Bram Pitoyo, Etc., Links

“As an enthusiastic omnivore I don’t like food bans of any kind.

Yet I have to admit that food bans have often resulted in interesting culinary developments.”

Another great article on how constraints always lead to unconventional thinking, which in turn produces creative solutions.

Some more excerpts from the said article:

For example, in Europe the Catholic Church’s proscription on eating meat on Fridays lead to the development of a huge range of fish dishes, especially salted and smoked ones for those with no easy access to the sea.

Brandade de morue, the thick smooth garlicky salt cod puree that is a great classic of French bistro cooking, is one result. Similarly Chinese Buddhists developed soya products in the most amazing ways, while Indian upvas cooking traditions have kept alive offbeat ingredients like water-chestnut flour and amaranth seeds.

Truly fascinating. Good night.

Bram Pitoyo, Etc., Interlude, Links

There’s A Lot Of Reason Why Nintendo Wii Was A Success

But one of them has to be the fact that they don’t just have engineers and designers running the company—they have visionaries. From Gamasutra’s interview with Yoshiaki Koizumi on Montreal Game Summit, with my notes and observations added:

Koizumi noted that Miyamoto is known for taking lots of trouble to get key elements just right—Koizumi called his demands “numerous and exacting”—especially important in this case as players around the world spend a lot of time in Mario’s shoes.   

Steve Jobs, anyone?

…empowering Mario with the simple ability to jump…opens up several new and connected possibilities just by offering the player one ability.Koizumi calls it player-based design: the right balance of fun and complexity with the player first in mind. “That’s why it’s so important, and that’s why we have to be so particular about getting it right,” he said.   

While this statement should come as no surprise to anyone in Advertising or Marketing, in reality, not many video games today are thought of this way. Bizarre, isn’t it?

There are issues with 3D action, including problematic depth perception, getting lost, and even getting motion sickness.But Koizumi also stressed a focus on the positive, like creating a sense of surprise so that the player can be astonished by the world. To do this, Koizumi explained, you have to completely eliminate all the problems that obstruct ease of play.   

Suddenly, the field of Game Development intersects with Information Architecture and Interface Usability. It’s no surprise that games and consoles that are designed for normal people were probably made by Nintendo because they took things like “ease of play” into account in their development timeline.

“[having shadows fall directly under the character regardless of the light source] might not be realistic, but it’s much easier to play with the shadow directly below,” he [Koizumi] added.   

Absolutely right. Sometimes, context must reign over consistency to improve usability.

In a 2D Mario game, the sky is up, the ground is down, and everyone goes right on their way to a goal. Mario 64 [one of the first fully 3D Mario games] also sent players after a goal, but things weren’t quite as simple back in the time when few had yet gained experience with rotating a camera.Why not just give the player a map? According to Koizumi, if you want them to stay in the action without pausing, there’s no time to look at a map—“that’s why we included large landmarks so players could orient themselves without stopping,” he explained.   

Sometimes, geeks that made games live their life with a different relationship model from the rest of us. For instance (and to over generalize), they prefer to use a chatroom vs. participate in a dinnertime conversation, network through forums vs. make new friends through parties, and use GPS vs. ask for direction.)

Almost any adventure games today utilize some form of a map to help the player navigate his/her character through the world. Problem is, in real life, most people navigate by recognizing landmarks (“cross the steel bridge, past the city square”) instead of maps. A geek who uses GPS to drive around and find direction would certainly prefer to see an elaborate map in the game that he wrote and developed.

A gamer who plays a software that the geek wrote would have no problem using it, but the rest of the world (casual gamers) would. Again, Nintendo address this problem by employing interaction cues that are not immediately obvious or available, but are closer in spirit to casual users.

He continued, “Through this [the development of Jungle Beat] I found [that] to get the player to enjoy a game with real ease of play, the developer has to be thoughtful, and there are no shortcuts.”   

Surprise. Simplicity is actually harder to achieve than complexity. However, simplicity and austerity is not the same. Simplicity may look ornate yet stay perfectly clear, comprehensive and straightforward at the same time. Austerity may look simple yet lacks all the nuances and expressions.

Simplicity is for human beings. Austerity is for machines and Modernists (sorry, I had to throw in a little inside joke there.) Never confuse the two.

And the Wii system, according to Koizumi, also helped achieve the earlier goal of bringing families together in the living room.

Nintendo seem to think that electronic games should be similar in spirit to their real-world counterparts, in that they are meant to be enjoyed and played together in a non-anonymous setting. Again, these are concepts that may sound obvious to us, but not to geeks and most other software developers (again, I’m over-generalizing this.) Remember, most geeks communicate through chatrooms and internet forums instead of dinners and parties.</p

Concluded Koizumi, “… Believe firmly that games that are fun to make are always fun to play when they reach the consumer.”   

Amen. That’s another mantra for me.

Good night.

Via Daring Fireball.

Bram Pitoyo, Interlude, Links

A Summation Of My Last Series Of Posts On Twitter, Or, Why There Needs To Be Someone Today Who Is Equally Adept At Being A Sociologist And A Software Developer

Here it goes in its entirety, my comments are italicized:

Quotes and notes on Danah Boyd’s “Autistic Social Software” article talk:

“[Attention Deficit Disorder] is often marked by an inability to focus on a given task.”

Here’s the problem: “Many of you are staring at your laptops, multitasking [while I’m giving this talk]… But you want to be a continuous partial attention ninja master because you’ve been told that all the cool kids are.”

The conclusion: most of us geek-and-creative types have ADD.

The problem: we build things that non-ADD folks use to communicate.

The results: software, interfaces, websites and online social networks that are “socially inept” and lack nuances.

“From an autistic perspective, social life can and must be programmatically and algorithmically processed and understood on simplistic categorical level.”

We think that human communication is mechanistic (or can be decoded and deconstructed into smaller parts), while non-ADD users view relationship as something organic, rich and subtle.

In other words, we

“dissect social affect and try to formalize it.”

This is well and good, but can’t and shouldn’t be applied directly to a social software.

The result:

“[social network websites] attempt to formalize how people should construct and manage their relationship.” For instance, “…they procedurally direct how people can engage with new people by giving you an absolute process through which you can contact others.”

The solution to this autistic softwares: we probably shouldn’t concept a relationship model. An ethnographer should.

But most ethnographers aren’t tech savvy enough to understand the computer’s constraints, so there needs to be someone part-sociologist and part-developer, that can bridge the gap between both parties, to concept and create some truly mean but human user experiences. He/she has to be adept at both realms equally well.

In the words of Ms. Boyd:

“I’m terrified…[the approach that geeks take in abstracting relationsip] is so simplistic…that people [read: users] are forced to engage [in it] as though they have autism…”

Ah, there you go. Check my Twitter for this and other things that are of this nature.

Good night.

Bram Pitoyo, Etc., Links

Though I generally shy away from any article that involve phrases like “Reinventing the Book”

Like this one, I’m still mighty curious about Amazon’s font selection for its Monday-launched e-book device, Kindle. I mean, for starters, out of all typefaces in the world, why Caecilia?

However, I think that Amazon might have gotten it right this time, because the device was:

  • Birthed with a culturally-centered principles, and
  • Built by sociologists and ethnographers

As quoted from the article:

…he [Jeff Bezos] ticks off a number of attributes that a book-reading device…must have. First, it must project an aura of bookishness; it should be less of a whizzy gizmo than an austere vessel of culture.

Compare this with Sony Reader’s:

  • Feature and benefit-centered principle, and
  • Clunky reading interface that attempted to mirror exactly the appearance of a physical book or a PDF file (that looked like it was designed by a programmer instead of a sociologist). Look, dudes, with every new medium must come a new presentation model that is specifically suited to that medium, even if the contents themselves are old and dusty.

As quoted from their website copy:

The Sony® Reader provides a new way to experience reading. It boasts an impressive display, utilizing breakthrough technology that’s almost paper-like. In addition, the text can be magnified for sight-impaired readers. Daylight readable, high contrast, high resolution, near 180º viewing angle.

I think that if any revolution is to take place, it has to take the human spirit into account. From what I’ve read so far, Amazon seemed to do just that; but it remains to be seen whether those words were true to principle or just extremely empathic/clever PR.Your thoughts?