Another Awesomenauts – Making a game with a close friend

Another Awesomenauts Game Title

I haven’t had much chance to make games lately. Lots of leading design jams and student work, but not a project where we make a game and play it. A game we spend some time and energy on, where we try to realize a singular vision. Not in a while. But this last year, in my spare time on weekends and such, I found myself lucky enough to work on a new game. A couple weeks ago, we finished a 1.0 and ran it up the flagpole. It was exhilarating. It felt great to see it come to fruition and put it through its paces. I’d like to tell you a little about this project and where we might start to look for learning and games to come together in ways that can lead far.

My design partner’s name is Alex, he’s 5, and he’s my oldest son. Our game is called Another Awesomenauts.

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Prof. Terri Nelson’s Paris Occupé

Terri Nelson, a professor at California State at San Bernardino and long time ARIS user gave a close look at her ARIS game, Paris Occupy for a COERLL (Center for Open Resources for Educational Language Learning) webinar.

I saw her talk about her game at CALICO last May. I and every one else was on the edge of their seat for the whole hour. It’s a rare and special treat to hear someone talk in depth about their design from both the game maker and pedagogical points of view. You can learn a lot about the potentials of AR games, language learning, and also the triangulation of needs that can happen through the design of game-based learning environments.

It’s great talk and I’m really glad they recorded it and put it out there for us. It’s also a pretty deep game. She is one of very few people who have used the weight feature for example.

The Button – New AR Paradigms Using World Items and ARISjs

Giving an item to the world and to the player in ARIS

Giving an item to the world and to the player in ARIS

Over the summer, ARIS gained some new features that vastly expand the kinds of game that can be built with it. The uses of HTML, Javascript, and ARISjs to extend ARIS are just beginning to be explored; my previous tutorial about Leaderboards is just scratching the surface. Another addition to ARIS is world items. 

World items are items possessed by the game world, not a player. They can be used to define the state of the game world and have it respond to players. This makes ARIS far more capable as a multiplayer engine.

This post is an intro to world items: how they might be useful, how to use them, and the ARISjs you need along the way to get the most out of them. We will do this by looking at the design of a concrete example, The Button, an experimental game Jim Mathews put together for the recent ARIS Global Game Jam.

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ARIS Design Challenge – Greenland is Melting

Screenshot from the article. Looks like ARIS, no?

Today, the NYT has a web article about a scientific mission to Greenland. This is very fancy web design, something only the most headlined of articles receives. About halfway through reading it, I thought, “What if this was an ARIS game?”

Many of the visual techniques and visual sources are a good match to what ARIS can do (overhead satellite maps, on-site videos and images) and the techniques try to pull the audience into the story by giving them some feeling of control (zooming the satellite shot into the basecamp as the viewer scrolls the page). The bulk of the article itself puts you inside the trials and tribulations faced by the team trying to conduct research in such a far-off, extreme place—again a good match to the strengths of ARIS and a bit different approach than communicating the underlying scientific ideas or the consequences of ice melt on this scale. There was even a portion of the article where the image of the ice from the top looked just about exactly the way it would if you had done it in ARIS, faded and transparent blue circles around points of interest.

So how about it? Would anyone take me up soon the challenge of producing a version of this story in the medium of ARIS?

I think such an undertaking, and other similar translation style activities, could teach the author a few things about how storytelling in this medium might work and how it can be similar to and different from the fancy web format. I also wonder:

  • Is vicarious travel, tapping points on a map as opposed to more typical AR game design, worth undertaking? Is it compelling? Can it improve over handing someone Google maps as a set of points of interest and bring someone into the story?
  • What are the possible effects of placing someone in the story as opposed to telling them about someone else’s?
  • What choices do we make about what to tell and what to show? What do we hope someone gets out of being in the audience?
  • If a few people do this, how different are the results? To what extent do either the software or our perceptions of it determine how we try to tell stories with it?
  • What other game or game-like formats would be a good or different match for this task? e.g. how does ARIS compare to RPG Maker as a possible vehicle?

I’d be happy to hear from you if you try this design challenge or if this idea brings up any other questions.

Algorithmic AR – Part 2

In Algorithmic AR Part 1 I outlined the concept of Algorithmic AR and gave a brief tutorial on how Factories work in ARIS to make games based on place-based algorithms. The tutorial made use of an existing game Rupee Collector to illustrate those features.

In this follow up, I show some ideas for how to take Factories further through a couple other examples, one of which is an early game design assignment I give my students each year. There’s also a brief discussion about Algorithmic AR in the broader world, where we might begin to think of it as a general interactional paradigm through existing designs and the ones we learn to create.

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Early Thoughts on Ingress

Ingress Screenshot

I’ve known about Ingress since it first launched on Android. No surprise there, I’ve been in AR games since 2006. But I hadn’t really played until today. Why not? For a long time, it was Android only and that was a class of device I just didn’t have access to, but a while back (July 14, 2014 according to Wikipedia) an iOS version came out. But even though I was in a rush to download and try it, I found that the game confused me quite a bit. As a result, I didn’t push through until this week.

I teach classes about games, mobile games, AR, and the like, and one student found this game in the fall and really got a lot out of it. This semester she suggested we play as a class. She went to the trouble of putting together a very nice presentation to try and onboard us, and we went on our way. Of course, even this wasn’t enough—well, now that I’ve got little kids and too much email—but after a week and seeing other students catching on, I put off some of that office work to really give it a try this morning. I did indeed get somewhere, and even though I’d still say I’m not very far from being a total newb, I’d like to try and share those stepping stones in case you too are on that other side.

Crossing over, that is sticking with the game enough to get over the initial learning curve is worth it. The game is fun and has something to contribute to the evolution of AR gaming.

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Augmenting Reality With Sound

audio_waveform_003

Recently, I decided to document some older, informal work from the past couple of years so that it might live more broadly than in my memories and those of my closest collaborators (as too much of this work does). I sat down to write a brief overview of a game Jim Mathews and I have been playing around with on and off for a while, Soundscapes. I did that, but I also ended up thinking a lot about the topic of audio as an element of AR. Continue reading