machinimist needed for V2V

The V2V project which is a collaboration between the Silicon Valley and the Titanium Valley needs someone who can help shoot documentary machinima and edit it for posting.  Our primary environment is Minecraft. Please contact james directly.

This is our first example:

I guess I should also mention that there is no budget, but I can promise credit, accolades, introductions, and fun.  The work will be shown in support of the Zero1 Biennial and the 2nd Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art.



Music in Boston

I was going to call this post Boston music, but I realized that the music I listened to was just in Boston and not all from Boston. This music was brought to you and me by the incredible Sooz. It is a delight to be able to hang out with someone so well connected and fun (she also knows cool places to eat, but that will be a separate post).

in chronological order

in Harvard Square cool little street music festival, the hosts were dressed in historical re-enactment costumes, and my joke was that that was just the way the kids dressed these days to irritate the olders:

Old Jack (listen)  @oldjackmusic  This band was a lot of fun, especially the do-wop gals and the fun way they mixed their music, I also really liked the cover that they played which highlighted the do-wops as lead.

The Rationales (listen) @TheRATIONALES These fellows have a real polished set and the lead singer emotes wonderfully.

at Toad

Comanchero (listen) @comanchero This self-described jam band totally does jam! The atmosphere at Toad was awesome too, these guys packed into a little stage spilled over and used just enough cowbell.

at Digital Bear Studios

Good Night, States (listen)   There is also a good sized list on Spotify. @GoodNightStates (from Pittsburgh) This band played the night before I left in a studio with Bowie records on the wall.  Their style and guitar rotation was quite entertaining, and the keyboards, or rather the variety of keyboards was super sweet.  They toyed with the edge of video game music at times, but held back with their strong lyrics and guitars.  What a fun band.

Okay back to serious topix.



Process of Game Design (prototyping)

The first week here is spent in prototyping and brainstorming, creating a process of rapid idea generation and learning individual roles.

Teams are sorted out through an application process, coders, artists, QA, Designer, producer, and generally number about ten.  During the initial prototyping / game jam sessions the focus is on learning process, getting use to churning out a playable idea inside of two hours, keeping the scope small and turning around to do brainstorming as a group to develop ideas.

All team members contribute to design at this point, in fact generally the teams are broken into sub-teams to create even more games, so a team of 10 may end up creating 2 or 3 games in a two hour game jam.

The first prototyping came after the briefest of explanations of the product owner’s research question, and the application of certain constraints.  I thought this was quite smart in that it allowed the teams to explore their understanding of the issue, and to begin iterating ideas.  This was followed up with a detailed discussion of the research.  These game jams were much more about process than product, and helped to create the team.

This then leads to more prototyping and developing an understanding of the tools, workflow, shedding ideas, focusing the prototype on specific mechanics.

Realizing I have collapsed this down quite a lot, some time is spent on brainstorming, and organized ideation.

the 5 principles of brainstorming:
Rule 1: Withholding judgment
Rule 2: Encourage wild and exaggerated ideas
Rule 3: Quantity counts at this stage, not quality
Rule 4: Build on the ideas put forward by others
Rule 5: Every person and every idea has equal worth
(here I have to throw out that there is an alternate methodology which says keep the criticality because the ideas get better: )

Hints/Tips: designate a leader/caretaker and a secretary, hear everyone and try not to interrupt, time box (beginning and end), explain the process, write everything down.

Problems suitable to brainstorming: those with clear definition, a creative solution (not a judgement call), simple problem (complex problems can be divided), clearly articulated

keep doing it…

This whole process becomes a cycle of development leading up to the first friday focus testing session. Multiple iterations need to be created and trashed, little effective bits moved forward to the next version etc. Everyone participates equally in these design jams. So what cannot be iterated on paper? Certain mechanics are difficult, but frequently this can be solved with a “computer” player who is essentially acting on a script, other specifically mechanically based games may require digital prototypes, but there is nothing wrong with this, it just cannot interrupt the quick iteration of ideas, the flow of the project and the contribution of the entire team.

Before the first focus test, all of the individual role based teams have also had a chance to meet.  QA is going to administer the focus test, but the entire team needs to be aware of the procedure, and what it is that the team is testing for.  The game will eventually be played in a vacuum, to this end the product owner may have specific needs related to the focus test.

1) what is the question (why are you testing)
2) what are the setup conditions (Observer Sheet)
3) Player sheet (rules)
4) cues to observer, things to look for that the player can’t or won’t tell you
5) after survey (use google forms, on separate computer)
was it fun, what meaning did you get from this, can you summarize your experience in 3 sentences

player is always right (don’t argue, don’t defend, don’t explain)

decompress, with product owner, designer, who else? compile information and share it with group

single page observer sheet

This focus testing is scheduled for every Friday of the summer program, with open focus testing (with 60 outsiders) scheduled to happen twice during the period.

defense requests a sidebar, your honor

Since I have been in Boston it has been games, games, games.

Friday was MIT SGS – Strategic Gaming Society

note the sweet old SPI games on the shelves…

Today it was where Alex from gave a mid-mortem of their as yet to be released game Jack Lumber.

The crowd was huge, and active, the talk was funny and insightful and enthusiastic, quite a fun event:

There were 80 people there.

Thanks to Michael and Alex from the Murder Sim for dragging me along.

meet the client and gear up for scrum

It has become impossible to keep up with all of the things going on at GAMBIT, so I am writing this well after the fact.  Thursday involved a two hour lecture for each group by the product owner / researcher about the nature of the content and goal of the game. Often additional constraints were introduced. I sat in on a few of the presentations to find out what the strategy was for each of the researchers. I see now that I need to talk a bit more to some of these researchers to understand how their question came about and how they chose / prioritized the constraints.

The lectures were quite informative, and even deep related to the central subject matter. I sat in on part of the relativity lecture and didn’t realize that a) it was a smaller team and b) they had something that was at least partially developed prior to the beginning of the summer. I felt comfortable and even interested in the relativity discussion because of the musical I had made regarding Einstein’s theory.

I find myself moving from group to group quite a bit as I am interested in the different approaches that each researcher is taking, both depending on their experience and goals with the teams.  I need to have a much more in depth discussion with researchers (particularly those who have launched multiple GAMBIT games) to understand their considerations.

This work is in preparation for the first Design Sprint (which ends June 22).  The format that they have adopted for game development is based heavily on and it is quite visible in the setup methodology.

The first design sprint accomplishes several important things, seeing as this is the second week of an 8 week process it is important to jumpstart the work and get the teams limited resources working as efficiently as possible. The first sprint’s goal is to create a beta prototype, perhaps more than one in different genres. This also permits research into other games, creation of priority lists of features, practicing workflow and pipeline design-code-build, affording time to look at others portfolios to understand their background and practice and to contribute to the Vision Document that informs the Design Document.  This also allots time working with the product owner and communicating about what the team understands about the project.

This is about prototyping and brainstorming. Team members need to get use to working out and testing one idea or a limited set of ideas within a constraint, getting critical feedback and either abandoning or adopting the results from the prototype. This also permits experimentation with content and mechanics.

So what is the final deliverable, and how does it factor into the design sprint? Incremental and experimental, focused more significantly on process than specific elements of the final project, but contributory.

Watching teams work on paper prototypes and research games was encouraging, I am impressed by the way the teams are keeping focused and making incremental progress towards the presumed goal (though I am not sure how well that is understood, or can be understood).

To see what the results of the design sprint look like the video series at is really quite complete:

— links about scrum —

Titanium Valley – Silicon Valley (V2V)

This is an initial draft of a project overview.  Feedback is welcome:

The goal of this work is to produce meaningful objects for both the Silicon Valley (San Jose) and the Titanium Valley (Ekaterinburg and Salda).

The way we arrive at this is somewhat complex. We have two teams of researchers, one working in Russia and one working in the USA which essentially will never meet each other in real life. These teams have to work together to create a series (2) of collaborative works which will be presented in their respective biennials. These final sculptural works can be the same form, but they can also be different forms. The way this collaboration is approached is through a shared experience and collaborative building process that takes place in a 3d virtual environment with a robust set of sandbox features.

These steps are not distinct, and in fact overlap through most of the project. There is however a general progression from the first steps to the last.

Data Gathering: Research and interview of the people of the regions. This work takes the form of documentation and discussions about value and interest, and is done in a traditional sociological way.

Shared experiences: In order to function more closely collaboratively we have chosen to embrace the story function within the Minecraft environment.  That is to say that we are creating, exploring, and building in a “survival” environment.

Collaborative building: The environment is focused on being a sandbox, or a blank slate. You can engage it either solo or as a multi-player experience. Either space will let you build, but in multiplayer something new emerges, collaborative building. Whether it be multiple people haphazardly building and rebuilding a city, like our dear beloved Orwell, or whether it be people working on a plan, everyone with permission can build and rebuild.

Data export: The server is ours, bought and paid for, well rented month to month. We have full access to the data and as such are able to download and examine it structurally and aesthetically. This and the fact that Mineways has made the export and translation of data almost trivial connect everything we build “in world” to fabrication techniques on both sides of the world.

Fabrication: Using .obj or .stl files makes it almost trivial to 3d print these objects. This is great for prototyping and in fact any object we build can be prototyped in a matter of hours. The limitations with 3D printing however involve size and materials, but working with data allows us to look at other fabrication methods – paper folding (a la pepakura) or corrugated cardboard or even sheet metal, and then there are possible modular hanging structures using interlocking pieces and wire.

The process is pretty clear, what is not clear at this point is what the chosen object will be, where it will be placed and what it shall be made out of. To get there we are in the process of completing a couple of “sprints” in terms of the different areas.  The first of the sprints involves the shared experience, our Russian counterparts have moved in and found a place to setup shop.  We now need to locate a place to complete our builds.  The next will involve collaborative builds, I have suggested the 4004 for the Silicon Valley team and the the Visozky tower for the Titanium Valley team.

If it is not obvious each “object” has critical cultural significance for the valley it represents, (I am writing a post on the 4004) which I intend to explain to the best of my abilities. What we are also looking at is the shift in aesthetics that will be forced upon us by the low resolution environment.  Finally we want to consider that each object will have a certain resemblance to architecture in the space, and will be explorable from within the environment.

Draft 1- June 18

I got a chuckle from this…

academic senate passed this which adds:

“Success in this course is based on the expectation that
students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per
unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction
or preparation/studying or course related activities including but
not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course
structures will have equivalent workload expectations as
described in the syllabus.”

to the syllabus from

So much for whining that there is too much work in a 1 credit class…