https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDaCKXXqtkU

,,,softfriends,,, started as a prototype for a first person hide and seek game where you'd look for other players by studying deformations in the environment. Kind of like Screencheat or Chambara but the clues would be these deformations in the space. I didn't get too far into developing the idea before getting enthralled with the shaders. At the time I think I'd also recently played Ian Maclarty's Southbank Portrait and was really excited about making a environments for games out of slideshows.

The game plays like hide & go seek with Xbox 360 joysticks (some people control both joysticks and others play holding the controller together). Each joystick controls a different bump on these textures. Because the textures are so busy it can be difficult to discern where you bump is at any given time so it helps to move them around and try to identify which one you're working with.

I gathered a bunch of textures from free texture sites and tried to associate them based on how they felt to me when they were displaced using the vertex shaders with tessellation I wrote. In the process I focused a lot on developing the feel of the game with overlapping systems: when bumps are close together the humming gets louder, your controller vibrates, the screen pulls in, until you reach this nice cathartic moment where you connect the dots and you try again. A lot of that developed out of feedback from sharing the game with close friends but also at events. It was a really incredible opportunity for me to be shown at The Mild Rumpus.

Christopher Manzione reached out to me about including the game in Activatar, an iOS app showing monthly curated new media art. This was my first experience making an iPhone app and I learned a lot about platform compatibility with shaders in the process. One thing I discovered quickly was that GPU tessellation which I'd used extensively on the DX11 desktop version did not appear the same way on iOS's Metal. To get around this I had to make some concessions and increased the density of the base mesh. I focused more on visuals to describe proximity and impact in this version as audio is less consistently used on mobile and the haptics in iPhones didn't make sense for continuous vibration. They were interesting challenges to work around and ultimately helped support some of my development of the desktop version.

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