Archive: Stuff

Wending Our Way into Europe

We are very pleased to be announced as one of the first companies to secure phase-1 grant funding from the SME Instrument of the EC’s new Horizon 2020 scheme, which supports the formation of the business and development plans of innovative SMEs.

Mudlark is among the 155 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) selected from 2,662 proposals from 21 countries. We have won funding to do a business feasibility study for the successor to our travel game Chromaroma, in a proposal entitled Off the Rails.

Chromaroma started as an experiment in ambient gaming – using Transport for London’s iconic Oyster smartcard system to return people’s travel data to them in the form of gameplays.

Chromaroma visualisation

The visualisation mode inside our Chromaroma game.

Since its 2010 launch, Chromaroma has had thousands of players, attracting global interest from transport systems and operators. Mudlark has consequently grown a unique expertise not only in data-driven game design but also in transport policy, behaviour change, sustainable travel and mobility technology.

We are now calling the Off the Rails product “Wend”, reflecting its multi-modal ambitions to give players back useful, playable information across all their transport modes as they wend their ways through the world. Unlike Chromaroma, it will not depend on a ticketing infrastructure, using mobile devices instead of smartcards.

Sort of not right

Turning on the Radio 4 Today programme yesterday morning, I found myself in the middle of an interview with the novelist David Mitchell explaining why he was publishing his new short story on Twitter.

Image from The BBC
Image of David Mitchell from The BBC

Given our experience with Such Tweet Sorrow  several years ago, I was both interested in the project and keen not to be too critical of it. I remember how sensitive many of us were to what looked like stupid criticism from some people who were really creating their own bandwagons and weren’t giving themselves a chance to see all the ambitious things we were doing  with the project: its live-ness; its “acted-ness”; its woven appearance into just about every emerging or emerged social platform we (mainly the wonderful Tim Wright) could think of. Not to mention all that interactivity.

We had to listen to stuff about betraying Shakespeare’s poetic language, as if Shakespeare was both utterly sacrosanct and terribly vulnerable.

So I wanted to give what sounded like another bold literary experiment with social media (and Lord knows that there aren’t many of them) a chance. But there were things in the Mitchell interview that just felt wrong. He was so guarded – so priggishly above the medium he’s chosen. He doesn’t tweet. “I’m not really a social media animal… I don’t want to add to this ocean of trivia…” If it was just a marketing ploy he wouldn’t do it… “I don’t want to feel like a gimmick chaser”. Already, this doesn’t sound bold – just cautious.

Then the thing itself. Again, a minority of critics fell on the first day or two of Such Tweet Sorrow without giving it a chance to get into its stride for the best part of another 5 weeks, so I am reluctant to cast aspersions, but…really? Really?

He has simply crafted a narrative in a series of tweet-sized passages. And played them out over Twitter.

There’s a ten hour gap between two tweets that clearly describe the same set of instances. And then more this morning – still in the time frame of the story, but not of the medium.

Mitchell so far fails to realise that the quality of Time is crucial to Twitter – its currency, its spontaneity, its asynchronicity, its ability to be both live and of record. If you don’t play with all of this you might as well give up.

The Right Sort is not “of Twitter” in any interesting way at all. The only people the account is following are a handful of publishing (and Twitter) marketing types. It’s not that cynical to assume one of them is pushing out the content for Mitchell, out of the sausage machine.

Not that this delivery method matters –  there is no interactivity to mention. No interactivity at all. In fact there is no argument for it taking this form other than that the hero experiences much of the story in bite-sized, trippy “pulses” and that the author found it very demanding.

His claim that he’s been through “escapological challenges posed by diabolical treble-strapped textual straitjackets” may be true for the experience of composition, but none of that jeopardy appears in the tweeted result.

Maybe he found it so difficult because he feels so lofty about the medium through which he’s chosen to push his message – and he hasn’t bothered to understand it.

From Mr Cloud Atlas, this is just disappointing. It’s not even a gimmick, and hardly a stunt. To me it reads terribly safe, maybe the most un-experimental thing of Mitchell’s I’ve come across.



A Christmas Do.

Around this time of year, it all gets a bit hectic. Speed-buying presents, cramming as many parties in as possible, clients realising that Christmas holidays are around the corner and panicking accordingly. Somewhere along the line, you kind of forget to think, breathe a little.

For our Christmas do” this year we took in some proper North East Derbyshire institutions on a foggy, frosted, rain-whipped morning — proper clean your mind and lungs weather.

Grindleford, morning


We started the day off with breakfast at Grindleford Station Cafe. A legendarily grumpy outpost packed with more rules than , where there can be no changes to the Full English and mushrooms are verboten.

Café hours

After pints of tea, basking in the reassuring grease-miasma of fried slices and bacon, we headed out into National Trust land.

In various states of readiness — country-living Charles donned in all the wet-weather gear, James borrowed boots and I wore a coat that looks waterproof but is anything but — we took off into Padley Gorge.


Striding over frozen mulch, iced puddles and the occasional helpful stone staircase — all whilst being presented with the effortless Sublime of the Peak District — is a good way to freshen up your mind.


Stream, also

Hints of civilisation

The romanticism of the great outdoors dissipated a little when we reached the top in Fox House, fully exposed to the elements and windlashed with rain.

Open summit

We ended the walk at The Fox House, where we took on Christmas-style dinners, plenty of drink and the odd round of .


Pervading Bristol

Last month day we were at the BBC Learning Unplugged Pervasive Media Lab Day in Bristol. The (slightly scary but very effective) frontman Ed Mitchell gives a good report here from a facilitator’s perspective. We nicked his photo too.

Spot the Mudlark (clue: green in the greenery)

Spot the Mudlark (clue: green in the greenery).

We pitched one of the ten ideas that got random-workshopped by other attendees and then speed-considered by the BBC army who were there. “Namester” won two champions in BBC Learning and we are now sorting out a more formal pitch.

Microtopynomy is the word- the names of small  places—fields, parts of forests, street corners, alleys, paths. These names hardly ever occur on maps and are just as rare on the Internet too. But they have been very useful to the people who used them and if unearthed they can be resonant and indeed useful again. Learning Unplugged folk saw the potential for local/oral history projects and also for a verbal mapping system that lets you tell a taxi driver which field to pick you up from after a countryside rave…

Watch this small place…

People seem to be listening to the man in green.


Nose to the grind stone this month.

We are currently in pre production on 4 games this month; 2 massivily multiplayer mobile games, 1 locative mobile game for iPhone, and a huge new game supported by channel 4.


As well as developing our own IP, we have been working with a range of nice people at a major global phone network operator, the beeb, and our friends at the Royal Shakespere Company. The website will eventually go online next month once we can agree on exactly the right number of birds in a flock.