parts – these are hunted, mined, manufactured and bartered for.

The economy used in Eve is an open economy, meaning that there are no fixed amounts of money or materials in the game’s universe.

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Downstairs, I have a play with Guitar Hero for DS, I’m not much better at this than I am with the full size Guitar Hero, but I am liking its super cuteness on the DS and the tiny Marshall amp that it’s plugged into makes me go ‘awww’ – sucker for ickwl things, me ;-) Anyways, the teens who are playing it next to me are much better at it, – as usual!

There’s also the Dare to be Digital showcase for the University of Abertay, Dundee. It’s a games development competition and the teams have 10 weeks to develop a game prototype. There are three winners and each wins £2,500 and a BAFTA nomination for the BAFTA ‘Ones to Watch’ award which will be awarded in March next year.

There’s some interesting and varied stuff from the students, with some rather nicely done graphics – my favourites are Origamee – a 3D pop-up story book themed world incorporating traditional adventure style puzzle solving, incorporating environmental issues and Grav, set in a ‘retro-futuristic’ environment where robots are your enemies and your surroundings are your best friend.

Edinburgh Interactive Festival 08, EICC, Day two

It’s day two of EIF08 and via a walk through the Edinburgh gorgeous rose gardens and lawns we made it to the EICC for just after 9am. It’s been full on and I’m struggling to take in all the information from the speakers – it’s been an awesome day and I’ve heard some great presentations.

It seems of most of what I’ve heard today has been about innovation and what is changing in the games industry / community – new ideas & audiences that are turning traditional attitudes on their heads – I’m suffering from information overload and it’s going to take a while for me to 1. unravel my notes 2. look & upload my photos / videos and 3. pick out the best bits so I don’t write a really verbose post!

Here’s some highlights from a couple of the presentations:

Opportunities in the new digital age: Chris Deering:

New trends for the expansion of immersive gaming experience:
* 6-10 age games, family and grey gamer sectors grow
* High definition enabled homes spawn combi console / STBs
* Ubiquitous wifi powers ‘anywhere’ gaming
* New game engines, physics, lightning and lip-sync tools
* Voice recognition, GPS and ‘location aware’ servers
* Massive worlds, cinema-real ‘thinking and speaking’ characters

New trends drive new gaming business innovation:
* Behavior tracking will enable ‘pinpoint’ marketing
* Micro-payments and cash online transaction modes
* Advertising subsidises consumer spending
* Gambling becomes a source of development funding
* User enhanced, user generated and user published games
* Games for special niche communities

Opportunities in new experiences where gaming culture will be relevant:
* GPS on mobiles and ‘location aware’ servers
* Ubiquitous screens and high definition redefine TV
* Females become the biggest paying audience on the web
* ‘Concierge’ services about as time becomes a precious commodity
* Monestisation of streaming unleashed the ‘long tail of live’
* Revolution in user interfaces and input including voice
* Mobile phone communities go massive and global

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Too Cool for School – A New Look at Games in Educations – Derek Robinsonhttp://hotmilkydrink.typepad.com

Derek Robinson gave us a great talk about Learning & Teaching Scotland has been looking at a different approach to games and learning.

Traditionally, games have been frowned upon in schools, but in Scotland they’ve seen some remarkable results by allowing kids to play off the shelf games such as Nintendogs, Guitar Hero, Brain Training and Endless Ocean. They found that these games helped flatten out the divide between different skill streams in the classroom . It was found that with maths games, for example in Brain Training & within Nintendogs, kids learnt quicker, became faster at solving problems and overall had more confidence and engaged more freely with other members of the class.

Playing these games has inspired the kids no end, they’ve set up blogs to talk about their experiences, such as how their pet dogs in Nintendogs are getting on and accessories for them. Derek emphasised how off the shelf games should not be dismissed and to be careful of thinking that ‘worthy’ educational games are the right or only choice for education.

Learning and Teaching Scotland have formed The Consolarium – a centre for gaming and learning.

Edinburgh Interactive Festival 08, EICC – Day One

I’m fizzing slightly – no it’s not due to too much bicarb, it’s because I’ve been up since 5am and via a bus, a very fast flight and the 100 bus I’m back in lovely Edinburgh.

About two hours ago it was unbearably hot and as I battled my way through performance artists and tourists up those bloody steep stairs to the top – the Golden Mile – I felt like a packhorse with my stoopidly heavy backpack and hot like I was going to faint like a pale wee thing, but although pale I happily made it to the fantastic Backed Potato shop for my vegan haggis potato with lashings of vegan marg J

I love the Baked Potato Shop, so much that was top of my list for things to do on arrival I ate it whist watching a rather eccentric man engage his audience with knives and humiliation of passing tourists – he was very funny! Then on the way down the other side it pissed down and now I’m soaked – the Mac, DS & GP2X are okay – I angled my prolly to protect my precious cargo before saving myself – well I’m waterproof mostly and can take it. Oh the fizzing? That’s me full of diet coke that got shaken up on the way and caffeine has never really agreed with me!

You’re not really here to read about my baked potato habit or the weather though, so here you go… The ‘Screening Day’ of the Edinburgh Interactive Festival is a mixture of industry talks and fun gaming opportunities. Nintendo, Sony & Microsoft are all battling for attention. It’s a mixture of kids n dads & longhaired gamer types. There’s a few girls here, but not many and they seem to be stewards or demo-ing the games.

So picture a chef from Nintendo cooking up a storm with his Cooking Guide, he’s in a makeshift kitchen with all the shiny apparatus you’d expect, surrounded by a breakfast bar complete with about 15 pristine white DS and menus – hey we’re going to cook together!

The burly chef offers me some chicken tikka masala as an incentive to join them, but I smile sweetly and just watch – I don’t think a conversation about my being vegan would enrich the flow of his patter – anyways I enter the Nintendo competition to win lots of swish kitchen appliances instead! Bar the chicken, I wonder if I’m his target audience J

There also a whole island FWOABW of screens and cosy seating for Little Big Planet – ‘The Next Big Thing’ from Media Molecule for PS3 – I have a chat with one of the designers to find out what’s going on – he tells me that it’s the most fun eva – basically it’s a very cute MMO (or play on yer own) where you swing around, collect things and the best thing is it’s got user modification coming out of its ears! Through various menus you can change the whole look and feel and via the eyetoy you can put your ugly mug at the centre of the action! If that’s got you all excited then the release is sometime in September, apparently.

Oh I must mention the Wiis, they’ve got very sporty looking ladies & gents manning them in white tracksuits. From watching they’re very popular with the uninitiated and so I feel I should wait till later in the festie to show of my 1337 WiiFit 5|<i11z – oh yes, they get you to put on special while socks with those grippy spots on to play – I like these people, they understand my OCD tendencies towards other people’s feet ;-)

There’s also a square full of XBOX 360s playing various car games, very laddy and from where I’m sitting I can see that it’s been populated by schoolboys for most of the day. I’ve seen one girl play so far – it comes forth in my choice of hangouts – ho hum…

Okay, before I forget I went to a couple of interesting talks today, one was about advertising and gaming – product placement and ads within games – I took photos of slides instead of notes as I was a bit doolally from my 5am start, so I’ll let them do the talking.

I also went to a talk/demo of Multiwinia, by introversion – the fine people responsible for the excellent, but very difficult Defcon ‘everybody dies’ game ;-)

Will write some more on these later – running to the last session of the day!