Archive for the ‘you’ Tag

procedural animation in Unity

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

I was experimenting with procedurally generated objects and animation in Unity this weekend.  Using the scripting language C#, I instantiated a field of game objects based on a prefabricated object that has a couple of physics components and a trailing effect.  I then translate the objects in a pattern based on some randomly generated variables and allow them to collide with and effect each other.  The animation is slightly different every time, but always falls within the bounds I’ve set up.

Procedural Animation with Unity from John Luna on Vimeo.

Variations on a Biped

Saturday, November 1st, 2014


Once you’ve designed a biped and rigged it well, you can pose it and deform it a little into some interesting variations.

  The base model doesn’t have horns, but I added them to my little goat man, Enkidu.  🙂


Working with skin weight painting in Maya

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

processSkinWeightWorking on my second Virtual Modeling project.  Skin weight painting tool is my new best friend.

Eroding Puzzle: Life Metaphor

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

     I’ve been working on designing this spatial reasoning puzzle.


     The puzzle pieces rotate and fit together in a bunch of different ways, forming one or more whole shapes in a number of configurations.

     So, I left the puzzle alone for a couple of days and worked on other things.  Last night, I was having a night alone in my sock-monkey onesie and thinking about ways that my life (events or the whole) could be reflected as a puzzle.

     First of all, what happens after the “win state” of a game?  The Stanley Parable (Davey Wreden and William Pugh, 2013) had me thinking of ways to make a game that is a game, but that has no conclusion.  Conclusions are so Disney.  Life doesn’t stop when you succeed at something.  It’s way more complicated than that.

     So, what if the puzzle changed the longer you played it?  What if the more you try to force the pieces together, the less likely they are to fit together at all?  (memories, relationships, etc?)

     My spatial reasoning puzzle now randomly erodes the longer you play it.  At first, a variety of possibilities.  At last, a narrow set of limitations.  Right now time is what erodes the game state, but I want other inputs to change it as well.



     I don’t know if want to implement a win state.  I kinda like that you just push the pieces around into some configuration that you find aesthetically pleasing and then enjoy it before it erodes.

Prototype: The Red Panel

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

The Red Panel


Click HERE to play this new prototype.

You may have to enable a plug-in to run the game.

Games aren’t always (just) fun

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Effective Gameplay in Dark Souls


     I hate Dark Souls (a video game whose 2011 release can be blamed on From Software, Namco Bandai, and Hidetaka Miyazaki). At every turn, the game punishes you for playing it. And you play it over and over again. Your ex, who is terrible at playing video games, spends every waking moment with his hands gripping the controller and his eyes glued to the television. The game causes arguments, shame, guilt. You hate each other’s addiction and you despise your own jealousy, either of the game or of each other. And you play it… over and over again.

     I hate Dark Souls, but the gameplay is undeniably engaging.

     Within Marc LeBlanc’s categorization of game pleasures, Dark Souls easily satisfies all of the “8 kinds of fun.” The vast, immersive game world is filled with sensory delights. Challenges abound. The course of action throughout the game builds and erupts to unforgettable dramatic effect. The game also allows for extensive player expression, though most choices are ultimately superficial; you have to kill things, you have to die. This in concert with my initial paragraph speaks very literally to LeBlanc’s “masochism” category of fun. Even fellowship can be found in Dark Souls, both with non-player characters and in the interactions with other gamers’ ghostly avatars. All of these are only symptoms of effective gameplay, though. What leads us here? What elements of the gameplay produce this myriad plethora of “fun”?

     Looking only at the mechanics, or the play aesthetics, or even the player strategies (“dynamics” as LeBlanc words it) is not enough to define “good gameplay”. As Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman write in their book, Rules of Play, “… game play itself is a kind of dance that occurs somewhere between the dice, pieces, board, and the rules themselves, in and among the more rigid formal structures of the game.” I would add “strategy” and “player experience” to that list of atomic pieces that game play dances between. There we find the game play, but still, what makes the game play effective? What makes it so engaging?

     In Dark Souls, struggle is the game’s bread and butter. Everything in the game is unforgivably lethal and the danger increases exponentially to your avatar’s strength. Almost immediately, the game presents you with an insurmountable challenge. In that first deadly encounter, you die and you die until you discover (on your own or in a strategy guide) a circumspect path that trains and leads you to (more death and) your triumph. Triumph becomes your goal, your almost singular driving force. The game is merciless and you savor every modicum of progress you acquire. That sense of achievement is the requisite goal found in all games worth playing. The (merciless) struggle is what transforms “achievement” into “triumph.”

     Struggle is only meaningful if you can feel your potential to conquer it. I believe that sense of agency can be inspired by transparency of player effect on the game world. If the player understands clearly how their interactions operate within the world, then those interactions (though endogenous, according to Greg Costikyan) have meaning. I swing my sword, I see its arc, and when a game object falls within that arc my sword makes contact. If my sword’s swing only occasionally makes contact within its arc, that could be confusing and frustrating (unless explained by some kind of dodge mechanic). In Dark Souls, when a tossed fireball connects with a giant skeleton, a red bar indicating the enemy’s health appears and you see the bar recede and a number appears above the bar indicating the fireball’s damage. You perform an action and you immediately see its effect. When done elegantly, this kind of transparency of structure makes for a richly satisfying experience that contributes to good gameplay.

     Games can be agonizing, grief inducing experiences but can still contain incredible gameplay. I will always hate Dark Souls (almost as much as I hate the Mako vehicle from the first Mass Effect game) but I stand by its place as one of the greatest games of its time. Good game play, I believe, does not necessarily induce pleasure, but it must be engaging.

Seeing, Articulating, and Borges again.

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Of the four modes that Sally Banes writes about in her “On Your Fingertips” article about dance criticism, I feel most easily aligned with the descriptive and interpretive modes. I see within the absence of those preferences my struggle with evaluative and contextual modes.

Lately I’ve been trying to release my death grip on value binaries. It happens so fast when I see art. Almost immediately my brain either goes “Love it” or “Hate it” and moves on. I am trying to spend more time with those feelings; trying to find an understanding inside of those reactions and maybe see beyond them.

As for contextualization, I think maybe I like to fixate exclusively on what’s happening right now. Automatically, I think art shouldn’t require contextualization to be engaging. I know that isn’t always the case (Felix Gonzales-Torres “Untitled: Portrait of Ross in LA” for example), but my initial desire is for art to successfully stand independent of context.

OK! Below is a little response to a viewing of the first section of Anne Teresa de Keersmaker’s FASE and a quote from Borges (again) that reminded me of the feelings that came up while watching this piece.


FASE (1982), Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker
Director of FASE film: Thierry de Mey

Two diagonal lights cast four shadows of two, near identical women onto a blank white wall. Two of their four shadows over lap, blending/emphasizing the similarities between the two, near identical women. The women perform a near synchronous walking and turning pattern, back and forth in front of the white wall. Their movements ebb in and out of unison. Their shadows peel apart and fuse back together. The two remain within an approximate ten by three foot space. The music echoes this repetition of content and ebbing synchronicity. The video cuts between about four different shots. The duet (as in “a dance for two corporeal human bodies”) lasts for about eight minutes, but feels endless. It could have started hours ago, it may end days from now. Time folds in on the near synchronous movements and forms. It becomes a breathing, changing labyrinth of endings, beginnings, and near perfect similarities.

“Among the Immortals, on the other hand, every act (and every thought) is the echo of others that preceded it in the past, with no visible beginning, or the faithful presage of others that in the future will repeat it to a vertiginous degree. There is nothing that is not as if lost in a maze of indefatigable mirrors. Nothing can happen only once, nothing is preciously precarious.”

-J.L. Borges from “The Immortal” (1962)

A link to the video that I viewed:

And another film by the director of Fase, Thierry de Mey, called La Valse (choreography by Thomas Hauert):

Borges, Gibson, Me, and Myself.

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

There’s this great, miniature story by Jorge Luis Borges called “Borges and I”.  His story suggests that the artist has a dual existence, as an ephemeral, present body and also as a finite, disembodied collection of their work and opinions/writing about their work.  It’s scary, but relevant.  The self extends beyond our fleshy confines, and far beyond our control over it.  It is there in our Facebook profiles, and in our selfies, and in our purchases and browser histories (and even in our wordpress blogs).  So that theme feel relevant for me.

(thanks to a friend for this recommendation)

The self indulgent artist in me imagines lots of ways of visualizing that concept.  I actually made a video/installation that was “about” a different idea, but resembles “existence of self outside of body” very much.  Oh, that also reminds of this great short story by William Gibson called “Fragments of a Hologram Rose”.  Beautiful story.

 “Parker lies in darkness, recalling the thousand fragments of the hologram rose. A hologram has this quality: Recovered and illuminated, each fragment will reveal the whole image of the rose. Falling toward delta, he sees himself the rose, each of his scattered fragments revealing a whole he’ll never know – stolen credit cards – a burned out suburb – planetary conjunctions of a stranger – a tank burning on a highway – a flat packet of drugs – a switchblade honed on concrete, thin as pain. Thinking: We’re each other’s fragments, and was it always this way? That instant of a European trip, deserted in the gray sea of wiped tape – is she closer now, or more real, for his having been there?”

– William Gibson, “Fragments of a Hologram Rose” (1977)

I like the idea of separating body and self.  Digital amputation.  Maybe I could ask people to speak their names into a microphone and have their words manifest as a drifting, digital image of that name that floats and lands on someone else’s body.  Or maybe the name transforms the further away it gets from the speaker.  Turns into a bat or a monster or a unicorn or something random that they have no control over.

Anyway, here’s that video I made that I mentioned earlier: