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

Posts tagged ‘ThinqTanq’

EpicMakeTime with MESH

Tuesday nights at ThinqTanq is EpicMakeTime, a regular coding and tech event hosted by MESH.  MESH stands for “Make, Engineer, Socialise, Hack”.   I have been to EpicMakeTime twice so far.  It is a fun and creative space where people can come together and tinker around with cool stuff.  The people there are friendly and helpful and my brother and me have had support there from Marcus, Rob, Garry, and Matt from the Code Club.

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Our Shrimps

The first week me and my brother brought and built our Shrimps from the Shrimping.It kits.  A Shrimp is a buildable device which can be substituted for an Arduino Uno.  We brought all the components we needed for the first project, “Blink“, and put them together.  I enjoyed putting the components together and learning how it will work and what everything does from the project pages.  We also saw some of the other projects people were working on at MESH, including Steven, the little remote-controlled tank/crawler made by Rob (see him in the video below!) and a remote-controlled drone which flew my little sister’s toys across the room, held onto the bottom with sellotape!

The second week we went we brought our Shrimping.it kits again to program the “Blink” project onto them.  First I had to set up my mum’s laptop with the Arduino IDE, the drivers for the CP2102 UART and the Shrimping.it sketches.  I compiled and uploaded the “Blink” code onto the Shrimp and the LED started blinking!  I took a good look at the code and I edited it to make the blinking light faster and slower, then I experimented and programmed the Shrimp to transmit the S.O.S signal in Morse Code!

I was then given some advice by Marcus on how to make an LED fade.  The LED is set to flash so quickly humans can’t see it flickering, so it just looks like the LED has been dimmed because the light is on half the time.  You can also alter the interval between the light switching on and off to make it brighter or dimmer, for example if the light is on for slightly longer then when it is off, it appears brighter.  I had a go at coding the LED to fade up and down with Marcus’s help.  To just turn the LED on and off I used the code digitalWrite but to make it fade in and out I had to use the code analogWrite and give a value of between 0 and 255.

Next Marcus explained how to program an RGB LED to show and make different colours.  Before I could do it he showed me how to look up some information on the Internet to find the right pins for the three different coloured wires.  I took out the normal LED and plugged the three RGB LED wires in instead.  I made a new program file and identified the three different coloured LEDs.  I used analogWrite to control the colour of the LEDs by putting in different values for each one between 0 and 255.  For example putting 255 for the blue and 0 for green and red would make it glow blue.  If I put 100 for blue and 100 for red and 0 for green I would make it glow purple.  It is easy to make the LED flash in any colour you like for as long as you want.  It was a really cool project to play with and it also helped me think about how colours mix in the RGB system.

Marcus also gave a short talk about his own project and showed us how the Walabot 3D radar sensor works to sense objects around it, even through walls, and to sense someone’s breathing.  J (my brother) didn’t work on his own Shrimp this week but instead worked on his Raspberry Pi playing retro games and learning how to change different settings.  Garry gave me the RGB LED to keep and also a couple of other components to play with including a dimmer switch.  I will definitely go back to EpicMakeTime if I can and will be working through more of the Shrimp and Arduino Uno projects.  It is really fun and interesting making things happen using electronics and code.

USEFUL LINKS:

MESH website and YouTube channels from MESH and ThinqTanq

MESH, #EpicMakeTime and ThinqTanq on Twitter

Register for EpicMakeTime and other MESH events

Buy Shrimping.It kit and do the projects

Arduino lessons on the Adafruit site

 

 

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.

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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

 

 

 

 

Minecraft LAN Day at ThinqTanq

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The sign on the front door of my house

Last Saturday I attended my second Minecraft LAN Day, hosted by ThinqTanq.  ThinqTanq is a sort of shared office space where people can hire a desk or meeting room for a few hours or buy a pass to use the space regularly throughout the month.  It is bright and comfortable and friendly, and as well as desks there is also a sofa and kitchen area.  Minecraft LAN (Local Area Network) days are events where you can play Minecraft with other people all on the same server AND in the same room.  I came along because I love Minecraft and I had been before (a few months ago) and made some friends there who I was excited to see again.

I arrived at ThinqTanq and got massive hugs and greetings from my friends, then made myself a space to set up my mum’s incredibly old laptop.  I crossed my fingers and hoped it would work, which it did (the second time..)  I made sure the laptop was connected to the LAN and activated Minecraft. The sound wasn’t working!  So I had to restart Minecraft and luckily, Yay, Sound!

I joined everyone else on the server.  The world they’re playing in is survival mode, mobs on, keep inventory on.  The new player spawn point is in a stone brick arena with an entrance that opens out to a road which leads to the town built by the players.  My own spawn point is in my house in an extreme hills biome.  The house is made out of wood and stone and has a big red stained glass window overlooking a huge castle and the arena.

As I left my home, I noticed something odd.  There was definitely not a hole in the wall last time I checked..  pesky creepers!  After some repairs I finished off my wood plank flooring and placed a furnace and crafting table, as well as several chests.  I almost filled three double chests with all of my loot!  Just then in the real world, two of my friends crept up on me to surprise me.  One made a pig snort noise and the other said “quack”, completely randomly and out of nowhere, sending us all off into giggles.

I took a break from playing for a short while and we chatted about anime.  I got some recommendations of what to watch (Full Metal Alchemist, Soul Eater, and Gurren Laggan) and I gave some that I’ve really enjoyed in return (Mushi-Shi, Your Lie In April).  I stretched and got back to the hard work of Minecraft.  I found a cave with lots of iron in it, but there was a lot of zombies and skeletons too.

After a while it was time for us all to pack up.  I had a lot of laughs during my visit and got a good amount of work done in the game.  For almost the entire afternoon there were puns flying around the place, some of them funny but others weren’t that great..  I’m able to play on the server even when I’m not at ThinqTanq, so I can carry on exploring the cave and maybe even start a little farm of my own, but I do love the LAN days.  Being in the same room as other players is really enjoyable, it’s faster communicating with them and that makes the game easier to play, the whole game is more of a community event.  I absolutely plan to going to carry on going to the LAN days at ThinqTanq and I’m hoping to be able to take my brother along next time.

If you are in reachable distance of Plymouth and are interested in joining in, watch the ThinqTanq twitter or facebook accounts for event updates.

In other Minecraft (and gaming) news, please check out Luna Flower’s Youtube channel. She is a young person making Lets Play’s and covering different Minecraft mods.  Luna Flower doesn’t get distracted or mess around while playing which is good because we get to see more of the game than on typical gaming tv programmes or most other youtubers I’ve seen.

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