Nightingale’s Playground

From Nightingale's PlaygroundIt’s raining in 1989. Teenage schoolboy Carl lives with his grandmother on an anonymous housing estate and spends his time hanging out with Alex, an oddball kid obsessed with pseudo- philosophy and computer games. When Alex disappears for no apparent reason, things begin to change: Carl finds weird objects in his gran’s sideboard; his science fieldwork book reveals mysterious numeric codes; and none of his other friends even remember Alex.

Created by Dreaming Methods authors Andy Campbell and Judi Alston, Nightingale’s Playground is an ambitious work of digital fiction divided into four interlinked parts: an atmospheric browser based experience; an interactive virtual book with pages you can turn with the mouse; a short eBook download; and an immersive 3D game-like application that takes the written word into strange new dimensions.

http://www.nightingalesplayground.com
http://www.dreamingmethods.com

It’s raining in 1989. Teenage schoolboy Carl lives with his grandmother on an anonymous housing estate and spends his time hanging out with Alex, an oddball kid obsessed with pseudo- philosophy and computer games. When Alex disappears for no apparent reason, things begin to change: Carl finds weird objects in his gran’s sideboard; his science fieldwork book reveals mysterious numeric codes; and none of his other friends even remember Alex.

Created by Dreaming Methods authors Andy Campbell and Judi Alston, Nightingale’s Playground is an ambitious work of digital fiction divided into four interlinked parts: an atmospheric browser based experience; an interactive virtual book with pages you can turn with the mouse; a short eBook download; and an immersive 3D game-like application that takes the written word into strange new dimensions.

http://www.nightingalesplayground.com
http://www.dreamingmethods.com

14 Responses to “Nightingale’s Playground”

  • Great to see a new piece by you, Andy. The atmosphere of disturbance in this piece is very interesting. It’s not a ‘killer psycho’ kind of disturbance, but, instead, an enigmatic kind of ‘lost little friend’ disturbance that leads the speaker of the piece into self-examination.

  • Thanks Jim for your comment, much appreciated. Did you have any problems with Chapter 2 of the piece? I have not released anything as a downloadable program before, so I would be curious to know whether it worked/if you found it easy or difficult as an experience.

  • The first time I opened Chapter 2, I got stuck in a corner and couldn’t go anywhere so I pressed the Esc button and returned to RL. But I went back and, though I encountered the same problem, at some point, wriggled out of it without the Esc button.

  • Right. Thanks. Well, I hope the rest of the experience was a good one, despite getting stuck in a corner.

  • I’m always interested to see what you’re doing, Andy. There isn’t anyone approaching digital narrative quite the same way as you are, with your intriguing atmospheric enigmas. That is a kind of a constant in your work, but this piece was different from the others I’ve seen what with it’s four parts of different forms.

  • Bugs should now be fixed and the whole 3D App is much easier to suss out with an overlay interface that echoes part one of the work. With thanks for feedback. http://bit.ly/9DLlre

    If it’s of interest, for background information to the inspiration behind the project (especially the Commodore 64 game The Sentinel) please see http://www.theliteraryplatform.com/2010/09/nightingales-playground/

  • I enjoyed this narrative experience immensely. It’s great to read/play/view something so idiosyncratically grounded in the fabric/soil/grime/memories of a locale I’m embedded in myself, metaphorically/digitally/geographically/… Fascinating to experience it across four different forms/delivery methods too. I found the browser-based experience the most satisfying, and therefore viewed it as the central story experience, and read the two [e]bookish versions as enhancements or extras to that central ‘text’. I was knocked out by chapter two too, which felt (or would have felt) like an extension and deepening of the narrative experience, rather than an enhancement, if not for the technical difficulties I had with it. I’ll explain…

    I loved the atmosphere and mystery of the 3d app and enjoyed navigating it but it flickered an awful lot between different viewpoints (looking up, eye level, looking down) as if it was unstable. I wasn’t sure if this was intentional – it was disturbing, disorientating and kind of suited the piece but it could have been a technical flaw (I’m viewing on Mac OS X 10.6.4, on one of twin screens if that makes any difference). Like Jim, I also got stuck in some corners a few times and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because I’d missed some of the texts. I managed to extricate myself and I got to the end, which I very much enjoyed, although I would’ve preferred longer to explore that final space. It seemed to throw me out quite quickly before I had chance to read everything. Maybe that was intentional too, I don’t know, but it certainly made me want to read the ebook version to discover what I might have missed.

    Anyway, very exciting developments. Looking forward to see what you do next!

  • Hi Christine,

    Thanks for your comments – this is some of the best feedback I’ve had on the work, I really appreciate the details you’ve provided here, plus your positivity about the aspects of the piece you’ve enjoyed. Which is always nice to hear when you’ve slaved away in spare time for months, as I’m sure you know yourself (or anyone who contributes to this site knows) with your own work.

    The production of chapter two (especially the Mac version) has left me somewhat frustrated; the software I used to create the piece – CopperCube – does have its flaws, but I have extensively tested (and, today, revised) the application to try and iron out the glitches as much as possible. I uploaded a new edition at about 3pm UK time. The main aim was to try and stop the “getting stuck” problems that quite a few people have reported, as well as enhance the interface a little to give an indication of progress.

    I have a very old Apple laptop that doesn’t even recognize .app as a file extension, so I’ve felt totally powerless when it comes to the Mac edition of the work (which was just literally exported from CopperCube alongside the Windows version) and seriously considered not even putting it out.

    I will pass on your experience to the developer of the software package and see if he has any thoughts on why you might have suffered the weird flickering (not intentional, honest) and twitching of the screen.

    I guess this is the trouble with trying to distribute a downloadable program: they often depend very much on hellishly complex hardware configurations much more than a Flash/web based work, which usually works regardless and just staggers if your set up isn’t capable. I did try and make this work Flash-based, but the complex use of light maps and objects made Flash player pretty much explode. So, reluctantly, it had to be a stand-alone App.

    Anyway. Again, thank you so much for your comments, I really do appreciate them – and I’ll keep working away at the chapter 2 App to try and make sure it works cross-platform.

    I hope your own work (some of which, recently, I’ve become very closely familiar with :) is going well.

    Best regards,

    Andy

  • I downloaded the new version of the 3d app and I’ve had a chance to explore it again. This time I didn’t get stuck at all, which is great. I would have found navigating the space very spookily satisfying – great soundtrack by the way – but I still had the flickering viewpoints (looking down, eye level, looking up). The flickering happens when I try to pan with my mouse. When I’m moving with the arrow keys, it’s fine. I use an optical mouse, don’t know if that makes a difference. I also tried panning with my Magic Trackpad but I got the flickering with that too.

    This time I managed to stay in the final room much, much longer. I don’t want to give too much away, but… I loved the cat and mouse chase with the texts and the sight of the central magnetic image – a powerful pull that I tried to resist as long as I could!

    My own work is coming along slowly, slowly. I’ve been concentrating on learning, learning and more learning, trying to get a better understanding of programming. Hopefully it will pay off with the piece I’m working on now – a kind of memory(loss) game.

  • I’ve just had a look at the CopperCube Lightmap demo ( http://www.ambiera.com/coppercube/demo.php?demo=lightmaps ) and now I think I see what should be happening when I use my mouse to look around – it works fine for me on the ambiera demo. What’s happening for me with your Chapter 2 app is that I’m only getting 3 different viewpoint angles (up, eye level and down) along the tilt/vertical axis (y axis?) instead of the full range of 3d viewing angles, and it flickers between these three. Movement along the horizontal axis is fine when I’m using the arrow keys. Hope that’s useful.

    cheers
    Christine

  • Thanks again Christine for your very detailed comments. If I release another version update I will mention a thanks you in the documentation for testing, it’s extremely useful and appreciated.

    I mentioned your problem to the author of Coppercube and this was his response:

    “Never heard of a problem like this. I could imaging this might happen because of the hardware. Input works like that: The engine tests the mouse position and resets it to the center of the screen if changed. Maybe the input devices of your friend don’t allow that? Maybe disconnecting that ‘magic trackpad’ already helps? Some more info on the hardware setup of your friend might be useful.”

    So it doesn’t sound like he’s come across this before. I’ve now had considerable feedback on the PC edition of the app and it’s generally been positive, with the bugfixes on the last update ironing out the “getting stuck” issues. My understanding with Coppercube is that the Mac export should be identical to the PC version in as much as it can! So not sure what is going on.

    Anyway. Thanks again. Great that you are on a mass learning stint – always worth it – and look forward to any new work you put out.

    Andy

  • Glad to be of help. Here’s more info on my hardware setup: Mac Pro with 2.66 GHz Quad-Core processor and 3 GB 1066 MHz DDR3 memory, running Mac OS X 10.6.4, using Apple optical mouse as my main input device. I tried it with the Apple magic trackpad but it doesn’t make any difference whether that’s (wirelessly) connected or not.

  • Andy,

    wht an excellent work. gripping. (and that comment comes from someone who really doesn’t like suspense films or first person labyrinths too much.)

    my experiential path thru the material was idiosyncratic: the web version locked up on me before i cld read more (whn i finished with text in first scene, clicking closer to suitcase brought me to beside bed,. i was stuck — perhaps due to my own ineptness, perhaps lack of tenacity, perhaps a bug…)

    since i don’t have a mobile device, i ended up opening the pdf, which (surprisingly for web) i read in its entirety because it was quirky and authentic. motivated, i downloaded the 3d app and navigated its tricky corridors until entering phase 2 which ended too abruptly for my taste, — a situation far preferable to ending too late.

    music is superb atmospheric and augments emotion. my thorough respects go out to the way the work is distributed across devices. its thoroughly engaging. and based on my experience in pdf, it stands on its own as fiction.

    cheers and respects,
    jhave

  • Hi jhave,

    Very kind of you to check it out, thanks for the feedback. I must say this work has generated a lot of reactions, so if nothing else I’m pleased about that – particularly the ‘gripping’ factor which I’m mostly out to achieve.

    Great that you enjoyed the PDF version. It was nice to strip right back down to just words and see if I could make something stand up in the traditional manner of writing.

    Hope your own projects are going well.

    Best regards,

    Andy

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