Larkin about with Stranger on the 11th Floor

At the ARG start outside the nexus art cafe on Twitpic

I was invited by Tim Dobson via Facebook to a Manchester ARG (alernative reality game) called Stranger on the 11th Floor setup by a organisation called Larkin about. Never ever heard of them before but I was intrigued and thought i’d give it a shot.

Now I want to be sure people understand that all the comments I have, I did say to them on the day and I think they would admit most of the points I make are fair.

So we started off at the Nexus Art Cafe (somewhere I’ve never actually heard or been before) and we were explained the basic premise of the game, split into 4 different teams, given a map of the northern quarter and some numbers of people in-case things go wrong. Then we were given a clue and location to start. Ours was a phone box in Stevenson Square.

My team pretty much pelted out of the Nexus Cafe and zoomed to the phone box. Later catching up with them, just in time to see one of the girls on the phone. She was given the clue and quickly told a few people around her and before you know it they were treking down the road towards Piccadilly. That was pretty much the last time I saw the team. What a joke…!

I refer to slide 26 and 27 of Dan Hon’s Everything we know transmedia wrong for the rest of the critique.

No more… Waiting, Solving stupid puzzles, Not telling me what to do, Lazy calls to action, Treasure hunts, Jumping through fucking hoops. Bad storytelling is just bad storytelling.

Stranger on the 11th floor turned into a massive treasure hunt with lazy call to actions, annoying hoops to jump through and frankly bad story telling. Once again no offensive to the Larkin’ about crew. They did everything correct and pulling off a open source ARG in the middle of Manchester on a busy Saturday night must have been one heck of a job.

So its time to put up or shutup… I’m thinking about adapting the ARG we tried to run in Edinburgh "We Dream the City" to a ARG in Manchester. This will be one heck of a challenge and will take a long while to get going but in the meantime, I think larkin about is a great place to run the next Manchester werewolf chapter, so keep your eyes peeled for that…

Banned from the Sony network? Head to Xlink Kai

Sony is kicking Playstation3 Users off the PlayStation network if they have any kind of hacked firmware is what I heard on Technews today yesterday.

It looks like Sony’s making good on a promise to ban PS3 users who’ve hacked or elected to run unauthorized software on their consoles. Members of hacking site PS3Hax claim Sony’s already wielding its banhammer against "jailbroken" PS3s, knocking the consoles off the company’s PlayStation Network permanently.

I instantly thought… Well if I was in that position I would simply use the Xlink Kai network

XLink Kai: Evolution VII lets you connect with other console users around the world, and play online games for free. XLink Kai: Evo VII tricks your console into thinking that the other users it is connecting to over the Internet, are actually part of a Local Area Network. This is the basis of system-link gaming, where friends would gather around in the same house and play over 2 or more consoles. With XLink Kai: Evo VII, you now have the option to test your skills out with anybody in the world. As for the technical aspects of tunnelling network packets, we won’t bore you with that…

Fascinating project with some real interesting technology, ok its more hassle that simply logging on to xbox live or what ever but its free and you can people on different consoles.

Hacking the Pacemaker (progress)

Pacemaker Manager

At last a break through, someone (musicinstinct2) has cracked the way the pacemaker adds and removes music to the SQLlite database.

My initial experiments involved using the sqlite database browser to open up music.db and enter track information. Then manually copy the tracks over to the device, making up random hash values (as I couldn’t work out how Tonium were creating these hashes). It works! The device doesn’t rely on any particular naming convention, whatever is in the filename field in the database (music.db) is used by the device to load the track.

Fantastic…! Now this is cracked and Musicinstinct2 is working on a open source client to manage tracks. The next stage is to crack and understand the XML file which is attached to every single track uploaded on the device. The bulk of the data in stuck in a XML element called realBeatLocations.

I expect it won’t take long before we have the whole thing pretty much cracked. What would make things move along quicker is if Tonium would publish the source as it was created under the GPL.

What is a Alternative Reality Game?

I gave this presentation at Social Media Cafe Manchester back in November and Salford University in December. Its a nice easy to follow over view of what a ARG is and leads nicely on to transmedia. It seems a lot of people don’t have a clue about Alternative reality games and get them confused with Argumentative gaming.

Inception on youtube

Imran showed me a video about inception (massive spoiler alert, do not watch before you seen the film) over twitter and I started to check out the related videos, theres some really funny stuff out there.

Everything you know about transmedia storytelling is wrong

I’m glad Dan Hon created this and the follow up presentation, unfortunately I can’t believe it took me 2 years to see this presentation. I totally agree with the points made in the presentation. Transmedia storytelling to date has been pretty lazy affairs. I’m wondering where the blockage is… beyond the notion that people don’t get it. Its a whole new world and personally I feel there no frameworks to support this new kind of storytelling. Someone should do something about that…

Manchester Werewolf chapter – Wednesday 1st December

Werewolf Manchester Chapter

Werewolf: A simple game of strategy and deception, played by a large group of people. The game is all about making accusations, lying, bluffing, second-guessing, and social engineering.

What is there not to like?

For the last time this year, the chapter will be getting together to play the much enjoyed game of werewolf. This time the venue is changed to the place for digital people, Madlab in the northern quarter.

If you’ve never played before, I swear you will enjoy it. Its not one of those boring card or board games, werewolf is like poker but the cards and chips were eaten by a werewolf.

This will also be a great place to get some practice in before BarCampManchester4 which is that Saturday.

There will also be a surprise announcement on the night from myself, as I’ve been developing something which might be of interest to werewolf players across the nation.

The chapter will be back in the new year with more events… best way to stay tuned is signing up to the official facebook group for the Manchester Werewolf chapter.

Manchester Werewolf Chapter: PlayEverything special – 15th May

Lady with Candle next to face

Been looking forward to doing this for a long time. Imagine playing werewolf but instead of playing it in the well lit area of a bar. Imagine playing it out doors within a circle of small candles which flicker in the slow moving wind. Well dream no more, its going to happen on 15th May as one of the FutureEverything events at the Contact Theatre. Spaces are limited to 35 maximum so if you are interested please add yourself to the Werewolf group and signup for the attached event.

Should you play money poker with friends?

I say no. I think there’s too many things which can go wrong in a game especially when money in involved.

Victoria Coren seems to disagree but considers that social rules should be considered up front.

First, you have to decide whether you and your friend are happy to play fully against each other: trap-checking, check-raising, punchy value bets, the lot. If so, don’t be surprised if your friendship turns a little tense for a while. But there is no need to tell everyone your life story. Plenty of casino cohorts know each other and, if you’re playing straight, there’s nothing to announce.

If you are not prepared to treat your friend as any other opponent, you shouldn’t play on the same table. I am still stuck in an ancient tradition with my old mucker The Sweep: if we are heads-up in a casino pot, we check it down. That kind of thing must be announced, but should be avoided. Luckily, The Sweep is a total rock. If he so much as breathes on a pot, I fold everything but aces anyway.

Its getting a little like this when playing Werewolf with friends too.

Forget Scalextrics its all about the K’nex Roller Coasters

When I was a young boy I tried to create a roller coaster system from technical lego by turning the points upside down and slowly changing the angles of the pieces over a long piece of track. Its not obvious how it works but don’t worry it didn’t work so its not actually worth going into more detail about. So I was suprised to see K’nex launched a range of roller coasters tracks. I can’t express how cool I think this is, if I had the time and money, I would certainly get some and get it setup in a room. Instead I get to watch the endless youtube videos and wish instead.

Werewolf: Extra Materials

To be fair to Wired magazine, they did a good piece about Werewolf in the most recent UK wired. I never expected so many pages dedicated to the game which some call the modern social crack. There’s also a huge sum of the variations of werewolf on the Wired site too.

Here’s a couple of the ones not even I’ve heard about…

The Fool: The player who gets this card immediately reveals himself to all the other players as “the village fool/idiot”. He does not speak again for the rest of the game and can’t focus enough to join any debates or lead any suspicions. He watches mutely, helplessly. At the beginning of each new day, while he is alive, he may reassign his vote to another villager by pointing – that newly entrusted voter might be an innocent villager or a werewolf in disguise. If the Fool or the Moderator should forget to reassign his vote, his vote remains with the prior assignee. (So if a prior assignee is a werewolf, it is to the werewolf’s advantage NOT to remind the Fool or Moderator to reassign the vote.)  In his confusion, the Fool wears a ring of garlic around his neck, thinking it will repel the werewolves – when in fact, garlic is used to repel vampires. (If the vampire character is in play, of course, this garlic will protect him.) As a variation, in an attempt to control an unruly villager that speaks out too much or speaks when dead, the Moderator may instantly assign that unruly villager to be the village fool, either immediately during that game or in the next game if that player is already dead.

Not so sure about this one, but we’ve had newbies act the fool before, shouting out or making it too damm obvious what player they are.

The Coroner: Often, there is confusion in the village as to a cause of death or what just happened the night before. With certain character combinations the actual happenings just can’t be deduced – with certainty. As long as the Coroner is alive, the Moderator explains the causes of death and the nighttime happenings. The Coroner, however, does not actually play an active part in the game. Once the Coroner is out of the game, the remaining villagers must deduce everything themselves without any help from the Moderator.

This might be useful for some games instead of relying on the moderator, whos actually not meant to say anything in this issue

The Grave-Robbing Thief (created by Viki Kind, Ed You and our “Uber” Werewolf players): In this variation the Thief is still offered two other villager cards on the first night. If both cards are werewolf cards, he must chose one and become a werewolf. Otherwise, he may refuse both identities and wait till another night in the game to steal the identity of a newly dead villager on the first night following that villager’s death. In this variation the Moderator will ask every night if the Grave-Robbing Thief wants to steal someone else’s identity, fully reactivating that stolen identity and character. Example: if the dead Witch’s identity were stolen and reactivated, both of the Witch’s potions would be renewed as well. A dead werewolf identity may also be stolen and reactivated. The Moderator will have to again announce any activities of the newly stolen and reactivated identity and character.

I had a idea like this a while ago but never really played it out, oh well. I think its good but makes the game quite complex for newbies. You’d only want to play this with pros.

Theres lots more characters but to be fair a lot of them cause the moderator a lot of headache, make the game too complex or too random to get a balanced result to either side.  I tried doing the probability maths a while back and got very confused, but I bet if you could do the maths behind it, you will find a lot the extra characters screw up the game for the werewolves or villagers. The standard pack of villagers, seer, healer and werewolves  seems to be about right.

Manchester’s Werewolf chapter is back this Wednesday

Manchester Werewolf poster

(amazing what you can do with inkscape in a 30mins)

February 3, 2010 7 – 11pm : Manchester Werewolf Chapter at Pure Space, 11-13 New Wakefield Street, Manchester

We’re looking to play once a month, there’s no need to register or understand the rules just turn up and play along.

Be part of the game, beginners to pros its all good fun. Werewolf is a game that takes place in a small village which is haunted by werewolves. Each player is secretly assigned a role – Werewolf, Villager, or Seer (a special Villager). There is also a Moderator player who controls the flow of the game. The game alternates between night and day phases. At night, the Werewolves secretly choose a Villager to kill. Also, the Seer (if still alive) asks whether another player is a Werewolf or not. During the day, the Villager who was killed is revealed and is out of the game. The remaining Villagers then vote on the player they suspect is a Werewolf. That player reveals his/her role and is out of the game. Werewolves win when there are an equal number of Villagers and Werewolves. Villagers win when they have killed all Werewolves. Werewolf is a social game that requires no equipment to play, and can accommodate almost any large group of players.

For more information about the game

E4: Every Extend Extra Extreme

Every Extend Extra Extreme is one of the games I’ve been totally been going crazy for recently. I tried the demo on Xbox Live Arcade and was instantly hooked. Explaining how it works is quite tricky… Wikipedia to the rescue

the player controls a ship which they can detonate at any time. This causes any enemies within a certain radius to explode, which in turn cause other enemies to explode in a chain reaction. As the game continues more and more enemies populate the screen allowing longer and higher scoring explosions. The player may halt the chain at any time to pick up power-ups (such as to increase enemy speed, add time, add temporary shield) or to start a new chain reaction.

The explosions add a percussive beat to the background music.

The player’s ship is destroyed when coming into contact with or being shot by an enemy while the player’s shields are down. This resets the level to its initial slow pace and bonus multiplier, therefore hindering the player’s scoring.

The one thing it doesn’t say is depending how your timing is with the beat, you get a small to large explosion radius. So bang on and you get something which can start a massive chain reaction while off beat and you only take out a few enemies.

Its pretty and glorious on a HDTV running at 60fps and fans of REZ HD will appreciate the finishing touches which Q! entertainment bring to their games. This is certainly my new Geometry Wars

Manchester Werewolf starts again: Wednesday 3rd February

Werewolf Manchester (March)

Its that time to look for those shifty feet and false smiles, because Manchester’s Werewolf chapter is back in town (Facebook group).

February 3, 2010 711pm : Manchester Werewolf Chapter at Pure Space, 11-13 New Wakefield Street, Manchester

Be part of the game, beginners to pros its all good fun. Werewolf is a game that takes place in a small village which is haunted by werewolves. Each player is secretly assigned a role – Werewolf, Villager, or Seer (a special Villager). There is also a Moderator player who controls the flow of the game. The game alternates between night and day phases. At night, the Werewolves secretly choose a Villager to kill. Also, the Seer (if still alive) asks whether another player is a Werewolf or not. During the day, the Villager who was killed is revealed and is out of the game. The remaining Villagers then vote on the player they suspect is a Werewolf. That player reveals his/her role and is out of the game. Werewolves win when there are an equal number of Villagers and Werewolves. Villagers win when they have killed all Werewolves. Werewolf is a social game that requires no equipment to play, and can accommodate almost any large group of players. For more information about the game