Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance

Whenever we interact with a thing, be it animal, vegetable, human or other, we form, by trial-and-error, a certain agreeement on the meaning of the symbols we use.

This may be anything from the words that compose a language, to the motions we tell our limbs to perform to keep us walking. When the literacy level in the language of the speaker and listener is high enough, poetry and dance are possible. However, this is only really possible if the basic rules and grammar of the language are agreed on.






This is really all about me being angry at the buttons on my cellphone. The buttons are labelled "1", "2", "3", "4", "5", "6", "7", "8", "9", "*", "0", "#". Usually, I use these buttons to type in a certain number of a certain friend's phone that I want to call at the very moment. Then, I press the send key. But, my phone and I have a few more things we talk about:

"*" also means I want to put my phone in vibrate mode.
"0" sometimes means means "I'm tired of navigating through a stupid menu system and want to talk to a human being"
"1" sometimes means "I want to speak in English, not French"
"7" sometimes means "I want to delete the message"

Curiously, written directly onto the buttons in smaller writing are strings of leters, such as "MNO" on the "6" and "WXYZ" on "9". I've come to find that they don't actually mean the entire string, but only a few letters at a time.

I text message my friends alot since with my cellphone plan it's free and often I only need to let themknow of things without having an entire conversation. When I'm text messaging, I need to communicate in the English alphabet. For "5", also labelled "JKL", I can get three different things (actually four, if you include 5 itself):
5 = J
55 = K
555 = L
5555 = 5
55555 = J (again)

so, if I wanted to text message "Im coming", it would be entered as:

"4446#222666[wait a second]6444664444"

I pressed "4" too many times the last time, so I had to go all the way around again. This is the way I'm used to doing things

However, something I also do often is looking up people's extension numbers in automated telephone directories. At some point in the automated menu system (when I haven't gotten annoyed enough to press "0" yet) I'll hear "Please enter the first three letters of the person's last name." Whereupon if I want to speak to someone with the last name "Bergeron", I'll enter the ridiculous string of numbers:

"2233777"

By the first "7", the system is usually yelling back at me that it doesn't understand me. The system expected me to enter "237", and then it would run some sort of matching algorithm. The predicament gets worse when I type in a number too many times and I automatically go all the way around again, making the system yell at me even more. This is dissonance - we had this well agreed-upon language that suddenly ceases to be, and now I don't trust my phone.

I've recently been playing Indigo Prophecy - a "game" that the French creator billed as an "interactive movie." The interactive story elements are pretty awesome, and you can change characters while wandering through the story's world to hear their perspective, which can actually change the course of the story. Unfortunately, during combat or action scenes it switches to what is called "Shenmue-style" button matching sequences, meaning I need to stop paying attention to what is actually going on on the screen and I switch to paying attention to little green, red, yellow or blue lights that show which buttons I need to mash on the keyboard to do "Great!" in the sequence. This is stupid. After a total of 10 hours of play or so, they've built up absolutely no meaning to me. I honestly cannot say that "blue" differs any way from "green". It just absolutely has no meaning for me. I don't care. I mean, sometimes when me characters need to dodge left, then the green buttons light up (which happen to be of the left side of the screen), but honestly I don't care. I've almost taken to giving up the game because these actions sequence frequently end in failure and in no way add to the enjoyment of the game. Please people, be aware of the learning potential of languages. Otherwise, the game's pretty awesome and packs some real cajones.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Queen's Professor compares video games to cocaine

http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/story.html?id=165016

Wow. I'll think up a more thorough response to this later. But in the meantime:

- The most advanced game the author ever played is Tetris, which somehow gives him license to condemn the entire medium.

- Video games are NOT passive in any way! Sure, they leave less to the imagination than books do, but they open out into another dimension (gameplay). Unless, however, they are designed in what Jonathan Blow calls "unethically". They do not deserve to be grouped with TV or movies, which consume less energy, both physically and mentally.

- Over-indulgence in anything is unhealthy (except Jesus). Moderation is your responsibility, just as with food and alcohol and anything else.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Narrative and Fido

Two nights ago, I watched Fido, a 2006 Canadian zombie film, with my housemate John. This post is about narrative and exposition in that movie, which is definitively the best Canadian movie I've ever seen (if you ignore the bilingualism of Bon Cop Bad Cop). Here's the trailer:



If you're going to see the movie, stop reading now! There isn't a twist as part of the central plot, but I'm going to talk about some of the narrative choices that the director made that I thought were interesting.

The movie takes place in an alternate 1950s era where, a few decades before, the Earth passed through a "radiation cloud", so that now any human that dies becomes reanimated as a flesh-hungry zombie. This is an important difference from styles of zombies seen in other films - when you die, everyone becomes a zombie. In fact, during a funeral the deceased's heads are buried seperately (in "headcoffins") from their bodies so they don't reanimate. The second major difference is that a corporation, ZomCon, has invented a collar that, when activated, can control a zombie's urges. So, a menial labour force of zombies exists, with "normal" families having anywhere from one to six. As you can guess, its a comedy.

The main story starts when a single-child family gets a zombie servant. The young boy, Timmy, is generally neglected by his parents, especially his emotionally distant farther, and bullied at school. It's the commonly seen lonely-young-boy syndrome. He befriends the new zombie quickly, who he names Fido. Naturally, shit starts going wrong. The collars are hilariously prone to being knocked off or deactivated, and quickly the old creepy lady in the neighbourhood, Mrs. Henderson, is killed by the zombie when he gets loose. Timmy has to kill her when she reanimates, and he buries her in the public garden. Again, hilarious. Later, bullies kidnap Timmy and tie him to a tree. They then deactivate Fido's collar, hoping that he will eat Timmy. Contrary to their plan, Fido actually shows self-control and goes after the bullies. With the bullies dead, but not for long, Fido tries to untie Timmy's rope but lacks the motor control. He runs (limps) to fetchs Timmy's mom, who gets there just in time to shoot the zombified bullies. Yet again, hilarious. The comedy of Fido, played by Billy Connolly, showing his restraint from eating Timmy's mom, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, is subtle and delicious.

Anyway, eventually the emotionless father gets shot by accident and Fido becomes the more emotionally-engaged father figure at the end of the movie.

What I was getting to is that the movie makes several narrative jumps and large chunks of the story are evidently missing. First, there is a certain tension between the father and Fido, but suddenly one day the zombie is sent away. Later, Fido and Timmy are together in a field (just before the bullies scene) with no reason for them being there. I found myself asking things like "What? When was the decision made to send the zombie away?" and "Where did they go? Why are they there?" Maybe I'm slightly more harsh than your average film watcher, but I found the jumps a little surprising. It turns out later when I was watching the deleted scenes on the DVD that the lead up to these important moments is explained in full. However, the director, Andrew Currie, said in the commentary that he felt that these parts were boring and didn't add to the narrative. Well, you know what, I watched the scenes and they were boring. Had I the choice of including them in the film and having a well-explained plot versus the film as-is with the more punchy narrative flow, I would take the latter. The two events that I mentioned weren't out of the ordinary with the film's universe at that point at all. So, miniature revelation for myself. Film is about expositing interactions between people, it's not about fact-checking.

And games get in trouble for having no plot. Pffft. (I had to bring it back to that)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Encroaching Automata (but, you know, in a good way)

Holy wow, Google Reader is now making recommendations.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007

FAMINE


If you're in and around Kingston in the coming weeks, be sure to check out Famine, the show I'm producing for Single Thread Theatre Company. It's been one of the reasons why this blog has been so quiet, and I can say that it was well worth it.


The show run is November 14th - 24th. If you want tickets, you can get them online at the Grand Theatre Box Office. Click here for the online store.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Crunch Time


Yeah, crunching for another project right now. In the meantime, look at this.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Some boardwork

There's a lot of advantages to having a massive chalkboard in my house. One is the quenching of my large writable space fetishism. Another is being able to work on my thesis and a set design at the same time.


Image processing algorithm design for my thesis on the left, set design scribbles for the opera on the right.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A few weeks spent underwater

It's been a while since I've updated this blog. I'm sort of beginning to wonder what the purpose of it. The last few posts have been all over the map. Am I using this to disseminate things I find cool? Am I using this for commentary or musings? I'd like to use if for all of the above, but it may be time to consider a serious design change.

Every once in a while, I make a consciously drastic change in my daily life. This may be anything from forcing myself to sing in the shower in the morning, or moving my furniture around to a very different configurations. I find this forces me actively adapt to new situations, so I never actually settle into unproductive habits. I'm beginning to think I need to re-think this blog in the same manner. Another problem is that most of my casual updating about my life (with pictures!) now happens over the almighty facebook.

These last two months have been busy. Oh man oh man oh man. I'm so anxious to finish up this undergrad degree it hurts. I've also been on a school hunt. After an especially good find while I was in Vancouver, I've decided to broaden my horizons and look around a little. I'll likely apply to many places, but several factors may influence my final choice. I've also been doing Improv, producing a show and finishing up my degree. This has left me pretty lacking in new interpersonal relationships, although I have to say that the people I'm living with are amazing (sorry, there's no actual link there).

I've managed to play Halo 3, Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and Portal during the wee hours of the night after I've been mentally capable of doing schoolwork. My reading has been lacking lately, although I've managed to organize the giant list of rss feeds I read into Google Reader. I currently read 62, some of which are more news-oriented, some are less serious, and some are rants or laments on the nature of game design. I've taken to watching video of the latest Johnathan Blow speeches while doing laundry or relatively boring homework, too.

Somewhere in here I have a list of art projects to finish. Some involve flash, some involve the internet, some involve text. As usual, thanks for reading and I promise to bring some more coherence to this space in the near future.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Neuroticism is optimal?

I just read this article:

Neurotic software has winning personality

Austrian researchers made several different AI classes (agressive, defensive, normal and neurotic) and pitted them against a real-time strategy game's built-in AI engine. Turns out the neurotic AI was the most successful of them all

In other news,

Lately I've been watching a lot of Johnathan Blow's speeches, where he often mentions "unethical gameplay" (article). He defines unethical gameplay, in one specific case, as designing a game with "rewards" built in. So, the user keeps playing a game for these moments of reward (cutscenes could be one example) while the underlying gameplay is crappy or uninteresting. He says that the play that results from the game should be interesting in of itself, not because of the "rewards" that the game doles out.

Both of these items are interesting to me. While the majority jury is out on whether violent games cause violence (I don't think so) I am of the belief that the cognitive structure of a game has a significant effect, in the short term at least, on how you behave. After playing a few hours of the Thief series, I find I always stick to the shadows in real-life for a while afterwards. After playing a "twitch"-style casual game for 15 minutes, I have a little trouble concentrating and feel hyper afterwards. But these are always short-term effects. The violence in videogames is different because it is representational. I'm not going to get deep into this right now, but you aren't actually ACTING violent, you are DOING violent things. If you're doing them with a friend, such as completing Halo 3 on Legendary (me and my housemate yesterday) then the primary behavior that is being encouraged is cooperation.


So, if game designers want to design ethically, they should think of the type of personality that a game encourages. Cool.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Passed Around



I finally got this pay slip in the mail, after it was passed around for several weeks in Queen's internal mail system. I thought I'd capture it here; it represents my educational experience with shocking accuracy. The "experience" is coming to a close, and there's really only 7 months left for me at Queen's.

This September has been really busy, so I've been relatively silent here. The first Improv Show in several months was last night at Wellington St. Theatre, and it was great to get back on stage again.

Keep watching, fans.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Coming up this week...

In 12 hours I'm going to be getting on a flight to Vancouver. This is my final hurrah of the summer, the final tiny bit of adventure I get in before school starts up again.

In Vancouver the agenda is pretty thick with Game Design and Digital Media schools to check out. I've got five on my list in the space of three days.

I had already booked my return flight, with the intention of coming back on Sept 6th. However, my Vancouver friend gave me an offer I couldn't refuse: in exchange for a free place to stay, he and I will tag-team drive his car back, and see how close we can cut it to 40 hours. Here's a picture of our route:


Apparently the quickest way is through the States. We aren't stopping, and are going to try to drive in alternating 6-hour shifts. Oh man oh man oh man. I've heard alot of doubt as to whether we can do it in 40 hours, although I had somebody quote 36 hours to me yesterday as the amount of time it should take.

I'll keep all y'all posted.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

...all part of a complete writing session


Paper pad, Bic pen, a hearty stout and a patio.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Finally, womanly slapping as a gameplay element


The plot of the game follows Rose, a low-born widow of the eldest son of a noble family who was only married yesterday. She must defend her stake to the family mansion by slapping every female in her way. Fantastic! The gameplay is entirely controlled by mouse-tracing, so you literally are dragging your mouse across the other character's face to attack, and then across your own back to evade. Here's a few screenshots:





Saturday, August 11, 2007

Nelly's Ride Wit Me

Back in Grade 11, a few friends and I innocently made a music video cover of Nelly's Ride Wit Me. We really weren't seeking artistic integrity at the time, just seeing what we could do with some video editing and shooting. Also, one of the guys I was working with was incredibly rich (as as example, we once asked his neighbor if we could use his Mercedes in the shoot, to which he replied "Which one?") so we could actually have some nice cars, etc. Well, we made the video and a year or so ago I posted it on youtube. The rest, they say, is history.

For whatever undecipherable reason, using the youtube search algorithm with the search string "Ride Wit Me" brings our video in at 6th. Because of this strange gift, at the time of this writing, the video itself has attracted over 30,000 views and 64 comments.

I think some of these comments are good examples of the backwaters of internet culture. Here's a few choice examples:

ceeceegurl8735 (1 week ago)
lol. da part with da dog wuz funny. great video

beckerfanboy27 (1 month ago)
WIGGER OMG

t1cTacJ0e (2 months ago)
without disrespecting you lads, the only thing that makes this video watchable was the song, however god acting and shit. stay brutal \m/

Mortadaissexy (3 months ago)
Wigger 100 %

aznbabieloser (3 months ago)
yo you guys suck plz stop posting shit

aracid (3 months ago)
The video wasn't interesting. That's all I can say. I can see most of your commenters are very immature and ignorant with their words, but not interesting is what they basically mean.

crazywhiteb0y11 (4 months ago)
these bitches are gay they dont got no girls
wtf vid dont got bitches

Djurovic90 (4 months ago)
bullshit of video!!!stupid american pussis!

armendtje (5 months ago)
where them girls at? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA nerds

snl4life15 (5 months ago)
you need to learn the difference between fact and racism "brotha". they were corny and they were white, if they were f@#kin orange i would have said stupid orange boyz,so keelo stop trying to assume some one is a racist against some corny white boyz if you dont know them. u calm down

killo11 (5 months ago)
the term "white boyz" is no different than the "n"-word.
they're both racial comments and are not acceptable in modern society.

gameking50P (5 months ago)
what the fuck is this, its just a bunch of white guys flashing how rich the r compared to black ppl

MrMarijuanaMan (10 months ago)
...fake chains...fake clothes... no ladys just weiners...the only thing you did right was say "im a failure"...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

O-SNAP! forces me to learn

I just started applying for OSAP for the fourth year in a row. The last few years, its just been a series of clicks through all the documentation and then on to the "give me money phase" (some paraphrasing here) but it looks like this year, for each portion of the legalese, there is a short multiple-choice quiz on what the legalese actually says. Initially, I find this incredibly annoying, but its nice that I'm actually being forced to read the fine print on what I'm signing up for.

If only they'd do this with EULAs....

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bubbles!


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Daft Hands



Holy Crap!

UPDATE: Oh shit! A parody! Again, hilarious



UPDATE 2: Oh shit! More! I'll never understand the relationship with some people and their pets.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I want 10

When I saw Jason (my high-ranked Telus salesman/karaoke friend) in Toronto this past weekend, he had taken a screenshot of an iPhone display and made it the background of his regular phone. I dropped to my knees involuntarily, fooled temporarily and praising him as a god.

In related news,

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Games and Education

The link below is to "Statetris", a game where you play tetris with the States of America. After playing it for about 3 minutes, I think I've learned more about the geography of the states than in my previous 22 years of life. Awesome!

http://www.mapmsg.com/games/statetris/usa/

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Quagmire

I'm stuck here.

I'm looking exhaustively at school programs for next year, specifically game design program. I have a little .txt file I keep full of all of them, and one has really caught my eye. It's the Vancouver Film School Game Design Program. It's a twelve-month intensive program, where I drop $29,000 to have myself shoved into the gaming world. It's exciting me a little too much, and I'm scared.

I mean, something I could have wanted very badly could become true, suddenly, with very little preparation or thought. There are two alternatives here:

One

The slow, easy, careful route. I take another computer science degree, maybe 2-4 years or something. Talk my way into a few jobs. Build some experience. Or, I could even try to start in Q&A right after this degree. Move to some a major centre first, and see what I can do.

Two

VFS. My still-bloodied fetus being shot out into the games industry still crying and screaming and wide-eyed, unable to crawl.

<too much information>

Anecdotally, the way I was actually born was only my head popping out first. I then apparently looked around the room without any crying, taking it all in. Then, after a short pause, the rest of me came out. This came to my knowledge through an awkward conversation with my mother.

</too much information>

At some point, I want to be able to pursue game design from an academic standpoint, and I'm afraid that charging head-long into the industry, with only a superficial game-oriented education will limit me in that respect. I've been thinking alot about it, and jeff orkin seems to have done it right. He's an academic primarily who consults on some wicked games, like F.E.A.R., for example. Oh, and if you read this blog you should check out his "The Restaurant Game Project". He's trying to mine several gameplay experiences to create an AI. That's a really bad explanation - just check it out.

I geuss I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Giggity giggity.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wii!!!!!

I just got back home from my glorious friend Ryan's house, where he introduced me to the Wii. Thus, I shall expound on it.

We played Wii Sports, as he didn't have any other two-player games, so keep in mind this is only reflective of Wii Sports on the Wii, not any other title.

After the first 10 minutes of "Holy shit! The pointer turns UPSIDE DOWN when I turn my hand UPSIDE DOWN!" and "Ahhh! It moves like me!" I got into the groove, while still being pretty damn excited. This console has a ton of potential, provided the design is done well. Ryan said that golf sucked, so we stuck to bowling, tennis, boxing and baseball. Overall, I prefer boxing or tennis, although I'm much better at boxing. Ryan likes baseball. I was struck hard at the intuitiveness of the game. Some things had to be taught, like in baseball you press certain buttons to pitch the ball particular ways. I loved how intuitive tennis felt, when your character moved around for you and all you had to do was swing the racket. In boxing, I think I felt more in control than I have in any game. However, there's no point in ranting how awesome it is, because I could go on and on.

Criticism:

There is, quite obviously, so much under-potential here. I began to notice that, while it seems like the characters are following your exact moves, they actually determine what type of move you are doing, and use that instead. For example, in baseball, a twitch will do instead of a full-fledged swing. I also noticed that during tennis, after sweating my ass off while swinging the Wiimote left and right, Ryan told me to calm down and just twitch my hand. Sure enough, twitching does it. It actually doesn't even matter which way you twitch your hand. The timing is more important than direction. Bowling got boring rather fast for more, but I'm not a bowler anyway. During boxing, I actually won 8 AI matches in a row, propelling my Mii's skill level up higher and higher. When the crowd cheered, I would raise my hands up high, but my avatar did not respond. How cool would it have been if it had raised its hand too, and the crowd had cheered louder? When you win a round, there's some deliciously funky music that comes on as the camera pans around your avatar. The music just DEMANDS dancing, but the avatar only responds by lamedly continuing to punch. I want to fucking dance! Why put dance music in there, and not let me dance? WHY?!

All in all, a great title for some quick fun, especially for non-gamers. I can see its just BARELY scratching the surface, though.

Now, I clearly haven't see that many Wii games come out, but I do hope that they continue to be well designed. Hopefully, the direct accelerometer data from the Wiimote comes straight into gameplay, not a simplified version. In my opinion, bastardizing such a beautiful wealth of real-world mineable data is, really, a huge waste. One can only dream.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Movie Sets and the World

I read very quickly. In fact, I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in the last two days.

I really like these books. They are nice and imaginative, but I find myself getting frustrated with the details. Like how the book seems like a movie set, and not a world. A movie set is one push on a poorly-supported flat away from being exposed as virtual. While I can appreciate that the story is good, I keep finding myself asking questions that seem to make the world inconsistent. A few examples:

- The ministry arrested an innocent person who was under the Imperius curse in this book and put them in Azkaban. However, when Sirius was in Azkaban he was able to escape because he was innocent.

- The books are very Britain centric. I rarely hear a reference to the outside world. As Voldemort is gaining power, you'd think they would bring in Aurors from the outside, but this isn't even considered or mentioning. In fact, we have no idea what goes on in the international wizarding community, or if all the wizards are mentioned.

- Cornelius Fudge talking to the Muggle Prime Minister was the only time we've heard of Muggles. Are muggles generally ignored? There can't be that many wizards compared to normal people.

- The book is also very Harry/Ron/Hermoine centric. It almost seems like they are the only character who are conscious, or whose decision processes we see. Nothing really happens, and I'm exaggerating here, without their thought or intervention.

It's not that I have trouble with accepting wizards - it is because I can, rather easily, ask questions about the world that make it look inconsistent. A book that is good at avoiding this is Perdido Street Station. It can be classified as "really fucking weird", mentioning thaumaturgy (magic), vodanyoi (human-sized sentient frogs), crisis energy and elyctrons in the same sentence. However, the world for all its un-Earthness seems to be real. It doesn't seem to be a film set that is just constructed to lead us around some plot points.

But maybe that's the point of Perdido Street Station, as opposed to the Harry Potter books.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Self-Referential Multiple Choice

I'm currently writing a multiple choice placement test for engineering calculus students. I wrote a draft, and sent it in to the professor I'm working for, where he found an error in this question.

Which statement is correct about the f(x) and its inverse, g(x)?

1. g(x) is the reciprocal of f(x)
2. An output so that g(x) = - f(x)
3. g(f(x)) = x
4. g(x) undoes the action of f(x)
5. 3 and 4
6. I don’t know


Have you spotted the problem?

In the question, #3 is right, #4 is right and so is #5. Or is it? The choice #5 doesn't say that it itself is right. #5 needs to state this fact, given that it isn't talking about statements about calculus, it is talking about statements which may or may not be true.

I'm reading too much Godel Escher Bach.

Monday, July 09, 2007

What I'm reading right now

In light of yesterday's post on the newest book I've got, I'm going to reveal what Dustin's reading on a regular basis. I'm actually a ways off from breaking into Second Person - I have several books to go through before that.

Usually, for books, I have one fiction and one non-fiction going at the same time. For the last few months, I have been wading through Godel Escher Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. Don't get me wrong, its a great book, but it is hard for me to digest. For fiction, I just finished reading Perdido St. Station, by China Mieville, and now I'm into Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. These two books are great. Perdido Street Station is fantastically imaginative, and Haunted is deliciously weird.

I constantly keep a list of books, movies and video games I need to play through posted on my bulletin board, numbering about 20 each. Sometimes on a whim I will go internet shopping and actually go out and buy these things, so they physically end up in the "cue" bookshelf above my desk. Next to me right now is: The Diamond Age or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson, Collapse by Jared Diamond, Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, AI for Game Developers, The Long Walk and finally, at the bottom, is Second Person. Whew!

I also read graphic novels. I read Y:The Last Man (whenever it comes out. the publish schedule is damn slow) and I'm reading through a friend's 100 Bullets.

With games, I take a similar approach I do to books, except instead of fiction/non-fiction I do casual/non-casual (A non-fiction game is, well, The Internet). I'm playing through Syberia, an adventure game, and Wik and The Fable of Souls (a really innovative arcade name with a stupidly pretentious and misleading title). I'm also playing through an interactive fiction game called Savoir-Faire by Emily Short. It's a parser adventure, very well written with an aristocratic flair. On the cue (ahem, shelf), I have Indigo Prophecy, known for its excellent writing.

As for TV and movies, I almost never schedule my life around TV. Except for Battlestar Galactica, which is between its 3rd and 4th seasons. Usually, I download series, and I just started watching Dexter two days ago. It looks pretty interesting so far, but I'm not sure if it will hold my attention.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Peppering of Humour



Perry Bible Fellowship has been going slowly for the past few months (although I did still check it obsessively while I was in Southeast Asia), so I'm happy to resort to xkcd for my visual endorphin needs.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sitch Ring

Since this is almost the third post in this vein, I'm tempting to add a tag on my blog for "news about sitch-like devices". If you haven't heard about the Sitch, it was a device I invented for the purpose of Deviants, a play I wrote and acted in this past spring. The central idea is that it connects one's mind to all other minds (think like a mental internet) and allows for free flow of information, and the ensuing consequences.

Well here's a video where someone has created a Sitch-like device using wikipedia and Second Life:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Short History of Progress

Summer of 2004:

I'm bussing downtown at Chez Piggy, leaving me pretty unstimulated intellectually, leading some critics to call this "a rather boring summer."

While trying to cure my boredom, I discover Second Life while surfing on mmorpg.com.

Considering I'm part of a real-life Improv Show, I try starting a team in Second Life. I manage to get about 25 avatars to show up at a meeting of The Thinkers (written about here). The interest was there, but I realized the interface was too awkward to make decent theatre.

School Year 2004-2005:

Nothing relevant. Worked really hard at school.

Summer 2005:

Worked in the ILC on lighting controls that adjusted to ambient daylight. It was pretty lonely, programming on a micro-processor all day.

Went to a virtual book signing in Second Life for a book by blogger Cory Doctorow.

School Year 2005-2006:

I was part of a collaborative playwriting project, and hired to organize/summarive/concentrate all the creative input. I came upon the idea of using this blog as a way for everyone to see and comment on my summaries. Almost by accident, we starting writing the play here, most of which was retained when it was actually performed (pdf).

Summer 2006:

I work for a professor in the Mathematics Department by performing MATLAB simulations of electrons in metal lattices, to help better understand high-temperature superconductivity. (no website anymore) This was a little less lonely, because I had another student I was working with.

School Year 2006-2007:

I was hired as a Teaching Assistant for APSC 171 and APSC 172, which I found incredibly rewarding. I ran one 50-student tutorial per week.

Summer 2007:

I threw the chance of getting another cushy four-month job to the wind, and travelled Southeast Asia for six weeks, making for a great start to the summer. When I returned to Kingston, I was a little depressed when waking up in the morning didn't mean I would learn a bit of a new language that day, and that I was jobless.

Yesterday:

I was hired by Professor Leo Jonker to work on a project for the rest of the summer, developing an online supplementary calculus course for students who have not had sufficient calculus in high school.

While looking into the job before he hired me, he went to the Emerging Technology Centre at Queen's University, who suggested that one of the ways he could teach calculus was to use Second Life (wikipedia link this time). That's full circle.

While I probably won't be using Second Life, I do have some crazy ideas coming, and this is bound to be the Best Job Yet.

Monday, June 25, 2007

All Quiet on the Home Front

I know I've been pretty quiet since I got back from the amazing trip. I've been job searching, which is, for me at least, one of the most stressful activities in the world. Anyway, I may be two inches away from securing something but I can't be really happy until that happens.

Well, I noticed this story recently, combining many things I'm a fan of: Second Life, Richard Dawkins and questions of "reality".

Also, happy birthday to mom.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Psssstthhh!

I know I'm supposed to be in Southeast Asia right now, but The Escapist has a great four-part article by Warren Spector (Deus Ex, Thief, Wing Commander, etc.) on Storytelling in games.

link.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Gone to Southeast Asia

From May 1st - June 10th, I'm gone backpacking across Southeast Asia with my friend Taylor. I won't be updating this old place as much, but I will be putting words and pictures (and videos?) on our travel blog, http://ducksonaplane.blogspot.com/

Hot Fuzz versus Adaptation

I just watched Hot Fuzz again last night in a theatre for the second time in a week. What a great movie on so many different levels.

[SPOILERS]

Halfway through the movie the first time, I suddenly dawned on me the similarities between this movie and Adaptation, another film I'm very much in love with.

Both films play with romanticism (not just with love, but with things that are awesome) and its relation to reality. Both of them are extremely post-modern, although in different ways. The thing that Really Got It For Me in Hot Fuzz was when Nicholas Angel (the main character and conservative supercop) returned back to the village of Sandford after being exiled and supposedly murdered by Danny, his partner. This strikes exactly the same to me as the "hollywood ending" that appears and becomes the ending of Adaptation, provided by Donald Kaufman, the fictional/real screenwriter brother of Charlie Kaufman, who actually exists. The exact moment of the changeover appears to be when Nicholas Angel stops in a coffee shop on his way back to London, and see Keanu Reeve's face on the cover of Point Break staring back at him.

This "split" or changeover makes a few changes in both movies: from plausible to non-plausible, from unromantic to romantic, from tension to release of tension; essentially from regular to awesome. The split appears not just in the actual plot of the movie, but throughout other elements as well. In Adaptation, there is a split personality of Charlie/Donald Kaufman. This is manifested differently in Hot Fuzz - Nicholas Angel is extremely serious, having a lot of experience in the London police force. Also, he only drinks cranberry juice. Danny, however, believes him to be some kind of superhero, asking him, for example, what the best place is in a man's head to shoot if you want it to blow up. Danny believes him to be a very different person from who actually he is, although he becomes that person at the end of the movie. Finally, both films deal with a split between surface reality and actual reality, namely, conspiracies. Conspiracies are convenient plot devices, generally, because they allow a writer to makes sudden changes to a world we, as an audience, had thought that we had already understood the rules for. Anyway, the conspiracy in Adaptation was that the Ghost Orchid was some sort of drug that the indians were teaching Susan Orlean and John LaRoche to extract. Meanwhile, the conspiracy in Hot Fuzz was that the members of the NWA were killing off people in "accidents" whenever they risked Sanford's reputation as a prize-winning quaint small town.

I have to secretly wonder whether Hot Fuzz's writers and lead actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost ever watched Adaptation, and felt the split between reality and fantasy the same way I did. Having just watched their television show Spaced, which is abundant with "fantasy" experiences, I see its a big part of what they do. I'm happy that these two films acknowledge reality one an equal level as they acknowledge fantasy, which plays a huge part in our daily lives.

What I learned in Montreal

On Wednesday, I took a bus up to a meeting of IGDA Montreal, to one of their casual meetings about the games industry. It was all really interesting, and too hard to sum up here, but here's what I learned:

- Montreal is becoming more and more the Hollywood of Games.
- I have childish writing.
- read realitypanic.com - Jason Della Rocca's blog for info on an ongoing dispute with the lawyer Jack Thompson.
- You can smoke indoors in Montreal if it's wrapped in 100% tobacco paper.
- If you want to be taken seriously, have a business card.
- "Nobody wants just another shiny gun."
"I DO want another shiny gun."
- Chris 'Wombat' Crowell from A2M is one cool creative director badass.
- Everything that ever happens will be as a result of cool people that you meet in college.
- Big studios are getting progressively larger, while really small studios are becoming more abundant.
- The game industry is moving towards a freelance/union model.
- being the only non-French speaker at a table is an awkward position.
- get a French girlfriend in Montreal to force yourself to learn French.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A wicked rhyme I thought up

Then I hit the pavement, wondering how the rave went.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bacon's Lover Blog Post #325: on the road


Fuck I love bacon. Sometimes I get really intense cravings, and I want to be able to just snap my fingers and have bacon rain from the sky (see Perry Bible Fellowship).

I want to eat bacon on with everything. With mustard, with eggs, with cats even.


Are the new viewers gone yet?

I'm on a take-home exam writing binge. Its 2:30 am and I'm in the Oval-shaped computer lab in the ILC all by myself, with three computers logged in under my name. One to write this, another to do MATLAB/Maple work and the third is playing TV shows to keep me alert (I think?).

This image was under the heading "Food Porn":

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How to Direct Good Improv

I've been the Artistic Director of The Improv Show for nearly a year now, a year fully of very weird, stressful and entertaining experiences. On a regular basis I catch myself wondering what the hell I'm doing, or supposed to do. Directing an improvisation group, especially one as talented and creative as the one I work with, feels a lot more like a gardening than being an architect. Most of what I do consists of tilling the soil, making sure the plants are well-watered and not fighting with each other. I've tried telling plants where or how to grow, but sometimes a new plant will spring up, completely outside my plan and surprising me. I grab that new bud and give it as much water as possible to see what it will bloom into - sometimes nothing, but sometimes a pretty flower.

This summer the group was ancy for new experiences, as usual, and we delved into a type of improvisational theatre called longform (no decent links available, unfortunately). Although I perform with the group, I did a lot more watching than performing in this phase. I made rules for good scenes and wrote them down. Something deep inside me gets excited with new rules, which I thought of as lattices for vines to climb on in the garden. But, in hindsight, they were more like fences that stopped the garden from getting overgrown. We performed our new longform structure a couple of times this summer at Theatre 5, but returned to our regular short comedy improv at the Time to Laugh Comedy Club during the year. We forgot about longform for a while, and had a great run over several months, our last show at the club on March 29th. Alot of people are going away for the summer, including me, so we won't be performing improv in Kingston for a while.

In addition to be AD of the show, I'm also the Head Trainer for the Kingston Improv Games, the regional chapter of a nation-wide tournament that got me started in improv in grade 11. The kids that perform with this group are amazing, by the way, and there will be a "Lucky 13" improv league performing with them for the month of May (see the main page for info). A few weekends ago, I went up to see the National Tournament of the games, and went to a few workshops during the day, including one on longform. At the workshop, I learned a ton about the quintessential format of longform, the Harold, invented by a guy named Del Close. I realized during the workshop that the longform that The Improv Show was performing was too strict. We were, thanks to the rules I had put in place, being forced to perform in a naturalistic, linear style.

...which is what I told the group last Sunday (two days ago). I said we needed to be more abstract. There was disagreement: not having the connections we had agreed upon earlier would lead to shitty stories. I still was not convinced of my side of the argument but demanded we plunge forward anyway.

Without a suggestion, I went on stage, speaking in foreign language, and began to dig in the ground, finding a magic bean that made me grow bigger. I kept happily gabbing away in gibberish, and found another place to dig, and finding nothing. Next, Monica came on and started arguing with me in gibberish. Evidently, it was her property and she was kicking me off. I feigned pain (Note: I'm acting like I'm feigning pain) and began to writhe on the ground. We swept ourselves off the stage.

Mike went up on the stage, filling my role as the digging dwarf, this time speaking in English. Kristin filled Monica's role, and they reinterpreted what we did in their own way.

They swept the stage again, and Matt and Monica were now in a library. Monica playing the archetypal cute ditzy girl, Matt being an inexplicably creepy (librarian?). They played the scene, having nothing happen and drawing out so long as to be almost entertaining tense. Then, Monica's character left the stage. Then, Mike and Kristin entered the stage, playing the scene backwards, but speaking forwards. The dialogue goes a little bit like this:

K: I'm looking for a book.
M: What are you doing here?
K: This is the Ancient History Section, right?
M: Hello?

We swept the stage...

...and talked about what had just happened. It was nice and interesting, reinterpreting each other on stage, but not as entertaining as it could be.
Somewhere in here we had a discussion about what the guys would do if they had boobs, and the girls would do if they had penises. We also discussed puppetry of the penis. I think I said I wanted both for a day or something.

We started another longform without a suggestion.
I went up and started acting as if a reflective window was in front of me (I was adjusting my hair and such), and I was about to knock on a house's door for an important date. Unexpectedly, Mike came up and became my mirror image, just as I was about to enter the door.

Monica answered the door on my side of the house. Seeing the cue, Kristin answered the door on Mike's side. We behaved as perfect mirror images in movement and dialogue, until suddenly we split. Mike became, from my perspective, evil and I became good, too good. Matt also turned up on my side of the house, but only my side. We played out our parts, focus going back and forth from the left and right sides of the stage, and finally came to a conclusion.


The plot of the last longform was intensely complicated. Mike's side was very dark, and mine was extremely go-lucky, until it started turning dark after I suggested Matt should leave. Mike had revealed that he was looking for a serial killer who had come to this house a year ago. Was that person me? It was fantastic. We all had different beliefs about what was going on on the stage. Matt thought he was a vampire, which explained his ridiculous accent and why he could only be seen on one side.

Okay, we were being abstract, but I made it clear to the group that I wanted more. Mike said "the suggestion for this next scene is ABSTRACT." I didn't remember the next scene too well, but I'll have to explain subjectively from my point of view as I experienced it. I was talking about what I wanted with Mike while Kristin and Monica were slow-dancing in the open space...

...until everyone except for me realized the longform had already started. I promptly shut up, and Kristin jumped up and starting yelling into the corner of the stage. Monica stayed in the centre of the stage, saying she was feeling cold. Matt was up there too. I sat offstage in the audience, enraptured in the improvisation. Everyone who went into the stage space brought an idea with them, and I wanted to wait to see them bring something together before I joined in, if it made sense for me to. Matt, Kristin and Monica were listening closely and I began to see a theme emerge. I stepped up to stage right and mimed a door, and kept trying to open it, saying "Hello? Hello?" and trying to look through the people. I repeated this as the stage continued on. Mike came up to stage left, and walked the length of the stage, and reached THROUGH the door for me, pulling me "outside" into the stage space. I started shivering, having realized by this point that the theme was cold and loneliness. Was I right? It really does not matter - it was my contribution to the scene. I sat in the middle of the stage shivering, and everyone surrounded me and rained on me, both physically and with insults. It felt reminiscent of the psychodramas we used the The Time Project. At this point, I don't remember much of the scene, but it ended soon thereafter.

We agreed that that scene was extremely interesting, and we had reached a sufficient level of abstraction to make ourselves happy.

I decided it was time for the group to use a suggestion. On the whiteboard in the room we were using, someone had been studying for anatomy or cell biology or something, so there was a wealth of things to draw from. I picked "skeletal" and...

...went on stage, making the stage a bathroom. I reached under the sink and began to gleefully saw off my arm, cackling to myself. I then took it off the floor as it fell off, and in a series of hilarious movements, I nailed it to the wall. Kristin came in as my wife, and asked what I was doing. The arm became our baby, and she dressed it up and held it. She cut off her finger and drew a face on it. We swept the stage.

Mike and Monica came on. Mike was Monica's psychologist, and they were discussing, to my surprise, me! It turns out Monica was in love with me and had killed Kirstin, hoping my affection would go to her. I had gone on stage right and mimed being on a bus as they were discussing this. As I could tell they were getting to the end of their conversation, I mimed getting off the bus and walked up some stairs. Monica and I bumped together as I was about to walk into the psychologist's door, and had a conversation. I had gotten a prosthetic, and she was still in love with me. Mike and Kristin appeared stage right, standing on chairs and looking down on us. Monica and I faded out, and it appeared that Mike was death, talking to Kristin about us and the beyond. My arm appeared, played by Matt's arm. Kristin said she wanted to take it with her, but Mike told her she had to wait until the rest of it came (I had to die) Kristin felt ready to say goodbye, and traveled off to heaven or wherever with Mike. Matt was left there, in the purgatorial region presumably because the physical arm had rotted away somewhere.

At this point, watching from the audience, I assumed the scene was over. This would have been a good time to end it, were we on a time limit, or not playing Harold, or afraid of what was going to happen next.

Without warning, Mike rushed up on stage and became a hand who suddenly appeared next to Matt. They had a conversation, which made me laugh the hardest of the entire night. They were two purgatorial hands, waiting for the rest of their bodies to die so they could go to heaven. The conversation can't be reproduced here, but it involved a joke about Mike wanting to be held by Matt and then realizing they were both right hands, and Matt said he would do it but he didn't want Mike to think he was "ambidextrous."


We swept the stage after that, and saw that what we were doing was good. I said that they hand play made me think of a satyr play which immediately follows a trilogy of tragedies on traditional greek theatre. We immediately went into another, this time taking the suggestion "rating systems". While I was talking about what I wanted to see in this scene, Monica, Mike and Kristin had gone up..

...and I realized, despite my best efforts, that the scene had already started again without me realizing it. Monica was a living painting, and Mike was going to buy it from Kristin. Monica was a little shocked, but then decided to roll with it. After this went on for a while, I got a meta idea and walked over to stage right, behind Mike and Kristin, and started to complain about the painting of Mike and Kristin rating the painting of Monica that Matt was trying to sell to me. Phew. This went on for longer, when suddenly Mike turned around, acknowledging me.

We swept this...


..and people were wandering the room stretching out. I talked to Mike about the scene we had just done and what he liked about it. He was acting weird, and I could read him until I realized...

...that we were still in the scene.

This process of meta-rating scenes continued, with scenes being pushed back and forth. Once, I was physically pushed into a scene that I had just been rating. I screamed trying to get out. Somewhere in here, we started giving micetro-esque commands
by the people who were rating the scene, under the guise that this would make the scene better. As soon as I was pushed into the scene, Mike said that my arms were cut off and replaced with a lobster and some cotton candy. As a physical actor, this was great fun for me.

...


This sort of thing continued of a long time, with scenes rebelling against their creators and raters, often with bloody consequences.

...

Maryanne showed up late to practice, and we immediately began to rate her entry into out scene, demanding a better story from her. Then, Matt decided to enter as the absent Laura, and suddenly everyone became Laura, then Laura became a swear word....



The workshop finally ended when everyone put a stop to this. One of the memorable lines came from Mike: "Help! I'm trapped in absurdist theatre! I can never stop!"

Look for more improv of this type coming your way.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hooray!

Eidos to open games studio in Montreal

This makes my (very early) day.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sitch featured in The Walrus

Well, not really, but alot of the ideas are the same.

For those who didnt' see The Deviants, it was a collection of small plays (some of which) I wrote and acted for. One of the plays I wrote was entitled "Sitch": a story of a young woman rebelled against the future world she lived in, and organizing a collection of people to bring it down. The "world" she inhabited was a recent-future version of our society, where technology interconnects everyone to the point of reducing this to zombie-like creatures. The word I used in the play to describe this world was "flat".

Anyway, I just was in Indigo Book downtown and read an article in The Walrus talking about this issue, centred around a Human-Computer Interaction conference in Montreal. Pretty interesting stuff - reading it brought all my ideas rushing back from when I was writing the play almost 6 months ago.

Here is the article (free subscription needed)

One interesting thing the article bring up is that we treat our brains like computers; we expect our brain to memorize a fact or something on one read. I, myself, have to admit to frequent information amnesia. In fact, according to the article, the brain works very hard to forget information so that it only remembers the good stuff. The anecdote from the article is: "Imagine if when you saved a text document and loaded it later you only got back the parts you liked." I had never considered this when writing Sitch; I assumed it would somehow force people to remember everything. It would have been an interesting angle however.

"I'm sorry, the Sitch decided that remembering your anniversary isn't really relevant. Deleted."

Also, in the article detailed the work of some people now to make more suitable information organizers. Now, considering the way I wrote Sitch (Hint: It was a dystopia) I am skeptical, and pretty scared of all of these things. It's even worse when some of the ideas are exactly stuff I thought up (GPS-based reminders, etc.) Scary stuff. Well, at least lots of people are thinking about this issue, and it isn't just one mad scientist (me, from the future).

Saturday, March 31, 2007

How can games be Art?

Whether or not games can be considered art causes a lot of contention.
Article on Gamasutra
Games Are Art
Roger Ebert's article

My opinion, obviously, is that they ARE, for the following reasons:
1. They can be judged as good or bad.
2. They can indirectly express to the user's what is not expressible through direct explanation.
3. They can effect a user's emotional state.
4. They can have subtext, as in more depth that appears on the surface.

(I realized I wrote the above definitions with "observer" initially, and I had to change all those words to "user".)

One of the arguments against games being art, according to Roger Ebert and some others, is that they do not have complete authorial direction; the author does not have complete control over what happens. I guess it seems to him that every time a form of media becomes briefly interactive, then it ceases to be art and briefly becomes something else, becoming art again once the interaction phase is over. But, I want to ignore any arguments about that here and instead try to figure out what parts of a game (if its even okay to consider them separately) can contribute to the artistic value of the whole game.

Traditional Storytelling
Games can and do have excellent stories, comparable or better than anything seen in film, books or television. This type of art is well-known, and telling it through a game's viewpoint is very interesting. Examples of this include The Dreamfall series and God of War, both of which are well-known for their story-telling ability. As games grow up, they begin to find unique ways to tell stories. The Half-Life series is famous for this, telling the entire story with no narrative explanation from the first-person viewpoint as events are happening.

Interactive Storytelling
This is a new form to gaming, essentially derived from Choose-Your-Own-Adventures, but much more flexible. Good examples include The Wing Commander series and Deus Ex. These both have branching storylines with multiple endings. There is a lot of academic work in this field, which I keep track of at a blog called Grand Text Auto.


Traditional Audiovisual Aesthetics

This is what is usually shown in the form of screenshots. I, personally, think that this work is very admirable but effort could be expended much better elsewhere. Still, there are some very beautiful games out there, such as Myst or Riven or Shadow of the Colossus. Unfortunately, when a game is advertised, this is usually the only part of the game that the consumer sees.

Formal Rule Sets
This is where games started long ago. Chess is a good example, so are modern RPGs, or the MMORPG Eve Online, which has over 30,000 players and a persistent virtual economy. Games that have too much emphasis on this part of their design tend to only be attractive to a small audience, something the predominantly science and engineering background male games industry struggles with. I'd also like to extend the idea of formal rule sets not just to slow-paced RPGs but also to faster-paced First-Person Shooters. When you are fighting in an FPS, your thinking can be quite advanced, for example:
"The enemy has a Covenant turrent placed behind the rock and there are three grunts with sticky plasma grenades. I can't drive my Warthog in because they'll stick me so maybe I'll drive a Ghost over and ditch it while equipping a needler so as to take out the Gold Elite. I'll save my only frag grenade to turn over the turret and take the dead Gold Elite's plasma gun to take out the remaining grunts."

Fertile Area for Emergent Gameplay
When a game has formal rule sets, but there are no clear goals, emergent gameplay occurs. This is a bit of a buzzword in the games industry right now. Anything by Will Wright is an excellent example of this (Sim City, Sim Life, Sim Earth, The Sims, upcoming Spore). These are really fun, and they have a very wide audience appeal.


The Action-Response Relationship with the User

This is the way in which the game (on whatever platform) responds to user input. Of all the above-mentioned experiences, this is unique to electronic interactive media, and what I'm really interested in. This is the same effect as improvised interactive theatre, where the user is playing a role. Through this method, games can do amazing things, like explore the nature of experience and sanity. Advanced interactive storytelling is also possible, such as with Facade. Examples of this are rare, but they are becoming more common. The best example I could find is a game called Eternal Darkness:Sanity's Requiem where there is a "sanity meter" which depletes during gameplay. As the sanity of the player gets lower and lower, strange things happen in the game world, and the fourth wall is broken with terrifying effect.

The reason why I find games so attractive is that they have so many different ways to express themselves, and I think we are just hitting the tip of the iceberg.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I am a Superhero

Your results:
You are Iron Man

Inventor. Businessman. Genius.



Click here to take the "Which Superhero am I?" quiz...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Home Base

This is, possibly, one of my most favourite film shorts of all time.



I'm not sure if it appeals to me personally alot, or what. My favourite actor is the mother, but in my opinion the script is genius.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Brain damage turns man into human chameleon

What a fascinating article.

This leads to alot of interesting discussions of acting, role-playing and identity crises.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Bar-worthy conversation



It was St. Patrick's day. I had finished several Bailey's on the Rock, three cans of Guiness, two black velvets, two Toucan Breakfasts and seven episodes of Arrested Development. The group decided to stop by at QP for some pool. Naturally, the combination of the bodily abuse I was giving myself now and the payback from Player's last night led to the deterioration of my mental and physical state. I began to subconsciously ask questions like:

"Should I go home and go to sleep?"

This would have turned out to be a mistake, based on events that would happen later in the night.

But I didn't. I left my friends at the pool table, and turned to something that I do often in a social bar environment. I wander, and begin to the speak to the first person who makes and holds significant eye contact. I actually found many groups that I knew this night, and wandered around and through them, causing the occasional laugh, or hugging or shaking hands or remembering names.

Then I settled on a really good one introduced to myself by my good friend Kelsey Benning; and this is where the meat comes in.



Some how the phrase "Green with Envy" came up. It occurred to me that there are seven deadly sins, and seven colours in the traditional high school rainbow. Our goal was to find a 1-1 relation between colours and deadly sins, preferably which would fill in the phrase

"Colour with Deadly Sin"

We looked for cases where the association would "seem" right, not for any sort of formal meaning. And so we came up with:

Red Rage
Orange Gluttony
Yellow Sloth
Green Envy
Blue Greed
Indigo Lust
Violet Pride

Green and Envy were pretty obvious. Yellow was associated with cowardice, and Sloth. Orange came to mean candy wrappers or something, hence Gluttony. Blue was Greed because of conservatism or something (Blue is the colour of the conservatives in Canada). Red was a toss-up between Rage and Lust, but it eventually went to Rage because it fit the phrase "Red with Rage" better. Violet came to be associated with gay Pride. Finally, leaving Lust with Indigo, which I justify as the colour your genitalia turn after hours of rough sex.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Idea Factory

My wall is slowly getting covered with 8 1/2 by 11s, scrawling in messy blue pens with hastily done drawings. Where something isn't big enough to be committed to lined paper, it becomes a post-it note: sometimes nothing more than a pun or an interesting re-spelling, sometimes a whole bunch of meaning condensed to the one word on the vulnerable piece of sticky paper.

I have ideas coming out the wazoo now. Most of them are getting committed to paper; the ones that don't have the same light after 24 hours are thrown away and destroyed. The best of them start being implemented. The absolute best, even just barely, might stand a chance of being finished.

Dustin

ps. Dear Metal Gear Solid 3,

You lose. Your overly-long and valueless cut scenes, your lack of camera control and your absolute absence of decent character development has turned you against me. I don't care what your reviewers say - you're self-involved and, at worse, you don't seem to be much of an actual game.

We're breaking up.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Discovery: Grammatical Group

While over a discussion with my linguist/awesome/web programmer friend Eric Akaoka, I discovered the most interesting thing.

He was going about correcting people on the proper use of the plural form of words, which is completely normal for him.
e.g.

Octopus -> Octopi
Uterus -> Uteri
Clitoris -> Clitorises

Clitoris turned out to be a bit confusing, since most people expected the plural to be Clitori, but Eric corrected us that it was, in fact, Clitorises. For it to be the way we expected, the word would have had to be "Clitorus" with the -us ending.

Suddenly it hit me.

I turned to Eric, and asked
"So, what's the plural of 'us' then?"

There was a few seconds of silence, and then we realized that we had discovered something beautiful:

The plural of I is US, and the plural of US is I. Mathematically speaking, {I, us} is a group under the "plural" operation.

So,

plural(I) = Us
plural(Us) = I

also, the product plural*plural is the identity operator.
i.e. plural(plural(I)) = (plural*plural)(I) = I

fantastic!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Nemesi

So, I'm sorting through some of the final tech stuff for Deviants, and I come across this wonderful piece of stupid art, by this guy named Mondrian.



I'm sure you have all seen stuff like this before. Now to learn more about who this was, I turned as I always do to wikipedia. It turns out Mondrian had a rival painter around the same time period, named Doesburg. They even had a very serious split over a period of a few years. Let's take a look at Doesburg's paintings, shall we:

(drumroll)



On close inspection, they are NOT, in fact, the same! Allow me to quote from this wikipedia article:

"During 1924 the two men had disagreements, which eventually lead to a (temporary) split in the same year. The exact reason of this split has been a point among art historians; usually the divergent ideas about the directions of the lines in the paintings have been named as the primary reason: Mondrian never accepted diagonals, whereas Doesburg insisted on the diagonal's dynamic aspects, and indeed featured it in his art. However, Mondrian accepted some concepts of diagonals, such as in his "Lozenge" paintings, where the canvas was rotated 45 degrees, while still maintaining horizontal lines."

WHAT! THEY SPLIT OVER WHETHER OR NOT TO USE DIAGONAL LINES??!?!?!?!

Back to work.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Deviants Next Week



Its weeks like these when I'm unconsciously making deals with Father Time.

The Deviants opens next week. I wrote, acted and designed the set. This is one of the moments when you are throwing yourself out there, and in the last minute you question whether you're really just full of shit. I think that's healthy. I think that this production has made me grow so much as a writer, actor and member of a creative group. Although its the most stressed I've ever been, I realize that this is the sort of stuff I want to do for the rest of my life.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Super Columbine Massacre RPG

An excellent column in The Escapist on satire, violence in videogames, videogames not getting the same treatment as other art forms and the meaning of experiencing something.

For the record, I have not played the game mentioned in the title, but after reading the article I kind of want to.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I hear typing

This post is in the vein of more game design thoughts.

I've played alot of different video games. And I'm saying, alot. More frequently, I'm playing modern console games. Generally, these are more leaning towards casual, low-commitment play.

Recently, though, with a few of the more modern games, I'm getting this sense. Its hard to explain - I'm not sure exactly what it is. Its not a good feeling, surely, but I'm not sure if its bad either, and maybe its just me. Its the same sort of feeling I get when I'm watching a scene from a film or movie and an actor says what they're thinking instead of acting it or showing it. I feel insulted, like I'm being spoonfed. Is it because I might have a higher literacy level than the film's intended audience in the medium we're looking at? I hate thinking that way, because that makes me appear snobbish, which I may be.

Either way, its an issue.

Specifically, the feeling I'm getting from games recently is that I'm being spoonfed. Not that the puzzle or obstacle is too easy, just that its forced and unnatural.

For example, in Half-Life 2:Episode 1 There is a moment where Alyx Vance and Gordon Freeman come to a door. Previously we've seen doors like these where you turn a knob on the side but, in this case, the knob is missing. Alyx says "Something's missing." Now, Half-Life is intended for the adult audience, and somehow I feel a little let down when I turn 180 degrees to see a pile of boxes. Sure enough, after some aggressive maneuvers with the gravity gun, I find the knob at the bottom corner of the pile and I attach it to the door to continue on.

My reaction is "Why did you bother to waste my time with such a simplistic puzzle?"

My later reaction is that I felt spoonfed. I felt like, not only was the puzzle easy, but that I was pushed along. Also, it felt very symbolic - too symbol. This particular puzzle can be generalized to:

"Something is missing, find it to continue."

Valve calls puzzles of the type above "gates" (Ref. Half-Life 2, Ep 1 Commentary). Specifically, making sure something happens before the player can go on. Valve often mentions in the above commentary that they put in these types of puzzles to fight "combat fatigue"; meaning it is good to bracket intense combat with slower-paced puzzle-solving. I call this particular puzzle "symbolic" because I feel it is general, and has little to do with the actual situation the player is in.

My overarching issue is that this archetypal puzzle has nothing to do with our situation: Gordon, Alyx, the Combine, or even the particular type of door for that matter. It feels cartoony. It basically could have been "let's stop the gameplay until this chess-playing demon allows us to pass." For me, it brings my focus out of the realm of the game universe.

I worked with a playwright last year on The Time Project, which eventually became Heterotopia. One of the nuggets he left with me was that often playwrights, when listening to their own work, will often hear the clacking sounds of a typewriter. They are unable to experience their own work separate from the fact that they created it as a piece of work; they are unable to experience their play as a play itself, but also as something that was constructed.

I think that's the feeling I'm getting. I hear typing - I can tell Half Life 2:Episode 1 is a game (and many others too). This shouldn't happen.

When I had two guys over at my house last week to volunteer for the Kingston Improv Games I rented a bunch of games for my housemate's Playstation 2. One of the games was Shadow of the Colossus, which I think is one of the best games I've ever played. To give an ultra-short synopsis, you fight 16 colossi (10-200m in height) in this deserted land in order to bring to life a young woman that you brought in on your horse Agro. Its a very still, moving and, at times, sad game. Although at times I felt I could hear the typing, it never made me break from the reality of the beautifully-constructed universe.

So, here's the challenge: Let's make gameplay that relates directly to the environment we're in and doesn't break our focus from it.

PS. Half-Life 2:Episode 1 is a fantastic game. It's just the most readily available example I have. Valve does an amazing job.

IN OTHER NEWS:

The Deviants coming up next week. Watch here for press release/pictures/etc.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Flash Games I've Made

I've decided to catalogue all the flash work I've done into one easy-to-access post.

Open the Door

What is it?

Open the Door


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

V-Day Post

Topically speaking, I think this is genius

Smart Guys Date in Parallel.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Current Life Sum

(Blue Scarf + Rental Car + Hyper Improv Kids + Good TA Evaluations + 3K Scholarship + Delicious Chicken Breast + Art/Porn Movies + SexyBack + Contributed to giant snow fort - didn't sleep last night because building giant snow fort - Busiest semester of life yet + Sense of giddiness at it all - Starting assignment now that was due today - Starting script that was due today + Improv Show getting a wall at the Club + Warm pizza smell - Rehearsal tomorrow morning + Free comedy show with Doctor friend tonight - Laundry not finished + Leopard Print sheets) > 0

means

Life Rocks my Socks off right now.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sin Combinatrics




I think this is fantastic.

Found here: http://indexed.blogspot.com/2007/01/were-all-going-to-hell.html

Sunday, January 28, 2007

What is it?




I PROMISE - more verbosity is coming. Currently my energies are elsewhere.

What kind of science fiction writer am I?

I am:
Alfred Bester
A pyrotechnic talent who put only a small portion of his energy into writing.


Which science fiction writer are you?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Supplementary Material



Winner of the 2007 Focus Film Festival.

I did the camera. Thanks to my dad and younger bro, Skyler.

More verbose posts to come...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I'm in an internet commerical

www.keyprop.com/worryfreeliving

So, just before the winter break I had a free day during exam period. What's the best way to spend a free day? Why - participate in a commercial!

You notice me as the guy holding the tuba, sweating his ass off in the sweat red digs.

There are four episodes coming out in total. I think I have bit parts in all of them - click on the link above to see them.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Shat

I just realized - perhaps its just me - that the word "shat" is an acceptable term for the past tense of shit.

I'll have to use it in a paper to find out.

Go nested sentence structure!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Second Life is Open Source



Second Life is now open source. Now I'm not entirely sure to what breadth or depth this will mean to anyone that happens to read this, but WOW (not that other MMORPG, I'm exclaiming something).

To get the background on this, go here:
Second Life wikipedia Article

This is, I think, a very significant moment. I mean, I'm sure that the idea has been passed around Linden Lab, but I never myself thought that they would actually do it. Honestly, I figured it was a moment of self-preservation. There are many other competing virtual worlds out there, many with better options, but Second Life has always been the one with the best community. Actually, their community is terrific. I've been a "resident" (defined as one who has actually logged in to the 3D server) since 2003 or so, just a few months after it came out of Beta.

It looks like they have now made only the viewer open source. There was an on-going project of users to make their own viewer and I believe it has finished. So it looks like Linden Lab is taking things into their own hands, just like the Lindex incident of a few years ago.

I can't wait to see what happens next. I'm usually too occupied with RL (the abbreviation users use of "real life") to actually get involved seriously with this. For a while, I was trying to program some ALife stuff, but got frustrated with the LLScript or whatever they call the stuff they using for coding in-world.



If you're interested, go to the website:
www.secondlife.com
Its free to log in, and the open-access area of the world is at least 100 square kilometers. The company gets revenue from selling parcels of land in the world (some of which I owned for a while).

You can also browse the world without being connected, using Slurl, which works like google maps. If you have the SecondLife browser, clicking on the map "teleports" you to the physical place. Holy crap!

www.slurl.com