Thursday, April 27, 2006

How Dare You

Good news arrived to us, the Dare-to-be-Digital team, today!

Our team leader received the following letter from the committee in Dundee (up North of Edinburgh, Scotland):
Dear Team Leader
Thank you for your application to Dare to be Digital 2006. We had 20 teams apply for 1 of only 12 interview places for Scotland and congratulations, your team have been selected to attend the interview day on May 4th in Dundee.

Of the twelve teams being interviewed, 4 will be selected to take part in the competition.

The details of your interview are set out below. Can you please ensure that if possible, all your team members are present for the interview - if your team mates have exams on this date then obviously they can be excused from attending, but as many team members should attend as possible to give the best possible impression to the judging panel. Please come to Abertay's main reception (Kydd Building, Bell Street, Dundee) about 15 minutes prior to your allocated time and ask for Sarah Johnston. Do not go straight to your interview room - we will take you to your interview room. Dress code is smart casual - suits are not needed.

Your interview time: Thursday 4th May at 12.50am to 13.25am
Interview room: IC CAVE

There will be 4 or 5 judges, all from Industry, who have the tough job of selecting the final 4 teams. You will be introduced to the judges at interview. You should be aware that the Dare team and Abertay staff have NO decision in the teams selected, this is purely down to industry selection. Your interview slot will last 35 minutes in total and will be 20 minutes of pitching to the judges followed by 15 minutes of questions from the panel (you must stick to your timeslot).

So here we are, serious candidates for the production of a new Computer Game: SPACEPORT.

David Sage
Game Father
Mark Burns
Nicolas Koumentakis

Sound Blaster
Peter Bloomfield
Willem van Heemstra

Space Crew ;o)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

What Sunday means to me

Having started the 3rd (hence: last) Term of the First Year at the Edinburgh College of Art, I am now practicing Filmmaking three days each week.

To remind you, in 2nd Term I had to 'solve' a 30-second still-image presentation on the theme "What Sunday means to me". I had come up with the following images of a person being woken up each day of the week by his alarm clock. Until Sunday... total silence. Not so, the church bells blasted the peaceful quiet to bits!

What Sunday means to me
Clock is ticking... Man is sleeping.
SOUNDFX: Ticking clock, sleeping man.
ACT I Scene 02
Clock is silenced.


SOUNDFX: Soft tap, ticking sound stopped
Clock is ticking...
SOUNDFX: Ticking clock, sleeping man.
ACT II Scene 02
Clock is slapped.


SOUNDFX: Hard tap, ticking sound stopped
ACT II Scene 03
Clock is ticking...
SOUNDFX: Ticking clock, sleeping man.
ACT II Scene 04
Alarm sets off.


Clock is smashed!
SOUNDFX: Loud punch and clock falling to the ground.
Clock is no longer in view, nor ticking. Man is snoring.
SOUNDFX: Snoring man.
ACT III Scene 02
Loud church bells !!!


SOUNDFX: Loud church bells.
The End

After this very minimalist construction of a story about Sunday, and what it means to me, I have now been asked to build on top of this and make a movie out of it.

I start by selecting the kind of story I want to tell:
  • a Novel - Chapters
  • a Stageplay - 2 to 5 acts & scenes
  • a Screenplay - Sequences, scenes & plot points
  • a TV show - 5 to 7 acts & scenes
  • a Mythical story - 12 story creation steps

I chose to make it a Screenplay in which the story follows an interesting main character (sometimes the protagonist) with whom the audience identifies themselves, seeking a clear goal by addressing an ever-escalting set of difficulties.

========================= PREMISE ======================

First, the premise is to be written. The premise of a film or screenplay is the fundamental concept that drives the plot. A good premise can usually be expressed very simply, and many films can be identified simply from a short sentence describing the premise. The uniqueness or compelling nature of a film story's premise is often a key element in selling it, especially during the initial pitch.

A story which has an easily understood, compelling premise is said to be high-concept, whereas one whose premise is not easy to describe, or relatively small-scale or mundane, is said to be low-concept. A low-concept story is highly execution-dependent because the commercial viability of the project will depend largely on the quality of the creative endeavors of those involved, whereas a high-concept story may still pull in audiences even if the script is flawed, the acting wooden and the direction directionless. (source: Wikipedia)

As an attempt:

"What Sunday means to me" is a documentary about a man, his rest and a typical Sunday.

To put more flesh on the bones of this meagre statement I delved into a Story telling theory, called Dramatica. Read the review by the IdeasFactory.

Most of the 'wisdom' following can be read in a wonderful Comic book format which you can get from Dramatica.

Click to enlarge: Comic Book "The Secret of Great Stories

I start out with the StoryMind

This is the idea that a complete story is the model of a single mind at work finding the solution to a single problem.
Your story's Characters, Plot, Theme, and Genre are like the thoughts coming out of this mind as it works.

Click to enlarge: Four Throughlines

The Story Structure is provided by the Four Throughlines (i.e. perspectives):
1) The Overall Story
2) The Main Character
3) The Impact Character
4) The Main versus The Impact Story
which you find in any story. The Storymind explores these in looking for the problem at its center.

Ad 1) The Overall Story view sees the entire story from a distance, but is not really involved.

Ad 2) The Main Character view is the first person, 'I' perspective. Through him/her we experience how it feels to go through the story, as if we were the main character.

Ad 3) The Impact Character has the strongest personal impact on the Main Character, forcing the Main Character to face his personal problems and making him/her question his/her deepest beliefs.

Ad 4) The Impact Character's Impact on the Main Character creates an argument between them; the Main vs. Impact Story. This relationship between the Main Character and the Impact Character is the Emotional Heart of your story. These two argue about some personal issue until one of them changes at the end.

NOTE: The Main Character is not per se the Protagonist (or hero); The Protagonist is an overall story character seen by its function in the overall story, instead we deal emotionally with the Main Character through who's eyes we see.

NOTE: The Impact Character is not per se the Antagonist (or opponent); The Antagonist is an overall story character seen by its function in the overall story, instead we deal emotionally with the Impact Character.

A missing Impact Character can hamstring a story's emotional involvement.

PHASE ONE - STORYFORMING: creating the blueprint for your story's throughlines, character, plot, and theme.

A] Setting-up the Main Character
  • Question 1: Main Character Resolve - "Will your Main Character ultimately CHANGE (e.g. Ebeneezer Scrooge) or remain STEADFAST (e.g. James Bond, who forces his Impact Character to change)?" Our Main Character will remain STEADFAST, he basically wants his rest... particularly on Sunday.

  • Question 2: Main Character Growth - "Will your Main Character ultimately START (e.g. Ebeneezer Scrooge's starts giving) or STOP (e.g. Schindler stops working for the Nazis)?" A "CHANGE" character will GROW either by STARTING a new characteristic or STOPPING an old one. "STEADFAST" characters will either be holding out for something to START or holding out for something to STOP. The point is to clarify whether the Main Character's problem is because of what is there that shouldn't be, or because of what is missing. Our Main Character is holding out for something to STOP, his problem is the noise that shouldn't be there, hindering him from having a rest.

  • Question 3: Main Character Approach - "Will your Main Character be a DO-er, solving problems externally (e.g. Dirty Harry kicks ass) or a BE-er, solving problems internally (e.g. Mahatma Gandhi, not necessarily passive)?" As showcased from the hitting of the Alarm Clock our Main Character definitely is a DO-er, silencing the noise by use of physical force.

  • Question 4: Main Character Problem Solving Style - "What kind of Problem Solving Style does your Main Character use: logical or Intuitive? As it affects how he or she perceives or decides anything. LOGICAL style sees problems in terms of cause-and-effect, seeking linear explanations (often found by Males). INTUITIVE style sees problems in terms of the relationships involved, how they balance as a whole - holistic (often found by Females).Since it doesn't show from the outset and our Main Character is a Man he is likely to use the LOGICAL problem solving style. Note: Logical style need holistic style to see the big picture. Holistic style needs logical style to follow the steps leading to the conclusion.

  • B] Setting-up the Plot
  • Question 5: Story Driver - "Which comes first in your Story: Actions or Decisions?" The choice of Story Driver sets up the opening incident. As the Alarm is (the result of) an action, that keeps the Main Character from resting, our story is ACTION driven.

  • Question 6: Story Limit - "What will raise tension and bring your story to an end: a Time lock (e.g. only 5 seconds left) or an Option lock (e.g. only one suspect left)" Since our Main Character seeks to find rest on Sunday, the last day out of seven, our story has an OPTION-LOCK. TIP: We have to make clear at the beginning of the story that there are only seven days and Sunday is expected to be the ultimate day. Also show which day we are at as the story heads towards the end.

  • Question 7: Story Outcome - "Do the characters achieve the common goal they set out for, or not: Success if yes or Failure if no?" FAILURE, even on a Sunday the Main Character does not get to rest.

  • Question 8: Story Judgement - "Does your Main Character resolve his or her personal problems or not: Good if yes, Bad if no?" Story Outcome and Judgement combine to create four kinds of endings: Tragedies [Failure & Bad], Personal tragedies [Success & Bad], Personal triumphs [Failure & Good], or Triumphs [Success & Good]. Concluding from this we are writing a Tragedy, whereas the story judgement is BAD.

  • C] Setting-up the Overall Story Throughline
  • Question 9: Overall Story Throughline "Which kind of problem brings your overall characters together: a Situation, an Activity, a Manipulation, or a Fixed Attitude?" - I guess the ACTIVITY of our characters finding rest on Sunday.

  • Question 10: Overall Story Concern - "What is most important to the characters in your story: (for Activity that is) internal such as Understanding or Doing, or it may be external such as Obtaining or Gathering Information.?" OBTAINING rest it is for them.

  • Question 11: Main vs Impact Story Thematic Issue - What is your story trying to say: (for Manipulation that is) Rationalization, Responsibility, Commitment, or Obligation? The thematic focus of our main vs. impact story explores the meaning of COMMITMENT; while the Main Character commits to resting, he neglects Sunday as a day of worship. Choosing the Issue tells an audience by what standard the author intends them to evaluate what they experience in the story. TIP: Show examples of what Sunday means to 'others', such as to worship.

  • Question 12: Main Character Problem - "Which personal issue is causing him or her problems and driving him or her to solve them?: Uncontrolled or Hinder" Our Main Character's problem is HINDER, he cannot find rest. When we look at the Main Character's Problem, we are really looking at the inequity of the story at large as it is reflected in the Main Character.

  • After creating two characters for the story:

    - Main Character, called "Rusty" - a Sculptor, desperate for resting on Sunday.

    - Impact Character, called "Waky Waky" - a Spirit, keeping Rusty from resting.

    the traits of the story "What Sunday means to.. Rusty" are summarized in underneath table:

    Story ElementThroughlineConcernCatalystUnique AbilityIssueCritical FlawInhibitorBenchmark
    Overall StoryActivityObtaining; GoalMorality-Self Interest-PreconceptionDoing; Requirements
    Main Character
    "Rusty", Sculptor
    SituationThe Future; Dividends-ChoicePreconceptionAttitude-How Things are Changing; Forewarning
    Impact Character
    "Waky Waky", Spirit
    Fixed AttitudeInnermost Desires; Cost-DreamDenialObligation-Impulsive Responses; Preconditions
    Main vs Impact StoryManipulationChanging One's Nature; ConsequenceResponsibility-Commitment-DenialPlaying a Role; Prerequisites

    PHASE TWO - ILLUSTRATING: symbolizing your storyform gets you to fully know your story.

      A] Illustrating Plot

      B] Illustrating Character

      C] Illustrating Theme

      D] Illustrating Genre

    PHASE THREE - STORYWEAVING: deciding how to present this story to an audience.

      A] Creating scenes

      B] Selecting emphasis


    Saturday, April 15, 2006

    Blog Useability


    The Blog has new usability features incorporated as per today.

    On your left hand side you will see an up-to-date CALENDAR of my whereabouts, that synchronizes with my off-line planning program (iCal).

    Also, below each blog section you are now invited to PRINT these blog sections, either per section or the whole page.

    So, you can read on whilst shutting down you computer en crawling onto the couch, the water closet, or you delightful bed.


    Friday, April 14, 2006

    Scene Managers - Steve and Eddie

    OGRE is the brainchild of Steve Streeting, instigator and self-styled "benign dictator of the project.

    Steve Streeting is a software developer / manager based on a little rock called Guernsey, an island off the coast of France - a very nice place to live, if a little small and expensive. Despite its location the island is a British crown dependency, although it is politically and economically separate, meaning it is not part of the European Union or the UK, technically.

    OGRE does not assume the type of game or demo you want to make. It uses a flexible class hierarchy that allows you to design plug-ins to specialize the scene organization approach you take. (A
    is an abstract representation of what is shown in a virtual world.) This enables you to make any kind of game you want—from flight simulator to first-person shooter to 2.5D combat.

    • Scenes may consist of static geometry (such as terrain or building interiors), models (such as trees, chairs, or monsters), light sources that illuminate the scene, and cameras that view the scene.

    • Scenes can have quite different types. An interior scene might be made up of hallways and rooms populated by furniture and artwork. An exterior scene might consist of a terrain of rolling hills, trees, grass waving in the breeze, and a blue sky with moving clouds.

    OGRE provides a set of scene managers, each of which is customized to best support a certain kind of scene.

    For example, the Binary Space Partition (BSP) Scene Manager handles Quake-type level maps for a first-person shooter type of scene, and the Terrain Scene Manager provides vertex program-based morphing between Levels of Detail and fast high-resolution terrain rendering, which could be used for a flight simulator.

    Of course, you can easily transition between any two scene managers to allow a character to move from a realistic outdoor setting into an underground dungeon, for example (see Figure 1).

    Figure 1. The view from the lush, animated adventure game Ankh.

    Courtesy Victor Volkman

    Ogre3D on Mac OS X is explained at


    In order to build a game, one needs a visual development window to move elements around. Such a Graphical User Interface (GUI) for Ogre3D is CEGUI.

    Crazy Eddie GUI was started by Paul Turner ("CrazyEddie") about two years ago and is currently in it's second major revision, "Mk2". The project supports windows, linux and MacOS.

    The library is object orientated, written in C++, and targeted at games developers who should be spending their time creating great games, not building GUI sub-systems!



    With the Rendering Engine (OGRE) and the Graphical User Interface (CEGUI) we move onto the Game environment; WorldForge.


    WorldForge's mission is to produce the necessary tools and technologies that will allow the creation of graphically rich games of cooperation and socialization. We strive to blur the distinction between player and maker, and wish to establish a positive community environment for current and future free game developers.

    Visit their NewBie Guide, it's Fun!:

    "Welcome to the idealistic world of Free Software computer game developement! Please leave all excess baggage at the front desk and proceed directly to any one of the fine lecture halls before you. If you're the impatient sort you may wish to skip ahead to the next page. If you are like me however, and like a good story you'll want to grab a soft drink and settle in your most comfortable chair whilst I spin a tale about what happens when people dare to dream."

    Thursday, April 13, 2006

    Kids and Tricks

    Tornaldo (alias myself) and the Kids from FunCare4Kids seemed to get along very well in the One Day Magic Workshop (see FunCare4Kids) arranged by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Management Class 27.

    Click to really enlarge: Kids and Tricks (Tornaldo in the suit, bottom right)

    Thank you Hans Zijlstra and friends!

    Wednesday, April 12, 2006

    Shooting Stars

    I'd like to introduce you to one of my favorite graphic artists in computer generated art;
    Greg Martin, whose work is extremely precise and realistic.

    Greg Martin says: "My goal is to raise the bar for aspiring celestial artists everywhere by making the basic techniques to create realistic spatial elements available for all interested... It is up to the artist, however, to develop their own skill-set and create truly dynamic compositions. Be forewarned... simple "planet and star" pieces are rapidly becoming the height of cliché... the challenge is out for YOU to break the mold and create the next unique and truly inspiring work of celestial art."

    There is more art available for viewing, or purchase at Greg Martin's beautifully designed website at Art of Greg Martin. When there, I looked for the great tutorials for making realistic planets and star fields.

    And following his precise instructions I managed to get the following images 'painted' with Photoshop, which will serve as footage for our DareToBeDigital: SPACEPORT Game.

    .. following ...

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    Game Requirements

    Game development is as complex an activity as general software development.

    Many disciplined software organizations collect a focused set of metrics on their projects. These metrics provide insight into the size of the product, the effort and time the project or individual tasks consume, and the product’s quality.

    Building a game from scratch needs a project approach to be manageable.

    Since requirements are an essential project component, you should measure several aspects of your requirements development and management activities to help you judge product size and project status.

    Here (Measuring Requirements Management) I found some tips on how to do that.

    Functional Requirements

    Although you might represent requirements using a mix of use cases, business rules, event tables, functional requirements, and analysis models, you primarily implement functional requirements. So begin your measurement effort by simply counting the individual functional requirements that are allocated to a product release. Knowing how many requirements are supposed to go into your product will help you judge when it’s done.


    1. Functional reqno.1
    2. Functional reqno.2
    3. Functional reqno.3
    4. Functional reqno.4
    n. Functional reqno.n

    Of course, not all functional requirements are the same size or consume the same implementation or testing effort. A requirement that says “A valid color code shall be ‘G’ for green” is tiny compared to “The system shall respond to editing directives entered by voice” (both real examples). So, if you’re going to count functional requirements as an indicator of system size, your analysts will need to write them at a consistent granularity level.

    One guideline is to decompose high-level requirements until the underlying “child requirements” are all individually testable. That is, a few logically related tests can verify whether a requirement was correctly implemented. Then count the total number of child requirements because those are what you’ll implement.


    1. Functional reqno.1
    • Testable functional reqno. 1a
      Testable functional reqno. 1b
    2. Functional reqno.2
    • Testable functional reqno. 2a
    3. Functional reqno.3
    • Testable functional reqno. 3a
      Testable functional reqno. 3b
      Testable functional reqno. 3c
    n. Functional reqno.n
    • Testable functional reqno. na
      Testable functional reqno. nb

    Total: 8 testable functional requirements

    To monitor overall project status, track the status of each requirement. This can help you avoid the pervasive “90 percent done” problem of software project tracking. Each requirement will have one of the following statuses at any time:

    - [p]roposed (someone suggested it)
    - [a]pproved (it was allocated to a baseline)
    - [i]mplemented (the code was designed, written, and tested)
    - [v]erified (the requirement passed its tests after integration into the product)
    - [d]eleted (you decided not to include it after all)
    - de[f]erred (it has been open for too long)
    - [r]ejected (the idea was never approved)

    When you ask a team member how she is coming along, she can say something like, “Of the eighty-seven requirements allocated to this subsystem, sixty-one of them are verified, nine are implemented but not verified, and seventeen aren’t yet completely implemented.” If I were a project manager, I’d feel like we had a good handle on the size of that subsystem and how close we were to completion.

    Underneath flowchart shows the relationship between statuses.

    Requirements Management

    A body of work is done when all of the allocated requirements have a status of verified or deleted.

    Because so much of requirements management is change management, track the status of your change requests. How many of them are open and how many closed? How many requests were approved and how many rejected? How much effort did you spend implementing each approved change? How long have the requests been open? Change requests that remain unresolved for a long time suggest that your change management process isn’t working effectively.

    If you can convert some open requests to “deferred,” and convert long-term deferred requests to “rejected,” you can focus on the most important and most urgent items in the change backlog.


    Monday, April 10, 2006


    OGRE (Object-oriented Graphics Rendering Engine)

    To all GAME GEEKS who would like to follow my development for our DareToBeDigital: SPACEPORT Game.

    To run a Game, one needs an Engine. Just like a Driver needs a Car ;o)
    Our team has decided on using OGRE 3D, a free available Games Engine.

    OGRE = An efficient, object-oriented hardware accelerated 3D engine. It abstracts the differences between APIs and platforms and allows scene-oriented coding through an easy to use object model. Adaptable to multiple scene types (indoor, outdoor, whatever).

    see also

    It is a basic set of software Objects as depicted below:

    See also

    Designing our Game
    source Designing Video Games for Dummies

    A game is more than the sum of its pieces; a game has a synergy that, after the game is complete, makes it something unique. Creating this synergy takes a lot of technical know-how, as well as a sense of design and art. Basically, you need to be a Leonardo da Vinci and an Albert Einstein all in one.

    As a game designer, the paramount rule you must obey is to make sure that the core experience is appealing before you worry about the story. If story is your only concern, write a book.

    Alex Garden, Relic Entertainment

    The basic sequence of game design is as follows:

    • Come up with an idea for a game.
    • Create storyboards and rough sketches of your game world, the main characters, and the action.
    • List the details of your game and take into consideration everything about the game "universe."
    • Finally, put these concepts all together into a design document, something like a movie script that contains everything about your game.

    Ad Idea

  • Before you write a game, you need an idea — a story, something to start with. Brainstorm and come up with an idea for a game; the idea should be loosely based on something that has at least a fleeting resemblance to a story. Then you need to come up with the goals of the game. Ask yourself questions such as "What will the player do?" and "How will the player do it?". This is what we have come up with:

      SPACEPORT is an exciting new hybrid simulation game, driven by people as much as profit.
      You can select your staff and choose your style of spaceport, then begin a new life orbiting the Earth where success relies on co-operation in this story-driven game.

      You walk around inside, interacting with your crew and guests, and watch through internal and external CCTV. You extend your spaceport as your community grows.

      You trade staff and parts online. You contend against a variety of antagonistic sources, including wily business competitors, disgruntled staff, fluctuating market reports and opinion-swaying radio news, in order to ensure financial and social survival.

      Let me try and design a logo for the Game next... font and style are essential:

      I will use a Globe as the centre of the 'O' of the word PORT. I'd like to stress the fact that you can build extensions onto your spaceport, therefore a 'stitched-together' imagery in the shape of a ball should be preferable. Something like this image:

      Logo visual - starting point

      This concept allows for wonderful animations, like exploding into particles, or spinning... or this!

      Glowing Planet - how to at Photoshop tutorial

      Now complemented with the word in font 'AppleMyungjo regular 400pt':

      SPACEPORT logo

  • Ad Storyboard

      following soon

    Ad Universe

      following soon

    Ad Design Document

      following soon

    Sunday, April 09, 2006

    Comic Maker

    OK, so you don't like making storyboards. Because it is such a hassle to draw images nobody will ever look at besides the film director and his/her crew.

    Well why not try and achieve something similar, like a comic.

    comic = "funny stories that make everybody laugh"

    Now you can with Futurama's COMIC MAKER, just press PLAY.


    Below is my first comic, made with this online application.


    Friday, April 07, 2006

    More Dare

    Some headlines news on (my participation in) DareToBeDigital:

    ----- from Interactive Tayside News

    Dare to be Digital has launched a brand new website giving details of the contest and information about past winners and entrants -

    Jackie McKenzie, Abertay University's project manager for Dare to be Digital, said: "There are now more reasons than ever for teams to get together and enter Dare. The track record of previous participants shows how very highly regarded it is within the computer games industry.

    "The ethos that runs throughout Dare is a winning formula: students start the competition with ideas and enthusiasm and come out of the competition confident and highly skilled with sought after experience under their belt.

    "On top of that we have fantastic facilities and support available, and an unrivalled chance to make new friends and contacts within the industry, earn some money for working on your own ideas and maybe even win substantial prizes."

    Dare to be Digital 2006 is funded by Abertay University and Dundee City Council, and sponsored by NCR, BBC Scotland, Belfast City Council, The Digital Hub, NESTA and the Scottish Executive.


    Our team and like-named Game Concept SPACEPORT is comprised of:

    - David Sage: Team Lead
    - Nicolas Koumentakis: Sound Designer
    - Peter Bloomfield: Games Programmer
    - Mark Burns: Games Programmer
    - Willem van Heemstra: 2D/3D Graphics Modeller & Designer

    Game Description

    Spaceport: an exciting new hybrid simulation game, driven by people as much as profit.

    Select your staff and choose your style of spaceport, then begin a new life orbiting the Earth where success relies on co-operation in this story-driven game.

    Walk around inside, interacting with your crew and guests, and watch through internal and external CCTV. Extend your spaceport as your community grows.

    Trade staff and parts online. Contend against a variety of antagonistic sources, including wily business competitors, disgruntled staff, fluctuating market reports and opinion-swaying radio news, in order to ensure financial and social survival.

    Why are you applying?

    Dare to be Digital is a unique opportunity and one that we all seek to get the most out of. Being selected to take part would give this team an unmissable chance to showcase our abilities and focus solely on what we want: to succeed in the games industry.

    The nature of this project, in terms of timescale and finance, would enable us to produce our best work without any distraction, something we are all clamouring to do. Over and above this we are excited about the industry support available, having all benefited from this in more theoretical terms at university.

    As a group we look forward to continuing to work as a team which, so far, has brought together five disparate individuals to work towards a shared goal. Whilst we have this goal, along with mutual ambition in common, we all have very different backgrounds and have already benefited from our different perspectives on the project.

    Ultimately, we see Dare to be Digital as a fantastic opportunity to prove, both to ourselves and prospective employers, our abilities by producing a marketable prototype demo of Spaceport.


    Dare2BDigital starts 12th of June 2006 and is held 10 weeks in Dundee.

    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    Workshop of a Magician

    With only one more day to go before the FunCare4Kids event in The Netherlands, where I will show my Magic Tricks to ca. 250 kids, I have prepared most of the give-away materials today.

    See also What is FunCare4Kids [in Dutch].

    In four workshops of half an hour each, 20 children - of whom a relative is suffering from cancer - are abouts to make a Magic Tophat, and learn several Magic Tricks... after they have eaten the Magic Cookie of Self-confidence.

    One of the Magic Tricks is the Hanky (read: Magic Handkerchief) that frees itself from being tied to the Rope.

    80 meters of rope
    1 pair of scissors
    2 roles of black tape
    12 meters of red textiles cut to 40 cm x 40 cm
    1 pack of rice
    1/2 liter of water
    1 cooking pan
    electric heating

    First, the 80 meters of rope had to be taped every one meter along the rope.

    Click to enlarge: Rope

    Click to enlarge: Tape around the rope

    Click to enlarge: Rope cut through tape, thus leaving 80 one meter ropes with fixed endings

    Next, the 80 hankies had luckily already been cut to the right size of 40 cm x 40 cm by the Edinburgh Textiles Shop.

    Click to enlarge: Red Magic Hankies

    NOTE: I have boiled water, cooked the rice at its boiling point and drained the water after 8 minutes. The rice leaves a sticky substance that I have run alongside of the Hankies, to stop the threads from coming off. A trick I learned at the Textiles Shop ;o)

    And this is what the knotted Hanky looks like ... just before the Magic Spell that sets it free!

    Click to enlarge: Knotted

    In addition to the ropes and handkerchiefs, we will make silver thimbles disappear...

    80 Silver Vanishing Thimbles

    .. and to cast the Magic Spell we'll need our Wands or Giggle Sticks !

    But the best fun will be of course making your own Magic Tophat... and eating your Cookie of Self-confidence ;o)

    The performance of the Tricks is at the event on Saturday 8th of April in the Aviodome (Lelystad, The Netherlands) as Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) Management Class 27 is a sponsor. See and

    ...inside of a real Jumbo 747 airplane....!!!

    Monday, April 03, 2006

    Playing Well

    LEGO... have you played with it?

    Though LEGO make toys, they are not just a toy company. Though they are famous for their product, they are defined by their philosophy.

    The world Lego comes from the Danish 'leg godt' which means 'playing well'. It also means 'I put together' in Latin.

    It is both our name and our nature. "We believe that play is the essential ingredient in a child's growth and development. It grows the human spirit. It encourages imagination, conceptual thinking and creation."

    Well, that said I think we should give LEGO a try and start modeling them into our virtual world ;o)

    To do so I have downloaded a software package called LDGLite at

    LDraw™ is an open standard for LEGO CAD programs that allow the user to create virtual LEGO models and scenes.

    You can use it to document models you have physically built, create building instructions just like LEGO, render 3D photo realistic images of your virtual models and even make animations. The possibilities are endless.

    Unlike real LEGO bricks where you are limited by the number of parts and colors, in LDraw nothing is impossible.

    This is what a first import of an LDRAW file looks like in LDGLite (for Mac OS X in this case).

    Click to enlarge: LDRAW of LEGO

    The LDRAW file is actually a simple set of instructions that looks like this.

    0 Untitled
    0 Name: mini.dat
    0 Author: CJMasi
    0 Unofficial Model
    0 ROTATION CENTER 0 0 0 1 "Custom"
    1 4 10 0 10 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 2420.DAT
    1 4 -10 0 10 0 0 -1 0 1 0 1 0 0 2420.DAT
    1 4 -10 0 -10 -1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1 2420.DAT
    1 4 10 0 -10 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1 0 0 2420.DAT
    0 STEP
    1 4 -30 -8 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1 0 0 3023.DAT
    1 4 30 -8 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1 0 0 3023.DAT
    1 0 0 -8 -40 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 122C01.DAT
    1 0 0 -8 40 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 122C01.DAT
    1 0 30 -2 -40 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1 0 0 3641.DAT
    1 0 30 -2 40 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1 0 0 3641.DAT
    1 0 -30 -2 40 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1 0 0 3641.DAT
    1 0 -30 -2 -40 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1 0 0 3641.DAT
    0 STEP
    1 0 0 -16 40 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1 0 0 3022.DAT
    1 0 0 -16 -50 -1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1 3023.DAT
    1 14 0 -16 -30 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 3829.DAT
    0 STEP
    1 4 -10 -32 -50 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 6091.DAT
    1 4 10 -32 -50 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 6091.DAT
    1 4 -30 -32 0 0 0 -1 0 1 0 1 0 0 4865.DAT
    1 4 30 -32 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 -1 0 0 4865.DAT
    1 0 0 -24 30 -1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1 3023.DAT
    1 4 0 -24 50 -1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1 2436.DAT
    0 STEP
    1 0 0 0 -70 -1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1 3710.DAT
    1 4 -30 -32 -50 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 2420.DAT
    1 4 30 -32 -50 0 0 -1 0 1 0 1 0 0 2420.DAT
    1 4 0 -32 40 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 3020.DAT
    0 STEP
    1 4 -30 -24 -70 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 4070.DAT
    1 4 30 -24 -70 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 4070.DAT
    0 STEP
    1 47 30 -14 -84 1 0 0 0 0 -1 0 1 0 4073.DAT
    1 47 -30 -14 -84 1 0 0 0 0 -1 0 1 0 4073.DAT
    1 47 0 -80 -30 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 3823.DAT
    1 47 0 -80 30 -1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1 3823.DAT
    1 4 30 -32 -70 -1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1 3070.DAT
    1 4 -30 -32 -70 -1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1 3070.DAT
    0 STEP
    1 15 0 -88 20 -1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1 4213.DAT
    1 15 0 -88 -30 -1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -1 4315.DAT

    What can be (hardly) seen at the bottom of the previous screen-print in grey text is that the image is building up in STEPs, adding more LEGO parts to the model incrementally.

    The .DAT files come standard when installing the software and the numbers give meaning to the selected LEGO pieces, like color size, etc.

    For example, 3023.DAT contains the information for a plate of 1 x 2 knobs:

    0 Plate  1 x  2
    0 Name: 3023.dat
    0 Author: James Jessiman
    0 Original LDraw Part
    0 LDRAW_ORG Part UPDATE 2002-03


    0 2002-05-07 KJM BFC Certification

    1 16 0 4 0 1 0 0 0 -1 0 0 0 1 stud3.dat

    1 16 0 8 0 16 0 0 0 -4 0 0 0 6 box5.dat

    4 16 20 8 10 16 8 6 -16 8 6 -20 8 10
    4 16 -20 8 10 -16 8 6 -16 8 -6 -20 8 -10
    4 16 -20 8 -10 -16 8 -6 16 8 -6 20 8 -10
    4 16 20 8 -10 16 8 -6 16 8 6 20 8 10

    1 16 0 8 0 20 0 0 0 -8 0 0 0 10 box5.dat

    1 16 10 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 stud.dat
    1 16 -10 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 stud.dat

    NOTE: James Jessiman is the founder of LDRAW.

    The website of has a whole collection of drawn LEGO parts (some of which never exist in the real world) such as this one:

    3068bp60.dat - Tile 2 x 2 with Shell Logo Pattern
    3068bp60 (uncoloured) [DAT]

    SHELL tile in LDRAW

    These are thus adjustable, opening up the World of LEGO!

    A few more STEPs through the images shows the complete mini car.

    Mini car in LEGO... actually in LDRAW.

    Now... let's see if we could look at the car from different angles!

    .. to be continued

    SIDE NOTE: As we can see LEGO has been seriously / funfully applied for storyboarding films! Such as JAWS - the shark - by Steven Spielberg. LEGO released a Steven Spielberg Moviemaker Set in 2001. The set includes 433 LEGO pieces, a PC movie camera, editing software, a director's handbook, backdrops, and a user-friendly tutorial. While other LEGO sets are not necessary to the gainful use of this package, they could add substantially to the production aspect of a Moviemaker Set project. [no longer available]

    Steven Spielberg Moviemaker Set

    And here is a wonderful storyboard of JAWS in LEGO:

    SHARK ATTACK Animation
    Quicktime movie - 150K

    Sunday, April 02, 2006

    Living in Virtual Space

    This time round I will attempt to open up a whole new world to you.
    A world known as Virtual Space.

    As I mentioned in a previous weblog entry, Machinima is filming in Virtual Space (see Machinima).

    To find out what Virtual Space is we will be travelling there, or actually creating it ourselves!

    To do so I have downloaded a software package called Art of Illusion.

    Art of Illusion - 3D modelling, animating and rendering software

    = free download and installation, Windows and Mac compatible =

    After installation, the first thing I have done is create a shape on the FRONT view of the canvas (shown in grey).

    Grey shape in FRONT view of the canvas

    Notice that in the left-hand side of the programs interface I have chosen a 'cube'-like shape. Other shapes are available too, such as a 'ball' or a 'cylinder'.

    Another thing worth mentioning is the image of a camera in the middle of the canvas (i.e. grid area). The '100' value in the right-hand top means that the zoom of the camera is at 100%, the default.

    Lets crack on with a TOP view of the canvas.

    Grey shape in TOP view of the canvas

    Here you will notice two more pieces of information.

    Time: set to 0.0
    Frame: set to 0

    These values indicate that we are at the start of a possible animation through time and space (i.e. frame).

    So, welcome.... you have now been transported to our first Virtual Space !


    Next, I have added four 'cylinders', that will change our freshly made model into an hourglass, as you can see from the FRONT view.

    4 pillars from cylinder shapes in FRONT view of the canvas

    If I turn the scene's display mode to a wireframe (showing only the contours) and we perceive the model from the Camera point-of-view, the hourglass is much more recognizable.

    Hourglass in wireframe display mode from Camera perspective


    An hourglass is not much good without a glass. Therefore, I have added an approximating curve to the model.
    To work more secure this time, the grid is at a lower interval and I have zoomed in to 200%.

    Approximating curve that defines the contour of the upcoming glass.

    The tools menu have an option called 'lathe' which turns the line into a 3D object, centered around its y-axis.

    Curve changed to lathed object.


    Next we should illuminate the scene. Art of Illusion supports three types of light sources: point lights, directional lights and spot lights. We'll use the simplest of them, the point light to correctly illuminate the scene. Since the camera only picks up an object when light shines on it, the light source and the camera have to be at the same side of the hourglass. To find the camera I have zoomed out to 30% in FRONT view of the canvas.

    Camera found, its the one on the right-hand side in the FRONT view with the red markers.

    Placing the light source on the canvas and setting the following parameters from the Object -> Object Layout menu to it:

    - The default Intensity value 1.0 is a bit high, resulting in picture that looks like the camera was blinded by the light. Changed the intensity value to 0.8.

    - Set the Decay Rate to zero. This value determines how fast light intensity decays over distance. In reality, light intensity decay is related to the squared distance. The default Decay Rate would result in a very dark image.

    Light source added, as indicated by the red markers


    We have lived long enough in a 'wire-framed' virtual space, it's time we enhance the model to a real feel through rendering.

    Our hourglass after rendering (i.e. instructing the computer to make images of the space) from the Scene -> Render Scene menu.

    NOTICE: The angle in which we see the rendered hourglass is due to the Camera looking from an angle. And not from the FRONT as we have seen the hourglass in previous images.

    Still, I find the model very dull.... just grey with no colors or textures ;o(



    Hence, we will texturize the wooden frame. The Scene -> Textures menu lets me define a new Wood texture.

    New Wood texture in the making

    3D procedural textures determine color, roughness, reflection and other surface properties as a function of 3D coordinates. For any position in space, the texture defines what a shape's surface looks like, as if we had cut the shape out of a solid block of this 'material'.

    Since Wood is formed from a pattern I select 'Wood' from the Insert -> Patterns menu.

    Wood Pattern selected

    Besides a pattern the hourglass wooden parts need a custom color, as can be selected from the Insert -> Color Functions menu.

    Custom Color Function selected

    Now, the power of software becomes visible when I connect the Wood Pattern box to the Custom Color Function box, which in turn is connected to the Diffuse color component. See, the little Preview window in the left-hand bottom corner reflects a Wood texture!

    As by magic, the texture of wood becomes visible

    Yahooo.... lets color our wood with a bit of yellow by double-clicking the Custom Color Function box!

    Custom Color Function set to varying shades of yellow, mimicking wood

    And preview how changing the Wood Pattern box properties has realized a wood 'feel'

    Wood pattern and color

    Time to return to the hourglass, to apply our newly created Wood texture to it!


    Selecting Object -> Set Texture for the Top and Bottom parts as well as the Pillars of the hourglass and choosing our newly created Wood has turned them into the following:

    Wood assigned to Top and Bottom parts of the Hourglass

    Wood assigned to the pillars of the Hourglass

    Which - when we select Scene -> Render Scene - leaves us with a wonderful wooden frame around the hourglass.

    Rendered result of wooden frame creation


    Almost finished... I left the most exciting bit to the end: Glass!

    To complete the model, next the glass part is to be turned into realistically-looking glass.

    First we'll create the glass texture (for transparency), and then the glass material (for reflections).


    In the Scene -> Textures' dialog, I create a new Uniform Texture called Glass. This texture makes the surface transparent, so the inside material will be visible, and it determines the amount of specular reflection.

    Glass texture in the making

    Transparency is controlled by both the Transparent Color and the Transparency value.

    The red, green and blue fraction of the transparent color determine how much of each color component remains when light passes through the surface. It is a filter color. White, the default color, means that light of any colors passes the surface. Black means no light passes.

    The transparency value determines the total fraction of the light that passes though. A value of 0.7 means that 70 percent of the light is let through the surface. This also means that the transparent component determines the color of the surface for 70 percent.

    The remaining 30 percent of color will be determined for 100 percent by reflection, so the Specular value will be set to 1.0.

    The surface's diffuse component does not affect the total color with these settings. We'll use the objects material to color the glass.


    In the Scene -> Materials' dialog, I create a new Uniform Material also called Glass.

    Glass material in the making

    The color of a material is affected by two parameters: Material (i.e. Emissive) Color and Transparent Color. Both colors parameters attenuate the color of the light as it passes through the material.

    Material color only affects the light that reaches the camera directly, it is the color that the object appears to have.

    Transparent Color affects all light passing though the object, and also colors the shadows cast by the object.

    The first color parameter is easier to use though because it species what color the object will look like. Transparent color however, specifies the fraction of red, green and blue that passes through. The rest of the light is reflected and determines the objects color.

    How much the light is attenuated is determined by the Density value. A value of zero results in no attenuation. For this glass material I specified a simple green material color that only shows on very massive objects.

    Lastly I have selected the lathed object (i.e. the glass of the hourglass) on the canvas set Object -> Set Texture to Glass and Object -> Set Material to Glass.

    That's it for the glass.



    In the Scene -> Render Scene' dialog, I chose Raytracer.

    Render settings for the model

    The raytracer casts 'rays of light' from the camera back to where they intersect objects. At this point on the object, rays are cast towards the light source to calculate lighting and find shadows. From objects with a specular reflection component or transparency, new rays are cast to find objects seen in reflections or though transparent material.

    Now rendering results in the following.

    Hourglass after rendering

    Quite a nice result, all be it with a transparent (i.e. white) background set in the render output settings we can be really pleased!

    End result of an hourglass created in virtual space

    ... took me about an hour ;o)

    (the original tutorial can be found at