Nest

Handcrafted stop-motion wool videogames. All posts by Ken. Current game is Nest, last game was Voyager. I also blog about dyeing wool and other parts of my process.


March 25, 2014 at 4:32pm
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Dye Garden Preparation

Spring is here, and that means another warm season of light and sun and garden dyes is coming.

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(Initial plans for dye plants)

Even though I’m still wearing my winter jacket, I’ve begun preparations for this year’s garden. My seed plans are constantly morphing, and I’m perhaps being a little overambitious. The choices I’m making are based both on the dye properties of the plant as well as my aesthetic ideas for the garden.

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I’m testing out a newly installed seed germination station in my apartment. I’ve been saving yogurt cups to use as seed starters for the last 6 months so I have a giant box full of these. I’m growing on a really small scale so I’m not optimizing for space, and I have no need for an intensive seed starting program.

I just poke holes in the cups, place them on the tray, and pour water onto the tray, and the soil wicks the water similarly to how my self-watering containers work. I turn the lights on when I wake up and turn them off when I go to sleep.

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I used zinnia seeds I had leftover from last year as my test subjects to make sure what I just wrote actually works, and they seem to be doing pretty well.

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March 5, 2014 at 11:06am
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Nest By Audio is TONIGHT!!!

Tonight is the opening party for the Nest arcade cabinet at Death By Audio! There’s going to be a tournament, and anyone is welcome to join!

The prize for the winning team is this:


Here is more info on the event. Hope to see you there!

February 13, 2014 at 5:27pm
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An Arcade Cabinet Made From Felted Wool

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When Mark, the curator of games over at the DIY music+art venue Death By Audio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn asked me to install Nest as an arcade cabinet, I got super excited. I suddenly had an excuse to build a cabinet, something I’ve always wanted to do, and it was going to be playable in a public space!

Not only that, but I would be in good company: the previous games installed there are all pretty amazing, games like QWOP, Hokra, Field-1 and Crystal Brawl. It’s humbling to be next on that list.

I went through a lot of design iterations as I considered how to build this thing. I checked out a lot of other DIY cabinets, including the Studio Mercato guys, and I tried to remember and relive my experiences of various Babycastle installations. Ultimately I decided to follow my game making methods to its logical extreme. I made my box out of wool.

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The skeleton of the box is just a cheap metal shelving system on wheels that I bought off Craigslist. Not only was it cheaper than wood, but the shelves were adjustable, the wheels made it portable, and it was far lighter.

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I bought 6 yards of wool felt and used most of it. I stitched together a simple covering for the metal frame.

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In the back I cut out a bunch of holes for easy access to the heart & brains of the machine: an old laptop, some old speakers, a 27” monitor, and all the wiring for 4 Xbox 360 controllers.

Luckily I have a history of being a hardware junkie and had an old PC laptop and speakers lying around. The most expensive thing I had to buy were the 4 controllers.

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(Subwoofer lonely at the bottom)

I’m curious to see how the machine stands up to repeated play. I wish I would have made it bigger in the end, and only after finishing did I realize that I should make something for the top, so I’m making something for that right now.

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You’ll be able to play it starting early next week! It will be up through April, and you can check out the upcoming schedule here.

I’ll also be at Indiecade East Show n’ Tell on Saturday 2/15 at the Museum of the Moving Image from 4-6pm. Come say hi, play Nest & other awesome games, & stick around for night games!

January 22, 2014 at 12:14pm
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January 2014 and Beyond - Microsoft, Death By Audio, and Saying Goodbye

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(Making a nest out of twigs, roots, sticks, thyme—which has survived the cold winter, and wool)

So a lot has been happening the last couple months or so! Between life, Nest, finishing my residency at MAD and moving my studio, it’s been a hectic few weeks. Here’s a quick recap:

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(photo from Meetup)

1. Microsoft Game Playtest Night.  A week or so ago I showed Nest at the NYC Games Forum playtest night at Microsoft. I got some great feedback and it was really nice to playtest with so many eager and honest gamers. There were some awesome looking games there too.

Matt Albrecht over at Indiestatik wrote a nice review of the night, and Nest was mentioned

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(Death by Audio - photo source

2. Nest Arcade Installation.

I’ll post more about this soon, but I’m excited to share the news that Nest is going to be installed as an arcade cabinet at the DIY art and music venue Death By Audio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn starting in February! I’m super excited about this and I’ve been busy working on building a cabinet.

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3. Major Nest updates. A lot of changes were made to Nest this past month. Here are a few of the major things:

-Bots. You can now play against the computer with 1-4 players. 4 players 2v2 local multiplayer is still the intended mode of play, but it’s pretty fun 1v1 with bot teammates.

-Single Cam instead of 4 cam split screen. I’m still deciding whether or not I like this better. Check out a comparison of the two:

SINGLE CAM:

SPLIT SCREEN:

-A new nest (see first image).

Also, I’m getting close to a public beta. It will probably coincide with the installation at Death By Audio. I’m super excited about how Nest is coming along!

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(From my first day at the Museum of Arts and Design way back in sunny June)

4. End of Residency. And last but not least, as I write this post I am finishing up my final day as an Open Studio Artist-in-Residence at the Museum of Arts and Design. It’s been an amazing 8 months, and I’m sad that it is coming to an end. I’ve been busy moving all my gear out of here and setting up my new studio back in Brooklyn. I’ll write a longer post reflecting on my time here later.

That’s all for now! I have a lot more news and things coming up in the next few weeks that I am eager to share, but all in due time.

January 11, 2014 at 7:00pm
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New Nest and Title Screen

I made a nest out of twigs, stems, roots and wool this past week. Here’s the new title screen I’m playing around with.

#screenshotsaturday

December 30, 2013 at 2:48pm
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Dwarf Marigold Yellow Wool

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This is a couple months late. Winter is fully here, and the garden is dormant right now. We’re actually planning next year’s garden and we’re already excited! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The last dye batch from this year’s garden was yellow from dwarf marigolds. I planted them in mid summer to replace lettuce and spinach that we grew in the spring.

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(Dwarf marigold seedling starting to sprout. They were sown directly into the garden.)

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(7/16)

Here they are growing from mid-to-late summer into early autumn. The marigolds are the yellow flowers in front:

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(7/29)

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(8/17)

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(8/22)

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(8/26)

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(8/31)

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(9/4)

I didn’t get around to dyeing until October 22nd. Here are before and after pics of the harvest on that day:

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And here’s the final result of the dye:

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That’s all for this year from the garden! I can’t wait until next year though, there will be much more experimenting.

December 18, 2013 at 10:47am
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Video + New Screenshots: 4 player Nest

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I recorded a 4 player game of Nest the other day and it looks crazy! Thank you Sam, Kyle, and GJ!

The game is coming along. I have more animation/art fine tuning to do over the next few weeks and some gameplay tweaks/ideas I want to try out. 

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Also: bug fixes. I’ve been noticing a lot of little bugs that bothered me but most people don’t seem to notice. Or they’re polite about them haha.

November 30, 2013 at 9:37am
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Nest with 4 players

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Thanks Connor Colton and the rest of the fam for all the early morning feedback :-)

#screenshotsaturday

November 6, 2013 at 11:52am
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Playtesting Nest

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(These young ladies were immediately good at the game.)

A few months ago I quickly banged out a prototype for what ended up becoming the game Nest. Nest is still in an early stage of development, but it is playable. As the weeks pass I’ve been slowly tweaking the game, and about a month ago I started the playtesting process.

What is playtesting exactly? If you’ve ever heard of computer programs referred to as a “beta” or “alpha” version and you weren’t sure what that meant, it basically means that it is a working version of the program that isn’t done yet.

Nest is currently in what I’m calling an alpha version—it’s the first version of the game that is a complete program, but it’s far from finished. Playtesting, then, is basically letting people play the game to see their initial reactions and to gauge their interest. I’m playtesting Nest right now in order to get critical feedback on the overall gameplay.

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(These boys were really into the game!)

So far I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful reactions and interesting critical feedback from friends and strangers. I’ve been playtesting with museum goers at the Museum of Arts and Design, with my classmates at ITP, and with close friends and family.

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(My classmates Vicci and Devin at ITP trying out Nest. Devin is already way better than me at the game.)

The feedback, depending on who is playing, has been diverse—each group has a different background and approaches the game with their own set of expectations.

This is why playtesting has been so important for me this last month. Getting varying opinions on the different parts of the game from gamers and non-gamers alike has given me an interesting new perspective on where to take the game, on what works, and what doesn’t.

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I didn’t playtest Voyager at all before releasing it. Or rather, I showed a few people and was content with that. It’s been a little more than a year since I’ve released it, and in that time I’ve gotten the opportunity to watch a lot of people play it.

And man do I wish that I playtested it more thoroughly! What seemed intuitive to me can be completely unintuitive to others depending again on the kinds of experience one has going into playing the game. For example, a gamer with years of experience playing video games will undoubtedly approach the game differently than say a grandmother whose first computer is an iPad.

And it’s important to me that it’s intuitive to both of these people.

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One pleasant surprise I’ve found from playtesting is how much girls are into the game. The games industry (and software development in general) skews heavily towards men, and to the extent that it’s in my control, I want my games to appeal equally to men and women.

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(My kitty is into the game too.)

So I’m going to keep playtesting as I continue to develop the game. To all those who have stopped by the studio at MAD, thanks so much for trying out the game! To all my friends who don’t live in NYC who want to try out the game, don’t worry I will be sending it to you very soon.

October 30, 2013 at 11:02am
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Blues in Brooklyn Pt. 3: Dyeing with Indigo

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This is part 3 of 3. See part 1 where I plant the seeds, and part 2 where you can see them grow.

A couple of weeks ago I cut down my Indigo plants and made my first dye vat. I had been looking forward to this for the last 4 1/2 months when I first planted the seeds. This is the first time I’ve grown a plant from seed to use as a dye.

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Before (Oct. 15)

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After.

Harvesting is both joyous and somber. It is painful and exciting to kill this thing you gave birth to, all for a greater goal. I felt a pang of regret looking at the naked stems.

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Indigo vats can be tricky. You have to slowly raise the temperature to ~160°F over the course of 2 hours.

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Adding a little soda ash.

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Adding oxygen to the vat by pouring the liquid back and forth between two pots.

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Adding a little thiox to de-oxygenize (is this a word?) the vat.

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The Vat! The surface was this awe inspiring translucent green-blue.

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The bath itself is yellow. As the wool becomes exposed to oxygen, it quickly shifts from yellow to blue. It’s magical watching this thing in your hand morph in front of your eyes.

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Blue wool!

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Last but not least I cut down the seeds for next year!