The Bush of Goats

Marc Williams, writer & designer: 'Life's too short for empty slog ans'


I recently waded through the process of partitioning my MacBook and installing Windows Vista alongside OS X. So now I can boot up as a Mac or a PC.
They look fairly similar on a superficial level, although they’re guided by different structural prinicples, but there is one thing Macs doesn’t have that Windows does is. PhotoSynth.
This truly is an amazing bit of software. What Photosynth does is take images you upload to it and reconstruct the scene in 3D, allowing you to navigate through the scene and get a different perspective on a scene or location. What’s it like? You know that bit in Blade Runner, where Decker asks the computer to go behind the pillar and essentially make stuff up? It’s a bit like that – or rather, you can see how we might get to that with Photosynth as a start point. One more portion of science fiction being redelivered as science fact.
What most interests me about Photosynth is its potential for constructing stories and for playing with time. It could be great for leading people through an event as it evolves, or for hiding treats and treasures for those who look in the right areas of a scene; for guiding people to specific points of interest. But I suspect it’s real potential will be revealed by an event observed by a mass of people, who all upload their shots to a single ‘synth’ (I even love the jargon) and create multiple viewpoints of an event. In fact, imagine being able to do that automatically. A ‘synth’ button on cameras that automatically adds the shot you’ve just taken to those of other users who have previously been in the same place.
Below is a synth I made, exploring some of these ideas: can you find the passageway into another scene?

Fishcombe Cove, Devon

So, the big thing happened – Obama’s Inauguration gathered together the photos of lots of different people and now you can see it on a Mac, using ‘Silverlight’: you should just be offered the chance to install it by clicking the synth above.


Filed under: Uncategorized

The Little Big World of Work

This isn’t a review of what might well be a very good game (and my expectation is that it will be exactly that) but a thought on how it fits in, and why it works.

“Little Big Planet’ on the PS3 (and quickly we’re at the nub of why this isn’t a game review: I ain’t got no PS3) allows you to create levels and experiences to play through yourself or to share with others. I’m sure the sharing and the showing off part is the major draw for many, but it’s the building that interests me. The essential gameplay involves you building levels from a collection of graphics and objects that reminds me, as a designer, of using PhotoShop.
We are making work into play.
Clearly everyone wants to express they-selves, but I wonder as to the ripple effects this may set off. Manipulating graphical elements to achieve a desired result is directly in the hands of everyone: we are porting the idea of being good at playing a game into being proficient at art and design. This is isn’t about ‘giving people the tools’ (a much over-used phrase now stripped of any real meaning) it’s about redefining what the tools and the job are in order to make use of other skills we may have already, and that they’re skills we never thought would be relevant is exciting. Isn’t it?

The promo-site illustrates the idea quite well:

Filed under: Games, Noticing

Numbers in the night

As anyone who has ever been given a mixtape by me will know, I have a thing about number stations.

Number stations (for anyone who doesn’t already know, or didn’t click that link) are thought to serve as a comms channel to spies operating overseas. No government has acknowledged their use, but evidence seems to point to that being the case. The stations themselves are fabulously eerie lists of numbers or spelling alphabets, being read aloud, via automated speech generation. You also get samples of music (’Tyrolean Mountain Tune’ being a personal favourite).

Therefore, I thoroughly enjoyed this little game and spent a good hour the other night, reliving childhood nights huddled under bedclothes, twiddling the dial, looking for voices. Ah, happy days.

The only thing missing was the sound of John Peel saying, ‘Aswad’.

Filed under: Games


November 2008


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