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Arcade cabinets

6 Jan

Recently, I went to see Tron: Legacy. The cinema also happens to have an arcade nearby so while I was there, I went to check it out and take some pictures of what arcade cabinets look like now.

They have a lot of shooter games there, which is exactly what I wanted. My game, being closest to a shooter game, I feel should resemble or at least borrow some visual aspects of a shooter game, yet, with the fact that you need to be sitting down, I will also be borrowing from racing game cabinets since these have a fixed seating position.

The cabinets all have one thing in common, big, bright lights. Often these are just edge lit plastic to save on price rather than led strip light edging. You also get a lot of loud music, which is something that I plan on having in my game, I’ve already got the music, I just need to pump it out loud when it comes to display time.

In the film Tron Legacy, theres a clip when Sam walks into his dads old arcade and turns the power on for the first time in 20 years, the music is loud and you can hear all these different sounds from the arcade machines. Arcade machines are very loud and obnoxious, they are built to grab attention and to make people pay attention and play them. Taking a leaf out of their book might not be a bad idea.

I really like the bright LED’s and I am working on controlling and LED strip light with mind power. The LED’s will glow and flash when the games not playing, and when it is playing, the LED’s brightness will depend on how hard you are concentrating so that the whole booth becomes a physical meter for how hard you are concentrating.

The glow intensity should become apparent to how its being controlled fairly quickly. I’d also like it to flash red if you get hit. I have to control the LED’s first and that has become a problem because it turns out that I somehow bought a very unusually wired form of RGB LED’s so I am working on that thanks to the help of the kind people on the arduino forums.

evil space bowie and soundtrack

26 Dec

Recently, I have been completing the first level and boss fight, ironing out bugs, doing more animation and choosing music.

So, before I could get to the boss fight in the game, I had to have some little animatic to show who this boss is. So I had to animate evil space bowie coming in on a cloud and talking to the giraffe before they fight.

This concludes the main animatics for the game. The only animated parts left will be the win and lose screens and inbetween levels just to keep the narrative going.

Last post, I talked about how I had lots of the game dynamic done. Well, it turns out that I had to redo the scoring mechanism as it wasnt working for more than one enemy. Silly me, should have tested it with the hat earlier.

Anyway, it took me a while to figure out a method of doing this, as with most games, they dont need a score before the enemy is removed, and the fact that I’m checking if the enemy is hit every frame, which then added a score to the counter, it resulted in huge, innacurate scores.

What I eventually figured out was that if I check to see if the enemy has been hit before, then if it hasnt add some score and then remove it. That stops all the problems because instead of adding a score every frame until it dissapears, it just adds a score once then stops checking it.

I did this through some if statements and variable counters. I put a variable counter in the enemy class and passed a function to it from the main class. If it has been hit on the first frame, the function gets passed to the enemy class telling the enemy variable to go up.

In the main class I check to see if the enemy variable is less than 1, if it is do the animation and increase the enemy variable, if not do nothing.

Okay, that might sound a bit confusing.

But all in all, its just a matter of passing information between two classes.

Took me a while to figure out that one, annoyingly, because its just so simple.

I also figured out how to get the laser blast stuff to work again, so now its all grand.

Next up, I looked into the music choices for my game.

Originally I was looking at the same musical choice that filmCow used for bino the elephant. Not the same peice of music, but the same musician, Logan Whitehurst. He’s a strange musician who does odd, electronic pop music. None of his music seemed to fit in with my game, so I looked around for another artist, Lemon Demon. He does similar music to Logan, but some of his music seemed to fit in at the time.

Amee suggested that I look at artists like captain beefheart and frank zappa. These are musicians who started recording in the late 60’s. Amee, much like the character Jeff Bridges plays in the Big Lebowski, spends most of her time sitting in the bath, listening to this type of music and smoking marijuana. Since she was around at the time when the music was recorded, she has a good knowledge of the recordings of many musicians. She now lives in a world of daydreams, hallucinations and mind expanding lyrics.

So I looked at some of Captain Beefhearts early music. Infact, the music I chose came from his first album, safe as milk.

I thought I should use this for the intro vid instead of the current music I have.

I just like that the music creates this odd trippy vibe, perfect for falling through a blackhole to another dimension.

This kind of music has become the soundtrack for the film the big lebowski, one of my favourite films. The film is full of this style of music.

So, taking from this starting point, I looked into other bands of a similar nature such as Kenny Rogers and ELO.

The track that Kenny Rogers used on the big lebowski is a great song, and I just like the lyrics, especially at the start,

I woke up this mornin’ with the sundown shinin’ in
I found my mind in a brown paper bag, but then…
I tripped on a cloud and fell eight miles high
I tore my mind on a jagged sky

Quite excellent given my chosen mind altering theme of a game.

So, that’s the track I chose for the first level and first cut scene.

Now, currently, I am working on things what happens when you win or lose, mostly that involves a score board and being able to restart.

Once thats done, I should be able to slot in new levels fairly easily.

The way i’ve set up the game currently, is that its quite hard to lose. The only way that you dont win and carry on is if you get hit by lots of mind monsters. Of course, the amount of these need to be adjusted when it comes to user testing. Don’t want people dying on the first level now.

Code snippets for the future

19 Dec

For the future of my project (i.e, in a week or so’s time when I try to put a basic level together)

For my own amusement and so I dont have to sit through the intro animation a bajillion times but yet not take it out (it’s integral structure dammit) I’ll put in a skip code. This is a short sequence of button presses that will allow me to skip to the fun stuff and not have to do the setup screen every time.

Code!

var keyCodeArray:Array = new Array( 39, 66, 65);
var currentKeyArray:Array = new Array();
function codeListener(event:KeyboardEvent):void {
if (keyCodeArray.toString().indexOf(event.keyCode.toString()) != -1) {
currentKeyArray.push(event.keyCode);
if (currentKeyArray.toString().indexOf(keyCodeArray.toString()) != -1) {
// PUT YOUR FUNCTION IN HERE
currentKeyArray = new Array();
}
} else {
currentKeyArray = new Array();
}
}
stage.addEventListener(KeyboardEvent.KEY_DOWN,codeListener);

This is a modifcation of the konami key code listener which can be found here. I just changed it so that its the last three keys of the konami code so its quicker for me to enter, yet it cant be accidentally hit.

B,A,ENTER

The other code snippet I want to put in my project is a high score list.

Surprisingly, there isn’t a tutorial that I could find on making a local highscore table in as3. I could find examples of ones written in as2, online highscore tables, everything but what I wanted.

So, I found out what code I needed to use, (the sharedObject class) and read up on different ways to sort an array. Turns out I can sort arrays by different values in each entry. For example, if I had this:

Name 9000

Name 4050

Name 5999

in an array, I could sort the array by the score alone rather than everything. Pretty handy, and exactly what I need. Then I thought about how I would structure this code. I would shove all the scores into an array, and then before showing the table, sort the array and then save that array to the local system. There by having a persistant local high score table. I’ll look at the as2 examples to see how they display the data in a table, but I have a feeling that you just assign a text box with the different entries of the array.

So that the first text box at the top would have arrayName[0] and the second one would have arrayName[1] and so on. This should arrange the data in the right order and also update itself every time its called.

I’ll be looking at this post to help me understand shared objects, and handily, adobe have posted up all the chapters of AS3 cookbook for free on their site, so I’ll be using that as a reference for the array sorting.

Job done.

eyewriter 2.0

19 Dec

I recently read about this really cool hack someone did. The graffiti research lab made eye tracking software and hardware so that a paralyzed graffiti writers could still draw graffiti.

It involves combining cheap parts in a clever way that lets the software track a persons eye movement in a very precise way.

The EyeWriter is a low-cost eye-tracking apparatus + custom software that allows graffiti writers and artists with paralysis resulting from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis to draw using only their eyes.

The original design featured a pair of glasses as the basis for the eyewriter design.

Since that first video, we’ve been hacking on and developing the project, and we have a new design, which we’ve called “eyewriter 2.0” which improves the accuracy of the device, and allow for people who’s heads are moving slightly to also use an eye tracker. The original eyewriter, designed for a paralyzed Graffiti artist TEMPT1, is designed to be worn on a completely motionless head. The 2.0 design, which uses a camera and LED system mounted away from the head, can be used by people whose heads are moving slightly, such as MS patients, and people who wear glasses, etc.

This eyewriter system is cheap, and completely open source. At the moment, it costs about 200$ in parts. Traditional commercial eye trackers costs between $9000-$20,000, so this is a magnitude of order cheaper, and is designed to help anyone who wants or needs an eyetracker.

This fall, we’ve been showing off and demoing the 2.0 device — check out the eyewriter 2.0 in action — we even hooked it up to a robotic arm, to draw the artwork people make with their eyes.

If I only heard about this before I started my project. Who knows? I may even be able to shoe horn this in still. Being able to actually track where someone is looking? how cool is that. By the looks of it though, the persons head has to be pretty still. They say it allows head movement, but since they shoved the persons head in a brace to keep it still, it seems pretty low on tolerance to me.

Brain reading AND eye tracking would be one hell of a combo.

The reasons why they built this are really nice. It was built purely to help someone else rather than because its cool. It’s also good to see that the thing works in an exhibition style setting with low light levels etc. The whole oroject intrigues me, I like the fact that it’s using body parts that you wouldnt normally associate with interfaces and making them not only work, but work really well.

Another issue with this being used for my project is that it would need a camera in front of the users face and this takes away from the whole magic of my project. I want to keep it as magical as possible. Eye tracking would be exceptionally magical yes, but you could see instantly how its done. Hiding a camera thats tracking your eyes may be a bit tricky see.

It’s written in OpenFrameworks so I’m guessing it wouldn’t be too hard to get it working in flash. The basic setup for this is actually a small IR cam mounted on an arm on some sunglasses. You flood one eye with IR light and the cam picks up the rest.

Could this be built into the hat? Possibly.

It has the same flaw that the epoc headset has, you need to calibrate it for each individual user. Not good for quick fun gaming. I have to overcome that in my project really, thats what I have to think about the most in terms of the exhibition. For now a working game with a working base level and boss level is what im going for.

eyewriter.org

Animating the Intro – Process

18 Dec

When I sent Rich the script, he said he’d be busy for that day but he could get it to me the day after. Perfect, that left me some time to start animating the intro sequence.

Unlike what every person who animates or does motion graphics suggests that you do, I decided not to do a story board, well, I thought about doing one and then couldn’t think of anything to draw in it so I just made everything up as I went along.

This also makes it a bit tricky to explain right now since all my ideas were in my head. I knew what I wanted for Mr Giraffe coming out of his space office to look like, but after that I had no idea whatsoever.

What I did instead, was watch some videos.

A few years ago, I used to really enjoy the animated films of a guy called Jason Steele, he has a site called filmcow.com, he’s also responsible for the fairly well known Charlie the Unicorn animations. Well, I remembered how his style used to be a mixture of photoshop work and mad cgi effects, so I went back on his site and looked at his new stuff and the effects he used.

One of the animations that really struck me was Bino the Elephant. This is a short animation about a mad scientist who sends an elephant to hell, just because. The intro sequence to this just amazed me, the look of the portal to hell, the way the music fit in, how the scientist talked, was scripted and timed, everything was brilliant.

So, in the nicest of ways, I decided to homage the portal effect. Having never done this kind of after effects work before, I set about learning how to do it. I also set this as a nice learning challenge for me, I get to learn new skills while, hopefully, making something fun.

I went on youtube and had a look for some tutorial videos that show you how to make a vortex or portal of some kind, luckily, I found just that.

This tutorial was a big help in getting me started, I animated this part first as I knew there was no voices to be put here. To achieve this look, first I had to create a huge texture map in after effects

This image is animated using an after effects built in animation method called electric storm I think. It just gives it this cool looking effect.

Next I had to map it to the inside of a 3D cylinder (as simple as dragging the create 3D cylinder effect onto the image) and then animate it in 3D.

Luckily the tutorial also covered all of this, so by the time I had an animated portal effect that would zoom in slowly. All I had to do was animate in my giraffe falling through the portal.

For this part, the giraffe just falling would be fine by itself, but for later on in the animation, I needed the giraffe to bob up and down just as he does in my game. For this I made a composition, which in after effects is exactly the same as a movieclip in flash. A contained animation where you can affect the whole thing at once without having to animate everything inside it separately, if that makes sense.

This was simple enough, the way you animate in after effects is actually very similar to flash and kind of close to how you animate in Maya, which, after our sessions with Charlie, I can do basic animation. So having these two knowledge bases let me jump straight in and animate everything I needed to with ease.

Next up I made the giraffe coming home from the space office, well not really. I hadn’t made the image of the space office yet, so I just animated him coming from the top left hand corner to the middle of the screen and made the background move so it looked like he was traveling through space.

Again, this was simple enough to do, I made a few keyframes, moved the images around and applied some easing, all great stuff.

The next part I had to animate was the portal. I made the image of it in photoshop, brought it into after effects and animated it the same way as I did the giraffe, in a composition for easier animating later on.

When it’s flat like that, it looks okay, but then when I use a handy dandy tool like the pin corners tool, I could make it look like it was 3D and facing sideways, great stuff.

Next I animated the leaving the space office sequence. This was the hardest part to put in just because it needed to be in front of stuff in the timeline that I had already animated. I could have put it in separately as I found out I could later on, but thats all part of the learning fun right?

This had a pretty simple effect. I made two images of the space office, one with the lights on and one with them off, I animated them using simple keyframe stuff to make it look like the lights were faulty.

Again, the giraffe was simply animated across the screen using the simple keyframe structure of after effects.

Next, I animated the giraffes fight scene. This scene sets you up for how the game is played. Both the narrator and the giraffe explain how his powers can be used and that by concentrating and looking at targets, they explode.

First off I had to animate the enemies.

This was simple. I used the ripple effect to make the jellyfishes legs look like they were wobbling away. Nice. I will have to use this effect in the main game.

I then animated the laser blasts, something I animated first in game and then brought to this sequence. This was simply drawing the laser shape and animating the end to match the eye position and having the blast rotate on the spot over the enemy

And then, just to finish it off, I decided that the jellyfish would look amazing if they exploded when they were zapped, so I put in a simple, free video clip of an explosion. This is an effect that I will just have to put into the final game as it looks so good.

The last part of animating that I had to do was the lip syncing. I’ve attempted lip syncing before many years ago and it is something that I hate doing. It takes aaages to do and is very tedious. Luckily, I googled how to do this in after effects, and there was a way to do it that made things a lot simpler and was just a matter of changing a number on every key frame. Nice, that saved me a lot of time.

link to lip sync tutorial

So, by using that method, I animated space giraffes mouth.

I could have gotten away with not doing this and giving telekinesis or whatever, but I thought that was a bit of a cop out and that if I put in this animation, it adds to the whole thing and gives it a better, more polished look.

Finally, all that was left to do was sequence everything together.

This was quite simple actually, just a matter of shoving compositions into a bigger comp. Line them up, add some music and you’re good to go.

I’m still not sold on the music yet, that will probably change. But for now, it’s good enough for me.

This is what 3 days of animation looks like. 50 seconds of animation.

And thats how I went about animating a space giraffe falling through a black hole into another dimension.

Aim for the stars

12 Dec

When I did my second set of alpha tests, Nick suggested that I change the pointer (at the time a grey circle with a semi transparent bigger circle around it) with a red cross. It stood out more and gave the implicit suggestion that you have to destroy something, which is fantastic.

I was just not very happy with how it was looking. A simple red cross is fine for testing, but it just looked a bit amateurish and a bit rushed to me.

I’ve been looking into crosshairs that games use, and shooter games or serious games tend to use very harsh looking crosses. In a lot of cases, this is fine. But for my game I wanted something that fit in more with the style and didn’t look crap.

Looking at game crosshairs, they seem to be a mixture of circle ones with a cross in the middle or very simple, tiny crosses.

Looking at these I decided to make my own designs based on how they typically look in games.

They all do a good job of showing a target and acting like general crosshairs. Out of these, I prefered this one:

I think that the softer edges take away the serious nature of crosshairs and the lack of circle makes it look less like you are looking down a scope of a gun.

With some nice glow, it would fit the game perfectly I think.

Thats something thats been bothering me style wise for a while now. I’m glad I did something about it and got it out of the way.

Logo’s

5 Dec

Well, I say logo, it’s more of a type face plus logo.

It took me ages to come up with the name alone. I went through multiple choices, but this was one that I came up with fairly early on, and then eventually went back to.

Here are some of the names I thought of:

  • Mentality
  • Mental Space
  • Head Space
  • Spaced Out
  • Thoughtfulmess
  • Brain Trip

and many other far worse ones.

I settled upon Spaced Out. I think it is a good name for this project.

I then started to design some headers for it.

Initially, I did this:

It keeps reminding me of the clockwork orange logo, so I changed it a bit, but was still unhappy.

I felt that the type face was wrong so I changed it completely.

I think this nice blocky layout fit well with the wording “spaced”, gave it a more regimented feel.

Upon outside suggestion, the “o” was replaced with the giraffe head to form a usable logo.

I then reworked the giraffe helmet a bit to make it look a bit more logo like and centered the text.

I then altered colours so they stood out more.

And now I ended up with something I liked far more, and could see being used on the casing design of the booth.

I like this. The improved giraffe head logo could also be used throughout on various things.

Koala’s

4 Dec

I got shown this picture today from the webcomic nedroid. He does comics about various personified animals. He did this little panel about a super hero koala.

I quite liked the way the koala was drawn, so I think I will use this as  reference guide for when I’m re drawing my koala.

As a style, it’s very simplified, but yet retains the inherent cuteness of the koala. I like this factor, so I think that keeping this cute image when redrawing my koala may be a good idea. Making him look evil may seem necessary to the varying plot of my game, but, I think that having him expressionless, spinning through space might also work.

I’ll just have to try it and see.

 

Owls

4 Dec

I went christmas shopping today. There was an owl sanctuary showing off some owls and asking for money. They were quite nice and let you stroke the owls, so I took a few pictures of the owls while they were around.

Makes for some nice reference photos for my owl drawings I think.

More enemies

2 Dec

I drew some more enemies for my game. I really wanted to have an angry owl for some reason, I like the idea that it’s the opposite of how owls are usually portrayed so, I drew myself an owl.

I then was looking at images of other animals and I came across the koala. I had a stroke of genius at this point.

For the koala, I could have one coming in at very rare moments, like if you achieved 100% relaxation and even then once every few mins, so they are very rare animals. If you failed to get rid of one then and it hit you, it would cling to the giraffes back and make your targeting slow down for a bit.

Just like real koalas.

And so I drew a koala.

I’m not really happy with the way this one turned out, I’ll have to give it another go another time.

Of course, I didn’t just blindly draw these, I had to have some reference.

Amee really likes owls and she has an owl keyring, I took a picture of this as initial reference for my owl.

I don’t think it looks much like an owl though, more like a bat. So, to google I went.

This cute bastard is where I drew most inspiration from.

And for the koala, I went to google images again.

I like how they always seem to be curled up into a ball.

It was this one that gave me the idea that the koala could cling on to the giraffe, I mean just look at his face. Adorable.

I quite like the idea of subverting expectations of animals, and that’s why I’ve chosen these two lovely specimens.

Squids and jellyfish gave me the style inspiration, but doing all sea creatures felt a bit too straight forward and obvious a choice for enemies to me, so I’ve mixed it up a bit.

Today, I have mostly been, soldering.

24 Nov

So this morning, I went do to the electronics lab to see kim and get my headset wired up properly. It’s about time this was done as I really needed a stable connection for the wii tracking LED’s.

I already had it wired up and working, so it was just a case of lengthening some wires and making connections a lot more stable by soldering them together.

After this was achieved, I asked kim about timing switches. Currently, my brain reading headset needs to be pushed into a certain mode. This mode is only set when a button on the headset is pressed and held for about seven seconds. It’s tricky to get into the mode reliably as there are two modes that it can slip into, one mode pulls out all the headset data whilst the box sits around doing nothing, the other one has yoda shouting encouraging words at you. The yoda mode has a little flaw, every time yoda speaks, the arduino can’t read the data from the headset. These two modes are very easy to accidentally slip into if your timing isnt quite right when holding down the switch.

So I asked kim if there was an electronical way around this. Luckily, there was. I just had to build a small circuit that had a 555 timer switch, a variable resister to set my time delay and a button to trigger it.

I half built it today as I ran out of time. I wired up the entire circuit but I havnt tested it yet so it’s not a part of my headset right now. That will be finished up tomorrow morning, ready for some testing in the afternoon during Lee time.

Quite handily, kim game some handout sheets about setting up the timer circuit and some information on it.

Here’s what I was building from today:

EEG headsets

23 Nov

Electroencephalography or EEG is the method of recording electrical signals from the brain. Usually this is done for medical reasons when doctors need to understand whats going on inside the human mind.

EEG headsets have been around for years. An early recording was created in 1924.

The main method of aquiring EEG information is through a scalp mounted headset. The electrodes, there are on average 19 electrodes in medical grade EEG machines, are mounted at various points on the scalp, firing electricity through the brain an measuring the resistance. Through this method, the headset can read how the neurons in the brain are firing and give you a response.

EEG machines are one of the methods for reading brain waves. Another method is fMRI which is similar to an MRI machine in that the patient is placed inside a huge machine. There are a number of reasons why EEG is normally preferable to fMRI, usually to do with cost.

Reading minds is very tricky. It’s getting more advanced. Usually, as with typical EEG machines, it can make a graph of brain activity. The machine can show you how the patient is responding to certain events, but not exactly what the patient is thinking.

Current EEG based games use this method to distinguish between indiviual thoughts. By training the machine to give commands when a certain pattern of brain activity is achieved, then it can give the illusion of reading your mind.

In reality, medical science is getting closer to distinguishing between exact thoughts. Some Japanese scientists have figured out how to reconstruct images from a patients mind patterns.

As is the case, this technology can only recognise some basic patterns, and even those are very rough.

What I find impressive is the current gaming usage. As stated before, it gives the illusion of mind reading. I think games can benefit from this illusion. Especially with current technology. If you had the time and money, then the Epoch is the way to go, but otherwise, the developer has to give even more illusions to mask how the headset is working. That’s the challenge I am currently facing.

But, knowing the medical side of Electroencephalography is certainly interesting. Knowing that the technology hasn’t really changed for 80 years is intriguing and thought provoking. The only change really is the price and availability of these machines.

My tutor, Adam Martin, was telling me about how his FMP way back when, was about EEG headsets and he created his very own for his project. It ran on Basic and pulled out a graph of brain waves. It was a very odd coincidence when I found this out. After the summer when we returned and I told him about what I was developing, it was bizarre to find this fact out.

How about that.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroencephalography
http://www.technologyreview.com/biztech/18276/
http://www.mindmodulations.com/mindmods/
http://www.nielsgl.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/nn-eeg-analysis.pdf

Johnny Chung Lee: Hacker of wiimotes

23 Nov

In 2007, a fella by the name of Johnny Lee got a wiimote to work with a computer, he then proceeded to do very cool things with it such as DIY electronic whiteboard, finger tracking and head tracking. What he did was take normally very expensive equipment and then make it work using cheap, easy methods with parts from a games console.

The wiimote itself has an IR camera in it. This is how the wii works and tracks your movements. The wii sensor bar has two sets of IR LED’s in it which send out IR light for the wiimote to pick up.

The wiimote can track four points at once, usually in a wii sensor bar, there are six LED’s but they are angled so that the wiimote can pick up on a whole range of movement.

Johnny Lee uses this same principle, but usually in reverse, he keeps the wiimote still while moving the sensor bar around. Doing this allows for a whole range of applications where attaching a wiimote to your person is impractical, but attaching some LED’s are. For example, for his head tracking mod, he takes some safety glasses that have LED’s on the side to light up your working area and replace them with IR LED’s. Doing this allows you the players head movement, and, as his video below shows, it works really well.

Thats the beauty of using the wiimote for tracking purposes, it works really well. That’s what it was made for after all, thats what nintendo spent so much money figuring out, how to get the wiimote to track reliably. As long as you can access the bluetooth data from the wiimote, then you can do reliable tracking too.

I really like watching Lee’s example of head tracking here, the whole depth and perspective thing shows just how well head tracking works and the beauty of it. As long as one player is playing the game and no more, then the immersive potential of head tracking is huge. Being able to physically look round objects and have the game act like its a real place is a very cool thing indeed.

But there the problem lies, it’s for one player only. The Wii is a huge success because it brings multiplayer together in a fantastic way. Families can easily play fun, cartoony games together and that’s why they sold in huge numbers, limiting it to just one player takes away from this magic really and makes it something that just isnt as fun anymore.

Especially if what the other people around are seeing is something a bit weird as the whole game shifts itself around based on the one players point of view.

Johnny Lee is on the right track I think, and I am very grateful that he figured out how to do so many cool and interesting things with the wiimote, but making playable games isnt what he does, he just makes huge, impressive human computer interactions and he has done that well.

I’m using his initial ideas of HCI with the wiimote and taking it a bit further as I needed headtracking that was a little bit different, it detects head turning rather than side to side leaning.

But, just like Johnny Lee, I think hacking toys to do things that are a bit cooler than what they were initially made for is the best thing ever. Toys and games console interactions have huge amount of R&D put into them to make them cheap, affordable and easy to use that they become the perfect platform for hacking into to create some really cool and exciting HCI. Take the new Kinect for example, it may be £130, but for what it does it’s incredibly cheap and does some pretty amazing stuff, hacking into it is incredibly simple too which makes the whole thing even more astounding that suddenly, anyone can make these huge interactive installations that can detect exactly what surface you are touching and then push out a response. You just couldn’t do that before, at least not cheaply. Now just about anyone can do it and that makes creating interactive installations just that bit more awesome really.

The giraffe the pelly and me

18 Nov

This is something that Gary brought in for me today, the Roald Dahl book, The giraffe, the pelly and me. It has some nice imagery of giraffes in it and some imaginative takes on giraffes that I quite like.

I really like the imagery of the giraffes neck growing, I think I could use that in some way in my game. I like the fact that its sort of absurd, thats really the point of my game I guess, making it really surreal. If I made a serious game using the mind control tech, it would be really dull and flat, but because I am making this thing so surreal, bright and fun, I hope that it retains the magical wonder that I first had when I got it working.

I also like the fact that the giraffe is put into such a normal everyday environment. Why wouldn’t the giraffe have its own really tall house? I need to write some sort of narrative for my game, and I like that it could be about the giraffe on his way home from a normal day when suddenly these creatures from his mind escape and start attacking him. I think that could be something good. I have to make it clear to people how the monsters appear and that they are monsters from their own mind as picked up by the headsets values. Once that is made clear from the story and game intro, I think the whole mind reading thing will come naturally to the people playing it.

Adventure time!

11 Nov

Algerbraic!

Adventure time is an animated cartoon series about a human boy called finn and a dog named Jake. It is a super bizzare show that revels in surrealism and odd cuteness. It’s shown on Cartoon Network and the concept and story is done by  Pendleton Ward.

You can read more about the show here.

Each episode revolves around the two going on some sort of adventure and helping someone out. The adventures are never anything you could consider normal. For example, one adventure was about Finn finding the anitdote to lumpiness as Jake was bitten by the lumpy princess and so they had to travel to lumpy space. All makes perfect sense.

I really quite like this show. I really enjoy surealism, especially in modern cartoons since they can get away with anything and create some really odd things, e.g spongebob squarepants. The thing that seperates these two shows though, is the overall style of Adventure Time. Instead of just being odd, it is centered around very fun, cute, harmless things. And this childlike sense of fun is what makes the show so brilliant.

I’d like to put this feeling into my game. I want it to be really fun, cute and harmless. I want the user to become a little childish while playing, just let loose and have some fun, and that’s the essence of Adventure Time.

Inspirations

7 Nov

It’s that time again, for me to post about recent inspiration.

In the last post you hear about my new game idea and the artwork. I shall exaplain the inspiration behind the idea and show you some more wonderful artwork.

So just how did I come up with the game idea? A mixture of ideas from Forbidden Planet and simple yet addicting flash games like robot unicorn attack and canabalt.

The flash games robot unicorn attack and canabalt are, on the surface, very similar games. They use little controls in order to play them, two keys for RUA and one for canabalt. The basic premise is that you control a character who is running and slowly getting faster and faster, every so often the platform they are running on runs out and they need to jump onto the next one. You just keep on going doing this until you miss a jump and hit something. In RUA, you get to smash through stars to earn you extra points. These two games are incredibly addictive and have become hugely popular for it.

Play Robot Unicorn Attack here

RUA has some nice visual flair as well, its a wonderfully camp, colourful and fun game. It features some music by erasure too to give it some extra campy fun points. You play a unicorn who runs around leaving trails of rainbows as you jump from platform to platform, its stupidly fun for what it is.

I think that this game has some qualities that I want to include in my game. I want it to be just as fun and addictive to play. This is also why I have gone with the choice of artwork that I have. Fun graphics is going to be enticing to play. Simple controls makes it fun to play. Mind control makes it amazing. RUA is made by adult swim. I like the fact that it doesnt take itself seriously and lives in a fantasy land where all of this can happen. And why not? Why make games that reflect our reality, when we can make games that are just utterly fantastic and full of imagination.

The other game, canabalt, is, in terms of looks, drastically different to RUA. It only exists in shades of grey and has gritty, robotic music. Not so pleasing. Yet, the gameplay is just as simple and fun.

Play canabalt here.

But, just like RUA, they have a similar way to play and show character movement.

They both move the character forwards for you in a side scroller type fashion. I like this. They both keep the character center and you control the jumping of the character, I also like this. The reason I like this is because I have a limited set of interactions through the mind reading headset. I can read two brain values and also track head movement. Making a game so that its all simple to control with as little controls as possible is great.

My plan is to control the amount of enemies on screen with the relaxation values and then get rid of them through head tracking and maybe more thought power. Lovely. Simple, fun gameplay.

And now for some more artwork.

Another cover for the Super Furry Animals. This time the album is Phantom Phorce. This cover is styled like an arcade game which is nice.

But the really nice part is that the case folds into an arcade cabinet too.

Isn’t that just brilliant? Maybe I could incorprate something like that into my work. Some nice physical thing to play with or possibly take home as a momento. Interesting thoughts.

concept art cont

7 Nov

After a bit of thought, I came up with an interesting wrapper for my game. You control a character who flys through space. As you relax, bad thoughts are pulled out of your mind and rendered on screen as monsters or enemies. You have to control the character (through head tracking) and concentrate on individual enemies to get rid of them for good.

Sounds quite lovely. The whole idea of sucking bad thoughts from your mind is from the film Forbidden Planet. Charlie pointed this out to me and that the whole science fiction angle might be an interesting one to go down.

My trouble now was to create good looking characters for the game to make it fun and interesting. This took a while.

At first I was looking at the japanese games Loco Roco and Katamari Damacy for artwork inspiration.

Loco Roco

Katamari Damacy

These games share a similar artistic approach, very colourful and simple graphics. Their colourful nature suggest immediately that they are very fun and playful games. This is what I wanted to communicate straight away with my artwork. But, trying to emulate the japanese style for odd characters didn’t work too well for me. They have a knack for creating these playfully simple and lovable characters as its part of their culture. I tried to create something along the lines of loco roco but the characters didnt work too well.

It’s okay, but it’s not something im truly happy with. So I had a rethink.

Instead of japanese artwork, I looked at some cover art. Amee suggested to me that I should look at some cover art for the super furry animals. The art work is done by Pete Fowler, and has the kind of stylistic vector charm mixed with some realism in the form of textures that I was looking for. This suits me well as vector artwork isnt my strong point, but I can make a mean texture so merging the two together could give me an interesting graphical style. Also, the characters for the following albums art work dont really have faces, just suggestions of faces. If you look at my previous concepts, you can tell that faces arnt my strongest point.

The cover art that I was looking at are the following images.

Phantom Power

Hello Sunshine

Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever

As you can see, Fowler mixes vector images with some texture overlays (admitedly they are vectors too, but you can see my point). He drew the kind of characters that I was after too. Very simple, yet stylistically good looking characters that are instantly recognisable. Thats the kind of thing that I wanted, so I set upon creating some characters myself.

I was looking at these images and instantly saw the potential for a giraffe.

And so was born the space giraffe as the main character. He floats upon a cloud in space fighting brain monsters. Kinda wierd but I like it. The faces with the characters was what I was having the most trouble with before hand with the previous characters, so this time, taking inspiration from Fowler, I just hinted at faces and used negative space to create the eyes. That’s all I needed really, simplifying the faces right down I got this.

Much better.

I shown this to a few people and after talking about it with Amee, she said that space giraffe needs a space helmet, how else would he breathe?! But instead of a realistic one, he needs a fish bowl type comic space helemt, and that’s exactly what he got.

And now we have a great space giraffe. The monsters look nice too I think, simple, yet they look enough like a typical monster so that people get what they are straight away.  I need to vectorise them and put textures on them, but I think it’s a nice start.

concept drawings

3 Nov

Because I want to create something that is very pretty and visually stunning, Adam suggested I step back from the code and tech and look at artwork and draw a few things.

There are two things that I personally always find beautiful, Space and Nature. Specifically, forests and rolling hills. The beauty of art is subjective (I know this after living with people who think art is stupid, pointless and not beautiful at all, neanderthalls) but the views that nature creates are universally accepted as pretty.

So I started looking at and drawing things that I thought would look good. First of all I started with an image that is a wallpaper image for one of the iMacs in G1, a dandylion.

This would be pretty simplistic, as you think, you shift parts of the dandylion until they fly away. How nice.

Next, I thought about clouds. Fluffy clouds.

I know they dont really look like clouds but there we go. Imagine, that you are flying through these clouds. Your relaxation subtly changes the speed. You can look around using the headtracking. You can focus on certain objects that are flying with you. Much like an on rails shooter but without shooting anything and looking so much better.

For the next idea I looked at nasa’s space images. The images they post on their website are really amazing. Seeing various images of planets and the solar system are really something to behold. So my idea was to grow planets based on what you are focusing on and how hard you concentrate.

I quite like this one. Havnt thought about the machanics of this one, but choosing and growing parts of planets with your mind in some sort of god simulator would be pretty amazing. Especially coupled with realistic, space like images. That would blow minds.

Lastly, I returned to the ground. Hills and valleys. This image is one from a flickr users photostream. I’t’s a part of the german countryside and it’s really beautiful. I’ll post some images from that after.

The idea here is to focus on different areas of the screen and have them grow based on your concentration. You can grow individual areas and layer up the image until you create a wonderful landscape.

As you can see, my artistic talent for drawing is not great right now, that’s most likely because I havnt drawn anything in a while. Should do it more often, it’s fun.

Heres the images the last image was based on. Breathtaking.

All photos were found here http://www.flickr.com/photos/visbeek/

Brainy ideas

3 Nov

So, the other day, I brought in my brain reading toy thing to show to adam. He was very impressed. We started playing with it and I decided that I would be stupid to not do something with this tech. So it’s pretty much decided that I’m going to use mind control as the main basis for my project.

I think I’ve also decided against the controlling a single physical object thing as well. Although it is very cool and fun, I personally dont think that people will get that it is controlled by thoughts quickly enough and so miss the whole point.

As we were playing around with the mind reader, adam almost exploded with a thought he had. To be honest, it’s a very cool idea so I would have too.

Combine the headset with head tracking and then you can look at an object, think about it and then be able to control that specific object rather than just one. Wow.

So, to do this, you just put simple IR LED’s on the headset, track them with a wiimote, grab those points in flash and voila. Pin point mind control in flash for next to nothing. Genius I tells ya, genius.

My little piece of privacy

1 Nov

Haha, this is quite a cute little thing. Not sure it’s very relevant to my work but it’s too fun to ignore.

The project is simple, it’s a little curtain that is attatched to a motor, some processing code and a webcam. The webcam searches the street outside the window for any movement, the curtain then moves and follows the person outside the window to block them from seeing in. Fantastic.

I like how playful and simple it is really. Why need a full curtain when a little bit of one will do.