Love: Procedural MMO


The idea of procedurally-generated MMOs has appealed to me for a while. I’ve tried to imagine what such a space might look like and how it might work, but a working prototype is really what’s needed to examine the concept in depth. Eskil Steenberg’s “astonishing and somewhat unsettling” procedural MMO, Love, provides a touchstone for future imaginings:

The game itself, dubbed Love (as in For The Love Of Game Development), is an exploration-based moderately-multiplayer FPS with astounding impressionistic visuals and a procedurally generated universe. Since Steenberg is a one man show, he’s relying on clever maths to build the world for him and then clever gamers to come in and help him figure out where to take it, and what to do with it.

So far he’s already populated it with weird animals and wondrous, gaseous visuals, and he intends to build the world into a kind of communal adventure, where gamers work together to furnish a central village, defend it from enemy attack, and explore the surround world and its many dungeons. Players will be able to do things like deform elements of terrain, allowing them to build tunnel networks or walls to defend their property. Items will also be intended for the good of all as Steenberg creates them and drops them into the world. You won’t be picking up rifles in your adventures, but more likely the plans for the rifle-building machine, that can then be utilised by everyone in your village. Part Zelda, part Tale In The Desert, part adventure shooter, and wholly abstract and beautiful, Love looks the kind of amalgam of art, programming and internet savvy that we’ve desired without even being able to imagine. It has the potential, and Steenberg has the huge intellect, for this to be one of the most precious events in PC gaming. (Rock, Paper, Shotgun)

C3: 10 Key Concepts

Sam Ford has helpfully put together a list of ten key concepts that have been articulated in various forms on the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium‘s blog, complete with links to the relevant posts, articles and off-site resources. Here’s the list:

1.) Immersive Story Worlds. This is a concept that I developed in conjunction with my thesis work on looking at the current state and the future of the soap opera industry. The idea was to outline a category that explains narratives which are serial by nature, which have multiple creators, a sense of long-term continuity, a character backlog, contemporary ties to a deep history, and a sense of permanence. I included portions of my thesis outlining this concept–and how it relates to the Marvel and DC Comic Universes, the world of pro wrestling, and daytime serial dramas–here and here.

2.) Transmedia Storytelling. Transmedia storytelling is meant to indicate texts in which the story develops through multiple media platforms and in which new content in another platform is not simply a redistribution of the same content that has already appeared elsewhere. We have a whole category of posts about the topic here.

3.) Cross-Platform Distribution. As opposed to transmedia storytelling, cross-platform distribution is simply the reappearance of content from one platform in another, such as making broadcast television shows available in VOD, cable shows available on YouTube, etc. We also have a whole category of posts on this topic available here.

4.) Quotability. In relation to online video, I have written several times about the importance of incorporating a way for viewers to be able to clip or quote content from copyrighted material, in trying to understand the features of YouTube which make it most compelling. In other words, content owners who distribute their content in short or long-form without any user ability to pick their own clips are just providing cross-platform distribution, not anything that allows viewer autonomy other than an increasing number of platforms to view content on. See posts here, here, and here.

5.) Grabability. In conjunction with my writing about quotability, the other feature of YouTube that has attracted viewers to the spread of copyrighted material has to do with the functionality of the site that allows viewers to take the video and embed it in their blogs or other places. In other words, content can only be spreadable if it is allowed to be. Again, this is not meant as a value judgment, as broadcasting content on new media channels certainly has its value, but it does not involve that component of interactivity that has empowered the YouTube community. For more, look here, here, and here.

6.) Pop Cosmopolitanism. Henry Jenkins’ concept of pop cosmopolitanism, in short, looks at how people are experiencing other parts of the world through popular culture and also how they are sharing and connecting to their sense of home through pop culture as well. We have several posts about this concept from the site. For more, look here.

7.) Fans of Fans. This concept, as articulated here, focuses not on companies which like their fan community but rather means fandom surrounding particular fans, visible members of the fan community. When I wrote on this concept, I focused particularly on names who become well-known in discussion boards and develop their own fan followings, fans at live sporting events or pro wrestling shows who become famous in their own right for their performances, and fan fiction writers or fan television reviewers who gain their own followings.

8.) The Branding Barrel. This concept, which I wrote about last August, focuses on the metaphor for “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” looking at what happens to brands at the end of their life. I focus on yard sales, but another great piece of academic work on this topic is Karen Tranberg Hansen’s Salaula: The World of Secondhand Clothing and Zambia.

9.) Fan Proselytizing. I did not originate this phrase, but I have used it often in my research for C3 in the past year, as a way to look at viral marketing or fans as grassroots intermediaries. In short, fans “spread the word” about a brand quite actively, and this involves both trying to recruit new fans and “preaching to the choir,” bolstering the interest of less active fans. For more from my blog posts on the concept, look here, here, and here.

10.) Transgenerational Storytelling. In my writing about soap operas in particular, I have focused on how the target demographics of the modern television world have interfered with texts which are best served by drawing a transgenerational fan base. In particular, soap operas are best at transgenerational storytelling, utilizing characters and encouraging viewership from all age groups. For more, look here, here, here, and here. (C3 Blog)

Players Make Play For Nothing

An insightful post by David Fono about community-based content generation in ARGs and MMOs:

A couple of posts got me thinking about the issue of player generated content recently. Tony Walsh writes generally about players as storytellers as a trend in multiplayer games. Meanwhile (well, a few months ago), Brian Clark writes about his plans for Eldritch Errors, which include a panoply of media products (book, comics, films, etc.) based on the events which are currently unfolding in the immersive narrative. Brian talks about the players of the game as effectively “starring” in the retellings, or at least being largely responsible for their eventual content. Of course, that’s a bit of an overstatement. Most of the creative sweat is being put in by the professional writers, designers, etc. behind the property. But it does represent a significant shift from the way games and entertainment generally is developed — it’s becoming a collaborative process, and the lines between the producer and the consumer are being blurred.

I’m pretty much a fan of this. And superficially, it’s all well and good. But there are some quandaries you get into when a significant portion of your content is materially attributable to an unpaid, uncredited player base. Specifically: Why aren’t they being paid? Why aren’t they being credited? Are the players being taken advantage of? If so, why do they let it happen? And if not, what safeguards can we put in place to avoid declining the slippery slope into outright exploitation? (Mobile Fono)

Crucial Juncture for Blue Brain

The Blue Brain project is now at a crucial juncture. The first phase of the project—”the feasibility phase”—is coming to a close. The skeptics, for the most part, have been proven wrong. It took less than two years for the Blue Brain supercomputer to accurately simulate a neocortical column, which is a tiny slice of brain containing approximately 10,000 neurons, with about 30 million synaptic connections between them. “The column has been built and it runs,” Markram says. “Now we just have to scale it up.” Blue Brain scientists are confident that, at some point in the next few years, they will be able to start simulating an entire brain. “If we build this brain right, it will do everything,” Markram says. I ask him if that includes selfconsciousness: Is it really possible to put a ghost into a machine? “When I say everything, I mean everything,” he says, and a mischievous smile spreads across his face. (seed magazine)

ALAVs

Blubber Bots are floating DIY robotic species that navigate autonomously and intelligently. Blubber Bots float, dance, seek and sing. They are light-seeking hellium-filled balloons that graze the landscape in search of light and cellphone signals. Designed into the inflatable form is a set of light sensors enabling them to seek out the brightest light source. They are also equipped with a phone flasher and can recognize cellphone activity. You can interact with a Blubber Bot by making a call and waving your phone near it. In response, it will go into a flocking dance or sing you a special tune. (alavs.com)

See also: UCI Beall Center for Art and Technology

New York City Waterfalls


“In developing the New York City Waterfalls, I have tried to work with today’s complex notion of public spaces,” said Eliasson. “The Waterfalls appear in the midst of the dense social, environmental, and political tissue that makes up the heart of New York City. They will give people the possibility to reconsider their relationships to the spectacular surroundings, and I hope to evoke experiences that are both individual and enhance a sense of collectivity.”

The New York City Waterfalls will be four man-made electrically-powered waterfalls erected in New York Harbor from mid-July to mid-October 2008 as part of a public art project. Each one is 90 – 120 feet tall (the highest will be approximately the same height as the Statue of Liberty!). They will operate from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM, and will be lit after sunset. (newyorkcitywaterfalls.com).

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