January 31, 2005

Johnny Wants Freedom, Structure, and Consequences

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:46 pm

“Wannabe game designer and failed programmer” Johnny Pi has a new blog, Design Synthesis. A few quotes from some of his initial posts:

[W]hat remains to be seen is how game developers are going to merge freeform and structure. How can we model a reactive gameworld without creating a picture of anarchy? … I’m interested in the confluence of order and chaos.

January 30, 2005

Story Money

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:28 pm

This was going to be a comment in today’s discussion on the IF 1893 in The Times, but this is lengthy enough that I’d rather score a new post out of it.

Nick and Scott commented that in today’s market, selling text-based IF has become rare, and that the viability of selling e-lit is questionable. My take is that the market for new forms of e-lit and the like, e.g. interactive drama, is underdeveloped enough that charging money for it may do more to hamper a work’s reach, than to give it away.

Michael and I are facing this issue right now: as we’re close to releasing Facade, now in its final stages of bug fixing and audio editing, we’ve been thinking about the best way(s) to release it. Anyone have any thoughts if it’s a good or bad idea for us to charge for Facade, based on what you know so far about it? What you would pay for it, if anything? Do you think charging for it would hamper its dissemination?

Rare Computing Books on the Block

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:25 pm

Jeremy Norman’s library of early computer books, including 1411 items, will be auctioned in 250 lots at Christie’s on February 23. The collection includes the typescript of the 1946 business plan for Univac by Eniac creators J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly, valued at more than $50,000. I won’t be putting in any bids, but there is a lot of interesting bibliography about this collection available at Norman’s site. Thanks to Stephanie Strickland for the tip about this.

The IF 1893 Makes The Times

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 1:55 am

Peter Nepstad’s 1893: A World’s Fair Mystery, a historically-grounded interactive fiction mystery written in TADS, may not have very impressive sales when compared to Halo 2. But it did rate an article in today’s New York Times. Here’s the info on 1983 from Baf’s Guide, including a link to free demo of the game.

January 29, 2005

Flashback vs. C64 30-in-1

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:16 pm

On Armchair Arcade, Bill Loguidice provides detailed reviews of the Atari Flashback and the Commodore 64 30-in-1, comparing these two recent official entries in the “TV games” category. He finds the controllers on the Flashback (mentioned earlier on here) to work very well, although they aren’t compatible with the original 2600/7800 controllers. He writes that “where the Flashback fails is also where other TV games have failed—the quality of the emulation of the original system’s abilities. … these games are markedly different than their original 7800 and 2600 counterparts.” He notes that the C64-in-a-joystick only contains 30 games if you count fairly creatively. On the other hand, “everything looks and sounds almost exactly like the original, certainly better than any other TV game to date.” Unfortunately, to make up for excelling where the Flashback let us down, where Atari’s system worked well, the C64 30-in-1 has problems: the joystick has too much play in it and “does not accurately register directions.”

January 28, 2005

Do You Like Cutscenes?

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:44 am

If so, turn to page (Clive Thompson), just published in Slate.

If not, turn to page (Rune Klevjer), older, but quite good.

(Unless you just like validating your existing opinions…)

January 27, 2005

Xanadu Got Slashdotted

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:39 pm

Mostly for Noah. Not many new revelations in the comment thread of the recent Slashdotting of Ted Nelson’s Xanadu, although I hadn’t realized that in addition to Olivia Newton-John, Rush recorded a song with the same title.

MPAA vs. Martin Luther King

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:33 pm

Eyes on the Screen is a project encouraging you to download and watch Eyes on the Prize, “the most important documentary ever made about the Civil Rights Movement.” As The Globe and Mail explains, the video didn’t air on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and has been unavailable on TV or VHS, and was never released on DVD, because the makers of the documentary could only afford a time-limited license to use the archival footage that appears. So, the group Downhill Battle, working with Common Sense Culture, digitized the 10-part series and has made torrents available so that anyone can download it. (BitTorrent is required, but links and setup instructions are provided; At the moment, parts 1-3 are up.) Wired News calls this an act of civil disobedience – you gotta put something catchy in the lede – but Downhill Battle is more modest, taking the position that informing yourself about United States history by watching footage of historical events is “fair use” of copyrighted material, even if people happen to be singing “Happy Birthday” to Martin Luther King in some of that footage. They call, nevertheless, for a move back to the original purpose of copyright, so that other documentary filmmakers won’t be stifled in the future – and for widespread screenings of Part 1 of Eyes on the Prize on February 8, as part of Black History Month.

A Few Burroughs Links

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:21 pm

It’s not William S. Burroughs’ birthday or anything, but I’m teaching cut-ups tomorrow and thought I’d share:

  • The Lazarus Corporation Text Mixing Desk
    The text mixing desk includes a Burroughs style cut-up engine, a transgenderiser, a rasta patois translation device and a watergate-style “expletive deleted” module, all selectable as outboard modules to the main mixing desk.
  • WSB recordings at Ubuweb
    including a nice explanation of cut-ups.
  • The Naropa Audio Archives
    Plenty of Burroughs lectures free for the taking and don’t miss Alan Ginsberg reading William Blake.
  • Nobody Here, Just Me
    Nothing do with Burroughs, really, but a nifty hypermedia site with lots of little rooms and moments of narrative.

January 26, 2005

Emotionally Challenged Blog

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:15 pm

Ian Wilson has begun a new blog as a forum to discuss ways to advance the state of the art of emotional behavior in virtual characters and interactive experiences. Ian has contributed numerous comments to discussions on GTxA of late, and I’m looking forward to hearing more of his perspective on this shared pursuit. And his domain name ends in “ai”, which is pretty cool. Added to our blogroll.

Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Lumines

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:47 am

Lumines logoOne of the PSP games that is positively surprising reviewers is Lumines, a fairly low-budget puzzle/music game by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the creator of Rez and Space Channel 5. Although it isn’t an abstract shooter, this somehwat Tetris-like music machine, with a constantly shifting background image, sounds like it may offer a bit succor those who mourn for Unity – maybe enough to last until the Yak is back on track with his next game. I don’t own a PSP or this game (needless to say), but take a look at the review of the Japanese release of Lumines on GamerFeed and the preview on Gamespot to learn more about it. Also, check out the recent interview with Mizuguchi on Tokyopia. (Cortesia de Elastico.)

January 25, 2005

A Theory of Fun Reviewed

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:48 pm

Theory of Fun coverA Review of A Theory of Fun for Game Design
written and illustrated by Raph Koster
Paraglyph Press
2004
244 pp.
$22.99

In an illustrated essay that is somewhere between a meditation and a manifesto, Raph Koster works to justify games to a general audience by characterizing them as learning experiences that can be tuned to challenge us in new ways. The book, based on a 2003 talk at the Austin Game Conference, is, unfortunately, short on real argument; Koster has thought out his positions in the book, but he usually neither backs up the claims he makes with much discussion nor follows through to investigate their implications. It’s interesting, though, that Koster has tried to make A Theory of Fun for Game Design itself a playful learning system, by juxtaposing text with diagrammatic or cartoon sorts of discussion, for example, and by providing copious endnotes with digressive comments and references. On the recto there are some gems: a nice chart showing the evolution of the 2-D shooter, drawings of game patterns for some of those shooters, and amusing cartoons in which teens brag about, among other things, beating the last level of Ulysses.

January 24, 2005

Original SID

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:32 pm

The SID chip My recent attempts to get some work done have been accompanied by music from the The High Voltage SID Collection (HVSC), a huge supply of files for the Commodore 64′s Sound Interface Device (SID) and apparently the largest archive of chiptunes. The SID, designed by Bob Yannes in 1981, “redefined the concept of sound in personal computers,” or so Byte Magazine claimed in 1995, naming it one of the 20 most important chips in history. The archive offers music from games and from the scene. Read on for how you can listen (on a non-C-64 computer) and for a few suggested tunes…

January 23, 2005

Watercoolergames at Slamdance

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:18 am

Ian has started blogging his experience at the Slamdance Game Competition. Sounds like he’s having a great time. His first post is a reflection on the question “What is an indie game?”, fueled by his conversation with The Behemoth, the studio that created Alien Hominid.

SLSA Gets New Letter, Calls for Papers

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:23 am

Last year the SLS (Society for Literature and Science) changed its name to acknowledge the longstanding involvement of the arts. The organization has hosted many presentations related to digital media at its past conferences, as you can see from the program of their 2003 conference and their 2004 conference. Now, the SLSA invites paper abstracts (150 words) and panel proposals, due May 1, for…

The Nineteenth Annual Conference of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, Chicago, IL, November 10-13, 2005:

Emergent Systems, Cognitive Environments

(Read on for the CFP)

Phrontisterion VI

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 2:14 am

For the second year in a row, June appears to be an excellent month for conferences. In addition to AIIDE and DiGRA, add Chris Crawford‘s annual to your list. And this June they all share some common geography — the North American west coast, where I just moved to, coincidentally, so I hope make it to all three. :-)

Here is the CFP (Call For Phronts?), and registration information.

January 22, 2005

Children’s Lit, Comp Sci, and Games

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:57 pm

In the latest IGDA Ivory Tower column, two University of Florida doctoral students call for an interdisciplinary approach to game studies – specifically, connecting children’s literature studies and video game studies. The authors are prolific digital media scholar Laurie Taylor and Cathlena Martin, who works with children’s literature and digital media.

I think they should go for it. A strong research result that comes from children’s lit + video game studies is exactly what would persuade me of the value of this combination.

Their proposal doesn’t seem to offer the clearest scenario showing the value of interdisciplinarity, though…

January 21, 2005

Why Johnny must program (procedural literacy revisited)

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 4:52 pm

I recently wrote a paper (draft) that builds on previous posts on GTxA on procedural literacy (1 2). It argues that New Media scholars and practitioners must be procedurally literate (which includes knowing how to program), and that games (and game-like artifacts), because of their fundamentally procedural nature, can serve as ideal objects around which to organize a New Media-centric introduction to Computer Science. I welcome any comments on the draft.

January 20, 2005

New Interactive Fiction FAQ, Wiki

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:25 pm

There’s a new Interactive Fiction FAQ for those new the puzzly pleasures of these programs that are games, potential narratives, and worlds. Some of us put it together recently on ifwiki, which Dave Cornelson has installed as a resource (and collaborative writing space) for the IF community. The IF FAQ is similar in purpose to Roger Firth’s Ifaq, but it’s meant to immediately offer a few more practical answers than that document or the welcome page for those new to the IF community, which is useful, but more focused on how to be a member of the IF community. Hopefully, it will complement Roger’s nicely designed FAQ, which answers questions with helpful links, by being a bit less superbrief but not too verbose. The IF FAQ’s “How can I download and play IF?” section is probably my favorite, as it includes a table of interpreters to help people quickly find an appropraite IF interpreter for their platform. (This task always seemed to me like it must be particularly daunting for those unfamiliar with the maze of interpreters available, even though lots of interpreters are centrally available at the IF Archive.) The “live” (and editable) version of the IF FAQ is available at ifwiki; the version 1.0 snapshot (which is available to everyone under a Creative Commons license) is what I’ve posted at nickm.com.

January 19, 2005

Donna Leishman’s Possession

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:28 pm

As Jill pointed out not too long ago, Donna Leishman recently completed a practice-based PhD program, developing The Possession of Christian Shaw as part of that work. Her dissertation, “Creating Screen-Based Multiple State Environments: Investigating Systems of Confutation,” is now online, too. Visually, interactively, and in terms of its relationship to a grim tale, her new artwork shares some some of the features of Donna’s earlier The Bloody Chamber and Red Riding Hood, building upon the idiom of those pieces in strange and elaborate ways. In a change from the previous peices, the grim tale of Possession is not from a fabular tradition, as will be explained at the end to the assiduous interactor.

January 18, 2005

The Banana Peel of Thought in the Administrative Culture

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:53 pm

Johanna Drucker described Implementation in this way during the “Ubu meets Gertrude (Towards A Post-textual Avant-garde)” event featuring Johanna Drucker, Christian Bök, Jean-Michel Rabaté, Nick Montfort, Scott Rettberg, from the December 28th event at the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia. The full audio archive is now online. Johanna and Christian are smart, darn smart. Nick and I are sort of B- smart, but we did write the stickers.

Correspondence and Art

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 8:55 pm

In 1965, French artist Ben Vautier devised the provocative piece of mail art called “Postman’s Choice.” It was a postcard with lines on both sides, made to be addressed to two different destinations and then stamped on both sides. With no return address included, the letter carrier gets to choose who gets the postcard. While the postman may ring twice, he only gets to choose once, in this case. Of course, the postman might be clever enough, or the person sending the card might be such an obvious mail experimenter, that the postal system can take the third option.

Why hasn’t an email version of this project been devised? I have a few ideas about that…

The Ways My Life Could Have Deviated

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:13 pm

Craig Robinson wondered What If…, and then drew some charts.

The first chart represents the imagined potential of his life up to the present, and the second chart is the imagined potential of his life from the present forward.

I found these charts more satisfying than the similar but different chart exercise I conducted a while ago. Carl would surely agree.

Media Lab Europe, 5, is Dead

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 1:44 pm

A research fellow at the MIT Media Lab Europe in Ireland comments on the Lab’s permanent shutdown, which was announced last week. The MLE was originally launched in 2000, initially funded by the Irish Government, with a plan to transition over time to corporate funding.

However, dot.com times are gone, and companies are reluctant to invest into endeavors where the return on investment is not clear. … I believe that Negroponte’s vision of conducting research cannot work out in times of short-term renevue expectations.

The comments and trackbacks include additional links to others’ obituaries.

Whither research of cool stuff

Klastrup’s Dissertation on Virtual Worlds

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:56 pm

For a limited time only (less than a month from now) you can download Lisbeth Klastrup‘s dissertation, Towards a Poetics of Virtual Worlds: Multi-User Textuality and the Emergence of Story. The abstract explains that it “introduces and examines persistent online worlds (game worlds, social worlds, commercial chat worlds and educational worlds) as important cultural net-based phenomena” and “presents a number of concepts, definitions and analytic tools to be applied in the development of a poetics of virtual worlds, ‘poetics’ here understood as a systematic approach to examining the rules and aesthetic functions of virtual world systems.” It documents her lenghty quest for “EverQuestness,” the essence of the virtual world EverQuest. Also, there’s a section for “Worlds” on page 367 of the bibliography, which you don’t see every day.

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