Projects 2008 > Swarm > Journal
The Media Sandbox Final Showcase event was a great opportunity for us to trial the game with the numbers of people for which it was intended but the scale threw up some issues. Some of these were pretty straightforward and to do with device management – keeping 40 devices charged, making sure the game mscape didn't crash out waiting for players to begin – others were more interesting.
For the first time we began to glimpse the kind of dynamics thrown up by large game populations and swarm like behaviour. These manifested themselves in periods of highly fluid, fast moving game-play alternating with periods of stasis. Clearly we need to find a design grammar that can accommodate these characteristics. To do this we have to refine the game so that it is stable and engaging enough accommodate the numbers of people needed to create the effects . Sometimes we feel its a bit like observing events at a sub-atomic level, you haveto build a massive apparatus in order to glimpse tiny elusive phenomena.
One aesthetic issue is proving telling. We added music to the beginning to the piece, to create a mood and to give players an indication that the piece is actually running. Feedback from players at the final event was that they wanted the music to continue throughout the piece. As Duncan Speakman pointed out this would work against the whole premise of the work, which is to encourage people to interact. This is a contrast to his work, where he explores the experience of listening to music as one wanders the city, viewing the environment as if you were in a movie. This is the opposite of what we want to achieve. We want people to engage with each other, the technology being the facilitator of this. The music became a seductive insulator of the 'real' world, behind which people felt safe. So we need to work on this area, re-assuring players but also opening them up to interacting with strangers.
Finally, the conclusion of this year's Media Sandbox might be the end of swarmtoolkit, but the research continue with a new company we are forming to exploit commercially swarm game dynamics in education and HR as well as entertainment. We are calling the business……Simon! No website yet, but we have a logo.
We already have a couple of business opportunities, more news on this and what we are aiming to do in our next post.