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Burds and Button Jackets

April 13, 2012 at 2:39 am

Hey readers,

How are you doing?  I've been keeping busy, even though I'm supposedly underloading on classes.  Funny how that works out.  I just got my first song to practice for my voice lessons: the good ol' Simple Gifts!  So I'm excited to practice that.  I'm not sure what all to talk about now though...

I guess one thing that's been taking up a lot of my time is the game that I'm working on for the Junior Art Show, which I talked about last post.  The working title of the game is "Burd".  If you've been following my blog/work, you'll immediately recognize that it has a lot to do with a lot of the themes and imagery that I've been exploring for my whole time at Carleton (birds, flight, nature).  I think I need to start organizing my time on that better so that I make sure I get in everything that I want to get in.  I've been getting kind of hung up on making the water in a way that I like.  Anyway, maybe I'll talk about that a little, because I think a lot of people find game-making to be pretty mysterious.

Ever since we got dial-up internet through Juno, my brother and I looked for programs that would help us make video games.  I've tried out many, many programs, including ZZT, Sphere, M.U.G.E.N., OHRRPGCE, and GameMaker.  GameMaker is what I generally use now, because I'm familiar with it and because it's really flexible for making 2d games.  The benefits of using a program like GameMaker are that it provides a great organizational interface for keeping track of all your resources--your sprites (which are essentially sets of images that can be used to animate or show different states of a given thing), scripts, backgrounds, objects, rooms etc. 

So.  Making a basic game in GameMaker is all about creating objects with certain behaviors and interactions with each other, applying sprites to those objects so that they look like things, and then placing those objects in rooms where the objects' behaviors are played out.  Makes sense, right?  So you write code to describe objects' behavior in different Events.  For example, say you have an object called Character.  You can add a "Keyboard: Right arrow" Event to the Object and in that Event, you can change the object's coordinates so that Character is displaced to the right.  This means that when the player presses the right arrow on the keyboard, the Character Object moves to the right.  Cool!

In the game I'm working on, you basically just fly around some seaside cliffs.  I spent a lot of time trying to make the flight mechanics pleasant and intuitive.  Essentially, you press the up arrow to flap your wings.  If you just lightly tap up, you only get a little boost upward, you need to hold the key a little bit to get a good boost upwards.  If you move to right or left, you can soar, which allows you to stay airborne longer, but if you stop moving completely, you start falling.  You can fall even faster by holding the down arrow to initiate a dive.  Is this boring to read about?  I think it's pretty interesting.  There are a lot of different ways that one could simulate flight in a game.  What I've basically done is make a platformer-type game (like Mario or Sonic) but made it so that there is weaker gravity and you can jump as much as you want.  Did you know that in the first Superman comics Superman couldn't fly?  He just jumped really far all over the place.

Another interesting aspect of the game is that I've been trying to create a sort of pseudo-3d background using parallax scrolling.  In other words, the further away certain aspects of the scenery are, the less they appear to move as you move.  You know, like when you're in a car and the bushes right by the side are flying past but the trees far off in the distance take their time going by.  It's been quite a challenge integrating the programming of these graphics with the drawing of them in Photoshop.  Actually I've been spending way too much time messing around with the water, and I really need to work on some other stuff, like the bird and cliffs and flowers.

Burd Screenshot
Screenshot of Burd.  The numbers in the corner are some variables that I told it to print to help me program the game.  The image is pretty small, but basically there are some seaside cliffs in a very painterly style.  The bird itself is in a more simplified style.  I was going for the sort of interplay between character and background that you get in traditionally animated films.

A fun discovery through this process is that I really like painting in Photoshop.  For some reason I kind of avoided painting in Photoshop; I guess I'm not very confident with colors, but I came up with a nice way of working and it's been really cool.  It's not at all like "real" painting, and there are a lot of cool effects that you can't get.  But it's a nice thing to do in it's own right and I love just being able to play around and not worry about letting my paints dry or using up certain colors or messing up my brushes.  I get really distracted by those sorts of worries sometimes.

So yeah, that's what I've been working on.

As I've been working on this, I've been listening to Mal Blum's album, Every Time You Go Somewhere.  Mal came and played here at Carleton, and it was really a fantastic show.  She's an amazing live performer and puts a lot of flair and personality into her shows, so it was a delight to be there.  I've been listening to her album so much that I feel bad, because I know I'm going to get tired of it if I keep listening to it so much, but I don't want to listen to anything else.  You know that feeling?  When Mal came, I got a button that says "Mal Blum Loves Me, which was super exciting both because of the message and because I have a special button jacket with lots of buttons on it.

Button Jacket
My button jacket's buttons.  The Mal Blum button is the blue typewriter one.

Until next time, peace,




  • April 16 2012 at 7:59 pm

    I saw the mal Blum show. It was great! I enjoy your blog. Have fun singing.

  • April 17 2012 at 8:10 am
    Soon Kai

    I really like the digital painting!

  • April 17 2012 at 10:57 am
    Jon Kittaka

    Thanks for commenting!  It was a great show.  My new song to sing is Greensleeves and I'm excited about that.  My sister and I once played Greensleeves as a duet on violin and piano.

    Also, thanks, Soon Kai!

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