Monday, June 14, 2010

Notes from a Small Island

There's an interesting ex-patriate story in a recent edition of The Daily Telegraph about a Scotsman who emigrated to New Zealand and then became a volunteer IT trainer in The Republic of Vanuatu, a group of islands in the South Pacific formerly known as the New Hebrides.

What's particularly interesting is that the ex-pat is using Moviestorm as a machinima platform with the youth group members of an educational theatre group, the Wan Smolbag Theatre, based in Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila.

The Telegraph article is here: Making Movies in Vanuatu.

Some of the youth group's work can be seen here: Moviestorm Animation Club. These young machinimators are modding Moviestorm and using Google Sketchup to create their own props.

Here's the first film they made (it shows the Wan Smolbag Theatre); check out the modding:

Their most recent production is here:

Here's is a link to the Wan Smolbag Theatre group's moviestorm channel: WanSmolbag. The ex-pat in question, btw, is John Herd, better known to those who frequent the Moviestorm forums as Primaveranz.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Keeping it (un) real: Serious Games

Mike Shaugnessy of Washington & Jefferson College, Pennsylvania, is currently guest-blogging on BoingBoing. He recently posted about "Tactical Iraqi", a language and culture simulation/training application, developed at the University of Southern Califormia using Unreal Technology and funded by the US military's Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Shaugnessy also notes that the Americans have built facsimile Iraqi villages in the California desert "so soldiers can practice their interactions with [pretend] locals and [cod] insurgents and get the authentic feel for life in Iraq as an occupying force". Similar facsimiles have been created in the UK in a forest in Norfolk and in Somerset, but as of yet there is no film version (Full Battle Rattle is set in an American training facsimile of an Afghan village).

What's interesting is the use of FPS gaming technology to recreate real locations to provide simulation and training that *doesn't* have any shooting in (that's right: the interactions are verbal and gestural and don't include rocket launchers!). "Tactical Iraqi" has been around for a while, as this BBC story shows, and has picked up several awards, including a DARPA award in 2005. It was first built using UT2003. Shaugnessy's BongBoing post refers to the latest release (October 2009), but doesn't note if the developers have updated to a newer Unreal engine. There are now several "Tactical Language" spin-offs, including "Tactical Pashto", "Tactical Dari", "Tactical French" and "Tactical Indonesian". While "Tactical Levantine" seems to have been dropped (see that BBC story) a "Tactical Jive" or "Tactical Urban Street Argot" might be useful for facilitating some local integration.

There is some interesting discussion of the development and play testing here:

Unfortunately, there's no downloadable demo available (athough anyone with access to a .mil email address can download the software for free) but a video and a brochure can be found on the Alelo website.

Other video clips can be found in all the usual places. This one's from DailyMotion:

The American military has a long history of using games technology for training, as this article by Roger Smith Simulation and Gaming 41.1 (February 2010) shows.

Acclaim for the "Tactical Language" simulations is not universal, as shown by this post on Watercooler Games by academic cum games designer Ian Bogost.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Originally uploaded by collegecollage
That telly's actually quite big when you stand close to it

don't watch that ...

Originally uploaded by collegecollage
watch this!

Visitors are mesmerised by machinima madness at the end of year show.

they think it's all over ...

Originally uploaded by collegecollage
it is now! final year computer games design and computer games programming students at the end of year show

computer games design

Originally uploaded by collegecollage
A visitor checks out one of the exhibits

computer games design

Originally uploaded by collegecollage
Visitors check out the Flash games made by some of the L2 students (is that someone looking bored, or just checking out the booze and food table?)

computer games design

Originally uploaded by collegecollage
reverse engineering: Worms ported to a 2D card game by daniel shepherd

computer games design

Originally uploaded by collegecollage
soundscape exhibit by craig fotheringham

Endangered Species: On Thin ice

This is one of several DS games that were created by small groups of final year students on the computer games design and computer games programming courses.

Endangered species was created by Dean Leeks (design); Ryan Avent (art); Roger Creyke (programming) and George Daters (programming).

More info here:

And here:

And on Roger Creyke's website, here:

computer games design

Originally uploaded by collegecollage
Visitors checking out the work on display

caption competition

Originally uploaded by collegecollage
What are these computer games design students saying at the end of year show? Witty replies should be sent on a postacrd (or the back of a sealed envelope containing a bribe) to:
End of Year Show Caption Competition,
c/o Anomalous Materials Laboratory,

One entry per person.
No correspondence will be entered into.
The editor's decision is final.

computer games design

Originally uploaded by collegecollage
Some of the exhibits of final year student work at the end of year show: left: work by Craig Fotheringham (computer games design); centre: work by Kevin Reed (computer games programming).

computer games design

Originally uploaded by collegecollage
Visitor's engage with one of the computer games design exhibits (this one belongs to Dean Leeks)

Mods 'n' Rockers

Originally uploaded by collegecollage
computer games design - modding Visitors get stuck in to some CTF fun playing some of the L2 student's UT2K4 mods

Thursday, June 3, 2010

End of Year Show

The final year undergraduates in the School of Arts and Humanities at UCS got their End of Year Show on last night, and very impressive it was too.

Pictures to follow.

It's a link ... click on it!