Week 273

Last week Kars and I crossed con­ti­nents. He came back from hol­i­day in Seoul (check out his visual food report) on the day I flew out to New York to attend PRACTICE.

I spent the week doing some admin­is­tra­tion, review­ing cur­rent projects among which Stand­ing and pack­ing. I’m also orga­niz­ing the fourth edi­tion of Game Design­ers Anony­mous at our stu­dio in Berlin.

After work­ing on Bycatch in Lon­don with the three of us, it was con­ve­nient for me to be in New York and be able to work on it with Sub­alekha. We had a marathon hang­out ses­sion with Kars from the Impact HUB to go over the copy for the rules before Natalye Chil­dress does the final edit.

PRACTICE was just as great as last year with lots of amaz­ing peo­ple present and a slew of insight­ful talks. The talk about Netrun­ner by Lukas Litzsinger espe­cially hit home both because the game is a stu­dio favorite and because we are in the process of design­ing a card game our­selves and see­ing his process was rather humbling.

PRACTICE

I met too many game design prac­ti­tion­ers at PRACTICE to count. Dur­ing the week I hung out mostly with old Ams­ter­dam friend Peter Robi­nett of Bub­ble Foundry and Paper + Equa­tor (Subalekha’s design firm).

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Week 272

Last week was a fairly quiet week over at the stu­dio. Kars did the deliv­ery for our engage­ment over at KLM and then got ready to go on hol­i­day to Seoul where he is right now.

Bycatch was fea­tured over at Killscreen with a very nice article.

I was sick for most of the week but I did make it over to Ams­ter­dam to hold a work­shop at ThingsCon there on Fri­day together with Ianus. We did a ses­sion called “Play­ful Devices Improv” and every­body had a lot of fun think­ing of new approaches to con­nected prod­ucts. We asked par­tic­i­pants to take kitchen devices and come up with a char­ac­ter for them. With these char­ac­ters they would then have to devise sto­ries and finally these sto­ries were acted out over the kitchen counter.

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The groups did really well, each one had sev­eral inter­est­ing finds and as a whole the work­shop really showed that adding fric­tion to sit­u­a­tions can be more pro­duc­tive than start­ing from a func­tional per­spec­tive. And even though we ran the work­shop fairly freeform, the ideation that came out of it was as good or maybe even bet­ter than what you would get in a more for­mal setting.

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On Sat­ur­day I vis­ited the Inter­face Cri­tique event at the Uni­ver­sity of the Arts in Berlin which was an inter­est­ing con­trast from the applied think­ing at ThingsCon the day before.

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Week 271

These wee­knotes are late because of some irreg­u­lar­i­ties in the stu­dio. Kars is cur­rently enjoy­ing a hol­i­day in Seoul while I have been sick for most of the week. Last week was event­ful so there are the wee­knotes anyway.

Last Mon­day we finally got around to doing our Q3 OKR review with opti­mistic results. In the evening we caught up with Jussi Holopainen of GEE­lab who was in Utrecht for the Games for Health event.

Dur­ing this entire week we kept on test­ing and tun­ing Bycatch. After hav­ing opened pre­orders last week at Play­ful we need to get it into shape to ship quickly. Thank­fully we did crack some of the big­ger game design nuts and we now have a game on our hands that is fun and does what it needs to do.

We are inch­ing towards releas­ing the new ver­sion of Stand­ing. Those new iPhone mod­els were a bit of a set­back but progress is steady. The team would love to have this out there so we can take a breather.

We con­sulted with Sebas­t­ian on KLM and did a bunch of work to fin­ish that engage­ment for final deliv­ery. It has been a plea­sure work­ing with them and find­ing a solu­tion fit­ting for their prob­lem space. We may be writ­ing some more stuff about what we pro­duced later.

I met up with Berlin based Affec­tive Sys­tems to tie up that engage­ment as well. This one was dif­fer­ent in almost all respects but because it is an early stage startup we think that this is the ideal moment to start think­ing about how play can add value to the product.

We brain­stormed with Ianus for our upcom­ing work­shop at Thingscon Ams­ter­dam. What we thought would be the most fun and the most inter­est­ing was to mashup the works of Keith John­stone and Bill Bux­ton and see whether we can impro­vise a bunch of play­ful devices that talk to each other.

Kars ran a work­shop at the uRule sym­po­sium about smash­ing the bor­der between online and offline and met with Rosie Poe­bright of Splash and Rip­ple (pic­tured below).

Splash and Ripple's Rosie Poebright talking about the wonderful Ghosts in the Garden

On Fri­day we had a call to dis­cuss fur­ther details of Bycatch with Sub­alekha. Kars met up with Jamin War­ren to talk through the Kill Screen panel on video games and affect at Impakt Festival.

Setting up for Kill Screen panel on games and affect at IMPAKT festival

On the week­end Kars appeared on that panel. I attended the first Berlin Pro­duc­thunt meetup and I worked a bit on remain­dered projects: a new release of Cup­pings should be out soon.

Producthunt Meetup

And in ran­dom facts we were pleas­antly sur­prised to hear King Willem-Alexander of the Nether­lands men­tion the Pig Chase project in a speech.

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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 drone surveillance and remote 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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