In digital games, players can explore virtual worlds full of wonder and new experiences. But games are limited by the imagination of their designer. Game orchestration is the activity of creating experiences for players at run-time. An orchestrator manipulates the game in response to the player's actions in order to broaden the possibilities of the experience. The orchestrator can create new terrain, add new entities to the game and animate existing entities. Since all of this happens in real-time, orchestrators must be able to rapidly and richly interact with the virtual world. Liberi Live is a game orchestration tool. The orchestrator can balance the game and react to players' interests by unobtrusively adding and manipulating entities and terrain. In order to create and change content rapidly, the interface has a palette of tools similar to a painting program. Liberi Live is implemented for a multitouch table so that the orchestrator can paint the world with his/her fingers.
The goal of this project is to have a tool, Liberi Live, that can help balance a game by unobtrusively and rapidly orchestrating it at run-time. With Liberi Live new possibilities can be created and new behaviours can emerge during game play.
Before I could go to Canada I had to apply for a work permit. Since I didn't have enough time to send all the documents in by mail I went to the embassy in Berlin. After just a few hours I received the letter of introduction which is needed to get the work permit when you enter the country. I chose to fly to Toronto and then take the bus to Kingston. There is a direct connection that goes from the airport to Kingston and Queen's University. When I arrived at Toronto airport I had to wait for an hour for my work permit. I was afraid that I would miss my bus, but I was just in time.
The first thing I noticed in Canada was that everyone is so much more friendly. It already starts with small things like saying "Thank you!" more frequently. Another example of the Canadian friendliness happened on my first day. I had no coins to ride the local bus but you cannot pay the fare with bills so I was worried what to do. After explaining the situation to the bus driver he just said, "It's okay. It's an early Christmas present!" and I could ride the bus. In Germany that would never have happened.
My lab, the EQUIS lab, was not directly on campus but in a house next to it. My supervisor Nick Graham and the other students were great. The lab felt more like a family. We ate together everyday outside in the garden when it was still warm or in the living room when it became too cold. Every now and then we played board games together in the afternoon. One lab mate lives near a lake so we were invited there a few times and went kayaking and ice skating. That was so much fun! The university also offers different activities like a Thanksgiving potluck dinner or pumpkin carving.
Kingston was the first capital of Canada and has many historical sights like Fort Henry, the house of the first president and the Rideau Canal. Downtown and on campus you can see many limestone buildings. It is a very nice sight. From the shores you can see Wolfe Island which is very nice for biking. In winter there are various skating rinks in Kingston. The downtown of Kingston has a lot of restaurants, shops, a cinema and a theater. Most shops and especially the grocery stores are opened daily and during the week longer than in Germany. There is just one thing I could not get used to: the tax is almost never included in the price.
Kingston is also the perfect place if you want to visit many different places. I went to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal for a weekend each, made a day trip to the Niagara falls and traveled to the USA during the Christmas Holidays.
Many students go to Toronto for a weekend so it is very easy to find a cheap ride share. I liked Casa Loma, a castle built by a business man, the best although at first I was skeptical whether a castle in Canada would be so interesting when we have really old ones in Germany. But with this business man as an example it as very interesting to learn about Toronto's history and people. In Ottawa I learned a lot about the Canadian history in general and the Canadian government. In my opinion, the Museum of Civilization was even better than the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and the tour I took on Parliament Hill was very interesting. Montreal was a whole different experience because I heard a lot more French although Ottawa is bilingual as well.
Of course, a very important part of my time in Canada was my project in the EQUIS lab: Game Orchestration with Liberi Live. Liberi Live is a tool for run-time manipulation of a game in order to create new experiences for the player. It is implemented for a multitouch table so that the orchestrator can paint the world with his/her fingers. I developed the user interface and conducted a user study.
In February the TEI conference was held in Kingston. It was my first conference and I was very excited. I attended so many interesting presentations and talks, I could try out new interfaces and in a workshop I could prototype a new user interface. I also showed a demo of Liberi Live and it was great to see the people playing with it.
My time in Canada was a great experience and I learned a lot about the country and the field of surface computing. I am very grateful I had the chance to go to Kingston and be a part of the EQUIS lab.