Illustrated mythology.

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Chile has a rather rich mythology, particularly from the island of Chiloé, from where the better recognized mythical figures, such as the Trauco and the Pincoya, originated from. That was the subject for the final exam of my workshop class, the second semester of 2007, with Jennifer King and Ximena Undurraga. What we created was a (loosely termed) dictionary of local mythological beings, a full book of them—since we were around 20, and everyone had to create ten, the result was around 200 pages worth of illustrations.

Diccionario de Seres Mitológicos en Chile cover

That was the final cover, I’m not sure whose design it is, but it showcases some unfinished illustrations pinned to a cork board. I created two concepts, but they were not selected (one, two).

Diccionario de Seres Mitológicos en Chile page

And that is how the book looks on the inside. The page on the left is my own work. Some are better than others, but here are all of them:

[…]

New design.

To get my blog up and running as quick as possible, I initially just grabbed the most simplistic template I could find, and used that. It was still not exactly to my liking, of course, but it was only momentary. Well, six months later, and I was still using the same old thing—so I finally got off my lazy bum and created a new template. I kept it as streamlined as I could, and I like the results. Not everything is complete, though, but it’s good enough to use, so things will keep evolving for some time; just expect some rough spots here and there for now (especially if you’re not using Firefox—sorry!). You can see how it used to look.

Family games.

As a Christmas gift, I made a game that stars my little sister (she’s two-and-a-half) and the rest of the (her) family as ‘supporting actors’, or ‘enemies’, if you will. Since I didn’t have a lot of time to make it, I went with a really crude style, probably inspired by Life of D. Duck II. I also recorded voices for everyone (and even some things, namely toys), and a brief guitar tune. The goal was for it to be surprising and funny rather than fun to play, so I made what amounts to a Road Fighter clone, but simpler. In this case, though, you guide Antonella upwards, avoiding objects and people. I called the game La Hazaña de Anto (Anto’s Feat). It didn’t take them long to finish it, but everyone got to play, so I think the difficulty was just right. They laughed and enjoyed it quite a bit. Mission accomplished!

Explode.

A first: I finished my Klik of the Month Klub entry within the time limit. It is, sadly, a step down from last month’s. This time I didn’t really know what to do, until I just decided to go for this idea of exploding fireworks I had at some point. I didn’t feel particularly inspired. The result is not really a game, more like a short-lived toy. Matt helped out with the music, once again, and it really fits.

Download Explode (Windows, requires the latest DirectX).

The Color and the Leaves.

In six days, spaced over three weekends, three guys online, recording songs collaboratively, grabbing what the other made and putting some guitar on top, or some stream-of-consciousness vocals, or some crazy radio static. That was the dynamic that resulted in the creation of Tree, a full-length (well, 30 minutes long) digital release by The Color and the Leaves project!

What we lack in technical skills we make up for in craziness, I think. Lots of good stuff in there, and I can even count some of my own in that category! Tools used (other than the boring ones) include: a Game Boy emulator, an actual Game Boy, a keyboard running out of batteries, and a kettle. The two guys who made this with me are Matt Peter (go listen to his stuff) and Cody Ross (first timer, like me—though he can actually play his musical instruments, which is unlike me).

Play it streamed or download song by song [link dead], or just get the whole thing in one zip file (69 MB). Here are the detailed credits. [Edit: These were compiled by Matt, forgot to mention that. Cool.]

(Edit: You can stream it from the player at the bottom of this post.)

If you think that having this digital thing sitting there in your harddrive is not very exciting, and decide to burn it on a CD, here’s a sleeve design I made, which you can print on a regular letter, or similar sized, paper sheet (on both sides). After you print it, all you need to do is fold around the edges of the square, length-wise first. The overlapping flaps can be fit one into the other to neatly close it.

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Reactions to The Lake.

I’m honored that The Lake was linked by awesome blogs such as Indie Games and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Although some people found some hilarious bugs, and many had trouble getting it to run (due to Construct’s dependence on some recently released DirectX runtimes, but read on for more on this), the reactions were mostly positive. So, mission accomplished!

The abovementioned runtimes can be downloaded from Softpedia, if you’re having trouble getting them. They’re a hefty download, sadly. As people have commented, it’s kind of ridiculous to download over 80 megabytes to play a game that will take under five minutes to finish. Oh, well.

The Lake.

I made a very quick game (though not quite as quick as the Klik of the Month ones) for a competition that is due today. The game is called The Lake, and it’s for the TIGSource Commonplace Book Competition. The objective was to create a game inspired by one or several of the brief ideas that H.P. Lovecraft jotted down in his Commonplace Book, most of which never got turned into full stories. This is what I did; my game is not ‘based on’ as much as it’s just ‘triggered’ by one of these ideas, though.

You can download The Lake v1.0, for Windows.

My goal was to create a game that would not take me too long to make. I wanted just a full day’s work, it ended up being three, but that’s quite okay. It was created in Construct, which truly is a great promise for the future, but so full of bugs for the time being. I managed, though. The end result is more of a short interactive story; it’s completable in about a single minute, which is a common factor for all my games so far, but in this case the experience is more focused on the narrative. I’m pretty proud of the fact that everything in the game was created by me (well, except for the engine, of course), though I wish I had the time to do something more with the sound design, which was part of the original plan.

As I mentioned above, the idea for the game just came to my mind as if it was a dream when I read one of the entries in the Book. This sounds pretty romantic, but rather than describe the creative process, I want it to be apparent that I applied very few filters on this initial flash. This is why the game may not be very coherent, or have a palpable meaning; nevertheless, it’s there, and I tried to make it as close to this initial spark as it was possible in the time that I had available to do it. I think I’ve just always had a thing for surrealism and their techniques, and this is why I like this kind of pure, unadulterated slice of subconscious, which I oftentimes value more than very produced and over-thought pieces of work. There’s more to life than logic, is what I say.

Where, feat. lofi.

Last saturday I participated again in this month’s Klik of the Month Klub. This time I didn’t use Klik & Play to make my game, because I had heard of a different software, modelled around Clickteam’s own (creators of Klik & Play), but improved, called Construct. It’s still in beta, but it’s a very complete package nonetheless. Much like last time, I used that very day’s afternoon to learn to use the software, scribbled a few notes on the game I was going to make, and in the evening, proceeded to spend two hours figuring out how to do stuff. The resulting game is more complex than last time’s Runaway Blast, simply because Construct is so much more capable than K&P.

I am forgetting something. Before the event had started, I told my friend lofi that he should participate too. He didn’t want to, though, so I asked him to make some music for my game instead. Luckily for me, he agreed! Truly, the game has become worthy of people’s time just because of the cool music that he provided.

What you see above is how the game looks like in its second version. Download Where and play it, if you feel like it (Windows only). This is a much improved version of what I originally submitted an hour after the deadline (because I had some trouble getting other people to hear the music; other than that, I finished it only ten minutes past the deadline). Since the original suffered from some issues I didn’t have the time to fix, I spent several hours figuring out how to do so afterwards. What I didn’t have the time for, in the end, was improving the collisions, but that’s comparatively minor.

In Where, I just wanted to make some radical decisions. I basically wrote down the first few ideas I came up with, but since it was going to be a very small game, in order to make it memorable, some radical choices needed to be made. This is why I decided to obstruct the player’s view with large floating text, and use a psychedelic selection of colors. Since these contributed to a non-harmonic experience, I decided to make the gameplay conceptually frustrating as well: descending a ‘tower’ with an avatar that can’t stop jumping. The text used itself also helps to heighten these principles. And lofi’s music felt right at home when I first played it with it.

Making a game about making.

In a previous post I explained what motivated me to make the game I am currently making as my final project in college. In this entry I will actually describe what I have achieved so far, and my plans for what’s to come. If you so wish, you may play the game, incomplete as it is, before reading what follows. If you do, I’d be very interested in hearing about your experience, how you approached the game without knowing exactly what it was about, what could have been clearer or better.

What I sought, as I explained in that other post, was to create a game whose main objective is not to rack up points, but to create a visual composition. This is a game about creativity, indeed; a subset of games that, I have found, is not very largely represented.1 Kenichi Nishi said something in an interview that I quote here because I consider to be extremely significant:

Recently, games have been ‘passively interactive.’ Users do not really have to think about what to do; they are guided around until they reach the end of the level. These types of games do not rely on the creativity of the users.

This is why I started to consider my idea more important than at first. Although there have been games like Mario Paint, that are like tools that are given a context of fun, I wanted to make something simpler, something abstract and more concentrated. There was also the question about how this would work as a game; I didn’t want it to become a color-matching, chain-making fest, so how to evaluate what was being made for its own sake? It didn’t need to be competitive, but it also needed a purpose, a raison d’être. There was the possibility of it being multiplayer, and people judging each-others compositions, much like the abovementioned Nishi’s own game, Archime-DS (or LOL, as it’s being brought over to this half of the world). I took a bit of that idea, as I will explain later, but I deliberated some more until I came to the conclusion that the best would be not to judge quality, but to evaluate compositive characteristics, or parameters, as I’ve grown used to calling them. The point being that every visual composition can be evaluated in terms of different characteristics, like how symmetric it is, whether it uses warm or cool colors, whether it is rhythmic or not (presence of visual patterns), etc. We can use these parameters to objectively determine if a composition is harmonic and pleasing to the eye, if it is foreboding, if it is unsettling, etc.

Personally, I am more of a supporter of holistic rather than reductionist approaches to analysis, but in this particular case (and in many others) it is much simpler to compartmentalize the data—especially given that I am hardly a mathematician, or even a programmer, so it simply made my work a lot easier. I realize that to this point I’m still talking abstractly, so let me show you the game proper.

Screenshot

That is what it currently looks like. In the center, but leaning toward the top and left, is the canvas: a grid where the player creates his composition. To the right is the carousel; sort of a conveyor belt of colored groups of circles, that the player can grab at any time and drop on the canvas. In a bar at the bottom there are a series of pictograms of differing sizes: they are actually dynamic, and change depending on the current characteristics of the composition, as perceived by the game (right now the algorithms that calculate this are not very finely tuned). Each pictogram changes to either a neutral, high or low graphic depending on the value: For instance, the fire icon indicates that the colors are mostly warm, and it would change to a snowflake if it was the opposite. Its comparatively small size means that it is not leaning that much toward warmth. The pictograms still need some work for them to be easier to understand, since, as I said in that previous post of mine, this game will use no words, so they need to be self-sufficient. Finally, in the bottom right is the time counter, which, when depleted, will prompt the game to show a results screen, which is pictured below. […]

  1. I counted 14 games I could qualify as requiring creative input in the top 100 games of a series of specialized publications, as compiled by Kirk Israel

Creepy and dreadful sounds.

After salivating a bit for the Korg DS-10, a software that simulates a synthesizer named Korg MS-10, for the Nintendo DS (not a game), I came to realize that I did not need to wait or spend money to make music using my DS, for there was NitroTracker freely available to us lucky flashcart owning people. I had known about this tracker (music sequencing software) for a while, but I had never attempted to use it. I was feeling adventurous now, so I downloaded it and read the rather short explanation on using it; it has a surprisingly approachable interface, which was put to the test with someone as ignorant on music composition as myself. Thirty odd minutes of toying with it later, I had made a song. Hooray—my first recorded composition, ever! I only used the samples recommended in the short tutorial I read, which proved to be insufficient, so I went looking for more. After seizing my arsenal, I went back. And, right now, I’m sitting on four frankly awkward tunes that no one would likely want to give a second listen, but I am, honestly, pretty proud of myself. As much as I love music, it’s surprising even to myself that I can’t play any instrument, so it was not only satisfying to have finally drafted something listenable, but also like taking a weight off my shoulders. I crossed the line, and it feels pretty great.

The little horrors are in extended module (XM) format, which should play fine in Winamp if you have a not-too-old version, and probably in other audio players as well. The first in the list below is my latest ‘oeuvre’, and you could consider it my contribution to this year’s Halloween. The others (chronologically ordered, with the oldest last) are unintentionally terrifying. Boo.