Simone Seagle

Simone Seagle

Independent Web and Educational Software Developer

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Electric Playhouse Game Development

Electric Playhouse Game Development

May 13, 2020 Simone Seagle

Back in October and up until the world ended in March, I had been contracting for Electric Playhouse creating immersive games. This was frankly some of the most fun I've ever had at a job, and was surprisingly one of my first chances to work with other developers! Electric Playhouse uses an impressive array of Microsoft Kinects networked throughout the space in order to see where visitors are located. The experiences are all written in JavaScript with a heavy use of GLSL to work with the depth data and add awesome effects.

I tried writing a shader for the first time almost 10 years ago for a project when I still worked at Quatrefoil, but it was super basic and just used a DirectX shader to punch one picture out of another picture. Electric Playhouse asked me to go through The Book of Shaders before starting, and it was a revelation. I felt like learning to create that way turned the way I usually work inside out, and I loved it! I'll write another post all about writing shaders some other time.

The most prominent game I made for Electric Playhouse was AirHockey, which is shown above. The picture is from the grand opening, and the Mayor of Albuquerque is off to the left of the frame! (You'll just have to take my word for it.) EP has a really cool way of layering shaders and regular canvas programming that allows you to create some really cool effects. The blue background is actually an animated Perlin noise effect which you can't really see in the image, but it looks like you're under water when you're in there. The game works by using the depth data to collide off of a puck, which you can see in the lower center-ish part of the image. Then, it's just human air hockey! The walls display the score. It's actually pretty simple, and is a really effective game. Some of the most rewarding experiences of my career have been seeing people use and enjoy something I've made.

After Air Hockey, I made a customizable suite of birthday party animations for kids! One of EP's main attractions are their super cool immersive dinners, but those are targeted to adults and are sometimes a bit too dark for little kids. They asked me to make some animations for that other audience, and I got the idea to make them flexible so that you could switch out the colors and the name so they are unique for each child.

A short gif of one party

A short clip of one of the animations of the birthday party suite. The little girl picked red and pink for her colors!

Luckily my daughter got invited to one of these parties and I was able to see it in action! I hope that soon the birthday parties at Electric Playhouse will again be plentiful, and we can all get back to playing like we mean it.