Saturday, 29 November 2008

Fame & Fortune - The Basic Outline

Fame & Fortune was born from beer in a pub between four friends. Like all good ideas it was immediately forgotten about and left to incubate for a little while while reality exerted itself and I got on with other stuff. Things got hairy, some of us had children while others bided their time. The world moved on. Ideas were alpha-tested and kicked around to yield surprising results.

So let's state our aims here about the products:
  1. They must be easy to obtain.
    Distribution over the Internet is the obvious choice. Print-on-Demand services allows people to get a durable paper copy. Those who don't have the Internet will be able to obtain copies through the usual channels.

  2. They must be easy to enjoy.
    Presentation is vital - the product must be pleasant to look at and experience. Products must work 'out of the box' without difficulty. Product components need to be intuitive and enable clients to experience a state of being there, the ability to step up or the ability to express themselves within the setting of the product. Product use must be simple enough to accommodate basic mathematics & literacy while expressing concepts that permit sophisticated use.

  3. They must be re-usable and have longevity.
    A lot of products have currently high-turnover rates and planned obsolescence. Some are a product of their time. Some products seem to only be usable once and then re-used with significantly less impact. The ability to draw product components into other instances of use is desirable.

  4. They must mesh cohesively.
    If you invest in a product, it must mesh with other products. Product obsolescence is not desirable and to continually upgrade your product with no incentive to particularly do so leaves a bad taste in client's mouths, particularly if they have previous products which offered the capacity but which failed to deliver.
Some more design precepts around the games coming soon...

Monday, 24 November 2008

alternate reality games

The concept of alternative reality games has been kicking around since 1996 but in the last couple of years has considerably grown beyond the promotional media we all know and love from people like NIN, Lost and Microsoft.

This interview with Dr. Jane McGonigal (founder of Avantgame) explains how some of the more socially-ambitous effects of ARGs can be explored (an example is Superstruct). Give the lady a couple of points at if this rings any bells for you.

The construction of a story with social capital via gaining 'useful' information or media resonates deep within people. Whether it's the gamer looking for Easter Eggs, that schweet bit of merch or sneak preview of something larger, the social use of ARGs as described by Dr. McGonigal promises a few more twists on a familiar story.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

the black rider

This play was written by Tom Waits, Robert Wilson and William S. Burroughs which tells the tragic tale of Wilhelm, an inept German clerk who cuts a Faustian deal with Pegleg (a.k.a Mephistopheles) to get magic bullets which never miss in order to impress his belle, the daughter of a huntsman insistant his offspring is never marrying a bad shot.

Pegleg warns that one of the bullets will be under his control. Being naive, the clerk accepts and it's not until his wedding day that the twist is revealed as the last bullet is fired and his beloved is killed by it. Wilhelm goes mad and joins the Devil's Carnival as another performer and victim of superior cunning.

Waits also brought out an album of the same name, full of organ music, brass and and strings which makes a wonderfully creaky, menacing soundtrack for broken-down fairgrounds and backwater American towns.

The story hinges on the willingness to take the easy way out when confronted with their weaknesses to get what they desire; in itself a situation which can fuel a number of stories. The Faustian deal is also a core element and while it's a hoary part of legendry, it's supernatural overtures can be played up or down as needed.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Mindmapping & Wikis in Web 2.0 and offline

The following is a set of tools which may prove useful. I've included offline open source alternatives because you may be away from the Internet sometimes and want to write something up.

Mind Mapping - Exposition on the link. The following may be of note: - Self-organising, laden with features and easy to share.
gliffy - Multi-functional, allows collaboration.
text2mindmap - Allows you to convert a hierarchical list into a mind map. For quick conversions and simple outputs.

Offline: Freemind is a nice open-source tool which creates quick exportable mindmaps.

Wikis - If you don't know what a wiki is then click the link. The following tools may intrigue you:
netcipia - A multi-layered content management system with wiki pages, work areas (spaces) and RSS & PDF output.
pbwiki - Quick to learn, secure and spacious. - Eminently customisable.

Offline: TiddlyWiki. Very fast to set up, self-contained and intuitive. Internet Explorer users may prefer Wiki On A Stick.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

conflict webs and three features

Here's the pitch. You have an interesting location - you have a vague idea of what kind of people are going to be there. Now what? People in that location have to be more than just abstracts but they need to be distinctive, easy to understand without being cliche and there has to be enough but not too many...

The conflict web (hat tip to Chris Chinn) creates one or more conflicts between three to twelve individuals or groups. Each side of a conflict needs to be given a primary character and if appropriate two or more supporters to represent a distinct aspect of the primary character's point of view. Leaders and supporters need to have relationships with each other (usually positive or with a motive that forces support) as do conflicting parties (usually antagonistic).

Now, each of those characters or groups needs a little something to make them distinctive. Since three is the magic number let's give them three distinctive sensory features (pausing only to hat tip Jared Sorenson) and that should provide some fuel for whatever inspiration will follow. So let's say for example the leader of the first faction is Brazilian, wears a white fedora hat and has a tribal dolphin tattoo on his neck.

Rinse and repeat for your other individuals or groups.

Most mind mapping tools work good with this - not only can you place relationships between individuals but you can also annotate them as well. Their position in the conflict web and the distinctive features reveal relationships, implying history and background stories. Does our Brazilian leader practice macumba or does he just like wearing white hats and playing the mysterious stranger?

In any event, conflict and characters must be of interest to the protagonists be it as part of a scene or if they may support a side in the conflict. Flesh this out as little or as much as you need.
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