Grand Text Auto

December 27, 2006

Haxan’s Indie Hell

by andrew @ 2:21 am

As we’re talking about the challenges of getting a commercial indie production off the ground, I thought I’d link to these (1 2 3 4 5) posts from Eduardo Sanchez of Haxan, co-creator of the 1999 indie film mega-hit The Blair Witch Project, that cost $22,000 to produce and earned an estimated $250 million at the box office.

The 5 posts are about the nightmare they’re going through with their follow-up project, Altered:

I mean, how can you go from one of the biggest INDIE successes of all time to a straight-to-DVD release? How?

Now that’s scary.

December 25, 2006

A Pixel is You!

by nick @ 10:00 am
Discussed in this post:
Adventure, Warren Robinett, Atari, Atari VCS, 1978
Qix, Randy Pfeiffer and Sandy Pfeiffer, Taito, Arcade coin-op, 1981
dotstream, Nintendo, Game Boy Advance, 2006

Video games sometimes take the minimalist approach of providing the player with an avatar, ship, or “man” that has as its visual representation a single pixel. As I briefly discuss in this post, several games in this category are totally sweet. (more…)

December 24, 2006

Santa Brings Game Studies

by nick @ 12:06 am

Game Studies 6:1 is out - Jesper tells us it’s the biggest issue yet. Here’s the list of articles:

  • Nick Montfort: Combat in Context
  • Mia Consalvo, Nathan Dutton: Game analysis: Developing a methodological toolkit for the qualitative study of games
  • Rob Cover: Gaming (Ad)diction: Discourse, Identity, Time and Play in the Production of the Gamer Addiction Myth
  • Hans Christian Arnseth: Learning to Play or Playing to Learn - A Critical Account of the Models of Communication Informing Educational Research on Computer Gameplay
  • Joris Dormans: On the Role of the Die: A brief ludologic study of pen-and-paper roleplaying games and their rules
  • Thaddeus Griebel: Self-Portrayal in a Simulated Life: Projecting Personality and Values in The Sims 2
  • Charles Paulk: Signifying Play: The Sims and the Sociology of Interior Design
  • Benjamin Wai-ming Ng: Street Fighter and The King of Fighters in Hong Kong: A Study of Cultural Consumption and Localization of Japanese Games in an Asian Context
  • Jonas Heide Smith: The Games Economists Play - Implications of Economic Game Theory for the Study of Computer Games
  • Hector Rodriguez: The Playful and the Serious: An approximation to Huizinga’s Homo Ludens
  • Jussi Parikka, Jaakko Suominen: Victorian Snakes? Towards A Cultural History of Mobile Games and the Experience of Movement

December 23, 2006

Alice in Matryoshka-Land

by nick @ 7:55 pm

Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph, whose Inanimate Alice is featured in the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1 and on the project’s site, continues with a ludic and narrative third episode. A game of finding Russian dolls is threaded through the cinematic story of Alice’s isolated life in a new country, where she’s moved with her parents. The new piece is available exclusively on the Guardian’s site: Inanimate Alice Episode 3: Russia.

December 21, 2006

Local Boy Makes Good

by michael @ 4:47 pm

Last week Good Times, a local Santa Cruz weekly, ran a cover story about my research and the new game program at UC Santa Cruz.

December 20, 2006

Media Arts & Imaging Chair in Dundee

by nick @ 10:22 pm

Donna Leishman sends word from Scotland that the University of Dundee’s School of Media Arts & Imaging is seeking an established senior academic to appoint to a chair of contemporary media arts & imaging. She writes that this position spans “practices as diverse as: performance art, film, web, audio art, 3d animation, data visualisation, illustration, interactive media and digital theory.” The deadline is February 9.

Playing receiver

by noah @ 12:12 am
receiver - gaming and playing

The 17th issue of Vodaphone’s receiver just launched, with a great collection of articles on games and play. Editor Katja Hoffmann has gathered an eclectic group of authors from industry, journalism, academe, and the arts — from Matt Jones (Director of User-Experience Design for Nokia Design Multimedia) to Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn (Tale of Tales / Entropy8zuper!, as discussed earlier) to folks like Lev Manovich, Gonzalo Frasca, and yours truly.

My contribution — Three play effects: Eliza, Tale-Spin, and SimCity — is a preview of some of the ideas in the book I’m writing. Essentially, I begin by arguing that we can generalize the “Eliza effect” beyond computer characters, as the effect of any digital media system that initially appears much more complex on the surface than it is internally. Then I put the Eliza effect into a context not generally considered: that of play. The results point to two further play effects arising from the relationship of surface and internal process… before circling back around to issues of computer character design and implementation. (Comments welcome here or at the receiver discussion board.)

December 19, 2006

Interactive Dramas in Fashion

by andrew @ 4:40 am

We recently came across two quirky, independently-produced interactive dramas, each set at a fashion magazine, strangely enough.

The first is a visually minimal but relatively sophisticated choose-your-own-adventure -style story called Masq, written and programmed a few years ago by Javier Maldonado of Alteraction. The drama is presented in small comic-like panels, with a few dynamic menu choices below each. Playing through it a few times, I can sense the underlying structure is something akin to this, although probably a bit more complex. There’s also a bit autonomy in the presentation, where panels will occasionally advance on their own if you don’t take action.

December 14, 2006

Couch Talk by Michael Gentry

by nick @ 10:28 pm

Terry Bosky has just posted an interview with Michael Gentry, the interactive fiction author who lovingly crafted Anchorhead and Little Blue Men, on Game Couch.

December 13, 2006

Shop ’til You Drop Your Rivals

by nick @ 1:03 pm

Xtreme Xmas Shopping, which allows you to pummel fellow purchasers for plunder, is now out from Persuasive Games. Oddly, this PG game, unlike several others, doesn’t feature much waiting in line, even though such lines are prime places for consumer beatdowns.

CFP for MiT5: Creativity, Ownership, Collaboration

by nick @ 12:56 pm

The Media in Transition Project at MIT now seeks submissions for MiT5: Creativity, Ownership, and Collaboration in the Digital Age:

(submission deadline: Jan. 5, 2007)

Our understanding of the technical and social processes by which culture is made and reproduced is being challenged and enlarged by digital technologies. An emerging generation of media producers is sampling and remixing existing materials as core ingredients in their own work. Networked culture is enabling both small and large collaborations among artists who may never encounter each other face to face. Readers are actively reshaping media content as they personalize it for their own use or customize it for the needs of grassroots and online communities. Bloggers are appropriating and recontextualizing news stories; fans are rewriting stories from popular culture; and rappers and techno artists are sampling and remixing sounds.


IGF Finalists Announced

by nick @ 11:04 am

2007 Independent Games Festival finalists have been named. (Via Arthouse Games.)

Interview, Slamdance Games Reviewed

by nick @ 10:50 am

Slamdance Finalist Jason Rohrer (Cultivation) has an interview with me now online at his Arthouse Games, where he is also reviewing all the Slamdance finalists. I got asked to name the best IF piece and the best non-IF game, and instead of hemming and hawing about it I decided to just name games and discuss them. So far, there are reviews posted there of flOw, The Blob, Book and Volume, and Base Invaders.

December 11, 2006

New Interactive Drama in the Works (Part 2)

by andrew @ 9:25 pm

Yikes, I’m over two months late with Part 2 of this post announcing production of The Party. My only excuse is that life is hectic for me these days. As Part 1 described, pre-production, authoring-tool building and prototyping of The Party has been underway for about a year now.

Building next-generation interactive characters and stories has many design, technology, production and fundraising issues. In this post I thought I’d lay out a series of issues we’re grappling with, and give my initial take on each. (I may have subtly different takes than my collaborator Michael.) We’d like to hear any thoughts, opinions and suggestions you have on these, and anything major you think I’ve left out. This helps us think through the issues and figure out solutions.

First, I have two assumptions that I hope won’t require debate in this thread, (more…)

Pour les Fictions Interactives

by andrew @ 7:35 pm

Nicolas Szilas of IDTension, who just reported on TIDSE06 for us, announces a new collection of papers co-edited with Jean-Hughes Réty, “Création de récits pour les fictions interactives : simulation et réalisation” (as you can see, in French), at the intersection of games and stories.

Authors are a mix of academic and videogame designers coming from disciplines ranging from hypertext literature to computer science. They include independent scholar and frequent GTxA commentor Marie-Laure Ryan, Stéphane Natkin (researcher of video games and head of a new school of video games in France), Stéphane Donikian (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique), Sandy Louchart (working with Ruth Aylett on emergent narrative), Nicolas himself, and Jean-Noel Portugal, a game author whose views on Interactive Drama are quite relevant, says Nicolas.

(Speaking of interesting collections on this topic, Second Person should be out soon too, I hope.)

December 10, 2006

Star C. Foster

by nick @ 8:11 pm

Star C. Foster, blogger and co-author of the most highly acclaimed interactive fiction of 2003, Slouching towards Bedlam, died this morning in Philadelphia. Star was an editor of Phillyist, wrote for Shiny Shiny, and had her own corner of the blogosphere, Sarcasmo’s Corner. Two years ago she joined me and Scott, along with Dan Ravipinto and Emily Short, at the Interactive Fiction Walkthroughs event at the Kelly Writers House. On the Web, along with many of her own photos and much of her writing, you will find a portrait of Star in Rittenhouse Square. The news of her death was posted today on Phillyist.

December 8, 2006

Household Appliances Destroyed by Wii-ing

by scott @ 12:04 pm

The website offers some photographs of televisions, windows, and various glassware destroyed by overzealous wii-ing. (via the NYTimes)

Futures of the Recent Past

by nick @ 2:34 am

Patrick S. Farley’s The Guy I Almost Was is Web comic that I recently looked at again. It resonates with my experience of mid-1990s San Francisco. It’s been around for several years, and it has aged well. Chapter 2 is particularly amusing for those who plugged into Wired and the like during those tumultuous times. (It picks up around 50.)

December 7, 2006

A View of TIDSE06

by andrew @ 2:11 pm

This year’s TIDSE conference just ended, and the always outspoken Chris Crawford just wrote up his take on it; bring a few grains of salt with you as you read :-)

(Update: Nicolas Szilas added his description of TIDSE06 in the comments.)

One of the cool things they did this year was a workshop where attendees came with their own interactive version of Little Red Riding Hood (known in German as Little Red Cap), implemented in each participant’s particular architecture; here’s the original call for participants (pdf). That would have been instructive to see. (Although, even I had time to attend, sadly I wouldn’t have had time to implement my own version.)

December 6, 2006

2007 GDC Program Now Online

by andrew @ 1:28 pm

A vibrant lineup for this March’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is now fully online, packed with interesting talks. Here’s a few that caught my eye, listed in alphabetical order. (My eye is more business-oriented these days than it used to be.)

After the Party: Introversion Software, One Year on from IGF 2006

Behavioral Theory in the Design of Serious Games

Burning Mad: Game Publishers Rant

Can You Make Them Cry Without Tearing Your Hair Out? Emotional Characters

December 5, 2006

“A Spreadsheet for God”

by andrew @ 1:47 pm

… says Will Wright of Spore, as heard on The Colbert Report last night. Watch it here via King Lud IC via YouTube via Comedy Central.

December 3, 2006

Announcing Platform Studies

by nick @ 10:32 pm

Ian Bogost & Nick Montfort are pleased to announce a new MIT Press series,

Platform Studies

Investigating the relationships between the hardware and software design of computing systems and the creative works produced on those systems.

The first book in the series is forthcoming in 2008:

Video Computer System: The Atari 2600 Platform
by Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost

For more about computing platforms and their relationship to new media, the new approaches which we hope this series will foster, examples of platforms, and answers to questions about the series concept, see our site:

Salad Days Were Never So Green

by nick @ 6:36 pm

Before this becomes stale or otherwise spoils, I’d better let you know that Bacteria Salad is the latest in The Arcade Wire series of newsgames by Persuasive Games, the studio of Water Cooler Games’ Ian Bogost. Sources of potential spinach contamination include not only otherwise-friendly bovines, but also agroterrorists. Safe for lunch.

Reversing Gears

by nick @ 6:28 pm

Freeth et al. have uncovered additional inscriptions and evidence of gears in an intricate early computing device, the Antikythera Mechanism. In the abstract to a recent Nature article, they write:

The mechanism predicted lunar and solar eclipses on the basis of Babylonian arithmetic-progression cycles. The inscriptions support suggestions of mechanical display of planetary positions, now lost. In the second century BC, Hipparchos developed a theory to explain the irregularities of the Moon’s motion across the sky caused by its elliptic orbit. We find a mechanical realization of this theory in the gearing of the mechanism …

Nature also has a news feature about the famous machine. Christos H. Papadimitriou’s novel Turing posited an alternate theory of how a fictionalized analogue of the Antikythera Mechanism - the discovery of this theory is one of the main plots. Archeologists have had different ideas, too, which we can learn about in the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

Scientists had to travel to Greece and construct an X-ray tomography system in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens in order to analyze the device. The DMCA makes reverse engineering illegal in the United States, after all…

December 2, 2006

New IF: Last Resort

by nick @ 11:40 pm

Jim Aikin, cellist and author of the old-school, maze-filled, shopping mall treasure quest Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina, has just released a new piece of interactive fiction. It’s called Last Resort (download directly) and comes packed with a PDF map. Aikin calls it “a large, serious story” and notes that reaching a winning ending is not easy, and will take many tries for most people. Below is the first bit of Last Resort’s prologue…

Tuesday afternoon. Hot, with that sticky humid Southern heat that makes your hair droop and your shirt stick to you. Why on Earth did Aunt Caroline insist on bringing you to this horrible place? “Eternal Springs,” it said on the sign at the end of the driveway. Whatever.

And now Aunt Caroline is hiding in the bathroom, which is truly weird. She’s been in there for, like, half an hour. Maybe you should go outside and explore. Not that there’s likely to be anything worth seeing in this dump, but anything would be better than hanging around a creepy, smelly motel room all afternoon.

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