Archive for June, 2010

Web games tech for beginners

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

I have been recently trying to understand how multiplayer online worlds work, from the basic technical matters, to higher level game mechanics. This is a new area for me, and seems a bit of a black art so I thought I’d write some of the things I’ve discovered here for others following a similar path, or more likely, so people can tell me where I’m heading in the wrong direction.

I had to start with the complete and utter basics (as a recovering computer graphics guy) and to start with these games are split between a client and a server. The clients I’m interested in run in players browsers, and the server needs to be on a machine which is running all the time to provide the persistent world, and record the changes people make.

In terms of languages, when considering the client you are quite restricted as to what you can use. Every browser has a Javascript interpreter, and most people have flash – sidestepping the hot potato I’ve already written a bit about. Luckily for flash there is also haxe. (more…)

The Art of Surviving in Simcities

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Here is a post from a chapter that I wrote for the Walled Garden publication released in 2009 by Virtueel Platform as a follow up of the 2008 Walled Garden conference in Amsterdam. The book was edited by Annet Dekker en Annette Wolfsberger. Reading my paper again today, I did not change my mind on the issues of “information exhibitionism” and “privacy as currency for gratis services”, but I would certainly mention the recent discussions that are happening in the GNU Social list, as well as several other efforts to develop social software as a distributed infrastructure.


Used and abused by many, the notion of “2.0, 3.0, x.0” is mostly jargon that inherited its vagueness from a desire to inflate technological value and its cultural impact. This is nothing but a commercial attempt to resuscitate the dotcom era by promising a future of connected services and communication. Unfortunately there is nothing new in terms of network infrastructure nor in terms of how people have used the Internet to date. At most, another layer of abstraction has been built on pre-existing technology, and some interoperability has been added in terms of data exchange. It doesn’t matter though, if all this vapour ends up either up in the clouds, or stuck in condensation on some forgotten server. All of us are experiencing how the use of the Internet and the growing dependence on computation has a serious impact on our everyday lives. There is no need to pretend this is a side effect of new web application trends and their social impact. On the contrary, the transition phase we are experiencing now is rather simple to understand: humanity has started its slow shift from total offline activity to complete online and digitally assisted life. (more…)

Plutonian clothing strategy

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

How naked do we want to be on pluto? This is a big question for us planning this game. We wish to explore notions of privacy in a socially networked world, but at the same time we risk hypocrisy if we fail to honor our players with anything more than complete transparency concerning what we are doing with their data.

While privacy and facebook has been a hot topic of debate recently, I’m unclear how much as been discussed about the rights given to facebook applications when you agree to give them access to your data. Depending on your settings, it can use your session id to do anything you can do – access your friend’s data or post on your wall (as most games like to do for advertising).

From my initial reading, the facebook privacy policy is fairly clear and well written concerning your responsibilities as an application developer. Firstly there is a distinction based on where the data comes from: (more…)

Teaser – Let the Spoofing Begin…

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

We have updated the website’s placeholder with a simple teaser that is available as a Facebook application.

After Dave’s early test to write a simple application that would dump all your data and some from your friends, I started to use the same technique but this time to do something with bits of this information. Namely, get some of your friends’ names and insert that into a partly predetermined chunk of text.

Even though this is all quite trivial, we think it’s a rather nice demonstration on how easy identity spoofing can be achieved by third-party applications. When you allow a Facebook application to have access to your profile, you let an unknown piece of code, written by who knows who, access to a lot of your data, and even though you are always warned about this, it is highly questionable that you actually realize what it implies. Similarly we have been agreeing for more than a decade to all kind of abusive software EULA without reading and understanding their consequences.

In terms of spoofing, based on the information pulled from your profile, it would be relatively easy to write a malicious chatterbot or come up with a design trick that could partly impersonate someone you know, pretend to be in your network of friends or a trustworthy known entity in order to pull more sensitive information from you.

More on that and the “Eliza effect” when we will start working on some bots for the game… Meanwhile you can check the simple pseudo spoof code here.

A logo

Friday, June 11th, 2010

logo Naked on Pluto blog preview

Here it is, a logo for Naked on Pluto! It has yet to be decided whether or not it is permanent or temporary, but for now the project can be identified in the blink of an eye.

Simplicity rules. Google font OFL Sorts Mill Goudy TT ¶ reversed.

Revving up the engines

Friday, June 4th, 2010

A tentative first post from me! I’ve collected together some of the R&D experiments I’ve been developing recently and put them on our fresh and shiny new git repository.

Small steps to begin with, but we have some client/server communication happening between javascript and scheme (possibly more on the gory tech details later) and an teeny exploratory facebook api app (definitely more on that soon).

A largish chunk of the code is a simple build-your-own text adventure web app which is explained a little more here, and will be the basis of further experimentation to come.