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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Unusual Design Orphans

Four design posts that all had a premature demise: a tech company, a childrens book, a console game pitch and cinematic bingo - yeah, you know, cinematic bingo.
Voipster was on of a number of companies going after Voice Over IP (like Skype) in 2004.
The combination of day to day business values with approachabilty and a friendly medium sent me looking up things like Dilbert, Mister Men and Niceday branding - which ended with these homely colours, cartoon illos and a paint print finish.
If I say so myself, the client loved it - but then the work stalled as they promptly called for a review of the company name. So it goes.
My sister has published two non-fiction books as Sarah Burton and she followed them in 2008 with a reworking of the nativity in a childrens book. Loyally, she asked me to pitch as the artist. The story weaved conflicting folk tales details of the story together and I did this spread to show the same event perceived in two ways. Turned out the publisher already had an established house style of soft, loose, pencil sketches.
Not a lengthy design job - but I was pleased with this style I did for numerous screens needed to illustrate a console game format. This was needed because in 2007 I won a place in 'Lizard's Lair' - a competition to pitch a console game idea to a panel of game luminaries for Channel 4 and London Games Week . It was a format called Duplicity which explored Time Travel paradoxes. True to Dragons' Den form, I was kicked around a bit for not knowing enough about the intended market - but Lizard No 1. - Peter Molyneux - spoke up encouragingly in defence of the idea - which is the bit I'll remember : )

Design 4: Bingo reboot. Some US conglomerate associated with the ODEON chain wanted to run an automated movie-like experience allowing people to play live National Bingo at the cinema. Pitching the look for the new brand, I did 3 cheesy, gold, sparkly, 'LE' looks ( light entertainment) and this one. My patter was pretty poor - I'd used up all my chutzpah trying to sound hopeful about the cheesy ones, in case they wanted them. By the time I presented the last one, I ended up muttering " …and then I just wanted to …get this…uh… feel"
I mumbled some more but I can immodestly add I was immediately shushed with a " It's great!" Ultimately, the project was a department-busting mix of digital, broadcast and tech, toes were trodden and direction was fought for. I reluctantly relinquished creative control under demands from other projects. However, much of the early feel survived into the final product - which also featured a white-suited Vic Reeves recorded into countless video loops as the interactive compere to the bingo nation.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

The Weird and Wretched | Endemol Digital Formats

Endemol Digital had a stab at in 2003 - 2004. They were both enjoyable to interpret into brands and visual experiences, but they had their problems too.

I hate the phrase that starts " You can't polish a…" - not least because it's often how an Endemol producer is describing the project I am having to work on. Home Video Junk went one better, it started with a whole load of sub- "You've Been framed" clips dredged from Endemols global plumbing, and attempted to create a format that would make them palatable.
More than one gallant producer tried to find a creative slant, and a budget that would work, finally lumping for a couple of space creatures who talk through the footage - hence the UFO connotation of the logo.

Ask certain New media practitioners in their late-thirties if they worked on Mighty Truck of Stuff- the web game, and you may ignite long suppressed night terrors in them. Here we had a game that many thought might actually bring down the company, such was the impossibility of realising it's apparently modest requirements.
First ingredient, as always, was a TV bod on the client side with no real interest in online. Then mix in a soured commercial history to the relationship meaning the online producer of the game will live his days in a world of make believe priorities and expectations. This is the time where no-one in charge will hear them say "too expensive" or "not enough time" - but they will still whisper it loudly, to themselves.
Now, as production rolls forward, like some huge medieval device no-one understands, it is ensured that those with the technical knowledge required are whisked off to firefight something else - now those left will scrabble to pull people off the street to create this immersive interactive video game. If there's anyone left from the start of the project, change them now.
Overnight, the schedule becomes a joke, a laugh, a crying shame. There's no longer time for any two people making the thing to talk to - or even meet each other - it's going to be great. Time for the client to check progress!
Remember that we are talking about mid-2004, in the London New Media business, so there's an 80% chance that the client will now be someone who wasn't there at the start - good thing!
It's time to hit the valley of madness. A perturbed realm of countless, deranged client amends and requests, requests for things no-one ever, ever, mentioned, for any game. It is into this insanity that accessibility requirements now rise, like an unvanquishable army of unreasonable skeletons. People start each day with the knowledge that the game is now undead.

And that's all…you never really hear that the game is finished - it's eclipsed by a few redundancy announcements and people moving on to "…pastures new!".
After a month or two, someone tentatively uses the name of the game as a euphemism for dying slowly of terminal cancer - and it starts to feel okay again.
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Flash Games Victoria Real 2003

Baltimore drop was a gaming format pitched as a casino-friendly kiosk game.
Battleships was created by the crack team of Bruno Deroulede, Brian MacSweeney and myself. We pitched a number of ideas to The National Lottery for instant win online games. Bruno came up with the the simplest and strongest idea, Battleships - but with random grid positions, set by dice.
With such a straightforward gameplay, I was free to make the 'action' as rich as possible, and I'm still very pleased with the depth charges, explosions and flare effects in the game.
Staying Power never went live - it was the product of Endemol's relations with a US gaming company, for a few sweet months we made a rock solid massive multiplayer online quiz show. Starting with live crowds in their hundreds, whittling the experience down to a lucky few at the end.
It was a great balance between elimination and satisfying gameplay for the majority.
This poster screen was composed initially by Julia Manninen, a designer who brought really strong and unusual touches to lots of projects at VR and Endemol.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Flash Games 2002 - Grow Me The Money, Devastation Derby etc.

Paper Scissors Stone proved popular - we made a Gold version and one to play on TV for Sky.
'Skinning' an exisiting game became a common practice in game design and Devastation Derby was an awesome reskin of a dice game; you had to bet which way both cars would land.
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Flash Games 2001 - Gold Rush, Lucky Falls

Games with a Montana feel seemed to fill my summer in 2001. The 'Falls' games had a great animations of coins falling off the shelf - made your coin drop feel more than randomised.
There was an easter egg in Tuppenny Falls - you clicked on a part of the log cabin window and it opened a Fly your kite game from my website.
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Past Games 2001

Another screen from Whoulette and a fruit machine format for Gala Casino.
Campdown Races was pitched as a fun online racing bet format.
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