Honorary Fellow Dr Roba Abbas

Dr Roba Abbas is an Honorary Fellow with the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences at the University of Wollongong, Australia. She completed her Australian Research Council (ARC)-funded Doctor of Philosophy on the topic of Location-Based Services Regulation in 2012, earning special commendations for her thesis titled Location-Based Services Regulation in Australia: A Socio-Technical Approach.

Abbas also graduated with first class Honours and Distinction in Information and Communication Technology (majoring in Business Information Systems) from the University of Wollongong Australia in 2006, earning a place on the Faculty of Informatics Dean's Merit List.

She has a strong interest in socio-technical theory, social media, and location-enabled technologies. Abbas has co-edited the Privacy and Security Issues in Social Networks section in the Encyclopedia of Social Network Analysis and Mining, and has previously co-edited a special issue in Cases on Information Technology on the Social Implications of Emerging Technologies. Abbas has written numerous papers most recently for Computer Law and Security Review and IT and People. She has also lectured and tutored in ICT, and has over five years industry experience in product management and enterprise information architecture.

See also: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2010/06/11/2922784.htm

Associate Professor Anas Aloudat @ The American University in the Emirates

Dr. Anas Aloudat is an Associate Professor, at the College of Computer Information Technology, the American University in the Emirates. Dr. Anas holds a PhD in Information Systems and Technology, from the University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia, 2011; a Master of Science in Computing, from the University of Technology, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 2003, and a Bachelor of Science in Computing, from Mu’tah University in Karak, Jordan 1993. Dr. Anas has previously been employed as an Associate Lecturer at the University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia, and as Associate Professor at the University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan. He has published extensively in various journals, book chapters and conference proceedings. His research interests include Government informatics, the social implications of the emerging technologies, national security and emergency management, as well as research related to social media, big data, biometrics and location-based services. Dr. Anas serves as a reviewer for several international journals and conferences. He has also served as a consultant for several organizations and leading consultancy companies in Jordan and in Yemen, on IST business solutions, information management, business intelligence and quality issues in higher education.

Anas completed his PhD in 2011 on the topic of location-based emergency management.

Laura Perusco Interviewed On Building A Telltale Game In Minecraft: Story Mode

Laura Perusco has been the Communications Manager for Telltale Games now for some years. She has commented on dozens of international news stories regarding Telltale games and releases. For more search through these pages here. A recent story is included below. Laura was an extremely talented creative writer, and merged her IT skills with these talents. We wrote lots of papers together, and Laura even presented one of these solo in Beijing, China.

Source: http://www.thesixthaxis.com/2015/10/13/interview-laura-perusco-on-building-a-telltale-game-in-minecraft-story-mode/

Minecraft is a phenomenon that has captured the imaginations of millions and millions of people around the world, while Telltale have become well known for bringing a distinctive form of branching, decision-led story telling to their adventure games. Minecraft: Story Mode brings those two things together today – and you can read our review here.

To tell the truth, it’s not a property that most people would have expected Telltale to adapt, and so as we sat down with Laura Perusco, Creative Communications Manager at Telltale Games, we asked her about just that.

TSA: I think it took a lot of people by surprise when it came out that you were working on Minecraft: Story mode. It’s not the most obvious of franchise to adapt into a Telltale game, is it?

Laura Perusco: So, it’s the idea of doing a videogame set in the world of another videogame. We were already working on Tales from the Borderlands, which is set in Gearbox Software’s Borderlands universe, and when we were working on that we started thinking about other videogames that would be suitable for this and, you know, there were people in the office who play Minecraft and people with kids that play Minecraft, and we obviously know it’s this huge phenomenon.

People create their own stories in that world just as they’re playing, and there are all these Youtubers who create their own Minecraft stories, so stories set in the Minecraft universe are something that people are obviously interested in. So we reached out to Mojang and asked, you know, “Can we do Miecraft: Story Mode?”

TSA: I feel like you’ve got some common ground in creating a story within a game that’s all about creation with The Lego Movie. Do you feel that as well in the studio?

Laura: I absolutely see commonalities between the two, yeah, because Lego is also something that you use to create stuff but it didn’t have a story of its own.

TSA: I guess we’ll see a Minecraft: Dimension game soon! [laughs]

It is quite interesting to see the direction that you’ve taken with the story, because it very much is a Telltale game with action, characters with friendships and conflict, and it’s interesting that you’ve gone for that instead of maybe a more traditional point and click adventure or something with more Minecraft-style crafting.

Laura: So, at Telltale, we’re all about playable stories, that’s what we do. We want our stuff to feel like a playable movie or a playable TV show, and we really wanted this to be an all-ages adventure, something that families could sit on the couch and play together and talk about.

You might have noticed that there are some slightly more puzzle-y elements than what we’ve been doing recently, like at the [end of this episode], but whatever license we’re working on, we try to make sure the gameplay, the mechanics, the level of the action, and the level of the puzzles fits what that license is about.

TSA: And you do have elements of crafting in there…

Laura: Yeah, we absolutely had to have crafting and building and that kind of stuff. That’s what Minecraft is, and that’s what people love about it!

We want it to feel like Minecraft, absolutely.

TSA: But how do you decide to draw the line between the two sides? You craft items here, but you’re not able to actually build something out of blocks, for example.

Laura: Well that’s the thing. Because we do make playable stories, pacing is really important, so we don’t want anything to get in the way of the flow of the story, and we wouldn’t make a sandbox because that’s Minecraft! [laughs]

We’re not trying to reinvent Minecraft, what we’re doing is a story set in Minecraft’s world, so adding elements of crafting and building where it fits in that story is what we’re trying to do.

TSA: You do have a lot of fun little ideas and jokes in there, so for example, from the Minecraft side of things you have references like the minecarts scene, but I also quite enjoyed that you could seemingly go through the entire story with Jesse as a silent protagonist.

Laura: Yeah, and that’s possible in all of the Telltale stories with silence as an option, and it is always an option.

I think there’s a little easter egg in there for people that want to do a silent playthrough, but the characters absolutely react to you differently if you’re staying silent. They won’t just continue on…

TSA: It’s not like Half Life 2 where they just accept that you’re not very talkative? [laughs]

Laura: [laughs] Exactly, they’ll call you out on it and be like, “Great pep talk!” or, “Fine Jesse, don’t bother offering an opinion, we’ll do it without you!”

TSA: This episode does end with – and obviously, I’m not going to go into the specifics and spoil it – it does end with a rather big decision that’s going to affect the next episode in a big way. I’m curious how you’re going to resolve that in the second episode when it will have you going to completely different areas.

Laura: And you are! [laughs]

We like to have divergent paths as and where it makes sense, and we like to make it feel like your choices matter, whether it’s in how a character ends up reacting to you or where you go and what you do, but we’re telling one particular story here. We’re not doing something that has six different endings where you end up in a completely different place depending on the decisions that you make, so you end up with these divergent paths that meet back up for the important story bits.

TSA: I’d quite like to see you guys tackle a pick your own adventure novel…

Laura: But then you end up making all of this content that no-one is going to see!

TSA: No! Because with a pick your own adventure novel, you’ve got ten fingers and thumbs, so you’ve got ten checkpoints!

Laura: Oh, yeah, I’d always be holding stuff so I could go back.

TSA: I really enjoyed the music throughout the episode, and I’m wondering if you can talk about the inspirations behind that? It’s been a long time since I’ve delved into Minecraft even the tiniest bit, so were Anadel working from the music in that game?

Laura: Absolutely. So, the background music in Minecraft is all very ambient and it’s composed in that way, whereas for Minecraft: Story Mode, what we want is for the music to be cinematic and have crescendos and different levels, so it’s not ambient all the way through. So that’s something we were aiming for.

Anadel, we actually started working with on The Walking Dead, so they’ve done music for us before…

TSA: It’s quite a different feel in this game! It reminded me of, if you remember it, Everyday Shooter on PS3?

Laura: Uh, I don’t…

TSA: It was a twin stick shooter, but as you shoot enemies, they add notes and tones to the music of the level. It’s so old, it doesn’t even have trophies, but it was really good!

Laura: Oh cool! That sounds awesome.

TSA: Finally, I know a lot of people like to have their own graphic mods and texture packs in Minecraft, is there any chance that even just the PC version has graphics mods like that? [laughs]

Laura: [laughs] Uh, no. This is what it is.

There are some things that don’t exist in the base Minecraft. Things like, you know, depth of field changes to make it look more cinematic, because this is the language of cinema, it’s not open-world sandbox. But yes, this is the way the game is going to look!

We actually modelled a lot of the environments in actual Minecraft first and then exported them into the Telltale engine, to make sure everything feels absolutely, unequivocally Minecraft. Then we added a little bit of spice on top of that.