Grand Text Auto

March 31, 2007

Mysteries of Chu

by nick @ 8:53 pm

What does “chu” mean? The answer is not available on the Wikipedia disambiguation page. My fellow Dreamcast owners may particularly be wondering about this. If you’ve played Space Channel 5, you will probably recall that all the cute alien opponetnts say “chu” to indicate you need to press the A button. I’ve heard that our own Mary Flanagan asked Space Channel 5 (and Rez) creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi what “chu” means, and he explained…

You know, chu!

As I’ve been playing ChuChu Rocket! recently, in which small rodential creatures must be routed by the player(s) to spaceships, I’ve been working my curiosity up to critical levels. Fortunately, recent reading - Chris Kohler’s rich (if somewhat curious) book on Japanese video games, Power Up - clued me in to the answer. “Chu” is onomatopoetic. No, it’s not the sound a train makes. In Japanese, it’s the sound a mouse makes.

The Plush Apocalypse

by andrew @ 3:50 pm

Borut Pfeifer, an experienced programmer-designer-writer-entrepreneur, friend of GTxA and currently working at EA’s Los Angeles studio on Neil Young and Doug Church’s dream team, has stuff to say on his new blog.

Check it out.

Second Person at USC

by noah @ 12:03 am

This coming Wednesday, Jordan Mechner, Mark Marino, Jeremy Douglass, and yours truly will be at USC for an evening of discussion around “writing and gameplay” — in part as a celebration of the publication of Second Person. As Mark discusses over at WRT, even with four speakers we’re barely able to scratch the surface of the book’s diversity. But I’m very glad to have one of the world’s most respected game designers (and game writers, who also makes films) on stage with interdisciplinary scholar/artists like Mark and Jeremy. It should be a fun evening.

The talk will be in the Interactive Media Lab of USC’s Interactive Media Division (in Room 201 upstairs in the School’s Zemeckis Center). It’s located on the corner of 32nd and Figuerora just south of the downtown area. It’s from 6-8pm, and I hope to see some GTxA readers there.

March 30, 2007

Gameworld in Gijon

by andrew @ 2:19 pm

Game/Play in the UK may be winding down, but no fear: as I write, the new Gameworld show is opening today at Laboral in Gijon, Spain. The show is exhibiting many games discussed here on GTxA, including the recently debated canon. There’s a huge selection of interesting machinima and game-oriented films as well.

(Note the final list of pieces being exhibited have yet to be listed on the official site.)

March 29, 2007

AAAI Fall Symposium on Intelligent Narrative Technologies

by andrew @ 10:56 am

AAAI symposia, held each Fall on the east coast (often in the Boston or DC area) and Spring (often at Stanford), are small, not-too-expensive conferences with just a few tracks, each focused on a specific AI topic. They’re a good place to meet like-minded folks and go deep on a topic over the course of 2-3 days.

10 years ago now, as a young developer-researcher from the game industry, these meetings were a great way for me to dip my feet into the academic waters and gently wade into the research scene. It was at one of these symposia in 1997 at MIT, on socially intelligent agents, that I first met then-grad-student Michael, which later led to our collaboration (borne in a hottub, to continue the water metaphor for a moment). Other past AAAI symposia I attended included meetings on narrative intelligence (resulting in this edited volume), and game AI. The game AI symposium track has since grown into the bigger AIIDE conference, so I haven’t been to symposia in several years.

Good news though: Brian Magerko and Mark Riedl are co-chairing a new symposium on AI-based narrative, for this November.

CFP for the AAAI Fall Symposium on Intelligent Narrative Technologies

Westin Arlington Gateway, Arlington, Virginia, November 8-11, 2007
Submissions due: May 1, 2007

Narrative is a pervasive aspect of human culture in both entertainment and education. As the reliance on digital technology for both entertainment and education technology increases, the need for more innovative approaches to represent, perform, and adapt narrative experiences increases as well. The term “narrative intelligence” was coined to refer to the ability in both humans and computers to organize experience into narrative form. Previous and current work that in this field has produced results in narrative understanding, narrative generation, storytelling user interface modalities, narrative performance by autonomous embodied agents, cognitive models of narrative, and common-sense reasoning.


March 22, 2007

The Aesthetics of Net Literature

by noah @ 12:44 pm
Aesthetics of Net Literature cover

I’ve just received my copy of The Aesthetics of Net Literature: Writing, Reading and Playing in Programmable Media. Editors Peter Gendolla and Jörgen Schäfer have put together a great table of contents — including contributions from Jean-Pierre Balpe, Philippe Bootz, Laura Borràs Castanyer, Markku Eskelinen, Loss Pequeño Glazier, Marie-Laure Ryan, Roberto Simanowski, and yours truly. My piece is a revised version of my Playable Media and Textual Instruments essay.

March 21, 2007

Rhizome to Commission Internet Art

by nick @ 8:56 pm

The Rhizome Commissions Program is now accepting proposals - they are due April 2. “In 2007, Rhizome will commission eleven new art works with fees ranging from $1000-3000.” Ten of these are for Internet projects in general, one for a project focused on the Rhizome community specifically. Projects that result will be shown at the New Museum at an event.

March 19, 2007

Instead of Shadowburn, “I differentiate you! I integrate you!”

by nick @ 1:24 pm

Project Hippasus is an MMO planned by Frozen North for the PC and Xbox 360 - a Mathematically Magical Optimization? The virtual world will offer “accidental learning” because, according to the plan they’ve put together in four weeks, you’ll have to solve math problems as you roam about. Apparently you’ll need to decompose your opponents into their frequency components in order to defeat them. Or maybe hurl weapons along their principal eigenvectors. Or something. I don’t know … math is hard. Let’s go shopping on Second Life!

March 15, 2007

Edward Picot’s Review of the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume One

by scott @ 6:02 pm

Edward Picot recently posted a lengthy review of The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume One. Picot clearly spent a good deal of time with the collection, and has both positive and negative things to say about it. I think that Picot has attempted to be fair and balanced in his discussion of the collection, and I’m grateful to him for giving the ELC such careful consideration. He is one of the first people to review the ELC intelligently and at length in English, though as usual, the Swedes are ahead of the game.

In the end, Picot finds the ELC “an essential collection,” and encourages “Anyone interested in the field of electronic literature to get it on DVD,” though along the way he finds a few nits to pick. The collection is actually published on the web and CD-ROM (old-school) and along with Picot I encourage you to get your copy of the free, Creative Commons-licensed collection of electronic literature, and then make copies of it for your friends.

I’d like to just briefly address a few of the points Picot makes, in order to clarify my perspective as one of the editors. I hope that Nick, Stephanie, and Kate will also jump in with comments if they’d like. I’ll restrict my comments to Picot’s critique of the curatorial/editorial aspects of the project. Picot also reviews four works in the collection, two (”The Jew’s Daughter” by Judd Morrissey and “Windsound” by John Cayley) positively, and two (”MyBALL” by Shawn Rider and “Carrier” by Melanie Rackham) negatively. There are sixty works in the collection, and I think that everyone is entitled to their opinion of each of those works. None of them were included casually. Each of the four editors thought that each work merited inclusion.

March 14, 2007

Listening, Branching, Paths, Markup

by andrew @ 5:54 pm
  • Here are three links (1 2 3) covering a positively cyberpunk-looking Will Wright giving a keynote at this week’s South-by-Southwest (SXSW) festival, a conference traditionally focused on music and film that in recent years has added an interactive media track. Wright wanted to talk about story, perhaps because he’s talking to so many linear media folk, but was billed to talk about Spore, so he tries to mash the two subjects together. Wright points out the problems with status quo approaches to interactive story, and implores game developers to make games that listen to the player more, suggesting Groundhog Day or Truman Show type structures. (btw, Wright’s comments about “story parsing” are identical to the points he made in a July 2002 SIGGRAPH panel on interactive story Noah and I organized.) The first two links here are live (attempted) transcripts, each of which differs a bit, each containing phrases I find it hard to believe Wright would utter, such as “Games inherently are this branching tree” and “movies are far more compelling than interactive drama, because interactive drama is quite flat”. (I think it depends what he means by interactive drama in the context of this speech; as a counterpoint, one transcript has Wright describing Façade as an interesting approach that moves towards generativity.)
  • There’s a slick-looking, graphic novel-esque branching adventure/mystery game for the Nintendo DS called Hotel Dusk. The Flash animation on the site gives a nice peek at it, and how they effectively use the DS interface. Gameology has a few comments about it; I’d curious to hear if anyone has played it.
  • Playing with conventions of interactive story, artist-couple Michael and Auriea of Tale-of-Tales, whom we had the pleasure of meeting in person at GDC last week, have a new interactive character/narrative/experience in the works called The Path, building upon their prototyping with Drama Princess. I made sure to let Uli Spierling know about their project, since she recently organized a symposium on interactive stories based on Little Red Ridinghood.
  • Finally, an interesting new initiative to create FicML, a markup language for fiction. The project is intended to assist in the creation of an ongoing hypernovel called Troped.

March 13, 2007

GDC 2007 Recap

by andrew @ 2:14 pm

For me this year’s GDC was different from previous years, because my attention these days is so oriented towards business and funding. As a result I made the tradeoff to skip many potentially interesting design talks, in order to make room for lots of hallway conversations, meetings, business-track lectures, cruising the expo booths for useful middleware, and catching up with friends and colleagues.

I’ll start with the (sadly) long list of talks I missed: (more…)

bpNichol’s First Screening Screens Again

by nick @ 1:23 pm

A three-year project by Jim Andrews, Geof Huth, Lionel Kearns, Marko Niemi, and Dan Waber has come to fruition. The result is that an important set of early digital poems is available once more; the editors, also, have saved the original bits and made the running work available in several emulated, ported, and recorded ways, setting a powerful example for future preservation and porting of digital art, games, and poetry.

code fragment from First Screening

In 1984, bpNichol published a collection of Apple II poems on floppy, in an edition of 100. This First Screening is now available once more on the Web, in a multiplicty of formats: a disk image with the bit-for-bit contents of the floppy issued in 1984; a JavaScript version by Marko J. Niemi and Jim Andrews; a Quicktime movie of the disk image running in emulation; and an earlier Hypercard port published by Red Deer College Press.

While the disk image is labeled the “emulated version,” you don’t have to run the image in emulation. Using Apple Disk Transfer, ADTWin, or a similar program, you can write a real Apple II floppy with the bits on the image and then run it on authentic hardware. Such hardware may be scare, of course, but it’s far easiler to come by than one of bpNichol’s 100 first-edition floppies. I’m planning to suit First Screening up in an Apple II and let it run at some point … but I have this deadline to attend to before I work on that …

March 12, 2007

Video Game Preservation and the Canon

by nick @ 11:12 am

Take a look at the New York Times article on video game preservation, discussing curator Henry Lowood’s list of canonical video games. He picked the ten games with Matteo Bittanti, Christopher Grant, Steve Meretzky, and Warren Spector. These “most important video games of all time” are:

  • Spacewar! (1962)
  • Star Raiders (1979)
  • Zork (1980)
  • Tetris (1985)
  • SimCity (1989)
  • Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990)
  • Civilization I/II (1991)
  • Doom (1993)
  • Warcraft series (beginning 1994)
  • Sensible World of Soccer (1994)

I guess this settles one thing - Zork must be a video game. I wonder which is the canonical platform for the games on the list that are cross-platform?

March 10, 2007

We Miss Our Bloglines Subscribers, Too

by nick @ 10:52 pm

If you’re reading Grand Text Auto via Bloglines, you presumably aren’t reading this - the service hasn’t updated our feed since February 25, as a commenter pointed out. We don’t know of any other aggregators that are having problems, and the feeds we’re providing seem to be valid.

Other feeds that Bloglines hasn’t properly digested recently seem to include those of Girls Read Comics (And They’re Pissed) (fixed a few days ago) and IF author Adam Cadre (still doesn’t register updates to the main bloggy part, the calendar). A recent thread at the Bloglines forums suggests that this update problem may be widespread among WordPress-based blogs. Although the title of that post mentions that “newly added feeds aren’t updated,” the problems that bloggers report there are not limited to new feeds.

If this message reaches you, onetime Bloglines readers, know that our Website remains available via HTTP practically 24 hours a day and that we’re still writing. We hope this is a hiccup in Bloglines, but regardless, you’re always welcome to stop by here directly.

March 7, 2007

Ex-HTML No More

by nick @ 8:02 pm

There’s a fork in the Web up ahead. If you’re part of the angry mob that can’t put up with XHTML, you’ll be pleased, or at least less angry, to know that W3C is relauching activity on HTML. Yes, the HTML Working Group is back. Google finds 95 results for a search on “I hate XHTML” and 14,100 for “I hate HTML,” but I suppose you can’t please all of the document engineers all of the time.

March 6, 2007

Encountering the Real

by nick @ 11:21 pm

Jean Baudrillard, 77.

The Zoo Comes to You

by nick @ 10:30 pm


An abecedarian, typographic zoo awaits you online: Bembo’s Zoo. Monkey with that alphabet a bit (that is, click on something) and you’ll discover the animal nature of letters. A classic site, and a book tie-in, from 2000.

March 4, 2007

Clap 2006 hooray XYZZY yay Awards

by nick @ 7:40 pm

2006 XYZZY snippet

The applause-filled, frivolity-filled XYZZY Awards have just concluded. Congratulations to all the interactive fiction authors whose work was nominated. Various characters from IF games (and some of the usual characters from ifMUD) gave the awards, as is traditional. Amid the humor, there was also some time to remember XYZZY award winner Star C. Foster.

The Best Game award this year went to The Elysium Enigma by Eric Eve; that game also won the Best Individual NPC award. Emily Short’s Floatpoint took the awards for Best Story and Best NPC. Andrew Plotkin’s Delightful Wallpaper took the Best Individual PC, Best Puzzles, and Best Writing awards. By the way, since these were done in TADS 3 (The Elysium Enigma) and Inform 7 (the two others), that’s a lot of wins for brand-new IF development systems.

The winner of Best Use of Medium, also nominated for several other awards, was De Baron by Victor Gijsbers; the game, winner of the Spring Thing contest, was released in English and Dutch. One of the nominees for Best Setting was JB’s Ekphrasis (GTxA announcement) which was released only in French. So, unless you count the two awards that The Gostak got in 2001, this seems to have been the best year yet for IF in other languages.

Again, the full list of nominees and winners is over at ifwiki, and it’s linked to ifwiki’s entries for each of the games.

March 3, 2007

Myst Lives

by nick @ 12:49 pm

And Andrew Plotkin’s reviews of Myst live on, too. See Zarf’s lastest review of Myst Online: Uru Live, the recently re-animated MMO - or perhaps non-MMO. Zarf also provides the definitive Uru FAQ.

March 2, 2007

Notes, World Building: Space and Community, Day 2

by nick @ 5:32 pm

Onward to day two, with more fascinating presentations about many aspects of many different sorts of games…



by andrew @ 11:41 am

Speaking of prolific Northwestern grad students, recent industry-hire and friend of GTxA, Robin Hunicke, is already a game designer at EA/Maxis and leading the finally-announced MySims project for the Wii and DS. You’ll have to try to find additional adjectives for the term “super-cute” to describe its look and animation. Congrats Robin!

Robin’s been blogging over the past few months here and there about the process of being a game designer, gave a presentation last week at Microsoft’s Game Cruise, and will again next week at GDC.

Pacific NW Games

by andrew @ 11:13 am

FYI, there will be two back-to-back game festivals in Vancouver, BC, this May: first, the Vancouver International Game Summit, May 3-4, followed by the Northwest Games Festival on May 5, including a game contest with cash prizes!

March 1, 2007

Notes, World Building: Space and Community, Day 1

by nick @ 5:45 pm

I’m here at the University of Florida attending the gaming group’s third annual conference, World Building: Space and Community For my own purposes and to highlight what’s being discussed here, I’ve typed up some notes. Conference speakers are particularly welcome to comment, particularly if my notes didn’t accurately record what you said — I’ll fix my notes, in that case. These notes are meant to point you to the authors’ own abstracts; please go there to read up on the research and to cite. Updated to include evening keynote.


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