May 6, 2010

Crimson Night


Ideally, games should communicate emotionally with the player, but currently we mostly have games that "talk" emotionally at the player (by trying to evoke emotions in the player) but do not "listen" emotionally to the player (respond to player choice of emotion), especially for narrative-based games. Games that respond emotionally to players will create a more immersive and enjoyable play experience. Crimson Night focuses on this underdeveloped "listening" side of emotions in games, exploring emotion input to augment storytelling.


Design, Programming, Art
Brandi Wilcox

Sam Pierce

Special thanks to my committee members Mike Ellis, Joel Goodsell, Paul De Meo, and Perry Hoberman for their help in designing this game!

Thanks to Anne Balsamo (my happy committee chair) for keeping this project on track, and a heartfelt thanks to Dan and Katrina Wilcox for their support.


October 27, 2009

Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time

Hey everybody! Today marks the release date of RCF2:A Crack in Time! As many of you know, I interned at Insomniac last semester and worked on this fantastic game. And it was given a 9 by IGN :^) Go to the PlayStation Store and check out the demo if you want to give it a try! And then go buy it! Even if I don't get any royalty monies!

(image from

October 22, 2009

Thesis Alpha Prototype

As requested by Mr. Mark Bolas, here be my blogerrific post, re: Thesis Demo as demonstrated last night of October 21st in the year 2009 (addendum: some UI edits as requested to facilitate playability).

(may be slow to load, and there is no sound [just fyi, so nobody thinks their speakers aren't working])

Click to show actions. Blue is walk-to, Green is look-at, Red is talk-to. Click on the icon to select it.
The WASD or arrow keys change your PC's mood. Up (or W) to get happier, Down (or S) to get sadder, Left (or A) to get more fearful, and Right (or D) to get angrier.
Click M to see the little mood-wheel larger and then press M again to return it to smallness.

NOTE: When you talk to the maid a second time, she will ask if you are ready to go get married. Saying yes (the second option) will end the game. You will get a splash-screen and then you must reload to play again or close the browser window to remove it from your sight :^)

This prototype is more about using mood to explore a space and get a feeling for the story/character. As such, it isn't totally what I wanted (which was using mood to drive the character/story) because I don't want the player to be changing their mood just to see what else the PC will say about a group of pillows. But it was all I could do in time :^) And it still addresses the concept and it is still useful, so there. But this will be better addressed in further prototypes.

Feel free to comment (I'll try to check the blog fairly often so they can be approved and shown) or send an email.


November 18, 2008

CTIN 532: The Diorama

It occurs to me I never posted a picture from the scene of the diorama we were supposed to make for class on October 29, 2008. So here it is! Click on it for a full size image.


Sagi, the elephant and kind of a social worker under Gaia, fell asleep while planting trees. Gaia is the Squirrel, although this is just her current avatar. And because she is Mother Nature, flowers grow wherever she is, okay?

CTIN 532: The Postcard

Here is the quintessential corny postcard that gets the point across :^) Click on it to pop up the full-sized image.


(For people not in the class, we were supposed to make a postcard from our world. And similarly to people not in the class, my world changed from Alien Extradition to A Dusty River, a World similar to ours but with forces trying to restore and preserve Nature)

October 8, 2008

CTIN 532: Assignment 7 (paths, rules, and blank space)

Extraterrestrial Extradition

Circulation Study

Inhabitants of the space station are free to travel wherever they can (i.e., where they can breathe, gravity they can withstand, etc) save for the Administration areas (save for the reception area or if the inhabitant has an appointment), the Bridge (unless for a sanctioned tour). As a form of politeness, they should not go into the business/private parts of establishments. Inhabitants may lock their quarters for privacy, but generally when not wanting privacy, inhabitants will allow others into their quarters. They should still announce themselves though :^)

Inhabitants waiting for trial (i.e., the player) may not access the Transportation Deck. Any inhabitant may sit in or observe a trial remotely.

As it is a space station, most of the paths are fixed (i.e., very fixed boundaries). Only in the garden/park area do the inhabitants get to wander and have freedom of choosing a path. I.E., only in the garden/park is there any sense of freedom. There are many ways to get to elevators and many elevators to choose from on each level in order to minimize traffic areas and provide alternate routes should an elevator be down for maintenance or other reasons.

Likewise entrances and exits are all very clear and all internal. The only external exit is to outer space and that is bared from the player (although they will enter through it). The garden/park area will have clear entrances but less clear exits in order to try to minimize the “space station” feel and help make it seem more open.

Rules & Laws

Well, I have this slated for later in my schedule (as it is integral to the plot). So I will only do a rough treatment here.

The rules and laws were created by the governing body similar to the U.N., called the United Species Council (USC :^) But the name is temporary until I think of a better name). The space station was built as a base to facilitate inter-species interaction. It is on well used trade-routes and serves as a center of trade as well (with particular attention to trade of different species goods). It houses the USC’s best learning center, used to help teach species about each other. As such, first contact races are usually sent to have a Embassy on this station. It is not the main location of the courts however. But aliens being tried who have no knowledge of other species or the language are sent to this station in order to make use of the learning center until they know enough to be tried. If possible, the trial will be done locally on the station, but large or special cases are send out to the bigger courts on other stations/planets.

The USC is a democratic board when every race have representatives. Not every member of the USC is on this space station, they are spread out among the allied planets/stations. At least one representative from every species needs to be present in order to vote on a motion (more may be required depending what is being voted on). It is not unusual for it to take years for them to discuss, analyze, and finally vote on something. All of the members are intellectuals of their kind and are respected. Any individual may challenge the USC, with the USC reviewing the discussion (generally an old one) and if they still disagree, they may be brought to court for a special trial to determine the result. The USC strives to be fair and understanding of all its inhabitants. It does not deal with local law unless a specific species is performing genocide or similar acts (even to other species native to their own planet). Otherwise it deals only with inter-species issues.

Penalties for transgression vary depending on what law is broken. Generally the manner laws (behavior towards different species) are not punished save for asking the transgressor to review the correct behavior. Constant failure will be met with the transgressor put on trial with a large group of entities serving as a jury to determine what needs to be done (in extreme cases, suspension from the space station, but normally just a forced class on how to be polite to different species). So small or simple transgressions are for the most part just given a ‘warning’, but worse transgressions are immediately put before a trial.

Sample Rules:

1. You should be Polite to All Entities following standard guidelines

2. If Possible, you should be polite as determined by the other entity’s culture

3. Ignorance actually is an excuse (for small things, i.e., not murder). But you’ll be sent to school.

4. You can not impinge on the freedom of another entity (obviously the court systems can though). This includes the freedom to live.

5. You should be understanding if another entity insults you. Please request that the entity read up on your species or explain to them why what they did was wrong.

6. Entities are required to wear the proper gear when entering an area not zoned for their species (i.e., wearing a mask as the atmosphere is unbreathable for them, etc). Failure to do so may result in death.

7. Some entities are just jerks. Petty grievances should not be brought to trial unless it results in the entity breaking rule 5.

8. Bring anything to the attention of USC officials for advice and consul.

9. Entities on trial will not be allowed access to the transportation zone until after their trial.

10. You may do what you wish to you private quarters as long as it is not in place specifically to bring harm to visitors. Should something be specifically dangerous to a species (not on purpose, but say you use latex paint and it’s dangerous to some species), a warning on the door must be posted to alert entities of that species. Please alert the quarter master when additions have been done so you cans schedule a quarter-inspector to determine what is dangerous.

11. Be respectful in the park. Many entities use it to relax. A smaller glen may be reserved for parties or functions.

12. Any un-sanctioned work on the space station (it’s mechanics, facilities, electronics, etc) will be dealt with harshly. If you wish to learn about the station, in-depth virtual models, maps, and manuals are available for perusal. If you are interested in working on the station, please see the Career Coordinator.

Blank Space:

The corridors would be pretty boring and repetitious I imagine. There probably are some back-access places of the station (ventilation ducts, what have you) but I sure aren’t going to use them :^).

October 1, 2008

CTIN 532: The Atlas Schedule

Extraterrestrial Extradition


    While I would like to make the actual game, I need to be realistic in my goals. If I manage to do it anyway, then hurray, but let’s not put it on paper as I don’t want to be held accountable :^)

    The main thing that I would like to do is the actual ‘atlas’, the welcome-packet to the space-station. This is because it is necessary for the flash-game so making it first is not wasted effort if I go on to make the game.

    The ‘atlas’ can be divided into several key parts and these will be my tasks to complete for the workshops. While I would like to make up a easily-deciphered language for this, I will not include it as one of the tasks as I am not sure I can pull it off. It will be an aside, something to add later should I become happy with a mock-language. Until then, english will be used if text is necessary.

    Oct 1st to Oct 26th is ~ 3.5 weeks, so I will make 4 main tasks (again with the assumption that if I have time, to do more).

    Oct 8: Description of aliens(inc. appearance, behavior, rough culture, etc)
        and their planets

    Oct 15: Art of aliens and their architecture (maybe the planets as well)
        If time, maybe the walk-cycles of the aliens

    Oct 22: How the station works, how the trial-system works,
        the accepted behavior on the station
        Art of the specific areas on the station (specifically at least the
        government offices (interior/exterior), and the court-room

    Oct 26: Art of the player’s room and how it can be modified
        Map of the station, with attention to the different alien areas
        Fix-ups/re-dos/added details to art from previous weeks
        A rough attempt at the language just to see if it will work or not
        Assembling it all into the welcome-packet, and adding the descriptive text
        (either in the english of my mock-language if it proves either unnecessary
        to understand the text [i.e., the pictures are descriptive enough] or it is
        easily deciphered [maybe two versions?])

I would like to get the flash app of exploring the station up with the art developed in these tasks even if I don’t make a ‘game’ from it.

Visual Style:

    I can’t decide whether to go cartoon-style or try to do something more realistic. My artistic abilities are a bit of a determining factor here. Then there is the fact this will all eventually go into flash. Now while flash can import any image type, it is better to draw in flash or at the very least using vector art so that it will scale nicely. Obviously a simple drawing style will be beneficial for this (and exponentially be good for animations). So simple is a requirement, with very simple shading.

    I like the cartoon-style then for its vibrant colors and its simple style. Here is a random sample blob-monster (forgive the baaad shading. I can’t figure out how to make nice shadows for blobs... I think this is a good reason to not have a blob alien) I quickly did in flash as a rough sample.


September 24, 2008

CTIN 532: The Atlas Plan

Extraterrestrial Extradition

Player Experience Goals:
My goals for the player is to have a sense of wonderment about alien societies and the possibilities of alien life. I don’t know if I can pull that off though :^) As long as they start thinking about aliens as something beyond blue-skinned humans (or worse... ST:ToS Klingons... gawd, what were they thinking?), I’ll be happy. I’d also like the player to have curiosity about the world and a desire to learn about it. The story will hopefully help them along in this regard, but I want the design to also instill this.

How will I evaluate my success? If the player actually plays the game, that’s a success because they are interested. If they finish, then I held their interest that long. And if they take the time to investigate the entire world, or at least parts of it, beyond the needs of the story/end-goal, then it would be a rousing success.

Definition of the Atlas:
I hope to make a nice alien galactic standard language and then write the Atlas in this language. I actually thought of this before I heard of the Codex Seraphinianus, but I shall cite it as a successful conveyance of information despite a language gap. However I hope to make a language that can be deciphered easily, especially given the in-game guidance. But I don’t want the Atlas to be completely useless until then.

I’d present the Atlas as a welcome packet to the space station. Seeing as it is targeted to someone who doesn’t know the language and is new to the station, this fits my target audience nicely :^). So it will have to be very graphic and iconic with simple use of their language in order to convey the information. And including maps makes sense as well.

Table of Contents:
I’ll admit this will grow as I figure more stuff out, but this will definitely be there. The order may change as well, as I can’t figure out if the station maps should be in an appendix or be one of the first things presented to the player.

i. Official welcome
ii. Explanation of what the station is and the governing body
I. Conveyance of the laws and behavior the player should respect on the station
II. Explanation of the Trial Process (and an overview of the jail for those found guilty and the choice of returning home or staying if found innocent)
III. A description of the player’s room and how to customize it
IV. Explanation of how to use the base facilities (bathroom, elevator, food, etc)
V. Explanation of the language teacher and how to find it and how to use it (see Appendix C for a visual dictionary of the written language)

Appendix A: Maps of the Station (and description of the symbology used to describe the districts/areas)
Appendix B: Space Maps (maps of the Solar system and other systems (inc. ours))
Appendix C: Visual dictionary of the written language
Appendix D: Overview of the Species (and maybe their planets) on the station

Asset List:
In-depth maps of the station
A map of the station’s solar system and its relation to Earth
Profiles of the different aliens that are present on the station
A picture of each of the alien species home planets
Possibly a profile of said worlds (physically as well as the cultures of the planet)
A study of the different architecture of the different species (at least as represented on the station)
A study of the technology of the station, specifically with things the player will interact with
A description of the alien U.N.-ish assembly, their codes/laws/etc - how they function
And a set of ‘miss manners’-type behavior standards
A in-depth review of the trial process and why the things are the way they are
A walkthrough of the “quick-path” to the end-game
Figuring out what obstacles and puzzles to have
Figuring out a simple written language as well as non-visual version
Figuring out how to teach said language in-game

There is much more than that, that’s all I can think of for right now.

September 19, 2008

MacArthur Report says Games A-Okay

A new MacArthur study has shown that most teens play games and this can actually help social interaction and promote civic engagement.

Although I like how they phrased this statistic:

99% of boys say they are gamers and 94% of girls report that they play games.

So, the girls don't consider themselves gamers I presume. I always have issues with statistics - makes you wonder how they phrase things to get the results they want or to slant the findings in their favor. Like if a someone did a survey and found out that 98% of Americans would vote for Mr. Bubba. Won't they don't tell you is they asked the survey takers "Would you rather vote for Mr. Bubba or get pushed off of a cliff" or something. Anyway, getting off topic. It is just curious that boys are gamers and girls play games, whether this is a symptom of the view of the survey takers or of the survey makers, I don't know.

Go check it out: Major New Study Shatters Stereotypes About Teens and Video Games

Don't like reading? Watch CBS talk about it: Is Gaming Good For Kids?

September 18, 2008

Wii 'Minority Report' Interface

Sorry for the late post!

Anyway, here is a little YouTube video about a guy, Johnny Chung Lee from Carnegie Mellon, who MacGyvered a Minority Report point-based interface system with a Wii Remote (I have got to get me a Wii Remote - it works with Flash ;^) ).

Tracking fingers with the Wii Remote

By the same guy is a video about how he has made a projector-based tracking technique. It greatly decreases the complexity and cost of having this functionality in an application. He uses his system to track the position of a touch-sensitive pad which he writes on (the words, through, are projected onto it), as well as tracking a laptop to have it display information based on its position (acting like a magnifying lens in this example). This is similar to the video clip we saw in Scott's talk last week (with the cute little frog being rendered to the user based on its relative position) but without the VR headset.

Moveable Projected Displays using Projector Based Tracking

Hope they inspire you :^)


This guy is awesome. Here he shows how to create an interactive whiteboard - all due to the Wii Remote and using a IR pen.

Low-Cost Multi-touch Whiteboard using the Wiimote

And how to project on cool things like scrolls and umbrellas ("simulate displays on flexible and foldable surfaces"):

Foldable Displays (tracked with the Wiimote)

And coooooooolest of all: creating a head-tracking display with a Wii Remote. Easy and cheap head-tracking displays for all!

Head Tracking for Desktop VR Displays using the WiiRemote

That is just so freakin' awesome :^)

You can get instructions and code at Johnny Chung Lee's website,