Maker Expo 2016

Today we did our first public convention, Maker Expo KW 2016. It was a local event taking place in Kitchener – Waterloo, at city hall. There were robots, 3d printers, and LEDs everywhere. It was very cool. There was an estimated 10,000 attendees.

I was a little worried at first since I didn’t know what to expect. Would people play our games or would that just glance and walk by? Would they play them and not like them? After all, this was our debut in the sense of getting real time feedback in person. Uncharted territory.

All of my worries washed away when person after person sat down, began to play, and actually played for a considerable amount of time. We demonstrated two games. Super Markup World and Peripheral. Both were prize winning games at global game jams this year. Peripheral winning 1st place and Super Markup World getting 4th.

So all in all, a great time. I do wish that more adults sat down to try the games. I also wish that more people followed us on twitter afterwards. We will have to figure out how to do a “call to action” better next time.

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Peripheral Graphics Experiments

We won a hackathon for our game. The publishers who hosted the hackathon really like the game concept. But the harsh reality is that our primitive graphics are just not good enough for prime time. In fact they are so primitive that that the OSVR fund won’t give us any money so that we can then hire an artist.

So what does one do with zero budget, no funding and no artistic talent? You experiment.

Here is what peripheral originally looked like compared to 3 very simple experiments with edge detection, colour correction and grayscale.

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Here is a shot with edge detection and bloom
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This one is pretty boring

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Here were are after adding some simple textures, with normal maps for a bit of depth on the lines. We like this a lot, keeps it simple but adds some much needed polish.

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Here we are after further refinement with Bloom, Edge Detection, Color Correction, and a few others. Personally I’m a fan of the bright, loud colours. However I think the combination of that along with the bloom is washing the scene out too much.

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And here we are after experimenting with some wireframe shaders. We think we will use this shader for tutorial objects.
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All in I think it’s safe to say that the graphics still need some work but it’s pretty impressive how much polish you can add to a game with some free and built in effects and textures. And without changing the existing models.

The Mars Endeavour – Lava Tubes


Play it right now! http://marsendeavour.com
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awardWinner of the Toronto Space Apps 

Winner of the Kennedy Space Center “Mars Lava Tubes” Challenge

Top 5 finalist for the Global Space Apps – Best Mission Concept category

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Well the NASA International Space Apps Challenge is back for 2015 and this time we headed up to Toronto. And guess what kids, we took home the global nomination again for another video game, The Mars Endeavour. It was a built from scratch project that we did from Friday night til Sunday afternoon. This time we decided to do something with an RTS style to it, something I’ve never done before.

The challenge posed by NASA is about Mars Lava Tubes, which I won’t get into, but you can read all about the challenge proposal here, https://2015.spaceappschallenge.org/challenge/survivor-mars-lava-tubes/

Pics from the Toronto Space Apps regional nomination 

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Our game is up and running either in your browser or downloadable for cross platform at http://marsendeavour.com

You can also check out our Space Apps project page for more details: https://2015.spaceappschallenge.org/project/the-mars-endeavour/

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The game revolves around sustaining a mars colony on the surface and navigating miner robots both above and below ground. You basically collect and expel resources while you survive and defend/repair from perils (Dust storms, meteorite showers, solar flares). The game also has a pseudo-radom arrangement of lava tube configuration and location.

It’s a pretty good start but still needs massive testing and input into it’s resources and economy system. The ground work is there for consumption, accumulation, refining, upgrading, achievements, hazards, etc. But rules have to be better defined, which will take some considerable testing I’m coming to find.

We hope to expand on the feature set as well. Part of the challenge’s proposal was underground colonies, which we didn’t do at all. The feature set for a hackathon game is pretty decent and although our ambitions were grand, we were instead able to put out a great game by sticking with realistic goals.

Short Range Sensors – Phase 1

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award2nd place, 2015 BlackBerry Employee Hackathon

I recently published the first public release of a new game, “Short Range Sensors” for the 2015 BlackBerry Employee Hackathon. I’m really happy with the progress I was able to make. We had a weekend to prototype an idea, then a few weeks to refine the idea for final submission. I got far more features implemented in time than I thought I could, and the quality is better than I had expected too.

Here’s a video of my submission:

The theme was “Most Screens, Least Effort”, so I figured I’d take the time to learn how to do multi-screen/device right. This is important considering my main focuses are VR and mobile, which couldn’t be more different in execution.

For example, in mobile I’m most likely going to want a UI that is relative to the screen. However in VR you need a UI that’s relative to the world(represented as an object in world space).

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Another issue is handling UI positioning and size (think text size) cross-platform with a large swing in pixel density and aspect ratios. For UI layout I found that the new UI canvas as of Unity 4.6 was a great improvement over the past GUI implementation. I was able to configure text/button/image size and positioning all through the editor, no code. And on execution it properly positioned itself on the fly.

Lastly for touch controls, I used an open-source plugin, CN Controls, found in the Unity asset store. CN Controls supports relative units of scale. So once again I was able to accommodate any resolution without having to do any coding.

It is a fully responsive UI that plays well on any screen size and aspect ratio, across mobile and PC, using one code base. It also supports game pads, keyboard, mouse, touch. VR support is being worked on.

The goal is to only maintain one code base for all supported platforms and options. For VR, one part of the implementation will include detection of either a Rift device or cardboard NFC tag, and toggle the VR camera and settings accordingly.

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I’m also interested in targeting consoles and I’m choosing the Ouya first due to it’s low bar of entry in porting (it’s android) and distribution. An interesting challenge for consoles will once again be with scaling. In this case to ensure it looks good for a “10-foot experience”.

You can view the slide deck I presented at the hackathon here, http://slides.com/ssshake/deck/#/

The game is currently available in BlackBerry App World and Google Play. PC and VR will be posted shortly. You can download a decent early build here for Android / BlackBerry https://app.box.com/s/flv437udjzhlqp6nuwpvt1zjvjfd7sh0

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