Nebulae Drawing Tool
IGJ 2004


 My original idea for this year's Indie Game Jam was to make a game about shoes. You would be able to construct a number of different shoes, and then test them on different physical surfaces. But for a number of reasons, shoes were actually pretty difficult to implement. What's more, their pointy shape was problematic: they kept interpenetrating with objects in my world. Bummer!


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Eventually, while tossing around a shoe, I decided to build a "shoemerang" and see what that would be like to play with. When I say "eventually, I mean - two days into the jam. I got off to a late start due to grading, and then, thanks to my silly shoe fiction, I spent a lot of time fiddling in the editor (notice the title of the window). I had to leave in about 18 hours. This is the stuff I built into the program between eating and sleep during that time.

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When the program is running, the triangle hovers in the center of the screen. There is a constant force holding it there, so that when you toss it, it swings about in an orbit. There is no gravity in this world, and there is a fairly strong damping on all objects in motion, so that the "shoemerang" settles after swinging about. For some reason, spheres in the simulator exhibited a curious "gravity" or "stickiness" which had really interesting effects on the triangle's path. So I put a lot of circles in there and played with tossing it among them.

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At some point (I'd been playing with it for an hour or more) I realized that I really liked the patterns the triangle made as it traveled through space. With Zack's help, I used some GL routines to draw the path of the object as it passed near other objects. So far you can draw dashed lines & triangle fans (which blend each time you change colors). Some strange redraw bugs introduced pretty noise.

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The "shoemerang" became a ship - the ship was in space. You could draw by throwing the ship at/around objects, which caused it to swirl and twirl and make really beautiful spirals. I added some "asteroids" that were in tow - and also some barriers to help you hold the ship far away from the center while drawing - so you could make branches.

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What fun I had playing with this dorky little thing! I thought about adding all kinds of space detritus... parts of a boken space station, floating astronauts - things you had to avoid or encircle, or that would purturb the drawings in some interesting way. I stopped short of adding these procedural obstacles because I knew that would require more time than I had.

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It was kind of sad to leave it half-finished - I had dreams about it for two nights! But I am excited to fiddle with it some more. Michael has already agreed to help me with some sounds.. so you *know* it's gonna be trippy. Stay tuned!