The News that’s Fit to Print

Posted in: Evolution Simulation, General News, Wednesday Update | January 30, 2013 | No Comments

I’m back with another installment of the weekly update.  What’s that you say, it has been two weeks?  Sure, in *your* reference frame.  So aside from running around a lot (near c), I’ve been:

Some General Updating

I gave a quick, minor facelift to several projects.  You might notice the website is a bit shinier (oh, you didn’t?  Curses!)  Well, maybe you notice the improved graphics in Agent Higgs: Chapter 1 (the flash game)?  No?  How about the further polish I’ve added to Velocity Raptor?  (Side note, which punctuation will I use more, parenthesis or question marks?)  In any case, a bunch of small changes.  It’s nice to clean up the projects every now and then.  No ulterior reason for doing that now.  Nope.

They can Walk!

I’ve worked a bit on the evolution simulator, mainly focusing on a side-part of it.  The sim is generally about evolving stick-and-motor organisms to run faster and better.  However, it grew out of a long ago thought I had about whether a stick figure could ‘learn’ to ‘walk’.  That turns out to be a lot harder.  I wasn’t having much luck with simple human-shaped stick-and-motor creatures.  It was tough enough to convince them to try to walk (I guess an evolutionarily advanced way for us to move is to flop around on the ground.  Try it.  It must be very energy-efficient.)  Once I turned the floor into lava, though, they avoided dunking their heads in it, but they still had trouble loco-moting.  And that’s of course for a whole bunch of reasons — namely the simplicity of the simulation and the small populations I was dealing with.  So I shelved it for a while.

But, I made some good progress past that, this week.  I made the humans slightly more advanced to start with – building in some basic coordination.  Move both legs at the same time.  Move with some rhythm.  That kind of thing.  And so far the results are promising.  But hey, a tiny, grainy gif is worth a thousand words:


Darwin's Walkers

Click the image to see a gif of this trial run


Higgs Returns?

Well, kind of.  It’s been a while since I released the suggestively titled flash game, Agent Higgs: Chapter 1.  So I’ve been pulling together the follow up.  It is based on the next section of levels in the iOS game, about the neutrinos.  So if you’ve been pining for more Higgs, and you don’t have apple devices, get ready!  More physics puzzles will be heading your way soon!

It’s Electric

And to round out this wildly scattered weekly update, I’ve also been working quite a bit on that electromagnetism game I showed off last time.  The basic pieces are starting to come together, with some fun levels – and the ever abundant physics curiosities (wait, you shouldn’t be able to fly through a wall like that…!).  The graphics are a big improvement from last time.  I mean, you can see the determination in the main character’s eyes:


Electromagnetism Game

The blue is a magnetic field protruding from your screen. The red is crushed dreams.

(You have to look very close to see the emotion.)  So that’s that for this week.  Stay tuned over the next couple days, I have a nice Friday Fun coming up!



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A New Prototype

Posted in: Evolution Simulation, Wednesday Update | January 16, 2013 | No Comments

A quick Wednesday update this week.

I’ve been feverishly working away this past week – hence the lack of our weekly ‘Friday Fun’. And I’m afraid this Friday will slip through the cracks too. So while we’re on the subject, I’m just going to leave this here for you: Try to match various snippets of whale songs to identify the whales you are hearing. What makes this awesome is that these are true, very-recent recordings from the wild. Researchers are using the help of people like us (who spend time on the internet, you see) to identify a bunch of recordings. My favorite part is you get to see where the whale you’re listening to was heard. Personally, I liked the Norwegian whales the best. Those in the Caribbean were a bit too laid back for me.

Ah, but on to what I did with my week.

Evolution Simulation

Last week I showed off the video of a sample from this simulation. I’m happy with where it stands at the moment. I did a bit on it this week, and still have some to do to make it useable (adding instructions and so on). But for the next week or so I’m shelving it. Why? Because I’m testing out a new prototype for a game.

Electromagnetism Game

I’d mentioned a month or so ago (can’t be buggered to look!) that I thought Electromagnetism might be next up for a game. I’m just testing things out at this point, and who knows if anything will come of it — only a small portion of prototypes see the light of day. But I figured I’d give you a glimpse in at the beauty of the game so far:

Electricity Prototype

Shield your eyes from the beauty!

Just boxes. What the heck is going on there? Well, I wanted to show off this image to give you all a little glimpse into the development process. It is not a polished beast (like, say, most of the images I wait to show you). Most of the time I’m just working with lines and geometric shapes. But the core is in fact there.

The green and blue (surrounded by lines) are negative and positive charges, with field lines emanating from them. You are the wee grey box on the left. Right now, I’ve set it up so that the goal is to jump from platform to platform and make it across the level. Picture something like Super Meat Boy. But replace half of the gore with Electric and Magnetic fields. And make your character electrically charged. Suddenly the fields become very important for you to pay attention to.

As I said, this is very early on, but I’ve been pretty focused this week so far in bringing this project together and getting a proof-of-concept. Am I there yet? Nope, but I can say it already keeps me entertained when I play it. So something is going right…


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Evolution Video

Posted in: Evolution Simulation, Wednesday Update | January 9, 2013 | No Comments

Happy New Year! Yes, I’ve taken a couple weeks off of posting for the holidays. But the world still seems to be intact. Phew!

But let’s get back into the thick of things with this Wednesday(s) Update.

Evolution Simulation

The Evolution Simulation has advanced along nicely. In fact, you can check out a video of where things stand:

Basically, you can watch stick creatures evolve of over the course of generations. Though these creatures may have very simple, mechanical bodies, the necessary steps of evolution are in place:

1.Selection – The creatures race. Whoever makes it the furthest wins and gets to reproduce

2.Mutation – a creature will make 6 offspring, but they are each a bit different. Longer limbs, different motions, or even different shapes.

There are a bunch of options that you can change as you play around with it. In the video, the ground is flat, but you can select different terrains (bumpy, or with pits, etc). Change the basic starting body shape, and even compete head-to-head, gladiator style, in a pushing match with another creature.

So that’s the short and long of what the simulation is. It is still a work in progress, though. For instance, I’m still working on getting the evolution to occur at the right pace (too little mutation, it goes too slowly; too much and your creatures flounder). I’m hoping I can release the simulation in the upcoming weeks.

Evolution Game

I’ve started working this past week on a game that’s connected to the simulation. It is in the style of Defend-your-Castle. Imagine the video you just watched above, but you are trying to stop the creatures from reaching the far end of the screen. Each generation they get better and better, and thus the game gets more and more challenging.

Ever-increasing difficultly is central to games, and with evolution this emerges naturally. And I can imagine some clever twists. The creatures should adapt to your various strategies… and you’ll need to be careful who you first attack. Should it be the weak creature or the strong one? Whoa.


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Evolution continues to… develop.

Posted in: Evolution Simulation, Wednesday Update | December 19, 2012 | 5 Comments

Another Wednesday, another in-depth update on what’s happening behind the scenes here at TestTubeGames.  Or, at least as in-depth as what you’d want.  (Fine, fine… I had a ham sandwich for lunch.)  This week has been a bit busy with non-TTG related activities.  What with building Tesla coils and getting sick  — unrelated I promise — but there is still plenty to report.

First off, the winter (for me) solstice is coming up.  Make sure to equip your Pocket Sundial to see some very long noon-time shadows.  And also to zoom ahead in time to watch the days getting longer.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have that in real life?

Just like last week, I tried to keep myself mainly focused on the evolution simulator.  I mainly dealt with a lot of nuts and bolts.  Fixing my code, hunting down bugs, putting in small features.  Things like a locking mechanism on the options (always listen to Muldoon).  That way, when people start, they won’t able to access (and be confused by) the whole simulation.  I’m hoping it’ll be more approachable if I parse it out slowly.  And I worked a bunch on the menu screens.  I’m always surprised how long it takes to make menus… and also how boring it is to talk about menu design – so moving on…

I added different tracks for the creatures to race on.  Some are bumpy, some are cluttered with objects, some have deadly pits.  Just as real creatures occupy specific niches, the virtual creatures you’re evolving will generally work best on one of the tracks.  I found the level with pits fun to watch.  The creatures (so far) that have done best find a very neat and mechanical-looking way to fling one limb across the pit, then slowly and carefully slide themselves over.  It looks like it taking a lot of mental effort, but of course, they are just mindless algorithms.  (Or are they?) (Yes… yes they are.)  I’m pleased with the extra tracks so far, and they seem to be giving a nice depth to the simulation.

I’ve also got an idea I’m batting around for an evolution-themed game.  (I’ve been mentioning some game-like-elements to this simulation, of having creatures compete with each other. Sure. But to it is certainly still mainly a sit-back-and-watch simulation.)  Basically, it’ll put you on the other side of the contest.  Creatures will be racing towards you, and you’ll need to stop them (instead of root for them).  I’m pretty excited about the possible directions this game could take… but no more of that for now: the simulation comes first!



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