Name: Horst JENS
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Hashtag: #zamspielen
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Horst about the author: Horst JENS likes the values of the free software movement and is interested in everything about teaching Python and open source game programming to children. He runs an afternoon programming school for children in Vienna, Austria. He enjoys making an weekly nerd podcast in German language together with friends.
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This posting was first published on 2015-sept-08 in the open everything blog of Horst JENS.

Zam spielen #10 social event

Social Computer Games that are free (as beer) to play combined with free beer and meeting friends? That's the "zam spielen" (Viennese dialect for "playing together") art event in Vienna. I visited "zam spielen" last sunday at Vienna's Resselpark. The event took place inside some containers that house temporary art installations during the summer. Consisting of a small bar with a pay-what-you-want policy, the "zam spielen" event took place inside the containers where several computer games waited ready-to-be-played for visitors.

Chesto

2015 09 06 zamSpielen Wien Resselpark
Josef Wiesner
According to one of the organisers, Josef Wiesner, all games selected for a "zam spielen" event are either some kind of underdog games that deserve more public attention or are not yet public alpha versions of games in the making. All presented games share the feature of being locally social games: designed to be played by several people together, in the same room ("couch games"). Josef himself presented his game Chesto - at the checkout were the player learns what it means to be at the checkout of a soulless supermarket chain ... including nervous customers and the certainty to be fired for loitering. The score of a round of Chesto was printed out like a supermarket sales strip on a thermo printer.

chesto
Chesto game, debuting at "zam spielen #10". Image rights: Josef Wiesner

Edgar Rice Soireé

2015 09 06 zamSpielen Wien Resselpark 2015 09 06 zamSpielen Wien Resselpark 2015 09 06zamSpielen Wien Resselpark 2015 09 06 zamSpielen Wien Resselpark

I spend most time watching (and playing) Edgar Rice Soireé and chatting with one of it's developers, Thomas Perl. His game is about moving people, not unlike Twister: Up to four players have to catch two matching playstation controllers hanging from strings attached to the ceiling. While the players hold the controllers (pressing buttons), the lights of the controllers slowly change colours. Players must act fast to find another controller of a their matching colour. A player is out of the game if he holds no controller of his own colour. While the game start slow, sound effects and tempo increase during the game.

2015 09 06 zamSpielen Wien Resselpark

See also Youtube Video of people playing Edgar Rice Soireé:

According to developer Thomas PERL, the game is refined with each installation and the rules are constantly improved. The code of the game itself is not well documented and not open-sourced, but the underlying libraries are open source. A set of currently 3 computers work together to control all the playstation controllers of the game. Setting up, building and maintaining the game (each playstation controller need batteries) is no simple task so the game is currently sadly only playable at special occasions like at the zam spielen event.

According to Thomas Perl players can also opt to for more action oriented rules where it is allowed to tackle and block other players - however the zam spielen crowd was far to peaceful for such ideas.

The game attracted new players all the time and elegant winning moves were usually met with applause from the audience.

2015 09 06 zamSpielen Wien Resselpark
Developer Thomas Perl (right, with camera) documenting the rapid gameflow

Line wobbler

2015 09 06 zamSpielen Wien Resselpark
Line Wobbler

The third game I spent some focused time with, Line Wobbler is a hardware project built on top of an Arduino. It's fascinating to play and to watch being played but a bit difficult to describe: Basically it's a long single strip of RGB-Led-lights. The player in this one-dimensional fighting game controls his group of lights by carefully moving an analog joystick to move his groups of lights forward and backward. The game is made complicated by different hostile group of light also wandering slowly along the line. The player can "attack" hostile lights by quickly wobbling the joystick to generate a short-time, expanding light explosion followed by a cooldown phase. If the "player" group of lights hits the "hostile" group of light while attacking, the hostile lights disappear and the player can carefully move on to the next enemy. If the player wobbles too early, either nothing happens (if he is lucky) or the hostile light groups happens to wander into the player light group in the cooldown phase of his wobbling. In this scenario a beautiful explosion of colored light effects happens and the game is over.

While the game is one-dimensional in it's nature, there is no limit of how to arrange the led-strip (spirals, parallel lines etc.) and I can imagine that line wobbler will become very popular as a game for chill out zones like in student dorms, hacker spaces or to be played while watching TV or doing nothing special while sitting on a couch.

2015 09 06 zamSpielen Wien Resselpark
Line Wobbler: vertical strip at topleft

The gameplay can best be seen in this video of a much shorter version of Line wobbler:

other games

I sadly had not the time to check out the other games on display, but links can be found at the zam spielen homepage:

  • Chao Chao always kept a 4-person couch busy and was displayed at the wall with a beamer. It looks like sperms(?) trying to run through a rocky maze.
  • Check in - knock out is a platformer with nice retro-style graphic. As far as i understood from watching, it's a bit like Joust
  • Fly Wrench was constantly played, seems to be a bit like Thrust
  • PacaPong is a cross-breed of PacMan and Pong. I played it once.
  • Robotron 64 was also played by me once but I lost very quickly. You control a mario-like figure and shoot at hostile sprites. movement is restricted into 4 cardinal directions.

Summary

Zam spielen is a nice opportunity to mix and mengle with the small, but fine community of game devs and game enthusiasts in Vienna. See you there next time!

other links about this event:


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