Blog

  • Phase Forward DIA Kiosk (2002)

    September 3, 2004

    990-02-pfdia01.jpg At Active Edge, we created this kiosk application in about a month, starting from concept to final delivery. We worked with Phase Forward’s Marketing department to understand the nature of “clinical trials”. Because of the trade show environment, we designed the game to mostly work as an ambient part of the overall booth, providing background movement and a “high tech” feel. The interactivity is very limited, designed to quickly move into attract mode if no user input is detected.

    313-02-pfdia02.jpg313-02-pfdia03.jpg313-02-pfdia04.jpg We used a two-person team. I was the producer, architect, integrator, working with a colleague at Active Edge who created the 3D look. The Flash engine was very basic, consisting of a shell that could load two completely independent animated SWF files.

    990-02-pfdia05.jpg We accurately animated two complete workflows: internet-based trials versus paper-based. The “simulation” shows that internet-based trials finish faster than paper-based trials. Originally, we had programmed more interactivity into the application to allow exploration, but due to time constraints of getting the application fully tested and stable for installation, we had to axe that feature. Still, the overall project was pretty cool.


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    Dave Seah
  • NCAA Football ‘99 (1998)

    September 3, 2004

    NCAA Football 99After Qualia, I worked for a year at Tiburon / EA Sports as Art Manager on NCAA Football ’99, the sister game to the well-known Madden football series. The role of Art Manager was to coordinate the activities of the artists assigned to the game (7, in this case) with the Development Director and Programming Manager. Although the studio offered excellent benefits, I found that bekng a middle manager didn’t agree with me, and I returned to Boston after we shipped gold master. Working on the top football franchise in the world in a AAA studio would have been a buzz to anyone who loved the game, but as one generally ignorant of professional sports, I wasn’t as hardcore as I felt I needed to be.

    Years later, I’ve realized it was the sense of “authorship” I missed from my earlier experiences making games. By 1998, the scale of the game industry had started to come within range of billion-dollar levels, and “team” had displaced “authorship”. You can’t afford authorship. It will sink your production.

    So it’s important to me to do my own thing, and I’d rather work on smaller projects as a primary contributor.

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    Dave Seah
  • Prove It (2004)

    September 3, 2004

    Prove It Workspace NOTE: Showing Evidence is the “official name” of Prove It. The following description was written prior to our official release:

    Prove It is a project developed in Flash MX 2004, using ActionScript 2.0. It’s a pure scripted application: no graphics resources or animation, designed to launch from a web browser and communicate with a back-end server. It’s part of Intel’s Thinking Tools program, and hopefully we’ll see it online sometime in 2005. I was the primary architect of the code, defining the structure of the application and the bulk of its implementation. The key ideas and visual design behind Prove It are the work of Inquirium, an educational tools company based in Chicago, with whom I worked closely.

    Prove It Open ObjectThe basic idea behind Prove It is to visually represent the process of answering a question using rational means. There are three main entities: claims, which are hypothesis that are relevant to the question; evidence, which are the “facts”, and links, which support or undermine a particular claim. The Prove It workspace allows students to construct these entities and link them together in a visual fashion. Students can move, rank, reorder and comment on each of the entities, and then submit the work back to the server. It’s pretty neat.

    This was my first major application written in Flash, and we started it in November 2003 just when MX 2004 was released. I was hugely relieved to finally have a reasonable language to work with: a modicum of type checking, a more streamlined java-like object oriented syntax, and even a rudimentary Project IDE. Plus, the improvements to unicode support and speed were a plus. What I still can’t figure out is why the MovieClip interfaces are still the mess they are…I spent a chunk of time writing wrappers for all of them to make the implementation a little cleaner, at some expense in speed, but it made it easier for Inquirium to work with the code and not have to deal with Flash’s idiosyncratic conventions.

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    Dave Seah
  • Ships

    September 3, 2004

    I have a ratty folder of every spaceship drawing I’ve done since I was in the 5th grade. Star Wars had just come out, and every able-bodied young man in the building started drawing. We would meet during recess and discuss the latest additions to our armada. Most kids dropped out, but I found a couple of people who liked spaceships and we kept at it through the 10th grade.

    You can see I always drew from the side…I could never grasp how to draw perspective. I’m still trying to figure that out.

    990-ds18.jpgI drew my first spaceship for a 5th grade science project. We got to play futurist and imagine what things would be like in the future. I designed in great detail (for my 5th grade mind, anyway) a long-term space colonization vessel with a cool support dune buggy, after doing a lot of reading about space. I think Mrs. Nunnalee was highly amused.

    990-ds01.jpgThis is the first fighter I ever drew, also around the 5th grade I believe. I think I showed this to Freddy Von Lohmann and Wade Chow, who were the reigning kings of spaceship design in the classroom. And so disappointed I was in the color, I only drew one more before sticking to black and white for the next 8 years. My drawings really sucked, but I kept at it.

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    This series of ships shows me struggling with representing 3d form in a flat space. I used a small straight-edge in this period of time, and graph paper to try to maintain symmetry. The designs are based on my childish notions of “fast and cool” equals “long and pointy”.

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    Around 1980, we went back to the States for a summer, and I saw Battlestar Galactica on TV. I got a picture of a Colonial Viper and started drawing three-engined ships with skid landing gear. See the attempts at foreshortened wings? You can also see that I am starting to play with modular components: engines, laser cannons are becoming standardized as I draw them more.

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    And then I saw Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and actually bought a model of the main fighter. I paid great attention to the way the cockpit was modeled, and adapted it to the fighter series that had started with the Battlestar line. The basic “flying eraser” fuselage remains, but engine placement and cockpit remains somewhat varied. I drew maybe a dozen of these, trying to figure out the best arrangement.

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    I finally start to shake off the Buck Rogers influences and pursue more original ship designs, around the 10th grade. There’s one last gasp.

    990-ds17.jpgThe height of the “space race” in school was during the Battle Cruiser Yamato period, known as Star Blazers here in the States. In Yamato, the earth defense forces are basically refurbishing old WWII battleships and sending them into space. They had main guns and bristled with smaller anti-aircraft turrets. The more turrets, the better your ship. I remember staying up ALL NIGHT drawing turrets on this beast, easily crushing my opponents at recess, whos jaws dropped to the floor. How many are there? After that, I think everyone lost interest in drawing turrets, including myself.

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    I finally broke away from graph paper in the 10th grade. The middle fighter, drawn in 1984, was the last ship I drew with a straight edge! You can see that by 1986, I had a better way of doing wing foreshortening and had learned something about line thicknesses and shading. Still drawing from the side, though.

    990-htank2.gif.jpgThis was a significant breakthrough drawing for me.. It was one of the first no-straightedge drawings, had some good shading, and I was very pleased with the overall FORM. It was perhaps the first thing I had drawn that I knew what the shape would be like in 3D. More or less. I also liked the controlled placement of detail to create points of interest. The gun mounts are still a bit flat looking, but it was a big leap.

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    I continued to draw a bit my freshman year of college. These pictures were drawn while doing laundry in the laundry room. But it was 1987, and I was starting to switch to computer graphics using DeluxePaint II. Sketching would become increasingly rare in my life. You can see the Macross (aka Robotech) influence in the tail and fuselage.

    990-tships.gif.jpgThese are the last spaceships I drew, around 1992 as concept art for Star Reach, a computer game that I was helping my buddy Mark create artwork for.

    » More Photos on Flickr

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    Dave Seah
  • Crixa (1995-1996)

    September 3, 2004

    990-title.jpgThe work of many people, my first real project, many lessons learned and things to share.

    Qualia Games was founded by Mark Kern, and I came onboard with him to realize our high school dream to create our own game company. While this venture wasn’t successful, it did become the springboard to later opportunities. Based on this game, the entire team was invited to join Blizzard Entertainment after we closed operation, but only Mark took them up on the offer. I went to Tiburon to work as Art Manager on their Playstation version of NCAA Football ’99. I think Mark and I needed a break from each other :-)

    This was a real education, fraught with stress and learning-on-the-job. I learned that technical smarts is the least important factor in the success of a group endeavor. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with some of the finest individuals I have ever met:

    • Alen Yen: Visual Design, Level Design
    • Bretton Wade: Lead Programmer
    • Jeremy Biddle: Programmer
    • Ray Archie and Lee Vodra: Sound Design, Music
    • Dave Seah: Game Design, Interface Design, Art Technical Direction, Support Programming, Support Graphics, Project Lead
    • Mark Kern: Visionary and owner, sound engine programming.

    Crixa – The Last 2D Shooter

    990-crixa-int3-4.jpg Crixa was originally designed as an in-house test game for the team to get their feet wet. We were fully funded for two years, so we wanted to push out a quick game that would help develop our graphics libraries and smooth out the creative process. However, about a month after hiring our first three employees and signing two-year leases, our funding crashed and disappeared. Holy shit. The year was 1995.

    We had to convert Crixa into a product that could land a development deal or die. The web had yet to evolve into a viable marketplace, so Mark put his efforts into contacting possible publishers. We got some interest from (I think) Bungie (then located in Cambridge, Massachussetts if I remember correctly) and Blizzard Entertainment, who had just released WarCraft II, the sequel to their modestly-successful Real-Time Strategy game WarCraft. WarCraft II was their first huge success, and flush with cash they were looking to expand their portfolio with some smaller, quicker-to-develop games. We landed a 10-month development deal, and began to develop Crixa into a more fleshed-out game.

    Crixa, as it was originally conceived before all this drama ensued, was a 2D top-down shooter borrowing elements from some of my favorite games: Star Maze on the Apple II was a notable influence. The open-play mechanics of games like Rescue Raiders and Castle Wolfenstein (the original 2D one from Silas Warner) were also a strong influence. We also wanted the smoothness of classic vector games like Rip Off, but with nicer graphics. We dedicated a whole 32 rotations for each ship graphic, which consumed a lot of memory. Remember, at the time there was no hardware sprite scaling in Direct X. I don’t think Direct3D was even around then, 3D acceleration not becoming widespread until 1997 or 1998.

    The Expanded Game added mission elements, a “base” you could move around to support your position. Various parts of the levels were connected by a power transfer and switch system, which could be controlled through a “state manager” in our level file.

    We created our levels using, of all things, Aldus Freehand. This was artist-accessible, and the exported PostScript output could be parsed into a form that Crixa could load. It was an inspired, if somewhat ungainly, hack. But we didn’t have to create an in-game level editor.

    Our last delivery was a 3-level game demonstrating the graphics/physics engine (sweetly done by Bretton, who’s gone on to accomplish great things). We’ll probably put it online again…Jeremy (now in SF) has it almost working on modern systems for both Mac and PC.

    Alas, Crixa was deemed not competitive in the marketplace any longer, especially because another game with similar play mechanics had come out. The numbers of the game were not promising, so we were cancelled. Qualia lingered on for a few more months subsisting on contract work, but at the end the company could no longer afford to maintain payroll and we closed. Stressful times. It took years for me to get over it, but it’s a testament to the character of the team that we’re still all friends.

    Ship Models

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    Game Screens

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    Bosses

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    Dave Seah