Events and Exhibitions, Personal Work, Professional Work

Plymouth Cubed Talk at Central Library

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Plymouth Hoe in Plymouth Cubed

(The screenshots in this post were all taken by me on November 9th 2016)

On Thursday 27th of October I attended a talk about Plymouth Cubed at Central Library.  The speaker was Neil Argue, who created the project.  Neil started his talk explaining the origins of Plymouth Cubed. He had downloaded the Ordnance Survey Minecraft map of Plymouth and he thought that it was too blocky, the scale was wrong and the colours were unrealistic.  He said “I think we can do much better”.  Neil undertook a four-month process of building the territory using LIDAR (information collected by planes flying overhead), MicroDEM (which turns the data into a Minecraft map), and WorldPainter (which builds the map in Minecraft).  The LIDAR data gave information about the height of every part of Plymouth in a one-meter grid, and each meter translates to one block in Minecraft.

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My painting of Plymouth Cubed inside Plymouth Cubed

However, the LIDAR data does have a few drawbacks.  The data is rounded up or down so the landscape can seem quite flat, spaces under bridges are filled because the overhead laser could not pick them up, and objects such as cars and people are scanned and used as land data too, but it did give Neil the basic terrain of Plymouth mapped out to scale in grass and dirt blocks.  One of the fans of the project pointed out that Neil had “created a big colouring book shaped like Plymouth”.

It took Neil around a month on his own to build Plymouth Hoe, and by that point he realised that he wouldn’t be able to build all of Plymouth by himself!  He showed us a video of how Plymouth Cubed looked at that stage.  The audience were in awe and gave plenty of “ooo’s” and “aaa’s”.  You can watch Neil’s videos on the Plymouth Cubed YouTube channel.

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The Life Centre in Plymouth Cubed

Neil told us that there are around 30 builders now and he launched the game to show us what the up to date version looks like.  As it was loading Neil chuckled and said “Plymouth Cubed is always sunny – It never rains, unless i want it to!”.  We were given a look around Derriford Hospital and the Life Centre, which has a working water slide!  Neil also showed us that some of the bus stops actually work, and will teleport you to different parts of Plymouth.  Some of the builders are also trying to get the Torpoint Ferry working and Neil is hoping to use NPCs at specific destinations to give travellers information about Plymouth.

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Working bus stops in Plymouth Cubed

To join Plymouth Cubed a Minecraft player needs to contact Neil via Facebook (if they are under 16 a parent should contact him).  The server will allow twenty players on at a time and it is free to use, and there are some simple rules.

  •  Use the landscape as your guide, don’t straighten stuff out.
  • You can add new builds, but don’t take anything away.
  • Don’t touch other people’s builds.
  • Under sixteens need parent’s permission.
  • Keep it realistic by using the closest colour blocks to reality

Neil also encourages that people shouldn’t just build their house, but build their whole street or area.  He said the builders use a 100-foot rule, “if it looks okay from 100 feet away, then it’s good.” (you can get a distorted view by just looking up close).

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Charles Cross church in Plymouth Cubed

The talk went very well and the audience were really excited by it.  I’ve been a fan of Plymouth Cubed from when I first heard about it earlier this year (I wrote about it here) and it’s great to see how much has been added since then, and i’m going to make some time to help build Plymouth in Minecraft.  Neil has raised some funding to keep the server running with a Crowdfunder and printed some awesome t-shirts which have a lovely photo of Plymouth Cubed on the front and my own watercolour art of Plymouth Cubed (sketch, painting, screenshot inside Plymouth Cubed by Neil) on the back which makes me feel so proud!  Here I am with Neil and my brother wearing them:

 

After the talk I went downstairs to Central Library‘s Hello World club where Laura from the library had brought in some Halloween projects.  Hello World is a weekly kid’s tech and coding club which my brother J goes to and the room is usually busy with cool projects on Raspberry Pi, BBC MicroBits and Scratch.  I used a BBC MicroBit to code flashing green LED eyes inside a pumpkin (see it in action on the left in this video).  It’s pretty easy to programme the MicroBit and it’s really fun.  Hello World is on Thursday afternoons and you can click the link for more information.

 

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Pumpkin with flashing LED eyes

 

 

 

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Events and Exhibitions, Personal Work

Games for Better Game Jam

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My ‘cover art’ for our game Infection! showing my final designs for the white blood cell, antibiotic and bacteria characters.

On the weekend of 30th September to 2nd October KitiJenGames (the games development team consisting of me and my brother) participated in the Games for Better 48 hour game jam.  The game jam was organized by Jack from SoGoodStudios and Oli from Sizeable Games because they believe that games can be a good tool for educating people about issues in the world. The game jam theme was Antibiotic Resistance.

On the Friday evening before the jam we went to Plymouth University’s Babbage Building to listen to talks from experts.  The first speaker was Dr Victoria Hurth (Twitter) who is an Associate Professor in Marketing and an expert in sustainability.  She talked about sustainable consumption and explained how animals are being bred (for food) in poor environments and they are given antibiotics to keep them healthy.  Because of this more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics leading to the creation of ‘superbugs’.  The second speaker was Dr Mathew Upton who is an Associate Professor in Medical Microbiology and he said that “Resistance Is Inevitable” when we use antibiotics and explained about bacterial conjugation.  The third speaker was Dr Richard Ayres (Twitter) who is the Lead of Population Health at Peninsula Medical School and a practicing GP.  He explained that sometimes doctors don’t get a lot of time to assess their patients and this can lead to prescription of antibiotics when they are unnecessary.  The talks were really interesting and I didn’t know a lot about antibiotic resistance before them so I learned a lot.

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Dr Mathew Upton showed this image of resistant bacteria and I used it to design my bacteria character.

As soon as the talks finished the game jam started.  It was late on a Friday night so me and my brother J went home and talked about game ideas.  We decided to make a game where you play as an antibiotic and you have to defend the white blood cells from bacteria.  As you play, some bacteria would become resistant and you would have to power up with extra different coloured antibiotics, causing the bacteria to then become even stronger!  The game would be impossible to win and the goal would be to get the highest score possible.  We worked as a team to make a plan on paper and we decided that J would be in charge of doing the coding using Unity and I would be in charge of all the art.  J didn’t know much about using Unity yet but he thought this would be a good chance to learn more.  I decided to go with a cute pixel art look and that I would use Manga Studio 5 to make my files.

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My initial designs for the bacteria character

On Saturday morning J went to his Code Club (Twitter) and I went to my Art Club so we couldn’t get started on our game until the afternoon.  The list of things I needed to design was the bacteria, the power-up, the white blood cells, the antibiotic, the background and the border.  I began working on the main character designs, sketching on paper.  My antibiotic character was a blue pill with a smiley face that would have a little rocking animation.  My first attempt at a bacteria character looked too much like a little sun (very jolly!) so I redesigned to make it a bit more evil, and came up with a ball with angular spikes and a mean face, which would wiggle as it moved.  My white blood cell characters were dopey-looking spheres,and in our game they wouldn’t defend themselves but would just hang around until they were killed by bacteria.

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My initial designs for the antibiotic character.

J asked if I could provide my designs as a sprite sheet. I learnt how to make one from a tutorial and then drew the different sprites for their animations using my Wacom Bamboo tablet and Manga Studio.  After I sent a sprite sheet of the antibiotic over we needed a background. We used a basic plain one at first but it was difficult to tell if the character was moving around, so I made another background with rectangles of different sizes and similar colours, and for the border I used the same pattern but with darker colours.  It was a simple design (supposed to represent the inside of a body) but I really like how it turned out.  I created the sprite sheets for the other characters and sent them over to J’s computer for him to add in to the game, and I designed some ‘cover art’ to put on our itch.io page (and at the top of this post).

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Me and J are on the left eating pizza, Jack and Oli are in the middle.  This photo was taken and posted on Twitter by Eleanor Browne twitter.com/incubationeb

We had to haul our computers to the Babbage building on campus on Saturday night because J was struggling with making the animation work, and Jack helped us out with that and him and Oli gave us some tips.  We arrived just in time to share the free pizza which we ate while listening to video game music and chatting.  My mum had to start helping J with his side of the gamemaking and they spent a lot of time searching online for tutorials and help, but I think he learned a lot about Unity during this project.  We had to give up the idea of power ups and new levels because we ran out of time, and there are a few bugs with the scores, but overall I think our game is fun and cute.

Our finished game is Infection! and you can play it in a browser on your computer.  You can see the Twitter feed for the jam (and discover more of the games) at #GamesForBetter.  I really like Lumberjack and Chickens by Lisoo and I like the look of Dr. Swiperson by @CantGetOurName.

Jupiter Hadley played all the Games for Better games (including ours) for her YouTube channel Jupi Plays (support Jupiter on Patreon) and the judges sent us some feedback to help us improve our gamemaking in the future.  J has signed up to a Unity course to learn more for our next project.  I have signed up to a course on Pixel Art so that I can improve my skills and make more detailed sprites.  Our courses are both on Udemy and if you look around online you can find big discounts on them.  I am also researching game cover art because I would like to improve my cover art illustrations.

I really enjoyed this game jam and I’m looking forward to the next one, and though 48 hour game jams are really hard work they are well worth it because you have to push yourself and so you can learn and improve your skills a lot in a short amount of time.  Follow the link for my post about our first game jam.

 

Events and Exhibitions, Personal Work

Digital Futures & Dataplay

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Watercolour painting inspired by PlymouthCubed

Earlier this year my brother J was invited to give a presentation with his Code Club at a DATA Play event.  DATA Play is all about the local tech community and others looking at data provided by the Council and finding cool and interesting ways to use it.  J talked about what he does at Code Club, making games on Scratch and collaborating with other young games makers (I’ve also been making my own games).

When he got home we talked about it and had some ideas of our own for using local data and we entered them into a competition run by Plymouth City Council.  We were one of the winners with our Plymouth Outdoors idea, and me and my brother are getting to work with a local tech company Elixel and see if we can make our idea into an app to help people find local sports facilities.  We use public sports facilities quite a lot but it can be difficult to find them as they aren’t always on maps.

Since then we’ve been to more DATA Play events and to two Digital Futures days organised by RIO.  One amazing project we’ve seen is PlymouthCubed by @dyrms86.  Neil has been building Plymouth in Minecraft and he has made some brilliant videos which have inspired my newest watercolour painting at the top of this post.  We also saw a dinosaur that roared every time someone tweeted about the event which was put together by @neilcford who also gave me and J a Shrimp Kit to play with.  We have also met Lucy (@jargonautical) who gave a great demonstration, she had built a virtual Pi with a sense hat in Minecraft from coloured wool, and when we clicked on different parts of the wool they changed colour to match LEDs on the connected real Pi sense hat!  We have a Pi here and want to do this project at home soon.

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The most recent Digital Futures event was last Friday , and J was on the flyer!  We participated in different workshops and met some new people.  One person I met was Reece from Our Way Tech, who are a team of young people who are consultants to tech companies on finding new digital ways to do things involving young people, and who also won a DATA play competition with their pop-up past project.  I’m hoping to meet Reece and his team in the summer and maybe collaborate on something.

Me and J were also introduced into some new ways of making games by @Ohcarson from Sizeable Games  and Jack from So Good Studios.  Oliver helped us learn how to use PICO-8 and Jack was really friendly, talking to us about his team’s new game Tap Tournament.  Tap Tournament is a multiplayer game, four players each control a knight and you battle by swinging your sword to bat around a ball at each other.  It’s very fun and the levels aren’t that long so you don’t get bored.  Jack said that in the future he hopes to be collaborating with Emma Baker  whose work I loved at the Graduate show recently, and I hope to meet them both and maybe get involved myself 🙂

That’s everything so far and i’ll be keeping this blog updated as we go to more events and see what happens with Plymouth Outdoors and any other projects I get involved in!