Bitsy time

Tonight at First Tuesday Claire Morley gave a great introduction to the joys of Bitsy Game Maker software and how to get started making games with it. We followed along on our laptops as she patiently answered all our questions. I can see why Claire likes Bitsy – it’s a lovely way to play with making games and the simplicity of the software means it gets you thinking really creatively about how to build the game you want.

Bitsy is free to play with – go to the Bitsy site and have a go at building something, then go on itch.io and search for Bitsy games – there’s some stunning ones out there. Claire showed us Mark Wonnacott’s The Last Days of Our Castle which is really impressive. It is a brilliant example of how you can make something rather beautiful even within the limitations of 8×8 & 16×16 grids that Bitsy offers to build avatars and “rooms” (playing canvas).

Claire’s Bitsy tutorial HERE is a great starting point if you want to have a go. She suggested following @AdamLeDoux’s twitter feed to find inspiring games and get involved in his monthly Bitsy jams. Claire also talked us through variables and found this really useful TUTORIAL on how to use them to make more complex games.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s Bitsy ideas at the next Grrrlgames First Tuesday on 7th August. Get making, get playing!

nb Thanks again to Bristol Games Hub for the meeting space – check out the opportunities and meetups there by signing up to their newsletter.

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We Sing In Fire and Blood

Our First Tuesday in June was a vr-focused session for Grrrl Games, so we invited artist and writer Hazel Grian to come and talk to us about We Sing In Fire and Blood, her VR choral piece. It’s a moving piece of work about how we come together as communities after traumatic events, and is inspired by Hazel’s story of surviving a life-changing event. It was interesting to hear her process of developing the project, building on past experience of creating work and realising that past projects had been too ephemeral – she wanted to create something that would last longer, after all the creative effort that goes into experiments using new technology.

Hazel went through a long process of writing and rewriting funding applications, sticking to her sense of purpose about wanting to tell her story in her own way. After several months We Sing In Fire and Blood was funded by Arts Council England and Watershed, and she was able to assemble a team of talented composers/musicians (Duncan Speakman & Sarah Anderson) and VR people (All Seeing Eye) to bring her ideas to life. She showed photos of the design process – using TIlt Brush to sketch out the piece in vr, and the filming of actors in green screen, and her design for how the audience views the piece, as if they are sat around a communal fire.

HazelTalkGGamesJune18

The current version of We Sing In Fire and Blood is a 12 minute VR experience. It is moving and inspiring, and definitely worth the experience if you come across it at a film/vr festival – hopefully it will be heading out into the wider world this year. Hazel is currently seeking more funding to develop the work into a longer operatic piece – she played a snippet of one of the bits of music and that on its own was pretty stunning.  Bristol based people may be able to try We Sing In Fire and Blood if they get in touch with the PMStudio. She is heading to Sheffield Doc Fest next week and we wish her well.

Hazel is a resident at the Pervasive Media Studio – read more here – and we want to say thanks to them for hosting our meetup this month!

First Tuesday ~ Audio & Games with Alison Bown

March 2017 First Tuesday meetup at bristolgameshub was on all things Audio, with a really useful presentation from Alison Bown about how to get started creating and editing sounds for your game. Alison has years of experience working in film and games; she was recruited straight from film school by Electronic Arts to work on games and is currently in the throes of an Interactive Narrative and Spatial Audio PhD.

We had a wide-ranging introduction to useful software and hardware, from free stuff to top of the range. I learnt that protools can be evil but necessary if you want to work in film sound, and that an iphone is a more than adequate recording tool if you don’t want to shell out for an ambisonic Zoom H2N with four microphones on top. We even covered how to make an ad-hoc sound recording booth – basically walling yourself into a cupboard with blankets or sticking a mattress behind your head.

Alison played us some of the sounds she has created over the years and showed us how she layers up from component parts; pretty much the same techniques are used in film and games but with game you need to know more about compression and chopping up files into re-usable bits. (That’s my non-tech explanation of what she actually said). She recommended we read “From The Shadows of Film Sound” by Rob Bridgett to get a good overview of sound techniques and how to use audio to good effect in games.

We covered sound fx, copyright, atmospheric sound ( randomised sounds on top of a base sound), memory, routing (a fundamental in film & games so I’ll be reading up on that), setting reverb in Unity, making MIDI sounds, file formats (mp3 vs wav vs .ogg), pitch/shifting, sound seeds (! another one to investigate further), and so on. It seems to be a lot about layering. I also learnt that stems are how you organise sound for a mix – I will be downloading myself a list of terms to bandy about when talking audio!

It was a mind-reeling comprehensive intro to lots of things, with time for answers to people’s more specific questions about their projects. Lots to think about and follow up, and quite reassuring to those of us who are muddling through and now find out we were doing things right. (I mean me, using my phone and audacity to record and edit).

Alison recommended we think about using Wwise middleware (similar to fmod) that works with Unity and Unreal games engines, and sent us a link to a “Great Blog with loads of tips including why to use Wwise” from annesoaudio:

Here are a few more links from Alison ~

Reaper demos, Reaper Controls,

Unity & audio

Wwise Demo in action: Twenty mins in, show and tell of intricate Wwise project in game.

Thanks Alison – slightly fried my brain but a really useful evening.

nb we are open to suggestions for topics for First Tuesdays, just join our meetup group for women working in games and post an idea.