Ludum Dare 34: Growth (and/or Two Button Controls)

Last weekend me and @douglasawesome decided it would be fun to participate in Ludum Dare to see what kind of game we can dish out in only 72 hours.

If you don’t know what Ludum Dare is, it’s name is Latin for ‘to give a game’. It’s a game development competition. Each Ludum Dare, there is 2 different versions of the competition. There’s the original Ludum Dare, which is 48 hours, solo-only, and you have to use all original content. There’s also a more relaxed version, which is Ludum Dare Jam. 72 Hours, original content or content from the internet(provided you give credit), and can work in teams.
As it is me AND Douglas working on this, we went for the Ludum Dare Jam.

Before each competition, the community votes on different themes(that were posted by the community) and eventually comes down to usually one. This was an odd one out, because there was a tie.

The two themes were:
GrowthTwo Button Controls

You could use one of them, or both. We went for ‘Growth’ as our main theme.

With any Ludum Dare, you can use the theme as abstract or literal as you please.

Our idea involved having a robot that you set out to do different tests and puzzles, but rather than directly controlling it, before you set it out to do tests you can actually wire it a neural network so it learns how to go through different puzzles. This creates an interesting mechanic where you can take it back to a previous level to teach it that when it sees green, it should go left if possible.

Once we got pretty clear on some of the basic mechanics to build off of, we set off to the races.
Douglas began designing some of the levels, — that admittedly, none of which made it in except one — I started working on the game in Unity.

Douglas soon also began work on the User Interface, which was a huge help for me, as to this point I was only working on developing the mechanics, and wasn’t going to have enough time to also work on an interface as well.

By the end, we had all the mechanics we wanted to put in the game for 72 hours, and only one level to use one of the mechanics in. Woops.


Our Main Level:

User Interface, and solution for the main Level:

The white circle in the first picture is the “Robot”, and the difference in shading between blocks is coming from a light source.
The idea for the level is you program the robot to respond positively towards light, and it will be able to lead itself to the goal. This happens by taking a light sensor, and a ‘Dopamine’ module. Dopamine being the drug that naturally occurs in your brain to give you that happy feeling to stuff. 😀
This is sort of the robot’s motivation to get through the level.

The robot is not aware that light is what makes it happy. Instead, it learns through experience. It will naturally want to go in any direction immediately available to it, to explore it’s world. So, in the case of the first level, you start on that very bottom block, and it’s only available direction is forward, therefore it will go forward.
HEY! DOPAMINE! (from the increase in light)

Eventually it will pass the cross, to which it will realize it’s light has gone down, and as such it’s dopamine level decrease.
Well, clearly that’s not a good idea anymore. Let’s see if somewhere else works.

It might try back, to which it will see that the light level is STILL less than the last tile it is in, and go back to the original point. Now, it’s last option is right.
YAY! MORE DOPAMINE! Let’s keep going right since that’s what works!

It gains a positive association with right, and continues to head off in that direction, continues to have a consistent increase in “dopamine” until it eventually reaches the goal and the puzzle is solved.

Congrats! Your robot, will naturally try to go towards a light, and reached its goal! A successful test, if I do say so myself.

There are other mechanics in this, such as the concept of Memory, a colour sensor, and a “Pain” module which is a more intentional negative dopamine. We didn’t have enough time to implement other levels that integrate these mechanics, and barely had the game itself working by the time of submission entry.

We have it uploaded here:

Short Story on a (fictional) visiting student to ALCNYC.

“Oh my god!” I heard Askani cheerfully yell from the library
I didn’t think much of what was going on at first, as I was used to Askani yelling that kind of thing, but my curiosity piqued when I heard what I did from the Library next.
“Tell me how you did it, please,” said Douglas, muffled lightly by the Library’s door.
“Douglas the Trickster asking how something is done? I have to see this – whatever ‘this’ is,” I snarkily said to the others sitting in the office as I got up from my chair.
As I walk towards the Library door, it shoots open and nearly hits me. Lightly stunned at what just happened, I feel a suspiciously unnatural cool breeze come from the Library.

I take a peek inside the library, and I see our new student – who I hadn’t met before now – standing behind the main couch smiling gleefully as 4 small children surround her with intrigue.
I figure this’d be as good of a time as any to introduce myself, so I make my greeting.

“Hi! I’m Javair, what’s your name?” I ask walking towards her.
“I’m Scarlet-“, she gets cut off by Askani.
“Huh?” I look towards Scarlet with intrigue, to which she smiles and replies “Watch this.”

She focuses on a black Go stone on the table, closes her eyes, and puts her hand out. I’m there trying not to giggle at the theatric and dramatic psychic motions.
I look back over to the Go stone, and it’s floating off the table.

“WHAT?!” I blurt out.
She drops the psychic act, and the Go stone with it.
“She has ‘telekinesis’.” Douglas says. I could just taste the skepticism between his voice and his smile.
“It’s true! She really does!” Sterling excitedly says.
Me being slightly skeptical myself, I walk over to inspect the Go stone. As I go to pick it up, it swipes to the left swiftly – before I can even make contact with it.
Everyone laughs as I stare–beyond confused–at where the stone used to be.

I look over to Scarlet, and ask “How are you doing this?!”
“I really do have telekinesis. It’s not a trick. Pick up the stone, I won’t mess with you this time. There’s no string, no sneaky system under the table, nothing but a normal stone.”
I hover my hand above the stone, look at her as to say ‘Don’t move the stone on me this time’, she nods while trying to hold back a smile.
I move my hand down slowly, and suddenly a white Go stone shoots down, knocking the black Go stone out from where it was, and the white stone stops dead in it’s tracks.
Once again, everyone breaks out laughing as I am left shocked and confused. I would’ve been annoyed, but this intrigued me too much for that.
I gain back my consciousness and very quickly pick up both Go stones to investigate.
While I’m inspecting both the Go stones – finding nothing, mind you – Douglas comes up to me and quietly says, “I looked myself and couldn’t find anything. How do you think it’s done?”
I honestly didn’t know myself, as I had never seen anything like this, and couldn’t even begin to try to rationalize what I saw, especially after seeing and feeling nothing strange about the Go stones.
“Open your hand” Scarlet said behind me.
I did as she said, with the black Go stone in the palm of my opened hand, and I soon felt a tingle coming from the Go stone.
“Pull your hand straight down, slowly.”
So I did.
The Go stone was suspended where my hand had opened.
The Library fell to a deep silence, all of us in shock, except for Scarlet. She was just standing there, amused at our reactions, and staring at the Go stone.
“Now tell me, how could I do it without actually being telekinetic?” she asked.
I had no answer, nor did anyone else. We all stayed in the silence, when the Go stone dropped.
“Believe me now?”
A mixture of different ways of saying “Yes” was said around the room. From all but Douglas, still believing it’s a trick.

“Well, Go stones are nice simple objects to show off, but can you do it with something like…” I pause to look around the room, in which I see a small relatively light box, but certainly heavier than a Go stone.
I pick it up, and flourish it in to Scarlet’s view and finish my sentence with “…this?”, I then throw it up into the air, where it stops dead, and slowly comes down and gently lands on my head perfectly balanced.
In annoyance at the humiliation, I swung my hand above my head to hit the box off, and it was like whacking a solid wall of concrete. It didn’t budge, and my hand hurt really badly and turned red. The box falls off my head, but there’s a loud thump that I hear before the box had touched the ground. Much louder than the box could’ve even made at all.

I look over to see four kids surrounding someone laid on the ground, with fittingly red hair laid out across the ground. It was Scarlet. Whatever I did, it must’ve messed up whatever she was doing. It was at this moment I totally believed what she was doing was real, and that I may have just hurt her by thinking I could interfere with whatever it was. I guess our minds – with whatever secret abilities lie in them as possibilities – are just really sensitive. She was taken to the hospital, and we never heard from her again, despite all the contact attempts we made after.
Scarlet I wonder about a lot, whether she ever continued using telekinesis, or if it was just one incredible trick, and the hospital act was a part of it. Whatever it was, it was an eye-opener of an experience.

Highlights of my week.

I started off the week with some KhanAcademy with the revived Math Club. Hadn’t worked on my math skills in ages, so it was a nice reintroduction to Math.

After years of programming, I had found the actual mathematics weren’t very difficult to comprehend. I just wasn’t very good at the mental calculation.

After which, I had spent a little time listening to an audiobook called ‘The Martian’ which so far is a great book written by Andy Weir, narrated by R. C. Bray, a really good voice actor from what I can tell. The book, in very quick summary, is about a botanist astronaut who is presumed dead during a mission abort, and is left alone on Mars, in which after he has to MacGyver a bunch in order to stay alive to hopefully come back home. I had listened to it quite a bit through out the week.

We played Werewolves, in which I was a fortune teller, and was immediately lynched by the town because I called out a werewolf. :/ Town still won though, so that was good. Albeit, it was just @timotree, the Sheriff, left at the end.

Had our first ‘Coup’ and ‘Bang!’ game sessions in the school year.

We ended the week with cooking a pizza, which tasted great, and looked beautiful.

And not long after I finished eating, I got to have a relaxing walk and talk with Abby.


And now I’m blogging. Huh.

That was my school week in a nutshell.

Ta-ra for now, Javair.

My Schooling Story [X-post]

This was originally posted by me at Cammy’s ‘Radical Schooler’ wordpress blog.

I was in public school from 1st to 3rd grade. I sat down each day, stayed quiet, and did my best to absorb all the information. I got some time to hang out with my friends, and talk, and then I’d go right back to being quiet, and absorbing. Occasionally, I’d get the chance to use that information I had gathered, and spit it back out on some paper, and hand it in to my teacher to judge.
I was at the top of my class, no one disliked me in school, and I got playtime. That’s enough to be happy, right?

Well, 9 times out of 10 I’d get home with a headache. I was well ahead of the rest of my class, and yet I was being told more and more about a subject I had already mastered in my head, so anything else was just redundant, and my learning ability was heavily suppressed because of it.

My parents had soon started to realize this, and one day, near the middle of the school year, my mom shows up during class, and next thing I know, I’m a homeschooler.

I did homeschooling up to about 9th grade. (I think.) I had tried a couple of curriculums throughout my homeschooling, but none of them really worked for me, so my parents stuck with the model of ‘just do what you want’. They were aware of how much I was learning just by browsing YouTube.

The question was never “is he learning anything?”
The question was “is he aware of what he is learning?”

Think about it. The internet is FILLED with information. So was I able to parse the information, and understand what it is I’ve learned, and whether I want to learn more about it. Often for me, the answer was just ‘Yes’.

Now, in 2014, my mom had found a ‘What If’ conference by Nancy Tilton, the founder of ALC Mosaic.
She showed it to me, and we instantly became intrigued, looked into the Agile Learning Centers, and had found ALC NYC.

It was perfect. It was how I was already learning, just now with a larger culture, more interactions with others, and more support in my learning.

The ALC’s have what are called the ‘Agile Roots’:

  • Learning is natural. It’s happening all the time.
  • People learn best when they make their own decisions. Children are people.
  • People learn more from their culture and environment than from the material they are taught. The medium is the message.
  • Accomplishment is achieved through cycles of intention, creation, reflection, and sharing.

Soon comes the next school year, and I’m excited for it. It’s been fabulous. I’ve learned so much, about myself, and in general in one school year(and a month because of ALF Summer).

That’s my schooling story.

Hardware Hacked: 5/24/2015

Last week Eric(Jesse’s dad) was telling me about this Hackathon weekend he got free tickets to go to, and he offered them to me and a couple other kids if anyone was interested.

If you know me well enough, you’d know that I got super hyped.

I got some tickets for myself, and my parents due to the annoying rule of “kids under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.”

I didn’t know much to expect other then techy people, some neat hardware stuff, and free food. (SPOILER: The food was real and amazing. There was no cake.)

I got there, and realized that the building was the offices of Kickstarter in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Already something that I was intrigued about.

I start checking out some of the neat things they have showcased there like the UDOO board,  Intel® Edison board,  funnily enough a kickstarted/kickstarting board called Esquilo(which they told me was Squirrel in Portuguese), and an adult electric drift trike called Verrado by Local Motors which they were demoing for everyone and was a lot of fun.

Not too long after arriving, someone had walked up to me, introduced themselves, and cut to the chase that they wanted me to join their team. Which I couldn’t decline cause of the fact that his end goal was to hack the Verrado drift trike as an excuse to be outside. This amused me enough to join.

We spent a good 3-4 hours, possibly more, trying to get some webcams recording the brainstorming process, well aware that we have less than 36 hrs to get this project finished, let alone start it.

We decided since it wasn’t working, we’d just grab one of the guys from Local Motors who was already documenting the hackathon to come document us as we go. They were happy to since we were a team that was intending to hack their product.

I don’t currently have the footage right now, and as far as I’m aware they are still editing it, so I’ll definitely update this blog post once I get it.

The process of what we went through is very tedious and long to go through. We coded and stuff. Done story.

The end result was this:

We won first place. The first place prize? A drift trike. 😀

Living truly in the moment.

I want to preface by saying that scientifically speaking, you can’t. You’re living 13 milliseconds behind everything else. This is how long an image takes to go from your retina to your brain.

Of course, you can honestly ignore that because it’s such an insignificant amount, but again that was scientific speak.

Let’s talk about the idea of living in the moment. Until about 4 days ago, the sentence “live in the moment” has always come across as a way of not thinking about future or past. That was it. But now I see it as something different. To quote the book ‘The Little Prince’:

“I dropped my tools. What did I care about my hammer, about my bolt, about thirst and death? There was a little prince to be consoled!”

He was in the desert, with only 3 days of water left, miles from civilization with a plane needing to be repaired. He had upset the little prince, so he immediately stopped working towards survival and instead focused on what was going on right now.

Would you get closer to the edge of a cliff to get a better view? Or would you not risk it? Those who truly live in the moment would probably sit on the edge of that cliff and relax.

No matter where you are, you always have the options to stay away or to get closer.

Which options you take for different scenarios is up to you.

Introverted Problems

I have a problem with this blog, I don’t know what to write on it. It’s not the blog’s fault, it’s my own. I’m not a fan of writing, or even talking about the things happening in my life.

Not for the reason that I’m uncomfortable with talking about them, but it’s the fact I find it incredibly dull, and I want to write these blog posts as if someone is actually going to read it, not because they have to, but because they enjoy the content, and I imagine a reader who would enjoy the content would be someone who has the same interests as me. Therefore, if I find my blog post incredibly dull, surely they would think the same.

As I had explained to @abbyo earlier today, I find it difficult to talk about things if I don’t see an end goal in the conversation.

I’m a quiet person. You’d probably know this already if you’ve been around me enough. I’m learning now that I have an exception to this quietness. This exception is when there is something to learn about, or teach.

That is when I can go on a 800+ word rant.
I enjoy knowledge, and want to know as much as I can share.

I write my blog posts as a blind letter. A letter to be sent to an unknown recipient.

It’s just what I do, and I wouldn’t know how to be me if not for that.

– Javair

Totally Professional Interview of Abigail Oulton

Left this as a draft for far too long, since 2/14/15. It’s in a suitable enough state to post it, so here you go.

Who are you?

Nature, People, and Adventure loving. A bundle of animated carbon and water, possibly stardust, and a bit of folk tails.

I’ve heard you’re emotionally manipulative, what’s an example of that?

“People say that around here, about me. The manipulative thing is more like, I know how to propose field trips, and to announce it properly to excite people. I’ve found if I’m more honest, it’s more funny, or more interesting. I listen between things people say, and pay attention to their body language and patterns I see in their choices. This lets me reflect them, to themselves, or propose projects and ideas that they would grow from or be interested in, in ways they pay attention to. I’m usually a pretty good judge about that kind of stuff.”

How were your past 2 weeks?

“My [previous week] was busy, and juicy. Cloudhouse had visited, and me, Bear, Milo, Becca, and Javair went to see a comedy show at Citizens Brigade. This, after I was emotionally manipulative, wrote down an address to find a place that I knew they would fall in love with once they got there. Becca is one of our [many] visitors this week. she’s an anthropology student, who also improvs well, asks good questions, taught capoeira. Hannah, our new intern, started this week, and it’s a visiting week, so we had 2 prospective students hangin’ out.”

“This week was fantastic. I was in a beautiful place I love with people I really love, doing things like sledding, and cooking, and lying around having/listening to juicy conversations.”

What do you love about yourself?
“I have a gift for finding and befriending extraordinary people. I also decided when I was 13 that I would attempt to learn anything anyone offered to teach me, and so I’ve learned some really cool things. I don’t know what it is, but I love that there’s something about me that seems to make people comfortable when around me.”

What are some of those ‘really cool things’ you spoke of?
“Well, I can make a bridal out of a piece of rope, I can gallop comfortably on an antique Russian saddle, I was a professional gift-wrapper, I’ve been rappelling, I can dress a deer. I also recently learned how to do headstands properly thanks to @shadowjack.”

Favourite genre of various things?
“Things that I can learn from, and make niftier things with, or amuse other people with.”

Quantum Mechanics, Entanglement, Teleportation, and plentiful confusion.

So this happened recently:

‘Quantum teleportation from a telecoms-wavelength photon to a solid-state quantum memory’

What that title means is we were able to transfer data, the state one of the photons were in(that state being what direction it was spinning in) 25 kilometres instantly, and being able to read/observe the data.

What this means is:
Possible quantum routers with unbreakable encryptions, and faster internet speeds
Closer to quantum computing-

Huh? You don’t understand what that means?
Yeah, I don’t blame you. I’ll explain it in much more expansive terms.

What does quantum mean?
Quantum in physics means ‘the smallest amount of many forms of energy’, for example a photon is the quantum of light.

What is quantum teleportation?
Well, in order to explain that, I need to first explain quantum entanglement.

What is quantum entanglement?
Quantum entanglement happens when a pair of particles interact with each other. When the phenomenon occurs, the two particles that had interacted are considered ‘entangled’. These entangled particles share physical properties between each other.

To visualize this, imagine you had two wheels both on the same axis, and are ‘entangled’ between each other. You separate them by a decent amount, and you start having one wheel spin clockwise.

When you start doing this, you’d find that the other wheel, despite not having anything that could affect it instantly, it would be spinning counter-clockwise.

Aren’t they supposed to spin the same way?
One thing to note about entanglement, one action on one of the entangled particles does not imply the exact same action on another over distance. It means that the properties of it, such as spin, can be correlated. Entanglement is a way of saying that the state between two particles are dependent on one another.
Under that logic, you could punch someone in the face and state that your fist and their face were entangled because the movement of your fist was dependent on their face. Don’t expect this to stop them from punching you back, though.

So what makes one go clockwise and the other counter-clockwise?
We’re not too certain, but we do know that the total spin is conserved. What this means is if one photon is spinning clockwise at 1 m/s, and another photon is spinning clockwise as well at the same speed, the combined spin is 2 m/s.
While if it was counter-clockwise, it would be considered -1 m/s relative to the other one, making the sum between the two 0, which means the spin conserved has been all used up.

Now can you tell me what quantum teleportation is?

Well what?

Are you going to tell me what quantum teleportation is?!
What’s the magic word?
Quantum teleportation is the process of trying to send quantum information(state of a particle) exactly using entangled particles.
One problem for this is translating a quantum bit(qubit) into classical information.

What’s a qubit (pronounced q-bit) and what exactly is ‘classical information’?
You know how your hard drive has gigabytes(GB) or even terabytes(TB) of storage capacity?
Well, the smallest scale of that is a bit. A bit represents one binary digit, a one or a zero. I’m going to try to steer away from the complexity of binary as much as possible, but to put binary into perspective, it’s really just 1 = on, and 0 = off. You can Google what the different sizes of bits and bytes are. These bits and bytes are what’s referred to as classical information.

These ‘ons and offs’ can make a string such as ‘01001000 01101001’, and if you were to decode that exact string on the many binary code translators you can find on Google, it would translate to “Hi”.

So, a bit represents a one or a zero of classical information.

Any guesses what a Qubit is? One bit of quantum information.

So what’s the problem you mentioned?
The problem with translation from qubits to bits, is we cannot define the information into a state of 1 or 0. It’s more like 1, 0, and anything in between. Note the use of the word ‘and’ there.

This is not a perfect explanation of all the things behind quantum mechanics, but it is a good enough summary to understand it.

That’s all for right now.

The Errors of an Average Person

I’ve had 2.2 business weeks to think of my first post, and at first I thought it was going to be a simple list of things I did, and learned. I now know, it’s going to be a lot more then that. There’s way to much to mention in this blog post, so I decided to just do the most interestings of this week, or this blog post would go up to 2,500+ word count and ain’t no body got time to write that or read it.

The most interesting things of my week was definitely the Philosophy of Economics, and the 2-person field trip to the MET.

Starting with the MET,
Abby was planning to go on a field trip on Thursday to the MET with all her “Adventure Buddies”. (Ask her for the details of who those people are, as I cannot recall the people she listed)

They were all absent, along with most of her spawn point.

During Scrum, she had realized this, and had asked if anyone was interested, no response. Due to there only being one other person from her spawn, she had joined our spawn point for the day so she had more people to share and hear the intentions of/with others. She was given the ability to share first, and had said she’s not sure what she’s going to do since no one wished to go on the field trip with her. I decided that I could at least talk to her about it, and am I glad I did. I had made it my intention to talk to her after spawn to talk to her and see if it’s worth it to go. She had convinced me to go whilst threading a skull pattern on to a backpack.

When we arrived, my brain went into brainstorm mode. 9 recorded ideas had popped into my head and who knows how many ideas I forgot while on the train to the MET, walking through it, and leaving it. Abby had thankfully told me to write all my ideas down, due to the fact that neither of us would’ve been able to remember everything I had come up with. You’ll hear about 8 of the other ideas in future blog posts hopefully, but that one that you’ll know about after reading this is the Philosophy of Economics.

Philosophy of Economics:
This idea actually helped become more organized with the help of Ryan, who I had scheduled Writing with on the day of going on a field trip.
I had told him I wanted to merge the Philosophy I wanted to do the next day with the Writing today, I had showed him the video Humans Need Not Apply. Which I should probably mention at this point the original philosophy idea was just about that idea. He was documenting all the points the video was mentioning, and by the end of it he was writing the assumptions of the video, and ended up writing something about currency and money (you’ll find out I’m not very good at recollection if you continue to read my blog as I blog more), and had pointed out the fact that currency and money is different, this conversation slowly evolved into an economic topic about what makes “value”, and what can be defined as money vs currency.

This is where the title comes in, the United States Dollar(USD) is NOT money. It is a fiat currency, but can be referred to as just currency. Fiat, meaning an authoritative determination(Definition from Merriam-Webster). After all, the dollar is just paper with some special stuff to make sure it can’t be easily counterfeited that represents a specfic “value”.

Money has a store of value. We’ll use gold for an example simply because that is the most commonly referred to commodity when it comes to money, by the accurate definition. Gold cannot be printed, the USD can, and is being printed all the time. Back around the 1930s, the dollar bill used to be backed 100% by Gold in the Federal Reserve, our government decided “Meh, let’s screw over all our citizens and have them lose their purchasing power”. But back to 1930s, you used to be able to take a 20 dollar bill to the bank and make a withdrawal of whatever gold was represented to that dollar. Today, good freaking luck to trying that, because the tellers there will give you some weird stares and probably will be completely unaware to the fact that it was a thing you could do at one point.

Gold has a constant value. You cannot change it unless we were to find a large patch of gold. This is due to the fact it is limited in accessible quantity. To change it, we’d need to increase the known value of gold, or decrease it by either mining or jettisoning it into the farthest reaches into space.
So, with this logic, you can get the correct amount of gold to buy a loaf of bread in your country, you can then take it anywhere around the world, and as long as the person isn’t overcharging you, you’d be able to spend that gold on that loaf of bread.

There’s lots more things that define money, but that is the difference between Money vs Currency.

It’s this that makes me believe BitCoin is soon to be a valid investment. BitCoin(along with LiteCoin, DogeCoin, etc.) is getting more and more stable by the day. This is due to the “mining” process that is involved in gaining BitCoin. They named it BitCoin Mining for a reason, and that’s because they wanted a store of value for it. All BitCoin mining does is take the unused resources of your CPU or Graphics Card(most preferably) and has it do lots of mathematical operations and I imagine other stuff as well. The more people have mined, the harder it becomes to find BitCoin blocks, or a better name for it is BitCoin veins. Similarly to ore veins. There’s a whole technical level to bitcoin mining, but that’s the best way I can explain it. It is the equivalent of mining the earth for valuable resources.

I could go on and on with this, but the word count has already reached 1000+. So I choose to stop here.

My question to you now is, what do you think doesn’t belong in this list:
A. Monopoly Money
B. United States Dollar
C. Gold Coin

I’ll leave you to figure this out, but I’ll tell you an interesting fact about it. Ivy League Professors got it wrong, young children got it correct.

Have a thoughtful day.