Last Sunday on Feburary 23, 2014, me and Yannick, a good friend and fellow lab-mate of mine went to Tokyo by Odakyu-line and subway. It takes about 80 minutes of train ride to get there. First we visited the Sensoji temple in Tokyo. The temple has one main gate and after we walk past the main gate, we entered a small shop district full of many different kinds of shops that sells the following but not limited to: Japanese doll, umbrella, kimono, Traditional Japanese men dress, masks, and sandals. At the end of the shops is the main temple. The temple is also surrounded by other kinds of decorations like the towers, waterfall, and miniature Japanese gardens.
On Saturday, March 01, 2014, many labs of K1 building (information technology building) in KAIT exhibited their projects in an exhibition center near Hon-Atsugi train station to the various gaming professional.
The projects range from animation, rhythm based reaction games, virtual reality, and multi-imaging games. In one of the projects the player plays as a sumo wrestler who slept late and has to bash his way through waves of obstacles to reach the stadium. In another game the player need to tap on their different body parts in a rhythm game (similar to the round 3B BVW project me, Xiao, and Ari did in Spring 2013), thus does exercises while finishing the game. In both of these games a software similar to Makey Makey is used and players need to push their opponents like a sumo wrestler in the sumo game, enriching the experience. A 3D animation about various desert creatures teaming together to fight a giant cobra is also shown, and as of now it has won several entrance awards. Shirai-lab also exhibited our multi-imaging technique where we hide one content under another one.
Afterwards all of the participants and guests went to a Karaoke bar and had fun. Although expensive, we were able to chat with various gaming personals and exchange name cards. I also met different professors who worked in the same building as Shirai-lab.
The Kanto region of Japan was struck by a snowstorm on Saturday, Feburary 08, 2014. It is reported to be the worst in about a decade. Atsugi-shi in Kanagawa is also struck by the snow storm.
I actually slept until six in the evening on Saturday because it was too cold to get up in my apartment. When I went outside the entire ground and even the stairs that lead to my apartment were covered in thick snow of about 30-40 cm thick. Outside I could see local inhabitants shoveling the snow not only in their doorsteps but also on the middle of the road. It was interesting to watch how people of different household collaborate together to clean the public places surrounding their houses.
Most of the shops were closed on Saturday evening, including the ramen shop right in front of the alley that leads to my apartment. The shops that were open include HottoMotto (a bento shop), convenient stores such as FamilyMart, 7 Eleven, and Lawson, and Yamada Todo (a restaurant).
KAIT was closed as well, and the automatic sensor doors became manual doors where students have to open them with their hands. This actually proves to be beneficial to me because currently I cannot swipe myself into this building yet and now I could pry the doors open with my hands.
The snow storm stopped sometime around midnight and by Sunday a portion of the snow on the ground has been cleared away by the inhabitants. The public transportation had some trouble driving though, and some buses became stuck inside the snow.
On Feburary 6th, 2014, I attended the graduation celebration party at KAIT and partied with members from Shirai-lab and Otsuka-lab. We ate dinner which consisted of hot pots and barbecue on the sixth floor of the information tech building (also known as K1).
We had a Super Smash Brother’s Tournament where 28 players participated in it. One of the contestants who won the first match but was too drunk to play the semi-final round, so my friend Hisataka (his first name) who had lost in the previous semi-final round gets to play again. In the end Akira (his first name) from Shirai lab emerged as the winner and got 2,800 yen as a reward (everyone donated 100 yen). Afterwards we cleaned the tables and departed at around 10:30.
It is interesting to see the kinds of interaction that took place in the party. Because the two labs, although having a close relationship, does not interact that frequently, people did not know each other’s relative year in school since collage students do not have name tags or name cards indicating their position. A friend of mine named Aoki (his last name, from Otsuka-lab) asked another friend of mine Kunitomi (his last name, from Shirai-lab): Senpai, what year are you? Genki answered he is third year, surprising Aoki that they are actually the same year and that he should not be calling Genki senpai.
I and Yannick, Hisataka Suzuki, and Shirai sensei worked on submission for Laval Virtual April conference last weekend (Feb 1-Feb 3). We worked on the introduction video for Scritter most of the times, doing the planning during the week and shooting the film on Sunday.
I was mostly in charge of making story boards while Hisataka Suzuki studies video editing techniques with Adobe Premier. Yannick continues to work on the final paper as well as the Unity Game demonstration. I ended up changing the story board three major times, from trying to make a very factual introduction video to a story video and finally to a mixture of both.
It was an interesting experience to be making story board for a semi-complete project to say the least, as I had to consult the programmers and technicians for details about the game as well as did researches and blog readings before I can begin making the story board.
We were able to borrow Otsuka-sensei’s room for the shoot, which contains tatami and sofa which makes it looks like a living room. Me, Yannick, and Hisataka (his first name) redecorated the room to make it look more comfy and family like. Otsuka-sensei actually liked what we did with the room and told us to not put the furniture back to its original place. We were also able to borrow Shirai-sensei’s family members on Sunday and with our actors and actress we shoot clips of a family enjoying Scritter in a “living room”. It is interesting to watch how a family enjoys themselves during the video taking and the kinds of fun they can have.
Our small team spent the entire Monday editing the footage and three of us ended up not sleeping until around seven or eight on Tuesday morning. During this time I also did the voice over for the video as well as some of the video editing after Hisataka left to catch the last train. While some of the audios needs to be retake for future submission because of how I take them in the hallways (and the echoes destroy the quality of the audio), I still had quite some fun doing the voice over and did learned a lot. We were relieved that we were able to get the introduction video submitted however. As of now we are still editing the video to make it even better for future submissions.
This weekend from Jan 24, 2014 to Jan 26, 2014, I participated in the Global Game Jam in Tokyo University of Technology at Hachioji, Tokyo with other Kanagawa Institute Technology professors and students.
I was placed into a very international team consisted of Two Americans, one Australian, one French, four Japanese, and myself who is a Taiwanese. We named our team: Team Go, which in Japanese means Team 5 (we were assigned as team 5). We chose this name because we believe this name reflects the international nature of our team as it has meaning in both English and Japanese
During the 48 hours from 5 pm on Friday to 5 pm on Sunday, our team worked tirelessly and slept very little. We brainstormed for pretty much the entire Friday night, started assets building on Saturday, and on Sunday started putting things together in Unity. Our team as a whole actually did not come up with the name of the game until Sunday at noon.
Some of the problems my team faced including having too many artists (five of our team members are artists with no programming abilities), thinking too complicated at the beginning, and most critically having a language barrier that essentially divided the team in half. Because five of us are non-Japanese and two with very little Japanese knowledge (yes, I am one of the two), we had trouble linking the team together. It also happened that all of the programmers are Japanese while most of the artists are foreigners, thus splitting the team into the Japanese/programmer half and the artist\foreigner half. This communication problem continued to trouble our team until the end.
Our team addressed these problems adequately however, and was able to produce a decent product at the end. The overwhelming amount of artist in our team turned out to not be such a problem as each one of us specialized in different areas. We had a concept artist who can also do basic character modelling, an experienced animator, a good 3D stage designer/modeler, a sound designer who can also do GUI designs, and me who worked as the 2D background artist/model texture artist. We also had one game planner who can plan detailed scenarios. Our programmers are pretty good as well, with one gaming industry professional and two students.
Team Go was able to resolve the language barrier to some degree thanks to Wayne and Alexis who can speak good Japanese and English and these two eventually became the producers of the team thanks to their communication skills. We are later joined by Seth, a programmer who speaks fluent Japanese. With the help of these three, we are able to communicate with each other and able to make a finished product. It is evident though, that the Japanese population of the team felt somewhat neglected and we could have done a better job in including everyone in our discussions if our Japanese skill is better.
Because of the limited amount of time, our team was unable to put every single asset into the game (which is a very common scenario in any type of game making). We were planning on having a total of three stages but we ended up having to drop the mini-world stage built by Max and Seth and textured by me due to not having enough time. About four finished textures I made also did not make into the game. Wayne, who made four sound tracks and many other sound effects ended up only having one of his tracks into the game.
Our finished product is called Shifter, a side scrolling platform game where the player has to guide a size changing humanoid character to find his lost pig friends. The player can only control the size changing and jumping mechanics of the game however, as the character moves forward on his own and will change direction if he bumps into obstacles.
We presented our game on Sunday at around 6:00 in front of the other game jammers. There are a total of 24 teams and 24 games being made. It is very interesting to see the kinds of games every team comes up with as well as the different level of completeness in games. The games made in the jam include shooter, stealth, puzzle solving, reflex, and virtual reality.
Overall we had a lot of fun and I met many new people. It was also surprising the kind of connection and bonding one can have with one’s teammates in just 48 hours. I was also surprised at how little sleep I need to function when I am in a state of excitement. This is definitely an interesting experience and in the future I may join more Game Jams.
For those interested, visit the site below and click on Shifter to enter our site: http://globalgamejam.org/2014/jam-sites/tokyo-university-technology-tut/games
I am Rex Hsieh (Hsieh-san). I am a graduate student from Entertainment Technology Center of Carnegie Mellon University from Taiwan. I am mainly a 2D artist who can also make 3D objects in 3Ds Max and Maya. It is my pleasure to meet you all and please excuse me for my bad Japanese. I am looking forward to work with you all in the future. Below is the link to some of my websites:
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