Monday, January 13, 2014

My year as a video game designer (sort of)

Jaipirion: Visit the game
In a recent conversation with a friend I joked about my laughable coding skills. Since the demise of Flash as a serious design tool for infographics and visualization, I've been unable to decide where to go: Processing? JavaScript and d3.js? Python? R? All of the above, as I've been trying so far?

I'm going to spend more than a month with the News Applications team at ProPublica this summer (more about this soon) for a research project, so I asked them what I should be focusing on. I got a clear answer from Sisi Wei: JavaScript (they don't use d3.js yet, but they'll get there.) That was good news because JavaScript and ActionScript —Flash's scripting language— are basically the same thing, and I do remember how to use ActionScript. In fact, checking my own old files, I remembered that, back in 2002, when I was head of the online infographics desk at El Mundo, I developed some very basic video games. So my coding skills are indeed puny, but not that puny, after all!

One of the silly games I found was Jaipirion*, a simple shooter. I didn't just write the code for that one, but also modeled all the spaceships (in 3D-Max, which I don't use anymore; I switched to Maya) and made some other graphics in Flash itself. To win the game, you need to destroy 25 invaders without running out of energy for your lasers (bar on the left) or shields (central bar.) You'll hear a familiar robot loudly complaining during the game if you miss a shot. Enjoy.

*The name "Jaipirion" is a geeky joke: It's how the title of Dan Simmons' science fiction masterpiece Hyperion sounds if pronounced with a thick Spanish accent.