Sculpture JAM – Eli Returns

This week was the Sculpture JAM, where we were tasked with making an element from our game ideas as a sculpture. We could use whatever means we wanted to (e.g. clay, wood etc.)

For my sculpture I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to make something related to Eli. I have continued using my character Eli throughout most of the JAMs as I think he is a good character and it would be a shame to let him go to waste. He has an interesting personality and backstory which could make him quite a good game character, so I decided to make him one of if not the main character in my game ideas. Also as the ideas I have for games are loose right now (paradox research mainly) I felt it would be better to focus on a concrete part of the game ideas as I know I want Eli included in some way.

I then decided to make Eli’s wheelchair, as it is an important part of his character and is also an interesting sculpture to make so it would make for an interesting JAM project.

I did some research on the internet and decided to base my design loosely around this picture of a wheelchair –

Picture Link – https://www.walgreens.com/store/c/karman-16in-lightweight-steel-wheelchair/ID=prod6119678-product

It is a general wheelchair image that I found on Google but it is useful for showing the key elements that I needed to design and create. I then looked at my early wheelchair designs for Eli in the Character and Animation JAMs, and then used them as well for reference.

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Here are my initial wheelchair designs. Since we only had a few days to create the sculpture I only did some basic concept designs as I wanted to get creating straight away. I then grabbed some polystyrene and hot glue to create a quick prototype to work from.

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This is only a basic design but it allowed me to see what elements I needed to create for my design, and also whether the structure would hold (as it is only made of polystyrene).

I was pretty happy with the prototype, but I wanted to add additional features to the final sculpture to make it seem more lifelike. For example, I wanted to paint the final thing as well as attempt to create functional rolling wheels. It also allowed me to decide what I wanted to make the final sculpture out of. I had initially thought of making it out of wood or plastic but this would have been very time consuming and also may not have worked well, considering the intricate parts of a wheelchair (especially a mini version) it could have collapsed easily.

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I then got to work on the final sculpture. Instead of polystyrene the initial framework was made out of wire, and then I added polystyrene over the top of it for reinforcement and realism. Using wire also allowed me to make an axle underneath the chair, to which I would eventually attach wheels and get them actually rolling. In the picture above you can see the sculpture in progress. The basic wire frame is there coated in polystyrene, along with the first coat of paint. I chose a black colour in reference to the initial picture I found online.

The wheels were the next step. I made them initially using a compass and scalpel to get pretty close to a perfect circle, and then added layers of polystyrene on top to add depth to the wheels. For the spokes I used the same wire as the axle and framework, and hot-glued them in place. I then used a combination of black and silver paint for colour.

I then used the same structure (though smaller) for the smaller wheels at the front of the wheelchair. As a final touch I added several pieces of polystyrene to add structural integrity and also to hide the wire framework.

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Here is the final sculpture.

Overall I was quite pleased with it. It’s not the same as the concept wheelchair image I found online due to structural reasons and also because I wanted it to be different. It does bear quite a resemblance to my initial wheelchair designs for Eli in the Character and Animation JAMs, which is great.

It does unfortunately have a slightly lopsided look to it due to the way it was designed and also the hot-glue effects. The wheels are also delicate due to the axle wire and hot-glue usage so they are not as fluid in movement as I would have liked them to be. This was unfortunate but ultimately I do think the sculpture serves its purpose as it is clearly a wheelchair, so all is not lost.

In the end I very much enjoyed the Sculpture JAM, as like many of the previous JAMs I learnt something new and also had fun designing and sculpting the wheelchair. The construction was tricky in places (particularly the axle and wheel movement parts) but overall I enjoyed it.

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RPG JAM – A Dystopian Adventure

This week was the RPG JAM, where we were tasked with creating and then playing a tabletop RPG (roleplaying game). This concept is similar to Dungeons + Dragons, where one player is the “Dungeon Master” and controls the game narrative, and the other players create characters and attempt to win the game.

At the beginning of the week, we played through two example RPG’s. In the first we were pirates tasked with finding treasure. Each player created their respective pirate character (mine was Dave The Terrible) and the game began. We arrived on a desert island and attacked a camp of cannibals, and then stole their golden trophy. I was killed in a spider-infested cave.

The second game had a completely different setting; we were superheroes tasked with saving the world from an evil corporation that had nuclear missiles and intended to use them. Each player had to then choose a superpower for their character; mine was super speed. Our team of heroes then successfully infiltrated the enemy camp and the speedsters (myself and another player) rounded up all the guards. The missiles were then disabled and the day was saved.

Playing these RPGs gave a good insight into the kind of game we were going to create, as well as a clear idea of how RPGs worked and what they used to progress the game.

Using this knowledge my team and I came up with our setting; a dystopian future ruled by evil corporations. The full synopsis is here:

“The game is set in a dystopian future ruled by corporations and corruption. The players are a group of characters (humans, androids and augmented) who are tasked with taking down a corporation by either killing the leader or stealing the corporation’s money.

Players break into the corporation headquarters and make their way through multiple floors.”

We settled on giving players a select group of characters to choose from as well as a small range of mission options and a limited number of items they could take with them on their mission, in order to steer them down a particular narrative path. Our game wasn’t as open as the RPGs we had played as we wanted the players to experience a certain story.

We came up with a list of items that players could take with them, and then a Health System (each player has 2HP) to add some risk to the game.

We then decided to give the players some say in who their characters were, so we came up with a skill system (taken from the Rulebook) –

Each player has four skills that are in a 1,2,3,4 system. The skills are Subtlety, Strength, Tech and Dexterity.

  • Subtlety – players are good at avoiding combat e.g. stealthy, persuasive etc
  • Strength – Physicality
  • Tech – Hacking and gadget usage
  • Dexterity – steady hands, lockpicking etc

Players then assign numbers to respective skills, for example –

  • A 4 in Subtlety
  • A 3 in Strength
  • A 2 in Tech
  • A 1 in Dexterity

When using their skills players roll a die. In order to succeed in skill usage they have to roll their respective skill number or below it, for example –

  • If they have a 4 in Subtlety, they must roll a 4 or below to succeed. This has a high chance of success.
  • If they have a 1 in Dexterity, they must roll a 1 to succeed. This has a low chance of success.”

 

We then came up with a Character Type system (taken from the Rulebook) –

Players choose their character type at the start of the game. Different types have different abilities –

  • Humans can obtain disguises
  • Augmented can change their fingerprints to match someone else’s
  • Androids can send notifications to people as distractions

Once their ability has been used it cannot be used again for the rest of the floor the player is on. Once the next floor is reached, a die is rolled and players have to roll a 3 or lower to regain their ability. If they then use the ability again they must wait until the next level to reroll the die, this time needing a 2 or lower to regain it. This can be repeated once more (rolling a 1) so players can only use their abilities a maximum of three times.

Types also have drawbacks, however –

  • Androids are naturally loud
  • Augmented are affected by electrical devices
  • Humans only have two inventory slots”

The rest of the game was then left up to the Dungeon Master. They would decide how the building layout would be as well as where the enemies and objectives were. They were also given the option to implement a Timer if they felt the players weren’t being challenged enough.

Once all the mechanics were in place, we had a test playthrough. We found the game interesting and fun to play, and although there were a few tweaks needed (for example, it was decided a map needed to be created as it was felt that the Dungeon Master had too much freedom regarding map design) overall it felt like a solidly well crafted RPG.

A default map was then created. Here are some example floors (third and fourth) –

Third Floor                                                        Fourth FloorCapture1

I then created the Rulebook for the game, which can be found here.

The game was then played through by other members of our year on Friday. Overall we received quite positive feedback, so I felt that the RPG JAM went rather well. We successfully created a functional and actually rather fun game with some decent mechanics. Although we did limit player options rather a lot at the start of the game I felt this was made up for with giving the Dungeon Master a great deal of freedom as well as having many different scenarios once the players were inside the building they needed to attack.

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Overall I learned a great deal from the RPG JAM, having never really done anything RPG related before. I found the experience quite fun and also very free, as we were not limited by the technical limitations of Unity or having to physically build something so we let our imaginations run wild.

 

 

 

 

Narrative JAM – The Origin Story Of Eli

This week was the Narrative JAM, where we were tasked with writing a short story that had to be “fragmented” – told in a different way or order to how a story would normally be told.

For my story, I decided to tell one of Eli’s adventures. Specifically, the day he lost the use of his legs, as this was a defining moment for his character. I felt that continuing the adventures of the character I have been with for two weeks was fitting and also interesting, as Eli is an inspiration fountain for stories (being a disabled Mexican police officer in the centre of a gang/drug infested city springs many story ideas). Thinking back to the questions I answered on Eli during the Character JAM, I realised I had touched upon but not really gone into detail regarding the incident where Eli lost the use of his legs;

Did anything special ever happen to him?

  • He was shot in the back saving a child from gunfire

Using this brief sentence, I started to construct my story. The Incident (as it became known) was the centrepiece, and using that I began to branch out.

Initial Ideas

(Some initial ideas notes I made while coming up with the story branches)

I used different perspectives as my method of “fragmenting” the story as I felt it would give an entertaining and interesting look at what happened to Eli and would also allow me to fully explore his “origin” story. Having decided this, I settled on five perspectives:

  • Eli
  • The Police
  • The Child’s Family
  • The Gang
  • The Rival Gang

Each one of these would bring something new to the story; Eli’s would tell the tale of how he came to be at the site of the Incident (the warehouse); The Gang’s would explain why the warehouse was important; The Child’s Family’s would explain why children were present that Eli had to save; The Rival Gang’s would explain why The Gang were at the warehouse at that time, and The Police’s would explain the aftermath of the Incident.

STORY LINK

Spoilers for the story now follow. Use the link above to read the full story (3300 words).

Anyway.

Each perspective would shed more light on the Incident, and would also go a little further forward in time i.e. The Gang’s perspective ends on them shooting the warehouse, but the Girls’s Family perspective goes a little further with Eli jumping in front of the gunfire. Pablo’s Gang goes further still with the characters reacting to Eli falling, and The Police finish the story with the aftermath. I decided to do this so each perspective wouldn’t seem too repetitive and become boring, this way something new is added each time so the reader can construct more of what happens.

The final thing I will talk about in this post is the ending. As I was getting towards the end of writing the story I found myself underwhelmed with what would have been the ending; Eli going to hospital. So I decided to mix things up a bit.

The result was a strange ending that I’m not quite sure how I feel about; on one hand it’s interesting and certainly makes for an entertaining and mysterious ending, but on the other it feels out of place and doesn’t really fit with the rest of the story. I deliberately left the description of the Unknown vague so that the readers can make up their own theories as to who/what it was and why it was there. For now I shall leave it as a mystery, which I may address should the opportunity arise in future JAMs.

Overall I very much enjoyed the Narrative JAM. I have always felt I am stronger in creative writing and storytelling as I enjoy it a lot so this JAM gave me a chance to do something I really like. The result was a good origin story for Eli that could do with some refining but in my opinion is a solidly interesting and entertaining read. I learned a great deal about methods of storytelling in this JAM (fragmented stories and the Monomyth theory) and greatly look forward to putting these to use in future narratives.

 

 

 

Animation JAM – The Further Adventures of “Eli”

This week was the Animation JAM, where we took the characters we made last week in the Character JAM and brought them to life using animation.

 

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This is the final iteration of Eli’s animation I created this week. I decided to animate Eli’s movement cycle as it felt the most character-representative to animate. This animation loop shows a lot about Eli’s character and what kind of a person he is, for example the way his cigarette shows he is puffing a lot while he wheels himself along. Eli is an alcoholic and is out of shape, so I tried to represent this in the animation with the cigarette smoke and the way his torso moves as he wheels (showing he is overweight). Despite the addictions however, Eli is a determined Detective and is keen to do his job which is shown in the animation through his persistence to keep wheeling rapidly and not slow down or give in. The way he moves his arms is the most representative of this persistence, as they show his dedication to getting to work.

When I first started attempting to animate Eli, I struggled as I had not really done much animation before and didn’t really know where to begin. I decided to choose what to animate first (Eli’s movement cycle) and go from there.

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I then did some rough sketches in order to decide what parts of Eli exactly to animate. The three I came up with were his arm movements, smoke trail from his cigarette and spoke movements of the wheelchair wheels. These three are the most representative of his character (his movement shows his personality – tired but determined, and the cigarette reinforces this).

I began with animating his arms. I felt that those were the most important aspect of the animation as they would be most representative of his character and how he moves. The first iteration didn’t look amazing, but I felt they got the point across and showed his arm movement in a way that represented his determination well. I started off with some storyboard-style sketching, before moving on to creating the animation digitally.

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Once I had the arm movement down, I started moving the rest of his body with the arms to give a realistic wheeling-himself-along animation to Eli.

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The next step was to fix up the body movement slightly (it doesn’t quite look right here) and add some smoke trails to Eli’s cigarette. I also researched wheelchair movement and propulsion and saw that there is a little push at the end of the wheeling to add momentum, as seen in this animation I found online here –

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(https://giphy.com/stickers/wheelchair-ff6WH9hpQ7AME)

So I decided to add that push in a few more frames for the arm movement.

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At this point I started to add the finishing touches to Eli’s animation. I gave him simple hands to replace the empty stumps he had before, and improved the cigarette smoke so that it didn’t look like he was breathing it back in during the back half of the animation. i also added several more frames to the final push of the wheels, to really give that sense of adding momentum right at the end of the arm movement.

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I then added colour to the animation, and smoothed it out a bit more with some final frame additions. The final product is at the top of this post.

Overall I felt that even though the animation doesn’t look like much, it does get it’s point across. It says a lot about Eli’s character, that despite his addictions and loss of the use of his legs he is still determined and persistent, and ever passionate about his job. I also think that the animation looks very smooth and realistic, and is overall a good stab at animating considering I have only done animation once or twice before. It took a surprisingly long time to do, and for me it was also quite difficult. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt this week it’s that animation takes a very long time even just to get a few frames.

This animation JAM taught me a fair amount about animating (drawing frames, different animation framerates and programs that I can use to make the process easier are a few things I learnt), and despite the long and arduous process I look forward to using animation again in future projects, as in the end I felt my animation worked quite well.

Character JAM – “Eli Torres”

This week was the Character JAM, where we were tasked with creating a character based off sketches and observations of people in the centre of Winchester.

 

My character was based off a disabled person I sketched, who was also smoking a cigarette.

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The combination of these elements inspired Eli Torres, the grumpy old Detective Constable from Mexico who lost the use of his legs when he was shot in the back saving a child’s life. He works in a dangerous city where drug deals and cartel shootouts are common, and spends most of his time off-duty in the Cafe Del Toro, the local bar and restaurant. He is very grumpy and frustrated by his disability, as well as getting old and being past his prime. He is also very brave and righteous, and would put himself in harms way to save people’s lives.

You can see the full character information of Eli here.

When designing Eli, I started off with a very basic sketch. and then repeated that sketch a number of times. Through iterations I began to refine Eli’s look and attempted to get a recognisable and unique silhouette for him that would stand out. The collar design particularly was somethin I wanted to get right; in classic old fashioned detective/police shows the detectives always have long coats with the collars turned up, so I wanted that to be a major part of Eli’s design.

First set of iterations –

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(Apologies for these pictures – it was camera based as I didn’t have access to a scanner at the time)

Collar Designs –

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Second set of iterations –

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Once I had that refined idea and look for Eli, I started work on the other perspectives needed for the brief. At this point I started to run out of time as I had spent most of it trying to get the silhouette as refined as possible, so the other perspectives are not quite as refined as I would have liked them to be.

Front Perspectives

I first started on a “top down” perspective, but found it very difficult to even get close to what I wanted it to look like, so with time running out I changed tactics and started work on a front-facing perspective instead. I started off with just getting the wheelchair right and then added in Eli. This technique worked well and the new perspective proved much more promising than at first and after a few iterations it looked quite good. I chose one of the iterations I created and refined it in Adobe Photoshop to create the Front Perspective (see the top of the post for an image).

Back Perspectives

The next and final perspective I worked on was the back. This one was a little easier as I already had the front silhouette to work with at this point, which helped a great deal with getting the dimensions of the Back Perspective correct. Like with the front I started off with sketching just the wheelchair, then added Eli once I got the dimensions correct and then refined through iterations until the final design was created (for the final image see the top of this post).

Overall I felt Eli looked rather good. The first perspective I created (side view) was refined well and looked like a depressed man in a wheelchair, which is who Eli is so I felt that was a success. The other two perspectives could do with more refining so that’s something I could work on.

During this week’s JAM we learned about turnabout models, and using people and sketches as inspiration for character design. It was an interesting new take on designing characters and I enjoyed the experience. Drawing characters by hand isn’t something I normally do due to lack of drawing skill, so it was interesting to be out of my comfort zone doing something different. The drawings I created aren’t the best but they get the point across in my opinion (it’s clearly a guy in a wheelchair) and I think the side view silhouette is very recognisable and unique, which is one of the objectives of this JAM.

Overall I felt I learned a great deal during this JAM, and look forward to using the knowledge and skills gained from it in future projects.