The year begins with a brand new module: Design for Interactivity! This is a subject I have been curious about since I first read the description in August, and we had several talks with the teachers before Christmas about what the course would entail. We even had some meetings where we suggested things that would be valuable to us, in terms of learning material. Still, there’s always some anxiety with new courses, will it be well structured, will it be interesting, will I learn something that’s valuable at this point in our education?

In addition to being a new course, it’s being held by two teachers that we’ve had little to do with before now, Joshua Griffin and Filipe Pais. From our meeting before Christmas, Josh seems like a sensible fellow, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s like in lectures. Filipe we’ve only been introduced to briefly before as he is mainly based abroad, but I remember being quite inspired by some of the projects he showed us in a studio presentation.

Reading from the description of the course, we’ll be learning about a lot of new concepts, or at least there are words that I’m not familiar with from before. Heuristic being one of them. I could have started googling the stuff mention in the descriptor, but I thought I’d rather wait for our first few lectures, so I can pick out the bits that seem most relevant. Instead I sat down and thought a bit about what I would like to learn from this, and what I might apply knowledge from this course to in my near future:

Investigating the Steam Discovery 2.0 update
Although I have nothing to gain directly from investigating this, I’m not working for Steam and I’m not going to be making interfaces any time soon, I’ve been quite curious about it since I read an article on the update. I’d quite like to find out more about the thoughts behind the way Valve promote content, in the future I will hopefully be selling stuff on Steam, so knowing more about how to reach a broader audience will be useful at that point. The article I read looked at the discovery updates from the point of view of a smaller indie game, they noticed a huge change in their views and sales between discovery updates and various promotions.

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Steam discovery queue

Interaction Design for Twitch streamers
Twitch is a relatively new medium, and there’s already been a lot of developments to promote more interactivity. In the start, streamers had limited interaction with their audience. The delay between stream and viewer was substantial and from the streamer reading a comment and answering to viewers hearing that answer and replying again meant it was more a live performance where the audience could chat with one another. That’s drastically changed with much shorter delays in streams, down as low as 3-4 seconds. New interactions are also popping up in the market in the form of Bits that appear on the screen, donation alerts that let viewers put their messages directly on the stream screen, and even games that viewers can join in on. One of the first major audience participation games was the party game; Jackbox Party Pack, which allows for 8 players, and up to 90k audience, who can vote on their favourite contributions. The latest innovation in this genra though is probably Streamline, a game specifically designed for Twitch streamers. The game is something like a third person shooter, but viewers can buy upgrades and modifiers as they watch the game; directly influencing gameplay. It reminds me a lot of the Hunger Games, where audience can send packages to individual participants. I’ve not tested the gameplay in detail, and thus don’t know how balanced the view influence is, but I’m very curious to see what other games we might see like this. I’m also very curious to see if Twitch will follow Youtube’s example and allow clickable overlays for streams eventually, or otherwise make the streaming / stream-viewing experience more interactive.

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Streamline on Steam

Interactions in physical objects
By happy coincidence I was linked to an interesting gadget just as I was reading about this module, an audio interface designed to be played with, covered in buttons, sliders, knobs, wires and dials. It can output a huge array of different sounds, but it’s such an interesting thing to look at and I suspect the interface would be fun to play with all even without the myriad of sound. I’m sure there’s a bunch of rules and concepts behind the design, and I’m quite curious to find out why I/we feel attracted to things with so many buttons and “things” to manipulate.

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Image by Richard Devine

 

Really I’m quite interested in interactivity, it’s a core mechanic of living beings. We do stuff with other stuff; rock shaped like triangle on stick is a spear, preacher stands on podium and addresses congregation, swipe right to dismiss. These are all designs with a particular interaction in mind, and it’s going to be interesting to see where it goes from here.

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