Michael and I, in a previous incarnation, were known as Entropy8Zuper!. Together we made many, many works of interactive art, mostly online. We will be in Mexico City on August 8th giving a performance of some of this older work, in the format of a cinematic “walkthrough” of our largest net artwork, the five chapter saga known as The Godlove Museum. After that, in all its darkness, we will be giving an ABIOGENESIS performance in The Endless Forest for the assembled live audience. So the evening will contain a little bit of heaven and a little bit of hell… and that, in many ways, sums up what we’ve been making for the last 8 years of our lives. Can’t wait to be there in Mexico!
We’ve been asked to step into a project that wants to “provide a standardized global framework that enables the interoperability between virtual worlds and the real world”, backed by some huge corporations and universities. Yes, it’s the popular metaverse dream again! With the succcess of web 2.0, the number of players in World of Warcraft and the appeal to the press of Second Life, the old VRML fantasy is raising its ambitious head again.
For some reason, the engineers and marketeers that build this technology, cannot resist the idea of replicating the real world in cyberspace. This particular project, in which we’ve been invited to participate, mentions “sensors, actuators, vision and rendering, social and welfare systems, banking, insurance, travel, real estate and many others” as desirable things to link to this virtual world, examples of which are “Second Life, World of Warcraft, IMVU, Google Earth and many others”.
As a player, I am also excited by the thought of being able to connect virtual worlds. I’d love to play Grand Theft Auto in my Sim City, ride through The Endless Forest on my Chocobo or take my Level 40 Dwarven Warrior into Second Life. As a developer, the thought gives me nightmares. It’s one thing to allow people to mess with our games, it’s another to have to develop for that. Some standard coding practice would seem like a proper solution for this. But I happen to not be a great believer in standards.
The thing that bothers me the most, however, is this unrelenting desire to connect our virtual worlds to the real one. In the nineties, the whole of MIT was jumping up and down at the thought that a fridge would order cheese by itself or you would send your toaster an email before brunch. And now this: VRML 2.0: a virtual world where you steer an avatar around to do mundane real-world things. Apart from the fact that a virtual world seems like an excessively cumbersome method of going about this, I am also saddened by the extreme lack of imagination that this testifies of.
We have this incredibly sophisticated technology in our hands, a new medium, really, capable of expressing things that have never been expressed before, allowing us to have experiences we have never had before, learn things about ourselves and our world through a new form of art. And all “they” want to do is reproduce the real world and even connect both.
I say: the metaverse wants to be free! Let imagination reign in the virtual worlds! Don’t limit this potential to a dumb replica of our planet: create new planets, entire solar systems, galaxies of stories, billions of characters, avatars and autonomous ones. Let’s visit countless destinations where strange things happen, different from anything you could experience in real life.
When I go online, I don’t want to go to a shopping mall, or do my banking or arrange my insurance. I want to get away from all that. And experience what life is really about: emotions, ideas, stories, communication.
There’s nothing wrong with reality. There’s no need to “augment” it with technology. The sun on my skin, the smell of rain, the pages of a book in my fingers. All perfectly fine experiences. And there’s nothing wrong with virtual worlds. It’s quite alright if we can do things in them that we cannot do in real life. Imaginary worlds have always had their place. They help us find a balance, a harmony with existence. Let them be free. Don’t shackle them to this little planet.
“Ok, with that human face part I’ve gone from relaxed to petrified (I guess you could say I’m like ‘a deer in headlights!’!!).”
“Sweet fucking Christ, that’s terrifying. That’s going to be chasing in my nightmares tonight.”
“That has to be one of the freakiest, sickest, scariest things I’ve ever seen. That’s like Omaha Beach, Iwo Jima, Alien, F.E.A.R., a botched surgery and evil evil evil Bambi all rolled together.”
“OH GOD THE WEBPAGE! DO NOT PRESS THE LINK
If you think that picture is terrifying, their main pages background will make you shit yourself.”
And here we were thinking our new fawn character looked so cute.
It’s not the first time that we have heard people respond like this. The human face on the deer in The Endless Forest sometimes freaks certain people out. Granted, most of those people would not be interested in playing the game. But this thread on Penny Arcade happens to be about non-competitive games.
Anyway, if you can see what might be so immensely unsettling about our Endless Forest characters, please let us know. We just think they’re cute imaginary creatures…
See Lina Kusaite’s portfolio for more concept sketches of the fawn.
We are pleased to announce that our first game “8”, that is the demo of our unfinished game (the one shown in the 3rd part of this video, to be exact) is currently playable as part of the IndieCade: Indie Games Showcase taking place during the E3 expo now through July 13th.
We are really hoping to go back to this game and make it once and for all. I can’t help but think that it would make a perfect Wii game! So, heres to wishful thinking, and sleeping beauties.
They also wrote a feature on us: you can read that here.
She attacks The Sims with a passion, accuses games of supporting a dying capitalist system and delights when her avatar gets flowers in its antlers in The Endless Forest. Maaike Lauwaert is a Belgian writer and games researcher at the academy of Maastricht. In this third Tale of Tales interview about game design and appreciation, she rolls a ball through mainstream game joy with a hopeful eye on a more creative and participatory future.
So, I have been exploring the wonderful world of Nintendo DS homebrew software. I recently received an M3Simply card for my DS. Put simply, without going into all the vagueries of making your DS homebrew ready, what this is, is a DS card that looks like all other DS game cards but with a little slot to put a MiniSD card into. Hook the MiniSD card up to a computer with a USB card reader and you can load files on there which are made to play on the DS.
And there is a thriving community of developers out there making games and other fun things. Drunken Coders and Dev-Scene are but two of the indispensable gateways where one can keep up to date with various DS projects in the works and more importantly find all the info and tools you need to make programs for the DS.
I do love World of Sand (which was first a popular java based browser game) and I’m pleased to see that Cave Story is getting a DS port too. (The project is at an interesting beta moment right now, you can run through the levels without getting hurt. It’s high quality pixel art, nice to get a chance to enjoy it.) There are some very good original game projects out there too. But I am more interested in the “other fun things to do with a DS” category. The DS is all about coming up with genre defying applications, no surprise then that people have taken advantage of the touch screen to make it a multipurpose device!
So, here is a short list of hand made, home grown, DS apps that I’ve found worthwhile thus far.
DSOrganize gives your DS PDA functions like an address book, to do lists, notepad, audio recording, mp3 playing, a very low tech web browser, IRC chat, and more. It’s the kind of thing you wish Nintendo had just built in. The functionality is all there so my only gripe is that the GUI could use a bit of polish. Not so much the look of it, because it is skinnable so one can easily change the look of it, it’s more in the choices made in which buttons to push and when to use the stylus. Menus hiding behind “more” buttons make the ergonomics of the applications suffer. Still, I find it to be the most useful application built for the NDS so far.
Colors! DS is by far my favorite project in progress. I actually can’t praise it enough. It is a very simple, elegantly designed, paint program made by Jens Andersson. He is a true believer in the principle of less is more, usually I wouldn’t be so into that, but the other paint apps I’ve tried for the DS usually go a bit too far into trying to emulate Photoshop. Colors! lets you just get on with it and paint. Pressure sensitivity controls opacity, the shoulder buttons bring up the color palette and brush size, start button brings up options and calibration. Other than the rather special animated playback of your paint strokes that’s about all there is to it. And since you’re painting on a very small screen, this is a very good thing. You’re not going to paint the Mona Lisa on the DS but it’s very good for hanging out in the park and drawing flowers, or making a quick portrait of someone on the train, or a thumbnail of an idea you want to expand upon later when you get to your computer. At this point it will be nice to have the wifi functionality which he’s promised for a future release.
ConstellationsDS available in an Alpha version right now. It’s a star chart! I find that to be a really great thing to make for the DS. I hope development continues.
ComicBookDS serves the purpose of letting you read a sequence of image based files, most commonly one would use it to read comic books i guess, but any image sequence will work. Using the provided conversion utility you take a zip, rar or cbr/cbz archive of images and convert and compress them to be used with ComicBookDS. Actually, 4colorrebellion has done a great write up of this software, it’s where I originally read of it. Ergonomics of reading lots of text on the DS screen aside, it’s got a well functioning if not especially pretty GUI plus a plethora of options which I find more than adequate for reading and showing things on screen. It’s also a very polished and active project.
Last but not least there’s the fascinating DSMidiWifi and NDSVisuals projects. Neither of which I’ve been able to try yet but both of which show ingenious ways to use the DS as a controller for other host applications. NDSVisuals is an initiative to get the DS working in tandem with realtime 3d programming environment vvvv. DSMidiWifi works with a server application that runs on your computer and a client application on your DS card.
There have been several interfaces made, since it’s midi mostly these are music based. But I found the other day that someone has an initiative (ah, here it is, Chris McCormick’s KnobsNSlidersDS.) to make it work with Max/Msp and Pd. This opens things up to just too many creative uses to name. And just imagine, controlling the lights in your house through your DS! yep, you could do that. (There is also a Wii Remote external for Max/Msp but that’s beyond the scope of this article, though I’m very eager to try it out.)
So, I find this whole homebrew world is worth getting into. I think we will see a ton of great software coming from this scene. Both games and not games. As new peripherals are made for the DS developers are taking advantage. For example, the DSMotion card has enabled yet another form of DS interaction in games like SensitiveDS. And you can bet with the upcoming DS Camera peripheral devs will be inspired to do what larger developers can’t or won’t do. Let’s just wait, and see.
The Endless Forest will be a part of exhibition Els límits de la natura (The Limits of Nature) at Centre d’Art la Panera in Lleida, Spain from 5 July to 30 September 2007.
The site is in Catalan and Spanish but if you cannot understand the language, I give you, from an email conversation, the exhibition theme, according to the organizors:
With this exhibition we would like to show four works related with nature. The relation is different in every work. Our intention is to show people the importance to take care of the environment and how from digital arts some programmers like you developed alternative video games which could help us to be more aware of the problems of our world. I like your work because you can keep in touch with other people in a natural and magic space. You can experience nice and wonderful experiencies playing it.
Other included works:
Jason Rohrer, Cultivation, 2006
Game about community of gardeners growing food for themselves in a shared space.
Playerthree, Stop Disasters
A disaster simulation game. You have to plan and construct a safer environment to help the population. You have to battle against tsunamis, earthquaques, floods and fires.
Molleindustria, The McDonald’s Videogame, 2006
Extreme exploitation of natural resources in order to feed a lot of cows. And also you can realize the suffering of the cows in the farms.