Art, reviews and thoughts from a young artist in Plymouth, UK.

Archive for January, 2017

Global Game Jam 2017

 

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‘Quake Rescue gameplay screen shot

Last weekend I took part in the Global Game Jam 2017 with my brother J with support from my mum and Plymouth Game Devs.  This is the third game jam that we have done as a team, KitiJenGames.  The theme was “Waves”, it was a 48 hour jam, and our jam site was ThinqTanq.

The event started with a video about the Global Game Jam.  The video explained that the GGJ is a massive international event involving over 600 jam sites and more than 40,000 people across 90 countries!  We saw clips of people working in teams all over the world.  Most of the people in the video looked like they were in their twenties and I didn’t see anyone else around our age but I hope that there are others out there somewhere!  There was a welcome talk by the Extra Credits team.  Extra Credits is a YouTube channel that gives advice and has discussions about game development, and me and J really enjoy their videos.

The narrator explained some of the different reasons people take part in GGJ, like making prototypes for future development, to share their passion for making games, and because they love developing new games.  They then gave advice on taking part in a game jam:

  • Keep It Simple!
  • Communicate with your team and the other participants.  Being able to reach out for help from other developers is a benefit of doing a jam.
  • Keep brainstorming short and develop your ideas through the jam. A game could start with an idea that seems odd but could be well made and fun (e.g “Mario’s core concept is a jumping plumber on drugs.”)
  • Compromise with your team, and don’t dig your heels in.
  • Know what to save for next time!  Stay focused on your main idea and leave some of your other ideas for another time.  Try keeping a “For the sequel” file of ideas.
  • Get some sleep.

At the end of the video there were lots of short clips to introduce the waves theme.  We weren’t allowed to talk about the theme on social media until the next day because everyone has to wait until the last timezone (Hawaii) is told the theme!  It was just after 5pm on Friday when we found out the theme.

Me, J and our mum had a short brainstorming session together, and we talked about different kinds of waves e.g. sea waves, waves of monsters, sound waves, seismic waves…  We talked about what ideas we had related to them and about different game genres, and decided to make a game where you had to save as many people as possible from an earthquake using a giant claw to take them to a safe zone before the timer runs out.  We planned it out on paper and made a short video with our little sister.  We would only have until Saturday evening to make the game because we had plans for Sunday (visiting the Eden Project with friends), also we couldn’t work on Saturday morning because me and J both have regular Clubs then.  We knew that we had very little time so we worked for a couple of hours from home that night, I worked on the art for the main character and J started to code for the shaking background and the people to rescue.

 

 

In the morning we couldn’t do any work because J had his Code Club and I had my NatSatClub.  I had a workshop on using Photoshop to make animations.  I got back to ThinqTanq just after 1pm to start work on our game again, but my mum had lost the stylus for my drawing tablet!  Luckily Viki (ALittleRedPanda) had one spare and lent it to me.  J was responsible for the coding and music, I was in charge of making the art assets, and our mum supervised us to make sure we were on track.

The art assets I had to make included the character in peril, the claw to pick them up with, and the safe zone to drop them in.  I made all of them in Manga Studio 5 in a pixel art style.  The character has their hands in the air, and has a little animation which makes them look left then right, to give the impression they are running around screaming.  The animation only uses two frames.  I designed the first sprite, then for the second frame I flipped my design and edited the t-shirt on the flipped version so that it was correctly aligned.  I only had time to design one character, which my family all say looks like me!

 

Next I worked on the claw, which has an “open” design while empty (and looks a bit like a propeller), and a “closed” design when holding a character.  I did the “open” design first, inspired by the claw machines in arcades.  This was another two frame/costume animation, for the second frame I erased the outer joints of the claw.  I am happy with my design which does look like a mechanical claw from a birds-eye view.

I designed the “safe zone” as a white square with rounded edges and a big red cross on it like a cartoon ambulance.  I also hand-lettered “SAFE ZONE” on the digital image using my stylus and big, black and blocky letters, to make it easy for the player to identify.

quakesafezone1

By then J had got most of the game code sorted out, so I sent him my finished sprites so he could add them into the game (he was using plain rectangles which my sprites had to replace).  I still had to make the background and the start screen, but my hand had started hurting after making the first few sprites so I took a short break and tested the game.  J had managed to also make the game music in BeepBox which he said he wanted to sound like an earthquake.  We were laughing over the music and the little screaming characters running about because it was quite comical and ridiculous.

quakebackground

I got back to work and started making the background.  We had decided to use a road and pavement setting and I dotted rocks and rubble all over it to give the impression of an earthquake.  These small elements are also necessary so that when the background shakes or a character moves around it you can imagine the movement and it seems like a real space rather than a flat background.  I learned about doing this when we made our last game, Infection!  I designed one pile of rocks and rubble and I cloned it to dot around because I was short of time to make lots of different piles of rubble.

The last thing I had to design was the Start Screen.  A Start Screen is important to explain what the point of the game is and what the player has to do.  I chose a colour scheme that made me think of dirt/earth to go with the game theme.  I chose not to use a ready made font but instead I hand-lettered the game title and instructions using my stylus.  I didn’t want to use a font that someone else had made as I wanted our game to have its own original look to it.  I tried to give the letters a messy but simple look.  I wanted to also make a Game Over screen but my hand was hurting too much to do any more drawing and we were running out of time.  Finally, my dad, my mum, me and Jenson all recorded voice clips for the game for when the player saves the little people.  We used an Android phone to make these wav files (and the Hertz app) and we tried to make funny silly voices to fit with the feel of our game.

quaketitle1

It was really fun making ‘Quake Rescue and being part of the Global Game Jam.  It felt like I was part of something giant with all the other jammers around the world.  The other teams at our site and Jack (SoGoodStudios) the organiser were all friendly and supportive.  I think our final game works well and I would describe it as a fun minigame.  I think we have definitely improved our skills since our first game jam and our teamwork is better too but it did get hard later on Saturday when we were tired and J wanted to finish up before I did.  I am looking forward to doing more game jams through this year!

Links:

‘Quake Rescue page on the Global Game Jam 2017 site

‘Quake Rescue on itch.io

‘Quake Rescue on Scratch

ThinqTanq jam site page on the Global Game Jam 2017 site

All games from the teams at our jam site

 

 

 

 

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The Science and Technology Showcase at Plymouth University

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Freebies! My Explore Discover Achieve lanyard, my Event pass, a Plymouth University notepad, and our 3D printed tags from the Electronics stand

Yesterday I went with my brother to a Science and Technology Showcase for secondary school students which was held at Plymouth University.  When we arrived we were given our Event Passes and after a short wait we were shown to a lecture theatre for careers talks from four different speakers.

First was a talk from Grant Cole (Twitter) to talk about the work of being a Geologist.  His work involves studying rocks and fossils, and he has been all over the world, including Iceland, Death Valley, and a salt mine in Sicily.  Grant said that he does lots of field work on his own and he has done his research from the air and off-road.  Parts of his job sounded really exciting – lots of travelling, glacial walking and making new discoveries.

Next was Kathy Redfern (Twitter), who is a nutritionist.  Her work is researching the “impacts of food and nutrition on the health and wellbeing of humans (or animals)” to give advice for the prevention of illness.  She specifically works with pregnant women, and she says some of the benefits of her job is that no two days are the same and she gets to travel around the UK and to Portugal.

The third speaker was Jon Waters who is studying Mathematics and is part of the Theoretical Physics Group.  His current research is in lasers and he explained that normal torches contain a wide band from the visible light spectrum but lasers only contain a narrow band and can concentrate energy to a fine point.  Jon said that his work involves getting used to not knowing the answer.  His work involves coming up with mathematical models and performing theoretical tests and he learns new things every day.

The last talk was from a psychologist called Leonie Cooper.  She has worked at the National Marine Aquarium and now is working with an intelligent robot called Snap.  Her research is in using mental imagery to train people to have healthier behaviours.  She says that people seem to find that robots are less judgemental to talk to than other people.  Leonie is also interested in how games and apps could be used to reach thousands.

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The Basic code I tried out on the BBC Microcomputer

After the talks were finished we went to a big marquee filled with stands from different university departments.  It was split into three sections, and we were given thirty minutes in each section.  First I went to a stand where I took my thumbprint and compared it to one from an imaginary suspect that I lifted with powder and tape.  There was a psychology stand where I did a lie detector test.  I had wires attached to the finger on my left hand and my left ear, and I had to pick a card out of five.  They were shuffled and I had to lie about which card I had as they were turned over one by one. The wires measured skin response (sweat increases conductivity) and heart rate.  The lie detector didn’t pick up my lie I think because I was nervous throughout the whole test!  I also had a quick look at other chemistry and biology stands.

In the next section was a stand for the South West Retro Computing Archive, where I did some coding in Basic on a BBC Microcomputer from the 80’s, and J got the hi-score on Pac-man.  I have been to one of their events before and they have a huge range of retro consoles to play and learn about.  On the BBC computer there is a “return” key instead of an enter key, a “break” key to reset the whole computer, and you have to write your code in numbered lines for the system to read in order.

We then went to the Computing and Games Development stand where me and my brother played Pirate Panic, a game written by some of the students at the stand.  Pirate Panic is a multiplayer game where the players have to work together to keep a ship afloat and moving until it reaches land.  It’s a really fast paced game which encourages you to panic, just like the pirates!  I thought it was exciting and good for teamwork.  I also tried a VR game using a headset and I had to shoot lasers at robots.  It was a lot of fun to play but my arm was aching after a few minutes because the shoot button was on the headset.  We also met and spoke to Nicholas Wade who is in his final year and is working to launch his own games studio called Nikomus Games.

Next I went to the Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Robotics stand.  I watched people play with some of the university’s robots and J used a red ball and a sensor to control LED lights that were on the stand.  There was a challenge to find the right frequency on one machine by turning a knob and getting a turning circle on a small screen to stay still. We were told that the shape the green light was making was a visual representation of the frequency it was on.  J was able to do it but I ran out of time, and we were both given 3D printed tags for taking part.

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Some flyers I picked up to learn more about the courses and events at Plymouth University

In the last section there was a Geography stand where I got to try an HTC Vive VR Headset to explore London using Google Earth.  It was brilliant and I loved using the handheld controller and that you could still see it in the virtual space!  We then went to the i-DAT stand where they had a small black dome which we entered.  Inside there was a film projected onto the dome ceiling about being an astronaut. A voiceover explained that there were different levels of G-Force as we watched a CGI representation of a G-Force training machine.  We heard how astronauts need to keep exercising while they are in space so they aren’t too weak when they get back to Earth and we saw an astronaut using an exercise bike.  We also met Luke Christison who works in the Immersive Vision Theatre (in the Planetarium) which we have tickets to visit in a couple of weeks.

The last stand we visited was about meteorites and the Solar System.  I looked at a rock from Mars and compared it to a rock from Earth under a microscope.  A woman working on the stand explained to me that the Earth rock had formed in a volcano, and I could observe that both rocks had been made the same way, so at some point there must have been volcanoes on Mars as well!  There were some pieces of meteorite on the table and a few of them looked alien.  A man from the stand talked to us about the scale of the solar system.  He said if we used a scale of 1 metre to 1 Astronomical Unit (AU), and imagined the Sun was right in front of us, the edge of our Solar System would be in Taunton and our nearest star would be in London!

I really enjoyed going around the marquee and the talks in the beginning were interesting.  My favourite parts were the Retro Games area and the Games Development area, and I really want to try out more VR gaming and exploration technology and learn more about how it works.  I would also like to do more study in electronics and robotics, geology and geography, and psychology, and find out more about Leonie Cooper’s research.

 

Block printing cotton bags

I bought some cotton bags from Hobbycraft for £1 each so that I could try printing on them at home with my Plymouth Pilgrims linocut which I made at my NatSatClub.  I washed the bags and they shrunk quite a bit, and I couldn’t get them completely flat with the iron but I like the slightly crumbly texture they have.  The other equipment I used was:

  • Blue Essdee Block-printing ink which I bought from Cass Art (Bristol)
  • A stainless steel serving spoon to use as a baren
  • A thick slab of glass to roll the ink on
  • The four inch roller from the Essdee Cutting and Printing kit bought from the The Art Side (Plymouth)
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Attempt #1

Attempt #1 – I used cardboard inside the bag in case the ink bled through and the usual amount of ink I would use for printing on paper.  The print is visible but looks pale or faded.  There was no ink on the inside of the bag.  I thought that I needed to apply more ink next time and wondered if the cardboard had cushioned the fabric so that the pressure from the spoon wasn’t enough to transfer the print.

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Attempt #2

Attempt #2 – I removed the cardboard so there was nothing inside the bag and used a thicker layer of ink.  The ink did bleed slightly on the inside of the bag but it was quite a patchy print.  I decided I needed a thin protective layer inside the bag and to apply more pressure to the spoon.

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Attempt #3

Attempt #3 – I used a thin piece of paper inside the bag to protect it from ink bleeding and a thick layer of ink.  I put greater pressure on the spoon in all areas.  The paper took any ink that bled through but the print was still a little patchy.  The print wasn’t aligned properly on this bag but it was my best attempt so far.

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Attempt #4

Attempt #4 – A thick layer of ink, a lot of pressure with the spoon, and a layer of paper inside the bag.  I aligned the bag carefully and went over the print area thoroughly and with a lot of effort with the back of my spoon.  This print looked really good although I did lose definition in some areas because of how thick the ink layer was on the lino.

I enjoyed this experiment and I’m going to make some more block-printed bags soon.  I need to find a better way to apply more consistent pressure with the equipment I have at home because the spoon works well with paper and card but doesn’t work as well with the fabric.  I really like my design and I’m glad it looks good on bags.  I don’t know if the ink will stay on the bags in wet weather or if it will wash so I’m going to test one of these bags after they’ve had time to dry properly and look at different types of ink.

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