2018 Resolutions!

Hey everyone! It’s already the 15th, but we’re still in January so I’d like to wish you a happy 2018! I hope things are going well for you.

Here are my resolutions for 2018 – maybe the term goals would be more appropriate? Nevertheless, there’s a lot to work through!

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You can see I smudged the ink a bit – I skimped a little on the drying time unfortunately! The goals could be broken down into so many subsections – each point covers quite a lot – but I think t’s best to have them concise and without a strict time limit. How do you set your goals for the year? Do you like detailed, time based goals or do you like general concepts? More importantly, what are your goals for 2018? I’d love to know! 🙂

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CritLit Circuit: December 2017

So December was a busy month – and it’s still here, believe it or not! Plenty had changed since my last exhibition in July – I was starting to hand illustrate most of my assets, I had removed and rehashed big sections that I had shown to previous audiences, and I had more puzzles to show.

I was also exhibiting to a broader audience – from VR/AR to Board Games, Game Books and Console/retro games. As a whole, these events allowed me to understand a broad range of expectations – both as an AR game and as a gamebook.The feedback, then, was even greater than I could have ever hoped to get. Coming Home fits such a niche area – and the general consensus from the two events were very different, I have to say.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conventions, even if I did have very little sleep before both of them! I got to try out some great card games and indie video games, meet great people and managed to get in a bit of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and ARMS! There was even a video game music orchestra, which is right up my alley!

Another highlight was Ian Livingstone’s talk on the history of Games Workshop and Fighting Fantasy – so inspiring and heart warming! I also managed to get a Gamebook signed by him as well!
I’m planning for some events coming soon, so do stay tuned for more updates as they come! Hope you had a great holiday/day(s) in general!
Suzie

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From Dragonmeet

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From WeGeek Utopia

The History of the Bookmark

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As I’ve been developing and designing a range of AR Bookmarks (or what I call the Book.AR.k), why not share the history of such a universal and practically timeless gadget from its conception? In this post, I will trace its story from its physical to its digital form!

Humble Beginnings

Bookmarks can be traced back further than we might think – with indications that bookmarks first emerged in the 1st century AD as an accompaniment to codices. Codices, plural of codex, (coming from the Latin caudex – meaning block of wood, which also could be used in a pejorative way i.e. blockhead!) were books made of paper/vellum/papyrus with its contents handwritten.

In Egypt, near Sakkara, the earliest bookmark was found – dating from 6th Century AD and made of ornamented leather.

In later centuries, when you consider the rarity of the earliest print books, it makes sense that they would want to protect them from physical wear and tear – and the bookmark could freely mark any page the reader wanted without doing so. Queen Elizabeth I was one of the first to own a bookmark (or “bookmarker”) by the Queen’s Printer, Christopher Barker. The bookmark in question was fringed with silk.

By the 1880s, the woven silk bookmarks were becoming replaced with the stiff paper and cardboard versions that we’d be more familiar with today.

Nowadays, many styles of bookmark are available – made in either metal, cardboard, fabric or plush. They can come in many shapes and sizes – even in a clip or magnetic form.

From Physical to Digital

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Bookmarking functions can be found in every browser today, but the first design for a digital bookmark actually preceded the World Wide Web. Craig Cockburn proposed a touchscreen device called a PageLink in 1989 – similar to a hybrid of an ebook reader/browser. His patent, although applied for, was never produced.

Instead, it was the browser Mosaic 1.0 in 1993 that popularised the type of digital bookmark that we know today – called a Hotlist. It would change colour depending on whether the link had been visited before – tracking the history of where the person browsed.

Nowadays, due to the heavy use of mobile phones, bookmarks are often synched between device and laptop/computer, enabling a consistent presence of searched and curated information.

So why the Bookm.AR.k?

When designing the Book.AR.k, I put forward the most important question – what does mixed reality add to the experience? If a physical bookmark has AR content, what helps and what hinders its original function – to mark the place of the reader?

If we go back to the precious nature of the printed book and the need to preserve it, attitudes have changed since then. We can sometimes be accused of folding our book corners in lieu of a bookmark, as well as scribbling in the margins.

So why not have clear notes that are linked to the bookmark? Why not integrate a digital system – one that autosaves and stands the test of time of wear/tear, and stays in one consistent place?

I’ll have another page, depicting all of the bookmarks in the range (plus one I’m extremely excited about, the specialised D&D edition) in a lot more detail.

I hope you enjoyed this rather different post!

Suzie

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Pocket Games Connect @ Helsinki!

This is a little overdue – I went to Helsinki for the first time just over a month ago – but I thought I would type out my experience as it was one of many firsts. Not only was I doing my first Indie pitch, but it was also the first time I’d taken a plane by myself and the first time I’d been to Finland!

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First of all, everyone was exceedingly helpful. It doesn’t take much for me to get lost in London – a place I’ve lived in for 30 years – so you can imagine the amount of times I found myself looking around aimlessly on my phone. The taxi system was great – it was easy to identify your car by the bright yellow cabs with giant numbers on top! The app was really straightforward to – perfect to get from my room to the venue.

Once I got in, it was time to get my badge, get set up and get chatting!

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What’s especially great about these events is the feeling of connecting over something you’ve created, especially when you’ve been locked away in a vacuum of your own thoughts for so long whilst making it. It was awesome to see Coming Home playing across the screens too!

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I loved the fact that many people had been gamebook enthusiasts in their youth and liked the idea of adding something new to its table. The judges were also friendly and full of wisdom – it wasn’t as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be to pitch and explain the game to them (the fear was out of potential technical difficulties with the AR to be honest!)

The feedback I got was invaluable, especially for someone who hasn’t been in the game that long (pardon the pun) – I’ve been working on it a lot since I landed back in London and can’t wait to take part again!

Thank you to Simon Aubrey Drake for this awesome event and all of the organisers, judges, attendees and speakers!

Suzie

Read a Book Day

It seemed fitting to write a blog for this special day – my relationship with books and reading has been lifelong (well, from the age of 3, but who’s counting?) and it just seemed right to tap some words into the space on the theme. The post seems especially appropriate as Coming Home is pretty much a homage to the two things that have stayed with me: books and video games.

So what I thought I’d do is to list some of my favourite Gamebooks and Visual Novels – the perfect blend of the two, in my opinion!

  1. The Eternal Champions: The Cyber Warriors

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It was so hard to track this down from the depth of my childhood memories – it’s a gamebook from the 1990s and based on a SEGA Megadrive game that I never got round to playing. I always remember the joys of creating my character, especially picking the fighting style and seeing the resultant combat mechanics in the game (I wanted to learn Aikido so much after this book). Cyber Warriors sees the reader hopping between different periods of time and countries around the world – like a time travelling Street Fighter. The premise, however, goes a little deeper than that. Clones of the Eternal Champions are trying to replace the real ones – and it’s your job to protect them.

I always found this gamebook so difficult – it was definitely one that had a lot of replay value. This was one where I could play and read through if I was finding a section a little too tricky. The second in the series was called Citadel of Chaos, which I sadly never got to read!

  1. Sonic vs. Zonik

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I was (and am) a huge fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, so anything that had the blue blur in book form is an instant win for me! This book came out in 1994 – before the Sonic Adventure series (which I actually really enjoy as well as the 2D side scrollers) – so it was unusual to see Sonic and Tails with voices. There are homages to the console games in the book – there’s a rather long pinball segment, for example – but there’s also the more mundane parts of reality covered. I always remember the surprise at seeing Sonic and Tails taking a bus for the first time (despite being rather fast individuals) and the option to ask the driver where he’d recommend was so amusing to my younger self. I really want to find this again to refresh my memory!

  1. VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

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This is a visual novel I played through recently and I feel as though this game was made for me. The aesthetic, soundtrack and characters are beautifully designed – channelling that 90s retro futuristic vibe. The joys and downfalls of technology are insightfully plotted that, despite being set sometime in the future, could be easily seen in the next few decades. In my opinion, good science fiction is about the present in its projections of the future – and VA-11 HA11-A has this in spades.

Its strength, however, lies in its characters. In a bartending simulator, people come to you – and their personalities and stories are the main ingredients to keep you coming to the screen (you don’t get paid in real life for your shifts there, after all). There’s been a lot of fan art, which shows how much these characters are admired. The mechanic of mixing drinks is fantastic – as you understand each of your patrons, you know what drinks they need as they undergo rather harrowing experiences. Highly recommended!

  1. Hotel Dusk

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I’m picking the first one of the series as I have a greater emotional connect to this one. It’s strange: it connects me temporally to my last year of my BA (2008), and the feeling of leaving University tethered itself to Kyle Hyde’s short stay at Room 215.

He comes to the hotel in order to find his former work partner, Bradley, whilst working as a door to door salesman. Every person in his corridor has some link to each other – because of course they would – and Kyle finds out much more than he bargained for.

I loved the format of the Visual Novel – it worked perfectly with the Nintendo DS. You could open and close it like a book – it even serves as a function to solve puzzles. There’s a notebook in your inventory where you can scribble notes with the stylus – and it just feels so authentic with that tangible feel. I also fell in love with the artwork, style and characters – if only Cinq were still around *sigh*.

Actually, if you wanted to revisit this lovely art style, check out the Visual Novel One Night Stand – a simple premise that packs a lot of character and story within its scenes.

So this is just a taste of some of my influences in terms of game mechanics and themes – I may do a series of these if people are interested!

Suzie

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Demo – Out of Office!

Hi everyone! Hope you’re well!

Here’s something I’ve been working on alongside Coming Home – an AR game that is overlaid onto business cards. Out of Office houses a collection of personalities stored within the cards – using the AR overlaid conversations to find out more about them. Are they all linked in some way?

This is just a little demo into the mechanic below. To try it out, download the Zappar app onto your mobile/tablet and just scan the code in the centre!

Zappar for iOS                                                                                                    Zappar for Android

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What inspired me to create this was the simple act of looking through the business cards that I’ve received at networking and more general events. I actually really enjoy networking – especially when you meet passionate people who love what they do! Just looking through the cards made me think of how I met them and what they’re doing now. Just seeing a card with contact details on it conjures up all these thoughts and I thought of how conversations could be made and continued after the cards have been exchanged.

I’d also like to put up something on here that’s playable – seeing as much of my work is half physical, it’s hard to share like a steam key or online demo. The above is very rough but it’s a nice little insight into the foundations of something I will be building up alongside Coming Home!

Hope you enjoy it!

Suzie

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Introducing Coming Home – a video!

So we filmed a brief outline video of how Coming Home, our interactive AR novel, works along with the app and as a stand alone piece. Thanks go to Jorge Ba-oh for editing (he runs a neat T-shirt business called TeeChu, selling geek and gamer merch!)

Hope you enjoy it! x

Update: VRUK: Fest!

 

First of all – hope you all are well!

From the 6th-7th July, I exhibited Coming Home at VRUK Fest – the very first time exhibiting! It was a whole cocktail of emotions – but the sweetness was the overwhelming flavour.

My background has been in theatre – and something that always worried me was whether I dropped props. I was a little secure when it was myself and gravity – throw other things into the mix and the fear of me messing up would go up a degree!

I realised it was definitely the case when displaying something I had written and coded!

However, it worked – not 100% accurate, but workable for a demo – which I was so happy about! Everyone was so understanding, attentive and I met some incredible people who taught me so much and gave me food for present and future thought!

The feedback was great too – and it was definitely to work on presentation and the way the book is laid out. My mind has been fully entrenched with language and words – but not necessarily where they lie or where they could be positioned to bring out the full potential of the AR extension. I’ve been sketching up some ideas since then – and I can’t wait to show them to you!

The people, demos and talks gave me so much inspiration and motivation in a relatively new field of opportunities – there’s a lot of things to prove and a lot of things to develop. It seems the most exciting time for this technology to develop on its own merit as well as to rejuvenate and/or transform existing media. I feel very privileged to be a part of it.

Thank you to RaveInnovate and VRUmbrella for giving me this opportunity!

Suzie

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Mind the Gap – AR books pt.2

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Long time no see! It’s been a while since the last blog post, so it’s time for another instalment of Mind the Gap! This post in particular will refer to the work I’m doing on the Coming Home series – if you want to know more on the project, here’s the link. I’ll be doing some dev logs on the site very soon.

AR had a profound effect on me when it came to disrupting or stifling presence – that it could make its mark on the moment unlike the “soma-esque” escapism of VR. AR feels like the technological manifestation of when a memory is tagged onto a particular place or object, and it could be used for a myriad of purposes. It can write or try to rewrite a connection to something you may see everyday in a much more explicit way than other methods.

Because of that, I wanted to be very careful when preparing an AR book.

I love books, like a lot of people. I escaped a lot in books, stories and characters during my childhood and teenage years to this day (though nowhere as near as much as before) – so in order to augment a medium that wants the consumer to fill in the gaps with their own imagination, the overlay has to be painted with a light hand.

So with Coming Home – a mixture of prose and free form poetry – there had to be a lot of balancing. The AR had to add something, for sure, but I didn’t want it to act as a distraction from the words that were already there. The cover was the simple part.

 

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But what about the printed words themselves? Would there be only pictorial representations of the words, or would there be other parts of the story through words and sounds?

The solution finally came to me – the idea of multiple narratives in AR.

It’s been done so many times in regular novels – with either the strength of the voice or the typography marking out each character.

This time, however, there could be as many as you wanted (within reason), by selecting a character at the beginning of the book – the reactions to one main text changing, depending on who was chosen.

In this way, not only would there be a standalone book, but the AR would add depth rather than the whole story. There’ll also be some bonus content (spoilers!).

I’ll be writing more about how the book design goes and any news for demos (an interesting idea for an AR book – we’ll tell you when we find a solution) both here and on the Coming Home site!

Suzie x

Mind the Gap – Figuring it All Out pt.1

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I’ve been thinking about this since I started writing – and it’s something that’s informed most of my writing life over different mediums.

I feel as though I’ve had my fingers in a lot of literary pies – I’ve written novellas, short stories, plays, poems and even a screenplay (as part of my MA Creative Writing module) and it’s very much like learning a different language.

This comes with the difficulty of “translating” or “transposing” a narrative from one form to another.

Each mode has its constraints and its own way to be creative – and of course, this varies in opinion. Here’s one example: my PhD thesis on Science Fiction Theatre argued the importance of dialogue and performance in world building as opposed to the visual detail of film.

It’s a nice coincidence that it’s National Poetry Month in April, as I’ve been figuring out how to fill in or stretch out gaps when poetry is transposed to a digital/virtual/augmented medium.

I’ve said in one of my Instagram posts that: “Poetry is not the breadcrumb of narrative/But the bird who pecks at it and disturbs the trail”.

There are many ways in which poetry is consumed, taking into account the oral playground of sounds and rhythms in performance poetry to the way the words sit upon the page, either highlighting presence or absence by its negative space.

So how can it work digitally?

It’s not a new phenomenon, by any means. Digital poets from Theo Lutz to Stephanie Strickland, Jason Nelson, Loss Pequeño Glazier and many more have been doing this for a while. It allows for a different kind of interactivity, of dissemination, of understanding. I’ll talk more about this on a future blog.

Virtual Reality’s hallmarks appear to be presence and immersion, two things I touched upon in my PhD in a theatrical sense. Maybe it’s no coincidence that Artonin Artaud mentions the illusory nature of theatre as “la réalité virtuelle” in 1938. With constraints comes a different form of creativity – and VR is no exception, particularly when in its relative infancy as an art form.

Every piece of art lends not only a different way of viewing the world, but a way of conversing with the audience. It should, in my opinion, leave space for the reader to interact: from leaving a message in a virtual arena to creating a unique interpretation from a line of printed or spoken poetry.

There’s a video that Barry Kramer (from the Game Grumps) made that illustrates this idea exceptionally well when it comes to video game design:

 

So, long story short (the old fashioned way of TL:DR) – I’ve been trying to figure out the balance of telling and showing, that old chestnut.

Can VR poetry just be slabs of text pasted on a photo-realistic environment? I’m not too sure on that. There has to be a connect, for the pieces to fit together rather than hastily arranged. It has to mesh somehow in a way that feels intuitive.

Hello How Are You is VR because you’re inhabiting different people’s perspectives and what they wish to see (or not see) in the world. As we interact with a train of thought/conversation, we get linked to a particular character and get led down their rabbit hole of being. The words either follow or movement or become part of the scenery according to their wishes.

The game isn’t photorealistic by any means – and that is to reflect how they are building themselves into the reality, much like myself creating this environment. You get to see it develop and change over time, just like the words and sounds.

In the next blog, I’ll be talking about the AR poetry books I’ve been developing and how it can add rather than distract from the reading experience (here’s hoping!).

Suzie

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