animation, graphics, games, and other projects

Gameplay Prototypes

This page is where I’ll post any game prototypes I work on. The idea is that I want to implement tiny little demos that illustrate an experimental gameplay mechanic I’m interested in.

Trackpad Hero: Guitar Hero Gameplay on a Portable Device – 11/8/2007

Several months ago, I started a project to explore gameplay mechanics for playing a Guitar Hero-like game on a portable touchscreen device. My first attempt consisted of modifying the Guitar Hero clone FretsOnFire to control using a touchpad. The main idea is to loose the separate strumming component and simply tap a region of the pad to play a note. Chords are out of the question for this demo, but using a multi-touch device would allow that functionality. See the Youtube video below for a demo. The next thing to try is emulating guitar vibrato by adding pitch bending effects on long notes by sliding your finger back and forth.

Software Features:


iPod Gaming Experiment: Lumines – 2/19/2007

Early in 2006, 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 so it could be controlled with a trackpad, mimicking the iPod clickwheel in software. 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”. See the video for a demo of the final results, or watch the embedded YouTube version below.

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 dropping piece. It will be interesting to see how these ideas could be further developed into future iPod games.

Software Features:


Screen capture of my demo embedded in the iPod interface. [Download]


Cirque EasyCat trackpad with iPod clickwheel insert

Screengrab from demo


Steve Bisson and Matt Bisson for their excellent moddable Lumines clone – Lumixed 4E4

Cirque for their trackpad API

Apple for Eminem iPod commerical artwork