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Early concepts for something new but hush hush…

We are working on a new project. We can’t talk about it but we are sharing some early concepts for you to look at and wonder what it might be.

Early concept art for a new game
Early concept art for a new game
On the final war path with Tribal

So finally we near the completion of development for our Tribal game as part of the Magellan game platform.
It has been a long and complex process and many of our initial concepts have been modified in order to adapt to the changing requirements of the platform.

The most challenging part of the development has been trying to build a game on a piece of software that is still in development itself. The shifting sands of software versions, compatibility and feature change has meant that sometimes the process has been a little like trying to paint a landscape from a moving car.

One of the key aspects of our game was that it would be a multi-player game where 3 people could engage in playing our game simultaneously in the real world. This requires real-time connection with the server between 3 players on a 3G networks and this doesn’t come without its own problems. Between ensuring network coverage, server connection and synchronicity of experience, the Tribal development has highlighted some of the limitations inherent in these kinds of games even in a modern metropolitan smart city. This probably why Pokemon Go is still a single player experience because mobile networks still have a high level of uncertainty built in, making real-time interactions with other players challenging for any multiplayer game.

The game being developed in the Magellan Platform
The game being developed in the Magellan Platform

In moving from our earlier version of the game we had reengineer the entire resource system for the game. We have added new metrics in the form of Attack and Defence. These have now impacted on the fighting mechanics – attacking and defending, strength and a teepee system which creates a defensive platform to help protect players from one another. Making sure the metrics were correctly increased and decreased based on different outcomes and balancing it overall so the game stayed fair was tricky at times and required many trips outside in varying weather conditions to tweak the experience for someone playing outside.

However, we reckon we’ve managed to build a compelling game experience. We’ve successfully managed to get 3 people to play. They can now build a tribe, collect resources, stealing and fighting each other for dominance in the game, while avoiding random attack from the wild beasts who prowl the game. They have been able to play through until the last surviving player is declared a winner.

We plan to continue testing during the summer in order to have it available for the public to play in the Autumn. Only the strongest will survive.

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 .


Playable Supermarkets
Loyalty cards
A range of current  loyalty cards

Chromaroma was in effect a gamification and a Quantified Self  facility for the public transport user, using the Oyster Card sytem. We wanted to explore how else we could develop this thinking and very quickly we alighted upon loyalty schemes. People use their various loyalty cards as easily and seamlessly as they use travelcards. Why not investigate turning a loyalty platform into a game platform?

We’ve started that investigation as a Innovate UK- supported Proof of Market.

Loyalty programmes classically aim to retain and grow loyalty using mechanics such as points, offers and discounts based on purchasing behaviour. Retailer loyalty programmes use members’ transaction data to minutely analyse their  behaviour and  to better target customer communications, with data also analysed for business optimization. Although explicitly consensual (“we will collect and use information about you…Your information may be analysed” says one prominent scheme’s Privacy Policy), it is essentially a one-way data relationship.

We are studying  the case for the transparent return of this data back to those who generated it, firstly by demonstrating how users would understand that data and find it useful.

Our motives are:

Idealistic – we really believe that shoppers should get their data back for their own benefit;

Playful – we have several brilliant concepts for gaming shopping;

Commercial – we can show players in this sector a trick they are missing, and work with them to develop a new disruptive model.  We want to explore how, by using gaming techniques, they can improve retention with the ‘stickiness’ of the customers’ engagement in the game, and devise challenges specifically aimed at increasing spend, frequency and cross-selling.

For sector expertise, Chris Jacobs is part of the team. His has worked in systems for over 40 years, the last 20 of which have been exclusively in consumer-focused marketing applications. He has been personally involved in the design and implementation of over 90 customer loyalty/CRM schemes and is familiar with most available customer loyalty and CRM solutions.

We’re also working with two preeminent academics in the personal data sphere. Dr Kieron O’Hara and Dr Max Van Kleek are senior research fellows on the SOCIAM Social Machines project at the University of Southampton. They specialise in the interface between society and technology, the use of big data and open data for citizen and consumer empowerment and technologies to enable data subjects to gain benefits from their own personal data.