PeaceMaker Mobile and More…

Asi Burak’s recent interviews have renewed interest in PeaceMaker and prompted a bunch of inquiries into whether the game is being updated or if there is a mobile version currently available or in the works. The simple answer is yes. Broadening our impact through wider distribution as well as updating the engine to be more stable on new computer environments is something we have always viewed as important and we have been working on a port for some time now.

We have undertaken the process of rebuilding the game using the Unity Game Engine to make it available on a range of platforms. Updating the game to the new engine will also move us forward on two other longer term goals we have had:

Through the new engine we will be better able to update the content of the game itself. We are not sure at this time if version 1.0 will be updated with new content or just be a port of the current version of the game to mobile, but it will make it a lot easier to do so in the near future.

The new engine is also the first step towards our other goal of creating a more strategy game publishing platform or “PeaceMaker Platform” (name TBD) that will allow others to build their own versions of PeaceMaker on whatever scenarios are important to them.

At this time we have not set an actual launch date for the mobile version but we are in a very early beta and things are moving along fairly smoothly so please check back for more details or keep an eye out in the app stores.

Asi Burak Reflects on Designing PeaceMaker Amid Current Events

Asi Burak was asked to write an article for Kotaku reflecting on his role in designing Peacemaker given current events. I will just link over to it for you so you can read directly his words.

Kotaku Article

I also thought I would link to a post by Tim Sweeney a long time ago regarding our design assumptions related to the game as it seems relevant to the article.

Design Assumptions

PeaceMaker Free to Everyone!

Dear All,

Thank you all for your support over the years. We are pleased to announce that we are finally making PeaceMaker free to the public. Our newest build doesn’t require any serial number activation and can be freely downloaded from the site. We hope this will allow the game to find an even larger audience in schools, community centers, and the general public.

If you have any technical issues with the game please refer to this post first to look for answers to the issues you may be facing:

Having Technical Issues? Read this first!

Enjoy and check back for news on future projects related to PeaceMaker. We currently have a mobile version of the game under development which will also address technical issues related to this version. This new development is also getting us moving down a path that will make a PeaceMaker toolkit available that will allow anyone to try their hand at making a version of PeaceMaker for other conflicts and social issues.

Sincerely,

Eric

Play The Election: Overview

The live site is no longer being hosted by Rand McNally so I thought I would post a slideshare showcasing the project since we are very proud of our efforts and the outcome.

First let me thank the fine folks over at Rand McNally for giving us this amazing opportunity. It had been since our partnership with the University of Missouri Journalism School that we had the opportunity to have an active community and it is always exciting to see people engaging with our platform.

It is always difficult to stand out in the sea of election education materials that pop up around a Presidential Election but we think our project did just that. Have a look:

We still strongly believe in the platform and hope that there are more great partnerships and life left in Play the News and its future iterations. Watch out for new things to come.

PeaceMaker Free to Beta Testers!

We have been working on and off to try to create a DRM (activation code) free version of PeaceMaker for some time now.  In the process of doing this we are attempting to update some of our media players and other know issues that have resulted over the years.  We have been giving this version out to select individuals for testing purposes and have had some success with only very rare technical issues.

Our hope has been to get this version stable enough to update our store and implement a pay what you want system.  The funds people decide to give would go to other extensions to this product that we have been slowly chipping away at such as a mobile version and a publishing platform.  With our activation server currently having technical issues we decided the time was right time to make this new version available to anyone who would like to play the game.

We hope that those choosing to download our new beta version would at least let us know of any technical issues by contacting us at our support email (support[@]impactgames.com). All we will request from you would be your system specs and a log file that we will steer you to.  We would ask for this in order to make the game more stable for everyone and expedite our final transition to a free to all model.

Without further ado the links:

PC Version

Mac Version

Contagious – The Pitch Pt. 3 – Real World Actions and More

If you haven’t read or viewed the previous pitch posts you may want to go back and view them or this will make no sense to you… So our pitch grew and grew, and other people who had sent in ideas or platforms were merged into our pitch idea, and as such the overall campaign got even more interesting.

One group that designs and runs location-based marketing campaigns had a platform that they had pitched. As a result we were asked to design how we could make use of location services in our game. We came up with the following integration that we thought would be really cool rolled out into different cities around the globe. The pretty simple and straightforward approach was just to translate resource gathering and activities into the real world locations they exist. In short legitimately educating people as to where their fall-out shelters were, where to get vaccinated, closest hospitals etc. Again, I will let slideshare show you what I am talking about:

Another group, unfortunately I don’t’ have visuals to help explain, was a group that is very successful at creating viral video campaigns. There were several options going around. One option was to create a narrative backstory of the initial mutation through videos of someone who was one of the first infected patients and is quarantined. The idea being to figure out the source of the outbreak while interacting with the patient and other viewers – virus hunting. This piece could have also had some gaming components to find clues etc to unlock next chapter.

In the end the whole campaign could have worked something like this – teaser viral video campaign builds the narrative to the point of an outbreak, this is timed to occur with a major event at a baseball game, that then launches the FaceBook game, that then builds to the movie release (with red carpet game or even renditions at major theater openings), at which point the game then plays out till eradication, with location based gameplay spawned at different major cities on a weekly basis.

Alas it is a shame it was not realized. Live to pitch another day. As I said more on the business part of the deal later as well as where the different parts are now and how they may still live on (with help from you?)

Social Media and Elder Abuse Prevention

So this isn’t a game design concept but illustrates, in much the same we approach using existing game structures to address social issues, how broader social media applications and services can be easily repurposed to address social issues.   

I had a great opportunity to take part in a conference at the Institute of Medicine on the use of communications technology to prevent violence.  There were several types of violence to be addressed through working groups and then presented/expanded in workshops at the conference. I was given the category of Elder Abuse and was paired with two very accomplished individuals Xinqi Dong (our content expert) and Donna Levin (a very accomplished technologist doing great things at care.com).

You can read more about the whole proceedings here.

Our groups paper can be found at page 111.

The pre conference mock-up (ie static page) of our ideas can be seen here.

Here is a brief chronology of the concepts and design thinking:

1.  Xinqi Dong initially gave us an overview and context for what elder abuse is and the broad definition of abuses that occur.  It was both sad and overwhelming.

2.  Donna and a group over at Care.com did some great preliminary awareness campaign advertising concepts.  One of which you can see embedded in the web-site about half way down on the left.  Led to the idea of using Loud.org as the hypothetical organization or campaign.

3.  Our team over here did a round of social media brainstorming and came up with the following translations of existing systems modified or re-skinned to different uses for elder abuse (top of web-page to bottom) and integration of existing items that need better visibility:

A.  A section similar to Witness.org that use videos from users to push for awareness and policy change.

B.  A tool similar to many sex offender watch dog sites that enables location based reporting and database of cases to help family members or individuals be aware of things going on in their neighborhood or elder care homes.

C.  Integration of the silver alert system for missing elders.  This is similar to the amber alert system but could be better promoted as I wasn’t even aware it existed.

D.  A support group locator – There are lots of networks out there and increased awareness and ability to reach out to them could help through a simple comprehensive location based database

E.  A major issue being perpetrated against elders is financial abuse through internet phishing or door to door scams so a similar alert network to amber or silver alerts could allow neighborhoods, families, or individuals know of trending scams and be vigilant against them.

F.  It Gets Better has been a great campaign for supporting the LGBT community.  The shame of being a victim of elder abuse is a major hurdle and implementing something similar to their work could help de-stigmatize this type of abuse and empower victims.

G.  Simple Facebook sharing and network notifications  could help promote the issue and help propagate the alerts.

H.  Online pledges are great for advertising and broadening networks as people share and pass along the message.

4.  The workshop group was very supportive of these ideas and brought several other great additions to the table that are not pictured such as:

I.  A user generated definition of elder abuse widget i.e. Elder Abuse = (input your story here) so that it can grow to include all forms and make everyone feel included who is suffering and help broaden our understanding across cultures and geographies.

J.  Links to research being done.

K.  Online petitions and letter campaigns- essentially ways to easily interact with current legislation and legislators.

L.  An advocacy resource section for people working in the field.

M.  A strong ad concept that would visually look similar to the one embed in the page that could be repeated with images of different elders from all ethnic backgrounds and reads “Elder Abuse =” with a list of items: emotional, physical, sexual, neglect, fraud.  And written across the bottom “A victim every 2.7 minutes”

All of these would be great.  I could see a redesign of the site that specifically breaks out sections of the site and targets the information for the elders themselves (alerts, support groups and info, the video campaigns etc), family members and the community (resources for reporting, researching, getting involved) , educators and activists (links to resources and research).

There are obviously lots of great organizations out there dedicated to this cause.  We would love to support any of them in the realization of a site like this.  If you are one of those groups or someone interested in using this as a springboard to start an organization (loud.org sounds pretty compelling to me) we would be happy to share/support/work with someone to make this a reality.

Contagious – The Pitch Pt. 2 – The Location Game

So if you read/looked at the initial pitch post for this game you saw the red carpet event sensor game/experience. The basic premise was obviously to make you feel like you are experiencing an outbreak with the slightly lighter side aspects of the experience being that ushers could take you off to quarantine, to get vaccinated you need to go to the bar, and to be treated you need to go get popcorn etc. The payoff potential being that it makes it seem a little more real to the audience and that the data visualization that could be displayed when exiting, extrapolating how it may have spread and killed members of the audience while they watched the movie from just a couple of infected viewers, could have one last reality punch.

Well, one of the individuals representing the potential client loved this idea and wanted to go bigger with it. We were more than happy to go along for the ride. The idea – What about a sporting event? We loved it. So we went back to the drawing board and expanded the game idea to happen at a baseball game. It was the perfect venue as it is slow paced and people do a lot of walking around. We claim no affiliation to the team or stadium used in our pitch. I will say that surprisingly the willingness of a team to go along was not the reason this didn’t end up happening. It would have been awesome in my opinion.

I will let slideshare tell the story – again I promise at some point to put narration to it for the talking points but hope you can easily fill in the blanks yourself. One note is the infected slide was a blinking red led and dead is solid (not sure slideshare could handle that).

Some of my favorite ideas in this one were:

a) The idea that instead of turning in your drunk neighbor you would text in to quarantine someone who is not participating and is infecting your section. The response is then a guy in an outbreak outfit coming in with a short range transmitter to quarantine his badge,
b) that there would be even more reason to boo someone from the other team when they did something positive or cheer your team for positive play.

We went so far as to have manufacturing ready to go on the hardware. Stationary beacons for the set locations, roaming beacons for the outbreaks due to player action or time, and of course the individual badges. As much as we would have loved to chase the opportunity, without the movie name backing we would never have gotten this through – again more on the business narrative in a later post including a whole other option for where and how this game could be repurposed that we think would be great.

Stay tuned there is still another design layer that was added as well as the business musings to come.

Get’em Grocery – Mobile Game Design/Prototype

So this one came about because we were working on some mobile projects and wanted to try out our skills on some things.  The team also needed a break from what we were doing and wanted to do something from scratch.  We carved out a part each week and dedicated it to the “new” project starting with a mobile game design brainstorm.  Take a look at the slideshare to check out the concept and the model behind it.  We actually built the app, so we have a functional version of most of what you see.

I’m not going to go too deep into our design process but in general we thought about the interaction possibilities, the locations, the motivations, the objectives, the outcomes etc.  This is not exactly how it went as there were whiteboards and long lists of options laid out but here is the final idea logic

1.  Lets do a location-based game – where can we do it?   Where are there ready objects for being able to scan or use as inputs?  Barcodes at a grocery store!

2.  What is a common location based game mechanic?  Scavenger hunts!

3.  Why would you want to do a scavenger hunt in a grocery store?  To find ingredients!

4.  Why would you have to find ingredients?  To get ingredients!

5.  Why wouldn’t you know what the ingredients are?  It’s a mystery recipe!

6.  How would you figure out what the ingredients are?  Clues!  Mini-Games!

7.  What would motivate you to want to engage in the game?  To get the recipe!  (good – but may not be enough) To entertain the kids! (also good (important for thinking about audience) but what if I don’t have kids?)  To earn a discount! (good – people like coupons)  To give to a foodbank! (very ImpactGames of you – rough idea being a more complicated version of Free Rice).

8.  Who would want to fund this?  The Grocery Store!  (good answer – they would benefit from people buying more items by walking around more and impulse buying or just buying the recipe)  Advertiser!  (good – people would be actively trying to buy certain product so seems like a logical time to promote a certain brand)

9.  Where do we get our content from?  Jamie Oliver! (would be awesome – could be another motivating factor for why to play and at the same time promote healthy eating)  Cook Book Companies!  (They would definitely have a reason to promote their recipes)

10.  Who has the infrastructure to do all of the above?  Grocery Store Chains and Food Networks!  (Good answer –  we have approached one but not all so maybe this is where it will eventually find a home)

In the end we realized that this wasn’t a product, with all of the diverse biz dev involved to sign up advertiser, grocery stores, cookbooks, that we were able to dedicate huge resources to at this time to grow organically.  We would love a partner in making that happen.  Is that you?  Are you an interactive ad firm that could make all those different parts come together?  Are you a food network looking for something innovative with the ad sales team ready to roll?  Are you a grocery store chain that has the right demographic and a desire to market in a new way?  As we said, the game does function so let us know and we would be happy to show it to you.

Contagious – The Pitch Pt. 1 – The FaceBook Game

As is common in the serious game industry these days, we were asked to pitch a product as part of an RFP that I won’t name specifically (but should be easy to figure out if you use your brain).  The project was to be an awareness campaign in association with an upcoming movie release.  We jumped at the bid because there were two passions around here that fit perfect into a game idea that came to us right away.  My passion for wanting a facebook game to exist that had an actual narrative arc, a beginning and an end, and a sensor game that we had wanted to do for a conference that didn’t work out. In the end, the game(s) weren’t produced and we retained the IP around the idea, making it possible for me to freely post it here – more to come on that in later posts on the business side of it all.  (Another caveat – this was done over a year ago so some ideas may not seem as novel now and changes to Facebook may have made this whole thing impossible as designed.)

Attached is a Slideshare of the actual pitch that we made for the game.  I promise at some point to add narration to the slides so you get the talking points, but I think most you should be able to follow along the basic design concepts.

The high level game ideas that made it interesting to me were:

a) It was more cooperative in terms of shared resources and meaningful actions between you and your friends and the community at large, not just using them for things in your separate worlds,

b) it translated your actual networks and groups into game variables i.e. more exposure points balanced by access to more resources – translation: the rest of your facebook world has an actual impact, substituting your real world social and geographical exposure points for digital networks etc. etc. ( interesting outcomes would have been people leaving groups to avoid higher exposure rates etc – one of our guys here is a fan of some 500 things, we figured he would be dead in a week),

c) tie-ins to educational actions in the real world that aren’t just to get points to use but actually related relatively one to one to the game actions (more on this in a later expansion to the design),

d) interesting statistical and visualization options,

e) and on the personal – due to my frustration with never ending, never winnable, or losable games on facebook – the ability for you to die in the game, ending your active experience tied in with a legit win state for the community: “eradication.”

You will see at the end of the presentation the other bonus item we threw in related to how cool would it be to have had a location game/experiece at the red carpet opening.  I will address this more in the next post as it is relevant to the ongoing narrative of the pitch progression as well.