Critical Hit 2015: CloudKeeper

Continuing the series of Critical Hit 2015 prototypes, here is the next one: CloudKeeper. Again, we had two weeks and a completely new team of four people to make another experimental game. Our discussions quickly arrived at magic as a theme and circular projections. Some members of my group had a circular projection on the floor last time, so to shake it up a bit, we wanted the projection to by on the ceiling. And thus, the idea of the magical sky creatures was born: Creatures that escaped into the heavens, and the player, a cloud keeper, has to bring them back.

I had a lot of fun with electronics in my last project, so I wanted to do more of that. And I still had a Touch Board that I never had time to use so far – an Arduino with capacitive sensing, which, among other things, can do this:

Distance capacitive sensing! (photo taken from the Touch Board kickstarter campaign)

It worked quite well for very low ranges (<4cm), which was suitable for our purposes. At first we tried to make one crystal which players can touch from multiple directions, but players used to swirl their hands around it like it was a crystal ball and that didn’t make for very predictable controls. In the end, we settled for 5 cardboard crystals, each with only one function and aluminium foil inside. The capacitive sensing actually worked really well through the cardboard! Some crystals controlled movement, and the closer you got to them, the faster the movement got. (And not being able to see why cardboard can sense how close you get to it added a fun technological-magical aspect to the whole thing.)

Apart from that, we also wanted to have generative creatures – kind of like my Chimera Maker, but this time I also got to procedurally animate the creatures! Kailin Zhu drew them and created the crystals you see in the video and pictures below, Titouan Millet made beautiful generative cloud shaders and Peter van Haaften generative music and sounds.

Oh, and I also made the creature nest, a separate executable which showed the creatures flying away from and returning to earth, seen in the video on the monitor. It communicates with the main game via a server using the Yahoo Games Network (formerly PlayerIO). I tried to make it work with standard Unity peer-to-peer networking, but the University network didn’t like direct connections at all.

Finally, all this generativeness combined resulted in:

Cloud-Keeper-Icon

Magical creatures have escaped into the heavens,
and the player must sift through layers of clouds
to bring them back to the earth.

Using a set of five crystal touch/distance-sensing controllers,
the player wanders through a generative audio/visual cloud world
to catch these lost mythical beings and return them to their home.

CloudKeeper (Critical Hit 2015)

Credits:

  • Titouan Millet – Programming and generative visuals
  • Kailin Zhu – Craft and illustration
  • Tobias Wehrum – Programming, electronics, and generative creature engine/animation
  • Peter van Haaften – Generative music and sound engine

The video footage was recorded by Mattias Graham and Tobias Wehrum.

This project was made possible through the Technoculture, Art and Games Research Center’s Critical Hit: Games Collaboratory and the support of Concordia University and Dawson College and financial contribution of the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie.

KinectMagic – A Kinect Wizard Duel Game Prototype

In my studies at the HTW Berlin, I had a course called “Independent Coursework” where I could choose to work on any project relevant to my studies. I chose to work on a Kinect multiplayer game which should also be interesting to watch. Most important to me was that the game uses what the Kinect does best in my opinion: Spacial movement. I didn’t want any repetitive gestures, just a direct relationship between the players and their avatars. So, together with my fellow student Jana Leinweber I set out and developed, and a few months and a dozen iterations later we had this:

KinectMagic

Create spells! Attack! Defend! Dodge!

Tactical spellcasting meets fast reflexes in this
duel game for two wizards and a Kinect v1.

Download for Windows

KinectMagic – A Kinect Wizard Duel Game Prototype

Master’s Thesis: Evaluating the Advantages of Physical and Digital Elements in Hybrid Tabletop Games

Preface

A few weeks ago, I finished my studies at the HTW Berlin in International Media and Computing with the defense following my master’s thesis. I thought that its content might be interesting to others on the internet too, but I understand that not everyone wants to read 100+ pages. For that reason, I am now writing this “too long; didn’t read” summary. It is also a lot more informally written. If you like what you read, you are quite welcome to read the longer version too! Here are the links:

Master’s Thesis

Source Code (open source, MIT license), Screenshots, Photos, Videos etc.

You can also read this summary as a PDF, but you would miss out on the videos.

Electric Finger Jousting – A MaKey MaKey Game

At the November Mini Game Jam (for which we had over 100 participants, wow!) I made my first experiments ever with the MaKey MaKey, an Arduino-based kit that measures when a circuit is closed – even through very high resistance like a chain of people holding hands. My game is less about hand-holding though, and more about poking your opponent’s hand with a pen-lance. Enter Electric Finger Jousting!

electric-finger-jousting-title

Take your pen-lance! Get ready, and… fight!
Poke the other player before they poke you!

But beware, don’t touch them before
you hear “fight”, or it’ll be a foul…

Electric Finger Jousting

Electric Finger Jousting Berlin Mini Jam Game

It’s not all fun and sunshine though: The game is a rather repetitive. I hoped to get a fencing kind of game, but it is really hard to balance the distance so it’s neither too easy to hit nor unreachable. Moving while touching the copper wire (which ensures that the right distance is being kept) isn’t easy, so you aren’t very flexible. That leads to very short distance jabs that are nearly impossible to react to and each round was pretty short. Despite that, fun was definitely had while developing and playtesting!

PS: When you do something like this, have water nearby to regularly dip everything into which will make circuit contact for a very short time. Water improves the conductivity so much.

Credits:

An EyeTracker Perspective Experiment

A month ago at the last Berlin Mini Game Jam, I set out to experiment and get acquainted with the Tobii EyeX which can track where your eyes are – and more importantly, where exactly you look on the screen. The obvious thing would be to use that gaze tracking, but out of ideas and inspired by Amazon Fire Dynamic Perspective, I tried to use the actual eye tracking to make the monitor behave like a window into a real-life scene.

An EyeTracker Perspective Experiment

EyeTracker Perspective Experiment

Download for Windows!

My goal was to create the illusion of actual 3D, but maybe due to my scene not being very exciting that turned out rather boring. It looked a bit more interesting once I dropped the “real-life window” idea and made it more a “choose your perspective with head movement” control by exaggerating the movement. By then, I had only half an hour left and no gameplay, so I did the obvious: I added polka and bouncing balls that shoot where you look! Maybe it could have been an interesting horror game with good assets and actual gameplay – although for an immersive perspective horror game, I would probably rather use an Oculus Rift.

And man, it’s hard to come up with good ideas for this device. While eye tracking is widely established for user testing, it’s rather new when it comes to being used in games themselves. I certainly don’t make it easier for myself with my rules for experiments with new technology:

  1. The new technology must be used for a part of the core gameplay.
  2. The benefits (e.g. immersion, precision, ease of use, unique aspects) of using the new technology over traditional technology must outweigh the disadvantages for the intended purpose.

Eye trackers seems to be more suited for passive or highly situative supporting roles – targeting, for example, seems to be easier and more precisely done with a joystick or a mouse for most purposes. But by now, I have a really cool idea that I want to experiment with next time. Can’t wait until I get a new laptop with USB3 so I can try my hand at eye tracking again!

Credits:

Hungry Crocodile: An experiment with webcam/marker-based interfaces

For the July Berlin Mini Jam, I experimented with the input interface. Turns out a cardboard contraption with fiducial markers and Unity3D + NyARToolkit on the software side makes for a fun crocodile maw control system! I didn’t finish the game (you can’t win or lose, you can’t even score), so I declared it a story-focused artgame. That’s how it works, right?

Hungry Crocodile

The crocodile is hungry and wants to eat,
but despite all the food, it can’t!

Because of explosions.

Moral of the story:
Explosions make everything better.

Play in your browser!

Download for Windows!

You’ll need these two markers: Hiro and WD (taken from here).
You’ll also need cardboard to build the maw.

(If you’re wondering why I didn’t use the standard Hiro & Kanji markers –
I just took what was lying around from earlier experiments.)

Despite being unfinished, it was a lot of fun to present:

Hungry Crocodile: An experiment with webcam/marker-based interfaces

Here’s a more detailed look at the cardboard maw:

Fiducial markers to find the positions of the upper/lower jars.
Nom nom!

Credits:

Robots Love To Do People Things

Last jam, I started something I called “Remote Person Control“. This jam, I refined what I had back then:

  • The Player holds a tablet with a soundboard, showing buttons like “Left”, “Right” or “Grab”.
  • The Robot is blindfolded and has a smartphone with headphones – and when the player presses a button, the robot hears what he pressed.

It’s still no game, but a VERY fun toy! I recorded three videos to show what the current prototype can do:

Robots Love To Make Sandwiches

Robots Love To Draw Pictures

Robots Love To Play Board Games

For those interested, here is the complete soundboard:

And here are the voice samples for you to listen to! I love the last one.

Inspiration

While I like to think that I came up with the idea myself, I obviously had inspirations. Here are those I can remember:

  • Signal Delay by ChrisGaudino: A Ludum Dare prototype about remotely controlling a mars rover.
  • Octodad by Young Horses, Inc: Octodad – Loving Father. Caring Husband. Secret Octopus. A game where you pretend to be a human by doing mundane tasks, but being an octopus with an incredible awkward control scheme makes this quite hard and incredibly funny.

Credits

Thanks a lot to our artist and the robots in the videos! Our sandwich-making robot is Adam “PunyOne” Streck. If he isn’t making sandwiches, he’s making games – you can find some of them at http://justaconcept.org!

Remote Person Control (First Jam Prototype)

(You might also be interested in the second prototype version of this: Robots Love To Do People Things.)

The October Berlin Mini Jam was crazy enough – we had a triple splitscreen with blinds made out of cardboard and and a MakeyMakey game using fruits and vegetables as controllers. (“And to shoot, you just touch the plum.”)

Fueled by this energy, I made this toy prototype for the theme “Lab Experiment”:

Remote Person Control

Remote Person Control (First Jam Version)

One person gets a computer and
a gamepad: The Controller.

One person gets a smartphone, earphones
and closes their eyes: The Robot.

The Controller can now steer the Robot
with transmitted voice commands:
“Left, left, stop, forward, forward…”

Like I say in the video, it’s not finished. It is just a toy right now – I ran out of time to make it a game. I’m thinking about adding commands like “Move your body” and “Move your right hand” so you can actually steer the Robot’s hands too – and then have a command like “grab” to pick up stuff, for example.

The prototype was already a fun experience even with just simple directional controls though. It feels really interesting to use a gamepad to control something in real life (and a human on top of it) instead of something on the screen!

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

While working with Unity is normally a pleasure and developing Android has proven to be far more straightforward than other mobile platforms, this time I just got terribly unlucky. Here is how I spent my time:

Closing Words

And now, a screenshot from the video, so that Facebook etcetera knows which image to use:

Who knows where exactly I’ll take this? Certainly not me, although I have some ideas. Maybe the next jam will be the time to find out!

Zombie Planet, A Game Prototype For The Leap Motion

For the Human-Computer Interaction course at my university we had to do a 3d interface prototype. My team decided to make a game with the Leap Motion. And thus, Zombie Planet was born in about 3 weeks: A game that you control directly with your fingers.

Zombie Planet

Zombie Planet, A Game Prototype For The Leap Motion

Use your fingers to strike the zombies
with lightning and throw asteroids at them!

Defend your world against the invading
undead and save your people!

Download for Windows

Screenshots

Credits

Made with Unity 3D.

Massive Defense: A Cooperative Game for 27″ Touchscreens and Android Tablets

Game Jam time! And when I saw Heiko with this beauty of a touchscreen, I knew that I had develop for this. We wanted to do something where players can cooperate against a common thread. 8 hours later, we had this:

Massive Defense

An asteroid storm threatens your mission,
but your trusty spaceships stand ready.

Defend your home base!
Defend your friends!

Try to survive as long as possible in this
cooperative asteroid defense game for 4 players.

Exclusively for 27″ touchscreens!
(Or alternatively for 4 XBox360 gamepads.)

Download:

Windows (Gamepad Version)
Windows (Touchscreen Version)
Android

Video

While it’s certainly possible to play on a tinier touchscreen, playing it on 27″ was a lot of fun! Here’s a video of us playing it at the jam:

Massive Defense: A Cooperative Game for 27″ Touchscreens and Android Tablets

Credits

Programming:

Art:

Sound Design:

Music:

Fonts: