<![CDATA[World Blender - Blog]]>Wed, 17 Sep 2014 22:20:39 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Augmented Reality (AR) fun]]>Mon, 10 Jan 2011 22:10:50 GMThttp://www.worldblender.com/blog/augmented-reality-ar-funWhen I was in college, I used a chunk of my senior year to work with something called a CAVE (CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment) in the Cornell Theory Center.  At the time, some of the coolest cutting-edge technologies (to me) were the building blocks of virtual reality.  But these days augmented reality applications are all the rage because we're mobile with our computers and communications, and we've already seen lots of pretty convincing 3D virtual worlds in the movies and console games of the last 20 years.  Heck, our consoles even let us move our bodies to interact with these worlds - nearly providing the full VR experiences envisioned in science fiction and academia of decades past.  AR is the new VR - the category with the most mind-blowing opportunities and never-before-seen innovations.

So today I spent some time checking out the latest augmented reality products.  Very cool stuff.  

My top picks:
1. Most awe-insipiring-demo: World Lens.
(The video looks significantly better than the real app performance I saw on iphone 3GS and 4 in the office, but I'm cheering them on to keep executing and catch up with their vision).
2. The greatest potential for new kinds of games: Avatar AR card/action figures
3. The best business potential: Rayban virtual mirror.
(Every single apparel merchant will need this to compete online in the near future): 

If you want to see more, here are two lists worth checking out:
1. http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/top-10-augmented-reality-examples/
2. http://www.iphoneness.com/iphone-apps/best-augmented-reality-iphone-applications/

What do you think?  What are the absolute best AR products, games, and promotions to date?

Thanks for reading,
- Mike.]]>
<![CDATA[World Blender Interview]]>Tue, 04 Jan 2011 00:27:40 GMThttp://www.worldblender.com/blog/world-blender-interviewTrevor from Fresh Consulting interviewed us recently, did a really thorough write-up, and even took the extra step of making cartoon caricatures of the founding team.

Read the interview here.

<![CDATA[Happy New Year]]>Mon, 03 Jan 2011 21:07:07 GMThttp://www.worldblender.com/blog/happy-new-yearWelcome to 2011.  The year of real-world games.  :-)

Attention UW students: as you kick off your Winter quarter, you can now enter a gpsAssassin contest to kill your friends and neighbors and win fabulous prizes.  Check it out!

Thanks for reading,
<![CDATA[Full-immersion vs. semi-casual.]]>Tue, 28 Dec 2010 00:49:16 GMThttp://www.worldblender.com/blog/full-immersion-vs-semi-casualWhen we first teamed up on World Blender - there was a very clear vision in my mind of a certain kind of new  game that would offer immersive gameplay grounded in the real world.  I thought of that old comic, "spy vs. spy" with these two comical cloak and dagger guys always planning elaborate ways to kill each other.  And I just thought of how much fun it could be to try to gank your buddy every day at work and avoid getting ganked yourself.  Some afternoon, you'd say "oh, hold on a second, I have a call" and then use your phone to virtually smash him with a giant mallet.  Then the next morning, you'd find out he'd left a bomb for you in the elevator when your phone started ringing and vibrating in your pants.  Another day, you'd be coming back from lunch at separate places, and see each other, and go into one of those gunslinger-style trances before whipping out your phones and having a virtual fire-fight.  Within a day or two, this spawned the related idea of immersive lunch-time capture the flag battles with teams wielding machine guns, grenades, land mines, shields, and sniper mode via the phones camera.   Players would have the ear buds in for VoIP and 3D audio, but use their eyes to look around the real world for other players and their real feet to move.  

Then we prototyped a few games that were a little bit like this (but in 2D).  When we playtested them with friends and other entrepreneurs, the earliest and most consistent feedback was "well, I didn't feel like going outside at the time, so I only played for a minute to try to kill so-and-so, but so-and-so was shooting at me and I more or less gave up and died."  The majority of these playtesters were interested in the game and even would have liked to win it, but they wanted a semi-casual game experience where they could pick up the phone and play for a few minutes wherever they were at the time.  They weren't willing to rearrange an hour of their day in order to play.  

This post isn't about which kind of game is better.  Both full-immersion and semi-casual games will be built and played in the next few years, and both types can incorporate real people and places to make for more engaging experiences and greater re-playability.  I also think that some kinds of carefully designed games can appeal to both kind of players.  The designs of these games will ensure that the people who are really trying to be champions can move around a lot and plan elaborate strategies for some advantage in the games, and also ensure that the basic experience of opening up the game 1-5 times a day in the the same few places is also a fun routine for the casual player.

But what I'd like to hear from you is: which kind of game would you most want to install and play?  Run-around team-based capture the flag?  Or a future Angry birds where the pigs live in the real buildings all around you and you have to smash them down by sling-shotting your arsenal of birds from your actual distance away?

Thanks for reading,
<![CDATA["I used to check-in with Foursquare...but now I play gpsAssassin instead"]]>Wed, 15 Dec 2010 23:52:31 GMThttp://www.worldblender.com/blog/i-used-to-check-in-with-foursquarebut-now-i-play-gpsassassin-insteadIn the life of an early start-up, "validation" is super important.  I don't mean validation in the form of people telling you you're smart and they're sure you'll succeed.  I mean validation in the form of "figuring out whether customers really want what you're building." 

There are lots of ways to try to get a little bit of validation: market research, user surveys, usability tests, focus groups, user advisory panels, closed beta tests, etc.  But I've been through enough software development to know that most of these things only help a little bit.  You still do them because they're better than nothing, but the environments are artificial and it's easy to misinterpret the results.

The best validation for a startup (other than hard revenue numbers), is the actions and stories from users after they've used a product for their own reasons.  Since gpsAssassin is live in iTunes, World Blender now gets this kind of validation.

Last week, a recent college grad who'd seen me present in Seattle asked me what level I'd reached in gpsAssassin.  He was at level 17 and wanted to know how he stacked up to other players.  He'd never been killed and was pretty proud of that fact.  We talked for a while about what he really liked in the game and how often he was playing it.  That's when he mentioned Foursquare.  "You know, I used to check-in with Foursquare whenever I got to someplace new.  But now I play gpsAssassin instead." 

He'd actually changed his daily routine.  He used to go through a check-in ritual, and now he goes through a gpsAssassin ritual to find players nearby and fight with them.  To me, this really means something.  It validates that people like him really want to play games like ours.

Thanks for reading,
- Mike.
<![CDATA[Join us for the journey]]>Wed, 15 Dec 2010 23:08:27 GMThttp://www.worldblender.com/blog/join-us-for-the-journeyA few weeks ago I was in New York at a TechStars event and I met Micah Baldwin from Graphic.ly.   He was leading a discussion about user communities.  He kept emphasizing something that stuck with me, which is "once you commit to a really open relationship with your community, it's no longer your company.  It becomes something that belongs to all of you."

Here at World Blender we move fast and release often.  We build great real-world games that are fun to play again and again because of the interactions between players.  And we believe that we can do all this best if we create a home for people who are really excited by these kinds of games, who want to play and talk about them, and actively participate in their development.

So let me formally extend the invitation.  If you believe in the vision of more engaging gameplay grounded in the real world and played between real people...  If you're willing to contribute to the discussion and play these games early to help make them into what they could be...  If you love keeping up with all the latest developments in augmented reality location-based games and social network phenomena... then come join us.  Fill out our playtest form today.  Comment on our blog posts.  Post in the forums.  And welcome to the company.

- Mike.
<![CDATA[Real-world games, and why we need them.]]>Wed, 15 Dec 2010 02:42:33 GMThttp://www.worldblender.com/blog/real-world-games-and-why-we-need-themI've been talking to a lot of people in the last few months about what we're doing at World Blender.  So I've had lots of chances to try to sum up what makes us unique.  I've tried "gps" and "location-based" and "social" and "augmented reality" and "mobile devices" and all kinds of stuff.  But most people just heard "blah blah blah blah games".  So I kept searching for better words.

The phrase I've been using lately is "real-world games."  As in, "World Blender is building the network and community for real-world games."  This usually results in the question: "what's a real-world game?"  And then I can explain.  "By real-world games, I mean games you play on your phone, iPod, or laptop that use your location in the real world as part of the game, and you play with other real people."  Next I give an example: "OK, you're in line at Starbucks and you have 5 minutes to kill.  You pull out your phone to play a game and what do you pick?  A game that's fun, but exactly the same no matter where you are?  Or the game that offers you something different this time, right here, right now, because you're in this particular starbucks, and the other players are where they are in the world."

Angry birds is great and all, but I know there are a lot of people who will love the option to play the real-world game and surprise a friend nearby, dominate their city block, or collaborate with their neighbors.  Real-world games can offer something richer: the chance to discover something new wherever you are and the chance to compete against other people and create stories worth re-telling.

Questions for you:
1. What do you think of the phrase "Real-world games?"  Does that sum it up?  Is there a better way to capture it?
2. Are you someone who will choose to play real-world games when you have the choice?  Or are you happy to play Angry Birds no matter where you are in the world because it's just that much fun?

Thanks for reading.
- Mike.