Category Archives: Games

Sprite Lamp, lessons, conclusions, and the future

So, it’s been a little while since I’ve written about Sprite Lamp (or anything). There’s still activity at my end, mostly in the form of responding to email requests for tech support and other advice. Sprite Lamp is now out and about on the three desktop operating systems, and I thought I’d mention a few things that have happened, reflect, confess one or two things, and talk about the future.

Cool things

Unity shaders

First off, Sprite Lamp’s Unity shaders have always been a bit of a thorn in my side – always mostly working, I’ve never been quite convinced that I am doing things the way Unity wants me to. Well, thanks to an email from a customer prodding me to fix light cookies, I have revisited this, and I think finally gotten it to work the way it should. I admit I’m still daunted by Unity’s inner workings, but for the first time, I feel like I get how I’m supposed to be using the lighting system. I imagine most people who use Sprite Lamp with Unity are mostly using plain ol’ normal mapping at this stage, but for those still using the official Sprite Lamp shaders, they have been updated, I believe substantially for the better.

Hive Jump

So, for obvious reasons, this is very exciting to me: A game made with Sprite Lamp is officially out on Steam! Hive Jump is a multiplayer 2D shooter that feels a lot like days of old, but of course, everything gets illuminated all nice. I’ve probably mentioned Hive Jump at some point, as I’ve been in touch with the developers since way back in the day. If you want to get an idea of what Sprite Lamp can do in the right hands, check it out!

Things not done

So this is an important section for me, and I think anyone who’s ever done a Kickstarter campaign will be able to relate. There are a few features from the original Kickstarter that remain undone, and will likely remain so. This is for a couple of reasons, and I didn’t want to let them just disappear silently. It’s my belief that these features mostly aren’t really going to be missed, but more on that at the bottom of this section.

  • There was never a Steam release for Linux. I tried to make this happen, I really did. Because of how Steam’s version of Sprite Lamp works, it’s necessary for Sprite Lamp to communicate successfully with Steam, so that it can check if the user owns the Pro update or not. I just… couldn’t get this to work. Obviously it’s good to go on the other two operating systems, but some combination of my inexperience with Linux, the Steam API being different in that situation somehow, and not getting much in the way of responses when I was looking for help, just bogged this one down. The Linux build is available from the Humble widget, so Linux users aren’t completely out in the cold (and the vast majority of people who own Sprite Lamp got it from the Humble Bundle at this point).
  • Mesh exporting never happened. Once upon a time, I intended to have Sprite Lamp export a mesh based on a generated depth map. The further I got into the development process, the sillier this feature seemed. There isn’t one universally accepted mesh format, so I would probably have needed to integrate several libraries just to export to things like fbx, obj, etc. More importantly, it doesn’t seem like anyone was even close to wanting to use this feature (this is true of a lot of the depth stuff in general).
  • Custom shaders never happened. I originally had a plan of allowing users to write their own shaders and have them display in the Sprite Lamp preview window. A minimal box-ticking style implementation of this wouldn’t be so difficult, but the interface between Sprite Lamp and a custom shader is so convoluted that it seems extremely unlikely that it would see any use. Furthermore, it seems that most Sprite Lamp users are content with the existing shaders, and are generally not shader programmers themselves. Finally, if someone really wants to do this for a particular pipeline reason, they can edit the built in shaders to achieve a similar effect.
  • Generally not great engine integration. This is the one that I regret most. I underestimated how much pain engine integration would cause me in several ways, and it was foolish of me to think that keeping up with multiple engines was feasible (especially since I’m not especially adept at any existing game engines).  I also communicated badly about the situation with what an engine integration actually means (that is, that it’s only for the fancy Sprite Lamp-specific effects – you don’t need an engine integration just for basic normal mapping). As of now, there’s a fairly good Unity integration, and a useful but not as complete Game Maker integration. I also didn’t foresee the extent to which Unity and Unreal 4 would take over everything, and the fact that PBR (physically-based rendering) would make it infeasible to actually do Sprite Lamp shaders at all.

I think that’s the end of my list of confessions. As I say, for the most part, this is stuff that I wasn’t expecting to get much use (and in most cases, literally none). However, if you are reading this thinking “God dammit Finn, I backed your kickstarter because I wanted to export depth maps as meshes, how dare you”, please contact me! I genuinely don’t mean to leave people out in the cold – I just don’t want to put myself through a bunch of programming work for features that literally nobody cares about.

Speaking of which, another thing that could have gone better was… in general, I think a lot of the features (particular stretch goal stuff) were just not that useful. More on this in the ‘lessons learnt’ thing, but yeah. Most of that stuff did get implemented, in the end, but I think doing so was in large part me tilting at windmills.

Lessons learnt

About crowd funding

I’m not exactly champing at the bit to get another crowd funding campaign going. Why? Well, a lot of it is my particular psychology, I suppose. But there’s a really important thing that I want people to know about crowdfunding.

If things crash and burn – and they might – it will feel like there’s no honourable way out.

I consider myself to have gotten off lightly with Sprite Lamp – perhaps I’m flattering myself, but in spite of the rather long tail for certain features (coughOSXcough), I consider it a fairly successful project. However, it kills me when I occasionally get a heartfelt email from some game developer who I backed on kickstarter years ago, on a project I’ve long since forgotten about, who’s thrashing about in development hell on a project that would have been cancelled ages ago if it was a normal publishing deal. Often they’re fighting tooth and nail to finish the project, giving up years of their life to develop on platforms that are no longer relevant because they promised, or whatever. I wish I could tell them “seriously, don’t worry about it, go work on something else”, but unless every one of their backers tells them that, they’re still on the hook, and it sucks. If you’re considering a kickstarter campaign or something similar, please, seriously consider that this might happen to you. I feel like Sprite Lamp has given me just enough of a taste of what that would be like that I’ll probably never touch crowdfunding again.

Furthermore, I say this as someone whose backers have been basically 100% wall to wall lovely the whole time. If your backers are shitty to you, that probably wouldn’t help much either.

About my own habits

I’ll just come out and say it. I suck at, and hate, communicating with large groups of people. I suppose this is what people would call ‘community management’. Maybe it’s just my latent shyness, I don’t know. But god damn, I was not expecting to stress more about tweeting that I’ve launched a new build than I did about actually doing the build. As a game developer, I don’t know what my long term strategy for this is. It seems the conventional wisdom right now is that to have any success as an indie developer, you need to maintain a fairly active social media presence. My current strategy about that is to really really hope the conventional wisdom is wrong. Plan B is probably to become a farmer or something.

Related to that, having some kind of weird broken comment/forum system on this website that basically never saw any use really didn’t help. The forums are gone now, and good riddance. If you asked me something there at some point and I ignored it, I’m sorry. If you email me I’ll get back to you much much faster.

One on one is fine, by the way. Anyone who has emailed me for tech support or whatever over the years: you’re cool, no worries at all.

The Future

So, right up there in the title, this blog is for Snake Hill Games – and while it’s true that Sprite Lamp is game-adjacent, I’ve always wanted to get back into making games rather than game tools.

A while back, I started fooling around with a simple base for a project, to relearn C++ (I was teaching C++ but hadn’t used it for years, so this practice was very much necessary).  It hadn’t really gotten anywhere, but I learnt a bunch, and it was around this time that I rebooted Sprite Lamp in Qt. That was the major project focus for a while, and there has been quite a bit of tying up of loose ends there.

However, as of now, I am officially Working On A Game. I’m not really going to say much about it for now – it doesn’t even really have a name. I’ll mention that it doesn’t make major use of Sprite Lamp (sorry – it doesn’t really fit well with the required rendering system), but it does contain some unconventional lighting systems that I think people will get a kick out of (it did start as a programming exercise, after all). More on that coming soonish.

Final thoughts

If it’s not obvious from the above blog post, people are welcome to keep contacting me about Sprite Lamp (and other things). If you need help with getting something to work, or advice about using Sprite Lamp, or need an explanation of how normal mapping works, or whatever, get in touch. I’m pretty responsive via email and generally happy to help.

The other thing I will say is, a final thank you to all my backers. Not so much for backing my project – although that’s much appreciated, I’ve said that already – but for generally being a pleasant bunch. Keep doing what you’re doing, and making cool stuff.


Sprite Lamp sale, and the eating of dogfood

Hi folks!

First thing’s first, Sprite Lamp is on sale on Steam this week, for thirty percent off.  A couple of people asked me when that was going to happen, so here we go. I turned thirty a couple of days ago so I thought that was as good an excuse as any. I’ll note that this sale includes the upgrade from the hobbyist version to the pro version. So yeah, here are the links to the Steam pages if you want to get in on that.

Mac holdup

I’m not enjoying giving bad news for the mac port, but unfortunately there has been a hold up – we’ve recently been having a pretty major show-stopping bug with some not-yet-understood combination of mono, graphics drivers, and OSX versions. Rob has more resources than I do for this, and he’s currently messing about rolling things back to get it to the point it’s usable. Once we get it to some working state, the plan is to release an alpha to kickstarter backers, to get a feel for reliability, and hopefully that will give us the data we need to move on to a proper release.

Linux alpha incoming

Progress is much more forthcoming on the Linux build, fortunately, and I’m hoping to get an alpha to backers soon. I’m still struggling with the Steam libraries on Linux, but other than that things seem to be coming together pretty okay.

Eating our own dogfood

Developers might recognise this rather gross-sounding phrase. ‘Eating your own dogfood‘ refers to the practice of using your own products internally. Technically, I think this would mean Snake Hill Games was making a new game, and it was using Sprite Lamp, but this isn’t the case (yet). Rather, I’ve noticed that too often, I don’t have a great answer to questions people ask about using Sprite Lamp with Unity, because while I have developed the shaders and put them in a toy environment, I haven’t actually used them for real. Unity is big and complex, and try as I might, I frequently overlook application details that are tripping people up. In an attempt to head that off at the pass, Halley and I have decided to make a small tech demo using Sprite Lamp and Unity. Hopefully the following things will result:

  • I’ll encounter problems with using Sprite Lamp and Unity, and fix them.
  • I’ll encounter workflow issues with Sprite Lamp now that we’re using it for real, and fix them.
  • Halley will create a bunch of art, and write some blog posts on workflow and artistic best practices, that will perhaps be of some use to people.
  • We’ll perhaps end up with some generic assets that people might find use of in their games.
  • We’ll be able to give more concrete answers to questions like “How long will it take to make assets for use with Sprite Lamp?”, as well as point people to a live example of what games that use Sprite Lamp can look like.

This won’t take a great deal of my time (it will be more artwork than codework) but it has already borne some fruit. Tomorrow, I’ll be posting an update about using multiple sprite sheets with Unity’s animation system, and adding a script to the official Unity integration package that automates the process of switching out different sprite sheets.

Anyway, I’m not going to say much about this little tech demo just yet – it’s in very early stages, and there’s nothing really worth showing off yet – but I’ll post a bit more about it soon.

Colour Bind – real trophies

I did a fun thing recently. It’s only sort of related to game development. There is, however, information below on how to win fabulous prizes, so read on because you wouldn’t want to miss that.

Back in the day, I made a game called Colour Bind. I thought it was pretty cool – it’s a physics platformer where you drive a car through various levels, but also there are puzzles and a rather nifty gravity-is-based-on-colour mechanic too. Alas, not that many people played it, but so it goes. The game was/is very challenging, and has lots of achievements (proper ones, for achieving things, not for pressing the jump button a hundred times or whatever) and lots of scope for mastery. Accordingly, I made the bold claim that a couple of the things you could achieve were so challenging that the first people to do it would be given a trophy. A real trophy that you can put on a mantelpiece, not a virtual trophy. Furthermore, I would actually make these trophies myself, and they would be awesome.

That coloured triangle is the goal - you play as the car thing. Also you can change colours.
This is what the game looks like…

So the game came out, and a couple of people really got into it. Before long – although with some pride I will say that it did take a couple of weeks after launch – the trophies were won. I was/am impressed with these guys – I’m pretty good at Colour Bind, but I’ve been playing it for years, and these guys are already as good as me or better on lots of the leaderboards. One fellow, an American by the name of Nathan, won the first three trophies (getting all the gold medals, getting fifteen platinum medals, and finishing all the cooperative levels with his brother), and a Spaniard by the name of Asier won the last one, for finishing all the secret levels (also no small feat, believe me).

I’m generally not very good at being active on the internet, but I thought it was worth documenting this adventure into the world of making actual physical things. It took ages, and lots of mistakes were made, but the end result is something I’m pretty proud of.

The fifth one remains. Go on, try out the Colour Bind level editor. I dare you.
And this is what the trophies look like!

Booya! I made a thing.

Don’t you just want to read a long description of how they were made? Well, you would be in luck, because I have written just such a blog entry, in four parts:

Part 1 – 3D printing

Part 2 – Dying the prints and making the supports

Part 3 – Painting and assembling

Part 4 – Tricky painting and bring it all together

The Fifth Trophy

Okay, this is the bit about fabulous prizes. The trophies were originally claimed to be for:

  • Getting all the gold medals
  • Finishing all the cooperative levels
  • Finishing all the secret levels  (real hard)
  • Getting 15 platinum medals (I didn’t even know if this was possible at release)
  • Making the coolest level in the game’s level editor

Now the purists will notice that the photo of trophies above features four trophies, and the list of trophies just there includes five. The disparity is the last one. The first four are very easily defined – when people achieved them, I crossed them off the list – but the last one, about making something in the game’s level editor, had no predefined cut off date. I kind of wanted to leave it open, because the game was only out on Windows. Then the MacOS version took ages due to various bureaucratic annoyances (don’t ask – suffice to say, it wasn’t the fault of the awesome person who did the actual port work), and the whole thing kind of dragged out. However, I haven’t forgotten. I will be posting back here with precise details (want to see if it’s reasonable to include the Linux release in this before I say any dates), but if you want the fifth trophy, you should get the game and start making some cool stuff. There’ll be a Mac version real soon, the Windows version can be had right now either via Steam or DRM-free via Desura. I’ll look through the Steam Workshop for levels, and they will be automatically in the running. If you make stuff in the DRM-free version, you’ll have to email the level to me or something like that for me to notice – I’ll put some details up for that when I do an official post on the subject.

So I hope you’ll give it a shot! There’s some documentation for Colour Bind’s level editor that can help you get started. Feel free to get in touch with me if you want to know how to do something in the editor or want to know if something’s possible. Or of course, if you happen to be attending PAX Australia, come ask me in person at my booth at the indie pavilion!

Colour Bind trophy building – part 4

Okay, let’s tackle the hard bit first. The colour bind goal model is sitting on my desk with a big white triangle where the colours should be. Mocking me. Telling me that I’m not good enough to paint it. Well, we’ll see who’s not good enough.

This is potentially going to be a bit of a challenge. The things against me are that I have never really painted anything before (apart from some Warhammer figures when I was a kid), and the extent of my paint mixing experience begins and ends with mixing up some grey paint for the other bits of the trophies earlier. Furthermore, the Colour Bind goal triangle is basically just the OpenGL triangle, that is, a triangle with its points being pure red, green, and blue, and those three colours smoothly interpolated between the points.

It may sound strange to some, but red, green, and blue are chosen because they are primary colours – specifically, primary light colours, also known as primary additive colours. The primary colours many people are more familiar with are primary subtractive colours, or primary pigment colours, red, yellow, and blue. With paint, you mix yellow and blue to get green. With light, you mix green and red to get yellow. Screens, and thus computer games, use additive mixing, which is why the OpenGL triangle and the Colour Bind goal use the additive primaries.

So, naturally, I have to paint what’s in the game. But since I’m painting, I’m going to be using subtractive mixing – a subject I know considerably less about. Halley assures me that, unlike the wonderful abstract world of computer graphics, paint is made of chemicals that may or may not have identical mixing properties, consistency, intensity, and whatever else. Fortunately, she’s going to provide me with some advice. She also did a pretty awesome job of masking the model for me. I am seen here taking my first feeble steps into mixing colours.

Also, that picture of the guy with the glasses on my desk is freaking me out. I don't know where that came from.
I probably should have shaved my beard a bit before taking this photo.

After a fair bit of remixing, faffing about, and general obsessing over needless details, things have come out reasonably well!

Damn you, creepy glasses man, why can't you leave me alone?
Seems to have come out pretty well! I’m as surprised as you are.

All that’s left for this trophy is to take the masking tape off and retouch some bits (the white dotted line around the edge needs it), and then attach everything to everything. Specifically, the trophy and the nameplate both need sticking to the base. I also varnished the whole thing in some matte polymer varnish because I was concerned that the paint job would get chipped.

Meanwhile, the other trophy’s repainting job was drying in a somewhat unorthodox drying scenario:

I got paint on my glasses and everything.
If you think I didn’t walk into this face first a couple of times during the process, you give me too much credit.

Now we’re practically home and hosed. Just sticking a bunch of stuff together remained at this point, and happily, it went off without a hitch! There isn’t really even an intermediate phase – just the finished trophies in all their dubious glory. Check it.

This trophy is actually pretty robust, too - if any of them break it'll be the dratted coop one
Done and dusted! I am very pleased with this one.

And last but not least:

The front wheel is riding a little lower than the back, because it's driving up a jump ramp. Just like in real life.
This one too. I like the suspension.

That’s it! Four trophies completed.

As a side note, as someone who generally creates things digitally, my heart goes out to people who spend most of their time making physical objects, because you don’t get to keep what you make! I made Colour Bind, and I sell it to people, but I also get to keep the game. Not so with these – I’ve taken my last look, now it’s time to make some overengineered packaging.

As mentioned, these trophies are going to two people, so I need two boxes. My plan is to cut out some of that weird cardboard/chipboard stuff that the trophy bases are made of, get some wooden dowel, and drill holes the size of the dowel – then, I’ll have squares of wood making up the floor and ceiling of the box, and the dowel holding them apart. Hopefully the result will be rigid enough to survive the adventure of international shipping. I didn’t document this process all that much, because it’s not so interesting, but I did get a photo of my standing near a drill press, so that’s something.

I'm wearing gloves and goggles because I was traumatised by a drill press injury earlier in the project.
This might make more sense when you see the finished product

Basically what you see above is two squares of wood taped together, and I’m drilling holes in the corners. The plan is to then thread some wooden dowel through those holes, and put a nail in each connection to hold the whole thing together. The dowel and the drill I’m using are pretty precisely the same size, so it should be reasonably solid. The next challenge will be to hold the trophies in place without damaging them, or having to attach sticky stuff to them that will leave a mark. I decided to drill some smaller holes in the base of the box and tie the trophies to the base with twine. Here’s Asier’s trophy suitably bound and ready to post:

I'm still a bit fearful of posting the thing.
Not a scratch on it.

And here are the ones for Nathan and Scott:

This twining process actually took ages.
I’m still a bit scared about the coop trophy. Fingers crossed.

Now for the packaging process. We got some vaguely appropriate boxes from the post office, loaded them with bubble wrap and other random packaging that we’d saved from all the stuff we’ve been sent throughout our lives, and got ready to go.

Complete with notes on to the recipients, and a sort of hinging door thingy to protect the set of three.
Almost there…
I almost spelled 'fragile' wrong but I saved it at the last moment.
Mission accomplished!

Well, that’s it! The rest of the story involves me going to the post office, and paying absurd prices for shipping (it is going some distance, I suppose). Next post I make will hopefully be about the recipients of the trophies telling me that they’ve arrived safe and sound, and that all is well.

Anyways, I hope you’ve found this interesting and/or entertaining! Remember, there’s still one trophy somewhat like this one, but different (and yet to be created) up for grabs! These four trophies were for gaming skills, but the last one goes to the person who makes the coolest level in Colour Bind’s level editor. If you want to try that out, you can get the game on Steam or you can get it on Desura as well. The MacOS version is coming out really soon (at long last!) too – its fate is currently in Apple’s hands, but will be on Steam and the App Store when the time comes.

Colour Bind trophy building – part 3

Rightio, so I believe last time I was just about to get up to painting. Well, there’s not much to say here I suppose – here’s a photo of me painting stuff:

Wallpaper by the beautiful and talented Darren Geers
Awesome desktop wallpaper included to provide contrast with my meager painting skills.

That wallpaper is pretty cool, by the way. Anyway, at the moment I’m painting the black bits black and everything else can wait until later. Here’s the front:

And it says 'Halley' because that's my girlfriend's name and the bit of cardboard belongs to her. Not really.
That bucket is because we had a leaky roof

What may be less apparent in this photo is that I’m dipping the three prongs from the back of the goal triangle in some green paint. You can also kind of see that I’m holding the wooden curvy bit in my other hand. The reasons for all of this are ingenious, and explained in the next photo:

Brilliant. Yes.
Brilliant, no?

So, now my cunning plan comes together. By marking the base with green paint from the pegs, I can now drill holes there of the appropriate size and fit them into the wooden base. I actually took kind of decent photos of this, so I’ll let them do the talking.

The lack of green around the holes is promising
Holes drilled, moment of truth approaching…
I was so proud that this worked first go - you have no idea

Okay this is awesome. The pegs fit into the holes so well that I could actually hold the whole thing by the base, or the triangle bit, without them falling apart. I’m pretty surprised that worked so well, actually. I’ll still glue them in, but it’s nice to be able to see roughly how this is going to look.

Anyway, that’s enough painting there for the moment. The other things that need painting are the curvy wooden bases. My plan here is to undercoat with black paint, then mix up some grey (I bought red, green, blue, yellow, white, and black paint) to put over it. There’s not really much to say here, but I’ve provided some action shots anyway.

In fact there are kind of slinkies everywhere in this photo. My secret shame!
Yes, that is a big tower of small metal slinky springs in the background.

You might think, based on this photo, that I have cleverly masked out the base of the trophy so I don’t accidentally get paint all over the pretty wooden base. But you’d be wrong, because it was in fact my girlfriend, Halley, who did that, using her amazing artist skills. This is nothing though – the masking necessary for the goal triangle is even cooler. But before we get to that, one last thing. I realised, after painting this thing with about five layers of grey paint, that one of the edges was unacceptably uneven. I figured I should be as much of a perfectionist as was necessary for the recipient of the trophy to finish all the secret levels, so I once again grabbed the whittling knife and went back to the chopping section of the project:

Background featuring chainsaw, brushcutter, and spare harpsichord
I like the way you can see the layers of paint in this photo

Anyway, long story short: It took a surprising amount of re-paintings to make the colour of the freshly whittled bit smooth with the rest of it, but the upside of so many coats of paint is that the bits where I screwed up slightly have been thoroughly concealed by paint now. But, I got there in the end.

Somewhere during all of this, I had been asking around regarding some competent people who might like to laser etch some name plates for these things. A friend of mine recommended the good people at 5 Star Trophies, and I got in touch. Before long, they had sent me the following bundle of goodness:

They have cool sticky stuff on the back too
Secret fact: These aren’t actually metal, they just look that way

Now, I made a mistake here. I was expecting to be screwing these things to the front, so I asked them to put holes in, but that turned out to be both problematic and unnecessary, since the screws wouldn’t sit flush and it looked crummy, plus I can get the plates with sticky stuff on the back and that will do a good job of holding things in place. After ruining a few of the above pictured plates, I gave up and re-ordered them without the holes. 5 Star Trophies gave me the second set half price, too, so that was nice of them.

The exciting thing here is that now, I’m able to finish two of the trophies! The two simpler ones, for all the gold medals (just a car on a base) and for the coop levels (two cars ‘high fiving’ on a base, have all their parts assembled. The bases are good to go, the nameplates are ready, now I just have to drill holes and glue stuff in. Here’s a hideous monstrosity that I created while practicing various methods of screwing things together:

Also: See how much better the car looks painted?
I needed to figure out how to drill holes and drive screws somehow, right?

The tricky bit was drilling the holes for the car prongs just the right distance apart, so the car would sit in there reasonably tightly and not fall out, but I got there in the end. All I have to do is the same thing on the real trophy base, apply a sticker, and…

Still quite pleased with that base, given it was made out of firewood and all.
Bam! First trophy finished!

This was a pretty exciting milestone because this whole process has taken ages. And what’s more, the coop trophy is also finishable with a similar amount of work – in fact, it’s easier, because I have slightly more wiggle room for the hole placement.

I lucked out and found a slice of wood with two sets of concentric circles in the grain. Symbolism.
Part two complete! Sorry this photo is a little blurry.

Okay! So, two down, two to go! And one of the remaining two is all but finished at this point. Unfortunately, the remaining paint job is by far the most daunting. Plus, I’ve got to figure out a way to package these things so that they don’t get destroyed in transit. For the exciting conclusion, you’ll have to read the next entry, coming up right now.

Colour Bind trophy building – part 2

Okay, back into it! Last thing that happened was I shamefully confessed my incompetence about using green wood for the trophy bases and having them split. But, no real harm done – I got some other wood and repeated the same procedure, and it went better.

More importantly, I was about to experiment with colouring these white plastic prints. I’ve heard a few people recommend using textas (like a sharpie, I believe, for those who don’t know what textas are), which seems like a dubious option. However, I made a mistake on one of the models – the suspension line on the car which is supposed to be at right angles to the car body was actually rotated a bit. Various people have told me that I am being obsessive throwing this one out, and they might be right, but if anyone is going to notice besides me it’ll be the people who played the game enough to win the trophies, right? Right. So I’m going to practice colouring this thing green.

Textas work well on fingers too
Half way done green car

By the way, see how the suspension lines in this model aren’t parallel to each other like they should be? Poor form on my part, but at least it meant I have a print to experiment with.

In retrospect, I could have seen this coming
Pretty good even colour, but I couldn’t get into the crevices

As you can see, textas are pretty good for this purpose – I would wholeheartedly recommend them sometimes. But for this, ultimately, I couldn’t colour the whole thing – there’s no good way to get the texta down behind the wheels, and in practice, it’s pretty noticeable. Dang. Well, that brings me to attempt number two – I’ve got to dye these things. I found a helpful youtube video that told me how to dye shapeways plastic – so, let’s go with that. I’m going to make the gold medal car red, the co-op cars blue and green, and the secret trophy car blue (I asked Asier which he preferred). The goal triangle model won’t be dyed – it has to be different colours so that will take a different approach. I got some blue and red Rit dye, but they didn’t have any in a good green colour so I got a different brand called Dylon (the lady at the shop told me it was the same kind of thing). Naturally, step one is to clean the models with a toothbrush.

Weights in background included to give false impression that I work out
This part of the process was as exciting as it looked

Then came the mixing part. You see here half water, half vinegar, with a probably excessive amount of blue dye mixed in.

Does the phrase "so blue that it's pretty much black" even make sense?
Primed and ready

Look at the car in the background there. It looks so clean! But, not for long. In we go.

This next part of the process took a while, featuring me initially freaking out that it’s not blue enough. In fact, I think I did that with all the dye jobs (although in some cases I was freaking out that it wasn’t red/green enough instead). But, so far, so good! I particularly enjoyed the car shapes on the paper where I dried it off while re-microwaving the mixture.

Only three to go
So far, so good!

After that, I had a minor hiccup with the creation of the green dye. I may have done some bad chemistry here, but in the end it worked fine.

It's not even a real table so much as a big piece of chipboard
Now I have a green table, so, that’s cool too

With the red car, I had a bigger problem. Let’s just say, any of you out there planning to dye shapeways white plastic red, don’t use Rit scarlet dye. I’m sure it works great on fabric, but…

Credit where it's due though - the paper towel turned a pretty good red
This is really not the bright vibrant red I was hoping for

Okay, so, that colour is kinda terrible. I can’t go around calling that a red Colour Bind car – it would make a mockery of everything I stand for. I fixed it by painting over it with some red paint. This actually worked much better than I was expecting – I was worried it would ruin the texture of the model, but figured if it didn’t work I’d just have to re-print the model but at this point that would be necessary anyway. But instead, it worked perfectly! Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of this at this stage – but this car will reappear later so you can check out its proper colour then.

Okay so there’s one other thing I’m going to talk about. If you go back to the first blog post and look at the initial 3D models, you can see that the car in the Secret Levels trophy is sitting on a sort of curvy platform, not dissimilar to the shapes in the game. Likewise, the goal triangle in the 15 Platinums trophy is supported by a similar curvy shape. Since I’m no longer planning to 3D print these bits, I needed an alternative plan.

I tried a few things. Initially I thought the best would be to get a bit of thick grey plastic and cut it into shape, but obtaining plastic of that nature turned out to be harder than I was expecting. I tried out a similar plan with one of those plastic chopping boards from the supermarket, but it didn’t receive dye or cut very well, so I gave up on that and got some extremely fine chip board. It’s strange stuff – kind of more like very thick/dense cardboard than wood. But, hopefully, this would do the trick.

My initial plans to cut the shape out roughly with a bandsaw failed due to inferior cornering ability, but a quick wikipedia search revealed that what I really wanted was a coping saw. Predictably, a quick search of dad’s workshop revealed that we had one already. I cut the very rough shape with a bandsaw and then drew a guide line with a biro and got to it.

Done. Ship it.
That’s the easy bit done

I have a few more cuts to make, obviously. Incidentally, in the above photo it’s actually screwed to the base (that is, screws going up through the base and into the underneath of the shaped bit) – I figured I was less likely to split the wood/cardboard/whatever if I drilled holes in it now rather than after it was cut into shape. Spoiler warning: It kind of split anyway, but it wasn’t too bad. Anyway, I also drilled the little hole for the car’s peg thingy to fit in, to make sure the whole thing was going to work, and it seemed pretty good. So, I disassembled everything and got back into it with the coping saw.

Way too many offcuts of failure in the background here
Getting this shape was a bit tricky – had to be done in two parts

And after part two:

Can't really get sand paper in there, either
Here it is after part two, but it’s a little rough

So clearly that ‘curve’ I’ve created is less curvy than is ideal, and I can’t easily sand it down like I can the other curves because there’s no room. A while ago, I tried my hand at whittling, and I have a nice sharp knife around, so I decided to try whittling the corner away to a slightly nicer curve. Here was the result:

Shame about that over-cut - will have to fix it in post
Not bad – hopefully will look nicer when painted.

Now, clearly this is not finished yet. However, once again, this is one of those times I foolishly failed to take more photographs, so you’ll have to wait and see how the other cuts went. Long story short, though, I cut the other bits out and then sanded the whole thing a whole bunch. I also made the shape for the other curvy bit, using basically the same method – more on that later.

Next up, I’m going to be painting some stuff. The wooden curvy stand things need to be a nice shade of grey, and I’ve got to figure out some kind of plan for the coloured goal triangle too. That’s it for now though – I’ll be covering that stuff in the next post.

Colour Bind trophy building – part 1

This is going to be a long one.

You can find some of the backstory explaining this elsewhere on the blog, but to cut a long story short, I made a game. It is called Colour Bind. It’s a physics/puzzle/platform game, and it’s quite challenging. I promised physical trophies would be mailed to people who were the first to achieve various epic feats of brilliance in the game.

This is the story of these trophies.

Now, it’s important to note that I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to making physical stuff, and I don’t have much of a budget either. What I do have is access to my late father’s workshop (I say without hyperbole that he was a million times better at this kind of thing than I could ever hope to be), and an internet full of advice on how to do things. I was determined to make the trophies like the game – not necessarily perfect, but unique, and made by me according to my own twisted sense of aesthetics. So, off we go.

My first thought? 3D print these suckers. Shapeways lets you print stuff in all manner of crazy materials – I can just make the things in some 3D modelling software and then send them off and we’re all good. Here’s what I came up with:

It seems like so long ago that I made these things.
Straight from my modelling program. Not to scale.

Pretty ace, right? I thought so too, even if I didn’t get around to attaching Asier’s name to the trophy before I took these screenshots. Anyway, you see what I’m going for. The All Gold and the Coop trophies are the simper ones, but the 15 Platinums (platina?) and the Secret Levels trophies are a bit fancier, because those are the two very difficult ones. I was all set to go. After some wrangling to get them into the right file type (the polygon soup outputted by programs like 3dsmax isn’t what you want – volumetric data is what 3D printers crave), I uploaded them to Shapeways. To my considerable suprise, I had managed to create them all devoid of geometry problems, first time, and they were ready to print!

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a snag. If I wanted them to be of a reasonable size, this was going to set me back quite a bit, even if I just printed them in the cheapest white plastic – certainly getting them in stainless steel or anything fancy like that was going to cost hundreds of dollars at this size. So, I need a better plan.

I got to thinking – printing the cars and stuff makes sense, because I don’t know how I’d go about building one of those cars by hand. But the trophy bases, as well as the curvy bits in the Secret and Platinum trophies, are simple enough shapes – maybe I can make them in some other way.

My new plan is to make the bases out of a slice of wood. I live on a farm, so wood should be reasonably accessible, right? I get a small log, cut a slice of it, and from that slice I shall shave off a face, and that face will give me a place to attach a plaque. Then I can put the model on that. That’ll save quite a bit of 3D printing volume already, and might also make the trophies more interesting.

So, let’s get started. As luck would have it, I had to cut down a couple of almond trees a few months ago (don’t feel bad for them – they were rubbish at actually growing almonds), so I’ll cut myself a slice of that and see how it goes.

Chainsawing almond tree
Gratuitous chainsawing photo

There was also some cutting with a regular hand saw in there, but it didn’t make for very interesting photos, so I’m just going to cut to the ‘finished’ product. Don’t act like you’re not jealous of my double glasses set up here, either.

This was the least bad photo I had of this, I swear.
The flat bit is where the plaque would go.

I’ll go into more detail later about whether or not my plan to use totally green almond wood for the base works out well (it doesn’t), but around this time I was distracted because my 3D prints had arrived! Check it out:

3D printing is so cool
A handful of Colour Bind cars, and one goal triangle thingy.

These things are so cool! The ability to go from 3D model to 3D object like this is kind of magical. I’m definitely planning on doing some more of this in the future.

From left to right in my left hand, we have – little blue car that I printed for fun and to see what the colour prints were like, gold medal car, secret levels car (note that it’s riding low on its suspension, just like in the game!), the two coop trophy cars, and then another car for a separate thing that I screwed up and didn’t end up using. And of course in my right hand is the medal thing that goes on the platinum trophy. Note the little pegs that most of the models have, to attach them to the various things they need to get attached to. In my next post on the subject, I’ll be talking about taking these prints from white plastic to the colours I need them to be, including the rather onerous problem of getting the goal triangle to be a blend of red, green, and blue.

Before I do that, though, a brief note about the trophy bases. Of all the dumb mistakes I made on this project, the one where I really should have (and on some level, did) know better was cutting a base from undried wood. Woodworkers reading this will know where this is going – when wood dries it will warp and crack, and that’s exactly what happened with this. In the end, the almond wood bases that I made were thrown away, and I did basically the same process to cut some more out of some redgum we have (firewood – nice and dry), as well as some other nice-looking stuff I found downstairs that I think Dad cut from a cherry tree years ago and kept it for some project that never happened. For some reason, I neglected to take any photos of that, so you’ll just have to trust me – the bases show up in later photos, of course, so you’ll see what I’m talking about in the next couple of posts.