Signal

Signal was as much a mood piece as anything else, and some good Blender practice. Building scenes and worlds is something I enjoy exploring as much as working out new mechanics. I also have a fetish for railway signal towers. 

The scene started as an autumnal valley, but became a tribute to Terrence Malick's 1978 film, Days Of Heaven, an astonishingly beautiful film. 

Signal is something I intend to return to some day. It's a great platform for experimenting with expressive first-person interaction, and I hope to turn it into a a small narrative vignette.

The initial autumnal version of Signal became one of two screensavers I created for Screensaver Jam in 2016.


Emotion Cards

EmotionCards01.png

 

Emotion Cards was the result of an in-house two-day jam at If You Can in 2015. I created the concept and built the app in Unity with C#.

The brief was to propose an app for children that would compliment our main game, If... 

If... is a tablet-based game that teaches children 'emotional intelligence' and found particular popularity among young people on the autistic spectrum. I have a couple of young family friends with Asperger's  and autism, and so this is a topic close to my heart, and something I hope to return to some day.

The Emotion Cards proposal comprised a few key elements:

  • Recognising Emotion: Children can play a game where they can learn to associate facial expressions with certain emotions, and discuss this with their parent or guardian. The app was to function as a catalyst for helping to give children the tools to deal with a range of emotional experiences.
  • Emotion Concentration: One of several proposed mini-games, this was to be the classic game Concentration, but with a series of depicted emotions. 
  • Emotion Communicator: For some people, communicating feelings can be very difficult, particularly in escalated situations. The Emotion Communicator was intended to allow the user to simply communicate a feeling to another person by selecting it from a spectrum of feelings, to act as a starting point for resolving difficult emotional situations.

The prototype contains the first game, and simplified representations of the second and third. A completed version would have contained more minigames, more tools, and an option to increase or decrease the range of complex emotions depicted.

To play the prototype,  just open the .html file in Safari or Firefox.


Boids

I've tried a few variations of the classic boids simulation. My first attempts were in C# project, and more recently I've experimented with a boids simulation built entirely in PlayMaker. 

I'll be rolling the results of future boid experiments into Overpass. 


Nightfishing

I worked on Nightfishing towards the end of 2014.

I wanted to explore alternative approaches to movement, as well as experiment with randomised and procedural level generation. This was to be a competitive local multiplayer game. 

In Nightfishing, you are a lake-dwelling monster. Your goal is to nourish yourself in order to produce and lay as many eggs as possible before the sun rises. Each round begins at sunset as the fishers emerge from cabins and head to fishing holes scattered across the ice. You must carefully hunt the fishers, feasting on their guts to obtain the nutrients food required for egg production. When you've produced an egg, you must swim to the bottom of the lake and deposit it safely, then return to the ice to continue hunting. The monster who produces the most eggs by sunrise wins.

I experimented with an input style in which you swim through the water by alternating the controller triggers in a rhythmic fashion, inspired by the way fish swim by oscillating their bodies. Under water you are graceful and fast, but once you emerge from the water through an ice hole with a burst of speed, you become extremely clumsy, sliding around on the ice and flopping about. Furthermore, you can not breathe out of water, so you only have a short time in which to catch a fisher, devour them and return to the water. 

Finally, fishers scare easily. If they think they can spot you in the water they'll become jumpy, and more likely to flee. If they see you they'll run directly for the nearest cabin. If another fisher spots a fleeing fisher, they'll also be spooked and follow them in. This forces you to be very careful in lining up your kills, and is balanced against the time limit enforced by the night cycle.

While the lake bed is based on a mesh, the placement of holes, cabins and props on the ice is procedurally generated. Holes are only be placed in areas where there is sufficient space between the ice and the lake bed for the player to maneuver, and are placed a minimum distance from other holes and props.

Even in its early prototype stage the game was quite a lot of fun to play, and I've learned a lot about procedural generation since this prototype, so I hope to return to it at some point.

 


Cabin

This was the first major project I attempted after releasing icefishing v.

In 2013 there weren't quite so many crafting/survival games, and I wanted to explore some ideas that combined survival, with my fascination with small, contained scenes and foregrounding the mundane. 

'Foregrounding the mundane' is an area of particular interest to me, and something I've returned to a number of times. To me, it means drawing focus to and building mechanics around actions and ideas that we take for granted in real life, and which rarely end up represented meaningfully in games. Most games favour a lower fidelity of interaction with the world, at the expense of the sort of detailed interaction we are more familiar with in our own lives. For instance, in Skyrim, the most detailed interactions are found in combat, but all other interaction with the world is on a very simple level, rarely more complex than a single click on an object to toggle its state.

I'm interested in concentrating on smaller scale worlds so that I can devote resources to examining smaller scale interactions, such as being able to slide windows and open and close doors in a more analogue sense. Rather than toggle a fire on and off, I simulated the amount of combustible material in paper balls, books and logs. 

The interaction component I invested the most time in is an object placement system. In most games, items can only be dropped or thrown carelessly. In Gone Home, deservedly praised for it's 'put-back' mechanic, you can only put an object back in the exact hot-spot from which it was taken. Even in the more recent Prey, a game explicitly about objects, when you return to your apartment at a key point in the narrative, you can only drop or fling items around like a maniac. Suddenly, the beautifully rendered environment becomes a cartoon fun-house, and the sense of immersion is immediately swept away.

In my system, every flat plane is detected as a surface. Looking at such a surface while holding an object displays a ghost version of the object at the place you're looking, and you can then carefully place the object there. The goal was to create a system where this is a process that requires no thought, but supports a far more expressive interface with the world.

For me, drawing focus to mundane actions as these increases the sense of immersion on a space by lending it a sense of verisimilitude often missing from game worlds. In this way I hope to facilitate a more meaningful relationship between the player and the virtual world around them, increasing the importance of the the immediate by reducing scope and increasing the fidelity of their interactions. 

Ultimately, the arrival on the scene of The Long Dark dissuaded me from investing more time in this game, but I did go on to iterate on this placement system in Trawl, and fed elements of it into The Bradwell Conspiracy too. 


Motel

This was the first major project I attempted after releasing icefishing v.

icefishing v didn't involve very much modelling, and no texturing, so Motel served as a test-bed for improving those skills. The visual style changed radically from a very simple, flat-shaded approach, to the grungy aesthetic above. This coincided with binge-watching the entirety of Twin Peaks seasons 1 and 2 in a very short period.

Mechanically, the idea was that you'd run this motel, keeping your guests happy in order to better exploit them.

Ultimately, although I shelved the project in favour of another, I learned a lot about modelling and texturing, not to mention managing scope! 

Under The Bed

A vignette made for Screensaver Jam, 2016.

In the true spirit of screensavers, it is non-interactive, and will end as soon as any input is detected.

Coverage

A vignette made for Screensaver Jam, 2016.

In the true spirit of screensavers, it is non-interactive, and will end as soon as any input is detected.

Coverage