Friday, December 23, 2011

PointCraft Release!

We're officially releasing PointCraft!

Go to the website, watch some videos, sign up, and model things! 

It's a whole new 3D modeling experience! The goal is to make simplified low-polygon-count models that represent the ~million-point pointclouds.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kathleen's Time Management Strategies

My co-intern, Stacy, from FXPAL a few summers ago invited me to be on a panel on Time Management this year at Grace Hopper! I spoke about "Productive Procrastination" -- making awesome things and sharing them with people, and this blog post talks about that a little bit and some other strategies of mine.

Productive Procrastination
When faced with the choice to get a head start on some not-terribly-crucial work or waste my time on Facebook, I occasionally opt for secret option number three: learn something new and make something for fun. I'll call this "productive procrastination". It's challenging to get started sometimes, so I start small and let myself get sucked into the flow of trying out just one more little experiment before stopping. I also share my discoveries and creations with others, usually by making mini-artifacts and posting them online. The benefits of this are huge: I have cool things to tell people about, I feel motivated and productive, which then often transfers to my "real" work, and I gain skills, ideas, and perspective that help me do my regular work better and faster as well.

A note on Hacking
When I say "productive procrastination", I mean coding/hacking for fun. Maybe even with someone else. And since the GHC panel was targeted mainly at women, I'll say now that I think more women should code for fun because of the extra skills and extra confidence gained. I would tell my younger self to code more outside of class. I wanted and still want to be a better programmer. (At this point, I think I'm quite good and capable of making awesome things, but I still want to improve.) I've gotten loads better by doing fun little projects for the purposes of just trying something new, which don't actually need to accomplish anything, and by learning from coding with other people.

Actual Time Management Strategies
Right, so, here's stuff I didn't talk about in the panel. Somehow, I manage to get things done, and here's how I do that. It's all pretty minimal because I don't want my organizational strategies to stress me out.

Disposable To-Do Lists
In grad school, it's kind of vague what I should be doing and how I should be progressing. I may write out a list of things to do and half-way through, change my mind and realize it's a horrible path and that I should scrap it and try something else. It's much less traumatizing to delete a temporary "todo.txt" or toss a piece of scratch paper than to abandon a nicely written list in a fancy planner or something. Thus, I mostly write things down on scratch paper, whiteboards, post-its and text files.

to-do!
OMG Post-its
Sometimes I write things on post-its. Small, actionable chunks, only. Then I stick them on my whiteboard above my desk, potentially grouped by priority or something, and when I'm sitting at my desk figuring out to do, I just pick a post-it and do it. Then I pull it off the whiteboard when I'm done! Or I pull all the notes off and make new ones if my overall direction has changed.
post-its! it took me 4 years to use my CSE note cube and then i acquired a second one.

Inbox Zero
You're not allowed to stress me out, email! Everything except things I need to actually deal with but don't want to deal with right away get archived. Gmail will find anything I need, and if there's a chance it won't, I'll forward it to myself with some extra searchable keywords.
the only email here is one from stacy telling me to write this blog post

New Trick: Google Calendar for tracking what I've finished
I've only been doing this for a month, but it's incredible. Kind of like writing post-its for what I need to do, I now write calendar events (on a special research calendar) for what already done. It's like if I save the post-its but they didn't take up physical space.


My research project has been grinding along for about a year now, but it's finally coming together and a big deadline is steadily approaching. I needed badly to ramp up the effort, and now I can look back and see that's exactly what has happened over the last 2 weeks. I also vaguely track what's coming up (like what I plan to do tomorrow, or when I should be collecting data and when I should be writing) but I don't let it bog me down. I also have all of my meetings and whatnot scheduled on another google calendar, because I have no brainspace to remember such things.

Slacking Off
I think not working sometimes is an important part of being productive. I am NOT super-productive for hours on end anyway, so I may as well fill the off time with something good. I'll test this hypothesis over the next month, but I think relaxing, eating, drinking beer, exercising, sleeping in, reading, spending time with friends to talk about non-work or to complain about work are excellent extracurricular activities.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Back from Grace Hopper 2011!

This year was my third year! I skipped last year because it was far away and I felt like it was targeted too much at undergrads trying to get jobs. I mainly went this year because it was really close and I had fond memories of previous years. I'll say now that it's definitely NOT too ugrad-focused; still lots of recruiting going on, but the conference is HUGE now and there seriously is something for everyone.

Like dancing!
IMG_3719.jpg

Speaking of huge, the conference apparently had almost 3,000 attendees and this was its first year at an official conference center (as opposed to a hotel). It felt very official and I was proud of #ghc11 for having 'grown up' a bit. Obviously this is a very valuable conference and the more people who get to attend, the better.

2908 attendees!

Valuable how? For me, I just think it's nice to be around so many other smart, nerdy women. I had role models like my mom who fit the bill (and who came to Grace Hopper!) but not too many peers or friends who programmed and studied math and were also female. It wasn't bad, necessarily, to be one of a few girls in my CS classes, or to have awesome lady friends outside of class who were nerdy in other ways. But it somehow feels *better* to have more technical women around, as evidence by how I feel about attending UW with its 25% female grad population and about coming to Grace Hopper.

There are stereotypes floating through other people's heads about computer scientists (that possibly turn women and others off of CS) and even stereotypes about women that make me critical of other women. But at this conference, there are So Many Women that it's impossible to form coherent negative stereotypes that fit us all. Positive stereotypes might be okay, though: Optimistic and energized and excited about the conference! Relief at finally coming into the company of so many other technical women. Inspired to keep pursing tech careers and activities, and to somehow bring additional women to the field.

How can we attract more women to computer science and related technical fields? The suggestions that came up during the conference that resonated the most with me are:
  1. tell someone who's good at math and logical thinking that she should consider computer science
  2. get more women to take AP computer science in high school, so they can try it before they make it to college where overwhelming and inflexible major requirements can get in the way
  3. undo the stereotype of "software developer" as unwashed white male on computer in basement
  4. projects and organizations and outreach things that get young women exposed to technical fields

I'd also like to add:
  1. supply young women with project ideas and hints about how to get started
    (my faves below:)
    • processing
    • actionscript, flashbuilder, flashdevelop to make games to share on places like kongregate
    • a game engine for actionscript like flixel or flashpunk
    • lilypad arduino
    • gamemaker
    • geocities*
  2. supply young women with ample resources to learn on their own (like her own web hosting, a terminal, and a bunch of examples)

*that's what my mom did for me... made me a geocities account and handed me an HTML book

Some of the highlights of the conference for me included:
  1. meeting new awesome people
  2. getting to know already-sort-of-known awesome people better (like the other people from my school and friends from other schools)
  3. my mom being there, too
  4. the epic dance party, as usual
  5. getting to be on a panel (more on that soon)
  6. and sheryl sandberg's inspiring and empowering keynote
After the conference, some fellow grad students and I did touristy things around Portland and Jinna got this fortune cookie :) (138) grace hopper fortune cookie

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Game Jam Game: A Corgi's Dream

This, uh, information is really old in internet time (form a month and a half ago) but I wanted to include it in the blog anyway. In early August, a bunch of folks from school got together and had a little game jam (and simultaneous cooking extravaganza) and made some games (and made and ate TONS of DELICIOUS FOOD).

Tim brought his Corgi Eddie, which inspired me to add "doggies" as a theme suggestion, and then we picked 4 themes to work with. The chosen ones were: doggies, rejection, trajectory, and sleep.

So my game, "A Corgi's Dream", is basically about a corgi (possibly Eddie) flying around a little corgi dream world and dreaming about kibbles and various dog treats.


You can find lots of photos here on Flickr

And you can play the game here on kongregate, where apparently the internet (which is full of young boys) thinks I sound like a 10 year old boy. Oh well!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Picard: the totally awesome flashcard learning and drawing game

The point of this whole post is...

We are running a user study for a research paper right this very instant and we need you to play!





For those who stuck around... Did you know!? The capital of Myanmar (aka Burma, a country in Asia) is* Rangoon (aka Yangon). I know it because I drew this ridiculous picture to help me remember:


NYANcat (~nyanmar) is actually a RACOON (~rangoon)

Writing this blog post will further cement that knowledge in my mind, *except I did some fact checking and have discovered that the capital has changed! The capital of Myanmar/Burma is now: NAYPYIDAW. Nay-py-i-daw. When I first saw it, I think I read "nappy paw", which can still go with my raccoon analogy because raccoons wash their food in water and get their paws all wet (and presumably 'nappy').

What I mean to say is that I, along with some fellow grad students/friends at school, have been working on a game called Picard that pools the creative energy of you and your friends to teach everyone a set of flash cards, like the capital of every country in the world. The game is part quiz (just testing your knowledge), part admiring the helpful mnemonics (or "Picards" as we like to call them), and part drawing your own Picards to help you and potentially other players learn a particular flash card.

Here, I have recorded and posted a video tour of Picard:



Please check it out! I assure you, you will learn something and/or chuckle at some ridiculous picture. The URL one more time: http://games.cs.washington.edu/picard/

P.S. The game is fairly new, so if you have questions or suggestions or bugs to report, please tell me!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Reviews of some books by neat ladies

Hey Internet, I just wanted to tell you about some nice books I read recently.

1. Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
I first came across Jane McGonigal when I was writing a paper claiming my game PhotoCity is a "hybrid alternate reality game with a purpose". Then she started popping up all over the place, giving talks and writing books, such as this one. I went to her book signing at UW and even nervously chatted with her and she wrote a strange scribble in my book that I eventually discovered said "Fiero!"

Anyway, people I know are divided on this book. Some like it and some hate it. I loved reading it. The message is basically that games make people feel good and productive, and that if we made games that made people feel good and have fun but were also beneficial in some/many ways to the people or society in general, that would be really awesome and really powerful. There are some cute quirky game examples in the book, and even a few paragraphs about Foldit (http://fold.it) which I know first/second-hand to actually be making scientific advances as a game.

I think the same message (part of it, anyway) worded more darkly has to do with this generation's young people feeling purposeless and unfocused and bored. And thus they turn to video games and drugs and bwaaa, society is going to collapse!! So if you could give them "good" video games (not that video games are bad, Jane actually makes a good point that regular old games can teach people to cooperate or relax them when they're stressed out), or at least make their own lives fun and challenging and stressful yet rewarding, that would be good.

2. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
Totally unrelated to the book above. Omg, I love love love the montages in tv shows and movies of astronauts preparing for space travel. Like that one episode of the Simpsons and the movie Armageddon and this movie that I loved when I was younger but turned out to be painfully awful when I re-watched it, Rocket Man.

This book is the extended version of that, plus it's factual and super detailed. There's a story about an astronaut on a space walk not wanting to return to the spaceship because he's so euphoric floating there and looking at Earth, and chapters on poop and space sex and space sexual relation drama (e.g. what happens in space stays in space). Also, after reading this book, I do NOT want to go to space myself because it sound super gross being in a tiny smelly spaceship where gravity and toilets and showers don't work properly. But the book itself, I highly recommend reading it. Everything you wanted to know about space travel and it will make you super sad to get to the end and realize/remember that the SPACE SHUTTLE PROGRAM is now OVER. Here's the tweet to sum that up: If you watch NASA backwards, it's about a space agency that has no spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on moon.

3. Bossypants by Tina Fey
I'm sure glad I read this book on the kindle because the cover with the big man arms really freaks me out.

One of many parts that made me chuckle was towards the end when Tina's describing her relationship with her daughter. Her daughter picks out a book about a working mom witch who spends a lot of time at her witch work and sometimes gets mad when her daughter goes near her cauldron... and Tina gets sad and thinks she's a bad mom... and eventually she confronts her daughter who's just like, "Mom, I can't read. I thought it was a Halloween book." I think I think it's funny because I picture a tiny articulate Tina Fey who can't read but still says snarky things.

Also in this book, I learned about the rise of women in comedy and how it was/still is a male dominated field (much like computer science) because dudes think ladies can't be as funny. But Tina and her buddies sure showed them! I also very much enjoyed reliving the Tina Fey as Sarah Palin times from 'behind the scenes'.

End book review! Well, that was fun. Time for us to get off the internet and go read some books.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Collaborative Photography Idea

Collaborative Photography -- it's a phrase I've heard recently meant to inspire and inform me as I continue working on my own collaboration-based projects, like Sketch-a-bit and PhotoCity and beyond. I don't know what "collaborative photography" should really mean, though, (not even with Google's help) so I'm going to invent my own idea right here.

Perhaps you've heard of Sketch-a-bit, the android application that Adam and I made, where there's a pool of black and white sketches that people have drawn on their phones, and when you start up the app, you download one of these images. Then you just start sketching, starting not from a blank canvas, but from someone else's picture. So you can modify it, improve it, or totally erase it.

But that's just sketching. Drawing. Collaborative sketching, yes. But it probably wouldn't be that big of a jump to do the same thing with photography. (It might be a dangerous jump... lewd drawings aren't as bad as lewd photos...)

But imagine this: You're kind of a photo geek, but not it the mood to take Serious photos with your Serious, heavy-duty camera. But you've got your android camera, there's some cool stuff around, and you just don't know what to shoot. (Or maybe you hear about this not-yet-in-existence app from the internet and think it's neat!) Anyway, just like with Sketch-a-bit, you download a random photo by some random android user out there, and use that photo as a nugget of inspiration. Maybe you take a photo with similar shapes or colors or composition? Maybe a photo that has the same feeling? Or maybe you recognize the location and go there to take a photo? Then you just upload that photo back to the app. To be all nice and helpful and shareable, maybe we even give you a link where you can view your photo and the photo that inspired it AND all the photos that came before. Does that sound cool? I think it sounds cool. I'd give it a try and potentially get kind of into it. Adam said people maybe used sketch-a-bit while stuck on a bus or something, but I think hey, there might even be interesting things to photograph on a bus.

At this very moment, I want to make pizza (and have dinner and lunch tomorrow and not starve) way more than I want to write code. That's why I'm writing a blog post instead! Because I'm lazy. And I might never get back to this idea, so I might as well try writing about it while it's still just an idea. Here's a glimpse of how I think about *tackling* ideas.

Things I know how to do:
  1. make basic android apps
  2. deploy android apps
  3. make a web service and back end that would take photos and stuff that people uploaded with this app and store them somewhere in some organized fashion
  4. make a basic web page where you can see the photos that were uploaded

Things I got concerned about when thinking about this for more than 5 minutes:
  1. Where to store all this crap?? my friend-hosted website? (probably not) school? (no, i don't want more disk space drama) the cloud/AMAZON?? Google? Maybe I could use my google storage, yeah!
  2. Okay, I was going to add "to do: learn more about AWS" but if I store stuff on google and host a server somewhere else, maybe bandwidth won't be so bad as to make people mad and I can get away with it.

Things to learn better:
  1. maybe AWS for storage and servers (esp. the server stuff, EC2? I don't know about that yet.)
  2. how to do camera stuff with android (i think it's easy)
  3. how to make an uploading 'service' in android (like the facebook and youtube apps with the progress bar in the notifications)

Lessons from the past:
  • I know there are going to be naughty pictures. I never saw any in PhotoCity but 4% of sketches were penises or racist things. What's the coping mechanism? I don't mind rating the app NC-17 or whatever, but I want a way to get the naughty pictures out of the way as fast as possible. Maybe by letting people flag them, have them immediately get taken out of the pool, and have a moderator unflag pictures that people flagged for no reason. Also be able to 'bless' certain pictures and not let them get unflagged.
  • The browsing and stuff on Sketch-a-bit is basically non-existent. I think for photos, people will care a lot more about getting credit (maybe, might want this somewhat anonymous) and being able to track down their photos.
  • Anonymous or not? This isn't really a lesson, just something I'm curious about with Sketch-a-bit, if it would make a difference if you could know who made what and star certain sketches/lineages and stuff.

Okay, so if I were to start making this app, where would I start? Probably on the android side of things. (Things that I don't know yet.)
  1. Make a new blank android project on my computer!
  2. Get the app to launch the camera and take a picture
  3. Get the app to show a picture before launching the camera
  4. Get the app to download this picture form the interwebs (some specific url)
  5. Get the app to upload the picture in some fancy way with a progress bar
  6. Then I'd want to make the back end accept and show off new photos, but I'd first have to figure out what kind of information I wanted to store and how I wanted to organize things.
  7. Around here, I'd probably re-asses and make new lists of things to do since I can't predict how it will go. 
Okay ideas! Go and be free! Now it's pizza time. Maybe I'll get back to you in the future!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

HUGE PhotoCity models!

It's been a year or so since the PhotoCity UW vs. Cornell competition that brought in over 100,000 photos (and that I'm speaking about at CHI soon). For whatever reason (insert mental images of pushing peas around on a dinner plate, poking at code, poking at Noah, repeatedly running out of disk space from trying to process the photos) we had trouble transforming our 50,000 photos of each campus into a single, ginormous, super-point-cloud.

UNTIL NOW!!!

Okay, okay. It's not a single huge model of the ENTIRE campus because I was being cautious, but I currently have TWO SEPARATE MODELS of UW that have 3K and 6K photos each, and dense point clouds with 8M and 19M points, respectively. So exciting!!!

Red Square: 3K photos and 8M dense points. Buildings: Suzzallo library, Kane Hall, Odegard, Meany Hall, the tower things, and part of Mary Gates Hall. YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiuFPINN4qs&hd=1

"Fountain Plus": 6K photos, 19M dense points. Top-down view, approximately aligned with map (from memory). Buildings: Suzzallo Library, one side of Allen Library, all of Mary Gates Hall, Guggenheim, Electrical Engineering, part of Aerospace, the circle of Drumheller fountain, and a faint piece of Johnson Hall.

Fountain Plus from a different angle overlooking the fountain.
The software involved is the rome-in-a-day (or otherwise enhanced) super-Bundler code, and CMVS.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hey, Point Cloud Library, let's be friends

AKA installing PCL on a mac. Here's what I had to do/get/whatever:

Dependencies:

  • cmake (from dmg)
  • eigen 
  • boost (wound up getting this from macports, too)
  • flann (regular ann is already my best friend!)
  • cminpack
  • qhull (from macports)
  • gcc 4.5 (from macports, website version is incomplete)


And this is how gcc gets update and actually used (thanks to help from one of the PCL mailing list members):
sudo port install gcc45
sudo port install gcc_select
Run gcc_select to identify versions available:  "gcc_select -l"
Select gcc45, in my case is was:  "sudo gcc_select mp-gcc45"

More helpful help: https://code.ros.org/lurker/message/20110401.025659.de4eecd0.en.html

Friday, March 18, 2011

Iteration on the GPU

I took a class on programmable shaders and GPUs this quarter. This special topics graphics class was easily the class with the 'freshest' material that I've taken thus far in grad school. And I have been yearning to learn about shaders ever since I heard the graphics class the year after me in undergrad got to learn about them!

Final Project: Iteration on the GPU
The final project was to use the CPU and GPU to make pretty pictures. I chose to GPU-ify Iteration, the generative art program you may have seen in such forms as iphone app (www.superfiretruck.com/iteration) and java applet (http://adamsmith.as/typ0/k/fancybuf/). The result of my work (including the epic battle with DirectX) is an interactive generative art composer. Previous iterations of Iteration involve repeated clicking and hoping for the next random design to be more awesome than the last, and then waiting a bit for the design to fill in.    While this certainly tickles the intermittent-variable-reward part of folks' brains, it gets old because there's nothing for the user to actually control or interact with. The GPU version of Iteration, however, allows for real-time exploring and previewing of possible designs, and then controlled compositing of different designs together.

User moves the mouse to preview different design shapes and then clicks to burn/composite the current design into the background.

User Interaction
If I had sweet video-taking capabilities (should I take a video with my phone??) I would show you what it looks like to actually interact with this program. It is pretty mesmerizng. Moving the mouse around changes the shape of the curves, sometimes bringing attractive spirals into focus or smearing out the design into a burst of rainbow colors. There are keys to change colors, to pick new random parameters, to change which two parameters of the function the mouse position controls, and to save the image as a jpeg. Using the mouse, the user can burn the current design into the background, translate the current previewed design to a more optimal position, or dim the background to give new designs a subtle backdrop to stand out against. Here are some example compositions!







Architecture
So what's going on here that a) generates the pretty pictures and b) makes this a good problem for the GPU to solve? Iteration at heart is an iterated function system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iterated_function_system). There is a function mapping 2D points to 2D points that is made out of sines, cosines and whatever other crazy junk we want. We start with a whole bunch of random 2D points, stick it through this function 1, 2, ... n times, and accumulate the points on screen after every iteration. To make these pictures nice and smooth (rather than noisy and grainy), we need LOTS of sample points and to draw each point with a very low alpha. In the case of the final GPU-Iteration, there are ONE MILLION POINTS getting iterated TWENTY TIMES... PER FRAME. That means that TWENTY MILLION POINTS are getting plotted each frame. And it's still real time. (As long as I don't try to recalculate a new 1 million random numbers.)

The great thing about this problem is that each point is iterated independently of every other point. And shaders are great at moving and drawing tons of points in parallel. I just use a vertex shader to apply the function to each point, and then a pixel shader to draw that point to the screen. The complicated bits are that I have a doubly-nested loop to make sure each point is drawn after every iteration instead of only after the final iteration (although I could have figured out how to use geometry shaders instead) and that I accumulate the color values into a buffer with one 16-bit float per color channel so I can add up very small alphas.

I'll throw my ugly DirectX code online and maybe sometime in the future use my shader knowledge to make a new version for android or flash (molehill!) or webgl.

Cosmos!
Background: Right around the time I was working on this, some undergrads at my school (from the games lab, even!) won the UW Yahoo Hack U! contest with their katamari-for-the-web-browser game kathack.com. So... Katamari Damacy music is rolling gently around the back of my head. Then, I'm trying to make two windows (with different buffers, textures, contexts, devices, etc.) so I can have distinct explorer and composition windows. (This is before I combined them into a single window.) I'm feeling pretty lazy so I try to make my directx contexts/devices share certain resources, like the vertex buffer and the vertex buffer layout description. When I click Run, I am suddenly staring into the cosmos...

Cosmos Iteration!


...and I wind up wasting several hours generating one pretty speckly sparkly picture after the other until I finally try to figure out why they're like that. I swear I was going somewhere with that cosmos<-->katamari connection... Anyway, I replace the fancy iterated function with the identity function and get this fancy-shmancy plot of my computer's memory! So THAT's what's making the iterations come out as a glamorous, colorful star field, this semi-regular, non-random, non-uniform pattern.

Mmmm, memory.


That surprise was probably my favorite part of this assignment.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

PhotoCity Spring Cleaning

Purpose of this post: part brain dump, part information for PhotoCity fans/users, part a chance to get feedback.

The thing I dislike most about PhotoCity is the unruly amount of space it takes up and all the data it generates. I also very much LIKE that I get to work with terabytes of data (much of it collected by users) but keeping it organized and fitting it into the little places I am allowed to keep data at school and having it live where the website can get at it is difficult as hell.

The other thing I dislike is disappointing people when they ask "Ohh, can I play PhotoCity??" and I start mumbling about how awkward it is and how it's technically possible but it's also a lot of trouble and there might not be room for new data at the moment and on and on... I usually tell them it IS possible to start seeds (use PhotoCity as Photosynth, basically) but to actually play there are extra awkward steps of setting up additional zones... As you can see, it devolves into mumbling and whining and ellipses and run-on sentences...

SO MY PLAN after chatting up some folks (which is all of five minutes old) is something like this:
  1. Package up and archive ALL of the PhotoCity data
  2. Make the live version of PhotoCity ONLY relevant zones
Part 1 involves taking all the half-finished models, and their photos, and giving them to my dear friend, Google Storage. Through GS, I can even host the data so people can browse it and actually get access to the models in a way that the current website doesn't do. All of this data will be totally dead and inactive in terms of the game, though.

Part 2 is so when I give a 5 minute talk about PhotoCity on thursday at school, AND when PhotoCity is mentioned at GDC on tuesday, I can say YES, TARGETED TALK AUDIENCE, you can go outside and play PhotoCity at UW! And in San Francisco around the convention center! (But, mumble mumble, I can't guarantee it will work to play it on an iPhone/Android... It is a game (accidentally) designed for POWER USERS who upload hundreds of photos through the website, not through their puny phones.)

HOLY CRAP THAT MEANS I NEED TO PUT THIS PLAN INTO ACTION IN LIKE 2 DAYS...
And take pictures around SF on Monday to seed the game for Tuesday! :D

I'm going to work on my *other work* for the rest of today, sleep on this brilliant plan, and then drink a bunch of coffee and do it on Wednesday.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Global Game Jam 2011

The Global Game Jam took place on January 28-31st this year. Even though it's "global" and actually happening all over the place, I flew down to California to hang out at the UC Santa Cruz site.

Global Game Jam!

Nostalgia aside (hanging out in the older engineering building! eating food at the dining hall! walking around in the trees by all these places I used to live or go to class!) it was a pretty awesome place to be for GGJ. First of all, there's a swanky games lab for the undergrads in a particular year-long game development course. Second of all, UCSC has programs and people who sincerely believe in an event like GGJ, including some of the organizers of the global event itself. Thirdly, many of the people, grads and undergrads and profs who are part of the various game development/research labs at UCSC were there, and made it this highly motivated, creative, competent, productive atmosphere.

Comparatively, I was a GGJ slacker, due to looming deadlines and other in-progress games to work on. But it was a nice environment to be in and I got a lot of things done. Here are photos of people making games!

prototyping and designing and making games

making games

making games

I did actually take a few hours somewhere to make a "game". The theme of the year was Extinction, and after discussing it with Adam (also preoccupied with deadlines) a bunch, this game out: http://superfiretruck.com/spacething/ It's basically a "choose your own adventure" with very limited options and where you will probably die at the end. Grim... yeah.

Many/all of the other games there were much better, such as:
Anyway, the main point is that Wow! People were awesome made such fantastic games! I am so glad I went!

Check out all the photos here!! http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaflurbaleen/sets/72157626076005256/

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Draw-a-day December

Friends of friends/folks on the internet decided that December would be a month of drawing and posting a picture every day! I decided I would partake in this adventure.

First off, let me say that I have been Classically Trained in Art by a) at one time being a little girl who was pretty interested in drawing and stuff and b) by taking a drawing class at a community college with my dad when I was 13.  I've also drawn stuff like illustrations for Adam's thesis proposal, t-shirt designs, and a game here and there.  Basically... I can draw, I like drawing, I just don't do it very often.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaflurbaleen/sets/72157625510520630/
Anyway, at the end of December, I had drawn something for every day of the month! Click above for a link to the flickr set. For whatever reason, (its raw awesomeness, I suppose) my most haphazard and final drawing is the one with the most views:

Last drawing of the year!

My favorite is probably this one of my friend Mkehrt shooting a lasergun (aka. detachable part of a vacuum cleaner at QFC at 1am on a trip to buy christmas lights in february, which they actually had):

10/31 mkehrt shoots doom vacuum gun

I also drew what I think is a nice portrait of myself:

11/31 - self portrait kathleen

There were also lots of pictures of my cats or other animals, and objects lying around or things that had really happened that day. Very few of the drawings were just raw brain imaginings.

The most interesting thing was how I'd find myself at a party at 11:55pm, needing to draw something, and be able to draw it on my android phone with any one of multiple drawing applications (including one of my own). And then how I'd actively seek out other nifty drawing programs to use at a more leisurely pace next time. Here's a list of the 'mediums' my drawings were in:
  • pencil
  • pen
  • sharpie
  • Photoshop (w/ tablet)
  • Illustrator (w/ tablet)
  • Sketch-a-bit (android) 
  • Autodesk Sketchbook Mobile (android) 
  • various Harmony offshoots on the web, android, and ipad
  • chalk on a table at a restaurant
The two things that I learned were:
  1. This guy John (who incidentally was at TIGJam! and draws really neat, shadowy, black and white art) described what he does in Photoshop: He uses the paintbrush tool with a hard edge and size controlled by stylus pressure. To erase, he just swaps the color of the brush to white instead of black, which can be done just by pressing the X key or mapping it to a button on the stylus. I tried this technique on the self-portrait above (and some other drawings) with much success, even though I was also cheating by tracing a photo. It's like drawing with an erasable, smell-free sharpie!
  2. The most satisfying android app for drawing something quickly is probably Sketcher, the android version of Harmony. (If you didn't click the above link, click this one now and try it out on the web! http://mrdoob.com/projects/harmony/) You draw any strokes you want and it adds extra lines or shading in strategic places and spruces up your drawing. It's hard to get exactly what you want, but most of what it generates is pretty cool. Sketch-a-bit just takes too much control and patience if you want to make something high quality. Likewise, the Autodesk Sketchbook Mobile is rather involved and I haven't made it far enough past the learning curve to be able to sketch something neat with it at a party. 
Closing image, the one I drew at the party with Sketcher of a guy named Pete with a knife through his head!

3/31: sketcher knife-head