March 19, 2009

Touch Pets Had Playdate at Apple

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:14 am

Here’s a fun bit of news… My in-development virtual-pets-meets-social-networking iPhone game, Touch Pets Dogs, was one of a few new products demoed as part of the big iPhone 3.0 press event at Apple yesterday, showing off new features like microtransactions and push notifications.

For the curious, on the engadget.com liveblog of the event scroll down to 10:54am to see images, as well as at 50mins 30secs on this video from apple.com. The puppies were demoed by Neil Young and Chris Plummer of ngmoco, Touch Pets’ publisher.

February 2, 2009

…click… “I got you babe…”

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:27 am

Today being Groundhog Day, in the spirit of the most excellent movie, I will recycle three past Groundhog Day-related blog posts.

Again, Again
Groundhog Day and IF (again)
Let’s do it again

January 18, 2009

An Opertoon Moment

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 6:50 pm

For a few months now my electronic life has been all iPhone all the time, whether it’s reading news and blogs, developing a game, even the occasional phone call. If I had time to play games though, I’m not sure the iPhone would fit the bill just yet. There may be 4000 game apps currently available, but I’m still waiting for that breakthrough app that appeals to me, top-selling fart simulators notwithstanding.

October 31, 2008

i’m an ngmofo

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:07 pm

I’ve been an absentee blogger, and I apologize. The last time I posted, in July, I mentioned I had started a new game studio Stumptown Game Machine here in Portland, that has been consuming my time. I had said we were working on a game for a reality-TV show, and in fact it was coming along swimmingly — until the publisher ran out of cash a few weeks before the game was complete. And, they still owe us money. Ah, the fun life of indie game development.

July 18, 2008

A Meeting in Austin About the Future (of Story in Games)

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:09 am

This September will be the third Game Writers Conference, now called the Writing for Games Track, part of the annual Austin GDC. The theme this year is “The Future of Storytelling in Games”, and includes intriguing lecture titles and topics such as “Galatea 3.0: Designing and Writing Great Game Characters”, “New Interfaces, New Gamewriting Opportunities”, “Writing for Socially Networked Games: Blending User-Generated Content with Storytelling”, “The Play is the Thing: Interactive Storytelling from the World of Improv Comedy”, “Special Ops: The Writer of the Future”, and many more.

July 16, 2008

Business Casual

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:42 pm

I haven’t posted for the past few months, a big reason being that I’ve been consumed by starting up a new game production studio in my home town of Portland. In May I founded Stumptown Game Machine, a sister company to Procedural Arts. SGM’s first project is to build a substantial collection of web-based 3D casual games for a major reality-television show, to go live in the fall with the new TV season.

May 28, 2008

E-Lit in a Northwest Landscape

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:01 am

I feel fortunate that so many electronic literature practitioners will be converging tomorrow through Sunday in Vancouver, Washington, only minutes from my home city of Portland, Oregon. It’s the ELO Visionary Landscapes conference, featuring several who are regularly discussed on and/or contribute to this blog, including Jeremy Douglass, Mark Marino, Fox Harrell, Rita Raley, Jason Nelson, Jimmy Maher, Stuart Moulthrop, Rob Wittig, Talan Memmott, and GTxA’s own Scott, Noah, Nick, and me.

Scott “Daddy-O” Rettberg is traveling all the way from Norway to present “The Communitization of Electronic Literature”, in the Electronic Literature Revisioned session. In Machine Dreams, Noah is presenting “Eliza Revisited”. Rounding out the Elizaphile contingent, as part of Code, Programs, and Interactive Environments, Nick and I will be co-presenting “Provocation by Program: Imagining a Next-Revolution Eliza” — Nick and my first joint work, besides this blog. Abstracts follow after the jump.

I hope to lure some adventurous souls to explore a bit of Portland’s nightlife as well; a drink at the Low Brow Lounge seems somehow apropos. Please join us!

May 13, 2008

CFP: Interactive Storytelling’08

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 7:50 am

CALL FOR PAPERS

*** Interactive Storytelling’08 ***

1st Joint International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling

26-29 November 2008, Erfurt, Germany
http://www.ai.fh-erfurt.de/ICIDS08

Submission Deadline: June 15, 2008

*** The first joint conference of the two previous European conference series:
- TIDSE (“Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling”) and
- ICVS (“Virtual Storytelling – Using Virtual Reality Technologies for Storytelling”)

*** SCOPE***

Interactive Digital Storytelling is a huge step forward in games and learning. This can be seen through its ability to enrich virtual characters with intelligent behaviour, to allow collaboration of humans and machines in the creative process, and to combine narrative knowledge and user activity in interactive artefacts. In order to create novel applications, in which users play a significant role together with digital characters and other autonomous elements, new concepts for Human-Computer Interaction have to be developed. Knowledge for interface design and technology has to be garnered and integrated.

May 11, 2008

We’re Five

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:17 pm

Yesterday was our fifth birthday. Happy Birthday GTxA!

April 23, 2008

Joystick Programming on the 2600, or How Stella Got Her Bots Back

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:05 am

The Atari 2600 could have been a player-programmable system! Fathom that.

If you were old enough to hold a joystick in 1978, you have encountered the work of Rob Fulop. Early in his career Rob made a name for himself as an Atari 2600 game programmer and designer, responsible for the highly successful cartridges Demon Attack (Billboard’s Video Game of the Year in 1982), Cosmic Ark (1982), Fathom (1983), as well as the 2600 ports of Missile Command (1981) and Night Driver (1978) from the original arcade games.

April 17, 2008

Ollie Johnston, 95

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:13 pm

The last of the senior animators of the original core group at Disney (a.k.a the “nine old men”), National Medal of Arts recipient, and co-author of The Illusion of Life, the gold standard character animation reference.

My Mind is Going…

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:06 pm

Putting aside unnecessarily pretentious claims such as “The worlds first piece of online conceptual video game art”, Stewart Hogarth’s The Naked Game is brilliant.

Welcome to the Naked Game. What you are seeing is a primitive version of ‘Pong’, being played by two artificial intelligences, with the entire code governing the mechanics of the game exposed below it, and the variables affecting the mechanics to the right. Furthermore, you can remove lines of code and see the effects in real time.

I kind of think of this as the Web 2.0 indie game version of HAL devolving as he sings “Daisy”.

April 12, 2008

Crawford’s Nine Breakthroughs

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:19 am

Via Water Cooler Games — Chris Crawford’s presentation yesterday at the Game Developers Exchange in Atlanta, on his “Nine Breakthroughs” useful in developing Storytron. Good stuff!

Update: The Storytron site has a new look! They’re still beta, but getting close to an initial launch.

April 4, 2008

i got yer future of games here in my greasy mitt

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:49 pm

*

March 26, 2008

CFP: The Future of Storytelling in Games, Austin GDC

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:39 pm

From the CFP for The Future of Storytelling in Games, Austin GDC, September 15-17, 2008. Submissions are due April 14.

The theme for the Game Writing track is “The Future of Storytelling in Games.” This theme is a designing principle, applied to each day as follows:

  • The Future Is Now: A look at how this year’s crop of games is breaking the storytelling mold in games
  • The Future Is Coming: Revelations on the future of game writing from game projects currently in development
  • The Future Is Yours: A no-holds-barred look at what’s possible in the world of interactive storytelling

March 23, 2008

Link Madness, Part 2: Down to Earth

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 4:32 pm

After the hyperbole in my last post, here is a more grounded series of links. First, pieces from three of my favorite game journalists: Clive Thompson, Chris Dahlen and Kieron Gillen.

Link Madness, Part 1: the Hyperbolic

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 3:39 pm

I occasionally make posts composed of link dumps, to help GTxA readers find articles they might enjoy and may have missed. This time I need to split the dump into two parts, the first part being a set of articles ranging from the slightly over-the-top to the truly hyperbolic. I will gently attempt to challenge, refute or debunk each as I go. :-)

  • Hypertext boring? That’s the assertion Ben Vershbow made in a post that leads with a commentary on Hypertextopia, spawned from an earlier GTxA post. I’ve certainly been one to vent my issues with hypertext as a form for fiction, but “boring”, hypertext isn’t. Like Nick’s Portal v. Passage post, Ben’s post spawned a good discussion though, including reactions elsewhere (1 2 3); in the discussion, Ben admits to being deliberately provocative. (As a side note, btw, Ben is a developer of CommentPress, used to implement Noah’s Expressive Processing blog-review project here on GTxA.)
     
  • In the annual GDC rant session, Clint Hocking asked:

March 16, 2008

Deluge of Digitally Distributed Drama

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:03 pm

Two or three characters in a room, with dark walls… probing, therapeutic conversations that expose repressed feelings about dysfunctional relationships… myriad threads and variations on the topics of marriage, sex and the mistakes we make… All free and digitally distributed.

Sound interesting? Watch the first 15 episodes of HBO’s In Treatment. I’ve been bingeing for the past few evenings. For me, it’s a vision of Eliza vs. Grace and Trip.

Metacommentary available here and here; funky hypermedia trailer here. I do love the Internet age.

March 14, 2008

Transparency, or Not? It Remains Unclear

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 12:20 am

Noah’s analysis of The Sims suggests that The Sims succeeds as a game experience because it exposes the characters’ inner processes to the player. In reaction, Richard Evans, working on a related to-be-announced product, describes the debate he and his colleagues are having over how much of their NPCs’ inner workings to expose. Richard’s position is that players need “a clear mental model” of how the characters operate in order to for players to “project” themselves onto the characters — in particular, to allow players to believe the characters are deeper than they actually are, to believe in them as true characters.

This is a perfect opportunity for me to revive a discussion from about a year ago, “Transparency in the Behavior of and Interface to NPCs“. A very good discussion was just getting underway at the time, that due to time constraints I never added further comments to.

I’d like to continue that discussion, if any of you would like to. Please (re-)read that post, or my attempt here to summarize the discussion’s essential points:

I (Andrew) wrote: when interacting with a system/simulation/world, transparency is highly desirable, since transparency makes a system easy to learn, understand, and use. Simultaneously, we desire to make humanistic NPCs that, via interaction, allow players to experience and gain understanding of the nature of real people, e.g. human behavior, psychology, and culture. An essential human quality is our messiness: people are complicated, mysterious, nuanced, moody, fickle, often surprising and unpredictable under pressure. Similarly (and problematically), compelling characters are not transparent; you can’t control them, and that’s the point. That’s why they’re interesting to interact with. Real people aren’t machines that can be fiddled with once you understand their mechanism. In fact we should build our NPCs to get annoyed if you try to break them or crack them! Furthermore, exposing the inner workings of NPCs can hamper players from believing in them as flesh-and-blood characters, since their artificiality is made so obvious.

In the discussion, Nicolas H. agreed: “We can’t read minds. We can’t be in other people’s heads. … I know many Non-Gamers (especially women) who think that this is the fun in human interaction: Guessing what other people are up to, how they ‘tick’ inside.”

Breslin countered with several insightful points, with a similar view to Richard’s now. “I think it’s wrong to conceal the mechanism entirely, to try to make the mechanism too smart to be gamed, and so on.

March 6, 2008

Say It All in Six Words

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 4:43 pm

If I’ve been remiss at blogging over the past few months, it’s not from lack of interest; my finite time at the keyboard has been consumed with work. (Even keeping up with the daily unfolding of Noah’s excellent book takes a bit of time — well worth it though!)

About 9 months ago (time flies!) I posted my thoughts on an improved natural language understanding interface for interactive comedies/dramas. NLU is one of the R&D fronts I’ve been working on since that post — improved drama management and authoring tools being the other major fronts.

In that post I talked about the advantages, from an AI-implementation perspective, of limiting the player’s input to only eight words. After some further design work, I’ve now brought that number down to six. In my estimation, six words of natural language, per utterance, seems to be the smallest number that still allows a player to be highly expressive in a natural, conversational way.

January 24, 2008

New AI Links: Books, Code Releases, Articles and a TV Show

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 9:09 pm

January 16, 2008

CFP: Virtual Pets Symposium

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 10:20 am

The AISB conference is holding their second virtual pets symposium, building upon the first one from last April.

The Reign of Catz & Dogz symposium aims to explore aspects of interaction with anthropomorphised embodied devices such as Aibo, Pleo, Paro and Nabaztag, software such as Catz, Dogz and Nintendogs, as well as the numerous non-commercial devices and systems that have been developed in many research labs. The world-wide popularity of many of the commercial examples of such artefacts provides evidence of the widespread appeal of interacting with artificial representations of creatures – however the academic investigation of such interactions remains scarce.

December 7, 2007

Crayons and Goo, but no Bill Viola at IGF08

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 11:23 am

The finalists for the Independent Games Festival, held annually at GDC, have been announced.

Much like I felt from the 2D physics-based indie game jam a few years ago, highly procedural and generative gameplay can make for compelling games. Two of the five games competing for the grand prize make creative use of 2D physics: Crayon Physics Deluxe, and World of Goo. Check out the trailers for each; I’m particularly taken by the trailer for Crayon, which taps into the nostalgia for older mediums I wrote about a few months ago. I’m reminded of the excellent Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings animations from my Captain Kangaroo days; sigh… It would have been cool if SketchFighter 4000 were competing this year too.

November 29, 2007

Discovery Channel on Videogames

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 4:24 pm

Here is another documentary to report, this one a 5-part series on the Discovery Channel called Rise of the Video Game, airing each Wednesday night over the next few weeks. Episode One, a week ago (that I unfortunately missed), included discussion of the Cold War’s influence on the creation of the first videogames.

November 28, 2007

Weizenbaum, Rebel

from Grand Text Auto
by @ 5:02 pm

This looks interesting: filmmakers Peter Haas and Silvia Holzinger began making a documentary film about computer pioneers and “grandfather nerds”; they ultimately turned their focus to the now 84-year-old Joseph Weizenbaum. The resulting piece is called Weizenbaum, Rebel at Work.

At a time when the German capital, Berlin, was struggling with famine after World War II, Joseph Weizenbaum was soldering and programming the world’s first computers. He created the first banking computer in the world, was perhaps one of the first computer nerds ever and pursued an unprecedented career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the “mighty” MIT in Cambridge, where he invented the first virtual persona, ELIZA/DOCTOR, a program that engaged humans in conversation with a computer.

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