Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Green Energy Chamber: Sneak Peak at My Magnum Opus

Drum roll please...

Tonight on my blog I am unveiling a glimpse of what I have been tirelessly working on with a  small team of people since August 2014. It is a third person "space-type" shooter video game. However, this game does not take place in outer-space.

There is more meaning to this game than I will communicate today, but I will delve deeper in future posts. 

For the next few posts I am going to share
  • 1 piece of concept art 
  • 1 animated GIF made from early 3D modeling footage 

Each level has a meaningful riddle to solve in a place called an
Energy Chamber.

Below is concept art for the Green Energy Chamber.

Green Energy Chamber 
(Please click to enlarge)

Technical Drawings of the Shotbot
(Please click to enlarge)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Welcome to the Uncanny Valley... or not?

The uncanny valley is the theory that when we see artificial traits that do not look exactly natural we feel distaste or aversion. This idea applies to examples created in the field of robotics and computer-generated imagery (CGI). 

The reason this theory is called the uncanny valley is because when the data is illustrated the graph plunges downward where data indicates observers feel uneasy looking at the artificial subject.

Here is the graph illustrated by yours truly with images that I think correspond with the graph:

According to Wikipedia a number of films that use CGI to create characters have been described by reviewers as giving a feeling of "creepiness" as a result of the characters looking too realistic.

Polar Express characters
Wikipedia: reviewer Paul Clinton wrote,
 "Those human characters in the film come across as downright... well, creepy..."

However, the 2011 animated movie, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, got great reviews even though it is CGI. Wired Magazine wrote that the film "passed beyond the uncanny valley into the plain of hyperreality."

Praised by reviewers for avoiding the uncanny valley

According to Wikipedia good design can lift CGI entities out of the uncanny valley by adding cartoonish features to the entities that had formerly fallen into the valley. 

David Hanson, a robotics designer, has shown that the uncanny valley can be flattened out by adding cartoonish features to the entities that had formerly fallen into the valley.

Following is a link to an article that explains how Expressive face helps robot bridge 'uncanny valley'.

I don't know, I think her movement looks a little weird.
I do not get uneasy from the action figure of War Machine (image from

War Machine Joins The Age Of Ultron Merchandise Party
This image from shows how artificial the figure is but I do not feel uneasy.

Some people claim the Uncanny Valley does not exist. I would agree that 2D static images do not make me feel uneasy. Instead, I think the uncanny valley happens sometimes when artificial traits are animated. 

For example, I remember seeing the movie Clash of the Titans for the first time as a child and being a bit freaked out by the character of Calibos. I now understand my reaction to Calibos must have belonged in the uncanny valley:

As a kid the stop-motion animated character of Calibos
from Clash of the Titans freaked me out.

However, I am not creeped out by the animated CGI in Tom Clancy's The Division Video Game Trailer even though their CGI may be pushing the line. Below are three examples where the CGI may be pushing the uncanny line but I do not feel disturbed. 

Am I not disturbed by the image of War Machine and Tom Clancy's Characters because they are so real? Is it because their faces are expressive?

2:40 in Tom Clancy's The Division Video Game Trailer

3:07 in Tom Clancy's The Division Video Game Trailer

3:48 in Tom Clancy's The Division Video Game Trailer

Tom Clancy's The Division Video Game Trailer

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia the uncanny valley may be generational. Younger generations, more used to CGI, and robots may be less likely to be affected by this hypothesized issue.

Do you think there is an uncanny valley? Do you feel an aversion to some of this CGI?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Gaming Can Make a Better World

Epic Win
Transcript from video below: 
"This picture [above] pretty much sums up why I think games are so essential to the future survival of the human species... This is a portrait by a photographer named Phil Toledano. He wanted to capture the emotion of gaming, so he set up a camera in front of gamers while they were playing. And this is a classic gaming emotion... This is a gamer who is on the verge of something called an epic win... An epic win is an outcome that is so extraordinarily positive you had no idea it was even possible until you achieved it. It was almost beyond the threshold of imagination. And when you get there you are shocked to discover what you are truly capable of. That is an epic win. This is a gamer on the verge of an epic win. And this is the face that we need to see on millions of problem-solvers all over the world as we try to tackle the obstacles of the next century -- the face of someone who, against all odds is on the verge of an epic win."

Games like World of Warcraft give players the means to save worlds, and incentive to learn the habits of heroes. What if we could harness this gamer power to solve real-world problems? Jane McGonigal says we can, and explains how.


Jane McGonigal asks: Why doesn't the real world work more like an online game? In the best-designed games, our human experience is optimized: We have important work to do, we're surrounded by potential collaborators, and we learn quickly and in a low-risk environment. In her work as a game designer, she creates games that use mobile and digital technologies to turn everyday spaces into playing fields, and everyday people into teammates. Her game-world insights can explain--and improve--the way we learn, work, solve problems, and lead our real lives. She served as the director of game R&D at the Institute for the Future, and she is the founder of Gameful, which she describes as "a secret headquarters for worldchanging game developers."

Several years ago she suffered a serious concussion, and she created a multiplayer game to get through it, opening it up to anyone to play. In “Superbetter,” players set a goal (health or wellness) and invite others to play with them--and to keep them on track. While most games, and most videogames, have traditionally been about winning, we are now seeing increasing collaboration and games played together to solve problems.

Jane McGonigal

Game Designer Profile