General Updates

Week 8: Prototyping Abilities in Unity by Valzorra

Having crafted a basic system for the camera and movement of this prototype, I thought it was now time to introduce some of the fun abilities that would help players maneuver through the environment. At this stage, I had a very rough idea of what I wanted those abilities to be based on some initial idea generation in Project Proposal 4, As It Lies. I felt the strongest about Teleportation as it would give players mobility and flexibility and about Electrocution as it is a damage-dealing ability that would help players confront any threats. I would like to note that these have not yet been set in stone and could be amended or removed as the design and development process progresses. Additionally, I would also like to reiterate that the work described below has been a collaborative effort between James and myself and that this prototype would not be possible without his help and guidance.

Range Indication and Teleportation

The very first ability I wanted to try my hand at was the Teleportation Ability. The exact methodology of how this power would work has been described in detail in Project Proposal 4 in one of my storyboards within that post. However, to briefly summarize, once the player has selected that ability, they will be presented with an indicator of their range in the form of a circle around them. The player would then be able to click anywhere within the Range Circle to select a target location, and after they have made their selection, they would be instantly teleported there. There were a few problems to solve within this description, the first of which was to figure out how to best implement the Range Circle Indicator, which would be used for a series of other abilities as well. I knew what I was going for, which was ideally a large circle around the player, which would give them a clear indication of where their abilities stretch up to. Additionally, the Range Indicator needed to appear only as players are about to perform an Ability and had to disappear and reset as soon as the ability has been executed. That way, players would not have circles all over their screens without necessity. A terrific example of the type of indicator I wanted is constantly used throughout League of Legends as shown below.

League of Legends Range Indicator

For my own prototype, the Range Indicator was handled through the use of a very basic cylinder, scaled to X: 1, Y:0.0001, and Z: 1, making it as close to a two-dimensional circle as possible. That Cylinder was then placed straight on top of the Player, keeping them in the center. The Cylinder was then parented to the Player, which meant that as the Player moved, so would the Ranged Indicator. Additionally, in order to see the scene clearly, a Semi-Transparent Material was added to the Range Indicator with the transparency set to 50 out of 255. At this stage, I had a very simple environment and a Player character with a large semi-transparent circle on top of their head, meaning I was ready to actually make the Range Indicator work. The system for it functions in a similar but slightly more intricate manner to the way Player Movement is handled as described in Week 8: Prototyping the Camera and Movement in Unity.

This is how the Range Indicator appears in the prototype for Teleportation.

This is how the Range Indicator appears in the prototype for Teleportation.

The first step in the process was to indicate what the maximum range of Teleportation would actually be, which was determined by a simple float. For the purposes of this prototype, the value has been arbitrarily set to 15. The next step was to ensure that the Range Indicator would only be displayed when the Teleportation was actually used. As the Range Indicator would only really be needed if an ability has been activated, its Mesh Renderer was disabled in Unity for all other general purposes, making it invisible to the user. The only occasion on which the Mesh Renderer is enabled through code, is when the player presses down any keys associated with the activation of powers. For the purposes of this prototype, I have set it up so that pressing T activates Teleportation. The dice rolling mechanic will be implemented at a later point. Once the Mesh Renderer is enabled, the other important aspect of displaying the Range Indicator is ensuring that the Circle resizes itself according to the range of each ability as indicated by the associated variables. To do that, a line of code has been implemented, which states that if the Current Power is Teleportation, then the Range Indicator will be scaled in accordance with the maxTeleportRange variable. This is basically how the Range Indicator is handled within this prototype not only for Teleportation, but for all of the abilities that would need it. Therefore, the entire system for displaying the Range Indicator has been compacted in a switch statement as showcased below.

void ShowRangeOfPower() {
        switch(currentPower) {
            case "TELEPORT":
                //Enabling the Mesh Renderer
                rangeIndicator.GetComponent<MeshRenderer>().enabled = true;
                //Scaling the Range Indicator accoring to predetermined variables
                rangeIndicator.transform.localScale =
                new Vector3(maxTeleportRange, 0.01f, maxTeleportRange);
                break;
            case "ELECTROCUTE":
                rangeIndicator.GetComponent<MeshRenderer>().enabled = true;
                rangeIndicator.transform.localScale =
                new Vector3(maxElectrocuteRange, 0.01f, maxElectrocuteRange);
                break;
            //If no powers are selected, the Meah Renderer is Disabled
            default:
                rangeIndicator.GetComponent<MeshRenderer>().enabled = false;
                rangeIndicator.transform.localScale =
                new Vector3(1f, 0.01f, 1f);
                break;
        }

After the algorithm for the Range Indication had been sorted, it was time to code the Teleportation itself, which was a relatively straightforward process. The function works by casting a Ray from the Main Camera directly onto a location in the environment selected by the player. Just as with Walking, the Player can select a target location by pressing the Left Mouse Button. The function then checks whether the the target location is within the predetermined Teleportation Range and whether it is on a Walkable surface as indicated by our NavMesh. All floors within this testing environment have been marked as Walkable and if the player were to click anywhere else to move, such as on a building or outside of the environment, then the Player Character will be taken to the closest point to their selection. If the target location answers to both of those conditions, then the Player Game Object will be Warped to that point. The last bit of that function simply states that once the Teleportation is completed, then currentPower variable goes back to Null, thus resetting the whole process. The Teleportation function used in the prototype is displayed below.

 void Teleport() {
        RaycastHit h; 
        if(Physics.Raycast(Camera.main.ScreenPointToRay
                          (Input.mousePosition),out h, 100f)) {
            //If the Player Selects a location in Range and on a Walkable area
            if(Mathf.Abs((h.point - transform.position).magnitude)
              <= maxTeleportRange && h.collider.gameObject.layer == 9) {
                nAgent.Warp(h.point);
            }
        }
        currentPower = "NULL";
    }

That’s the basic premise of how both the Range Indicator and the Teleportation Ability work. The player can move freely within the environment and once the press T, a large circle will appear around them. If the player clicks on a surface within the environment that is also within the Range indication with the Left Mouse Button, then the player will be instantly teleported to that location. Currently there is no cool-down of any kind on the Teleportation, which does make it kind of fun to play around with. Below I have attached a few screenshots to display how the Teleportation Mechanic works in the prototype, and a video will be available in future blog posts.

Initial Phase of Teleportation: The Range Indicator appears in front of the player, allowing them to select a location.

Initial Phase of Teleportation: The Range Indicator appears in front of the player, allowing them to select a location.

Final Phase of Teleportation: Once a selection has been made, the player is transported there instantly.

Final Phase of Teleportation: Once a selection has been made, the player is transported there instantly.

Electrocution

Now that the Teleportation mechanic had been created and fully functional, James and I thought we would move on to Electrocution as it is the only damage-dealing ability in the game, making it rather significant. The Electrocution mechanic works by allowing the player to select an enemy within a certain range. Once an enemy has been selected they will take a certain amount of damage. If that initial enemy has any number of other enemies surrounding it within a certain range, then those secondary enemies will also take damage. In a sense, it is a strategic chaining mechanic meant to represent electricity going through enemies. The first step in this process was to create a list that would contain all of the Enemies, which would be affected by the Electrocution. Then, the algorithm finds the first enemy that would be affected by checking whether the player has selected a target marked as Enemy and whether that target is in range. If the selected enemy answers to both of those conditions, then it is added to the newly created list of Enemies Affected. The player selects the first target by clicking on it with the Left Mouse Button, and a Ray from the camera locates the selection much like with Teleportation.

After the first enemy has been located and added to the List, then the script searches for other enemies in range that would also be affected by the Electrocution. To begin with, a check is performed to see whether the List of Enemies Hit is empty or not. If the List is not empty, then an Overlap Sphere Collider is placed over the existing enemy within that List. The sphere’s radius is equal to a predetermined maximum range for the Electrocution. The next check performed is to see whether or not there are any other enemies within the Overlap Sphere Collider. If there are, then those enemies are also added to the List of Enemies Hit. Through this method, we can get all of the enemies that would be affected by the Electrocution. After this list has been filled, Damage must be applied to the Affected Targets. For the purposes of this prototype, a very simple check is executes, which simply states that if an enemy is within the Enemies Hit List, then that enemy will be destroyed. That’s the overall logic behind how the Electrocution Script works and the code for it can be reviewed below. Images of the visual process within Unity have also been included.

 void Electrocute() {
        GetComponent<PlayerMove> ().enabled = false;
        nAgent.SetDestination (transform.position);
        RaycastHit h;
        List<GameObject> enemiesHit = new List<GameObject>();
        //Get Initial Victim
        if (Physics.Raycast(Camera.main.ScreenPointToRay
                           (Input.mousePosition), out h, 100f)) {
            if (Mathf.Abs((h.point - transform.position).magnitude) 
            <= maxElectrocuteRange && h.collider.gameObject.layer == 10) {
                enemiesHit.Add(h.collider.gameObject);
            }
        }
        //Find next victims
        if(enemiesHit.Count > 0) {
            Collider[] nextVictims = 
            Physics.OverlapSphere(enemiesHit[0].transform.position,
                                 maxElectrocuteRange/2f);
            foreach (Collider c in nextVictims) {
                if(c.gameObject.layer == 10) {
                    enemiesHit.Add(c.gameObject);
                }
            }
        }
        //Visual Effect
        for(int i = enemiesHit.Count - 1; i >= 0; i--) {
            if (enemiesHit [i].GetComponent<LineRenderer> ().Equals (null)) {
                enemiesHit[i].AddComponent<LineRenderer>();
            }
            enemiesHit [i].GetComponent<LineRenderer> ().positionCount = 2;
            enemiesHit [i].GetComponent<LineRenderer> ().material = 
            Resources.Load<Material> ("Materials/lightning");
            enemiesHit [i].GetComponent<LineRenderer> ().startWidth = 0.2f;
            enemiesHit [i].GetComponent<LineRenderer> ().endWidth = 0.2f;
            enemiesHit [i].GetComponent<LineRenderer> ().startColor = Color.cyan;
            enemiesHit [i].GetComponent<LineRenderer> ().endColor = Color.cyan;
            if (i == 0) {
                enemiesHit [i].GetComponent<LineRenderer> ().SetPosition 
                (0, enemiesHit [0].transform.position);
                enemiesHit [i].GetComponent<LineRenderer> ().SetPosition 
                (1, transform.position);
            } else {
                enemiesHit [i].GetComponent<LineRenderer> ().SetPosition 
                (0, enemiesHit [i].transform.position);
                enemiesHit [i].GetComponent<LineRenderer> ().SetPosition 
                (1, enemiesHit [0].transform.position);
            }
        }
        //Apply damage
        foreach (GameObject enemy in enemiesHit) {
            enemy.GetComponent<Renderer>().material.color = Color.blue;
            Destroy(enemy, 1f);
        }
        currentPower = "NULL";
        GetComponent<PlayerMove> ().enabled = true;
    }
Initial state of Electrocution: The Player has activated the ability and can now choose a target.

Initial state of Electrocution: The Player has activated the ability and can now choose a target.

Middle state of Electrocution: The Player has selected the only target in range and the damage has been distributed to the enemies surrounding the initial target.

Middle state of Electrocution: The Player has selected the only target in range and the damage has been distributed to the enemies surrounding the initial target.

Final state of Electrocution: The damage has now been dealt and all enemies are destroyed.

Final state of Electrocution: The damage has now been dealt and all enemies are destroyed.

Reflection and Feedback

Overall, I really enjoyed working on these mechanics with James, because of how fun they seemed to me even at the prototyping stage. Because there were no cool-downs to these abilities at this stage, they could be used in combination with each other. For example, I found it quite entertaining to use Teleportation to get in range of the enemies and to then use Electrocution to defeat them, all in a manner of seconds. I think that with the addition of new abilities and their refinement, even more fun combinations will be possible. In terms of challenges, I thought that the Electrocution mechanic was rather tricky, especially because it was quite difficult to actually visualize the effect. James and I tied to apply some sort of texture as opposed to a single colored Line Renderer, however, we did not have much success. This indicates that I would have to do some more research on how one achieves effects of Lightning that can be controlled. And although this is just a simple prototype, I would like to refine the Range Indicator and make it a bit more intuitive. The main problem with it for now is that it has to stay on top of the Player’s head, because any other position results in it colliding with the environment, which can look quite broken. However, these problems may end up finding their solutions in Semester 2, because there is still quite a bit of design work to do for this Semester. Nonetheless, I am really excited about what we have so far, and I look forward to developing it further.

IMG_2269.JPG

After a long week of prototyping we had our Formative Feedback Session with Adam on the Friday of Week 8. At that point, I was relatively up to date on what I had been doing so far, so thankfully he was able to see most of my work. We primarily talked about Project Proposal 4 or As It Lies and I briefly went over the main mechanics, the abilities, the dice rolling, and some elements of the world. Overall, Adam’s feedback was positive and he had some really good recommendations on where to take the project forward. For example, he recommended that I translate the game into a paper prototype, specifically for the dice-rolling mechanic and to ensure that it would actually be fun. Additionally, after seeing a 3D Model I was working on, he suggested that I create somewhat of a style guide to help narrow down the specific style of models and game overall. Adam also suggested that I should carefully consider what abilities to include in the game, as they shouldn’t seem random or boring. That’s why none of them have been set in stone yet, and I will be reworking some of the powers later on, possibly through testing with the paper prototype. Quite reasonably, Adam also expressed concerns about the size of the project as I am working alone. That’s why we agreed that I would create a timetable for the second semester in order to ensure that the game will be fully completed by the time it needs to be presented. I intend to start working on Adam’s recommendations as soon as next week, so hopefully I will have even more clarity and information by next Friday.

Week 7: The Riemann Hypothesis by Valzorra

Overall, Week 7 was rather slow as it was Reading Week, which meant that most of the week was free from any workshops or lectures. I took this time to catch up on some of my project proposals, which have already been published, and to document bits of research I did that are quite significant to Project Proposal 4 in particular. I will take this moment to note that the research itself was done last week, however, I am only now getting about to documenting it. Hopefully, it will all make sense and click together once laid out. Additionally, I wanted to take the opportunity to summarise and reflect on what Andy said during our one to one. Now, without further ado, let’s get into the research and updates.

The Riemann Hypothesis

The Euler–Riemann zeta function plays a crucial role in modern analytical number theory and has a variety of applications spanning across fields such as Probability Theory (*wink wink*), Physics, and Statistics. It’s basically a function whose argument can be any complex number other than 1, and whose values are also complex. Euler first studied this function as a real variable and was able to work out its values at even positive integers. In fact, the first even positive value of the function provides a solution to the Basel Problem. Riemann then expanded on Euler’s analysis of the function and established a relationship between its zeros and the distribution of prime numbers. What’s more is that from the Euler-Riemann zeta function stem a variety of other number series such as the Dirichlet Series and L-functions.

The real part and the imaginary part of the Riemann Zeta Function at the critical line.

Now that I have provided a very basic overview of the Euler-Riemann Zeta Function, I can move on to briefly describing the famous Riemann Hypothesis. The Riemann Hypothesis proposes that the Euler-Riemann Zeta Function has all of its zeros at negative even integers, which are all trivial zeros, and complex numbers with real part equal to 1/2, which are the more exciting non-trivial zeros. As the Euler-Riemann Zeta Function is closely connected to the distribution of prime numbers, if this hypothesis is to be proven it would completely revolutionise the way we interpret modern number theory and pure mathematics. What’s important to note here is that if this unsolved problem is proven it could open a series of doors to new ways we can think about mathematics and apply them in the sciences and in invention. Solving this problem would change the way encryption and computer system security functions fundamentally, which may be a reason why some might not want a solution to be found.

The Riemann Hypothesis has a series of parallels to the world and events examined in Project Proposal 4. In that universe, the equivalent of the Riemann Hypothesis, is the problem of humans only being able to use one implant, which is determined genetically. Even though there are a total of seven Alteration Implants developed, no one has managed to crack how one individual can use multiple at the same time. That is the major unsolved mystery of the time and the narrative of the game would revolve around what it would be like if such an important problem were to be solved. Additionally, one reason the protagonist is called Zeta is to echo Riemann Zeta Function and how she essentially managed to solve her universe’s equivalent of that problem. More details on the specific narrative will follow soon, however, even thus far I thought it was a nice nod to this area of mathematics and the potential consequences it may have.

Riemann, 1859

Andy’s Feedback

The Friday of Week 7 was dedicated to one to one sessions with Andy, and I was quite excited to hear what he had to say. As I was most fond of that idea, I presented Project Proposal 4, the game involving dice and managing environments based on what rolls. I gave Andy a very brief overview of Zeta’s world, of her character, and of the main dice-controlling mechanic. I described the special abilities I thought would be appropriate and how one would be able to shift between them. When I was finished with my explanation, Andy seemed pleased with the idea and even mentioned he is not completely sure what to add on to it. He asked me what I was most concerned about at that stage and I mentioned that although I have figured out how the world would work, I have not yet designed an actual level. Andy did not seem incredibly concerned about this and reassured me by saying that it sounds like a game he would like to try. He also recommended a book called The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart, which revolves around a man who makes most decisions in his life by the roll of a dice. Overall, I was rather pleased with the feedback as Andy was not really able to punch any holes through the idea, which hopefully means that it’s rather solid. I look forward to getting more feedback on it from Adam and my course mates.

Week 6: Exploring Ideas and Mechanics by Valzorra

Idea Generation

We have officially entered the Phase 3, the first phase focused on actually building our ideas and creating a variety of prototypes for them. Before, I could start crafting anything, I needed to come up with a sufficient number of potential projects to work on. I already had a few ideas floating around, but this was the perfect time to actually put all of them onto paper and hopefully to come up with a few additional good ones. To do this, I decided to use the Lotus Diagram for Idea Generation, as it maintains ideas rather focused around a broader central concept and the method is also very efficient at forcing me to come up with about 70 concepts. I have attached the Lotus Diagram I came up with below, with the words Chance, Probability, and Maths in the centre.

The diagram itself looks rather intimidating due to the large number of ideas and writing on it, however, after examining everything I had come up with, I decided to focus on a few points that really inspired me. The major idea categories I chose from the centre were to use dice to determine the outcome of a situation and to then change those results, to find a better way for visualising complex data, to use the Reimann-Zeta Function as inspiration for a story, to generate an interactive world through mathematical formulas, and to create advanced and sophisticated AI players could interact with. Below I have attached a series of images featuring the ideas I liked and felt inspired to work on, which have all been highlighted in pink.

IMG_0508(2).PNG

After this process of idea generation, I felt quite happy with some of the projects that came to mind and was eager to start working on them as soon as possible. Many of the ideas can be combined, and turned into a more complex and exciting project, which is what I have attempted to do. I will detail each of these in the next couple of weeks in a series of project proposals that will explain my thought process, the connection to my research, and the project itself in a lot more detail. For now, the four major ideas that I would like to dive into are:

  1. A new method for three-dimensional Data Visualisation: I believe I may have figured out a way to represent complex data through the use of three-dimensional solids. This could be used as both an educational and diagnostic tool.

  2. A game environment generated by the players as they move and interact with it it. This would be an exponentially more chaotic experience that would take player actions, feed them into mathematical formulas and functions, and change the environment as they move along. By the end, each player would have created a unique world.

  3. An experience featuring sophisticated AI and based on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. This experience would have predictive and potentially emotive NPCs that would convey a sense of fear in the player, which can be fun and thrilling in itself.

  4. In a world where each individual has one of a set number of special abilities, you play as a character who has managed to figure out how to use all seven of them. You were naturally born with Telekinesis and have infused a standard six-sided dice with the rest. This allows you to control how the dice rolls, giving you power over chance. Additionally, this could incorporate a story loosely based on what may happen if a solution to the Reimann-Zeta function was discovered.

Tech Workshop

We began the Tuesday of Week 6 with an exciting exploration of how Calculus and a bit of Trigonometry can be used in video games to create smooth movement and over the shoulder cameras. I found James’s explanation really straightforward and easy to understand and for the most part I didn’t really have any issues following along. I quite enjoyed this exploration because it showed a very handy practical application of the things we have been looking at over the past few weeks. Additionally, this algorithm and the logic behind it would work equally well in any game engine, because it’s based on mathematics rather than on in-built settings. What’s more is that this is a very elegant mathematical methodology for handling this issue in games design, and I look forward to applying it in some of my future projects. I would be greatly interested in looking and other such applications of Calculus within video games, so hopefully we will be examining more of the sort in the coming weeks. I have attached the notes from that explanation below.

FullSizeRender.jpg

After the lecture on a practical application for Calculus within video games, we entered our Building the World session. James took the time to have one to one sessions with each separate team and to try and help us with our design process. I was one of the first to have a chat with him and as I was interested in developing fun mechanics players can mess around with, James suggested I create a few pieces similar to storyboards, which would describe how those mechanics would work. I decided to start working on a fun idea I had early in this week, which involved a variety of special abilities the player would be able to take advantage of. The complete idea will be described and documented over the course of the next couple of weeks. I also took this opportunity to expand upon the mechanics I was developing last week and to make the illustrations a little nicer and more clear. Additionally, my work from last week (Week 5: Just for Fun) featured a few different abilities in combination with each other, whereas here, I have showcased each one separately.

An environmental sketch to showcase the mechanics onto.

An environmental sketch to showcase the mechanics onto.

The slideshow below described a teleportation mechanics, whereby the player can choose a position within a certain range and be instantly teleported to that location. Another option that may make the mechanic a bit simpler would be to simply teleport the player a set distance in the direction the camera is looking at. This would make the teleportation mechanic less strategic, however, it may simplify things a bit if there is ever a risk of making the game too complex. Additionally, it would be interesting to consider what would happen if a player was to teleport directly on top of an enemy. So far, I believe they will simply not be given the option to do so, but it may be fun if an enemy instantaneously combusts when they are teleported on top of. All food for thought.

A defensive shield would function almost entirely as expected. The player would me a lot less susceptible to damage and enemy projectiles would not necessarily be able to collide with them. I envision the shield as a armour-like material, almost like shards, which would wrap itself around the player and protect them from any danger. The shield would have a relatively long duration and it would last for a certain amount of time. Another option would be to make the shield last onto the player until it is broken by enemies, however, making it based on a timer may be a bit easier to implement and manage.

IMG_0489.PNG

The last ability I was able work on during our Building the World session was a blinding beam of light that would essentially stun enemies. Initially, I thought that this beam could essentially rise above the ground and shine brightly, blinding enemies with it’s light. The player would be able to pick a target location to place the beam over that location. All enemies within it’s range would be unable to see for a set duration, however, that does not necessarily mean they would not be able to attack. This ability could be a double edged sword as on one side it stuns enemies, but on the other, it definitely draws attention to the player. I may make another version of this in the future as I am not incredibly pleased with it just yet, but nonetheless, so far so good.

Week 5: Just for Fun by Valzorra

Tech Workshop

Tech Workshop and Building the World was a bit slower this week, as we were having one to ones with James and developing our personal prototypes and little mechanics we may want to work on. In the beginning of the session, while James was attending to other students, I took the opportunity to catch up on some blog posts I had been meaning to do. Once it was my turn for a one to one, James and I discussed what I could focus on for the rest of the day. I expressed interest in the idea of a player having a set of abilities, with the order of the abilities being predetermined. This would mean that the player would have to execute their abilities one after the other based on that predetermined order. At this point James turned around and said that it would be rather premature to begin working on any code, and that instead I should come up with some concept sketches of how these mechanics might work. This was rather useful advice, because it meant I could take the time to properly plan out what the mechanics will do and what they will look like. For the rest of the day I kept drawing a few concept pieces of how they may play out. At this stage, I am not certain whether I will use these abilities for a game, however, I do believe they look kind promising and fun. My work from the Tuesday is attached below. The specific abilities I wanted to explore were a Blinding Light Beam (Number 3), a Defensive Shield (Number 2), and a Teleportation Ability (Number 1).

Friday Presentations

The Friday of Week 5 marked the end of Phase 2, and consequently we were all asked to present the exciting and in-depth research we had done up until that point. This time round the whole process was a lot smoother as we barely ran over time and there were very few technical issues throughout the day. This made everything a lot less draining than last time, and overall I felt like I had more energy to give constructive feedback to most presenters. When it came down to my own presentation, I had a lot of research to go over in a very short period of time. My main goal was to give an adequate summary of all of the work I had done, which unfortunately meant that I could not do justice to the topics I went over. Almost all of them could do with an entire presentation by themselves, however, there is simply no time for that. In terms of feedback, Adam pointed out that the section on Dimension is rather different from the rest of the presentation and that the concepts I described regarding it have been explored in one way or another. Additionally, he recommended that I focus any further efforts in the direction of Data Visualisation or Chance and Probability rather than on the other two sub-sections of Mathematics. Although I believe that the idea of higher dimensions can be explored more efficiently through the medium of video games, I agree with Adam’s assessment that I should avoid focusing on that concept. At that point of the day I decided that I will focus primarily on Data Visualisation and Probability. I also really appreciated the feedback from my course mates as many of them pointed out a few fantastic resources for generative art and other media that relates to the subject. For ease of reference, I have attached my presentation and feedback below.

Later on in the afternoon, I had a one to one discussion with Adam about how to best proceed with work throughout Phase 3. We once again reiterated that I should stray away from working with Dimensions. After that, we debated whether it would be best to proceed with Data Visualisation or with Probability as a major focus. I am rather fond of both topics, so I did not mind developing ideas for both as they are rather interesting to me. At that stage Adam expressed concern than I may not be able to successfully turn the idea of Probability Manipulation into a viable game, at which point I realised I had misrepresented my intentions. I clarified that what I really wanted to do this year was to create a fun and exciting game that features elements of chance and probability simply for entertainment’s sake. What got me into gaming in the first place was the ability to lose myself into an immersive world and to embrace fun mechanics that made me feel joy. It is precisely the playful, yet challenging nature of video games that makes them so incredibly fun, and I just really wanted to work on a project that focuses on those elements of Games Design (for more on my realisation, refer to the first paragraph of Week 5: Game Research Document v0.1).

Once I clarified my intentions to Adam, he was incredibly supportive of the idea, and simply told me to go for it, and to make a fun game. This was a major relief and the dose of encouragement reminded me that I should be having fun throughout this process. There is no point in completely sucking the joy out of the creative process, killing myself working, and trying to solve problems that are simply not there. As has been pointed out on multiple occasions, this will be my last opportunity for a while to devote as much time to a game I want to design and develop. Therefore, there is no point in making this amazing opportunity a painful chore. Rather, I want this project to come from a place of love and passion, both for video games and for mathematics. With this new mindset, I am incredibly excited to begin ideating and to make prototypes for the best ideas I come up with. I am confident that the process will be a lot smoother and less stressful after this reflection.

Week 5: Game Research Document v0.1 by Valzorra

Update: I have finally come to my senses and realised that what I really want to do is to to simply create a fun and entertaining game, which has some exciting notches to mathematics, without taking itself too seriously. I want people to enjoy this experience, to have a fun time, to go on an adventure through its gameplay, to immerse themselves in its world. This project will be a subtle love letter to mathematics, incorporating its principles into its mechanics and structure, while also letting people have fun. With this new mindset, I look forward to going into Phase 3, and exploring dozens of ideas on how to achieve all of this. Now, moving on to the Game Research Document.

The Practice-based Research Game Project Document is meant to be an evolving document of research, thoughts, and design decisions on our game idea, and it will be developed throughout the course of the semester. This is my very first version of the document, and I was only able to actively fill out three main sections of it, the Abstract, the Goals, and the Target Audience. As we progress through the year, the documentation will hopefully continue to be filled and flushed out in more detail. However, for now this is a very brief summary of the key points of my research so far and why I find certain aspects of it rather exciting. Without further ado, enter v.0.1.

Abstract

The study of Chance and Probability is essentially a way of looking into the future through mathematics, which can be incredibly powerful.

Mathematics is an incredibly diverse and exciting topic with an infinity of intricacies, principles, patterns, proofs, all with a watertight underlying logic. It is the essential basis of all other sciences and it finds its way even in fields such as art and design. The abundance of information in the subject meant that I needed to choose a few key focus points within the field to explore further, which was rather difficult as there are numerous topics of interest to me. I am absolutely fascinated by the idea of Chance, Probability, and manipulating seemingly random events through certain rules and principles. That’s why I greatly appreciated looking into things like the Binomial Distribution Formula, Matrices, Markov Chains, and Fundamental Calculus in our Tech Workshop sessions, which I then went on to research and examine further (many thanks to James Stallwood for bearing with me). All of these different methods directly relate to how one can manipulate probability and how to make accurate predictions about the likelihood of certain events from occurring. I find this absolutely incredible, as this means that one can utilise the results from the methodologies listed above to better their decision-making process both in a game and in real life. It’s essentially a way of looking into the most likely future through mathematics. Not only can we peak into the possible future, but we can also alter it through the way we structure data. Maths gives us the power to make decisions based on the results we want, we can transition from the current state of affairs to a desired one with certainty. For example, with Matrices and Markov Chains, one can calculate exactly how much to invest in a marketing campaign in order to get the most optimal boost of clients. This means that Mathematics can help a business flourish through a few simple equations. The same logic can be applied within an interactive environment, it can give users control and hindsight into any seemingly random situation. It’s all about representing data, controlling data, seeing where we are at, where we want to be, and how we shift those probabilities in such a way that we obtain the desired outcome.

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In the discussion of Markov Chains, and Matrices, I have explored the logical methods by which one can control chance and probability. However, these methodologies require a fairly sophisticated level of understanding of both Mathematics and Functions with Matrices. Based on that, I wondered how one would actually visualise complex data structures in a clear and concise manner. Answering this question lead me to the wonderful world of Data Visualisation, which is an entire field dedicated to these problems. Data Visualisation is about clear communication and ensuring the untrained eye can easily tell what the information is and what the intertwining relationships between its variables are. This is an essential link to the study of Chance and Probability, because once those can be visualised, then they can be altered and manipulated by anyone, even those unfamiliar with the specific mathematical rules. Additionally, Data Visualisation involves thinking about problems from different point of view and perspective, which is entirely what mathematicians do when solving problems. It’s about presenting solutions to problems by looking at them in a different light, about showing those solutions in a comprehensible manner, and about educating on the issues presented. Although the field is quite well-researched, I do believe that more can be done, specifically in three-dimensional Data Visualisation and Data Visualisation in VR, which is largely unexplored.

Data Visualisation: Frequency of Text Messages Within a City

Data Visualisation: Frequency of Text Messages Within a City

Finally, what makes Mathematics incredibly exciting is the idea that the same problem can be looked at from a variety of equally valid fields and perspectives, which could all work together to bring up a solution. Geometric mathematicians may focus on the volume of a coffee mug, those interested in algebra might consider how all of its dimensions relate to each other, the Calculus bunch might want to calculate the instantaneous rate of change on the curve of the handle, while topologists might loudly explain that “This is the same as a donut!“. All of these different professionals offer a very different angle on the same problem, and are all perfectly sound in their logic. I find this diversity, this variety in how you can go about the solution of a problem truly inspirational, and I would love to incorporate that sort of thinking into my design practise. Specifically, this sort of thinking could be well-incorporated into level design and mechanics, so there is the potential for my FMP to turn into a purely mechanical experience. Overall, I am very excited to begin work on a specific project and to carry on with ideation and actually solidifying a game.

Goals

As I have not quite made up my mind on what project to go forward with, I have listed a series of goals I would be happy to achieve this year.

  1. To create a fun game, simply for the sake of fun and entertainment. I would love to create something that people can come home to and enjoy, relax to, and maybe even feel powerful in. I want to create a piece that will that will get people happy and excited, that will form friendly and competitive discussions.

  2. To demonstrate that chance and probability can be manipulated through the use of mathematical formulas and principles. Individuals can predict seemingly random events and incorporate that knowledge into their decision-making process within a game.

  3. To come up with a better way of visualising data and manipulating variables in the third dimension in order to help people better understand information and and its incredible predictive power.

  4. To challenge modern notions of level design and to provide an experience with a series of possible solutions based on the idea of controlling chance events within an environment. To challenge people to think critically about problem-solving and to analyse the level and environment in order to solve it. Hopefully, this would lead to an incredibly satisfying experience.

  5. To improve my own skills in the fields of Level Design, 3D Modelling, Programming and to efficiently incorporate Mathematics into both the mechanics and narrative elements of a game.

Visualising GPS Data From Various Marine Vessels.

Visualising GPS Data From Various Marine Vessels.

User Experience: Audience

Although it is a bit early to say for certain, I would like the Target Audience of the project to be quite wide, possibly Teens and upwards. As I previously mentioned, I want to create a genuinely fun experience with a series of exciting levels that involve or are based around a variety of mathematical principles. The reason I am setting a minimum age of teen/pre-teen is because I do not believe younger children will necessarily be able to appreciate the mathematical logic and principles involved in certain aspects of the game. Additionally, creating a game suitable for everyone means that I would have to restrict myself in some capacity as to the content of that game, which I would not like to do at this stage. If the game happens to involve violence to a certain degree, I would like to have that option available and not tie myself to a universal ranking. However, coming back to the beginning of this paragraph, I believe it is far too early to tell for certain who this project would be most suitable for. All that can be said at this stage is that I would love it to be open to as wide an audience as possible, people from both genders, all sexuality, ethnicity, geographical location, etc. The beauty of mathematics is that it is universal in its logic and it can be appreciated by anyone around the world with basic knowledge of it.

Week 4: On Speculative Design by Valzorra

Speculative Design Workshop

The Friday of Week 4 was dedicated to a talk on Speculative Design by Jussi. I really appreciated this introduction to the topic as I was unfamiliar with the field up until the workshop. What I found interesting about the idea of Speculative Design is that to me it seemed to overlap quite a bit with various fields of Art, such as Sculpture or Installation Art. Design is typically all about solving a certain problem, improving the current state of affairs though good choices, and communicating clearly with the user. Speculative Design turns many of those notions on their heads in order to start an engaging conversation about the future and where we might end up based on the present. It’s about conveying ideas, making people question what appears to be natural behaviour, and oftentimes it takes it’s content to the extreme. The inherit desire of Speculative Design to ask questions rather than to provide answers brings it incredibly close to Fine Art. I thought this was quite interesting as usually the fields are considered fundamentally different, yet somehow there is overlap.

After the talk had concluded we were tasked to come up with an exciting concept relating to Speculative Design by taking inspiration from the Cooper Hewitt Collection. Richard, Fred, and I got in the same team and had a look through the massive collection, exploring a variety of artwork, models, and textiles. We ended up finding this elaborate Architectural Model for a Church or Baptistry. What struck me about that model was that although it was very well crafted it did not feature any windows at all. Thinking on Speculative Design, I thought it would be quite interesting to take that concept into the other extreme and to imagine a society which lives in buildings made of nothing but glass. This concept begged some interesting questions such as how would people behave at home, knowing that they could be watched at any given moment? How would any sort of privacy be managed? Would privacy even be an option at that point? What would be the difference between a society that was raised in those circumstances and one that was introduced to them coming from the life we know?

The image we generated the idea from: Church Architectural Model, 1782

The image we generated the idea from: Church Architectural Model, 1782

Additionally, the idea begs us to reconsider present day notions of transparency and the idea that everyone must be constantly visible and open, for example through social media. After we discussed the idea with Jussi, he have us a few interesting connections to this concept. Specifically, he mentioned that in glass architecture as a general rule, light and shadows are exceptionally important when it comes to visibility within the building itself. Additionally, we connected this hypothetical society with the idea of surveillance, self-surveillance, the Panopticon, and the Crystal Palace. After that discussion, the team and I started thinking of how we could turn this into an interesting game. At that point, Richard suggested that this would be a fantastic stealth based game. The main objective would be to use light and shadow to hide from unwanted eyes and to do a certain activity in private, for example taking a shower. Below I have attached the images the team and I presented to show the concept of what a house in this society might look like, and how the artistic style in-game could function.

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After the presentations, we got some pretty good feedback on the idea and most seemed to enjoy the concept and the game we had come up with. Adam suggested that we also have a look at The Circle, which ties into the themes of this concept brilliantly. It was also quite inspiring to hear what other people came up with, because all of the ideas seemed rather good and held potential. Overall, I really enjoyed the whole concept of imagining futures and societies based on the present, and taking certain ideas from modern day to the extreme. It’s a great thought experiment that holds the potential for fantastic idea generation, and crafting entire worlds based on a problem in the present.

Week 3: The Matrix by Valzorra

Tech Workshop and Building the World

Aside from the initial research in my four chosen themes, namely Poetry, Abstract Art, Geometry, and Mathematics, I also spend Week 3 attending our regularly scheduled workshops and lectures. This Tuesday during our morning Tech Workshop session, we dived deeper into Fundamental Calculus, exploring some more essential concepts such as the Product Rule, the Chain Rule, L’Hôpital’s  Theorem, and the Squeeze Theorem. For the most part, everything we covered made sense and connected quite nicely with the material from the previous weeks. I also quite appreciated having the proof for all of the theorems and rules covered as that was the way that the connection between all of these different principles was established for me. By using the definition of the derivative and other basic properties of functions and limits, we were able to establish why the Product Rule, the Chain Rule, and the Squeeze Theorem were in fact accurate. It was rather nice to see how the knowledge stacks up and how all of these elements are interconnected and thus allow for us to build up to more complex and exciting things. Possibly the most exciting part of the lesson to me was proving L’Hôpital’s Theorem geometrically by using the Squeeze Theorem, as that solution was rather visual, which tends to make more sense to me as a general rule. Overall, I’m excited to see where this journey through Calculus will eveturally take us and I look forward to applying some of principles in my practise, specifically when it comes to physics, movement, calculating trajectories, and more. Below I have attached my work and notes from our session.

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Notes from class, showing my work and progress for that session.

Notes from class, showing my work and progress for that session.

Matrices are essentially a way of managing data and the relationships between data.

After our session on Calculus we proceeded to the Building the World session, where we covered Matrices and basic operations one could do with them. Matrices are key to understand as they are essentially the building blocks of Markov Chains, which is what we are really interested in as games designers, but more on Markov Chains next week. For this class, we took a look at what matrices are, their basic definition, how one can add or subtract two matrices of equal rows and columns, how one can scale a matrix, and most interestingly how one can multiply two matrices. I found the majority of these operations quite straightforward as they did not go far beyond basic arithmetic, although I did take a couple of attempts to get a hang of the multiplication procedure. The process itself was not overly complex, but the first time I tried, I found myself losing track of which set of numbers I was on, which I reckon is probably an attention issue more that anything else. After I realised my first result was a bit off, I had another stab at it, and figured it out relatively quickly. Overall, I quite enjoyed learning about matrices as they are essentially a way of managing data and the relationships between data. Matrices can are used in computer graphics, managing computer-generated reflections and distortion effects, geometric transformations,  listing probabilities and outcomes of the same trial, and more. Below I have included my work on matrices from the sessions (including some excessive crossing out of errors).

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Application of Matrices in Video Games for the creation of Reflection and Distortion Effects.

Application of Matrices in Video Games for the creation of Reflection and Distortion Effects.

Presenting the Themes

The Friday of Week 3 was predominately dedicated to the presentations of our four themes, where we were meant to give and receive feedback on which themes we found the most exciting. The process started off quite well and I felt quite enthusiastic about helping people out with resources they should look at and questions they may want to consider within their given topic. However, although the day started off rather smoothly, it was quite draining later on due to the large number of information presented and a series of technical issues throughout. Nonetheless, we marched forward and continuously gave feedback and voted on our favourite themes, obtaining a large documents with people’s thoughts on the subjects presented. When it came down to my own presentation, I was trying to fit a large amount of information on all themes into a reasonable time frame, so I ended up speaking mostly from a place of passion about the topics rather than from my predetermined script. I think I managed to fit the most important bits and pieces in and to show why these particular themes are so exciting, however the audience would be the best judge of that. Once my presentation was over, I took a look at the notes I received (both attached below) and was quite pleased with them as they gave me a series of links and potential research avenues, including a number of people to talk to about the topics.

When it comes to favourites, Geometry got the most love from the class, which I greatly appreciate as it is a very exciting visual and ma thematic field. However, although Geometry was the favourite topic of the class, I decided to focus my research on Mathematics because I am greatly interested in the field as a whole and I do not want to limit myself to that specific section of Maths. Mathematics in itself incorporates Geometry, however, it would also allow me to continue exploring the idea of Chance, Probability, and how one would go about manipulating and controlling them. I’m quite excited to dive deeper into these topics and hopefully, this will lead to exciting research avenues and the potential for some fantastic game ideas.

In addition to the discussion around everyone’s themes and chosen topics for further research, we had a rather useful workshop on the Friday, which gave us a method for focusing our research and coming up with large bodies of it in a relatively short amount of time by using prompts such as Colour, Shapes, and more. Richard and I took a look at the Colours of a variety of Habitats and filled the OneNote folder the class was working on with a series of exciting colour schemes from different parts of the world, which you can have a look at below. Overall, I thought this method of research is rather useful, especially when struggling to find a starting point or a focus. I am not certain I will apply it religiously to my own work as I have grown to research specific questions and find answers to them. However, if I am ever in a position where I can’t quite come up with a question or am feeling stuck in general, I will surely turn to these prompts and starting points. Overall, Friday was rather busy and draining, but also quite productive. Decisions have been made on where to next and from here on out it’s a matter of getting all of that research done. And so we beat on.

Week 2: Calculus and Cancer by Valzorra

Tech Workshop and Building the World

In addition to documenting all of my starting points and making decisions about which four themes to focus on, Week 2 was also devoted to some pretty awesome workshops. As usual, we had our Tech Workshop and Building the World sessions with James on Tuesday. During the first part of the day we took a closer look at the crucial A* algorithm, specifically how to translate the theory from Week 1 into code and some common design problems it raises. I was quite please to discover that although I did not feel very confident about it, my pseudo code for the A* algorithm from Week 1, was mostly on track with the actual solution. I was especially happy to find out that my approach of using the coordinate system to figure out what are the neighbouring nodes to a parent node was a valid method.

My favourite part from the morning session on Tuesday was exploring the geometric solution of how we check whether a node is accessible or not. I think I was particularly fond of it because it is a very elegant and mathematical way to go about solving a problem through the use of elementary formulas on the surface area of a polygon. Additionally, more so than any other issue we explored that day, it involved thinking outside of the box and it showed me that mathematics can be incredibly useful in solving design and optimisation problems. Overall, I was really pleased to have learned the A* algorithm and I will be sure to apply some of the problem solving methodologies we explored to my practice. I will be especially careful to use solid mathematical solutions to issues rather than Unity specific solutions, because if I learn how to efficiently problem-solve through maths, then I will be able to apply the knowledge to any programming language and game engine.

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Handwritten notes from the first part of Week 2’s Tech Workshop, showcasing the geometric solution to obstacle detection.

Handwritten notes from the first part of Week 2’s Tech Workshop, showcasing the geometric solution to obstacle detection.

After fully exploring the A* Algorithm we proceeded to go into some fundamental Calculus. As many of us were interested in advanced concepts and mechanics that could possibly feature in our FMPs, James felt it necessary to introduce/remind us of core Calculus as that field of mathematics is the backbone of a series of systems we are likely to use, for example particle systems. Additionally, knowing these fundamentals is more than likely to save us time as game developers, because calculus is incredibly applicable when it comes to solving unexpected problems.

The session itself was quite intense as we had a variety of material to go over. Within an hour we managed to cover functions, limits, slopes, derivatives, and the power rule along with its proof. Although it was tough at times, I really enjoyed being challenged and pushing myself to digest, and remember as much from the material as possible. Overall, I was quite happy that I did not really get lost throughout the session and managed to understand everything that was presented. I am looking forward to Week 3, when we are to continue our exploration of these basic principles.

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Handwritten notes from the Calculus portion of the Tech Workshop

Handwritten notes from the Calculus portion of the Tech Workshop

By the time we had finished our discussion on Calculus for the day, the Tech Workshop had finished and after lunch it was time for our Building the World Sessions. We continued our work on Probability and Chance, beginning with a few revision exercises on the material from last time. After we were done with that we had an exciting game of Craps and explored Probability Trees through it. What I found most interesting about the session was the idea of designers changing the probability of certain events. What’s even more exciting to me would be to give the player the opportunity to change the outcome of events based on these probabilities and thus to enhance their gameplay experience by giving them control under certain conditions. The idea of chance, control, and controlling chance is quite fascinating to me, and I believe it even touches on the famous faith against free will debate. Mathematics connects the dots.

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Notes from the Building the World Session and my attempts at crafting a Probability Tree. Even though, I arrived at a correct solution, I ended up making it more complicated than it need to be.

Notes from the Building the World Session and my attempts at crafting a Probability Tree. Even though, I arrived at a correct solution, I ended up making it more complicated than it need to be.

Friday Workshop: Simulation Theory

After a very challenging and productive session on the Tuesday, we had another workshop scheduled for the Friday of Week 2, delivered by Seth Giddings. The workshop and lecture centred around Simulation and Simulation Theory and how we should view and consider simulations as games designers. I did enjoy the presentation overall, however, my favourite part of the day was by far designing our own simulation in the form of a board game. Seth had purchased a series of inexpensive gossip-style magazines filled with the most ludicrous articles imaginable. We were to take these magazines and take advantage of them in our simulations, whether that was simply for the use of their imagery or as a form of inspiration and idea generation.

The magazine my team and I were working with.

The magazine my team and I were working with.

My team (Ella, Bernie, Dean, Fred, and Richard) and I grabbed one of the magazines purely arbitrarily and began exploring its pages. We were all undoubtedly convinced we had just witnessed the pinnacle of investigative journalism. The magazine was almost exclusively dedicated to lifestyle articles, primarily around weight loss, weight gain, and certain medication to alter weight. It featured a series of recipes, which were questionably healthy as well as the supposed latest fashion and interior design trends. Among the most noteworthy sections of the magazine was the Horoscope, whose author has surely been nominated for the Creative Writing Awards 2018 under the Superstitious Fiction section. All in all, the magazine was absolutely absurd, filled with strange and insensitive articles that promoted body alteration and unrealistic expectations.

Some of the horoscope pieces we used in the game as tokens.

Some of the horoscope pieces we used in the game as tokens.

However, by far the most insensitive article of all was one called “Thank you, Cancer“. It featured the story of a woman who had beaten caner and who was essentially grateful for her illness as it helped her achieve some of her long-term goals. The primary reason the team and I thought this article was incredibly insensitive was the title “Thank you, Cancer“ and the implication that this deadly illness is somehow the reason for those achievements. Additionally, the article completely fails to acknowledge that many are not as fortunate in their struggle against the disease and thus makes it appear as though their battles are not worth mentioning. As we were all so appalled by that piece of journalism, we decided to make a satirical simulation of what life with cancer would be like according to the article.

Ellla

The basic premise of our board game, titled “Thank you, Cancer“ after the article, was that each player must accomplish certain goals and check things off their bucket list, all within a limited amount of time before death. We created a circular board with special locations signifying the items on the bucket list. In order to have accomplished a certain goal, players needed to use a dice to move towards the designated space of that goal. If a player is to pass through all designated spaces and life goals, then they have ticked every item off of the bucket list and essentially win the game, knowing they can die happy with their cancer. If players were unable to go through all life goals within five turns, then they would lose and instantly die to the cancer. Additionally, there were spaces on the board that would award players with Healthy Food Tokens, which would add two additional turns, thus extending patient life. Finally, there are places on the board that would grant a Horoscope Token. Each Horoscope Token has a unique effect based on the text on the card. Those were the simple and straight-forward rules of “Thank you, Cancer“.

The finished board game “Thank you, Cancer“

The finished board game “Thank you, Cancer“

Upon attempting to play the game, players often found the odds stacked against their favour. Five turns were nowhere near enough to achieve all life goals and the addition of insta-kill cards in the Horoscope Section further decreased any chances of victory. However, this does fit in with the idea that the board game and simulation we designed was a satirical piece meant to mock the preposterous articles and viewpoints within the magazine. The entire magazine placed extraordinary emphasis on bucket lists and shallow life goals, which why we decided to take those ideas to the extreme and turn them into an essentially unbeatable game. Overall, I quite enjoyed working on the project as it was incredibly entertaining and it gave us the opportunity to get somewhat creative with the source material. I also appreciated the new knowledge around simulations Seth shared with us and I am especially fascinated in the idea of looking into simulations as a powerful training tool.

Week 1: Good Starts by Valzorra

After completing most of the work on the online portfolio and website, I was all ready and prepared for an intense session of idea generation that Friday. We began the day with the Good Start/Bad Start Workshop, which I found quite useful overall as it gave me a good outline of the way I could go about coming up with my starting points. Due to our proximity to each other within the studio, Richard and I teamed up for the first part of the session and started answering the questions Adam had asked us. Below I’ve listed the six questions and the answers I gave to them at the time as well as an image of our work with Richard.

  1. What makes you laugh?

    • Funny Cats, Comedy Shows, Puns, Good Company, Memes, “Space Arms“, “Sounds Like a You Problem“

  2. What makes you cry?

    • Burnout, Sleeping For About Two Hours Weeks on End, Lack of Confidence, Animal Cruelty, Abuse, Bullying, Destruction, Myself

  3. What gets you excited?

    • Great Artwork, New Music Albums, Releasing/Completing a Game, New Video Games, Projects To Work On, New Art Books, Design Work

  4. What gets you angry?

    • Late Trains, Ungrateful People, Injustice, Arrogance, Abuse, Destruction, General Rudeness, Ignorance

  5. What stimulates you intellectually?

    • Visual Culture, Tough Design Problems, Poetry Analysis, Challenges, Mathematics and Coding, Abstract Art, Projects to Work On, M.C. Escher

  6. What interests you?

    • Animation, Art, Poetry, 3D Modelling, Card Games, Innovation, Technology, Geometry, 3D Printing, Data Visualisation, Coding, Design Thinking, Video Games

The six sheets Richard and I crafted together.

The six sheets Richard and I crafted together.

After everyone had set up their posters on the walls, the room was filled with hundreds of staring points to get inspired from and to consider looking into. I quite enjoyed walking around and taking a look at what everyone had come up with, because they gave me a few staring points and ideas I hadn’t instantly considered. Some of those topics include irregularities, interior design, mental health, virtual reality, uncertainty, existentialism, absurdism, space, anatomy, photography, cinematography, manipulation, loneliness, and loss. Once I had taken a good look at everyone’s posters and after some guidance from Adam on what types of topics are likely to lead to exciting research avenues, I realised that a lot of the answers I had given to the questions above would not be worth researching any further as they would likely lead to dead ends. For example, some of my answers such as Injustice or Abstract Art have a a series of different interpretations and ways to be explored because of their generality and people’s different takes on them. Whereas as Funny Cats do indeed make me laugh, they are quite unlikely to lead to anything much more productive than that. That’s why when Adam asked us to pick a few topics and analyse them further, I had a much better idea of what is likely to be an exciting theme to look into.

Based on that knowledge and on a few conversations with Sam C. and Emily, I decided to look further into the Virtual Reality, Mental Health, and Anatomy. After that, I narrowed down the topics further and decided to analyse Virtual Reality in the most detail on that day. Virtual Reality has always been an exciting concept to me as it holds the potential to transport the viewer into a different space. It is the most successful tool for immersion, and manages to convincingly occupy the senses of sight and sound. This also begs the question of what human perception is, and how easy that is to manipulate, which can be an exciting research topic by itself. Below I have attached notes and questions I explored during the session on all topics, especially VR, which was my primary focus from the entire session.

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Questions and analysis of the three topics I focused on.

Questions and analysis of the three topics I focused on.

A deeper dive into VR by answering the questions Adam recommended within the session.

A deeper dive into VR by answering the questions Adam recommended within the session.

While answering the questions, I was sure to take out some of the key themes and ideas that came out of my answers. Those by themselves can be new starting points.

While answering the questions, I was sure to take out some of the key themes and ideas that came out of my answers. Those by themselves can be new starting points.

After narrowing down my research and thought process onto VR and considering what makes VR exciting, what some opportunities within the field are, and how Leonardo da Vinci might view VR, it was time to take my research and thinking into a more visual format. It was at this point in the day that we went out to the park close to WSA in order to take some photos of objects and events that represented our theme. I was initially a bit confused about how to represent Virtual Reality within the real world, however, the moment I went outside, I realised that reflections are a form of virtual reality. When one deconstructs the term, virtual reality simply means something that’s quite close to reality, but not quite the same as it. A reflection is the mirrored image of reality, but not quite what is real, it’s a representation. Additionally, reflection can also be a very exciting topic to do research on as it has been a significant part of multiple cultures throughout history. Not only that, but there are a series of myths about mirrors and the reflected image. Below I have posted the photos I ended up taking, most of which are significantly related to reflection and reflection as a form of virtual reality.

Once we were back in the studios, we carried on with our visual research, this time by drawing a series of panels to represent the theme. I found this exercise a bit easier than finding imagery related to VR outside, as it allowed to me to represent objects and actions that were not directly in front of me. In the first of my six panels, I decided to cover a more indirect aspect of VR, which would be what you see on the inside of kaleidoscopes, which is a form of primitive VR technology. The second panel represented the inside of a modern VR Headset, which the third was dedicated to a handled accessory for the HTC Vive. My fourth panel attempted to visualise a 3D environment that may be associated with VR, the firth one showed someone using a VR headset, and the last panel referred to the famous roller coaster VR Experience. After the poster was all ready and up on the wall, I was really surprised to discover that the images I had drawn did not immediately scream VR to those that took a look at it. The themes that they wrote down on my poster were Patterns, Geometry, and Music, which were all fantastic themes I hadn’t really considered at that point and will be sure to include in my list of starting points.

The poster I created with the notes from course mates that took a look at it.

The poster I created with the notes from course mates that took a look at it.

The wall with everyone’s posters and notes, which was quite inspirational.

The wall with everyone’s posters and notes, which was quite inspirational.

Thoughts and Reflection

Overall, I thought the session on Friday was rather useful for getting a series of starting points and things to consider looking into. I especially enjoyed the fact that through the collaborative process and looking at what my course mates had come up with, I got a bunch of ideas of potential research avenues myself. I was gained a much better understanding of the types of staring points that might be worth looking into, as they need to be quite general and abstract, and not too specific. Additionally, a good topic will also have a series of different points of view and ways that it could be explored. I also found the questions Adam presented us with quite useful as they gave me a way to focus my thoughts and come up with starting points based on a specific prompt, as otherwise I was feeling a little lost. I was also quite happy to go through the process of starting out with dozens of research points and then narrowing them down to one, which was Virtual Reality in my case. It was a great miniature version of the process we would have to go through over the first three weeks of the semester and it provided me with a way I could approach the process if I am ever feeling stuck. In addition to the workshop itself, I also found the Action Plan quite useful as it outlined some fantastic ways to do further research once the four key topics have been decided on. At this stage I had a very clear idea of how to approach the process, what sort of research needed to be done, and how to go about doing. All in all, I was ready to begin the process of picking my four starting points.

Week 1: A Welcome Return by Valzorra

It feels amazing to be back. I’ve been looking forward to starting Year 3 for the longest time and our first week back did not disappoint. Coming into the Launch Session on Monday, I was not fully sure what to expect, but I was itching to begin work. It was really helpful to hear about what is considered good Professional Practice as those tips and techniques would be useful throughout my design career, especially when establishing myself and applying for positions in different studios. Additionally, I was feeling a little lost when it came to designing my website, so it was great to have a few terrific examples of what an excellent online portfolio is. My main takeaway was that the work should be displayed front and centre, while the website itself should not be too busy, so as to not distract from the portfolio. Based on that section of the presentation, I have attempted to apply most of the tips regarding online portfolios onto this site.

What excited me most about the upcoming year from the entire Launch was likely the Brief itself. I found it quite helpful to have a deconstruction of the entire semester and what we would be doing week by week as that would allow me to make a more accurate working schedule. Although research and ideation is not necessarily my favourite part of the games design process, I understand it’s absolutely crucial towards creating a good game. Dozens of ideas need to be generated and analysed before it is even worth exploring any of them further. That’s one of the best ways to ensure that a designer is not investing too much time and effort into an idea that was not great to begin with. Therefore, it’s great to know that we will have as many weeks to figure out what topic we would like to explore and what themes we would like to incorporate within our games. Overall, Monday was quite busy, but also very productive as now we knew exactly what it was that needed to be done and how we are to proceed over the next few weeks.

Deconstruction of Semester I by Adam Procter

Deconstruction of Semester I by Adam Procter

Tech Workshop and Building the World

The Tuesday of Week 1 was centred around our first Tech Workshop and Building the World Sessions. I quite enjoyed James’s lecture on the A* Algorithm as it was very informative and made logical sense throughout. Additionally, the A* Algorithm has a wide range of applications, especially when it comes to movement and path-finding within video games. I did find it rather challenging to translate the A* Algorithm to pseudo code, however, I had a few solid attempts at it and I felt as though I did get at least close to the solution.

The very first page of my handwritten notes on Deconstructing the A* Algorithm

The very first page of my handwritten notes on Deconstructing the A* Algorithm

The main part of the lecture with details on the key formulae for this algorithm.

The main part of the lecture with details on the key formulae for this algorithm.

My attempt at pseudo code for the A* Algorithm.

My attempt at pseudo code for the A* Algorithm.

After digesting the A* Algorithm, we had our first Building The World Session that afternoon, which I found rather fascinating. We were exploring Linear Congregational Generation, the Percentile Mechanic, as well as the Binomial Distribution Formula, all elements related to Chance and Probability within games. I absolutely loved the idea that as designers we have a variety of methods to ensure true random chance and to calculate the probability of every outcome of a situation. This gives us sufficient control over player experiences and thus can help us ensure that they have a great play through, even when presented with elements of chance. It also opens up a series of possibilities when it comes to level design, environmental design, enemy positioning, and so much more as it gives us the option to introduce multiple solutions to a given problem within our games. Additionally, these formulas are also extremely useful in helping designers predict what players are most likely to do when presented with multiple possibilities of different chances. What interests me even more so is how players would react if they are presented with the opportunity to change the outcome of chance-based events and how that would influence game-play.

Hand-written notes from the Building the World Session.

Hand-written notes from the Building the World Session.

The example Rubi and I came up with featuring a changing weather system.

The example Rubi and I came up with featuring a changing weather system.

Designing the Website and Logo

Over the next few days I spent a substantial amount of time creating my website based on the methods we discussed that Monday. I went onto my chosen platform, Squarespace, and took a look at the array of templates they offer to get me started. Although they had a variety of options available, I went for Forte. Forte’s bold design showcases visuals beautifully with one massive central image, and then upon further inspection, users can view other similar work or pieces from the same project. I quite prefer this structure because it showcases the best pieces first, it stands out from other sites, and the layout is much more dynamic than Avenue, for example, which I felt echoes Instagram too closely. After choosing my template I then proceeded to gather my best pieces of art and photography in order to showcase them on the site. As I intend to make an individual page for each project under the Work section, I gathered these pieces into a collective Photography page and a collective Art page for all separate works that don’t fit into a dedicated project. I have yet to add a project page for DARE, the project I led in Semester 2 of Year 2, but I intend to do so soon. I am also really looking forward to filling this site with a variety of materials for my FMP.

These were some of the templates I considered when starting to create the website. I was tempted by Flatiron as well, however, I do not have enough work to make the best out of that template.

These were some of the templates I considered when starting to create the website. I was tempted by Flatiron as well, however, I do not have enough work to make the best out of that template.

In addition to including my best art and photography onto the website, I also made sure to write up a short description of each individual piece in order to provide some context for the pieces and my thought process. I figured that if anyone were to visit, the site should look as complete as it possibly can at this stage, which meant I needed to provide enough clarity on my work. Overall, when all of that was ready and described, I was quite happy with how it turned out as it started to look like a professional art and design portfolio. I had never seen my work presented in such a manner, so I felt quite motivated to work and add more pieces throughout this year. It was also at this stage that I started to appreciate how important presenting your work in the right format is, as that can make the difference between professionalism and mediocrity.

In addition to creating my website and online portfolio, I thought it would be rather useful to create a logo for my practice. It would be used on the website itself, on business cards, leaflets, and most crucially on my artwork as somewhat of a signature. The logo needed to be clear and also representative of me, which is why I chose to go for an abstract and geometric design as it is the predominant style of my artwork. I wanted to make sure that the letters V, L, Z, and R, were in some way featured within the design, even if it was primarily through abstract shapes and lines, as those are the key letters in my pseudonym Valzorra. However, once I started sketching, I thought it would be great to incorporate some three-dimensional elements into the logo as well. Although I am currently primarily a traditional and 2D artist, a lot of my work features three-dimensional shapes. Additionally, as a games designer, I am quite passionate about 3D and Low-Poly Projects, so it is more than likely that my work in the future will feature more such pieces. Therefore, incorporating both three-dimensional and two-dimensional shapes into the logo not only made it more exciting and intricate, but also made the logo more representative of me, my interests, and my future work. In terms of colour, I went for different shades of grey in order to give the logo a sleek and professional look, while also ensuring it gave the illusion of volume.

Different iterations and sketches of the logo, while trying to incorporate the letters V, L, Z, and R.

Different iterations and sketches of the logo, while trying to incorporate the letters V, L, Z, and R.

Incorporating 2D and 3D elements into the logo. The outline on the far right is the final outline.

Incorporating 2D and 3D elements into the logo. The outline on the far right is the final outline.

The completed and coloured logo for Valzorra.

The completed and coloured logo for Valzorra.

Thoughts and Reflection

All in all, I was quite happy with the work I did on both the website and the logo during the better half of Week 1. I thought those were valuable pieces to have done now, while there is still some time to spare on them, rather than during November and December, when deadlines are fast approaching. It was a great learning experience as I familiarised myself with Squarespare and now feel confident creating and editing websites using that platform, which is why I have chosen to host my blog on valzorra.com as well. Additionally, I had a lot of fun designing the logo, because of all of the freedom I had to create anything I wanted to, to represent me and my work. It’s a fantastic exercise in branding, figuring out how to best market myself as a designer, and making sure that the logo is solid enough to look good in a variety of settings. As I am also aware that we are to learn more about branding oneself later on in the year, I am not married to these designs, and I appreciate that they may change later on. I was also really inspired by the work we did on Tuesday and I was already thinking of chance and probability as potential staring points and areas worth exploring further. At this point, I was ready and prepared to continue with ideation, jogging down things that interest me, and working on those starting points to derive an idea from. All set for Friday’s workshop.