Wiring Challenges 1: Game Controllers

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by Lina Antolínez in collaboration with Jaime Patarroyo and Carlos Mario Rodríguez

This challenge was designed as an exercise for beginners. It is a basic approach to tangible interactions and prototyping with electronics. We assume that all the people involved in the resolution of this challenge have a previous knowledge in basic programming platforms like Processing and that Wiring software has been downloaded and installed.

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Brief Design 2 physical controls for a single game. Each control must propose a different way of interacting with the game. This challenge
should be solved in groups of 4 people. Each group has to choose a player for a competition at the end of the challenge.
Controls must survive this competition : )

What do we need? A Wiring i/o board per group, generic USB cable, 4 to 10 switches of different colors and sizes, 4 mercury switches,
4 photoresistor, UTP cable without endings(3m), soldering iron, solder wire, soldering paste, multi-pin socket connectors or 8 wire assembly
jumpers, wire stripper, diagonal cutter and pliers.

How to develop this challenge? This is a workshop to be developed in 2 days. The first day, the Understand phase has to be developed
in 3 hours and in the second day Build, Adjust and Test phases should be developed.



Step 1: Introduction

What is this challenge about?

To start this challenge it is very important to think about and present to participants different actions that we frequently do and in which technology and electronics have facilitated or enriched these experiences.

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Usually we don’t have conscience that different actions that we do every day such as driving a car, heating our meals in the micro web oven, playing music in our iPod, making a call with the mobile or controlling a videogame are possible because of the existence of small computers inside each one of those objects we interact with to do these actions.
Thanks to the engineering and science we can have this computers, but interacting with them in a more human, intuitive and funnier way is thanks to Interaction Design. A field in design that has been explored by different people concerned about understanding and designing new meaningful experiences for our lives.
In this challenge we are going to consider videogames as a potential world in which their own stories and narratives are going to take us to design “more human, intuitive and funnier ” ways of interacting physically with videogames.

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Cc license.png Images above are under a Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) license and belong to shutupyourface,
sean dreilinger, akoray and moqub, Flickr users.

Step 2: Starting Point

How can we create new ways of interacting with videogames?

Present the brief along with the selected games. These games have basic interactions and have been selected to facilitate the design of the physical controls. Games can be downloaded below and may be executed as a Java app. on Windows and Mac.

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Students can also design and program the game. Keep in mind that it must be programmed in Processing. We suggest that games should simulate arcade games or attractions at county fairs. This will make easier to focus on the interaction instead on the narrative of the game.
* If you want to share your game with Wiring community and add it to this challenge don’t hesitate to send a zip folder of the game with the names of the creators and its description to challenges[at]wiring.org.co.

Game 1. Skiing by Lina Antolínez

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Game based on arcade videogame Alpine Skii. Players have to dodge different obstacles along the racetrack. At the same time points will be appearing and players must catch them to increase their score. There are 7 levels in which difficulty will be increasing progressively. Yeti must be dodged to win the game. Actions that players can do are: start the game, move right, move left and throw snowballs to the Yeti. download

Game 2. Intruders by Jaime Patarroyo

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It is a very simple and fun game in which players have to shoot from the space ship to the intruders spaceships that ge tinto the zone to avoid they get to the other side of the screen. If intruders spaceship reach the end of the screen the intruders will have invaded and the player will lose. Actions that players can do are: start the game, move right, move left and shoot to the spaceships. download

Game 3. Color Spots By Juan Prieto

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This game is a competition between two players. Each player must choose a color (blue or green) at the beginning of the game. The board will show two spots positioned randomly (one of each color). Each time a player reaches its color spot his energy bar will increase and other spots will light up randomly. The first player that fills up his bar completely will be the winner. Actions that players can do are: start the game and select the spots. download

Step 3: Inspirations

What could be useful to solve this challenge?

Select and present projects that show different ways of solving the challenge appropriately. The following projects were chosen as inspirations for this challenge and are particularly outstanding for the interactions that their controllers propose. Actions designed for players correspond to the narrative of the game and prototypes are strong enough to bear the competition.

Skiing controller by Lina Antolínez

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This controller is a platform where player should step on and swing sideways to direct the skier in the screen so that he can dodge the obstacles on the track. The controller has two skiing sticks with which the player can start the game or pause it, besides using them as support.

Color Spots Game controller by Juan Prieto

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The controller of this game is a board with 10 buttons placed randomly over a wall and a video projector that projects the game with the colored spots that the players have to reach. The projection is adjusted to match the exactly position of the buttons which are covered with rubber balls that soften the impact when the players press them.

Step 4: Content

What do we need to know to solve the challenge?

In this challenge it is important to do some exercises to understand how the electronics work. With these exercises students or participants can become familiar with basic components and i/o board connections. Exercises of the Getting Started section are ideal for this:

1. LED Blink Turn on and off a LED

2. Photoresistor Connect a photoresistor and turn on a LED when reaching a specific value.

3. Switch Connect a Switch and turn on a LED when pressing it.

4. Digital Read Read and print data from a digital pin.

5. Analog Read Reand and print a value from an analog pin.

6. Sending Multiple Data Sending data from Wiring to Processing

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For academic processes we suggest that students read: Extension 8: Electronics in the Arts, Casey Reas & Hernando Barragán* antes del challenge.
* Reas, Casey, Ben Fry, Processing, A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists, Foreword by John Maeda. Capítulos por: Alexander R. Galloway, Golan Levin, R. Luke DuBois, Simon Greenwold, Francis Li, Hernando Barragán. MIT Press, 2007. ISBN-10: 0-262-18262-9, ISBN-13: 978-0-262-18262-1.


Step 5: Planning

Which is the interaction script for every controller?

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Each group must design and sketch the interaction script of the chosen game. To make easier this process it is important to start with the actions they want that the player to do during the game. Then analyze the phenomena that can be used to measure the actions and choose the right components to do it.

In many cases it is interesting to share sketches and present the experiences designed by each group to get feedback and opinions of other participants so that they can consider them and think in the most appropriate way to solve the challenge.

SuperPong Sketch

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In one of the challenges developed in Los Andes University, one of the groups decided to program its own game and design the controllers based on the classic game of PONG. In this game two players have to face each other and move their bar in the right direction to stop the ball and send it back to the other player. Each time a player doesn’t stop the ball, the other player wins a point. For their own game the group decided to add some distractions that were appearing in the screen and the speed was increasing at the same time that the levels were increasing too.

The controllers were designed from defining the interaction with the game. As an strategy to win the competition they propose that one of the controllers was a long platform for which one of the players will be running over and stop the ball stepping on the right bar. Meanwhile, the other player doesn’t have to make any physical effort, only to move his fingers to direct the bar and in that way make the other player tired who will eventually stop running to stop the ball.

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We suggest making different sketches where groups can draw the experience during different moments of the game to understand and choose the correct electronic components. It is necessary to always think about the robustness of the prototype and the right materials.

Step 6: Implementation

What do you need to make real the interaction?

Understand actions, phenomena, components and identify which are the right ones to build a prototype and why.

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One of the groups that participated in this workshop chose the Skiing game to design the controllers. They designed the interaction thinking in the actions that the player should be doing. They chose the main action of leaning sideways when skiing and evaluated the different ways of measuring it. They considered the inclination of the skiing sticks and designed a structure integrated to the sticks that will activate a switch when the player leans to move the skier into the screen. Considering this, the most suitable materials to build the prototype were selected. Switches were made using soda cans because its cylindrical structure was perfect to wrap the ends of the structure. When the player leans laterraly holding the sticks, switches made with cans make contact and activate the skier.

Step 7: Connections

How does the components should be connected?

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After choosing the electronic components, they have to be tested in a breadboard before welding any component. Once the components work you can install them in the prototype structure and weld all the connections.

The SuperPong group built the circuit over the breadboard and tested the switches that they used as input in the game. To create the connections they followed the schematics in the Learning section. When the switches were pressed in the breadboard, Wiring sent the signal that the switch was pressed to the game and the bar moved right or left to avoid the ball went out of the screen.

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It is important to be sure that the connections are well done to avoid burning any component and that the wires are protected at the moment of integrating them to the prototype because movements of the players can affect them badly.


Step 8: Problems and Adjustments

What problems were identified and how were they solved?

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Participants must identify the problems that they had at the moment of integrating the circuit to the prototype and make different plans to solve them. Examine the most common problems and make necessary adjustments for each problem identified. It is common to have to regulate the speed of the code to adjust the designed control to the ideal interaction.

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One of the most common problems at this moment is the Bad Election of Components because of considering some that don’t measure correctly the chosen action and the Fragility of the prototype for considering weak materials which wouldn’t support the competition.

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The Skiing group integrated the connections to the game and found problems such as a very High Speed in which was very hard to control the skier and with which the skier sometimes went out of the screen. They realized that soda cans had to be reinforced to the structure because when the sticks were leaned many times, they were unsticking and they didn’t make contact. To solve these problems they reduced the speed of the skier in the code and established a new condition to avoid the skier went out of the screen. They also reinforced the structure sticking the cans with instant glue so that they will never unstick again.


Step 9: Competition

Participants of the challenges should present their projects and the process they followed during the 4 moments until the final result. The explanation of the controllers should be clear. The competition should be done to prove the interaction and every controller must survive to it. Every result has to have a description showing how it works and has to be documented with photos and video to be added to the Wiring challenges Exhibition.


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In case of an academic context, the team or the teacher should evaluate some criteria during the competition:
Interaction: Does the controller allow the player to intuit naturally the actions that he has to do? The actions that the player do are coherent with the narrative of the chosen game? The controller allows the player to do the actions naturally and efficiently?
Robustness: Does the control bear the moment of playing of different players? Does the control bear not only the competition but also it is still working after it without many affectations?
Finishings: Is the prototype completely finished? Is its physical aspect coherent with the interaction of the game? Is it a finished prototype, robust and clean without the use of expensive or final materials?
Components Choosing: Are the electronic components the most appropriate to measure the actions that the player does?

Step 10: Certificate

In this last step the certificates of participation should be given to the participants. For doing this, the team should download the file bellow and print the necessary amount depending on the number of participants and fill them with the information about this challenge.

Download Certificate of Participation: Wiring challenges 1

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This challenge was developed and documented at Universidad de Los Andes in October 2011.

Leader Team: Lina Antolínez, Jaime Patarroyo and Carlos Mario Rodríguez.

Support Team: Luisa Pinto, Sergio Muñoz and Sebastián Navarrete.

Photo and Video: Juan David Contreras and Luisa Pinto.

Language: English  • Español • Français
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