New Genres: Otherworldly Translation

1 WHERE IS YOUR HOME PLANET

When I started in New Genres, I was determined to make a game. My original idea was to create a visually simplistic, text-based narrative that the user would progress through by answering questions. After reading “Strategies of Interactive Art” by Ryszard W. Kluszczynski, I learned that games aren’t the only cool way to create an engaging and thought-provoking interactive experience. For now, I put my original idea aside.

Once we decided on the theme “Supernova” for the Art Party, the rest of my idea began to take shape. As a lover of linguistics, my mind went straight to alien language. I could stick with the idea of asking questions to my audience by writing them in a language of my own creation and translating them into English. I later decided I would create a slideshow of questions and proverbs to display with two projectors simultaneously.

I started off by brainstorming a set of symbols with which to build my language. I wanted the symbols to look different enough from the latin alphabet but still recognizable as a language to my audience. I decided that they would be composed only of straight lines and could be strung together without spaces in order to form words. Pictured below is an example of the first version and a string of random symbols.

sssssss

The next step was to create a font so I could type my language. I used fontstruct.com, a website that I had never used before but was easy to figure out. This is an example of what the interface looked like as I drew each letter:

fontstruct

While translating my hand drawn letters into their digital forms, I discovered that the diagonal lines weren’t working as well as the horizontal or vertical ones. They looked strange and out of place, so I wrote new characters using horizontal and vertical lines only. I also realized that it would be difficult to tell where one symbol began and another ended when they were all strung together, so I added a dot centered above every symbol to make it easier for the reader to discern. Finally, I decided to make one symbol for every letter in the alphabet so I had enough of a variety.

One problem that was troubling me as I worked on my project was, what does each letter sound like? I realized that creating an entire phonetic system was much too big of a task and also not relevant to my project. Because it was going to be projected, the point was for it to be visually interesting and different from English, so it didn’t matter what it sounded like. Whenever I was asked about this, I explained that humans are incapable of producing the sounds of the language.

When I finished my alphabet, I downloaded the font and began typing out my questions and proverbs. The questions were meant to be thought-provoking, not cheesy, and start conversation among my audience. As I wrote them, I imagined an alien civilization that wished to communicate with other planets. What would they want to know? I thought about what their planet/culture might be like and how those features would become apparent through the questions they asked, such as space travel, dimension hopping, crystals, slime, and beasts. I wrote 26 in total.

To create words, I mostly just typed random letters until I came up with something visually appealing. For some words, like sun and moon, I used the symbols to create shapes that looked like what they described. I also needed to create words for concepts that don’t exist in English, like solid-bodied or soft-bodied or body swap. I recorded every word I used in my journal and created a dictionary for myself to refer back to.

ssssssssssssssss

I also created a basic grammar system for my language. I did this by making up rules as I needed them, then sticking to them. To start, I decided that the basic sentence structure would be subject → object → verb. If the verb is is, it’s left out because it’s implied. For example, I like pizza becomes I pizza like, and I am a student becomes I student (am).

Here are some more of my grammar rules:
  • Words that indicate time go at the beginning of the sentence (now, tomorrow, always, never, sometimes, etc.)
  • Adjectives precede nouns
  • There is a single symbol that can be written after a noun to express possession (similar to apostrophe S in English)
  • There is a word that can be put at the end of any sentence to indicate that is a question (similar to a question mark)
  • There is no punctuation
  • Articles like a or the are not used


Following the grammar rules was a lot like putting together a puzzle. When translating English questions into my language, I would first rearrange the English sentence using alien grammar. Then, I could simply replace every English word with an alien one. I typed them out in a document like this:

process

I then used Photoshop to make the slideshow I would project on the wall. Each slide consists of one question/proverb, with the English written above the alien language. I decided on a simple but declarative design, a black background with white text in all capital letters. This would allow the viewer to compare and contrast the features of the two languages easily. My inspiration for this was Jenny Holzer’s projections and truisms.

20 WERE YOU BORN UNDER THE SUN OR THE MOON

My two projectors were originally going to be set up on two walls facing each other, but because I was unable to build a rig for the projectors in time, I moved it at the last minute. Instead, the two projections were side by side in a different area. Ultimately, I was very pleased with how it looked in the new spot, probably more than I would have liked it in the original one.

On the night of the art party, some people only glanced briefly at the piece and then moved on. But those who realized what it was were really excited about it. I saw many people taking pictures with it and hanging out nearby. But nobody seemed to be talking about the questions. I would have liked for there to have been some kind of discussion going on.

ss

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There are a few ways I could have better engaged with the audience. There could have been a performance aspect to the project; I could have stood by the installation the whole time and held a lesson in the language or assumed the character of an alien and told about the world I was from. I also could have created some sort of hand out, like a book of lore or a dictionary. It wasn’t really visible to my audience that I put in such an effort to create my own grammar and lexicon, so a hand out could have better conveyed that. I actually did create stickers, but I forgot to bring them to the party. My installation didn’t end up being as interactive as I wanted it to be this time, so next time I will keep these techniques in mind. But overall, it was a huge success, and I had so much fun with it. I think this project is the first of many constructed languages and projector installations to come.

Supernova: Blast Off!

Jenny -Supernova

This is a screenshot of a post someone put on their Instagram Story!

supernova

The night of the Art Party!

I learned about augment reality in our first class this semester, by using the HP Reveal app. At first I was very frustrated trying to figure out the app but amazed by augmented reality and that elementary children use the app. My original idea was continuous dance, I would be dancing in a purple suit then you would come up to one of the symbols on my suit and an overlay of me dancing would appear. I  found out after a little trial and error that the app is very finicky and I would not be able to dance while someone uses the app. But this was only the very beginning of the idea. I soon became a space alien because of our theme for the Art Party; Supernova! I would have a helmet and glitter all over my face, complete with eyeshadow. I started by making the helmet, I used a bike helmet to paper mache over as a base.
paper mache set up

This was the set up for the paper mache helmet

helmet 2

Helmet with the point

helmet 1

Helmet after one round of paper mache without the point

helmet 3

Helmet with foil, finished product

Overlays: The overlays were my favorite part of this project. Performing and interacting the night of the Art Party was fun but I could not actually dance at the Art Party or else the overlays do not come up, so filming them was the best!! The first round of overlay videos that I showed Angela were of me dancing to the entirety of Bennie and the Jets by Elton John, and two other videos of me dancing to Stitches by Shawn Mendes with different colorful space videos being projected onto me. Well Angela liked the videos with the projection so much more. And I was asked to choreograph different dances for each overlay. Each overlay would then have separate choreography, a different song and a different colorful projection. Below are the overlays: Symbols: I wanted them to be abstract and not 100% recognizable. During this process I discovered that it is very difficult to register symbols that are simple. My symbols were not recognized by the app my first few times, the app would not pick them up. This was incredibly frustrating. But this also pushed me to make the symbols more unique because the app can not recognize images that have already been used to trigger overlays. During this time I also was having a difficult time because the lighting was always different and the angle people pointed their phones at the symbol were always different too. So even when the symbol registered the overlay would not come up because it was a different angle or light. In crit we solved this problem. I found that pictures of the symbols worked just fine at registering the images. So not only were the physical symbols on my suit but many printed copies of the symbols were too. The prints then worked and triggered the overlays! Some of the symbols had to be put on a flower background to make them more unique and able to be registered. The others just have the purple background that is the suit. Below are the final symbols used:
Green Blue Dot

Green Blue Dot

Purple Blue Dot

Purple Blue Dot

Ball of Beads

Ball of Beads

Pink Dot

Pink Dot

Disco

Disco

Rose

Rose

Cloud

Cloud

Garlic Flowers

Garlic Flowers

Plastic Star

Plastic Star

A couple weeks before the Art Party I was workshopping how to get people at the party to download the app, and tackle the learning curve of using the app. I decided I wanted to make stickers that had pictures of the symbols. I would greet people at the door and use showmanship to get them to download HP Reveal and from there I would get them to follow my account. Then so that they were able to manage and use the app I would give them the sticker. This way before the performance they would have experience with the app and hopefully be hooked! I’ve found that having something an audience member can take away with them is a key factor in interactive art. The Performance! The art party was a huge success in my eyes. I would bate people coming into the party by asking “would you like to “Blast Off?” this got their attention and I would continue from there by asking them to pull out their cellular devices and download HP Reveal. During the sometimes awkwardness of people downloading the app and us waiting around for that I would explain, that “We were going to travel through time and space together, and that because we are going to travel so far and so wide we have to make an account or else the connection between planets will be lost! AH and we wouldn’t want that would we?!” Audience members were hesitant to make an account but you have to to see my overlays so that was my reasoning. I would I did three big performances and after those I walked around and interactive one on one with people. I found that once the weirdness of downloading the app was over and they had the sticker people were into it. Especially during the performance, I did a little dance and jumpy thing to signal that we were “Blasting Off” I also explained how every symbol was a transport into another galaxy and the overlay was us traveling to the new planet! Audience members ate this up. Every couple minutes during the performance I would ask if we were ready to “Blasting Off” again and I would ask for space, then I would do a new little dance and spin, then I would strike a new pose. This way the audience would be able to get at symbols they couldn’t before. Over all this was a very labor intensive project that had a lot of trail and error and a lot of glitter but it was all so worth it. I loved it so much and I love augmented reality and how accessible this app is.  
Me in the suit, the first day I got it!!

Me in the suit, the first day I got it!!

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The first day I got the suit I was so happy and struck many dramatic poses

View from behind, audience members using their HP Reveal with the stickers!

View from behind, audience members using HP Reveal with the stickers!

I was on quite a few audience members Instagram stories

I was on quite a few audience members Instagram stories

Interaction! Blasting Off!!

Interaction! Blasting Off!!

After Striking a Pose!

After Striking a Pose!

 

Union Town!: Post-Mortem

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What aspects of your game changed the most over the semester?


Originally, I had planned my game in a way that wasn’t really radical–it didn’t give the player the opportunity to choose their path. At first, it was just going to be the player could talk to the coworkers and do favors for them and that was it–but as my story developed the manager became more included and now the way the story of my game will play out is that the player has the opportunity to unionize or get a raise/promotion. There’s a genuine choice to be made between two seemingly good options, not just “unionize or don’t.”

What parts of the game stayed pretty much true to the original idea?

From the beginning I knew that I wanted cigarettes to be the social currency of the workplace. I wanted the player to use cigarettes to get to know the coworkers and build solidarity levels–the cigarettes also bring a playfulness to the game which I think makes the horrible workplace more fun.

How could you have used your paper model to save time?

The paper game was very helpful in figuring out how conversation would work. The first time we ran my paper game my conversations kept falling apart and they weren’t set up properly, which was helpful, even though it was at first frustrating. The paper model showed me how I needed to structure the conversations within the levels to ensure that the player would understand the goals of the game.

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Paper Game



What surprised you about your abilities to make your game?

Honestly, everything about this semester surprised me. I was very overwhelmed and a little afraid at the beginning of the semester–but I couldn’t believe that I managed to keep up with the class. Coding was a fun and engaging puzzle to figure out and of course I got frustrated but I am really proud of myself for getting conversations to work again after they broke for about three weeks after spring break.

What was easier to do than you might have expected?

Animation was easier than I was expected I think. It was super tedious, yes, but once you break down the steps it is easy to figure out to build the assets to move in a realistic way. Setting up the animator and controller in Unity was definitely more difficult, but overall animation was a more manageable task than I had expected.

SpriteSheet

Walk Cycle Sprite Sheet



  What was harder?

Though I already mentioned that I was surprised at how quickly I picked up some aspects of coding, that definitely doesn’t mean I thought it was easy. At the very beginning, learning the differences between very basic types of functions and variables seemed impossible to me. I didn’t know what any words meant and I kept a notebook to remember the definitions of all the terms the textbook referred to in the chapters. That was a lot of work, but after the first few chapters the hard work paid off and I felt somewhat on top of the code.

How important was time management on this project?

Time management was definitely important, since it was always a stressor if I had worked on something up until the last minute but then some aspect of the game broke and I had to come to class with a partially broken game because I didn’t leave myself time to debug and unravel all of the error messages that would pop up when I would try to play my game.

What would you have done / chosen to do differently?

If I had the opportunity to start over with what I know now, I would maybe attempt a to build a more linear story for my first game, as what I have set up now feels a little ambitious for my first game. I think if I had a linear story line with sequential levels, it would be a lot easier to build and I could devote less time to figuring out the logistics of the story and more time to expanding my understanding of C Sharp and the Unity engine.

Union Town!: Event as Narrative

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How is your game story radical?

My game is radical because it teaches the player about labor organizing and the power of solidarity. The player has the option to put their head down, not get to know their coworkers, and listen to the manager to get promoted, or build relationships with their coworkers through giving them cigarettes, picking up shifts, and learning about their lives to unionize them. They have to make decisions about whats more important: the illusion of upward mobility or solidarity with other members of the working class that builds collective action.

How have you used events in your main and secondary level to express your game story?

2018-05-14 (1)

Old Worker suggests labor organizing to player



In the first level of the game, the player is introduced to an old worker who was recently fired from the restaurant for trying to organize the workplace. This worker sets up one goal for the player: unionize the workplace. They explain that its a risky job but that the player might be good at it, and it can be done by just talking to coworkers. Then, (this isn’t built into the game quite yet) the manager comes out to talk to the player and explains that if the player keeps their head down and does their job, they might get promoted and made employee of the month in due time.

In the second level, the player talks to their coworkers and learns about their life and hardships. While the manager isn’t listening in, one worker, after the player gives them a cigarette, tells the player how difficult it is to go to college and work full-time because the manager refuses to coordinate the work schedule with their classes. Another worker can’t find child care for their daughter while their at work and is often late to shift because of it. The workers only tell the player these stories after the player bums them a cigarette or they feel a certain level of solidarity with the player.

How have you used hitboxes and triggered animations as expressive elements?

I didn’t get a chance to include this in my game build, but I was planning on including hitboxes throughout my levels that would trigger a smoking animation, so any time the player collided with the hitbox they would pause, face forward, and take a drag of their constantly lit cigarette, no matter what level they were on. This would bring levity to the game and give the playable character a deviant personality, showing that they don’t really care about the rules anyway if they’re willing to smoke indoors in their workplace.

How have you tried to surprise the player?

I’ve tried to surprise the player with the places they can find cigarettes in the game, like among trash bags and in the refrigerator. This adds a kind of scavenger hunt element to the game, since you need cigarettes to get the coworkers to talk to the player.

2018-05-14 (2)

You found half a pack of cigarettes!



Is your game entertaining? In what way?

I hope my game is entertaining. I tried to make it entertaining! I aimed to bring a levity and playfulness to the dull and depressing life of the fast food industry. I wanted to show that union work and getting to know coworkers is what brings life to the workplace, and I tried to show that through the artwork and the walking animation. The aspect of the cigarette scavenger hunt also makes it fun because that’s just a funny thing to include in a game.

Conflict and choice in the Game.

The player is supposed to be somewhat conflicted in the game by being given the choice to not get to know their coworkers and instead get a raise. But ideally, I want the player to learn the power of solidarity and building relationships, so the reward for unionizing will be much more satisfying than the raise or promotion. The conflict arises when the boss asks you to do little tasks, and you must decided whether you’ll complete the tasks of the boss or the favors for your coworkers.

At this point, what ideas are keeping your game alive for you?

For me, the idea of building a UI element that measures solidarity levels among coworkers is very exciting to me. I want a little bar at the top of the screen that goes up and down depending on what you’ve learned about your coworkers and how much they trust you. If solidarity levels are high enough, you can file for a union election, but if they go too low, workers will quit or stop talking to you completely. This adds an element of stress to the game as it provides a tangible measure to how close you are to wining and failing.

Any new inspirations?

Undertale’s combat system is intriguing to me and I would like to draw on that for my game by adapting the combat system to be used for certain conversations. The player enters combat when talking to other coworkers and must build their levels of trust in order for them to tell you certain things and want to sign a union card. This idea comes from Undertale’s use of the combat system where you don’t have to fight–instead you can compliment you enemy or flirt with them to make them not want to fight you.

undertale

Undertale combat system

Postmortem: Gentrifica-Town

PostMortem_TitleImage
What aspects of your game changed the most over the semester?
The role of the player changed the most throughout the game. In fact, I would say that I’m still not really sure what the role of the player would be in the fully developed story.

I originally wanted the game to be broken out into three different acts and for the player to be controlling a different character in each act.

My plan from the beginning was to make a game about gentrification.

I wanted the first act to be about a young, upper-middle-class, recent college grad moving into a gentrifying neighborhood and having to face-off against the unfamiliar territory and the people who already live there.

The second act would be from the perspective of a younger, high-school-aged kid from a working-class family whose been living in that same neighborhood for several generations, and who now has to handle the changes occurring in the neighborhood (with those changes being caused by gentrification).

The third act would probably involve those two groups coming together and realizing that, while initially, they may have seen each other as enemies – both fighting for the same area – they actually have a common enemy. They need to come together to form a strong community to protect everyone who lives there. They would need to fight predatory real estate brokers and get laws passed to save the community.

I ended up simplifying the story considerably. I chose to limit the story to only being from the perspective of the college-grad who has just moved to the city and is looking for an apartment. I’m still not sure if that change is final or if it will just be temporary for this class.

Paper Game vs Final Game Build

Paper Game vs Final Game Build



What parts of the game stayed pretty much true to the original idea?
I went into building the idea with a strong and clear idea of what I wanted the theme of the game to be about and what I wanted the art and animations to look like. I think, coming out the other side, those things mostly seemed to stay unchanged.

Playing the Paper Game

Playing the Paper Game



How could you have used your paper model to save time?
I think the paper game could have been a good tool to lock in the game story early on and quickly test different ways of playing the game.

For example, I could have used it to decide between playing the game in three acts, with three different characters, as I mentioned earlier on in the post, or I with just one main character. It would definitely have been helpful to have seen how players reacted to both versions of the game.

Although I do think that in order to get helpful reactions from players, both versions of the game would have to be developed pretty fully, which I don’t think we had time to do in this one semester class.

What surprised you about your abilities to make your game?
I was surprised at how well my art and animations fit with the game format. They stood out from the other games in my class. And I think they made for an interesting and engaging world for players to explore.

What was easier to do than you might have expected?
I would have to say that the character movement was easier to add than I expected.

I went into the class thinking we would have to code in physics rules and ease in and out player movements so that they would come across as fluid.

There was certainly some coding involved but ultimately, Unity seemed to take care of most of that for us – which was certainly appreciated.

What was harder?
The coding was much harder than I expected it to be. I knew it would be an integral part of the process, but I don’t think I understood how integral it would be. I was surprised to find that in order to perform a function that, I would have initially thought to be extremely simple (for example, adding in a sound effect), was in fact at least a little bit more complicated.

Pretty much everything at least needs at least some code attached to it – while I expected more things to be plug-and-play, or able to be dropped into the scene and be functional.

How important was time management on this project?
Time management was definitely an important aspect of the project. I would say especially when it came to the debugging process.

Often, I’d be able to follow along with the book’s example and 75 percent of the code would work for my game but then there would be another 25% where I’d have to adapt it to fit my game which almost always required some trial and error.

Especially given that these were problems with code that I was only learning as we went along. I was almost always able to get everything working but it would take some time, which I needed to be sure to budget out.

What would you have done / chosen to do differently?
In retrospect, I would have wanted to spend more time up-front working out my game story, and potentially testing it out on paper before I began playing it. I felt a bit like I was assembling my airplane in mid-air – by coming up with the game story as we went. I don’t think it ended up being as strong as it could have been if it was locked down ahead of time, and I wasn’t making creative decisions reactionarily.

Playtesting with a Paper Prototype

Playtesting with a Paper Prototype



A major caveat to that would be that I was really glad that we actually got to build a game of our own as we were going. I don’t know if it would be as satisfying if I left the class with a game concept and a paper prototype.

Also, without having built a game before I don’t think I would have been in a good position to know what game elements would be feasible and what wouldn’t.

Therefore, even if I end up starting over from scratch, I guess I’m glad that we did it this way. I would say that the important takeaway from the class was not necessarily the game file but was rather the knowledge of how to construct a game and how to go about building it. (Sorry if that sounded cheesy and cliché.)

Gentrifica-Town: Event As Narrative

Start screen for the Gentrifica-Town game.

Start screen for the Gentrifica-Town game.

How is your game story radical? My game puts the player into the shoes of a recent college graduate, who got a job in the city, who’s looking for an apartment in a gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn. As the player progresses through the game, they will be working towards getting an apartment.

As the game progresses, the player will get the opportunity to rent their apartment but they may choose not to as it will be bad for the community. The goal is actually more complicated than they had initially understood. They have to rent an apartment without contributing to the gentrification of the neighborhood. What’s best for the player might not be best for the neighborhood.

How have you used events in your main and secondary level to express your game story?
The main point in the street level where the player comes face to face with the game story is speaking with the landlord out in front of his apartment. The player goal is to find an apartment, and this is their first interaction with the landlord who they may eventually decide to rent an apartment from. He’s dismissive of the player’s character because of their age. Although he tends to assume (from judgmental snap judgment) that the player comes from an affluent enough background that they’re probably receiving some financial support from their parents. While the player reveals that it’s not true, that characterization of the player will frame the landlord’s interactions with them as the game narrative continues.

In the secondary level – in the coffee shop – the player asks around for advice about living in the neighborhood. They speak with the vlogger working on her laptop and ask her about the neighborhood and what it’s like living there. She cuts him off and ignores the question. She doesn’t answer the question, but this interaction is meant to illustrate that the type of community represented by the boutique-y coffee shop. It represents a possible future for the neighborhood in which gentrification runs un-checked and there is no strong sense of community to protect the neighborhood and its inhabitants. While things may look nice and clean and minimal, everything is overpriced and clean to the point of sterility. If the player isn’t careful, their actions could cause that future to become a reality – they may get an apartment now, but it would destroy the neighborhood and the community. Eventually, the player would be priced out just like the people who are currently living there.

Tagger, writing radical messages on the temporary construction walls.

Tagger, writing radical messages on the temporary construction walls.



How have you used hitboxes and triggered animations as expressive elements?
On the main level, the player passes by a kid spray-painting a temporary construction wall. As the player passes, they will trigger an animation for the kid to spray paint the wall with new graffiti. His graffiti will subtly deliver the message to the player that the neighborhood is in the process of changing – not necessarily for the better – and as the player continues, they’ll see that their actions directly contribute to that change.

Radical Tags

Radical Tags



Additionally, as the neighborhood becomes more gentrified, the graffiti will shift from being tags (from this kid) to street art advertisements, commissioned by companies, in an attempt to get consumers to photograph and share it on social media.

How have you tried to surprise the player?
So far, I’ve tried to surprise the player with the dialogue. Certain interactions, such as the one with the MTA worker, where he tells the player they can’t pass because the subway is under construction. Then if you talk to him again he says that the seemingly endless subway shutdowns aren’t really construction but are in fact part of an elaborate social experiment. For the purposes of the game, I don’t know if that’s actually true or if it necessarily has any effect on the main game story. But I do think fun and surprising interactions such as those will keep the player on their toes and make them excited to continue to explore the levels. Even if they just reach a dead end, maybe they’ll also uncover something funny.

Play-tester playing Gentrifica-Town at our Game Night

Play-tester playing Gentrifica-Town at our Game Night



Is your game entertaining? In what way?
From the get-go, I’ve aimed to make the game entertaining through the art style and the animations. All of the art was done in Illustrator and then, when applicable, animated in After Effects. I think that makes for a clean, refreshing environment, in which the player can immerse themselves.

Then, once the player has started to get into the game, I’ve tried to make the game’s dialogue interesting and even a little funny (and at times even bordering on self-aware). I think, as long as the player is having fun interacting with NPCs, I’ll be able to deliver plot points to them bit by bit, without them losing interest.

Conflict and choice in the Game.
I want the player to feel conflicted when they finally get the chance to rent an apartment.

Speaking through the NPCs early on in the game, I will deliver the goal of renting an apartment – but it’s important that the directive doesn’t come from the game itself. I want to nudge the player towards renting the cheapest apartment, or the best apartment for them.

The player will have various hoops to jump through to achieve the goal but then, just as the goal is within reach, I will attempt to subtilty present them with an alternative. It won’t necessarily be of the greatest benefit to the player, but it will have the greatest benefit for the neighborhood and the community.

At this point, what ideas are keeping your game alive for you?
I still really like the idea behind the game and I enjoy working on it. I would like to see something come of it. I think it could use a more thorough dive into the full narrative of the game – it’s still not fully fleshed out. As it exists now, I think the game has an interesting concept but I think it would require a deeper dive to fully work out the minutia, in order to make it a more cohesive story.

undertale_papersPleaseLogos



















Any new inspirations?
I think games like Undertale and Papers Please are a great source of inspiration when working on my game. I really like the idea that the player is able to make decisions that matter rather than just being there to click buttons that advance the narrative. It seems like the best way to get players to feel invested in the story and how it ends is by giving them some measure of control over how the story unfolds.

Postmortem: Make or Break the Box

Photo taken during Game Night on May 2nd, 2018

Taken during Game Night on May 2nd, 2018

My game is based on the radical culture of the Sarah Lawrence College campus community. It is a whimsical critique on how many students pressure each other to over commit themselves and pursue social justice even at the expense of the individual’s own self-care. The core of the game focuses on the player’s decision to either fit into someone else’s box, or to make their own metaphorical box. To fit in, they must commit to other’s ideals even if it’s to an unhealthy extent. To create themselves, they must pick and choose (or choose not to choose) what they agree to commit to. The actual groups or goals that can be committed are concrete and feasible goals rather than abstract ideas. For example, the player could talk to a pink NPC who pressures them to build a ramp instead of stairs because stairs are ‘problematic.’  This game takes that tension and that cycle of hurt and adapts it into a lighthearted view.
One of the whimsical, fairytale-esque backgrounds of my game.

One of the whimsical, fairytale-esque backgrounds of my game.


My game is ‘radical’ because it is a Conform or Not Conform type of game. The game mechanics are not complex because I am fresh-faced beginner to coding. Thus, there are no branching dialogues, combat system, or a complicated web of interactions based on what you click or do not click. Instead, the mechanics are either you touch a NPC and initiate dialogue and thus conform, or you do not touch at all and ignore the NPCs. This is representative of the message of the game because you can either spend all your time listening to others by ‘touching’ them, or you can ‘keep your hands to yourself’ and explore the world by walking around them. You don’t have to listen to others and just listen to yourself. It’s up to you. Overall, I am proud of how far I developed my game. True, it’s not as accomplished or as sophisticated as my classmates but I am glad I took the class and got the chance to see a snapshot of game development process and culture. For example, I had no idea that game developers made paper prototypes of their games! It makes sense but it never occurred to me before. Otherwise, the game isn’t far along but I am glad I got as far as I did. I successfully implemented at least one conversation, freeze-player, and finally the map points. I also managed to implement the artwork and slice the sprites.     

Down and Out: Event as Narrative

Tavern

Tavern

My game story is radical in that even though the protagonist of my game has amnesia recovering her memories isn’t her primary goal. Her primary goal is to find a stranger whose ID she found in the swamp. This stranger turns out to be Kaira’s sister. While some parts of it haven’t come up in game yet there is the fact that Kaira, my main character is a queer black trans woman. This is always how I have conceptualized the character but she really isn’t the type of protagonist a lot of games have unfortunately.    
Kaira

Kaira

How have you used events in your main and secondary level to express your game story? I have used character conversations to push the story and the player along. My main level is largely used to establish setting and what constitutes “normal” in this rather abnormal place. I also establish the varying dynamic between the animal species and humans with these first few encounters. For example even though the swamp wolf doesn’t speak like Shari and Zhis do he still communicates with the other characters, establishing him as a member of a sentient species.
Wolf

Wolf

  How have you used hitboxes and triggered animations as expressive elements? As of right now I haven’t implemented hitboxes or triggered animations but I will be using them in future editions of the game. I will be using a hitbox to introduce one of my favorite characters in the game so far, Shari the four eyed cat.
Shari

Shari

  How have you tried to surprise the player? I’ve tried to surprise the player by having seemingly meaningless interactions be the precursor to more events in the game. I also hope having Zhis know more about the player character than the player does most of the time will also be a bit of a surprise.
Running into a tree makes an angry cat who talks like he's from Brooklyn fall out and yell at you.

Running into a tree makes an angry cat who talks like he’s from Brooklyn fall out and yell at you.

  Is your game entertaining? In what way? My game is very narrative focused so a lot of the entertainment comes from conversations and character interaction. The varying personalities of the characters is something I hope the players are entertained by. At game night several people who playtested the game seemed to enjoy it as well.   Where in your game would you like to push the player away from calculation and towards conflict/choice? I want the companion characters and their requests of the player, which will at the very least make other companion requests Harder if not Impossible to complete. This will make the player basically have to choose which character they would rather please. Where in your game could you offer conflict/choice? I could offer more conflict/choice by having the character not have to go to Nadia’s tavern, which would make things interesting since that is where the player character Kaira learns her name. Where in your game must you offer conflict/choice? I must offer conflict in whether the player truly wants Kaira to continue on her mission to find her sister or not. Because if there is no conflict within the player or the character then the game will be boring. Where in your game must you never offer conflict/choice? I think one place my game must never offer conflict/choice is in the player doing something. I have had many gaming experiences where I simply lose motivation even with quest markers and the like. I want the player to remain engaged with the game and not lose their reason for playing even if they aren’t focusing on the story quest. Being sedentary cannot be an option in this game. At this point my dedication to characters that haven’t been introduced is keeping me going on this project. Characters like Nadia and Shari who while they do have a few conversations are not as involved with the plot of the game so far as Zhis is.  As for new inspirations, I haven’t really had many as of late unfortunately. Hopefully working more on the music over the summer might give me some new ideas.

Post-Mortem : House H(a)unter

A screenshot of the dummies Casper steals a costume from.

A screenshot of the dummies Casper steals a costume from.


My game is about two ghost hunter twins, Becca and Casper Radley, who attempt to convince a wealthy couple that their mansion is haunted so that the couple will be forced to sell it at a price the hunters can afford. They are given a week to do so, and so every day the siblings talk to the people of town to fabricate a different haunting. In the process, they accidentally stir up real ghosts who are connected to the emotional instabilities of the people in the town, and so the player must exorcise these real spirits or risk being killed during their con.

In the levels I am submitting for this class, Casper goes to the local bank museum and steals a cowboy bank robber costume from one of the exhibits. He does so by trapping the bank owner in a photo booth and convincing the only employee to go help her. The sheriff’s mannequin disappears once he has done that, and there is a mystery as to where it went (spoilers, it will attack Casper in the next level).
 
Tessa Wycome, owner of the bank heist museum.

Tessa Wycome, owner of the bank heist museum.


The radical aspect in my game is in its manifestation of emotional conflict. The ghosts are representations of the town’s denizens, and have been a part of their psyches for so long that they cannot notice them. The only people who are capable of comprehending the extremely damaging way the townspeople are going about their lives are the twins, who are outsiders. The twins are drifters, and show a sort of amused disdain for the connections that give rise to these ghosts (as evidenced by the fact that the only ghosts they have encountered before are fake ones that they self manufacture), and their lack of understanding about a greater emotional support network likewise hinders their ability to exorcise real ghosts at first. In order to effectively deal with the enemies of the game the twins don’t become physically more powerful, but rather learn more about how to handle interpersonal situations with a level of sincerity.
 
This game idea was inspired by my love of cheesy ghost hunting reality TV, and from learning that in many locations a homeowner must disclose that a house is haunted before selling the property. It has for the most part remained true to this original inspiration, though in the earliest iterations of the game Casper was himself a real ghost and the events of this game were not the first time the twins had committed this con. The iteration I brought to the first class of the semester is fairly similar to the one which I ended up completing for my conference, especially Casper’s general amorality. The major change in concept over the course of the semester is the concept of ghosts as a manifestation of emotional turmoil. In previous iterations, there was only one real ghost (the ghost of one of the homeowners’ deceased brothers), and I felt that this reduced the importance of the other NPCs since they weren’t involved in the central haunting.
 
Sheriff Wycome's Hat

Sheriff Wycome’s Hat.


Development hit a bit of a snafu when I ran into an issue with the advancement of conversation flags resulting in the player missing some conversations. This has been rectified for the time being, though in the future I will likely end up removing the dialogue system I made and replacing it with a plug in.

From crits, I learned that people wanted more sound, and considered the strong point of the game to be the characters and humor in their interactions. To that end, the next thing I intend to add is more hitbox animations, extending the background music, adding sound to Casper’s footsteps, and stopping all background music when in the back of the museum.

I could have used my paper model more in earlier phases to predict the extensions I’d have to make to the maps. One of the weakest visual points of my game in its current phase, is, at least in my opinion, that there’s large areas of empty space beyond the boundaries of the map. This was done to avoid blue space visible on the edges. Had I used a frame around my player character during the initial testing, I would have been able to see how much extra background I would need and could have redone the art so that I could balance out where the walls were with how much space I needed in the map (my first draft was extremely crowded as well). One of the major critiques I received was that people were confused as to why they couldn’t walk further once they hit some of the invisible walls, and this could have been rectified if I’d paid more attention to my paper models.

The thing that surprised me the most about my abilities when making this game was how smoothly most of the initial programming went this time around. My last game, managing scene transitions was very difficult, but using the Game State Manager I was able to program in complex scene states and maintain a game across multiple rooms.
A screencap of one of hte conversations in the game.

A screencap of one of the conversations in the game.


The most difficult thing to program was the conversation manager. If I were programming the game again, I would have written it with a simpler dialogue system in mind for easier debugging. Though I’m satisfied with the dialogue interactions that I came up with, the system we used from the book was not intended for the level of complexity I ended up with. I would have also started implementing the dialogue sooner. If I had discovered that it was having issues earlier, it would have been less stressful to debug it before the due date.
 

Postmortem: City Watch

 
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Paper game model of the town scene

    My game is about a young adult, Lena, who starts off working in the City Watch, but later decides her path in life.  The City Watch is an organization in this city that protects people and prevents crime.  Their main objective is to shut down and underground organization, the Thieves’ Guild, that is committing most of the crime in this city.  The City Watch and the thieves are the two factions in this city.  While the City Watch is “morally right” and the Thieves’ Guild is “morally wrong” at first glance, that is not necessarily true.  Both factions have their upsides and downfalls.  While Lena works on her main objective of shutting down the thieves, she learns more about their objective and purpose.  As she learns more about them, she can decide to go through with her original goal of shutting them down, or she can join them and abandon her place at the City Watch. As Lena gets closer to the thieves, she learns that they are not as bad as the City Watch makes them out to be.  They steal a lot of valuables, but they do it out of necessity.  The city has an “every man for himself” vibe, so people have to do what they can to survive.  There is a lot of crime in the city anyway, and the thieves are at the root of most of it.  The thieves, however, are a sanctuary for any person that is struggling to make ends meet in the city.  So, even though the thieves may commit crime and steal, they are truly morally grey.  They help people while also committing crime.  Lena also learns that the City Watch does not help people who are in need; they only stop crime from happening.  They do not help people who are struggling to survive, they only help people when crime is involved.
The Thieves' Guild from the paper game

The Thieves’ Guild from the paper game

My game is radical because the player has a choice in which side they want to end up with.  Neither side is truly right or wrong.  Each side has its positives and negatives, so where the player wants to be is up to them.  The player can help out the thieves more, or the City Watch more, and those choices help shape the story in the game. My game was inspired by the games that I play often.  I tend to play a lot of RPG, fantasy-style games.  I like games where decisions and choice-making are heavy influences on the game’s outcome.  The Witcher franchise, and the Dragon Age franchise are a couple of the games that inspired my game idea.  These games use choice and player actions as a way to shape the story.  I wanted my game to be like that; I wanted the player to have a say in how they impacted the game. I think the art of my game that has changed the most over the semester has been the mood of the city.  At first, I had the city be fairly light.  The sky was a light blue and the colors of the buildings matched the palette of the City Watch and the color of the sky.  But I did not really like how that felt.  I thought it would be better if the town had a darker color palette.  I changed the sky to a dark grey-purple, and the buildings to reddish -purple.  The windows closer to the City Watch are light grey and light orange-pink.  As the buildings get closer to the sewer, the windows become darker grey.  While building this scene, I also decided that the characters should have an attitude of “I do what is best for me and no one else.”
The town from the game

The town from the game

  Lena stayed the same throughout the course of the semester, and the sewer scene also did not change much.  Lena’s design and personality have stayed the same throughout the semester.  The sewer’s design changed slightly, and it gained some more events, but it remained mostly the same across the semester. What surprised me the most about my ability to make the game was how much simpler coding it was than I remembered.  The longer I spent working on the game, the easier coding it became.  I had very few issues when it came to coding features in the game, and I had more issues when it came to putting together UI elements.  Before starting the game, I thought the difficulties of both those aspects would be switched. I think time management was super important when it came to making the game in this class.It is definitely easy to fall behind if work is not done on time.  I think I did well in managing my time and not falling behind, but I can see how it would be easy to get caught up working on one feature and letting all others fall by the wayside.    

Community Blanket — Madeline Dupre and Jennifer Morris

An overhead view of the cloud, with our blanket twisted in the middle

An overhead view of the cloud, with our blanket twisted in the middle

Madeline with the blanket before the installation started

Madeline with the blanket before the installation started

  The original inspiration for this project was that our housemates often spend evenings knitting together, talking and watching television. We both love knitting, finding it to be relaxing and a nice activity to do with our hands as we socialize. Our original idea for this project was to create a full blanket that we would ask the participants to unravel and give us the pieces of yarn. We soon realized that this wasn’t realistic, so instead we changed the focus of our project to be one of collaboration. We often knit our own projects separately, but this installation was a team effort, so we wanted it to be fully collaborative. In order for it to be this way, we decided to each knit about half of the blanket. Then we would sew these halves together while still knitting the blanket, so we would knit from both ends. We still wanted people to interact with the blanket, so we decided we would gather materials that could be knitted with that were not yarn (ribbon, shoestring, twine, cut up tablecloth, string made of plastic — all in a variety of colors). People would then add these to the blanket by handing them to us to knit in, and we would teach the audience members (who we later dubbed community members) to knit as well.  
Half of the blanket before one class critique

Half of the blanket before one class critique

  After one of our first critiques on this project in class, we realized that if more than two other people were participating, they would get bored and wouldn’t feel engaged with the piece. We also wanted people to do something besides knitting, because we know that sometimes the idea of knitting can be intimidating. With this, we planned to encourage community members to braid or otherwise combine some of the non-traditional materials and either ask us to knit them into the blanket or tie them into the fabric we had already knit in any way they wanted.  
Madeline working on the blanket at Spring Fest

Madeline working on the blanket at Spring Fest

During one of our final, aesthetic-focused critiques for this project, we decided that to frame it, we wanted to be sitting on a fake cloud to add to the comfortable, homey feeling. We got pillow stuffing and formed it into a circle to sit on, and we sat across from each other, wearing kind of cutesy outfits of shorteralls and pastel t-shirts. The blanket would go across the cloud, and we would knit it simultaneously.
The cloud pre-formation

The cloud pre-formation

Our experience of the installation was overwhelmingly positive. It was nice to be in the middle of Open Studios, where people were milling about and being contemplative, and changing that space to have it be one of direct and kind interaction. When we invited people to sit with us, one of the main points of pushback was that many said they could not knit. In these instances, we responded by saying that we could teach them, or they could do something else. This was one of those wonderful moments where what we had planned lined up with reality. Overall, we made new friends and completed a blanket that truly feels like it came from the community. If we had unlimited resources and could do the project again, we would have liked to perhaps have made a schedule for all of the community members to actually be able to use the blanket, or we would have done multiple sessions of sitting in Heimbold, asking people to participate in a similar way each time. Because at Open Studio there were so many people that were so excited, but we couldn’t physically and emotionally support all of them in making the blanket, the idea of multiple knitting sessions seems wonderful in retrospect, to have been able to forge a strong sense of community.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Cloudbirth

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When I signed up to take this course, I knew that I ultimately wanted to learn digital art skills that could pair with the electronic music that has been my primary artistic practice for the last couple of years. Since the theme of the class is “club visuals,” the idea to make visuals that could be projected behind me during a live performance was an obvious choice of project, and perfect for the type of music I make. Being new to digital art, I had no idea how the project would shape until I started using Photoshop and After Effects and learning what was possible. Early in the semester, I was drawn to psychedelic imagery and color palettes and thought my conference visuals might be psychedelic, and incorporate fractals and kaleidoscopes. As I worked in After Effects though, I began to think more critically about abstract shapes acting as characters, and how to build narrative that develops formally. My work shifted away from executing very literal and categorizable ideas like psychedelic imagery, and opened up to more experimentation with how the expression of color, shape, and motion can set a mood and build a work’s personality. When it was time to make my conference piece, I decided the best course of action would be to build a framework guided by the tone of the music to set the mood, and then fill in the narrative with different shape characters that I could develop formally, calling upon all the techniques that we worked on in class. The piece I used is an ambient interlude piece called “Cloudbirth Interlude,” and so the project became the three minute long video, “Cloudbirth,” an ambient visual piece for the music of “Cloudbirth Interlude.”

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The piece opens with a dark purple glitter field that connotes outer space as well as elegance, setting the tone for the piece. The piece “Cloudbirth Interlude” comes in with a “glittery” sounding synth patch, and as this sound enters, the title of the piece, Cloudbirth Interlude appears in an elegant red font over the glitter field. From here, the piece launches into glittery fractals that move across the screen as the music expands. At first, I was almost afraid to use fractals, because of their potential to limit the space and ideas of the piece, but in using them so simply and overtly, as well as in pairing them with the glitter field, I felt satisfied that I was not leaning too hard into the trope of a “fractal space.” The main character of the piece is what I grew to refer to as “the ovules,” which are gray ovular elements that appear in the space and slowly move around. In my first draft of this piece, they had a lot of motion, partially because I was afraid of them becoming stale if they weren’t very active. However, as I edited the piece, I realized the power in the ovules moving slowly, and on their own conditions, even if it felt slower than I thought I “should” have an element move, to keep the piece dynamic. They move around a bit and then rise up, as the next element, red stars are introduced to the piece.

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In keeping with the space theme, my other important character in this piece is the red star, that flashes up from the fractal field and out toward the screen. This happens for a few minutes before a particle rain comes down and the screen strobes with a red “light” that eventually takes over and becomes the new backdrop. Here, our ovule friend can return, alone this time, and express other ambient sentiments, like rippling, and slowly changing from grey to blue to purple, and slowly swelling — though not without returning to its original form just before its departure. This final section of the piece is one of my favourites because of the “eye,” formed from ovals flashing and shaking. At this point in the video, it is almost the end, but all the elements from the fractal world have found a new iteration to take on, unified by their connection to their original identities, as well as to a unifying color palette, and the grounding of the ovule’s return. As the music comes to a close, this scene “strobes out” and flashes back to the glitter field, which serves to bookend the piece, but also to be functional if I wanted to loop the piece during a live performance.

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I found the project to be largely successful, considering its intended purpose. While previous work of mine in the class sometimes had a lack of motion that made imagery too stagnant, the nature of this piece was such that motion could be slower and simpler, and my lack of rapid perpetual motion worked as a stylistic choice. In its first draft phase, I felt the need to move the ovule characters, and they ended up taking on a “cuteness” that did not serve the piece. I think the edits I made helped the characters to be confident in their slow pace, and remain true to their identities within the space. That being said, adapting to making a piece that could serve a slightly different purpose that just a video work and allowing the slow pace to live itself out was a challenge, and I think there are still places where the video would benefit from being slowed down even more. One of those places that really sticks out to me is the part where the particle system is spewing from behind the singular ovule. While I love this scene, the particle system is moving too quickly, and I could not figure out the best way to get it to slow down without changing its identity within the space. I guess in this way, the pacing is one of the most successful elements of the piece, but also one of the unsuccessful ones in the places where it did not come across exactly how I wanted, as disruptions in the flow detrimental to this type of piece.

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As I evaluate how this piece relates to my other work, I think it was one of the first works where my voice and style felt liberated to come through. Not just because of the use of my own music but because I felt justified in building a slow, ambient world, and am starting to see my elements execute themselves with confidence in their identities. The mix of purples and blues and reds and greys set a mood that suited the music and the narrative, and while it was a somewhat limited palette, I never felt like I had to hold back or constrain the ways in which I used them. Similarly, the patterns established by the elements were always interconnected, but not too tightly; the stars find their way back into the piece in a vastly different iteration, as do the ovules, and their ovular backdrop. Motion is the element that is probably the most constrained, as it is super simple, but it feels like I am now developing a sense for when and where elements need to move, in relation to the piece, in order to not become stale.

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Cloudbirth is really just a first take on visuals that I could project with my music. Until I actually use these visuals at a show, I will not know exactly what elements need to change and what can continue to be thematic in my work, but as I continue this kind of work, I plan on expanding on each of the moods set by the different scenes, playing with how slow and ambient I can let them be, while still introducing enough motion to make them interesting as a backdrop for live music. The element of the large oval with waving edges that appears in the fractal world would ideally become a kind of bright frame around my body at the live shows, with the particles and stars embellishing without detracting from me as the focal point. This project, and the wrapping up of this class tied together all the technical and conceptual skills we had worked on and forced me to start considering my own voice as a digital artist, now that I have a basic understanding of how to structure animation art. After finishing and reviewing the work I did on Cloudbirth, I feel like I have reached a point where I can start building exciting visual narratives to go with my music and other artistic projects.

Biliopii, Demeter, and Dr. Prudence

 
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Dr. Prudence selfie

The original beginning for this project was that Jennifer Morris is essentially a hoarder and had been collecting toilet paper rolls for the entirety of the first semester this year. After she announced that she was just going to recycle them, I told her I would take them and use them for an art project.  

After some research into Tara Donovan, I thought for a bit I wanted to have so many toilet paper rolls that they lost the look of a toilet paper rolls and became an independent sculpture. But after seeing just how many toilet paper rolls I had, I realized that there were not enough to create the effect I wanted, and our house did not go through toilet paper rolls fast enough for me to use them in this way.  

Tara Donovan, ‘Untitled (Paper Plates)’, 2007, Pace Gallery

I decided, after thinking more about the toilet paper rolls and what other kinds of materials I wanted to use, that I wanted to cut the toilet paper rolls to different heights of tubes hot glue the sides of them together, creating almost like a bunch of buildings all close together, or the top of a factory with lots of different building heights within it. This sculpture was exciting to me, but even after this change to the materials, I realized that they still looked like toilet paper rolls and transformation hadn’t truly taken place.

I decided to add two elements to the structure — hot glue with melted crayon within it and a paint or paper mache-like covering made out of water, flour, and varying levels of turmeric and cumin. I covered the structure in the different mixtures, having ones that were white (just made out of flour and water) on the bottom and incorporating more turmeric into the mixture as I went up. I knew I wanted this to be a relic from an alien planet covered in sand, with the sand becoming paler and paler as one dug into the ground, and so I tried to make the structure look as if it was made of sand that had been pressed into a solid.

After the structures were created, I started to focus more on the narrative behind them. As someone who lives in a co-op, I liked the idea of organisms living in the structure I created. I had thought that maybe they would live together in the structures. I created these organisms out of some felting wool that one of my housemates had and covered it in hot glue. I decided that my reasoning for the hot glue would be that it was resin which had encased the biliopii (the organisms). Thinking about the idea of illusion, I didn’t want the viewer to be able to see the alleged organisms too well, so the covering of hot glue would make it more mysterious and also more believable.

The gloves, biliopii, and fake sand

The gloves, biliopii, and fake sand

The hive, sitting on a bed of salt

The hive, sitting on a bed of salt

The hive, sitting on a bed of salt

The hive, sitting on a bed of salt

Then, I started to incorporate the interactivity and my place in the project. I made the character of Dr. Prudence who was a researcher who led a team to the planet Demeter where we found these hives and the biliopii. I made some fake sand out of salt and flour and turmeric and had the audience touch that. Then I had them put on gloves to pick up the biliopii and use flashlights to try and get a better look at them. I also invited audience questions at the end, which added an improv element which made it more exciting, both for me and the audience, I think.

After the Supernova Art Party, I was happy with the way my project turned out, but I wish I had incorporated more opportunity for interactivity than just explaining a fake scientific discovery. I was really happy with the interactivity I did get, but I felt that at the end I put too much pressure on the audience. If I could do the project again, I would likely try and plan out more opportunities for interactivity so that the audience could become more engaged and there would be less time of me explaining everything to them. I also would have taken more photos! In retrospect, I feel like a big fool for taking no photos except for one selfie! Thankfully Micha had some of my setup which was wonderful!   

Conference Project Post-Mortem:

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For this conference project, I intended to use after effects to recreate repeating scenes in my dream when I was a child. I believe most of us share the same experience of entering the same dream. When I was a child, I used to see kaleidoscopes before I went to bed and climb into and out of wells as I entered my dreams. When I had fever (even before I knew I would have a fever), I would dream of climbing on cement walls with cement balls crushing on my back. I also repeatedly dreamed of walking into a kindergarten with students and teachers with just three kinds of faces, my parents and I. Sometimes I could see two parallel worlds in my vision. These nightmare-like dreams had given me a lot of pressure, but I wanted to put them into a more joyful theme for this conference project.

After the trip to Japan during this spring break, I made several collages about color palettes I enjoyed for my printmaking class. I decided to introduce pastel colors in spring, for example, green, yellow, pink. into my video. I also picked out a song made by a Japanese musician to go with my project. This aesthetics are influenced by music I listen to on soundcloud. They are some artists from PC music, a record label, for example, Hannah Diamond and QT. I enjoyed the bright and synthetic characteristics with a hint of loneliness and disappointment of it. For my conference project, I hope to combine intimidating images with delightful colors.

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I was able to recreate the kaleidoscope accurately. I took an image of traditional candy in Japan and photoshoped it so the color fit my theme. it was hard for other images since I didn’t have a specific image for other dreams and it was way more effort to put in than I planned to and more technique beyond my capability. Thus, I tried to simplify images into abstract shapes and outlines. Some of the most difficult things to make was on the 3D layers. Because I had so many layers, I had to create combine several after effect files into one in order to create animations in a faster and easier way. I was glad to pick up some new techniques (wave effect, adjustment layer, cc sphere, reversing the direction of a layer) after I followed tutorials on Youtube.

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As I was creating the animation, I kept reminding myself to limit my choices, organize the video into sections and repeat motions and form. I enjoyed the use of echo effect from background in 2d layer to foreground in a 3d layer. Same for the kaleidoscope effect, I introduced this animation twice in the beginning and the end of the video. This decision was inspired my dream: I used climb in and out of the same well as I enter and leave my dream world. I also loved the parallel layer with particles and tunnels and the next section with wave and ball form. I was inspired Ben’s amazing tunnels and Clark’s storyboard in her little robot animation (sudden zoom-in and zoom-out).

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In my conference, Angela suggested me to introduce more parallel/horizon line effect and animate the rotation of horizon line as the parallel world separates. I agree that these adjustments would make audiences more drawn into the video and make my video more cohesive, but unfortunately I did not have the time to do so. I also regret that I could not figure out the best way to make the kindergarten sections. Using just the trim line effect makes the section too plain compared to other ones. I wanted to use more specific images like pictures of my family, but I found the style contrast with other sections too much. So I decided to use outlines of images of interaction between students and teachers I found on line. In summary, I hope my video could have a more consistent story line or a clear expression in my content instead of putting together separate dream images with nothing common.

Project II: Move(s)(r) / Gus

For my second project this semester I made an installation intended to get people moving. At first, I had thought of making an installation that a character (played by myself) would interact with. It quickly became clear that asking other people to act with the installation would be much more challenging and rewarding. At first, I was unsure what to ask of people. Then, I remembered a comment Angela had made about my work last year. She talked about how I seem to want to make art that invites people to work together to achieve a goal. That was an observation that I found enlightning and agreed wholeheartedly with. As a result, I decided to create something that brought people together. As the process went on however, my approach became more and more about the individual. I feel that the result was an installation that wasn’t necessarly asking people to work together for a common goal –though nothing was keeping viewers from doing so if they wished.   IMG_2495   The installation was code running from Processing which was displayed in a large screen. The computer was connected to a Kinect and the image projected on the screen displayed a pixilated image of the person that spun around 360 degrees. Next to the large screen, my computer showed a video of people moving in different ways – dancing, walking down the runway, exercising. The hope was that people would immediatly understand they were supposed to replicate  these movements, while observing themselves on the large screen.   IMG_2478 IMG_2501   Not everone was immediatly aware of what they were supposed to do, and in that sense, the project could use a little more work. In a possible second iteration of this, there are two main things I’d like to work on: 1) finding a way to make the intention of the piece clear to those engaging with it, 2) work on making this a piece that asks for two or more people to engage with each other to accomplish a task. All in all, I had a great time doing this project on my on. I was also very inspired by my classmates projects this semester. What a great year this has been!  

Interactive Art: Project I / Gus and Andrew

My first project this semester was a collaboration with my classmate Andrew Murdock. We created an installation using mylar and bright orange neon strings. Outside, students would listen to a recording that set the tone for the experience inside. By using fancy scientific words, the hope was to create a tone and purpose for the whole piece. Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 12.15.33 PM Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 12.16.19 PM   After listening to the recording, people would enter the space, where they were asked to take part in an “intergallactic” dance.  We distributed finger lights to the participants, with the hope that they would add even more playfulness to the piece. On the far side of the room, a projector was used to project images of the people dancing on the wall. Using Processing and Isadora, Andrew was able to add two other levels to this projection: 1) the image projected was in slow motion, 2) the music would fade out, and begin again once the program noticed a loud sound. I felt that the project was succesful. It was wonderful engaging with people, and seeing them interact not only with the technology, but with the characters we created for ourselves, as well as interaction amoung viewers.   IMG_2171   Andrew and I ended the piece feeling mostly satified, thouh we both agreed that in a second reiteration of this, we might find a way to make the room darker, and possibly even project on the floor, instead of one of the mylar-covered walls. The light from the projector, as well as light from the neighboring room, made it difficult to notice the projection on the wall. I think Andrew was especially upset that the work he put into the technological aspects of the piece wasn’t able to be as appreciated as we both wanted. With that said, I think this was a succesful piece, and it was wonderful to work with Andrew.

Postmortem: Wild Tale

Playtesting during game night.

Playtesting during game night.

Wild Tale is a game that takes place on the movie set of an old west movie. The player controls a traveling cowboy who is looking for a place to settle down. The player will need to make choices that determines the type of cowboy he becomes.

This game is about the construction of identity. The game mechanics reveals to the player they are able to become the person they want to be through their actions. The interactions with the movie set reminds them of the constructed nature of reality. The game pokes fun at the myth of the Wild West subtle commentary on the way media affects the way we act.

My game is a response to escapism media. Many forms of entertainment get praised for the ability to immerse the audience in a new world and become someone else. However, they are often more reinforcing and restrictive instead of empowering. I want to call attention to the reinforcement that media can have on our perception of self and empower people to reexamine their self-perception.

My game subverts the typical idea that the player character has predeveloped personalities. Instead, the player character’s personality is shown only through the player’s actions. Instead of the player becoming a character, he or she inhabits the shell of the character and interacts with the world through that.

There are some games that emphasize on player choices. However, games with narratives like The Walking Dead by Telltale Games rely on analogue choices where the options are clearly presented. In my game, some of the options are not immediately obvious and there are no pop-up dialogue options to choose from. In a silent movie, the characterization is done mostly through actions. This choice reflects my answer to how I think one can express their identity. In real life, I think the thing that people can do to express themselves is through action.
An early sketch for the game.

An early sketch for the game.

I watched some old western movies as research for my game. I think the one that influenced me in term of aesthetics was The Good, Bad, and the Ugly. I think the movie fits very well within the stereotype I wanted to critique. I used the parts I thought were representative of the old west as influence to help me reference the genre.

When I researched western games, I was very surprised to find a game similar to my own. Westerado is also a game also about creating narrative by giving players freedom to express themselves. However, I’d like to note I discovered the game after coming up with the idea so it is not a direct influence.
I used LMMS to create the music for my game.

I used LMMS to create the music for my game.

Since my last update, I’ve fine-tuned the interactions with more efficient codes to prepare for game night. I learned a lot from showing my game at game night. The movie aspect of the game isn’t obvious enough but people responded well to the concept after I explained it in the end. I got helpful suggestions and comments that inspired new features in the future. One important suggestion I got was to add more movie set elements in the game. I think adding cameras, microphones, and wires will be a major step forward for my game. Otherwise, people liked the art style and the humor in my game. I think I will be adding more humorous elements in my game in the future.
A playtester explaining her thought-process as she replayed the level.

A playtester explaining her thought-process as she replayed the level.

The development of this game is, in a way, a reflection of my personal growth. I didn’t come in development with a firm idea of what the story was going to be about. As a result, the story of the game changed a lot. Because I gave myself freedom to alter the story dramatically during development, the game eventually became a manifestation of what’s on my mind. The story is still evolving as I’m developing it. I’m still thinking about the idea of identity and I’m using the development of this game as a tool to help me process it.

The idea that I was going to represent the old west with the twist that the player is going between the movie and the real world stayed true to the original idea. This was the idea that sparked the development of the idea about identity and what it means. The immersion breaking aspect of that idea was interspersing to me and I based my game off that.

I wished I had planned more hitbox interactions within my paper model. I was lucky that people responded well to my digital version. However, it would’ve costed a lot more time if I had to test and iterate the interactions digitally.

It was easier than I had expected to work in Unity. Importing sprites were quick and simple. I found that my experience working with level editors in other games I’ve played helped me understand the workflow of Unity. I thought Unity would’ve been a lot of codes but I learned that a large portion of the coding is actually done visually in the inspector. Understanding this made the development process a lot smoother. Also, I was surprised by my ability to make the music for my game. I plan to continue exploring music making after this project.

It was harder than I had expected to code many of the feature I envisioned for my game. I think I was overly eager with the feature lists. I was not able to realize many of those features within the semester long timeline. I should’ve realize earlier that this process was going to be new to me and decide on a project with a scope that is more achievable.
The auto-slicer for sprite in Unity is amazingly helpful!

The auto-slicer for sprite in Unity is amazingly helpful!

Time management was especially important for this project since my development schedule had to align with the school’s timeline.

I wished I had budgeted more time in the beginning for creating all the assets of the game because creating assets later on I disrupted to my workflow. I noticed that when I spent time creating assets, I wouldn’t have the mental focus to be able to debug efferently. Because of this, I ended up scheduling different days for coding and asset-making. If I had known about this situation earlier, I would’ve used early development time to create a pile of assets and pick from those assets instead.

The scope of my game was too wide for a semester-long development cycle. I should’ve made my game more focused so I could polish my game to a greater extent. I was also too focused on creating the story for the whole game when I haven’t finished the first level.

Postmortem: A Knight’s Quest

Facing the Dragons of Questionable Time Management Skills

Facing the Dragons of Questionable Time Management Skills

Trying to make this game was a learning experience to be sure. Going in, I had a very tenuous grasp of code from a crash course I’d taken before deciding not to join the robotics club, a semester of general art in high school, and a hobby of arguing with strangers on the internet about how games should be made. I was sure to try and place as conservative an estimate on how far I would get in making the game as I possibly could, and yet, I still fell short. Despite that, though, last night, when I finally had combat working well enough that I could attack an enemy and it died when its health reached 0, I could’ve cried with joy.

The game certainly changed a lot from how I had originally planned it out. Honestly, in its first iteration entirely contained to my head, it was more of a visual novel than anything else, so it would have had to change, but still, it’s remarkable even then. I had originally envisioned the game to be a series of days, where each day would comprise you selecting various activities to do, such as drinking, praying, or spending time with specific characters, and at the end of each day a battle would occur against the evil king’s forces, where you would fight alongside an ally you would have to protect. Now, how much of that didn’t come to be due to it being a poor idea and how much of that didn’t come to be because it was significantly beyond my ability to actually put into the game is up for debate, regardless, the game doesn’t resemble that in the slightest.

The model it’s now settled on would just have one long and drawn out battle, with brief respites for attempts at comfort by Red and the nun while the other rebels fought led by the General. The General as a character was changed rather dramatically in design as well, his look from Roman to something more knightly and his personality to something less unintentionally abrasive towards the hero.
General

The General Now

Actually, that brings up another interesting change which occurred that I hadn’t even realized until now. I had shifted away from conversations affecting Levi’s blood entirely. The only way to gain blood would be to kill the enemy soldiers and the only way to decrease it would be to physically remove the blood from Levi i.e. by having the nun wash his hands. This change really affects the general most pronouncedly, since he’s no longer going to actively harm the player by conversation, and is instead the one who gives Levi the respite necessary to speak with the nun and be cleaned.

Still, even now I’m trying to figure out better ways to have built the game and more interesting ways it could have communicated what I wanted it to. The roles of the Nun and Red were something I wasn’t too happy with at the end, and I think I could have made them both more interesting. I think that it would have actually made more sense for Red to be more in favor of Levi fighting against the evil king while the nun would have been more cautious and reluctant to force their problems onto some poor guy who just fell through a portal and landed in front of them. That would have allowed for a cleaner transition to the nun helping Levi handle fighting, and would have let Red be less of an antagonistic character at the start.
Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 8.22.02 PM

The Outside of the Church

Something that surprised me was how much easier it was to make the second scene after I had done the first. Due to some very lackluster time management skills, I was quite pressed for time when I finally settled down to make this scene, but I was able to do it with relatively little issue. Admittedly, there are quite a few things I would improve on in the scene if I were to go back to it, but it is certainly serviceable, and I received some compliments on it from my class. I did notice that people really wanted to go into the little houses in the back whenever they play tested the game, however, so now I know that when I include doors people will try to go into them.

Speaking of play testing, some interesting trends appeared in that. While there was some variation in how people responded to my first level, with some trying to run around between the pews, others talking to the nun immediately and then running into the sword which they couldn’t pick up, and still others who accidentally ran into Red, most people didn’t finish any of the conversation which I had put into the game. Each character had around three in any given scene, but frequently people would leave after only one or two. Some people even went through the second scene without talking to the general at all. That may have been an issue with the second scene, however, since the barricade on the right-hand side was being used as the barrier, and touching it loaded the battle scene after it. That seemed to catch a lot of people by surprise when they played my game, so I’ve learned a bit of a lesson there as well on the importance of making it clear what will and won’t lead to the next area.

I’m finally finishing up combat now. I still need to give the enemies the ability to attack the hero, and the selection circle doesn’t actually disappear until the enemy dies, which means on subsequent turns, when the hero selects an enemy for the second time, an additional selection circle is spawned. So there’s still more left for me to wrangle with, but I’m impressed at how far I’ve come since I started the year and balked at the idea of having multiple conversations going in one scene. And I’m looking forwards to what games I can make in the future as I gain a greater mastery (or any mastery at all, really) over Unity.

A Knight’s Quest: Event as Narrative

PatrickF

Inside the Church

A Knight’s Quest’s story is based around complicating the usual heroic narrative of an RPG. The hero arrives in a strange world and is given a sword and a goal: save the church from the evil king. In order to do this he’s supposed to kill his way through an army of mooks, level up, and eventually engage in an epic boss battle to vanquish evil from the kingdom and live happily ever after. The Hero, Levi, starts the game wanting to be this sort of stereotypical RPG hero, and so his entrance into this world is exactly what he should want. Previously I had planned for the complications to arise when he first met an enemy, but I’ve since begun implementing them as early as the church where he first arrives. The woman in blue on the left side of the church is the nun from my paper game, but the woman in red on the right side is new. As of now, the two of them are creating conflict for the player before he’s even left the church. The nun immediately greets Levi as a sort of phrophesied hero, the answer to her prayers, and is the one who gives him the sword and tells him about the evil king whose forces are bearing down on the church as they speak. The woman in red, who doesn’t have a name yet and so will just be referred to as “Red” from here on out, takes a much different approach. She is convinced that if the rebels peacefully surrender, the evil king will spare their lives. Levi presents a danger to this plan for her, since the rebels will rally around this would-be hero and fight instead of surrendering, thus eliminating any possibility of mercy for them. As a result of this, she urges him not to take up the sword and to instead calm down and wait in the church until the rebels surrender so that mercy can be granted to them. This sort of conflict is interesting to me, given that it seems like it would fit perfectly within a less radical game. Having a character opposing the hero’s decision to fight can serve to empower the player as they feel that they are already making their own decisions within the world and defying a cautious worrywart in their search for adventure. That being said, however, conflict still exists here, and it isn’t until the Nun helps convince Red to step aside that the player can leave this level with the sword to fight the enemies.
Altar

The Altar and its bowl

At the moment I’m trying to put something else new into the game. As Levi kills more enemies, I want it to be physically reflected on him, so I’m planning on adding blood left over from the enemies he’s killed to his sprite. This gives the player a very clear visual feedback on how much blood they have at the moment. The other thing this does is let me make it clear when it’s being reduced, by having that literally wash the blood off of his body. The nun will be the chief character in that role, as she will be using water to try and remove the blood from Levi’s body. In order to set this up early, I want to have her direct Levi to the bowl of water on the altar after he falls through the portal. It will help clear his mind after the disorienting passage through dimensions and time, and set up the water as having a mentally cleansing effect which the nun will be associated with. In order to do this, I’m working on putting a hitbox on top of the bowl which will trigger an animation of Levi splashing some of the water on his face, but that is proving more difficult than I expected. Apparently rotating a character’s head anything other than ninety degrees isn’t supported by Piskel, so I have to do it manually, and I must say it is significantly more difficult than I would have guessed.
BigSword

The Sword

The other hitbox I’m trying to add is one on this sword. It will be placed on the altar on the other side of the bowl, as shown in the first image of this post. One of the first things the nun will say to Levi after he’s regained his footing is that he should pick up the sword and go fight the evil king’s henchmen. Naturally, after she says this, people will want to pick up the sword, which is why a hitbox that triggers an animation of Levi picking up the sword would be of a great deal of use when he collides with it. This hitbox is interesting, because it will also need to change his sprite to have the sword on it, and his sprite will need to remain that way for the rest of the time he has the sword equipped, this means the hitbox needs to change that somehow. In all honesty, I have yet to figure out how exactly to make that happen. While I know how to have the hitbox change his animations to something else (I tested that by having one turn him blue) I haven’t figured out how to make that carry between scenes. It has occurred to me recently that I could just make it so the player is unable to leave this scene unless they have the sword and then change him in all of the other scenes so that he has the sword normally.

This sort of thing does raise an issue with my plans to increase the amount of blood on him, however. I think it is unavoidable that I will need to have some carry over of effects on Levi between scenes, unless I want to overload every scene transition with “if” statements to send him to different scenes based on the state he is in when he leaves.

Impossible – Conference Project

My conference project was not inspired by any work or event in particular; instead, I looked to my newly developed experience since I had been enrolled in this class. I began by creating some squares on a shape layer. By starting simple, I gave myself some breathing room for the effects that I would use. I then added repeaters to the two rectangles in the frame and increased the amount of copies. I added some noise to add visual flare and made the layer 3D. I looked at the waveform to the song I chose (Zebra by Oneohtrix Point Never) and keyframed the copy amount for both rectangles to increase with the change in notes. I did the same thing for the Y axis rotation on the shape layer and rotated it. conference wordpress 1 The next element I focused on revolved around the waveform effect, which displays the waveform of whichever audio source is assigned to it. I left the rainbow noise in for a moment to make for a transition. The waveform spikes and oscillates with the song, adding dynamic effect to the project. No keyframing was necessary to achieve motion. conference wordpress 0 Post-waveform I decided to use fractals; it is an element which never fails to prove itself as dynamic and visually engaging. It took a long time to keyframe and adjust the fractal into a form that could magnify for a long amount of time, as the value slider got more difficult to control as the fractal grew deeper. I also added a white solid layer and chose the opacity flash preset to generate a strobe. As the fractal’s closeup ceases, I added CC Sphere with a fractal superimposed over it to create an object of focus. I set the sphere to rotate along with the actively mutating fractal which created a balance between ambiance and dynamics. This proceeds on for a while; I wanted this section to be trance-like, meditative even. I want viewers to be stunned and contemplate the nature of the complex mathematics which generate such spectacle. The fractal in the background fades out with the music, and the sphere becomes pale and featureless before reversing its revolution of the fractals in the opposite direction. conference wordpress 2 I wanted to move people very rapidly from that meditative space to a more dynamic one. I suddenly cut the white backdrop and fractal and replaced it with a black solid. Here I added CC Particle World  to give the appearance that the sphere has burst with energy. This continues on for a while; perhaps a bit too long, I will admit, but I was so fascinated by the movement and nature of the particles that I decided to leave this in for a while. It gets slightly repetitive, so I added another waveform to draw the viewer back into the space. conference wordpress 3 For the final section of the project I introduce text; ambiguous text, of course, as I wanted the project to remain largely abstract. Question marks serve as a perfect symbol for the daunting and quizzical nature of life and spacetime. I added CC Drizzle, CC Scatterize and CC Particle World to create the raining fire effect. After tweaking the settings, I was finally able to get the effect I wanted. I then added additional text; a statement.“What do we make of this impossible geometry?” This serves as the closing to the project, a question one might ask themselves and hopefully push them to ponder the epistemological ideas about mathematical systems like the ones used to create these virtual worlds. conference wordpress 4 I found the conference project rather difficult; I felt as though I was running out of material very quickly, and grew frustrated; I was much more comfortable in the conceptual context of the kinetic text project, but I am glad to have had the experience of creating this work from the ground up.