Tag Archives: post-mortem

Radical Games: Her Eyes Post-Mortem

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.25.13 PM Her Eyes is a game that has been through so many iterations and pivot it’s goal is almost entirely alien from the original idea. That being said, the look of the game has remained very consistent from my end and even though I’ve had to rethink over and over the way characters and the world worked, I always felt like I was working within the safe frame of the general world I had created and the art that expressed that world. Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.26.26 PM As it stands, the game is roughly half done, maybe less. While the majority of the assets are made, a number are still planned out, and the larger meat of the game, that being encounters, has yet to be worked in. Building such meaningful encounters in the time I had is what I struggled with the most during this cycle and what I would’ve wanted to put more time and thought it. Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.30.34 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.22.57 PM What surprised me was how easily I found the art to do. In other ventures towards the visual world, I always found myself getting hung up on the details of what I drew and how they didn’t look exactly right because I was rushed or just couldn’t eyeball something well enough. With pixel art, I found the amount of precision and abstraction allowed me to make pieces of art that I truly felt proud of. While I wouldn’t say the game had any strong influences artistically, I do think my most recent play throughs of games like LISA and Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery did influence certain character designs, narrative themes, world building, and NPC interaction. Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.32.05 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.31.37 PM Looking back, I feel that the two things I learned the most were exactly that. That meaningful encounters is the hard part, and art in this capacity is what I was strongest with. Know that earlier on would’ve helped me better allocate time and energy to maximize the potential of the product. Strangely, I never found the time to make music or sound for the game. The reason this is strange is that I’m a musician and one would think the music is what would come naturally. Pointing out then that I do not consider myself a visual artist, it is intriguing that the thing I found most uncomfortable at first (art) became the easiest and what I was more familiar (narrative, music) took longer and I was less pleased with the result. Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 8.24.42 PM  Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 7.13.25 PM  

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Swimming In the Void

  Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.06.28 PM For my conference project, I made three animated kinetic text videos which featured narratives from people who spoke about their emotional -experiences of dealing with their mental illnesses. Initially, I wanted to mimic Oskar Fischinger’s ( a German-American abstract animator) style of shape animation to mimic the emotions highlighted in the narrative. In his videos, Oscar Fischinger uses simple shapes to move in co-ordination to classical and jazz musical compositions.However, a major feature of his animated shorts which made them so appealing was the syncing of his shape animation to a Litz composition, which  I lacked the technical expertise and time to emulate. Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.09.05 PM   Instead, I used a variety of inspirations for different scenes in each video. For instance, in the video featuring my friend’s narrative encounter with depression, one of the first few scenes has been inspired by Saul Bass’s cinematography for the opening credits of Vertigo. In order to create that, I chose to transform my ellipse into a spiral , using the “twist” animation effect. My intention was for the rotating spiral to create a hallucinatory effect and make the viewer experience a sense of dread and feel that they were getting pulled into some sort of void (a symbolic interpretation of my title). The last scene, which features a gif of a girl with a tear rolling down her cheek, has been inspired by Mitski’s “Townie” music video, which is filled with a series of hand drawn gifs that express the self destructive and discontent nature of a young adult, which is quite similar to the narrative of the video I was creating. I attempted to re-create this hand sketched gif using Gimp and my Wacom tablet, however I felt that I used too few layers, which resulted in an animated gif that was too rushed up and had a rocky transition between the frames. For the BPD video, I was particularly inspired by Jim Goldberg’s short video for his photobook, “Raised By Wolves” which features teenage runaways in Hollywood Boulevard. The juxtaposition between the young, innocent faces of the subjects and the dreary nature of their narratives interested me and I attempted to re-create this effect in my own video, which featured a childhood photo of my cousin contrasted with lines from her narrative. Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.11.05 PM While creating my videos, I discovered a variety of tools that complemented the nature of my narratives. For instance, I used a combination of “Bad TV” (warp, old and weak)  and “Set Channels” effects to create the damaged VCR effect with the static lines. The “Bad TV” effect was used to create the static lines while the “Set Channels” effect was used to create the glitch text at  the beginning. All three of the kinetic texts shared a common theme of the narrators describing themselves as feeling like ghosts and wishing to float away. The “Set Channels” effect proved to be a very efficient tool in helping to convey this in images and text. For instance, I created three layers of the same text and would modify the channel information in such a way that the colors in the images would get separated and created the effect of the person in the image “floating” away from herself (see picture above). I also heavily experimented around with the “Fractal Noise” effect which helped to create the jittery effect for the text and animated shapes in the video and created a sense of heightened anxiety. I was also interested in creating a zoom in affect where it feels like a camera is panning towards infinity. I tried to convey this in the first two videos which featured the narratives about depression and BPD. This was achieved by making the text 3-D and altering the key frames for  it’s orientation. For the backdrops, I decided to create visual representations of a galaxy and glowing tunnel; both of which convey a universal sense of infinity. Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.12.28 PM   Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.13.41 PM I wished I had a better understanding of key frames and transition between different scenes , as I felt that some scenes were too rushed to properly convey something impactful. I also wished I had more time to compose a musical composition for my videos, as that would have made the animations  more effective in manipulating the viewer’s emotions and would have been more engaging.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: IV

IMG_0224 (1) IV is a top down RPG that tries to model the American medical industry within a video game using mythic imagery. Currently I’m at a place in the dev cycle where most every art asset is in the game, however the actual coded mechanics don’t quite work yet. The project had some major surprises, notably the coding and character animation came remarkably quick but the terrain and tile maps came much slowly. This is probably due to me using a different program (photoshop) and technique for these tiles than I did on my last game The Strength Needed. Much of the design choices came from this place of experience/need for growth. I wanted to expand my artistic skill set this semester by making the terrain far prettier than last semester. The main character had much of the same sort of art style I had cultivated before, but used some more complex shading techniques that made them seem more dimensional. I think I surprised myself this time with how quickly the character designs came out. Initially I had many different full walk cycles for multiple different characters that didn’t make it into the final cut of the game, but I still might use these assets and the practice they afforded me in future projects. I discovered a sort of natural ability to design characters this semester which honestly surprised me as I’ve had plenty of doubts throughout the year about my ability to draw/make pixel art. I had a lot of artistic inspiration from the game Hyper Light Drifter and used much of the articles I read interviewing the developer Alex Preston as guides for making this game. In addition, the games Lisa, Undertale, and What Now? as models for some of the things I wanted to do with odd mechanics. I did definitely learn how to do tilesets better this semester, which overall has aided my skill set as an artist quite well. The extra practice on characters also undoubtedly will make future projects that much faster. In addition, I think my skills as a designer definitely saw some improvement. On previous projects I don’t think I would have done much to draft out a main mechanic. Really thinking about the internal logic of the game’s central mechanic became a rather good thought experiment and practice for the future. The whole process of making a mechanic that didn’t play by conventional game standards made me question how to defy typical mechanics even more. However, although I cultivated a better sense of art and design I will mention my coding still feels subpar. While I’m aware much of my strife came from a major setback in the dev cycle when my computer lost all its data and was out of commission for two weeks, the fact remains that coding takes me far more time than any other aspect of the project and I should leave more time for it on my next project. Although I thought I managed my time well, clearly I’ll have to get better at deadlines in the future. IMG_0227   Best, Chris Haehnel (Kit)

Conference Project Post-Mortem: ADHDRPG!

Gamepic My game this semester is ADHDRPG!, a semi-autobiographical depiction of what it’s like to have undiagnosed ADHD in middle school. The game as I envision it depicts a week in the life of a girl (named Claire, after myself) as she attempts to navigate home and school while dealing with her ADHD. At home, she must manage to get out the door in the morning with everything she needs, a challenge that increases in various ways as the game goes on. At school, she battles the various manifestations of her ADHD, such as homework and distractions. gamepic5 I am still fairly early on in the dev cycle for this project, unfortunately.  My artwork is very involved and detailed, and I’d say that’s the most advanced aspect of my project. There are many objects that I have created art assets for but not implemented or implemented without planned interactivity. As far as coding goes, I got so far as to implement basic enemies into the game and add a system for killing them. If the game were to become fully realized, I’d say that I’m probably a quarter of the way through. gamepic2 I was surprised by how easy the coding aspect of the game was. I have a small bit of experience with Javascript, and while much of the actual scripting was different, the logic carried over to a surprising degree. Most of my problems came from careless errors, which were annoying but ultimately easy to fix. The most surprisingly time consuming thing was the art — I never realized how much I could agonize over the placement of a few pixels. To my pleasant surprise, I was more talented at pixel art than I thought. However, this came with the unfortunate flip side of me often wanting to go back and redo older assets as my skill increased. gamepic3 Other than a skill with art, I’d say I definitely gained more confidence in my ability to write code. In a less quantifiable sense, I feel like I have a better eye for design than I did when I had started the semester with no education on visual design and little on game design. That’s my biggest concentration in the future — improving my game design skills. I want to be a designer and a writer, and while art assets and code can always be done for me by someone else, design is absolutely necessary if I’m to lead the creation of a game. I really learned the value of feedback from my classmates, so I’ll definitely take advantage of any playtesters I can get for future games. gamepic4 I was really inspired by all of the projects created by my classmates this semester. I feel like every game that each of us created had different strengths, and every creator stood out from the others in their own way. The sense of humor in David’s game, the beautiful art in Colin’s, the use of a small and detailed space to create compelling story in Chris’ are a few of the many standout examples of things that I take as inspiration for this and future games. gamepic6 My one regret is that my time management absolutely could have been better than it was. I was hesitant to implement functionality into my game before making the necessary art assets, so that contributed a lot to me not having as much code and interactivity in as I could have. I learned that I need to create a stricter dev cycle and really stick to it. This summer, I plan on trying to finish my game. If I can create that structure for myself I’ll be at a huge advantage over where I was. I also hope that someday working with others on a game can keep me to task.  

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Music and Motion

For my conference project, I intended to compose songs in GarageBand and create an animation to go along with them in After Effects. I had genres in mind for songs and I somewhat stuck to them, but varied slightly. I did make an electronic song, but the other song that I intended to be a classic band setup turned into more of a keyboard-oriented 70s disco piece. This is a result of where I happened to be at the time I made the songs: I was listening to other songs from the 70s which influenced my style. I planned on using markers, but I found another system that worked even better: in GarageBand the soundwaves of each instrument are visible in coordination with the time of the piece, which also includes time in the same way as After Effects (24 frames per second). So, I looked for the beats in the soundwaves in GarageBand, found the corresponding time, and animated to the beat. However, I had issues with memory which made playback difficult, especially for the first piece, which made it double-check my work. The first piece, which had more chaotic rhythmic elements, resulted in more abrasive animation at times so I aimed to make my second piece more organic and relaxed.
A screencap from my second video. I used the Kaleidescope and HexTiles effects often as I feel they have a 70s characteristic.

A screencap from my second video. I used the Kaleidescope and HexTiles effects often as I feel they have a 70s characteristic.

I think I succeeded at this. Going from the first project to the second project changed my overall conference because I learned from my first mistakes and tried to refine them for the second piece.
A screencap from my first video. The background shapes and their color schemes were my favorite part of this video.

A screencap from my first video. The background shapes and their color schemes were my favorite part of this video.

While my time management could have been better, I am surprised how well my projects turned out for being done at late hours. I believe my second piece does look good because the effects range from simple to complex but all still enjoyable to watch, while my first piece could use more refinement because some animations felt too rushed and some parts too static. In the end, my inspiration for the first video was late 1980s aesthetics and the second video was early 1970s aesthetics. I am satisfied with the work I have created and feel it reflects my artistic development over the semester accurately.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Glitch

Glitchy Galaxy Flower - Copy doodle 11 PixelStaticStream   My conference project was making glitch art.  I took patterns that I made in GIMP, then I put them into Java with the software, Processing.  The first three images are the patterns that I made.  The last pattern was already glitched inside of photoshop, then it was put into processing.  The last three images are frames from the coded program.  The code turned out just the way I wanted it to.  Granted, I only have so much control over what the final product looks like because the code is semi-generative.  But, I am completely happy with how my programs turned out!  The colors all look great, and I like the way they change. The thing I am not happy with in my project is how the frames saved.  There is a lot of black that gets added into the images, which muddies the image and hides a lot of the detail.  I am not exactly sure why it happens, but it makes the project look less like how I want it too. A lot changed from when I started to what I ended up with.  I experimented a lot with different ways the glitch could be created and how it affected the image.  I made many small changes that either changed a lot in the way the code works or changed only a slight amount.  I took the three versions that I liked the most out of everything and then made more changes to those.  I added some coded patterns, which helped the code become less stagnant and change the color.  The patterns I created were easy to come up with; they took a little bit of maneuvering to get right, but they weren’t too difficult to incorporate.  The last glitch that I made (the last image) took a little more work to get the additional patterns included.  I struggled getting colors that I liked to match the glitch.  I wanted similar colors, but they either didn’t look quite right, or they didn’t stand out enough.  In the same glitch, I originally had a different base pattern that got glitched, but I ended changing it to the final version because I thought it looked better and I liked the colors better. I like how my work turned out overall.  I think it suits my style as an artist, and I think that if I were to do the same project over again, I would end up with a similar project.

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Bueno, Claro Que Si

Screenshot_01_molina My conference project is a reflection on my heritage as a Cuban-American. Bueno and Claro Que Si are two phrases that come up quite often when in conversation with Cubans. The project is comprised of three separate videos. The first video is more of a reflection of who I am and why I look the way I look. The second video is a reflection on working at a sneaker store where most of the customers only speak spanish and I can only communicate in Spanglish. In the third video I used footage of my grandmother describing parties in Cuba, translated it (for the most part), and used kinetic text to type it in english. Each video uses rotoscoping to include short animations relevant to the kinetic text. This was my mission when going into my conference project- to use kinetic text and short animation together. The short animations and text were all drawn out in advance in order to set up my animations with kinetic text first, make the small animations second. I tried using different effects, using shape motions to interweave text and animation, and using different colors. screenshot_02_molina In the first animation I wanted to use the colors of the cuban flag, which also happen to be the colors of the American flag. On of the longest rotoscoping animations I made can be previewed above. I simply took a video of myself holding an expresso cup and holding it up to my mouth as if I were drinking from it. I then took that footage, created different frames from it, and drew over the video to create a short and sweet animation. I started with hair, then body, the expresso cup, then the coloring on the cup. Although I do like the first video I am more proud of the second half than the first. screenshot_03_molina The second animation is a reflection of my time working at a sneaker store and working with customers who only speak and understand Spanish. I wanted to convey my frustration with customers, and the situation. In this projection I wanted to use a different color scheme than most of my projects in general and get away from using grey or white. I decided to use blue because it is a color involved with the company I work at. The video was planned with kinetic text and where I would insert short videos. I also played around with drawing simple circles and making them into borders. During my conference project work I also discovered the beautiful revelation that I could make my own images and videos into tiles using effects. I love the dangling feet with shoes in this animation and the idea is reprised again with a border of legs. screenshot_04 I had a hard time in the third animation because I am very bad at drawing faces, so I will often revise it over and over only to make the faces look even messier. I threw out another rotoscope section in the animation because I did not think it was well enough done. At the end of the video my grandmother plays the piano and I rotoscoped a piece. For this piece, I went in and erased the face, and although there is no face detail now I am still very much overall happy with how it came out. I used a photo my grandma has of Cuba hanging up in her kitchen throughout. This piece was definitely much more for me and my family than anything else. I have always been interested in the parties in Cuba, and the balls my grandmother would attend. The video footage was something I have had for quite some time, and used to help me write a screenplay I had been writing. I always intended to use the footage in this sort of manner and I am glad I finally was able to. I am very happy with how it came out. Over all, my project was very time consuming but worth it and something I am definitely proud of. I do wish the three videos looked a little more similar only to make it more clear that the video are indeed part of the same project and series. There is a part in the second video where the kinetic text goes incredibly faster then I wanted it to, but I think it works only to express how frustrating it is to work in retail and have several people speaking to you at once. I left it alone, only for this reason and hope it is conveyed in this manner. The first video too, I wish I had done something slightly different with the beginning. Working on the project I learned I work very slowly. I make mistakes, and immediately go back to perfect them. I had to learn to let go and not make every singly frame perfect. It was also a part of the look that I was going for. An artist I looked at was Julia Pott, a lot of her work looks a little messy but there is a sweet charm to it that I really like. I tried to copy this charm and I hope I got a least a little bit of it. I am very happy with how my project turned out!    

Conference Project Post-Mortem: Found Poetry

Screenshot 2017-05-05 at 7.45.50 AM My conference project is titled ‘Found Poetry’. It is an exploration of words found in the real world that form unexpected poetry, or that can be rearranged to make poetry. The two videos that I made were a song mashup and an animated refrigerator covered with word magnets, but the concept of found poetry could extend to interesting bumper stickers, street signs and license plates, graffiti, emails, notes – essentially any words that are found in the world and have a poetic aspect. When I originally started thinking about my conference work, my idea was to create an intricate animated wallpaper as either a video in After Effects or a series of GIFs. I liked the idea of taking a mundane surface found in houses and making it into a living background, so I envisioned a detailed wallpaper pattern with birds and flowers such as those designed by William Morris, in which the different parts of the pattern moved and appeared to come alive. After struggling to draw a decorative pattern that I was satisfied with, I switched my focus to kinetic text, which I found very rewarding. I learned that I work best in After Effects when I can take a long period of time (at least 6-8 hours) and focus on completing a section of video, because it takes a while to get into the flow of the work, and also because troubleshooting/learning new techniques can take a while. I also found that new ideas came to me in the process. Screenshot 2017-05-05 at 7.42.26 AM My conference video “Fridge Poetry” draws on my ideas about taking an everyday object and creating an animation that makes it appear alive or enchanted. The poems in this video are ones found on my real refrigerator at home, made from set of word magnets by my roommates and I. I picked some of my favorites and made word tiles for each one, as well as individual tiles for the consonants that occupied their own tiles. I then took a photo of my refrigerator and Photoshopped the background so that it created a blank slate to begin animating the poems. I tried to use varying speeds for each tile I animated to give the appearance that an invisible presence was thinking of what to write and then moving the tiles across the refrigerator. Overall, I think this tactic was successful, but I find the video more visually satisfying at the moments in which multiple tiles are moving at the same time. If I did this project over, I think that I would add a few more poems, make the tiles smaller, and make the pace at which the poems form slightly faster by increasing the number of times that multiple tiles move simultaneously. I found that the best way to create a random rhythm in the movement of the word tiles was to animate them without checking the time signature and avoid making changes at exact intervals.   There are two other elements to the video: GIFs and a list of imaginary chores. The imaginary chores ranged from ‘drain the swimming pool’ to ‘filter the potion’. I added this list at the end of the animation and made it appear to float down from above the fridge and then stick. It was fun to come up with the ‘chores,’ and I think it adds to the fantastical element of the video. chores I made GIFs of a flower, a hopping spotted green frog and a crescent moon in Photoshop, which I inserted into the video like living fridge magnets that move around the screen. This was the most difficult part of the project, because when I tried to add the GIFs to the animation their previously transparent backgrounds became white. I also needed to figure out how to loop the GIFs for the length of the video so that they would play continuously. After an absurd amount of googling (some forums claimed that trying to work with GIFs in After Effects was simply a bad idea) and about four or five hours of trial and error, I eventually figured out how to remove the white background and loop the GIFs, so that I could animate them. I’m happy I stuck with it, because I like the simplistic but satisfying effect of the repetitive motion of a GIF interacting with the environment of the video. frog     flower My other conference video is titled “My Never Sunshine,” and it is a kinetic text video inspired by and set to a mash-up of the songs “You Are My Sunshine” and “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone”. “You Are My Sunshine” was one of my favorite songs as a kid, because I had a wind-up teddy bear that played the melody. One day while thinking about ideas for kinetic text, I got both songs stuck in my head. I looked on YouTube and found a live recording of a mash-up that I liked: You are My Sunshine/Ain’t No Sunshine (Mash-Up) by Justin Sinclair & Jamey Geston. It became the basis for a lyric video of sorts, with the lyrics scrambled to create cognitive dissonance between the audio and the visual. Screenshot 2017-05-05 at 7.47.06 AMI liked the idea of these two songs together, both more or less sad love songs (depending on how they are played), both focusing on the idea of the presence or lack of sunshine. Instead of a visual focusing on the sun, what came to mind was a background of intricate clouds. Clouds are still sky-themed and denote the absence of sunshine, although my clouds are quite cheerful in appearance. I made a background image several times larger than the size of the video composition and then animated it to give the appearance of a camera panning across the sky. The clouds are a pattern with similar form and scale, but some variation in color and texture. The sound of the song is quite melancholy, but the bright blue of the sky and the simple visuals (a rainbow, sunbursts, flying bird silhouettes) create a cheerful and calming effect. Most of the visuals are individual GIFs which I then imported into After Effects and animated. I think this worked particularly well for the flying birds. sun 2birdsOne of the most difficult parts of creating this video was drawing the rainbow, birds and sun in Photoshop. I originally wanted more true-to-life representations, but I was faced with a lack of technical skill. I ended up returning to the simple lines that I used to draw with as a kid, and I actually ended up enjoying the final effect, which I think is imperfect but visually satisfying. Screenshot 2017-05-05 at 7.43.26 AM I like the layers of contrast in the piece, both between the song and the mismatched lyrics and between the melancholy tone of the words and music with the bright, happy visuals. I think this contrast adds interest and complexity to what would have otherwise been a fairly simple piece. It’s confusing, but in a good way.     

Conference Project Post Mortem: Interference

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 10.56.47 PM “Chromointerference”, as artist Carlos Cruz-Diez dubs it, is when colors are side by side and their unique wavelengths obstruct one another and produce a new color, a color that isn’t actually there but is only a perception of the eye due to wavelength interference and light. Through studying more about Diez and the work of op artist like Victor Vasarely, Bridget Riley, Josef Albers, as well as Anni Albers I became deeply inspired by what different visual perceptions can be created. carlos-cruz-diez-chromatic-induction-dual-frequency-permutation-5-800x800

Chromatic Induction Dual Frequency Permutation Lithograph by Carlos Cruz-Diez.

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Serie Semana – Martes Lithograph by Carlos Cruz-Diez

CD and Dawn

Carlos himself in his “Chromosaturation” light installation at the University of Essex (he’s too cool!)

For my conference project, I created 10 animated gifs that focus on color, line, and viewer perception. I strived to manipulate viewer perception by creating movement/moire effects, as well as, an interference of colors. interference_101 This first gif is one that I wanted to be informative, as I am learning about color theory through this project and hope to teach someone else something new as well. The blue lines are above a moving gradient from orange to green. When the gradient passes through the blue lines the wavelength of the blue interferences with the gradient, producing a new gradient from pink to light blue. Blue + Orange = Pink Blue + Green = Cyan I didn’t want the lines to cover the entire canvas so that the viewer could understand what was really happening in this gif. interfering_quad This gif actually came from work I did in analog form. I had silkscreened a print that had the pink, yellow, and cyan interference and here I greatly expanded upon it and animated it! Though one of my more simpler gifs, I like this one the best. Maybe because I get to see my work translated from analog to digital form, which is cool. But I also like this one because it’s informative if you really study it and produces one of the most successful interferences (of my conference) in my opinion. I also noticed that black works best when creating color interferences. It defines the other colors more and makes them more pronounce. The next three gifs were created by overlapping different color tiles that I made. Though I only rotated between 4 different colored tiles (red, orange, green, and blue), dependent on which ones were used and the background, an large array of different effects and combinations were created. rasta_quilt This gif was created just by overlapping red and green. Who knew it would produce a yellow color?! It was best executed on a black background. I had made the same gif with a white background but the color interference wasn’t as strong. There are only two layers interfering and just in a horizontal direction but the constant motion makes it feel as if there is more dimension than is actually present. I was pleased that this gif (and the following two) had both interference and a moire effect. easter_morning I created this gif by placing a green and blue tile over a gradient of red to orange. This combination produced an entire array of colors that feel very 60’s to me but also remind me of Easter morning. Everything is moving at the same speed, but the way the tiles interact with each other feel as if some parts are moving faster or slower than others. Due to the order I overlaid the tiles, some interferences appear in disappear which is neat. pop This one, for me, is somehow offputting and striking at the same time. The colors are horrendous in my opinion, but there’s just so much visually going on! This is the culmination of all four tiles (red, orange, green, and blue) interacting with each other over a black background and moving in both the horizontal and vertical direction. hue Here in this gif the two outer boxes reveal what’s interacting in the center. I like this gif particularly because it switches between interferences making you perceive a color and you seeing that actual color. It’s also one of the more dynamic gifs I made that you don’t have to turn away from. To me, it’s quite soothing, though it was the most difficult to make. Each box is a separate gif that I made into that pattern. Some boxes cave in and some boxes push out. There’s variance without it being overbearing. sw Here I have rows of arrows crossing over a pattern. The interference here is created not by the colors crossing over another or just existing beside each other, but through the movement of the arrows over the pattern. The colors used were magenta, red-orange, and cyan. The best interference is in the middle where the arrow moves over all three colors. Though I will have to say that to see the best effect one should be standing a bit farther away in order to see the full interference. That’s the thing though I guess about the entire project. These interferences work best on a smaller scale. All of my gifs are parts of larger scale work I made that I scaled way down and multiplied! The funny part is the best stills of the gifs are my thumbnails. You really experience the full effect. quad_5 This gif kind of happened by accident and through the most trial and errors of any of the gifs I’ve made. I think I have 5 other versions of this gif. I liked this one best due to this particular moire effect. It reminds me of a kaleidoscope! It’s a combination of pieces of a gif I made that had a black tile over a pattern of blue, hot pink, green and black lines. prism When studying more about color theory and interferences I looked into the color additive model. When red, green, and blue (RGB) light intersect one another they produce white (the combination of all colors). I was then super determined to see if I could produce a white pattern and gif just by using RGB. I was sadly, but also thankfully mistaken. The geometric shape I made at the center of the gif consists of several layers of an RGB gif I made. I thought if I could get the lines minuscule enough it would produce the effect I wanted. Instead of white, it produced a rainbow spectrum (which in turn actually makes sense)! I juxtaposed the shape in front of a rotating background of black and white lines. Since the shape is in the foreground and the background is rotating so fast, the lines almost look like they’re producing their own moire effect even though they’re not interacting with any overlapping lines themselves or scaling in size. I expanded more on RGB with this next and final gif. I think it shows both the RGB pattern but also the rainbow interference that is produced due to the moire effect in this gif. rgb_moire This project was both wonderful and hard. It pushed me way out of my comfort zone. I was forced to use color! I don’t like to think I’m an artist or designer who is afraid of color, but there does seem to be a general black and white theme in my work across all forms. This project allowed me to learn about art history, color theory and produce an array of colors in my work, all things I never really did before. It was rewarding to be inspired by analog forms of art, especially as someone who prints and illustrates, and have that translate and breathe new life into my digital work.

Non-Linear Post-Mortem: Heretic

Screenshot (19)   Game Design and Non-Linearity  Heretic is a 2D PRG that follows a young girl living a barren village. Resources are slim, the soil is untenable, and the villagers only think of their own needs for survival. The villagers live in fear of dying and the unknown, and have begun to carry out witch hunts, resulting in the burning of various women at the stake for crimes of witchcraft. The player can choose to leave the village and enter the forest, of which most villagers are afraid. If the player brings an item to the book, the village will be changed – for better or worse. The player can decide the fate of the village and the villagers based on what items they bring to the book. For now, I’ve designed four items that the player can bring to the book – a shepherd’s crook, a sword, a shield, and a potted plant. Each item is symbolic of the change it will bring to the town, though not necessarily in the way that the player expects, and not necessarily in a way that the other villagers are happy with. The potted plant, when brought to the book, will result in the construction of a new garden for the herbalist, giving her the ability to grow more plants. The player can continue this cycle and improve the quality and size of the garden with each trip to the book. However, the blacksmith may feel threatened by the increase to her resources and decide to accuse her of witchcraft, leading to her being burned at the stake. The widow, also, has a shepherd’s crook from her late husband that may be brought to the book. If the player does so, the widow will receive a sheep and a small plot of grass in which the sheep can graze. Again, the player can continue this cycle, but risks arousing suspicion of witchcraft the more the player helps the widow. During witch hunts, the women targeted were primarily women who seemed threatening to the capitalist control of production and reproduction. Herbalists were threatening because they had natural knowledge of plants, and often assisted with women’s reproductive health. This power over life and death was threatening to a system that need to control reproductive power to be able to exist. Widows, too, were threatening, because they existed outside of the bounds of marriage. Ultimately, I would like this RPG to illuminate the sexist underpinnings of the witch hunts, and the way they were used as a means to protect capitalist patriarchal power through player choice and consequence. If the player chooses to bring the blacksmith’s shield to the book, a large wall will be built around the village. They can continue to fortify the village by bringing the shield back to the book, and the villagers will never suspect the blacksmith of witchcraft, because the resources he provides isn’t threatening to the capitalist system. The nature of the book should be ambiguous. It may be magical, or it may simply give the player the practical knowledge to achieve the change she seeks. Originally, I was going to have the player bring items to a gathering of chanting women out in the woods, but decided against it because I play testers very quickly associated it with a coven of witches. The book, to me, represents knowledge, which is ultimately what truly threatened the capitalist regime. This game is non-linear most obviously in that the goal is entirely up to the player – whether they want to help or hurt the village – and in that there’s no set path to reach that goal. Though there are only a few items to bring to the book right now, in the future, I want there to be many more, so that there are even more paths and twists and turns. One path won’t necessarily cut you off from another path – if you build a wall with the shield, you can still bring the potted plant or the shepherd’s crook to the book later. Though it will take a lot more design time, I want this game to reflect the possibility of alternate timelines as Borges described in Garden of the Forking Paths. In one instance of the game, the player may wish to indirectly kill all the other NPCs and leave the village in ruins. In another, the player may achieve a utopian village with bountiful resources and no conflict. In another, the player may try to save the herbalist but attempt to kill the blacksmith and the widow, and so on and so forth. The paths should fork and cross over one another and double back and allow for as much exploration as possible. In a lot of traditional RPGs, players use weapons to combat enemies, and the enemies make up the bulk of the narrative. In this game, there aren’t any discernible enemies.  Yes, you can capture and kill a rabbit – but that’s not an enemy. The player can decide to buy the sword – one of the more expensive items – but the player can’t use it to kill villagers. If the player brings the sword to the book, the player may expect to receive some suit of armor, or a bigger sword, etc. But instead, a random building in the village will be destroyed. Just as the book isn’t necessarily magical, the changes it brings aren’t always good. The changes the book makes depends on the player and the items the player brings, and just as it can help make the village great, it can also destroy the village. In that way, this RPG is non-traditional – often, RPGS have one goal – to save someone or something – and there is one way to achieve that goal. In this game, the goal is up to the player, and the ways to achieve that goal don’t follow traditional narratives. For many games, a sword represents heroism. But in this game, the sword represents the violence of domination and oppression. Screenshot (18) Art Design Overall, I’m satisfied with how the game looks and feels. I drew inspiration from illuminated manuscripts of the 1400s and 1500s – a time of intense upheaval in Europe as the society transitioned from feudalism into capitalism. Illuminated manuscripts were usually drawn by religious orders, and were only accessible by those in power. I wanted to play with their patterns and symbols to evoke a religious and medieval aesthetic in my game, and also to re-appropriate the styles of the books to turn them against the will of the aristocrats that commissioned them – even if they did so five hundred some odd years ago. During my last leg of development, I decided to change the main village to be very rocky and barren, in stark contrast with the forest.  I wanted to convey the level of separation of the humans from the natural world through color in my game. Often, human culture and society feel like they are natural to those participating in them, thought they are anything but natural.  The colors of the human dwellings have bright accent colors that serve to further alienate them from the forest environment.    Screenshot (17)    Screenshot (15) Working in 64×64 in this dev cycle was not the best idea, because each tile took at least an hour to make, if not much more. The rock facade took at least eight hours. I got lost in the artwork, rather than the gameplay.  I ended up spending a lot of time on water tiles that ultimately didn’t get much use in the game, because I worked on artwork before actually testing my paper prototype. I had the idea that the girl would maybe crash land on an island in a boat, but decided to scrap that idea because I wanted her to be a part of the community. I might use the water tiles for a fisherman narrative later, but I shouldn’t have devoted so much time to an idea I was completely unsure of. The walk cycle took a lot longer than expected because animating with pixels was a lot harder than i first thought it would be. It seems simpler because you’re working with small units, but it can actually get harder because making a bunch of squares into a cohesive moving shape is kind of difficult to do when you haven’t done it before. I got so frustrated by the walk cycle that I didn’t finish it till last minute, and then I didn’t have time to code in animation of items being picked up, etc. Animating the movement of the feet was particularly difficult, and I’m still not satisfied with the end result. I’ll probably change it in the future. sheep   What I Learned Always test your paper prototype first! That’s one of the big things I realized this semester. Don’t develop a bunch of art and THEN gameplay, because you’ll end up focusing too much on art and not enough on programming. I have a very clear idea of where I want my game to go now, but I have very little of it programmed because I was focusing too much on what the game looked like, and not enough on what actually happened. I spent hours designing the sheep above and it didn’t even make it into gameplay because I didn’t have enough time to program it. Granted, I still probably would have only been able to code and animate one narrative from beginning to end because the art is so detailed, but I wouldn’t have spent so much time on art that I’m now not sure if I’ll use. If I could go back, I would design in a lower resolution and make my paper prototype before I even touched pixel art. I prioritized art over programming and now my game looks really pretty, but it’s not actually that playable. This was a really hard to game to conceptualize because I was working with really abstract concepts, but I’m glad that I did it. I want to keep working on this game because I don’t think there are a ton of RPGs like it, and the ideas I’m trying to illustrate about capitalism are ideas that I want to continue to explore. Designing this game actually really helped me to understand Frederici’s ideas, in a way that just reading them did not. I had a lot of fun working on this game and I definitely intend to finish it.  

Non-Linear Design Post-Mortem: The Strength Needed

The game The Strength Needed was a semester of fun, strife, and some sleepless night but by and large a wonderful experience and vastly informative for the next projects I inevitably wish to pursue next semester. screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-29-32-pm The game in its current state is a glorified walking simulator with a few deaths. While this may seem overtly critical as many of my paper prototypes and even the art itself seems promising in a finalized product, by and large it did not quite get to the point I wanted it to get to this semester. It presents several key features like the enemies that can kill you, some moving NPCs and a world with loadable levels, but the objectives, the A story if you will, was never truly finished so what you end up with when you have the art, a few things that kill you, and the ability to load between levels is a glorified walking simulator I suppose. A pretty one, but not near completion. screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-25-14-pm The project changed a lot over the course of the year. At one point it was a game about a small demon boy trying to defeat evil spirits while its body slowly degraded but then I decided to stick to the story of a game I previously made as a practice paper prototype that was way more well received then some of the other stuff I made this semester. One key feature that was in the very early paper prototype was the use of text, I cut out all of that. That is gone. I killed it with the power of a ‘delete’ button and sheer force of will. While I enjoyed the text I wanted to experiment with as much visual story telling as I could, even using words as structures and part of the world rather than using them in any narrative dialogue convention. A lot did go right about the project. The art mostly and a lot of the walk cycles and the entire Den of Gas room. That room turned out amazing. It had the most features fully furnished and thought out. The Gas Mask Lady in it moved the way I wanted her to, the gates projected the big ‘NO’ signs with her face on them. It turned out quite well. In fact, I was quite pleased with many of the animations that I did end up finishing, the Gas Mask Lady, Box Dog, the Wise One, The Player, etc. These all tuned out quite nicely. screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-24-57-pm As for what went wrong…well the game isn’t done which probably feels worse than anything, time sorta got away from me on this project. Will be good to keep working on it over Winter Break but that doesn’t help the current product. screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-25-50-pm   screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-30-20-pm screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-30-46-pm screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-11-39-35-pm screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-11-40-17-pm  screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-11-42-17-pm Art was shockingly easy for me to handle. I thought that was honestly going to be the most difficult part but I ended up just going for it and creating something I was super proud of. The main movement programming also wasn’t too hard, really my main difficulty came down to the code as I was unfamiliar with how much of coding in Unity worked especially as it related to the animator and talking with the physics engine. That said, my experience with it got progressively better as the game kept getting worked on and now I feel far more comfortable with programming, designing, and Unity itself. screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-11-41-15-pm Not super pleased with my final result because of how unfinished it is but by and large I liked the art and the story. I’m gonna keep working to improve it as well and make it better. The code also could use some work but I’m glad I could get as much working as I did. The Project was nonlinear in its subversion of genre and ability to make the player episodically visit worlds and places. I got a lot of ideas from the Flash Fictions and movies like Toto The Hero. It was so nonsensical and wonderful and captured a certain child like glee that I wanted reflected in my game. My classmates also provided a valuable insight into the game. As they pointed out flaws I missed or hidden symbolisms I didn’t intend, I ran with a lot of what they mentioned to me. In addition, my boy friend helped me play test it quite a bit and he has a keen eye for the wacky and nonlinear and helped shape those aspects of the narrative. Honestly, play testing mostly resulted in changes to code and added a few fun ideas like the gates that blocked people out. Other than that it provided reference for code to fix. The project was adequately coded in the most bare essential type of way. I followed the GamesPlusJames tutorials almost exactly except in reference to super specific things for my game. With the tile maps I primarily aimed to create a 2D top down space with patterned designs rather than photorealistic worlds as I didn’t have the skill for that. The animations I spent the most time on, using long walk cycles, a death animation, and a few other cool tricks. Most of the enemies however used static jump type walk cycles. Collision also was used sparingly, mostly to keep the player in the map or kill them. I didn’t want an interact button really. All in all, a fun project that I aim to keep working on.   Chris Haehnel

Non-Linear Design Post Mortem: Into The Dark

66single-character The game I finally made is now called Into The Dark.  The goal of this game is to explore the world I created and to defeat the boss at the end of the game.  There are times were the player will die a lot but that is the only way to fully play this game, is by learning from your mistakes.  How to defeat the boss is to find the power ups in the game, without the power ups the boss will defeat you and you have to start over. This project changed constantly for me, I do not think I went longer then a few days without changing my mind on something even if it was the littlest fix.  With this being my first game I probably should have not fixed it as many times, but I could not help myself I wanted a good looking game, I wanted the little details and I wanted the game to look perfect, at the cost of time though. idle What I noticed went right with this game was the art.  I really enjoyed using Piskel and creating pixel art, it was very relaxing as well as fun!  I loved adding in the details, I worked in 64X64 which took a while to grasp how tiny it was but after a little practice I was able to get it.  What did not work for me as well was getting a story for the game.  I know I wanted something different, and I had an idea, but I just could not stick with it nor could I put it into a game on paper.  Another thing that went right was the paper prototypes that I created for not only this game but other games.  It really taught me out to put the story onto paper and really see what works and what does not.  What was surprisingly easy to achieve was first the pixel art, that came very easy for me which I was shocked because I have never worked in pixels before.  The second thing that came easy to achieve was after a long process of figuring out what I wanted to do, I knew exactly how I wanted to lay it out, where everything would be placed on my map and how I wanted it to look.  The most difficult thing for me was figuring out how to make my game non-linear, I have never done this before and anything that I have done similar to this in the past, was always very linear based.  So to go from a very strong background of being linear it was difficult for me to get the idea of how to be non-linear but I have a better understanding of it now. 1 When I look at how I worked and how others in the class worked, I very soon was quick to pick up that I was going to be a slow learner at first because I was really the only one to not know exactly what they were doing.  One thing that consumed most of my time was not being able to put the story all together.  Also, the tutorials I had to keep watching over and over again until I understood them, and they were not short videos so that took up a lot of time as well.  Now looking back at how I worked, next time I will defiantly start watching the tutorials as early as possible so that way I can watch the tutorials one at a time and then do the work with them.  Also, I have a better understanding of non-linear thinking so I think if I did something like this again I would be able to think of a story faster. I think my final work that I have to present looks good, it is not much, but what I did try to do was make it look as good as possible.  I spent a lot of time correcting details of objects until I got them exactly the way I wanted them, and then sometimes I would still go back and make edits.  Some alternatives I tried were for example taking one tile I created for the ground, and for a different scene change the color instead of making a new tile.  It saved time and it tied in the two tiles.  Another alternative that I tried was watching one tutorial and working with the tutorial as it plays in the background, this helped a lot so I can watch what the tutorial did and I could follow along. 2 In the beginning I would definitely say that my game was barely non-linear, but after hearing other peoples critiques, other peoples games and examples I started to understand the concept of how to make a game non-linear.  I would not say mine is the most non-linear but I think it is non-linear.  For example, with this wishing well you would think it should be put next to the house, but no its in the forest, and it is not your ordinary wishing well.  Another example is the trees in the forest are the shape of any other trees that you have seen, very different and weird but a good weird.  One of the readings that I got inspired by was Garden of the Forking Paths, I really enjoyed reading that and I felt very inspired after reading it.  Even though this was not a reading, the movie Toto also gave me some great ideas on how to have a non-linear game narrative.  I thought the movie itself was really good as well as giving me some ideas for my game which was very helpful. I can confidently say that have other sources of input and ideas really helped me a lot.  For example, when we had class critiques it was great to see how everyone played my game.  It was a great way to see how the player would grab the concept of your game, wether they got it or did not.  Also, the feedback was great and very helpful, it gave me different thoughts about my game instead of my own.  Reading other non-linear stories, watching non-linear movies, seeing different artist styles, other peers helping me with new ideas could not of helped me more, it was a huge part in my game being created and I think it is the only way to get a great game is if you have a lot of sources that go into it. 3   Some changes that I made after my playlets were starting with the terrain.  It had good potential at first, but it needed more, it needed to feel more like a world and less like objects got placed onto a map.  Another one was to fix some coloring in the world, having my main character lay on this very yellow tile, the character slipped away into the tile.  You could clearly see his clothes because they were very dark, but his skin disappeared so the main tile had to be darkened.  Another change was that the well was not only moved into the forest to be an unexpected surprise, I also turned it into a room.  It is very unexpected and exciting to see that you can go into the well and find what is inside. How my game was coded, starting with tile maps, what not an easy start, like I said before I could barely get a story together let alone the art together.  But the tile map was at first intimidating because there is a lot of pieces to a tile map, and I mean that in the individual tiles themselves.  After you get the hang of the tiles, it is so easy to use especially in Tiled.  Tiled made it easy to create a map and just bring it into Unity.  Next, the animation I did not get a chance to get to, but I got really inspired by other peers work, especially with fading in and out of entrances and exits.  When I say fading I mean adding a fade to black every time a door way was used.  Another animation technique I wanted to try was having an animated character appear out of nowhere, for example pop into the screen from the sky.  Next, collision was a lot of fun to use and after I understood Tiled, collision became easier.  It was hard to decide where to put collision and where to not have collision but collision itself is a great tool and really adds a lot to the game.  Lastly, dialogue was something I was unable to incorporate but I would like to think that I added dialogue in a visual aspect instead of actually writing out dialogue.  The emotion and feel of parts of the game can tell its own dialogue without me needing to write it in.  For example, the character is happy and walking around a colorful world, it is a happy environment.  Then you look at the boss, it is dark and creepy with an evil look on its face, it is an unhappy environment.    

Non-Linear Design Post-Mortem: Migration

For my conference project I created a side-scrolling exploration/adventure game. The player controls an anthropomorphic hummingbird with a broken wing. The player progresses through the game by bartering with other anthropomorphic animals, providing them with items they need to repair damage throughout their dwellings. Along the way, the animals reward the player with mysterious parts, and at the end of the game the animals reward the player by building a hot-air balloon that will allow the player character to continue his migration. screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-2-16-47-am The project did not change a great deal from conception to realization. The bartering mechanic was part of the game from the beginning, as was the general structure of the story and events. Decisions about what other animals to include in the game and what problems the player helps them with did change over time. I’d originally planned to include swallows in the game, but decided variety among the animals would be best. I opted for a bird, insects, amphibians, and mammals. Some animals in the game can fly, while others are terrestrial or amphibious. A lot went well during my work on this project. I’m quite pleased with most of the art and animations, although it’s imperfect. The player character was the first sprite I created for this project—before I had a clear sense of the aesthetics of the game—and the color palette doesn’t feel entirely at home with the rest of the art throughout the game. The tree interior and cave environments are most representative of the style I aimed for with this project, whereas the colors in the grass and pond environments are something I’d revisit. screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-2-15-53-am I had no prior experience creating pixel art—and very little experience with visual art in general—but I’m pleasantly surprised by the results of my efforts. The game looks quite good. I also had zero programming experience and anticipated that programming this game would cause me a great deal of frustration and confusion. However, I found myself able to write all of the code this game required by adapting the basic concepts behind the Player Controller script presented in the GamesPlusJames 2D RPG tutorials on YouTube. I spent nearly two days writing my State Controller and Inventory Controller scripts and getting those to work, but generally I encountered few frustrating obstacles while programming this game. The animations required for this game were without a doubt the most difficult aspect of the process. The walk cycles for the player character required over eight hours of work, and the animation cycle for the water wheel required four-to-five hours. screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-2-14-49-am I could have managed my time much better while working on this project. Finding sufficient time to work wasn’t the issue—I invested a great deal of time into this project—but the timeline of my work in no way correlated with the timeline laid out in the dev cycle. One major reason for this was the complexity of the art and animations. Early in the process of creating concept art and designing sprites, I decided to work in a resolution of 128×128 pixels. Rather than working with canvasses comprised of 1,024 or 4,096 pixels total, I worked with 16,384. In addition, the game includes some fairly complex animations. Both player walk cycles contain eight frames of animation (and because of shading and the broken wing creating the second walk cycle wasn’t as simple as x-axis reflection of images), and the water wheel animation is made up of eleven frames. concept-art Because of the level of detail made possible by the higher resolution, creating the art and animations for my game consumed the vast majority of the time I dedicated to this project. I’d estimate that I spent ten hours on art and animations for every hours I spent coding. I knew early on that I’d have to deviate from the dev cycle because of my dedication to the visual aspect of the game, but even then I began coding in earnest far later than I’d planned. As a result, there’s still uncertainty about the state of completion my game will be in by the end of the semester. The non-linearity of this project stems mostly from two techniques: defamiliarization and central trauma.  I present common animals in anthropomorphic forms, and these animals exist in constructed dwellings, wear clothing, and have a barter system. The hummingbird player character has a broken wing, and he provides assistance to various other animals by helping them to repair broken objects in their homes. I develop the motif of breaking, of damage, throughout the game, and this motif reaches its resolution at the end of the game once the player character has helped the various animals fix their broken things and the animals have rewarded these acts of kindness by building a hot-air balloon. screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-2-17-17-am   I took some inspiration from Adam Cadre’s “Photopia,” specifically from how Cadre incorporates the non-linear technique of central trauma into his story. “Photopia” revolves around its central trauma without addressing it directly; instead, it sort of prods and catches glimpses of the trauma through a variation-on-a-theme repetition. The player or reader grows to understand the trauma through association and pattern recognition. I attempted to approach central trauma in a similar way in my own game. I had numerous children’s books in the back of my mind while creating this game, and influences include the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel and the animated film “The Wind In the Willows,” directed by Dave Unwin and based on the books by Kenneth Grahame. Although I may not implement as many of these changes as I’d like before the end of the semester, I was encouraged by play-testing to include far more objects within the world that allow interaction. Play-testing also encouraged me to add reaction animations to the NPCs when the player interacts with them. To create my maps, I used Tiled in combination with larger images inserted into the game directly through Unity as game objects. I used collision and key binds in order to support proximity-based interaction without the interactions triggering automatically. For example, I wanted the player to be able to walk past doors and NPCs without interacting if the player wished, so my code requires to player to collide with an NPC/object and use a command in order to interact. I came up with one solution that I’m particularly proud of to the problem of the sky. Although I first considered simply adding one large blue field behind the trees in the forest level, I knew I wanted a subtle gradient in the background. However, I also knew that the gradient would shift as the player moved along the map, so I created a gradient field of blue about the size of the camera’s field of view and added it to the game as a child of the player so that the gradient would move with the player and remain constant. screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-8-12-23-pm Coding the State Controller and Inventory Controller proved to be challenging. I created string of boolean logic comprised of nests-within-nests, activating and deactivating eighteen different variables in different orders based on the player’s actions. This caused me a great deal of headache, because the first two or three versions of these scripts failed to work as I’d intended. I felt confident in my logic, my nesting of if/then statements, and my organization of the eighteen bools, but pinpointing the exact cause of my code’s dysfunction took hours of thought and experimentation. I eventually identified the problem: my code was structured around the location of scripts attached to game objects throughout the world, however, when Unity fails to locate an object in the current scene, it ends its search rather than attempted to locate other references game objects. My solution to this was to restructure my State Controller script by nesting all of my game object searches within a lines of code that checked the current scene’s numeric identifier. Therefore, when the player occupies scene one, the State Controller script only searches for the game objects present in scene one, and none of the game objects present in scenes zero, two, and three. Overall I found this project exciting, challenging, and highly educational. I may continue work on this project even if I don’t I plan to involve myself in game design projects in the future.

Non-Linear Design: Post-Mortem ADAM

Despite this being the last paper test, what became clear to me is that I want to work over the narrative ideas this game still works by: particularly, and at this point, the game is still too linear. Here a much much more non-linear approach can actually really help me out … the elevator (Tree of Knowledge) does not need to take me somewhere, for instance – this is an idea I really love: instead of going somewhere, the elevator just brings me back, perhaps. But that can become more complex – As a side-note, I am getting more and more into designing my game on tablet. The artwork used for the paper prototype was actually painted using the app Procreate on iPad, with the Apple Pencil. img_0007 img_0018 img_0002 img_0001 I am putting most of my work into designing the Garden at this point, so what I am arriving at is a conception of the elevator as a device to actually initiate change in the Garden. The main character might step into it, there might be an interlude, perhaps something wildly unexpected as the “elevator scene,” and stepping out again, the Garden has changed a bit, or even dramatically. The non-linearity lies in the fact that the Game now becomes cyclical: in fact, perhaps scenes reoccur in the elevator, and “earlier” states of the Garden can be returned to. I think I am thus abandoning the whole office space I was envisioning, and contenting and enjoying myself just developing the Garden as an explorable space in and of itself. The goal I arrive at in this way for this class and this semester is then to complete a game that works by these shifts in emphasis. In the technical sense, I want to have the main Garden scene (initial Garden), an elevator scene, and then another Garden scene, showing the Garden in a new light. screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-2-41-02-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-22-at-2-34-38-pm What I have come up with so far is a daylight change to the Garden. What I initially developed is the Garden at dusk: and everything this symbolically suggests. There is a dark, gloomy city in the background, and somehow the earth the character moves in is barren and dark too. I am thinking of contrasting this view of the Garden with something much more cheerful: fresh, green colors for the palette, a rising sun in the background. Angela and I were talking in conference about how the Garden might thus come to take on a quality of being alive: a living, breathing organism in its own right. On the technical side again, this image has the color palette I am thinking of for the second view of the Garden. img_0060img_0059img_0060 This is a wall mosaice I found in the NYC subway system: I think it was a station on the F-line somewhere … (unknown artist). The colors a cheerful. Again on the subway (the subway as a repository of art, and the time to look at it too – waiting for my stop; price of admission $2.75) I saw this piece (again unknown artist) that develops a vision of technology (transit, the train) and the city much more optimistic, as indicated by a similar color palette to the when I am eying at the moment – img_0056img_0055 img_0054 Thinking about my landscape like this is fun to me: it’s a project that is carrying over into the rest of my life. I am curious as to where these things might be going, thinking beyond this semester as well. For now, it is a challenge to develop this alternative form for the Garden. What are the changes I want to make beyond those to the color palette? There is a whole other aspect to this, less expected: designing a slightly “fallen,” strange, barren Garden was more fun that creating a fresh, new, healthy one. How might this aspect influence my design approach? How might I consciously let it? I want to see if I can tie it all in to work nicely together and provide a continuos experience by Game Night!

Non-Linear Design: Proposal ADAM

img_0080 In A Day on the Grand Canal with The Emperor of China David Hockney brings all his expertise as a contemporary painter to bear on an analysis he does of a 17th century Chinese scroll painting. The most striking aspect about this scroll is the way it engages space – I called this Spatial Elaboration in the title of this post. Hockney illustrates an example of this when he arrives at an interesting junction along the river. Coming down a street in a village, our view works from bottom left to top right. But if you pay attention as the street goes around the corner, the viewpoint shifts: the lines of the roofs of the shop stalls, and the store fronts indicate as much. We see sides we would not see if the viewpoint stayed the same. It is a shifting perspective we are talking about now. At the same junction there is gorgeous wooden bridge with a rounded top line that is seen from the bottom right, the same place the second order of store fronts is seen from: when you go to the top of the bridge then, with your mind’s eye, the wall of a house becomes visible that would only be visible from the bottom left, the perspective we had in the first place. The perspective shifts organically, according to the needs of the art in the painting. So you see what you need to see when you need to see it, but it still all makes sense to the logical mind too: it is not paradox in the end, actually, because it works. As Hockney remarks about the experience of seeing, and analyzing, the painting, these devices “make it far more spatial than our old friend Canaletto.” There is also another scroll, from slightly later, painted 75 years after the first one. Hockney is keen to trace a difference in style back to Western missionaries arriving in China with examples of Western works, deploying fixed perspective systems, in the time since the painting of the first scroll. The scroll again depicts a journey by the emperor, but this time “everything is beginning to recede: even the landscape is receding, the [emperor’s]  boat going into the space, as it were, and not along it.” It is true, the parallel lines and fixed focal points draw our gaze very much into the picture, and at that, into one particular point at a time, instead of gently over the surface of the whole thing. Difference in spatial qualities extend beyond the vista of the whole, to the depiction of the particular: the characters are, Hockney notes about the first scroll now, less suspended in space. They tie in more organically with the land and the village and the river because they themselves have the organic features of animation and engagement with the other figures in the scene. There is linkage, and overlap: there is the unexpected effect of depth now that the more two-dimensional space (in the absence of the one vanishing point to help create spatial depth in a more three dimensional sense) is broken up like this, or rather, played with actually. There are interesting relationships between elaborating space, and elaborating time: Devices relating to “telling time,” even the story of time on one level, include such creative tricks as subtly shrouding the scenery in mist to convey a jump, as it were, in space, and therefore time, at times: the mist goes on to get so thick that only individual aspects of the landscape remain visible, and coming out the other end, the space we were in has changed. This particular device was a way to dissolve an edge too: there is no saying where or when boundaries were crossed, or to what extent; instead it is a continuous flow through the physical scroll (through a device like this made even even more capable to “hold” vast amounts of space that the 72-foot-length of the scroll already does). These strategies, for this is what they really are, to handle space and time and the narrative they can construct into a work of art relate very practically to where I was with my game at the time of the Unity play test and where I am now still: in fact, these questions will go with me until the game is fully developed. If I boil the aspects I talk about above down to the shifting perspective and the mist-device in particular, I can definitely find junctions and spaces within the overall space of my game to deploy these, or similar ones, in the vocabulary of the game language I have already established. For instance, a version of the mist for me might be a cloud shaped and colored to parallel the clouds already present out on the horizon line. This very trick would also be a way for me to address a criticism that emerged in the play test: the question of the relationship between the landscape in the “back,” as it were, and the main Garden. Can characters cross over? What is the significance of the city? Bringing things like the clouds out from the back into the front, playable space, represents away to tie it all together aesthetically, if not thematically, perhaps. Perhaps I really don’t want the character to go to the city in the end, in the game and where I am headed with it now that is – I simply don’t have plans for that (yet). But a device like this can give me a bit of breathing room: by creating a bit more of a unified field of sorts for the whole game to organically come together, this question suddenly does not seem as important anymore. An overarching design idea is to actually shape the landscape of the Garden in the shape of a fish, the ichthys, or the Jesus Fish in Christianity: that was an idea I had to begin with actually, something I subsequently went away from, and now would like to come back to. img_0099 The relationship of the Garden to the city can be something like the river, river bank landscape and villages on the one hand, to the city behind the walls at the end of the scroll in A Day on the Grand Canal on the other. The river landscape exists in contrast to the city, the city does not need to fully explored either. The scroll’s artists were also not very concerned with their city: in fact, they made heavy use of the very mist device I was talking about, not so much to jump in space this time (that happens too, though) – but to pass over the city, to choose not to elaborate on it. It is the outside form of the thing, rather than the inside detail, that comes to fulfill some function for the rest of the space, and that is fine. I just need to put my finger, in not directly on, then at least a little closer to, what that function might be. img_0098 In these ways, I have found my work to develop very organically, and in pushes and rushes and inspirations rather than continuously. We talked about this in class: the ideal conditions to get artistic, creative work done. They seem really different to more intellectual and academic work. For me it remains environmental, and has a lot to do with my schedule: I do not think I can do this kind of work as easily or to a better quality if rushed and to a deadline. I really notice it when I have things from my other classes on my plate … when I compare those days to a weekend with a little or nothing to do, it’s the latter I can get a lot of doodling, drawing and writing done in. The ideal for me is a lazy, rainy Saturday morning, with a bowl of cereal and a book – but this stands opposed to more realistic and practical requirements life makes generally. Right now I want to push what I can do with animation and collision to bring the world I am creating to life. I want to use collision more than just on the edges to create unexpected obstacles and thus add complexity to the surfaces. I am working on the river right now, one more strategy to tie in the background to the foreground. I had already established the body of water coming and going into the cityscape: I want to extend that into the Garden directly and exploit it as a great creative opportunity for some atmospheric animation. With perhaps only two frames, or more, I would love to add mirror reflections and the light bouncing off the surface of the water as movement. I would love to add falling leaves too, to the trees. image Lastly, one more thing I want to change a bit is Adam’s walk cycle, which as it is now does not have very pronounced leg movement: adam-main-walkcycle

War of the Clowns Version 2 Postmortem

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The start of the game.
For my second paper game I decided to revisit the War of the Clowns story from the perspective of one of the townspeople. I designed the game as a simple RPG with five scenes: home, home internal, park, convenience store, and convenience store internal. The player could travel freely between these scenes. The actions available to the player were moving from side to side, picking up items (a knife and a gun), and interacting with certain environmental objects (the bed, the clowns, and the other townspeople). The game had a time limit of five ‘days’. A new day would begin each time the player interacted with the bed. For each day that passed, the clowns would gain another follower in the park. After four days passed, the clowns would equip bats and the convenience store (where the gun object could be found) would close. On the fifth day the townspeople would turn violent and kill the player, ending the game. If the player killed a townsperson in sight of another townsperson, or killed one of the clowns in sight of a townsperson, a police officer would come and arrest them, ending the game. Visually, I attempted to illustrate the difference in perspective from the first iteration by giving the clowns a more threatening appearance and humanizing the townspeople somewhat with the inclusion of eyes and hands. I wanted to communicate that they clowns held a sort of hypnotic influence over the people gathered in the park, so I created two different versions of the townspeople, a “normal” version in which they had pupils in their eyes, and an “indoctrinated” version that was lacking pupils. I also decided to alter the scale somewhat, replacing the multi-story buildings with a single-story house and shop. I created red blood puddles to emphasize that the player character was more affected by the violence than the clowns were in the first version. img_0765

The player did not behave as expected.

The playtest did not go as expected. The player elected to resort to violence almost immediately, taking the knife from the house on the first day. They tried to cut down one of the bushes outside their house, an action that I declined, and then went on to murder the convenience store clerk. They then took the gun and used it to murder the only townsperson with the clowns. Because no one but the clowns witnessed these crimes, the player was not immediately arrested. The player then proceeded to kill both clowns and went home. They asked if they could kill themselves, an eventuality I had not anticipated. I declined their request. The police officer arrived at their home, and they murdered the police officer (whom I had neglected to provide with a weapon). As there were no more possible actions, I ended the game at this point.

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The player killed every other character in the game on the first day.

The most striking lesson from this playtest was undoubtedly the tendency of players to test the limits of your system. I expected the player to behave within the bounds of normal social behavior, and expected them to resort to violence only in the later stages of the game, if ever. In retrospect this was an unbelievably foolhardy assumption. That being said, although I was taken by surprise and unsure of how the system would respond in a couple of cases (killing the only spectator in front of the clowns, for example; do the clowns call the police? I decided no), overall I was able to extrapolate a response from the rules I had laid down for the world. The fact that an unexpected narrative emerged from the system I had created feels like something of a triumph, and, in my opinion, led to this iteration being feeling much more “alive” than the last where the player’s actions were much more severely limited.

I also realized a short way into the playtest that I had not given ample consideration to the tendency of players to experiment with any interactive game object they are presented with. I expected the player to take an initially non-violent approach, but the only obviously interactive objects I provided them with were implements of violence. If I were to do a third iteration on this game, I would be tempted to hide the weapon objects from the player somewhat and provide them with interactive objects that might encourage them to explore other avenues.

It is also worth noting that the bed object did not give any indications as to its interactivity, and although this issue did not impact the playtest, it would likely have proved to be a stumbling block for any player that did attempt a nonviolent approach.

War of the Clowns Postmortem

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The beginning of the game.

My first paper prototype was based on the flash fiction piece War of the Clowns. The piece tells the story of two clowns who carry out a mock argument and battle in a public space in a city. Eventually their conflict inspires so much sentiment in the spectators that the community self destructs and they make off with the townspeople’s money. My game allowed the player to take on the role of one of the clowns, choosing from a set of three actions for their character to carry out. By choosing the correct actions, it was possible to gather spectators and eventually cause them to fight each other. More chaos resulted in the spectators dropping more coins, which the player could collect. The game ended when all of the spectators were dead or had fled the scene.

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The player throws a pie to gain spectators.

Visually, I wanted to communicate the emotion of the story from the clowns’ perspective. I attempted to visually distinguish in show their importance both through their size and their level of detail compared to the faceless spectators. I opted for a simple, superficially friendly but distorted representation of their facial features in an attempt to communicate their jubilation and appeal from the perspective of the spectators while also indicating the distorted nature of their personalities.

The playtest itself showed the design to be successful in that the player seemed to be able to grasp fairly intuitively how to play the game, although the nuances of how the player’s actions caused a reaction in the spectators could have perhaps been clearer. The player showed a tendency to choose the “bat” option fairly early, causing the spectators to kill each other before they had fully amassed. The player also showed in interesting an unexpected tendency to attack the spectators directly.

The end of the game.

In retrospect I feel as though the options provided to the player were overly limiting. In attempting to remain faithful to the source material I ended up restricting the player to a narrow range of actions and outcomes. Given that the player seemed to express destructive tendencies even beyond what the clowns did in the story, it would be interesting to leave the player with a few more options and a little less guidance, and allow them to stumble upon the destructive outcome of the game naturally. Ultimately, I feel that increased player agency in this game might have functioned to create a more empathetic understanding of the situation from the clowns’ point of view.

   

Non-Linear Design: Industry Knowledge Post-Mortem

img_0090 Carter’s “Industry Knowledge” essentially details the specifications of a pair of white stockings. Because the stockings are described precisely and meticulously, I asked myself the question, “What would happen if these specifications were not met?” And that was how I approached making a prototype for a game based on the story. The gameplay consists of the player testing various footwear options in a testing zone populated by hazardous obstacles. Inappropriate footwear—i.e. difficult to balance in, electricity-conducting, not resistant to snake bites—results in the test subject falling victim to one of the obstacles. The player can “trash” certain items of footwear in order to find exactly what they need. The prototype played quite well. Although it’s certainly simple, it’s quite intuitive, and seemed engaging and amusing. img_0089 The McGuffin, of course, is the stockings: the only item that allows the test subject to safely reach the exit of the testing zone. The game is somewhat non-linear because the player can choose which items of footwear to test, in which order to test them, and which to trash. In retrospect, I could have made the game more non-linear by creating a more open and less linear testing area. Once again, I think I succeeded in saying a lot with a little, using minimalism effectively, and allowing the player to easily identify what’s important. The red and green lights indicated which obstacles each item of footwear managed to bypass or not bypass. img_0092 My main challenge for the future will be to create an aesthetic that’s both original and emphasizes the emotion of my story. Now that I’ve become somewhat comfortable with accurately representing objects using pixel art, I need to move on to the next step: working in an abstract, original aesthetic.

Non-Linear Design: Clown War Post-Mortem

img_0035   I created a paper prototype for a game adaptation of Cuomo’s flash fiction piece “War of the Clowns.” In the game, the player controls the actions of two clowns with the goal of attracting the attention of a crowd and inciting violence. The player chooses between three possible actions for each clown: insult, trick, or fight. Upon choosing an action, the player must successfully complete a rhythm challenge to achieve the desired effect. Insult and trick actions attract the attention of passers-by and generate loyalty to a specific clown. Once passers-by become loyal, the player may then cause the clowns to fight each other in order to incite violence. img_0038 I used quite a lot of visual abstraction in this prototype: icons to represent actions, exclamation points and/or question marks to represent passer-by reactions, changing clothing colors to represent loyalty, etc. I intervened in order to make the game non-linear by incorporating several locations in the game and allowing the player to access the locations in any order. The player also has choices regarding the actions of the clowns. This non-linearity expressed the story by portraying the clowns as roving agents of chaos. The McGuffin in this game is chaos and violence itself. The use of abstraction (coins falling into the street once passers-by become violent) indicates the value chaos and violence have to the clowns. img_0036 I believe I used minimalism effectively. The game contains essentially three sprites that vary in color, three locations, and half a dozen game objects. The player knows exactly what’s important and can easily observe the consequences and collateral damage of their actions because of the minimalistic design. My greatest room for improvement, I think, is in the game’s aesthetic. Although I’m happy with the art considering I first forayed into pixel art about a week before creating this prototype, the game aesthetic isn’t particularly new, creative, or original. My goal for my next prototype is to develop a more unique aesthetic that serves my narrative. img_0037  

Gumiho Post-mortem

Getting Gumiho to its current state has taken a lot of work! Maybe a bit more than I expected! But it’s been very rewarding to see the game slowly take form. I still haven’t finished the game, but I have implemented all of the major scenes in at least a rudimentary form. Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 11.50.46 PM

The Gumiho title screen. I wanted a font that was elegant but unpretentious.

One of the biggest challenges of creating Gumiho has been learning all the skills and tools necessary to realize my vision for the game. Creating the game involved work in Animate, Photoshop, Unity (and Unity C#), Audacity, and Garage Band, all tools I was completely unfamiliar with before starting the project. Learning to produce the results I wanted using these tools and my rudimentary art, coding, and sound design skills has proven to be quite challenging and has involved a lot of trial, error, and reference to tutorials.

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Gumiho’s first scene. The environment in this scene ended up changing quite a bit from the paper prototype. Ultimately, I felt as though the “shrine” setting fit the narrative better than the more mundane rural setting that I had originally planned on using, and created some interesting ambiguity in the relationship between the PC (left) and the NPC (right).

 Creating the art assets was one of the most time consuming aspects of the process. Most of the art was created using flash, and it took me some time to figure out how to achieve the aesthetic I was aiming for within the program. Ultimately I’m fairly happy with what I achieved, although the majority of the sprites, with the exception of the PC in the first scene, are currently lacking animation. Although the PC’s animation is functional, it lacks the fluidity I was hoping to achieve. Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at 11.52.09 PM

The game’s platforming sequence. I had some difficulty with this scene. I knew how I wanted to present the narrative through gameplay, but I couldn’t figure out what the platforms should look like. Ultimately, I decided to borrow from Buddhist symbolism. The lotus flowers, representing the potential for an individual to attain purity despite murky surroundings, felt like an appropriate visual accompaniment to the teardrops that lead to the “PC death” ending.

Unlike the opening scene, which proved to be fairly straightforward to code and was primarily challenging from a visual perspective, the platforming sequence was something of a technical challenge. Originally, my intention was to make the heart and tear holding platforms spawn in “sets,” with the higher platform being smaller and holding a teardrop, while the lower platform was larger and held a heart. The platforms were to be placed at varying heights. This design proved difficult to implement, and I eventually settled on a simpler solution in which most of the platforms spawn at a fixed height close the the bottom of the screen, and the tear platforms spawn at a second fixed height close to the top. They no longer spawn in sets, and the rate of occurrence is simply randomized based on a variable the determines how often they will spawn.

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The first time the player kills the NPC, as evidenced by the single filled in heart in the tracker in the upper left. This scene loads after the player has collected enough hearts in the platforming sequence.

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 The “PC death” ending. Art not final.

Overall I’m fairly happy with the state of Gumiho, although it will be difficult to know to what degree I succeeded in achieving my original goals for the game until I’ve successfully linked up all the scenes (some lingering issues remain with the code that controls fading from one scene to the next) and tested it on fresh players who are unfamiliar with the narrative. The project has proven to be quite challenging in almost all aspects, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot and can’t wait to finish this game and move on to the next one! Thanks to all my classmates for providing great feedback on my game throughout the development process, and to Angela for teaching such an amazing class!