Blog Archive

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mulling over IVA'10 on my way to the airport


Imagine a conference where the sole purpose is to build virtual humans. In order to do so, everyone needs to understand what it is to be human. This creates a quite special kind of crowd. This crowd just had a 3 day conference in Pennsylvania, showing and discussing their latest IVAs, that is, Intelligent Virtual Agents. In almost all conversations at this conference there is a meta-activity going on. For example, yesterday when we walked to the place where the conference dinner was going to be, I asked the woman next to me what she was working on. She says:

"Nodding behaviours."

"Oh", I said, nodding, "Interesting."

"Yeah" (nods), "but not in the listening behaviour, but in the one speaking"

We talked back and forth about nodding, we had both spent time in Tokyo doing research, and I associated to the presentation I saw at ACE2008 where life size nodding robots where placed in lecture halls, something that both made the lecturer more confident, both because of seeing the nodding dolls in the back, and because the behaviour propagated in the room, resulting in that lectures where nodding robots had been present increased the perceived persuasiveness of the lecturer. Noddingly we agreed that it would be great in Japan, but strange in Sweden or in the United States. I for one, started to count our nods during the conversation.

A similar thing happened the evening before, when I presented my poster about semi-autonomous avatars. We were three persons talking, and we kept monitoring the circle our feet created, as well as how our upper bodies where leaning. The circle grew, and we kept observing, in parallel with the conversation that flowed from topic to topic, how our circle acted as it grew to perhaps six or seven people. We also made note of how the turn-taking happened as we were speaking and allowing each other a quite good balance in the conversational space. (when the 8th came we couldn't sustain it and the group naturally became three new little circles) So I wasn't surprised the day after (but delighted) when it turned out that Hrafn, Claudio, and Hannes, who were part of the poster-circle, had built an application that simulated these behaviours .


Stacy Marcella visited my poster on semi-autonomous avatars, then he fetched Hannes Vilhjalmsson and some other people, and we formed a circle similar to this:


A screenshot from Hrafn Thórisson's presentation on their 'Multiparty Multimodal Dialogue Architecture with

Realtime Turntaking' A title that I kept giving the melody of itsy bitsy teen....

When I decided to go to IVA'10 I had a few reasons for it:

1. Michael Mateas, Marliyn Walker and Jenny Brusk said (in separate conversations) that it is a great conference and that I would find it both interesting and useful, and that I would probably meet lots of people with whom I would enjoy talking.

2. I was curios about the tools session: Would I find tools that would be useful in research to me and others at the department, and perhaps useful for our students?

3. Last month I had long conversations with a friend at Blizzard who is an AI/Game-play programmer about the scope of game AI - how it is seen as a set of tools, but different tools depending on whether you are in the industry or in the academia, and even then, different subsets of tools depending on the subject area you happen to work in. In games it is hard to separate between what is 'AI' and what is game-play mechanics, but something which we are both clear about is that we need to talk more about smart systems, where the blocks/modules are tightly connected to the world architectures. This is where the IVAs come in. My question to the conference when coming was: Is it more than talking heads?

I got feed for thought regarding all the three points above, and I will expand on them later. Now I have a plane to catch to Stockholm.

Monday, September 20, 2010

IVA2010 has started

I'm in Philadelphia, here for the IVA conference (Intelligent Virtual Agents). I'm sitting in a ballroom with some hundred others, listening to Paul Debevec from ICT, USC, who is showing pictures of faces in 3D with high detail. If you want more detailed information, look here: Invited Speakers.

My flight was blissfully uneventful, despite a small debacle at Heathrow where we first got boarded onto busses, but then had to be de-boarded just to repeat the procedure. Small things. I was relieved that I didn't miss the connecting flight due to the lines. It goes quicker now in the new terminal 5. So Heathrow just bumped up a few dante-inferno levels in my book. Perhaps some day it can reach limbo, but the staff are still doing their best to cling downwards.

I looked at the map in the flight chair to be sure: east coast! My first time. In transit between the airport an the hotel I had managed to grab a tourist leaflet which had information on the history of Philadelphia. And looking out from the window: cobble stone. Teal. Historic buildings, grey, alongside quite elegant skyscrapers, black, silver and blue as reflected by the sky. I got a text from a friend about the result of the elections in Sweden. Pretty depressing, so I was even more thankful for the view.That shuttle-ride will most likely be all that I see of Philadelphia. The IVA has a really packed program - all sessions are super-interesting, and between them there aren't really room for taking a walk, unless I skip a lunch or a dinner. That's a good thing though - wouldn't want to fly all this way otherwise.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nordic Digra - Summary

The first Nordic DIGRA conference was held at DSV in Kista, Stockholm, the 16th and 17th of August. There were 12 paper presentations in a single track, two keynotes and one workshop.

The conference was really nice, and a good opportunity to connect and reconnect with researchers working in the Nordic countries. For years we have kept meeting at international conferences, far away from home, joked about that it is so strange that it is so, and that we should do more to meet here. And it seems like we are ready to do this more now; at the Nordic Digra Chapter meeting we realized that it could be possible to make the Nordic Conference an annual one. It doesn’t have to be enormous, but like this year, a single track conference during two days, some workshops, and perhaps we could add a doctoral consortium as well.

The highlight for me was Christopher Sanbergs’ keynote where he described the development of the high end technology assisted LARP Conspiracy for good. In the fiction of the the game is a dichotomy between the big evil company Blackwell Bridge who under marketing disguises of being ‘good’ sucks the life energy out of nature and people. The underdog good guys is the resistance movement. In the underlying reality the game uses actors and cellphone technology where one of the niftiest things is that they hide clues in Morse code embedded in music. Another underlying reality is that the revenue from the game is used to raise funds which benefits the real village in Zimbabwe that the fiction in the game revolves around.
Christopher got some critique after his presentation; why do this as a game instead of doing ‘good’ the traditional way through established organisations such as the red cross or amnesty? He answered by saying that they wanted to try another way of doing it, see how story and drama can be used to make a difference, how to embed situations where players are exposed to these established organisations such as Doctors for the world, and perhaps reach people who normally might not engage in charity work.
Having worked with Christopher before I know that the engagement is genuine. I’m happy that this is happening, that energy, time and thought is directed in this way. Well done Company P, Nokia, and everyone else involved.

As usual I took some random notes and photos during the conference. I throw them in here in chronological order without much editing - I’m not sure I will get around to do it otherwise.

Notes Day 1
Notes Day 2

All papers are available directly from the conference program web page. This was great, since it became so easy to glance at the publications in parallel to listening.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nordic Digra Day 2 - live notes

Nordic Digra Conference, 17th August, 2010, DSV, Kista, Stockholm, Sweden. These are my live diary notes from the second day of the conference.

Paper Session: Game Design

Hagen, Designing for Player Experience: How Professional Game Developers Communicate Design Visions

//not taking notes, already read the paper (a great paper).

Björn - Don’t you reiterate the auteur myth of the single genius? Two way communication?
Ulf: Usually it is a design team. If the production involve hundreds of persons all can’t have a say. But important to communicate the vision so that everyone has it, be on the same track, be involved.
Lina: Diversity?
U: I tried to tell them...
Staffan: examples seem based on GDC talks, not on the interviews?
Ulf: They talked about the same thing.

Holopainen, et al., Modelling Experimental Game Design
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nationally funded project, Nokia and 2 universities

experimental game design.
what is game design as an activity?

showing the waterfall model.
the iterative model.
open the black box of game design.
no one can stop the hamster - low-fi augmented reality game. Played at a big convention in Tampere.
markers with different shapes that could be recognised by cellphone cameras.
Catch the worm holes by using the camera. Build up energy in camera by moving it and then press the button to capture at the right moment.

documentation of work. Used body storming.
SW sketches.
kept the whole documentation of the process.
then used two models to analyse the data.
Löwgren and Stolterman; vision - , operative image - (the first explicit operative proto, like body storming and sketches on whiteboards, user interface-sketch), - 3 Specfication
In the work the team leaped between layers, but ended up with an operative image that could be used to construct the final artefact.

Lawson’s model of designing. Not sequential.
reflection-in-action. Excerpts from design diaries.

Jesper: assuming you read the models before you did the design work. Did this have an impact?
Jussi: We did the design and documenting before we looked at the model.
Staffan: If you chose models in retrospect, wouldn’t this have an impact on the result of the analysis.
Jussi: yes, [then list of models, like buxton’s] but they didn’t give us the same insight as these two models.
Jon: What kind of refinement to these models did you find?
Jussi: we didn’t make that explicit, but it has an implicit effect, it can help us to refine methods and techniques in future work. Co-workers in this proj are doing their phd theses on the topic of design processes.

Björk, On Making Good Games - Using Player Virtue Ethics and Gameplay Design Patterns to Identify Generally Desirable Gameplay Features

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on making good games... civilization, wow, all have pros and cons, and all players don’t like al features... Farmville, Cowclicker...
Is it good if is popular? no insight in what makes it good.
good reviews?

Inherently good features in games?
Showing jesper juul’s diagram.
The MDA model.
Lazarro’s model.

Models specify emotions: these can be seen as design goals.

Turn it around, look at the player. What makes a good player (not a good human). Sicart looks at Aristotielian virtues. They are good at mid-level generally, like bravery. (too little; coward, too much; stupid)

But how recognise a good game, the game as an artifact //didn’t we have a long discussion about the expression artifact, if the game is an artifact or not in Tampere in March?

design patterns.
Looked at negative and positive patterns, finding that the positive ones tended to include social aspects.

Suggesting a way of understanding good games as games which encourage people to be good players,

Jonas: so here we have Sicard, who uses Bartle’s paper from 94, and Aristotle... and then you compare them with design patters. Don’t you think the level of abstraction is too high?
Staffan: the patterns are very concrete, but I agree that there are many steps, that’s why I want to focus on the process rather than on the end result.
Jonas: it’s not hard to say that king making is a destructive pattern, don’t need Aristotle for that.
Petri: Why should players be good when they are playing? There may be a disconnection between the concepts of good games and good players. Does game play affect behaviour outside the game...?
Staffan: Not about being something or anything outside the game. In Montola’s example from yesterday people do go outside the game, or rather the effect of the game does...
Petri: but then you have selected a type of ethics that doesn’t say anything concrete.
Staffan [soldiering on]: Can narrow it down to one part, it doesn’t have to be pointless to look at a single part.
Jon: you chose to not use the MDA, instead on virtues. ... difference between the actual behaviour of players and the aesthetics the play of it result in...
Jon: Are you saying that wow is better than civ?
S: No, trying to provide a way to talk about them, to compare them. Game not better the more patterns there is in it.

Christopher Sandberg’s keynote.

The Conspiracy for Good
design for change - real change in the world. Zambia.
library in danger. enemy: Blackwell bridge.
showing film documentary style of the real village and the village school.
online puzzle. Morse-code in the music, possible to decipher hidden messages.
the leaked lobby film.
the resistance movement film

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coffe: create the villains and the assistants in the fiction. “I am not a member.”
This is the setting of the game.

ppl engaging in the game hacked the blackwell security system.
track main figures //actors // on ovi-maps (a kind of google map)
geocashing in cities to find the content. Content in Africa, in five European countries, and all over London.

main character Nadira. Blackwell’s smear campaign of her.

4 events in London this summer. The technology on the mobile devices actually worked in this pilot.
Showing films from the events. A tag hidden at Tate modern.
coffe talking about object oriented story telling.
and showing photos of NPCs - real people acting as guards at the London Bridge.

//Cool with the hidden clues in the music.
live music. An opera singer singing with clues in the music.

action 2
big group of players setting up a distraction, dance parade blocking the view for the goons so resistance movement can get into a building.

Now players have a LARP head quarter, but they still need to bring Blackwell down.

action 3
hostage trade-off.
players getting pronoia - the sneaking suspicion that people are out to make your life fun.
resitance movement guy getting shot.

even 4
the take down.
marketing event. plasma screen and hor d’ouvres, blackwell organising. recruitment.
resistance movement. Hacks the press release. Showing the president shooting the resistance guy in the head.
take-down succeeded.

safehouses: 10 bars in London

easy to loos track of the zambian village during the process, but they are still there - video.
10 000 books. 50 girls got scholarship. And we built the library.

//ok, i’m about to cry.

Linderoth: If change society, why not do it for real instead of making games
Coffe: there are organisations who do that, Greenpeace, amnesty etc
This is another try to do that. An experiment on how to use story. We can’t tell the real story about the mining companies in the Zambia, that would be shut down. But we could have a fictional story. Also reach people who not normally engage in this type of work to help, to change
Marie Denward: What about participants who doesn’t know that they are taking part in a game. For example in Sanningen om Marika all participants didn’t know.
Coffe: The online room for meta discussions, monitor but stay away. Talk to moderators if needed to give information. There were debriefing spaces as well around the city of London. We had police, doctors and security personnel in the background the whole time. Also in the sets there were little chance that passers-by would stumble into it. People had to make an effort to find locations where dramatic things happened. If in town there was more light weight activities and drama was constrained to video clips on cellphones.
Jon: the keys and the clues... comments on the design choices? Some are not so obvious.
Coffe: clear game markers when needed. Some were obvious, but at other points we put the sign/logo. It is important to sustain the magic circle we have found in this type of production.

Staffan: how did you recruit players? How many did you have?
C: lots of different rabbit holes. The web page. (what membership is denied). Downloads to cell phones. a downloaded game which gave clues. 1/4 million downloads. A music site (400 k users) hiding clues in music. New compositions made. A plethora of things. Some people came from Alaska or Canada.
Tanja: Did you get stuck with players, did you need to do last minute changes?
C: yes, always. A time travel problem. Want to get as much as possible done in pre-production, but then you are real-time in the street - did people really find that geocash?
We did on the fly rewriting of the story and sent of actors to ‘fix’ the progression of the story.
Maria D: back to sanningen om Marika, there you also had a chance to have an impact on politics, on real world. Here, books and library, but what about the participants?
C: I’m not sure. We didn’t tell people to “do good”. But you were given clues by for example volunteer to give out flyers for doctors of the world. Players see it as source materials for their characters... exposing people to facts and organisations.

me: was there a possibility that the take-down would fail?
c: yes. There are always crazy people. Griefers destroying. Ways to orchestrate these people, learnt a lot by these production. Give griefers extra special personal tasks to perform so they can still have fun without disrupting.

Paper Session: Massively-Multiplayer Online Games

Prax, Leadership Style in World of Warcraft Raid Guilds
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country-club style leadership and authority compliance style leadership conducted by guild leaders depending on in-game situations; in raids and outside the raids.
Members of different types of guilds interviewed.
Interviews with real-life leaders in different types of organisations. Big difference is that in a game the guild leader doesn’t have to report to anyone else, such as stockholders. Interviewed 6 leaders, but the useful ones in terms of similarity was the air-force and a student radio.

Carl: compare raid group to ideological counterparts? Such as antifascist action? Similar janus-faced leadership in such groups.
P: Interesting
Jon: small companies/large companies?
P: I looked at that, but even in a small organisation there was a difference in the stake holding situation.
Jon: Guild leading as a reference in real life...?
P: my examples were where the same persons were raid- and guild-leaders. Useful to train different leadership styles depending on context.
Jessica: real life examples of people using it in their CVs?
P: not sure of statistics or examples of that
Q: Comment: I heard of an example where a large company in the US did hire someone based on his guild leading experience
P: please send ref!
Ulrika: Surgery?
P: Interesting!
Björn: time constraint. Can make comparison to any group that involves need of result of work and a time constraint? Coordinate people. Perhaps not any job but... a busy restaurant, at lunch hour more intense.
P: you wouldn’t kick an employee out of the restaurant if he stopped to chit-chat once...

Eklund and Johansson, What Happened with Social Play? A study of social interaction in temporary group formation (PUG) in World of Warcraft

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Structures of social interactions in pick-up groups on WoW.
Dungeons in heroic mode. Alternative endgame to raiding.
LfG system that came with the Burning Crusade expansion.
LfG system took in players from different servers meaning that the social control was lessened. No reputation to be wrecked if on different server.
Instrumental interaction. Ppl didn’t even say hi or goodbye. Low social investment. Grinding. Run through as fast as possible and get as much rewards as possible. Even in down-time, waiting for replacement to the group, people didn’t chat even if they were clearly bored (jumping around, but not talking).

AnneMette: No social norms? Clearly there would be some norms, what do you put in the word?
Magnus: All part of different norm systems. In this situation we can’t see *what* norms are used.
Jonas L: You can lift the level of analysis if you relate it to the economic models that underlie this type of game, that it is made more and more casual to draw more players.
Ulrika: You don’t necessarily need to see chat as the primary way of communication when you look at social interaction. How are you going to continue your work? Non verbal communication?
Lina: Probably not do interaction analysis. Players know what to do in the dungeons, they just run along and do it. They don’t stop and look behind to see if the others are there following...
Patrick: A J said, WoW changes, the unsocial play style... the game is old, people already have their social lives worked out there. If two guilidies happen to be in the same PUG they talk on an own channel, and if they are ‘alone’ in the PUG they might engage in guildchat in parallell... so social interaction may happen
Jon. People do strange things in PUGs. I happened to have my fishing rod equipped and coming from an RP server, that struck up conversation in the group.
Ulf: Final comment: Next step to replace the players with NPCs if they do single player gaming among each other.

• Johansson and Verhagen, And Justice for All - the 10 commandments of Online Games, and then some…

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rules created by clans and guilds in online games. Ie the rules defined by players rather than the game design.

Data collected from clan and guild sites that had information on rules.
Looked and different mmo guilds and fps clans.

//...spending a lot of time talking about previous work.

Patrick: During the act of play when focus is on effectiveness, many rules are about that, while other rules apply in social situations, could you comment?
Magnus: Yes many similarities.
Mats: ganking and griefplay... how define when it happens
Magnus: depends on who is at the receiving end. And different groups and contexts. For example, a group what has ganking as its goal.

Paper Session: Case Studies

Waern, “I'm in love with someone that doesn't exist!!” Bleed in the context of a Computer Game

annika stats with showing a violent promo movie.
then a clip of a conversation, a man in love trying to express it verbally. (“alistair romance scene” youtube.)

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the cheesiness of romance in games.
romance occurs often as a narrative component in plot lines. Often optional side plot lines. Sometimes part of the game play mechanism.
Player characters. Sociolotron.

Showing a quote of someone in love with the character Alistair - how can this happen?
Searched for comments about emotional reactions on forums and blogs.

causes for bleed-:
safe zone. True emotions, but no real concrete romance in real life. Like teen age girl idolisation. cyber-romance, role-played romance.
character as projected identity. a theoretical identity that player wishes to be in the context of the game world.
partial agency. feel in control, but then not being able to control. interesting frustration.

Annika not sure how much of this was intended in the design.

AnneMarie: what difference does it make if it is intended?
A: im interested because of the design-perspective I have
Staffan: ...
A: yes you choose to engage
Jesper: the term ‘Bleed’, how would you relate the term ...
A: not my purpose with the papers, it is one of these mushy terms.... relate to the false belief that we would only have one identity...
Patrick: this mechanism in a multi-player game?
A: most causes of romance bleed are multi-player. Interesting here is that it only is a single player game so it is easier to analyse. in multi-player you also perform towards other players, creates a slightly different context.

Jonsson, The Nook. A Fieldstudy of the Game Café as a Third Place

field study of a café in stockholm.
why do people go to a game café to play? Many have the same ones at home along with fast internet connection and good hardware, but they still go to the café. 5 cafés in stockholm. Late opening hours, even nighttime, it is very accessible. Targets young people.
The third place. Oldenburg 1997. ‘the great good place’
young ppl restricted at home - gaming restricted, game time limited. At the game cafe they felt they could manage their own time.

//How does this deepen our understanding of third places or gaming cafés?

Q: Genderdistribution?
Fatima: 3% girls. Didn't come in groups, either alone or with boy friend.
Q: since it costs money, do people hang around without playing, just socializing?
F: no.
Q: Spectatorship? Can be problematic to feel to be under scrutiny. In third place concept, so positive... but at these places people can be very harsh to each other.
F: good point. I didn’t see that so much in my study, perhaps because it was an older crowd in my study. It is a quite exclusive crowd. Officially open to everyone, but not so culturally open to girls and women.
Q how long were the interviews?
F 50 -55 interviews which sometimes lasted for long, since i interviewed them while they were playing.
Q: structured interviews?
F: semi structured
Q: you could lift the analysis, need to problematise more.

Later on:

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Nordic Digra Day 1 - live notes

Nordic Digra Conference, 16th August, 2010, DSV, Kista, Stockholm, Sweden.
These are my live diary notes from the first day of the conference.

I started out by going to the Nordic Digra Chapter meeting, and then catching the second half of the workshop on Collecting and analyzing video data in game studies led by Jonas Linderoth, Ulrika Bennerstedt & Björn Sjöblom. We looked at videos and transcripts of players playing a console game. I was in the group Jonas moderated.

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Next was Jesper Juul’s keynote where he took a large perspective and talked about the notion of casual games, how it has emerged during the past five years, and how the term is used by among others hard core gamers.

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Paper Session: Playing Experience

Kivikangas et al., Psychophysiological method in studying game experience

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What do we really know? Not much. Because studies are scattered. Different approaches. Little accumulated knowledge.

Also: it is difficult. Not well defined. Own theories. Not clear what theories are effective. Not easy to combine with game studies.

Measure physiology to study psychology. The ‘bible’ by Cacioppo (2007) doesn’t have a word about games.

so why use them; objective except for the researchers interpretations

How use them? Experimental and applied research. Study the experience: emotions and attention. Problem example: the muscle on the brow which is a measure of displeasure is also the measure of concentration. There is not one to one relations between physiology and psychology. Need to be interpreted, and the experiments must be carefully designed.
Many methodological problems.

Why bother, what are they good for?
They are complicated, but when used properly they are powerful. No other methods are objective precise etc.

Future: hopes for more experimental research so knowledge can be accumulated.

//Great that they made a review paper. Helpful. I'll read it.

Noergaard, Stillborn Gamers? Writing a Birth Certificate for Corporeality and Motility in Game Studies

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introducing with a video clip.

“the gamer game” Arguing that the corporality, the motion of the body of the player is not studied enough. Rythm.

Marcus: connects to our (GS community) embarrassing ignorance of sport studies.

Linderoth, Why gamers don’t learn more: An ecological approach to games as learning environments

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about learning - alternative title about that children don’t learn to tie their shoes if they get welcro shoe things. Games. Gibson. Ecological systems. Affordances. They are relative. Not objective properties of an environment. Always relative to an agent. Affordance: the ‘empty fit’ between the agent and the environment. The affordances needs to be discovered. Learn to realize the affordances. Rock-climbing for example. Need to learn what surfaces to grip. Perception and action are closely related. We act upon affordances.
exploratory actions - learn what performances are afforded
performatory actions - already learned the affordance.

Example video clip where a player tries to shoot a couple human-like figures, but nothing happens. He realizes there is no affordance there. Then discovers that only objects with arrows on have affordances. highlighted objects, points of interest - games use good codes for signalling that there is an affordance. makes argument that ‘avatars are the tools we use in digital environment’dynamics of the game play can be guilt into the avatar. Gain different affordances...many ways to change the affordances....

Jesper: but you about a role-playing game? whith characters skill progression?

//Association to the bioware-speech at gdc when avatar motion and targeting was enhanced to make players feel more hero-like. I feel that I don’t understand what point Jonas is making, I’ll need to read the paper. I associate to the design of the action potential of avatars and world designs... but everybody knows this, it can’t be Jonas’ point ok... What he says now that this is something UNIQUE in games, that there is these both explorative and performative affordances/actions. Ok. I’ll read the paper and I will keep quiet now.

Paper Session: Role-Playing Games

Bergström et al., Undercurrents A Computer-Based Gameplay Tool to Support Tabletop Roleplaying

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//I think it is the same tools as they showed at the Tampere workshop?...yes it is.

Abstract:"This paper introduces Undercurrents, a computer-based gameplay tool for providing additional communication and media streams during tabletop roleplaying sessions. [...] "

B: Players use a surprisingly high amount of technology when role-playing today as opposed to just a few years ago, perhaps because of the rise of ubiquitous computing.

Montola, The Positive Negative Experience in Extreme Role-Playing
Playful Experience Research.

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Ground Zero. Much discussed LARP.
// i recognise Marcus’ talk from his speech at digra last year.

The Journey - the rape game. These types of games are gratifying but not fun. “The Journey”, “Gang Rape”.
Comparable to shindlers list and other strong emotional experiences. “They don’t fit into the categories for playful experience research I made.”

Jonas Linderoth: But is it game - what if it was called an educational drama?
MM: therapist wanted the CDs, terapist specialising in rape victims.
Annika: It is illegal to play them, so be careful.
MM: the painstation (electronic chock in pong game - chock when fail.)
me: train. Brathwaite.
Gunilla: Why?
MM: artistic experience.
Marie: strong political statement.
Designer is present. Wrigstad.

Reception at DAC in Kista.

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The reception was held in the new Digital Arts showroom in Kista that Ingvar and his group at the Interactive Instititute has built up together with DSV. It was really really nice, I immediately felt good vibes when entering. They’ve managed to create a good balance of the works exhibited; both historically important works, a variety of new and quirky projects on display and pieces which are fun to interact with, such as the wall climbing game. Ingvar and one of his co-workers showed us around. Also, Crister Engström from Dreamhack gave a presentation and invited everyone warmly to Dreamhack, next time is in November. I came to think about TL's and Emma's paper from FDG. I hope I'll be able to go there sometime, DH has this tendency to clash with other stuff I need to travel to.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

E3 2010

E3 this year happened just prior to the Foundation for Digital Games Conference (FDG) so me, Jakob Berglund, Mattias Görl and Don Geyer hit both venues. Me and Jakob had demos to show at FDG, and Don had a speech to make at the education summit in relation to E3.


The best with these venues are as always the people you meet; I met with Brian Schwab and got to talk some AI, and was lucky to run into Richard Dansky the first thing in the Ubisoft booth when I arrived to the expo, and got to talk about narrative. On my to-do list now is to check out the coop conflict in splinter cell, and to use Richard’s advice when I start doing the play-testing scenarios in the Pataphysic Institute (3-tiered conflicting goals).

IMG_3658 Brian at Venice Beach IMG_3678 I found Richard in the ubisoft part of e3 IMG_3723
Brian Schwab Richard Dansky and me N3DS

IMG_3671 IMG_3680 IMG_3752 me and david tomas
Kinect Booth 1 Kinect Booth 2 David Tomas and me

At the show, the highlight for me was to try out Microsofts Natal (now renamed to Kinect). I got the demo where one interact with a cat (that I named Sigge) using the whole body to interact (tracking of 48(?) joints). It really worked. I’m impressed.
I was pondering on getting into the long line for trying out the Nintendo 3DS, but then I ran into David Tomas who told me that it was basically like a 3D postcard so I figured I could instead go to make an inventory of present booth hunks with Jakob. We were quite successful me thinks ;)

IMG_3755 one proper booth hunk

IMG_3773 jakob and his favorite booth hunk

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Final Fantasy at the Stockholm Concert Hall

Yesterday was dedicated to the Final Fantasy Series at the Stockholm Concert Hall (Konserthuset). I was part of a panel in the afternoon, and in the evening I had one of the most intensive musical experiences in my life.

The panel was organised by Goodgame, and moderated by David Westerlund. My co-panelists were Annika Bergström Olofssdotter (Nordic Game / Founder of SuperMarit), Matilda Lorentzon and Caroline Henningsson (students who wrote the essay about including Final Fantasy XIII).

We talked about reasons for how FF as a series has been able to attract an audience for twenty years, about games as culture, music in games, game research, and some of what we do at Gotland University. The audience was great - it felt like chatting with friends. Really interesting questions were raised, and we all kind of giggled at the same places in the conversation. It was an honor to get to meet this crowd. I brought Vivi along as well:

Vivi konserthuset IMG_3556

The concert in the evening was amazing. At one point - during Dancing Mad from FFVI there was Oskar Ekberg playing the organ, a full choir and the philharmonic orchestra blasting out music in unison.
organ choire and orchestra IMG_3589

It was such an experience to hear the different battle themes (the victory theme and other pieces that I have heard thousands of times through crappy TV-speakers) played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Oh, and there was the fantasic song of the soprano Jennie Abrahamsson, and the solo by Per Skareng on guitar (at which point I was moved to tears, literally).

In the end of the concert the whole audience (the concert hall was filled to the last spot) rose as one man and gave standing ovations until the composer Nobuo Uematsu appeared on stage. In the final piece he joined and sang with the Stockholm Music Gymnasium choir, here he is in the top right corner:
Nobuo Uematsu top right corner with the choir IMG_3615

Here is a link to more pictures I took during the concert.
Here is the program, cut from Konserthuset's webpage:

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor Arnie Roth
Run from Stockholm's Music Gymnasium
Jennie Abrahamson
Per Skareng
Oskar Ekberg

Final Fantasy Series, Prelude European premiere!
Final Fantasy VIII: Liberi Fatali
Final Fantasy Series Victory Theme European premiere!
Ronfaure from Final Fantasy XI European premiere!
Main Theme from Final Fantasy VII European premiere!
Prima Vista Orchestra from Final Fantasy IX European premiere!
Dear Friends from Final Fantasy V
Vamo 'alla Flamenco from Final Fantasy IX
JENOVA from Final Fantasy VII European premiere!
Opening from Final Fantasy VII
A Place to Call Home / Melodies of Life from Final Fantasy IX European premiere!
The Man with the Machine Gun from Final Fantasy VIII
Suteki da ne from Final Fantasy X European premiere!
Dancing Mad from Final Fantasy VI European premiere of the new arrangement!
The Promise out of Final Fantasy XIII World Premiere!
Fang's Theme from Final Fantasy XIII World Premiere!
from Final Fantasy Medley XIV World Premiere!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Accepting the Ring

The day before yesterday we had the Gotland Game Awards 2010 Awards Ceremony here at Gotland University. The main point of the ceremony is to give prices to the students who have produced amazing games during the year, but I also got five minutes in the spot-light.

Richard Bartle, who was one of the examiners when I defended my dissertation in February at Teesside congratulated me to the award of the degree of doctor of philosophy, and presented me the Ring with the words "accipe annulum". This means "accept the ring". In Sweden it is customary that one receives a doctorate ring. It is a symbol of the union with science, and is worn on the same finger as the wedding ring (but the wedding ring is kept closest to the hand). Gotland University can't give the award of PhD, and at Teesside University, in the UK, there are no rings. There are hats with tassels, but hey, I can't go around being just the mistress of science! So instead my parents (it is customary that the family pays for the ring) got the Gotlandic Hövdingaringen (The ring of the Chief), and by doing the ritual, I now consider myself an honourable scientist.

What we didn't realise was just how BIG the ring was. This is what my finger looked like just after the ceremony, Richard took a picture:

Quite an excessive burden of gold... So yesterday I trotted off to the smith.
I left both the big ring and my wedding- and engagement ring, and also wrestled off Rauno his ring: There was a mistake when the wedding ring was done, it has not the same shape as the engagement ring. We were short of time before the wedding so my engagement ring was melted down and shaped into the wrong shape.
Now all will be corrected - my wedding- and engagement rings will be made thinner and in the right shape, and the doctoral ring will be made smaller too. The rings will be ready in a month or so.

I had prepared a short speech, but standing in the spotlight in front of a thousand people (yes, the congress hall in Visby was full!) I forgot what I had prepared, and now afterwards I have no idea what I said. This what I had planned to say:

Thank you Richard, it was truly an honour to have you as one of the examiners at the Viva Voce. My research has concerned Virtual Game Worlds (VGWs), or massively multi player games. In these worlds the avatar, the player's representation, is one of the most interesting parts. Formally though, my degree is in computing science. I have built an AI module, the Mind Module, for semi-autonomous avatars which have been used in five prototypes. The Mind Module gives avatars personalities and emotions. Its purpose is to enable support for characterisation and story construction in VGWs. Most of my work has been done as experimental prototyping for AI driven game design. It is my firm belief that in order to truly understand game mechanics and its resulting dynamics it is necessary to prototype, build and test ideas. By doing this we can go beyond studying what already exists, and break new ground in game research. This type of work is not done in isolation. In the prototypes a too many people has been involved to mention here, but I would like to extend my thanks to all and mention those who are present in this room; Peter Kullgard, Musse Dolk, Ola Persson, Johan Sköld and Jasmin and Carsten Orthbandt. Again, this work is not done in isolation. During the years I have recieved support and advice from experienced mmo designers in the industry. They have helped me to avoid pitfalls in game design, and supported at times when I have doubted the very relevance of my work. The research has taken me around the world. I have been visiting scholar at Georgia Institute of Technology, Tokyo Institute of Technology and University of California Santa Cruz. I am grateful to all of you who made me feel so welcome. But it is here on Gotland that my heart is. I do not have words for how grateful I am for all the support of encouragement I have been given from all of you at the game department and at Gotland University, especially Steven Bachelder and Don Geyer. Again, this work is not done in isolation. Even during the last months when I was writing up the dissertation I had all the support that I could ask for from my supervisors Michael Mateas, Paul Van Schaik and Clive Fencott. I also had the moral support from my good friends Lena Wikström and Jenny Brusk, and from my family and my husband Rauno. I have the result here, and I would like to present it to the head of the Gotland University Library, Almedalsbiblioteket, Kerstin Simberg.

What happened was that when Richard gave me the ring I started to think about the hero's journey, something that Richard wrote a lot about in Designing Virtual Worlds (2003), and I wrote some about in the thesis. And there I was, receiving this token, at the end of my journey... so I got distracted. To me it was important that Richard was one of examiners. Those of you who were at the Digra conference last summer know that he can be quite critical. I knew that if the thesis was approved by him and Alan Hind I would find it difficult to, in retrospect, try to diminish it, to talk myself into that I didn't deserve the award after all...

It was quite gratifying to hand over the thesis, it weighs 5.4 kilos! This is what it looks like:


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Gotland Game Awards

Richard Bartle
Originally uploaded by mimmi
Gotland Game Awards is in progress. Yesterday the second-year students presented their work in the morning. The exhibition of all the students was crowded, and in the afternoon Susan Gold, Evan Van Zelfden and Richard Bartle gave interesting speeches. Today we continue with student presentations from the first, second and fourth-year students, ending with the awards ceremony and fireworks in the evening.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Phd Thesis Online!

A few weeks ago the amended version of my PhD thesis, titled 'Characterising Action Potential in Virtual Game Worlds Applied with the Mind Module' was approved by Teesside University. I changed two sentences, erased three words and corrected typos in the text I submitted in September 2009.

Now the thesis will be printed as hard-copies according to instructions from Teessid University and as soft copies according to instructions from Gotland University Press. It will be categorized and put into the British Library system, and the Swedish Library system, and it will receive numbers by which it can be identified.

Meanwhile, the text is sitting in my drop-box's public folder in case anyone would like to browse it.

Here is a link to Volume 1, which is the actual thesis-text. It's 342 pages and about 12 MB:

Here is a link to the full-text version, complete with volume 2, which is appendices, and volume 3, which is a bunch of papers. This version is 642 pages and around 22 MB large.

M. P. Eladhari (2009). Characterising Action Potential in Virtual Game Worlds applied with the Mind Module. Ph.D. thesis, Teesside University, UK.

address = {UK},
author = {Eladhari, Mirjam P.},
month = {September},
school = {Teesside University},
title = {Characterising Action Potential in Virtual Game Worlds applied with the Mind Module},
year = {2009}
keywords = {affectheory, affectiveactions, ai, audio, autonomous\_agents, avatar, behavior, believability, believable\_agents, bigfive, characterdesign, characterization, cognitive\_architecture, emotion, expression, expressiveai, ffm, game, gameai, gamedesign, gameresearch, identity, immersion, mindmodels, mindmodule, mmo, mmodesign, mmoresearch, mmorpg, mood, mud, multiplayer\_online\_games, music, narrative, narrative-potential, play-testing, playability, player\_character, playercharacterdesign, presence, role-play, social\_dynamics, virtual\_agents, virtual\_world, virtualhumans},

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

live notes GDC AI summit, rant

Quick notes from the rant session

SPEAKER/S: Dave Mark (Intrinsic Algorithm), John Funge (Netflix), Borut Pfeifer (Plush Apocalypse Productions), Steve Rabin (Nintendo of America), Kevin Dill (Lockheed Martin) and Adam Russell (University of Derby)


//went out

mby first speaker,
missed talk, only saw ending with a pic of a sexdoll

2nd speaker
working with designers: red pill - blue pill
bottom up design...creativity, emergence...feel open enden...
may argue it is all variation of the same thing. boring. hard to control. frustrates designers.
wall climbing...
top-down design.
complex scenes. narrative. supports cinematic style. allows delivering more unique experiences.
reduces content re-use. does not scale well. reduces re-play value
not enough. not bottum up either.
must support free expressing.
do both. Side-ways design. Pierre Bourdieux
A system of dispositions 1 peception 2 thought 3 action
esternally driven
freedom within structural constraings (fascade pic in bg)
should foucs on multiple npcs. make content declarative, not imperative.
speaker has the most ironic tone.
Adam Russel

3rd. John Funge.
not rich, bottom of food-chain.
try to get middleware into platform SDK. Hard.
protect code. Patent.
developers won't want the name of middleware maker in credits (cool thing done by someone else)

4th (Utility person)
basic premises, things we hope to see
why not boolean... floats giving shades of gray. //good point, where is the spectrum
lack of subtlety and nuance, and predictability

utility. Slow. Why would it be slow? Computers good at computation but bad at branching. Don't have to rethink every frame. React to certain even, duck from granade, not ponder going for a beer.

custom script languages

harder to author logic.
with custom scripting language: no tools, intellinsense etc
not stable.
no breakpoints, no stepping, risky to reload. // omg yes the printf, argh.
language design is hard! c++ - 30 years, LUA for 17.
tools hard to make too! 27 years into debuggers (MS)
who makes it? this one guy. Needs to be a megalomaniac. The language taking over it all. They have a degree! The combination is deadly!
2 years on pain working with a scripting language.
hope. Lua.
make games not languages!

6th Dave Mark
annoyed by media. How game ai is reviewed.
and how the reviews are responded to.
"these people hate us"
bad, weak, retarded,...
no-one says anything nice!
nothing noted about the good stuff! If good its not noted, as if not existing.
...what IS cool? need to tell: Fear and sims3.
The more natural the less noticed.
catch 22
#1 dont let the agent do anything stupid...
maybe if:
- more challenging ai
- more life-like
expect more than 'dont be dumb'?


Some quick notes jotted down about the talk

SPEAKER/S: Michael Mateas (University of California, Santa Cruz), Daniel Kline (Crystal Dynamics) and Emily Short (Independent)


official DESCRIPTION: For some time, the industry has been exploring how to effectively manage the complexity of multiple story arcs, contextually appropriate character behavior, and yet still maintain an over-arching ebb and flow of tension and drama. In their quest, writers and designers have started looking to AI for solutions to these problems. Additionally, many techniques that are already being used in interactive drama can be used to augment traditional games. Through three short lectures, this session gives examples of ways that AI can enable the design and implementation of branching narratives, dynamic adaptive dialog, interactive storytelling, and drama management.

Daniel Klime starting

8 use cases.
"storytelling is searching.

A practical taxonomy of games.

gaming vs story...



RC - Experiment - Challenge

pace control


there are off the shelf tools that can be used now for this

drama management tecniques.
policy for 'story move' selection
aternative to explicitely conded links.
action selection problem - we have worked for that for years.
selection policy - as a function of the history.
story policy - exponential unwinding - computers are good at that.

- story moves: beats
- policy desired tension arc, beat preconditions.
FarCry used similar method

Far Cry 2
- story moves: missions
- policy: desired infamy, mission preconditions

Policies can use 'look ahead'

chess-like heuristics can be used for drama management

dramamangare: looking at past history, picking best story moves maximising expected goodness and utility.
future expected goodness.

next step is to move from drama management to story generation.
what if the nodes become virtual?
generate nodes.

classical approaces to story generation. symbolic ... remimplemted in eis classic story generators. in past - limited by CPU.

story modeling - grammars
world and character modelling
author modelling

tale-spin: world and character simulation
tale spin, first. simulation. HTM planning (term BT not invented then)

cavazza and mead - taking talespin model, new HTM. (well, BT)
representational, abstract changes. Ross wanting to gain rachels affection.

Caveat: character pursuing goals and plans does not automagically lead to interesting stories.

M looking forward to Chris Heckers take on this (sims3)

second classic:
authorial goals plans,
Universe author gials and plog framgments (plans)
- author goals and plans may make no sense form character viewpoint.

example plot fragment.
2 persons married. Have parents who are not nice.

universe algo:

recusively solving author goals.

//argh camera died. Hope the slides will be online.

universe model - graphical interface for creating and running universe domains
//was pesented at DAC, james was there

m giving a quick overview.

library of stroy actions. Looking at past. Adapt to future situations.

implemented new version, for quest generation.
pointing to Noah's book - one chapter for each.

take home message
-3 points

Emily Short

ideal conversation
- characteries npc

"Dialog trees suck. "

expressiveness of NPC difficult to convey via dialog trees.

- Quip- an actual line of dialog spoken.
- subject: a representation of what the dialog is about. "weather"
- scene: a sequence of dialogue exchanges that has some narrative unity

game: Glass - a fractured fairy tale
twisted cinderella story
in stepmothers livingroom
player is in a cage, as the family pet, a parrot
player can squeak out words - by so affecting the dialog.

subject-structured. links between subjects, guiding associations for conversations.
goal seeking behaviour of NPCs- scene specific.
Quips as connectors

example where the parrot is silent. leads to trying shoe on stepsister.

parrot goes grazy: narrative can go the same way as a silent parrot, stepsister + shoe

or parrot affecting so cinderlla gets to try shoe (?)

game: Alabaster
stepmother asks for the princess' heart in a box.
player is the hunters "should i be killing her or not?"
this game is more in the players control


//suddenly the jet-lag hits me

npc has quip agenda
narrative purpose,
game drawing back to what is narratively interesting, but is still free to explore. "Not stuck in a corner in a dialg tree"

narrative purpose = NPC purpose

no time for questions :(

... Now time for rant-session.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Viva voce

Yesterday I defended my PhD thesis “Characterising Action Potential in Virtual Game Worlds Applied with the Mind Module” at Teesside University. The examiners were professor Richard Bartle and doctor Alan Hind. One of my supervisors, professor Paul van Schaik, was present as an observer. The committee recommended award of degree with minor amends.