Archive for 'Experiments'

Shake it up

Written by on 11th October 2011 in Experiments, Thoughts with 0 Comments

A sort of productive yet unproductive day:

Went to Game Empire with Matt to check it out (and bought Carcassonne) Lots of “hardcore” boardgames. I’d like to go back and actually play with some of the people there and do some experiments with them.

Met with Thomas from Lust briefly today. Interesting to hear his perspective on the work I’ve been doing. He seemed to be particularly drawn to some of the earlier ideas about rethinking interface metaphors but less interested in the game side of things.

Also met with Tim, who generally seemed into what I’ve been up to lately. I’m enjoying my little experiments so far and having fun doing my research, which I think is a good sign.

Finally got around to playing with the Sifteo SDK. After struggling a bit through the initial set up, I was able to load my own image onto the cubes by modifying an existing demo app. Super exciting just to be able to do this much! I feel like just being able to put my own art work on them (even just in their 8-bit glory) opens up a whole bunch of new possibilities.

As a side note I spent the majority of yesterday working on a brief essay for Norman’s class. I was writing about old American dime museums and amusement parks, which I find totally fascinating. I also found this quote to be totally relevant:

The amusement entrepreneurs examined the machinery arrayed before them, designed to employ a vast work force in producing millions of durable goods, and saw instead tools they could employ to create new forms of play for those vast numbers of bodies

Immerso, Michael. Coney Island: The Peopleʼs Playground.

I feel like we’re sort of in a similar time where tons of things are possible and people are just starting to understand what they can do with all this technology.


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Clay 3D

Written by on 9th October 2011 in Experiments, References, Thoughts with 0 Comments

I have been playing around with claymation as a material for both the 3D modeling and interfaces as well. Partially because I am really not very good with “proper” 3D modeling. And also because I have always loved claymation. I figure I should leverage the things I’m actually good at. Plus I feel like no matter how well rendered 3D is, there is always something very raw and expressive about clay. And it’s more real. These are the kind of things I grew up loving:


But now we have things like this:

(This took me less than 5 minutes to make with Xtranormal)

And all that machinima shit that got really popular a few years ago:

(MTV2 apparently had a whole series of these music video mods)

I think there’s definitely some digital nostalgia for these low-fi cg videos. And similar nostalgia for 8-bit style stuff lately. Maybe I’m just nostalgic about non-CG animation. I feel like the tools are there for clay to come back. The only problem is that the people who are into claymation do not seem to generally overlap with the people who are into making digital tools.

I’m thinking I would love to make a generative claymation animator or movie maker. Initially I was thinking just within the streetview interface. But I feel like even beyond that it would be great as its own thing. Obviously companies like Xtranormal stick to the CG stuff cause it’s a lot faster and easier to produce more of these things and it scales well. But with tools like Dragon, stop motion is significantly faster and more accessible than it has been in the past. I have seen some people play with code & clay a little bit but not very much. I feel like there is something there.

Also this quote from Paul Graham’s book Hackers & Painters (which I just finished reading the other day) makes me feel like I should pursue it just because it’s harder:

Use difficulty as a guide not just in selecting the overall aim of your company, but also at decision points along the way. At Viaweb one of our rules of thumb was run upstairs. Suppose you are a little, nimble guy being chased by a big, fat, bully. You open a door and find yourself in a staircase. Do you go up or down? I say up. The bully can probably run downstairs as fast as you can. Going upstairs his bulk will be more of a disadvantage. Running upstairs is hard for you but even harder for him.

What this meant in practice was that we deliberately sought hard problems. If there were two features we could add to our software, both equally valuable in proportion to their difficulty, we’d always take the harder one. Not just because it was more valuable, but because it was harder. We delighted in forcing bigger, slower competitors to follow us over difficult ground. Like guerillas, startups prefer the difficult terrain of the mountains, where the troops of the central government can’t follow.

Paul Graham

I like the idea that as an individual I have more leverage to work on things that are not terribly efficient, but in the end perhaps more interesting to me. I also think it’s interesting because I had initially bought this domain last year thinking I would use it to sell stock hand-made stop motion assets, which is actually kind of related still. Creating that stuff is labor intensive but what if I those things were usable assets for many people?

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3,2,1, StartUp

Written by on 9th October 2011 in Experiments, Sketches, Thoughts with 0 Comments

Why are certain “jobs” more marketable as fun things to simulate? 

For instance, why are there so many Military style games? I personally have no interest whatsoever in being a soldier, and those games have very little appeal to me. But apparently training young (mostly boys) to want to be part of the military is important for recruitment, and thus a valuable idea to instill into them as patriotic Americans.

But what other skills do we value?

If I could choose a fantasy job it would probably be a serial entrepreneur. Wouldn’t that also be a valuable skill for people to at least think about as an option? I don’t think I even knew what an entrepreneur was until after college. What if it became part of the world of fun? But without it being too much of an “educational game” of course. And how could this game actually bridge the gap between fantasy and reality?

Serial Entrepreneur: The Game 

I’ve been talking with Matt about this idea for a game (initially just called Serial Entrepreneur: The Game) since it is sort of overlapping a bit with his business interests. The basic constraints of the game are fairly simple:

  • Jump up and up
  • Collect a certain number of connections/business cards
  • Collect 2 ideas
  • When enough cards & ideas are collected the ideas merge to form a new Startup
  • Create as many start ups as possible before your time runs out
  • If you fall, you end up back in a cubicle.
  • In the end you can use the generative logos to create actual business cards that can be printed.
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Would you like a souvenir photo?

Written by on 2nd October 2011 in Experiments, Thoughts with 0 Comments

This is a quick comp, playing around with more street view stuff. Using street view as a way to pretend you’re somewhere that your not. I imagine dropping into street view mode and immediately being greeted with this photographer asking for access to your laptop camera. If granted, you would then get a postcard mailed to you of your visit to Google Street View, from the perspective of the photographer of course. I like the idea of the camera breaking the screen’s barrier between you and the street view version of the real world, and the result of that digital interaction leaving the digital world again to return as a physical object. Also odd is that you as a human look at Street View through the eye of a non-human controlled camera while the non-human camera is looking back at you from the perspective of a human holding a camera. *mind blowing*

I remember going on a cruise with my family in high school and immediately after getting to an island this photographer ran up and started taking our photos. When we returned after exploring the island everyone’s photos were already embedded onto these commemorative plates. We were amazed by their production speed so of course my parents bought them and so now they have a plate with me walking down the ramp of our ship. It’s not even of any sort of interesting scenery! I find the whole notion of taking tourist photos and buying souvenirs to be sort of fascinating (obviously).

This is a pic from when I went down to MacArthur Park in Westlake earlier this year. Note that there’s not one, but TWO fake LA backdrops you can get your photo taken with! Why would anyone want their photo with this instead of the real version of LA available for free in any other direction? Is it because what we want to remember about our trip is not what it was actually like? Do we prefer the postcard version instead of the real thing? Why do we send postcards with photos on them that we didn’t even take? Because they’re better than the photos we can take? Is it less credible to have a postcard with a photo taken by the street view car? Isn’t it actually MORE authentic of an image because the human subjectivity of the image composition has been removed?

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On the Street: a first person creator

Written by on 2nd October 2011 in Experiments, Thoughts with 0 Comments

SUPER rough first pass at a literal mashup of Google Streetview and Garry’s Mod. Aside from the rough key I’m pretty impressed with how well it actually lined up. I think it’s an interesting way to think about creating things in the real world.

I would say that most people who are building things for the “real” world do it using CAD, looking at things from their top-down, bird’s eye view of the structure. Sure you can get in there with a camera to sort of see what it would be like inside, but it’s not quite the same as being able to play test a structure from a first person perspective in the environment. Obviously, CAD is super useful when you’re actually creating construction documents and instructions for people to build things that won’t collapse on people. But what if you don’t mind so much if it’s not perfect? Maybe all you need is a picture and some general guidelines that you can pass on to let the person doing the constructing. Maybe they could have some freedom to interpret and build upon your idea. Or, if it actually needs to be perfect, why not remove the human all together and just let a robot print it in 3D?

This is an actual screen shot from Google’s 3D mapping site guidelines. Basically Google “lets” you model real world buildings and place them in Google Earth. But they seriously take all the fun out of it. Plus it’s still from a birds eye view anyways, which isn’t terribly interesting to me.

These are Google’s guidelines:

  • Represent real and permanent structures
  • Be better than all other alternatives
  • Be textured with photographs
  • Be correctly aligned with the imagery in Google Earth
  • Not include more than one discrete structure
  • Not float above or be sunken under the ground
  • Not include an excess of constructed terrain
  • Not include bundled entourage
  • Be the correct height and scale
  • Not exhibit Z-fighting
  • Not contain advertising or spam
  • Be complete
  • Not be too complex
I would propose a system that is more like the penguin picture. One that follows an alternate set of guidelines, that would yield much more interesting results.:
  • Represent imagined and temporary structures
  • Be different than all the other alternatives
  • Be textured with anything
  • Challenge the imagery in Google Earth
  • Include as many structures as desired
  • Defy laws of physics
  • Create new terrains
  • Include an entourage
  • Challenge the notions of “correct” scale
  • Fight z-space
  • Embrace the materiality of ads and spam
  • Be incomplete
  • Be very complex.


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Play Slideshow

Written by on 2nd October 2011 in Experiments, Thoughts with 0 Comments

Here’s a video of the first working prototype of “Play Slideshow” (apparently the name Keypoint is already an actual app), an alternative interface for slideshow presentation creation. The text was randomly generated using an online bullshit generator and the images are some of the many stock images I happen to actually own of “business” people.

It’s pretty rough but all the mechanics are there. Basically every 20 seconds (pechakucha style!) it goes to the next slide, restarting the process.  I wanted to put a countdown timer in there, it seems like it should be easy, but I couldn’t get it working yet. But I think that would help with making it seem less like a random jump. It’s obviously a lot like Tetris in its physics, but unlike Tetris you don’t clear anything off your screen. Instead you sort of just keep playing for as long as you can stand playing it. I actually played it for about 6 minutes. It’s surprisingly relaxing.

It was built pretty quickly in Gamesalad. I am loving how fast the prototyping is with this. I was originally going to animate in AE but I think it’s actually easier to build the working prototype and not have to deal with rendering anything! I think the best part about it is that it’s helping me understand the overall logic without getting stuck debugging stupid semantics. If I were to build it out further and for real I might try doing it in something else but at least this way I understand what I would need to do to get it going. The benefit to building it out in something else would be the ability to import the user’s own content folder, being able to save out the resulting slides, and being able to make legitimate Classes! Maybe there’s a way to do it in GS but I haven’t found it. I’ve just been copy and pasting a custom behavior onto all the dropping objects.


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Z-mail incremental updates

Written by on 28th September 2011 in Experiments, Thoughts with 0 Comments

Just a little incremental update to the Zombie Mail experiment. Newest part being the “Filters” page, where you could design & assign different types of zombies to different types of emails. And the Search eyeball on the bottom. Also animating my main character’s walk/shuffle cycle.

I sort of don’t want to over design the interface at this stage, but instead just get enough of it in there to get the idea across. I know there’s tons of details to figure out logically but I sort of want to keep it at a sketch phase for now, even though my sketch happens to be animated.

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First Person Creator

Written by on 26th September 2011 in Experiments, References, Thoughts with 0 Comments

We went to Crash Space for a class on making 3D games with Valve’s Source SDK. I didn’t realize the SDK was only available on the PC side so I spent a good part of the time downloading Half-Life 2 and the SDK for VMware while watching him go through how to get things done. By the end I was able to make a room and texture it and be able to walk around in it. It’s kind of fun but a little too much for what I want to do I think. But the part that I thought was super valuable was talking about other platforms for 3D game making, which I spent today researching/playing. Here’s an overview of the various engines I’ve messed with this weekend, from Lo-Fi to Hi-fi

Minecraft ($20)

8-bit style block based ‘sandbox’ game. You have different elements and things you can put together in various ways. Also some 8 bit monsters you have to avoid when it gets dark out. Apparently the game already has a huge following (3 million downloads) despite the fact that it’s still in Beta.  I sort of like it but of course it’s pretty limiting. Not sure if it would be useful for my purposes yet. I think I like the idea of it more than the actual game..

Second Life (free)

I have never really been interested in Second Life, but I figured I should at least give it a go to see why not. For some reason it’s just always been terribly uninteresting to me. Maybe because even though you CAN make stuff it seems like its main purpose is more about going to various worlds and hanging out with random people. Just a glorified 3D chat room. I also realized I just think it’s horribly ugly, like the old MySpace of 3D worlds, which I guess has some charm. But I dunno, not into it.

Valve Source SDK & Hammer Editor (as little as $8 for one Valve game)

What I was originally going to the class for. Super powerful stuff if you want to get into the nitty gritty of making your own maps and things. But it’s PC only and the editor is like working in CAD. And there’s a whole bunch of stuff to tweak parameter wise. In order to test it you have to “Run Map” which loads up in Half-Life 2.

Garry’s Mod ($10 + a Valve game)

Garry’s Mod is the most exciting ‘sandbox’ game to me. It’s built off of Valve’s Source SDK so it works with the other Valve game assets if you bought the original games (Half-Life 2, Portal, and Team Fortress came with my pack). But there’s not actually any goals or missions or anything in the game. You just make stuff (and of course destroy stuff if you want).

Unlike other editors there is no separate “editor” view. Everything just gets spawned into the game realtime, resulting in a very bottom-up vs. top-down view of things. So if you’re placing things you have to walk around and see where it’s going to go. It’s not exactly like building in real life (you’re using a big physics gun to position and rotate huge things after all) but it gives more of a user-centered kind of view.  The rendering engine is also super powerful so things look pretty nice, and objects have physics built in already. Although sometimes I don’t understand the wonky physics. I was just trying to put some cars on the road and I kept accidentally throwing them across the way, which is only funny the first few times. I spent about 3 hours off an on messing with this today. Mostly just trying to figure out how everything worked. I had couches hanging from ropes on water towers and cars piled up and random houses and just a bunch of stuff. Favorite thing is probably the BBC radio which is just a little radio prop that streams live music from BBC. (It’d be cool to get a KEXP radio up in there too). The above screenshot is my little sculpture/playground installation : ) I like the idea of using it as a tool to prototype big interactive architecture installations.

Another really interesting thing is that you can also script things for it using Lua, which looks pretty simple. Also exciting are things like this Kinect + Gmod video example.

Unity 3D (free–till you want a commercial licene for a game)


I’ve heard Unity 3D come up several times in conversations. It’s obviously SUPER powerful and capable of making a wide range of games from the looks of their demo reel. And one of the guys at the workshop says they use it at work all the time to make marketing games for various movies and things. Still has a somewhat typical 3D editor view but also has a tab for the game view so you can test it out while in the editor. The above game is a free demo that come with it. Super nice graphics. And runs natively on the Mac. I think if I wanted to get more serious about building 3D games I’d dive into it more, but for now it seems a little bit over kill for my needs.


Garry’s mod definitely wins for me.. at least for now. Unfortunately no matter what 3D first-person game I play I get physically queazy after I play them too long. There is something about the crazy control views and things that messes with my equilibrium where I seriously feel like throwing up after playing too much. Jeremy wonders if taking Dramamine would make it better. It seems like it’d be weird to take a drug to not feel sick while playing a game, though kind of interesting. But this is one of the many reasons I prefer side scrolling games. (Another downside is I think I may have inadvertently gotten Angelo hooked to Half-Life 2 now.)

The weird thing is I’m not actually even that much of a gamer, though having played when I was younger I certainly have an appreciation for them. I don’t want to make some machinima movies or anything either though. I think the most fascinating part is the weird mash up of 3rd party content in gmod, where people are just creating their own assets to share. For instance there are tons of Minecraft assets you can add. Or there was a map that was made to look like an old school NES Mario Kart track where you could race with the Half-Life 2 jeep.

I’m mainly interested in these engines as tools for creating interactive prototypes for other things, especially larger scale architectural things. 



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Zombie Mail v.0.1

Written by on 21st September 2011 in Experiments, Sketches with 0 Comments

A first stab at a wireframe/prototype interface for Zombie Mail. I was getting tired of just seeing sketches and needed to see something interactive to start thinking about the details more. The artwork is really a sketch of what I’d like it to be but i also sort of like the rawness of them.  There’s a lot of things to figure out, like dealing with text and the various zombie kill animations. But I sort of just wanted to get something out there for people to see sort of what I’m thinking about.. I think for now I might leave it in this state for a while and try some other things before coming back to this.

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