13 November 2013Driftwood is a talk I gave at Playark 2013. It was meant to be a talk about leftovers (the theme of the conference being ‘reclaim’), and about Hello Lamp Post. In the writing, it turned into a broader overview of my own work – on six years of projects around cities and play. I was quite pleased with how it turned out, and wanted to share it on the web. (This is a roughly edited version of the script I spoke from).
23 June 2013
I spent a day in Sheffield this week, for a short piece of design consultancy with Rattle. A really good workshop: some suitably curvy thinking, good sketching, and the result was a somewhat curious piece of media invention: inventing a media format for data visualisation.
A second day in the studio wrote this up with sketches, notes, and animatics. I think it’s gone in an interesting direction, though it’ll be interesting to see how it develops once it’s in the hands of makers: that’s where the meat of this work will be.
On Hello Lamppost – Muncaster – this week, the big news was the launch of the trailer. That’s had a great response, from both friends and the media. My colleagues at PAN sure do know how to make charming, informative short films.
Lots of meaty work on Hello Lamppost, too: defining and designing the final types of interaction, and also working out what we need the website to do. The coming weeks are going to be very busy on that front, burning down to launch, but we’ve got a plan in place: it should turn out well. Ben’s written a great update about everything we’ve been doing over at the Pan blog.
And finally, some communication work – pitching, discussing, scoping – about a project called Sore; bringing the likelihood of it happening closer to the event horizon.
19 June 2013
Hello Lamppost launches in just under a month. This is the trailer we shot in Bristol a few weeks ago for the project.
03 June 2013
A short week, thanks to a pleasant and much-needed sunny Bank Holiday Monday.
This week involved a bunch of travel. Tuesday was a day in Brighton to discuss a potential art commission, currently referred to as Sore. Lots of interesting thoughts and discussion, but I need to sit down and process it offline a bit. So that’s going to be a focus of early Week 34.
Thursday was a trip to Bristol for the next tests and demonstrations of Hello Lamppost, our Playable City commission.
A secret: I find playtesting painful.
It’s a similar pain – but not identical – to user-testing. If you’ve ever stood on the dark side of a two-way mirror, and watched someone stab with a mouse at a product you’ve designed, failing to achieve a task you were sure was straightforward… you’ll have a glimpse of that pain.
But the element of testing games that I find uniquely painful is what we’re testing for. I’ve watched users fail to complete tasks, which was annoying, because we were designing for utility, for functionality: helping people achieve goals swiftly and simply.
When I test a game, I’m testing to see if it’s fun. Well, and many other things: is it balanced? Is there a skill curve? Would you come back to it? How do experienced and new players work together?
At the bottom of that, though, is a summation of all those questions: is it fun? Did it entertain?
Watching somebody explicitly not have fun with something that’s only purpose is (in one way or another) to entertain – well, that’s more awkward than any transactional website test I’ve done.
So for the duration of playtests, I’m pretty on edge.
First tests are always particularly tough – they should be; they indicate what’s going to need work. I’d be worried if they weren’t. And our first test, a few weeks ago, showed up lots of edges and holes.
Thursday was our second playtest in Bristol, and it was a notable improvement on the first – and satisfying and insightful in its own right. Lots of the rough edges from the first test were sanded away; the new elements of charm were all picked up on; and whilst it may have failed or had obvious holes, they didn’t seem to have the disarming effect of the first test, where players would be jolted out of the experience quite hard.
Also, the 12-year-olds we tested it with definitely enjoyed it, which was a really positive sign. (As was the enthusiasm of the project sponsors, who saw it later that night).
A good day, then: all the work of the previous week, and of some of this, paid off, and we’ve got a much clearer sight of the critical path for the final month. And, slowly, I began to get over my hatred of how playtesting makes me feel.
The week ended with a bit of maintenance work on Concert Club, filing down some rough edges and fixing some bugs that our early users have caught.
20 May 2013
Monday and Tuesday were spent in Bristol at the Pervasive Media Studio, running our first playtests of Hello Lamppost. Lots of useful feedback, lots of things to patch up and fix, and excellent support from the extended team at PMS.
The middle of the week saw the final demonstration of Detling to the BBC. That should be launching in a few days – and I’ll share more details of it then. It was a good demo, but also exciting to consider what the prospects beyond the early alpha will be.
There was a short piece of work towards the end of the week – Wilton – with After The Flood. I’ve known Max for a while, but it was good to work with him, even on a tiny engagement. A short period of sketching, thinking, and producing some illustrations of interfaces around data.
Lots of thinking and fixing on Hello Lamppost – and by the end of the week, a plan of attack to build what we hope will be the final platform for it. That’s for week 32, though.