Location-Based Mobile Gaming


A report on Multiplayer Collaboration for Java Enabled Handsets

Philip Wogart

Bartlett School of Graduate Studies

University College London

This dissertation is submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a

Master of Science Degree in Adaptive Architecture & Computation

University of London

September 2007

This dissertation reports on current mobile phone technology and the software development for its games. In particular, this thesis will examine how these devices offer us a unique combination of mobility and connectivity that alters the way we conduct our daily lives and interact in the urban landscape.

As computing power ever increases and miniaturises, computation can now offer us optimisation and simulations based on data retrieved from any particular environment. However, what is of interest here is not how we can make better use of space, rather how this technology can be used to change our perception of a place. My aims herein are to create network interactions through gameplay between people, their phones and the environment.

With the combination of software and hardware development this thesis details an interactive game based on mobile phone technology that combines the classical geo-spatial elements of physical games with the increased level of complex interactivity that technology brings to modern gameplay. The software integrates several of the pervasive embedded technologies found in mobile phone devices. The interactions between these technologies are technically scrutinized in laboratory tests as well as theoretically placed within a games taxonomy. The importance of establishing a theoretical framework for the project is as much a part of the research questions being examined as the design and development of the game itself.

In conclusion beyond the theory and practical elements, there are a variety of possibilities for future developments and deployment presented in and outside the realm of games that will be discussed. The research will also demonstrate that the interactions between humans and mobile computing within gameplay scenarios and team dynamics show the real value in the emerging field of multiplayer mobile phone games.

CONTENTS Introduction Mobile Phones Functionality Game Premise Computer Requirements Project Goals Future Deployment Contributions

THEORETICAL HYPOTHESIS Agonistic Interactions Homo Ludens Play by Definition Work in the New Ludenic Age Technologies of Spatiality Play Spaces in Our Digital Era Games as Socio-Spatial Systems Massively Multiplayer and Alternate Reality Spatial Practices Street Tactics Structuring Spaces, Influencing Design Pervasive Gaming

CAPTURE THE FLAG over BLUETOOTH Game Concept Introduction Background Adaptations Functional Specifications Game Design Foundation Process Locative Extensions Interface Design Digital Cartography Data Mapping Communicating Navigating Functional Considerations Technical Specifications Bluetooth Simulation Porting Connectivity Outdoor Testing Future Developments Next Steps

CONCLUSIONS & REFERENCES Conclusion Research for Future Deployments Comparative Notes Practice & Theory References

With many thanks to my wife Nicola Elaine Watson and parents Madalena & Jan Peter Wogart. Without their support this Masters would have never started and certainly never finished! I would also like to thank Alasdair Turner, Chiron Mottram & Francis Li For all the help, ideas and especially their patience. And finally a special thanks to the editors… My brother Marcus & mother-in-law Jeanne.

This work is dedicated in the memory of Sean Henry Watson & John Allen Gable.



Mobile Phones Since its introduction to the commercial market less than thirty years ago, the handheld mobile phone has proliferated and become an almost ubiquitous commodity for the 21st century. With its low manufacturing costs and rapid development and deployment within the mobile telecommunications infrastructure, the number of mobile phone subscribers has already surpassed that of fixed-line telephony1 coming in at an estimated 2.14 billion users in 2005.2 The GSM Association’s commissioned study on worldwide coverage states that “mobile networks now cover 80 percent of the world’s population, double the level of 2000.” With these massive growth and penetration indications, it is clear that handheld devices have become a global phenomenon for this century.

Functionality Within the research and development field for mobile phone handsets, there is a new phenomenon occurring. The convergence of services within mobiles can be noted as the current market driving force behind new developments. First, there were the messaging services that added new methods of communications to handsets. Beginning with the simple messaging service, the SMS, has expanded to include services like picture messaging (MMS) and mobile e-mailing. That development has led to the incorporation of the personal digital assistants (PDAs) for extended services into the organisational and business related arenas. Finally, the newest market trends involve entertainment on mobile phones. Though this encompasses several mobile content initiatives, the big four include: information and data services (mobile internet), digital mp3 music, digital video and mobile television, and last but not least mobile phone gaming.

It is this report’s intention to evaluate mobile games as a field of research and theory that involves new software models in relation to its hardware and various pervasive phone features. Of particular interest is the cutting edge work into multiplayer action and collaboration. It is within these research criteria that a prototype project is inscribed and tested. The game attempts to investigate the possibility of how mobile games can reinvest physical spaces with new meaning, whilst at the same time testing and pushing the capabilities of wireless devices.

1 ITU – World Telecommunications Development Report. 1999 2 Informa Telecoms & Media – Global Mobile Subscriber Database


Game Premise Since the advent of computers, games have been programmed into them.[3] Soon after the arrival of the internet, various types of digital multiplayer domains were created.[14] Now that portable handheld technologies are powerful enough to be used for computing, games for mobiles are developing at an astonishing rate. The majority of this content takes its inspiration either from licensed products (films, etc.) or by the remaking of successful console, handheld or even older games from the past by creating shiny new interfaces. This successful reminiscing is a standard practice throughout the industry. The idea behind the game, Capture The Flag over Bluetooth (CTFoB), intends t0 bring this obsession with reinventing retro culture to the mobile gaming market. In addition, CTFoB employs the embedded functionalities on mobile phones to adapt and enhance gameplay, by bridging the gap between digital and physical spaces. Many in academia approve of this notion and research new methods to “computer enhance” games.

It is possible to enhance traditional games with computer and/or sensor technology. However, basically all the games can be transformed to “pure” computer games while retaining most of their rules and mechanics. Still, this would probably result in the loss of at least one of the factors we regard to be significant, namely social interactivity, co-location or the tactile and visual qualities.

It is these significant factors that emerge in studies as the beneficial attributes to gaming. Originally, Capture the Flag was an excuse for kids to get out of the house for long periods of time on weekends to meet up with their mates and interact on a physically and mentally competitive level. Capture the Flag combines the best qualities of strategic type board games with the competitiveness and collaboration of a non-contact team sport, but also just as simple as playing tag. By setting the game in very urban public spaces that are not strictly residential and introducing mobile phones into the mix affords the game a new life and meaning.

Computer Requirements The research herein examines the development of a game for Java enabled handsets, whereby the application can be coded and emulated on personal computers and/or notebook; and then exported to devices that support the J2ME profiles (Java 2 Micro Edition). The project is a game prototype written in Mobile Processing. This Application Programming Interface (API) is based on Java and has a built-in text editor/debugger as well as featuring several libraries that extend and simplify the usage of the embedded services on mobile devices. In addition the project research analyses various mobile phones and their hardware features in relation to the project’s goals.

Project Goals There are three distinct aspects to the game prototype for CTFoB that qualify it as a ‘on-the-street’ multiplayer mobile phone game.
1. The interface is built specifically for handheld devices to aid active “street-level” gameplay. This entails all the interaction design between phone and user. 2. A secondary interface focuses on the connectivity of the gamers themselves; in particular how communication can be established for corresponding between team-mates and for refereeing. 3. Most crucial of the three is the Bluetooth connectivity between phones which creates multiplayer interactions that are dependent on opponents’ locations on the street.

These aspects are prototyped separately and examined as singular entities within this dissertation report.

Future Deployment By combining all the elements in the project with a comprehensive game design document; a usability study could verify that it not only works but also determine its playability as an urban street game. Developing the next generation of mobile content will of course be dependent on the hardware and software. Firstly, the capabilities of the mobile devices and robustness of the infrastructure that contains them must be considered. Then there is also the user’s interaction with the device which is as important as the hardware features. The challenge to design interfaces that are intuitive aids in the consumer/user ability to access new services more easily. The concluding research in this report then points to several hardware developments and interface design issues that can evolve the game of CTFoB to engage larger audiences and create more interesting interactive street gameplay.

Contributions The proceeding sections are not only devoted to building the framework within which CTFoB resides, but also explores theoretical social avenues and how they substantiate the microcosm of urban street games. To introduce the concepts of play and space, a sociological discourse illustrates how influential a phenomenology both are in today’s complex environments. This critical examination reckons that the spatiality of the city and mobility of its inhabitants display ample evidence to the inevitability of play in 21st century interactions, and also demonstrate how certain technological tools alter traditional notions of space. Then by taking these vital aspects that make the project an ‘on-the-street’ game, the picture of the urban pitch and the technology it appropriates reveals how multiplayer games might be viewed as socio-spatial systems. This theoretical analysis supplies weight to the aforementioned projects goal’s arguments as the principal ‘end-effectors’ of gameplay. Therefore, it is not just that these embraced pervasive technologies are being explored for the sake of themselves; rather that this report highlights mobile gaming as an important means for interaction in the 21st century.




Agonistic Interactions

To set up the relevance of (computer supported) games in this new century, we must first examine the two aspects that render it such a powerful medium. When discussing games from a purely social perspective, it becomes impossible to deny or underestimate the significance of the play factor. This section looks to disclose the humanistic sociology behind play by way of a concise definition. This allows play to be applied to cultural activities that might not at first conceive its presence within them. More obvious is the computational connection, whereby technological innovation provides novel presentations and forms for play. The particulars of games and technology are only one avenue for the distribution of play. The ontology of play can then be impressed upon to examine certain relevant urban spatial practices, especially in conjunction with Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW).[17] This suggests that the processes of technology and collaboration are vital acts to the production of play spaces in the beginning of the 21st century.

Homo Ludens There is a certain anthropological view that concludes that civilization in its earlier phases was played. Johan Huizinga suggests that play disappears behind cultural phenomena only to assert itself instinctually through interaction and behaviour, thereby “drowning the individual and the mass in the intoxication of an immense game.”[21] This does not mean play and culture are distinctively separate nor is it some evolutionary process from one to the other, rather his whole premise is that culture arises in the form of play. Though not necessarily a popular view of history and bordering on more of a philosophical stance; Huizinga carefully illustrates an abundance of historical phenomena and occurrences which proliferates the active play-element throughout human civilization. From such varying activities as the law, war and art to topics like philosophy and language, all will contain the ‘agon’, or contest, the play-element that breathes from these activities. What is of particular interest here is not Huizinga’s unique perspective, but how he defines play as well as his notions of play in contemporary culture.

Play by Definition During the eighteenth century Enlightenment when reason was hailed as the authoritative system which would allow human beings to obtain “objective truth about the universe”, the philosopher Friedrich Schiller maintained that man plays only when he is in the full sense of the word a man, and he is only wholly man when he is playing. Though these distinctions are not in competition with one another, the element of play is irreducibly a facet of all cultures and societies. Huizinga defines play broadly as follows:

Summing up the formal characteristics of play we might call it a free activity standing quite consciously outside “ordinary” life as being “not serious,” but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly...[Whilst this is a tantalising paradox: simultaneously being “not serious” and “intensely and utterly” absorbed; Huizinga continues eloquently]...It is an activity connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained by it. It proceeds within its own proper boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules and in an orderly manner. It promotes the formation of social groupings which tend to surround themselves wit h secrecy and to stress their difference from the common world by disguise or other means.

Huizinga maintains that playing, like a religious ceremony, separates people from the homogeneity of space and time by creating a united closed world for its participants. By removing it from the ordinary, delineating it with rules and then secluding it within a certain allotted time and space, pure-play becomes the ‘mysterious’ and ‘serious’ practices of human behaviour and interaction. Huizinga has another more terse definition of play:

Play is a voluntary activity or occupation executed within certain fixed limits of time and place, according to rules freely accepted but absolutely binding, having its aim within itself and accompanied by a feeling of tension, joy, and the consciousness that it is ‘different’ from ‘ordinary life’.

With these definitions, or better yet parameters on play, it is transparent that games are play’s most explicit champion. However, when Huizinga was writing his thesis on play throughout the ages at the onset of World War II, he was convinced that the play factor had already atrophied, that pure-play was lost to that contemporary era. Even in the case of modern organised sport, Huizinga relinquishes it as only nominal play, for its “overseriousness” gets the better of itself and transforms it into kind of business unto itself, a commercial racket. For that matter, games have annexed themselves as well, with the seriousness of public competitions, championships, world tournaments; whilst always the sum total still felt as play. Huizinga is the first to admit that assessing play “in the confusion of modern life is bound to lead us to contradictory conclusions” (and Huizinga’s modern times were already three quarters of a century ago).

In 2000 James E. Combs described these broader circumstances in the context of the ‘liminal’ age of today. In Play World: The Emergence of the New Ludenic Age, Combs

continues Huizinga’s comprehensive study of human activity in terms of play, but follows

on to suggest play as a procept1 in the 21st century. His hypothesis states the objectives of cultural innovation are spreading the means and the idea of play ubiquitiously and undeniably throughout the globe. This rapidly developing globalisation represents a post-intellectual society that is displacing knowledge for information, high for popular culture and experiencing reality through mediated sources.2 This post-intellectual thesis is controversial; but asserts that this technologically ‘liminal’ age is positing play as the transformative process behind the changes in “the way we live” today.

Work in the New Ludenic Age What is left of play becomes an undercurrent or a secondary characteristic. In spite of this, play sustains a “universal sway” that infiltrates new spheres in the modern era. Most applicably in business, commercial competition and statistics bring a new sporting element to economics where there was not one before. When commercial and technological interests are more concerned with figures like the highest turnover, the largest profit margin or even the fastest or biggest haul, a ludenic sphere opens inside the utilitarian world of business. This tradition has continued into the late 20th century.

The old business hierarchy itself has been vanquished for more fluid organisations of cooperative labour and freelancing ‘workplayers’. Big business headquarters are dumping the old division of labour model for a more relaxed playful attitude towards group efforts. Though miles way from the sweatshop mentality, innovation is now energised in this new creative format. Professionals work and play with the same productive gusto. From headquarters in Beaverton, Cupertino and Redmond to the media hubs of Manhattan and London, the shift is not only in business operations and the innovative design concepts for the workplace[27], but also how the “unorganised person”3 and his/her collaborators are changing the workflow and consequently altering the flow of the workday.

This mobile workforce of “cosmopolitan transit loungers” is producing content that is even more accessible than them. This platform for distribution presents itself as the genesis for the new global collaborations that are taking place in this century. Examples of Indian ‘outsourcing’, ‘offshoring’ in China, “in-sourcing” consultancy and flexibly efficient ‘supply-chaining’ are a sign of the success of a distributed process in communication and

1 A procept is an amalgam of three components (orig. mathematics): “a process which produces an object and a symbol which is used to represent either process or object/outcome.” 2 Here play is resurrected in the last quarter of twentieth century in three variant hypothesises all of which see the growth of our play culture not stemming from a post-modern age, but representative of a post-intellectual society. 3 “mobile and multi-skilled worker who expects the workday and the workplace to be flexible and congenial”


information management gripping the private sector. These collaborations, as such, are not ground-breaking trends; however, incorporating many cutting-edge technological innovations has enabled the unparalleled streamlining of manufacturing processes and support services. This digital workflow of content and services has levelled the playing field in the global market making the workplace location almost a non sequitur.[19]

These stark results for the business world, in terms of competitive advantages, represent how technological fluency renders drastic change in macroeconomic policy and the social practices embedded in corporate industry. However, globalisation is not just about economic derivatives; other parts of society appropriate these new innovations as well and in an even more playful manner than big business. By shedding light on other facets of culture with this phenomenology, there is room to examine a veritable plethora of spaces and methods.

It is not that computers are becoming ubiquitous or disappearing altogether. Nor is it that interaction will be tangible...The real revolution is that computing is leaving the confines of task-orientated, rational, ‘left-brain’ work, and is set to join us...on the street, at parties, on lonely mountaintops – everywhere.

Technologies of Spatiality What Gaver observes in relation to computing are two fold: first, how the solo engagement with technology is not just part of the routine workday anymore; and second, how computation is then consequently affecting the methods and practices of our interactions with one other. Both of these dimensions have spatial qualities that can be scrutinized in relation to their interfaces; or better understood as the means of Human Computer Interaction (HCI). By examining the interactions within the present play formula helps to explain technology’s spatiality.

What is first pertinent to note is how the individual is “in-forming”[19] him/herself; Friedman’s play on words here is in its own right an innovative collaboration. The list of business interactions, he now ascribes to the individual as means of self-collaboration. This combination represents how today’s empowered user consumes everything from knowledge bases to entertainment via a ‘mediated experience’4. But it is the individual

12 4 “the intermediary link or a transference exclusively through technological services.”

who instigates this active play learning to navigate an “identity voyage”[13]. What becomes evident is that ‘being online’ and playing are analogous. For the manner in which the Internet currently operates, scarcely shows a propensity towards passivity or an overly serious manner.

When Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web in 1991 to better share research papers across the internet, it heralded a new beginning for content and its distribution. In this respect the individual was not alone in the quest for discovery. The World Wide Web is certainly the principal illustrative example of a digital play space innovation; but it is the various unique methods within this technology for connecting its users that move well beyond an individual’s travels and goes on to support the formation of new “mysterious” and “serious” play-groups. With these technologies enabling us to spectate, collaborate and even compete across enormous distances, the play-sphere evolves by blurring boundaries and becoming a massive common ground for various interactive spaces to meet.

The technologically mediated world does not stand apart from the physical world within which it is embedded; rather, it provides a new set of ways for that physical world to be understood and appropriated. Technological mediation supports and conditions the emergence of new cultural practices, not by creating a distinct sphere of practice but by opening up new forms of practice within the everyday world, reflecting and conditioning the emergence of new forms of environmental knowing.

This suggests a broadening description of ‘cyberspace’ to include any digital or cross media experience. And what follows are exactly those examples and models that keep expanding the comprehension and ability to interact in the real world environment. The concept of research into interactions today has exploded so rapidly that it now examines a multitude of playful human collaborations – from within established Collaborative Virtual Environments (CVEs) to synchronous Augmented Realities for collaborative design to orchestrated Mixed Reality projects. The particular interests of HCI research look at the connections between these variant ‘realities’ and the physical one that everyone inhabits.

Play Spaces in Our Digital Era The communities borne out of and the activities played out in cyberspace are quintessentially social spaces. While its inheritance from Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs) and their Object-Orientated derivatives (MOOs) are apparent; there is a real difficulty in differentiating the fictional “metaverse”[35] of fifteen years ago with the online virtual

environment realms of first ActiveWorlds and especially now of SecondLife. What was once a mere gaming experience has now outgrown the initial play-sphere to incorporate other social interactions, including the creation of virtual economies. Creating ‘real’ microeconomies that deal in virtual money links serious matters of work, business and intellectual property to the realm of serious competitive play. Be sure that this is not ignoring or dismissing the importance of games, for the next section will evaluate those trends in more depth.

Social networking is not exclusive to Distributed Virtual Environments; web portals of differing content specifications develop under the same principles. By uploading your digitally “in-formed” presence, cooperative discussions and divisive arguments abound amongst the sharing and ‘workplaying’ to be found in the wide variety of social networking spaces.5 However, the idea for them derives from forums originally bred out of open-source communities. Software development in this manner is surprisingly low-key, but firmly established and still very prevalent. This ‘workplaying’ ethic established the dominant web server technology Apache, Linux as the third alternative operating system, and even more recently the Processing API. So no matter what method of mediation (whether textual or graphical) or content produced (mere chats, playing games, creating and sharing multimedia or even developing software), the constantly morphing surface of the web can certainly be circumscribed within the previously defined play-elements of social interaction. There are many other sociological points to distill from the online phenomenon – from why individuals decide to contribute to virtual communities in the first place[22] to what affordances and forms governances might well be applied[1] – but there are other methods and spaces that need introducing to further the play space model.

By moving away from the distributed arrangement inherent in online virtual communities to more collocative technologies, we can reinsert the importance of real locations and environments to collaborative interactions. This is not the only visible distinction when evaluating the differences between CVEs and Augmented Reality. AR, by definition, seeks to augment and change the visual data or cues in the real world through the inclusion of 3D generated graphics and computer data. This superimposing or dissolving of digital artefacts into the environment greatly differs from the objective goals of ‘immersion’ and subjective quantification studies of ‘presence’ in VEs.[33,34,39] The following example implements an AR architecture that not only informs on new collaborative design efforts, but also uses play as an instructive model for exhibiting interactions: human-to-human, human-to-computer, human-to-simulation.

14 5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites

The group project, known as ARTHUR6 integrates an augmented round table for interactive form creation for collaborative design discussions and exercises. By removing traditional CAD designs from their desktop environment, ARTHUR’s system integrates MicroStation’s DGN file into an AR interface. In addition to the head-mounted display the system includes: (1) computer vision techniques that recognise user movements, gestures and tools7 to allow model manipulation; and (2) an AR framework to support all device connections and communications, which provides the seamlessly identical presentation to multiple users around the table. There is even a separate application program to adapt and configure the entire interface.

As reported by A.F. gen. Schieck, et al. in “Interactive Space Generation Through Play”, the tests carried out on ARTHUR exemplify two unique ‘workplaying’ properties. First, the exploration beyond the traditional WIMP (windows, icon, menu, pointing device) user interface identifies and enhances the methods of design through play and its unique access to and display of digital information on the augmented round table. This really demonstrates the harnessing of computational power to customise and integrate new collaborative (multiplayer) scenarios.


In conjunction, the ability to alter real world spaces and alter human practices through a computer playing out an agent simulation is the second exemplifier. In no way exclusive to this project, autonomous software agents act out their own programmed agenda in and/or on an environment (and not necessarily a virtual one as the next section shows). Whether this agenda can describe natural human behaviour/movement[36] are beyond the scope of this thesis; however, as observed in ARTHUR, the simulated pedestrian movement affects collaborative design pairings. These tests and the resulting questionnaires show the ‘workplaying’ phenomenon to be more insightful for designers

6 Augmented Round Table for ArcHitecture and URban Planning 7 3D-pointer and PHO wands


cooperating on a public space creation task. In this respect, AR is certainly pushing the envelope of Computer Support Cooperative Work. The influence the ARTHUR project brings to bear on the shifting notions of interface and collaboration through its specific interactions are now readily apparent; however, also evident in this shift is how the play format is instinctively aligning itself as an appropriate methodology when it comes to using and integrating the latest technologies.

This section devotes itself to demonstrating play methodically in human (computer) practices and interactions. First, by setting a historical and sociological precedent within the parameters of play reveals a phenomenology arising in culture. Then exposing this play element in the private sector, a professional world where one would least expect to find play, unexpected ludenic factors arrise and proliferate in the new globalised world. This ‘workplaying’ of the 21st century owes much its development to communications technology and the interactive social practices occurring in these innovative environments. Finally, these spaces are also where individuals discover play learning and where groups start learning to play. And multiplayer action is the whole reason for this discourse into play. Connecting, cooperating, competing, collaborating; all these synonyms for multiplayer games have just been used to describe professional work interactions, social networking technologies and serious scientific research.

The acceptance of play phenomenon does not mandate the validation of games nor is this sociological framework the only method for examining them.[24] However, when considering computer games, their design and the spaces they inhabit, this perspective delivers a sense of historicity from which to examine new multimodal multiplayer formats. The following section first goes about detailing the online gaming phenomenon; similar in structure and practice to virtual communities these direct descendants of role-playing games (RPGs) introduce the “always on” feature to games. Then with a more nuanced look into location based media and other methods such as event-driven games, the framework for encapsulating CTFoB will be complete.


Games as Socio-Spatial Systems

Games and play are interrelated activities, but hardly identical in nature. Games appear to incorporate an element of performance to entertainment; but as the previous section bears witness, not all playful activities are games (i.e. ‘workplaying’). The reverse can also be said that the majority of games have components/aspects that are played. The elements of gameplay1 in a system “engage [players] in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome.”[32] However similar, this concise designation is to the play definition, it only vaguely identifies the boundaries of game worlds. With such diverse methods and practices for producing and actuating games, as well as the abundance of studies and research that concern themselves with classifying games[8] to the particulars of game theory[28], the concerns within the theoretical portion of this report examine only a subset of (computer supported) games; and in particular those that move beyond single-player action by integrating cooperative competitive behaviour into their game systems. A long tradition of multiple users in pervasive games and event-driven games exists; and they exploit socio-spatial qualities within them.

Massively Multiplayer and Alternate Reality As a genre of games, there are unique aspects that characterise gameplay and its progression that push forward the theory of this paper. Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs)2 and its various transformations3 involve large numbers of individual players in a single game world. Set up like other online Virtual Environments, a MMOG’s simple variant is its game mentality. This difference supports a ‘persistent world’4 for cooperative gameplay. Known as the ‘always on’ phenomenon, the game continues playing regardless of whether or not anyone else is; and conversely a player’s actions bear weight and consequence that change a persistent universe. Of course, the analogy here is with the real world and how humans can have an effect or a lack thereof on an environment. The game system stands apart from its characters; however, the two influence one another greatly. This devotion to player interaction through cooperative effort and the formation of groups adds social practices as an element of gameplay and integrates this within a well defined space for it to occur.

1 “performance-orientated stimulation” (see Gameplay versus Toyplay distinction [17]) 2 See: Entropia Universe, EverQuest, World of Warcraft, Lineage, Industryplayer, and EVE Online 3 Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG); Massively Multiplayer Online Real-Time Strategy Game (MMORTS); Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter (MMOFPS); Massively Multiplayer Online Tycoon Game (MMOTG); Massively Multiplayer Online Social Game (MMOSG); Massively Multiplayer Collaborative Art Project (MMCAP) 4 is a virtual world (often in a fantasy setting) that is used as a setting for a role-playing game, often online. The world is always available and world events happen continually.


Almost the exact opposite applies to Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). While both exhibit this strong tendency towards cooperation to influence their respective game worlds, ARGs generally lack a game mentality. Instead the objectives here attempt to deliver an interactive narrative experience to their players through any number of mediated channels (i.e. websites, blogs, texts, adverts, or any other space/meduim of transmission)5. By breaking up the story into events, it becomes the role of the players to reassemble the bits to drive the plot onwards and affect its outcome. Games of this nature will act out and appropriate reality for a certain period of time until a story’s conclusion. The result is a design philosophy that leads to a game that feels much more real. Everything within the game world believes itself to be true and reacts accordingly - it is not a game. The phrase “This is Not a Game”, coined by Elan Lee at the 2001 Games Development Conference, sums up not only the principles at work, but also how the ways of interacting in such a world set in motion the collaborative task drive. ARGs expand the realm of games through a merging of platforms, technologies and medias to incorporate a whole different set of gameplay experiences and mechanics than the ones at work in the Massively Multiplayer scenarios.

Presenting ARGs and MMOGs side by side furthers the hypothesis as evidence for games as socio-spatial systems. This juxtaposition clearly reflects the social dynamics in play, however, to grasp the pervasive and locative elements within CTFoB and other games that share the same space, an examination of spatial practices ensues. By reverting to a sociological discourse again, the particulars here examine the processes of strategic versus tactical techniques. These very different types of practices (available to players and designers alike) help the cohesion of technology with social collaboration in a physical space.

Spatial Practices In his section Trajectories, tactics and rhetorics, Michel de Certeau portrays general “ways of operating” as the Greek ‘metis’,6 a subversive playfulness exemplified in the individual consumer’s tactical trajectories within the urban environment. “The user of the city picks out certain fragments of the statement in order to actualise them in secret.”[2] These momentarily discreet trajectories elude transcription and statistical analysis because they cannot account for their play form.[11] Huizinga’s orphaned bricolage7, is now adopted here by de Certeau to annunciate his theoretical metaphor “the pedestrian speech act”, which explains the tactical “phrasing” of a city user’s movements.

5 Examples include: Perplex City, I Love Bees, The Beast, Nokia Game, Push, Nevada and The Art of the Heist 6 “immemorial intelligence displayed in the tricks and imitations of plants and fishes” 7 “artisan-like inventiveness”


What is key to de Certeau’s thesis is the clear differentiation between strategy and tactics, each with their own relationship to spatial discourse. The differences arise in their methodologies. The strategic seeks to perpetuate itself through isolation from the ‘environment’ by making its design applicable to a variety of circumstances and situations. Whether its models are spatial in orientation (architectural/infrastructure) or not (networks/business), the goal is to distinguish the process from the environment or product in an attempt to comprehend and master its trajectories. Within the confines of spatial strategies, De Certeau asserts that this “ability to transform the uncertainties into readable spaces”[11] only permits the quantifying and measuring of traces left behind. These footprints of routes as strategic trajectories has the effect of making the actual operation – an individual’s movement through space – invisible. While this pleasurably secure global vantage might be useful in understanding overall planning, in contrast, tactics lack this locus point of view. They are understood by their fragmentary movements and opportunistic techniques. As an actuator for a moment in time, it can be said to define a space as much as it is defined by it.

If in discourse the city serves as a totalising and almost mythical landmark for socioeconomic and political strategies, urban life increasingly permits the re-emergence of the element that the urbanistic project excluded…the city is left prey to contradictory movements that counter-balance and combine themselves outside the reach of panoptic power.

First suggested by Bentham for his design creation The Panopticon and later revised to become a Foucaultian concept[18,29], the ‘panoptic’ strategies adopted by early twentieth century planning that failed to work in the inner city built environment did not and would not account for an individual’s trajectories and appropriation of space.

Street Tactics Another means for considering this divide is to associate strategy and tactics to top-down and bottom-up design models, respectively; observing the inner workings of bottom-up design, one sees small local interactions that grow and develop into complex behaviours or even self-organisation. While this might be seen as a strategic vantage for witnessing emergence, the fact remains that every local interaction upon the system or physical interchange within it affects the movement and procedures of that model. Various research arenas are attempting to examine and utilise these interactions in computer simulations.[36] This would certainly appear to resonate with de Certeau’s understanding

of everyday tactics, and coincide with his idea of the “innumerable singularities” – a system of disseminated components (individuals) that quite literally spatialise and propagate the city. This breathing system is like a biological organism that can thrive as well as wither away. He goes on to account for the movements and trajectories of each individual by way of simile.

The act of walking is to the urban system what the speech act is to language or to the statement uttered. At the most elementary level, it has a triple ‘enunciative’ function: it is a process of appropriation of the topographic system on the part of the pedestrian (just as a speaker appropriates and takes on the language); it is a spatial acting-out of the place (just as the speech act is an acoustic acting-out of the language); and it implies relations amongst differentiated positions, that is, among pragmatic ‘contracts’ in the forms of movements (just as verbal enunciation is an ‘allocution’…and puts contracts between interlocutors into action). It thus seems possible to give a preliminary definition of walking as a space of enunciation.

With de Certeau’s emphasis and process intact, this metaphor can read much like a computer ‘function’: (1) gathering data via sensory input; (2) acting-out on that data, or operations on top of space; (3) “relations among differentiated positions” – the conditional statements of collaboration. This metaphorical deconstruction of De Certeau’s “pedestrian speech act” aims not to simplify or programmatise the enunciative process of inhabitation; but rather to understand the physicality of an individual’s relationship with space.[37] And by taking this one step further, the ‘function’ for tactics applies just as much to technology as it does an individual’s movement: appropriate, operate, communicate. The ‘function’ then grows exponentially when technology meets the multi-user scenario ‘on-the-street’. A relationship we can design for (in games).

Structuring Spaces, Influencing Design While the ‘function’ aids learning and awareness about the urban environment other design tactics like, “ambiguity and suggestion”[20] emerge to provide additional clues. These methods impel ludenic activity, and allow the individual to absorb and make space and technology their own. “To the extent that design is an exercise in power over the forms and functions of technology de Certeau points out that these take their shape only through the ways in which they are subsequently appropriated.”[17] The discrepancy and discontinuity for comprehending space (including the digital) will continue to be disputed amongst the arts and sciences in theory and practice; however, notions of

spaces are undeniably altered by the unusual mixture of technological hardware and computational design within urban spaces. The examination hereafter looks to demonstrate how both hardware and software can expose game design tactics in various pervasive gaming environments, thereby setting a foundation for gameplay and mechanics to emerge not only as part and parcel of these spatial practices, but also becoming the trigger for pinpointing how differently people will engage and interact whilst gaming.

Pervasive Gaming Pervasive games cannot occur without considering the urban arena; this is the reason for discussing the sociology behind tactics available in urban spaces. Designing tactically for pervasive games can reflect the ‘function’ – operate, appropriate, communicate.

Pervasive gaming includes more than games on handheld devices. It also comprises games using objects embedded with microprocessors, game playing with wireless networks and fields and games incorporating data from the physical world into virtual interfaces…Tensions between the artificiality of game worlds and the integration of pervasive technologies in the physical world should be critically addressed as a component of successful game design.

Models for pervasive gaming practices in urban environments trace a heritage from the ancient coliseums to the video and amusement arcades of this century; however, current technology is rarely exploited to advance the notions of socially designated spots for entertainment. As a subsection of urban computing – understood as the role technology plays in urban experiences – pervasive games enable the appropriation of technology into specific locales. These spaces might be set up anywhere and incorporate a variety of techniques to mediate gameplay. ARGs in this respect are pervasive; but an ARG’s narrative element is not necessary for a pervasive game. The cross media experience in pervasive games embraces Paul Milgram’s Mixed Reality (SEE FIGURE 2) by way of multimodal interfaces; but utilises, explores and even meshes the entire Virtuality continuum to enhance gameplay.

Locative media projects that apply a task-orientated games mentality examine a variety of combinations within this continuum to structure gameplay. While the goals, techniques and technologies all differ in the list below, they incorporate city spatial tactics as a crucial component to gameplay and also highlight the advantages of communication and collaboration for multiplayer interaction in these environments.

Mixed Reality

Reality Augmented Reality Augmented Virtuality

Virtual Reality


The following two examples utilise embedded voice communication as means of aiding and coordinating street players. 1. Can You See Me Now? (2001-) offer players from anywhere in the world the chance to

compete online in a virtual city against runners on real city streets. Tracked by satellites, runners appear online as avatars in a 3-D map of the city. On the streets, handheld PDAs show the positions of online players to guide runners in tracking you down. Players can exchange tactics, send messages and even eavesdrop on the runners via the audio stream from their walkie-talkies. 2. Pac-Manhattan (2004) utilizes New York City’s grid as the interface to recreate the 1980’s

video game Pac-Man. Street players dress up as the characters and compete with one another in a cat & mouse chase across the Washington Park area. Pac-Man’s goal is to collect ‘virtual dots’ representing pellets that run the length of the streets. Using cell-phone contact with stationary ‘controllers Pac-man and the ghosts are tracked and aided from a central location.

While the following three ascribe the ‘Puppet Master’ technique to referee the game. This means that the game is controlled by independent operators who coordinate, facilitate and/or dictate. 3. NodeRunner (2004) players run the streets looking for free WiFi access nodes to connect and

send emails with pertinent information and photographs of the locations to a web server that updates the scores of competing teams. With only a couple of hours on the game clock, it is a mad rush to gather up this information. 4. Day of the Figurines (2006-) is set in a fictional town set up as a vast model or game board –

installed in a public space – where plastic figurines represent players. The game narrative unfolds over 24 days, each day representing an hour in the life of the thousands of players taking part. This MMRPG invites players to establish their own codes of behaviour and morality by playing with the tensions inherent in texting (intimacy and anonymity). Although players are not required to return to the board, since mobile phone messaging is the only means of participation, players do revisit the space and are also updated via a website that tracks progress. 5. SFZero (2005-) is described as a “way of interfacing with San Francisco”. Since, there is no

set time limit for task-completion nor a narrative to guide it, this continuous game grows in complexity with only the levels as targets. Proof of task-completion and collaboration occur via a regulated website resembling those of social networking forums; however, this digital play space is solely dedicated to revealing the intricacies of the urban landscape through gameplay.


Using the urban environment in this way, the city as playground can be seen as a very broad definition for pervasive games. Regardless how varying the tasks and methods might be, they always attempt to explore physical space and social interaction within a gaming system. This harks back to the social networking play spaces (i.e. SecondLife), but inserts a gaming model in the socio-spatial framework of urban computing.

Two further examples of pervasive games that cross media genres investigate other dimensions through more cutting edge technologies as well as game narratives. The storylines for Blast Theory’s Uncle Roy All Around You (2003) and the IPerG Crossmedia Group’s Epidemic Menace (2006) are, respectively, to scour the city and follow the clues to discover the whereabouts of Uncle Roy within an hour; and to contain an outbreak of deadly viruses from spreading beyond university grounds by tracking down and eliminating them. While both resemble ARGs, the sense of urgency within these shorter scripts do not attempt to represent a game as reality. Within the allotted time frame, players’ movements and procedures are only about exploration and collaboration. Both systems use street players that engage the physical world through handheld devices as well as online players who communicate with them from the virtual. It is through this technological interfacing that the game unfolds via game clocked events occurring or through task completion. Alongside the seamless integration of various medias, a ‘less is more’ design strategy to the interfaces enables fluid gameplay in entirely novel game systems that have never been used by their players before (ambiguity and suggestive design tactics built in). It is through its specific location-aware technology that exploration and collaboration occurs in the physical environment.


Epidemic Menace expands on the technologies first deployed with Uncle Roy; they include a mobile augmented reality pack and mobile malleable music interface both of which are integral for apprehending the menaces in the game. These additions experiment with new forms of ‘immersion’ into the gaming environments; but these are not the only location-aware technologies in use. The most prolific technology for

location-based games (and services) is Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. First used in the popular single-player treasure hunt game Geocaching, GPS receivers now aid the multiplayer collaborative/competitive scenarios found in both Uncle Roy and Epidemic. Other games, like Pirates! (2001) and Bill (2004) opt for a physical game arena to be defined by a wireless local area network (WLAN) which use proximity sensors to trigger specific location events.

In a sense, the physical world in which the game takes place, functions as a ‘game board’, where game related objects and locations are spread throughout the physical space…[these] locations and objects in the world [can be] given meaning in the context of a theme, and a story emerges. This is also true for just about any children’s game – it is carried out in distinct physical spaces, where the children share an understanding of inscribed, ‘virtual’ properties of objects in the game (e.g. stones, dolls or toy guns), and the corresponding game rules.

So, no matter the delivery methods for location, positioning or even story-telling, all the examples strive towards social interaction through spatial dimensions to access unique opportunities between multiple gamers. Before moving onto the specific concerns of the project in this report, there is one more example that not only puts into perspective this taxonomy of location-based games, but is also unique for its simplicity and integration of hardware and software platforms.

The final example approaches CTFoB’s sphere of play the closest, and is an inspiration for what it hopes to become. The commercially successful Undercover series developed at YDreams’ studio combines many of the interesting technological and interactive facets previously mentioned. In their second instalment Undercover 2: Merc Wars, the push was to expand the concept of game space. This Massively Multiplayer Mobile Game (MMMG) adds real location to a totally integrated mobile gaming experience – coordinate clan strategy on real street maps as well as location-based targets that demand roaming real streets for cash, rewards and virtual supplies. In this way the game board territory extends outwards into the city. And with a detailed mission and messaging system all deliverable within the gaming interface, it offers the most integrated experience with regards to technology, the city and its players by encapsulating the fine balance between the virtual and real for the ‘on-the-street’ mobile handheld gamer.


Undercover 2: Merc Wars takes the traditional single-player strategy game and invests the best attributes of the Massively Multiplayer and Alternate Reality phenomenon (cooperation and narrative) with the adept mobile technologies of GPS, Bluetooth and messaging services to create a truly pervasive gaming experience all through the interaction in one comprehensive interface. This unique experience of interface, communication and connectivity when combined are precisely the three defining aspects for the prototype Capture the Flag over Bluetooth.

This first part has introduced the theoretical specifications of play, games and space relative to twenty-first century cultural practices. The agonistic interactions detailed some of the very pertinent theories that permeate current research into technology and the built environment, whether the focus was on sociological or design discourse. This broader perspective on research is tightened and refined when considering the gaming phenomenon present in today’s culture. The related socio-spatial hypothesis incorporates that perspective on play by utilising a taxonomy of location-based games explained through the spatial practices of its players. While it is hardly an exhaustive examination of games and space, the background establishes an all encompassing framework for the project in this report. The second part goes on to detail the concept of CTFoB and all the relevant functional and technical specifications involved with creating a full prototyped version. In addition to the design document concerns for this street game, a reworked model of game design traits particular to location-based systems is suggested.





Game Concept

Introduction The concepts of location-based and pervasive computing are integrally locked, therefore this project uses the pervasive mobile phone model and incorporates location-based technology as the play element through which users interact. By utilising a short-range radio frequency connectivity technology to run the game system, a multiplayer ‘on-thestreet’ adaptive environment is created. Examined below are the basic rules and features for an old playground game adapted and altered into a new location-based game.

Background Urban Capture The Flag (UCTF) has become a popular organised event for city university students.[7] UCTF differs from its original playground Capture the Flag, by taking to city streets for a massively multiplayer game. The rules are as follows: a section of city becomes the game board which is divided into two ‘sides’, after each team is chosen a ten minute period is allocated for strategy and hiding the flag. The flag must be placed on the corner of two surface streets with at least 3 points of approach (no alleys, roundabouts, dead-end streets or underground locations). Players are safe on their side of the delineated gaming environment. If they are in enemy territory, they can be tagged by an opponent. If they are tagged, they must proceed to the border and count to ten (alternately each side has a jail, where caught enemies are kept and can be freed by means of a jailbreak). The goal of the game is to locate and capture the enemy’s flag and carry it back to your territory without being tagged, doing so wins the game.

Adaptations CTFoB is very similar to this street game, however, all the physical game objects are transformed into digital smart objects or interfacing procedures. This means that maps, flags and even which side a player is on becomes digital information. Streamlining all the game objects in this way provides a new and very different gameplay mentality. Therefore a player’s actions, such as: communication, navigation, orientation, search and discovery all become interactive elements run through the mobile handset. Even the method for capturing the flag has adapted into a strictly collaborative exercise. Originally in UCTF, phones were only used for communicating – using a ‘daisy-chain’ method – to signal the end of a game. Now the phone’s function within the game is transformed; it actually becomes the medium through which the game progresses.


Functional Specifications

This evaluation of the mobile phone project CTFoB has two core components and both are in relation to the project goals set out in the Introduction. The first two aspects tie together the interface which aids the players in completing the game task. Mapping the physical space and providing communications within it are all mediated through the interface design on the handheld devices. This design component differs from the gameplay component of connecting phones via Bluetooth. At first it appears that there might not be a great deal of differences between the two; however, the use of Bluetooth in this project is not so much a control mechanism for interfacing, rather the tool that allows gameplay to occur.

Game Design By presenting the academic theory earlier provides a context in which to now discuss the design particulars of a pervasive street game. While the previous examples from Part One set a precedent for technological and spatial methodologies, the subsequent subsections examine the general computer game design process. By adding to this foundation, a complete street games process can account for the physical attributes of gameplay as well as the principles of interface design. All the aspects will be examined in relation to CTFoB as the process for designing a location-based game.

Even though game design has tried and tested developmental phases for bringing a game to fruition with a tradition over one hundred years old – from the tabletop board game all the way into the virtual online ‘persistent worlds’ – the interests herein are in the processes and practices for designing mobile applications (specifically street games). The following section will go on to detail the three essential traits for any game design; and then continue onto the spatial design tactics of appropriate, operate and communicate. This combination of tactics with the other three inherited from game design offer vital insight into the methodology involved in developing this project.

Foundation Process Three interconnected design strategies, pulled directly from 21st Century Game Design by Chris Bateman and Richard Boon, demonstrate the games making process succinctly; they are: tight, elastic, and extensive design. When appropriated each of these represent


desirable goals for game design, and even a prototype like CTFoB can be utilised to exemplify them. When considering tight design, its purpose is to simplify by reducing the amount of elements required to support desired gameplay. Since CTFoB reinvents a popular playground game, the core mechanics of territorial tag remain intact. The only difference is introducing new meta-rules1 for digitally capturing the opponents’ flag, and this concise method and its ease of arbitration is ample evidence to the game remaining simple and elegant within the streets’ physical game board. Probably the most difficult element to design for throughout development was for CTFoB to retain elasticity – the ability and freedom to add and remove properties whilst in development. With such a tight set of core mechanics, to discover the best balance for the interface of CTFoB’s game system will eventually require usability testing to achieve a desirable tight-elastic equilibrium. Though extensive design is usually only found in big budget AAA games2, the research and development phase for CTFoB uncovered many extensions and features to enhance its game mechanics, most specifically through the incorporation of other technologies (see Future Developments). However, “add only those new elements that are necessary for the game. Aim for the minimum of innovation.”[41] For this reason they are only suggested potentials to consider, rather than required operating facets.

Locative Extensions Less formal facets of CTFoB that need revisited are the design tactics for socio-spatial interactions from the theoretical hypothesis of Part One. Returning to the techno-social relationships that can be designed for spatially (see Street Tactics), the simple function of appropriating, operating and communicating is now more fully comprehensible in relation to the construction a street game. This operational ‘function’ as seen in the taxonomy has also influenced the structuring CTFoB. For instance, individual players take in the game board space by means of perceptual data; this includes sensory awareness, cognitive mapping as well as the digital mobile map. These encompass all of an individual’s navigational possibilities that have a direct effect on the environment and its occupants. Simply by ‘presence’ in the physical space, a street player is quintessentially creating that space through his/her trajectories and interactions. The computational layer has a similar three-fold effect. The next subsection will intertwine all the technical aspects that occurred whilst developing the interface for this street game. This includes various mapping solutions for the navigation interface, the in-game menu for communications between devices, and last but not least the actual procedures for engaging the flag.

1 “a game rule that applies in a separate sphere of application to the core game rules, such a house rule employed by people playing a board or card game, especially where the rule expands beyond the usual scope of the game rules.” 2 “any game that has been developed with sufficient budget and emphasis on quality to be considered to be of the highest quality in comparison to other games developed at the same time.”


Interface Design The three basic pieces that make up a games interface are: the front-end, the in-game menus and the control mechanism(s). These traits of “game interface define all the ways in which a player can interact with the game.”[4] Interface design is arguably the single most important element of a game’s design. Though there are best practices (and caveats to avoid), the two most important aspects remain the simplicity of navigating the interface and dangers inherent with an overly steep learning curve. In CTFoB there is an attempt to reduce complex issues by drawing on familiar practices within its interface and gameplay structure. The mobile phone game interface has these distinctive elements embedded in the code: the interactive map (the front-end), the communicative systems at play (text messaging as part of the in-game menu) and the keypad and toggle assignment (simple control mechanisms for navigation). Each of these areas presents its own unique problems and variable solutions. Also noteworthy is how the interface adapts the original structure of Capture The Flag.

Digital Cartography The mobile test map for CTFoB is the City of London, also historically known as ‘The Square Mile’. The City has now greatly expanded past a square mile of London, being situated on the River Thames it stretches from the Tower of London to Temple Pier and extends as far north as the Barbican and Liverpool Street Station. To make sense of this space, the first important step to interaction is a scalable map. Zooming in and out of a map not only aids in ‘local’ navigation, but also helps to determine ‘global’ boundaries and positioning.

In the first instance, uploading a graphic image of the City’s streets as a compressed jpeg on mobile devices seemed to provide a decent presentation of the global game board (FIGURE 4). However, resolution was lost when trying to access the more specific local data from the one image. By loading only a frame of pixels (a sub-section of the image) when a particular key is depressed, the image integrity would begin to pixelate and blur. This automatically led to deploying a separate image for each subsection of the map, which in turn added a larger volume of data to the program’s file size. While this is not a problem when running the program in the preview emulator on a computer, it was an entirely different matter when exporting and trying to run it through a phone. Eventually by shrinking the file sizes enough for the phones to handle them, a first round of testing on the interface identified that each phone would treat the program differently. Since every make and model has its own particular screen size and pixel resolution, it was impossible to be consistent with this map (which is a fixed jpeg image constrained by its particular height and width in pixels).


There are ways to allow users to shift the image on screen, but it leaves the door open for the interface to disrupt a fluid user/device interaction.

Data Mapping The advantage to using lines and variables instead of images is clearly that writing code to draw the maps on screen offers a wider range of possibilities and more importantly greater adaptability when developing a game for multiple devices (each having their own specifications). The following interface description and function accesses data from a spreadsheet of integers to draw the map. The dat file contains a four column list of integers that defines the start and endpoints of lines. However, to load x,y coordinates from the dat file the function is actually calling binary data into an initial array and translating into drawn coordinates. To limit the file size so that the phones could manage the coodinate data a smaller map of the City was used. Finally the function is called up for drawing all the lines that describe the streets of the City. This prototype draws slightly differently within Mobile Processing, but by simply changing the divisible ratios to scale down the map allowed for smaller screen sizes to present the City. Furthermore, by replacing this scaling with a variable provides a very accessible method for zooming in and out of the map (FIGURE 6).



Even with all the advantages of drawing graphics solely through variables in the code, what becomes immediately apparent is the map’s deteriorating legibility. As a prototype interface, it works in connecting all the essential interactive elements; however, as a design composition it would need to transcend some of the intuitiveness of the jpeg image.

Communicating What is also visible in the phone images

are the shortcuts to a texting interface

(TXT) for communication between team-mates. To get to this menu, the shortcut supports half an action and then another one to send it off. To keep the action depth3 to only one, simplifies the process of sharing information. This is an essential feature to the multiplayer street game. To access handheld device features is a matter of importing various libraries into the Mobile Processing ‘sketch’. There are two obvious solutions to implement a communication strategy. First, there is a phone library that can activate the calling of another phone; and second, a messaging library accesses the standard mobile text editor. In other words by using the embedded standard for communications via textual input, the SMS (Short Message Service) attaches itself elegantly within the confines of the application to aid hyper-coordination[23] of users. This prototype interface provides the extremely pervasive and popular SMS communications feature by integrating the library with a few lines of code and other players’ phone numbers to send messages directly to them.

This integration might be an added bonus to a game of a dozen or so players, but becomes invaluable when the numbers grow and the whole City is used. This core feature supports global strategy between team-mates whilst also aiding in local canvassing of the game environment. This means of communication is set apart from the front-end map as an in-game option, and whilst being interface issue it also supports gameplay. However, the keypad input (the proverbial texting) that it employs might be a very common interaction still remains different from the overall control and navigation of the application’s interface.

32 3 “the number of actions (or subactions) required to execute an outcome in a particular menu system.”

Navigating The final interface factor is the modal interaction of device and user. Like action depth for the menu navigation, the dimensionality of CTFoB’s control scheme remains simplistic as possible to encompass all intended navigational moves. CTFoB’s interface provides three dimensions for map control (left-right, up-down, in-out). By only using two numbers from the keypad and the toggle buttons for shifting, these allocated modal interactions were simple procedures for users to access information about the physical game board. This level of control in comparison to many of the current console and computer PC games is minuscule. FPS4 games like Doom, Quake and now Half-Life can have up to 7.5 dimensionalities of control. This freedom to control so many elements of a game has its drawbacks (i.e. the learning curve becomes too steep for many potential players), and this mobile game interface attempts to level out the playing field to attract as many potential gamers to as possible.

Functional Considerations All these simplifications for the players are crucial in respect to game mobility. Since a player’s movement within space is part and parcel of the gameplay, an effortless user interface must be of the highest importance to allow for fluid and uninterrupted gameplay. However, what this section on the interface design does not account for are the hidden depths. For example in its current status, the map does not provide for information on underground/arcade pedestrian routes which gamers would utilise in a street game, nor is there an icon for the flag that would appear on a capturing teams’ map when in range. Also worth considering is an extension of the communications system to include voice as an in-game option. These issues are certainly more technical, and will be explored in the subsequent section. This entire section has extensively reviewed the design composition and interactions within CTFoB, while the remainder of the report looks closer at the simulating, porting and performance tests of gameplay connectivity within the confines of the Bluetooth embedded technology. These technical interactions go well beyond digital and virtual and enter the realm of the physical (i.e. social collaboration with mobility).

33 4 First-Person Shooter

Technical Specifications

While the previous design elements included some details and references to programming code, the remainder of this report is a wholly technical account examining the unique combination of technologies that carry out CTFoB’s gameplay conditions. This includes a discussion of Bluetooth and its relevance for carrying out tests on mobile devices. The section is comprised of three distinctive criteria – simulation, porting and connectivity – all of which are important to validate the capabilities of a street game which uses a computational layer as its mechanism for gameplay interaction. What follows introduces the Bluetooth technology in relation to the third project goal, collaboration for a multiplayer ‘on-the-street’ gaming experience.

Bluetooth Simulation To understand the project’s gameplay procedures, a brief overview of Bluetooth technology in relation to CTFoB is required. Interestingly, Bluetooth was originally intended as a cable replacement method to create personal area networks (PANs) that connect peripheral devices to a desktop computer; however, the technology has matured and been appropriated for handheld peer-to-peer communications. “Bluetooth facilitates the formation of ad-hoc networks thus enabling users to set up multiplayer games spontaneously.”[31] As a cost effective low power consuming radio standard, Bluetooth operates in the ISM-band at around 2.4 GHz. For these reasons, we see the pervasiveness of this hardware embedded in many portable devices and accessories (i.e. phones, PDAs, handsfree headsets, stereo headphones, and even watches). In addition, if a mobile phone is Java enabled, it is also more than likely to be equipped with Bluetooth hardware. This combination of Java software programming and Bluetooth short-range communication protocols allows the gameplay connectivity to occur ‘on-the-street’ via a simple mobile phone application (SEE FIGURE 9).




The basic coupling of host to client, or master to slave, is implicit in the game structure for CTFoB. Figure 7 illustrates the various structural transformations of PANs. In the case of a mobile ad-hoc network, the digital flag is the host that at repeated intervals broadcasts out to clients (i.e. the opposing side’s phones). Since many mobile phone Bluetooth stacks do not allow or support scatternets, the piconet structure can accommodate into the structure of the game a greater amount devices.[25] To test a multipoint connection, Mobile Processing allows for Bluetooth simulations by using several onscreen emulators, this mimicry of how real phones connect provides for more rapid prototyping and debugging of the code.


In the figure above the numbered five cases within the library event break down into three procedures: (1) detect devices, (2) discover services and (3) connect to client. Though these simulations use the one built-in Bluetooth module on the computer, Figure 9 illustrates how the emulator detects and performs service discovery.

Since Bluetooth devices create networks dynamically (no central infrastructure to connect through), they need to exchange information before connecting and transmitting data. During inquiry, the searching device collects Bluetooth addresses and determines the class of device (CoD) in the vicinity. This is randomly generated in the Figure 9 by a twelve alphanumeric address. In addition after deciphering what types of devices there are, a Service Discovery Protocol (SDP) determines the services available on discovered devices (in this case the ‘flag service’ is found on the emulator device; named Wireless Toolkit). After this, the devices switches from the inquiry to the page substate in order to create the actual connection. Since this is the identical procedure for real

Bluetooth connections, they will be

examined after discussing the methods for porting the simulation onto mobile phones.

Porting As part of the ongoing simulations for CTFoB, exports of the code were transferred to numerous phone types. This section looks not only at these methods but also the inconsistencies when porting to differing brands and their various models. Java applications and games for mobile phones are exported as MIDlets. This means that the code gets compiled into an executable Java application file (jar format). This crunching of code allows the mobile test phones to open and run the program. However, sourcing appropriate test phones became a very tricky matter. The following description points out several considerations when developing new applications Java enabled mobile phones.


Since this report is dedicated to Bluetooth connectivity, it was appropriate and logical to export the game from notebook to phone via Bluetooth. However, the first attempt to export MIDlets to Samsung phones failed instantly because the only method for importing applications with these devices was OTA1. It was not that the Bluetooth connection could not be established between computer and handheld device, rather that it was impossible to navigate to the appropriate folder in the phone to deposit the application so that it could be installed. With Samsung discarded the next phone brand tested was Motorola. Using the very popular and hugely successful RAZR V3i model, the game code would install in the appropriate Games & Apps folder; but unfortunately in every attempt to run the various prototypes an application error occurred that crashed the phone.

It was not until the third instance when testing both Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones that the Mobile Processing jar files exported and the Bluetooth SDP ran as it should have, like in the emulator versions (AS IN FIGURE 9). This success, in conjunction with extensive online developers’ forums, provided ample evidence to stick with these brands and a conscious decision was made to find Java enabled models with particular Java specifications that allowed Messaging and Bluetooth. Though it would appear that this limits who can play CTFoB, in actual fact porting has always been the greatest difficulty with Java phone games, and one generic set of instructions will always need tweaking to make the program adaptable to the various phone types and models available.

Connectivity The biggest consideration for this project was configuring the Bluetooth connectivity. Not just in terms of writing the code, but also how it would be inscribed within the physics of street play. What became abundantly clear when testing the code outside the emulator environment, was that in theory multiple connections using a broadcasting phone as the host flag could be maintained; however, in practice the devices tested would only support two-player connectivity. And again, since the whole premise behind CTFoB is its adaptability for as many mobile phones as possible, the method for capturing the flag returned to finding a physical device rather than a digital artefact.

As described above, the SDP were just as successful on the emulators as they were on the test phones. It was only at the stage when a multipoint connection was attempted that test devices failed. Therefore instead of relying on a digital data transfer of the flag,

1 Over the Air. This meant that any test would have to be downloaded off the internet and incur an operator’s data network charges


a collaborative method for capturing it was developed. As demonstrated in the following outdoor test schema, the host flag must be discovered via Bluetooth, and to capture it three players from the opposing side need to be in Bluetooth range. The phone flag can distinguish the enemy’s phones by the game service as well as count how many are in its vicinity, and when three devices are recognised the flag phone’s ringtone automatically goes off to reveal its exact position. Though this modifies the original method for capturing over Bluetooth, the collaboration and interaction involved with this procedure is consistent with the presented theories and practices of socio-spatial games.

Outdoor Testing To see these interactions in operation, two outdoor tests were conducted on the Bluetooth code. The first of these was simply designed to test Bluetooth’s signal strength. In an open field environment two subjects and their phones were placed at approximately ten foot intervals from the host flag phone to determine when service discovery would fall out on the two separate devices. This test was to verify that Bluetooth could work outdoors and cover a reasonable search area. The test subjects had little else to do, but stand there and confirm that their handset vibrated2 at these intervals. At the ten and twenty foot markers, search and discovery had low latency lag times for finding the game service on the host phone. Unfortunately, at thirty feet the signal had entirely dissipated and the only device found was the other searching phone. Since both phones reacted in exactly the same at all three markers, a midway test at 25 feet strangely revealed that both phones could discover the flag; however, the lag time for one of them was nearly three times as much as the other. This might have been due to the signals interfering with one another, or that the newer model’s processing power manages the java application’s query to the Bluetooth hardware quicker. Either way an estimated threshold of twenty-five feet seems a reasonable distance for players to cover ground quickly when in a real gaming scenario.

When taking a traditionally suburban playground game and transferr it to the cityscape, it is not only the tactics that change, but also the nature of terrain causes varying degrees of interference with radio frequencies. The second outdoor test attempted to ascertain the effects the built environment has on the Bluetooth hardware embedded in mobile phones. This test began to take the shape of a game.3 Three test subjects were given updated versions of the game that included the communications texting feature to also test collaborative interactions in play. The only instructions given were to delineate the boundaries and how to initialise the Bluetooth discovery in the Java application.

2 the phone’s vibrate feature was connected to the service discovery of the flag in the code 3 almost like a scavenger hunt


With only this information, the three players coordinated a splitting up strategy to cover more ground quickly. The ‘playing field’ was drastically reduced from a potentially large city street game to a practical testing ground.4 Despite some initial difficulties encountered by the subjects, the overall results from testing were positive and will be useful instruction for the next phase of development for CTFoB.

The outdoor scavenger hunt was a success because not only did the players eventual discover the phone flag, but also the test would reveal some interesting findings. The players took approximately a little over twenty minutes to find the disguised location of the flag. Though there was no time limit to complete the task, the expectations were that the subjects would only take half as long. What was observed was that players had to eventual adjust their patterns of movement and pace themselves according to the lag time between the inquiry and page substates. A test subjects interesting analogy was to using a metal detector on a beach. This adjustment to a slower pace is certainly the single most important result, more so than the players actually finding the flag. This issue with other Bluetooth developments will be thoroughly addressed in the following subsection.

Additional findings relate more to the functional aspects of the prototype. While the majority of the code was solely concerned with the technical means for capturing the flag collaboratively, a basic interface was still needed to allow the players to perform the service discovery as well as a display the discovered flag when they were in its vicinity. The feedback provided by the players pertained mostly to the lack of interaction with the interface. Since its focus was merely on the technical, two comments in particular must be mentioned here as pertinent results. The first was a positive note on the learning curve. All players found that it was easy to accommodate to the Bluetooth discovery process and adjust their pace accordingly. This encouraging news shows that a steep learning curve in a context aware game or system disheartens and frustrates players. In conjunction with this, another comment by one of players articulated that latency times between search, discovery and service discovery became burdensome; this pointed to constant reinitialising of the search after each failed service discovery of the flag. This seemed to be an annoying nuisance for the three test subjects. With these preliminary results at hand, what follows offers up for consideration possible avenues to explore certain technical intricacies and broader plans for Capture The Flag over Bluetooth.

39 4 The game board coverd roughly 200m2

Future Developments Even though a complete prototype is still in development, this project has researched a variety of potential extensions for CTFoB with new budding technical developments to enhance its interface and gameplay. In the taxonomic examples of location-based games, several incorporated wireless networks to achieve a physical game board while most exploited GPS receivers for context-aware services; however, none really utilised Bluetooth to any great extent. Many issues like handover delay, quality of service (QoS) concerns and especially complicated multihop and scatternet scenarios are brought to bear when a game’s infrastructure is a dynamic Bluetooth ad-hoc network. Roaming infrastructures challenge hardware and software architecture to resolve these issues; and Bluetooth, in these respects, has proven a challenge as a wireless communications technology for pervasive and ubiquitous games.

Whether employing dual wireless methods[31] or complex algorithms[16], research into Bluetooth is constantly pushing the spatiality of networks further outside the box. Since, its inception Bluetooth has increased its connective range. A Class II device has a stronger signal and longer range (10-100m). Incorporating one of these devices as CTFoB flag could resolve the issues brought up in the last test and allow the playing field to be enlarged. This also means that the flag could no longer be a mobile phone which has the knock-on effect of changing the method once again for capturing the flag. Since the flag would operate as a Bluetooth transmitter, the Receiver Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) for automatic transmitter power control could be disabled whereby allowing 3-D positioning triangulation measurements[42] to be taken. If measurements like these can be understood by players’ phones in non-LoS (Line of Sight) conditions, then in effect a Bluetooth radar could be implemented into the mapping interface that seamlessly and continuously searches for the flag’s transmitting beacon These avenues are all just budding research topics that could potentially advance the concerns raised in the Bluetooth tests already carried out. Each one is worth considering and investigating further to determine its feasibility for incorporation into CTFoB.

Although an exciting technology to work on and a very accessible hardware test with, at this stage Bluetooth has fallen short of its expectations. This is exactly why preliminary testing on several mobile phones is so crucial to CTFoB’s next evolution. By dividing the test bed into two distinct sections, the functional (interface and composition) and the technical (collaboration and connectivity) allows for modifications to the game structure


and protocols at a very early stage. The successful yet separate prototypes have influenced each other to determine how possible and feasible ad-hoc location-based gaming actually is. As mentioned earlier, running simulations on computers does not provide a clear picture of how varying handheld devices will operate in real gaming scenarios, and experimenting with Bluetooth in this manner (outside the box of personal area networks) has certainly shown its limitations, yet the potential is now also apparent for CTFoB’s future.

Next Steps With the initial design results pulled from this report, a design document could be written up for advancing CTFoB’s gameplay and mechanics. First however, an alpha prototype of the game combining the interactive map, messaging system and Bluetooth service discovery would need to be trialled in a gaming scenario to test robustness. Results from this usability and/or ethnographic (questionnaires and observations) study could also be incorporated into the design document. By employing these future results from an alpha prototype into the design document allows for greater elasticity when development for a fully operational beta version begins. The alpha prototype’s code could still be done in the Mobile Processing API; however, to implement a true and proper the beta version application, the code would need to be rewritten (in Java and/or BREW).5 The design document would reflect these issues as well as determine how well the environmental interactions and user interface works. These two steps are crucial components for advancing the game CTFoB and its design.

While this concludes the write up on the project, part three introduces emerging research avenues and suggests other established technologies to exploit in the near future (all of which to consider for CTFoB’s developmental period of expansion). The following conclusion also ties in the hypothesis presented in this report to the project and the goals set out in the introduction.






This report has demonstrated how human practices and understanding the mentality and behaviour behind them can reveal unique possibilities for examining interaction and interface design. The aims of pinpointing spatial practices within street games delivers a much larger picture of how collaboration occurs through various technologically mediated channels. The hypothesis of games as socio-spatial systems has identified a threefold distributed process for examining location-based gaming within the urban environment. These tactics can also be exploited by design and technology to aid in the advancement of pervasive games. The taxonomy of location-based games sets precedence for this theory. CTFoB continues this thread by examining the interactive and spatial conditions present in a playground game redone for urban streets and urban computing. This reminiscing is not without its updates and adaptations.

The original game premise has always been a game based on short-range mobile phone connectivity and an ease of accessibility for potential players and their various handsets. Bluetooth from the initial concept was the obvious choice. With its capabilities and pervasiveness in handheld devices, this hardware could not easily be replaced by any other. It is currently remains an ideal technology for the key local interaction of capturing the flag. And as discussed in the Future Developments subsection, research into Bluetooth is constantly advancing its capabilities. While those Bluetooth considerations will be explored for subsequent versions of CTFoB, this project has built a large steppingstone from which to stage the alpha version.

Research for Future Deployments The research has exhaustively described the adaptations a playground game undergoes when transferred to the urban environment; and even though Bluetooth might be the ideal candidate for adapting Urban Capture The Flag, two other technologies are worth considering and including in later development cycles. The first might altogether replace Bluetooth, whilst the other extends the networking potential of mobile devices and has larger resources in its research and development. Research into RF technologies are proposing new methods for short-to-medium range mobile device connectivity. The new Zigbee1 format and even more recently the barely agreed upon Ultra-Wide Band (UWB)

43 1 http://www.zigbee.org

standard has the potential of sharing vast amounts of data faster and across much greater distances than Bluetooth. Surprisingly, it was Samsung to first install a prototype UWB chip into two of their phones. They exhibited a transfer of large video and music files across an auditorium at the 2006 CeBit in Hanover. However, the chances are slim that this standard will be embraced quickly and it is not nearly as impressive as the variety of data networks available and in operation across Europe and North America.

The second technology that has resources and funding to back it up is the mobile internet. Though not quite in its infancy anymore, the third generation mobile data networks might hold the key for opening up the Massively Multiplayer phenomenon for the mobile phone market; and the potential for information gathering, service locating and social networking are only the tip of the iceberg when the 4G data networks will be rolled out to the mobile customer. As of yet the only prevalent commercial application of the massively multiuser variety is connecting a client server distribution to the analysis of SMS texts (as in the widespread public voting and competitions via messaging). The prospects are looking very favourable towards this unique combination of multiplayer street games enhanced through internet communications and contributions. Though it remains very much a novel concept, even Mobile Processing has already a library extension for XML queries,2 which can search online databases and return results to be manipulated by a mobile Java application or game. In addition, the success of onboard SatNav (satellite navigation) has spun off many interesting enhancements3 and sparked the development of internet mapping on handheld devices. Google Maps, in particular, is developing for both the Java-enabled handset as well as those PDA’s with built-in GPS receivers.4

When the wide array wireless networks become even more robust and efficiently synchronized (convergence phenomenon), and handheld device hardware becomes even more adaptable and powerful, there is nothing to prevent the spread of creating and/or installing ad-hoc location-based services and gaming in any environment. Interestingly, there are already software applications on the market streamlining the complicated processes of porting5 and VoIP (voice over internet protocol) for mobile phones.6 This together with in-game messaging technology has prompted research into voice communications amidst playing a mobile phone game.7

2 http://mobile.processing.org/learning/example.php?name=yahoosonar 3 http://www.y-dreams.com 4 http://www.google.com/gmm; see also http://groups.google.com/group/google-mobile-help 5 See Neutrino Application: http://www.exitgames.com 6 http://www.bt.com/fusion; see also http://www.moskaluk.com/voip_using_wireless_mesh_infrast.htm 7 See TrashTalk Application: http://www.ip-unity.com/news/releases/112806.html


While this deployment of new voice, messaging and data systems as well as the introduction of competing RF technologies might invite new avenues for gameplay, add new mapping and control mechanisms or even allow refereeing overall dimensions of CTFoB on the Massively Multiplayer scale, developing with these extremely cutting-edge technologies are more often than not dependant upon accessibility and cost-effectiveness, and reintroduces the complexities of elasticity in game design.

Comparative Notes This subsection looks beyond the gaming arena to put into perspective the location-based and context-aware field of research. The evidence presented for the appropriation of location-based services in games is substantial; however, the research has also examined other computational advancements related and juxtaposed to spatial positioning and practices. From online networking to Augmented Reality scenarios, the fusion of technologies and convergence of services continues to mount. The progression of examples throughout have all been intentionally linked to the urban computing phenomenon. This role technology plays in the urban environment is dependant upon how its inhabiants choose to connect and collaborate.

This expansion of interdisciplinary work also introduces the simulated computer agent into the mix. Encounters with simulated players/agents and smart objects has the effect of not only aiding the collaborative and competitive spirit, but also merges various mediated experiences with real world actions which produce very interesting results.8 And there is no doubt that simulations for human training and machine learning have proven useful for practicing and predicting real life events.

When it comes to the particular task of mapping the city as an interconnected system of spatial references, research projects outside the sphere of the mobile games industry have pursued many different lines of inquiry and courses of action. They include the highly sophisticated, yet casual Hitchers (2006)9; the pedestrian mapping of London with GPS in OpenStreetMap.org; and also the mass consumer RFID10 cards that can track transit commuters. In terms of Bluetooth or UWB, a mapping system dictated solely through collocation of these hardware devices could introduce a sharply different method for game

8 e.g. ARTHUR, Epidemic Menace, Undercover 2: Merc Wars 9 A mobile computer agent hitchhiker travels within the cellular infrastructure of an operator’s network. Using SmartPhone technology, the agent knows the location of the mobile phone it is in. 10 Radio Frequency Identification


mapping. This abstracted bottom-up design would be circumscribed by interactions in local social spaces rather than the global strategies of most mapping techniques. These mappings of Bluetooth are the concerns in the research project Bluetoothing Bath. However, this is only one way to utilize Bluetooth as location-aware technology. By combining other infrastructures, Bluetooth’s short-range facility has aided developments from mere chats10 to nearby phones using texts to broadcasting advertisements through data networks intially triggered by Bluetooth sensors.11 All these divergent research projects and commerical applications are very much representative of convergence of technologies, but also show the socio-spatial spectrum to be of great importance to end users.

Practice & Theory Capture The Flag over Bluetooth hopes to be a case in point for the continued development of street games with computational layers because it is not good enough that technology be used for the sake of itself. The research herein has attempted to reconcile this issue by exploring the theoretical and practical elements of the spatiality of the city and the technologies it incorporates. Through the discursive sociological framework and the rigours of scientific discourse and research, pervasive games and urban computing have invited new avenues for examining the urban arena. These ends have been justified through the means of play. The fact that this project is still only a prototype in development does not invalidate the findings. Though the play element in culture is a uniquely moot concept, the notion of mobile multiplayer games is not just a phenomenon anymore, but rather a distinctive part of the twenty-first century culture and will continue to expand and be researched in terms of quantifiable outcomes. these being how much fun they are? An important one of

10 Vodafone’s V-applis in Japan, 2006 11 Bluetooth and WAP Push Based Location-Aware Mobile Advertising, 2004 46



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