VR on a rollercoaster

Galactica_Logo_Alton_Towers

Alton Towers seems to be refitting Air with Virtual Reality glasses and calling it Galactica?

Alton Towers is to open what it claims is the world’s first rollercoaster that combines a physical ride with virtual reality, giving passengers a “customised journey into space” via headsets that use groundbreaking technology.

The ride, called Galactica, will launch in April and is the first major new ride at the Staffordshire theme park since 16 people were injured, including five seriously, in a rollercoaster crash last June.

Its a nice idea but I’m still unsure if this warrants a yearly pass. I mean I like Air but adding VR doesn’t really justify the yearly price?

I feel if they had added another coaster I might have been more interested but right now, it feels like a compromise. Heck if they had added VR to one time Th13teen, that would have made more sense.

Guess my Alton Towers pass still sits waiting for me to pick it up.

What is the imdb party game?

A Shot, Anyone?

I played this game yesterday night at a party and thought it was worth writing up because I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’ll have to credit either Mike, Karolina,  Steve or Sharon for the party game.

The game works like this…

  1. Everybody sits in a circle with their mobile phones. One player  (the loser from the last round) picks a film from imdb.com. announces the film title and year to the circle.
  2. Everybody else types the predicted imdb rating of the film announced into their calculator app or write it down on paper.
  3. Once everybody (except the player who announced the film) is done, rating predictions are revealed to everybody around the group
  4. Highest and lowest are noted and the player who announced the film reads out the actual imdb rating.
  5. The player with the furthest rating from the imdb rating loses and needs to drink a shot of vodka. The loosing player then goes on to pick the next film in the next round.

Other rules…

  • Cheating by looking up the imdb rating is punishable by a double shot of vodka.
  • Players can challenge the player who announced the film title if its too obscure. That player must read out a description and the top actors in the film. If nobody recognises the top actors, another film must be picked.
  • If there is a draw of any kind, the players in the draw have to guess the rating of a sequel or prequel. If there is no such thing, a related film must be found.

Variations…

  • While people choose their rating, the film picker can read out the first public review, a quote or piece of trivia. Film covers can be shown of theme music played.
  • Vodka can be substituted for any other spirit or any other forfeit

Moo made, werewolf cards

Since I made werewolf cards way back when… I kept meaning to finish the set by ordering the rest of the pack.

Well finally after about a year, I ordered the rest and made them on Moo.com again. I got the feeling Moo might actually be phasing out their make your own feature, but thanks to Moo’s help and some URL hacking, I got it up again.

The complete pack splits down to two packs of…

  • 5 Witches
  • 5 Shape shifters
  • 5 Revivers
  • 5 Oracles
  • 5 Mediums
  • 5 Psychiatrists
  • 9 Hunters
  • 5 Cupids
  • 4 Healers
  • 4 Seers
  • 8 Werewolves
  • 37 Villagers
  • 3 Invalids

So in any game each pack can hold roughly (based on 1 werewolf per 4-6 villagers) 40 villagers and a whole bunch of special roles. To be fair the biggest game I’ve ever moderated has been 48 people in BarCampBlackpool and that was insane. One pack should give plenty of scope for interesting games and fun times.

Some of you may ask, wheres the little girl? I say to hell with the little girl… (smile)

I know the art work on the cards isn’t beautiful or creative as other werewolf projects such as Leeds Werewolf master Martyn. But there small simple to understand and easily carry-able in my laptop bag.

Goo or google Engine?

Goo – Instant Play from Goo Technologies on Vimeo.

Short video clip exemplifying the power of browser based games for virality and instant play. Oh, and yes the game is on HTML5 with no plug-ins or download. Powered by the Goo Engine.

To be honest first time I saw the Goo technologies experiment, I thought it was Google trying to one up Mozilla. Right as the Mozilla Fest is on in London (which I couldn’t attend due to a family funeral).

Goo Engine® is the HTML5 and WebGL based 3D engine capable of powering the next generation of interactive web content. Using Goo Engine enables you to incorporate rich 3D content into your existing website without the need for special browser plugins or software downloads.

It looks impressive and if the editor is as simple to make this stuff, well who knows? Could be great in the right hands, specially hands with lots of time like young people

Perceptive Media at the theme park?

Stealth

I had the pleasure of going to Thorpe Park on the weekend as I gatecrashed Kate’s Birthday.

A number of things got me thinking as I queued 18 times for Stealth, 10 times for the Swarm (forward and backwards), 3 times for Nemesis Inferno and once on Saw the ride (don’t think my head could hand the banging nature – not impressed! Gerstelauer could learn something from Bolliger & Mabillard). I adored Stealth even though I had butterflies in my gut about the height of the top beforehand. I remember seeing a board years ago when I last went to Thorpe Park talking about a new ride, shows how long ago since I had returned.

Although I fell in love with Stealth, I was also very impressed with the swarm.

Not only was it a great ride but flexible enough to have a number of options including riding it backwards! Which I did 5 times and I can only describe it as being dragged by a tentacle monster attached to your waist backwards. You can hardly feel the over shoulder constraint and it just feels amazing being dragged along with your arms and legs naturally dragging along.

The swarm is one of the modern coasters which has been properly thought out. Ironically (ironic because Alton Towers has bags of land but seems to always tightly pack rides and London land is expensive) because Thorpe park have loads of empty space it could build a complete site with waterways, over turned police vans, busted fire engines, etc. The whole thing is really well themed. Nemesis and Oblivion were early on this front but in Swarm has given it a super modern and very London overview.

The Swarm roller coaster at Thorpe Park

While waiting in the queue theres a news report about a national emergency spawning from Thorpe Park. After spending much time in the queue waiting for my forward and backwards adventures in space. I started to notice the same video parts coming up again and again. Don’t get me wrong I expect there might be about 30mins of footage on a loop, which is much more than any other theme park I’ve been to.
But I started thinking what a great chance to do something Perceptive. The ride should react and change to the people waiting, how long their waiting, whos waiting, etc.

Swarm news report

Can you imagine what would happen if you conversations were used in the queue experience? Tweets, photos, the lot were included and manipulated to fit the theme. Now thats an idea I may have to take forward…

I was also interested in Thorpe parks teaming up with Ministry of Sound, which seems to bring it closer to the concept of a Rave than you can make up. The whole site was blasting out dance music and I got to say I quite liked it. Not only that, in the line for the Swarm, they were handing out wireless headsets for the queuing. The headsets had volume and a switch for off, channel a and channel b. Channel A was generally MoS dance music and channel b more 60s and 70s disco. Each headset seemed to have a number of sponsors including O2.

Line music

Although I thought it was a nice idea, I was a little miffed with having to wear one in a queue of 2mins later in the day. I was literally walking to the entrance being handed a headset and walking through the queue system and then giving them back up before getting on the ride. I imagine in a much larger queue it could be rife for abuse/fun with Perceptive Media…

So who do I need to get in touch with about this idea?

Are ARG’s dead?

The 3rd Olympic Ring description

Arg’s or Alternative Reality Games, are really interesting and form a very tight and rich experience for thsoe who play them. But the mass adoption has stalled and tailed off as creators go for something more simple and easier to craft aka Transmedia.

So what happened? Is the genre dead before it really got going?

Well I saw a really interesting post on ARGN (alternative reality gaming network) written by friend Adrian Hon of SixtoStart. When ever I see him (usually at conferences) he likes to quiz me about what the BBC is doing regarding taking storytelling forward. And I like to question him about moving away from ARGs.

My feeling is there is much more potential/fuel and in the ARG genre and it will come back in another form. But I do share a lot of the points Adrian identifies in the post…

Most companies in the business now disavow the term ‘ARG’, preferring the trendier but frequently reviled and frustratingly vague term ‘transmedia’. In that context, it’s not surprising that people are happy to say “ARGs are dead” because it helps distinguish themselves from the old-and-busted crowd.

I can agree with that… I mentioned ARG at the recent Transmedia London festival and it was really interesting to see peoples faces from a panel member. Some were confused and some were shaking their heads disproving. When I was asked what transmedia is to me, I said something about it not being about screens but surrounding the person(s) with an immersive story. Like a ARG I would argue…

But for everything I like about ARG’s there is some serious problems and things which need to be ironed out. Adrian does a really good job covering the main ones…

1) Increase accessibility. People remain genuinely intrigued by ARGs, but they’re put off by the comparatively massive level of time commitment required to get involved. Yes, people will happily spend dozens of hours watching TV or playing video games, but those require less attention and crucially, they have a much quicker payoff. A good game or TV show will have me hooked in the first five seconds, and I know that I’ll have fun even if I just stay for 30 minutes. ARGs need to be more transparent and more accessible. If that means the end of ‘TINAG’, so be it.

Yes the best ones are when you can dip back in and help out, then take a less detailed role. I cant stand the chase element of ARGs. This is something I expressed with Larkin-about‘s ARG when I first met them. The best ARG’s have many layers just like great films. For example Donnie Darko you can watch and just enjoy the 80’s style highschool fun but theres a layer underneath which is about something much darker. Too many ARGs are like a Micheal Bay film or even something too deep and meaningful.

2) Make money. No-one is going to take ARGs seriously as a creative or commercial venture if they can’t get players to cough up cash. There’s absolutely a place for ad-funded or sponsored content, but good quality movies and TV shows still find millions of happy viewers willing to buy tickets and DVDs. Why not ARGs? Focus on the platforms where people have demonstrated a willingness to pay, like on iOS, Android, and Facebook, and learn from the successes of other apps. There isn’t much separating The Room – an incredible blockbuster iPad puzzle game – from being a full-blown ARG (the same applies for Zombies, Run!).

Although I don’t know too much about this side, he’s right. They need to be sustainable, be that with funding, adverting or paid for by the audience. Too many are made to flip and sell or made to be a one off. This leads to scummy people entering trying to cash in on the genre, like SEO and social media. All these one off’s pollute the work of others and make it even more difficult to be taken seriously.

3) Take the best and discard the rest. How can you replicate the immersive sensation of a good ARG at a low cost? Do you really need to have video, or can you just use audio? Do most people really enjoy decrypting hexadecimal strings, or are there more compelling challenges you can provide? Can you fake the experience of calling up real phone numbers or writing to real email addresses?

Absolutely too many copy cats… Another phone drop, another treasure hunt, yawn… seriously. Its lazy and boring. Innovate and push away from whats known. Its like when Perplexcity’s purple treasure hunt ended in a character from the group jumping into a helicopter. Mind blowing but how can you better that? Think! Creativity and think about the audience/participations not your own ego.

4) Think about scale. Almost all ARGs are live and cannot be easily replayed after the fact. That makes it difficult to make money, especially if you don’t have a big following. Imagine if Angry Birds or Farmville were only playable from April to June 2010; that’s what ARGs are like, and it’s mad. If you are going to run a live ARG, be sure to keep your costs down and charge players an appropriate amount for the privilege of getting personal interaction – no-one bats an eyelid at paying $25 or $50 for a theatre ticket, and the same should be true for a live ARG.

This is one of the most destructive thing I’ve known in ARG’s and one of the points I keep banging on to Adrian… Scale, repeatability and sustainability. No company is going to take this seriously if the resources are peed up a wall never to be seen again! How do you replay it and improve on it each time.

I have suggested an ARG framework before and somewhere along the line it fits with the notion of Decentralized systems. Stroytellers want to tell there story and don’t want to reinvent the book everytime.

Even the games I’ve played like the rings one (picture above) I was lucky enough to be in Manchester where the ring was found. For everyone else it was far less interesting. Plus the cost of creating and putting those rings in art gallerys around the world. Its not scalable and if you go about it that way, it never will be.

Total respect to everyone involved in the genre but its going to die before its gotten a chance to develop and spread its wings…

EPIC Werewolf time!!!

My parents were deeply worried that I was doing too much again. Specially after what happened to me with mybrushwithdeath almost two and half years ago. I can tell you and them that my blood pressure is normal…

So what have I been up to…? Because my blog has also suffered due to the hectic schedule.

On Tuesday 30th Connected Social and 31st EpicWerewolf…!

EPIC Werewolf

Epicwerewolf

The concept of Epic Werewolf was to run werewolf in two rooms.

One room would be kitted out with cameras and a normal game of werewolf would be going on. In the second room would be an audience watching live and some physiologists, behaviour scientists, experts watching along live and giving a running commentary on top of the live video. The people in the first room (the players) wouldn’t be able to hear the second room (the audience) but the second room would see and hear almost everything. All those little comments, subconscious ticks and obvious body actions would be exposed to an audience in a way which has only been seen in TV poker.

Great concept I thought and the Manchester science festival were interested too. However not interested enough to put any serious money behind it for a number of reasons. Because of this the idea had to scale down quickly. The interesting part is the game was originally going to be quite small to allow everyone a chance to have a go but we had to change that due to the amount of people who signed up and wanted to be players not the audience.

Epicwerewolf

We switched venues quite a bit and thought about a place with internet connectivity so we could broadcast it live to the internet. In the end we settled on Islington Mill in Salford because of the great spaces they have and how creepy it would be to go to deep dark Salford on Halloween.

Anyway the challenge which was worrying me was how to setup the cameras and computers. I had imagined using something like Ingex but we didn’t have resources or cameras. I came up with a number of solutions including using Skype, Hangouts, Bambuser, etc… but in the end I settled on the much easier streaming multiple Videolan’s VLC on my quad core i7 laptop to the weaker dual core Dell xps machine I still have. Everything was fine except I couldn’t get any of my decent cameras (Sanyo Xacti’s) to show up correctly. Meaning I only had 3 webcams including the build in one. I swear I had 2 at home but couldn’t find them even when searching the whole flat.

Epicwerewolf

On the day I setup 3 VLC services streaming and Vee from Larkin About used her macbook’s built in camera with Bambuser. On my Dell, I took advantage of the overview mode in Ubuntu 12.04 to show all cameras views and one of them being a browser window with Bambuser running from the Mac. However the problem seemed to be the mac would drop the wifi signal every 20mins or so. This was a pain but to add even more pain to the setup, my Dell laptop would get upset with the Flash plugin and throttle the CPU to death.

We pushed ahead anyway and by 6:30pm we had our first players. By about 7pm we had quite a few but no bar… We delayed while we tried to find out what happened to the barman and it turned out the barman was booked for 7:30pm not 7pm. So we started a 25 person game in the bar room and the another one next to it 10mins later to catch people who were running late. It was noisy and hard to hear people talking but it kind of worked out ok.

Those games came to a end about 8:30pm where we revealed what was so Epic about the night. Everyone was given a raffle ticket at the start of the night and between Larkin about and myself we pulled 12 numbers out of a cup and announced them over the pa system to the 50+ strong crowd.

The lucky 12 were lead to the 2nd room which was cold and slightly unnerving to play out a game of werewolf in front of the cameras. Our experts watched from the room and then came into the main room to talk through some of the things which were happening in the game. The problem we had was for the audience the cameras were not exciting enough in part because the of technical difficulties but also there just wasn’t enough to view. So instead we quickly had the experts give a quick overview of what they had seen and then a small Q&A about what not to do when playing werewolf. This was fascinating and made it clear there was more than just luck going on in a game of werewolf.

Massive thanks to Ben, Penny and Liz for being our experts for the night and giving us great insight into the silly things we all do without even noticing. Thanks also to Martin Rue, Mark Kirschstein and Larkin About for support through the night.

Epicwerewolf

After the Q&A we kicked off a series of werewolf games right through till the witching hour of midnight. We even had the barman involved in the last game.

It was a excellent night and I was amazed with the turn out of people. So many people and such a great vibe throughout. I only wished we could have got the epic part working smoothly. Well theres always next Halloween I guess?

Epicwerewolf

A bit of funding and who knows what we could great? Multiple rooms many cameras and many more types of sensors? Possibilities are endless! This is certainly not the end of #EpicWerewolf

Epic Werewolf – This Halloween…

EPIC Werewolf

This Halloween, there is only one place to be…

Four times the deception, four times the lies and four times the paranoia. It’s a social game which you can easily pick up but is impossible to master. This Halloween we show social engineering like never before…

Islington Mill for some Epic Werewolf with Larkin About… All part of the Manchester Science Festival

EPIC Werewolf – Halloween

EPIC Werewolf

Its coming… this Halloween, EPIC Werewolf

As part of the Manchester Science Festival, myself and Larkin About are going to take a look at Social engineering and Mob rule in the social game of Werewolf. Unlike most games of werewolf, we will feature running commentary from psychologists and behaviour scientists that will culminate in a finale game resticted to one room and broadcasted live to an audience.

Of course because its Halloween, there will be lots of dressing up and to be honest Islington Mill is located in deep and dark Salford. Far from the bright lights of Media City and the Quays.

Exact details are still being worked out but its going to be a great event which you don’t want to miss!

Tickets are available for the players and the audience only.

Olympics woman’s football: Canada vs Team USA

Canada vs Team USA Woman's Semi-Finals in Football

Congrats to the Woman’s Team of USA, as they won the London 2012 Olympics football.

Canada vs Team USA Woman's Semi-Finals in Football

I had the pleasure of watching Canada vs Team USA in Manchester Utd’s Old Trafford stadium.

Canada vs Team USA Woman's Semi-Finals in Football

Thrilling game ended in the last minute of extra time 4 goals to 3.

Canada vs Team USA Woman's Semi-Finals in Football

I was cheering for Canada but what surprised me was how dirty this football match was. Quite a few tackles were missed and I’m really surprised no one got sent off.

Canada vs Team USA Woman's Semi-Finals in Football

It was a excellent experience and I finally got a chance to see Old Trafford from the inside. Good stuff for £20 and a seat with no leg room. Really felt like London 2012 Olympics was a good thing that day…

Manchester Werewolf Chapter – June

manchester werewolf

Its werewolf time again! This Wednesday June 20th at Barcelona Bar

…we are very excited to be back at Barcelona Bar on Wednesday 20th June for another meeting of the Manchester Werewolf Chapter, for an evening of deception and accusation in classic social game Werewolf from 7pm onwards. It’s a free event, but it’s thirsty work so bring money for the bar. If you’ve never played before, it’s easy peasy and the rules will be explained as we go along, so please come and have a go.