Wednesday, 26 August 2015

RPing and Larger Groups

I am a far from experienced tabletop roleplaying type person (either as a player or a GM) yet it is clear that a small tight-knit group can work superbly in this format of gaming. The larger the group the trickier it is to keep everyone engaged and the spotlight has to flit around much more often - meaning each character is only getting to shine for a sliver of the time and thus their character takes longer to flesh out and integrate in with the others.

As we gear up for our next Tremulus game with more players I watched some Critical Role which has a BIG group of players and makes it all work. While there just isnt enough time in a day/week to watch all the things that need watching, there was something completely cool about seeing this group of 9 voice actors playing. I can see the inherent issue of letting the attention work its way around this many players, but they do a great job and there is lots to learn here about GMing and PLAYing alike.

The trend our game group has is towards story-based play, maybe out-of-combat play is a better way to describe it. This means more emphasis on the characters with each having their personal complexity, their personal story arcs and backstory intricacies. While this may be the trend in RPing as well, it may be tricky to deliver on this with the extra players. 3 players is very different to 6. We love those PC to PC interactions that flesh out relationships and the world whether the drama is high or just the cute little moments. This is a far cry from my characters of old which I feel were basically fleshed out using the power of 2 or 3 adjectives.

It is a serious trick to let the players spend the time to interact and get to know their PCs through these smaller exchanges or moments. Often the NPCs will be part of the puzzle as well or help broker things when the drama elevates. Allowing this when there is a plot waiting impatiently for the PCs' attention is a real art.

Seeing how Critical Role works, they play a pretty combat-lite D&D game and maybe that works better for a larger group actually as it's quick and more free-form. I loved our foray into FATE (best game) and wonder if that would work with the larger group as well - feels like it could. Zoinks - enough rambling from me...


Anyhow, the other reason for this post is I have been reading through my recently-arrived copy of Feng Shui 2. The kickstarter set came with heaps of character sheets, token, tracks, dice, GM-screens and such as well and it is very nicely presented all around. I didnt know that much about the game system actually but reading the book it feels like a pretty fun realisation of the cheesy melodramatic kung fu action flick.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Design Studio Week 4

Yes, somehow 4 weeks of the course have raced by already. After the class initially trended towards most people doing solo projects (including myself) to a few weeks later where almost everyone is in a group of 2 or 3 people. My group (Creative Brick) had 3 cool members for this first phase though we lose our artist going forward from here. I have really enjoyed being in the group, feeding off each other's ideas, sharing the load and playing to the strengths we each bring. Our Project Proposal document was pretty cool (60 pages of research and precedents etc) and our presentation video fun and to the point.

After coming together as a group with some similar goals around adult play, experiential design and positive thinking we settled on the potentially darker topic of Child Abuse. Our aim though is a design solution that is respectful but uplifting and positive rather than heavy and morose. After some brainstorming together and on paper we took these conceptual ideas into VideoScribe to create the video below.

This 4 minute pitch intends to sell the idea, how important creating a place like this is and give some hints as to the type of solution that might come. This was my first play with Videoscribe which does much of the heavy lifting in creating a presentation like this. Specific drawings and lines I created in Illustrator first on my Surface Pro 3, using the pen not the brush to get the stroke data in as well. I had a rough idea how the whole thing might look then just started bringing in the content and the ideas looping around as I went. B added the voice over afterwards and the cool pen noises complete the picture. In the software you bring in the text or a graphic and setup the screen, and a set of parameters around transitions and timing and build it up piece by piece.

Over the weekend (how gorgeous was the weather) I took heaps of pictures of the site and was doodling away thinking of the mood I would like a place to impart. Seeing kids playing with bubbles or or drawing with chalk on the pavement or people sitting out eating their lunch or reading or listening to a busker were all good ways to generate positive memories. Despite our project being fictional, I could see it as real, from the site to our clients and the real need.

The sketches here aren't designs for the place, but do show some of the thinking around the design being multi-sensory, being fun and characterful, being emotive and caring. You can see things like water and bubbles and nature and quirky fun in abundance.

Oh and I almost forgot, we were asked to create a personal design philosophy, a manifesto and this is the one I created. I hadn't done this before and it was interesting to see what came out of this exercise for me. I disliked most manifestos we looked at, they present as egotistical rather than inspirational.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Autodesk University

Autodesk software is the cornerstone of many industries whether it be simple old AutoCAD, the might of Revit in the BIM space, their dominance in 3D Modelling with 3ds Max and Maya or their suite of other apps. This was the second year that they have brought their Autodesk University event to Australia and I really enjoyed both days.

Day 1 was all in the big hall with the keynotes and customer stories for all the attendees in one hit. There were several Autodesk speakers mostly covering industry trends and where Autodesk is taking their products to meet the changes and the future. Things kicked off with a lights and dance show where the two dancers' LED suits and batons were all digitally synced and doing pretty cool stuff.

What the presentations really showed me was that there are people doing some amazing things in terms of process for design. Whether it is the kids in the F1 in Schools Challenge or Woods Bagot's Architects generating solutions to complex design problems the theme of the 'future of making things' was pretty strong. The idea that teams are more virtual, that the cloud can give you all the compute you need, that small teams can come together to create things quickly and cleverly are all disruptive.

Apart from the sessions, we had the industry floor which was small but still interesting. Laser scanners, 3D printers and 3d party software to deal with mapping data were all on display along with some exemplars of simulation, art and generation.

Day 2 was split into tracks covering Buildings, Infrastructure, Manufacturing, Media and Entertainment and General. I spent my time in Buildings and Media and Entertainment seeing the power of point cloud data and game engines. Some of the software of note: Momento, Shotgun, Stingray, Showcase, CFD, Recap, Python and SketchbookPro.

A few quotes from the day to do with students and education:
  Nurture a design mindset with students
  Should be training the next generation of designers and architects

I have a bunch of people to follow up with and ideas to think through following the event which is good. Seeing what people are actually able to do with these tools is great for inspiration.

Oh and it was interesting that despite the heavy emphasis on Windows based software there were plenty of Mac about. These people have just become used to running Windows on their Mac - still not exactly sure why really, but that is what I saw.