And then there were three…

Last night I tweeted that we had now managed to graft an important third limb onto our Frankensteinian creation. Some real progress was made in cementing relationships and I’m very upbeat about the whole process.

This week we will be seeking funding options which include but are not limited to NIScreen, HALO, Seed EIS and some local private investors.

Watch this space.

43 KBps

sftp> put IMG_1163.MOV
Uploading IMG_1163.MOV to /home/public_html/IMG_1163.MOV
IMG_1163.MOV 20% 39MB 43.0KB/s 1:01:11 ETA

I suppose it’s better than dial-up. Bah.

Starting tomorrow, gonna see about switching to BT Infinity. Uploading a 202 MB movie file is just excruciating on our outstanding “digital platform”.

Job Titles Are For Wimps

I do a little bit of public speaking and I’m always asked for my job title and a short bio.

The bio is usually something funny that I’ve cribbed together in the minutes before they give up on me.

The job title I struggle with. My official title is “Network Facilitator” which is such a mealy-mouthed non-description that it leaves me cold.

So, as of today, bios are no more. And my job title officially changes to:

Innovation Czar for Northern Ireland

It’s what I do.

…that was when I carried you…

I have always been a team player.

I don’t know where it came from (though possibly reading “The Adventures of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table” far too many times) but I’ve always enjoyed working in a group. My role in the group doesn’t tend to be ‘follower’ and there is always the tension when more than one ‘non-follower’ is in a group. But this tension is what creates great work. You need to have multiple people with vision explaining their points of view. And I, for my part, have boundless enthusiasm for good ideas.

20120324-093707.jpg

Back, a hundred years ago, there were multiple visionaries in our little creative group. The thing that set me apart from the rest was in what happened with the ideas. The ones I created (The 23rd Letter, SpaceNinjaCyberCrisis XDO, Zombi) made it to publication (with the exception of a few which, to this day, I just can’t finish). But no other ideas made it to the stage where they could be sold.

And it wasn’t that I forced others to only work on my ideas. In fact, I expended a huge amount of effort on others ideas but, in virtually every case, I never felt like the effort was appreciated. The feedback was never entirely clear but it seemed like I was stepping on toes by being enthusiastic. And when your contributions are unrewarded or worse, rejected, you stop doing it.

Good teams need to have that mix. In fact, the point of a team is to have members able to lift and carry for others when things get maudlin. I reckon this is the primary reason for pair-bonding in humans. We need to rely on someone to keep good results consistent. And it’s just as important to take it in turns to inspire each other.

I miss working with others on new products. It’s probably the thing I miss the most in the whole world. Working alone is like being in an echo chamber. Working with others is exciting, challenging – even if it’s not always productive. It’s not always fun either – but sometimes it’s the best.

Lo-Fi

In the vein of telling everyone* in an attempt to try and raise the funds for this game, here’s a lo-fi trailer that Aidan, my friend (and close collaborator in all things important to me), put together to help us visualise the story and content. This is a 3 MB M4V.

What do you think?

*telling no-one wasn’t working very well.

Immersive, Connected, Asynchronous

So, there are two types of gameplay I imagine in this game. And this may increase the game far beyond initial scope.

Immersive Play

This is closest to console-type play. Someone churns their way through 20 levels of combat and research, at varying difficulties to get to the end game. This is enhanced with later multiplayer and, I would hope, special co-op levels as well as death match style play. But the gameplay is all immersive. It’s real-time tactics which will suck in the attention.

Asynchronous but Connected Play

This is the gameplay done when you only have two minutes or thirty seconds. It’s not enough to immerse you entirely and it may open the gameplay to other platforms (maybe even including emails, push notifications). Have to think a bit more about this one.

  • more about messaging and supply lines
  • shared missions ( “I can’t move forward on sigma sector until you blow that bridge” )
  • passing of information ( “Anyone seen the Derps in Downtown” )

The closest things I can compare this to is using other channels outside WoW to plan raids. What if the online component required people to do things for each other. Think of that segment in the Matrix sequel where they had to hit things within a certain time frame to get through a door. Very silly, the whole sequence. But the idea being that in a war, even a guerilla war, there are sacrifices, feints and advances. In order for Cell B to advance, maybe Cell A has to lead an extremely difficult mission against some major component of alien infrastructure. If they don’t achieve a certain score, then Cell B has a much harder time of it.

One Lump or Two, Vicar?

I’m left to wonder then; is this one game or two?

I’m intrigued by something Willem Kokke said to me earlier this week about starting out with a simpler game to get started. I think that an Asynchonrous Connected game could work as a standalone. As an iPhone game that would be a companion for an iPad strategy game. I already watch TV while using my phone and iPad so why not play a game? Maybe there’s an entire untapped market there. Some console games use phones to help track inventory, to provide in-game information. Why not affect gameplay?

So that’s a simpler idea, that feeds into the development of the story, that can provide story elements in and of itself. It looks like I’ll need to open a new area of the wiki.

NI Firm Kainos in NHS iPad Deployment

NHS trust to use iPads for real-time access to patient records.

The trust hopes to use other mobile functions such as online mapping, so district nurses can plan the best route for their rounds.

By June, SWFT hopes to have installed a document management system from supplier Kainos, which will help the trust to scan its paper-based records into a database of electronic records. Kainos was chosen partly because it could demonstrate its mobile access to its software through an iPad, said Robinson.

This was an interesting story because it represents a health trust doing something independently of the multiply-failed monolithic NHS IT projects.

This is a doubly interesting story because it involved Kainos, one of Northern Ireland’s premiere software houses.

The Games Market is about to have a significant and violent rebalancing. Look out.

David Braben:

if you look at just core gamer games, pre-owned has really killed core games. In some cases, it’s killed them dead.

Braben’s thesis is that single player games are being killed by the second hand market. A player might buy a game on Monday, sell it on Tuesday and it might be bought again, pre-owned, on Wednesday for a high fraction of the cover price.

Multiplayer games usually require some sort of server access, a license to play and only one can be used at a time. So a game that comes with a network access key is less likely to be sold on if the multiplayer aspect is any good.

Braben’s own studio project is “in limbo” because it’s a story-based single player game. Considering that there have been several successful story-based single player games (Tomb Raider and sequels, inFamous and sequel, Prototype and sequel, Uncharted and sequels), I’m not entirely convinced that the problem is that single-player games are at threat. There’s also a role for the publisher to provide the market access and that’s an issue in itself. With Braben’s track record, you’d think that it would be a no-brainer (to develop, to get funding, to get a market) so if it is on hiatus, it must be something else.

The Pre-Owned Market

The developer/publisher doesn’t get any share of this second sale and, well, they want it. The pre-owned games are marketed alongside the brand new games and it’s obvious that sales assistants are incentivised to sell the pre-owned copies due to better margins.

Games retailers who have made the bulk of their money in the pre-owned market over the last few years (such as GameStop (fucked) and Game (fucked) and feeling the pinch as publishers are moving more and more to digital distribution and refusing to allow this grey market of used plastic disks to continue. (I must admit a total lack of empathy for games retail companies – they saw it coming – heck, everyone saw it coming – and they did nothing). And, let’s face it, while we appreciate being able to buy a game that did poorly for a couple of quid, when the pre-owned version is less than a fiver cheaper than the brand new copy, you have to think there’s something shitty going on.

The publishers latest trick is to prevent their latest releases from being sold through the retailers and that, certainly in the case of Game, is proving to be the nail in the coffin. Even if their creditors can agree to some sort of sale, the publishers are unlikely to be interested.

Explaining to my son that it’s not really sad or bad that games retail stores are closing is an intriguing debate. He maintains it’s unfortunate that gamers won’t have stores to buy games from. I maintain they weren’t buying them anyway, so it’s a non-issue.

Digital isn’t the Future, it’s Yesterday

This is why Game is fucked and Gabe Newell is a billionaire. While he may not have realised his assets, the fact that he’s worth ten times the amount of money that Game currently owes to creditors has to be taken into context.

Even with horribly draconian DRM, the online digital distribution games tsunami known as “Steam”, a product of the Valve Corporation, is doing well. With considerably less draconian DRM, the Apple-owned AppStore is also thriving. And with google recently changing the name of their application store from Android Market (entirely descriptive) to Google Play (entirely confusing and aimed at the entertainment market), there is a move to seeing games as our primary download. Valve, Apple and Google are very well placed.

Obviously, people will put up with horrific DRM if you’re selling them stuff they want to buy and you make it cheap and easy to do it. Steam and the AppStore deliver this in spades.

The only people who will do badly in this scenario are the purveyors of second-hand plastic disks. Publishers realise that they not only can stem the tide of losing revenue from the pre-owned market but also save money on distribution (packaging, shipping, storage) and they may not need to give as much of a cut to retailers who have, for the last few years, been working against them.

But the question then is – if it’s digital and non-transferable, am I really buying it? And if so, why isn’t it cheaper?

Post apocalypse, what’s the landscape

One thing is plain; the current model of video game shops is at an end. It only took thirty years for the model to be created and killed. Considering what is achieved by Steam, it’s not unreasonable to assume that later consoles (such as XBOX 720 or Sony PS4?) might not even come with optical disk drives. The market for selling plastic disks, brand new or pre-owned, is coming to an end. (Which in IT-speak means it will be around for a decade or more).

Digital Download Stores will consolidate but while Apple will always maintain their own ghetto of apps, I can see other platforms having a cornucopia of App Stores, each with their own clones, malware and copyright issues. And you’ll be able to pay for the games in a multitude of ways, from real money to CPU/network/storage/location on your mobile device.

And finally I’ll not have to worry if the pre-owned disk my son has bought from the latest dodgy retailer will actually work. I’ll just make sure to send him the game as a gift. And if you’re still working for a high street video games retailer, I’d seriously consider looking elsewhere.

Technology in… Education: Unwiring Teachers

Technology in Education is the start a small series of blog posts which I’m grouping together as “Technology in…” The idea is to highlight some novel examples of technology (especially mass market consumer technology) being used in vertical markets – such as Education, Business, Healthcare…

Larry Reiff writes about Untethered Teachers

I have an AppleTV in my classroom hooked up to a projector. Using my iPad and AirPlay, I can wirelessly mirror any content on my iPad to the screen at the front of the room. The real advantage is evident during collaborative activities. Students can use their own iOS devices to connect to the AppleTV to share their work with the rest of the class. I can be anywhere in the room and still run my lesson. I can pull up sound and video clips on my iPad and instantly share them with my class without being attached to any particular location in the room.

The cost savings are incredible. Most interactive white boards cost between $2500-$3500 per unit. That cost doesn’t include the man hours for installation. You can purchase an iPad, a projector, and an AppleTV for under $1000.

I’d like to see more examples of this sort of thing if you have any.