Narrated Visualisations: Early Access Games

Early Access games first cropped up in mid 2009, Minecraft being the first ever game to make use of it.  The main premise of Early Access games is that a company can gather funds, data and testers for their game, before it is anywhere near completed. Usually, game developers keep their games mostly behind closed doors until it is nigh on completed and ready for release, at which point they begin to advertise as much as possible.
However, Early Access games opt to get the players to pay for the game sometimes years before the game is anywhere near completed, sometimes paying full release price, or a lower price, which goes up in increments as the game develops.
Perhaps the most famous of these games is DayZ, a game which sold over 400,000 copies of the game in one single week.
Unfortunately, a lot of these games (DayZ included) find themselves being played less and less as time goes on due to shortcomings in the development process, goals not being met and promises not being kept, up to and including a complete shift in what the game was originally meant to be.

What I wanted to explore was whether it was actually true that only Early Access games experience this fall in players over time, or if it was just something that happened to all games, regardless of how popular they are/were.

I decided to use DayZ as my first example, due to its fame and widely divided playerbase.download (1).png

As you can see in the graph above, DayZ’s popularity dropped drastically, from such a high number, to an extremely low one, especially for a game that appeared to have such promise, one that gave birth to an entirely new genre.

Below is another graph of the amount of peak players per month of another game by the same developers, one that essentially have the same “base” game but follow different settings, Arma 3 being set in a military scenario, DayZ in a zombie survival scenario.
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As you can see, the popularity of this game has not only not fallen, it has only risen, starting at a similar level as that DayZ now finds itself, and growing in numbers only to go beyond DayZ’s highest (and also first) month of players.

I wish now to explore why this is. In Early Access one is required to patiently wait each month to hear reports from the developers, giving them a look at what the studio has been working on in the weeks gone by. They must also battle through the bugs and restart their computers countless times when the game crashes, wait for hours to die as their characters get stuck in a rock and slowly starve to death.

On top of this they are forced to count the days until the next update that adds the new content that they have been waiting for months, even years to see, and some may never have their wishes fulfilled.

What is the problem? Patience. In our society (particularly in my generation) we often find it hard to wait for things. The “I want it right now” mentality is rife these days, and not being able to get things as soon as we want can lead to complete disinterest, and people often find themselves moving onto other games to pass the time, and then wonder why the hell they waited for another game when they could play one that was finished when they bought it.

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The comparison above is enough to go on. People want to buy products that are finished, and it is true that buying a product that is incomplete or not fit for purpose is often the reason for getting a full refund of the product. When was the last time that you bought a toaster that could not make toast, but would do someday when the company completed the product?

Now that is not to say that all Early Access games are unsuccessful, there are a lucky few who make it out alive, usually because of better communication skills, and the ability to finish the project much faster than others can, reducing years into perhaps months.

When studying this subject I began to think about collaboration and patronage in relation to Digital Humanities Projects. I realised that some of the skills that can be observed in the developers that manage to succeed in Early Access Games could be used in my own projects. The developers who do well are capable of learning from their mistakes and know the right way to communicate with their patrons. They know that giving unrealistic deadlines can annoy people, especially when they are missed by months. They also make sure to update people on their progress, which makes patrons and collaborators of the project feel more involved, and feel that both the money and the time that they have spent have not gone to waste.

Crowdsourced Participation

I recently took part in an online collaboration project hosted by Zooniverse, a citizen science web portal set up to facilitate people helping to complete projects that have such an extreme wealth of information to be processed that it is impossible for the project team to complete on their own.
I joined Zooniverse and was immediately given a somewhat large selection of possible projects to partake in, anything from annotating and tagging soldiers’ diaries from WWI, to processing data as from the Large Hadron Collider, all the way to exploring collective intelligence in wildebeests.
I was very interested in quite a few of the projects, and I decided to choose two: Higgs Hunters, dedicated to reading data from the CERN collider; and Penguin Watch, which studies the penguins’ habits and environments.

The process I undertook:

In Higgs Hunters I was required to look at snapshots of data gleaned from the CERN collider’s computers, and figure out if there is any possibility of a new exotic particle being found in the image. Below is a snapshot of one of the snapshots that I was required to examine.
What I had to do was determine if there were any off centre vertices in the image, and how many there were. I did this by finding the start of the line. If it begins in the very centre it must be ignored. If it starts from the outside and moves in it must also be ignored as particles always start from the centre (ergo it was a false reading).
What we had to look out for can be seen in this screenshot.

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If the line does not start in the centre with the others it must be reported, along with how many lines there were.
In Penguin Watch I was given the task of observing pictures taken as part of expeditions and with drones, along with the penguin-disguise-robot cameras.
I needed to look at each photo (one of which can be seen below) and discern the species, age, and whether there were any eggs in the photograph.

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The tool used for this is a target tool, which requires you to click on each penguin individually to catalogue them.

The implications of what I contributed:

I like to think that my contributions will help somewhat in both projects. Of course, it’s only a drop in the ocean when you look at the amount of data that is ready to be looked through, and the amount that has already been looked through by other people.
However, that’s what collaboration is about, lots of people doing little things that ultimately add up to the completion of the project.

Between the two projects however, I believe that my contributions were more useful when it comes to the Large Hadron Collider, but I suppose that is just because of how important I believe discovering the building blocks of our universe to be.

What I learned from the experience:

I believe that I learned a lot about just how little the amount of work that is required to help these projects along is, and it would be just so easy, if everybody participated in them, even if only for a minute or two each day, to complete these projects.

They are mostly easy to complete, and I’m sure there are many people who would love to take part in these projects, but these people are unable to because of the minimal amount of advertising employed by the projects.

Thinking about this I wondered if it was deliberate, so that not too many people would get involved, only those who actually have an interest and are dedicated to it, so that people couldn’t go on and make up fake results and render all of the hard work other people put in completely useless.

I also found it interesting the different ways that each individual project went about setting up the UI. Each project was set up to be as easy as humanly possible to partake in, and were in most cases limited to clicking on certain areas on a page and highlighting them.
When I originally set out to look at Zooniverse, I assumed that it was going to be a long and arduous task to complete, but it could not have been more to the contrary.

How I feel I might be able to apply the spatial or the crowdsourced initiatives in my own work – now or in the future:

Looking at these projects gave me a real insight into the power of collaboration, and how it can be used in even the most complicated of projects and fields. Personally, I would like to do further research into crowdsourcing initiatives, as it amazes me how applicable they are in almost any situation.

I have always had a great interest in games development, and hope one day to be able to pursue a career in it. With the advent of early access titles (which allow players access to the game before it has even reached beta.), players have been allowed to explore a game that is partways through development, and able to ask for additional things to be added to the game by the developers.

However, I think that this could be expanded on. What can be witnessed in the game modding community (modding: modifications and additions to a base game which change anything from cosmetic, to minor, to core elements of the game) is groups of people who have the skill to mod collaborating together, each making larger or smaller contributions to the project.

I believe that this could be applied to game developing as well. The ability to create a forum for people to discuss and create and actually make a difference to a game, molding it into what they want it to be, is something I feel would get many people engaged in the project.

Deploy a Tool

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What is the purpose of the service or application you have chosen?

The application I have chosen is WordPress. Its purpose is to put the functionality of wordpress on a user’s personal website. Personally, its purpose is to allow me to blog on my own private site, that would be devoted to my own blogging service, so that it would be easy to find for readers and be more professional in its appearance.

Why are you interested in it?

I am interested in it because I have become quite impartial to blogging. When starting to do my gaming blog, I enjoyed sharing my experiences with other people, and also found it very useful in reference to my writing skills, as it helped me practice the journalistic form of writing. I chose this application because I believe that it will simplify my use of wordpress, and also perhaps be able to add further functionality to my site at a later stage, which might in some ways make better use of wordpress. Since starting blogging I have felt that I was able to create something that conveyed my interests and let me share them with others, and also since using wordpress I have also been able to find other people’s blogs, the topics of which are very close to other interests of mine.

How is it or might it be applicable to something you may do in the future?

I plan in the future to do a YouTube series on this topic, and have yet to chose what kind of genre this series will fill. I have narrowed it down to three types, comedic, journalistic, or whether I will use it track the story of a character I will roleplay. This blog may be useful for me to verify what type of thing I wish to do with it, and also I will use the YouTube channel to promote the blog, and vice versa. In the future I would also like to pursue projects based on development of modifications of games and perhaps my own projects, and these media would be useful to promote them, and may help me get feedback from readers and help me brainstorm with other collaborators on the project.

What steps were involved in the deployment process?

I was required to install the files for the API, and link it to an account. There was a certain amount of setting up required when it came to allowing me to post pictures to the site, but beyond that it was fairly simple.

What technologies are used and had to be configured to deploy your chosen application?

I had to use secure socket shell to send remote commands to the server so that I could set it up to my specifications, and also had to set up a way for files to be transferred over the network onto my site.

Who would benefit from access to such a service/application?

Anyone who already has a blog and wishes to devote a site to their blog and also have a considerable bit more flexibility in what they can do with the site. Also, this Application could be very useful to a user who wishes to perhaps create a site for a group or organisation, as it is a very easy to use and modifiable application. I also feel that it is a brilliant application for people to use, as people can document anything they wish digitally, and the readers can also comment as the blog develops, giving them the opportunity to change the course of the blog to show it in a different light, and as such is a great tool for creation and development.

Getting Intimate with text

“Sunshine Of Your Love”
by Cream

It’s gettin’ near dawn,
When lights close their tired eyes.
I’ll soon be with you my love,
To give you my dawn surprise.
I’ll be with you darling soon,
I’ll be with you when the stars start falling.

I’ve been waiting so long
To be where I’m going
In the sunshine of your love.

I’m with you my love,
The light’s shinin’ through on you.
Yes, I’m with you my love,
It’s the morning and just we two.
I’ll stay with you darling now,
I’ll stay with you till my seeds are all dried up.

I’ve been waiting so long
To be where I’m going
In the sunshine of your love.

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I chose to do my assignment on the song “Sunshine of Your Love” as it is a song I have loved for a very long time. The song is not extensively cryptic, however key points of the song can be observed using this form of visualisation. I used voyant-tools.org to create the visualisation of this text, and found it to be a very valuable tool. It is extremely useful in picking out the themes of texts, and made it very simple for me to pick out the focus of the song, namely “You”.

The “You” he is referring to is the subject of the song, the one he wishes to be with throught out the entire song. The visualisation made it very clear that the speaker was very much infatuated with the person for whom the song was written. Also, it can be seen in the frequency with which the word “with” was used that he is obviously referring to his longing to be with the aforementioned person. Seeing that the line “I’ve been waiting so long” is the main hook of this song proves that this method is very effective at helping one discover the meaning of a text.

All in all I found this method of data visualisation very helpful, and it helped me greatly with a number of other texts I used it on, but the service is flawed in some ways. There is no way in which the program can distinguish synonyms, meaning that certain meaning in texts cannot be understood as well, namely long texts in which the writer might not wish to use the same word repeatedly, and may use smaller groups of other words instead. Other than this the only issue was unimportant words cropping up higher than important ones, such as “the” and “that”, but the program does allow for that to be removed, albeit in quite a clumsy way. The program was otherwise exact in what it set out to do and I was honestly expecting to have had to spend a lot longer tweaking the results, whereas it only took a few moments.

OPEN STREET MAP!

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My experiences with OpenStreetMap

The process I undertook:

I began by researching OpenStreetMap and discovering why it was set up. I then began reading tutorials on how to use it, but quickly realised that it was simple enough to use straight off the bat. However I did find the tutorial very useful as it allowed me to practice a little with the in browser editor before editing the map itself.

I then began work on the map of the area I live in. It was somewhat easy to do, and I was able to get the immediate area around my house along with the rest of the village done.

The implications of what I contributed:

Most of the area was left completely untouched and as a result I was able to do a considerable amount of additions to the map, rather than changing or editing other people’s submissions.

I have contributed to an international database, and as such have been a small part in creating an extremely accurate worldwide map.

Hopefully other people in my area will contribute and our entire area can be mapped by people with knowledge of the surrounding area.

What I learned from the experience:

That crowd source projects are an extremely useful thing for us to support and contribute to, as they are the easiest and most accurate method of creating a reliable source of information for us all to share.

Considering that mapping is such a useful tool when it comes to application creation and such, I can imagine that I will be able to re-use the skills that I have learnt while using this program.

How I feel I might be able to apply the spatial or the crowdsourced initiatives in my own work – now or in the future:

If I wanted to create any form of collection of data or a compendium of information of any sort I believe it to be an obvious choice to use this form of collection, as I believe that it is both the most efficient method of collecting data along with being the most reliable way.

I would very much enjoy to be a bigger part in a crowd source program such as this, because I would love to create a community of helping one another to achieve something great that would benefit all involved and the rest of the world.

Review of a Digital Tool

Review of a Digital Tool

The digital tool that I have chosen to review is Google SketchUp. The reason I chose this tool is because it helped me greatly when it came to visualising and designing models for my leaving certificate Technical Graphics class. Since then I have also used it to design things for myself, some of which I have had professionally printed using a Vacuum-Form-Machine. My Father also used a similar (yet considerably more advanced and costly) program to design his own projects for work.  What attracted me to the program was the way in which it made it simple to explore creative ideas both as 3D models and as 2D sketches.

Pros of the program:

  • It’s great use of templates make it easy for one to choose exactly the kind of image they wish to create, whether it be for Interior Design, 3d Printing or Landscape Architecture. This makes it so much easier for someone to use the tool exactly as they wish.
  • It’s intuitive tools allow the user a considerable amount of freedom when it comes to design.
  • It’s tools also come with an inbuilt tool-tip, explaining the function of each of the tools concisely.
  • The help function is also extremely useful, as unlike other programs I have encountered it was able to use it to quickly learn how to use the individual tools.

Cons of the program:

  • Even though I was able to quickly learn how to use the tools, because there were so many tools it made the program cumbersome at times.
  • The program was useful to me for my needs, however, it may not be as useful to a professional designer as it would not be as powerful nor as efficient as a paid for tool.
  • It is not able to render using more than a single core.
  • There was unfortunately an unnecessary renaming of the program’s tools between updates, thus making it hard for past users to come back to the program after a long hiatus.

Is there a website about this tool?

– Yes there is, a website for this tool can be found here.

Brief summary of what can be found on above website:

– The website for the free version of this tool contains very little information apart from a brief description of the tool, followed by a link to the PRO version of Google SketchUp.

Is there research-articles about the tool?

– Yes. However, I based this review on my own experiences of the tool, and thus largely kept to that.

How long has this tool been available for?

– It has been available since August 2000.

Is there a strong community supporting it?

– A large community has built up for it in the last 14 years, and thus it is unlikely that it will suddenly disappear or that support for it will end.

Is it open-source?

– No. However it does maintain an on-line open source repository for community made models, so that others may either take inspiration from them, use them as templates or improve upon them as they see fit.

Can you export your data and your results?

– Yes, in many different formats, that can be edited and viewed across many media.

Do you understand how the tool works?

– Yes.

Conclusion:

– I believe this tool to be a very efficient tool, and on the whole fulfilled every one of my designated needs. This program is extremely useful and this is why it has such a large user base. It is both user friendly and allows users new to 3d modelling to begin using a professionally created tool.

Post 6 – Now you see me…Now you don’t

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The art of stealth…..

It was quite genius actually. I never would have seen it coming if I hadn’t seen it happen to the last guy…..
Man in the middle of a road in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere screaming for help. Sounds legit right?
This man was part of a group who had set up quite a stunningly planned out ruse. One of them (as seen in above screenshot) stands in the middle of a road which people are highly likely to traverse while screaming for help, while 2-3 others with long range rifles hide in the surrounding area. The bait would stand holding a chem-light, which when put into a backpack emits no light. During this time, anyone within a few metres of the light when on is momentarily blinded as the light is extinguished. Thus, anyone giving help (or getting closer to end the baits suffering) is left utterly defenceless in an open area while snipers pick him/her off. How delightful.
Luckily I saw the demise of this trap’s last victim and took it upon myself to enter the ninja and take my axe to his head.

I’m nothing if not subtle.

I give them a 10/10 for ingenuity, but 0/10 for having a bait who doesn’t alert his team-mates when he’s getting poleaxed by a wanna-be lumberjack.