Saturday, February 25, 2006

Winter in Stockholm

I’m an office-nomad. I’m spending the winter in Stockholm, in the days I go to the Interactive Institute by Karlaplan where I have a desk and nice people around me to have coffee and occasionally go to lunch with. I travel to Visby a week a month till I go back there fulltime in April.

My desk at the Interactive Institue in Stockholm

I have been to Visby twice during the winter. In January Craig held our PhD seminar, where he went back over the years to the publications that came out when we still were in the Zero Game studio. It is interesting to now, a few years later, see what caught on from that time and what didn’t. I did a google search on the main terms from the paper “The Game Play Gestalt, Narrative and Interactive Storytelling from 2002. The term“First Person Actor” didn’t catch on at all, while the “Game Play Gestalt” seem to have been useful for many people.

The second time in visby was last week when it was my turn to hold the seminar. I presented the work I did last autumn when I was at Gatech and a new idea for implementation that I’m still evaluating.

PhD Seminar 17th Feb 2006, HGO

We also talked about our abstracts for the Role Playing seminar in Tampere. Mattias is writing a paper named “Brainwashing is Fun! A theoretical Approach to How Role-Playing Can Work for Advertising, Propaganda and Educational Purposes”, and Jenny and I are working on “Projective Characterisation Aided by Natural Language Applications in Computer Mediated Role Playing Games”.
I must have had hubris when I wrote the abstracts for that seminar. I also sent in one on the subject “How Reward Systems in Multiplayer RPGs Affect the Game Experience and the Progress of the Character”, where I, in the abstract, outline a quite large study including analysis of rule systems and interviews with players. I have no idea how on earth I thought I would have time to do that too in the midst everything else. Yesterday I wrote to Marcus and Petri with sorrow in my heart to tell them I won’t make it. I remember though that I felt very happy while writing that abstract so I hope can get time to do that study soon, but maybe for another venue.

I also held a seminar at the Interactive Institute the 26th of January. It was really nice, It was Oscar Juhlin’s suggestion. He leads the mobility studio, and as a group they have a nice tradition of seminars. We called it “The Player’s journey - The conditions for character and identity development in massively multi player role-playing games”. I got some useful feedback, so I hope I get the opportunity to do it again some time.

A few days before that the Swedish foundation for strategic research hosted an event about how to commercialize Swedish game research at the Wasa Museum. The subject for the evening was a bit strange since we are not that many who actually do game research, plus that there is not much consensus about what game research really is. Many of us started the dinner discussions from that stance … and the food was great and the company too. I’m impressed by the way the organizers did the social engineering that evening: It was divided into cocktail like conversation situations and two moderated dinner session where everyone switched company. If the aim was to broaden contact surfaces of an emerging network it was certainly successful.

2006_01_24_commercialise_game_research_event 027

But what am I actually doing… I guess I could divide this winter’s work into categories; implementing the Mind Module, writing papers and reports and doing teaching stuff for HGO.
The implementation of the Mind Module is still the work that to me is most fun and immersive. I have made a variety of it into a DLL to make a demonstrator for how sound and music can be used to express the mental state of a character. I’m working on this with Mikael Friedfalk and Rik Niewdorp. Mike does the game programming and the integration with the music. He is not only a teacher and PhD in computing science but also a musician and composer himself, and has deep knowledge in applications for adptive music. Rik is a composer who lives in Holland, and he has spent the winter coming up with music (midi) that can sound good through the whole matrix of possible variations in the mind states. If all goes well we will have our demo done in a few days. Touched by fate I ran into the guy who inspired me to this thing in the first place a couple of years ago, Johnny Wingstedt. He still hangs around at the Interactive Institute so it will be fun to show him the demo and see what he says.

Now when I have had the blessing to be able just program for a while I realized I should try to publish a little, so I have started to plan a few papers, aiming for ACE in Hollywood in June and maybe for DIME that will be in Bangkok on October.

Elina Koivisto is now writing up a report about the testing of the prototype we made in frame of the IPERG project, the Garden of Earthly Delights. I went through my old documents and did a few reports too for inclusion and found myself a bit melancholic. It’s such a shame we couldn’t continue working on it. The platform that Alain Becam and they guys at Daydream was stable enough to work with, and we had done enough tests to know what game play features to implement and had clues about how. It’s not everyday one is told to scrap a functioning massively multiplayer platform with a cell-to-cell coupling to a real world geography with implemented cellphone and PC clients. Oh well. No point crying over already spilled milk as we say in Sweden. (ok I can’t help it: damn!)

What more… my institution duties. This year I’m responsible for the course that will result in the exam works of the students who graduates from the game development program.

… and these papers that I’m planning made me realize I had to write a new skeleton for my thesis. I did that, which was the start of a new relationship: Do I love or hate LaTeX? Time will tell. Anyway, it was good to update it since it’s easier to see whether an idea for an abstract is really relevant for the thesis.

Miredam and Immi in the Barrens

Almost the whole last year I made a huge effort to not get sucked into MMOGs since I can only be obsessed with a few things at once – I needed to clear headspace for programming. But then I couldn’t resist going back to WoW when I was invited to a European researchers guild: the Truants. Have a look at wowresearch.blogspot.com .
It’s good to be back. I missed playing much more than allowed myself to feel.