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.
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.
May has been a fun month. We”ve been into a two-way mirror room testing the CBeebies project, published the Perceptive Radio (our BBC R&D project) and work has continued apace on and several other – as yet untitled – projects. I also left the country for a week, enjoying a wonderful Saga of my own up in Iceland.
“As a user, I would like to click on some URLs with interesting content behind them.”
Quantum Break teaser trailer, Remedy Games for XBone.
In the future, . We”re not sure about Quantum Break, the flagship new XBox Tv/Game thingy. We”re curious though, don”t get us wrong.
- Our friend Zoewi has started a very good . It should work as a go-to-guide for all significant gaming and play-related events/conferences across the world. It”s really heart-warming just to see the breadth of stuff out there already.
- London is getting its own E3 fringe this year with EToo. Organised by Guardian games correspondent Keith Stuart and veteran game designer Georg Backer, EToo should help keep you from feeling lonely when everyone has sacked off to LA.
- Fascinating, long post on Polygon about , and using game design/play as a medium to explore many of the ideas around gender, roles and society.
- A good and interesting post by Tracie Lee twinning a couple of my favourite things: UX design and restaurants. I”ve briefly written in the past about what web design can learn about high-end restaurant experiences, but it”s good to see the other approach being taken too.
- Typically excellent article from Kill Screen discussing the , and talking to one of our favourites – Rex Crowle of MediaMolecule. The tactility of physical materials used in digital forms in something we are very interested in, and is informing a lot of thinking around .
- Pitchfork continue to spit-roast trends with both a parallax scroll and full-screen/full-attention experiences for the new Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories. Sidenote: RAM is a tiny bit shit, but James and Richard seem to like it.
- Matt Locke wrote up “After The Spike and After The Like” – his talk at Digital Shoreditch – and it”s as essential a piece on the new forms of attention and the behaviour of “audiences” as you”re likely to read for while. Particularly useful for storytellers.
- Entertaining three-way interview with Molly Soda on the new Tumblr persona brands and the performance of personality with a hefty dose of feminist reading.
Each year Mudlark hosts Playful; our one-day conference about games, play, design, interaction and behaviour. Each year we give the conference a new look to reflect that year’s theme, keeping things new and exciting.
Last year we focused on DIY, attempting to inspire people to do things themselves, and so the design was very texture heavy—influenced by the photocopied sleeves of punk 7 inches and worn paint. This year, looking at the things we were interested in—the trends that were bubbling up and the work Mudlark have been doing—we soon realised that the nature of things was central.
We settled on “playing with form” as a broad theme, to look at approaches, materials, and using them differently—creatively and playfully. Changing direction from last year, we flipped the design on its head by employing strong colour, geometry and angles peppered with some cutting-edge browser technologies.
Design in its broadest terms is central to everything we do at Mudlark, from designing the interactions and behaviours around our latest project, the Perceptive Radio, to the wordmark laser-etched into its fascia. From the process that takes a user from A to B in the best and most enjoyable way, as in our work for Ravensbourne university, to social impact game design with Half the Sky.
In a way the design for Playful is a very selfish exercise—one that lets me design to my own brief, to try things or techniques that maybe aren’t quite ready for client consumption. It’s a way of flexing my creative muscles and, really, to show off.
Playing with Form
Greg and I set up a Pinterest board to gather and share visual inspiration and to generate a direction. As things began to develop we saw some fun coming out of using illusions. We liked the idea of messing with people almost to the point of annoyance in a fun way.
Some early experiments explored pure typography and layout, whilst followed a more rigid and straightforward style with some animated elements; but overall came across a bit too sedate for my own ‘visuals that fuck with people’ remit. I had to get back on track, shake things up a bit.
I was inspired by Siggi Eggertsson when thinking about visual ways of showing form. Eggertsson uses his own geometric grid to create wonderful designs and in some pieces uses contrast to create form between the segments. Initially I thought this could be a route to explore—using subtle contrast and shadows between shapes or images to show form.
A visual trick I eventually developed—the moiré background pattern—became the showpiece of the final design. Using this method I applied different colour combinations and pattern sizes for different sections of the site. I set some of the text at the same obtuse angles making for a playful and unusual layout.
This year’s design has had a very favourablereactiononTwitter and has made its way onto—signs that it has made an impression on people. We pat ourselves on the back at this knowing we’ve done what we set out to do, but also knowing that we have to top it next year.
At Mudlark we’re in our element when we get to push the envelope with projects. If you have a design problem then we’d love to hear from you.
Playful 2013 will take place at Conway Hall in London on the 25th of October.
I always find the introductory spiel to these Month Links posts to be the hardest bit, so I”m just going to leave it as introductory yadda yadda blah blah etc etc and just get on with the URLs that we”re all here for.
So let”s to start with my absolute favourite thing of April, and one of my favourite things so far this year: the News Machine, created by Fabrica for issue 86 of COLORS magazine.
News Machine, by Fabrica for COLORS #86.
- The News Machine is a Heath Robinson-esque communications machine that mangles, interprets and republishes tweets – mimicking the information/misinformation prevalent in the 24-hour churn of news and online speculation. It”s Chinese whispers in the Chinese room. Read Dan Hill”s good and typically long post about its genesis.
- More interpretations of “what the heck is going on?” come in the form of ambient beeps as Bitcoin transactions are made. Listen To BitCoin is going to be an incredible Merzbow piece when the crash comes.
We interrupt this blog post for a quick word from our sponsors (us).
Tickets for – our annual shindig about games, design, interaction and everything that comes from playing about — and flying off the virtual shelves.
Come along, it”d be absolutely lovely to see you.
- Jenny Odell documented the manufacturing origin of every single item she used/wore in one day. The banality of globalisation is mind-boggling, fascinating and – especially in the light of the horrific Bangladeshi clothes factory collapse – so cheap.
- GDC”s final ever game design challenge was based on “the last game that humanity will ever play“. A pretty bold and borderline-nauseating brief that would send many people under, but Jason Rohrer – creator of Sleep Is Death – designed a game made of titanium and not to be played for another 2,000 years. Then buried it. You should read a quick but .
- Russell wrote an excellent post – to join his tiny mountain of excellent posts – about what it actually means to work in the Government Digital Service (GDS). The story of GDS is hugely important, and based on a radical ambition to completely reshape how citizens access government services, how civil servants can communicate, and freeing people up to be better at what they do.
- At last week”s Do Lectures - an inspiration creative retreat in Wales that I”d love to attend one day – they set a new challenge. Instead of just hosting talks this year, they made attendees Do Something themselves, to make a quick start-up-able idea. John Willshire and chums created Doobox - “an outdoor adventure mission kit for kids aged 6 to 11 yrs” that”s delivered right to your door.
It”s been a couple of months since this year”s happened. Now that we”ve stopped worrying if there is enough tea*, we”ve had chance to catch-up on the and start thinking about what we”ll do in 2013.
*there is definitely enough tea.
Playful pin badges.
It”s useful to think briefly about 2012, though. Learning from previous events, people”s feedback and our own thoughts, we had a few key aims for this year:
Focus on Play.
Focusing On Play.
A lot of different elements have seeped into Playful over its life-span; most for good, but not all. We felt it was important to strip back to the original focal point – “play” – and not get too bogged down by other things.
Play is a broad concept and has a lot of affordances, allowing us to look at different behaviours, uses, contexts, meanings and approaches. It”s a tool for understanding relationships, how things work and navigating the world. It”s not saying “games”, but games are a key part of it, whether formal or informal.
That”s a hell of a lot to put over in six and a half hours, without getting distracted by other things.
“Planes, by Utku Can (@utku)
Exciting People & Doing It Yourself.
A major reason for our approach this year was seeing lots of people struggling, financially, to do what they were trying to do. The kind of thing that”s seen Glitch sadly close recently. We wanted people to still believe in doing what they”re doing, to be re-excited, refreshed; to go back out with a renewed sense of vigour and some new ideas.
To that end, we wanted to bring the DIY spirit to the fore; sacking off The Man and getting things done on your own steam.
Playful has a curatorial role: we”re not just putting businessmen on stage and asking them to hawk products. It”s our job to offer up some unexpected things, new ideas, different perspectives and, you know, give people the chance to think about what they’re doing in a more playful way. We are asking people to talk about things that are interesting to us, relevant and hopefully pointing towards greater trends.
We can”t do that by having same people all the time. We need to bring people and ideas beyond what we can see in front of us, bring in new voices, new brains and take a punt on some potentially raw speakers. One of the most important ways of doing that is actually having diversity on stage.
We have, in the past, struggled to make the line-up more than 25% women. This is a hugely common issue, and something that the majority of conferences fall down badly on. Various reasons are often cited for this: not asking enough women, not trying hard enough, not making it as appealing, not being as accommodating, not knowing enough women, perceived tokenism etc.
Last year”s event felt lopsided. Two female speakers withdrew shortly beforehand (urgent travel, illness) and we only managed to fill those spaces with men. We realised we had a failing in our approach, so decided to do something about it. That was in the form of an open Google Doc calling for women to put themselves forward as a speaker. It wasn”t just for Playful, but to address the issue in general.
That quick solution has now turned into Articulate, a proper project with Caper, aiming at redressing this imbalance across all creative and technology conferences.