Interactive Sketches

About the sketches

These sketches were produced as part of my work at USC with Mark Bolas' Immersive Group from 2007-2008. Each week, more or less, the group's participents would show up with little nuggets of immersive experiences to present (and test on the other members).

My focus was on novel methods for navigating virtual spaces and creating surreal moments.

WhiteSpace gameplay prototype

This experience puts players in a totally white room in which they have to splatter paint to figure out where the walls, floor, and ceiling are. Included below are footage from the interactive prototype as well as the very first non-interactive previsualization I animated in Maya when I was exploring the initial concept. The painting mechanic was later developed into a game called The Unfinished Swan.

Pulse gameplay prototype

An experiment in navigating by echolocation. A pulse radiates out periodically from the player, sort of like an expanding hula hoop illuminating any nearby surfaces. The nature of the pulse means that players are unable to see everything at once, so in order to navigate they have to remember what the space around them looks like after its returned to blackness. 

An Odd Column

A surreal scene in which an object can be seen from one side of a column but cannot be seen when the player tries to look at it from the other side of the column. 

A Living Map

A scene that silently shifts between 2d and 3d. The player begins in a gallery space. When they approach a map of Pompeii there is a (hopelessly) seamless transition between the 2d map and a 3d representation of the city -- in other words, the player goes from looking at a flat map on the wall to being several thousand feet above a virtual Pompeii, plummeting towards it. The effect works surprisingly well initially since the parallax of the 3d city moving towards the player isn't significant until they get much closer to it. 

Ooze test animation

A very basic simulation of ooze spreading out from a point and engulfing nearby objects. My goal was to create something that looked like a complex natural process using simple graphical effects.

The ooze effect was created entirely inside a shader, which basically just takes a point in space and, for a given amount of time, determines whether or not the point is within the ooze. If the point is within the ooze it's drawn black, otherwise it's drawn normally. To determine whether or not a point is within the ooze I used a simple distance function with some periodic randomness around the edge of the circle that contains the spreading ooze, so the edges expand and contract rhythmically like waves lapping the shore. To make the ooze appear to climb vertical surfaces I took into account the height of the point, assuming that the ooze was spreading outwards quite a bit faster than it was spreading upwards. In effect, the area of the ooze was modeled as an expanding cone, with edges that were randomly (but periodically) nudged forward and back to give it a more natural look. 

Look Away gameplay prototype

A simple game that uses the direction of the player's gaze as a primary game mechanic. The aim was to design a game that could only be played in motion-tracked head-mounted displays, taking advantage of the player's ability to turn their head and choose where to look in the game space.

The player is surrounded by enemies (red spheres) that injure the player whenever the player looks at them. The closer an enemy is or the more directly they're in the player's line of sight, the more damage the player receives. To reach the goal (an area marked with a green cube) the player must look around for the goal's location then navigate to it while trying to avoid looking at any enemies they encounter. 

Fireflies test animation

Fireflies swirling around a light. This was a quick experiment to see how many little glowing balls and with how much random wobble it would take to suggest an organic mass. It was interesting to see that with only a few balls it looks quite artificial, but when the firefly count gets high enough that it becomes hard to track any individual ball then the whole thing starts to feel much more alive. 

Unexpectedly 2d

In this scene a tableau viewed between an archway switches between 2d and 3d. The tableau itself remains in 3d, but the projection becomes 2d, somewhat like replacing the world outside of a window with a TV screen showing the exact same scene. As long as the player remains still, it's impossible to tell when the scene switches to 2d. Once they move everything looks a little off, though it usually takes players a couple of seconds to figure out what's happened. 

Throne of Blood-style "poof" effect

A very simple and disorienting effect based on a scene from Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. In the film, the hero enters a witch's hut and the camera pulls in tight, then when it pulls back moments later the hut has vanished (it's actually just been lifted up and out of the camera's field of view). This scene was an attempt to create an interactive version of that, where instead of relying on precise framing to achieve the effect we use a moving object to guide the player's gaze where we want it.