Braindump: Metaverse, gaming and metabolism of cities talk

As soon as my talk appointments solidified I froze up with writer’s block, and the, to me, massive challenge of learning all the stuff just to tell the story of what I want to do, nevermind doing it! For a start, I would like to give the talk in Javascript to make it interactive and allow better transfer between platforms (I think … html and all that??), which is enough of a challenge already. So, to help myself unclog, a dump of the rough notes I’ve been accumulating. This post will probably change often, but stay messy, and each talk will get its own dedicated post as the focus will be unique for each.

  1. First slides – what is the metaverse, what sort of gaming do I mean, what is metabolism of cities.
  2. Next few slides – why am I doing this.
  3. Then slides on managing expectations – of this talk, and of the project.
  4. Then the fun stuff in two parts: 1. Generating the data – the game, and 2. presenting, using the data: the data viz stuff
  5. Then projects, where to from here, what are we doing first, next and big picture
    Presenting the data is easier, so focus on learning those skills.
    Developing the game to generate the data, really hard, so work on animation, prototype to sell the idea.

This is where the game idea started:

During my PhD on wastewater biorefineries I did a mass balance and wanted to visualise it using Sankeys, didn’t quite get it perfect and want to continue with that, as well as code the thing into Python and allow users to input their own data via a web interface, to just play with it, and more in the vein of d3:, but that’s sortof where this all started.

I’m currently exploring the next phase in my life, trying to combine what I believe is important – urban resource flows, with what I enjoy – games and visualisation and beautiful things.

Realistic expectations: not very confident this will work in entirety because of resources (time, people, life changes). Not keen on asking for money (yet) because disillusioned with research, and research grants. But would like to have enough of a prototype after 18 months to enter into competitions.
so main objective is gaining skills, not game, for next 18 months, then make a call.
Skills I hope to learn:

  • make a presentation using reveal.js on my local computer
  • presenting in javascript (gave up on making it work in wordpress (ala I want the reveal.js to run with my url ( etc etc) displayed. So I need to figure out where to store the code, available from github, could the Hetzner konsole do this?)
  • how to open, play with, edit, create typography (right word? files with heights above sea level info, to get contour lines and elevation) files – pretty 3D maps
  • doing d3 right, getting it into wordpress posts
  • aaalll the landscape architecture tools
  • geography tools, whatever they are
  • package node-reveal in Debian, apparently (ginggs is bugging me about it)

Not planning to reinvent the wheel, try work with what exists as far as possible, link existing things together in creative, engaging and beautiful ways.

What this is NOT:
Environmental propaganda. Creating awareness by top-down announcements or lecturing is not helpful.

Metaverse / Magicverse

“Imagine having a game that for a large set of players exists only for the sake of fun, with another set of players using it for scenario planning, education, and monitoring initiatives.”

– Aquasavvy game

I’ll probably not call it Aquasavvy, too soft, too sciencey. Not too bothered by what it’s called, currently thinking ‘Apocalypse’

Fortnite and Epic Games’s Metaverse:

“The Magicverse is an Emergent System of Systems bridging the physical with the digital, in a large scale, persistent manner within a community of people.”

The Magicverse:

Metabolism of Cities –
data from the bottom up, user generated, knowledge co-generated from the bottom up. *** I have to do some serious work to become part of this initiative, ideally before DebConf, but the process has been started 🙂

Hadley tool – Hazel. Meeting Hadley and Peter Arnold at the Stockholm World Water Week is where I first realised this could actually work. It wasn’t the first time I realised the power latent in landscape architects’ ability to visualise landscapes. That was Julia McLachlan’s honour, and then Thomas Nideroest ever so kindly wrote me a guide document (pdf, 15MB, shared with permission) how to create the images!

Niederoest images
games: godus, luminocity, <origami folding > physics
Godus: http://22cans.com

CityEngine. … other tools

GSoC list

Origami, more accurately paper folding (different rules to origami) – fold your storage vessels, wind power, to explore the relationship between surface and volume (materials are expensive, for example, so least material for largest volume, or solar catch or wind surface)
May need different physics, may be computationally expensive.
similar to GoT intro?

from Amy-Jean (AquaSavvy)
Logo rationale
The idea is that the water drop symbol and the letter shapes have been harmonised visually to communicate the ideal relationship between natural + man-made. The letterforms represent urban infrastructure and also the ideology that we create as humans. The forms also reference game interfaces, reinforcing the notion that innovation is derived from play and storytelling. Lastly, the forms can be seen as pathways – unconventional ways to reach new solutions and to re-invent / re-flow what we have done before.
Sample graphics
I have worked with the tactile feeling of collage and paper-cut art, to communicate the layers and process involved in re-imagining a city; continuing the brand rationale through into the visuals with a playful colour palette and bold, accessible designs.

sewer overflow data – the serious metabolism of cities work
presentation in web browser – javascript e.g.

Imagine an augmented reality game, a mix between something like Township or SimCity and Ingress or Pokemon Go, with a visual style similar to the Lumino City game. Imagine a building game that uses real cities and real challenges – like the current water crisis in Cape Town, where real resource limitations need to be managed. The game can start from a blank start to build your city or start with what exists in reality and modify it in certain ways (utopia or apocalypse) and play with what happens due to your decisions.

One way the game could work is you and your tribe have to survive against the zombie apocalypse in an augmented reality game, using ruins based on real buildings in a world city, let’s say Cape Town after #dayzero. you can use solar power, wind, grow food, find water etc, but the twist is that this is rooted in real world. If you never get sunlight or wind because you chose to settle in the leafy, sheltered suburb of Newlands, the wettest suburb in South Africa, oh well.

Much of the data to play this game is highly granular; how big is the puddle outside of your house after an average storm? This data does not exist in engineering models. Thus the game should have incentive – credits or levelling up faster or whatever, for users who generate this data, and then it needs to be verified to a reasonable extent.

The biggest lesson for me after the recent extreme drought in Cape Town is that the resilience (or whatever buzzword you choose) needed to survive climate change cannot happen top-down, via urban planning or policy or whatever. It takes too long, and doesn’t take into account people’s everyday challenges.

I’ve been struggling with how to make things interesting, and how not to get bogged down by the realities of actually just never getting enough rain and sun to beat zombies… So maybe as one levels up one can start messing with the laws of nature, pull clouds to where they should rain, place a god’s thumb on a river to dam it up, have special powers to change one law of nature, e.g. change gravity, change the density of one element… So use the parameters in the serious climage change (for example) models, but then change it to something unreasonable just for the fun of it.

DIY book
end of experting link (IWA?)

Ingress but with an option to avoid the violence.
To me the concept of the Metaverse is that I can choose if I want, say, a Fortnite experience, where I don’t physically run around outside, or a Ingress or Pokemon Go where I do have physical tasks in real life, and be able to hope between the two. I also want to choose if I want a Sims experience where I don’t have to participate in violence, and choose between single player or multi-player modes. It’s important to me that this is a platform that is friendly to women, for example, like the Sims is. I think that means options for no violence, and more time-management aspects, as well as creativity, sand-box aspects.

Can have a concurrent activation campaign, similar to the Checkers Little Garden campaign  –
Where paper models of world sites (eiffel tower, pyramids etc) can be collected, but also layers, e.g. the layers of the magicverse, showing river catchments, cities of the world, skylines… something that can also build geospatial skills, and link with software / kits / guides to render own cities, or neighbourhoods, to help people understand the resource flows in their own lives.
Can also link with animation skills, e.g. Khan Academy’s pizar in a box?

Previous precedent of who owns the data, what license (should) govern the data. (actually not the data but the learning models or other stuff, and this is more about licensing in Debian, so not a critical thing)

What do we need to plan for from the start to prevent as many issues as we can, later on?

Metabolism of Cities expects to use data gathered by city municipalities which probably has their own licensing issues, things like anonymisation etc.

I am interested in a much more granular form of data, each person or household scale, and it is geographically dependent, think of how stormwater flows, where puddles or small floods happen, and I don’t think this can be fully anonymised.

My first thing I want to try is sewer overflows, starting with City data, because this is where I started in my previous life when I volunteered in the management of the Zandvlei estuary

Urban metabolism initiatives and similar things are concerned about sustainability and resilience and similar buzzwords, but I think we underestimate how much slips through the cracks, and the official data doesn’t give a good handle on this, and even when officials or experts know the extent, they are reluctant to share it – it looks bad to have close to 20% of your sewage leaking out all over the place.

from Graham: Debian has experience in how very many different things fit together, and have experience in how different licensing options interface (or not), and maybe I can help improve this.

** I am just venturing into this and using the talk to give a deadline to my early research, so very much a work in progress. Help, comments, critique welcome.

I think the main point of this project is to show to the different groups of people the potential of working together. It’s a huge attempt and likely to fail, so one needs to manage expectations and do the smaller components well, to hopefully help the different players play together.

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