Archive: Charles Hunter, Co-founder & Managing Director

On Location in Europe

Recoiling from the the startling news of yesterday’s vote here in the UK , I find myself looking at the post, as I was scheduled to write it, in a different light. We are well into the third year of the Magellan project. Mudlark is a member of a thirteen- partner European research consortium that covers nine countries.

Early graphic designs for the game
Early graphic designs for the game

Together we are developing and testing a multimodal authoring and gaming environment for location-based adventures (Magellan). Mudlark is one of five “end-user” partners who have each proposed a game for this new authoring tool – our task is to design and build the game with the tool as it is developed , trying it out with different groups before a beta launch in the final year.

We’ve posted about our game – Tribal – already and in the summer Matt will put up the latest news about some key new design work to fit with developments in the authoring tool.

The project is mainly funded by the European Commission. This makes the project very far-sighted – the scope is highly ambitious and the authoring platform could be formidable once Diginext, the French partners building the core of it, have finished all their tasks. The EC’s reporting procedures and Byzantine portal also make administering and reporting it very heavy work.

But does that last bit make us happy about this so-called Brexit vote?? No, not at all. The opportunity to work with so many interesting people across the continent far outstrips the annoyances of the Eurocracy. So we are feeling pretty embarrassed, not least because there are two other UK members of the consortium, so this country is well-represented in the consortium in terms of how many partners it has provided. I was talking about it only yesterday at the Venturefest event in Birmingham.

We are also fearful about what this may do for innovative digital businesses like Mudlark, whose whole vision is about connecting up the digital and physical worlds , and connecting and activating players and people across borders and countries.

Yes, not quite the post I set out to write about Tribal. The EU has gone tribal in all the wrong ways.

Playful on Video
Annie Machon speaking at Playful 2014

Annie Machon speaking at Playful 2014

Mudlark’s New Year begins with something from the previous one: we are launching the videos from Playful 2014. The first three are available on our Vimeo channel today and we will feed you the rest over the next week or so.

Looking at the event through these particular lenses, we’re quietly pleased that the Playful tradition came through so well in the hands of its latest curatorial team. The theming – Hidden   –  opened up new avenues and framed some wacky thoughts.

We’ve taken the opportunity of shuffling the running order for these video releases, mainly because we can. So fill your boots with Aardman’s extravaganza on hidden secrets in video-games, former spy Annie Machon’s whistleblowing revelations and, because we just promised the unusual, Ida Marie Toft and Sabine Herrer’s Beaking experience.

David Burtons Sketchnotes

David Burtons Sketchnotes of PLayful

David Burton’s peerless sketchnotes of Playful 2014 are here .

 

Wild Weather – Drought, Rain and Mud

Mudlark works with broadcasters a lot – on multiplatform companion apps, digital R&D projects and interactive experiences – but 2012 saw our first proper TV production hit the screens.

Presenter Kaye Forster on location.

A Year of Wild Weather in the East Midlands — our documentary about the experiences and effects of deeply unseasonal weather on people, crops and businesses in the East Midlands — was transmitted on BBC One on 30th December.

Masterminded by director-producer Rob Whitehouse and cameraman-editor Mark Turnbull with Executive Producer Charles Hunter, the film can be found on until 6th January, complete with hailstones the size of golfballs, disenchanted anglers and one very soggy dairy farm.

Mobile Games on Film

So our Half the Sky social impact games are now feeding through the Nokia app store before publisher Games For Change and its partners start distributing them in Africa and India.

Our Matt Watkins went to Kenya towards the end of the development process for some game-testing. Here’s a film about it, made by Ed Owles for Worldview films.



A film about the development of a series of mobile phone games for India and Africa.
Half the Sky

Just back from India, where I”ve been on the discovery phase of Mudlark”s latest project, designing four mobile social impact games as part of the Half the Sky multi-platform project.

Half the Sky is already a best-selling book by Nick Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, that tells stories of women in the developing world, stories that are by turns shocking and inspiring as they experience terrible deprivation and brutality and battle against them. The book suggests ways forward partly through these examples and also by laying out a series of actions and campaigns – political, moral, educational, medical, economic – that can not only improve the lot of females in these societies but the societies themselves.

Half The Sky is now extending out via a PBS special next year , a social action game on Facebook and a lot of work with NGOs, including the mobile games we are designing for , the executive producers of the Half The Sky transmedia material.

I spent a week in and around Delhi with Games For Change and Indian developers and distributors ZMQ, meeting, talking and – most vitally – listening with and to a variety of NGOs, as well as visiting various communities at whom the games might be aimed.

An Indian woman user her mobile phone.

We are designing for the very “established” Java, J2ME platform, because those are the sorts of phones you will find in these communities. Typically , there”s one mobile per family and it stays in the house , like a landline – in effect it is the landline. But everyone has some access to the key piece of technology and most of them are already playing games on their phones.

 

A goat.

The constraints of the platform are also the challenges. The same goes for the issues we want to express and “play” in the games – both during the trip and since my return we have been brainstorming ideas for games that will help pre-natal health, get parents to let their female children stay in school after the age of ten, improve girls” health so they can stay in education themselves, confront domestic abuse and even suggest the experience of enforced prostitution.

Children using a mobile phone.

We are looking at twitch, puzzlers, platformers, tower defence, simple simulations… We want great gameplay on small screen that doesn”t require a lot of text and gets the player to think and learn, but also, most importantly, engage. Although the subjects are clearly pretty serious, we never want the games to be called “Serious Games”. We plan to blog about the project as it develops so watch this space.