Over the years I’ve been working to keep up with what’s hot in gaming. Even if it’s not a game I’m too excited about, I try to get an idea of what people dig about it. I struggle to find something that excites me not only on first impression, but also after 10 hours into it. My game of the year is undoubtedly Bloodborne for PlayStation 4, which singlehandedly sold the system for me, but it’s rare for me to find something that resonates with me so well.

For the most part I’ve been gravitating towards Nintendo’s games. These tend to be well designed and easy to jump in and jump out, without lengthy tutorials. You don’t have to put in heavy work to get some joy out of it. The multiplayer gameplay is also brings me back to Nintendo’s games, since it seems like the entire game industry outside of Nintendo has forgotten why game systems have multiple controllers. More often these days, I find myself gravitating towards older games.

My main game of the moment is Final Fantasy VII.

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These fun moments make me smile.

I played through this game when it released. I was 13 years old. After playing Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG, I was hooked on RPGs. I couldn’t get enough RPGs and this was by far my most anticipated game. And what do you know? It actually exceeded my expectations. I long considered this my favorite game of all time. This fact was definite until I played through Xenogears and Ico. Then, it became a toss-up. Over the years I’ve dabbled in emulated versions of FF7 but never replaying it more than the first 8 or so hours, which the first arc of the story within Midgar. It took me about 60 hours to beat it the first time, so it’s a relatively small chunk of the game. Continue Reading…

Unity GUI has a great drag and drop interface for calling public functions from your code when certain events are triggered. You can see this when using a UGUI Button script, it has an interface for calling your functions when the button is clicked. I was looking into a way to replicate this kind of drag and drop interface for my own projects and found that Unity has this functionality built in. There’s no need for custom UnityEditor scripts. I figured this out while digging through the source code for the Unity UI system.

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An Example of UGUI Button OnClick events

The beauty of having this drag and drop functionality is that it makes it easier to modify the logic of your project without having to dig into code to make changes. By partnering this with a set of specialized components, you can easily create a system for modifying aspects of your project without having to dig into code.

It’s actually quite easy to setup something like this for your own project. This is great for UI Events but also for game events (collecting items, level complete, etc.). To accomplish this all you need is to make use of the UnityEvent class. Just to be clear, these aren’t the same as the standard C# Event system.

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So you’re interested in VR development with the Samsung Gear VR. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to get a build up and running on the Gear VR with Unity. It can, however, be an exercise in patience to figure out the steps to get started. I did some UI development work at Oculus and got accustomed with some of the hoops you need to jump through. I decided to write this guide as an attempt to clarify some of the details.

Please don’t take this guide as the absolute truth. The tools are constantly changing so some stuff may have been correct at some point but wrong at the present. Also, in the future, some things will definitely change. This is only intended as a starting point, a primer. If anything’s wrong, please let me know. There’s a lot to learn!

The Hardware

Here’s a quick rundown of the hardware that you may need and what role they play in development.

Samsung Gear VR

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The Samsung Gear VR consumer edition

You probably already know this by now, but the Gear VR is a VR headset in which you plug a specific Samsung phone into and it becomes a standalone VR device. With hardware manufactured by Samsung, and software by Oculus, it was first introduced Fall of 2014 and a few models have been released since then.

There are 3 versions of the Gear VR:

  • First Innovator Edition: Compatible with the Samsung Note 4 phone.
  • Second Innovator Edition: Compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge phones.
  • Gear VR Consumer Edition: Compatible with the Samsung Note 5, the S6, the S6 edge and the S6 edge+ phones.

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Introducing…

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Raybeem! The first virtual reality concept from Sokay. It’s a step towards my longtime dream of creating a music visualizer. I spent countless hours gazing at the Milkdrop visualizer in Winamp back in the day. I had no clue how it worked – back when I just starting to dive in Flash ActionScript.

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Here’s my homie giving Raybeem a shot on the Samsung Gear VR.

My concept for Raybeem started with imagining how great it could be if you didn’t need another person to give you a personal lightshow if you were at a rave. And what if you could take all of that great visual and aural stimuli with you anywhere? What if you never had to leave your couch to experience a spectacular show?

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Above is a screen-capture of the playback controls. In the prototype, you can cycle through 5 embedded tracks. I tested using some of my favorite copyrighted tracks. I also got permission from the homies Eezir and Cryptic Circuitry to use their music in the final build. Each track has a different effect on the environment around you. Eventually I’d like the user to be able to load in their own library.

Here is a rough video demonstrating what it looks like on a 2D screen, from within Unity:

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While I was creating the Sokay Zine, I thought it was a good opportunity to highlight some artists in my life that were doing some great things. In my day to day I get so caught up with trying to use my creativity to simply make a product as quickly as possible. That makes it difficult to see outside of what’s directly in front of me. Seeing people maintain their imagination and use their creative abilities in refreshing ways continues to rejuvenate me during my own journeys.

For the first issue of the Zine we interviewed the homie, Gabriel Gaete (aka Gabotron). Check out it:

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Photo of Gabriel Gaete (aka Gabotron) by Stephanie Sparks

So from my perspective, you do art and animation. Music and storytelling. How would you describe what it is that you do?

I use art, animation, music and storytelling and fuse it all together to create work intended to convey, explain and communicate concepts, ideas and information. I create work for myself and for clients but it all stems from the same communicative standpoint, although the understandability of my projects can range from, “Aha! I get it!” to “What the hell did I just watch?” it all has some kind of message to convey. For my clients I have to be very clear in communicating certain information. For my personal projects I use more abstract means to communicate ideas and concepts that can be more vague and difficult to understand, but represent the weird stuff that goes on in my brain.

I also take visual notes, I started taking visual notes in my community college classes and I found it as an invaluable and powerful tool to retain information. From client work, to games conferences to personal work I’ve created many doodle filled notes that really help me in synthesizing information.

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Artwork by Gabotron

What are some sources of your inspiration?

I’m really inspired by brain science, culture, human interactions, different perspectives, experiential video games, the way music affects us, animals, plants and my cats. Continue Reading…

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!!!

We’ve gone and done it. We went backwards from the internet to print. Introducing… Sokay Zine!

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Download Issue #1 PDF at http://zine.sokay.net

Sokay Zine (zine as in magazine) is an idea that had been tumbling around in my head for a while. It’s a 20 page 4.5×4.5″ booklet. During the development of Donut Get! I was printing out a ton of flyers for our monthly LA Art Walk show, Sokay Play. To come up with the art for the flyers, I was digging through folders of old art work gathering dust on my hard drives. Looking through all of the unseen or unfinished assets got me thinking. There was a ton of stuff that I forgot we even made. I figured something should’ve been done with it.

When I was out on the streets hustling Donut Get! and Sokay, I made a buncha flyers, stickers and buttons. It felt good to be making physical stuff again. Reminded me of drawing on line paper in class back in the day. I’d seen people online making zines about things they’re fans of and I thought, “Why can’t I do something like this for Sokay?”

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A Sunsoft newsletter from Summer 1988

I remembered back in the 80s and 90s game companies often used quarterly print newsletters to reach their audiences and let them know more about their games coming out. Nintendo Power started out as one of these. This was another source of inspiration.

The making of our first game Thugjacker became the focus of the zine. We made Thugjacker before I had started blogging so it was a fresh topic to write about. To put it together, spent a ton of time digging up artwork, exporting frames of animation out of the game, looking at cut content and trying to piece together the story. It was a challenge to put it to words and be concise with it (unlike my blog posts).

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Example of a Japanese guide for Faxanadu (1987-ish)

My last blog post was a review of The Untold History of Japanese Developers. On the behind the scenes DVD I got glimpses of just how in depth the Japanese game world’s print industry was. You could find a thick strategy guide for just about any game you could imagine. Seeing how they laid out game levels in those books became inspiration for my “walkthrough” of the first stage of Thugjacker in the zine.

So after assembling the zine digitally, I had to print these things out. I had a short timeline since I was aiming to print about 100 for my trip to Bitsummit in Kyoto, Japan. So I opted to print them in my bedroom rather than look for a professional printer. For 2 weeks, I was swimming in CMYK. I learned a lot through trial and error but I’ve got a decent system for printing up batches when I get a chance. Up to now I believe I’ve printed about 160 copies but I’m always short. Hit me up if you’re interested in a copy! Still need to look into a printshop though!

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So take a look and let us know what you think.

This is not only a review, but my highest recommendation of what I believe to be the most comprehensive text written on the Japanese game industry in the 80’s and 90’s. At least in English! 😉 The book I’m talking about, as you might’ve guessed by now, is the following…

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The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers by John Szczepaniak available on Amazon.com

Yes, the title is a mouthful. The book itself has a lot of writing as well at over 500 pages, so I’ll try to keep this short. If you have an interest in knowing what the Japanese industry was like “way back when,” or you want to know the story behind some of the cherished and/or niche titles you grew up loving, this might be the only place for you to get a glimpse of that world. Continue Reading…

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I recently wrapped up a project I worked on for the fine crew at Wildlife. It was a web application involving compositing a user’s name and photo into a video in realtime, so I’m describing this as realtime compositing! My bad if this sounds misleading to ya! Read on if you’re interested in finding out what this is all about.

 

 The Spell Caster

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Created for the TV show, Witches of East End, the spell caster allows users to create a spell with their favorite character from the show. After the user logs in with their Facebook account, the application plays out like an interactive video. The user selects an ingredient to mix, their photo is added to the cauldron and stirred by the user, and finally presented with a potion bottle that displays their name on the bottle.

To create the illusion of the user’s photo and name being in the video we developed a sort of realtime compositing system. This isn’t too unbelievably different from something that you’ve probably seen in Flash before but that didn’t make it any less difficult. The goal was to make this seamless with the live action video and visual fx, also handled at Wildlife. With this project I got up close and personal with the quirks and limitations of HTML video — especially with regards to cross platform and cross browsers compatibility.

In Javascript, I developed a system that basically functions as a custom video player. It generates a playlist based on the user’s selection, with certain videos being tied to tracking data that’ll draw the user’s photo and name into the scene as a texture.

Here’s my explanation for how it all works.

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Hello ya’ll!

I’ve been neglecting this place. I haven’t even been announcing our games officially on the blog. (by the way, we stealthily released The Crazy Program on Android!)

For the past year or two I’ve been hacking away at HTML game demos on and off. Thinking about it, I never followed through and released something. For a time, I was thinking seriously about doing a Japanese styled mobile card game, similar to the now famous Puzzles & Dragons but I sort of hit a wall with my approach to using 3D with CSS. But that ended up just turning into a blog post outlining a CSS3 technique.

I decided to release this new project as early as possible and get something out the door, no matter how rough it was. Introducing…

RUSH-D (alpha)!

Play it at http://www.rush-d.com

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RUSH-D is a Sokay game series that never got quite off the ground. I started designing RUSH-D as a side-scrolling space shooter (SHMUP) fashioned after some of my favorite games — Einhander and UN Squadron. I created a simple Flash prototype while I was working on Thugjacker and in those days, that was enough to completely sidetrack me away from my main project.

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Here’s a screen shot of RUSH-D (aka Sokay Rush) prototype.

Since this was back in the day (around 2003), I thought I was clever planning to use pre-rendered 3D art to wow all of the Flash game audience. My expectations grew and I never got really far with the project outside of a few design docs and concept art. Continue Reading…

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Donut Get! running on Windows Phone 8

Earlier this year I jumped into Windows Phone 8 when I got a Nokia Lumia 920. I’d been using an iPhone 3G for about 4 years and was ready to move on to something a bit more… modern. While Windows Phone has its crappiness (you mean I can’t save image attachments from e-mails???), iOS had its fair share of crappiness early on as well (no copy & paste???).

It was great to have a new fancy phone but I had an empty place in my heart because I couldn’t play my Sokay Games on my phone… 🙁

Bless the gurus at Unity for bringing the Windows Phone 8 exporter to Unity 4, and for free as well!

A couple weeks ago I tested out the WP8 exporter by doing a quick port of Donut Get! I got it working within an hour. I still need to polish it for release, but it was surprising how little extra it required me to get it running. In this post I will cover some of the process and the gotchas I encountered along the way.

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