Commentary — Dec 23, 2016

Jody Hudson-Powell, Luke Powell and team release a voice-powered game in which players explore an infinite universe, and explain the technology behind it.

A figure navigates a frozen wasteland. Cold, lost and lonely, the sound of your voice is all that wills them forwards. Your whimpers of despair, screams of anger or cries of hope pushing them to progress through an unknown and unfriendly landscape.

Meeting this lone figure, who is named Poly, in an infinite blizzard is the starting point of Headway, a game developed by Jody Hudson-Powell, Luke Powell and their team. Developed over a few days, Headway is a meditation on a difficult year filled with noise that somehow left many of us feeling unheard.

The game is an offshoot of Jody and Luke’s soon to be released virtual reality projects. Developed over a few days, the team had originally planned to use existing systems to create the game. However, they were unable to find a system that would be able to create an unending blizzard for Poly to explore. Unperturbed, the team created a new set of original code for the game that utilises an infinite tiling box system to create the perception of limitless space.

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Mat Hill says, “Motion capture data from Mixamo provides an efficient way to animate our character. Animations, shaders, and movement are controlled by a script, which allows for timed, dynamic reactions to the environment.”

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Hill says, “Four containers are instantaneously moved about, according the the camera's world position. The result is that there is always a container ahead of the fog distance, providing endless particles and ground.”

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Hill says, “Custom shaders simulate snow in different situations. The ground is displaced and tinted, whilst a noise texture slides across it according to wind vectors. For moving objects, snow accumulates from a world-space direction, displacing geometry and tinting white.”

Jody and Luke have released all the code and original assets to the public domain, which can be accessed here. Their hope is that Poly’s infinite world can be used, recreated and edited by all.

Headway will be available shortly on iTunes and is live on the Google Play for Android. It is the second app that Jody and Luke have released following Sorry Robert, a set of iOS stickers that took the phonetic type experiments of Robert Bridges and translated them into playful iMessage friendly glyphs.

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