Design & Development

Making Magic: The Walking Dead

by on Nov.24, 2011, under Board Games, Design & Development, Entertainment, Gaming, Writing

Making Magic: The Walking Dead by Mark Rosewater [Daily MTG]

This is an article on the Magic the Gathering website. Their theme of the week when this article was posted was “Undead Week” celebrating the horror theme of the latest Magic expansion. I’m sharing this article because of how Mark managed to turn an article about various mechanics that were “killed off” and then “brought back” into a narrative in the style of a horror story, and an entertaining one at that.

 

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Platforms vs Products

by on Oct.13, 2011, under Computers, Design & Development, Information Technology, Internet, Opinions, Technology

So I’ve verified the writer as Steve Yegge. He posted this on Google+ publicly by accident and of course it got copied. I feel the article makes a lot of interesting points about large-scale IT services and products in general which is why I want to share it. Therefor I’ll post Steve’s disclaimer from his follow-up blog post ahead of the article so you understand the context that it is written in.

Part of the reason is that for internal posts, it’s obvious to everyone that you’re posting your own opinion and not representing the company in any way, whereas external posts need lots of disclaimers so people don’t misunderstand. And I can assure you, in case it was not obvious, that the whole post was my own opinions and not Google’s. I mean, I was kind of taking them to task for not sharing my opinions.

So without further adieu: Steve Yegge’s internal rant on Google Platforms

(Warning: Long rant!)

 

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New Books & CDF – Computable Document Format

by on Jul.29, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Design & Development, Information Technology, Technology, Videos, Visual Media, Writing

Wolfram launches a new document format that puts interactivity as the core concept [Kurzweilai.net]

This is a great example of what I’ve been talking about regarding where books are headed. Wolfram is releasing a document format that will contain not only text and images, or maybe even the occasional embedded video, but actual interactive information. Geared primarily towards business documents, text books, and research documents, the idea could still hold true for any type of written work. Embedded within the text are apps that display information visually that the user can then manipulate to show how things can change. Graphics that actually allow a modification of variables, math equations where you can quickly and easily plug-in values to see how the equations change, and more.

The document standard is designed to make it easy enough for any person to create a document. No need to be a programmer to create the interactive features of the CDF. This is the real novelty of the idea, since webpages and flash have granted capabilities similar to this for years but their methods of creation have a steep learning curve.

If you’re interested in learning more, the below video goes over the various features of the CDF.

Video Source

 

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eBooks: And the first one drops

by on May.22, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Design & Development, Information Technology, Technology

iFlowReader for the iOS market closes down and leaves a rather stinging article regarding Apple’s marketing policies.

While it doesn’t seem to be official that Apple is enforcing the policy iFlowReader is talking about, it is most certainly on the books and the creators of iFlowReader have succinctly connected all the pieces of this amazingly anti-competitive move by Apple. I talked about this in detail back in February and honestly it is making me nervous about owning an iPad or the eBook industry in general. The iFlowReader is a great example of ingenuity in the eBook area and that has now been squashed.

This isn’t a perfect blow against eBooks. There are other mediums out there for reading, such as the Kindle and your cell phone and Android based tablets. However the iPad is one of the best tables out there, making it a prime example for others to follow, and I do enjoy using it for reading. This restriction of my ability to read eBooks on it to basically just Apple sold eBooks and stuff I can get off the web is as disturbing to me as DRM.

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What Books Will Become (Part 2 of 2)

by on May.09, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Design & Development, Gaming, Information Technology, Internet, Science, Technology, Video Games, Videos, Visual Media, Writing

Recently I came across this article, which takes an even more in-depth look at the possibilities of where books could go.

What Books Will Become by Kevin Kelly [KK.org/TheTechnium]

That is a long article and I’m sure enthusiasts, such as myself, likely read it all. For those of you not interested in reading the entire thing, here are some interesting points I’d like to point out and discuss. In Part 1 we discussed the problem with the word books and the transition to non-book formats.

Picking up where we left off:

At the same time, a screen that we watch can watch us. The tiny eyes built into your tablet, the camera that faces you, can read your face. Prototype face tracking software can already recognize your mood, and whether you are paying attention, and more importantly where on the screen you are paying attention. It can map whether you are confused by a passage, or delighted, or bored. That means that the text could adapt to how it is perceived. Perhaps it expands into more detail, or shrinks during speed reading, or changes vocabulary when you struggle, or reacts in a hundred possible ways. There are numerous experiments playing with adaptive text. One will give you different summaries of characters and plot depending on how far you’ve read.

This is where we start getting into interesting areas of information technology and adaptive text. I both like and hate this idea. As a gamer I find this idea intriguing. As a reader I’m not sure I like this. The article goes on to discuss that adaptive text has never been widely accepted. I remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books and Lone Wolf books that were effectively the same thing but relegated to the children’s book section. Perhaps with the growing number of adults who are used to playing video games, books might become a more interactive media.

The article also discusses the idea of the inclusion of movies inside text. I recently attended a seminar given by Edward Tufte, a well-known name in Information Technology, who talks about, prior to the invention of the printing press, it was common for images to be included, in-line, with text. It is an idea that modern technology limits us from, even today. In order to embed an image for you to see here in this blog, I have to set alignments and specialized tags. Images and text don’t flow well together in modern technology. This is something I personally hope the advancement of eBooks will fix, even if it is a tangential part.

The current custodians of ebooks — Amazon, Google and the publishers — have agreed to cripple the liquidity of ebooks by preventing readers from cut-and-pasting text easily, or to copy large sections of a book, or to otherwise seriously manipulate the text. But eventually the text of ebooks will be liberated, and the true nature of books will blossom. We will find out that books never really wanted to be telephone directories, or hardware catalogs, or gargantuan lists. These are jobs that websites are much superior at — all that updating and searching — tasks that paper is not suited for. What books have always wanted was to be annotated, marked up, underlined, dog-eared, summarized, cross-referenced, hyperlinked, shared, and talked-to. Being digital allows them to do all that and more.

I don’t think he is crazy. It’s the nature of the transition for the people who held all the power to try to adapt technology to the same limitations that they once had but eventually the old powers, or some new power, will figure out how the market works adapt to it. Hopefully anyway.

But the last topic of the article I want to bring up is introduced in the above paragraph. The idea of a  networked book. There are paragraphs devoted to this concept in the article and I both like and dislike the idea. I do like the idea of a book forming its own metadata as it is read, shared, discussed, and copied. I don’t think it will be as beautiful or seamless as Kelly is describing. He talks about books that continue evolving, being edited not just by the author but by the meta content that is created for it. You can see a proto-example in theweb series of novels Shadowunit. Movies and television already regularly make use of the web to try to create this content, to create a following around a show, so this idea isn’t new or alien. I think, however, at this point, we will have birthed a new media that is very different from the kind of stories told in books today. I don’t think that is a bad thing, but it’ll be a transbook media.

And I look forward to reading it.

Anyway if you’ve liked some of this discussion, read the original article. There are more neat ideas about where books are headed in here.

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What Books Will Become (Part 1 of 2)

by on May.08, 2011, under Articles, Books, Computers, Design & Development, Gaming, Information Technology, Internet, Roleplaying Games, Science, Technology, Video Games, Videos, Visual Media, Writing

Readers might remember I wrote an article awhile back about the evolution of how stories are told. It discussed the current transition we find our media undergoing, between analogue and digital. I stopped short, in that article, of discussing where it could possibly lead and left that theorizing to the reader.

Recently I came across this article, which takes an even more in-depth look at the possibilities of where books could go.

What Books Will Become by Kevin Kelly [KK.org/TheTechnium]

That is a long article and I’m sure enthusiasts, such as myself, likely read it all. For those of you not interested in reading the entire thing, here are some interesting points I’d like to point out and discuss. (continue reading…)

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Video: Gesture based zooming

by on Apr.14, 2011, under Articles, Design & Development, Technology

As seen on Mobile Crunch, this is actually pretty innovative. I like the idea far more than I like tap zooming or pinch zooming. Especially if it was upgraded to let me pan as I zoomed.

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Writing and Creativity

by on Apr.02, 2011, under Art, Articles, Books, Design & Development, Writing

HOW TO STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST (AND 9 OTHER THINGS NOBODY TOLD ME)

by Austin Kleon

An awesome set of rules for writers, artists, and any kind of creative type. Here is a quick rune down of the rules but you really should click on the link above and read all of Austin’s Commentary.

1. Steal Like An Artist.

2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to start making things.

3. Write the book you want to read

4. Use your hands

5. Side projects and hobbies are important

6. The secret: do good work and put ti where people can see it.

7. Geography is no longer our master.

8. Be Nice. The world is a small town.

9. Be Boring. It’s the only way to get work done.

10. Creativity is subtraction.

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Quotes

by on Mar.17, 2011, under Design & Development, Entertainment

“Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live.”

— Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates

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Hard Decisions in Design

by on Feb.20, 2011, under Articles, Computers, Design & Development, Entertainment, Gaming, Technology, Video Games, Writing

Let me talk to you about two video games and a lesson designers, writers, and creators can take away from them.

A few years ago I played a game called Aquaria. Aquaria was one of my favorite indie games of all time. It was likened to me as playing Super Metroid, only under water, and that is a fair description. The game told a story, primarily through game play, about a creature in an underwater world who has only recently become sentient, perhaps again, and slowly explores her world to find out its history, and her own. The game play focuses on two-dimensional side scrolling action, using a flying/swimming mechanic, as well as sound based special abilities to combat and defend against hazards. Some puzzle solving and collection. Ultimately it is a fun game that I sadly admit, I have never completed, due to getting distracted and having to start over, as, like most Metroid/Castlevania games, once I’ve left off, I’m never really sure where I was going or what I need to do.

Aquaria is not a perfect game, based upon my description, but it touched upon several emotions in the way it was presented. It would take to long to describe, but Aquaria was very much a good example of a game that was designed with both entertainment and themes in mind. Consider buying a copy, especially if you want to explore isolation,

Alec Holowka was the co-creator of Aquaria and he is currently working on a new game called Marian and from what I can tell, it is the spiritual successor of Aquaria similar to how Heavy Rain was the spiritual successor to Indigo Prophecy. He wrote an article commenting upon the design process that Marian has had to go through:

Marian: From 3D to 2D by Alec Holowka (InfiniteAmmo.ca)

The article offers a glimpse at his up coming game but also discusses a big decision that had to be made during the game’s progress.

Marian, so far as it is still in development, is going to be about a puppet. Alec comments that he wants to touch upon some of the emotions involved in the concept of control and being controlled. honestly the article does not talk a lot about the game but instead focusing upon the hard decision he had to make, going from 3D to 2D development.

Apparently the game was in development using the Unity engine, a 3D focused game engine that made creating 3D games very quick and easy, particularly prototypes. So Alec and his team went forward with developing the game in 3D, creating some awesome looking environment, and testing out game play ideas. What they slowly found was that, the physic platformer they had envisioned and were slowly exploring was very hard to implement within the Unity. Details were getting in the way. Even with eight people on the project and loads of content created, they were running into control and game play issues and design decisions were being made that did not really reflect what Alec wanted to make, not to mention the money.

So Alec shelved it, and started anew, going back to 2D. (continue reading…)

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