Tuesday, July 26

What happened in parts unknown.

So, I've arrived back in Melbourne, ready for action items to be thrown at me. Luckily my University and the Catholic School down the street are up to the challenge. Translation: I've started my Major Project, and I've started substitute teaching at the catholic school down the road from my house. The meta-referential news clipping to the left also demonstrates a good thing that happened.

As far as the major project, I'm planning on creating a kind of Metroidvania platforming game which revolves around the user utilizing runes of Chinese radicals to navigate the world. I think the flash animation found here (click on the "Sample Puzzle" link) will explain that a little more clearly. For all of you who don't like flash, here's an image which also kind of explains what I'm trying to do.

In this image, hopefully, you can see that I'm trying to use Chinese Radicals in a way that visually demonstrates their meaning. Some Chinese Characters (Radicals are small individual components of Characters) contain meaning by association, by which I mean that when you combine two radicals with meaning, the result is a character with a meaning representing the combination of those two things. Get it? Well, it's not really demonstrated in this image (below), but hopefully I'll get something up here shortly that will demonstrate it.

Get it? The sun is the yellow character, the black is a cliff...guess what the blue is?

More updates as I build them out of thin air. Ew.

Saturday, June 4

Entomology is a TERRIBLE field.

So, here's a new build of the game. I have successfully uncovered the next major bug (*face twitches*), so you can't see a lot of the stuff you're supposed to see. But the beginning of it is there, and I personally feel like it will be fun when it's done! Onward and upward, I say. Happily, the current build of the game compresses down to something like 25 mb.

Some notes:

--Best played in a 16:10 screen ratio.
--Click on the menu buttons to select a level. Select "alphabet", since the walk speed is currently kind of fast. Then type the names of the letters (or fruits, if you've selected a different level) as they come at you, but before they pass you.



Tuesday, May 31


From youtube video comments, found today:
@dilendo97 A lot of ppl think gay is a word used for evil. >.> The world is becoming so retarded. Im not gay though staright. But, i dont get it.

(From this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CSrY8CoMLY)

Tuesday, May 24

Fire the canon

Trusted Colleagues!

So, here's a link to a build of the game I've been working up, with dummy assets. The idea is based on the VW Remix Road interactive ad. It's a  concept test. In the zip file that you can download, there's a mac-compatible version and a windows-compatible one. I hope it works, this time, Jon!

Some instructions:

This build allows you to push the keys a, b, and c when the corresponding placards approach you in the game. If you hit the key in time, the combo count goes up, and an object is added to the scenery...Jon, this is where the new layer of sound will be added in. If you miss a placard, however, the combo count goes back to zero, and the objects stop appearing. It's a very basic test--just to show you how the game will work.

At the moment, the biggest question (which Kate, my advisor, has put to me) is about the context of the game. I think originally I had planned for this game to be just visually and aurally stimulating, like Peggle. The reward was going to be just watching the space develop and get more interesting to look at. But I don't think that's enough, necessarily. So I'm asking you guys for ideas. What do you think this game could do narratively, or what could the reward be for correctly identifying something that comes towards you? 

At this point, Lahta and I are planning on all the placards (the things with letters on them, coming towards you) are going to have fruits on them, and you'll have to type the name of the fruit to "complete" that card and have it fly away (or show a funny picture, instead). The original intention was for it to be a game that helps ESL students ages 8 - 11 practice their vocabulary. 

So what do you think?

Simon & Lahta

Sunday, May 8

How it all went down.

Check out this discussion of platforming game design. I think there's a lot of interesting information here about how the play experience in Jonathan Blow's Braid is constructed. It's a rather long video, to be sure, but it also contains a lot of discussion about animation. There are a lot of things in here I didn't notice when I played the game.

I finally feel like there's some real deep thinking about game design being done in public--books are not the only subject of deep textual analysis by the public. Let's open them doors!

Wednesday, April 27

Space + Environment Brief Assignment

We've been asked to write our own brief as an assignment for my program--that is, a description for an animation project we might receive as part of our course. It must be based on the idea of Space and Environment. Here's mine:

Animation & Interactive Media RMIT Concept Development 
PROJECT BRIEF:  Space + Environment Brief
Keywords: explore, discover, challenge, environment, evocation, environment, embedding, emergency, node, codification, creation, backdrop, layering, depth.


The goal of this brief is to create an animation or interactive work that uses space and/or environment as its protagonistic element. A successful response to this brief will ask the user or viewer to think about the space in which the work exists while they are experiencing it. An unsuccessful response will 


Exploring the ideas of space and environment in an animation or interactive has many functions. Space and environment can, among other things, be used as a means to:

a) Challenge the player or viewer by asking them to navigate or comprehend it as an obstacle or puzzle.
b) Give the player or viewer room to express themselves or be affected by the animation/interactive.
c) Organize a work by dividing it into different zones or distinguishable features.
d) Give the player or viewer a system or world in which the rest of the work exists, thus allowing them to decode certain elements.
e) Enable the player or viewer to create a structure in which the work exists.
f) Set the scene.

Making the space or environment in your work an integrated element allows that work to become a more completely unified idea. If your environment and the other elements in your animation/interactive are working together to enhance the user/viewer experience, they will both benefit many times over, and the world of your work will become more real and consistent/persistent.


Your animation may be any complete work which addresses the idea of space and environment as its primary or protagonist element. It may contain other elements apart from that space, but they can only be in service of the viewer experiencing the "world" or "structure" of the work. For example:

Consider the rpg flash game grOw, in which the user must cause an environment to evolve in steps by choosing the order in which they add elements. In this interactive, the environment is the protagonist, which the user is always watching, and the characters are merely devices which interact with the user-generated space. Another example of a game which does this successfully is This Is The Only Level.

The flash game Canabalt, on the other hand, would not be an example of an environment being a protagonist, since our focus is on a character who is, while very well integrated into his environment, separate from it and the most important element. One might argue that it is merely a matter of perspective. But there is a huge difference between a game in which the player is acting as a runner exploring a destroyed space, and one in which the player is acting as the city, causing the runner to react to it by cueing environments, as they must in games like Solopskier.

As far as animations which successfully use environment as a protagonist, be sure to have a look at Walk Smash Walk, or The Scale of the Universe.

There are a few requirements for your project:

1) If it is an animation, it needs to be at least 15 seconds in length, and the character needs to interact with the environment in some way.
2) If it is an interactive, the user must be able to change the environment in some way, however impermanent.
3) There must be at least one character and one environment/space. Consistent visual design between these two elements is one way in which you will be assessed.

You will be assessed based on:

1) The visual/idealogical consistency between your character and environment/space.
2) The degree to which you are able to make your environment your protagonist and main character.
3) The degree to which you are able to stretch the user/viewer's ideas about conventional environments. Surprise people!


Submit the project to the server, or provide another means by which the lecturer can access your work.

Clearly, interactives and animations will use different media and different formats. Preferably, however, the viewing area for your animation should be 1280x720 resolution.

Submit with submission form by: __________.

Tuesday, April 26

Once more into the brief.

Yay for concept art! (As seen left). Made by Karis. Pretty, non?

So I'm currently working through finishing my Time+Perspective brief, which is the Granny Squibb game I'm making with Karis and with lot of guidance from her partner on coding in Javascript. This is the first time I'm actually programming something or creating a game with the help of other people. There are three major problems we're working through right now:

1) Unity has trouble displaying transparency in movies when they're being used as textures, as it converts everything to Ogg Theora, which does not support alpha channels. So we're basically trying to "green screen" the movie in virtual space, and creating a shader which detects all the pink pixels in an object and makes them transparent.

2) I'm having trouble rotating things around a specified axis. Unity likes to rotate things around world space, so it makes it difficult to rotate things, specifically on a certain axis with respect to certain objects.

3) We still have a lot of art assets to work on, and as might be predicted, sound is not even beginning to be thunk about.

If I were to do this project again, I think I would have counted my eggs differently. I don't think I had very much time considering the amount of work I was doing on other briefs, so I don't think I could have done a whole lot better in terms of time management. And I'm working in a relatively new program with a relatively new language, so I don't think that's the best condition for taking on a project that's larger than any you've done before, and I don't think there's much I could have done to prepare coding-wise. One thing I should have monitored more carefully while doing the project, however, was the way I was labelling things I was putting in the project, and the way I was assuming unity could do the things stated above. Let's deal with these individually, and then I'm going back to work doublequick:

1) I labelled everything from the beginning as a "test" or "dummy" asset, and now I'm not really sure what the difference is between a dummy object and a real one. I think I should probably think about what my workflow is on this in the future.

2) I should have checked on the transparency issue before assuming and reassuring Karis that it could be done easily, as now it's crunch time and we've designed the assets in a way that assumes it's possible. Had I checked and learned how difficult it might have been, we might have just been able to design the assets in the exact shape they needed to be, eliminating the need for transparency. Also, I think we might have been able to make this game in flash, which would have saved time, and I should have checked that earlier. I did want to learn javascript, though...

Did I mention Karis' partner, James, is my savior? Back to church with me.

Monday, April 25

Re-entry into planet Valve.

Let's talk:

1. Portal 2 Review: 8/10.
2. The game Karis and I are making.
3. Conclusions drawn from 1 & 2.


So, this weekend, just before and just after going on my Easter camping trip in the Otways (brr), I played the new "oh my gosh I can't wait for it" game in my life, Portal 2. I've just completed it. It's certainly an epic, certainly a mythic cycle, and certainly a higher-quality production than the original. The voice acting has dramatically improved (even though the first game was light-years ahead of every other game I'd played in that department), thanks to the addition of mammoth talents J.K. Simmons and Stephen Merchant the scale has increased dramatically with minimal stretch-marks. That is, the original game took me about 3 hours to complete, and this one took about 7. The difficulty level was satisfying--still the same Portal-brand puzzles which are uncrackable until a moment of inspiration hits. I think the pacing suffered a bit in the beginning, but it's probably a result of people attempting to address the problem of players that are new to the world of the game.

ALL THIS: And yet I am unsatisfied! I found the "essence" of the game unchanged from the previous game, and the Source Engine...well, it's just not the shiny new pair of shoes it was when Half Life 2 came out. It still looks nice, but feels kind of clumsy. It's a "you can't walk there, so forget about it" kind of game much of the time, a feeling which the original Portal somehow avoided by making you feel like you could walk into more objects. Oh, and one more thing--yes, it's significantly higher quality than the original, but the original was something like 30% the size, if I remember correctly. I think the point of my mentioning that is that it represents a change I've seen in Valve products lately. Perhaps they're under new management--but they seem more focused on comedy and a kind of cartoonish realism than the "rawness" that worked really well for Half Life 2. Maybe it just feels like there's less risk-taking going on in their games, lately.


Tomorrow is crunch day for coding the lemonade-stand game that Karis and I are making. I'm going to be using Javascript and Unity to make a 2d game with assets that Karis is making. We're going for a paper cutout/giant Terry Gilliamesque head aesthetic. Hopefully it should all be done by Wednesday, provided Karis and James (a Javascript mastermind) and I can overcome any and all technical obstacles presented by my not having much practice with Javascript.


While preparing to make this (my first collaborative project where I'm going to be doing the majority of the coding, it's likely), I've been doing a lot of thinking about how the game is going to be not only completed, but worth the time of other people. While I do respect the many majabillions of brain cells being used to create absorbing content at flash game mills like Kongregate and Newgrounds, at the moment I'm more interested in how it's going to be different from all that, which I fear it will not be. Frankly, ice tea stands aren't  the new kid on the block in terms of video game genres, and we're not going to be trying to break the bank graphically. I think we'll chiefly be reaching into the future in the areas of unified graphic design (centered around a single idea) and platform. And this is just the first version of a game that will probably need to be reconsidered a lot of different ways and re-engineered to be fun before it's ready to be used by Granny Squibb. Ya dig(g)?

Wednesday, April 20

Scary stuff.

Computerized Evolution! Isn't this kind of an obvious precursor to the human race being overrun by superintelligent robots? It's like the video they show you about how the computers ever got so intelligent. Also, we shouldn't be shooting robots just to see how they react. That seems like a bad idea.

Friday, April 15

That special time.

Robot Drum Circle!

I was worried about my form + image project all week, and in the end, I couldn't get it to do what I wanted it to do. It was supposed to be a virtual drum circle that recorded the beats you made and then replayed them. Instead, what I ended up with was something that played one of 51 sounds when you pressed a key on the keyboard, and randomly cluttered the screen with pixellated animations when it did. I was pretty frustrated with the fact that I couldn't establish more depth, but I suppose that every project has a component that is not fully realized upon launch, and the end result is more of a function of your technical ability.

It also frustrated me that I couldn't spend more time thinking about the artistic elements of this piece, considering and reconsidering how to organize it visually, since I was impaired by my ability to use AS3 to code. I guess it's a learning process. I feel like our Hunters and Gatherers presenter this week presents a good means of thinking about it. He said that he's always frustrated when he can't figure out how to make code work, and that he dreams about the project, and then wakes up and seems to know how to do it. He also said that as a musician he feels that a programmable computer is like the ultimate, adaptable instrument, something that can be anything you can tell it how to do. In that way, I feel like AS3 is an extremely complicated (and possibly beautiful) instrument that I am totally inept at playing/using, and it keeps me up late at night, trying to figure out why I can't dream up a better solution to the problems I'm having.

In other news, I'm totally psyched about our group project, and I'll be acting as leader of the engine team. I'm working with four other people. We're responsible for taking the concept and the assets and making a real object out of them--implementation is the goal. I think the biggest challenge will be communicating with the other groups about what we can/cannot accomplish in the time. I'm happy to work with my team and try to get us all thinking about motion-sensing and face recognition, but figuring out to what degree we'll be able to do that, and then figuring out how we can use our knowledge to stretch what we accomplish will be the tricky part.

Time to prepare for my case study presentation!

Saturday, April 9

Let's go over this again.

I think I'm going to have to watch Harvey Birdman, season one and two. Again. Because now that I know the zeroith thing about animation, I think it's going to be interesting to see what they were doing in places like this:

Did I ever tell you Mentok The Mind Taker was my favorite animated character?

Wednesday, April 6

Two things for you to see!

Okay, so, there's an important time in the production process of any animation called "The End". Sometimes it comes when you least expect it. But it's always inevitable, and when you're done messing with an animation and need to move on to something else, you have reached that time. Never mind the fact that you accidentally deleted half of the drawings the day before it was due. NEVER MIND THAT. In any case, enjoy!

You can watch the animation here.

Hey! I've also uploaded a video tutorial I made with Camtasia a few days ago, about how to place text on the main camera using Javascript in the Unity game publishing platform. CZECH it out.

Monday, April 4

That weekday feeling.

So, we're rolling into the (fifth?) week of AIM. I have three kinds of information to present to you, depending on who you are. I have:

1. Personal information, and
2. Academic, animation and course-related information.
3. This video to the left here. I like it, particularly as it develops, towards the middle. I'll talk about it in purple later.

Let's start with the first category.

1. Things have been going pretty well lately. I haven't felt compelled to write very much about myself or post pictures, because so much of my life is just consumed by my studying. This isn't to say I haven't been enjoying myself otherwise. Tina's great (the best part about Australia, actually), we did some rock climbing last Friday, and we'll go again this week, with a camera and hopefully some more new friends. I've been on the lookout for new things to do, and I've felt kind of trapped in Melbourne (as in, I haven't been mountain climbing in Australia yet), but I'm eating lots of curry and feeling fine, day in, day out. 

Actually, exciting event: I don't know how many of you were aware of this, but Tina and I began an herb/veggie garden, and when we moved last week, we put it outside of our window (on the first floor) to get some sun. And within HALF AN HOUR, our prize BROCCOLI plant was STOLEN. I put out a missing vegetables report immediately, but the case was not cracked until yesterday, when Pierre, the man from flat 17, explained how grateful he was that we had given it away. GAH! What a guy. So, we'll get it back soon, hopefully. And Pierre seems like a cool guy. So maybe we'll have him over for some steamed veggies sometime.

Lastly, we're planning on coming to the US in June and July, so now I'm in the process of getting in touch with everyone and trying to find out if they want to hang. It's been a long time since I've been back, but I'm looking forward to seeing what became of everyone/everything.

2. Although I haven't been keeping up on POSTING my daily images, I have most certainly been drawing every day, and doing a lot of thinking about that drawing. Actually, most of my focus in the last few weeks hasn't been on the subject as much as the canvas--what program or medium I'm using to present what I've drawn. Learning Maya and Unity3d, finally getting around to exploring Flash CS5, Camtasia, and other technological craziness has been going on, and as a result, I haven't really been doing any drawing that's easily posted on the blog.

I feel like actually practicing animating something requires a lot of setup, and therefore I haven't actually done much sequential, let's-see-how-this-looks-when-played kind of work. But I think that mostly reflects the way I approach my work. I see all of my projects as these sort of ideas around which foundations must first be built--you have to level the land and plow the field before you can actually plant anything, if you catch my meaning. All my projects seem to demand that I invent some way of seeing them, some means of understanding the action I want to convey, and THAT in and of itself takes more time than anything else, including the production of the action. If you also add the implementation of some level of interactivity into all that, then you've got a big whopping project to do. Which reminds me, I really have to be going. Animation about a character and their behaviour/agency in two days.

3. I really enjoyed that animation up above because I think it plays with the idea of "showing and not telling" in an interesting way. The narrator/animator is showing us and telling us what he's interested in at the same time, and I think that really gets the message to the viewer differently than either the narrator or the animator could seperately. The way the action builds is also interesting--after the crescendo it devolves into something less interesting, and so (for me), the whole movie comes off as having a sort of organic tempo. I don't think that this style of video works for many things, but for presenting Labaye's idea of "the idea of motion being freedom", it works perfectly. Ya?

Friday, April 1

Coming along...

The last few days I've spent working on these game flow documents for the game that Lahta and I are making. Making them has allowed me to reflect on the actual scope of the project, and on the fact that it is WAY TOO LARGE TO COMPLETE IN THE GIVEN TIMEFRAME. So I think after I design this document, I'm going to have to scale it down. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, March 29

Regarding the fabulous move(s).

IT'S been a few days since I've uploaded...mostly because I've been very busy putting together stuff for multiple projects, and moving, and worrying about this an that. It's difficult to keep up with all the new software that's being thrown at us, but like written Chinese, if someone sits down and explains it to you, it makes perfect sense that things work the way they do. Lahta has been very helpful in getting me on board with practical Maya stuff. I'll run through what I'm struggling with for each of my projects.

1. Procedural Animation Project (Due April 13) -- I'm still working out what I want to do with this, but I think that all the work I've been doing in 3D will probably cause me to do something using Unity. I've stated that I'd really like to do something that would involve feeling like you're in the middle of something that's changing from the outside. But this is conjecture.

2. Room Project  (Due April 6) -- I'm making a Kitchen for this project, as a sort of contributing asset for the Minor project that Lahta and I are doing together. We're going for a skewed aesthetic on all the objects. I'll have to post some stuff up when I get everything organized at home.

3. Character Animation Project (Due April 6) -- I'm going to create an animation of my ghost character entering a room, in a creepy way. At the moment it's looking like I'm going to do that in flash, or in adventure game studio.

4. Case Study (Due April 19) -- Not discussed yet. Have to talk to Hanjin and Jin.

5. Storytelling Interactive Treatment (Due April 5) -- I have to come up with an idea for this. I got down everything about how it needs to be made.

LATELY the stuff I've been connecting most with in classes has been the stuff that deals with interactive design...and I'm wondering what projects will actually be too large for me to tackle in the time I have this semester. Oscura, a game made by someone from my program from last year, seems to be the upward limit.

I feel like I'm running in front of a tornado made of deadlines, bills, and job opportunities. Ahhhhh! I think there's also something that happens if you haven't actually animated in a while. Maybe I just need to sit down and animate and get some things done for each project...

Thursday, March 24

Freedom Fries.

Burning Safari.


The hits just keep on coming.

Today I looked at some more Javascript. I'm using the time before my presentation (it'll add up to about 4 days of off-on studying) to find out as much as I can about the language before the presentation on Monday at 2 PM. Go go gadget self-destructive sleeping patterns!

Wednesday, March 23

Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

So, I told Sofia that we would trade art styles. I would do some hand-drawn stuff, and she would work with pixels. Yes, I did my hand-drawn picture for the day. I tried to emphasize the lighting in the scene, as pictured right (not perfectly), by using empty space. I don't know if it helps to have the image on the right...but I guess I was pretty happy with how it came out, in the end.

But that didn't stop me from making pixel art stuff, as well. Yes, they're from Nintendo games. And if you are the first one to comment or talk to me in real life and name what games both of these characters are from, I will pixellate YOU in the next picture. It could be from a photo, or whatever. Deal? Deal. It's on. But no looking for the names of these characters by using a reverse image search, like www.tineye.com. Also, if you can't guess the first one, you have automatically signed yourself up for a lecture. Here are your two pictures.



Tuesday, March 22

More of the s(H)ame.

That H was there for you, Lahta.

So, today I did some new, higher-resolution ghost images for the character sheet. It looks much more electrified now. Do you like it? Granted, they're still a little pixelly. Hush, you. I'm going to do a lot more work on them tomorrow, and try throwing some light effects up behind the ghost and write some notes about how it will react visually and emotionally to environments. But this is my drawing for the day, and it's enough for you.

I've been mixing around in Unity, getting ready to make my 3d room, and looking at some javascript. Funky stuff. I'm definitely going to be creating a 3D kitchen for my room project, as part of my minor project. The goal is to make it look as professional as possible in a one-week period, so that it's as usable as possible for my minor project. Ya dig?

Monday, March 21

Opposed to the typical.

So, I had a rather interesting discussion today with a lecturer in my program about the role of pixel artwork in my future projects. I know I have an affinity for this stuff, and I also know that I'm not really that adept at it. This brings up an interesting problem. Should I pursue the style I love even though it seems to have no appeal to my potential audience (kids who grew up on 3d and sun-flares with all kinds of fancy rendering effects)? Should I forget about kids for now, and reach for the professional level of craftspersonship in pixel art I've come to expect from playing games like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World or Fez? And if these are the professional quality projects, then why are Cave Story and Streemerz also so popular (we're spreaking relatively here...I ain't in no pop culture, consarnit...)? The answer can only be that the gameplay and mechanics have just as much importance as aesthetics when it comes to judging an interactive media experience. Anywho, Chris, my lecturer encouraged me to work in Unity to create a 3D version of the game I'm collaborating with Lahta on. I'll talk about this with her asap. I think it's probably a good direction to go in, since it means I'll be expanding my repertoire. But what of the fine tuning of the art skills? I suppose this isn't the place to refine them?

In other news, above is my picture for the day, and here is a link to the
COLLABORATIVE BLOG for the AIM program. We just found out today that we have a huge collaborative art space to fill in a few weeks, and I think that by the time we get started even thinking about making this business, we should have a wealth of ideas about what we're going to do. If you are an elevenser (as Kate calls us) and you haven't been emailed permissions to edit that blog, please let me know, and I'll send you another invite. Simon out.

Sunday, March 20

Character demo.

Be sure to blow this one up. It's a demo sheet of the ghosties I'm drawing for my character sheet this wednesday, soon to be part of the game I'll be making with Lahta. As you can see, this is a totally uninformed stage in the process. I'm half done with it.

Also today, some character details for the ghost.

NAME: Kneph

OCCUPATION: An Egyptian spirit, mostly long forgotten.

AGE: Approximately 4000 years old.

GENERAL TEMPERAMENT: Very patient. Constantly in search of new forms of entertainment.

Kneph is extremely bored of the spirit world, since it has been thousands of years since the height of Egyptian civilization, and no one makes sacrifices anymore.

MOTIVATION: The land on which the apartment in the game is built is Examo's ancient haunting ground. Because of his longstanding belief that cats are more intelligent than dogs, he has been challenged by another spirit from a dog-loving religion. The challenge is to prove that at least one cat can learn any trick a dog can. If he fails in his quest to prove this, he will lose the right to haunt the area, and thus disappear. If he succeeds, then he will be able to increase his own territory.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Kneph’s body is a gooey vapor which acts like a transparent, lighter-than-air version of silly-putty. Kneph is approximately the size of a human being. But he has a mouth in the middle of his lower half which expands and contracts as he “breathes”. He has eyes which glow with a blue-green light in the dark.

LIKES: Sacrifices, Egyptian culture, cats that obey, subservience, shadows.

DISLIKES: Small dogs, big dogs, medium-sized dogs televisions, bright lights and daylight (though they are not lethal to him).

METHOD OF LOCOMOTION: Kneph is able to move in and out of small spaces, the way a vapor would, but he cannot leave the ground and simply “fly”. He can jump, or leave the ground for short periods of time.

Friday, March 18


It seems you might not have been able to click on that ghost picture from yesterday. So here it is again. I've added a few spooks to the mix.

Warning. Contains birth scenes. Doesn't bother me. Does it bother you?

Thursday, March 17

Ghost vs. Kitteh

Howdy, folks.

So, two items today. First, some color.

This was a picture for my dad's blog. I like how it came out.

I made this out of a photo of Tina rock climbing the other night...so she could use it as her desktop. I like the way it came out. You'll want to click on it and make it bigger. I always hate that about pixel art. It always looks like there's a messy little spot on your web page unless it's blown up. Czech it:

Second, some talk of agent + behavior projects:

The latest large project I'm embarking on is a sort of adventure language learning project. I'm working with Lahta, a marvelous, prolific art deity person that is also of the teacherly persuasion. The idea of the project is to create a sort of game for people to play that will teach them basic words in different languages by attempting to give them basic commands. The user will be able to direct a cat to respond to its owner's commands. So, for example, if the owner tells the cat to "Drink" and points to the wat
er, the user must click on the word "drink" and then on the water. The program would ideally present the user with a number of words like this, and then the cat would go to sleep (as cats often do, against orders) and night comes. When it does, either the cat's imagination or the spirits of the house start acting up (we haven't decided which yet) and ask the cat to do the same thing the owner do, but in an assessment context. This different phase of the game will probably punish/reward the user (playing as the cat) in some way.

ANYWAY, Lahta's working on the cat at the moment, and I'm working on the ghost. We have 3 weeks to do a sort of character study and create some animations which will act as an asset library for the larger project. Tomorrow we're presenting some basic ideas about what the characters might look like, to each other. Here are my ideas about the ghost:

Again, you'll want to click on it to make it bigger. I tried a range of styles with this character, but personally, I think the most successful version (which may or not be here yet) will combine a wispy, vaporous element with a sort of knifey, insectile arm aesthetic. I also want the whole character to look kind of like a stain on the objects around it. The less visible stuff on top is supposed to represent that. So far, though, I think of all of this, I like the bottom left (white) ghost idea. I think tomorrow I'll have to do more drawings like this... to explore it before I meet with Lahta. I don't know if whiteness is going to stand out in the right way from the dark parts of the room that it's going to be in. But maybe the visual element I'm really looking for is opacity, which is why the whiteness seems to work. That's all for now. Got to go with my flatmate to steal some chairs from a dumpster. Yes, at midnight. No, you can't come :).

On whiteness, from Moby Dick...
  • "Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color; and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows--a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink?"

Wednesday, March 16

Procrastinators! The leaders of...tomorrow.

So, I'm posting my daily picture. It's a sort of mock up of what I want my behavioral/character study animation, and possibly my minor project, to look. The The grid is there to help organize the space that each character will take up, and each object will take up. This is really a basic picture, so that I can show my soon-to-be collaborator, Lahta, what I meant when I was describing the project. Note the Lucasarts adventure games style action words at the bottom. The objects in the bookshelf are meant to be random, as are many of the objects in the room.

I'll write more about this project tomorrow, Lahta's glorious artistry/website, and my ideas for this project. My first educational game! Yay.

Tuesday, March 15

Feeling a bit stressed out today.

Picture! Ka-DONE.

And here is my picture from a few days ago. I've figured out, finally, how to embed flash files on this blog, so no more linking to slow slow swfcabin.

Sunday, March 13

Chalk two up.

Three things:

1) Yesterday I completed my drawing, but I hadn't finished the flash code for it yet, so it wasn't ready for public viewing. But now I've finished it, so here it is! Feeling green?

2) I finished the cutout movie with my group! It's called Pixel Critters. That's the second project for our program. First, watch it. Then let's talk about it.

Laura, Isis and I all worked on it together. We each created a character--I the cockroach, Isis the caterpillar, and laura the mouse! We also each did parts of the set. I did all the sound, the intro, and the work with the pixels during the movie. Laura and Isis are extremely talented artists--I don't think it could have looked very good without them. I feel like the movie is strong structurally, but weak on timing and the motion is very...sort of spotty. Some parts are alright, but I think because the pace is extremely fast in the movie, it's hard to pay attention to the motion, if you're the viewer. Part of it is that one affects the other, I suppose, but I think that there are slight problems in both areas. I still like it, though! What do you think?

3) So, I had a talk with my friend andy about my story grid project, and I think we've reached some important thoughts there. Firstly, I think that some of the grids are better viewed wholly, and just looking at one frame at a time takes away from the experience. I'll post some examples here to give you an idea.

a) This is better viewed as a large picture, as it's better to look at it and know where you are in the story:

b) This one is better viewed in the player, I think, although I also like looking at it.

So, I wouldn't assume that either of them are worth looking at anyway :), but perhaps you can see what I mean? The point of my project was to design an animation, anyway, not a grid of pictures, even if they are in sequence. So I'm a little disappointed that they aren't all best viewed as animations. I'm not sure at this juncture what would have made them better viewed as animations, but what do you think?

Saturday, March 12

Let's get pick(let)y.

Hey, kids. My picture for the day is a page of Stewart Haines' Picklet Comic Jam. Here 'tis. If you're not hip to this yet, Stewart created an app for the iphone that allows you to create rockin' popup books in photoshop, and they animate and stuff. If you're interested in doing a page (you can do whatever you want, provided you follow the script), check out his website, picklet.net, or just check the dummy pages he's made up for all 15 pages of the comic. It's sort of a Scott McCloudian style thing. Very cool. Here are the pages. But you can't do page 3, because I already did that one. So there.

Story Grid Player update: I'm still working on improving my story grid player. Right now my main goals are to implement a sort of banjo playing element when you switch the pictures, and to put in detection for when the edge of the story grid has been reached, so it can remind the player with blinking arrows what directions they can go in...

Also, let's talk about two pixel-style game makers I totally idolatize. Or rather, let's not talk about them. Look at this video, and then go to the Polytron website, and the Pixeljam site. Chris Barker, I take back what I said about not feeling confident about using low-res graphics to get the school kiddies' attentions. I probably just need to get hip.

Friday, March 11

There's a party in my nucleus and you are not invited!

Sophia (spelling?) and Karis and I, all artists in the same elite RMIT postgraduate program, have decided to draw a picture a day. I don't know if they were serioustown, but I am. Here's my first random picture of the day!

Retro adrenaline artificially added via youtube.

The most amazing animation I've seen this week. It's called 8-Bits.

I've been trying to decide what sound to use to give the feeling of a quiet caterpillar walking on a desk in my animation. I'm having trouble deciding whether to go with a sort of 8-bit approximation with bip and boop sounds, or going with a sort of sliding sound...

Anyway, while I was looking for sounds that other people had used to animate caterpillars, I found this lovely little Japanese commercial. Pretty hilarious. I'm interested in the way the CG seems to work very well with the live action shots of the tea picker...I think it's the smooth green colors throughout the commercial that cause it to work well. Not sure.

Thursday, March 10

A word on debugging.

So, word was going around that debugging took up less than 95% of your time when you program. I assure you, IT DOES. I have gone back into the amazonian jungle of programming oh behalf of all of us the last few days to try and figure out if that was correct or not. I assure you, do not go there. It is a dangerous place where there is no sleep. I've got this flash thing now, though, a kind of storyboard navigator which tells you a story at random. I have dubbed it, presumptiously, TELETALE. Here's the link to the 9.9 meg file:

TELETALE .SWF FILE DOWNLOAD (You need a flash player to play this.)

(the automatic story generation function doesn't work yet). Let me know what you think! My plans for the future of this project are just to get more of the features up and working, and to get rid of the music--instead I'd like a different fretted banjo string to play every time you move from one frame of the story to the next, so you end up playing a little song, or can play this program like an instrrument. I'll repost when I get it all working. This project has been sort of been a re-boot camp for my actionscript knowledge.


PS: Have you seen this? It's amazing.

Wednesday, March 9

*crack the whip*


So far, my experience at RMIT has been a realization of some frustrations, and a lack of others. I'm still not at the point where I'm able to use any Adobe software in a meaningful way. I'm used to using paint.NET as opposed to photoshop, and FlashDevelop as opposed to CS5. What results is that I'm really comfortable using simpler tools, but when I get into photoshop and realize I have to adjust the hue/saturation in order to correctly fill a color in in a crisp way, I get frustrated. I feel like unless I take a good amount of time to familiarize myself with these more complicated tools, I'm going to end up continuing to fall back on the ones that are simpler, and as a result I am worried that I'll end up with a less professional end-product.

I enjoyed the animation, Balance, that Kate screened for the class yesterday. I think an environment like that would would make an interesting kind of social medium for play.

Some notes.

0) I have been asked to create/use a blog while studying in my program, so I'm just going to use this one as my space for reflection...that means more updates, I promise, Meemee (my grandma).

1) My cubital tunnel syndrome in my elbow is acting up. Will need to get a cortizone injection to continue my program sans pain, I think.

2) I duked it out with the elements of productivity all night last night, getting some animation taken care of. I finally felt like I was getting involved with games and animation after years of looking at them from afar. It's a small step in the right direction.

3) My dad has generously (and impartially) elected to use a picture I made for him on his blog, punishmentforglutton. It's the banner. Does this count as street cred, or something?

4) Tina and I search for a new house, as our flatmates half suggested we should go our separate ways, and half told us they weren't continuing our lease.

5) As a comment on what's been going on in course lately, it's been quite a rush--I've probably put more time into my work than I had to, but it's incredibly gratifying to study this stuff.

6) Poem:


I stayed up late, looking around on the wire,
reading nothing in particular, and not feeling any one way about it.
I was being conscious of my own existence;
it was one of those "I am modern man at leisure," moments
very self-aggrandizing, full of friendly juggernaut feelings, you understand.
And I thought, boy, it would be great to chat with
one of those old friends of mine, maybe some girl
I went steady with, someone I could really shoot the can off the fence with the beebee gun with.
Maybe then I could go to sleep, just for lack of anything else to do.
So I got on the wire, and everyone was there, ready to talk,
the exes, the acquaintances, the long-lost childhood buddies. The wire had even organized them
so I could see who wanted to talk about what, who was looking for sex advice, who just wanted to share some invaluable little piece of art.
And suddenly I thought look at all these people, who wants them,
I don't need to talk to them. I thought I was the needy one.

So I got off the wire,
and started to write, but then I thought, well, this is anti-social and kind of pathetic, even for three in the morning, even for the modern man at leisure,
so I went back on the wire,
but this time I put five dollars down on a good old fashioned game of poker,
and I put it all on pocket queens, and he had higher, and often you lose in situations like this. It's a classic thing in poker that contradicts life--often in life you are good enough to beat most people, and that will get you partial credit, except in poker somebody's always got you beat, and there is no consolation prize in poker. Anyway, that's okay I think, because somewhere someone can now buy a cheeseburger, I thought, even if it's some greasy type in a suit who owns a poker corporation, and I got off the wire and started to write again, feeling pretty good after all. The modern man is allowed moments like this, it's in his blood. He's got money he's saved from a previous job and it's not all gone yet, though some of it is, and he's got his quick eye on the big zero. From the lounge chair, I mean.

Anyway, that's when things started to get real nasty, because my girlfriend arrived on the scene--
of my mind, you understand, and I reflected on the last quarter's profits
and thought maybe we were in some kind of love-slump
because what is a slump, that's when you don't feel one way or the other, you're on the wire and you're off of it,
and everything is just so susceptable, everybody's ready to throw the first punch.
But then I thought we probably weren't in a slump.
Real life, real romance, is slow. It isn't any action movie, anyhow.
So I decided to go to sleep and forget about it.
That way I'd be safe. No one could blame the modern man for sleeping on it. Maybe it was just a mood.
It's so hard to tell with oneself, isn't it,
to guess the waves against the tides against the depth,
you've got to have experience in these sorts of things.
Anyway, that's when I started to get sleepy,
and wondered briefly before getting off the wire for real.

Is this what seperates us from the cavemen?
this two hours after your bed-partner goes to sleep,
and you lose five dollars and read nothing in particular from all around the world
and casually dismiss hundreds of thousands of hours of advertising designed to sell?