Grand Text Auto

July 30, 2003

drame interactif à Toulouse

by andrew @ 8:42 am

The program for the 2nd International Conference on Virtual Storytelling is now online. It will be held in Toulouse, France from November 20-21.

Unfortunately we had to decide to not submit Facade for presentation at ICVS this time around, because we had just traveled to Europe only last March to present Facade at TIDSE in Darmstadt, Germany (why are there two conferences in Europe about interactive story within a few hundred miles of each other, within the same year? TIDSE and ICVS should merge, don’t you think?) Also, we hope to demo Facade at the LevelUp gamefair in Utrecht, Netherlands only a few weeks beforehand, so it just makes it logistically insane to also attend ICVS. Oh well.

Hey, someone needs to volunteer to write up a conference report, that we can post here on GTxA!

July 25, 2003

Here, there, middleware

by andrew @ 11:38 am

Eric Dybsand, a long-time contributor to the AI scene at the Game Developers Conference, just published an informative series of Gamasutra articles about new AI middleware (i.e., code libraries and toolsets) for games. It seems that in the last year or two, several companies have released libraries/toolsets that put together common AI algorithms and techniques into a single package, intended to be easily integrated into a game. The articles take a detailed look at AI.implant, DirectIA, Renderware AI, and SimBionic. A conclusion article summarizes it all. (By the way, whatever happened to Motion Factory?)

Eric concludes with the following:
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GGA: Play

by andrew @ 9:00 am

The first issue of GameGirlAdvance’s new zine is out, called Play. Looks like fun!

July 24, 2003

New Media: Theory and Practice

by michael @ 1:43 pm

A week or so ago I had a nice chat with Jay Bolter about the function of New Media theory. Just to be clear, since “New Media” is a very squishy category, what we were talking about is computer-based work. Our discussion raised a number of questions that I would love to hear comments on.

1. What’s theory for?
For me, theory is for making. Theoretical frameworks are contingent constructions that inform the creation of artifacts. Jay sensibly points out that theory can be purely descriptive – a “purely descriptive” theory presumably doesn’t directly inform an artifact, though perhaps it provides a background against which design occurs. This got me thinking more generally about what role new media theory plays in the work of new media artists. When I think about my own work and that of my colleagues at Georgia Tech, my own work is informed much more by science and technology studies than by new media theory, Sha Xin Wei’s work is informed by performance studies, phenomenology and mathematical theory, and Diane Gromala’s work is informed by phenomenology and theories of subjectivity. So here are at least three new media artists who practices aren’t strongly informed by new media theory. When working on specific pieces, I often construct temporary, contingent theoretical structures to inform that particular piece, but the theoretical construction is in some sense part of the craft practice of making the piece. What do other artists and media theorists feel about the relationship between theory and making?
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July 23, 2003

Irony and situatedness

by nick @ 1:21 pm

In some ways I hesitate to discuss Hipster Bingo, even in its exciting randomized form, because it is only superficially computer-based and is a pseudo-game. People don’t really play it - I don’t think. It’s more like some sort of gristly, low-quality blog fodder rather than being an interesting work of art or literature or gaming. But it’s a somewhat interesting mockery of a game, nonetheless, and it’s going to give me an excuse to briefly go off (in different directions) about irony and the use of computers in social situations.

But first, let me invite responses from anyone who has actually played (rather than just ironically admired) this “game.” Please, if you’ve printed out a bingo card for use, or sat wirelessly in Verb or Alt (or your local equivalent) covering your laptop’s monitor with “Stickies” notes as you spot those people who seem to have stepped out of Vice magazine, let me know about it. How was Hipster Bingo’s gameplay? I want to read the review.
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July 22, 2003

Voices of the Neo-Futurists

by andrew @ 2:15 pm

toomuchlight.jpg A bit of exciting project news… We’ve just cast two writer / director / performers to be the voices for Grace and Trip, the two computer characters in our interactive drama Facade. We have been fortunate to find two talented members of the Chicago-based experimental / interactive theater group, The Neo-Futurists, Chloe Johnston and Andy Bayiates.

For the past few years Chloe and Andy have been members of the Neo-Futurists’ long-running signature show, Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. If you’re ever in Chicago, be sure to see it, it’s an ever-changing, inventive, searingly honest and, of course, funny, sixty minutes of experimental theater. Chloe and Andy have also written, produced and performed other plays with the Neo-Futurists.

This will be the first time I’ve worked with performers who are also writers and directors. I’m very excited because I’m really hoping Chloe and Andy will apply some of their creativity and writing talent to their roles — God knows our dialog needs all the help it can get. There is definitely some shared aesthetic between Facade and Too Much Light, and I’m sure Facade will benefit from the collaboration. And I hope to learn a lot from them in the process.

July 16, 2003

AI and authorship

by michael @ 12:14 pm

The post Responsive Narratives (and its comments) raises the question of whether there lies anything in between brute force authoring approaches and building a human-level AI. This question is important not just for interactive drama, but for Expressive AI (AI-based art and entertainment) in general. In a brute force authoring approach, the artist lovingly hand-crafts material (e.g. animation, text, images, etc.) for every possible context, for all possible interactions. In the AI-complete approach, the artist somehow describes their intention at a very high level (e.g. the high-level motivations of characters), and the system auto-magically grounds this high-level description with concrete representations for different contexts (e.g. generated animation, generated text, generated images) and for all possible interactions. There are good reasons to seek a middle ground besides the current technical impossibility of AI-complete approaches.
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July 11, 2003

Responsive Narratives

by andrew @ 10:36 am

Surfing around I came across a new book to be published this Fall, called “Tomorrow’s Stories: How Responsive Narratives Will Change Storytelling”. The author is Andrew Glassner, perhaps best known as the creator and editor of the Graphics Gems book series on computer graphics. According to his bio, he’s also written a novel, directed a short animated film, and designed some interactive fiction / game prototypes. I heard Glassner opine on the “Future of Fiction” panel Noah co-organized at SIGGRAPH 2000, and remember him as thoughtful and articulate.

His forthcoming book “addresses the fundamentals of how and why successful games and stories work. It is the first book to give a reader a practical understanding of both the structure of story and the structure of participatory gaming. This knowledge helps the reader see why and how today’s models of interactive fiction succeed and fail, and provides a foundation for developing new storytelling art forms that harmoniously integrate interaction and narrative.”

He sees limitations in branching narrative / hypertext approaches. “These ideas, and their cousins, have been tried time and again in the marketplace but have yet to achieve mainstream success. There are some very good, specific reasons for this lack of success, and those reasons can be found by going back to the basics of what stories and games are, and how they work.”
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July 9, 2003

Play Interfaces

by noah @ 9:12 am

direct manipulation racing game interface: a coffee cup Perhaps it’s obvious to say, but the arcade still had it all over any other public context when it comes to interface innovation. Except perhaps the more elaborate setups at science museums and in interactive art installations.

For example, it may not be obvious in my last post, but the interface for that game is a real drum, not the tap pads of DDR or of the Western-style drum games. The drum in this game can make a range of sounds as players hit it on the main surface, on the rim, with different degrees of pressure, and so on. The way you play the drum makes a difference both on the level of music and on the level of gameplay. That’s why I stopped to take a picture of it.

I also stopped to take a picture of this direct-manipulation coffee cup (the text on it reads “Drink me. Drive me.”). The cup is part of a network racing game of a pretty standard sort — except for the interface.
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July 8, 2003

Newsflash: Gaming Isn’t Solitary

by nick @ 11:03 am

This fine story from CNN relates some findings from a study, done under the auspices of the Pew Internet & American Life Project by Steve Jones at UIC. Jones found that gaming didn’t gnaw away at work or social activities, but coexisted with them, as gamers multi-tasked; it appeared to be a social activity itself, and not as male-dominated as it has been made out to be.

Or, as the lede says, “Roughly two-thirds of college students play video games, but the image of a nerdy guy who spends all day in a dimly lit room blowing up computer-generated bad guys is off base, according to a new study.” Then why do such stereotypes persist? Maybe because both of the photographs accompanying the article show a grinning sophomore guy with his shirt buttoned up to his neck, sitting alone in front of his computer in a dimly-lit room. Thanks, news media!

July 2, 2003

McCloud’s Micropayments are Here

by nick @ 10:50 am

… and where am I? Yes, Scott McCloud has completed a “mature” new comic called The Right Number, and placed a smidgen of it online for free. The rest can be bought for $0.25 (after you buy a $3 debit card.) It’s a interesting-looking piece which I’ll read as soon as I run out of free things on the Web to read.

I do appreciate McCloud putting his mouth where my money is; as an advocate of micropayments, who sees such a system as important for supporting independent creative types, he’s doing well to attempt to get this process going. Coming from micro-cost comic culture, the system does seem to make sense in some ways. But like Noah, I’m not going to get behind such a system until there are ways to provide free public access, the sort of access that libraries now provide for our antiquated book medium.
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