What Qualities Make a Game Popular?

I recently made a post about Dare to be Digital 2016 (online) highlighting a number of video pitches. What qualities make a game addictive & popular? To what degree does the gameplay, sound effects, music, graphics, playability, level of difficulty have a bearing on the overall popularity and addictiveness of a game. The following are just a few popular games.

Cooking Fever
Cooking Fever is all about cooking – anything from burgers and hot-dogs, to pizza, suchi and baking. One can upgrade kitchen appliances to make cooking faster, upgrade the restaurant to increase customer wait times and how generous they are with tips. The main interaction style consists of simple drag and drop. When a customer arrives at your kitchen, the ask via a graphic bubble representation of the items they are looking for, e.g. an icon representing a burger. You then need to get some burger buns set out on your work surface and start dragging the ingredients on to complete the burger. One of course needs the cooked burger meat, along with various combinations of extras such as lettuce, tomato, ketchup – dragging each component on to the burger bun. Once the burger is fully assembled one then drags the burger to the waiting customer. If you manage to do this quickly enough they will drop coins representative of the price of the burger along with a tip for good service on the counter and leave as happy customers. As the levels progress the number of customers and combinations of food items increase. At the time of writing the number of installs was between 10 & 50 Million, the game is available from the google play store (online).

Angry Birds
Angry Birds has become an extremely popular game with 100 to 500 Million installs of the app via the Google Play Store (online). What are the qualities of launching a bird at various targets to get them to topple over that makes the game so popular.

Candy Crush Jelly Saga
Having 10 to 50 Million downloads Candy Crush Jelly Saga is certainly another popular game (online).

Clash of Clans
Available from the Google Play store (online) has between 100 & 500 Million installs.

SimCity Buildit
With 10 to 50 Million Google Play installs SimCity Buildit is certainly another popular game (online). This game is all about creating a city and populating it with residences, so you can earn Simoleons through the construction of residences and earn tax from same as well. One can also earn cash through the Trade Depot whereby you can sell goods that you create. One can sell all manner of goods from the basic raw materials created by factories, to more complex items created by taking the raw materials and forming them into a new product such as: Doughnuts, Shoes, Watches, Nails, Vegetables, Tables & Chairs to name but a few.

As you level up through the game further opportunities for Trading become enabled such as the Port for shipping your goods overseas, or the Airport (available once you have a population of 120,000). The Airport allows you to gain special items allowing you to build new types of residences with higher population capacity, namely, Paris, London and Toyko zones. To keep the population happy one must supply them with basic services, provide them with places to relax (parks), and a whole host of other facilities from Schools and Universities, to Entertainment and Gambling.

Over time one can create a city of some 4 million inhabitants and stretch out the area of the city to encompass both the beach and mountains. These areas allow one to build special buildings that can greatly boost the population within a certain catchment area.

At the Vu Tower (available at a population of 90,000) one can unleash a number of different disasters, that allows you to gain valuable Golden Keys. The most basic disaster one can unleash is the Meteor Strike, followed by Earthquake, Alien Invasion and several more.

Questions
What makes a good game?
How important is the embedding of Social Media in a game?
Do you make use of in-app purchases, to buy credits, upgrade systems etc?
Is it easy to lose track of the amount you spend on in-app purchases?
How important is the time it takes to complete a level – especially for Mobile Games?
What are your favorite games and Why?
How often do you play games on your Mobile?

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24 Camera Raspberry Pi – Bullet Time Photography

In a recent post I mentioned about helping out some students developing a tutorial on Quadcopters as part of their coursework for a 3rd year module of mine called Interactive Multimedia.

This post is about another group of students who worked on building and coding a Raspberry Pi based Bullet Time rig – again for the same module. The idea for this came from Dr. Andrew Robinson who had built a 48 Camera system with a PiFace Control and Display (Online). It would have been great had it been possible to demonstrate the system at the recent 24 Hour Hackathon just a few days before but time and space didn’t really allow for that to happen, so here’s some info about the rig instead.

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Initial development was carried out just on a single Raspberry Pi, once the image was successfully captured and transmitted it was then up-scaled to work with four Pi’s. The next phase of testing was with around ten Pi’s, and all seemed to work well. Some tweaking to the code was carried to speed up the capture / transfer process from the initial small scale tests. The afternoon of Wednesday 22nd April came the time to do a larger scale test of the system – with the submission date for the coursework just a few days away. Hence 24 Raspberry Pi’s were gathered together and configured for a larger scale test, as you see here.

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

To allow space and plenty of power sockets to get the system running the 24 Camera Raspberry Pi – Bullet Time system was setup in our Green Room / Motion Capture Room. The following images run in reverse chronological order, firstly show the Bullet Time Rig in use, and works back to setting things up. The very first capture test conducted was flying a paper plane through the capture space. Followed by tossing ten empty power supply boxes for the Raspberry Pi’s into the capture space along with a few other ideas too.

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Would be really great to try building a larger size version of the rig as the software is capturing from all 24 cameras and transferring to the Computer in just a few seconds. Perhaps something on the order of 75 cameras or more mounted on a laser cut stand with some 3D printed elements to secure the cameras and Raspberry Pi’s in place would be ideal with a diameter of around six meters. Such a rig should provide a good opportunity for capturing some really interesting shots. Its likely that the software developed will be placed on GitHub fairly soon, and may have another post or two showing some of the actual generated output. All one needs to build this rig is some Cameras, Raspberry Pi’s, network cables, a switch and the software.

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Reviewing one of the very first video files generated by the system.
Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Checking that the Pi’s were connected up and in communication.
Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Making use of a 48 port switch to get things going.
Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

We had some visitors too, who popped by to take a look at the setup.
Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Initially the system was setup to make use of two 24 port switches, though with the choice of having to do some switch reconfiguration or just using a larger switch, the 48 port switch option was taken, and perhaps made for a more interesting cable layout scheme!
Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Raspberry Pi Bullet Time Rig

Some Cool Video Equipment from NAB

The following video features some interesting equipment featured at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show that was held in Las Vegas 6th to 11th April 2013. If you watch the video you will see a selection of camera stabilisation equipment. In one case instead of the standard steadicam and active computerised stabilisation system is presented that can be easily hand-held. Other featured products include cameras & Jibs.

Vimeo Takes NAB: Tech News from Vimeo Video School on Vimeo.

Experimenting with Photography

The following videos demonstrate some interesting setups where as always light plays a hugely important role. The first example below is that of creating the Bokeh Effect. This is achieved using a long lens to set the background out of focus. The background has a dark card / velum lit from behind with a number of holes punched in it to allow light to stream through. Capturing an image of an object good and sharp in the foreground with the Bokeh Effect in the background can create some interesting effects. The addition of gels or coloured acetate sheets can add that extra dimension. Perhaps experimenting with a number of coloured acetates could generate a really nice effect. The addition of a reflective surface adds some really nice reflections into the mix both from the foreground object and the light streaming into the scene from the background.

Another interesting effect can be created with a zoom lens with a slow shutter of a few seconds. Varying the zoom over the time of the exposure to the imaging sensor generates an interesting blurring. You will see that the scene is initially composed with just one side on light, though the resulting exposure is a little dark, hence the addition of some additional lighting to the front of the subject solves this.

A fairly recent previous post looked at light painting, mainly from the perspective of a person creating shapes using a torch or a mobile. The video below is a different view on light painting where objects are illuminated with light. Varying the placement of the light, from back, front or even just from the top down creates quite an array of different shots.

Given that one can use black card in the production of the Bokeh Effect from the first video above another nice composition to try out is to photograph a wine glass making use of a few black cards to control the lighting / reflections of the scene.

If you are perhaps doing a good deal of product photography then you may find something like a Lastolite Cubelite to be of use, so that you can have nicely controlled soft lighting of the product you wish to capture.

Folding up one of these Cubelites can require a bit of practice.

Lights Camera Action & the Silver Screen

In the previous semester I had a group of students for a module on Audio & Video Production. In the past days a new YouTube Channel was created and a selection of videos were uploaded. A week or so prior to this I had organised a screening of the videos at a Cinema located just a few minutes away from where we’re based. It was really great to spend some time in the projection room and see both a film and digital projection system.

The videos below should give you a sense of what the students produced, I hope you enjoy them. Have written another blog post giving a little more info on this.








Garbage Matte and Colour Keying in Premiere

If you have recorded some footage making use of a green screen and wish to insert your own background behind the actor/talent then it is well worth while to reduce the overall computation load of the chromakeyer beforehand. The 4/8/16 Point Garbage Matte may be found within the Video Effects option of the Effects panel, within a sub folder called Keying.

Should your actor / talent be moving around quite a bit, you may wish to keyframe the position of the garbage matte over time. The video below give a sense of the keyframing process, once you can do it for one effect you can do it for any effect.

The final step is to go ahead and apply a chromakey effect to the video clip on your timeline. You will note that there are a few different chromakey effects available.

You may find that you can get better keying results with the Ultra Key effect. All in all, it will take a bit of time and tweaking to get the perfect chroma keying result. Probably the most important part in all this process is however the quality of the recorded footage. Light is essential, both on the subject and on the background. The background should be evenly lit right across the frame. If you have the option of recording in interlaced or progressive, then choose progressive as this will capture full frames rather than half frames in the case of interlaced, added to that make sure you record at as high a bit rate as you can. At the end of the day if you have captured footage that is well lit, progressive and at a good resolution then the process of chromakeying should be just a matter of a few clicks and your done.