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Ada Lovelace Day: Emily Short

by on Mar.25, 2009, under Blog

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, and I’d like to spotlight Emily Short, who’s best-known in the interactive fiction (IF) community. She was involved in the development of Inform 7, a sophisticated tool/system for creating IF, has written several works herself, and created a handy guide to IF for newbies or people who want to explore. She also has a column, Homer in Silicon, in GameSetWatch where she says some very insightful things about narrative in games.

Another thing I admire about Emily Short is that she’s clearly no stranger to the technical side of game development. There are a lot of people writing about games, but I like the kind of analysis you get from someone who programs.

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Let’s Shooting Love

by on Feb.02, 2009, under Portfolio

I participated in the first Global Game Jam in February 2009, a challenge where the goal was to produce a playable game in 48 hours. The theme was “As long as we’re together, we’ll never run out of problems.

Let’s Shooting Love is a Geometry-Wars-style arena shooter about a lonely robot looking for a girlfriend. It was created in Multimedia Fusion, which we decided to use since one of the team members (Sebastian Jansiz) was an expert in it and promised even faster prototyping than Flash.

I was responsible for designing and implementing the enemy behaviors. I brainstormed a lot of potentially interesting behaviors and played other arena shooters for inspiration. Then I had to figure out how to implement them in Multimedia Fusion, which I had never used before the Game Jam.

I created both enemies and enemy generators, setting them up so that Sebastian could easily adjust parameters such as speed, hit points, and generation frequency. I made a wide variety of enemies, including ones that travel in V formation, ones that circle-strafe the player while firing shotgun bursts, and ones that break apart into smaller enemies when defeated.

Links:

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Snowfall

by on Oct.18, 2008, under Portfolio

Snowfall is a game I originally thought of for a weekly game-making challenge at The Sims Carnival where the theme was “music”. After struggling with the limitations of the Sims Carnival game maker, I decided to take my idea and make it in Flash. I also used the opportunity to learn Actionscript 3.

Get Adobe Flash player

Move the mouse to move the sun anywhere on screen. Avoid touching snowflakes. Click to release a burst of warmth that melts snowflakes and earns points, but uses up a life. Play the game with sound turned on!

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Real Video Gaming Prototype

by on Oct.06, 2008, under Portfolio

The goal of the Real Video Gaming project was to create an interactive Flash prototype of a casino interface for a handheld touchscreen device (the Samsung Q1 UMPC). The intent was to allow casino patrons to continue gambling away from the physical tables.

The prototype presents three games: baccarat, roulette, and a slot machine. In baccarat and roulette, bets can be placed by dragging and dropping chips onto the appropriate locations. After the bets are placed or the slot machine is started, a video plays showing a casino dealer playing out the game. In roulette, the user can use the “Languages” menu to change the dealer to one speaking the appropriate language.

I was lead developer for the project. I researched and wrote specification documents, and created the class framework for the program. I also programmed the bulk of the project, excluding the slot machine and drinks menu.

The prototype can be viewed here.

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Basis Double Pong

by on Jan.06, 2008, under Blog, Lab

When I first told my friend about Double Pong, he thought that it would be a game of Pong with two paddles perpendicular to each other, controlled with one input. When I was thinking about a small project to re-familiarize myself with ActionScript, I decided to make his version.

Get Adobe Flash player

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Robot Finds Kitten

by on Nov.29, 2007, under Blog, Lab

After finding out about the lively Nintendo DS homebrew scene, I was determined to make something of my own. But first, I wanted to make something small to familiarize myself with the relevant libraries.

As a fan of both robots and kittens, I of course thought of Robot Finds Kitten, the “zen simulation” that has been ported to a multitude of platforms. I found an existing DS version of RFK, but its controls were sluggish, spurring me to write my own.

I used devkitPro and the PAlib text and input libraries to make Robot Finds Kitten.

Files:

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Endo Patrol

by on May.06, 2007, under Portfolio

This was a semester-long project course at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. The goal was to create a game that would teach elementary school children the basics of immunology, without resorting to military metaphors. (i.e., no “defending” against bacterial “attacks.”)

I functioned mainly as a programmer, implementing the user interface. I also composed music for the game and created and placed the sound effects.

Links:

Music:

These are the files used in the game, so they’re set up to loop.

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Don’t Forget the Lyrics

by on Mar.20, 2007, under Portfolio

The Don’t Forget the Lyrics Online Game was a project I worked on while at the Illusion Factory for Fox and RDF. Don’t Forget the Lyrics is game show where contestants are given the beginning of a song that cuts off suddenly; they are asked to fill in the missing lyrics.

The goal was to make an online version of the game show with new songs available every week. In addition, the game would allow players to upload videos of themselves performing the songs featured for that week. The video upload functionality was provided by Brightcove.

I was responsible for the overall structure of the code, as well as implementing the initial framework and several of the sections. This included the main game interaction of listening to the song and inputting the answer.

Play the game

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The Admirer’s Secret

by on Dec.13, 2006, under Portfolio

The final assignment for my Visual Story class was to create a short, interactive love story. Our group decided to do a mystery with the question “Who sent the mysterious bouquet?” My teammates shot and edited video, took photos, and recorded audio, then handed them to me to integrate in Flash. Some of them also helped put together slideshows and interface elements

Play The Admirer’s Secret (Be patient–the SWF file is 7.5 MB, and there’s no pre-loader since it was meant to be played locally)

The structure of the piece is basically a choose-your-own-adventure. Players choose which of the five suspects to visit, and after visiting them all, the culprit is revealed. There are five endings.

(more…)

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Arenas of Challenge

by on Oct.28, 2006, under Blog

I’ve been following this thread on a guy’s first time running a D&D campaign. Somewhere along the way, (around page 2) a discussion about character creation (and especially power selection) as a “valid” arena of challenge got brought up.

What’s a “valid arena of challenge”? Well, an arena of challenge is a context where success or failure is socially important to the people involved. Chess can be an arena of challenge. D&D can be an arena of challenge. Within D&D, something like kill-count could be an arena of challenge, if the players choose to make it so.

What makes something a “valid” arena? That’s where the arguments start. Most of them involve the question of “fairness”, which is always tricky.

I think that one major requirement is that players know that it is an arena of challenge. I feel like this is the “most unfair” thing to do. If someone were applying for a job where height was secretly important (i.e., was an arena of challenge), but applicants weren’t told that it was, people would think it was pretty unfair. Melinglor brought up the situation where the GM says “Go make whatever character you want,” so the players do, and come up with characters that are useless for the adventure. When the GM said “Make whatever character you want,” the GM was essentially saying “Character creation is not an arena of challenge.”

The problem, of course, is that in D&D, character creation affects a player’s effectiveness in the rest of the game; it’s implicitly an arena of challenge. For character creation not to be an arena of challenge, the GM has to handle things so that all characters have the potential to be equally effective. One way to do this is to give the players the illusion of freedom and control, but not the reality. Another is to make sure that all characters have opportunities to take on challenges they are particularly suited for, and carefully balance challenges so that nobody is too useless.

Another requirement is that players are given enough information about the arena of challenge to form a strategy not based on pure chance or whimsy. Of course, what constitutes “enough information” varies from person to person. (It’s also possible that in an arena of challenge, pure chance is the optimal strategy. I think those arenas are uninteresting. “Read my Mind” is one of those uninteresting arenas.) I think that enough information should be given that players need to make as few assumptions as possible to formulate a strategy.

In my opinion, the universe of all possible D&D play is too wide for players to form strategies for. If I were told to “make the best character possible”, I would still be making certain assumptions, such as assuming that the game would be heavily combat-based, and that the game would generally be by the book. I might even assume that I was supposed to make the best character for solo dungeon-crawling. All these assmuptions could be wrong, and that would not technically violate the stated challenge. If I made my solo dungeon crawler and it turned out that the character was being rated with respect to its usefulness in a heavily political game with almost no combat and certainly no dungeons, I would cry foul.

I guess what I mean is “Players should know what the arena of challenge is.”

Finally, Callan brings up a good point about how character creation is more of a “deal-breaking” arena of challenge than most others. Basically, if character creation is an arena of challenge, there’s usually no way to opt out of it–it’s required to get to everything else. That sucks!

So my last “fairness rule” is that players should be able to choose not to participate without overly dire consequences. Of course, “overly dire consequences” ends up subjective, too. “Do this or else you don’t get to have fun” is pretty dire. Below that, I’m not sure where I draw the line.

This is, in some ways, more fundamental than the others. Players should be willing to to enter the arena without coercion, because coercion is inherently unfair.

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