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A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That

We have color filters!!

The three colored filters appear in the toolbox for now, though will eventually have functionality like the mirrors, where they are placed with a single click then clicking on the already placed tile cycles through the different colors. Also added is the delete button in the bottom right corner. If you accidentally place a tile, you can click on that symbol then the incorrect tile and its removed.

 

Finally, our game is hosted online (but clearly not updated fully yet)here.

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Tabletop Games, Where Are You Hiding?

In my ongoing and rapidly concluding search for a good translation of an analog tabletop game to a virtual tabletop game, I’m at a point where I find myself in Mendeley, searching specifically for “tabletop games”, and my search has yielded 141 results. Here’s hoping.

For reference, here’s the abstract of the paper we’re writing for this project:

Table based games such as air hockey have existed for many years. Their mechanics and play styles are well-developed and understood by many generations of players. We know how the objects in the playing field interact with each other like a puck bouncing off a paddle or a wall. But Physical interaction is only one layer of the tabletop gaming experience. Other layers include Social-Physical interaction in which body movement (such as feints) influence Physical game play, and Social (such as commentary, jibes, laughter) which has much to do with enjoyment and participation.

To our knowledge, no current interaction model fully describes the nuances of play that occur between people at a table. For example, physical gestures as well as verbal cues all play a part in the full experience of the game.  We are attempting to develop the interaction model, and use it to develop a virtual tabletop game. Our presentation will sketch the model, demonstrate the game, and discuss possible future directions. How are these elements translated over to a virtual playing field?

Now, back to the results.

The first few results were more of the same augmented reality thing. I did find one paper that seemed like it had potential. It is called Tangible Play Research and Design for Tangible and Tabletop Games. The problem was, I could only access the abstract, so I couldn’t see a way to find out how this paper really fit into our questions. I tried opening it on another site, but it just tried to load for a while then timed out, so it’s worth attempting again at a later time.

Looking some more into things, I found this paper that doesn’t help with our face to face interaction problem, but does make that whole clunky projection system a little more portable.
Also, this is great, and brought to you of course by Microsoft Research.

Building off of the last project, they created the PlayTogether. Which is pretty cool and allows for remote players to play table based games together. The only problem is, they only transfer the location of the other players hands, not their face. Though, this is a pretty cool interpretation of “ghost hands” so to speak, which allows the local player to see what the remote player is actually doing in real-time on the board. This thing is, there’s no logic in the real game. The program knows how to transpose the players video streams over each other and otherwise, it’s up to the player’s to decide who wins and when that occurs.

This is all the research I’m doing for one night. Will update more later tomorrow!

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Thoughts on Papers…

Three papers were recently shown to me and I read over the relevant portions:

The first paper’s title was Art and Technology of Entertainment Computing and Communication. (The link is to the section directly that I read over).

The point made is that tabletop games can fall into a few categories, and while they often switch between many categories during different moments of gameplay, they can lean more towards one or the other. Our idea, of an air hockey hybrid would fall into the competitive category. It puts players against each other instead of encouraging players to collaborate. It’s also live action as opposed to turn based. The puck is moving in real-time and the players are both reacting simultaneously.

In the Entertainment section of this publication they describe a case study but it involves a large wall mounted system that’s pretty bulky and certainly not in any way portable. Before I read this article I actually sketched a little version of what a networked system could look like, but then I realized a problem.

This is a huge installation, so it could only exist in places like arcades where it could be setup and then never broken down. But if you’re in an arcade, why wouldn’t you just play an actual air hockey table with your friends? You can already see them in person, so you’d just have that experience. My only thought is that maybe in a setting like a Dave and Busters, it could be cool to play against another person at a completely different place around the country. But otherwise, there’s no real reason for it. No one will want this in their house.

Back to the article. Their first case study deals with a Carnegie Mellon created game called Jam-O-World. This was a collaborative game where all players were in the same local space. That immediately removes the need to face the question we’re attempting to ask. Our problem is with a networked table!

The next text was Human Computer Interaction: The Agency Perspective. My theory that no one has solved this problem in any way is continuing to evolve as I read this article. Their current solution to creating a user-friendly experience on a table top digital game is to use augmented reality. Now the focus of this article was specifically targeting games to the elderly. But, demographic aside, there were some relevant points. For example, I love this quote, because it’s basically my whole thought on this. “[…]PC games do not allow for personal face-to-face contact, an aspect that is crucial in traditional games” (113). Well, at least we aren’t the only one’s who are wondering how  this translates. Unfortunately, their solution was also just an augmented reality solution with a localized table using both digital and virtual objects.

On to the next book: Intelligent Technologies for Interactive Entertainment.

Here they faced something like what we’re doing, having multiple competitive users on the same surface. Now, obviously our end game is to have multiple users on different surfaces, but at least this is a competitive game and not a collaborative one since the interactions are pretty different. Their problem was, how do we distinguish between the multiple users on a single surface? If we limit the user’s space to a certain part of the table it not only limits their creative field, but it limits the design area for the developer as well, so this isn’t really a good solution. Now, it’s not really the question we’re asking, so while it’s an interesting question, it’s not one I’m going to delve any deeper into.

That’s my basic thoughts on the three articles I read. We’re getting somewhere more specific on this topic, just not to a solution yet.

More to follow.

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As Borat* Would Say, Great Success!!

*Anyone who’s confused about that first part see here.

Otherwise! Progress!!

Check out this awesome image we have from the most recent version of the game!

 

Mirrors are working! We can now draw the beam from the start tile through whatever series of mirrors we lay out. Once the end tile is reached for now the only feedback appears in the console. (LEVEL COMPLETE), but eventually we’ll have a graphical representation for the user :)

Now, we are officially up to date for our Tuesday goals.

There’s still that one little bug.  The beam will hit the end of the map and still try to go beyond the grid, throwing an error, since its trying to move to a tile that doesn’t exist.

Anyway, we’re excited. This is really coming together!

 

UPDATE:

Too many updates tonight!

When you win, it just fills the end tile’s orb to show the level is complete. Its not a finished thing, but some more user feedback for now :)

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Lazors: Now with actual lazors!!

2 layered canvases later we have a beam drawing itself!

Now, its logic isn’t fully programmed yet, but we have a beam that starts wherever the official start tile is on the map, and it goes where you place a mirror, like in the image below.


Also new since the last visual update is the selector in the toolbox. When you select a tile it adds the yellow highlighting bars around what you selected, just for visual user feedback.

You’ll notice the beam doesn’t react to the mirror yet, we’re working out a bug in the code dealing with how to resolve the question: “What tile am I on now?” but once that works, we can draw beams and handle reflections to anywhere on the grid.

The end tile is also new. It can accept the beam from any of its open sides but depending on the puzzle it can be blocked to where only one opening is present.

We’re definitely on track for Tuesday! More work and updates to follow.

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Lazors!

Our team worked yesterday and got things moving a little further in the coding progress. We now have more of the tiles we need and have determined the next step for our work for the weekend.

We’re going to hopefully go into class Tuesday with the main beam engine working and the beam drawing itself after being aware of what tile it is on.

Then on Tuesday we can start with trying to host the game online, then do a quick port to mobile of some sort and go from there.

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Research Update

Our team met with Prof. Jacobs this past week to discuss some more about conferences. While originally SIGGRAPH seemed overly technical we’ve been shown more about the Emerging Technologies section which would more fit the project.

While doing this research, I have learned a lot more about what variety of conferences are available as well as the variety of the areas of these conferences. But despite all this research into these functions, I can only really see myself attending these  as a presenter. There’s so many projects out there exploring so many new areas of technology, or reinventing existing areas of technology, that I feel like I’d benefit more from experiencing these talks than trying to think of something to stay relevant myself.

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Abstract

Just another update. I wrote an abstract for the project. It’s a first draft as I don’t have a lot of experience writing them, but I looked at examples from the other projects submitted to the Winter Research Symposium site.

Our paper isn’t finished so you can’t view the submission on the site yet since its not approved.

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Lazorz!!!

I’ve neglected posting about this team project for a little too long now, so here it goes!

Here’s a link to our project’s GIT repo, if you’re interested.  Also, for now it’s just a blurb, but the project is up on the RIT FOSS site as well.

And now for development updates!

We got our first big start during the Hackathon that took place  a couple of weeks ago. We spent hours putting the basics together and ended up with the game board (grid) drawn, as well as a toolbox of sorts for the game’s usable items.

As you can see in the picture above, the grid is a 10 x 10 and the toolbox is grey at the bottom. The first tool is a mirror. The mirror takes the beam that is hitting it and reflects it out at a 90 degree angle as seen below.

The mirror can face in multiple orientations and is spun by single clicking on the mirror once it is placed on the board.


The above is one mirror rotated in all of its possible orientations.

In the first photo I posted, you’ll notice there are other objects on the toolbar below the grid. The second image is a grey square. This is just what it looks like, a block. The beam stops if it hits the block. It acts as a wall, or obstacle on the game grid.

The next three images you notice look out-of-place, that’s because they are. For demo related purposes, we put beam tiles in the toolbox just to illustrate a few points. When the game is actually placed, the first of the beam tiles, the one with the grey triangle and the beam would be the starting point on the grid. From there the beam could look like some of the other images depending on how it’s reflecting off of mirrors.

Our next step in the development process was to really focus on what makes this a game. What’s the point of what’s happening? Otherwise, it’s just a paper work book activity that’s being done online, and no child is really interested in doing the same task they would on paper, on a computer for any extended amount of time. So the team members are doing some personal brainstorming this week and will come back together on Thursday to throw some ideas out into the open. Our goal is to have a list we can narrow down to keep a clear focus of where the project is going.

In the mean time on the coding front, we have to make the “beam engine” itself. If we can get a system in place with a semi-“intelligent” beam that knows not only where it is on the grid, but what the tile its standing on actually is, we can toss in the proper physics equations and let it draw itself. We’re working on a mini-hackathon Thursday, so I’m optimistic we’ll get ever closer to our goal of  a finished prototype by February 29th.

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Research, research, research…

To continue on with the Air Hockey project I had to work on coming up with an outline for the paper I’d eventually co-author. This brought up the question: where do I even begin on an outline for this paper. Sure, I’ve written what’s probably hundred of papers and essays at this point in my academic career, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I had to write a research paper.

So, I decided to look at the example paper I had and pull out the basic skeleton it took into consideration.

I was also pointed to 2 more conferences, GLS 8.0 (Games + Learning + Society) in Madison, Wisconsin, and SIGGRAPH 2012 which is in LA this year.

SIGGRAPH is a huge conference, with a lot of reputation and it relies on heavy technical presentations. I don’t think this is the type of crowd we’d fit into, it is on a higher level than our project.

More to follow…

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