mmandel.com

animation, graphics, games, and other projects

Rock Obama lives on as MeowWalker

13th February 2010

I meant to post about this a couple months ago – Rock Obama never made it through Apple’s review process, but thanks to the very talented artist I met, Gabe Swarr, a revised version of the project has hit the App Store starring a lanky cat character with Michael Jackson’s stylings. The game is called MeowWalker, and actually seeks MJ tracks from your iPod to build the game’s soundtrack and has some great hand animated art + hilarious sound effects. Also not to be missed – the global Lick Leaderboard, where players can compete for the most time spent, uh, licking themselves :)

MeowWalker screenshot

The trailer is here:

You can download it from the App Store here

Posted in General | 143 Comments »

Harmonix!

18th May 2009

Just a quick note – I moved to Boston a few months ago to start work at Harmonix, the MTV-owned maker of my favorite music games.  We’re currently finishing up The Beatles: Rock Band, which will be out in September :)   I’m super excited to join the engineering team, working closely with artists to develop new tools and technologies.

harmonix logo

rock band logo

Posted in General | 94 Comments »

Rock Obama iPhone Game Details

7th February 2009

Here is a preview of the finished version of Rock Obama, a game I developed for the iPhone. The game puts you in control of Obama as he tries to gain popularity at a rally by spreading his message of change!

It has been rejected by Apple 3 times because it “contains content that ridicules public figures”.  While I believe its all in good fun, does anyone in the community have suggestions on how we can change the game so it isn’t objectionable to Apple?

See http://www.sadninja.com/ for more information on the game and the associated short comedy film.

Additional Screenshots:

Posted in General | 123 Comments »

Job Update + Project Details

29th January 2008

Got married in June of last year right before leaving Apple in Pittsburgh for Electronic Arts way out in LA! The last 6 months have been really exciting on the new project, which EA is doing with Steven Spielberg and lead by Doug Church, to be released on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Can’t say much about it yet, but I’m glad to return to animation technology, focusing on creating “digital actors” that express emotion through their performances. I’ll post more information when its available, but there are a couple vague details in these announcements: [link 1] [link 2] [link 3] [link 4]. EA’s CTO on the project:

“We believe the Spielberg game will set a new bar,” … “That team has the right goals and they’re going to try to get intensely game-oriented emotional experiences.”

We’ll see if we can live up to that :)

I also posted some details at my gameplay prototypes page on a little experiment from awhile back that explored playing a Guitar Hero-like game on a portable touchscreen device by modifying the open source FretsOnFire game. YouTube video of the results embedded below…

Posted in General | 279 Comments »

GLConsole library with source released

21st February 2007

I’m releasing a small C++ library with source code called GLConsole that was very useful in my old college game and research projects. It’s a simple “Quake-style” debugging console/shell you can overlay on your application to expose any program variables for tweaking separately from the code, print error or status information, and/or access custom commands. It also does the standard shell things like complete/partial tab completion with suggestions and history. More details including a demo and the source are available at its project page.

GLConsole Demo Shot

Posted in Code, Graphics | 92 Comments »

“Rhythm” Games and iPod Gaming Experiments

19th February 2007

About a year ago, I started thinking about what it would be like to play games using the iPod’s unique “clickwheel” interface. It seemed especially interesting because the Nintendo DS was proving unique game experiences were possible with a touch interface, along with games like Guitar Hero that were taking “rhythm games” mainstream. Apple must have thought it was a good idea too, because they started offering games in the iTunes store about 6 months later.

For my project, I modified a PC clone of the popular PSP rhythm/puzzle game Lumines to be controlled with the following trackpad, mimicking the iPod clickwheel in software:

Cirque touchpad with IPod Clickwheel image pasted in

The idea that you could play Lumines levels based around your own favorite songs was also something I wanted to explore. Microsoft later implemented this with their version of Lumines, featuring songs from artists like Madonna, now available in the XBox Live Arcade. There was a popular iPod commercial at the time featuring Eminem, so I also created a custom mod or “skin” using graphics from the commercial and looped sections of the audio from the song “Lose Yourself”. The current dropping piece could be moved left and right with counterclockwise/clockwise motion on the trackpad and rotated with pressure on the center “button”. The following is a video of my hacked up game composited within the iPod interface:

Most “rhythm” games work on the premise that the specific beats or melodies in a song statically determine when a player’s actions should occur, such as where to place your feet in DDR or the notes to play in Guitar Hero. However, it looks like there is lot of room for innovation in how players can inject their creativity into a game’s soundtrack. When thinking of how gameplay can change a game’s musical score, I’ve found that player actions usually fall into one of two categories:

1. Actions that Augment the music (as in Rez, where the player is remixing or composing new aspects of the music through gameplay)
2. Actions that Progress the music (as in Lumines or the upcoming SSX:Blur, where player achievements trigger progression in the musical score)

The second category is core to the Lumines game, which you can see in the video when big combos are scored, resulting in changes to the graphics and progression to the next looped section of the song. I experimented a bit with the first category by adding “DJ scratch” functionality, where scratch gestures on the trackpad triggered appropriate record scratching noises, which in theory would allow the player to add his/her own style to the song. It didn’t work too well in Lumines because the scratching motion would annoyingly cause the current dropping piece to move left and right, so I just ended up playing a random scratch noise when rotating the pieces.

It will be interesting to see how these ideas could be further developed into future iPod games. More details on this project (and hopefully other experiments) at my new gameplay prototypes project page.

Posted in Code, Games | 121 Comments »

CMU’s Spring Carnival: Magic Kingdom Monorail Racer project details…

24th April 2006

Carnegie Mellon University’s Spring Carnival was this past weekend. I’m always impressed with the quality of the booths made by the student organizations in such a short amount of time. Highlights this year were the Star Wars Death Star from Sigma Phi Epsilon and Arabian Nights from Kappa Delta Rho:

SigEp's Star Wars booth exterior KDR's Arabian Nights booth exterior

The games inside displayed some impressive engineering efforts such as Sig Ep’s “Force Pong” game, where you waved your hand over a screen to hit the virtual ball back at your opponent. KDR had a magic carpet ride where you leaned left and right on an actual carpet to control a virtual carpet through a 3D world projected on the wall. You can tell these things were a collaboration between students from a bunch of different disciplines.

This reminded me of the game project I worked with a few others for Phi Kappa Theta’s Magical Kingdom booth at Carnival in 2004 (my final year at CMU):

Magical Kingdom booth exterior

The Magic Kingdom Monorail Racer challenged the player to race a monorail car around the interior of the booth without running out of fuel. It was unique in that it combined a typical joystick controlled videogame with objects in the physical world – in this case a real RC car. Custom hardware circuits were developed to interface the PC game with the real world to accelerate the car, toggle lights in the booth in response to game events, and sense when the car crossed the finish line. I have posted more technical details, screenshots, and movies on Monorail Racer’s project page.

Below is a video and some pictures of the game in action:

guest player Monorail Racer game

Monorail Racer lost fuel tank

Posted in Code, Games, General | 266 Comments »

iWork ’06 Released

12th February 2006

I can finally relax (a bit) now that we shipped iWork ’06. Overall, I’m very pleased with this release, and glad to see that the product making progress in the market (reviews have been positive as well). My responsibilities were on the engineering efforts for the new real-time 3D charts feature. Below are some pictures from Steve Jobs’ recent keynote at Macworld where he was using the new charts :) I also included a picture from the iWork display on the expo floor.

 Photos Uncategorized 3D Slide
 Photos Uncategorized 3D Slide2
 Photos Uncategorized Watt Large
Iwork Macworld Expo
3d chart from Nintendo E3 2008 keynote

Update (4/5/08):
iWork ’08 shipped earlier this year and was my last project at Apple. I worked mostly on improvements to 3D Charts – resolution/hardware independent tile rendering allowing infinite zoom and high quality printing, improved materials selectable in new texture browser, integration with the new spreadsheet app Numbers, and lots of performance improvements under the hood. You can watch an Apple marketing video showing some of the new features here.

Posted in General, Graphics | 147 Comments »

Possible Nintendo Revolution(Wii)-like Gameplay?

6th February 2006

*Edit* – The Nintendo Revolution has been renamed the Nintendo Wii and was released in November of 2006

It occured to me after watching the Nintendo Revolution trailer that my old undergrad game project from 2002 used an interface very similar to Nintendo’s new controller concept. The *very* unfinished project was a simple 3rd-person action game with sword combat enabled through a controller that tracked your hand motions. The player had the following setup:

Left Hand
Right Hand
Nintendo 64 Controller

You would use the analog stick from the N64 controller to control the character’s movement while swinging your right arm with a closed fist to trigger the appropriate attack animations. Its not hard to see the similarities between this setup and Revolution “remote” coupled with the analog stick attachment:

Nintendo Wii Controller

You can download a video of my system in action here or watch below:

If you’re feeling lucky, you can download the rough demo of the system I released a few years back. It actually ended up being pretty intuitive having precise control of the characters movement via the analog stick, while feeling involved with the attacks through the motion of your other hand. You’ll probably notice the lag between the hand gestures and the character’s response – but with some proper tweaking, I think this kind of interface would be a nice change from what’s out there now. And you gotta wonder if this is the kind of gameplay a future Revolution Zelda title might use…

Posted in Games | 128 Comments »

New host, site design, and blog…

31st January 2006

dhtop.gif

After finally moving over to a good hosting service, I decided to get with the times and use some blogging software to make updating the site easier. You can still access my old homepage here, however, I will be tranferring most of the old content to this site shortly.

Posted in General | 194 Comments »