Monday, 10 March 2014

Pheebs & RWig - Looking back at Tourist Trap

Tourist Trap was something of a departure for both of us. We had made games before, we had worked with Coney making theatre that used game mechanics, but we had never made something that was such a 'gamey-game' before. It was both an excellent and instructive process for us, and, according to the feedback from our teams, an hour of silly, playful fun that let participants really experience Margate.

A fine example of seaside joy from Team Digital, we're not fussy.

If you want the details on who won our game and what the players came up with, then take a look at our Tumblr where we've catalogued every entry along with short commentaries on the winners. We felt we couldn't judge Tourist Trap ourselves because we were too close to it, so we had Kate Kneale (who is basically the King of Geek) and Seb Lee-Delisle (one of our fellow Gamemakers) judge it for us. What really came across when we were going through all the entries, was that the game really succeeded in giving people “permission to play” (a lovely phrase that Kate used) and there was a staggering level of invention and visual wit in the entries. People stripped off their trousers to reveal lovely legs, created backgrounds in chalk, used hairbrushes as donkey ears and Instagram filtered and Photoshopped their way to an amazing fake authenticity This is part of the reason we had to install a runner-up system so that we could reward a larger amount of players.

Analog vs. Digital: KO (a draw!)
Another surprising turn of events was the absolute draw between Analogue and Digital, a result that completely reflected the metaphors we were thinking about when we developed the game. There was greater uptake for Team Analogue but the teams that chose Team Digital were consistently faster and more reliable in returning all four images on time – lots of teams playing for Analogue lost points for failing to complete within the hour and failing to capture all four images. However, the creativity and accuracy grand prizes (worth 15 points each) were both won by Team Analogue which brought their score up to equal digital. Digital teams were also super creative and the form tended to appeal to younger players who were adept at making digital collages – one of our favourite is this Anonymous/'V For Vendetta'-esque Lovely Legs competition.

Points = Prizes
We awarded the two overall wining photographs with a computer game and some GEEK merchandise (thanks to Kate & Kim at GEEK for helping us out!) but we wanted something physical to reward each of our category winners. To this end, we decided to go full tourist on this one and turn the 8 winners and runners up into packs of proper postcards and send them out to each winning teams.

Pretty fancy, right?

The postcards you can buy in Margate often depict scenes and attractions like Dreamland – sites that are no longer there. We wanted to provide a new series of Margate scenes that exhibit its creativity and unique position as a town possessing both a rich history and an exciting digital future. We're so proud of this prototype and all of our amazing players. Thanks so much to Margate, our inspirational fellow game-makers and GEEK for having us!

Friday, 28 February 2014

Seb: Lazer Arcade video and photos

Now that the Margate Games residency is over it’s time to take stock and document the project.

Lazer Arcade from Seb Lee-Delisle on Vimeo.
Music by Cinnamon Chasers, buy on iTunes.

To my great relief the system worked really well and Lazer Arcade proved to be a huge hit – there were constant queues throughout the GEEK festival.

So what did I learn?

Well the big surprise was that out of all the games I made, the simplest was the most popular. It was just a target and I made it in a couple of minutes as the first game to test with. But I had accidentally hit upon a few playability features.

It was easy to get some kind of score, even if it was by hitting the outer edges of the board. This is important when you only get six shots. And by making the bullseye difficult to hit, it meant you had to come back and try again. I gave the bullseye a score of 50 points (the outer rings got 10 and 5 points) so you’d be guaranteed a high score if you got one. I think the highest score of the weekend was 180 (which requires 3 bullseyes!).

Adults enjoyed the 80s aesthetic of Asteroids but it was completely meaningless to most of the kids. The coconut shy was really hard to even get one coconut, but I guess that’s the same as the real life ones.

The Nerf guns proved to be a bit problematic too – they kept jamming up. I think I’d probably work on some modifications to the guns if I ran it again. The smaller kids in particular had a bit of difficulty with them.

But all in all, it was a hugely enjoyable experience. It was great to meet and hang out with the other artists who all made great games. Thanks to everyone at GEEK, especially Rhianna, Stefan and the other volunteers who basically spent hours loading and picking up sponge darts.













Monday, 24 February 2014

Bogdan: Geek Hunters Performed Spiritual Disinfection of the Winter Gardens

Oh, yes we played "Geek Hunter" and performed spiritual disinfection of  Winter Gardens during Geek Festival!  Brave players who dared to enter the massive Main Hall full of people, face the terrible ghost and engage him in a fight armed only by mobile phone…  they deserve special thanks of the City Mayor.

We had several groups of players who used special mobile app for direct mobile-to-mobile video stream with two-way audio connection to communicate with unknown ghost and each other. Their task was to identify the ghost among many visitors of the Geek Festival by watching fragments of his live video stream and engage him in fight. They had 30 minutes for their mission.

This game had several tactics that could be applied by players. Some players relied solely on ghost's live video stream trying to locate him by objects and people they see on the screen. Other players randomly performed a theatrical ghost-hunting test in order to trigger his reaction and expel him out. Players had one more available method to identify the ghost — to answer insanely difficult secret question given in binary code. No player so far managed to solve the riddle and see ghost's face immediately but we wish luck to all future smart players who will play the game. 

This game is so simple that it could be played literary anywhere, without any additional equipment except mobile app and smartphone. Therefore we hope that whole England will soon be spiritually disinfected following example of Winter Gardens.

Finally, I must say that I really enjoyed to be in the company with Seb, Invisible Flock,  Pheebs & RWig.  Their ideas and projects are so diverse and inspiring that Geek was really great demonstration of digital creativity.  Conference during first day was great opportunity to see people from industry and local communities seating together and planning digital future where, thanks to Kate, Rick and Marine studios, Margate will really appear as an important place on the map. 

photos coming soon 

Friday, 21 February 2014

prototypes and demos

We're sat in the hall at the wonderful Geek festival. 

There's so much great stuff to see and do, including our fellow Margate Games-ers games.

We have a protoype of the beginning of our new piece If You Go Away.  Its been a week of furious development and changes-of-tac.  We were building in Unity (and still will be) but its the first time we've used it, we had a thing up and running using the phone's compass and some location data, but it was a little unsatisfactory and we were spending more time talking about smoothing out the data reading than the implementation of our idea.

We applied to GEEK saying that we were making a large scale work and wanted to begin it here, and specifically that we wanted to begin to build the world of our piece. 

So we took everything and shifted it over to AppFurnace, using their inbuilt locative functions to plot GPS points to sound, and throw in some of the options and early story telling ideas we have.

We ironed and ironed the bugs right up until the panel conversation we were in, and now its out there in the wild, a 15 minute experience.

the good news is that we really like it, and it seems so do the people playing it.  It works as a proyotype and means that we  can now all see what it is that we want to make, it has solved questions that we hadn'e necessarily expressed out loud and begin to form important textures like tone and pace and vocabulary.

its available through the app furnace player you can download from your respective app  stores and then in the app scan  this, it begins outside the Winter Gardens.

Thank you for having us GEEK and Margate, look out for IYGA launching fully in summer 2015.



Seb: Ready to Play?

It’s been an intense week of troubleshooting calibration – but I finally got it working today! It’s still a bit fragile so I’m not sure how well it’ll hold up over the festival but fingers crossed.


There have been so many things to fix – just one was the vibrations from the floor so I bought this massive lighting stand from Amazon and strung up the board on bungees – this has isolated it from the surroundings.


Of course with all the craziness I’ve barely managed to make any games, but I hurriedly put together a target practice game today, and just now finished an Asteroids style game.

Emma Coopers photo of the Target Practice game – she got a high score of 80!

All set for the official opening of Geek tomorrow, where I’ll be on a panel talking about the project.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Seb: more LazerArcade calibration

Today was my first day on site in Margate and setting up the LazerArcade system at full size. I’ve had a tiring day trying to calibrate and I can’t seem to get it quite as accurate as it was at home. And the microphones pick up all the vibrations on the floor so I can only imagine what it’ll be like with thousands of people walking around!

I have some more things to try – I’ve panic ordered a large lighting truss from Amazon that’ll arrive tomorrow and I’ll be hanging the board from that with bungee cord to try to isolate it from the sound in the hall.

For a board this size I probably need more than 6 mics too, but tomorrow I’m going to try moving the mics closer together and see what happens. Check out the video below to see more.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Pheebs & RWig: Playtesting Tourist Trap

As you may have seen on this blog, we advertised for volunteers to help us work through the game and we got a small but excellent group of six who were willing to come to Marine Studios on Saturday 15th February to play, chat and eat donuts.

Actual donuts not pictured. We actually collected some important data points re: popularity of jam vs. custard doughnuts. Jam crushes custard. Custard is nothing.

We always knew was that we would have to test our game before we presented it at Geek. All the high falutin' talk about game mechanic and theme and structure meant nothing if the game wasn't fun fun fun. Pheebs and I had played it – we had a ridiculously enjoyable and giggly time recreating poses, shifting our legs to precise angles and, in one memorable moment, accidentally flashing my pubes to oncoming traffic on Margate's seafront. But we knew we were in a little game-dev bubble and it's crucial to see what real players make of your work. So: Beta Test was on.

We had an excellent mix of people, exactly what you'd hope for in a test like this: gamers and non-gamers, a wide age-range and a diverse set of backgrounds. You can see a picture of them here, literally radiating goodness.

Our glorious playtesters

We'd also been reading a lot of Jane McGonigal and we needed to know if our game succeeded on her terms:
 “When you strip away the genre differences and the technological complexities, all games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation.” 
from 'Reality Is Broken'

So we had our goal: Ensure the victory of your chosen team (Digital or Analog) by recreating 4 vintage Margate tourist photos within he time limit, using as much creativity as you can muster.

We had our rules: Choose digital or analog film to do your photographin' 5 points per completed photo, 10 points for completion on time, bonus points available for creativity and accuracy. A strict 1 hour deadline.

We had our feedback:
Immediate – Team Digital's photos were displayed via a hashtag aggregate (in this case and available for immediate post-game admiration.
Medium term – judging for the most creative and accurate individual photos. The winning teams receive FABULOUS PRIZES.
Long Term – Team Analog's photos were to be developed and sent to them through the post, resulting in a lovely post-post-game reminder of the day.

We also had a list of sub-questions as long as your arm:
  • Would the analog vs. digital rivalry work or would everyone side with one particular medium? 
  • Was the game do-able in an hour? 
  • Were our chosen vintage images just the right mix of fun and challenging?
  •  Does our digital hashtag aggregation system even work?
  •  Is the varying level of feedback pleasurable or annoying? 
  • Were we any good at explaining the rules?
The big question though – would it be fun? Well, these volunteers were going to find out.

 The Outcome
We found out the following:
  • Based on this test and a couple of Twitter polls, the digital/analog loyalty split is pretty 50/50, with younger players plumping for the digital consistently. Not everyone shares our nostalgic love for disposable cameras. GOOD. This also might mean we're old. NOT IDEAL. 
  • Hashtagging had a success rate of about 50% - we're gonna need a lot of cables. 
  • The behind-the-scenes admin on this game is very challenging and involves military-like planning, especially when it comes to getting the photos developed in time for the judging on the final day of GEEK. 
  • The recreation of the photos resulted in some very funny, very silly pictures, which we can't share because it would give you ideas ahead of the game.
Co-op Mode 
The best thing we found out was how totally unexpectedly the players behaved amongst one another: we had two digital teams and one analog and they all teamed up together so they could recreate a particularly fiendish photo challenge. We had no idea that there would be this level of co-operation between rivals! It should also be said that this co-operation only lasted for the length of time it was useful, but it was thrilling to watch the teams band together, whispering excitedly, trying to fashion secret hats out of things they found around the studio. We're really curious if the relaxed Saturday tea and donut set-up had anything to do with it, and that minus that atmosphere, the real players at GEEK will be more cut-throat and competitive. We just don't know. But we can't wait to find out.

See you there!