lördag 28 december 2013

Basic neural propagation pseudpseudocoded

Today I've worked on making up a way to program the propagation of actionpotentials.

I think that every part of a neuron and robot will be a prefab. A neuron will have a soma which takes up one square. This soma will have one to 4 neurites. Each of these neurites are in a sense dendrites, since every part of a neuron can be stimulated and will propagate the actionpotential to every direction. Each square will have one prefab that decides what animation it has depending on what things lie approximately to it.

Each prefab will have a sprite, a position and an animation. It will activate a square if its a wire. If it is an ending of an axon it will activate a square to be filled with neurotransmittors of its sort. If there is a part of a neuron there or a robots "cyborg interface" (the trigger that makes the robot 'fire'), the propagation will continue. This only occurs if the neurotransmitter is the matching sort. This will be depicted with color so it's easy to see the missmatch. Maybe even the neurotransmitters will have distinct shape as well.

The following things I have made in simple pseudo-pseudo code:

Neurons and parts
Bacteria enemies
Heater robot
Laser robot
Pusher robot
Conveyor belt robot
Turner robot

All of these parts use one square and some parts can be on the same square, such as connections that makes natural and artificial synapses.

I've found a skilled game programmer that is interested in the game. Tobias is one of my most skilled programmers I know. I think that delegating the most advanced programming tasks to him will be the best. So I will ask him to take a look at the tower defence toolkit and see if it would suffice. He'll maybe suggest that we write everything ourselves, that would be cool and could make more efficient use of the computer juice in those small tablets and pocket computers.

If we make the decision to make our own thing then we will depend on him allot. So we'll see how dedicated he is and if he'll be likely to continue until the depending work is done. I'll ask him to estimate how long it will take since he is more experienced with this.

I'm also doing research for a gamecompany through my education, and they use unity. Maybe I can ask someone there to get some tips about how to go about the advanced stuff. That would be great.

Until next time I will have talked to these people and structured this all a bit more.

I often listen to Ubiktune releases when I work to get into the working flow.
This time: coda - Minimap

Until next time!
//Tistou Blomberg

lördag 21 december 2013

Planning code

I have been sick this week.

Next week I will plan the game and brainstorm about how to use the features I've discovered in Unity to develop the game.

When this is done I hope to be able to make concrete assignments. I want the assignments to be formed to the developers skills so that it is not to hard, not to easy and will be a step towards completing the code.

//Tistou B.

lördag 14 december 2013

Tower defence toolkit free from unity assets store

This week I've worked on understanding the code within the tower defence toolkit. It's written in C# and quite nice for making tower defence games it seems. Our game doesn't need the autoaiming part of turrets and we need neurons which should be able to grow in different directions. I don't know how we should structure our code to best pull this of. In the beginning I thought of using classes but with unity it seems more reasonable to make prefabs that unity uses instead.

I've experienced a difference in coding things from "scratch" and using unity. Unity has so many features that much of the coding isn't needed, I think it can be an advantage to learn more about how unity is thought to be used to make games. I wished that I had played around with it more and been making easier games to get an intuitive feel about unity. Progress is going steadily forward and I can see that the project can be done but I'm not as optimistic about the time. I like that I get more experience about how much time things take, I think that is a good thing to be able to estimate. Especially in the planning/project manager business.

I've also started to make a prototype of the game just to see some results to be able to show to people and maybe motivate some. I've also started to divide coding between people, it's hard when you don't know yet what to code, offcourse. The main thing right now is to plan how the whole game will be structured and get a big perspective which can guide me about what exactly needs to be done.

I will continue on my prototype and focus a lot on getting a perspective on how things should be implemented in unity. I'm not sure about my estimations about time so I'm not at all sure about when we're going to be done, I think it will be done before this summer but I have really no idea. It's till fun and interesting so the development continues! :) Will work 3 days on it next week.

Now I'll continue playing BANG! with my friends.
//Tistou Blomberg

söndag 8 december 2013

Sorry I forgot to write this post yesterday


This week I've focused on writing an essay for my course in linguistics so I've been forced to leave gamemaking this week. I'm sorry for not updating earlier.

When I'm done with it I will have MASSIVE time to make games. So don't be alarmed, I will probably spend like 3-4 days a week on the game at least until january.

Next Sunday will have a post worthy it's weight in gold. How much does a post weigh?

Keep it fresh!

//Tistou Blomberg, a lazy prick

lördag 30 november 2013

TOOLBELT for unity

Hello hello!

This week I've talked to our new graphics designer. He has had experience working as one so he knew things we needed to know! Firstly he wanted specifics on sizes of sprites and formats. He also proposed that we'll make the game first, and then let the graphers graph away. That way the game wont change into something that requires us to toss away graphics and make new.

windwaker without textures

I, Felix and Svitri has worked on learning Unity and we've come a long way! We might finish in time but the game might be released in february or march at latest.

I've looked at how to think when working in unity, getting the feel of it by just diving into the great material spread all over the internet.

Youtube is a good way to start I think. Just looking up tutorials and follow a really basic one is comfortable. They vary in quality alot. Look out for "Live-shows" just uploaded to youtube, they might be great but also might involve big errors that really don't concern you, and you can't fast forward in case they mention something important that you'll need to know later. So stick to tutorials nonlive, unless you are actually seeing it live and can chat, then it might be great! unity 4.3 has come with a new BIG 2D update but there isn't allot of tutorials on that yet.

So I've looked at 6 great tools to have when working with unity:

  1. Unity Cookie , but you can't download the assets for free. I looked at tower defense tutorial which is totally right for this project and I think I'll go through this one first.
  2. There is also the videotutorials on the unity website , haven't checked them out but they seem great for beginners, when you just want to learn unity and don't know where to start.
  3. And as soon as you don't understand what a function does, if you use Monodevelop (which comes with unity) you can just look up the unity API reference! (It makes alot more sense if you are really looking something up)
  4. If you are lucky coder, you might save alot of time and effort by searching for free code examples in the unity community !
  5. Forums and the community is big. There are so many questions already answered you can just search and it's probably there. Or you can just ask!
  6. There is also the "Asset store", full of assets available to make games. I've downloaded the "Tower defense toolkit" for free. Even though I wont use it in the game, I have learned allot from checking the code and examples to see how you could build a tower defense game. It's like dissecting for science.

So far I've been switching between these tools while working and that has worked well. I think that it's very helpfull to know about these to efficiently make stuff in unity. They are all very different from each other and while they all help with making stuff in unity they are worth to remember at the right time.

So far we have a beautiful main menu made by Svitri, a spawner that spawns bacteria-cubes and lastly a turret that can't aim but is very agile.

Beautiful main Menu


turret "aiming"

I think that one way we can work efficiently is to learn different things, someone does menues, someone does grid and GUI for the levels and someone does the objects, like turrets and neurons and such. That way we can show each other different things and I think that we'll learn and produce faster.

I've also stumbled upon an article about axons and a bit of how they are formed.

Here is an idea: maybe you could lure bacteria and things. Maybe there is bacteria that is attracted to cold, then the player can lure it away by using some kind of heat ray on it's own neurons or something. Heating or freezing an area or pushing out nutrition may be beneficial at times.

I like turtles
//Tistou Blomberg

lördag 23 november 2013

My first 2D game in Unity

I followed some really basic Unity-tutorials at MyBringBack on youtube and I've learned the basics on how you connect a javascript to your game, applying textures and physics. I will continue with these tutorials and try to make an ugly but complete neuro-tower game wich we can use as an inspiration and prototype to get more ideas and realize and solve problems.

Here is a short video of my first game.

Now when I have the basic tools and know where to get more (youtube, unity forums and unity wiki) it's only a matter of time when we are finished.

I have also spent time on specifying what assets we need so that we soon can put out a list of graphics we need and sounds. So that can run parallell to the programming. I think it will keep the motivation up.

I think we'll put someone on making the menues in Unity so that he'll get expertize and focus on that area.

I've talked to an additional graphics designer and he seem interested. He and some others I talked to really like the immunoloy-idea and want to ditch or tune down on the robots. I do like that idea but it might no be implemented to much since my expertise is about neuroscience and not immunology. I thought about it and if we find somebody who can research the immunology for us it could work. I don't know if those ideas will clash with how I think the gameplay should be for neurons. I think that we'll make the basic game first and put the roboticproduction later, that way any immunologist can see the game and adapt to the mechanics easier. If none turns up, we'll use robots. I also like the idea of connecting a robot to a biological beeing, I think that we'll adapt to that idea soon.

Have a great day!
Tistou Blomberg

lördag 16 november 2013

Unity the game maker and codeacademy

Svitri noticed that they had a 3hour course in Unity at HumLab, so I took the chance to check it out. I thought it might be easy enough to make our game in it.

games made in unity

Totally worth it!!!

In 3 hours I learned to make a first person game where you could walk around with a flashlight, touch a cube to make it explode and throw around objects on fire. We've decided to ditch construct 2 and use unity as our engine to make the game. Unity works with c#, Boo and javascript so we have decided to learn javascripting.

ugly game with wooden grass

We use Codeacademy, a phenomenal site to learn the basics! Anyone just slighty interested in programming HAVE to check it out. It's very easy to learn. They use gamification and have made very simple exercises which you finish in seconds so that you really feel that progress you make.

writing 34 is very easy
I'm beginning to think that maybe that approach is better than mine for teaching via interactive artifacts.

I scanned through the course and I see that we'll need to learn additional stuff that's connected to scripting for unity, and all that seems very available in the unity community/forums, it's huuuge. I've begun to understand how unity works and the traditions of scripting for unity, so I hope that in two-three weeks we'll have a good structure and maybe even a very simple alpha of the game.

Visual Novel Toolkit Free

Our story guy Hjalmar likes the idea of visual novels so I've found a great (free) tutorial for making visual novels in the unity asset store. He'll be thrilled, I bet!

I've played around in unity and there is allot of free tutorials and templates (in the assets store) which makes the learning process super-effective. I'm so happy for this.

There is still much work needed to be done besides coding and level design:
  • Taking ca 30 good pictures
  • Drawing ca 10 nice backgrounds
  • Drawing ca 60 good buttons and small images
  • Animate ca 50 objects
  • Recording ca 30 sounds
  • Documenting exactly how many of each is needed

I'm going to make lists of what exactly we need and then like post it on facebook or something and see if folks likes the idea of contributing to the game, that would be awesome.

If anyone you know is interested in making games, feel free to recommend my blog if you think it might help.

Thanks for dropping by!

//Tistou Blomberg, human

lördag 9 november 2013

Concept art: microbots and neurons

I've been working on making levels. Making puzzles for the levels is fun, I used to make levels for Age Of Empires and play against bots.

It takes time though, this is one aspect I really haven't considered. This might push the release date further. It also might not... I've decided to focus on defining the objects that the player will be able to use in the game. I think that if these are made really basic, like minecraft blocks or legos, then it might just be enough to be fun to create alot of stuff yourself.

capsaicin triggering a response and starting the wave-pusher to push it away
I started out making the first level to get a concrete goal for when we start coding (very soon).

Once I did this I felt that I can't decide wheter the first level should introduce a pusher, a laser or something else. So instead I started making some object-concept art. Hopefully that will make it easier to make alot of fun levels!

Woa, that neuron is angry!

A heater heats an area for example.

Twin lasers defending the wild west

Here is two lasers. The strong red one takes more nutrition to use, so a 'fire-charger' has been added. That way if there is just one enemy the neuron will trigger the green one but the red one will just be 'teased' a bit, but wont fire. With time the charger will lower it's energy so the neuron has to tease it again. When you have allot of enemies there will be allot of signals from the neuron and the red laser will charge up and fire. So it will only fire when it's usefull. This 'fire-charger' could be put on other stuff as well such as a rocket launcher or anything.

viruses are bad

Here two red lasers fire and make enormous damage on a square containing a virus.

The dual spin-pusher-brain is the ultimate of undeadlyness!

Here we introduce a 'turner', this could be combined with a pusher or something else to make your own targeting system or something else. Trigger one 'turn-side' and it will turn 90 degrees.

Later on we will add conveyor belts or 'movers' and alot of other sci-fci goodies.

The neurons with extra color is a new idea. The player will need to distinguish a receiving dendrite from a sending axon. Nothing will happen if you connect a dendrite to a nanobot.

So my belief is that if we make these very elementary objects and think about getting as much possibilities as possible we will easily make alot of gameplay for players who like to play and make stuff. A threatening side effect can be that one player finds out some super-effective strategy that allways kills everything. If that happens the game will be less fun and not so challenging for that player. So we will want allot of beta-testing.

We have also checked out umeås universitys HUMlab and they said we can use their sound-recorders, computers and programs to edit sound and allot of stuff! We also talked a little about making some PR to see if some student is interested in joining up. Apparently they have Unity installed and some people has made some games. If we can get a good tutorial or some lessons by some student who has used it, that would be awesome.

We still have no dedicated graphic designer or experienced programmer.

If you are experienced in unity and want to join
interested in drawing neurons and nanobots,

and also live in Umeå I'd love to hear from you. Send me some beautiful emails: koncentrera@gmail.com

Now my friends will pop by and we all'll watch starcraft 2 world championship series
(lol all'll)

// Tistou Blomberg, the man behind the computer

lördag 2 november 2013

Level design and effective teaching

I want to catch the player with a hook in the first level but it also has to be simple enough to understand in 1-2 minutes. All this while preparing for more information to be presented in a smooth way.

I want the first level to present the 'whole game' in the first level. So that the player will understand generally what the game is all about.

In the first level I've almost decided to have the player:

Make a neuron out of an embryonic cell
Connect the neuron to a micro-robot
Stimulate the neuron to make the robot shoot
Inject genes into the neuron to develop pain-reception (nocireceptors)
Defend the neuron and embryos against bacteria

I've read a book called "Beyond barbie and mortal kombat" which is a bunch of texts written by different
authors about gaming and gender. I want the game to appeal to both boys and girls, this is hard. The book doesn't present many solutions except having girls in the developing team. I haven't got a hold of any motivated girls so I fail at that point. One text in the book proposes to divide gamplay in masculine and feminine since many girls can like "shooters" for example. I recognize the tower defense gameplay to be classified as "masculine" and will probably appeal masculine players mainly. Hjalmar came up with the idea of having "puzzle"-levels where you think a bit more and that may be a bit less masculine. I also want to show the player a good story (relationship development) since that seems (accoring to some parts of the book) appealing for feminine players. I don't know how well we will pull this one off but we'll try our best. I'd love to have more people with a feminine playstyle on the team. I will definately push to have 50% of testers have a feminine playstyle.

So I am going to put some energy to come up with a simple puzzle and incorporate the story into the first level. Then maybe switch back and forth between playstyles, maybe giving the player the choice of which to use.

There are alot of cells doing alot of stuff
I've thought about having a bilogical "warfare" on the threats to bacteria and such instead of having nano-robots. As I researched immunology today and I got so much info... It's to much to work with right now. It's interesting though!

So I think we'll stick to neuron, micro-sized bots and maybe glial cells.

What I really like to incorporate is my ideas about how to facilitate learning. I like Ebbinghaus forgetting curve and I think that one can combine that with making a network of associations between knowledge.

In order to make the new knowledge usefull and memoriable, I want the player to be able to think about it when outside the game and be able to find everything she has experienced in the game.

I believe that memories are formed through connections between neurons by processes like LTP (Long Term Potentiation). We make new connections/associations and the stronger the connection the more likely it is to fire "when you need it". I want the player to get the knowledge and be able to find any knowledge in her network (brain) at any time. So in order for that we need to present the knowledge in a structured way that is easy to navigate through, a way that works good with the natural processes of the brain.

For example:
We present the term "polymodal nociceptors" and we tell our student that it's what we use to experience pain. If this student doesn't know much about the elements that makes up the words and the context it is used it can be very hard for her to remember what it was used for. The connection could just be from this set of letters and sounds to the fact "we use it to experience pain".

Different chemicals stimulating a polymodal nociceptor
If we on the other hand prepare our student with some knowledge this can be easily fixed. We tell her that "poly" is the word for 'many' (http://www.etymonline.com). Like polygon has many edges and polygyny is having many wives. We try to connect this word to different exiting knowledge the student has so that she has greater chance of getting the knowledge when she need it. You may know that innocuous means 'harmless' and in this case 'noci' means harm. We tell her about what a receptor is and we also tell her about modality. In this case we have a "nociceptor" that reacts to many different stimulis; heat, touch and chemical substances. The richer the painting the easier it is to remember, in fact presenting a picture, sound, smell, touch and other things makes all this stuff allot easier (but that's another part of memorization). This is actually quite obvious but I feel that we aren't paying enough attention to the existing knowledge in students when teaching them new stuff. I am no teacher so I don't know what goes on inside their heads but I often feel like I'm supposed to take care of painting the picture myself. Which is fine by me but we could do so much better! And with algoritms that learns what a learner know and doesn't we can present data on a silver platter.

Is knowledge a part of success or success a part of knowledge?

I don't know exactly how to implement this everywhere yet but I see a bright future. In our game we will see to it that we use the Ebbinhaus forgetting curve or other curves so that repetition occurs at the right place. We will try to connect as much info as possible to real life situations and knowledge already existing in the mind of the player. We have had some ideas to see what knowledge the learner is going to build new knowledge on, like having tests to lock up new levels and also ANN (artificial neural networks) to see patterns in playing, memorization and understanding. ANN may be a bit to much computation in this case though.

We will see how much of this we have time to implement but I feel that the most important thing is to learn and to create a system to make good educational games.

I'm going to continue working by making at least 5 complete level-designs. So that we have something to make when we start to make the game. Felix and Svitri has begun to look at construct 2 to see if we can make it with that and we will also start to use the equipment and socialize at Umeå universitys "HUMlabb".

The truth is out there.

Tistou Blomberg signing out.

lördag 26 oktober 2013

Embryology proffessor and task distribution

So yesterday I and Svitri met an embryology proffessor to get some answers.

It was a good idea.

Embyros from cows (taken from the internet)
We met Paul Kingham at Umeå university, he's an excelent and very caring proffessor and he told us about how he makes neurons and other cells from embryos (cow embryos in picture to the right). By letting human embryos grow in different solutions with proteins and substances the embryos develop into different cells. It's kind of like how a human develop their proffession depending on what environment they grow up in. We even got to look at real embryos in his lab! We will come back another time and take with us a camera to take some photos.

Now we know more about how we can depict the making of the cell in the game. There can be some kind of animation where you see bottles with different solutions in them and when you place embryos in them they develop into neurons or glialcells. Paul also directed us towards another scientist who knows more about the exact solutions and does research of how neurons grow their axon in different directions.

Paul had good ideas of how the competition could look like in the game. The competition will be between the evil proffessor(s) and the player. One thing he mentioned is that a big and growin issue in the sience world is that there are people making up numbers to get funding (what you call scientific misconduct). So in the game we will have a person that does this and then get's discovered. I also want the player to feel that they personally win at beeing honest and trusting teammates, I believe that a world where we all cooperate instead of compete will make the society grow faster. But I don't want to trick anyone so we'll strive to keep it as realistic as possible. If you fake evidence and get caught, your publications will probably not be accepted anywhere and your whole career could be totally ruined. That's how it works in the world and I want scientists to take this into account. I believe that the ban of a scientist is not only bad for the scientist, it's bad for us all to loose his competence. So we as a big society should make it easy for scientists to make science by communicating and helping each other instead of competing.

The core of my game is the gameplay, that's the original thing. I've discovered that accepting new teamates made me anxious. I haven't been as great a leader as I hoped I could be. Main issue for me has been that I can't distribute assignments to others since the assignments demand that I do them. Let me clarify. I haven't done all the work needed to be done before starting the development. I didn't realise that I should have been planning more and waiting to get people onboard until the idea was complete. I have decided the gameplay basically and uncountable ideas has been written down and categorized, but it hasn't been enough. I have not until recently decided what actually will happen at level 1 for example. Before that the writer has ofcourse had troubles writing since he doesn't know what he'll be writing for. The graphics haven't been able to be begun with since the items in the game haven't been completely thought up and the same with making sounds. Basically all the things that I could delegate can not be done yet since the task isn't clear yet.

I still have all my energy though. I'm confident this project will reach a good product but as I feared in the beginning, we might not be done before deadline. In the next meeting I will tell everyone that I may need some time to create the gameplay more thoroughly and that I cant delegate so many things yet...

But! I've developed a better view of things thanks to mindmup. I made a mindmap where each bubble is a task. The tasks connected to this task has to be done in order to begin with it. The final task (to the left) is "Launch game". So in order to do that we have to finish the others, and to finish other tasks... and so on until we come to a task that can be done right now. I don't know how this will work out but I think it will make things easier.

Svitri also mentioned that the teammembers that want to do the gamemaking in construct 2 (a gamemaker), can start to learn it and begin to make some groundwork that is ready to be done. Like making the gamearea and the mapcontrols. I will use the mindmap-technology to make more specific tasks and color the done tasks with green to see how we all work forward, I've also shared this through google drive (,we all use google drive to share documents) so that everyone can see the progress.

So right now I'm reading my neuroscience notes and book to decide exactly what will be the goal of each level and how the player will get to know more and more about neuroscience. This is allot how teachers work when they device a teachplan, I'm not educated to be a teacher but I have written a learningplan when I studied "Computergames and learning 1" at umeå university (a course in swedish). That's also where I got in touch with the videogames and learning-book I've mentioned before.

Peace out!
//Tistou Blomberg for trust and communication

lördag 19 oktober 2013

2 new members and allot of graphical interface design!

Photoshopped image of the team
3 additional members has been engulfed by the mission. Anna doesn't have much time but is very interested so she will get some task that will make the game better but is not a crucial element. I will propose either listening to the music in different settings, gather more info about neurology or something else. The other new member is Felix, he likes to program in python and can make music. We concluded that having two musicians is a delicate issue, we don't want what we say in sweden "The more chefs the worse the soup". Even though it's nice to have the same kind of music through the game to make a stable feeling, it could work having different music during the cut-scenes. I don't know, we'll see.

I've also managed to get a graphic designer that's really good, he has no experience in vector graphics but he can make amazing 3d art. I think we'll either ditch the vector graphics or I'll teach him basics to see if he catches on.

To make the graphics we will make some kind of chart of graphics needed. Anybody in the team (and outsiders?) can upload images and we'll give feedback and chose the most fitting images.

The following pictures is about the graphical interface design. I spent the day mostly making cognitive walkthroughs and visualising the game. This is to discover problems and testing design solutions to see what works best. I just drew the pictures to show you some of my early thoughts, I really just go through them in my head and just write down the end result when I'm done (I'm not yet done). I want to show you how I work so I present to you more sketches!

The process of playing is about having a blank sheet with just stemcells and nutrition, then place neurons and nano-robots to make a defence or solve a puzzle. (There will be tower defense levels and puzzle levels).

So the player will go from that ->
To this down here.

This means that the player will spend allot of time placing and rearranging neurons (the blue ones with "tails" connecting to each other), so we want that part to be as pleasurable as possible. Nice juicy soundeffects and an easy to use interface design. So I spend allot of time thinking about how exactly the neurons will be placed upon this micro world.

navigation and stemcell to neuron GUI
You can just look at the pretty pictures since they are not so well adjusted to be understood. In case you really want to know what some of them are about, I'll write.

In this right picture. The bottom 4 frames are about touching and draggin a stemcell from the middle of the screen to where you want to put it. There is allot of way you could do this and it all comes down to what commands the user likes to do. On a touchpad there is touching, dragging, swiping, tapping and when you combine both hands, there is like no end to the possibilities.

The menu that pops up could pop up at the bottom but in this case it pops up right where the stemcell is placed, this is nice since the player wont need to change eye-focus to much or make big movements with the hand. The brain also recognises objects near to each other to be associated (law of proximity) so that makes it more 'logical' and graspable for the brain to accept the idea that this menu is about this stemcell.

After this menu where you might choose to develop this stemcell to for example a neuron, this neuron will need an axon, so touching and dragging would be nice for this. This is pictured in the last frame.

First 6 frames are about navigation. The game area will be bigger than the screen and we can't have enough neurons jammed into one screen (because we need to be able to pinpoint and touch them). So a small map could be shown in the lower left, this could open a map-screen where you touch where of the map you want to see. To quickly change this area without going through the map-screen we could have arrows beside the map-icon to step to the left for example. Instead of this we could have a possibility like touching wherever on the screen can make you "grab" it and move it around like you can do in google maps for example. So when thinking about this and testing playing the game in the mind you can discover the crash of commands when you want to grab a stemcell from the middle and put it somewhere, will the program move the screen or will it grab a stemcell? When the game is full of neurons and stuff and you want to move the screen, you don't want the menues of different neurons to pop upp, you want to move the screen. Looking for an empty square to grab can be frustrating for the user.

Left picture. When a stemcell is placed and you are able to grow an axon from it, this is what I think I will use. Once the stemcell is placed I think that instead of first choosing what the cell will develop to, the program will assume you will be developing to a neuron so even though this 'chosing menu' will appear from the bottom, the possibility is there to save like 0,5 seconds and just grow the axon directly. And this action of pressing a direction to grow it in will turn the stemcell into a neuron and directly start to grow the axon. Also with this we can have a strain of dna at the bottom and if the player wants to develop another kind of cell she can just press that button and she will see that it means that we inject another part of the dna into the cell. This will give the implicit knowledge that different dna-strands changes what happens in a cell. I really like this idea, I think I will use something like this.

So pros and cons are discovered through cognitive walkthrough. Allot of trial and error is what it's about, and I like it. I love to visualize things and just sit meditative style and really fast go through scenarios.

We have also made an appointment with another proffessor who know more about embryology so that we can understand the process of making neurons from stemcells.

The story is going forward and now we have frequent short meeting every week to see if everyone is doing well.

Thanks for checking my blog out, stay curious!

//Tistou Blomberg

lördag 12 oktober 2013

Sketches!, Storywriting by proxy (Hjalmar) and proffessor meeting

Main menu concept art
(pacinian corpuscle, neurons, flashlight, light sensitive cone cell, piano, ear with cochlea and a hair cell)

Unspoilable story
My story writer has not yet made the story, it seems like I wasn't clear enough about what he was
suppose to be doing, actually I don't even know exactly what he is suppose to be doing. I have found it complex to give clear story-writing-instructions that motivate to writing. I decided to meet with him today and begin together to write the story. We made progress! We decided that there will be an evil colleague who does terrible things to the player and in the end the player will... I wont spoil it!

I think he has more ideas of what story to write but I'm not sure, maybe he has to much unclear freedom. I will ask him. We have decided that I write a "level sheet" (see previous post) for every level and then he has to take those components and make a beautiful story. He mentioned that it may be hard to reach mainstream while also have an interesting story, I agree. But I really want the game to be playable by 8 year olds as well as 30 year olds. I'm hoping that Hjalmar will find some super solution like Disney, that reaches a broad audience (for the whole family!). But the most important thing for me is that Hjalmar himself is proud of what he has accomplished. That way he may like to work with me another time also!

I did work on the levels but I am not sure when I will be done with the level-sheets. Deciding what level comes when and what things will happen is a very big workload. It actually makes the whole gameplay.

Svitri and I had a meeting with a clever proffessor at umeå university (Staffan Johansson) and it was very interesting! We had approximately 20 questions and got very good answers. Now we know that drugs may be the biggest threat to the brains thinking in todays society. This will influence the game, we will try to have different drugs affecting the neurons in the game so that people can learn more about what it actually does to neurons. Alchohol, tobacco, LSD, mushrooms... and so on, so forth. We know that you use polylysin on the petridishes so that the neurons stick and don't wash away. They may wash away if you let a stream of toxins or other substances flow over the neuron and this is actually what Staffan does. He knows allot about this. He also gave us directions to other proffessors that know allot about embryology and exactly what kinds of actionpotentials neurons can fire. We will try to get to meet 3 other proffessors about these questions and I believe that it will greatly increase our knowledge.

I would gladly look at this picture if it where real
Also I will try to arrange a meeting where we can watch and take some photos about how they actually work so that I can see how a petri dish looks like , maybe through a microscope and in a refrigerator. That way the grafics of the game can be very accurate and the phots can also work as a form of trophés for players who play really well and deserves achievements. If a particular photo of a petri dish with a cigarette and a neuron was taken and I had played a level where a cigarette poisoned my neurons, I would gladly look at that picture!

In an attempt at deciding more exactly on the gameplay I used the technique of prototyping. This way I can play a simple (very slow) version of the game to get a really good feeling about it.

Looking at the masters is also a good way to get great ideas and see what works and what doesn't. I've looked at 20+ tower defense games and this I really like:

Inspiration ( TowerDefense by Moon blossom studios ) (It's free, I love the graphics and sound effects)

lördag 5 oktober 2013

Becoming a leader and level design

I have lured yet another good soul to my project! I thought that I needed a good story and I came to think about my good friend Hjalmar. I asked to meet him and tell him about my project and he wanted to write the story! It's great! He has a passion for writing and I feel like I'm giving him a fun area to develop his skills and acomplish something nice.

I feel like I am becoming more of a leader and my role has shifted a bit from doing everything myself to instead motivate others to share my quest. It feels nice that people want to join me. Since I am not writing the story or making the music anymore thanks to my great friends, I have to articulate, be transparent and see to it that they have what they need in order to produce great stuff. One thing I thought of was the superb teachers I have had in school. The greatest teachers who made school fun and made me understand and seek knowledge had at least one thing in common: They gave me good instructions. Good instructions that motivated me was very clear, superclear about rules and freedom. Tasks where I often failed is when I felt I didn't understand the assignment fully. The better I understood what I was suppose to be doing the more creative, relaxed and productive I could be. So I have spent some time exploring my memories to develop a leader role for myself, and I like it. I hope I manage to keep the motivation up in my team so that we can share a success. So far it feels like it's going well!

I will still make the "programming" and incorporate the information about neuroscience into a nice game though, and I like that as well.

I have set a meeting with a great proffessor at Umeå University where I study. I will present my idea to him and see what he thinks about the facts that I try to bake into this game. If the facts are outdated or just plain wrong I will toggle some switches and make the game present the ideas better and more correctly. I want to give as proper facts as possible to every player.

In order to make the most out of the meeting I have noted down specific questions about thing like:
"How can you keep a neuron alive in a petri dish"
"What makes a specific neuron to the neuron it is"
To extract good questions I realized I had to make a more precise description about the actual levels and what the player will be doing on level 1, 2 etc.. Designing the levels will also help my story writer to know what exactly needs to come out of his story.

Sketches on the game and the first level

The first level is about learning to make a neuron and the controls in the game. I want to suck the player in directly to something fascinating. So far the first level will be about making a neuron out of a stem cell and connecting it to a laser, with the experience that one is making an experiment about connecting humans to machines (transhumanism on a neural level). After that some bacteria will emerge and the player will be prompted with a message from someone saying that the bacteria will kill his inventions. I hope the player will realize that he needs to protect his neuron with the laser.

I have chosen to make a template about what a level will contain. So that it will be easy to make new levels and let my and others ideas be transparent, making the information flow through anyone who wants it.

I have so far decided to develop in gamesalad, it's the easiest program to use and seems like I will save allot of time even though I may lose in freedom. I think that it is most important to get a product to be proud of. I want to present the idea that learning can be extremely fun if you know how to teach.

I hope that my doings will influence others to be creative and make games and other things that makes information flow better.

Till next time I will have had a meeting with the proffessor and hopefully gotten some great ideas and made some great level design.


lördag 28 september 2013

Game engines, working on gameplay and story

So while checking out the possible game engines and programming languages I feel I have a huge amount of alternatives, that feels nice.

I haven't decided yet what medium to make the game in. I have thought about the pros and cons about different programming languages and game makers. Since no good programmer has joined my quest so far, the game will probably be made in a game maker and not in a programming language (such as python,c#,c++,java...).

These are the game makers I have in mind:





http://gamesalad.com/  (in the picture)

They are all great and you can see the games made in them by clicking on 'arcade' or 'games' on their sites.

The choice between an "app" and an in-browser game (games you can play in your webbrowser) is an important one. Some of the listed gamemakers allows us to develop the game for IOS and Android wich is a great way to make it popular and reach a great audience through google play and the app store. If we are to develop for touchpads there is allot to think about in gameplay. We can't put to much demand on the player to press with precision so the games buttons will have to be big and the neurons need to be big in order for the player to easily connect a neuron to it. We will think about this a bit more and hopefully next saturday we can make a choice. If we choose not to make it an "app" we will need a site where the game will be played or we can make it downloadable to a computer. I would think that making it available online for anyone to play is a good choice except for the detail of having saved games. I would love it if we could make a site where you can log on to a user, that way the player can have saved games and we could collect data about age and sex to see what audiences likes the game the most. By collecting the data we can make tons of user studies that can make the game alot better! But that would require some kind of database connected to the game and we would need to work with a programming language which would take up time.

I've aquired a friend who will be working with me on the game, he will be responsible for the music. His name is Svitri and he is a nice fellow!

We have worked on the gameplay and the story.


Stem cells
You will play a scientist who have come up with a device to quickly transform stemcells into neurons and other cells. You will have a petri dish where you will grow your network from stem cells (this will be the playingarea). Once you have played for a little while and built a little network, there will be an accident and a scientist will drop some bacteria into your dish, theese bacteria will slowly make it towards your precious network and you will have to defend it by placing either nanobots or building a natural immune system.


White blood cell (part of the immune system) is eating red bacteria
The immune system and other parts of the game will not be to advanced and there is alot of real facts that we will have to skip in order to make it before deadline. I'd love to one day make a whole game which contains all kinds of microorganisms, their proteins, aminoacids etc... But for this game where our team is small we will have to settle with a simplifyed version of things and processes.

Thanks for reading! If there is something that you didn't understand in this post please comment about it down below! I want to become as transparent as possible.

Until next time I will have decided what medium to use, for what devices to develop to and decided precisely on the gameplay. If you have any thoughts or tips let me know!

lördag 21 september 2013

Gameplay concept

I took some hours thinking about how to incorporate the information in a nice gameplay and I think that a tower defence style is a good take. It also makes it easier to do the graphics when the parts are structured in a grid.

This here on the right is the gamearea. Here you will be able to place neurons, evolve stemcells to neurons or glialcells, move parts and build your brain to defend against bacteria, virus and other threats. There will also be some kind of menu to make choises. Choises like buying nano flamethrowers or nutrition.

In the middle we have stemcells and nutrition that is very yummy for bacteria. To defend them we can evolve some of the stemcells to become nervecells. A part of a nervecell can become a "Lamellar corpuscle" and register touch, in this picture above the virus sets of a signal wich travels through another nervecell to a nano flamethrower wich in turn kills the virus wich then becomes nutrition which can be used to make more stemcells. Like in every tower defence game the enemies becomes harder so you have to be smart when building to defeat all the "waves" or enemies that can march at you.

I wanted to incorporate the fun in making big neural networks and the chemical processes so I need two different perspectives. Therefore the possibility to zoom in and work on individual synapses, axons and other parts may be a good solution.

If you choose to zoom in on a synapse (pic. on the left,) you can solve problems if some virus has destroyed a synapse or if there is garbage there. Hopefully there will be a possibility to place more neurotransmitters (the purple squares) or place more or less receptors (green).

I want to incorporate the "Practice principle" that James Paul Gee has found is a great advantage of video games. It's the 12:th principle in his book "What video games have to teach about learning and literacy" (absolutely an amazing book). The principle is about how players get allot of practice in certain tasks where the practice is not boring. If the player gets to place neurotransmitters, receptors and help myelinate the axons alot, the player will hopefully finish the game with knowledge that stays.

I also have alot of other ideas but had no time to put them in pictures.

I think that i'm going to send some emails to people that have done some tower defence games and see if they want to cooperate. I don't really seek any money, I want this game to be made because I see the profit as knowledge to humanity. I think that if we educate kids and help them to keep their curiosity alive and thriving, along with a belief that cooperation is key to survival, we all will get better lives.

If you have made any tower defence game before, please feel free to contact me and we can see if we can team up!

Here is a picture of a Lamellar corpuscle that is one of the touch-registering nervecells (also found in the top picture):

Lamellar corpuscle

lördag 14 september 2013

Content of game is neurons!

So the content of the game will be based upon what is at wikipedia.

I really like the summation of information there. Once I have chosen the content, it will go through my brain and I will also try to check with my proffessors about the information to see that the game is based upon the latest research. I think that choosing what information the player will be exposed to is a big part of my role as a cognitive scientist. Information help create the models we make of the world and it's important that you get the right info at the right time.

I think theese drawings by Santiago Ramón y Cajal are amazing. If they are up for grabs I will put them in the game as kind of prices/achievements that you can win by playing well. So you can later check your trophé-book for stuff you have earned. I strongly believe that a piece of art just like this picture or a trophy is more appreciated the more work the artist has put into it. Santiagos drawings seem to be drawn with skill, enthusiasm and patience, and they are so simplistic. They really give a good embodied experience of what a neuron is.

A simple piece of conceptart I made of how the game may look like:

If each level would be narrated or guided by a different real character from neuroscience it would be a nice mix of usefullness, fun and information presentation.

lördag 7 september 2013

The 4 month plan

The plan is set. Four months of gamemaking every Wednesday and also with updates here on Sundays.

I decided to try the planning system from the Game Dev Tycoon which I mentioned in the last post. When making a game there you choose how to distribute your workload on three subjects. For example: First stage is to distribute the worload on Engine, Gameplay and Story/Quests...

I checked the difference between level design and world design and here is a good post from "Jamie P" where he talks a little about some games and the focus on world design.

I have been thinking allot about gameplay and will let that influcene what kind of development medium i will choose. I am mostly familiar with python so I will probably use that but we'll see if there is some gamemaker out there which is up to the task.

I am not a programmer as much as I am a cognitive designer/scientist. So I will probably try to make a simple engine and let my skills progress mostly in gameplay and story/quests. I know how to record sound and make graphics in GIMP. Also A friend volunteered to make graphics in blender so maybe that will save some time and give an extra flavour to the game. Friends feel free to express your feeling about joining on my quest or just give feedback. If I get the time I will conduct a user study on the game early in december.

Currently I'm taking A.I at umeå university (It's a part of the cognitive program) and maybe it will help me with something in the game. I'm also taking Human-computer interaction which will hopefully help me recall some important design principles that I should use.

The game will be in 2D unless some miracle happens.

It will probably be about a network of neurons and every level will be about one of the neurons. So the gameplay could be about how to help a neuron to gather proteins or making energy (ATP).

I want the levels to congregate and perhaps the network as a whole will have some kind of overall score such as IQ (in a fictional way). This would tie together concepts to increase creativity in the player and a sense that the game is not isolated from reality.

My main focus will be to make a finished product where you learn at least something and this something is repeated according to Ebbinghaus repetition curve or some other analysis of when to strengthen memories.

I hope that the use of fiction in the game will make the game more fun and not cause to many problems when the player takes this knowledge to reality.

-I didn't know neurons had eyes and teeth?!?

*Neurons doesn't have eyes and teeth

söndag 1 september 2013

Game Dev Tycoon

I have found an educational game that I think is perfect for anyone who wants to join the game industry!

This here on the right is Game Dev Tycoon from Green heart games.

This is a perfect example of games I like to make. A game that contains concrete experiences that can occur in real life. The game is presenting more and more advanced concepts the longer you play. It introduces solutions to problems while giving the opportunity to be creative. A game like this can easily be remembered outside the game which is very important in educational games. This games conditions me to like the challenges that a game developing company can face and makes the whole bankruptcy less of a stress factor (good use of psychosocial moratorium!). It also goes through the game industry from the 80s and an understanding of the gaming history can be very good to have under the belt.

As I play through it I will try to find good principles that they have implemented and see if I can see things that could be improved. If I find anything interesting I will share it with you!

On a second note I have realized that it would be very nice to visit a game developing company and see how they work. A small company with just 1 to 5 people would be very giving and to visiting a bigger company would be great if there would be someone to explain the whole chain of distributing the workload. So I am going to see if there are any here in Umeå since that would make things very easy.

On a third note I have decided to dedicate Wednesdays to work on my educational game quest and on Saturdays I will also update the blog.

So check in once a week to be updated on my quest to change the nature of education as we know it!

Thanks for reading! :D

tisdag 27 augusti 2013

The image of the project and the blog

I'll post a plan next time

Right now I'm going to upgrade the background for the blog so that it gives an image of what the blog is about.

Since the blog will be 100% of my image until I release a game I want it to represent a complete picture over the project that is easy to categorize in the head.

Instead of one thinking:
"The blog is about some game but rally about several games and some dude who makes them"

I want you to get what I'm doing:
"The blog is about a cognitive scientist who aim to make education fun by making a game"

Subject unchosen!

I've realized that if I try to make this big game about civics then I need to act like a projectmanager over a bunch of people and I still have to learn more about that.

So in order to get my motivation up and show my personal skills, I will make a smaller educational game.

It will be about neurons, what is a neuron and what it contains and how it communicates with other neurons. Very basic but still new information for many people.

The first step is to make a timeplan so that I know what I will do when, have a consistent development and to not get stuck at things. I will have to "kill my darlings" and settle with what I can accomplish in about 1-4 months in order to get a finished game.

The second step I've chosen is to extract what info should be in the game. So I am going to look at goal descriptions from courses about basic neurology and advanced to see what would fit good to motivate the player and give him a base to be able to learn more. I will also repeat what I've learned so that the info is fresh.

I will probably present a more detailed plan in the next post.

lördag 24 augusti 2013

Subject I choose you!

I have thought about the information I should share via the game.
First I thought about Neurology, then math and maybe some history.

I want to help people the best way so I want to choose the subject that will help the most and still will be fun for me and my still ungathered crew.

I will choose a combination of Civics, Philosophy and Psychology. I want to give people the basics so that they know how to keep themselves happy (psychology), have a meaningful life and a goal to be proud of (philosophy) and I want to give the basic understanding of how you get a job, communicate and function in society.

Mainly I just want everyone to feel good about themselves, use their responsability to help everyone by using their human intelligence and creativity.

If I manage to make it fun it will probably make real life more fun as well.

Subject is supereffective!

fredag 23 augusti 2013

I want to make an educational game that is fun!

Children are naturally curious. They want to know things, they ask questions, they go on adventures and they insist on being free to experience the things that catch their attention.

I was such child, then one day I had to begin school. It was a chore, I just did it because the grown ups said I should. Even when things where boring I did them, but badly.

Now that I study cognitive science at Umeå University I still find allot of it hard and stressful. But... Sometimes... It is so incredibly fun that I can sit for hours surfing the web watching youtube videos about neurology, psychology or reading bloggs or news about recent technological advances.

Also, when playing a game I learn so much about that game.
I know that you can repel grenades with a flamethrower in team fortress 2
I know that there is a heart container here somewhere
I know that if I take this route in a racing game I can save some time but I have to be more alert
I know that to defeat this boss I need to do this, then that and this in order to do that, and that to do this.

I even know the names of some bosses and characters and technology in games.

If I would make a game...
Then I would make it just as fun as a regular game. I would just switch the facts. If I make a game containing a boss, this  boss could be an angry kid throwing stuff around. In order to beat the boss you have to throw pills at him since he has a neruological disorder. But you have to know what pills to throw and how to diagnose this kid in order to have him survive and calm down.

Instead of having a level where you jump, push boulders and buttons you could have a level where you need to gather some golden letters and place them in the urn in the right order to spell 'democracy'. This would spawn an army that is governed by democracy and if you would spell 'monarchy' you would spawn an army governed by a queen and a king.

I want to choose a subject in school. Maybe neurology, anatomy, psychology, maths or something else. Look at the required knowledge and put this into a game. I want to make it as fun as any good game out there and . I want to use my knowledge about cognition, implement Ebbinghaus learning curve, spaced repetition, linguistics, classical and operational conditioning, all the stuff in neuroscience about memory, long term potentiation and give it all the love I have for the joy of exploring and giving everyone a great opportunity to learn because they are curious.

Instead of making people learn because they think they have to, I want them to give them all the information for free and a freedom to look at what they desire. I truly believe that if you can present information in the right way, the right time and in the right amount, the receiver will be wanting more

This blog is about my journey towards making one educational game that:
Is as fun as any good game out there
Require the gamer to learn real facts in order to  advance in the game
Adapts to the gamers level of knowledge so that it is never to much and never to boring. (Regime of competence principle)

I need to know more about making games fun and so far I've gone through 2 years of cognitive science and one course in 'computer games and learning'. In that course we read a book 'What video games teach about learning and literacy' which is totally awesome.

I will have to choose a subject and decide whether I need more people on my side. I don't know much about 3d-modelling, programming so I might try to recruit you.

Also I will have to see if my idea can be funded once I have the idea the game design document ready. Maybe some concept art also.