Entries for February 2009

February 19, 2009

Idea: The Blogosphere Adventure Game

A couple years ago, I thought it would be fun to make an old school geeky Sierra-style adventure game using Adventure Game Studio. I got far enough to realize that it would take a lot more time (and probably skill) than I had to make it. But I did do some work sketching the game on paper in a spiral notebook which I happened to come across this week. I’ve scanned in some pages so I could show you the aborted adventure game I never made.

I hadn’t settled on a name for the game, but I thought about calling it “Blogosphere” or “Blogosfear” or “Blogosphear.” The opening animated narrative would introduce you to the protagonist “Dave” who was staying up late reading blogs instead of going to bed. Some sort of mishap (energy drink spilled on the computer?) was going to start a chain of events that digitally teleports him into the internet. The teleportation was going to look like Flynn being digitized in Tron.

So the gameplay begins with Dave finding himself materialized in a waiting room like one would find in a doctor’s office:

The only door, with a sign reading “Blogosphere,” is locked. But when Dave pulls a number from the “Take a Number” display, the receptionist’s window opens. The receptionist was to be played by Clippy the MS Office Paperclip, who has had to find other work since he’s no longer employed by Microsoft. Through witty interactive dialogue, Dave would protest that he doesn’t belong there and needs to get back home. Clippy would explain that once you’ve entered the blogosphere, the only way to cancel your account is to consult the Great and Powerful Eula. And this sets up your adventure to find Eula and learn how to get home. Clippy buzzes Dave through the door to start his adventure.

The next room is the BlingBling room:

This room has an airport-style metal detector which doesn’t allow anyone through to the blogosphere with anything in their pockets. The sign says “BlingBling: the Gateway to Wonderful Things.” The gateway is guarded by Cory Doctorno and Jenny Gardner. The walls are covered with banner ads for t-shirts. Dave turns over his belongings, which means he starts his adventure with nothing. Cory and Jenny explain that to find the Great and Powerful Eula, Dave should follow the Yellow Paved Road. He continues on his way.

The next screen reveals that the Yellow Paved Road isn’t very long. In fact, the Great and Powerful Eula’s place is right next door.

Eula is a big floating head, a la the Wizard of Oz, but I don’t remember why I gave him glasses. Anyway, he tells Dave that in order to get back home, he must bring Eula the broomstick (or something) of the Wiki Witch of the Web. That’s the real goal in the game.

This is a path away from Eula’s place. There’s a path to the right, but up ahead there’s a building in the distance that looks like it’s made out of giant forks.

It is made out of giant forks. It’s Fork.com.

Inside Fork.com you meet Drew Curtains. He sits on a throne of forks. He has chandeliers made out of forks. He’s kind of obsessed with forks. Somehow this would have figured into a puzzle.

Taking the other path would have brought you to this rundown shack. It’s Jason Tchochke’s place.

Inside, Tchochke’s place is full of shelves and shelves of various tchochkes. Somehow this would have figured into a puzzle.

Further along the path you would encounter the domain of the Wonkess. It’s supposed to be reminiscent of the White House.

Inside, the Wonkess sits at a desk in an oval office. I’m not sure exactly how, but somehow this would have figured into a puzzle.

Further still along the path lies a sign that says “Dig.” At first you can’t do anything here, but eventually you would find a shovel, and you could come back here to dig.

An animated cut scene would have simply shown you digging into the ground. It would either be visually similar to a scene from Dig Dug, or (as shown here) you would see the fossilized remains of video game characters buried in the ground.

Eventually you would break through to the underground lair of Kevin Rouse, wearing a backwards baseball cap and headphones. He was going to be a bit crazy, throwing piles of money in the air, since an article in BusinessGeek Magazine said he’s worth $60 million, so he took out a loan. In the background is the secret elevator that would take you back up to the grassy patch where you started digging.

This is PooTube. It’s a series of tubes. One of the tubes has a door on it. As you approach the door, a mechanic was going to pop out from behind a tube and tell you that you don’t want to go in there. He’s the character you interact with here. Not sure what he was going to say, though.

This is the entrance to Slashbot, a company that makes Robots for Nerds. There was going to be a puzzle that requires you to come here and retrieve an iPod that contains some secret information on its hard drive.

Inside, there would be nothing but empty cubicles as far as the eye can see. Nobody works here anymore because they’ve all been replaced by foreign workers. But one computer was left on to keep an eye on things. His name is CAL.

He has the iPod that you need, but he keeps it locked away in a special iPod bay. This is all a convoluted way of getting you to say, “Open the iPod bay door please, CAL.” And then he can say, “I’m sorry, Dave, but I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Elsewhere, you would come across the entrance to the Huff’n’Puff Post newspaper.

Inside the building’s art deco lobby would sit a security guard. Somehow there would be a puzzle you would need to solve in order to get past him, possibly posing as a bicycle messenger.

A lovely animated cut scene would show you going up in an elevator to the top of the building.

Eventually you would get to the office of Ariana Huff’n’Puff. But she speaks in such a thick accent that nobody understands a word she says, so her assistant is also her interpreter.

That’s about as far as I’d gotten. I had some ideas for what kinds of puzzles you’d actually have to do, and what the dialogue trees would be like, but I didn’t write any of that down. I did make a list, though, of websites and other things to lampoon in the game. I brainstormed what the parody names could be for real websites. This is what the list looked like:

February 12, 2009

Real Life Multitouch

Maybe this is a sign that I’ve been using my iPhone too much.

February 2, 2009

I wrote it, you made it: Histoface

The previous “I wrote it, you made it” posts have been examples of people who executed an idea I proposed. But this time I’m writing about people who took one of my ideas to another level altogether.

In September, 2007, I demonstrated how an image can be hidden in the histogram of another image. The example I used was the New York City skyline…

…hidden in the histogram of a simple gradient:

I followed that up by writing about Josh Millard, a reader who figured out how to embed the histogram in a more recognizable picture than just a gradient. He was able to embed the NYC skyline histogram in the original source image of the NYC skyline!

But I never wrote about what Stewart Smith did with this concept. He took the idea in a different direction, wondering if it would be possible to embed an actual word or phrase in the histogram of an image. So he developed Histoface, a web app that allows you to generate a gradient which contains a secret message in the histogram.

So this image…

…has this histogram:

It should be obvious that it says “STARWARS” but unfortunately not all the letters in the typeface are as easy to recognize as these. It’s difficult to create recognizable letters that work in a histogram. But I give Stew major credit for making it this good!

I’d love to see a combination of Stew’s project and Josh’s project, allowing you to type a message and hide it in the histogram of any grayscale image. Who wants to work on that?