Monday 21 September 2015

Codex Bash Nominated for IndieCade 2015

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

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

Tuesday 8 September 2015

GDC Europe - Design Lessons from Multiplayer Installations

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

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

Click here to watch the talk!

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

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

Monday 17 August 2015

Enter the Button Power Team!

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

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

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

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

Monday 29 June 2015

Experimental Game: DIY Brain Surgeon

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 27 April 2015

Introducing Codex Bash at AMAZE Berlin

I took a trip to AMAZE in Berlin last week, which was a phenomenal experience. I'd recommend the event for anyone who wants to explore unusual and thought-provoking games and listen to speakers that reach beyond our usual definitions of games and play.

It was also a fantastic opportunity to demo my brand new game, Codex Bash, for the wireless button kit I've been developing. Codex Bash was playable on Thursday as part of the Open Screens section of the exhibition. I also set it up again on Saturday in the courtyard of the venue for everyone who'd missed it first time around - after all it was a sunny day and a good excuse to try a new setting!

A team of three takes on Codex Bash at Urban Spree in Berlin
Photos and details about the game are below the join!

Codex Bash being played on the AMAZE show floor 

Friday 17 April 2015

Tap Happy Sabotage on display at Game Science Center Berlin

A brief but nonetheless very exciting announcement from me. Tap Happy Sabotage is on display as part of an ongoing exhibition at the Game Science Center in Berlin. If you're in the area please do give them a visit and try it out on their 27-inch touchscreen!

The Game Science Center is also running a Meet the Developers day on Tuesday 21st April, and I'll be there doing a Q&A about the game. Entry is free for holders of tickets for International Games Week Berlin events (including A MAZE, Womanize, Apps World and Quo Vadis).

In addition I'll also be live-demoing Codex Bash, a new game using a new portable button kit I've been working on, in the coming week. On Sunday I'll be demoing it at the Bristol Videogames Social, then on Thursday 23rd April I'll be showing it at A MAZE Berlin in the expo area from 4pm to 8pm. Can't wait to see how it goes down!

Sunday 29 March 2015

Dash & Bash goes live at the National Videogame Arcade

This Saturday marked the grand opening of the National Videogame Arcade, the UK's first dedicated gaming museum, in Nottingham.

It also marked the first example of my work being on show long-term in a museum: Dash & Bash is set up the first floor, on a specially designed gaming wall, and open to all visitors!

Dash & Bash was originally designed for GameCity in October 2014, and I've polished and improved  it for an even better experience in the museum setting. The game is played by up to four players, on four screens and four big green buttons. Each player is given a picture card and tasked with finding which screen it's on, through a series of reactions-based, observation-based and sabotage-based challenges.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Design Lessons from Multiplayer Installations - Part 2

In my last article I talked about some of the design lessons I’ve learned from building Tap Happy Sabotage and Dash & Bash - multiplayer installation games involving arm-grabbing and running around. The article examined how to use pacing and variation of mechanics to create a shared social experience and give players stories to take home with them.

This article will look at the more practical lessons I’ve learnt from these games. By taking games outside their usual contexts and platforms, the challenges of conveying rules and information become much more difficult.

What do these design challenges tell us about the way we understand games as players?

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Design Lessons from Multiplayer Installations - Part 1

2014 was a good year for Tap Happy Sabotage! The game went to Brighton and Birmingham, Bristol and Berlin. I demoed it at Gamescom, talked on-stage about it with one of my design heroes at the JOIN Summit, and played it with massive crowds at EGX. It spent a weekend at Bletchley Park, home to Colossus, the world’s first programmable computer, and got played on an 88-inch display at Microsoft’s HQ in Reading.

Yep, it's certainly been an exciting!

Playtesting Tap Happy Sabotage on a 27-inch screen
In October I turned it into Dash & Bash, a room-filling multiplayer installation. It was praised as one of the highlights of GameCity 9 and, from the end of March, will be a fixture at the National Videogame Arcade. Off the back of that I’m now working on Button Bash, a portable wireless button kit and a suite of buttons to take to exhibitions and events.

Dash & Bash at GameCity 9

I wanted to write up some of the lessons I’ve learnt from my multiplayer installations. I'll be referring to Tap Happy Sabotage as an installation because, despite being downloadable as a Windows Store app, its natural home really is in public spaces.

This first article will talk about creating social situations through play. The second will discuss the challenges of UI design in installation games, about player expectations and the way we process information.

So without further ado, the most important lesson from multiplayer installations:

My job as a designer is not to create elegant systems.
It is to engineer interesting social situations.