• Physical Technical Art

    Over the next couple of posts I'm going to be writing mainly on the topic of the emerging field of Physical Technical Art. So… what does that mean you say? Game Development in most parts is a software exercise; once concept art and motion capture has been digitized the remainder of production is mainly dedicated to DCC’s, Assets Pipelines and Code. Development can be fraught with unforeseen hurdles and challenges, some of these problems require a team to think outside the software box and this is where Physical Technical Art implements a solutions. In addition to solving hardware problems Physical Technical Art also aims to improve the human-computer interface (NUI), human to human interface and game interaction methods through the use of technology.

    A great example of a hardware solution is the XBox 360 Controller Monitor. This custom hardware enables the capture of the controller’s inputs (buttons and joysticks) and then displays the values on a small board. This board is then framed with the vision from the game and filmed, giving the reviewer a clear connection between the input and the time taken for it to be displayed on screen.

    The following video is a Tear Down of this hardware, a brief overview of the electronics used and how it captures and displays its data:

    Xbox 360 Controller Monitor (Tear Down)

    Latency is an important concern when developing a game, it changes how the game is played and if it's too high the user may get frustrated ruining the experience. The Xbox 360 Controller monitor is a practical and simple solution to this important focus. Yes, input latency can be calculated within the devkit; but having a hardware solution ensures no overheads and enables testing for unprofileable games.

    Ben Heck's Controller Monitor Intro Video

    Ben Heck's Website

    Uno32 (Ardunio) Code: Macro_Controller.Zip

    Fair Child 8Bit Shift Register DataSheet

    If you use something like this or any other physical solutions in your studios, I would love to hear about it. You can contact me via the contacts tab or just leave a comment.


  • Netduino Powered Pumpkin

    Seeing as it’s getting closer to that time of the year when people walk around at night wearing ghastly clothing, no it’s not Talk like a Pirate Day; Halloween. As part of the festivities at work we have a yearly Best Costume and Pumpkin Carving competition. So I thought I would share with you our team’s 2nd place winning Pumpkin family.

    The Pumpkin Family

    Yes the pumpkin was suped up a little from the traditional pumpkin; the competition rules allowed for props to be used I decided to take it to the limit. In a last minute rush the night before the carving, I wired, programmed and sequenced the hardware.

    The setup consisted of a Netduino (Micro-controller that is programmed in c#) for the brains, 4 LEDs (light emitting diode) for the eyes, 2 servos (motors that allow you to set the rotation of an arm between 0-180 degrees) for the eyes and eyebrows and a little speaker to play the theme tune.

    Once all the hardware was built, I created a very simple program to play the theme tune and sequence the movement of the servos and toggle the lighting of the LEDs. The first thing I wrote was the tone generator; to play a note I passed in the note (F#) and using a lookup table I had the note’s frequency, with this I set the speaker output pin to oscillate that frequency. Next I created an array of notes and duration's, these were the base of the sequencer. Now having the music playing (Thanks goes to my wife who converted the sheet music to note and duration for me) I created the servo and LED tracks and set their timing.

    Netduino & wiring

    The only thing left to do was create an event handler that would fire off the sequence when I pressed a button on the NetDuino. The quality of the music was quite gritty, this was due to not having any smoothing electronics in place, but I kinda liked the classic sounding theme, so I left it.

    The eyes in the following image were bought at a dollar store and mounted on some wire as pivots then the servo and controller arms were mounted to some cardboard for easy installation.

    Inside the pumpkin

    So I hope this quick rundown of how I created the Pumpkin Family electronics has inspired you to go and make your pumpkin a little more high-tech.

    Happy Hacking!

  • Shader Toy – GLSL ES Online Editor, Compiler & Previewer

    Digging around the web the other day looking for GLSL ES info and I came across this site, it's a nifty online editor, compiler and previewer.

    It comes with some examples of 2D, 3D and Plane Deformer shaders and it can take input from Time, Mouse(LMB with current pixel and clicked pixel), Viewport Resolution and 4 Texture(sampler2D) channels.

    Happy Shading!


  • Shift dragging files into Maya 2012

    Shift dragging files into Maya 2012 can be a risky business; it turns out that it will delete your file.

    So if you are after new ways of off-loading some of those pesky files that clutter your hard-drive simply shift drag them into Maya and all your dreams will come true. This works for even for Maya native files, they are imported then deleted from the source location. A simple restore from the recycling bin will cease your soon to be heart attack.

    Happy Undeleting!

  • Modifying project files in Visual Studio during pre-build




    So it turns out that Visual Studio uses the application's cache if a file is open at build time instead of loading the file off disk...ok so this is good, when you want to save memory and speed up the build process. BUT when you are editing a source file that is being created/modified during the Pre-Build step, then you are in a little bit of trouble. Read the rest of this entry »