Category Archives: Technical

Sunday Celebration: Charge Yourself!

Games can be divided by verisimilitude into these categories (1):

Level 3 solved

Electric Box uses animated icons to illustrate the law of conservation of energy which states that any form of energy can be transformed into another form. You can transform electricity to light, steam, wind, laser, or stream of water, and then transform that to back to electricity. The gameplay is like in the TIM – you have to lay out the things from inventor to a gridded field so that the energy from the source of electricity reaches the target.

The main strategy for playing could be finding pairs of things which use the same material for the energy transformations to electricity (for example, a lamp uses electricity when shining and then solar energy generator creates the electricity) and laying them at electricity cables supporting correct directions (for example, water drops down, steam goes up. wind blows horizontally, and light spread in four directions).

Animation and several moving objects like a conveyer, a magnet, and fan make this puzzle game look dynamic. Nevertheless, it would be absolutely possible to play this game on a gridded cardboard using cards with symbols. Probably, the prototype was created like that.

I completed almost all game, but got stuck in the last level and, in addition, I found a bug there where a convey carrying objects goes through some other objects in a strange specific case.

Bug in level 15

The creators foresaw that 15 prepared levels will be too few and made it possible for players to create levels themselves. You can try some custom levels of other players or my own masterpiece (copy the code and paste into the input field which will apear when you click on the link “Enter Code”):

Creating custom levels

Once I told to myself that if I have a house somewhen in the future, it will certainly use renewable energy from the sun, wind, stream or surf of water. Electric Box reminds me that dream.


(1) According to the book “Half-real” by Jesper Juul.

Sunday Celebration: Play to Play

Today I try to catch your attention to parkour. WTF? Parkour! That is an urban sport of running and jumping created by some French. Check this video to see what it is:

You’ll be able to run on roofs, jump, swing, go hand on open cornices, slide under obstacles, jump from one wall to the other, run on walls, and do other tricks as a real parkour master in the game Mirror’s Edge 2D.

Running

Doesn’t that remind you anything? Yup! This game was created by the same Brad Borne, who did the Fancy Pants Adventures: World 2 showed here last week. The gameplay of Mirror’s Edge 2D is almost the same. The same physics engine is used, just pretty tweaked. Just another graphics, another style, and another animation is integrated. The presentation is closer to reality.

Swinging

Games researcher Jesper Juul wrote in his book “Half-Real“:

From a rules perspective, the most crucial role of fiction is to cue the player into understanding the rules, and this easily leads us to assumption that games are themable, that the representation and fiction of any game can simply be replaced with something else. Since an attractive feature of games is the way they challenge their players, games do not need an interesting fictional world or any fictional world to be considered interesting, but this does not mean that fiction is irrelevant for player experience or game quality.

Collecting evidences

The business model of the game is also interesting. The three-level Flash-based Mirror’s Edge 2D is a promo of a much more complex and expensive Mirror’s Edge. I haven’t seen such a business model before.

Sliding under obstacles

At the same time, Mirror’s Edge 2D extends the fictional world of Mirror’s Edge, as Animatrix extends the Matrix trilogy.

Running on walls

For replayability, it is optionally suggested to collect different elements spread over the space. They are folders with discrediting information, suitcases, and logos of the game. Also it is possible to compete with other players by the time of game completing. At some point it will be even possible to win a laptop!

Going hand

That’s it. I recommend you to play it. And now I go to listen to street music. Maybe I’ll even play some.

Sunday Celebration: Power in the Pants

If the stickman had no colorful pants, he wouldn’t probably be able to run as fast as Sonic and jump from wall to wall as the bunny from Tiny Toon. This Sunday, I suggest you a funny game Fancy Pants Adventure: World 2 with all the functions an active side-scroller has ever needed.

FPA World 2: Logo

The game with FancyPants has no exclusive graphics. The proportions of characters are far away from reality (i.e. bees are bigger than mayor of the Squiggleville). The story of the game is ridiculous (FancyPants goes to the angry rabbit to get his ice-cream back). Also the view lags from time to time. But there are a few things that are done totally cool. They are consistent motion animation, sounds, and game physics engine.

FPA World 2: running under momentum

The guy can run so fast that he doesn’t fall when running in a loop upside-down. The hero can fall on his back and slide under all obstacles. It’s no problem for him to hang on rocks or get through a strained rope using hands as for the Prince of Persia. If necessary, FancyPants will jump on the walls as Jacky Chan or will kick snail shells and cowered spiders not worse than Beckhem. If I only had such pants…

FPA World 2: hanging on rocks

But that cannot be true. The game creator Brad Borne says in his website:

Yep, that’s right, all the physics in my games are faked. That’s probably why they’ll glitch out if you push them too hard, but a ‘realistic’ physics engine won’t make a game good, in fact, unless it’s one of those two-wheeled-vehicle-2d-platforming games, a realistic physics engine will probably take most of the life out of your game.

FPA World 2: flying on bees

You’ll complete the game for the first time just to see how it finished. You’ll do that second time to execute the additional tasks. There are hideouts and trophies to collect in the game. Also you’ll find a snail in each level which you can kick to a special hole to get new pants of some color. All achievements are registered in cookies, so you don’t have to register. You can come back anytime and play again.

FPA World 2: jumping from wall to wall

Go, but don’t forget that it’s Monday tomorrow.


P.S. Don’t hesitate to vote in the new poll.

Sunday Celebration: Puzzled Out

Usually while playing we are used either to impersonate the characters and control them till the end of the game, or to solve some impersonal puzzles which get more difficult in time, and everything what you learn in the beginning is used later. This time I will show you a game consisting of about 20 mini puzzles which are almost not related to each other. That’s ClickPLAY!.

ClickPLAY! Obstacle Course

You have to do some task in each level in order to find a button “Play” and to click on it. You control everything just by mouse. You need either to click or drag some objects. By the first clicks you try everything how it works. Then you realize the task (or not). Then you try to solve the problem. That’s like an IQ test, but with funny animation.

ClickPLAY! Bowling Ball Bash

The game trains your observation, reaction, logical thinking, and memory. Sometimes some special knowledge is required. For example, you’ll need to sort four kinds of spices in one of the levels. If you are no expert of English folklore, you’ll probably won’t guess that the names of the spices are words from a song. Try to google.

ClickPLAY! Mega Squeal

Every mouse click is counted. The less you do that, the better. Players done less than some amounts of clicks, get golden, silver, or bronze cups. Also they are suggested a form by the third-party MochiAds to log the amount of clicks. The leadership board is integrated with facebook. The login to facebook happens through facebook.com, then MochiAds gets some specific token by which it can recognize the logged in user, using facebook API (so there is no fear that your password is stolen). Then you can compare your results with the results of your friends. The counting of points induce replay and aiming for better achievements.

ClickPLAY! Facebook Integration via MochiAds

Try it.

Sunday Celebration: Let the Castle Not to Be

“Yes!” – I shouted when a metal joist cut the head of a princess. Finally, I completed the last level. The birds are singing. The grasshoppers are chirping. That’s romantics.

Sound castle

If you are lazy to press keys on the keyboard this weekend, “Crush the Castle” will be the perfect choice for you. The game is controlled by the left mouse button or a space key. You can eat chips using one hand and attack castles by catapult using the other one. You don’t even need to move the mouse unless you decide to change the thrown stones.

Catapult

I totally don’t support wars and aggression, but “Crush the Castle” is no more cruel than chess. Just it is not strategic, but physics-based. One or three stones are thrown by some direction to a castle depending on a chosen moment. The castle itself is nothing else than a framework built out of three types of bricks. The wooden joists are easiest to throw down, stone-based ones are heavier, and the metal joists are the most stable and it’s most difficult to move them.

The game consists of 24 levels. The purpose of each of them is to throw down all the figures of people in the castle. The completions of levels are saved in the servers of the game by IP or other computer parameters. So the next time you open the game, you can continue playing. When you complete all the levels prepared by the game creators, you can crush the castles of other players. For example, you can copy the following noodle, go to BUILD YOUR OWN -> LOAD, paste, and try to crush my building in one or more shots:

Play here!

Crushed castle

P.S. You can feel your part deeply into the game if you put a photo of Kernavė on your desktop.

P.P.S. The sound track fits for afterdinner nap.

Sunday Celebration: Scarygirl

If you feel emptiness in your imagination and are hungry for inspiration, you should certainly try playing Scarygirl tonight before sleep. Lively and vivid psychedelic world of Scarygirl carries you to an alternative reality with its own truths and rules like in a lucid dream. But when you look deeper, you’ll notice that you are experiencing the reflection of the world we live in.

Scarygirl’s Tree House

The game was programmed by the company “Touch My Pixel” whereas the characters of Scarygirl and her world were created by an illustrator and a designer of collectible souvenir toys Nathan Jurevicius from Australia. He was also the art director while developing the game. I’ve memorized his Lithuanian name since Pictopia festival. Being curious I contacted him to ask some questions about the game and his Baltic heritage.

Archatas: I noticed your name among the participants in Pictopia Festival in Berlin. Were you visiting the festival?

Nathan: I spoke at the previous festival in Berlin and was invited back to speak at the most recent Pictopia but had to pull out due to last minute issues. I very much enjoyed the time I spent there a couple of years ago.

Archatas: You presented animation for Canadian MTV called MTV Fauna there. Are there any links on the web where visitors of my blog could watch that?

Nathan: Please go to mtv.ca/fauna. You can also see a few of them on Youtube. You can also purchase the figures.

Archatas: How come your name is Lithuanian although you yourself are from Australia?

Nathan: My father is Lithuanian and his parents were Latvian and Lithuanian (but my father only speaks Latvian). Unfortunately I can only speak English.

Archatas: How did you start your interesting work with character design, vinyl toys, and animation?

Nathan: I graduated from University in 1995 and went straight into freelance illustration. I was mainly an editorial illustrator for books and magazines. I was lucky enough to get into multimedia after winning a design competition and started producing mini games and tiny animated flash spots (but I don’t do any animation now). About 8 years ago I was contacted by a Hong Kong design firm and asked if I wanted to design toys with them – it was all very quick and exciting.

Archatas: So how old are you now?

Nathan: I just turned 36.

Archatas: What inspired you? I see some East Asian influence in your works. Is it Manga?

Nathan: I’m very inspired by travel, my kids, Lithuanian/Latvian folklore, museums.

Archatas: Have you been in Lithuania or Latvia yourself?

Nathan: Unfortunately not. One day I’d like to visit and maybe do a museum show or something big.

Archatas: Do you have a blog?

Nathan: No – currently I’m redesigning my personal site though my www.scarygirl.com site keeps me busy.

Forest

Archatas: I tried the game recently. And it looks wonderful. At the first sight, Scarygirl looks like an easy game for small kids. But some parts of it are really difficult to manage. I got stuck at the sixth level at jumping on mushrooms. Have you completed (playing) the game yourself?

Nathan: It’s meant to be a simple game in the sense of the structure but it gets more challenging as the game continues. It’s for all ages. I have completed it a few times but it took a long while!

Archatas: How old is Scarygirl as a project/brand? How long did it take to create the game?

Nathan: The concept goes back to 2000 with the brand first emerging on a small scale in 2001. It really took off in about 2003. The game took about 1 and half years part time to make (I was the only illustrator and there were just 2 programmers, one animator and a producer to keep us all in check).

Archatas: Do you create both 2D and 3D works, or are there some technical drawers in your team who create 3D models out of hand-drawn characters?

Nathan: I just do 2D work but design a lot of characters to work in 3D by creating the turnarounds for the 3D modelers.

City folk

Archatas: I’ve heard there is an illustrated novel about Scarygirl. Will the book also be published in Lithuanian?

Nathan: There will be a graphic novel released in October 2009 (over 100 pages). It’s all wordless except for an interview in the middle of the book. I’m sure it will get to Lithuania. The Australia publisher is Allen and Unwin.

Archatas: What video games did you play when you were a child? Do you still like gaming? What’s your favorite genre?

Nathan: When I was really young the only games we had were Pong. But as I got older I enjoyed playing Mario Bros. I enjoying gaming a lot but don’t have a lot of time. I own a copy of Fallout 3 and have just bought Little Big Planet which I’m really loving. I suppose I like games where there’s a lot to investigate like Warcraft – but I’m also a fan of platformers.

Archatas: What software do you use? Do you draw on paper at first and then scan it, or do you use a computer drawing tablets?

Nathan: I always draw on paper first. If I’m doing an art show it’s watercolour, ink and paint but if it’s for multimedia I’ll scan the pencil in and use illustrator and photoshop. I use a mouse for everything!

Scarygirl sketches in pencil

Scarygirl in water-color and ink

Archatas: I’ve read that you are working on a new project called Pelėda. Is it a sequel of Scarygirl or a completely different brand?

Nathan: Actually, Peleda is a series of plastic windup owls I created for a company in the US. I wanted to do something that related back to my fathers culture.

Archatas: Now I remembered. I saw those Peleda figures in “Haus der Kulturen der Welt” and that made me really surprised.

Peleda Owls

Archatas: What I really like is that each of your characters has his/her background story and character features. They are kinda psychological. Do you imagine real people when creating animal characters? There is one character in MTV Fauna called Nathn. Is it somehow related to you? :)

Nathan: Yes, often I create characters with my friends or people I know in mind. All the MTV Fauna characters were named after various people who worked on the project (just jumbled their names). In relation to the Scarygirl characters I see myself as being a bit like Blister (the giant octopus).

Archatas: Thanks for the interview. It was nice to talk to you. I’ll put your novel on my wish list :)

Those who are interested in the process of character creation by Nathan Jurevicius might check the video, I found on Youtube. And those who want to experience varying gameplays, minigames, rich and imaginative graphics, and mysterious music, can play Scarygirl at the official site.

CeBIT 2009: Déjà Vu

Suddenly after one travel, I went with Tomas almost spontaneously to Hannover to look around at “CeBIT” – the fair of information technologies. The technologies didn’t go much further than I saw two years ago. But I took a chance to find how things work.

It was not that amazing to see phlegmatic robots recognizing objects and putting them into boxes as well as others talking with the spectators about the objects. The direction of technologies is clear – robots will help us in daily life some day in the future. A lot of science fiction movies have already shown that as well as different possible drawbacks of robotization. Actually, I don’t expect robots to be used massively in daily life in the next five years, because their current speed is kinda bad joke. Robots associate with Bender.

“T-Mobile” have been surprising me for a while by using multi-touch-screen systems in their stands. Once I saw a long black wall at “IFA” in Berlin, where white texts of different sizes as well as windows with images were flowing from right to left and reacted to the touches of the passers. You could read some advertising texts, watch music videos, or subscribe for newsletters in the windows. Using two fingers, you could move, rotate, zoom-in till one meter diagonal and -out till shrinking and disappearing. This time the multi-touch screen in “CeBIT” was integrated on a table and imitated a lake. Each touch on the screen raised waves and frightened fishes swimming in the illusional water. The zoomable windows with advertising information were floating in the screen too. It was a nice effect perfect for advertising. I hope I’ll see more similar magic in the nearest future. They associate with “Easyweb” projections.

The company “Get Into the Game” let me try a 3D monitor iZ3D viewed through polarized glasses. The effect was the same as in the “3D Max” Cinema in Potsdamer Platz – the characters of a movie or a game as well as all other objects were seen in a space in front and behind the screen plane. The monitor is attached to NVidia or ATI graphic card by two cables. After installing special drivers, any modern game using DirectX might be played in three-dimensional space. The drivers split the camera point of view into two points for each eye. The 3D depth which is the distance from the view for the left eye and for the right eye, can be adjusted in configuration. Incorrect settings not fitting to the distance at which you are sitting from the monitor, makes the effect of flat bas-relief. The linear polarization (thin straight scratches on the glasses and the monitor) ensures that you’ll see horizontally produced view only by one eye whereas the vertically produced view by the other. The price of 3D monitor is about half thousand Euros. Additional glasses might be purchased for a couple of Euros. 3D monitors associate with “Unity” – the tool for game development.

The representatives of “Tobii” told me something about monitors with integrated sight detection system which are still not released for mass production. The similarity of costs was illustrated saying: “If you bought a car, you would spend as much money as for such a monitor”. The system is mostly devoted to disabled people. They could move a mouse just by eyes. Holding sight at a button for a few seconds triggers a pie showing progress which activates the button when completed. You can do some arithmetical calculations, browse the web, send emails, or play simple games using special applications with large buttons. The monitor is calibrated for each user in seconds. During the demonstration of functionality, a half-naked woman is shown to a spectator. In a few seconds the areas where it was watched mostly, are colored on a new layer. You can’t hide anything from computers anymore.. The primitively intuitive controls associate with the “Don’t Click” website.

Finally, here is the filmed material from Hannover:

HalmaStar Screenshots #0001

Liudas induced. I thought a little bit. Just a little. And decided that I need. I need to publish the present progress of the game. When I am rich and famous, I will send a link to my grandchildren by telepathone as a joke so that they knew how everything had started. They’ll say: “Wooow, Grandpa! That’s a greatozer! Haven’t you really got any 4D games those times!?”

So I am producing an online Halma à la Chinese Checkers. Everything looks like this at the moment:

HalmaStar Screenshots #0001 - Madrid

That pink wallpaper is not a design element, but a layout grid and all elements of the page should be aligned to it. The star of the original version of the game is like in this image (the row of the corner of the star consists of four balls), but the star of my game can theoretically be of any size.

HalmaStar Screenshots #0001 - Vatican

The amount of boards will be limited. So:

  • The probability of several people playing at a board will be larger than of two players.
  • The system won’t use too many resources.
  • The player will feel like in an own inner circle.

I am just programming at the moment, but later I will need to integrate some design. I have an idea. Listen! Every board will be in a planet which is called the same as a capital of Europe, and you will see unique elements which identify the capital in the background, i.e.: Brandenburg Gate, Gediminas’ Castle, Eiffel Tower, Thames Gateway Bridge, and others. For example, the boards shown above will be presented as the planets of Madrid and Vatican respectively. The players will have avatars wearing cloths of the same color as their playing pieces. The avatars will stand in different sides of the planet. So the funny logical game will get the feature of identifying yourself as an avatar and also it will spread information about the identity of the city (and also country). I see a perfect medium for in-game advertising in my visions (i.e., posters in the city of the planet, special tees for avatars, or logos integrated into the background of the site).

Look, what prototype I scribbled:

HalmaStar Screenshots #0001 - Graphical design prototype

I haven’t decided yet what is better – photorealism or symbolism. Do you have any ideas? Or would you like to create a professional page layout for the game site? Whereas I myself will devote all my power to the stability of functionality (with and without Javascript), the standards of semantics, the technical implementation of the graphical design, and additional features.

How to Finish

The tips by Juuso Hietalahti how to finish a game as soon as possible, made me feel guilty. I have been developing, finishing, and then reworking a simple online game already for a few years. And I still can’t make an end of it. But then it appears you should only follow 21 points to achieve the target. Damn! Instead of reading such lists, I should rather go programming.. :D

Sunday Celebration: Adventures in the Dark

Neverending Light is probably my first ever-played Flash adventure game of that high quality. It’s short, but worthy of great praise. There is a tour in dark dungeons. Suddenly excursionists are attacked by monsters.

Neverending Light

I like a lot that player’s emotions are manipulated. In the beginning the main character is a part of community in a friendly atmosphere which is created by comic dialogues spiced by intimacy (the game was sound-recorded by 4 professional voice actors). Suddenly the main character is left alone in an unknown place, where monsters are getting out of dark corners. Fear, panic, and helplessness are created by twilight, limited visibility, and interjections. The mood is strengthened by lively animation and mysterious music with a tragic nuance. A little later while rescuing a friend, her moan creates pity, care, and determination. The script is well written. The control of intensity is well balanced.

The area of the game is seen from above. The movement of the avatar is controlled by arrow or AWSD keys. One can aim by the mouse cursor. While wandering in the dungeons, one can collect sprites of light for which biographies of the characters and a special deleted scene will be uncovered when the game is finished. After checking all the corners, I found just 44 sprites out of 49 what might mean that there are some hideouts. In addition, I like the menu function “Be Awesome!” very much!

The are some minuses too. The plot is lineal and the possibilities of web are not used at all, therefore you won’t want to replay the game when you complete it once.

Neverending Light is the first part of a trillogy. I’ll wait for the other ones.