Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Metaplace is closing

This is sad news. From their email:

Today we have unfortunate news to share with the Metaplace community. We will be closing down our service on January 1, 2010 at 11:59pm Pacific. The official announcement is here and copied below, and you can read a FAQ guide here. We will be having a goodbye celebration party on January 1st at 12:00noon Pacific Time.

Over the last several years, we here at Metaplace Inc. have been working very hard to create an open platform allowing anyone to come to a website and create a virtual world of their own.

Unfortunately, over the last few months it has become apparent that Metaplace as a consumer UGC service is not gaining enough traction to be a viable product, requiring a strategic shift for our company.

We’re sorry to announce today that will be closing to the public at 11:59pm on January 1st, 2010.

This is a bittersweet moment for us. Metaplace Inc the company will be continuing on – in fact, we have big plans – but what you the users have known as Metaplace will be going away. We are also losing some friends and colleagues here as part of this strategic shift.

We’d rather dwell on the good than the sad. You, the users, have done amazing work here, and we want to celebrate it. We may not have managed to reach our goals with and Metaplace Central, but we still had a lot of fun, watched creativity flower, visited amazing places, and made a lot of friends. We’ve had amazing guest speakers, more parties than we can count, live concerts, movie premieres and art shows; we’ve seen you make adventures and schools and churches and games and countless other sorts of worlds that would otherwise never have been created.

In that spirit, we want to treat these next two weeks more as a celebration of the good times. We invite you all to come back to see all of the amazing worlds that you have made. Registration will remain open, so you can show off to your friends. Remote embeds will remain active until the last day as well.

We’ll be turning off billing immediately, and refunding everyone for all purchases in the month of December as well as subscription payments that apply to December and future months. This month is on us. We are suspending regular customer service, but the support site will remain open for now in case there are any critical billing issues.

We know many of you have done work here that you would like to preserve. Please do use this time to capture screenshots, data, scripts, movies, and assets. We have a FAQ that explains how to retrieve assets from the service.

When other worlds have reached a sunset point, people have lost touch with each other. We’ve made a lot of friends here and we’re sure that you have too, so we don’t want that to happen. We have created a forum site at that will be operational soon, so that you can all keep in touch with one another.

Finally: we want to treat the 1st of January as a celebration, rather than a sad moment. Please join us on that day for a party, starting at noon Pacific time. If has to go, we want to go out with style, with joy, and with the same sense of fun that we have always had. Let’s celebrate the journey, not the ending. There will be meeps – count on it.

We’re sure you have many questions about all of this – and there’s a detailed FAQ that we hope answers them. Click here to read it.

In the meantime, we want to thank you all for your support, your effort, your creativity, and your loyalty. We know that many of you will be disappointed by this outcome. We are too. We are embarking on a new and exciting direction, and it feels strange not to have you all along for the ride.

It has been a privilege to have had you here with us on this great adventure, and we hope that this community – this wonderful, engaged, passionate, friendly community – lives on and on.

We’ll miss you -- and we hope to see you again.

Metaplace Team

It's a shame, really.

Anyway, Raph Koster and his team should be proud for having delivered a truly participative and user-centered experience.

Any comments on why this happened?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Review: Unity Game Development Essentials

Unity 3D is becoming the engine of choice for several independent game developers/designers. Reasons for that include:

- It runs on (and deploys to) both Mac OS and Windows environments.
- It publishes for the web, and the plugin is becoming very popular.
- It's cheap (in fact, the Indie version was made free a couple of weeks ago).
- Wii / iPhone / iPod Touch possibilities (there's a specific license for those).
- It integrates very well with 3D packages - importing models can be quite easy.

Plus, as I am finding out:

- It's not that hard to learn if you are a designer coming from Flash and Director

So I got the Indie version, and I was really keen on learning it, but there was a couple of obstacles on the way such as: (a) you can't find as many tutorials as there are to Flash, specially for beginners; (b) The documentation seems to be very complete, but not very welcoming for newcomers.

So I've found a book on it. So far, it seems to be the only book dedicated to this particular engine. And it's a good one.

Unity Game Development Essentials, by Will Goldstone, does a terrific job introducing the engine's main concepts and workflow. By essentially following a very long tutorial, the reader progresses throughout the eleven chapters of the book, each presenting a set of features that make a game. Importing assets, generating particles, managing collisions, designing GUIs, sculpting terrains, generating folliage, placing sounds ... I would say this book covers a lot of ground - maybe more that just the "essentials".

Here is a sample chapter, by the way.

This is not the first development book I buy (I've purchased titles on Flash and Director), but it is one of the best, for sure. I was not familiar with Packt Publishing (and to be honest, was a bit skeptical about them), but I became very impressed with the quality of their material. Overall, the reason I like the book so much it's because the author seems to assume you don't know anything about the engine - and that's often the case with new users, right? Anyway, by the end of the book you'll have a pretty good idea on how to improve the game you've made by following the lessons, but also have a notion on how to implement game mechanics and ideas of your own. As far as introductory books go, this is a big deal. This book could (should) be made the official introductory guide to Unity.

Any shortcomings?

As a development book, no. But I really wish they could make a second book: one that I could use as a scripting reference guide - a bit like Gary Rosenzweig's Using Macromedia Director MX. That would be the perfect complement to the excellent Unity Game Development Essentials. Packt Publishing and Will Goldstone, if you're reading this, please consider the idea!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Unity 3D (and, finally, a good book on it!)

I've been looking for an affordable 3D engine for a while, and Unity 3D has become my favourite one (and now you can get the indie version for free on their website). I've been away of game-ish projects for a looong time (except for a interesting multitouch application I've worked on recently), and hope to fix that soon. And Unity 3D seems a good tool/platform for that.

Although it helps to have a Flash and Director development background, I've found the documentation not so welcoming to newcomers. Luckily, I've found a book on Unity 3D (perhaps the first on the subject?) that is really helping me to get familiar with the tool.

I am still studying and learning from the book - and not so close to finishing it. But, so far I have nothing but good things to say about it.

The book in question is called Unity Game Development Essentials, and it was written by Will Goldstone. You can read a sample chapter here.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Art Exhibition was a success, thank you all!

Thank you all who have submitted your work. I'll post some images of it as soon as I have them.

Again, thank you all so much for the support. I'll send you individual emails as soon as I can. Time has been short lately. For good reasons, always!

Maybe this month we can resume the posts on games and game design? I hope so!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Approaching Deadliine for SBGames 09 Art Exhibition

SBGames 09 Art Exhibition deadline is just around the corner (23 of August).

We already have got some wonderful pieces of work (thank you all participating). But why not submit your art-game, in-game art or art made with games here, under Parallel Events > Art Exhibition?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We have a follower!

I didn't even know about this blogger feature!

Wow, now I feel like we should update more often

Thanks, Jonas ;)

PS: oh, we still need more submissions for the Art Exhibition, by the way? isn't anyone working on a indie/college game project? Or creating art with games? or making an artistic game?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

SBGames 09 Art Exhibition

I've got some interesting games/art pieces offered since my last post, and now is official: The CFP is online now (under Parallel Events > Art Exhibition. Spread the word!

Here's the CFE, by the way:

Art Exhibition

About the Event
The Arts Exhibition is an experimental laboratory for new digital art concepts, interactive immersion, character creation, storytelling, digital music, and innovative interfaces in games, virtual worlds, and digital entertainment environments.

Game development involves high qualified people and big efforts in arts and design. Nowadays, the amount of artists and designers in a game development team represents more than 70%. In this context, SBGames has been organizing, since 2004, the Art Exhibition aiming to motivate new talents in the field of games development and digital entertainment, as well as publicizing artworks of professionals, artists, and designers.

You are invited to submit pieces of digital artwork in any form: printed, video, audio, interactive installations, virtual reality, augmented reality, … .

The exhibition will be held in a charming neoclassic old mansion adapted to the tropical environment: “Solar Grandjean de Montigny” – the residence of the French architect Auguste Henri Victor Grandjean de Montigny who came to Brazil in 1816 as a member of the French artistic mission commissioned by D. João VI.

Call for Participation
The SBGames 09 is now accepting entries for its Art Exhibition, to be held at the Solar Grandjean de Montigny, located at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), from October 8th to November 6th 2009.

This year, the connection between video games and art will be approached from several perspectives at once, celebrating the diversity of uses of art in games and vice-versa. This is an opportunity to witness how videogames mature as an artistic media, and how they increasingly support several creative expression forms.

The entries are divided into four major categories:

  • Character Design:Promoted and organized by the Story Design Lab (LADEH), a lab within PUC-Rio's Art and Design Department, the Character Design Competitive Exhibition will be held in conjunction with the other SBGames 09 Art Exhibition features. More details on 'Parla! LADEH First Contest and Exhibition of Character Design', including its Call For Entries, rules and procedures will soon be available.
  • Art Games: A showcase for games addressing game art and design in innovative and poetic ways. This category embraces games from experimental webgames to fully-featured standalone commercial games that look at new directions for video games in content, themes, gameplay and interaction. Please note that we cannot support games requiring network or internet connection.
  • In-game Art: A display for a diverse range of artistic material made for a game. These forms include, but are not restricted to, 3D models, 2D sprites, music, cinematic cut-scenes and matte painting. Please note that some entries may be adapted or translated into non-electronic illustrative forms to better suit the exhibition.
  • Games as art tools:A section dedicated to all sorts of expressive, thought-provoking user-created content that go beyond the boundaries of the game universe to explore new relations to our culture and new forms of self-expression. These art forms include, but are not restricted to, films made with games (machinima), sim-fiction, game mods, game-generated music, character and level design. Please note that some entries may be adapted or translated into non-electronic illustrative forms to better suit the exhibition.

    Submissions should be sent to and should contain:

  • Name of the submitted piece of work.
  • Name of the artist(s) or group of artists.
  • Brief description of the work (up to 70 words).
  • Year of realization.
  • System requirements (hardware and software) for games or other digital media.
  • Image Attachment (or text) up to 10mb (largee attachments will not be processed).
  • Link for downloading reproduction or original works (larger than 10mb).

    Art Exhibition Organizer
    Chico Queiroz (PUC-Rio)

    Submission Deadline: August 23, 2009
    Selected Works Announcement: September 15, 2009
    Exhibition: October 8 - November 6, 2009
  • Tuesday, May 05, 2009

    looking for art-game, game-art or whatever we should call this...

    - Have you seen/worked on any interesting independent game/webgame/mod with an artistic approach?

    - Have you seen/worked on any interesting piece of art (film, pictures, hypertext, fiction, music etc) made with videogames lately?

    If so, could you please drop a line (and a link, if possible) in the comments section?

    I'm doing research for an exhibition on these subjects, and it would be great if you could help me find some new material.

    Thank you all very much!

    Tuesday, April 07, 2009

    4 years of / Art Exhibition

    Today, is 4 years old.

    I know, I've been neglecting the blog for some time, now - not to mention feature content, such as my last paper on game as creative tools, which is over a year old now and hasn't been translated so far.

    Partially, I believe this is due to the fact that I've been busier than ever this last months(years), working both as a undergraduate professor, teaching virtual modelling and image treatment for design students, and also as designer at a computer graphics lab at the same university. And although I've been dealing with computer graphics and some interaction-based projects, they are not games (nor nongames).

    However, I feel my participation here will increase very soon: I've been appointed curator for a game-related art exhibition, to be held at the university, being launched during a game symposium. I'll give more details as soon as I have a final version of the CFP in my hands, but you can expect a CFP for indie art-games, art made with ganes (machinima, elektroplancton music, Sims fiction, etc.), concept art and more.

    So I guess there will be more to talk about around his blog, and maybe my participation here will be renew.

    But for now, happy birthday!

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    Game design and authorship

    This post is a response to February's Round Table:

    About the Author: This month’s topic turns the literary focus from the medium, to the author. If you submitted a post to either the January or February topics, feel free to write about the process you underwent in converting literary themes into gameplay. Did you struggle with anything in particular? Are you satisfied that your game design(s) communicated what you intended? Have subsequent comments or idea made you wish you could go back and start he process over? And how much does your design say about you and your own interpretation of the themes of the source material?

    Alternately feel free to turn your focus to another game designer, or to game designers in general. In literature we frequently “hear” the author’s voice in their work. Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Tom Robbins–these are excellent examples of authors whose voices are quite recognizable. Through reading their works, we feel we come to feel we know them, to understand their philosophies. There are a handful of games where the “author” can clearly be heard through the work. How closely tied is this to the thematic content of the games and how exactly did they communicate these themes to their audience? And should they have, or should video game designer try to remain out of their work, allowing the player to establish their own themes through gameplay?

    A lot has been said about game videogame authorship, the role of the player and the interplay between them. I don't suppose to convey something new here, but rather comment briefly on the topic, hopefully making itself clearer to myself and the ones reading this.

    Calling a game designer an "author" is usually a way to acknowledge the originality and excellence of his body of work. Will Wrigth, Peter Molyneux, Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima and Sid Meyer are example of designers who have a very distinctive voice and whose style can be identified within any game they have produced.

    Now, I believe two branches of game design have become increasingly popular lately: auteur art-games and (for the lack of better term) user-creativity-centred games. These art-games are not necessarily made by high-profile studio game designers (with few exceptions), but rather by newcomers attempting (and succeeding)to approach game design in a more artistic way. For instance, think of The Passage, The Marriage, The Majesty of Colors and Graveyard. Their games discuss subjects that are usually distant from mainstream commercial game industry - and they often involve a very clear storyline (or sorylines). This kind of authorship is, I believe, truly artistic and very welcome.

    On the other hand, as it has been discussed many times, we should not imagine that game authorship should only gravitate around its story. That's where, I think, user-creativity-centred games come in to complement the scenario, as they allow the player's artistic expression (as well as the designer's). Both game styles, as I see, are great and complement each other. But maybe it should be said that both styles are authorship-friendly. The point is: in game design, the author's voice has more than one way to be heard.

    Will Wright is probably the most popular example. The strongest aspect of his authorship is how he allows players to exercise their own sense of authorship. Players are free to create their visions and that doesn't leave Wright "out of his work". In fact, his presence as an author is even stronger. Molyneux, about whom I have written more extensively, is another good example, with his "The Movies".

    Ok, so how does that fit within the game I described in my previous post for BOTRT? Well, when "designing" The World of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I was worried about building the game as a tool that could be used by players to create their own stories, where a player called Robert Pirsig would come up with his book, not by re-writing the game into prose, but using his experiences, notes and impressions of it.

    The game would be, genuinely, a setting. The story would be the player's own. In fact, that notion facilitated my design, which I felt to make justice to the book it was based on, expressing much more of it than a direct translation would.

    Comments I got about that post included a very good suggestion to something that could be added, rather than changes to the design. So yes. To answer the original question proposed by this Round Table, I was satisfied with the game design and the way the it communicated the books message.

    Friday, March 13, 2009

    Tiny remark on Spore Mobile

    I haven't got the time to post, lately, but here is a quick impression on Spore for mobile phones.

    Although I've been struggling with the lack of "Save Game" (I have to play the game from the start every time), I really enjoy one aspect of gameplay:

    In order to survive, you must eat smaller creatures and escape bigger ones. As you eat, your character gets bigger and bigger, and there is a point - and that's the part I like - you are not so sure the creature next to yours is prey or predator.

    This transition (prey -> predator) is, I believe, rare within the same game level, and most of the cases I remember involves power-ups (as in Pac-man) or some kind of warning, letting the player know that he has changed his role. The "transparent" transition we find in Spore mobile is, I think, much more elegant and interesting all around.

    Monday, February 09, 2009

    Troubled Avatars

    While reading Ian McEwan's novel Saturday, I was very impressed by a chapter narrating a squash match between the protagonist (a middle-aged neurosurgeon from London) and his friend and colleague. Here's an excerpt:

    "Half a dozen times the ball travels up and down the left-hand wall, until Perowne finds the space on his backhand to lift it high into the right-hand corner.They play that wall in hard straight drives, dancing in and out of each other's path, then they're chasing shots all over the court, with the advantage passing between them.
    They've had this kind of rally before - desperate, mad, but also hilarious, as if the real contest is to see who will break down laughing first."

    From: Saturday, by Ian McEwan.

    McEwan does an amazing job describing the psychological state of his character during play: the lack of focus from out-of-court worries, that "flow" feeling after prolonged rallies, the balance between competitiveness and camaraderie, etc..

    In my last contribution to the round table, I've suggested ways of designing for the player's, say, lateral thinking (in a desirable way). But why not extend this mental state to the characters - and then to the player?

    Let's keep the rackets and think of a videogame of Tennis, for instance. Suppose you're playing with Roger Federer against a CPU-controlled Rafael Nadal. Now, usually the only match-unrelated concerns of between the player and full control of the game are the (real world) player's concerns. Federer's avatar might be more or less capable in game fundaments (serving, backhanding, forehanding, lobbing, etc.), but his psychological state is neutral.

    Now let's remember the last Federer Vs. Nadal match, when they were playing for the Australian Open. Judging from Federer's reaction, visibly upset to the point of crying during the prize ceremony, there should be some psychological unbalance going on. Was his mind somewhere else during the match? I don't know, but that's a hypothesis.

    So, how could this kind of mental state be reflected in the game (and gameplay)? Overlapping images? Unresponsive control pads? There's a number of options that could be tested.

    Sport games might not be the best example of use for that. RPGs, 1st and 3rd persons could benefit from this kind of "troubled avatars" to add depth to the story and gameplay. It could be a way of levelling the character's and player's experiences.

    (Note: I remember a football videogame where the controller rumbled, as to indicate mental distress, during penalty shootouts. Was it one of FIFA series?)

    Friday, January 30, 2009

    The World of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    Ok, so this is my contribution to the Round Table:

    The World of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

    WoZAMM (even the acronym sounds appropriate!) is a Road-trip MMOG with a philosophical twist.

    Enjoy your ride along miles and miles of open roads and highways.

    In this MMOG, you are free to take you motocycles and your thoughts wherever you want. To be played on your own or in massive-multiplayer (cooperative or competitive) mode, WoZAMM allows you to explore the roads, the mountains and their risks.


  • Mantain and upgrade your vehicle
  • Race against or along up to 256 players open to chat
  • Explore thousands of miles of roads of every kinds and conditions
  • Relax riding in Zen Mode (keep reading for explanation)
  • Follow quests or wander freely.
  • Food for thought: on-screen display quotes and topics for your reflection.
  • Access and enjoy WoZAMM Philosophical Encyclopaedia (and add / share notes) (read more for explanation on that one too).

    This game is designed to give players that free-roaming feeling some miss about games (hey, do you remember Elite?). Although players can accept quests and missions (available at gas stops, restaurants and motels, if so they wish), they can also just enjoy riding and riding and riding...

    And that's where Zen Mode, our main USP, comes in.

    After a long period of continuous riding (a couple of minutes), Zen Mode will become available for the player to activate. Once it's on, it will progressively make motorcycle control easier (the Motorcycle will run by itself, at its peak), slightly increase speed and add soft-blur visual effects to the surroundings. The smooth-to-automatic controls will give the player a chance to reflect.

    USP number 2 - Food for Thought: Every now and then, specially when in Zen Mode, philosophical quotes and topics will be displayed on screen for further reflection. Once the player is off the road, he can also access WoZAMM Philosophical Encyclopaedia and read more on topics previously displayed. Notes can be added by the player and upload to the users forum.


    On a side note, I should add that I've always wanted to make an introspective long-distance driving game. This Round Table was a great opportunity to re-work, however briefly, that idea.

  • Learning from the digital Library of Babel

    Note: this started a warming up to my Round Table post. Although my game of choice is not the one discussed below, I think this is still a valid contribution to the panel. Since the panel is open for two contributions per blog, I thought I should publish it on a separate post.

    Some literary works beg for a digital translation.

    In my last academic paper (yet unpublished in this website - shame on me, since I've finished it more than a year ago), I suggested that some literary work (in that case, specificaly Borges' short story "The Library of Babel") could be as natural to digital media as to the printed form it was first imagined for.

    Here's some of its initial paragraph (translated by James Irby, available here):

    "The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings. From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except two; their height, which is the distance from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal bookcase."

    This infinite library holds every book that could be possibly written (every character combination). Although this fantastic, imaginary building cannot be physically re-created, a digital representation - including its rooms, books and book's content - it's not only possible, but also done, and released in CD-ROM (back in 1996). It's called Biblioteca Total, made by Nicolás Helft and published by Argentinian group La Nacion.

    The universe imagined by Borges was, in essence, a mathematical wonder. One that can be expressed in computational terms and virtual representation.

    But what about the game? I am not sure Helft's CD-ROM was not limited to the exploration of the library's infinite space (although I have seen it in action, many years ago, I can't remember if there was more to it than navigating from gallery to gallery). However, the short story goes on describing searches for sacred, meaningful books among the infinite amount of available books. A game among that lines could be designed (maybe an adventure style-game, or even RPG).

    So you get the idea: some literary works are more naturally translated into digital works.

    Anyway, that's not the book-to-game translation I want to present for this panel. That will be on my next post.

    Friday, January 02, 2009

    The Global Game Jam

    Willing to spend a weekend making a game? Meet the Game Jam:

    (from their website):

    What is a Game Jam?

    In a Game Jam, participants come together to make video games. Each participant works in a small team on a complete game project over the course of a limited time period, usually over a weekend. With such a small time frame, the games tend to be innovative and experimental. The Global Game Jam (GGJ) is the first of its kind: a game Jam that takes place in the same 48 hours all over the world! The global Game Jam will start at 5:00PM Friday, January 30, 2009 through 5:00PM Sunday, February 1, 2009, (all times local). All participants in the Global Game Jam will be constrained by the same rules and limitations, with each time zone having one distinct constraint.

    Why is it global? Because It will happen simultaneously all over the globe (including Brazil). Here's the list of locations:

    * Albany, USA
    * Ankara, Turkey
    * Athens, USA
    * Albuquerque, USA
    * Atlanta 1, USA
    * Atlanta 2, USA
    * Angouleme, France
    * Austin, USA
    * Baltimore , USA
    * Boston , USA
    * Cape Town, South Africa
    * Caracas, Venezuela
    * Charlotte, USA
    * Chicago, USA
    * Copenhagen, Denmark
    * Dallas, USA
    * Detroit, USA
    * Glasgow, Scotland
    * Hamar, Norway
    * Hamilton, New Zealand
    * LA, USA
    * London , UK
    * Madison, USA
    * Madrid, Spain
    * Newport, Wales
    * NYC 1, USA
    * NYC 2, USA
    * Orlando, USA
    * Ottawa , Canada
    * Paris, France
    * Perth, Australia
    * Pittsburgh , USA
    * Raleigh, USA
    * Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
    * Rockville, USA
    * San Francisco / Silicon Valley, USA
    * Santa Cruz, USA
    * Sao Carlos, Brasil
    * Savannah, USA
    * Sault Ste Marie, Canada
    * Tel Aviv, Israel
    * Thurles, Ireland
    * Toronto, Canada
    * Vancouver, Canada
    * Waco, USA
    * Utrecht, The Netherlands

    If you want to join Global Game Jam, you can find more info at their website:
    Copyright, Chico Queiroz