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About the Archives

This page contains all entries posted to GAMBIT in January 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Global Game Jam Live Webcast
The Global Game Jam has started at MIT! Hit the jump or go to Ustream for the live webstream and live chat.

Chris Swain presents at MIT

Chris Swain, assistant professor from USC, gave a presentation at MIT on "The Future of Games" last night. GAMBIT alum Eitan Glinert has blogged some of the takeaways from Chris' talk, as well as some opinions and reactions:

Touching on myriad subjects, Chris hopped from how we came to our current state of game development, what areas/genres of game development are still ripe for exploration, and what trends he has been observing in the games industry. He ended with a quick piece on how he believes development will change over the next few years to remain sustainable.

Read the full article here.

GAMBIT presents at GDC!

We're proud to announce that two of our people here at the GAMBIT US lab will be presenting talks at this year's Game Developers' Conference in San Francisco! Postdoctoral researcher Doris C. Rusch will be presenting on "Profound Game Design: a Postmortem of Akrasia" and lecturer/researcher Jesper Juul will be presenting on "Beyond Balancing: Using Five Elements of Failure Design to Enhance Player Experiences".

The descriptions for the talks are as follows:

Profound Game Design - a Postmortem of Akrasia

Speaker: Doris C. Rusch
Date/Time: TBD
Track: Serious Games Summit
Secondary Track: TBD
Format: Panel discussion
Experience Level: All

Session Description
This presentation provides valuable insights won through the development of Akrasia, a single-player 2D game that was made by seven students in the course of the annual eight-week summer programme at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab. The goal of the project was to make a profound, thought-provoking game that fosters reflection and insight. More than that, purposeful experience design should promote game comprehension, and make the game work on the cognitive as well as the emotional level.

On the larger scale, the project was intended to test the design approach described in the paper "Games about LOVE and TRUST? Harnessing the Power of Metaphors for Experience Design", which was presented at the 2008 Sandbox conference. It deals with issues related to addiction by way of metaphors.

Attendees will get insights into the potentials and pitfalls of metaphorical game design - from the importance of a vision guy to the difference between procedurally representing a concept and making it emotionally tangible to players.

Intended Audience and Prerequisites
Designers and players interested in learning more about games' potential to expand their experiential scope and mature as a medium. An interest in games and game design is desirable.

Beyond Balancing: Using Five Elements of Failure Design to Enhance Player Experiences

Speaker: Jesper Juul
Date/Time: TBD
Track: Game Design
Secondary Track: Production
Format: 20-minute Lecture
Experience Level: All

Session Description
This lecture presents a toolbox for improving failure design in single player games. Player research shows that the primary issue is not the frequency of failures, but how failure is communicated, what happens as a result of failing, and whether a given failure design allows the game to be enjoyed within a player's time constraints. Using concrete examples, this lecture will show how failure can play a positive role in games, how players of casual games are actually not averse to failure, and how developers can get beyond balancing to improve the failure design in their games.

Attendees will be introduced to new research on how players perceive failure in games. A framework of Five Elements of Failure design will be presented. Attendees will be able to use the framework for improving the design, testing, and balancing of video games for different audiences.

Intended Audience and Prerequisites
Designers, producers, testers, and marketers interested in both rethinking the role of difficulty and failure in their games and in tailoring game design to the preferences and time constraints of their audience. Knowledge of game balancing issues is helpful but not required.

We hope to see you in San Francisco!

Vote for Akrasia at JayIsGames!

GAMBIT is honored to announce that our Summer 2008 prototype game Akrasia has been nominated for Best Interactive Art or Puzzle in JayIsGames' Best of Casual Gameplay 2008 awards!

While it's always an honor to be nominated, it's also a hoot to win. This is where you come in: the voting for the awards is public, so if you think Akrasia is the best on their (admittedly really impressive) lineup, please vote for us! We're the top entry on the Best Interactive Art or Puzzle page!

From the website:

Once again, a year has passed. We've tried our hardest to recommend the very best online games and downloadable casual games available on the Web, and now it's time for you to have your say. Yes, it's time for the fifth annual Jay Is Games "Best of" feature. Help us out by voting for your favorite games of 2008!

It's a great time to be a lover of casual games. Every year we hunger for beauty and creativity in our entertainment, and every year, Web game designers exceed our expectations. More people have entered the field than ever before, thanks to MochiAds and other advertising structures that have made Flash game design a viable way to make a living.

Free and independent games have finally started to appear regularly in mainstream media outlets. XBox Live Arcade and Playstation Network are runaway successes, proving that even hardcore console owners are attracted to simple, accessible experiences. Not to mention the unstoppable market juggernaut that is the Wii, built from the ground up to be a casual gamer's paradise. And don't get me started on the avalanche of mobile phone games.

The upshot of all this is that we at Jay Is Games have more material than ever to work with, and this is the largest "Best Of" collection to date. The nominations we've listed below are culled from the top-rated entries in each category, as voted on by you, our loyal JIG audience. We've had to cut some excellent titles from the bottom of the ranks, in order to prevent this event from becoming an ungainly mammoth, but with any luck, your favorite games are there for you to support.

We're quite chuffed to be included, so please – support, support! Vote early and often! Er, I mean, good luck to Team Aha!

Game Career Guide interviews the Showtime team!

A new interview has gone live over at – and it's with the dev team for CarneyVale: Showtime! (Okay, well, it's programmer Bruce Chia talking into that microphone, but he's speaking for all of 'em.)

From the interview:

GCG: In terms of mechanics, what existing games influenced this game? How?

BC: We referenced many games as we were all gamers ourselves. Some of the more obvious ones include Pinball for the environment setup to get the character from the bottom to the top through obstacles; Super Mario Galaxy for its stars system which helps replay value; N+ for its map editor; and the Tony Hawk series for its trick system.

Our initial idea was also influenced by Burnout: Paradise, and we originally had our character crashing through the environment to gain points, as mentioned earlier.

Lastly, one type of game that had a subtle influence on this game is actually soccer games. Although it is not immediately apparent, the main character is actually like a ball and it is being passed to different environment objects, which are like the soccer players, and scored into a Ring of Fire, which is like a goal post. We realized this as we were brainstorming for new ideas after we found that the crashing idea did not work out well and decided that this was a really exciting idea, which brought about what the game is today.

Bruce provides a lot of valuable insight into how Showtime was created – swing by and check it out!

GAMBIT alum wins XNA article contest!

2009 is really shaping up to be our year: GAMBIT alum Skeel Lee Keng Siang just won first place in the Ziggyware Fall 2008 XNA Article Contest! Skeel came to us from the National University of Singapore and was the programmer for Tenxion in our 2007 summer program.

His article, "Introduction to Soft Body Physics," begins as follows:

In recent years, there has been a high proliferation in the usage of physics simulations in games. This might be due to the increasing need for realistic movements of the objects to match their realistic renderings. Some of these physics simulations include rigid body simulations where the objects move and rotate but do not change their shapes, and ragdoll physics where the motion of a character can be simulated under force perturbations. There has however not been a lot of soft body physics in games yet, thus it might be worthwhile to start diving into this type of simulation so that you can start implementing some soft bodies for your game.

A soft body is basically an object which changes its overall shape due to external forces acting on it. Some examples that we commonly see include cloth, balloons and jelly. A cloth drapes downwards due to gravitational forces and flutters due to wind forces. Similarly, a balloon enlarges when the internal pressure forces increase, and produces indentations when a child exerts forces on it by squeezing. These kind of natural behaviors are interesting to observe, especially in a game environment where the entertainment value is of high importance.

This tutorial has been written to help you get a quick understanding of some basic theories and implementations behind simulating soft bodies in real time. It is meant for beginners as we will start from the very basics. In an effort to show the usefulness of soft body physics, some of the examples given in this tutorial also illustrate how it can be used as a quick substitution for cases where using rigid body simulation will prove to be much more expensive.

Way to go, Skeel! Congratulations!

(For more of Skeel's work, check out his website at

CarneyVale: Showtime named an IGF grand prize finalist!

Congratulations to the development team for CarneyVale: Showtime, which was just named as a grand prize finalist in the 11th annual Independent Games Festival!

From the IGF website:

The 2009 Independent Games Festival (IGF) has revealed the finalists for this year's ninth installment of the pre-eminent indie game competition. From a record field of 226 entries, 30% over last year's totals, a number of notable games scored multiple nominations this year.

...Finalists were decided by a panel made up of over 40 industry-leading game creators and journalists, including the makers of previous IGF honorees World Of Goo, Braid, Aquaria and N+; industry veterans from studios including Maxis, Big Huge Games, and SuperVillain Studios; and noted writers from Wired, Newsweek, and MTV.

Showtime is GAMBIT's second game to place as a finalist in an IGF competition; Backflow was named a finalist in the 2008 Independent Games Festival Mobile competition. The winners will be announced at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California on March 25th, 2009. Stay tuned!

GAMBIT is looking for an Audio Director

GAMBIT is now accepting applications for a new research and development staff position beginning in March 2009. The Audio Director will:

  • direct conceptual design, composition, and engineering of sound requirements for game prototypes;

  • assist and mentor multiple game development teams of graduate and undergraduate student research assistants over the summer to help them design and develop small game prototypes;

  • liaise and coordinate with audio and music students and faculty from other institutions to further support development of small game prototypes;

  • work with teams of graduate students, postdocs, and professional research associates developing individual casual games to be deployed over online channels or mobile devices, participating in meetings over fall, winter, and spring;

  • coordinate maintenance and use of musical instruments, audio recording, and editing equipment with technical staff;

  • make recommendations for new equipment procurement with systems administrator; establish, teach, and refine best practices in game development, audio design, and music composition with multiple teams on ongoing research projects;

  • host discussions on audio tools and aesthetics;

  • conduct instructional seminars with students and researchers.

Click here for more requirements, estimated pay rates and application instructions.

MIT is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer and strongly encourages the applications of women and members of minority groups.

AudiOdyssey in the New York Times!

Over the holidays, AudiOdyssey's Eitan Glinert was named as one of the New York Times' featured 23 student innovators. From Abby Ellin's article, titled "See Me, Hear Me: A Video Game for the Blind":

The Singapore-M.I.T. GAMBIT Game Lab ("gambit" for gamers, aesthetics, mechanics, business, innovation and technology) brings together computer geeks of Cambridge and computer geeks of the Asian city-state. The point: to develop video games for the global market from the outset, not translate them from one continent to another.

Eitan Glinert, there as a master's candidate in computer science, got to thinking about one market lost in translation. "People with disabilities were being left out of progress in the gaming market," says Mr. Glinert, 26. For his master's thesis, Mr. Glinert wanted to make a game that would work equally for the visually impaired and for the seeing, so they could play together.

A team of seven other students at the lab and a professor from the National University of Singapore pitched in. The result, AudiOdyssey, can be played with a keyboard or Nintendo Wii remote.

The game stars a D.J. named Vinyl Scorcher whose objective is to get the people in his nightclub on the dance floor, by playing great music. "Choosing music as our central game theme works perfectly since both sighted and nonsighted users are equally familiar with music," Mr. Glinert says. But it wasn't enough to make the game playable by both groups; both groups had to have the same experience.

Our folks are in great company - the full list includes profiles of innovators doing work in interactive toys at Syracuse University, rotavirus vaccine distribution methods at Johns Hopkins, kitchen chemistry for middle schoolers at Georgia Tech, neuromarketing at Yale, husk power at the University of Virginia and the electric gyroscopic motorcycle from MIT freshman Ben Gulak. Congratulations to Eitan and the rest of the AudiOdyssey team!

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