Blog Archive

Sunday, December 14, 2008

ACE08 Highlights of day 2

The highlights for me on the second day of ACE were in the technology track in the afternoon:

Aaron Lewisohn presented his system BeatBender and showed how it could generate rhythms. The application for trying out different rule sets for the rhythm generation seemed very tempting to play with. In the QA I asked whether he thought it would be feasible to use it in another system. It would be interesting to give the BeatBender real-time data from WoM and the MM and see what rule sets could be used to help out representing states of mind. (Would also be interesting to see how the principle of subsumption architecture meets the spreading activation network. I mean as a mental picture. Different node types could be connected to different hierarchical levels to the subsumption stuff, maybe according to decay rate.)

The second highlight for me was from Philippe Pasquier who, just as Aaron Lewisohn is from Simon Frasier University, presented “Shadow Agent”. The user stands in a room and puts her feet on the feet of the shadow. The movement of the user is assessed. The shadow follows the user, as shadows do, but starts to act independently, using a BDI style decision about what to do. A plan is chosen from a database.
Semi Autonomous Avatar in extremis!
Shadow Agent: BDI + plan selections

Other presentations I enjoyed that day was Peggy Weil’s and Nonny de la Peña’s “Avatar Mediated Cinema”, Bill Kapralos “: Dimensionality Reduced HRTFs: A Comparative Study” and Sittapong Settapat’s and Michiko Ohkura’s “An Alpha-Activity-Based Binaural Beat Sound Entrainment System using Arousal State Model”. I want to play with bineural beat sounds too!

Brain Wave Entertainment

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

ACE08 - Entertainment in Dining

Chief manager Shuntaro Yamazaki (NEC Central Research Laboratory) showed in his keynote “Information and Communication Technologies for Food and Entertainment “an application that can be used as a social icebreaker at large social gatherings, “Active Avatar”.
Entertainment in Dining - Keynote at ACE 2008
People can, instead of shyly shuffling around in corners, get an idea of another person’s hobbies and other data, which will make it easier to start off a conversation. (Each attendee has a location tag containing personalized data) Seeing the presentation I also think that the cheers joy of being able to explore such a system together would me a major icebreaker in itself.

Shuntaro Yamazaki also showed the words first sommelier robot. It can look at foods such as wine and cheese and give information about what it is and what kinds of nutrients it contains. (It looks at the texture and color etc.) The robot itself looked familiar to me. I think I saw it at ACE 2006 in Hollywood, so I’m going through through my pictures from that event. Ah yes! The child caring robot NEC showed! It was definitely lovable!
Entertainment in Dining - Keynote at ACE 2008 The sweetest robot ever

Before going to dinner we got a demonstration of how food samples are made by Kousei Kitayama (Iwasaki Co., Ltd).
. You know the ones that are shown outside restaurants in Japan and are so practical since one as a non-Japanese speaker can point at them and know exactly what to get! I have been wondering for a long time how they are done, and it is quite a craft. Here are pictures of how to make lettuce. It is all plastic, and the temperature has to be exact.

How to make food samples for display
Lettuce, making a food sample IMG_7172

ACE08 Human Entrained Embodied Interaction and Communication

The first day of the Advances of Computer Entertainment 2008 Conference in Yokohama was dedicated to keynotes and to a dinner so we attendees got a chance to socialize a little.

Keynote by professor Tomio Watanabe - Human Entrained embodied interaction

Professor Tomio Watanabe (Okayama Prefectural University) gave in his keynote Human-Entrained Embodied Interaction and Communication Technology an exposé of a number of interesting projects. Several of them took a stance from body languange, and particularly the act of nodding in agreement.
Nodding dolls were placed in different environments in order to make the person performing a communication act feel more secure. Nodding dolls were placed among students in a class, and in studios where a radio DJ could get some approving body language around her in an environment where she otherwise talks in the void. In another example nodding sunflowers were projected in the back of a classroom for to support a teacher… and also small nodding artificial flowers are produced, these now being available in toy stores all around Japan (I saw them in shops the day before I left Japan). Also a chair was tried out that rock in a way that makes the person sitting in it not being able to help nodding. The rhythm of these nods is steered by sound input according to speech patterns. The project I could see an immediate use for was InterChat where the rhythm of a persons typing governs the body language of the avatar. I’d love to try that out.
I was picturing how it would be to have a little group of dolls in the classroom when I lecture… I wonder how the students would feel about that… I think we might feel a bit silly all of us, but it could be fun!

IMG_7102 Interaction Model InterRobot

Professor Watanabe could show that people in an environment where the group are enthusiastic are more susceptible to the message being propagated. Which made me associate to the course I took many years ago in social psychology were I learned how easily manipulated we humans are. I’m not sure Watanabe's tests made differences in opinion change versus how much knowledge was soaked up with and without nodding dolls, but that could be interesting to learn.
I was impressed by the range of experiments that had been conducted on the nodding gesture. Way to go!
This is a link to the pictures of the slides I took while listening.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Poetic Principle

I have been thinking. During trans Atlantic flights there is time for that. I just came home from Project Horseshoe in Texas, and being there led me to emphasize some thoughts to the point of this text being written, right now.
I remember when I was sitting by the harbor in Savannah in the autumn of 2005 and a big ship passed by. I felt an instant identification. That is me. I have done like that. I set out a course and I follow it, slowly, steadily. Since 1995 I have been exploring how syntax of program code can be used for story construction. I still do it. I don’t know if I am any closer to an answer, but the course is set. In the end of this year I will be done with my thesis. I might consider a change of course then. Maybe not. Time will tell.
An effect of this has been that I have been using this course as a support when I have made choices, big and small. Other principles, or foundations for choices, have not been as important. I can feel a loss.
So the past months I have been adding an approach. In my thoughts I call it “the poetic principle”. I don’t mean poetry in terms of artifacts of text, but rather in terms the deep meaning that is created by good poetry, high symbolism which is at the same time personal and general. A poetic action, choice, or non-choice, or just the appreciation of a situation is different for all of us.
For me, to add this principle, is to appreciate each situation in poetic terms. To see the absurdity, the unexpected beauty, the quirkiness and the nuances. I ask myself “which is the most poetic choice of action?”.
This approach has not brought any dramatic changes to my actions, nor has it been visible. But it has had a profound effect on the inside. I can’t say that I am dramatically happier, but I feel more like myself. I am having invisible fun, most of the time.

FuturePlay 2008

November 3 – 5, Toronto, Canada.
FuturePlay is a yearly conference focusing on game design and technology, held in Canada.

I had the chance to go this year to present work I have done with Mike Sellers: we have both worked on agent based architectures for characters in multiplayer games. Doing so we have looked at what we can learn about the human mind from the deconstruction of it done in psychology and related areas. From this we need to reconstruct it in ways that are functional for targeted contexts and thus need to choose what theories to use, and how to use them. Both Mike and I use the five factor personality model as a base for agent personality, but when it comes to motivations and emotions our approaches differ. Nevertheless we have both ended up with uncanningly similar solutions for how to represent the mood of the player, which in both our systems serve to give players an overall idea about the emotional state of a character. In psychology little is written about mood. I think it is because it is such an aggregation of many states, and when one studies something we usually break it down to smaller parts in order to understand it. Both Mike and I have picked smaller parts and used that to build a representation of an overall state, and if you will, it is our approaches of how to interpret the human mind, as well as we can, with what we currently know. In our paper we compare our systems, focusing on the “tip of the iceberg”, i.e., the mood. I’ll throw up the presentation somewhere once I have cleaned it up a little.

FuturePlay 2008 was a very good conference. The standard of the publications and the presentations was high, and the keynotes were well chosen, giving us perspectives on the field that complemented each other nicely.
Here is a pointer to the schedule.


I especially appreciated the keynote by John Buchanan, where he showed a sketching method and software and pointed out the important difference between this and prototyping. Sketches are supposed to be thrown out. They cannot be continued on, the code improved to be used in the game. This gives freedom of thought and experimentation. This gives a sketch of the INTERACTION. I will download the software and try it out as soon as I can find it.
Here are my photographs from his speech, and some small videos of the demo (v1, v2, v3,v4).

John Buchanan Keynote Sketching

The other highlight for me was the speeches by Anders Tychsen (who has now changed his family name to Drachen). His speech at DiGRA last year in Tokyo was one of the highlights for me there, and this time he delivered no less than three papers: A feast of empirical data! ("Motivations for Play in Computer Role-Playing Games",
"Defining Personas in Games Using Metrics", "Game Format Effects on Communication in Multi-Player Games")

Ander's 2nd speech: persona and metrics

Not only are the conclusions possible to derive from the data useful, it is also very interesting to see the methodologies Anders applies, especially the hierarchical coding schemes and the protocol analysis.
Here is a mix of photos from his speeches.

Another paper that I will look closer at is “Using Conflict Theory to Model Complex Societal Interactions” presented by Ben Medler from Georgia Tech. I hope that can be able to use it for help as I continue modeling the affective actions and the spell system in WoM. (More about this in upcoming notes from Project Horseshoe)

conflict theory speech

While the work by Anders Drachen/Tychsen, John Buchanan and Ben Medler were immediately relevant to my own work, I also appreciated the work presented by José Zagal at DePaul and by Clara Fernandéz-Vara at MIT.

Jose argued in “A Framework for Games Literacy and Understanding Games” that understanding games requires the use of perspectives from different contexts, such as in human culture, other games, technological platforms and by deconstructing and understanding their components and how these facilitate experiences for the players.
Here are my photos of his slides.

José P Zagal at FuturePlay 2008

Clara shared in “The Game Studies Practicum: Applying Situated Learning to Teach Professional Practices” experiences from an eight week summer course where students produce game prototypes using SCRUM, and in each prototype explore a question given to them by resident researchers at MIT (“product owners”). Here are my photos of her slides.

clara fernandez-vara

Despite the jetlag I managed to stay awake every now and then not only to listen to the speeches, but also to do some socializing. A bunch of us found an amazing game store, the “hairy tarantula” where José helped me pick out some RP books. I was after Wraith: The Oblivion, which I can’t find in my shelf anymore, and I didn’t find it but…let’s just say that my suitcase became very heavy :)
Anders in the gameshop closest to Delta Chelsea hairy tarantula
hairy tarantula
hairy tarantula

Monday, September 15, 2008

Books to keep close

Books to keep close
Originally uploaded by mimmi
While packing up in Santa Cruz, before returning to Sweden, I had to decide which ones to ship and which ones I to take on the flight. These ones I decided i needed to keep close.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

LaTeX packages for PhD theses

I have been looking at LaTeX packages for PhD theses, most closely at the Dalhousie package, the Stanford package, and the UCLA package.
Dalhousie and Stanford uses the "plain" bibliography style, which means that references in text are as short as possible as[1]. For such a long text as a PhD thesis it would force the reader to have to continuously search the Bibliography in the end. The UCLA packages givesMore... another type of abbreviation in text, like [Bar03], ie taking the first three letters of the author name and the year of publication.
I prefer the Chicago style, often used in humanities which gives (Bartle, 2003). This can be accomplished by using another bibliography style such as "authordate". In order for this to work one need to let the LaTeX printer have access to the appropriate .bst file, for example authordate1.bst.
If one sticks with using 'authordate' and want to be able to in some cases print out both the name and the year (Bartle, 2003) and in other cases only print the year (2003) one also need to let the system access the style file "authordate1-4.sty".
After some experimenting with the packages the following additions to the main file thesis.tex in the Dalhousie package gave me the functionality is sought:

In the beginning of the file, where packages are imported, add:

and in the end, before you refer to your library file, add:

Useful resources:

Examples of bibliography styles

authordate package at CTAN

dalthesis -- Dalhousie University Thesis Document Class

Stanford University latex thesis style file

The UCLA Thesis Style for LaTeX

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Blogging with MS OneNote

Using OneNote for blogging is possible for those that have server space with WebDAV functionality... More...

I use the software OneNote from Microsoft a lot when i work. It has features for documenting what one does in a really nice integrated way. It is useful to remember processes with many steps, where the first time one tries there are a lot of trial and error. Keeping track of the errors is... well since i have the memory of a goldfish: next time i do something I don't need to repeat the errors. I take a massive amount of screen dumps in sequences, so i don't need to write everything down. This way I can keep up the work flow but still be documenting.

OneNote 2007 has this interesting little featur "Blog this". Choosing this option for a onenote page brings up the same page in Word 2007, and it is possible to, with a few simple steps publish it. It works perfectly fine for text, but not so well for pictures.
One need to specify a location (called Image Provider -> Own Server) where the image files can be uploaded to.
It does not work to use Flickr. The Flickr help forums have several posts where users try to work out how to do it, but no solution is posted.
It does not work to specify an account on any FTP server either.
Turns out one need to have access to space on a server that uses WebDAV.

Microsofts pretty unhelpful support page
Brandon Siegl's post explaining why it is rare someone manages to get it to work.

Roll out... Roll back... Roll out (repeat)

After 30 - 40 hours of rolling out, rolling back, rolling out, rolling back (repeat) different versions of Torque MMOkit (version 0.0.3 SP, 1.3 SP, 1.5.2 SP) and searching the forums for undocumented todo's and trying them one by one.... and for each change, recompile world, update server database, build new client, restart servers, try client locally, try client remotely.... I finally got an empty world running and could log on several simultaneous characters. (v.1.3)... More...

I have been working with a local server so far, and felt that if i don't have hands-on proof that i can run it as multi player i can't really relax. Now I can relax. About this particular thing. (after this I had to enter single player Civilization IV trance, the ultimate security blanket)

Single Sentiment - Sorrow

For the the guided paper prototype play i conducted some of the design for World of Minds, i used paintings by Bosch as inspiration when i made the single sentiment mobs. Here is an example:

it was relaxing to draw these mobs, as a break from designing game mechanics and worrying about coding them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gotland Game Awards 2008

Gotland Game Awards is a yearly event where the game students at Gotland University present and exhibit the games they have produced during the year. The games are evaluated by an invited jury where the majority with members from various game production companies (this year from Starbreeze, Streamline, PixelTamer, Avalanche, Deadline Games, 3 Lives Left, JadeStone, Funcom, TripWire, Avaloop, Crytek). The winners get fame/money/stuff/travels/thing-to-put-in-shelf.

The competing games:

The cornerstone of GGA is to focus the attention on the work of the students. Ie, instead of the students listening and learning they get a highly competent jury who focuses on the students work, creating a space for discussion that pointedly is about learning from the specific (the produced game) rather than from abstract principles.


The first day of GGA the students presented their games for the audience, in 10 – 20 minutes time slots.

A presenter
An audience

Link to more pictures of presentations.
The second day of GGA was playtime. The games were exhibited in the new congress center.

A game being played


Link to more pictures from the game show

In the evening: Awards Ceremony.

Don Geyer initiating Gotland Game Awards Ceremony

In the night: Celebration!

But I was too busy celebrating for taking pictures. Needless to say I had a blast during the whole event. Having been at USCS in California for most part of the previous year it was such a joy to visit and meet all the ones I missed, and to get this warm glowing feeling of pride seeing the work of the students (not that I can claim any of that pride whatsoever, but I can’t deny having that glowing feeling).

Link the 261 the photographs I took during GGALinks to other blogs about GGA:

Ernest Adams: post on The Designer’s Notebook

Gorm Lai: post on I love it, I feel like Sisyphus

Jasmine Ortbandt: post on Jasmine O’s Webworld

Tobias Lundmark: photos at Through the Looking Glass

The Winners


The Red Cross Antidiscrimination Bureau Sponsored prize:

The Award for for Human Rights and Antidiscrimination

2 winners: Monks of Sangrrael & Insats Afrika



The Almedalen Library Award

winners: Fairytale



JADE Project Award

winners: Fairytale



Best Presentation

winners: In Other Words



Best Serious Game

winners: Gamerider



Best CG Animation - Theme Park

winners: In Harmony with Nature



Best CG Animation - Commercial

winners: Wacom in Motion



Best Cinematic - Open and Invitational

winners: Perfekt



Alumni of the Year Award

winner: Anders Ekermo



Best Arcade Game - Theme Park

winners: Deep Ocean



Best Game - Big Game Project

winners: Planetaria



Best Game - Open and Invitational

winners: Dark Room



Best at show all catagories

winners: Vertigo

Thursday, June 05, 2008

GGA08 preparations

Gotland Game Awards starts tomorrow! An intense week for the HGO game department: students and faculty in full crunch!

GGA08 Poster

gga preparations

Nicklas, our guide in the crypt of crunch

Susan Gold visiting students in crunch

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

IPIP NEO you say?

IPIP NEO you say?
Originally uploaded by mimmi
Soon I will ask for test subjects in the lab.

There is a number of stages in the implementation that i need to paper prototype. Wizard of Oz, here i come.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

GDC 2008 Diary Day 5 (friday)

On the last and fifth day of GDC my energy started to run out, but i managed to bounce up early enough to get to

Designing Conflict Resolution without Combat
Gordon Walton
Designing Conflict Resolution without Combat
...and to:
Hitting the Jackpot in the MMO Game Space
Allen Partridge
Hitting the Jackpot in the MMO Game Space Allen Partridge

... but didn't really wake up until
Defeating Designer's Block, Tools to Boost Creative Output – Part 2: Putting the ideas into Practice
Graeme Ankers
This was an excellent session. My notes won't do it justice so i recommend downloading their presentation when it comes online. I photographed some slides for my own memory.


At 12.00 I faced the difficult decision of either going to listen to rants, or to go listen to what Damien Shubert had to say about writing game design documents. In the end i figured that the rant would probably be live blogged anyway so I could read what was said later, and I really wanted to hear Shubert. I heard a speech by him at the Austin game conference in 2005 with was excellent (about what VW designers can learn from casinos) so i found myself hobbling towards west 2001.

Writing Great Design Documents

Damion Schubert
I was not disappointed, Shubert's speech was practical, down to earth, and very sensible. A lot of it may seem like common sense and "hey I already knew that" but how come not all GDDs are prefect then? Shubert has been kind enough to share his slides here.

Damion Schubert

Regarding the rants, Liz Lawley posted extensive notes about the rant on Terranova! Thanks for that!

After a very quick lunch (picking out the meat from one of them lunch boxes) I tried to hurry off to the hotel for a power nap. I wasn't sure if my throat was sore from speaking in loud environments or if i had a flue coming (it was a flue). But I ran into Victor, also tired, and we came to the rational conclusion that one might never rise from a nap, and that a screwdriver contains c-vitamins.
Victor and me

Next i had a meeting with the company HumanNature and the team behind a gorgeous personality test game for the DS. I fell in love. So instead of listening to Raph Koster's speech about Meta Place (again trusting in Koster's own documentation to be available later) i just played and played and asked and asked.
Team behind personality game for DS

The AI Dinner in the evening was very enjoyable. I both got to talk to people I wanted to speak to and to people I there and then realized i wanted to have conversations with.
AI Dinner

Later on I joined a bunch of people who knew how to end the conference in style:
by playing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

GDC 2008 Diary Afternoon Day4 (Thursday)

On my way to lunch I ran in to Olivier Lejade who agreed with me on the lameness of the Future of MMO panel, but who said that Chris Hecker's speech on Structure vs Style had been fantastic. I missed out on that - Michael Mateas had also recommended Hecker's speech. That will be the first one I check out when all the slides are put online next week.

For lunch i was in for a historic moment. Michael Mateas and Mike Sellers are on my top-two list of the most intelligent persons in the world who not only in thought focus on the most interesting topics in there world but also hands on build things that will be crucial for the future of mediated experiences. There you have it, and I'm not exaggerating.
Mike Sellers and Michael Mateas

As i was about to scoot off to the next session on my list i gave Elina Ollila a call to see how she was doing with her flue. Not too well, so i went to buy some thai food for her. She had been too sick to deliver her keynote for the mobile track on Tuesday and had missed out on the whole conference. That should not be allowed to happen!
Elina with flue
Here Elina is showing the video parts of her presentations that wouldn't port over to my computer. Everything i know about user testing i have learned from her in some way or another, and i continue to learn from her work. She my guru!

Next I went to the AI roundtable
Artificial Intelligence in Computer Games (Day2)
Neil Kirby and Steve Rabin
which was so popular it had flowed over to a second room.
Topics that were thouched upon:
  • gesture recognition
  • NPL
  • reasoning under uncertainty
  • reputation systems
  • middleware (if any uses them)
  • LOD
  • Emotion
  • Multiagent coop such as squad behavior (Fear was mentioned)
  • game theory economics
  • storytelling <---> simulation

ai roundtable

Dinner gave me the chance to catch up properly with Sam Lewis who I haven't met since ACE06 in Hollywood.
sam lewis
Sam was kind enough to accompany me to the speaker's party - i hate entering parties alone - those few first minutes of disorientation you know.
Turned out to be another night of great conversations and good laughs. And we got balloons!
me and bob has balloons

GDC 2008 Diary Morning Day4 (Thursday)

I started out with a breakfast meeting with Mike Sellers from Online Alchemy. This was one of my highlight of the conference. You probably know that feeling of meeting a universe of ideas that is chillingly familiar to ones own but yet different. I get that when speaking to Mike.

I made it to the second half of
The Next 20 Years of Gaming
Ray Kurzweil

keynote, singulariites

A few random notes:
  • RK showed a number diagrams with similar curves. (exponential growth)
  • Do we have the SW to simulate the human brain?
  • uncanny/creepy valley
  • first phase - demented (simulated) humans
  • turing test was based on language
  • language + intelligence
  • Brain Scans -> can we understand the data.
  • Maybe our brains can't understand themselves?
  • Visual cortex, cerebellum, skill formation, the calculations needed to catch a flying ball.
  • In 20 years we will have more knowledge about our brains. Means to simulate human intelligence. Our learning will happen through virtual environments.
  • Self organizing systems. Speech synthesis.
  • Ended session with a speech synthesis, translation of the words "In a few years everyone will be able to talk to anyone"
The extensive use of diagrams showing exponential growth reminded me of Kelly who was so popular a few years ago. I noted down the word Singularity and thought about the Hello Kitty Singularity in one of C Stross's books. I thought about one of Marvin Minsky's texts where he too wondered whether we humans are capable of understanding our own brains. I thought about the fact that USC recently hired Damasio. I also realized I haven't read RKs books, so I ordered them - one is on singularity, the other on spiritual mashines.

Next I made it to
Future of MMOs
Jack Emmert, Min Kim, Ray Muzyka, Mark Jacobs, Rob Pardo and Jon Wood

future of mmos

I took extensive notes listening to this panel, but now when I read through them I dont find them very interesting. The panelists were asked the following questions:
1. There is a trend to use existing IPs. Will it be possible to dev without IP?
2. Platforms, consoles. Is it necessary to make cross-platform development?
3. Micropayments or subscriptions in the US?
4. It is getting more and more expensive to build MMO's. Will it be possible to dev without a monster budget?

Well doh. We all know the the answers tho those questions so i won't write down the obvious answers. The panelists did the best what they could with those lame questions. Such a waste of a good panel to not go beyond the obvious.

...But that's just me. Liz Lawley put her notes up on Terranova, and ill read those later to see if i have missed something.

Personally i would have found themes that went outside the sphere of revenues, IPs and platforms more interesting for the future of MMO's, such as:
  • The future develempment of the avatar - online personas (and maybe touching on the rights of avatars)
  • The future of meaningful experiences tied to thematic content in MMOs (individual stories etc)
  • The future of game mastering in MMOs
  • The future design of conflict resolution without combat (the topic of Gordon Waltons Roundtable)
  • ...etc...etc..