dream a bit bigger darling

you mustn’t be afraid to dream a bit bigger darling – inception

What is dream a bit bigger darling?

dream a bit bigger darling (dbbd) is a plastic sculpture interactive piece that involves several hundred feet of flagging tape, a square of chicken wire, an Arduino Yun, a microphone sensor and a few yards of Adafruit LED’s. The whole thing feels a bit like a cross between the chandelier from the Phantom of the Opera and a large jellyfish.  The lights are set on a constant rotation of two colors; when the structure is touched it adds a new color to the rotation. Then it begins to cycle between color two and three.


The structure is meant to be hung with the participants on the ground underneath it. The strands of flagging tape are mapped in the formation of a wave with this segment being only the corner portion of the wave. Strand size is between 1 and 6 feet on the completed structure.

dbbd premiered earlier this year at the interactive art exhibition Rules and Play as a part of the Lexington gallery hop and a larger version of the installation is set to appear at Rules and Play in 2016.

Wait how does any of this work

dbbd responds to touch. Behind all of flagging tape is a base structure made out of chicken wire fencing. Attached to this chicken wire is a microphone sensor. Whenever the structure is touched, the rustling from the strands against each other as well as the vibrations of the metal alert the sensor. The system is currently set up to receive power both from a 5V DC adapter and a pack of rechargeable batteries.


not even my final form

The version of dbbd that was shown at Rules and Play is not the final proposed version of the exhibition. The full version will be the size of about a queen sized bed hanging from a series of posts above a futon mattress. Since the exhibition is meant to be viewed and used from underneath it makes the most amount of sense to make it large enough to rest under comfortably as well as to have a real presence in whatever space that it is in.


So where am I in the process of completing the structure? Currently I have all of the pieces for the completed structure, including design, about 60 more rolls of flagging tape and the chicken wire fence to make the whole thing. Mattress and posts would need to be purchased, but have already been designed and are ready for implementation.

dbdb2 RNP2

For ease of transportation, dbbd is designed to be broken down into several pieces. The version that is currently in use is one of those pieces. Completed segments are then zip tied together to create the full proposed look. Since the depth of the pieces is actually created by flagging tape they all lay flat.

For showing in a convention hall, the structure would need to be tented with a fitted cloth slipcover. I already have the plans in place to make the cloth slipcover for the gallery event next year.

Have any questions about dbbd that aren’t answered here? Be sure to email me at reasonwasoutforlunch@gmail.com

Rules and Play Post Mortem

This was my first art show. I’ve been involved in art before, from creating multi-colored shoes, to taking photographs, but this was the first time that my work has been considered in a format like a gallery. For this exhibition, entitled Rules and Play, I showcased two pieces. The first was a short Twine game entitled the Lexington Phenomena and the other was a color changing LED textile experience called “dream a bit bigger darling.”

RulesandPlay2Most of the work leading up to the exhibition was for “dream a bit bigger darling” (dbbd). In the original drafts of the exhibit, dbbd was going to be 10 foot by 10 foot, the kind of installation that a room is built around. It was inspired by a particularly lovely red piece made from similar materials that I saw exhibited at the Rasdall Gallery on UK’s campus but pushed to what felt to me like the next logical conclusion — it was going to change color when you interacted with it.

Very quickly I found that 10×10 was not going to be feasible. The work required to make even a small segment was going to be too much. Additionally, I wanted people to interact with the exhibit where I thought would be best — so, from the ground. I couldn’t imagine actually convincing people to lay on the ground without some sort of comfy pillow. The second draft is the one that I hope someday the piece will look like. This is my visualization:

Screenshot_2015-01-20-16-34-30My art-ing skills (at least in technical illustrations) are not the strongest, but the basic idea was for a chicken wire structure on which a series of varied length strands of flagging tape hung. The whole structure would be held up by four wooden pylons and below that would be a mattress. This mattress eventually became the inspiration for the name of the piece, which I wanted to be meditative and dreamlike. Dbbd was meant to be something that you could spend long periods of time laying under and enjoying. I wasn’t sure at this juncture how to light the thing, just that I wanted it to change color throughout the experience.

Changing color was definitely the hardest part of the installation. Estimates for how to do this included everything from a range finder, to webcams, to a Kinect, small copper wires that would hang down the installation and respond to circuits being completed and finally a microphone. The entire process proved to be quite fascinating and could not have been accomplished without the express help of Matt Hudgins and Shea Rembold.

At least we think it’s a microphone:

Additionally further downsizing was required before the final exhibition, with the exhibit eventually only reaching a size of 2ftx2.5ft. This proved to be a good number, as it allowed people to experience it and will work as a proof of concept if I decide to make the exhibit larger.

dbbd dbdb2

The final exhibit was quite lovely, and while it looked a bit like a broken down chandelier it held up remarkably well over the course of the five or so hours that people were directly interacting with it.

My future plans are to adapt the exhibit to reach it’s final stage — the 6ft by 6ft 8in structure over a queen sized mattress that will allow the user to lay under it and experience the total package.


PAX East 2014 Post Mortem

The week before PAX, my anxiety was at it’s height. I was days away from exhibiting my first game ever. I had yet to receive about half of the contents of the volunteer packet I was putting together. If my game was going to have a trailer, I had only a few days between moments between going to school and driving to Boston to get it done.

As it turned out, things weren’t going to get done, and it was still a net success. The volunteer packet lacked information, the press emails garnered few leads, and my game never got a trailer. But I still managed to present my game to one of the larger consumer gaming conventions in the country, still managed to experience PAX, and still managed to help out RunJumpDev.

Building a Demo of a Twine Game for PAX

My Old Kentucky Home

Taking a 15 minute Twine game and turning it into a playable demo for PAX audiences was an interesting challenge. PAX demos are at their best when they are consolidated chunks of your games experience. My game is best played the way it was written, in a darkened room with a pair of headphones. Noise cancelling headphones can only do so much to create the necessary atmosphere.

What I ended up doing was taking the Ludum Dare version of the game and cutting the three most engaging scenes. They’re represented above in black and white sketches. Each of these snippets is presented as a standalone part of the story, and can be played without understanding the full context. The game loses a bit of its atmospheric nature, but allows a quick player to get engaged without spending 15 minutes standing at a booth. There is a link underneath the images to play the full game.

I’ll know whether this decision was successful post-PAX, but given the options it seemed like the best choice.

If you’re interested in playing the PAX build of the game, click on to My Old Kentucky Home.


Train Jam 2014 Post Mortem

Originally posted on Gameskinny where I work as a freelancer.

This past weekend I had the great honor of participating in the inaugural Train Jam. An event started by Adriel Wallick, this year it consisted of 58 or so game developers, two film crews, and two journalists, all traveling 52 hours by train from Chicago to Emeryville, California and en route making some incredible games. Developers from Canada, the UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Italy, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and US all came together for one of the most innovative game jams I’ve ever heard of.

How I, and my fellow Kentucky developer Matt Hudgins, came to be a part of such an illustrious group is unknown. A strange confluence of events found me discovering a last minute tweet from Adriel to the effect of “3 tickets left.” Matt and I weren’t going to GDC. As hyper-indies, small time from a state that while possessing fantastic developers goes largely unnoticed on the tech scene, we were excited at the possibility of a new environment to create games in, and the chance to work with developers we otherwise would not.

So we signed up. Drove the six hours from Lexington, KY to Chicago so that we could start the 52 hour train ride. There were some fantastic and talented developers who had also signed up, including Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail, Depression Quest developer Zoe Quinn, as well as developers who worked on such titles at Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.

We picked up our theme at a deli in the Chicago terminal. “Disconnected,” a good theme since most of us would be disconnected from cell service, wifi, and our jobs for most of the trip. I had the great pleasure of working with a small team of diverse developers: Alicia Avril, Eric Chon, and Andrew Gleeson to help make a game using the VR tool Oculus Rift. I also worked with another team, including the people listed before as well as Eric Robinson, a existential fishing game called “Waiting for Ganandot.” With little time for distraction, this jam was by far one of the most chill and friendly experiences I’ve ever had.

Living and working in such close quarters creates a completely different kind of jam experience. You know how they smell (since most of us did not have access to showers for the entire 52 hours, yes) but you also get a chance to talk about other things, to get excited about small California towns like Truckee, and to play with large train whistles. The entire experience was defined by the friendly and collaborative environment created by Adriel and by the rest of the developers. Even though I had one of the lowest skill levels in the group, I felt like I could contribute.

When the train finally arrived in Emeryville, I began to wish for a year to pass by just a little faster. If possible, I’d love to experience the Train Jam again, and to work with my fellow developers as we head across the country.

My Old Kentucky Home Post Mortem (LD28)

My Old Kentucky Home (MOKH) is a Twine based work of interactive fiction written during the compo. It’s my first completed work in Twine, though I’ve attempted work in the medium before, and my second Ludum Dare entry ever. Previously I’ve worked in HTML and in card games. The games soundtrack is also performed by me.

This is meant to be read after you’ve played the game, so it does have spoilers/etc in the contents. If you care about things like that, then you shouldn’t continue reading until after you’ve played. The playthrough’s I’ve watched take about ten to fifteen minutes. You can play the game here.

MOKH is a story about a fifteen year old girl named Emily who lives in rural Eastern Kentucky. Two years ago a massive calamity took place that she refers to as the Happening. It’s a class-A, post-apocalyptic event — think zombie invasion, Rapture, I am Legend. Whatever has happened has left her alone, living out of a coal mine in the woods above her empty town, and she is running low on supplies. The basic premise of the story is a take on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood.

What Went Right 

soul studioThe music went over shockingly well. I wrote almost the entirety of a game inside a defunct soul studio, so I had a feeling I was going to be including some music into it. I researched the type of songs that I wanted to include, as well as remembering what songs were actually performed at the Eastern Kentucky funerals that seem to have been staples of my childhood. All of the songs were recorded in a single take, and they have a shaky quality in them because I’m terrified of performing. Thankfully that lends itself well to the character.

I also feel like I managed to capture a cultural memory of Eastern Kentucky. A large portion of my family is from, and continues to reside in, the area around Pikeville. I attended funerals where family slept in the funeral home the last night of visiting, have sang Amazing Grace at several funeral homes, and have seen the function of coal as a life blood to an area. Some of the strongest women I know are from Eastern Kentucky, and it is that spirit that I wrote Emily. When I read the story aloud, I hear the timber of their accent in Emily’s voice. I say a cultural memory because most of the included details are either from childhood visits or stories told by my mother.

The ending of the story also seemed to work well. My original draft called for a longer, extended scene wherein terrible things were happening to you that you were unable to control, but a macro would push you through those scenes quickly so that it was almost as though the moment was whizzing by. I wanted to simulate the effect that I actually managed to achieve with the final scene — the death blow with the frying pan. Those couple of lines are some of the best that I’ve strung together, if simply by effect alone. I wanted the player to feel as I imagine the character felt, hopeless, slightly vengeful, and knowing that this was necessary. The feedback I have received has stated that that moment functions overwhelmingly in the way I intended, and because of that, I feel successful.

What Went Wrong 

Due to the quick nature of the event (48 hours) there wasn’t the amount of time I would’ve normally spent polishing my work and ridding it of minor things like typos, but also major things like making sure the continuity was strong and editing out events that were not as important. The fire starting event in game took a very long time to write, but almost all of the play throughs I’ve seen have resulted in a successful fire start, thereby rendering the alternative paths from that point in time unnecessary. In a related note, some of the branches near the fire starting tree don’t function the way they are supposed to — the first song is meant to be almost an Easter Egg and because of the way the game functions, almost everyone encounters it.

I would like it to be longer. For some, the pacing was slow, but I really did want to build towards the moment where the player feels the desperation of the character. Right now her decision to go down the mountain seems almost like a whim, and I really wanted it to be a need.

I wish there were more possible outcomes. Near the end, I was contemplating an ending wherein Emily fails to fend off her attacker, and he kills her. I had already mapped out how the scene would take place, but removed it because I felt that a player that was invested in the outcome of the game would feel cheated or thwarted. If the game built in such a way that that was an option, I feel it would be more accepted, but didn’t think that it would work in the context of the game as it stands currently.

The Future 

I plan to continue working on MOKH, from the minor (fixing typos and grammar) to the major (more music, some minor graphics, etc).

If you have any questions, I’d love to answer them, and you can play My Old Kentucky Home here.