Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Only Reality That Matters

In an early version of Codex Bash, one of the puzzles - the one involving paper circuit diagrams - was different.

Recent players will have rummaged through laminated sheets strewn around the room and, I hope, will have tripped over a few before they got to the puzzle where they had to use them. But in the first version of the puzzle these circuit diagrams were all in the one booklet, pictured below. Hardly anyone could solve the puzzle without being told what to do.

I changed the user interface over and over. At one the point where the screen would show a picture of the schematics booklet, and the booklet itself would be in clear view right next to the screen. Yet players would still stare at the screen for ages trying to make sense of it. They would look directly at the booklet and stare back at the screen again, without laying a finger on the booklet itself.

I needed to work out what was going on.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

A MAZE 2016 talk - Inspiring Inventive Play with Social Installations

In April I was invited to demo Codex Bash at the A MAZE Festival in Berlin, where it had been selected as one of 20 nominees for the A MAZE awards. I was also fortunate enough to be invited to give a talk at the event!

My talk was titled Inspiring Inventive Play with Social Installations, and looks back at the things I've learnt from working on Go! Power Team!, Codex Bash and Tap Happy Sabotage. In particular, how the games use the physical space to encourage players to play creatively, putting their own unique stamp on the experience.

The full playlist of talks from the event is linked here, and there were some real standout talks at the event that made a big impact on me. In particular was Llaura Dreamfeel's talk, where she talked about engaging with media outside games in order to find your unique voice. It's definitely worth watching!

Monday, 25 July 2016

Installation Games at the Bristol Improv Theatre

On 1st July I was invited to demo my games at the Bristol Improv Theatre, known locally as the BIT. The demo was part of the theatre's monthly jam night, where the audience get up to perform improvised scenes for each other. Given the comedic and performative aspects of my recent work, it was a very good fit!

Go! Power Team!

The first game to be demoed was Go! Power Team! which I first ran at the JOIN Local Multiplayer festival in Berlin last year. For the uninitiated, four players take the role of "Rangers," each of them wearing a dedicated power-belt (a modified Android tablet connected to the main computer over WiFi). One player is selected from the crowd to the the "defender of the galaxy," tasked with fighting off monsters by pressing the coloured power-belts in the right order.

Every time a new monster appears the rangers are given a new command by the computer, which will tell them to lie on the floor, form a conga line, or hi-five the audience, among other things.

The idea is that the rangers are not on the side of the player, nor working against them, but acting of their own accord. Typically the rangers themselves will focus on performing, to make the audience laugh or to one-up each other with their outrageous interpretations of the commands. This is one of the benefits of keeping the rules of a game loosely-defined!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Codex Bash Nominated for A MAZE Awards 2016

This is something I'm very excited about! Codex Bash has been nominated for the A MAZE Awards and will be on display at A MAZE 2016 in Berlin, from 20-23 April.

I'll also be giving a talk during the event, titled Inspiring Inventive Play with Social Installations. In the talk I'll be going through the motivations, design lessons and observations that have shaped my recent work with playable installations. In it I'll be talking about what creating Tap Happy Sabotage, Dash & Bash, Go! Button Power Team! and Codex Bash itself have taught me about getting people to communicate and play creatively.

Photo copyright Wellcome Collection, 2015
Incidentally, Codex Bash was the first festival I road-tested Codex Bash at, as part of the Open Screens. So being able to present it as part of the official selection feels very special indeed!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Codex Bash featured on BBC Click

Last weekend BBC Click ran a segment on indie games with physical components. I was interviewed  alongside George Buckenham, demonstrating Fabulous Beasts, and Robin Baumgarten, creator of Line Wobbler.

The segment begins at 17:30

It's really exciting to see my game being played on the BBC, and I'm glad I got to make my voice heard about where I feel the magic of multiplayer installations is: giving players a blank canvas and asking them to come up with their own solutions to unseen problems.

Incidentally, Fabulous Beasts and Line Wobbler also won awards at IndieCade 2015 - looks like the custom hardware scene is piquing people's interest!

Friday, 12 February 2016

Codex Bash wins Media Choice at IndieCade

It's been a little wide since winning this prize and documenting it here on the blog, but Codex Bash had a really successful exhibition at IndieCade in LA in October. So much so, in fact, that it won the Media Choice award at the event!

The full list of winners from IndieCade 2025 is on the IndieCade website, where fellow hardware-based games Fabulous Beasts and Line Wobbler also took home awards.

Here I am at the prizegiving at the end of the festival, with some of my indie friends from the week! Robin Baumgarten of Line Wobbler fame, Jeff Lait - creator of Seven Day Band, Matt Tropiano -developer of Adventures of Square, and Mads and Jonas from Glitchnap - the developers of Sentree.

And here's the trophy itself. All the trophies from IndieCade are individually made from reclaimed computer and mechanical parts. So they're all unique! I'm really happy to receive it and it really did make a nice end to a very exciting week in LA.

Here's an interview I did at the event, which should give you a little feel for what it was like at IndieCade, the story behind the game, and my inspirations during its development.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Codex Bash Nominated for IndieCade 2015

Some very exciting news! Codex Bash has been selected as a finalist in IndieCade 2015. I'll be flying out to Culver City, Los Angeles, to demo the game during the expo, on October 23rd - 25th.

If you're going to IndieCade please do swing by and try out the game!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

GDC Europe - Design Lessons from Multiplayer Installations

This August I gave a talk at GDC Europe, about the many lessons I've learned from building multiplayer installation games (such as Codex Bash, Dash & Bash and Tap Happy Sabotage)

The talk is now up on the GDC Vault, so please do give it a watch, and I hope you enjoy it!

Click here to watch the talk!

Independent developer, Alistair Aitcheson, builds quirky multiplayer experiences about physical contact and social interaction. These include 52 player games for giant touchscreens, one of the first installations for the UK's National Videogame Arcade, and a wireless button kit to run physically active games in any environment. 

In this session the developer will share what physical spaces can teach us about game design and player experience. He'll explore what unconventional interfaces tell us about how players embody themselves within UI. He'll share techniques for creating pace and surprise, expressive play, and unique stories for players to bring home with them.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Enter the Button Power Team!

Earlier this month I was in Germany, for the JOIN Local Multiplayer Summit in Berlin, and then to speak at the Independent Games Summit at GDC Europe.

JOIN gave me a fantastic opportunity to demo my latest game. Building on how my recent work has merged game and installation, this one lies very much between game and performance.

Currently titled Go! Button Power Team! it builds on the wireless button tech I'm developing for Codex Bash, by attaching the buttons to human bodies. Not only this, but these human bodies are dressed in matching morphsuits, and become the incredible Button Rangers!

The video video below was taken by one of the visitors to the event. Take a look to see it in action!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Experimental Game: DIY Brain Surgeon

Back in December I was at iGam4er in Paris, a conference and game jam for games in education and research. I took part in the jam, where I joined forces with developers Remi Leblanc and Dox Vico to create DIY Brain Surgeon. Footage showing the game in action with commentary are below.

The game was developed to make use of muscle stimulation hardware developed by Pedro Lopes. The player connects two electrodes to their arms, which cause involuntary motion in your arm. So if you attach it to specific muscles you can cause particular parts of your hand and arm to move. The technology allows the intensity of the current in your arm to be controlled by the computer.

It was designed to replicate force feedback on devices such as smartphones, but when we were playing around with the kit we loved the sensation of trying to resist the involuntary muscle movement. There's something about that that really makes you aware of how your brain and body work.

In the game you're moving around a laser pointing at your own head, controlled by the mouse. Your aim is to zap the tumours without zapping the fleshy good stuff! But if the laser cuts through a nerve you get an electrical impulse to the arm which needs to be resisted if you want to avoid hitting fleshy good stuff!

Because we wanted the game to be about overcoming involuntary muscle motion we made sure the nerves appeared along your path to the tumours, rather than being something that needed to be avoided. It was counter-intuitive, but worked well as a way to focus attention on overcoming unusual sensations, rather than a way to test manual dexterity.