Through today’s workshop my group was able to create a more clear and consolidated goal of what we wanted to achieve with our final project. Perhaps one of the most important things that we managed to come to a conclusion with in today’s workshop was the scope and scale of our project; we needed to contemplate and decide on what we were able to complete within our given time frame. Because of this, we had to scale down our project and cut out a good chunk of content and ideas that we might not be able to implement within our given time.
Next, the idea of our project had partially changed in terms of story; while the original idea of the project was a comedic story wherein the spirit of a deceased grandpa would return to his house to haunt the family that had potentially wronged him, we decided alter the story in a more grittier fashion in that there is an optional backstory that the player can pursue in order to discover who had potentially murdered him. Furthermore, we also gave the grandpa character a more consolidated backstory and character profile in order to support this new plot branch. Aside from story elements, we also made the controls and gameplay loop of our final project more clear and defined. The conclusion of the workshop would end with our first meeting time on Friday wherein we hope to have a completed storyboard as well as a fully furnished test room that we can test out through VR in Unity.
Finally, we hope to take some of the valuable feedback we received in order to make our final project a more immersive and engaging experience. In particular, I feel the need to reconsider the black and white choice that the player receives at the end of each flashback and possibly add a dialogue branch leading to the final choice wherein the player can fish out additional info that might give them more insight when making their final choice. Furthermore, it might be interesting to give the player a handful of final choices, each with a different value on the forgiveness scale/meter in order to give more of a nebulous ambiguity in their final choice and that no choice seems like the obvious correct or wrong option.
For today’s exploration we experimented with the Samsung Gear 360 video camera by recording scenes that related to the theme of small and large environments within a 360 video environment. We began with recording the ‘large’ scene by placing the camera over a mailbox outside, we felt that the outdoor area in front of the school building was probably one of the largest spaces in which we can capture some great footage. Next, for the ‘small’ scene we decided to capture footage within the school’s elevator, we felt that the small enclosed space of the elevator combined with the low angle ground shot would accentuate the feeling of being small within a contained enclosure. Through this experiment we found that the 360 camera was perfectly adept at conveying the feelings of large and small areas within a 360 degree setting and if given time to upload the scene onto a VR headset we’re certain that these feelings of large/small environments would only be amplified.
Technically, while the recording of video is fairly straightforward, we could see a few issues that we might run into in the future. First is the time it takes to render and process the raw export from the camera, since it takes a considerable amount of time and processing power it might be wise to set up a rendering schedule early in the project in order to have enough time for possible post-process editing for the clips. Next, we’re going to have to figure out efficient methods to edit said video clips, since the raw exports are somewhat warped as opposed to a standard 2D plane we might run into difficulties if we are planning to do things such as plane detection or camera tracking within After Effects.
Conceptually, our experience with recording and processing 360 degree video has given us a lot to think about in regards to our final project and how we might integrate 360 degree video along with our VR elements. In correlation to some of the example VR experiences that we had seen last week that integrated both VR and 360 video in a seamless way we will have to find creative and intuitive methods to seamlessly transition between 360 video and VR that doesn’t seem too jarring or clunky. Next, we will also have to make sure that both elements are equal in their presence and impact; I feel as if we are focusing too much on the Unity/VR aspect as opposed to the 360 degree video element and I want to make sure that the video element doesn’t feel out of place or forced in any way.
In today’s workshop my team and I worked mainly on figuring out some of the fundamentals of VR within Unity; we managed to build a relatively simple scene with a basic floorplan of a house similar to what we are planning to construct and flesh out for our final project. To our surprise it was fairly easy to set up a basic and workable scene within unity and we were able to explore various rooms of the house through VR. What surprised me the most was the difference in viewpoints and perspective between viewing our premade asset through VR and Blender. For example, you get a more close and intimate feeling with the house through VR rather than the top down perspective of Blender on a 2D screen.
Moving on from what we learned today we plan to learn and implement object intractability through triggers and movement through the house through teleportation. We plan on implementing basic additions to player interaction such as the ability to open doors, open drawers, and close windows. If possible, we would want to add other elements such as a UI interface and on screen text or buttons that trigger an event when selected. Finally, we will want to also experiment with 360 alongside 3D VR elements to see how the two may work side by side with one early example being a 360 recording of the night sky as a skybox for our Unity scene.
For my VR exploration I decided to experiment with Google Blocks as well as Google Earth VR. When I constructed my dog model using Blocks I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the software was more intuitive and easy to pick up for beginners than I had originally anticipated; I was able to easily maneuver through the menus, discover what each tool did, and place the shapes I spawned with a surprising degree of accuracy. I found that one of the strengths that modelling through VR had over a 2D screen was the ability to move and look around the model in a 3D environment, I found that through this new environment and method I felt more close and attached to the object that I was creating and I felt a surge of creativity to mess around and experiment with the software and its environment. All in all, I found that Blocks was a lot more difficult to create complex shapes as I would with Blender but the inspiration I felt with Blocks to create interesting objects was something that I haven’t felt with 2D modelling in Blender in quite a while. In the future it would be interesting to see sculpting and more intuitive texturing feature added to Blocks.
I use Google Earth on a somewhat regular basis in a rather monotonous fashion to find directions to places that I need to go, but with Google Earth VR I found that implementing this software into VR has made this otherwise tedious and dull process into something more spectacular and exploratory. The grand scale that the world is first presented to the user has made me feel the urge to explore the world through places that I already know to new and interesting places that I have never seen before. Another interesting aspect was the perspective of the user through VR; the viewer is presented with the viewpoint of an omnipotent observer over the world being able to look around in a 360 degree viewpoint at any altitude, I felt that this only added to curiosity and encouraged the user to travel to different places around the world.
In conclusion, my in depth exploration into some of the examples in VR have encouraged and inspired me to ponder some of the experimentation and possibilities that I can attempt through the development of my final VR game project for Atelier. I realized that my original pitch for a VR game that I presented in the first day of class could be expanded even further than I had originally planned and that I can possibly push my idea even further beyond its original frame.
For our final project we wanted to create a twist on the traditional two player competitive arcade game by altering how the players would typically interact with the game. Our game mechanic was centered on a goal keeper and a striker wherein player one summons and unleashes ghosts along three lanes by using touch sensitive fabric on an Ouija board, the other player would then banish the summoned ghosts by using a flashlight to light up light sensors within a candle in order to launch a beam of light along a corresponding lane. The overall theme of the game was inspired by “Luigi’s Mansion” wherein the player uses a flashlight to combat ghosts within a haunted setting.
The inspiration for our project was based around implementing non conventional human interface devices to interact with a seemingly classical arcade game. Our original concept was to recreate an existing arcade game within P5.JS and use a variety of sensors to interact with the game in the place of traditional controllers. This concept evolved to focus on two player competitive play wherein games such as air hockey or Pong were taken into consideration for game mechanics. When discussing how the player would interact with the game we decided that using light as a controller would be a novel, creative, and unique idea where the inputs would be based around light sensors. We then related this idea back to our original inspiration of “Luigi’s Mansion” where the character utilized light in order to fight ghosts; the game’s theme revolved around summoning and banishing ghosts which suited the theme of our arcade game and allowed us to develop two unique purpose driven controllers.
For the design of our controllers our goal was to create a unique and creative design that relates to the overall theme of the game as opposed to simple buttons and switches; after experimentation with what materials and parts we had we settled upon a design based upon a Ouija board and candle set. The Arduino components were a relatively simple design based upon multiple on and off switches and light sensors, these were tried and true methods that we knew would work but the trick was to utilize these components in a creative way through the building and usage of the controllers. With an idea set in stone we then researched other creative and unique controller designs throughout history as well as analyzing aspects of our past experiment as our “Cardboard Band” project was also inspired by the idea of providing an extra level of immersion through the design of the controller; utilizing what we learned we worked towards taking this experiment a step further.
In our research we found many strange yet unique controllers. The article “25 bizarre video game controllers” by Aaron Birch details many unique and creative controllers throughout history, yet one of the controllers that stood out for us was the Dreamcast’s Sega Fishing Rod that featured motion sensing capabilities, a quick upward thrust mechanism, and a reel on the side in order to catch fish on screen (Birch 2014). Although on a technical aspect it might not have been too different from a standard controller it was arranged in a creative and unique manner related to the theme of the game in order to provide an extra level of immersion, intractability, and entertainment. Controllers of this nature wouldn’t find much use in other games as they are more specialized and typically can only be used in certain games; however, this type of hardware excels in a more public arcade setting as it catches attention and allows multiple people to try and play the game. With the design of our Ouija board and candle set controllers we hoped to create an intriguing and unique design that catches attention and encourages people to investigate and try it out.
Features and Goals:
The list of features we wanted our game to have is for it to be a two player game, to have the controllers represent the feel of the game, and to have the game fully functional. What worked was that the game was playable with two players so throughout the critic people enjoyed playing and competing with each other which is what we had originally wanted. Another feature that was implemented well was the controllers; since our game involved ghosts we felt that it was appropriate to design the controllers as a Ouija board and a sort of magical circle with candles. We felt that the controllers made the person more immersed into the game. For the game being functional it did work but there were some problems with some collision detection but overall it worked as intended for the most part.
Birch, A. (2014). 25 Bizarre Video Game Controllers. Retrieved from https://www.denofgeek.com/games/game-controllers/30841/25-bizarre-videogame-controllers
For experiment 4 our goal was to simulate an arcade game with a different dimension of play moving away from traditional controllers. The gameplay would be focused around a competitive 2 player mode where Player 1 would play against Player 2 on screen. As we cycled through ideas for different types of games such as air hockey, whack a mole, and Tron Lightcycles we had contemplated and played upon a potential a concept with the game “Luigi’s haunted Mansion” wherein the player would use a flashlight to shine at a hidden photocell to make an onscreen ghost disappear. This is where we decided that our game theme would revolve around ghosts with the use of photocells. To develop this into a 2 player game like we intended it was decided we would focus our game mechanics in a comparable fashion to soccer or hockey where the goal was to score a point while another played defense. In this case Player 1 would summon a ghost with a Ouija board and touch sensors to reach the opposite side of the screen while Player 2 defended themselves by using a light source to illuminate mock candles with photocells to “banish” Player 1’s ghosts. We decided we were going to pursue this game design and theme as it allows for us to create a competitive 2 player game as well as create unique ways to interact with the game for both players.
Creating a game for our final project was something of a unanimous decision; we were all gamers to some extent and we couldn’t see ourselves doing anything other than a game. As our main inspiration behind the project was the creation of a fun and physically interactive two player game we bounced around several ideas regarding old arcade games; we would then settle upon creating something akin to these games as they were relatively simple and their pixelated graphics were potentially easy to replicate and manipulate on screen using the Arduino and P5.js.
With an idea in mind we browsed through multiple examples of the Arduino being used in order to create arcade styled games. One example that stood out was Kris Temmerman’s storefront arcade game, wherein the creator utilized an Arduino DUE and a neopixel display in order to create a public arcade setup where up to two people could play a pixelated game through the storefront window (Benchoff 2013). Although Temmerman’s example did not include P5.js it displayed the potential of the Arduino in terms of creating games and the controller in order to play them. Essentially, the Arduino had the potential to create a powerful and creative controller while P5.js had the potential to take this a step further by offering fun and interactive digital visuals and sounds.
A big aspect as to what influenced our final design was what we had available in terms of parts and resources for the Arduino as well as our combined skillsets and knowledge in utilizing these parts. Our original designs had elements on the screen being controlled by the player’s hand movements but we found that this would be incredibly difficult using the Arduino. We eventually settled upon the use of analog switches as well as sensors in order to utilize what we had learned from our previous experiments as opposed to trying something new that could potentially not work and end up wasting time. However, with valuable advice and criticisms that we had received from our previous group project we hope to avoid previous pitfalls and expand upon what we have learned in a new and creative way.
Concepts, Techniques, and Materials:
The concept that we decided to work upon and create was a 2-player game where the players activate their own switches using different materials. In this game one player controls a human that carries a flashlight while the other player controls the summoning the ghosts. The ghosts will be summoned using a Ouija board with a switch as well as a heart shaped piece. For the other player we decided to use light sensors so it felt more realistic when the player shined their flashlight onto a spot that would be where the in-game character shines their light. For our visuals we decided upon creating 8-bit sprites; all of this would be coded using P5.js. As for the materials we plan on using we decided upon constructing the game board with either foam or cardboard. The player would have light sensors in different areas of the board that he/she would have to aim their light towards in order to stop the approaching ghosts. For the player playing the ghost he/she would have to interact with the Ouija board in order to summon the ghosts by sliding the heart shaped piece making this a digital switch and both these items would potentially utilize conductive fabric as tinfoil would break too easily if people were sliding too quickly or applying too much force.
Our final prototype consists of two instruments constructed out of cardboard; a guitar and a drum set. When a specific note is played on the instrument by activation of an analog switch the corresponding sound will be played through the laptop. The drum kit is also connected to a projector which is aimed towards its front surface; when a note is played a red projectile travels from the top to the bottom of the screen in an erratic thunderbolt-like manner and creates a small explosion when it reaches the bottom of the screen. The projection is capable of having multiple thunderbolts on screen depending on how much notes are played on the drum kit.
Sensing Method and Materials:
Our group used digital sensors to power all of our instruments. The conductive material that we used the most was aluminum foil because it was the easiest and most accessible material to use.
In this diagram the green wires are connected to the strings of the guitar and the red strings are connected to the frets of the guitar. For the black wires they were connected to the conductive fabric people had on their fingers and the guitar pick. When the fingers and the frets connect it doesn’t create a sound for the guitar but instead makes it so when the pick and the strings connect it creates a sound depending on which fret is being held down.
In this diagram the red wires are connected to the parts of the drum and the black wires is connected to the drum sticks as well as one part of the kick drum pedal. When the sticks hit any of the spots on the drum it creates a sound of the drum kit depending on where they hit.
The context and inspiration behind our project was to create a virtual band setup akin to the well-known video game franchise known as Guitar Hero. The game was and popular and beloved franchise which begun in 2005 wherein the player would use a guitar shaped controller to play along to a list of popular songs as if they were part of a rock band; the formula proved to be a success with earnings reaching one billion dollars within the first week of its premiere (Venard n.d). For our final prototype we wanted to create something akin to the virtual band as represented in Guitar Hero; our first prototypes revolved around analog sensors or switches that could either be placed on the table or wall but we decided to place them onto appropriate instruments made out of cardboard in order to give the user a better sense of immersion and top make the experience more entertaining. Our prototype differs from Guitar Hero in that instead playing predetermined notes on the screen we gave the user more freedom by allowing them to play any note they want and an appropriate sound will always be played; our prototype offers a more freestyle and creative experience. We had also hoped that the interactive visual would also encourage the user to play the drum kit more while also offering an entertaining experience for people watching the user.
For my Final Prototype I chose to create an 8-bit styled interactive game based upon the 1985 horizontal scrolling shooter Gradius by Konami. The project consists of a jet locked at a fixed y coordinate that the user is able to move using the left and right arrow keys. When the up arrow is pressed a projectile is launched from the center of the jet that travels to the top of the screen. When hit by a bullet, the enemy ship at the top of the screen will disappear in an explosion while a complementary victory alert flashes onto the screen.
Rationale for the programming language or environment selected:
I chose to create a game as an exploratory experiment towards my main interest in regards to learning programming. Video games are one of my life’s passions and it is something that I hadn’t attempted to create before yet it was always something that I always wanted to attempt. When I considered appropriate projects for those relatively new and inexperienced with programming many examples popped to mind but the retro 8 bit world of gaming had seemed like the best option; the games were relatively faced paced yet simple and the 8 bit graphics weren’t too difficult to create.
The main inspiration for my project is Konami’s Gradius, a retro arcade game that I had always had a soft spot for. Gradius is a side scrolling shooter where the player navigates a jet through dangerous environments in space while dealing with hostile aliens and creatures. I chose this particular format because when thinking of the format of this particular style of game through code it was something very doable with p5.js; the bullets and enemies could be tracked by arrays while the ship could be moved around with the arrow keys. Arcade games are something with a relative simplicity wherein the player is able to pick up the game and quickly understand how the game works and how to play it (Fox, 9). The simplicity of retro games was something that I could tackle with my relatively low experience and it would be a great first step into a possible future gateway of more complex experimentation on a large and more grandiose scale.
Fox, Robert. “Space Invaders Revisited”. Communications of the ACM, Volume 41, Issue 7. ACM Inc. (1998). Pg. 9. Web.
Kalata, Kurt. “The History of Gradius: A look back at 30 years of Konami shooting” Gamasutra. UBM (2015). Web.
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