I had things to do and places to be Friday night and all Saturday, so only got started on my Ludum Dare entry by Saturday night. LD is a 48 hour competition in which I also participated four months ago; back then, I made Heart. This time, I didn’t get to make such a complete game. The theme was ‘caverns’, so I had planned to make a rhythmic game about flying through a cavern (okay, more like a tunnel) and avoiding obstacles to the beat. It was actually pretty hard to just get the visual effect right, so I got only as far as adding some randomized obstacles, and throwing in a sound effect upon hitting one. So, it’s far from a complete game. The code that would allow me to add in a music track and have it be synchronized to the images is already there, at least.
I had the opportunity to hear Jem Cohen talk three times in the past three days. The first was a supposed ‘master class’, which was really just a talk, where he was accompanied by Guy Picciotto (of Fugazi) and Todd Griffin, both musicians. The talk was called Another kind of music, and it was about the way he approaches filmmaking in relation to sound and music. One of his insights was that making films can be a bit like making music; there’s rhythm, texture, and other sensory elements in the mix, beside the more evident aspect of narrative that is most films’ core. He also said that the way he shoots his footage is akin to a musician’s improvisation.
He showed some of his short films/videos, or fragments of them. One of those was Little flags, which will give you an idea of what he does. The truth is, I went to this talk not knowing anything about this man, other than him being a filmmaker, and his link to music. For, you see, he seems to often work with musicians, or simply make sound a vital part of his work. The day before that talk, I was seeing Avi Mograbi’s Z32 while one of Jem’s works was being screened elsewhere, called Ciudad de México por azar, with simultaneous live music by the aforementioned musicians, plus DJ Rupture and Andy Moor. I didn’t know this event was taking place, or I would have been there, especially after seeing Chain the evening after the talk, which was already a day too late anyway. Chain is a feature-length, sharp, documentary-like view on the culture of consumerism. After the screening of that movie, he was there to answer questions and talk a bit about it.
He’s here in Chile because of Sanfic, the Santiago International Film Festival, which has been my chance to see some new films, and also hear the directors talk about them, which is quite an interesting experience. The final time I saw Jem was after a showing of a few of his shorts, including Lost book found, most likely the highlight among the bunch. In this short, he tells his story of what it was like being a push cart vendor in the city, and his discovery of a notebook that was filled with a strictly categorized, but seemingly nonsensical, list of numbers, places, things, situations related to the city. I asked him whether the story was real, to which he said it partially was. He refused to say if the book ever existed.
Probably the most interesting course I took while in university was Rodrigo Ampuero’s workshop, in 2007. The subject of that semester was as divorced from the core of my degree (graphic design) as my classes got, and I say that in a good way. During that semester we learned about museography: the design of exhibition spaces. It was a fascinating enough experience that I sought to do an internship related to that, but it fell through in the end.
The whole class took a trip to the Museo Naval y Marítimo de Valparaíso (Valparaíso Sea and Navy Museum), where we took a look at their exhibitions, and were asked to conceptualize one new exhibition space. Two classmates, Natalia and Juan Pablo, and I, spent all those months butting heads and working overnight. I’m pretty sure we were on the brink of hating eachother. I’ve never been very good at teamwork, but the three of us ended up quite invested in our work and in our chosen subject, so we had long arguments. While most of our classmates’ proposals were about showing the underwater fauna of Chile, we arrived at the idea of displaying the ugly side; that is, all the damage that us humans are causing the underwater fauna and flora, with statistics and shocking images.
It all started with a brainstorming session we had one day, after we got our butts kicked in class. We were taking a very conservative approach, so we were asked to be bold and completely rethink our stance. During this brainstorm we came up with four radical concepts, two of which I sketched: the ones we called ‘clinical’ and ‘house of horrors’.
It was hard making this one. Or, rather, it was disappointing. It took me an hour an a half to realize that my approach was not facilitated by the software, so I ended up having to patch it up and turn it into a much simplified version of what I had envisioned.
This latest TIGSource video game competition has a double theme: adult/educational. I have to say, it’s a fantastic combination. The idea was that entrants could create a game under one or both themes. I wish more entered games had used both simultaneously, but, well, not even I did that in the end.
During most of the duration of the competition, I didn’t find the time to make my game. Also, I was finding it hard to come up with an idea. Educational games are tough to make; they require familiarity with the taught subject, therefore they involve plenty of research, usually. I wanted to make an educational game foremost, but the adult theme also intrigued me, so I was thinking of incorporating it somehow. When I finally came up with an idea, it was already too late to really consider trying it; a week wasn’t going to be enough. That idea was a puzzle game about additive and substractive color theory, which I still think is good enough to archive for a future opportunity. But since it would take me too long to make that, and educational games in general were already out of the question, I decided to just go for the other theme.
Next came the question of how to make any game in a short enough amount of time. I’ve had the idea, for some time, of creating a small engine for text-based games in Flash, which I would use to make a series of games, and which I would also release independently. Trying to plan that proved to be too difficult with my limited knowledge of programming best practices, design patterns, and whatnot. But I figured I could use the occasion of the competition to just hard code a game in that fashion, which would be an easy thing to program, and in the process figure out what kind of structure my code would need to turn it into an engine. So, by making this game, I fulfilled two goals: I entered the competition, and I learned a bit more about programming.
The game is text-only, but it does deal with subjects such as sex and rape, so it is meant for mature players.
The past five weeks I have been ‘attending’ an online course on game design, generously offered by Ian Schreiber, and named Game Design Concepts. His only condition was that one purchase the book he co-wrote with Brenda Brathwaite, precisely for the purpose of teaching, which turned out to be a very good acquisition in itself, and which I might review at some point in the future. The course itself involves a blog, a forum, and a wiki. In the blog, Ian posts, every monday and thursday, a ‘lecture’, and lists a couple of extra readings; plus, he leaves a ‘homeplay’ (as he calls it) assignment that usually consists of designing a game under certain limitations, or to make changes to an existing one. That’s when the forum comes into play, as everyone is expected to post their game and comment on a few of their peers’, to generate some inter-feedback. The wiki is mostly just an aside that has served no significant purpose other than as a space to offer translations of the different lessons.
I’ve had lots of fun reading the varied essays on games, some of which I would not have read otherwise, as they are about aspects that don’t particularly call for my attention. For instance, I’m not very inclined to reading on game systems, even though it’s pretty much the core of what constitutes a game, so it’s been very useful. The practical work has been stimulating; since I graduated from university, I’d missed that feeling of rushing things to get them in time for class, which ultimately helps to keep me active and on my toes. The course may not be the equivalent of an in-class course, but given the price of admission, it’s been fantastic.
I’ll be sharing the most noteworthy of my ‘homeplays’ in more posts to come. They’ll certainly be improved over the rather rushed state they’re at right now before I post them, though.
A few months ago, as I was waking up, and while I was halfway between being asleep and awake, I had this dream/idea for a game. When I woke up properly, I wrote it down in my sketchbook. And only a few hours ago, for this month’s Klik, I made it concrete.
In 2006, for my workshop course in that year’s first semester, I created a graphic work that ironized technology and how the Monkey King (humanity) wreaks havoc on Earth through its lack of restraint and its egocentrism. The next semester I was to base an animation on that work.
This was a semester-long project (it kind of doesn’t show, due to a long preliminary process) for Sebastián Skoknic and Bryan Phillips’s course. Other than being my longest animation since, it marks the first time I ever did anything resembling sound design; I even splashed a bit in the tub to get some water sounds. The most interesting part was using the Game Boy Camera (thus the Game Boy sound hardware) for the electronic noise, which I think worked very well.
The subject of this piece remains the same as the one it’s based on, though I didn’t make any specific references to video games this once, just computers.
Another month, another klik. I had no plan and I was late, so I just made the first thing that came to mind, which was this thing: the ultimate twitch-reflex action, color-based game. Yes, it’s that bad. Used Construct, once again, plus LMMS and sfxr for the audio.
The game was created originally for the Ludum Dare competition, and polished during the following week. Coded in Actionscript 3, using FlashDevelop as IDE and compiled using the Flex SDK. For the graphics I used Photoshop and Illustrator, and for the audio I used LMMS and Audacity. […]