Three Thing Game Fun

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These are the winners of Three Thing Game November 2017. If you study the picture carefully you'll notice that not one of the people in the picture is me. Oh well.

But quite a few of these folks are First Year students from Hull, which bodes very well for the future of Three Thing Game (and game development in general). They made a lovely sequence of mini-games that chronicled important milestones in the development of Hull. It looked fun to play and had some splendid graphical touches. 

As always, I really enjoyed taking part. My team, as frequently happens,  was probably a bit more ambitious than we should have been, trying to create a networked multi-player game in around six hours. However, we got darned close.

The three things we were asked to base the game around were "Hull", "Culture" and "Change". Our game used the medium of Venn Diagrams (which were invented by John Venn, a mathematician from Hull) to explore Hull Culture. I'm most proud of the moment when the judges asked "Where's the change in your game?" and I replied "It costs fifteen pence to play". 

After that, the discovery that we hadn't won was a real surprise.....

Three Thing Game. Like Old Times

Staying up late. Writing programs to impossible deadlines. Such fun. 

I'm back at Three Thing Game as part of the Spooky Elephant Collective. The organisation is great and the pizza delicious. I managed to stay sentient until around 11:00 pm, which is actually quite impressive for me. The game that we are making celebrates the great things about Hull through the medium of Venn Diagrams. 

Wish us luck. 

Judging Three Thing Game

 I stole this picture from  David Parker

I stole this picture from David Parker

One of my fondest memories of working at Hull University was the Three Thing Game hackathons. Teams spent a chunk of time developing a game based on three "things". What they came up with was always impressive.

David was kind enough to ask me to help with the judging on the latest competition, so I headed into the university this afternoon to see what was going on.

Answer, a lot. More than 80 students. Over thirty teams. APD providing pizza,  Lee Stott and Simon Jackson with game ideas and devices, Adam from BetaJester, the Visr crew .  Just like old times. Only better. 

I saw some awesome games and had some great conversations with students, some new, some I knew. Unfortunately I had to zoom off just before the prize giving, but Lee has got some great pictures on his Twitter feed

Congratulations to the Hull team for running such an awesome competition. 

Betajester get a place in the Tranfuzer programme

I've known BetaJester since before they were BetaJester. They've been Three Thing Game stalwarts since forever. And, like quite a few TTG alumni, they've become quite successful. Latest success is winning a place in the Tranzfuser talent development programme. As the press release says:

"Successful applicants have been awarded a £5,000 budget paid in stages to replicate the real world for them to allocate to allowable costs throughout the 10-week long competition. At the showcase event later this year, selected teams will be invited to pitch for follow-on funding of up to £25k from the UK Games Fund (also operated by UKGTF) to commercialise their game and launch a company."

Well done. Onward to victory.

Spring Three Thing Game Springs into Action

 Of course we had pizza - lots of pizza

Of course we had pizza - lots of pizza

Three Thing Game Spring 2016 got under way tonight. Unfortunately I'm not going to be around for the entire competition because I've rather stupidly double booked myself, but I've left things in the capable hands of David, Simon and Warren and so I know we'll have a happy ending tomorrow.

I did manage to make it for the pizza though. 

I wandered around the lab and took some pictures of some of the teams. You can find all the pictures here

Three Thing Game Springs into Action

Spring Three Thing Game got going today with the "Handing Out of the Things". I did something rather tricsky, which was to give teams exactly the things that they asked for. One team, feeling rather smug about having added the word "moist" to the things, was then rather surprised to find it included in their things. Such fun. I took some pictures of the lucky teams and their things.

Development starts on Friday. Should be fun

Suiting Up Pays off

The "Black Godzilla" team in Three Thing Game made an awesome game. And they turned up at the Finalist Presentations fully suited and booted, and looking really sharp. Like winners in fact. I caught up with one of the team today and he told me that they had decided to dress properly for the event. 

I think this is a great idea. Way back when I was mentoring Imagine Cup Teams I had a habit of nipping down to Asda and picking up sets of matching shirts for the teams that I was looking after. This got a bit expensive when we had four teams in the UK finals one year, but it made a huge difference. For one thing, the students looked like proper teams.

If you're engaged in any kind of team work it is well worth giving some thought to this. It doesn't have to be expensive, just all get the same style T shirt or whatever. And the funny thing is, once you look like a team you start to behave more like a team too.

Three Thing Game Video Links

Awesome competition yesterday. And here are some awesome videos fromthe entries:

Here's a stupid video I made in five minutes detailing my Three Thing Game entry. I did text because talking was too hard. Ignore my awful "comedy". More details below: Team Name: Twich Plays Three Thing Game Team Members: Just me Words: Blank, Minded, Thought Idea: The idea of the game is that you are a newly awoken artificial intelligence with barely any grasp on the world.

Our Spooky Elephant production for the November 2015 Three Thing Game. Our three words were Like, Hate, and Why which we used to create multiplayer networked game of intrigue and manipulation.

I'll be putting these videos on the official Three Thing Game site, so if any other teams have got videos that they want to share, please send them through. 

Three Thing Game Finals

 These are the hardy survivors

These are the hardy survivors

By the end of the competition we had around 20 teams that wanted judging. This is about par for the course for the November Three Thing Game, as people discover to their cost what happens if they ignore my "Keep it Simple" advice and end up with not a lot at the end (although I would strongly advise teams to always submit something for judging - you may not win, but you'll get a lot of good feedback and very likely some respect to).

By the end of the judging pass we had the top finalists, and they got to present their games. Here they are in no particular order:

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First up was first year team TBC with an astonishingly rich text based adventure game written "because we don't know enough XNA just yet". They'd managed to fashion a compelling narrative from the things "shoe, horn and cream". Very nice work.

Next we had the "Ice Team Cones" who had created "Bereavement Bonanza", a fast paced shoot-em-up where you have to fight for your inheritance, from the things "Inheritance, property and goods". Some nice gameplay twists around what happens when you die (other players get your goods) and "retro-cheese" graphics in this one. 

This is team "Penetration Innovation" with their zombie game created from "dread, dead, grave". It's a bit hard to see the zombie hordes chasing the player around a scary village, but they all use some very clever algorithms to get an effective chasing action. 

Team Baeshaw are a bunch of Three Thing Game old hands, and they brought some lovely polish to the competition with a musical line following game inspired by "Equation, crescent and curve". Players control the waveform type (sine or square) and the amplitude with the aim of following the target line and hitting all the notes. Get it right and the music goes up a gear. Miss a few and the tune reflects your lack of skills. Very nice work, one that should go for sale I reckon. 

This is team "Just One Guy" got the words "hot, cold and bear". He was showing off  a lovely puzzle platformer built with a bear that could heat to steam to fly, wander round as cold and then turn to ice to freeze over the watery barriers. The artwork fitted the theme perfectly and the gameplay was beautifully thought out and with great progression as the various "states of the bear" are used to solve puzzles. 

If there was a prize for the sharpest dressed team in the competition it would have to go to the "Black Godzillas" who still managed to look freshly pressed after a night of development. There game, inspired by the things "Why, are and you" had a fighting knight forced to re-examine his choice for a peace-full life when his quiet village is razed to the ground by invaders. The animation was jaw droppingly good and the storyline intriguing. 

I didn't envy the judges their task when they went out to pick the winners, but they managed somehow to come up with four teams who were announced, as is the fashion, in reverse order.

Team TBC came away with fourth place, the judges praising their story telling and how much content they'd managed to create and fit together in the time they had.

Team Baeshaw were third, being singled out for the polish of their creation and its "just one more go" appeal.

Team "Penetration Innovation" were second. The judges were hugely impressed with their algorithms to give the Zombies a life-like (or should that be death like) behaviour as they hunt down their prey.

Which left "Just One Guy" to pick up the First Place. Judges were full of praise for the way that the artwork and the gameplay complemented the things and the overall thought and design that went into the finished product. A stunning piece of work from just one developer. 

After the main prizes had been given out the judges wanted to specially commend a few teams. Here's Lee (on the left) giving awards to "Twitch Plays TTG", the one man next to Lee and "Spooky Elephant", Warren and David on the right, for their technical innovation in gameplay.

Final award of the night went to team Alex² + 2AlexDan + Dan² who produced something really special with an adherence to theme that was above and beyond the call of Three Thing Game. You have to see the video to find out more. 

Thanks go to Lee and Lilian from Microsoft for their support, to Derek for judging, for the team from BetaJester who not only helped with judging, but also served the pizza, Louis for judging assistance and the 3D viewers given to each team  and Lindsay from Platform Expo for helping to judge and also producing some much appreciated alcoholic prizes for the winning teams.

Three Thing Game will be back in March next year, but keep your eyes open for Global GameJam Hull, coming at the end of January.

I'll post links to the videos later. 

Three Thing Game Overnighter - It Begins

We started the overnight portion of Three Thing Game November 2015 today. We handed out the things and got folks going early in the evening. Lilian from Microsoft came along and told us all about the neat cloudy things available for students from Azure (find out more here) and I did my "Keep it Simple" routine where I advised teams to start with something simple that works and then build on that. We'll see how many follow my advice....

After the briefing, and once the labs had finished, it was time to head for the various computer rooms around the campus and for everyone to get set up. I was very concerned that we wouldn't fit in the department but as it turned out everyone spread themselves around the department rather handily, with four different labs playing host to teams of developers.

I settled down in the Fenner Computer lab and tried to get a few things done, in between ordering pizza and sorting things out. The pizza was a little bit later than I planned, but we did have a lot of pizzas. Three car's worth.

By the time we had fed everybody there were a few pizzas left, but Warren reckoned that by the morning they'd all be gone.

Once food had been had everyone settled down for the night. I'm now much to old to work overnight so around 10:45 or so I gave Lilian a lift back to her hotel (and had some wonderful shenanigans outside Hull Paragon Station where I tried to drive the wrong way a Taxi rank (they didn't like that).  I think I had the look of Uber about me. 

Anyhoo, things look set for some interesting games tomorrow. I took a bunch of pictures of the teams as they got started. You can find them here

Biggest Ever Three Thing Game - with added thing trading

 If you download the big images from Flickr you can just about read the things at the back...

If you download the big images from Flickr you can just about read the things at the back...

We launched our biggest ever Three Thing Game today. We have over 200 students and 50 teams taking part. I'm a bit worried about fitting everyone into the department on Friday night.

I had this theory that quite a few folks wouldn't turn up. But in the end we had all but three teams come along to get their things. This year I've used the Edinburgh Associative Database to produce sets of three related things. I've written a little C# program that reads the network of words and produces enough sets of things for the competition.  I'll put it on GitHub when I get round to it. 

 Thing Trading

Thing Trading

This year, for the first time, we are also allowing teams to trade their things with each other. This resulted in a flurry of activity and some very strange sounding conversations. 

The development starts now, with the overnight session on Friday and judging on Saturday. Great fun. 

Game Mechanics and Raspberry Pi's running Windows 10

I had a go at writing a game for Three Thing Game last week. Just to be different I thought I'd do a hardware game using Windows 10 on the Raspberry Pi. We had some fun and games getting the Raspberry Pi to work in the labs, mainly because the lab network didn't give them a network address when the Pi asked. That and the fact that for some reason Logitech USB mice just don't work on a Raspberry Pi running Windows 10. No idea why. They just don't.

Anyhoo, we got everything working and I started building the game. I connected two leds and two switches to the Pi and got them working. Then I built the game mechanic. This is the way that the game is supposed to work. My first idea was that the player would have to press the button when the light came on, but I decided that this was a bad idea because after a while the switch will get destroyed by people bashing it in a hurry.

So I switched it around. When the light goes off you need to release the button as fast as you can. I called the game "Lift Off" because that's what you are supposed to do, and I made it competitive. The idea was that two players would compete in a number of rounds over a 30 second period. They'd press the button, the light would come on for a random time and then go off. The game would then time how long it took the player to release their button and then add that time to the player's score. At the end of the time period the player with the lowest score wins.

I got the code working and it was OK. But then I came across serious flaw in the gameplay.

You could win by not pressing the button at all.

If you never press the button, the light never comes on or goes off, and you end up with an unbeatable score of zero points. So I'd invented a game where doing nothing was the absolute best winning strategy. Oh well.

I've now added a timer so that if you don't press the button you get a big penalty, and I'm tuning the gameplay at the moment. I'll blog how the code works a bit later, once I've got the gameplay mechanic properly sorted - something I should have thought about earlier. Another lesson learned.

The experience of writing a C# XAML application for Raspberry Pi was a bit strange, but in a wonderful way. Everything was exactly where I expected it to be, but I was targeting a tiny device. I had access to all usual development tools. I could step through code and view variables in Visual Studio, use all the libraries that I know and love, but I was targeting a device that costs around 25 quid. If you're running Windows 10 and you've got the Visual Studio 2015 preview running you should have a go at this. It is going to make it much, much, easier to create rich applications for cheap embedded controllers. Very nice.

Windows 10 + Three Thing Game Ends

 Hardy Survivors

Hardy Survivors

We reached the end stops today. By the finish we had 12 teams taking their games through to the finals. Two teams of judges went round and judged six entries each. Then we took each judges top three and brought them together to make the top six finalists. And then we settled down in Lecture Theatre D to look at the game videos the teams had prepared.

 Team Spooky Elephant

Team Spooky Elephant

First up was team "Spooky Elephant" who's take on "Abel Pots Sink" had Cain pushing a water filled sink  to catch crockery hurled by a vengeful Abel. Motion captured graphics and sloshing water effects made for madcap gameplay accompanied by a Benny Hill soundtrack. 

 Team 1

Team 1

Next up was "Team 1" who had a taken "Jury Hang Hung" and made a life management game for a hapless individual that needed to be kept out of trouble. This game ran on Windows desktop, Phone and Raspberry Pi, a splendid technical achievement.

 Team Don't know

Team Don't know

This is team "Don't Know", who took "Coil Loop Wire" and made a platformer where the aim is to protect the coil at all costs. 

 Team GDB

Team GDB

Here we have the entry from Team GDB who took "Food Much Many" and built a multiplayer fighting game where the aim is to destroy the edible scenery and drop your opponent into a vat of deadly custard. 

 Betajester and Squid Physics

Betajester and Squid Physics

This is a joint effort from Betajester and Squid Phyics, who took "Envy Cars Toys" and built a sandboxed car fighting game in the micro-machines mould. Aiming envious blows at better vehicles than the one you start with allows to to change places with the good cars and progress to bigger and bigger battles. 

 "Blue Team of Death"

"Blue Team of Death"

BlueTeam of Death took the words "Eyed Wide View" and made a maze based first person shooter with a great eight bit ambience. Destroy the eyes and progress through the rooms to win. Too much damage causes your view of the playfield to widen and distort, making it harder to aim. 

The judges went away for deliberation and we passed the time exchanging Pirate jokes and discussing whether we should have a Three Thing Game trophy (general consensus - great idea). Then the judges came back and announced the winners. 

 Third Place - Spooky Elephant

Third Place - Spooky Elephant

Team Spooky Elephant were commended for making a highly playable and amusing game, and got third place. 

 Second Pace - GDB

Second Pace - GDB

Second place went to team GDB who's multiplayer action and adherence to the theme made for some great gameplay. 

 First Place - Blue Team of Death

First Place - Blue Team of Death

You know the judges have done a great job when the announce the winner and the room cheers and applauds. "Blue Team of Death" really wowed the audience with a fantastic game which was built from scratch, assets and all and then coded up using Unity, a platform that neither of them had used much. Two strong messages from the judges: great game, and you should get this in the marketplace as soon as possible. 

 Judge's special mention - Johnson sings the blues

Judge's special mention - Johnson sings the blues

Before the judges wrapped up, they wanted to mention the team "Johnson sings the blues" who made it into the top six, but were prevented from appearing in the final because they had not got around to making a video. Their game, based on "Rave Cant Rave" was a chunk of multi-player mayhem with a screen that seemed to use up all the colours there are. At once. The team got a special award and was sent away with the strong message "Next time, make a video". 

You can see the winning game video here. I'll put up links to the other entries as I get them. 

Thanks to Warren, Lee, Simon, Nick and Josh for judging. Thanks to Lee, Simon, Dean and Nick for coming along and helping make the event the massive success it was. 

Three Thing Game will be back in November. With a revised Thingomatic and a trophy. Oh yes. 

Windows 10 + Three Thing Game GameJam Starts

The GameJam started promptly today at 10:00 am. By 10:30 most of the teams had turned up and signed in. All things considered, what with it being the last two days of the semester, we had a pretty good turnout. Plenty of teams and plenty of things, courtesy of the Thingomatic. Which worked fine, although it was a bit hungry on the battery side.

Before we started coding we had talks from Lee Stott (Windows 10), Nick Smith (Marmalade) and Dean Ellis (MonoGame). And then, after lunch Simon Jackson gave a talk about Unity. Great stuff, turning the event into a mini-conference as well as a hackathon.

The serious development started in the afternoon. We had the run of our large computer lab, which had been specially re-imaged with Windows 10 just for the event.

This is the team from Hull College who were using the cross platform abilities of Windows 10 to deploy a game across desktop, phone and Raspberry Pi. And it worked too. I took lots more pictures of the event. You can find them here.

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Of course we had pizza. And of course there was plenty.

One of the prizes is an "Xbox Onsie". David and Simon couldn't resist putting them on and modelling them...

When I left everyone was settling down for the night. My plan was to come back early and get cracking on my game....

Three Thing Game Thingomatic Lives

We are holding a Windows 10 gaming event at the end of this week. It's going to be a Three Thing Game, which is great, but we aren't going to have an auction for the things this time. 

For this competition we will be using the newly created Thingomatic (patent pending). You can see it above. It is an Arduino linked to a tiny associative word database that I got from those awfully nice people at Akafugu. You just press a button and you get three four letter things that are related in some way. I'm going to let each team press the button three times and pick the best three things from what comes up. Should be fun.

And by Thursday I might even have printed a box for it. 

If you are coming to the event, it all starts at 10:00 am on Thursday 11th in Lecture Theatre D in the Robert Blackburn Building on the Hull University campus. We will be having introduction sessions there, prior to moving to the Fenner computer suite for the actual development. 

It's going to be great fun. 

Hull Windows 10 Three Thing Game - Still Time to Register

The event is filling up nicely, but we still have room for a few more folks if you want to come along. The labs are being imaged, the things are being polished and it all starts next Thursday.

If you've registered we'll have "Things on the Day" for you to base your game on, or you can have your things next Monday. Keep an eye on your mailbox for details of the all important "Thing Picking" process.

If you are in Hull next Thursday-Friday (11th and 12th of June) then you really should come along. We've got Microsoft, MonoGame and Marmalade coming along. And Unity, which doesn't begin with M, but we are giving it a free pass this time. And it is Middleware, so I guess that counts.

Anyhoo, you can find out the precise programme and sign up here:

http://www.threethinggame.com/

Remember, this is a special event in that you don't have to be a Hull student to come along (although you'll be most welcome if you do). Any local developer, or out-of-town folks who want to come along and play with Windows 10 game making can come along. And we'll have free pizza. As in PIZZA THAT IS FREE.