ARG panel at Virtual Worlds London

I’d hoped to take notes during the ARG panel I was moderating at Virtual Worlds London this week, and even planned create the slides on the fly. No chance. Being on stage seems to reduce my IQ by at least 20 points. While I can pay attention to what is being said and take notes (I did quite a bit of that on both days of the conference) it’s not possible (for me, at least) to do all of that and ask questions.

Instead, I recorded the audio, took some notes on paper and threw some summary slides together on the way home. Here they are.

Thanks to Dan, Kim and Foe for being excellent panelists.

ARG Panel at Virtual Worlds London

On Tuesday I’ll be moderating a panel on Alternate Reality Games at the Virtual Worlds London conference.

ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) have become a hot topic in recent months. It’s hard not to think of an ARG as a virtual world in which the interfaces (including websites, email, text message, even telephones) are those we know from everyday life. Is there even more to them than that? Recent franchise tie-ins raise startling questions about business models, while war-stories about user engagement will be of interest to any virtual world designer. Do virtual worlds have anything to learn from ARGs? Find out from a selection of real-life ARG designers, developers and experts.

I’m going to be joined by Dan Hon (Co-founder and CEO, Six to Start [bio]), Kim Plowright (Production Manager, Oil Productions Ltd [bio]) and Fiona ‘Foe’ Romeo (Head of Digital Media, National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory [bio]).

Just some of the questions I’m likely to ask include:

  • Why do people play ARGs? Does there need to be a prize?

  • How do you balance getting someone through the story vs keeping an interesting challenge?
  • How do you maintain a believable universe?
  • How do/can ARGs make money?
  • To what extent can ARGs be user-created?

(I already have many more ideas than we’ll get through during the panel, but if you’d like to suggest topics for conversation or questions then I’m all ears.)

I’m planning to upload slides and notes asap after it’s all over. I don’t have any pre-prepared slides, but will be creating them on the fly in a similar way to the Augmented Reality panel I moderated at LA recently.

See you on Tuesday afternoon? According to the schedule, the ARG panel is 4:45 – 5:45pm on Tuesday. I’ll also be catching some former colleagues hard at work, including Rob‘s panel and Ian‘s talk on Tuesday morning.


PlayfulPlayful is a one-day conference about games, happening on Friday the 31st of October, 2008 in Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London. Add it to Upcoming or Facebook or, you know, just register.

Focusing on the creative and cultural dimensions, Playful examines game design as both a discipline and craft, offering different perspectives on its current and future possibilities.

I’ll be presenting (I’m on second apparently, following the inimitable James Wallis) and I’ll be showing how Rock Band / Guitar Hero controllers can, with very little money, time and effort, become actual musical instruments. This will be the first conference for which ‘pack plastic guitar, real amp and leads’ are on my TODO list.

Guild Dinner Party

A couple of weeks ago, just as I was finally getting sucked into World of Warcraft, I received this mysterious invitation.

Guild Dinner - invitation

Now, this guild is actually a bunch of real-life friends who use Warcraft to hang out together. Members who have outed themselves include Alice Taylor (who recently blogged about receiving some guild postcards) Kim Plowright (who made some awesome cross-stitch patterns) James Wallis (who presented a geophysical study of the World of Warcraft during Interesting 2008 and then wrote up his findings in an essay). I was excited to catch up with these people, and also to get to know the members I have not met yet.

Being a humble level 18 hunter, I didn’t have any suitable clothing for a formal dinner (my skinning and leather-working abilities extend to the embossed leather boots I was wearing and not much further) but Alice Taylor lived up to her name and kindly tailored many beautiful tuxedos and dresses for the guests.

Guild Dinner - formal portrait

The Wayfarer’s Rest Inn, like the rest of Silvermoon City, is beautiful. A great setting for a formal dinner. James dished out lashings of beer and wine and scrumptious food which included soup, rat kebabs and strawberry ice-cream. We danced and joked and generally, you know, had a party.

Guild Dinner - merriment

Eventually the party spilled out into the street, forming a conga line through Silvermoon City. We then moved on to Thunder Bluff and skinny-dipped in the pool there, before James revealed his final surprise of the evening: a fish course called ‘Savory Deviate Delight‘ which magically transformed us into ninjas and pirates. Yay.


Argh. A wasted opportunity for an ARG

Considering that season two of Torchwood had an accompanying Alternate Reality Game, I was excited to see what was apparently a mobile phone number prominently featured in the penultimate episode of Dr Who.


It even completely filled the screen for a few moments.


Considering the amount of screen time given to something that was ostensibly Dr Who’s mobile number, it seems more incredible that this wasn’t the beginning of an ARG. It turns out to be one of the telephone numbers reserved by Ofcom for drama purposes.

Bah. What a wasted opportunity. That was a rabbit hole waiting to happen.

Game Camp 08

I was at Game Camp 08 on Saturday. It was held in Sony’s 3Rooms building near Shoreditch which is amazing. Imagine your dream flat, but full of rather more PS3s and PSPs than you could ever need. That said, the Sony branding wasn’t actually overpowering, and the venue was a very good choice.

The day was held in the style of a barcamp, with sessions run by participants. There were sessions on ‘How to play Doerak, a semi-russian card game’, ‘ARGs, are they f****d’?’, ‘Playing SLorpedo (mixed reality naval warfare in Second Life)’, and many many more.

Bobbie Johnson of the Guardian organised the event and has since written up a conclusion as well as a quick review of one of the busiest sessions, Matt Biddulph on ‘hacking game controllers with Arduino’.

Lots of photos of the day on Flickr, including this great one taken by Justin Hall (lead PMOG genius) and shared my Matt Jones.

London’s first Game Camp was great. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Physics Games

Three different physics games I’ve been enjoying recently. You might like them too.

1 – Toribash (Mac, Windows) is my favourite fighting game ever. The physics, rendering and tense multiplayer action make it an instant addiction.

2 – Crayon Physics (Windows) is the freeware prototype of something which went on to become the eagerly awaited Crayon Physics Deluxe (the one shown in the video below).

3 – Phun (Windows and Linux) is a fun 2D physics playground. Experiment with gravity, friction, springs, motors, and more. It looks a bit like this

It seems to be inspired by the MIT Magic Paper demo (shown in the video below).

Here’s a link to my growing collection of physics games bookmarks

Twitter Updates for 2007-12-16

  • Half way though EVE’s daily(!) hour long scheduled downtime. Those crazy Icelanders. #

EVE Online - My Brutix

  • Once again, addicted to EVE Online. Popped once already (in a battleship! Taking too many risks in low-sec…). Hello, Christmas holidays. #

Moshi Monsters – Get Your Rox Off

Moshi Monsters - Zommer mopod

Mind Candy (the company behind Perplex City) have a new project. Moshi Monsters is their latest thing, and I really like it.

It’s actually two things in one: a flashy-spinny-phone-charm-thing and a web-pet-tamagotchi-puzzle thing.

The ‘MoPod‘ mobile phone charms are conveniently available from Michael Smith’s other company, Firebox. Let’s start there, since it’s currently (at least, while it’s in beta) the only way to get into the more fun part of the project, owning a pet monster.

For a fiver you can have a MoPod for your mobile phone (MoPods are big in Japan, apparently). Here’s a short video of my phone ringing (well, vibrating, but you know what I mean) and my MoPod (a ‘Zommer’ monster) spinning and flashing like a mad thing.

Inside the packaging is a secret code allowing you to adopt a monster, which involves picking, personalising and naming it. Meet my first monster, Fred.Moshi Monsters - Fred the FuriMoshi Monsters - Fred's house, pre bling Moshi Monsters - Fred's house, post bling

In order to decorate Fred’s room, I first had to earn some ‘rox’, the in-game currency. To do that, solved some puzzles. And here, at the heart of Moshi Monsters, and the thing that will keep me coming back to this day after day, is the daily puzzle challenge. Even more engaging than the cute graphics and animations (though these are lovely) and much fun than decorating my room, is the daily one minute dose of quick-fire puzzles. These are great, and appeal to me in the same way that Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training does.

Moshi Monsters - Puzzles[click for bigger]

Moshi Monsters is still in beta, and there are a few as-yet unimplemented features, hinted at in the interface. A ‘Friends Tree’, a pinboard and some sort of news computer are all marked as “coming soon”. The friends tree in particular could be exciting. I already want my monster to be able to hang out (somehow) with Michael‘s, Jo‘s, Melissa‘s and Ian‘s, and so I’m looking forward to seeing how Moshi Monsters handles social interactions. I wonder if it will be anything like Animal Crossing, which – despite being aimed at kids – allows users to connect to each others spaces and visit each other.

I’d also quite like to see detailed stats of my history with the puzzles. I firmly expect that my monster will get annoyed (and ill?) if I neglect him, but I’d also like to be able to see how my score on the daily puzzle challenge changes over time. Maybe this isn’t part of the plan, but I’d like it to be.

Moshi Monsters is looking great. It’s still a beta, and it seems things are still being developed. Even in these early stages, I’m already hooked and I look forward to seeing what happens as things like the friends tree, news computer and additional shops get added.

Update: closing comments on this post because I regularly have to delete silly amount of spam and nonsense. If you have something interesting to say about Moshi Monsters, feel free to email me. Thanks.

Whiteboard Pong

Tangible interfaces strike again. Not content with playing music with a yo-yo, I’ve knocked up a first pass at an augmented reality game of pong on a whiteboard.

Whiteboard Pong v0.1

Here, I play pong with two whiteboard erasers. On a whiteboard. A camera watches the scene and a quick hacky Processing app (via reacTIVision and some OSC messages) bounces a ball around. For the full effect, a projector will render the virtual ball right there on your desk. Or you could play it on the surface of a flat-panel monitor I guess.

The nice thing about working with whiteboards: it’s fun to change the version number when v0.2 is done.

Whiteboard Pong v0.2

Also worth mentioning: I mentioned on Flickr that “now I just need a projector” and within minutes my brainy friend Dave came round to my office with a spare one for me to borrow. The joy of declarative living!

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