For my final project, I decided to use Unity 3D. I only had a little more than a week to create a game in a programming environment that I have never used before, so I had to figure out how to create a game (that I wasn’t ashamed of) using what Unity provides readily: a Physics engine.
I wanted to put into practice some of the things that I have learned from playing the games that I talked about in LookingOutwards09, particularly meaning in mechanics, and thought-provoking surprise. Admittingly, the game is hard for people who are inexperienced in navigating in first-person, and sometimes it’s unbeatable because the pseudo-randomly placed cubes fly off when they spawn inside each other. Aside from those issues, I think this project was a success, considering my time constraints. I learned a lot about lighting, camera effects, player-controlling, physics, materials, and more, in just the span of a week. I’m excited to keep working with Unity.
Instructions are in the ReadMe, if you want to give it a shot. It looks much nicer real time.
I’ve talked about Bound and Journey already in another LookingOutwards, and although the final project that I created is inspired by it in spades, I’ll take this moment to talk about a few other games that really influenced me and my decisions.
First is AntiChamber. I think the above video was purposely designed to confuse you, which is fitting, because the game was designed to confuse you anyways. There is a mastery of the psychological meaning of the game’s mechanics, and with it, an incredible revelation that most players go through at some point: the greatest obstacle you’ll ever face in this game is yourself.
Next up are Stanley Parable, and The Beginner’s Guide.
The big difference about these two games compared to the previous ones I mentioned is that dialogue (monologue?) is the biggest thing that drives player progression. The games/levels are designed to catch the player off-guard, and the narrators try to make players think over what they’re seeing/doing.
My goal for this project (but hopefully better accomplished in future projects) is to tap into the power of surprise and introspection, things that all of the aforementioned games do masterfully.
sn34kb0t starts sneaking every time someone in the area posts a tweet. It traverses stealthily over flat terrain using two dc motors and 2 servos, and communicates with ifttt.com through a cloudbit.
At first, the concept we were going for was to create a terminally depressed robot that would disconnect itself from its power source after seeing lots of negative tweets (via ifttt.com and cloudbit). Although this was a very viable direction that we could have kept going with, we decided that littleBits weren’t the right medium for the message (too many lights, spotty connection, poor movement options, etc.).
It has to be a game. I don’t care whether or not I create assets for it, it just has to be a game. I understand that it is a short project, so the message I design it to convey will be similarly short. I would prefer it to be 3D (looking forward to learning Unity/Openframeworks). For an idea of my scope (but I intend to do much less): http://store.steampowered.com/app/387860/
(^ this game is short and free by the way, I hope you’ll give it a try)
In the past, I always felt a little helpless knowing that I really only had enough skill to recreate Super Mario, but I’ve gained skill and hope from taking this class, and I feel like I’m ready to try making games again.
2. The Critical Engineer raises awareness that with each technological advance our techno-political literacy is challenged.
This tenet of the manifesto is interesting to me because I have seen its effects in action. The stereotype of the computer-illiterate parent/grandparent is based on this. The huge, sweeping adoption and evolution of computers left generations of individuals, born and raised during technologically simpler times, in the dust. Then came phones and social media, and warnings of becoming slaves to the instruments. This trend isn’t just limited to electronic inventions, however. The first time the printing press was adopted, it was violently opposed because of how it would “create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories,” or something like that. Even further back, writing was treated the same way. Whatever the next step may be, be it AR or AI, I’m ready to hear all about the moral and social outcries.
Partly inspired by Unnamed SoundSculpture by Daniel Franke & Cedric Kiefer, I made a mo-cap marble-party-man. The bone ends of the motion captured body spews out marbles of assorted colors (size and darkness depending on Z position). I wish I worked with Lumar since Lumar was able to figure out how to calculate the Kinetic Energy of every motion captured point, which could determine how the marbles are spawned (for example, you could stand still but fling marbles with your arm, while other marbles just drop to the floor). I also could not do collision detection (unlike what I saw in Unnamed SoundSculpture) because the process would be incredibly slow to render, however I recognize that that is a route that I could have taken.
AI is a big topic nowadays, but sometimes I like to take a step back from super-intelligence and instead look at the progress being made in endearing robots. I love the idea of people having empathy for robots. I always hear the argument “but it doesn’t have feelings” or “its not like it actually cares”, but at what point does this not hold true? It’s practically the same discussion about an AI’s capacity for emotion. Pinokio, by Adam Ben-Dror, is one of those projects that pushes this discussion just a little bit further. It isn’t groundbreaking but I find it endearing nonetheless.
When I think of the power of information visualization, I think about how it can be used as a way to show data in a convincing way to force people to rethink what they thought they knew. I’m not really interested in seeing the latest stock projections, or pro-baseball player stats updates, or Citi-bike riding statistics. These sorts of visualization have their own merits and uses, but I’m interested in seeing information about infrastructures, politics, philosophy, and everything that people take for granted. Choosing an artist/designer to talk about here is a little bit challenging for a couple reasons.
I’m not sure if I should be looking for aesthetically and compositionally impressive charts or for meaningful (that’s subjective ofc) information. Maral Pourkazemi does both well … I think … probably…
In his piece, 9-Questions, Maral Pourkazemi created 9 statements, all of which really got me thinking. What answer would I pick? What answer did others pick? Does that data even matter? It is very interesting to me how he is able to accomplish what I said earlier about “forcing people to rethink what they thought they knew” without visualizing any data at all.
I like his other work too, aesthetically, but 9-Questions is the sort of stuff that gets me going.
I first considered writing about the catholic mom twitter bot at first because of its ability to incite and continue a heated argument without even having an actual sense of reason (I’d love to see an Atheist version), but I decided to talk about @thricedotted’s soft-spoken twitter bot: *.
In my art, I always try to achieve a certain kind of mood. That could vary depending on the art piece, but there always need to be some direction that I try to push people towards thinking about. @thricedotted’s twitter bot isn’t quite poetry, but it’s more than just random quips. The bot constructs these short sentences in a way that directs our imagination into a certain realm of thought.
I totaled the amount of time spent on a bike that launched from a certain station and sorted them from least to most. This could happen because people from that station need to get to a far-away place, or because there is just a large quantity of bikes launched from that station.
The station IDs are scrunched on the X axis and the Y axis makes no sense. We love you D3.
Ok, I would have posted a link to github but it seems like I did not save the processing code part. All I did was add into a dictionary the station number key if it was not already in the dict, but if it was, I added the duration that that bike had to that key. Then I sorted them by least to most and println()ed.
Inspired by The Tower of Babel, I decided to make a stream of letters, some more legible than others, that make out a poem of sorts that I wrote. Can this really mean anything, since the legible letters are still part of this incoherent stream? Can you actually know what this poem means?
P.S. I’ve had bad run-ins with making books, especially with inDesign and Adobe products in general. This project was really taxing and I ended up not making a physical book because it was too expensive.
I’ll be honest, faces aren’t my thing and I tend to obscure them in my art, so coming up with feasible ideas for this project took some time. I had a revelatory moment when I started banging my head on the wall out of frustration: I’ll make a head-banging simulator!
Sunder the glass pane with the repeated bashing of your face, and keep doing it until you get your frustrations out. It works fine if I’m a sphere in a vacuum.
Nitzu (Nitzan Bartov) said something very revelatory (at least to me) during the speed presentations, something along the lines: “In the future, everybody is going to be playing games. If you aren’t playing them right now, it’s because the games you want to play haven’t been made yet. What kind of game do you want to play?”
For a while now, I’ve settled for the idea that not all people play, want to play, or appreciate games, and that’s ok. But now that I think about it, I only thought that way because the way games were going then was mainly formalist games. You really ever only had three flavors on the market: competitive, story-based, and arcade games. Games are reaching more people now than ever before, not only because of technology and accessibility but also because new kinds of games are being made. “What kind of game do you want to play?”
Nitzu wanted to play a Soap Opera VR game, so she made The Artificial and the Intelligent. It’s hilarious, but also thought-provoking, and also a soap opera. I wish I could find videos of another one of her games: Horizon, but what The Artificial and the Intelligent proved to me was that games are for everyone, they just don’t know it yet.
I made this animation to create some pdfs for the plotter to plot. Unfortunately, they look more like this when translated to pdf: output. Although it looks different from the intended product, I still think this was a success. I wanted to make a waterfall of cubes and that is exactly what happened. I didn’t know about the fact that the pdf export of 3D things can’t take into account things that the viewer shouldn’t be able to see (like the cubes behind the ones in the foreground), which is something I will keep in mind for future plotter projects.
Here are the processing files for both transparent and non-transparent cube animations:
As cool as these sorts of interactive public pieces are, I personally am not interested in them. I don’t feel compelled to make interactive walls/projections (ex. top right pic), or real-world games (ex. Heather Kelly). If I become more accomplished as coder in the future, I find myself making interactive art on the screen, or on a VR headset (not that I think anything else isn’t worthwhile, it’s just that they don’t compel me).
I’m sure we all know the wonders of art on the computer screen, so let me talk about my interest in VR instead. Outside of games, I don’t know many VR projects that I follow (maybe because Google is algorithmically feeding me VR games instead of VR experiences because it knows I like games) but I still remember some of the projects Golan showed in class, like Poop VR. Being able to be transported to a completely different world is amazing. It’s the future. VR can provide social interactions, narrative devices, and personal investment that other mediums can’t accomplish as well.
Lauren McCarthy’s comment about having visual variation and a focal point are really important things that I missed while composing this clock! I have to always remember that no matter what I’m making, composition is very important. Tega Brain brought up ways I could have made my “clock” actually keep track of the time of day. If I redo this project, I think I want to try to use lighting to my advantage (I didn’t use lights, even though this is in P3D) and also figure out how to make my own waves so that I can control how often they appear (somebody suggested using sine waves with perlin noise as the offset, not the actual waves. Sounds plausible). I also think the comments about inconsistent art style are important.
This is, unfortunately, not the plan I had in mind. I want to learn 3D coding so badly but as of now I can’t figure it out on my own. The original plan was to have a cube drop into a “liquid” and have it disappear in a ripple. I really do like how this animation came out though. It was a bit of an accident while experimenting with ortho() camera settings in WEBGL, but then I refined it into this. Since this was spontaneous, I never made sketches for it. As for critiquing, it isn’t very complex, code-wise, and I could probably do more with the cube movement. I really want to learn how to make fluids and objects and physics work. It calls to me, but I can’t answer.
The lines are kind of arranged in a square grid system
More lines than random are either horizontal or vertical (varies per generated piece but consistent within each)
Line angles are random, except for ones stated in #2
Interruptions occur in patches, random in size
Question 1A: I think Bound rests neatly near the center of the effective complexity curve. Although a lot of elements in the environment seem disorganized and random, they slowly reassemble as the protagonist approaches. The ground ripples and the cubic waves crest and fall, but everything disorderly has some algorithmic reason for it.
Question 1B: The Problem of Meaning – Let’s be real, this is a debate everywhere there is art, no matter what it is or how it was made. Meaning can exist, or it might not. Meaning could be in the eye of the beholder, or it could be in the mind of the creator. Maybe that meaning is expressed well, and both parties understand it. Maybe it isn’t, or it’s ambiguous enough to have many interpretations. Suzie Silver would say “It’s not critical”, but in turn, I would say “I don’t care”.
My real favorite generative work so far is Forms by Quayola and Memo Akten, but since we looked at that in class, I’ll talk about another artist that I was impressed by instead: Markos Kay. I really like his work Insect Traps (2010), where he supposedly pits an insect and a bunch of microscopic things in mortal combat…? Regardless of what’s actually happening, the work generates really beautiful prints and raises odd questions. The geometric composition (mostly) controls the bounds of where the shapes can fall and bounce, and the insect is trapped inside while it tries to escape the onslaught. That’s as much as I can say about how his code might work, I’m really left guessing about how he handled lighting and colors and irregular physics and what-not (how do I do gaussian blur??).
Markos Kay is still able to show his artistic personality in his algorithms, however. He often creates these kinetic animations that have weird, organic motion, usually trying to emulate microscopic organisms. The chaos in this piece is from the microbial debris that is falling all over the place, sometimes even tumbling out of the box they’re contained in, but otherwise, the microbes are bound by this box, along with the insect. The box provides a reliable geometric composition that contrasts interestingly with the chaos going on inside. The effective complexity of this piece comes from this balance.
That Game Company’s website: http://thatgamecompany.com/games/journey/
This is Journey, a game developed by That Game Company in 2012. They had a crew of 19 people and used PhyreEngine (and had inspiration from games like Braid). This is THE gaming experience of this decade, a story that I will never forget! Journey tells it’s narrative wordlessly, and its game mechanics aren’t particularly challenging. You won’t ever find yourself stuck on a puzzle, but Journey isn’t really a game about solving things. Journey is about finding your way up a mountain towards a light while being guided by another player who has already done the pilgrimage. This game tells a story that the player gives meaning in their own way, touching the soul in a way that only games can.
Journey excites me, not only because it is a beautiful game, but because it has made a major impact in the gaming community. It paved the way for more and more abstractionist/First Word games, and my new favorite game to come out this year: Bound, has clear inspiration from Journey. I feel like the path towards becoming a better person starts with understanding yourself, and these sorts of games are incredibly helpful at that.
I didn’t really feel like using numbers or abstract representations of numbers, so I needed something cyclical. Since I liked the ocean, I decided to try to learn how to make a basic one out of shapes. Every 8 seconds it heaves up and down, and every millisecond a raindrop is made, and every minute, a cloud passes. I, unfortunately, couldn’t smoothly alter the Perlin Noise map so I couldn’t do the original plan of generating a wave every second. I’m sure there’s a way but I shifted gears instead (my only regret), but overall I achieved my goal of creating a calming, cyclical, generated animation.
Nicky Case is an artist that chose video games as a medium. In their own words: “They make interactive explanations, to help people understand the world, and interactive stories, to help people understand themselves.” Nicky Case created “Coming Out Simulator”, a short game, or virtual social experience, which tackled hard themes like public sexuality, religion, and mental illness.
Case impressed me on many levels, one way was in his understanding of the strengths of video games as a medium, which he explained during an interview about “Coming Out Simulator”: “One thing I do think games are particularly better at is getting across the sense of decision. Like, a heavy decision, a choice. Games are probably the best-suited medium for that. Like, the way text is best-suited for getting across abstract ideas; … You can get players to actually feel the weight of their decision-making.”
After Coming Out Simulator, they made “Parable of the Polygons” and “How a Terrorist is Made”. They asked themselves: “One: why do normal people do bad things, two: how can we make the world better, and three: where can a single person fit in all of this.” In all of these works, these incredibly complex problems involving social interaction, and social grouping/flocking/schisms were quickly dissolved with simple but eye-opening gamey interactive animations.
Nicky Case accomplished something that I often struggle with: making their audience, their players, understand and empathise with a complex issue or emotion through decisions and gameplay.
Coming Out Simulator: https://ncase.itch.io/coming-out-simulator-2014
First Word / Last Word is a very elegant way of describing one of the biggest divides in the art community, but it is also comparable to, or directly related, to the schism forming in the latest developing art medium: video games. First Word and Last Word games are more often described as Abstract and Formalist, respectively. Most of video game history is dominated by formalist games, games that adhere to expectations from its related genre, but there has been an increasing amount of abstract games coming to popular attention. Now there is a lot of controversy over how video games should be defined.
A formalist definition of video games would provide clear boundaries for what could be a video game, but such boundaries would restrict creative deviations. On the contrary, a loose abstractionist video game definition could make the title meaningless. If anything could count as a game, then nothing is a game.
Whenever I encounter this First Word/ Last Word argmument, I always try to explain that both forms of art build on each other. Abstractionists spur and inspire Formalists, and Formalists provide boundaries for Abstractionists to break. I have learned a lot about myself through video games, and I want the medium to go places where it hasn’t been and to accomplish what hasn’t before and become a medium that teaches us about life in ways that other mediums cannot. That will rely on the community’s and video game developers’ understanding of what a video game truly is.