Ever wondered what I’m working on any given day? Track what I’m up to in the new Calendar. TestTubeGames can be a bit of a black box, with a lot of different projects going on in parallel. Sometimes you might not even know I’m working on an update until it’s out! So for those of you who are interested, feel free to check it out.
Speaking of, lately I’ve been working on The Electric Shocktopus, and making (a lite version of) the game work in the browser — play the prototype here. That led to some updates for the full game, so keep your eyes peeled for version 0.8 for Mac/PC.
You can see me using this latest version as I take on this week’s Feel Bad Friday: Grid World by A Random Player. Click on the grid-y world below to watch me try to beat it.
Another really inventive level. I’m constantly amazed at the fun (if difficult!) challenges that you all are making. Thanks to A Random Player for sharing! And if you’ve been meaning to make a level, and challenge me to play it, the web build of TES gives you this very chance!
-AndyPost a Comment
Friday Fun: Hyper Rogue
For those of you looking for a science-game-fix, I’ve got an interesting one this week. A friend of mine passed this one on to me recently (thanks Piotr!) It is not a science game per say. But it has a nice twist.
This is just your standard move around, kill bad guys, collect useless treasure game. Except for one big twist: the world is non-Euclidean. I think this is the first time I’ve really seen this executed in a game. The surface your character is walking on has a negative curvature. That means it is not curved like a sphere, but like a hyperbolic plane. More familiarly: a saddle, so named for its shape. Or better yet, Pringles. Try flattening out a Pringle. Even if you could get it from breaking, you’d find it just can’t lay flat. There’s too much material around the outside, it would have extra folds of stuff. (The converse is if you took the top half of a globe, and tried to lay it flat. There’s not enough material around the outside, so it would tear a bunch if you managed to get it flat.)
Back to the game. Since you’re walking on a hyperbolic plane, there’s a surprising amount of area within a given radius. On the site, you’ll see pictures of how they game designer depicted this all on a two-dimensional screen. Your character can see only a certain distance (ahem, radius), but in order to draw all the tiles properly, they get drawn smaller around the edges. That’s their way of dealing with the ‘extra folds of stuff’ issue.
It’s a curious game to play around with. I’ll admit, it is very easy to ignore the mathematical twist entirely. After all, you’re just walking around a world. And by the way it is drawn, you might almost think you’re just standing on a sphere. (It’s easy to mistake the smaller tiles around the edges for you being at some North pole, and them being at the Equator. But, of course, that’s not true at all.) The geometry manifests itself in a couple different ways in the game. First, with all that extra (folds of) stuff, the world ends up having a lot of area. So much packed in such a small radius that it is very hard to get back to where you started. And of course, parallel lines come up, too. In flat space, parallel lines always stay the same distance away. On a sphere, they will cross eventually (think lines of longitude). But on a hyperbolic plane, the parallel lines will diverge. So in the game, you’ll encounter sets of walls that are parallel, but diverge. It messes with your head a bit.
The site has a bunch of pictures and a video of the game, or you can just go for it and download it (free!). So why not check it out?
-AndyPost a Comment
Friday Fun: Untangled
After last week’s fairly heady Quantum Chess, I’m switching gears a bit this week. Here’s a sciency game that is quick and ‘easy.’
The game: Untangled. It is simple to play and works right in your browser, so nothing is holding you back! It’s a puzzle game where you’re trying to untangle (ah yes) a web of objects. Imagine starting with a jumbled mess of rope, then trying to get it to lay flat. Right now, the Demo is playable online – so try your hand at arranging the red rectangles.
But what does this puzzle have to do with science? Electronics. Electronic circuits and chips are ubiquitous, and can be pretty tough to design well. You see, there are a bunch of components that need to get crammed side by side, as close as possible. You want to minimize wasted space. But on the other hand, you generally don’t want your ‘wires to cross’, so to speak. It gets confusing fast, and you can tend to end up with a rat’s nest. So the connections need to be organized nicely. Whoa. That’s just the game Untangled!
Well, the ‘red rectangles’ that you end up moving around actually represent electronics components, and the lines connecting them represent conductive paths. But… why? Well, it turns out this game is, itself, research. Designing and untangling an optimal chip can be incredibly time-consuming for humans given the sheer number of nodes in the network. Why not just have a computer design these things? Well, humans have a leg up when it comes to visual reasoning. We’re pretty darn good at puzzles like these, at least in small quantities.
So this game is looking to find out more about how humans do it. And then, with any luck, we might be able to teach computers some of the strategies that we use. So the players, just having fun with a simple game, may well be teaching computers some very important things. Pretty Neat!
-AndyPost a Comment
Friday Fun #2
Friday has rolled around, and that means it is time for another science game to help you while away the afternoon!
This week, I’m highlighting a quantum game. (My mind must be lingering on that game I recently put on the back burner.) There are a handful of interesting games and simulations out there that highlight Quantum Mechanics. This one, though, has eaten up more of my time than any other…
Of course! Chess is just too simple. Sixteen different pieces on each team moving around a board. Pshaw! Easy! Any ol’ supercomputer could find the optimal moves. I want a challenge when I play a game. Why not entangle the pieces in strange superpositions? Instead of a Queen, you now have a piece that has a 50% chance to be a Queen, and a 50% chance to be a Pawn. You’ll only know what it’ll be AFTER you select it to move. Hey, you were planning on using the Queen to save your King from check? Too bad, it’s a Pawn now!
Turns out, this isn’t some isolated game idea. There’s people actually writing papers about Quantum Chess. (It is formatted in LaTeX, so it is legit.) Papers are nice and all, but I want to really PLAY Quantum Chess. And thanks to Alice Wismath an undergrad over at Queens University, I can! You rock, Alice!
If you’ve ever played Quantum Tic-Tac-Toe, this is like that on steroids. Imagine a bunch of boxes with Schroedinger’s cats inside them. The cats are in one of two states (instead of dead or alive, though, they are Rook and Knight, say). Each different piece-spot (err, making up words now…!) has two different pieces it could really be. When you select the piece, you make a measurement on it, collapsing its wavefunction. It becomes one or the other. At least temporarily. If it lands on a white square, it stays as the same classical piece. If it lands on a black square, though, it goes back into superposition.
Now, I’m not a very good chess player. I quite enjoy the game, but I’ve never played enough to get good at all. The strategies get intense (so-and-so’s defense, and all that). And that makes the random element of this quantum chess so fun to me. I don’t feel so bad losing. I didn’t lose because I planned poorly… I lost because my Queen turned into a Bishop at the wrong moment!
The Quantum Chess is a java applet that you can play right online. I’ll note that the AI opponent is pretty good. I’m curious about the process the creator went through to craft the AI… do you start with some standard computer chess opponent, and then just branch to the many possible board states? I don’t know. But I do know the computer is tough to beat. I haven’t yet. If you do, let us know in the comments! Any tips for a guy who keeps losing?
-AndyPost a Comment
Friday Fun #1
In addition to Wednesday news updates on my site, I’d like to start a tradition of posting fun things on Fridays. Sometimes it’ll be science games. Sometimes it might be science news. Sometimes it may even be me trying to rival XKCD’s artistic skills.
This week, I’m highlighting a game I remember fondly: Electric Field Hockey. This was made years ago by PhET. A bit o’ background on PhET (‘Physics Education Technology’, btw): they make great science interactives. They are especially well geared towards educators, so if you’re a teacher looking for activities, check them out. They do good work.
Electric Field Hockey, though, is one of my favorites. It is a simple bare-bones game based around the electric force. And that’s really all you need. You move electric charges around, place them were you will, and try to get your test charge to the goal. I played around with this for longer than I’m willing to admit. But don’t listen (read?) to me blabbering on about it, go give it a play. (Note, you will have to download the java script and run it on your computer. Them’s the breaks for your Friday Fun.)
PhET keeps coming out with new stuff, so if you find something cool on its site, let us know below in the comments.
-AndyPost a Comment