Category Archives: Design/Game Design

newinc.org

Over the winter, I interned at NEW INC, an incubator program run by the New Museum in Manhattan. My main responsibility there was to update the design and functionality of newinc.org while migrating it to Squarespace for better blogging integration. The old site was created when NEW INC was in its infancy and focused more on publicizing and establishing the tenets of the program, so one of the main design challenges was how to more prominently integrate content created by the community on the new site.

While the Squarespace platform made most of the content migration easy, I had to use extensive CSS styling in order to make the site match the style guidelines outlined by NEW INC and the New Museum. I also made some Javascript/CSS changes to the site’s template in order to alter the default blog entry display, reconfigure the site’s breakpoints for better responsive design, and add some aesthetic features that couldn’t be done through Squarespace’s CMS.

Here are some of the areas where I implemented significant changes from the old site’s design:

Slapstream v2.0

The Github repo for this project is located here.

Late last year, I had the opportunity to present an updated version of Slapstream, one of my old projects from my first semester of ITP, at Razorfish’s NY offices as part of Future Interfaces, a one-night technology exhibition run by the NY Media Lab. You can see more details from my older post linked above, but here’s the description from that page:

“Slapstream is a video game where you have to dodge onscreen obstacles by slapping yourself in the face.

It uses a Kinect to track the position and velocity of your hands and their distance from your face. Once it detects a slap, your onscreen character will move in the direction that your face reels. A more powerful slap to the face will result in greater movement onscreen.

The idea came out of my interest in making a novel game interface, and also sort of as an experiment to see how much inconvenience people will put up with for the sake of fun or competition.”

Videogames traditionally never emphasized the means of control as a way to add to the total experience of gaming. At first, controllers were designed to be purely functional. As they evolved, they became more ergonomic, so that the player notices them less and less as they become increasingly immersed in the game’s world. However, more recently there has been a reaction in the opposite direction with innovations such as the Wii and Kinect, where the mode of interaction becomes physical and interfaces with the onscreen world to become part of the experience of play. I designed Slapstream as a different take on this new mode of interaction in order to explore the entertainment value that comes from doing something unexpected and shocking to play an otherwise simplistic game.

I had left the project in an extremely prototypical state, and it was fun to revisit an old project now that I have a little more knowledge about programming. I worked on refining the slapping mechanic, overhauling the interface, outfitting the game with retro-style graphics, and adding a high-score system to encourage competition. You can see the video I made from exhibition footage above.

Update 7/2015: Slapstream has since been shown at Tribeca Film Festival’s Interactive Playground and at NYC Resistor’s annual interactive art show.

Accelerometer Labyrinth

As a summer intern at HAVAS Worldwide’s Innovation Lab, I was given the task to create a short and entertaining experience that people could connect to and control with their smartphones. I ended up developing an online version of the classic game Labyrinth that could be tilted and played with the accelerometers present in mobile devices. The rationale behind my choice was that, while mobile gaming is now a widespread practice, most of it involves interaction solely with the screen of the smartphone. I wanted to create an interaction where the physicality of the phone mattered more than the display, so that users could have an experience using their phones in an atypical and more active manner.

I learned and practiced several new technologies during the process of creating this game; the main game was coded in Javascript using the three.js library for visuals and the Physijs plugin for in-game physics. I used Spacebrew to manage websocket connections so that the smartphone could connect to the game, and used Javascript and Phonegap to write the app that sent accelerometer data from the phone.

Although the game was built for (and functioned best with) control from mobile devices, the documentation above unfortunately only shows gameplay with keyboard controls.

Space Game – Blueballs

blueballslogo2
Blueballs
Designed by Jorge Brake, Andrew Cerrito, Yu-Ting Feng, David Rios, and Jing Zhao

Development:

The third major design challenge in Big Games was to design a game around the characteristics and constraints of a particular space (in our case, the blocks immediately west of ITP, up to and including Washington Square Park). From the start, our team gravitated towards a more active or sport-like game. We also were intrigued with the idea of using the streets in active gameplay – partly due to the taboo/danger factor of playing in the streets being exciting, and partly because the structured grid system of the streets would be easy for players to navigate.

We began by thinking about other games on structured grid systems (like the old Nokia cellphone game Snake) and also traditional sporty, sort of rough-and-tumble games like Capture the Flag. We thought that it might be an interesting mechanic to have a game similar to capture the flag, but with the ability for a team to block the routes of the other team by creating obstructions in the street grid. We ran in that direction for awhile, thinking teams could block each other by drawing chalk barriers in the streets, but we were never able to form a solid game system around that mechanic.

From there, we knew we wanted to keep the streets as an obstacle to be overcome, and our final game began to take shape when we discovered some giant blue inflatable yoga balls at the nearby K-Mart. We decided that players would have to carry these giant balls around the street grid to take them to a base, but that they were not allowed to carry them across any street intersection. Instead, they must be thrown or bounced across the street, at which point they are vulnerable to interception from the other team.

Rules:

1. Two teams compete to score the most points in 30 minutes.
2. There’s a total of 4 balls. One ball = One point.
3. You score points by dropping off balls in your base. You can bring balls dropped off at the enemy team’s base back into play.
4. Both teams start in the middle of the map, with bases in opposite corners of the map.
5. The game starts with two balls in each team’s base.
6. Players can move freely across the map but balls cannot be carried across the street.
7. Balls can only cross the streets by being thrown or bounced across the street.
8. No passing diagonally across intersections. Lateral passes only.
9. Balls can not be thrown/bounced at or anywhere near vehicles.
9a. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t run into traffic!!!!
10. Players from the opposing team can attempt to intercept the ball at throwing points. Once someone possesses a ball, you can’t smack it from their grip.

The play area with team bases:

Playtest Impressions:

Our team was spread thin during the actual execution of the game. 2 of us were stationed at the bases, 2 of us were running around taking pictures, and one of us was guarding people’s bags and personal items at the center of the grid. Because of this, none of us could really act as referees, so some rules were broken during play. We would need a larger game team if we were to ever run this game again. Players also reported that the grid was maybe a little too big, making it hard to meet up with other team members and successfully score. Other than these two setbacks, players seemed to really enjoy the game. Just watching from one of the bases made me kind of jealous that I couldn’t play as well!

Time Game – Amnesia

amnesiatitle

Andrew Cerrito, Vitor Freire, Joseph McCagherty, Andres Taraciuk, Tianyu Wu
Game Website: amnesiagame.tumblr.com


For our second major Big Games assignment, we had to design a game that could be played over the span of an entire week. Since we had played a class-wide game of
Assassins the week prior, at first our team set out to make a game that captured that a similar feeling of alertness and paranoia. However, any ideas that we came up with were either too close to Assassins in concept or not suitable for a week’s worth of continuous play. We decided to switch our model, and most of the groupseemed to be enthusiastic about some sort of puzzle or riddle game. After more meetings than I would like to admit, we came up with the following concept:

Amnesia is a narrative-driven person-hunting game in which the ultimate goal was to “recover a lost memory” (get clues that refer to an event from the past year and figure out what the event was). Players are divided into 2 teams and given an initial list of five vague clues that each point to a specific member of the ITP community. We had given each of these “leads” two coded business cards to distribute to hunters when they were found.  Once a team finds a lead, they receive a card and email the code on it to our game administration team. We then would respond, giving the team a choice to receive a clue (“recover a part of your memory”), provide the rival team with a false clue (“scramble the other team’s memory”), or clear any false clues given to them (“clear your mind”).  Whichever team could first use the clues they unlocked to solve the identity of the event would be the winner.

 

One of the code cards that a team would receive after hunting down a lead.
One of the code cards that a team would receive after hunting down a lead.


Prep: 
For the game, we had made 15 people clues (which would let the team choose their next move), 9 event clues (the info that would help them guess the event and beat the game), and 4 fake event clues (in case a team elected to sabotage the other team). We decided to release the people clues in batches of 5 so that we could speed up or slow down the pace of the game if necessary. We posted all game information in narrative form on a group tumblr blog, linked here. We also had internal documents so we could track which of the leads had been found by each team and which clues (and fake clues) had already been distributed.


Analysis: 
In the initial class presentation, we introduced the game mostly through narrative, not explicitly stating all the rules in order to make the game intriguing and to fit the theme of amnesia. We eventually revealed more via themed emails, but there was initially some confusion as to the ultimate goal of the game. Perhaps due to this, the pace of the players was slow at first. Once things became clearer, the pace became brisk around days 2-4, then slowed down again until one of the teams won on day 6. Although I liked the approach we took thematically, we probably should’ve explicitly provided more information at the outset of the game.

Another surprise is that both teams largely ignored the option to sabotage the other team, instead mostly electing just to gain further clues – I believe that only 1 fake clue was distributed by game’s end. This may be because we designed the clues to hunt down the leads to be rather difficult, and players felt like their efforts needed to be used to advance their own team’s cause instead of experimenting with game mechanics. I wonder if more sabotage would’ve happened if the game’s difficulty was decreased. Not all players in each group were active, but the active players did report that they enjoyed the game and the mechanic of hunting down leads.

All in all, this was the most challenging game to design out of the three assignments. Longevity is hard to design for, as the activity level of players throughout the week is a difficult variable to predict and control. Also, having a large design team increases the difficulty of coming up with a concept that everyone can be satisfied with – this was definitely a game with labor pains! In the end, though, I was pretty satisfied with how it turned out.