Thursday, April 28, 2005

Lecture at the Guildford IGDA chapter

Guildford, England

IGDA logoBen Board from the Guildford IGDA asked me to come in and deliver a lecture to their monthly meeting. It's my local chapter, but I'm ashamed to say I hadn't been before. We met at a downtown bar, but their projection system wasn't really up to snuff, so we hacked up our own. My lecture was "Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie," which is Photo of Gizmondo devicepractically becoming traditional for IGDA chapters, but the real highlight of the evening was the presentation by Paul Hilton, Executive Producer at Gizmondo, of their new device. Four years in the making, this thing does everything but brush your teeth for you. It's like an N-Gage on steroids, delivering all sorts of content wirelessly and playing some great-looking games too.

Photo of IGDA meeting at GuildfordMany thanks to Mary-Margaret.com for supplying the beer!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Adams selected as consulting expert by ELVI project, Finland

Oulu, Finland

ELVI logoThe Environment for Lucrative Virtual Interaction is a regional development project coordinated by the University of Oulu Department of Information Processing Science, in conjunction with the European Union and the City of Oulu. The project's goal is to grow the area's games and interactive entertainment industry, by finding innovative ideas for games and interactive entertainment, and turning them into marketable concepts.

In order to do this, they need outside experts to help them evaluate the proposals. They put out a call for tenders -- bids, in effect -- to the game industry. I am honored to be among the bidders selected to serve as an expert. It means I'll be traveling to Oulu several times a year, evaluating game ideas and meeting with development teams.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Inaugural lecture at the Finland IGDA chapter

Helsinki, Finland

IGDA logoWhile I was in Finland for my narrative game design workshop, I got in touch with the new Finland chapter of the IGDA, and told them that I would be happy to do a lecture at one of their meetings if they would like. They didn't have a meeting scheduled, but decided not to miss the chance and set one up especially for me -- which I found very flattering. I was the first speaker they had ever had. We met at a bar in Helsinki and more or less took over the back end of it. Two local development companies, Mr. Goodliving and Sumea, were kind enough to supply a projector and screen, and we had a pretty good turnout, about 35 or 40 people. I hope it encourages more people to join and participate in the worldwide development community.

Interview on BBC World Service program "Masterpiece"

This piece was broadcast on shortwave radio all over the world.

Masterpiece is a continuing series of programs on BBC World Service radio, dedicated to the arts. One edition was about how video games are made, and the BBC invited me to come in for an interview. It took about half an hour, and the program aired on April 20th or thereabouts. I
wasn't able to hear it at the time, but I captured it from their website and put it on mine. It's available as a *21MB (!)* MP3 here or as a RealAudio stream here. However, take note -- I only appear for a couple of minutes at the beginning and the end. Most of the rest of the program was recorded at Kuju, a development studio here in the UK.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

5-day Narrative Game Workshop in Finland

University of Art and Design, Helsinki, Finland

The last time I was in Finland was in 1968, and I don't remember much about it. One of the things I do remember is going to the sauna in the hotel. Saunas are an important part of social and family life in Finland, but I knew nothing about them apart from the fact that it involved being naked in a very hot room. What I wasn't prepared for was a strapping middle-aged lady, wearing the uniform of a hotel employee, waiting outside. She motioned (she spoke no English; we spoke no Finnish) my father, brother and me to lie down on three tables, where she proceeded -- still with us all stark naked -- to scrub us each down, top and bottom, with a brush!

This kind of thing does not happen in central Kentucky. Nor yet central Sudan, the two parts of the world with which I was, at that point, most familiar.

The doors of the university, in five languages!
Thirty-seven years later I got the chance to go back, although I didn't manage a sauna this time. I was too busy (and perhaps a little frightened of a repeat performance). The University of Art and Design in Helsinki is giving a series of game design workshops and seminars, specifically on the subject of narrative in games, and they invited me to be one of the presenters. The group was a great mix of professionals, students, and academics -- I find that heterogenous teams often produce the most imaginative results.

One of the best of the ideas was Troll Island, pictured below. Troll Island is an augmented reality game set in a specific location: Suomenlinna Island, a popular spot with tourists. The fantasy is that the island is inhabited by fairies and trolls, but they're invisible to the naked eye.   To see them, you have to use an "Enchanted Eye" -- a mobile phone with a camera and a Global Positioning System receiver. The game consists of wandering around the island, having encounters with trolls and other creatures via the phone, in the course of an adventure whose plot unfolds as you walk. Great stuff, and completely different from what I anticipated.

Why do those spectacles look so much like mine?

I'm sorry to say, however, that the participants don't always give their teachers all the respect they deserve. Close inspection of The Keymaster Elf, pictured here, will reveal a familiar face.

Troll Island was conceived, designed, and documented in three days by Outi Kotala, Ville Tikka, Ciaran Harris, and Sami Pekkola.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Workshop at Rotherham College of Arts and Technology

Rother Valley College, Dinnington, UK

Rotherham College logoSometimes one gig produces another. I met Dave Carr, a sculptor and instructor at Rotherham College, when he came to attend a game design workshop I gave at Doncaster College. I guess he enjoyed himself-- he invited me to come to his institution and give another one there.

Rotherham College has two campuses, one in Rotherham proper and one at Dinnington. It's in the heart of what used to be the mining country: the area that so famously battled Margaret Thatcher for the future of the English welfare state. The miners lost, and the mines are now almost all closed. As rock-solid Labour voters, the area got no redevelopment money from the Tories, and struggled for quite a while. It's now -- slowly -- starting to turn around.

Photo of the National Union of Mineworkers banner.It's hard to overestimate the effect of the miners' strike on contemporary Britain. It was the end of the great postwar socialist experiment, and in some ways the end of the working class as a unified political force. The pain, bitterness, and division of those days is well-remembered in the struggling towns of South Yorkshire.

According to Dave it isn't possible to build tall buildings there. The whole region is so undermined that the bedrock won't stand it, and buildings tend to crack and settle. My workshop was rather small -- just 15 participants -- but I was feted handsomely by Dave and my other host, Jonathan Hatt.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Ernest Adams granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

No, it's not an April Fool's Day joke.

Twenty-three years ago, my wife and I came to Britain on our honeymoon. We had a wonderful time, and decided that someday we'd like to live and work here. In 1999, that dream was finally realized when I got an intra-company transfer to the Bullfrog Productions subsidary of Electronic Arts. Unfortunately, I had to leave the company during the industry downturn in the period between the original Playstation and the Playstation 2. It looked as if we might have to go home early.

Fortunately, after a few months I was able to find new employment with International Hobo, and I've been there ever since. Now after four years, I applied for "indefinite leave to remain" -- the right to live in the UK without restrictions -- and it was granted today. This doesn't mean we plan to live here forever; it just means that we're no longer automatically regarded as short-timers. We can buy a house, travel more freely, get jobs without needing a work permit, and generally feel a bit more settled.

We definitely plan to move back to the USA some day, when the right job or combination of circumstances call for it. But for now, we're happy to be living in the UK.