Lately, my webserver provider sent me a message that the order for a year is about to end and that I have to pay for the next year. The Chinese Checkers website on that webserver has been holding just the logo for the whole year. The company of another webserver where I keep this blog, sent me a coupon of 75 € for advertising at Google Adwords. I have an ad, but still no project to advertise. I won’t promote my personal blog, will I!? So I have lots of encouragement and motivators, just the time is what I am lack of…
Anyway my creative work doesn’t stand still. I learned the basics of Gimp. Whenever I find some free hours among the sessions my work and spare time, I sit down and glue the graphical design together.
I changed the typeface of the logo. It’s much more lively and playful now. The Asian motives of the letters fit with the Manga-styled face of the star better that the old bitten typeface.
The website design will be of a space theme. At the moment there are just stars pasted all around. But probably later I will also add satellites, rockets, and even some absurd objects, let’s say, a wooden chair flying in the space. I am still thinking how to layout the textual elements like chats, titles, descriptions, collected points, etc. so that they fit in the main design. It’s also not clear how to layout the blog and forum as I don’t have experience in creating webdesign, but still I want something unique.
All the planets will be different. At the moment I am only drawing the planets of Berlin and Vilnius. WTF? Since when Vilnius has been a planet!? As I’ve written in the first part, planets will uncover the identity of different capitals of Europe. That’s why I was asking for public opinion what things symbolize Vilnius for Lithuanians.
For liveliness each player will be represented by an avatar of the same color which marbles he’s using in the Chinese Checkers. I wanted to have single-colored unisex-styled dress. I was thinking about some overalls or cloaks.. Fortunatelly, Viktorija was doing her diploma about cloths which were sexless enough, futuristic, and original. The best part here is that she agreed that those textile designs will be used in my game and sent me the photos and sketches.
I am moving forward in turtle steps. Maybe I’ll finish in, let’s say, 10 years. It would be better to do that sooner, because I decided to find a girlfriend when I finish this project… As I was jealous of the relations of two couples visiting me recently.
After crossing the pedestrians’ bridge over the river Vilnele, I climb the snowy hillside up. Then I go by the wire fence until I reach an unraveled hole in it. I go through it, pass the opened drains, and step inside through squeaking door. I am starting a new column in my blog. It will be about astonishing places which waken imagination for the creators of adventure, action, and horror games. Scary abandoned unexpected spaces, strange details, and mystic lighting will show what labyrinth of rooms your game character could be running in, what textures to use for covering your models, and how to adjust the lights..
It’s evening. The beam of sunlight through a window drowns half of the visible territory. Somebody might hide not only in the dark, but also behind the beam of light. The mystery is created not by the darkness, but by the penetration of light in the darkness cautiously touching things scattered all over the place.
Pigeons being the new settlers of the house are watching me through the open or “opened” windows. Take a look at the light projected through the windows on the wall.
Suddenly, I discover a white Kubrick-styled marble corridor. Plaster ceiling is broken and fallen down on the ground. They create me associations with the “Spring” by M. K. Čiurlionis. When you go on the pieces of the plaster, they clatter like metal faces in the Jewish Museum in Berlin. This room contrasts sharply with the rest of the factory. Is it a corridor to the baths of the chiefs? The door is locked. I hear steps and barking dogs. Somebody is putting a key into the door from the other side… Let’s run!
Urban activities make the building reborn in a new form. I roll over the ramps prepared by BMX bikers. Hurry up!
There is a lot of wide space, monotony, and rhythm. No matter how fast you run, you seem to stand in the same location..
The molded ceiling can be used as an example of texture. Do you feel that smell?
Of course, there is much water inside, because the roof has holes in it. Are those chimneys or holes for ventilation? Should we try running away through them like people did in the labyrinth of “The Cube“? It’s quite high. We should probably find some shelves, put them on each other, and then help each other to reach the holes. Oh! I can’t squeeze through them. You go up and wait for me!
This office is all covered in ice. I slip and bruise my elbow.
The communist-styled window of this office gives me a hope that I can still get out of here until it gets dark outside…
Ghosts appear on my way. If you want to catch a view by a photo camera in twilight without flash, you need to do a long delay. If something moves in the shot at that moment, it will become pale and blurry as a ghost in the final photo. Theoretically it would be possible to make a ghost-like view in 3D by adding transparency to a model and making copies of it while it’s moving, where each copy would disappear little by little increasing the transparency. I’ll try that at some point in the future, when I start learning 3D modeling and animation. I turn aside…
Oh no! Everything has just started. My heart is bumping.
The main dish from the Sunday menu is a shmop “Broken Garden“. The author K. Thor Jensengonna create 12 games in a year. This one is the fourth.
Airplanes of strange shapes (I’ll keep my associations to myself) are called by the names of mythological sinners. They are Adam (the first man created by God), Eve (the first woman created by God), Cain (The first son of Adam and Eve), Lilith (ex of Adam. I’m not sure what kind of creature she was), Judas (the apostle of Jesus), and Satan (angel-manipulator). You choose one and then shoot at all the armies of angels in order to come back to the Gardens of Eden.
Each airplane has one normal and one super gun. The game is divided by levels, where the opponents are shot, and their fragments are collected as experience points. The protagonist has a few lives. Each level ends with a boss, i.e. a large airplane called by the name of archangel Gabriel. After finishing the boss and completing the level, you can buy an additional live or enhance one of the following features for your experience points: the power or speed of your normal gun, or the power or charging speed of your supergun.
If you multiply all you choice options, you get a lot of variations how to complete the game. The choices encourage you to replay and try different combinations.
The gameplay is almost the same as in the shmup “Xevious” which is of my age. But it doesn’t directly propagate wars among people. In worst case, you could see through the symbols inducing to fight for your rights, no matter what powers try to weaken you. The fiction is original, unexpected, and even shamelessly sacrilegious from the perspective of some religions.. I’m interested how it will end up so I’ll try to reach that Garden.
Coherent world games, such as Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto, or Mirror’s Edge 2D.
Staged games, such as ScaryGirl game and console games inside of it.
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.
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”):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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!.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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 monitoriZ3D 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: