nybble-engine-toolZ - http://www.climax.at, Margarete Jahrmann / Max Moswitzer 2003

[nybble-engine-toolZ home] - [A radical meta-art system shooter] -  [Narratives of the code]


The network game and installation *nybble-engine-toolZ*is an example for a mediapoietic work.  
*nybble-engine-toolZ* - A radical meta-art system shooter and practical model of mediapoiesis
The project *nybble engine toolZ* re-engineers such an existing commercial system as a game engine sprinkled with network commands. A nybble is the unit of half a byte or four bits and thus the basis of every digital conversion. As the numeric equivalent of the binary code, it exemplifies the internal logic of a software, that converts codes and protocols on a server into various representations.

*nybble-engine-toolZ* - as a radical meta-art shooter, serves as a self-ironic multi-player statement tool. The network suggested for the interactive installation consists of players on site in the installation, actors on a remote site in the city and spectators connected to the running nybble-engine game server via the Internet. When shifting between these positions participants become <spect-actors>, active spectators, changing between the interactive and the interpassive role of a player with code and a writer of code, between a visitor in an installation and an actor in a virtual environment. E-mails can be sent into the nybble-game environment and change it. There are also outgoing mails to president@whitehouse.gov. We applied the newly coded game-features, as out and ingoing mails, sensible from a <cyber-Nethical> point of view. The scientist and philosopher Heinz von Foerster introduced the term KybernEthik, (Foerster, Berlin 1993). He is talking about a second order ethics, according to a second order cybernetics, which is following the observation of the observation as principle. In intended contrast to the violent aesthetics of the computer game, the project is based on anti-war e-mails, commissioned with each shot made with the game pad in the installation and the online network. So the toolz are usefull for the lessons in self defense, which the citicens of contemporary democratic societies should take to be able to resist against manipulation and control, as Noam Chomsky described it (New York 2002).

Each toolz-email is displayed in real-time as both ASCII text and newly generated visual object. Out of this visually coded environment, text messages are sent. This can also be commands from the running engine itself to the network. E-mails inside the engine trigger the environment of action-bots (these are software player-robots with a minimal artificial intelligence), although one can also directly log in on the game-server. While moving through the environment, trace routes are started from the game to a number of crucial government servers. Network activities outside the engine are displayed in the game environment in real-time as texts and 3-D objects.

click on the image for a large view

The installation: an interactive/interpassive group experiment

The architecture of the installation room, where the participants are able to take seat, is shaped like the 3-D form of the virtual environment. This form is a trace of the movements inside the network  environment. We transfer this data-form into the installation room, by making a 3D printout in real size of the virtual object. Following contemporary architect and theorist Bernard Cache’s example, we call these forms objectiles. In reference to Bernard Cache, Gilles Deleuze defines an ‘objectile’ as “a very modern conception of the technological object” 3. Inside the virtual space each actionbot or player’s avatar carries a data object instead of a weapon. As these objects represent command lines and processes from the game environment, they also appear as a part of the installation interface, as laser-sintered <objectile>. In its pure form as code equivalent and as discourse object it is exhibited as a code hardcopy.

click on the image for a large view

The peer-to-peer software of the installation converts network processes into three-dimensional abstract movies and projects these onto a 180-degree screen, such as experienced in an interpassive cinematic situation. The network codes and commands are generated with the aid of game engines into audio-visual so called machinima movies. Simultaneously they are playable command lines in the networked game environment.


The participants in the experiment can, however, also become active in the installation space. At a small control desk they see their individual view of the navigation, which presents a subjective perspective at variance with the server view on the screen. The players use an ordinary game pad to log onto the network of the installation and to enter into the shooter environment, where projectiles of data object(ile)s, action bots as well as other players are flying about. Each time a data object is hit, network processes are triggered, each time a shot is fired with the game-pad, an anti-war email is sent. There are two choices for the spectator: either to become a player who concentrates on the small Gameboy monitor and successfully navigates and influences what is happening on the big screen, or to be the one whose attention fluctuates and combines the different perspectives – those of man on the small screen and those of the server-machine on the big surround screen. If one concentrates on the personal view, it influences the entire picture being simultaneously generated and projected. Seeing this simultaneous view of one running application in different windows might motivate viewers to intervene in the communication. In the case that no one is taking part in the installation space the action bots and online players take control over the action.

nybble-engine-toolZ was developed in cooperation with the V2_lab Rotterdam and a first version was installed at the exhibition "Metadata", at the Dutch Electronic Arts Festival 03 in February 2003. http://framework.v2.nl/archive/archive/node/event/minimal.py/domain-deaf03/nodenr-150196

“Billing itself as a "radical meta-art system shooter" and "collaborative statement tool," Margarete Jahrmann and Max Moswitzer's nybble-engine-toolZ explores very different forms of interaction to the other two winners. The project may be more of a deliberately abstruse experiment than a transparent implementation of a tool – it doesn't conceal its self-ironic attitude – but investigates important aspects of networked, open systems and real-time programming tools. Referring to the nybble (half a byte, or four bits) as a basis of digital conversion and software logic, nybble-engine-toolZ is a peer-to-peer server network and modification of the Unreal game engine that self-reflexively constructs the game itself out of network processes. Players may log on to the engine from various locations – including the installation, a 180 degree circular screen – to navigate the environment, meet other players and bots (in this case, representations of server processes) and communicate with them. Shots fired in the environment generate anti-war mails or calls for peace to a government server; pressing buttons on the gamepad sends ping commands to government servers. The log files produced by the network traffic itself and data on the hard disk (text, images and sound) become raw material for 3D "movies" out of which the game environment itself is constructed. The environment thus consists of real-time network activities. As a conceptual proposal, nybble-engine-toolZ raises important issues about generative art, the possibilities of software and engines as tools. Game engines are arguably one of the most important (and underexplored) generators of narrative in the broadest sense. Jahrmann / Moswitzer's project opens up the engine – as a tool and algorithmic framework for handling the "mechanics" of game playing – and makes it reflective of the process of playing itself. nybble-engine-toolZ points to the possibilities of game playing as editing of code and rewriting of the very tool that creates the game in an open collaborative system.

The re-engineering of existing, commercial systems (such as game engines) or their inversion and subversion has also increased, although this territory arguably remains under-explored. Considering the potential of the digital medium, there are still relatively few works that create open systems by allowing users a sophisticated reconfiguration or rewriting of the system itself or by relying on networked communication processes in challenging ways.”
(Prix Ars 03, Interactive Arts, jury statement, http://www.aec.at/en/prix/updates/article2.asp?iNewsID=309&iFollowUpID=1051

[nybble-engine-toolZ home] - [A radical meta-art system shooter] -  [Narratives of the code]