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Monday, November 12, 2007

Lost in the Static is a free exploration-oriented platform game for Windows XP and Vista on reasonably modern PCs. It uses some surprising aspects of the human perceptual system to create a visible world out of animating static.

May cause headaches and nausea. The game has a proper ending.

Name: Lost in the Static
Developer: Sean Barrett
Category: Platform
Size: 5MB
Type: Freeware
Direct download link: Click here
21 Comments:
Blogger Greg said at 11/13/2007 07:22:00 PM:  
Ah, someone built on Squidi's concept. I look forward to trying it.
Blogger Greg said at 11/13/2007 08:09:00 PM:  
That was quick.

This is very much more a proof-of-concept than a real game. Visually, beyond the (borrowed) idea, there's very little here of interest beyond the title screen and ending screen. The 'flow' of static is what defines its shape, which while consistent, could use work.

Beyond that, there's no real game to speak of. It's listed here as an exploration platform game, which I guess it is, but there's nothing really to explore -- just uninspired levels that are neither challenging, nor interesting.

I think I'd want the visuals approached first, followed by the actual play. But this is certainly a case where the concept was applied to a bad game, and just produced a bad game with an interesting gimmick.
Blogger Zmann said at 11/13/2007 09:46:00 PM:  
Yeah, pretty weak. Only originality is Squidi's (and one of his worse ideas, at that). Level design and play mechanics are just blah, and the only cool gimmick you have with a game made of static is that you can't take screenshots of it. Yippie . . .
Blogger Jonathan said at 11/13/2007 10:28:00 PM:  
I thought it was good. I may be biased (I know the author), but I thought a big part of the game was just getting immersed in the visuals and noticing different effects and patterns. Some of the screens around the middle, and at the end, seem to be visual rewards for your getting that far, and to encourage you to be playing through the game in order to look at stuff.
Anonymous Casey said at 11/13/2007 10:37:00 PM:  
This was a four-day proof of concept, and as such, I think it is a fine success. Obviously there is not much game there, but surely that is not the point. The point is to see how a game rendered entirely of static works: can it be played, is it appealing, what emotions does it elicit from the player, how does it affect the player's relationship to the world?

I think all of these things come through in the demo, and after playing, I immediately saw a whole world of possibilities on how a full, original game with lots of interesting things could come out of it... and that's exactly what a four-day concept work should do!

- Casey
Anonymous Sean Barrett said at 11/13/2007 10:49:00 PM:  
While I appreciate Jon's defense of my efforts, I actually agree with the idea that it mostly feels like a "proof of concept". I worked for a while to try to find some way to develop real gameplay out of the static, but all I could come up with perceptual challenges, which didn't feel very fun to me. So I started building it as a simple platformer and never ended up deviating from the basics.

So, on the one hand, I did attempt to make the game feel pleasurable and rewarding so you wouldn't reach the end of the game and feel you'd wasted your time. (In fact, there are three "secrets" for the hardcore.) But on the other hand, yes, if you take _out_ the static, there's not much there.

I still think it was worth making, and is worth experiencing. And if somebody thinks there is something better to be done with Squidi's idea, they are of course welcome to do so, and I'll be happy to play it.

Ah, I see Casey has posted while I was writing this. The unfair advantage Casey has in this discussion is that he knows it was a four-day game... I don't actually say that anywhere on the main web page, so of course there's no way you'd know that (it certainly doesn't advertise itself as a prototype or proof-of-concept on the page, as I want it to stand on its own without caveats).
Blogger Greg said at 11/13/2007 11:45:00 PM:  
I'm curious, Sean, what would you want to do with the static concept as a professional end goal?

I can see a few ways to use this kind of concept, but it mostly leads me towards new visuals rather than static. What would you do, say given a year? Or unlimited resources, perhaps?

Apologies if I came across as overly harsh -- this does work well as a proof of concept, but I was lead to think it was something more than that.
Anonymous Casey said at 11/14/2007 12:06:00 AM:  
Also, I feel it is worth mentioning that aesthetic exploration is certainly as valuable as game design exploration, so even if one were to simply make a generic, fun platformer with this visual paradigm, that would be a valuable work.

But that said, it seems clear to me that there are plenty of opportunities for interesting interactions between the visual style and the game design. Even if this prototype does not itself explore those opportunities, I think having the aesthetic in a playable demo helps bring them to mind in designers who might follow up on the concept much moreso than a simple "a game rendered entirely in static" suggestion would do.

- Casey
Anonymous Firesword said at 11/14/2007 03:29:00 AM:  
Ahhh the Human brain.. if only i had one lol
Blogger Gr.Viper said at 11/14/2007 06:47:00 AM:  
Well... it looks interesting. But I find this guy's static effort more impressive
http://www.leweyg.com/download/SIRD/q2/index.html
There's also his pong game with same style graphics and written on java.

I wonder if you static patterns could be merged with his magic-eye renderer to create a sort of "textured" 3D world.
Anonymous Anonymous said at 11/14/2007 07:14:00 AM:  
I enjoyed it. Easy yes, but the atmosphere was great. It felt like exploring an alien world.

Works perfectly in wine btw (assuming it's supposed to just quit after exiting the last (grey) screen?)
Anonymous Squidi said at 11/14/2007 08:19:00 AM:  
My original intention with this idea was just to point out a neat trick I noticed. There was nothing deeper to it than that. It is a neat trick, but I find this proof of concept far more interesting. Yeah, it's not like this amazing, gonna change the world thing, but I think it proves quite a few things about the idea.

1) It's possible. I'm as surprised as anyone.

2) It delivers a VERY unique emotional feel. As someone mentioned, it was like exploring an alien world. It has a weird sort of isolated, blurred reality type thing going on, and that's certainly something that should be built upon.

3) Some of the static effects are truly impressive. I was surprised that by simply moving the static a different way, it was enough to give it the feel of lava or something without it seeming like it was on a different depth like the background. The explosions especially were pretty cool. With some more experimentation in this area, you could develop a fairly substantial bag of tricks, turning one big gimmick into one big gimmick with a bunch of nifty small gimmicks.

I consider this an excellent proof of concept. It shows that it works and that it is perhaps worth exploring further.

If I were to design a full game to do this sort of thing, I'd make something that could be played in small bursts (there is a small headache factor involved, but nothing compared to magic eye stuff). It would probably be something with only a few enemies on the screen at a time (the static screws with your peripheral vision something fierce, so it might work better as an applet or using a smaller screensize in general). I don't think I'd go platform game with it - maybe a shooter or one of those games where you have to move your mouse through a maze without touching the sides (kuru kuru kurin?)

There's also additional areas to look into further, like perhaps introducing some sort of color to it (if you add just a few random pixels of red to an enemy, it still won't have shape in screenshots, but introducing the color to animated static will help define it better, maybe, in motion). It might also be an interesting effect if you were able to change the patterns of the static for depth (the speed of the static seems to affect how far away it feels - more research is required).

Anyway, I think this thing proves that the concept does work, even though it really doesn't seem like it would, and provides new information on the feel and implementation of it which inspires even further ideas along those lines. I don't know that I would consider it a good game, but I think it's good first step to one.
Anonymous Sean Barrett said at 11/14/2007 08:30:00 AM:  
Greg, there's nothing to apologize for; I don't think your first post was harsh. Let me restate, to be clear: to me this was not a proof of concept. It was a very, very short game that was intended to be what it is. It's suppose to show off these aesthetics while providing a very basic (but fun!) traditional game.

If that didn't work for you, and you found it simple and dull, that's a perfectly fair reaction! Indeed, the second sentence on the web page calls it "a simple little game". I was attempting to draw on the appeal of games like Knytt, or the Orsinal games, which use simple gameplay and a lot of atmosphere. If that doesn't appeal to you, or if you felt like I did a bad job of doing that (certainly LitS is no Knytt!), that's your right. Bottom-line, if it wasn't enjoyable, it wasn't enjoyable, right?

Now, there's a separate issue if you feel like there needs to be some gameplay innovation to go with the visual aesthetic innovation, or if you feel there really needs to be gameplay that leverages the static itself in some way. Crappy game designer that I am, I couldn't come up with anything that really worked for those things, at least not in the short time frame. Maybe if I spent another month on it I would come up with some ideas... but maybe I wouldn't! I know Casey and Jon are generating ideas quickly on seeing this, but I sure wasn't able to.

So your "in a year" hypothesis is unaswerable by me, because I have no idea where the game could be taken in a year. I appreciate your attempting to be polite and throw me a bone on the "prototype" basis, but honestly, I didn't play the "prototype" card and I'd rather it hadn't been played.

I know some people have played the game that exists and enjoyed it, and I am pleased with that. But I am well aware of the gameplay limits as a simple platformer, and I think criticism (and "I didn't have any fun") on that basis is perfectly valid, and I'm not taking it personally. I'm taking it as: oh well, I'll have to do better the next time I try to knock out a little casual game (because I sure ain't gonna spend a year on one).

Anonymous: Yes, that's the correct ending. (I'm not sure why this confuses people; maybe I should have faded to black instead of grey? Or maybe they're just surprised it's so short.)

Actually I guess I've heard from three other players who played it under WINE, and all three reported not having any sound. I suppose lack of music may undermine some of the pacing cues that make the big boss unambiguously climactic and the ending clearly part of the denouement.
Anonymous Sean Barrett said at 11/14/2007 08:45:00 AM:  
Sorry to post again, but people keep posting while I'm posting, which may make my post's context unclear.

So, clarifying: although my goal was not to provide a proof-of-concept, of course the game does serve as that and I am also not offended at people calling that. If anyone does look at it and spin off new and better ideas, that's great. I've done many games to the Indie Game Jam, and I do consider those all proofs-of-concept.

But this games is intended to stand on its own for players, not just serve as a beacon for game designers, and criticism on that basis is perfectly reasonable.
Anonymous mjau said at 11/14/2007 09:37:00 AM:  
Sean, (I'm the anonymous above), the confusing part wasn't if the fade-to-grey room was the last room (that was pretty obvious, and I think the fade-to-grey works fine), but that the game just instantly quit after that. I wasn't sure if I missed a completion screen or not, specially since greg mentioned an ending screen in the second comment.

Also, the music worked fine for me in Wine (using v0.9.48). It definitely contributed a lot to the atmosphere.
Anonymous Anonymous said at 11/14/2007 10:42:00 AM:  
I'm not able to get very far - the controls are sticky or lagged. Often the character just keeps running one direction even though no keys are held. Sometimes he'll jump and sometimes he won't.

I'm playing on an Inpsiron 9300 with WindowsXP.
Anonymous Jack Swift said at 11/14/2007 11:49:00 AM:  
I got an error, but got it to run by switching it to 640x480.

Nice effects, especially the explosions!
Anonymous Anonymous said at 11/14/2007 01:28:00 PM:  
Same as anonymous above -- the controls are also broken for me ... they seem to start lagging by a few seconds at some point, so if I tap right then wait, eventually I'll move amount proportional to the length of the tap. Problem seems to get worse with play.

I'm also using an Inspiron 9300 with Windows XP.
Anonymous Sean Barrett said at 11/14/2007 02:27:00 PM:  
Hey, guys, let's not take over this thread with bug reports. http://silverspaceship.com/forum/ is one place you can post bug reports, or you can just send me email.

(That said, I'm not doing anything strange with user input, so I really have no idea what's going on, or how to figure it out. I have an Inspiron E1405 and it runs fine on that.)
Blogger Greg said at 11/14/2007 05:52:00 PM:  
Hey again Sean,

You've got a straight forward honesty I like, I must admit. I wasn't trying to throw you a bone, per se, but I know how show dev periods often leave people with implementation goals unachieved. I was really just wondering if there was additional vision to the production.

When I look at a game focusing on unique visuals like this, it's my design urge to find more ways to incorporate the unique visuals in to the game mechanics. I see things like enemies who 'flow' differently when they're aggressive or defensive, or objects that break apart and reform.

As it was, LitS is really about re-learning colors as patterns and then about walking around. I just feel that it could have been more integrated.
Anonymous Anonymous said at 11/15/2007 01:49:00 PM:  
is it just one image that has certain sectors move?

I say this because the parts that are still have the same static 'look' to them (ie like a picture.....the bigger black globs are at the same place same with the white areas)