Archive for the ‘The Act’ Category

The Act has Shipped

June 22, 2012

It has been a long time coming. As of yesterday, The Act is commercially available on the iOS platform (Apple iPod/iPad/iPhone). Two huge thank-yous are in order. One thank-you to Daniel Kraus, Alain Laferrière, and Jean Laferrière of React Entertainment for picking up the ball and running with it. The second to the artists, engineers, writers, musicians, and others who breathed life into the original game (the list is on the React Entertainment “About Us” page).

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Shifts Happen

September 19, 2007

sign.jpgCecropia’s web site has a new look. Because Cecropia has a new direction. After many fruitful years of experimenting in the fascinating laboratory of coin-operated video games, we have decided to leave the coin-op world behind us. It is a new millenium. We are focused on the Internet.

The Act taught us a lot about creating an emotional connection between game players and interactive characters. That connection can be a powerful force. We think the best place to apply it now is in interactive advertising.

Eye Contact

April 25, 2007

jetsons-videophone.jpgThe team of animators, engineers and other developers who created The Act was spread out among several locations in North America. We made heavy use of Apple’s iChat video conferencing software to keep in close contact. Despite iChat’s incredible convenience and low cost, it has one major drawback that diminishes its usefulness: the eye contact problem.

The problem is well documented in scholarly papers and blog posts. Normally, when videoconferencing, you want to look at the screen so you can see the person you are talking to. But when you look at the screen, you are not looking at the camera, so you appear to your partner to be looking away.

I can attest that this makes a huge difference. People’s faces just look different when you look them in the eye. There is a natural tendency to look engaged when someone is looking at you. If your partner looks away, your face relaxes and looks blank. With videoconferencing, there is a vicious cycle of blank stares that can easily be (and often was) interpreted as hostility. The absolute worst was meeting a new person for the first time via video. But even with colleagues whom I considered close friends, it was easy to misunderstand each other. Humor was difficult. I sometimes forced myself to smile or look straight into the camera for my partner’s sake. Video conversations felt less personal than the regular, audio-only telephone. Despite the constant video contact, we found it critically important to physically travel for frequent, real-life “face time.”

When the eye contact problem is solved, videoconferencing will be a completely different animal. It will be possible to look at a life-sized face on a screen, and have it look right back at you. It will be possible to read all kinds of meaning from a person’s gaze. It will be possible to say without words that you hear what they are saying and that you understand. Then, there should be a tipping point of effectiveness that will create a big drop in the need for business travel—and a corresponding surge in productivity.

Microsoft is working to solve the problem with software that modifies the eyes in a video image so that the eyes (falsely) appear to be looking straight at the camera. Others, including Apple, have solutions that place the camera in line with the screen. A year ago, Apple patented a new kind of video monitor with tiny cameras between all the pixels. The Apple fan-boy nation is waiting with bated breath for this to become a product.

While we are waiting, a small technology company has offered a stop-gap solution called “See Eye 2 Eye.” SE2E works like a teleprompter to place a camera in line with a display. Although it is affordable ($100 for a pair), it has limitations (bulkiness, small image size, image darkness) that will probably prevent it from creating the tipping point of my dreams.

Some day, true eye-contact video conferencing will change the world. If you want to glimpse that future, give See Eye 2 Eye a try.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

January 25, 2007

dragonslair-arcadescreenshot.jpgMany people (including this group of passionate Dragon’s Lair fans) have asked how The Act compares to the fabulous Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace, and the other animated laser disc games of the 80’s. I love being mentioned in the same breath with these legends of video game design. I like to think the artwork of The Act is similar to the artistry of Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy and other ex-Disney greats who created the beautiful artwork of the Dragon’s Lair series.

However, Dragon’s Lair‘s interactivity was limited by its optical disc technology (and the high cost of RAM at the time). The Act, by contrast, allows direct control over a character—more like Donkey Kong than Dragon’s Lair.

The Act‘s biggest innovation is that the player’s direct control is not over physical actions like running, climbing and jumping. Instead, you control emotional attitude like coaxing, flirting, and bullying. The gameplay of The Act revolves around the same thing that makes the story interesting: the relationships and emotions of its characters.

In developing The Act, we experimented with many different graphical styles including CGI and machinima. We even tried video taping live actors. However, it wasn’t until we met Anthony Michaels, Broose Johnson, Barry Temple, Sasha Dorogov, and all the other awesome veterans of Walt Disney Feature Animation’s Orlando studio that we began to achieve the level of acting required to make the “emotional gameplay” work.

Boston Herald Article

January 11, 2007

There is a nice article about The Act by Lauren Beckham Falcone in today’s Boston Herald. Thanks, Lauren! 🙂

Terrible picture of me, though. Do I really look that old? 😦

Connecticut Gets into The Act!

January 10, 2007

cabinet-photo-med.jpgThe Act is now on location at the Se Condi truck stop in Milford, Connecticut (exit 40 off I95—halfway between New Haven and Bridgeport). We had such success at a truck stop in New Hampshire, we thought we’d try another one. 🙂

For up-to-date location listings, check the web site.

Vacation Surprises

December 29, 2006

I have just returned from a memorable vacation. The family car broke down, so we had to leave it at a mechanic in Connecticut and continue in a rental. Then the family dog became so ill, she ended up in an animal hospital in New Jersey. 😦

But while I was away, some nice things happened. Mass High Tech published a nice story about The Act by Christopher Calnan. And Harry McCracken, Editor in Chief of PCWorld, wrote a really nice review of The Act on his blog. 🙂

Perhaps I should go away more often! Or…not.

The Act on NECN!

December 16, 2006

necn.jpgNew England Cable News did a nice story about The Act last night. It will be on their web site for a limited time.

P.S. Here is a direct link to the story.

Disney’s Life Examined

December 12, 2006

In this week’s New Yorker, Anthony Lane reviews Neal Gabler’s new biography, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, which is now on my Christmas wish list.

Since I was raised in the Peoples’ Republic of Cambridge, I grew up thinking “Disney” stood for “phony” or “commercial.” Disney was vilified for dumbing down and sugar-coating such classics of children’s literature as Mary Poppins, Winnie The Pooh, and The Jungle Books.

When I had the privilege of working with a group of Walt Disney Feature Animation veterans on The Act, I learned enough about Disney’s accomplishments to totally change my point of view. I now think of Disney as the creative genius who revolutionized entertainment so many ways it is hard to count them.

Anthony Lane nails both sides of the Disney coin in his review.

I’ll add only one quibble as a footnote. Lane writes:

Everyone recalls being distressed by the death of Bambi’s mother, and of his stick-legged pining in the snow, but how many of us recall what happens next? The oblivious birds strike up an immediate chorus: “Let’s sing a gay little spring song, tra-la-la.” The episode is closed, like a trapdoor. And so it is with Walt Disney.

We may not consciously remember it that way, but it is precisely that chipper chorus of birds that stabs us in the heart and makes us scream, “Noooooo!” when watching the film. In a fast-forward moment we see Bambi, himself, having moved on, grown up, and recovered from the death of his mother. Without that juxtaposition, the scene would have been much less powerful.

The Act at Cityside!

November 28, 2006

cityside-logo.pngThe Act is now installed at Cityside Bar and Grille in Cleveland Circle (1960 Beacon St., Brighton, Massachusetts). Cityside looks like a fun place! They have Team Trivia every Wednesday night and speed dating once a month. Um… I won’t be trying that—but the steak tips look good! 🙂