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.