Category Archives: General

How Improv is Relevant

Improv is a skill we use every single day, it is a facet of how we deal with the unknown, and its development has incalculable benefits to our lives. Whilst at The Entertainment Technology Center the following exercises I found most useful:

I Own This Place

In this exercise we would receive a card from a pack of playing cards which would assign us a number. Based on that number we would adopt a status between extreme high and low.

Learning the concept of high, and low status as well as their traits has allowed me to reflect on myself. Not only do I better recognize status traits in others, but I intend to use this knowledge. I aim to exhibit higher status, and avoid lower status traits as I feel they are essential for many things including leadership positions which is what I aim for in my career.

Different Language Conversation

This exercise involved sitting in a semi-circle, and talking to each other in different languages.

My take away was a reinforcement of how paying attention despite not understanding is important. In and out of the industry we will have conversations where we don’t understand the ‘lingo’ of the speaker, such as when listening to highly technical speakers. Listening intently in those cases improves the conversation by respecting the speaker, and allows for a smoother transition to a language one does understand.

Red Light Green Light

Red Light Green Light is an exercise where a single player stands on one side of a room, and a multitude of players stand on the other. The multitude try to sneak up on the one player who is facing away from them, yet who can turn around at any time, and send them back to the start, effectively acting as a ‘judge’.

This exercise has a lot of similarities to game design. For one its structure has a clear start, middle, end, and objective. What I considered most was how the experience was effected when the judge made arguably ‘unfair’ judgements.

These moments were important in terms of experience design as they negatively affected the entire experience. As game designers we must carefully consider the experience of our guests, and sometimes even allow them to win when they perhaps didn’t, in order to create net happiness.

Translation Game

This game involved one person speaking in a foreign language trying to sell a chair whilst the other person translated for them.

I had two takeaways from this exercise. The first was the importance of physical actions when lacking language, and related to this was making your partner look good. It was important to interpret the physical language of your partner in case you didn’t understand, and that a clear misinterpretation for comic effect can make your partner look bad.

Shadow of The Colossus, Visual Story Assignment

As part of our Visual Story course at Carnegie Mellons Entertainment Technology Center we were required to briefly analyze visual imagery in a piece of media. I choose the game Shadow of The Colossus as my subject matter.

Diagonal Lines

As the game begins with an eagle in the distance. The eagle descends into a mountain range flying rapidly, in a titled manner past our hero creating a momentary clear diagonal, and frame within a frame. The combination of techniques draw our eyes into that area of the screen where we our introduced to our hero clearly contrasted in brighter colors against the dark mountains.

Contrast

As our hero continues to travel under the cover of darkness, we see the moon peer out from the canopy. the contrast between the moon and the dark leaves draws our eyes in which the director then uses for a smooth visual transition to the next scene which has a horse’s feet moving at the position of the moon.

As our hero approaches his destination he encounters a pass. Our eyes are drawn to our hero in his bright cape, and the glowing pass which contrasts with the stone grey scene. The techniques help setup our eyes on to our hero and where he is heading.

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Almost Famous, Heroes Journey Assignment

From suburbia to rock heaven and back again, Almost Famous is a story of an out of place boy sent into the unknown, to return with the truth.

Warning there be spoilers ahead! Read at your own peril!

The Known

The Heroes Journey of Almost Famous begins with our protagonist William, and his known world. William is a boy ahead of the curve, being significantly younger than his classroom peers.

Despite Williams gifts, he has his share of troubles due in part to two differences:

Physical examples:

  • Where are your pubes? – incident in Williams High School.
  • Looking out of place when brushing his hair in the bathroom due to not having a beard

Mental examples:

  • His joy when others are corrected – incident with the ‘Xmas’ painter where William happily looks on
  • An intense interest in his mother’s interests – whilst cooking soy cutlets
  • Nobody includes him. They call him “The Narc” – this is indicative of Williams dislike of drugs, a quality presumably gained from his mother

Due in part to internalizing his mother’s choices at a young age, William is an abnormality in the ordinary world, and he is scorned by his peers for it. Williams mother, and their home is what he knows, and is thus symbolic of the known world. The known world is not without conflict though.

Troubles manifest themselves through William’s sister who rebels against against the known. During this time William is shown not only to have a limited awareness of his problem, but is unable to influence his world. 

Watching helplessly Williams mother and sister fight infront of him. Ultimately Williams sister abandons the known for the unknown world, though not before aiding William. Williams sister increases his awareness of a need for change, through her music records.

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Farewell Lionhead Studios

Heading home from Switzerlands snowy alps after my school ski trip I was exhausted. Our flight had finally reached London, and we had some time to kill before our onward journey. Some chose to sleep. I chose to shop for games.

On shelves crowded by the ordinary, Black & White glinted at me. Painted with wondrous scenes of mystical grandeur I was unable to resist its sirens call. I scoured my pockets, hoping I had enough left from my spending spree on grossly overpriced bobbles, and delectable Swiss confectioneries.

Little did I know buying Black & White was to be an investment of a lifetime.

Black & White turned out to be one of the best games I’ve ever played, and its not an ‘objective’ best I’m referring to. When I say best, it’s because of the joy, and experience in that time and place which can never be recreated; no matter how advanced the graphics or sophisticated the A.I.

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Finishing Black & White, I eagerly anticipated its sequel, going so far as to reach out of my introverted childhood and send Lionhead Studios an email as news of Black & White 2 trickled across the net.

I wish I still had that mail; alas a lost memento.

I recall asking about features. Would there be creature armor? What would it be like? Would there be more types of wild animals? What would their behaviors be?

If I could meet the boy who sent Lionhead that email, I’d have chastised him for his priorities, and compelled him to seek forgiveness for his god awful writing. Yet, more importantly, I’d also have given him a smile and a pat on the back for his sporadic naive bravery.

Can you believe they replied to that little boy? An intern actually went round their office with his questions. They took the time to reply to an email asking ‘silly’ questions about ‘silly’ details. They sprinkled a little color into a child’s imagination.

A small gesture, I’ll always be grateful for.

black_and_white_temple

Again it seems that time changes everything. Yet I’ve quietly kept wishing for more Black & White games. Now I guess I’ll put that wish away on my dusty shelf of dreams.

I’m not sad though, as I’ll exchange one wish for another. Now with your talent unleashed, perhaps I’ll again meet an incarnation of you?

Farewell Lionhead Studios.

Thanks for the good times.

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Game Maker – Wall Walking System

For my last game Multi I implemented a system which allowed for my game character to walk on and jump from walls based on collision handling from an article in the SoulHow Assistance Guides. I thought I’d share that Wall Walking System with you.

Assuming:

  • You have familiarity with writing code in Game Maker.
  • You have a basic understanding of writing simple physics code in Game Maker.
  • Your environments gravity pull objects downwards.
  • That you have handled cases where your character can move on horizontal surfaces

The following Wall Walking System allows a character to walk in a variety of different situations that I’ll illustrate and refer to using the following diagram.

Wall-Cases
Wall Cases

On completing this short guide your should have a better idea on how to have your character walk in the following cases:

  • Green Case – Left, Right on Horizontal Surfaces
  • Blue Case – Up and Down Completely Vertical Left Walls
  • Red Case – Up and Down Completely Vertical Right Walls
  • Purple Case – Left and Right on Vertical Ceiling Walls

In addition your character will also be able to jump up, down, right and left in the Green, Purple, Blue, and Red Cases respectively.

A caveat of this Wall Walking System is that it will not work in the corner cases highlighted by the orange lines due to not specifically handling the effect of the assumed environments gravity. Now on to the system!

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FEAR’s NPC A.I.

FEAR has been cited as one of the most influential A.I. games. FEAR’s claim to fame was its implementation of NPC A.I. using a system called Goal Oriented Action Planning.

Since I have some experience with planning in games, I wanted to have a look at the techniques used. After some digging I thought I’d put together a brief summary of what I learnt.

fear_logo

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Sacrifice on Steam – A suggested fix for Windows 8.1

Setup steps (ensure you have admin privileges):

  1. Download the game from your Steam library.
  2. Go to the location of Sacrifice.exe in your system, the path is something like – C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Sacrifice

sacrifice_exe_path

  1. Right click on Sacrifice.exe and go into Properties.

sacrifice_properties

  1. Choose the Compatibility tab from the Sacrifice.exe Properties menu that pops up, then press the Change settings for all users button.

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