Somebody has built the classic real time strategy (RTS) game Dune II so it can be played online! I thought today was going to be a productive one – not anymore!
I played this as a kid and I have fond memories of the game, little did I know at the time that it was the quintessential RTS that all RTS games would stem from. Wikipedia’s Dune II page has this nice list of elements from Dune II that first appeared in the game which have since gone on to be included in later RTS games:
- A world map from which the next mission is chosen
- Resource-gathering to fund unit construction
- Simple base and unit construction
- Building construction dependencies (technology tree)
- Mobile units that can be deployed as buildings
- Different sides/factions (the Houses), each with unique unit-types and super weapons
- A context-sensitive mouse cursor to issue commands (introduced in the Mega Drive/Genesis version)
The online version uses OpenDUNE which is an open sourced version of the game.
So if you haven’t yet done so, go play Dune 2 online now!
November 30th, 2012 by Adam
Skeuomorphism is a design element that is based on an existing form (or other elements) that the new design copies. An example of this in the physical world are those annoying electric candles that some cheap restaurants are using as the candles are designed to look like wax-burning ones. In the digital world skeuomorphism is often used to show a connection between a digital tool and it’s analog equivalent – like how a calculator app looks like a physical calculator.
This approach is not always a smart one.
Apple has got a lot of flak for using skeuomorphism in their recent iOS releases. Just take a look at this image:
There is a big debate amongst Apple followers whether the introduction of Jony Ive into the iOS world will stop the over use of the physical world in digital design. Well, I don’t know if it’s so much a debate as it is people railing on Apple’s recent design decisions. At The Verge they’ve collected designs of Mountain Lion without skeuomorphism.
Recently, one of the people at Realmac Software wrote a long blog post on skeuomorphism and it’s worth looking at if you’re new to the design issue or just care about digital design.
Here’s a snippet from the post:
November 28th, 2012 by Adam
Looking at the two sides, there are pros and cons to using skeuomorphism, but looking from my personal view, I think that the application’s visuals are one of the major factors in shaping its overall user experience. As a designer, I think that the app should look good, and this contributes a great deal to the user as they are using your app. Graphical elements of the apps should be artistically accurate, respecting things like consistency in colour or even a light source for button shadows and highlights. Textures shouldn’t be in your face and distracting the user from the main content. Compare the images of iBooks and Contacts above. One of those mimics exactly how a book would appear if it were viewed top down, whilst the other looks flat and unrealistic. On the other hand, getting all these things right and creating a good-looking app just isn’t enough, it needs to be sound interaction wise, as previously mentioned. We’re incredibly passionate at Realmac about good design and are all firm believers of Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles of Good Design and its strong relevance to user interface design. It’s no secret that Jony Ive and his industrial design team at Apple are fans of this too and many people are expecting this design ethic to be brought over to iOS and OS X after the recent management shakeup in Cupertino.
The Mobile Experience Innovation Centre (MEIC) organizes regular events and I’ve been asked to present on mobile gaming at their next event. I’ve been to their events before and it’s a good combination of talks and networking. The augmented reality talk looks particularly interesting.
You can register for free on Eventbrite.
November 28th, 2012 by Adam
The Mobile Developers & Designers Of Toronto (MDOT) User Group is dedicated to helping nurture the skills and competencies of mobile developers and designers in Toronto.
MDOT gets mobile professionals together for two hours after work each month to talk tech and creative around mobile media content and platform development. The user group covers a wide range of topics and technologies
Tim Schafer of Double Fine fame was interviewed by On the Media a few months ago and he ended up talking about how to make stories in games. He discusses creativity to character development to world building. It’s a short and good listen.
November 26th, 2012 by Adam
PJ VOGT: And then how do you know when you’ve got a story that works? Like, a story that’s compelling enough to sustain, you know, twenty, thirty, forty hours of game play?
TIM SCHAFER: Well, like, when I was researching Day of the Dead, and I hit on this one important part of the folklore is about, um, after you die you just, your soul makes a four year journey across the land of the dead, and that just sounded like a quest to me, that sounded like a quest for an adventure game. And starting to put together, you know, who was the protagonist, and then who was the antagonist, and that tension between them really creates some, you know most of the things you’re going to use in your plot. So, I was really into film noir at the time, and watching old film noir like, The Big Sleep, and things like Chinatown, and looking at the plot of Chinatown and how the plot took control of the water of Southern California, and that scam was going on, and just having a great villain who has a great scheme afoot that your noir hero just accidently stumbles into and then gets pulled into this darker, shadowy world. You know a lot of things that seem really creative are really just you sitting down and just answering a series of questions, like okay, ‘How am I going to provide some opposition to this main character? What is the bad guy up to?’ That’s always a question that I’m writing to myself in my notebook. ‘What is the bad guy up to?’ And at first it was gonna be—I’m just gonna do a real-estate scam just like Chinatown, so I had the bad guy, you know, selling off plots of land in some evil way and then I realized, no one probably wants to buy a plot of land, and in the Land of the Dead they’re trying to get through it—so it’s got to be a travel agent. Okay so Manny Calavera will be a travel agent cause that’s what people want to do, they want to get out of the Land of the Dead. So he’s gonna set up a travel package for them, and how is the bad guy using that to his advantage. Then—then it just writes itself after that, so easy.
Transmedia stories have pros and cons to them and how they are told. One question that comes a lot is how to organize all the actions and events that a good transmedia experience has in a cohesive way. Not only does the transmedia story need to be organized from a designer’s perspective (videos, tweets, emails, etc.) over the run of the story but it needs to also be organized from a player’s perspective. This in itself is a major issue in transmedia design.
There is no ready-made solution for transmedia storytelling but it has come a long way from the early days when everything was tracked with ghetto Excel spreadsheets. Here’s an incomplete list of some tools that can be useful for anything like transmedia.
The Shadow Gang has made a “turn key” solution for starting a transmedia project. It looks like they want to be an all-in-one solution.
For phone based stuff check out Twilio.
Moveable Feast allows to blend maps and any media together to form a unified experience.
If This Than That is an online tool that lets you merge together quite a few different online services to get people from one thing to the next.
SCVNGR is all about getting people to do something at a particular time and place.
Conducttr looks like another all in one solution. They have examples of case studies that their tool has been used in.
November 24th, 2012 by Adam