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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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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Week 261

The view from the perch

I have just returned from the Alps this week­end and dir­ectly trav­elled to the Netherlands to do some after hol­i­day catch­ing up with Kars.

Standing is pro­gress­ing very nicely thanks to Simon’s hard work. We’ll be ready to launch the redesigned app and web­site soon. We’ve been in talks about mak­ing a game about cam­era sur­veil­lance and we cri­tiqued a format for a TV show in development.

Camparc ball

Most of the rest of the week was spent on Camparc which has pro­gressed nicely since last I saw it. We demoed it suc­cess­fully to the cli­ent and shot a teaser video of the balls them­selves for your enjoy­ment. A crazy concept (huge balls with cam­eras in them) turns out to be really awe­some when you actu­ally build it.

Stielman coffee packaging

In cof­fee related news, the Utrecht stu­dio has pro­cured a cof­fee sub­scrip­tion from new Rotterdam based roaster Stielman which we highly recommend.

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