This is a blog following the development of new analog and digital games. 

Hang on a Minute

How many projects should one person work on at once? Who knows! I’ve decided to start planning another...

We’re having a spate of unseasonably good weather at the moment and I feel like it’s definitely influenced my urge to get into some weird DIY project. I’ve also recently been able to start back bouldering- I’ve been out of action for a few months from an injury- and I’ve been thinking of different climbing related games I could do for a while. I’ve felt like climbing is a very gameified sport for a while now. I have great plans to record a podcast episode on this with the magnificent John for Celtic Cardboard so I guess I won’t spoil it and go into detail here.

On the the project! (Or should I say “potential project”. I still haven’t decided if it’s worth properly pursuing yet, but I’m in the early planning stages so yeah anyway-)

What is it?

As you can tell from the title, I’m provisionally naming the project Hang on a Minute. Cause

1) it’s a play on words.

2) cause it has to have a name.

3) every name should be a silly joke if possible.

I want to make a climbing wall that people can play games on. The wall should (reasonably) be able to tell where a players hands and feet are and allow a computer to give instructions based on this.

That doesn’t sound too much like a game…

Right now I’m mainly focusing on the project/controller creation side. In the end I want the computer giving instructions to do so through a variety of games. A multi-player system that allows non-climber-players to influence the digital game world that in turn instructs the climber-player, a competitive option that allows the climber-player to influence the digital game world through their movements, and probably a pure endurance game of bouldering-twister and seeing who can stay on the longest. I haven’t thought through a huge amount of details here yet, I’ve been focusing on how to make a wall tell a computer where the climber-player is… Speaking of which-

How does the game know where the climber-player is?

This is my current obstacle, and I have two ideas about how this could work. One’s more technical and probably easier, the other is more hardware based and probably more difficult. Let’s start with the latter!

I’ve been looking into a variety of sensors that can be used. The big problem is that the sensors will need to be a part of the separate holds and be specific to those holds. For safety reasons holds shouldn’t move, so accelerometers are out, and you need to get a solid grip on to the surface of the hold material(which needs to be mounted flush against a wall) so pressure sensors are out too. I’m currently thinking IR sensors. This would require the climber-players hands/feet to get to certain positions to interact with the sensors which might be an obstacle depending on the size of the holds. You want the holds big so they’re easier to climb on but the bigger the hold the harder it is to get a sensor read from. I’ve also found out that it’s entirely possible to cast and mould your own climbing holds, which makes incorporating sensors into the work a lot easier (theoretically). Though I do still need to research the impact adding a sensor would have on the holds structural integrity. Climbing holds are often weird shapes that are attached to a wall by one bolt going through the centre of the hold.

You said two ideas?

The other one is using a Kinect. I know they’re pretty good to tracking motion though I’m not sure the level of accuracy. I’m looking at other options first because ideally I don’t want lots of peripherals to the game. A climbing wall will be necessary, but setting up a Kinect in a position that can read the wall makes the game harder to show and requires more space, also more equipment that (most likely) will not be a fan of being constantly covered in chalk.

I like doing things as hands on as possible. So for me the idea of making a mould and installing a sensor into it seems like so much more fun than setting up a Kinect to do the work.

Ok, what else?

There needs to be more? That was like two days of researching different limitations on mechanical walls and the way different sensors work! There needs to be more? Not right now there doesn’t. This is an in-progress idea post.

That’s all for now. I’ll keep you posted on any updates.

2.9, Jen