May 11, 2007

Writing and Games

From an interview about the forthcoming Mass Effect:

IGN: Mass Effect: The Write Stuff - AU Interview

IGN: In terms of novel-lengths, how many pages or books worth of writing would you estimate you've done for Mass Effect?

Drew Karpyshyn: Mass Effect has a word count of around 400,000 words - somewhere in the area of 4-5 full novels. But, unlike a novel, we also have visual images and other ways to tell a story. Our word count would be even higher if we had to describe settings or characters, but we actually have art and graphics to do that for us. I think a better comparison to give the full scope of our game is to use movie scripts. In Mass Effect, every line of dialog has full voice over, and we have 20,000 lines of dialog - roughly the equivalent of 20 movies. That seems like a lot - and it is - but it's necessary to keep a player engaged in our game and story for the 20 hour critical path.

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January 15, 2004

Scattered Thoughts

Such is my mindset right now (we're 'in the window' - the baby's due date isn't for another 17 days, but this subset of the rhody clan is rarely on time).

Close Reading New Media: Analyzing Electronic Literature edited by Jan VAN LOOY and Jan BAETENS
[via GTA]

Other close readings: a great group of essays from Matt K.'s graduate class last semester is available at Rob Kendall’s Word Circuits site.

Also, a reminder: the Games Research Bibliography Database, with over 500 entries and an invitation for submissions.
[via GamesNetwork listserv]

Belated thanks for the review of Misc. by a member of Scott Rettburg's class. The link seems to be down right now, but I wanted to make a mental note, before I completely forgot. More once I can look at the review again.

Cheap@$$Gamer is a blog that posts good deals on games at various online and concrete retailers (and I changed the middle word not b/c I'm a prude, but because I like to avoid setting off flags at the office when checking Misc.).

Need to update our installation of MT to fix a few security issues, as well as implement some antispamming techniques (although some might not work well for Herders - more thoughts on why later). Here's a link to the description of the recent patch [thanks George], as well as what's coming in version 3.0.

Personal reminder to backup the database before the update. I also encourage any herders reading to occasionally back up their blogs through the MT interface. Our hosting providers provides backups and I do a database backup every once in a while, but redundancy's never struck me as a bad idea.

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November 6, 2003

Fan of Web Art

The Whitney Museum commissioned the Whitney Artport IDEA LINE by Martin Wattenberg. [Java required]. While Jill notes that it is not compatible with some browsers (although it's in Java, which I thought was supposed to be the cross-platform language?), the Artport Idea Line is still a really nice example of a visual interface. Each aspect of the line exhibits data: The titles are listed under an x-axis of 'year.' The brightness of the line tells how many art works are listed for a particular year (or you can have the shape of the line show 'totals' as well). The key terms are plainly visible (although it would be nice if they were briefly defined, so as to be clear). Each entry has a brief annotation.

Really neat. Of course, a search feature would also be nice. It occurs to me that this might not be drawing data from a database, but just an "installation" itself, which would be a bit of a shame...

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October 22, 2003

Color Picker

Color Picker [via Liz]

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September 30, 2003

Design Update

Ok, so I adjusted things a bit in the CSS to hopefully resolve some issues on monitors set to resolutions less that 1024x768 brought up by several very kind folk in my previous post. Thanks again to everyone who offered feedback.

Did the adjustments I made solve those issues where the right column was sliding underneath the center one? Any other issues?

Also, Kathleen brought up a good question in her assessment:

is there a particular reason (and I'm really asking here -- this is an issue about which I am ignorant) why you've specified pixel widths for your columns rather than percentages? It seems to me that percentages would scale to whatever monitor/window size...?

At the time, I couldn't think of a reason, but a quick look at how I set things up in the CSS to get the white borders to line up (the 'windowpane' effect) reminded me. In order to set exact spacing (to prevent too little or too much white space), I have to create a pixel width for the two columns, and then set the margins of the center column to those pixel widths.

So, in the (newly adjusted) CSS, my left column is set to 190 pixels and my right to 200 pixels. The center column then has the following style:

margin:0px 200px 0px 190px; /* top right bottom left */

with a border of 2 pixels of white on either side. The actual background of the entire page is the darker gray on the left, while the background image is the lighter gray on the right - an image 250px wide and 1px high of that color, and set to only tile on the y-coordinate (vertical) and positioned top right. That gives me the two-tone background.

Ok, I'm convinced I've bored everyone by now ... point being, if I didn't use exact pixels, I wouldn't be able to control the white (or, in this case, gray) space between the columns. In any case, the center stretches with window expansion, while the two outside columns are set with absolute values.

If someone could figure out how to accomplish the same feat with %, I'm all ears (or, er... eyes).

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September 28, 2003

New Design

Well, I got tired of the old one, which was the default "Trendy" MovableType template. I pretty much decided on the colors and the main image up top a while ago and had been playing with drawings on my morning Metro commute on and off. I drew some useful help from Blue Robot's 2 column template, as well as some inspiration from the CSS Zen Garden (which is where I got the idea of the slight white lines for the window-pane effect, as well as the second green tone).

I've tested the new design in Opera 7.02 and M$ Explorer 6.0 on a PC running Windows XP. I don't have the resources available to me that I used to, so if folks using other browsers on other platforms would be so kind to point out issues, I would be much obliged.

And I, of course, would love to hear what you think - what works for you, what doesn't, etc.

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August 22, 2003

Color Chip

Rad ColorChip PHP Script. Handy for those of us who need help w/ our color schemes...

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June 16, 2003

Unravel the Threads

Ok, a few threads dangling in the breeze, but announcements first:

Most recent Digital Arts & Culture conference papers online here For those of us without travel budgets, blogs and pdf papers are a life-saver (and no, not the candy). Several days worth of metro-reading in printable format.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. As I mentioned, L and I met my folks in Charlottesville. On Saturday, Dad and I went up into the mountains, put up our tent, and did some hiking - something we used to do for a week or two every year as I grew up. This usually happened when Mom took a week off to bang out a chapter of her dissertation, so we would make for the mountains so I wouldn't (as had happened at least once) kick the plug (accidently, of course) of the computer, causing her to lose half a day's work. Anyway, aside from the rain (inches away from flooding our tent), we had a great time. We saw a bear (no pics though) - only the second one I've seen in the Shenandoah in the 20+ years I've camped there. More on the weekend later, once I get the digital pics downloaded (sometime later in the week, probably).

Ok, some quick notes on our discussion of form and content - shortly I'll grab screenshots or text examples to complement my discussion earlier, but I want to respond to George's post, where he said:

Might we restrict our view to the "document" -- whether that's a blog entry or the interface for a chat client -- as it appears on our screen? The skin, the database backend, or the stylesheet are the means by which the document was formatted, but now that it's there on screen, do these things matter so much to our analysis of the document itself?

George is right in a key respect - there is a significant difference between speaking of a document as a completed incarnation (I'm sure the textual studies folk can help me out with a term that's not coming into my head at 7am) and speaking of it in terms of production process. To a user's eye, the completed page may look nothing more than single document - a single-page newspaper whose fold is a "digital fold" rather than a physical one. And this is often how we look at many types of traditional printed documents. Most non-specialists don't concern themselves with the differences between editions, the collaboration of author, printer, and perhaps artist.

I do think, although I haven't thought this through yet, that the structures can not be boiled down to "formatting" - in other words (maybe a question is the easiest way to phrase this), how do the "skin, the database backend, or the stylesheet" function differently in their "formatting"?

In the comments section of that same post, I asked: "what happens when I syndicate your site and apply my own style?"

George responded: "The same thing that happened when a seventeenth-century reader copied a Donne sonnet into their commonplace book. Ok, maybe not the same thing, but I don't think it separates the two strands of form and content."

But I'm not sure it is the same thing. If I syndicate a blog, I get an XML-marked version of the blog (at least one, if not two layers of structure - the initial post structure, enforced by the database, which is subsequently marked up in XML) but I can also place it seamlessly within a new blog or website encoded with my own new HTML and CSS. So, maybe like copying Donne into a prayer book (poem is ordered already by its poetic structure, after all), but does it simply boil down to a function of scale? It seems to me that at least some of the strands unravel, or don't at least others thread themselves in?

Posted by Jason at 5:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 11, 2003

I create this content in my form

I have been thinking quite a bit about Matt's recent post where he said:

Indeed, with the rise of CSS, skins, etc. there is now a more pronounced division than ever between "form" and "content"


but the interface as "contact surface," an add-on to a "pre-existing bundle of functionality" is precisely the relationship between data and styles that's been reinstated by CSS, is it not?


Note too that the separation of data and styles goes against the grain of the old humanistic saw about the mutually informing and inextricable nature of the relationship between form and content

This seemed fairly straightforward to me at first (this is how I interpreted it, not necessarily how Matt said it) - here we have two documents: first, the HTML document, content. Second, the CSS, form or (sounds like smooth jazz) - style. Visual rhythm. Sure. That makes sense.

And then my head said: Wait a second. That's not right. The data is not in the HTML - it's text in a (in my case) MySQL database.

Alas. A wrench.

Ok, three parts to the gestalt triangle: HTML templates (to include, perhaps, an image header), CSS styles (link and page colors, physical arrangement on page, fonts), and database (text/content). And of course I'm ignoring Perl scripts that make MT work, the server it runs on, the extra Perl:modules that give you perks. These things I'll continue to ignore for now, because a triad is as much as my brain can handle before my second cup of coffee.

Since I'm not the only person intrigued by Matt's comments, I refreshed myself with the discussion through his trackbacks, finding myself struck again by Kari's astute discussion of "accidentals and substantives" and the terms' influence on textual editing. I was surprised by this deft twist, which I expected to go one way, when it actually went another:

"In the context of Matt's entry on the strict separation of style and content in current web-design practice, I am struck by just how "organic" the metaphor is: each of the strands, linguistic and bibliographic, intertwines about a common textual axis. The free variation of style in electronic environments--the ease with which one skin can be swapped out for another--throws a monkey wrench into contemporary editorial theory.

I loved this notion of an organic metaphor, but I thought of it in entirely a different manner. In looking at the CSS, the HTML templates, and even the database, I see a variety of levels of "form" and "content" intertwining in a (seemingly) organic fashion. I'll describe quickly what I'm thinking and then I'll follow up later with some snips of the code to (hopefully) support my point.

The database itself contains a structure of tables and data cells. Each "type" of data rests firmly in its assigned cell, although within those cells there is of course "play" between the types of data that sneak through. The main entries, for example, can have almost any type of alpha-numeric content and I could buck the trend, for example, by editing into the main text of my argument comments made by others after the fact. Slippage perhaps.

If you export MT files, the format provides a pretty good indication, however, of the basic structure established by the database, so we already have form and content in place. But is this text file, structurally sound perhaps, "my blog"? Personally, I don't think so. Nelson Goodman might say, "sure" (or he might say, "Don't put words in my mouth").

As I turn to the HTML document, I notice that it is actually as second (at least) layer to the design of the blog as a whole. The div tags are very specific and help separate the website into specific units (headers, bodies, title types, and so on). They are the bones on which the muscles of the CSS must graft. And yet by adding extras to the default, I can add "content" to the website that is not part of the database. In my case, I have extra links, a little picture of angry robot, and (soon, I hope) some added features.

And the CSS - well, whether or not that is content, or accidental, or substantive, I suppose is an argument of materiality. I personally believe that such markings - fonts, colors, etc. - by choice or not, play a role in our reception and interpretation of a work.

Wish I could write more about it, but alas - time to put on that tie. I'll add edits later.

Posted by Jason at 5:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 12, 2003

3 Stops on Today's Bus Ride of Design Fun:

1. Open Source Web Design - share your web designs for all to use... or find quick inspiration for that late project!

2. I ended up at No Symbols Where None Intended through Chuck's blog (I always look at blogs by people named Jason) and noticed that the blog changes colors over time. How cool.

3. Looking for a handy script, I came across A List Apart, self-described as "for people who make websites; from pixels to prose, coding to content." Some good reads and helpful tips there, including an article on coding to standards rather than to browsers, a recent hot topic at work.

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