Monday, May 25, 2015

Laying Patterns for Learning

As it is I am from Germany and we have a learning game (The game certainly exists also in other cultures. ) which must be older than 40 years, but is still not outdated in any way. They changed the design several times but it is still about answering a question by putting a little plastic plate on the right spot of a thin box. When you have answered any question you can put the lid on it and turn the box. You open the turned box and you can see a nice pattern if all was right. If not you will notice an irregularity.

Picture Source

When I was a child I was good at school and my sister was not. My parents sent her to different places to get help with this problem. One was a nice old lady who gave little lessons to young children and she mainly uses the Luek boxes. I have heard about it and asked my parents if I can go with my sister. I had so much fun, but the lady told me after some time that I am good enough and that her resources are done, means she did not know how to teach me any further, which was sad.

The little books you can buy for learning with the Luek box are mostly for young children. I have the idea to offer these for more advanced topics. They can be greater in size and designed for elder children and adults accompanied by books containing a more advanced type of problems, like chemistry and physics or languages.

I mostly did not think much about the topic but more about having the pattern right and beautiful in front of me, which was the main motivation. This may sound not very professional for teachers but it is a fact and maybe many learners feel like this.

Lueck also exists as a software for mobile devices, so that you can learn with Luek anywhere, but I imagine that people rather have the box and a book with challenges.

Still, I never would be allowed to create the above, because of the rights Luek owes. I certainly have to think out something similar but different enough to the Luck idea.

Programming Maze

I currently do two edx courses, Design and Development of Games and Introduction to Programming with Java . As it is the programming introduction uses games to teach and I will evaluate one of them.
The game uses a certain amount of blocks that are essential programming constructs. With the help of the constructs you have to move through a maze to a certain point. To solve the problem you are limited in the amount of blocks you can use so that you are forced to find a clever solution for the problem.

I think this game a great way to try out programming constructs and have fun with it. The course also has tests and other programming assignments. I remember that I was often annoyed doing them for it fits not my way of learning. They are dry and boring for a more intuitive person. Children generally have a more intuitive way of learning, so that this game is very useful in teaching elder children, but also people who want to use programming skills in art and design.
However, the last assignment, which you can see above I did not solve. You are only allowed 4 blocks to reach the question mark. I moved forward whenever there is a straight pass and turning right was my priority whenever there was the possibility to turn, but … at one intersection the guy ought to turn left, which I could not say with just 4 blocks. I really tried a long time, but did not catch it. I think this is bad in a game. You could go to the forums for the social aspect of learning, but I did not want to be the stupid one in the round ;)
I think the game would be much better with some hints and more explanations.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Forest Circus - A Report on a Tabletop Game Design

Getting an Idea

Confronted with the idea if desiging a simple tabletop game I started with some brainstorming and jotted down some associations I had. This resulted in the idea to create a game with one or more dies where you have to collect points to win. Very fast I had the idea of collecting points for a series of throwing results like in the Yahtzee game. I always thought yahtzee somehow dry but loved games with a story behind, like the vintage game "Lustiger Packesel" (Loading the Donkey), where you have to stack wooden sticks on a wooden mule.

These images are taken from online catalogs of game vendors.

I imagined different animals building a tower like the Town Musicians of Bremen.

An illustration by me.

I thought of starting with an elephant and a mosquito at the top or a tiger at the bottom and I asked people about it. Each person has their own imagination and I had to decide for one. I chose a couple of forest animals.
The story is something like they meet in winter and so it is cold they are declined to forget that some normally would eat the other. They worm each other, but also play games and one is to climb on each other in order to build a tower.
In the game now anyone can build this tower.  Throw a die with the animals on its six sides and look at the picture on the die. "Stack them" and get points according to this rules:
The animals have to be stacked in a certain order: Wolf, deer, fox, owl, hedgehog, squirrel Throw one time and look at the result. If it is a squirrel you get 15 points and you stop throwing the dice. If it is one of the other animals you can throw the dice as long as the next picture can be "stacked". You get 5 points for any animal in a sequences of animals. There is one exception. If you first throw the Wolf and then the Squirrel you get 20 points. For a short round or a big group the first player, who gets 50 points wins. Change this rule according to your conditions.

The picture shows part of my play test, where I was surprised by results I did not think of earlier. For example did I threw doubles, but decided they have no meaning.
I also became clearer of the amount of points possible. It is for example highly unlikely to throw the sequence wolf, deer, fox, owl, hedgehog, squirrel, but I left it as a possibility. You mostly get points from a sequence of one or two animals. The 15 from the squirrel and the 20 from wolf and squirrel keeps the game exciting. Chances to win the game are always there.

I also will design a board with a little illustration on it of the animals that you can see on the die.I asked myself and others if a board is necessary. It certainly is nice to have one. The picture shows a first rough design.

I was surprised how important it is that the game works properly in first place. As someone more on the visual design side this was a most valuable insight.
At this stage I knew apart from more play testing I need to find out how the writing pads should be equipped. If there should be one for each player with the possibility to note different rounds or is one pad enough where one person can note all the necessary information etc.

Never stop Improving

However, some days later I realized how disappointing it was, (to me and test players), that it is so unlikely to ever have six animals stacked. Changing some rules did not seem to help. They mostly would have made the game too long. I decided to add something new.

The game now is supposed to have a set of six cubes with an appropriate size and an appropriate image on them.

For each possibility to stack an animal a player set a cube. An example if the game starts and you throw the wolf and then the deer. Now you take the wolf cube and put it in the middle of the party. The next one just manages a hedgehog, no stacking, no cube. Some throws owl, hedgehog, squirrel and adds two cubes to the tower. The game ends when the tower is finished. The points are added and the one with the most points wins the round.

The play test was exciting. The players were able to accept that you can hardly build the tower by your throws alone, but there was always the tower in progress in  the middle of the party.
I had a thought about giving zero points instead of 5 for just one animal, but this decision seemed too rational. 5 points feel better than zero.

I also tried a different version with 6 dies and no tower, but adding the points say after 10 rounds. You could choose from the six dies the animals that you can stack and for example 4 stacked animals became very likely. The play test feels lively and rich, but maybe a bit boring just after a short time. You now could say we again build the tower but you need at least 4 right animals. Still, it may be personal, but I like the version above more and people I asked had too different opinions to rely on.

There is still a potential to make the game more engaging, like changing the rules or adding more assets, using a different set of dies etc. I have to look for more possibilities for play testing with different people. For now I like playing/ play test the game, with and without my friends.

What I certainly will do is creating artwork for the game, because I impatiently waited all the time to start with this and first I will go ahead my concepts for the different animals.

That's all what I can do for now

Despite my expectations of creating some artwork next I rather did more play testing and this time were able to interpret the feedback better than earlier. I also introduced the variation with 6 dies to my play testers and got valuable feedback.  I finally decided to go further with the six dies version. People feel better with it because of more possibilities.

I knew after my play testing that something still was not right. I often got feedback concerning choices. You simply had no choice. You got 6 dies and you have to try to achieve a right ordered series of the given animals.
As usual I was severe and did not allow any rule changes ;) One was sad because he threw five sixes in one but it was not worth anything in my game. Then I got a comment on this post (look at the bottom) and an online friend suggests the possibility to collect animals of the same kind. I at once was into this new rule, because it also adds so much to my story which is about coming together with different kinds, but sometimes we like more being with our own kind.

Now, please, play test!

Download the rules and a description how to prepare and play the game here.

You either can build your own materials or
you can download some prepared materials here.

I now feel as if it is a nice little playable game. You always can improve, yes, like thinking out which format the game has to have. Shall it have a board? Shall there be cubes for the tower? How to design the note pads? Should the possibility to note who won the round been added or is an extra notepad needed? More rules, choices? Which artwork? Style?


Sunday, May 25, 2014

What Art Should Be But What Is Called Art

I am showing you two pictures. One I took from my online friend Mariana the other is a screenshot from where I searched images with the art tag. I love Marianas solution of displaying a film scene with miniature items. It is meant to be after a movie poster from "Airplane-The sequel".

  Airplane- The sequel 

I leave it to you to interpret the work, but what I love here is the obvious creativity in it. You can almost feel the intensity of the creation process. I consider that the mentioned movie poster was just a trigger for Mariana to create one of her inner images and how more beautiful it is than the poster.

(One particularly beautiful artwork by Mariana in form of an animated Gif you can find here!) 

 About the second picture, I do not consider much of the search result as art. I really like the tree with the colourful stripes and some more pictures, but most of this site is ego stuff not deeper than the eyes can see. It feels like "AS IF", even fake. Most people generally fear to explore their own beautiful depth and the result is "FAKE ART".

  Art Perception

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Where My Art Comes From


One of the first influences for my today art creations was probably 'Biene Maja' ('The Bee Maja'). I presume this, because I often draw insect characters like the one below. What I am not sure about is if I draw them because my mum liked Biene Maja or because I liked Biene Maja.

                    Martianus and his friends fter a horrible fight.
Marianus is complietely exhausted.

Certainly a major influence for my artwork are fairy tales, which I think as inner representation of what things we have to cope with in life, which is for example becoming an individual person.


I also was very interested in painting with Chinese ink and here animals in particular.


Further more I am fascinated by the Manga style, especially how they paint and draw people.


 Altogether I painted a series of fairy tale illustrations.

                         Town Musicians Of Bremen            Puss In Boots
                  The Hazeltwig    Little Mermaid

I also love drawing and painting portraits in a rather realistic style. Naturally historical masters influenced me. a great deal.

old masters

Still much about portrait painting I learned from books about painting. Painting the Madonna was one of the most fascinating exercises.


But again literature stirred my imagination, like for example J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the movies made from this books.

These impacts resulted in a series of portrait paintings from characters from the Harry Potter films.

      Black                   Buckbeak
      Lupin         Pettigrew

Additionally I am an eager photographer, but it is nothing else than nature itself that inspires me most to take pictures and learn how to improve the quality via technology. This way I can share what I deeply feel when going through nature.

             Reaching The Sky     Trees in misty weather.
    Fall Reflection     Winterly Thunder and Bolt

Concerning videos I am certainly influenced by the experimental film genre of my time, although it is difficult to produce similar videos after movies like "Der Himmel ├╝ber Berlin" (Wings of Desire) or "Die Blechtrommel" (The Tin Drum).


 However I want to show you two of my recently produced little videos.


There are certainly more sources that influenced my art style like teachers and the adventures in life, but the above is already a pretty accurate representation of guidance I had so far.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fading Differences

Not long ago I created a piece of land art that copes with the topic ofthe different ethnic grounds of people in most cities.

When challenged to create a photo manipulation concerning both, globalization and language games, I remembered my former creation. It was not at all about photography, but naturally I took photos to document the installation.

Apart from the topic of different people, the little squares reminded me on pieces of the scrabble game.

I presume scrabble is more a game of western industrial countries, but they may exist for other languages, that use a different character set, like keyboards do.

I have chosen the English language and its characters to symbolize globalization, because almost any citizen of the world knows English and uses it to communicate internationally. Then I looked up what globalization “looks like” in different languages, especially in languages with characters different from those of the English language.

I combined a photo of the land art piece with these characters, where the Non-english characters fade into the surrounding like the colored grounds themselves. I did this for four language. I also created a sphere from the four images, which represents the globe.

I intend to present the images via a viewmaster, where the differences became clearer while circling through the pictures. You will find many viewmasters throughout an imagined the museum with an exhibition on the topic of globalization and language games. any visitor can take the viewmaster to circle through the images.

This post is inspired by an open online art course.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Design by Programming

Processing is a script language with which it is relatively easy to generate colors, shapes and interactivity.

For a start I created shapes like rectangles, ellipses and triangles to design an abstract landscape. I took a sheet of quad-ruled paper and looked for the coordinates I needed to place the shapes on the screen. The colors I find with the help of a color selector, that is provided by the processing interface.

Now I had all the information I needed to create my first Processing sketch.

Here I imagine a landscape with a planet (moon, sun) and a triangle which moves through the landscape.

Landscape - created shape by shape

The next step in sketching with Processing was to let a shape be drawn by the program within a loop. I also added randomness for the colors and for the coordinates of the shapes.

My intention was to contrast splintering (triangles) with entirety (circles). This can be a symbol for, for example, an immigrant family contrasted to a native family.

Round versus Triangular 1 - randomly generated   Round versus Triangular 2 - randomly generated

Round versus Triangular 3 - randomly generated

  Round versus Triangular 4 - randomly generated

The last step with my first experience with Processing was interactivity and by that generative design.

The interactive part of my script provides the possibility to drag the mouse button over the screen and this way to display thin bars.

The stroke and the fill color of the bar is chosen according to the position on the screen. You also can clear the screen with any key and by that generate a new background color, again depending on the mouse position.

This way you can partly control the process, but because of the complexity of the procedure most people may try to generate a stripe design by "playing around". Look the following examples,

I intended to give the possibility to create playfully ones own space, but you can also use it to design a nice pattern of stripes.

Generatively designed Stripes 5   Generatively designed Stripes 6

Generatively designed Stripes 7

  Generatively designed Stripes 4

and here the genesis of the last example.

Generatively designed Stripes 1   Generatively designed Stripes 2   Generatively designed Stripes 3   Generatively designed Stripes 4

Blogger does not provide the possibility of running Processing within this post, but here is the example I used as a basis for creating my sketch.

This post was inspired by an art online course:

Introduction to Computational Arts