Grand Text Auto

November 22, 2005

A Problem with the Free Pie, and Debian Women

by nick @ 5:30 pm

Hanna Wallach spoke today at Penn about women in free and open source software development. She described the pervasive nature of free software, the “four freedoms” that are referred to in the word “free,” and the distinction between the terms “free” and “open source.” Hanna also mentioned several commercial free software endeavors and many large-scale cases of free software use. She also showed a map with many Debian developers indicated, throughout the globe - at least one in Antartica.

The startling statistic that introduced Hanna’s discussion of women in free software: while 28% of proprietary software developers are female, only about 1.5% of free software developers are. This is certainly the sort of result that provokes a vigorous WTF? reaction, isn’t it?


Reading Can Be a Ball: Philadelphia Fullerine

by nick @ 2:21 pm

Philadelphia Fullerine, Lite Edition

I had a most unusual visitor a few weeks ago.


November 21, 2005

Openings at Georgia Tech

by michael @ 7:05 pm

We have a couple of tenure-track faculty openings in the Digital Media program at Georgia Tech.

Positions in Digital Media

Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Communication, and Culture is seeking to fill two (2) positions at the rank of assistant or associate professor in the emerging discipline of Digital Media. Applicants should have expertise in one or more of the fields listed below and be prepared to teach at the undergraduate and graduate level in LCC’s suite of programs in computational and digital media. A Ph.D. in an appropriate field is required, as is computational proficiency and a demonstrated capacity for significant original research/creative work. Expertise in educational technology is desirable, as is a proven record or significant potential in generating external funding.

Testing Turing

by nick @ 12:45 am

Turing book coverA Review of Turing (A Novel about Computation)
Christos H. Papadimitriou
MIT Press
208 pp.

I had been interested in Christos H. Papadimitriou’s Turing (A Novel about Computation) since I first learned about it - thanks to it’s being published by MIT Press at about the same time that Twisty Little Passages came out. It was the only contemporary entry in MIT Press’s “fiction and literature” category, I believe, and had an alphabetically close title, so I kept noticing the book and wondering about it. When I found that Papadimitriou was coming to Penn, I used the excuse to finally get Turing and read it.


November 18, 2005

Following Robert Coover’s “Suit”

by nick @ 7:16 pm
Heart Suit title card

I’ve managed a certain ironic detachment from McSweeney’s for quite a while, but issue #16 (which includes a piece that Harry Mathews collaborated on and, in an unusual homage to Duchamp, an actual comb) has something in it that finally compelled me to deal out the asking price. This is a piece by Robert Coover, “Heart Suit.”

“Heart Suit” is printed on fifteen cards that are full of text on one side, and backed and cornered like playing cards. There is a “title” card, deuce through ace, and a joker. The instructions, which appear on the title card, read the “middle” thirteen in any order, and conclude with the joker. The tale, so shuffled, will be a story of tart theft in the court of hearts, will involve a bit of inquisition and investigation, will incude a great deal of queen-shtupping by a pack of paramours, and will conclude with a final - or perhaps not so final - meting out of punishment.


Blast modern art

by michael @ 3:57 pm

The recently released Curator Defense (also an IGF submission this year) puts the player in the role of a museum curator defending against rampaging hoards of modern art (it’s unclear whether this means modern art or contemporary art). Using a light, RTS-like tech tree, the player can set up various defenses, such as banisters, defense turrets, and the Venus de Willendorf, to prevent modern art from reaching the store room. Once a piece reaches the store room, it becomes part of the permanent collection, displacing one of your Old Masterpieces. You loose when your entire collection has been replaced with modern art. Thanks to Zach Pousman for this one.

Gatherings Down Under

by andrew @ 3:46 pm

Some excellent conferences are upcoming in Australia — Interactive Entertainment 2005, Nov 23-25 in Sydney, including invited speakers Tracy Fullerton of USC Interactive Media, Mark Meadows who wrote Pause and Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative, VRML creator Mark Pesce, and interactive narrative researcher R. Michael Young from NC State.

A few days later proceed to the procedural Third Iteration, the third international conference on generative systems in the electronic arts, Nov 30-Dec 2 in Melbourne. “It investigates three major themes – human-computer creativity, generative meaning systems, and the computational sublime.” (These dates directly conflict with DAC in Copenhagen. Not that it matters to me, I have no money or time to make it to any of them, sadly :-) Third Iteration includes invited speaker Casey Reas, co-creator of Processing. And a few days after that, also in Sydney, is a Creativity and Cognition Symposium on Generative Arts Practice.

November 17, 2005

Opening Book and Volume

by noah @ 1:40 am

I’m pleased to announce the release of Nick Montfort’s new interactive fiction: Book and Volume.

It’s been more than five years since Nick burst on the IF scene with the release of Winchester’s Nightmare (1999) and Ad Verbum (2000). His new piece, which I’ve had the privilege of playing in pre-release versions, is an addition to the field that will appeal to veterans and newcomers alike.

As a sysadmin in Book and Volume’s nTopia, it’s easy to know what to do. Your computer, your pager, and your boss are constantly telling you. And you must spend your Sunday night running around rebooting servers whether you like it or not (there’s a big demo coming up!) or get fired. But there’s more to B&V than what the voice from your pager commands. In fact, part of what this story and game explores, over time, is the potential for performing actions beyond those made available most obviously. (more…)

November 16, 2005

Machinima Made Easy, Within a Tycoon Sim

by andrew @ 3:55 pm

This has been a unusually prolific year for computer-based drama; in addition to Fahrenheit / Indigo Prophecy and Façade we have last week’s release of Lionhead’s much-anticipated The Movies. I haven’t played it yet (nor Indigo Prophecy), but the reviews are pretty positive (1 2), and users are already madly uploading thousands of their user-created movies to Lionhead’s community server.

From what I’ve read so far about The Movies, it’s primary gameplay is as a tycoon sim, about running a movie studio. While that gameplay is reportedly decent, the more interesting activity is the game-within-a-game of shooting your own movies — ostensibly as a task for succeeding in the larger tycoon sim game, but more enjoyably just for fun, as a tool of self-expression, the product of which (2-3 minute video files) you can share with your friends on the online community. (In fact you can go to “sandbox” mode and skip the tycoon sim game altogether, to just author little movies.)

How self-expressive can you be? Well, looks like you pick from an extensive pre-built library of cinematic shots and character types, that cover about five cinematic genres — horror, action, love story, sci-fi, etc. From what I can tell from the reviews, you may not have much control over behavior of the characters within a shot, but you can dub whatever dialog you like into these shots (by recording your voice), change lighting, wardrobe and makeup (huge variety), actors’ facial features (and plastic surgery), backdrops (huge variety), camera angles and perhaps focus / depth of field, add titles, subtitles and credits, and edit the timing of the shots in a simplified video editor. And, the system renders the “film” in a variety of styles, from more old-time cinema with lots of scratches and grain to modern.

Very impressive. Looks like they pulled off something great here. Here’s some screenshots, and an excerpt from the Gamespot review:

11th IF Comp Results Are In

by nick @ 1:56 am

Vespers by Jason Devlin is the winner of this year’s IF Comp - the Wall Street Journal called it. There is a tie for second place: Beyond, a game by Italian authors Roberto Grassi, Paolo Lucchesi and Alessandro Peretti, and A New Life by Alexandre Owen Muñiz, which was also mentioned in the Journal article. Here are the full results. Congratulations to Jason, Roberto, Paolo, Alessandro, Alexandre, and all the other winners!

Dan Shiovitz has already posted an essay with some general observations about this year’s comp, and the usual deluge of reviews on seems to be beginning, too. Check ‘em out - and, of course, check out the games.

November 15, 2005

Journal: “Fans Write New Adventures”

by nick @ 12:02 pm

Vauhini Vara’s Wall Street Journal Online article on interactive fiction is out. Sure, the headline, “Keeping a Genre Alive,” suggests Terri Schiavo more than a compelling creative practice. But still, it’s a short, decent piece describes IF and the “cult group of gamers,” members of whom “post their own text-only adventures online for free, and meet in chat rooms dedicated to the craft.” The article mentions Photopia and Shade and eschews the usual suspects for quotations. (I will mention, but not complain about, being interviewed but not quoted. I think several people are in the same inflatable boat; Vara seems to have done a good amount of research on the phone for this piece.) The article even ends with a quote from Steve Meretzky - albeit the least funny one I’ve ever read.

It seems that an excerpt from Jason Devlin’s comp entry Vespers is included in the article package, a nice touch. However, it’s only accessible to those who are WSJ subscribers. Let me strap on the appropriate Swatch: the game itself is available to everyone for free.

Remember, today’s the last day to vote in the 11th Annual IF Competition.

November 12, 2005

chess queens unite!

by mary @ 5:52 pm

I’m reading Marilyn Yalom’s book _Birth of the Chess Queen_, which documents the game of Chess in several incarnations. Yalom conducted original research on many continents trying to discover a) when ‘Queen’ pieces were introduced to the board (prior to the introduction of the Queen, the spot was occupied by the King’s vizier), and b) how religious, social, and cultural changes coincided with this shift. It’s a fascinating survey of medieval history, especially Spanish history, where changes to the chess board were particular interesting given the mix of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worlds there.


November 11, 2005

First Person Paperback

by noah @ 12:18 am

Following the re-launch of the First Person thread on ebr (with excellent new additions noted by Nick), I’m pleased to announce that the book version of First Person will also be arriving in a new form. With a bound book date of February 3rd, 2006, and a cover price of $22 (so, about $16 at the online discounters), the First Person paperback might make the perfect addition to some Spring syllabi…

November 10, 2005

SLSA 2005

by scott @ 2:10 pm

I’ll be giving a talk this evening on Implementation in the contexts of Situationism, Fluxus, and sticker art campaigns this evening at the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts Conference in Chicago. For the first time this year, the conference includes a stream of presentations on electronic literature. The conference will also include a stream for ecocriticism; a stream for the conference theme of cognitive science and emergence; and a stream for work in the visual arts. The plenary speaker is Gerald Edelman, winner of the Nobel Prize. Invited Artists inclue Eduardo Kac, Warren Neidich, Allison Hunter, Eve Andree Laramee, Daniel Wenk, Zane Berzina.
Keynote panels will match invited artists and prominent critics, among them Cary Wolfe, Barbara Stafford, and N. Katherine Hayles.

November 8, 2005

Facade Talk at USC

by andrew @ 12:29 pm

We’ll be giving a talk tomorrow at 6pm at USC’s Interactive Media program about the creation of Facade. If you’re in the LA area tomorrow and have some free time, perhaps we’ll see you there!

November 7, 2005

Airport Insecurity is Out

by nick @ 11:11 pm

Airport InsecurityCalling all those with Java-capable mobile phones! Airport Insecurity, the mobile phone game made to be played while waiting in an airport security line, is now out. It costs less than $4, a price that wouldn’t even make Crazy Frog blink. Airport Insecurity is by Persuasive Games, behind which you’ll find Ian Bogost, who blogs at Water Cooler Games. You may remember this game from my writeup of Ian’s talk “Designing for Reproach.”

First Person from First Principles

by nick @ 12:23 am

The new issue, phase, or manifestation of ebr (Electronic Book Review) is here, and there’s some really great stuff in it. Writing by John Cayley and Lori Emerson is part of that, but I have to call special attention to two responses to the book First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, edited by GTxA’s own Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan. The two responses are by Brian Kim Stefans and (again, our very own) Scott Rettberg. These aren’t just interesting comments on First Person; they at the very least powerful defenses of the literary. Perhaps they are manifestoes for computing and literature as well.


November 6, 2005

Computers from an Antique Land

by nick @ 5:06 pm

Turns out that the Vintage Computer Festival 8.0 finishes up today. The festival is being held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View; here’s the Festival’s overall page, which links to photos of many exhibits from VCF 7.0. It’s as if the computer industry had said to historically-minded geeks, look on my works, ye mighty, and drool.

November 3, 2005

Sexual Game Links

by andrew @ 5:41 pm

Interestingly, there seems to be an ever-growing number of games or game announcements, or at least talk of games, that have sexual content or sex as a theme — enough to warrant a post. Here’s a few of the links that I’ve been gathering:

  • Mojo Master, a free advergame (sponsored by a deodorant company) is a pretty good flirtation game, with high production values. It applies Magic-the-Gathering-style card gameplay to the idea of competitive flirting; it’s an interesting take on the concept of social/head games. It’s more successful than, say, Sprung for the DS looks to be. Then again, check out Project Rub
  • A Singles: Flirt up your life! sequel is coming out, Singles 2. Looks a bit more flushed-out than the first version.
  • The Montreal Game Summit, happening right now (there are so many game symposia / conferences springing up everywhere!) is having another one of those Game Design Challenges, this time on Sex in Games.
  • Wired News just reported on the recent Women in Games conference in Austin, and mentions two sexual games in development, Spend the Night and Naughty America (others include Rapture Online, Heavenly Bodies and Red Light Center). In the article IGDA sex SIG organizer and Playboy the Mansion simgame designer Brenda Brathwaite is interviewed, who gives enthusiastic praise to your favorite dysfunctional marriage game.

November 2, 2005

The Electronic Literature Collection: Call for Works

by scott @ 12:06 pm

The Electronic Literature Organization seeks submissions for the first Electronic Literature Collection. We invite the submission of literary works that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the computer. Works will be accepted until January 31, 2006. Up to three works per author will be considered.

The Electronic Literature Collection will be an annual publication of current and older electronic literature in a form suitable for individual, public library, and classroom use. The publication will be made available both online, where it will be available for download for free, and as a packaged, cross-platform CD-ROM, in a case appropriate for library processing, marking, and distribution. The contents of the Collection will be offered under a Creative Commons license so that libraries and educational institutions will be allowed to duplicate and install works and individuals will be free to share the disc with others. (more…)

November 1, 2005

AISB06: Narrative AI and Games

by andrew @ 10:13 pm

An annual AI and a-life conference in the UK, AISB, often in Edinburgh but this coming April in Bristol, has a call for papers for a symposium on Narrative AI and Games. Submissions due December 21.

Results from the First French IF Competition

by nick @ 4:08 pm

L’Ă©dition 2005 de notre concours dĂ©diĂ© Ă  la fiction interactive francophone est enfin terminĂ©e.

The winner of this first French interactive fiction contest was Le Cercle des Gros Geeks disparus by Adrien Saurat. This game and the other five entries can be downloaded from the official competition page; there’s also a page in English on ifwiki about the contest.

October 28, 2005

noulipo Experimental Writing Conference

by noah @ 1:19 pm

On October 28-29 (today and tomorrow) the second annual experimental writing conference hosted by the CalArts MFA Writing Program focuses on the legacy of Oulipo — the Ouvroir de LittĂ©rature Potentielle (”workshop of potential literature”) founded in Paris 45 years ago. Comprising writers, poets, mathematicians and logicians, the group has formulated playful and exotic new “constraints” as alternatives to the hidebound rules of traditional literary forms. This conference presents two members of the group, including its current President, as well as a host of American, Canadian and English writers influenced by them in varying degrees: Caroline Bergvall, Christian Bök, Johanna Drucker, Paul Fournel, Tan Lin, Bernadette Mayer, Ian Monk, Harryette Mullen, Douglas Nufer, Vanessa Place, Janet Sarbanes, Juliana Spahr, Brian Kim Stefans, Rodrigo Toscano, & Rob Wittig (see schedule for details).

October 27, 2005

Only a Game Blog

by andrew @ 4:00 pm

Game designer, writer and book author Chris Bateman has a blog just a few months old called Only a Game. Lots of great lenghty posts to be found, including Between Stories and Games, Fractal Stories, A Template for the Future of the Game Industry, Grass Roots Gamers, Racheted Progress, and an extensive post-mortem (1 2) of a game he worked on.

Chris co-wrote the newly released 21st Century Game Design, was designer and scripter of Discworld Noir (UK, 1999), and is now the managing director of the game design studio International Hobo and a member of the IGDA Game Writers SIG.

October 25, 2005

Link Dump

by andrew @ 1:51 pm

The interesting links keep piling up:

The ongoing Helsinki lecture series “Games and Storytelling” has Gonzalo Frasca as a speaker on November 8, with an interesting talk title: “Mini-games, maxi-storytelling: looking at minigames as a narrative genre”. The previous speaker was Greg Costikyan, talking about “Constraining Interaction to Create Emergent Narrative”. (Reading Greg’s powerpoint slides, this appears to be a design-centric attempt to squeeze another drop of water from the rocks that are today’s AI-light game engines.)

Another European interactive narrative lecture series, sagasnet, is releasing a collection of papers called Developing Interactive Narrative Content, including a (new?) Michael Joyce essay, “Interactive Planes: Toward Post-Hypertextual New Media”.

Game Paused is an upcoming exhibition, book and DVD, still taking submissions, of all forms of art / music / games / what-have-you, inspired or motivated by the history of videogames.

Continuing our Nintendogs thread: a good essay analyzing the game-ness and explicit player rewards built into Nintendogs, illustrating how it advances the virtual pet concept.

Here’s a decent essay and survey of various visual styles in games, called “Videogame Aesthetics: The Future!”

Finally, on the indie game front: a candid interview with the lead designer of the critically-acclaimed Darwinia, whose game seems to leave American publishers uninterested; and Steve Ince reacting to an Adventure Gamers discussion that debates the $20 pricepoint of Bone. And Greg Costikyan in BusinessWeek on his startup Manifesto Games as “the Miramax of indie games”.

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