Last weekend we were split between Leeds and Berlin running a play test of the multiplayer bits of If You Go Away.
We were doing this as part of Transform 2015 at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, run by the brilliant Amy Letman, and now even more excitingly gone independent.
We’re trying to open up our process for If You Go Away, to iterate in public as much as possible, this is partly out of experience where we have put large swathes of the game together without opening it up to the public only to discover that he experience we thought we were creating really wasn’t translating over to the digital context of the mobile phone, or even worse wasn’t carrying over into the real world in a satisfying manner. Also we want to do this because we don’t feel there is a strong language of iteration and attempt in digital art, people often seem to approach it in a binary manner, it works or doesn’t, whereas its harder to examine the experience of the thing and the more intangible stuff that we are after.
So transform is the first of our new iterations since last Christmas, and this time we wanted to tests a key technical aspect of the work which is the synching up of multiple cities. When IYGA launches it will be designed to be played across multiple cities at once, multiple players across multiple locations around the world participating in each others experiences and contributing to the emergent narrative and experience of this virtual space.
So in order to do this we invited people to join us Leeds whilst Catherine and Vicx traveled to Berlin and we hosted two events to let people play around in the environment.
We loaded some draft geometry of Leeds all geotagged correctly and let people loose with either robots or bears as their avatars to explore and see what would happen.
We got chance to see what the first impressions are of this experience and were particularly keen to test out how it feels to interact with someone who isn’t physically there, hoping for some emergent play and some ‘fun’.
And we think there are both those things there – the moment when the geographies of the two cities either sync up or friction creates this great possibility for interaction, especially on the second night when we were streaming 9 instances of skype to join everyone up so they could hear the sounds of the remote locations, and we felt that immediately you begin to explore the world through the prism of the screen – looking for synchronicity but also enjoying moments of dissonance when the fictional story-based buildings overlayed themselves onto the real ones of Leeds, briging this bleak post apocalyptic wash to the skyline . The digital presence stuff felt really wonderful and seeing a bunch of robots walking towards you could not help but be creepy and as you begin to navigate the physical world differently that’s when you feel the real potential of the form is realized as it has a sort of transformative effect on your surroundings and the way you are playing in them.
And the final things that leaped out was how the editor running the backend of the game became this brilliantly performative space where others could sit and have a drink and watch thing play out cities apart, the geography of Leeds, layered over the map of Berlin and played on by people in both cities.
It was an invaluable experience for us, thanks to our participants and to Transform 2015 for having us, there will be more of these play tests in the future so let us know if you want to attend them.
*there are no robots in If You Go Away (well not yet)…