Week 270

My week started with the sec­ond day of the Asia-Europe Cul­ture Min­is­ters Meet­ing (ASEM)‘s work­shop on play­ful cities. It was a huge plea­sure spend­ing two days with tal­ented peers from Europe, many of whom’s work I admire greatly. It was equally great to meet Asian prac­ti­tion­ers and hear about the big dif­fer­ences in their local con­texts. By the end of the day we had gone very, very deep into the chal­lenges of lever­ag­ing a play doc­trine to for­mu­late a coun­ter­ar­gu­ment to the pre­vail­ing smart cities rhetoric. One com­ment I posted about this got a very pro­duc­tive dis­cus­sion between some big thinkers in the field over at Face­book.

ASEM Playful Cities workshop LEGO creations

In the mean­time Alper trav­eled by train to the Nether­lands and got a decent amount of work in, pro­cess­ing the out­comes from his work with Affec­tive Sys­tems and resub­mit­ting All-Seeing Eye proposal.

The whole of Tues­day was taken up by our third and for the moment final work­shop with KLM. Now all that is left for us to do is doc­u­ment all the out­comes and deliver them, after which we’ll start explor­ing next steps.

On Wednes­day, a fun inter­view with us about our way of work­ing together remotely was pub­lished in Dutch on Achter het Scherm.

I spent most of that day and the next fin­ish­ing up the web­site for Bycatch and then trav­eled to Lon­don on Thurs­day, as did Alper.

That Fri­day, we attended Play­ful, where Sub­alekha talked about our work on Bycatch so far, and we flipped the switch on pre­orders. If you want to be one of the first to own a copy of this card game about drone sur­veil­lance and remote war­fare, go on and click that “add to cart”-button.

Play­ful was a plea­sure as always, with stand­out ses­sions (as far as I’m con­cerned) from Aard­man’s Dan Efer­gan and George Rowe on easter eggs in videogames, Bone­loaf’s James Brown on the mak­ing of Gang Beasts and Ida Marie Toft’s lovely and weird hybrid performance-game Love­birds.

Team Bycatch united at last

The day after Play­ful, while watch­ing the first orders trickle in via our Slack-Stripe inte­gra­tion, we made good use of the oppor­tu­nity of being all three phys­i­cally co-present and furi­ously tweaked and tuned Bycatch’s rules.

I trav­eled back that same evening. Alper stuck around for a Cup­pings cof­fee tast­ing expe­di­tion in Fitzrovia and headed back on Sunday.

While recov­er­ing from a pretty intense week, our friends at ThingsCon Ams­ter­dam announced the work­shop Alper and Ianus will run on play­ful prod­uct design.

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Presenting Bycatch, a card game about surveillance and drone warfare

We’re proud today to present Bycatch, a card game that we have been devel­op­ing and that’s avail­able for pre-order right now.

As the site says, Bycatch is a game about ‘flawed sur­veil­lance, impos­si­ble deci­sions and the peo­ple caught in between.’ Play­ers can shel­ter civil­ians, gather intel­li­gence about those of oth­ers and based on this intel­li­gence they can per­form drone strikes to elim­i­nate sus­pected enemies.

Intel­li­gence to inform your actions is gath­ered by using your cam­er­a­phone on another player’s hand of cards. By its very nature this mechanic yields incon­clu­sive infor­ma­tion. This mir­rors the infor­ma­tion gath­er­ing and infer­ence process on which gov­ern­ments base their mil­i­tary actions.

We think this is a very impor­tant issue and it deserves a treat­ment that makes it playable and fun with­out triv­i­al­is­ing it. Vio­lence is a com­mon theme in games but it is usu­ally not treated crit­i­cally. We hope play­ing Bycatch makes peo­ple think dif­fer­ently and more deeply about cur­rent secu­rity practice.

We’ve been work­ing on this game for the past half year with Sub­alekha Udayasankar across Utrecht, Berlin and Brook­lyn. The game design has evolved over count­less video calls and we have each playtested locally. We now feel that we are at the point where we can share the product’s fur­ther devel­op­ment with the world.

For the illus­tra­tions on the cards we are work­ing together with Agnes Loon­stra who has an amaz­ing draw­ing style. Ties Alfrink of Pony Design Club is help­ing us design the cards and the pack­ag­ing of the final product.

Bycatch is turn­ing into a beau­ti­ful card game, it is fun to play and it will give you a lot to think and talk about. You can pre-order the game on the Bycatch web­site and you will receive your copy at the start of the new year.

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Week 269

We’re mak­ing good progress on Bycatch for which we got a wel­come refo­cus­ing after a sit-down with Joris. Joris him­self was at SPIEL demo­ing Super Duo a card game of his own so he’s def­i­nitely an expert when it comes to this kind of thing. We’ll also have a web­site online this week through which you can pre­order your copy.

We did a sprint review for Stand­ing to see what we need to do to get the ver­sion out the door. We have a bit more test­ing to do thanks to Apple releas­ing a bunch of new iPhones but stil we should be in good shape this month.

We had a week of stu­dio work for KLM for which we worked through the stuff we pro­duced dur­ing the last work­shop and brought in Sebas­t­ian for a design crit. We have devel­oped some con­cepts but dis­cussing these we inevitably are led into strate­gic con­sid­er­a­tions which will be the focus of our final ses­sion tomorrow.

I did an after­noon of work­shop­ping with Affec­tive Sig­nals in Berlin to see how their prod­uct in the field of com­puter aided psy­chi­a­try can be improved by apply­ing the right game mechan­ics. The rest of the week I spent doing behind the scenes work, call­ing peo­ple to make sure we are still aligned and send­ing out pro­pos­als. One of those calls was a review of the cur­rent projects for Open Cul­tuur Data part of the Open State Foun­da­tion of which I’m still a board mem­ber. I am also still look­ing for a new loca­tion for our Berlin office which is prov­ing to be a challenge.

Kars went over to Philips to dis­cuss a new game for them and had a meet­ing with STRP about the future of Cam­parc.

We are gear­ing up to head to Play­ful at the end of this week. A bit later I’ll be doing a work­shop on Play­ful Prod­uct Design at Thingscon Ams­ter­dam together with Ianus and in Novem­ber while Kars is on hol­i­day, I will be attend­ing PRACTICE in New York.

Work con­tin­ued dur­ing the week­end with Kars attend­ing the ASEM Play­ful Cities work­shop among many other things.

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Week 268

After a false start on Mon­day due to a lin­ger­ing head cold I was back in action on Tues­day. We made good progress this week on KUMA (our project with KLM on game-based learn­ing) and on Bycatch (our card game about drones sur­veil­lance and remote warfare).

Let’s start with KUMA. We processed the out­comes of the first work­shop and deliv­ered them in the form of a brief. We then moved on to prepar­ing for the sec­ond work­shop, which focused on cre­at­ing a port­fo­lio of con­cepts. To this end, Alper flew in on Wednes­day to work with me in the stu­dio for the remain­der of the week.

We called in the help from Agnes to do live illus­tra­tions. This turned out to add real value. They pro­vide an imme­di­ate visual anchor point for each idea and add an addi­tional dimen­sion to descrip­tions, mak­ing it eas­ier to empathise.

Sebas­t­ian is also con­tribut­ing to the project with his con­sid­er­able knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence in the sub­ject. We had a very use­ful con­fer­ence call on Wednes­day and he sent us some use­ful last-minute input before the work­shop, despite it being a hol­i­day in Tel Aviv, his tem­po­rary place of residence.

So after ample prepa­ra­tion we ran a sec­ond pleas­ant and pro­duc­tive ses­sion from one of the neat work­shop spaces in Vecht­club XL with cater­ing from De Klub, which is hard to beat. After­wards we imme­di­ately sent out the raw out­put to the client (a ben­e­fit of work­ing com­pletely ana­log and record­ing every­thing that is decided on paper).

Reference images for a game design workshop

On to the Bycatch front. I also talked to Agnes about a first round of illus­tra­tions for the cards which we can show at Play­ful. I also talked to Ties about get­ting some offers from print­ers and get­ting his help on graphic design. Other than this, we dis­cussed the state of the project in another call with Sub­alekha and we started set­ting up a web­site for the game with Stripe Check­out built in to take pre-orders.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, Alper also fin­ished up our appli­ca­tion for a grant from Cre­ative Indus­tries Fund to do a first round of design work on All-Seeing Eye (a game about cam­era sur­veil­lance we’re work­ing on with Bits of Free­dom). Alper also started prepar­ing a few design work­shops he’ll be run­ning with a Berlin-based startup and he made plans for a work­shop we’ll be run­ning at ThingsCon Ams­ter­dam. Phew!

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Week 267

Let’s hope late wee­knotes does not become a trend but we’re rather busy these few weeks both with client work and prepar­ing the future. I flew back to Berlin last week but now I’m sat in Utrecht again writ­ing this.

Last Mon­day we had our KUMA work­shop with KLM which was excel­lent. We look for­ward to work­ing fur­ther with this client to map out the prob­lem and solu­tion spaces.

Kars rounded up Cam­parc for which we just pub­lished a video here:

Bycatch (web­site forth­com­ing) is mov­ing along nicely. We now have a card game that does what we want it to do and also is fun to (re)play. The next step is to pre­pare a fully func­tional demo that we can present and take into pro­duc­tion. We’ll be show­ing a pre­view of the final prod­uct at Play­ful.

To announce: we will be in Lon­don around Octo­ber 17th with a sig­nif­i­cant com­ple­ment of Hub­bub peo­ple head­quar­tered in Dal­ston. Kars, myself and Sebas­t­ian will be present at Play­ful to see Sub­alekha present. All of us look for­ward to meet­ing you.

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Week 266

I spent the first half of last week writ­ing stuff for sev­eral poten­tial projects that are in the pipeline for the end of 2014 and the begin­ning of 2015.

Kars was mostly occu­pied with redesign­ing and pro­duc­ing stuff for KEGANI. The cur­rent title for the project is “Bycatch” which feels like it could be defin­i­tive. All three of us (Kars, myself and Sub­alekha) will be out in force at Play­ful in Lon­don next month and we would love to see you there. If you want to play the cur­rent ver­sion of KEGANI catch any one of us in either Berlin, Utrecht or Brooklyn.

On Wednes­day I trav­eled to Ams­ter­dam to pre­pare the first work­shop (project name KUMA) for KLM this week. That work­shop also the rea­son that these wee­knotes are a bit late. I did a tour of Ams­ter­dam on Thurs­day and caught up with peo­ple around the city.

Indigo

On Fri­day we pre­pared some final stuff for KUMA and then went into Utrecht to catch a bit of Indigo and Bring Your Own Beamer.

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Week 265

Kars spent last week in between two major events hav­ing just fin­ished Cam­parc he pre­pared some play­ful work­shops to run at the open­ing of Vecht­club XL, our Utrecht base of oper­a­tions. One of these was an iter­a­tion on our Play­ing with Rules work­shop but made acces­si­ble for a larger audi­ence. Think Parcheesi meets Nomic.

Playing with Rules workshop at Vechtclub XL opening weekend

We caught up with a lot of the peo­ple we had been talk­ing or work­ing with includ­ing Mon­nik, Rezone, Game Oven, Third Wave, Bruns Niks and Bits of Free­dom.

Literature Festival meets Games

I made a show­ing at Cre­ative Morn­ings Berlin and an event at the Berlin Lit­er­a­ture Fes­ti­val about games. Most enjoy­able though was orga­niz­ing and host­ing our irreg­u­lar get together with Berlin Game Design­ers aptly titled “Game Design­ers Anonymous”.

Stand­ing is in its final tweaks mov­ing towards completion.

My foray into esports and live stream­ing is also cre­at­ing tan­gi­ble results. Mon­day after some exten­sive recod­ing ses­sions I posted a com­men­tary video of myself play­ing DOTA2. It was enjoy­able to make and I hope to watch as well. Expect more stuff to come out of this.

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Week 264

The delayed arrival of these notes should tell you some­thing about what kind of week last week was: busy.

For me, it was all about deliv­er­ing and run­ning Cam­parc. We’ll write more about it soon and are also sift­ing through our copi­ous pho­tos and videos. For now, suf­fice to say we had a more or less smooth build-up to the event, except for a few small chal­lenges which were swiftly dealt with. On Fri­day, I really enjoyed doing a small talk about our approach to play­ful design and the mak­ing of Cam­parc, fol­lowed by a demo of one of the balls. On Sun­day we ran the game for a full after­noon. Thanks to a solid crew of Hub­bub agents, great weather, a nice crowd and only a few small tech­ni­cal hic­cups we had a great run. The indis­putable high­light for me was play­ing a pass­ing game in the spirit of new games, which was a joy­ful expe­ri­ence of col­ib­er­a­tion.

Camparc

Besides Cam­parc, I squeezed in a bit of prep work on our upcom­ing series of work­shops about game-based learn­ing with KLM. I also fin­ished and pub­lished the port­fo­lio write-up of the Cup­pings guide app.

Mean­while in Berlin, Alper was keep­ing an eye on our sales pipeline, plan­ning and hav­ing meet­ings left and right. He also rewrote the rules for KEGANI in prepa­ra­tion for the lim­ited release we’re plan­ning to do of the game at Play­ful. And he did work on the next release of Stand­ing, which is almost done and will sport a lovely new look cour­tesy of Simon. Over the week­end, he played around with live stream­ing and cast­ing local mul­ti­player games together with Lorenzo.

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Week 263

Aldo putting the final touches on Camparc

Last week was the penul­ti­mate week for Cam­parc so every­body was heav­ily involved in work on that. I did research on how to get videostream­ing to work on OS X whose capa­bil­i­ties seem to have seri­ously regressed. I built a cus­tom app using VLCKit that does what we want it to do. Aldo Hoeben worked on the final aspects of the balls so they can be deployed this Sunday.

For Camparc’s launch STRP are orga­niz­ing an after­noon on urban games with a great line-up of speak­ers. The event is open to the pub­lic and we’d love for you to join us.

Scouting Camparc anamorphic drawing locations with Ties

Ties Alfrink did a bunch of stun­ning graphic design work that we can’t wait for you to see. Kars assumed his usual role stay­ing on top of every­thing while also going to Eind­hoven to scout out the loca­tion where we are going to deploy the balls and the games.

I kept up with the var­i­ous pro­pos­als we have run­ning and sent out some new stuff. We did an update on KEGANI and called with Sub­alekha Udayasankar to talk through plan­ning up until Play­ful this year. We should have some­thing fairly def­i­nite to show by then.

Messing with Tupil's Estimote kit

I did work on the new ver­sion of Stand­ing which is almost ready to ship. Other than that I’m explor­ing sev­eral other prod­ucts by build­ing pro­to­types (more on that later). Kars did some research on iBea­cons and play for an upcom­ing workshop.

Worth men­tion­ing here as well that our Berlin/Kreuzberg office KANT has a desk open­ing up. The loca­tion is extremely con­ve­nient and I can rec­om­mend work­ing from our fac­tory loft. If you would like to join us, get in touch.

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Week 262

This week I was joined in Utrecht by Alper who had just returned from his hol­i­day in the Aus­trian Alps.

Most of our time was spent on Cam­parc again. Aldo started work on the four balls we’ll need for the main event. Alper assisted him with soft­ware devel­op­ment to get the video streams from the balls into Quartz Com­poser. I worked with Ties of Pony Design Club on a method for draw­ing anamor­phic ‘puz­zles’, as well as the game’s visual identity.

Anamorphic drawing of a square

We also posted a teaser for the game, and sent out an invi­ta­tion to our newslet­ter. If you’re able to join us in Eind­hoven on Sep­tem­ber 14, we’d love to have you over.

I spent some time work­ing out a work­shop for­mat for the Vecht­club XL open­ing week­end, which is another thing to mark in your agenda, and Alper wrote a draft pro­posal for a museum game we look for­ward to producing.

Finally, there were copi­ous social occa­sions on which to catch up with friends old and new, includ­ing a visit to the tail end of an urban games jam which was part of a game stud­ies sum­mer school, drinks at a Utrecht meetup for indie game devel­op­ers, a chat with friends at Free­dom­Lab and a visit to Cucalu.

Over the week­end, Alper wrote a very help­ful post list­ing 15 eco­nomic myths debunked by Thomas Piketty’s Cap­i­tal.

All in all, a good week.

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