We're all Monkeys

A certain person (who shall remain nameless) at the recent X | Media | Lab put it best when he said: “we’re all monkeys”.

He was responding to my spiel about my experience with GamerDNA, a site that incentivises and engages its community with rewards and achievements for such things as: filling in 5 pieces of profile information; uploading 25 or more game screenshots; logging 5 articles of gamer news; inviting 5 or more friends to join up, etc.

I signed up to the site about a year ago and was quickly drawn in by the little incentivising gimmicks that were thrown at me. As our nameless friend pointed out, I allowed my buttons to be pushed and I responded by the book: Monkey.

This type of system obviously has its roots in gaming, tapping into the competitive and reward-driven aspect of our nature as it does, but others argue that you can apply the same game-like mechanics to even the most mundane of activities – personal finance, for instance? – and incentivise and engage your users in a tangible way.

Turn the world into a game, they argue, and it works better. Give people a competition, and it can transform a dull-but-important task into something exciting.

Wired – How Game Design Can Revolutionize Everyday Life

At Pixelati, this system of engaging users through achievement and reward based systems really resonated with my personal approach to game design, so you’ll find it crops its head up in, for example, our Danger Balls game, which is ostensibly a “casual” title with the difference that we’re implementing dynamic goals-based gameplay and granular player-activity-based scoring (e.g. if you jump a lot, you’re “jumpy”, and your score and title reflects this).

…there’s a strong correlation between games that sell well and games that offer numerous and diverse accomplishments…

Gamespot – Achievement-rich Games Sell Better

Of course, time will tell whether we’ve actually done a good job of incorporating these mechanics into our game but if we have, by all accounts players/users will respond and engage in a much greater way than if we don’t employ these systems. The fun comes when we apply them in other areas, like community websites – but that’s a future blog post : ).

There’s more reading here (thanks to Rajat Paharia and Bunchball for the links throughout this article!):

The Wrinkled Future of Online Gaming (Wired)
Marrying Social Worlds with Game Mechanics (WorldsInMotion.biz)

General Update

You can’t tell from our post frequency but things have been busy at Pixelati of late! We have more news and inside views coming but for now here’s a little update on our present state.

Goin’ mobile

Bliss Family Farm Title ScreenWe’re going mobile! We have a number of smaller mobile projects in various stages of development; some are complete, pending a graphical overhaul; others are in prototype phase.  Thanks to the speedy prototyping skills of our Art team we’re looking at producing a few of these titles within a relatively short timeframe. Keep it locked on our forthcoming Project page for more info.

NZ Game Development Community

We’re involved in an initiative to foster collaboration and connectedness within the New Zealand gamedev industry. We’ll have more news as it develops but suffice to say, it’s great to be working with Andy from Gamemold and Peter from Pixelthis; we’re looking forward to some exciting developments!

Video goodness

We do a lot of video work at Pixelati – besides helping to pay the bills it gets us into exciting events and meeting great companies working within the creative fields (like Geek Freeks). We’ve got some big work coming up with Illegal Musik and you’ll be seeing some of our recent work with Illegal and J Williams coming soon to a screen near you! : ).

What’s up in the wider industry? It gets lonely being a little startup on the grind. Hit us up if you’re a creative with some exciting news – we’d love to hear it!


We were lucky enough to attend the Keynote Conference for X | Media | Lab last Friday at the Hilton Hotel, Downtown Auckland.

X | Media | Lab is an internationally acclaimed creative think-tank for digital media professionals. Founded in 2003 and managed by Megan Elliot and Brendan Harkin, its primary function is to bring together the world’s outstanding creatives, executives and powerbrokers (from cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural and cross-platform areas) to mentor local companies wanting to access high-level experience and become part of a larger network.

On conference day we were treated to presentations from a variety of mentors: from Game Designers to Venture Capitalists and Social Media Experts like Juliette Powell, whose inspiring talk touched on social capital and the fact that “people matter”.

Babe On A BeamWe met with plenty of great people – like Michela Ledwidge from MOD Films, who let us have a play with her cool in-development iPhone game – Babe on a Beam. We’ll have to get some tips when we port Danger Balls over to iPhone, Michela!

Attendees were treated to many outstanding presentations like the one from media strategist Richard Cardran, who introduced us to the various business models in media, and gave us a glimpse at the stunning gestural navigation of Perceptive Pixel (which I’m sure we’ll one day justify having in our office). Venture Capitalist Tim Chang also gave a stand out presentation packed with information on the state of the investment situation and his projections for future opportunities. Vishal Gondal introduced us to the Indian concept of jugaad, which in many ways parallels the kiwi ingenuity exhibited in our “Number 8 wire” mentality and Rajat Paharia from Bunchball laid down the specifics for reward systems, and how to motivate users into utilising your web product. This was of particular interest as there are a few of our projects already heading along these lines.

There were many others – all were outstanding in their own way. Overall it was an extremely informative and motivating event and we will definitely be back next year. Thanks again to Megan and Brendan for the invite!

For more information check out Idealog TV and The Big Idea

Weekly Weblinks: Creativity around the web

Favourite link of the week is ThruYOU – in which an enterprising chap from Israel called Kutiman mashes Youtube clips together to create great music (there’s a personal fave embedded below). If you click through to the Youtube vids themselves you can see all the individual videos that make up the song in the information panel to the right of each clip. Well worth checking out!

Available in full on Youtube is the 26 minute animated short film “The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello“. With a sepia silhouetty aesthetic and a cinematic gravity from the start, this little film tells a creepy tale with style!

And finally, a compelling argument for David Fincher’s Fight Club being based on Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes – Ed Norton is Calvin and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) is his imaginary friend, Hobbes… Oh, and Marla is Susie Derkins reborn. Go and read! You will soon be convinced of Fincher’s homage ; ).

Flipbook Animation meeting spectaculicious

The first Flipbook meet was a rousing success – a great turnout, great talent on display, and an enthusiastic crowd of pencil, paper and pixel pushers! Whilst the animation on display revealed a few of the many artistes in the room, Guitar Hero later unveiled the closet rockstars (couldn’t seem to keep Jeremy off it… you forgot to bring your wig and headband bro – we know you’ve got them at home next to the mirror and the Bon Jovi poster…)

Congratulations to the three winners – Rhubarb Zoo, Ned Wenlock and Alex Dron – and thanks for speaking to us on camera afterward! We’re editing up the footage and will have a vid online featuring short clips from the winning works as soon as we can.

Looking forward to the next Flipbook!

Until then, check out this short from 3rd place-getter Alex Dron, featuring his winning character: Fot!


Meet the Danger Balls Development team

Tim Evans: Game Designer / Artist

Tim Evans is the strange chap with the charming photo on our “About” page. I think his mummy and daddy dropped him on his head when he was a baby. They say you have to be a bit loopy to be a good game designer – I don’t know if that’s true (or even if anyone actually said it) but it takes up paragraph space.

Tom Mulgrew: Coder / Game Designer

Tom is our evil genius coding guy – he takes the random ideas everyone comes up with and turns them into maths that the computer (or, in this case, Xbox) can understand. I think he was dropped on his head too… just check out his Bebo page if you don’t believe me… (specifically that little video down the left-hand side…)

Damien Caine: Writer / Musician

The other member of the team is me – I’m the guy behind the camera who watches everyone else do the hard work, pokes a camera in their face at the most annoying times, then turns up at the after party, claims all the glory, and collapses drunk in the garden out the back for the night. I also do a bit of writing and game design when I’m allowed to.

Together, we make up the Danger Balls Development team for Pixelati. And here’s the first video blog in a regular series on the making of Danger Balls (note: there’s a lot of temp programmer art in there at the moment :).

Kraftbomb this Sunday

It’s that time again – Kraftbomb is on at the Grey Lynn Community Center in Auckland this Sunday for anyone who wants to head along and support our local creative community!

For those that don’t know yet, Kraftbomb is Auckland’s hottest and hippest craft show with hand made goodies from across the spectrum – toys, cupcakes, record bowls, necklaces, accessories, and lots more.

Kraftbomb’s creators, Karla and City, are classic creatives – talented in many fields – and their aim with Kraftbomb is to have an outlet for their various works and to provide the same for the craft community in Auckland. They’re doing pretty damn well so far – big ups guys! : ).


At the end of last year we caught DJCXL on his Tuesday night radio show on BaseFM. He laid down a 2 hour mix with live freestyling from MC Bling in the last half hour – too good to miss.

The great thing about BaseFM is their mix show format that values the creative: DJs play for two hours from their own record collections – Base don’t dictate prescribed playlists, so what you get is fresh music from people who care. No more high rotate sledgehammer numbness!

Thanks to Jazz Ziedan, Base Station Manager!

Mukpuddy throws a party for Auckland's animation community

NZ animation gurus Mukpuddy have been drawin’ pitchas for a fair wee while now – you can keep up with their awesome work via their blog. They’re perhaps best known for the series “Sparkle Friends” on TVNZ’s What Now and their regional winning 48 Hour film short “Camp Fear” but there are lots of exciting things going on in the MukCamp so keep an eye on their blog for new developments throughout ’09!

For instance, in late Feb they’re hosting Flipbook to help draw the Auckland animation community closer together. Flipbook is an informal get together to screen cartoons submitted by the community, talk shop, have a few drinks and play some Guitar Hero xD so if you’re an animator in Auckland or the surrounds, make sure you head along! For those who aren’t in this exclusive club, keep an eye out for pics and/or video at the Facebook event page afterward.

The shindig’s going down at the Fordes Bar on Anzac Ave in the city – full details can be found here or on the Flipbook Facebook page!


Flipbook - NZ Animation Showcase

Flipbook - NZ Animation Showcase

Shake Dance Party

This Pixelati-produced clip from November 08 was captured at Zen bar in Auckland for the final Shake dance party of the year. It’s a showcase of the skill of various members of the Prestige Dance Crew alongside shots of the general public boogeying on down to DJCXL on the turntable.

New Zealand’s dance scene in general has advanced a great deal in the last few years – in fact, we ran into an old friend at Starbucks in Aotea Square last night while filming the Danger Balls video blog: he used to be a 3D modeller and is now a swing dancer extraordinaire. He’s a member of NZ’s School of Swing Dance – Jitterbugs (Big ups Aiden!). Creative people never cease to amaze me with their diverse interests : ).

The mix on this soundtrack was put together by DJCXL.

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We are a transmedia entertainment company working in video, music, web and games.

We've made game trailers with Grinding Gear Games, created music videos with Illegal Musik, built communities with PlayMaker, and we're working on a casual game for Xbox and iOS called Danger Balls.