A Modern Hero

April 6, 2012

Modern Hero Sprite Animation

I’m currently working on an art game project for one of my New Media classes. While I won’t spoil too many of the details, it will be an RPG with a physical installation component. Above you can see the “modern” hero sprite that I’ve started working on. You’ll hear more from me by the end of the month!

Beat Jumper: A Multiplayer Melodic Platformer

April 3, 2012

Beat Jumper is an online multiplayer game that allows users to interactively create melodic compositions through play. The bass and soprano tones generated by players blend together to produce a unique melody accompanying the background music — notes can sound random and dissonant, or rhythmic and harmonic, changing from playthrough to playthrough.

Beat Jumper takes visual cues from old-school 8-bit games. The two player characters and their respective environments have contrasting colour schematics, signifying their contrary roles in the soundscape (the blue character produces higher-pitched sounds, whereas the orange character produces lower-pitched sounds).

Our main focus for this networked piece was to bring attention to audio in a game that would otherwise rely on more traditional game conventions (such as focusing on a narrative-driven goal). Users can choose to collect points by collecting “note objects,” or can try to compose a piece by jumping on the beats. The game experience is brief, timed at one-minute-long play sessions, and users are free to interact with the piece however they wish during this short time span.

Beat Jumper Screenshot

A still from game play. I plan on sprucing up the visuals for a future release.

How It Works
The game begins with a simple lobby system that invites both players to press any key to begin the game. The game won’t start until both players (stationed at different computers) have pressed a key, and players are notified when their opponent is ready to begin.

After both players are ready to play, they are immediately thrown into the game world. Similar to any classic platformer, the player’s main objective is to progress and jump to avoid obstacles. By hitting the space bar, players signal for their character to jump. As characters collide with “note objects,” players will accumulate points (displayed on their score to the top right), while collisions with obstructions will decrease the player’s total score and fire off an unpleasant sound.

Each character is able to produce one of three selected pitches upon collecting a note object. These sounds are hand-picked to compliment the game’s energetic background music. One of these pitches is randomly selected and generated upon collision.

After one minute, the game ends and both player’s final scores are displayed on screen!

Optical Abstraction [Photo]

February 19, 2012

Purple and Yellow Photo

Just thought I’d share a photo I took about a year ago at Nuit Blanche 2010. I really love the kind of aesthetic style achieved using a combination of bright colourful lighting, an out-of-focus zoom, and a bit of motion. The visuals outshine the subject matter in this case (I don’t even remember what I was photographing at the time), but there are definitely some intriguing project ideas emerging from this type of imagery.

Project OMEGA Documentation

February 13, 2012

Artist Statement
The OMEGA Project is an interactive networked experience that encourages teams of strangers to work together in order to solve riddles and achieve a predefined goal. The piece explores possible uses of online video-based chat systems in a playful and engaging setting. By relying heavily on the networked experience, OMEGA takes the ideas of simple video game mechanics and inserts them into a living reality for user immersion and interaction. A compelling story world acts as the backdrop of the experience, drawing people into the interactive real-time ‘video game’ and expelling people from the world of the video screen into a fictional reality.

Themed around the narrative of a post-apocalyptic zombie epidemic, users are pressed to find the cure before time runs out, all while learning more about the fictional characters involved on a personal level. The experience is split between four locations: a security room (the master control room), an office, a house, and a laboratory. Players are grouped into pairs and are given ‘survival kits.’ Groups are distributed amongst the office, house and laboratory while the remaining users monitor their progress in the security room. All rooms are networked via iChat videoconferencing and contain various hints and puzzles, many of which pertain to puzzles or objects in the other rooms. This requires groups to maintain continuous communication, working together to solve all of the puzzles and ultimately find the cure to the zombie epidemic.

Project OMEGA: The Final Run-Through

February 12, 2012

House Setup

From an overall standpoint, Project OMEGA’s final executed experience seemed to go relatively well. Participants seemed to enjoy themselves and were often humoured by the details of the narrative (sometimes going as far as to play along). Personally, I’m proud of the atmosphere and attention to detail that the team was able to pull off in a relatively short time period. Superfluous elements like the bloodied bandages, face masks, most of the journals, and background sounds were all fantastic pieces of the experience that contributed to the strength of the project as a whole.

That said, it’s incredibly difficult to pull off a seamless and bump-free user experience when there are, well, users involved. And we had many of them (seven to be precise). Below, I’ll try to outline a few of the minor problems that I observed. Feel free to follow along on our documentation video.

Team Coordination
The most critical component of the Project OMEGA experience was teamwork. The piece was based on a four-way networked videoconferencing software, and virtually all clues in one location were only useful to participants in another location. I noticed that some players were more interested in their environment and solving their own puzzles, while others were unable to keep up with the pace of the other teams. Sometimes players in one space would find a clue and reveal it to the other players while they weren’t paying attention. For the most part this is inherently an issue of our set-up, though I’m sure there are methods to help enforce better communication. For instance, our “operator” was a volunteer like the rest of the players. It might have been wiser for one of the project organizers to help facilitate communication instead.

Preemptively Finding Clues
Because all players are reliant on one another to proceed, there was quite a bit of downtime for some teams where they were waiting on other players. As a result, these participants did more thorough searches of their spaces and found clues before they were needed (and outside of our planned order). Specifically, the team in the lab discovered the tape recorder hidden inside one of the books very early on, while the team in the house found a clue hidden inside the picture frame just before it was needed. Luckily, we laid out the clues so that this wouldn’t hinder the riddle-solving process. Instead, these clues were simply put aside and referenced later on when they became important.

Clues Disguised as Fluff
The team actually anticipated that there would be some downtime for players early on during our own testing of the experience. As a counter to this, we scattered entries from Dr. Valentine’s journal around each of the spaces to entertain participants with pieces of the narrative. Unfortunately, I noticed that these journal entries were written off as “fluff” for the most part early on, and were not thoroughly analyzed until much later – one of the entries actually had an important clue on it (a hint for the login screen password), which was discovered after the players had gotten stuck.

In a future iteration, I would focus on a bit more subtle “hand holding” – not enough that participants feel like they’re being walked through the process, but just enough so that answers or directions emerge in the player’s minds with a bit of observation and thought. Despite these issues, the clues did fit together well and the participants found the cure to the toxin in a reasonable amount of time. From a narrative and experiential standpoint, there were many interesting elements to sustain interest (among journal entries, business cards, partially signed contracts, and the like). I would declare the overall experience a success as a result, and a good first attempt at developing a complicated narrative experience.