Ludum Dare 12

For a few years now, I've been following an open-source games competition called Ludum Dare. Artists work on their own for 48 hours to produce a game based on a theme--this round used "The Tower". This year, with a weekend to kill, more or less, I decided to throw my hat in the ring.

What I came up with is Choke Point, a game about air-traffic control. I skimped on the art and didn't get sound working in time, but I like something about the mechanic well enough to develop it more in the future, maybe.

Choke Point

Feel free to try it out and tell me what you think. Or get the Processing source code and improve it.

400M Men's Relay

Kind of off topic, but I just watched the Men's 400M Relay. Wow. Not only did the world record get crushed, but the Americans out-touched the French (who said they would "smash" our team) by eight hundredths of a second for the gold.

It's kind of the thing to be jaded about the Olympics, and I've been no exception. But I was literally yelling at the screen for the whole last 100 meters of the race.

Wow. Just wow.

Notes on a Stakeholder Engine

I just finished reading Nicholas Lemann's article "Conflict of Interest" in the latest New Yorker. It crystallized a lot of the thinking I've done in the past few years about politics, all the way back to when I was an organizer for Democracy for America here in Hudson County.

I couldn't call my participation in the DFA effort as anything more than a failure, but it taught me a lot about the push and pull of real politics. As it turns out, I don't have a taste for that kind of work--I think I'm temperamentally unsuited for it. But it did drop the scales from my eyes. I stopping seeing the act of governing as a battle between good and evil, and, rather, saw it as the net result of conflicting and cooperating interests.

The Lemann article sums it up well, and I'd encourage anyone with an interest in the subject (or the engine) to read it. For me, it helped to gel a number of key components that ought to factor into games like this:

  • Players should either represent an interest and compete for the attention of policy makers and the general public (Bentley's organizational interests)
  • OR players should represent a policy maker who is beholden to interests--or, rather, requires the backing of a number of interests, none of which need be permanent or essential. A game of political survival rather than idealism.
  • The game will involve, at its core, the pushing and pulling of different levers on a system.
  • BUT this is NOT the game, no more than resetting a series of timers is Diner Dash
  • Therefore, a game mechanic is needed that creates a sense of expressiveness, in Bogost's terms.
  • And a narrative that explains the affordances of the "lever pushing" in the same way that waiting tables explains the timers in Nick's game.

That's what I have for now. More questions than answers at this point, but it makes sense for me to start taking apart some of the work from this spring's "iPod Game" and working out a mechanic for that kind system and logical interface.

Faking 3D on a Flat Plane

We were experimenting with different ideas for how to represent the third dimension you have access to with the SMALLab installation. This is a trial using a camera viewpoint that tracks the position of the ball as you move through a space with it. It fools you into thinking that a 3d world is changing at your feet.

It's not a perfect solution. It only works for one person, and there are limits to how high you can pretend the Z-axis goes. Still, it's an interesting way of looking at the problem, and it might open more doors later on.

Who Likes Pancakes?

I like pancakes. Hey, everyone likes pancakes! Check out Kyle's awesome mod of his Pancake Express game for the SMALLab installation. It's a really great test of the kind of work we can do with new Render Engines. And it's a ton of fun.

Engine Managin'

Kyle and I have made a lot of progress since the install went up for SMALLab. To date, we have the beginnings of Render Engine Managers for Python, Processing, and Flash (via XMLSocket).

The Python version, PyREM, can create engines and pass properties based on responses from SCREM. I still need to get it to destroy engines, as well as accept and display media library files, but it's moving along pretty well.

The ASU folks put together a really nice and flexible system. I'm really encouraged by how quickly we've gotten up to speed now. I'll post pics once more interesting work gets rolling.

A Good Week for the Arizonans

Couple of awesome updates. The most important is that Shawn and Kelly from ASU helped Kyle and me set up the SMALLab installation at Parsons. Very, very cool.

Distortion: Me with a checkerboard as the SMALLab team tries to fix the distortion on the fisheye lenses.Distortion: Me with a checkerboard as the SMALLab team tries to fix the distortion on the fisheye lenses.

Kyle and I got processing communicating with the system in about a half hour and made a couple of nice sketches with two balls tracking. Should be a good kick off for making lessons starting two weeks from now. Here's a YouTube video of that:

Up to the Minute Citations

CiteULike is awesome. Man, how did I miss this for my entire thesis year? In any event, I have my latest links coming through to this site so that everyone can see what I'm up to.

Thesis Document

Hey, no sense keeping this hidden on my hard drive. And until we get a full and working archive of all the thesis documents back at the department, this seems like the most logical place for it to go. Plus it will allow me to link it into CiteseerX, which I'm currently doing research with and loving. While I'm thinking about it, I"m also loving JabRef, the open-source citation manager. Just wish I'd discovered these last year.

Text Editors and Electric Kettles

I just read a great article on interfaces by Baobab's Mike McKay entitled Text Editors and Electric Kettles. It's really worth a read. It's the kind of thing I'd show to design students, it's so good. And it also does a nice job summing up some of the challenges and solutions that they're working with specifically down in Malawi. And, hey, if you have a digg account, bump the story up!

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Copyright Mike Edwards 2006-2009. All content available under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license, unless otherwise noted.

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