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Unlimited Adventures (working title)- first steps

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For years now, I’ve wanted to create an open-ended system for building playsets suitable for use with 3.75″ / 1:18 scale action figures. I’ve finally started in on it, with the results seen here.

The system is based on a few simple components:

  • base pieces that sit on a table or other flat surface
  • uprights
  • horizontal girders
  • floor panels that sit on top of horizontal pieces
  • wall panels that clip onto uprights

What you see here is the first iteration, with the lengths of both uprights and girders at about half length (for quicker printing during prototyping). Eventually, I’ll be creating a wide range of wall and floor types for different decor (medieval, scifi, etc etc), allowing users to mix-and-match. I want the system to be able to support creating mash-ups between genres, and to allow for both typical military/adventure playsets, dollhouses, and things that are somewhere in between (like a Victorian house with a mad science lab in the basement). I’ll also be creating a ton of add-ons, with many of them including interactive features.

There will definitely be a lot more about the system and the add-ons posted here as I make them, so watch this space!

Pocket Rainbows!

pocketRainbowSo, I finally got a 3d printer (the excellent Monoprice Maker Select), and I’ve had it running more or less non-stop. One of the first things I did was to revisit a project from roughly 15 years ago- a kind of mechanical toy that causes a rainbow to appear out of (almost) nowhere.

The original version was made out of cardboard, but I’ve always thought it would be great to make one that was both smaller, and made of more durable materials. I designed the model using Fusion360, and I’m really happy with the results.

Here’s what it looks like in action:

Viewing STLs in Unreal

stlUnrealI recently made a small demo that reads an STL file from the always awesome thingiverse and creates a model in Unreal. Note that it reads the file directly from Thingiverse, not from the local drive.

At present, it’s only working with simple models- more R&D will be required to get it working with more complex models.

The model in the screenshot is the awesome “Low Poly Fox” by Thingiverse user slavikk.

Stephenson Security

ssc_envelop I’m currently teaching an introduction to C++ for game programming at the Academy of Art University. Each week, I give the students an assignment to complete, but I wanted to do something extra fun for the midterm.

So instead of just a straight assignment, I set my students up as recent recruits to “Stephenson Security Consultants”, a shadowy organization that offers its services to the highest bidder.

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Each student received a packet containing details on 4 “missions” to solve via C++, plus two bonus questions. If you’d like to try your hand at the problems, head here and type “download” into the prompt.

Spinbox (5 year anniversary gift)

I recently celebrated my five-year anniversary with my girlfriend, and I wanted to make something special to give her. The result was a kind of mechanical box… object.

Opening the box reveals a platform with five holes evenly spaced around the center. If you hold the box and rotate the bottom, two things happen:

  1. The platform lowers, revealing five heart-shaped beads on individual axels
  2. Each heart rotates independently around its vertical axis

At first, I tried making all of the parts using FreeCAD, which I really want to like, but it proved to be far too unstable for me to get vary far. Progress stalled for a bit, but then I decided to just do everything in OpenSCAD instead, which proved much more straightforward. This is definitely the most complex thing I’ve tried with OpenSCAD so far, and I’m happy to say that it worked out great.

To see the box in action, check out the youtube video.
You can also view an album of the build and finishing process

Finally, for the more technically inclined, all the OpenSCAD code is up on github

Rainbow Profiles

rainbowFive years ago, as part of the “It Gets Better” movement, I created a small page that used PHP and the GD library to make any given image into a purple version, optionally adding “It gets better” text to the bottom.

Today, in recognition of the wonderful news out the Supreme Court that made marriage equality the law of the land, I made a new version that adds rainbow stripes to images. To try if for yourself, head here. I’ve never felt better about dusting off five-year-old code.

Puzzle Keepers of Palau #3: Alice’s Birthday

IMG_0133 Recently, my girlfriend’s niece turned 5 years old and as such, was invited to become a member of the Puzzle Keepers of Palau.

The puzzle in this case takes the form of a book (“Alice’s Birthday”) with hidden messages, revealed by looking at the illustrations through a red lens. Solving the puzzle requires tearing/cutting through the last page of the book to reveal a lock, with combination being revealed in the secret messages. Once the lock is off, a panel can be removed to reveal a key, which in turn unlocks a briefcase full of treasure.

For a full album of the puzzle process, head here.

Puzzle Keepers of Palau #2: the metal Apple

3nb0uG5A year ago, I created a secret society for my nephew for his 5th birthday, called the “Puzzle Keepers of Palau”. The society is a long-standing group dedicated to seeking out puzzles and solving them. He recently had another birthday, and I created another puzzle for the occasion.
The idea is that he has to use a set of physical components to solve a substitution cipher, which he can then use to solve a web-based riddle.

Check out the physical components here
and the web-based riddle here

While there’s only one copy of the physical clues, anyone with some experience with cryptograms should be able to solve the web-based component without them.

I’ve also put the files for the cryptogram up on github

Plush DNA Nucleotides

dna_plush For a while now, I’ve thought that there are lots of great opportunities to expose kids to concepts that are generally considered “advanced” but might not be so if introduced at an early age. This project was an attempt to do just that with a few of the key concepts surrounding DNA.

The toy is a set of plush nucleotides that can snap together to form chains, and connect with velcro across the thymine-adenine and cytosine-guanine bonds. The objects are soft and of a size to be easily handled by a baby. The hope is that kids can use it at different ages, learning different things as they go, something like the following:

  • infant: manual dexterity, help with letter recognition (A,T,G, and C, at least)
  • childhood: that DNA is a thing that forms chains, is made of up four different kinds of blocks, and that there’s some logic to how those blocks connect
  • teenager/college: beloved toy from early childhood that just happens to be a handy reminder of the actual names and chemical structures of the nucleotides

The project was a ton of fun to build, and seems to be being enjoyed greatly by the kids that have received a set. For more info, check out this album of the build process.

LD27: Ten Seconds

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 1.16.48 AMThe theme for LD27 was “10 Seconds”. I wanted to avoid doing anything time-based, as that seemed a bit obvious. Instead, I took “seconds” to mean the people that sometimes accompany combatants to a duel. In my game, the player takes on the role of a person summoned to duel (pistols at dawn, of course). This particular duel allows each party to bring up to five seconds along, leading to… 10 seconds on the field.

The seconds themselves don’t directly participate in the duel, but they can catch bullets, making it harder for the combatants to hit each other.

Gameplay consists of rounds where both the player and AI opponent fire a single shot. To fire a shot, the player must swipe with the mouse (web) or finger (tablet), which sets both the angle and force with which the bullet is fired. Firing before the signal is given is poor form, and will not count. Any seconds that are hit are killed. This continues until either the player or the opponent is hit.

I wrote the game in HaXe, which means that it can go to multiple platforms easily. I find it a lot more satisfying to play on my ipad, as the swipe-to-shoot mechanic is much better on a touch screen, but I’ve also created a SWF version for ease of sharing. To play it for yourself, either click on the image, or head here.