The Latest on ~~ES~~!
On Monday, the ~~Electric Shocktopus~~! got its first (minor) debut. Still very much in the pre-alpha, work-in-progress stages, I brought it along to a local ‘demo night’ to show it off.
What’s a ‘demo night?’ Every few months in Boston, a bunch of indie game developers get together and play the games that we’re all working on. It’s a great chance to test our games in front of real players, and since many of those ‘players’ make games themselves, you can imagine the feedback is particularly insightful.
So what did I learn? Well, I found that some parts of the game were working great. People in general enjoyed the game, chuckled at the bad puns, and liked the cute Shocktopus. The game did turn out to be more difficult than I intended — so much so that I had to quickly go through and tweak some levels as the night went on. But all in all, people seemed to like the fact that it was a tough game. Like Super Meat Boy, generally when a player died they were ever-more determined to win.
Beyond all the comments I got at the Demo Night, it was also just a great deadline for me. In the week leading up to it, I added in a slew of new features to the game, including…
Zoomed in Levels
A Level Editor
Puns, Puns, Puns
I’m already working on the next version, trying to take all the feedback from Monday into account. If you’re one of my helpful, helpful playtesters… I’ll be sending the new version along to you soon. And if you aren’t a playtester, but would like to be, just send me an email, and I can add you to the list.
-AndyPost a Comment
TestTube Lesson: ‘Seen’ Distances
I just got a great question about Special Relativity. (And I imagine this might kick off a series, so do ask any physics questions prompted by the games/point out cool physics you come across)
A player (‘BARP’) commented on a previous post, wondering:
“In the seen view of VR, the room shrinks/gets closer behind the raptor. But light should take longer to reach the raptor from behind him, so the view behind the raptor should be stretched out.”
So what’s up? A great question, and since it cuts to the core of the ‘Seen’ view (and requires some images) I thought I’d answer it in post form. If you haven’t played Velocity Raptor yet, do that first. This post will make a lot more sense once you reach level 25.
The basis for the ‘Seen’ view is that when you see something, the light from it didn’t reach your eyes instantly. Light travels fast, sure, but it takes time to reach you. So when you look at a star that’s many light-years away, you’re seeing it as it was many years ago. In Velocity Raptor, with slower light, you notice this even with nearby objects.
The commenter makes a perfectly intuitive point. If the light from an object takes longer to reach you, it would make sense that the object appears further away. The light from the moon takes longer to reach you than the light from your computer monitor, and it certainly appears further away. When you (as Velocity Raptor) are running away from, say, the left hand wall, there’s some extra lag for the light to reach you (check out Level 26, and keep the Doppler shift firmly in mind). So shouldn’t the wall appear further away? And yet on the screen, it appears much closer to you.
Why that doesn’t happen
It turns out that how far away an object appears to be doesn’t depend at all on how long the photons have been traveling towards you. Truly, your eyes can’t detect the ‘age’ of a photon. All your eyes detect are things like the color, and the angle the light is coming from. It’s that second one that tells our brain how big an object appears…
What’s really going on
You can think of your eye like a pinhole camera. Light rays from an object come in and get projected on the back wall (aka your retina). The closer — or bigger — an object is, the bigger the image on your retina.
When the raptor is running away from the wall, the eyeball is now moving away from the incoming light. That means the light that enters the eye has to travel further before it reaches the retina.
In the bottom image, the dotted-line box shows where the camera was when the light passed through the pinhole. The solid box shows where the camera is when the light finally hits the retina. It keeps the same angle of attack the whole time, but has longer to spread out, and makes a bigger image on the retina. Thus, the wall appears bigger. (Keep in mind that we should take length contraction into account… but that ends up being a second order issue. The effect I’ve described exists with or without length contraction.) This explanation, by the way, relies heavily on the great site spacetimetravel.org, which you should definitely check out if you want to learn more.
Now in 3D!
The question remains… does that mean the wall is closer, or does it mean the wall is bigger? If Velocity Raptor were from a first-person perspective (like A Slower Speed of Light), it wouldn’t make a big difference. In such a game you don’t see the distance of objects. An object could be small, or it could be far away. But with the bird’s-eye-perspective in Velocity Raptor, the distance needs to be drawn right on the screen.
It turns out the wall appears closer, instead of bigger. You can think about the true path of an object… if it is traveling in a straight line, you should always see it at some point along that path. Imagine standing on train tracks and watching the train race away from you. Should it appear bigger (wider and taller) than it is, or closer than it is? If it appeared wider, then the train would no longer seem to fit on the tracks. The wheels would be spaced to far apart. But the contact point of the wheel and the newly-run-over track must appear to be at the same place. The photons, after all, are emerging from the same location. Thus, the train cannot seem wider, and must seem closer.
So, excellent question, BARP, I hope this helps explain the ‘Seen’ view just a bit. Lingering questions/qualms with this explanation? Ask away in the comments below.
-AndyPost a Comment
First off, many thanks to the play-testers that have helped out so far with ~~The Electric Shocktopus~~! With their help and feedback from the first version, I’ve been working on the next.
What have I been adding? For starters, more levels. That pre-alpha just had 15 levels, and the final game will be a lot longer. That means not only making new maps (which I have been), but also new mechanics. I’ve got to keep the game fresh as it goes on. Here’s a look at some of the latest.
(Hrm, these are in need of a catchier name.) While most of the charges in a level are purely stationary, these can move. Electrically push and pull them around, get them right where you want. Or if you’re not careful, they’ll attract right to you! See the test charge in the picture below for a glimpse at the idea.
Not only can conductors sap your electric charge, they distort the fields around them. And they can ‘shield’ anything inside them from outside electric forces.
I’ve played around with a few different types of conductors. Some with a set voltage, and others that are ‘floating’. What does that mean? Oddly, it’s more important for the game than one might expect.
In the picture above, the conductor is grounded — its voltage is precisely zero. The positive charges on the left attract extra negative charges into the conductor (from the ‘ground’). Field lines point from positive to negative, so there’s a whole bunch of lines pointing towards the conductor.
In the next image, though, the conductor is floating — aka not connected to the ground. Those red positive charges attract negative charges still, but no extra charges can appear. Thus, when the near side gets more negative, the far side of the conductor gets more positive. Thus, you see the field lines pointing towards *and* away from the conductor.
So far, the magnetic fields in the game have just been ‘on’ or ‘off’. Each square had a field, or it didn’t. But magnetic fields can be just as complex as electric fields… so I’ve added in some new current blocks that ‘make’ a magnetic field. The Biot-Savart law describes how an electric current can make a magnetic field (think of an electromagnet). The magnetic field varies with distance – just like the electric field – but it also varies with the angle. That means you can get the interesting pattern you see below.
This new version of the game still needs a lot of work, but it should be ready in the next week. As always, if you’re still interested in helping out by playtesting, drop me a line.
-AndyPost a Comment
The Newest Gravity Changes
The new gravity simulator has been making some great progress. I’ve been spending a lot of time translating the game over to HTML5, and hoping it’ll be worth it. I can’t wait to see the game on tablets and mobile devices.
But, as always, it’s not so much about what progress I’ve made (zoom capability, fast loading times… uh, not-crashing), it’s about what progress I’ve made that *looks good in pictures.* So here are a couple new features that I’m excited about:
The old game always had white lines against a black background, but now you’ll be able to change that at will.
In the old version, you could fling up to 7 asteroids. Now? No limit! Even more than that, there’s a new tool where you can put ‘dust particles’ into your solar system. Basically it’s a set of bodies with semi-random positions and velocities. Helpful for charting out the gravitational pull in your system… and also just plain cool.
So all in all things are moving along for the Gravity simulator. I’m still (as always) taking suggestions and comments about the old version and features you’d like to see in this new version.
Post a Comment
New Mailing List
Yes. Do you who want to keep up to date about all things TestTubeGames? All the blog posts, game updates, new releases will come right to you, in the comfort of your own interwebs. Get weekly updates delivered to your inbox, *or* if you’d rather, you can sign up to just get an occasional email for big events. Game releases, major updates, big announcements, that kind of thing.
Signing up is easy — just plug in your email here.
-AndyPost a Comment
Gravity Coming to Mobile!
Because I was not working on nearly enough over here, I decided to add something else to the plate. (Yikes?) As I wait to finish the first round of feedback about the Electric Shocktopus, and with the Circuits game under-development-part-time… I’ve turned my attention briefly back to the Gravity Simulator. Why?
The Gravity Simulator was one of the first things that I made and put up on the site. At its core, it is a very simple idea. (Play around with it if you haven’t yet, this will all make more sense.) I’ve never invested too much time or effort in developing it, and I certainly never marketed it at all. Yet in spite of all that, it remains to this day one of my more popular creations.
So when I got some feedback from a player that he’d like to see the game playable on tablets — I realized everything fit perfectly. I had a bit of time to squish it between other projects, people seem to enjoy it, and it was always really designed for touch screens. And to boot, I’ve been learning HTML5, which is a great tool for making games cross-platform. So I’m picturing a new browser version, yes… but also putting it on iPads, iPhones, Android, the works!
I’ve just started working on it, and in spite of hitting my head against a bunch of tech-issues (learning a new language and using new software tends to lead to a bumpy ride), I’ve got a version working on my iPad. Check out something I drew… with my fingers!
There are two big things I’m looking to get out of this. One, of course, is to make the game playable on a bunch of new platforms. But the other is to really improve its design & use-ability. I don’t just want to transfer the simulation, I want to improve it. So, to that end, I turn to you, the users. What could be better about the Gravity Simulator? What features are you dying to see?
-AndyPost a Comment
Guard your sensitive electronics, because the Electric Shocktopus is in his way. And he looks determined. In fact, I’m getting ready to upload a pre-alpha of the game just so he stops terrorizing my hard drive. It is just a dozen levels or so, mind you, and everything is still very rough. But it is a game nonetheless!
It feels great though to finally have a sensible level-progression, instead of just random ‘demo’ levels. And it feels good to replace blank screens with actual drawings.
But what good is a prototype without people to play it? I’ll be on the lookout for some playtesters over the next couple days. If you’ve liked my previous games want to take part in making the next one better, shoot me an email to let me know. (If you didn’t like my previous games, that’d be great too! …but why are you here?) I’ll be uploading the first Pre-Alpha of the game soon, and YOU, yes YOU could give it a try.
-AndyPost a Comment
I’ve spent a bunch of time this past week working on ~~The Electric Shocktopus~~! (Sorry, the punctuation… it’s obligatory!)
I did a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff. Getting rid of bugs, smoothing out the electromagnetic calculations, getting the movements in the game to ‘feel’ right. But since you guys can’t actually *play* the game yet, that doesn’t mean too much to you.
So instead, I’m going to show off a couple new images from the game. Feast your eyes on Level 4:
We’ve got platforms, and spikes, and electric charges (the red and blue circles), and the electric field in the background. On the left side, shown in pink, is a magnetic field. And of course, there are some missiles trained on our hero. How will he possibly make it through the level?!?
For added fun, compare this to the screenshots from a couple weeks ago, or even from the original prototype. Whoa. And the Shocktopus has a nemesis now, too. The diabolical (and rage filled) Mag-Yeti:
There are many reasons I wouldn’t want to get close to that guy. Just think, he’d probably fry your cell phone! How evil!
-AndyPost a Comment
Glimpse at a Circuits Game
Spring is finally in the air, which means many things. The equinox, extreme amounts of rain, calculating logarithms, and massive amounts of silly in-post advertising. And going in line with the freshness of the season, I’ve got a lot of fresh games in the works.
Last week I showed off new art for my Electricity and Magnetism game. What’s that you say? That’s a boring name? Ah, right, for my game *lights laptop on fire and starts typing with his teeth* ~~!!The Electric Shocktopus!!~~. (Yes, all that punctuation is required.)
Anyway, that’s not the only game I’m working on…
This one is quite early on in the process, but our prototype is under way. This game is one of many firsts for me. For one thing, I’m collaborating with someone on it, so it is a joint venture. That’s a big change from my previous projects, and it is nice to get some fresh perspectives in game design. My partner in crime: Piotr, a physics grad student with a penchant for programming.
Also, though, we’re making the game in HTML5. That’s completely new to me. I’ve done flash games, and iOS games (with Objective-C for those of you keeping track at home), but never HTML5. It has, though, the allure of working everywhere*, iDevices, androids, online, whatever. I’ll note, my background is not in programming, so this has been a bit of a learning curve getting into the new language. But now that things are underway, it’s coming together.
The game itself is a circuit puzzle game. Picture a circuit simulator like iCircuit or some such thing, and you’ll have some idea of where things stand.
And, hey, look at that! The light bulb is lit up! So as you can see, the game is *kinda* working. Piotr has done a great job working on the simulator, and the interface is functional so you can drag and drop pieces in and change the circuit. Eventually, we’re planning on adding in puzzle elements. Maybe there’ll be a ‘broken’ circuit that you need to fix somehow. Or maybe you’ll have to fry some resistors and release some magic black smoke. Or the level will be a maze of wires. Or there’ll be a rad octopus jumping around the circuit. Ah, wait, wrong game.
It’s exciting to watch things progressing with this game — two people can certainly move quite a bit faster than one. What do you think? What would *you* like to see in a game about circuits? Let me know in the comments below!
So there you go. Springtime means plenty of new games are popping up. Shocktopus. The Circuits Game. (And: the evolution game… but that’s for another blog post!)
-AndyPost a Comment
A Shocking First Look
Remember the Electromagnetism game I’d been showing off before? I had some basic, basic images that I posted, such as this one:
But the game is no longer just boxes. No! There are patterns, shading, shapes… *AND* a brand spanking new character, seen here for the first time:
Oh my goodness, an octopus? That shoots sparks? He must have an interesting back story. I want to know more. Was he driven into action by an electric eel? And for that matter, how can he do the Right Hand Rule if he doesn’t have a right hand? Whoa.
In any case, as a quick review, this ‘Shocktopus’ runs and jumps around his world (like, say, Mario or Super Meat Boy). The twist is that he can change his electric charge at will. If he’s positively charged, he’ll repel from positive platforms — getting flung high into the sky.
The levels are looking a bit different, too. The bland squares have been replaced by less-bland squares (aka programmer art):
Just filler art, mind you. For instance, the octopus will not be going after bananas — I don’t think. But hey, who knows?
I’ve also been working on non-art related parts of the game. The physics simulation (and it is, in the vein of Velocity Raptor, a true simulation) has been improved. It now includes not only point charges and magnetic fields, but also conductors. If your character goes into a hollow conductor, for example, he’ll be shielded from outside electric fields (namely, it’s a Faraday Cage).
A bunch of progress, but still a long way to go. Stay tuned for updates about the Electric Shocktopus. And, lest I forget, stay tuned updates on the other games I’m working on, too!
-AndyPost a Comment