Programming, game design, and faith

Month: July 2019

Sorcery in video games

I read a question and some responses on the Christian Game Developers Facebook group yesterday. The question was, “How do you guys feel about heroes in fantasy games using magic?” There was some discussion of the prohibitions of sorcery in the Bible and the example of the converts in the NT who burned their magical books.

In the video games I have played, magic is pretty much the same thing as superpowers. Being able to control the wind or throw a fireball is not different from what X-men or Avengers do. One commenter said he doesn’t participate in any of these forms of entertainment. I admire the consistency of this stance, but I think these things are fantasy and fun to imagine.

I had to think about the broader issue of evil in video games when I started playing Diablo and Diablo II. I decided that the stuff in that game (cemeteries, winged demons, pseudo-scriptural text) is almost completely unlike anything related to real Christianity, so it was OK to play.

I stopped playing Diablo II when I saw some of my friends playing the game for hours and hours, waiting for the rare loot drops. I wondered, is this game fun or addicting? Over the years I have come to the conclusion that the real evil of Diablo and other such games is the Skinner box—making players addicted to the game by activating pleasure centers in the brain at random times. Some game companies monetize this by making players pay for loot boxes.

Please think about if you’re playing a game because it’s fun and uplifting, or because your mind is being controlled by pleasure seeking. This goes for creating games, too.

Binocular depth perception in Alice

You can use Alice to make a 3D movie. The basic idea is to record the movie twice from slightly different camera locations. Viewers can see the depth in the movie by looking at each image with separate eyes. Try it on this image. You can use the Magic Eye trick, or look at it on a phone using Google Cardboard.

Binocular image of bunny in a scene

To make a 3D video in Alice, follow the steps below. I used Alice 2 on MacOS, but the instructions should be adaptable to other environments.

  1. First, the movie window size in Alice needs be an 8:9 ratio, rather than the default 4:3, because we will use iMovie to make the final product, and iMovie creates 16:9 ratio videos (widescreen). We need two images side-by-side, so an 8:9 ratio will work perfectly (a little taller than wide). You can set this in Alice 2 in the viewing angles in “seldom used properties” on the camera. The vertical viewing angle should be changed to 0.75; leave the horizontal viewing angle at 0.67.
  2. Next, create your Alice movie as usual.
  3. At the very beginning of your movie, create a duration 0 visible change (e.g. turn light brightness to 0 and then to 1). We will need this to align the timing of the left and right clips. It serves the same purpose as a clapperboard in a regular movie.
  4. Move the camera 0.05 m left for the viewer’s left eye.
  5. Play the movie, then start the video capture (command-shift-5 on Mac).
  6. Hit Restart on the Alice window. If you don’t see the light black out, hit restart again. Sometimes it’s not visible, so you have to keep restarting until you see the light blink.
  7. Stop the recording at the end of the movie.
  8. Move the camera 0.10 m right for the viewer’s right eye.
  9. Record the movie again. Make sure you see the light black out at the beginning. When you save the recording, make sure you know which clip is right and which one is left.
  10. Trim each clip so it begins right after the light turns on. (You can use QuickTime Player on Mac).
  11. Create a new project in iMovie, and add both clips. Add the right clip first so you know which is which. The one you add first is considered the main clip. Add the left clip so it overlaps with the first clip.
  12. Line up both clips on the left. Trim the longer clip to the length of the shorter.
  13. Select the upper clip and choose Split Screen.
  14. Share the video to a file or whatever you want.

You can watch the exported video in 3D using the “magic eye” trick if you make the window small. You can also watch the video using Google Cardboard or a similar device if you open the movie on your phone.

Example: Alice 2 file and Result video

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