Tag Archives: glitch

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Project Conclusion: The Subzone

The deeper one continues to prod at a tear in space, that tear will continue to grow. The same can be said about documenting and constructing the Subzone. What initially started as a way to glitch the virtual environment by playing with viewer perceptions turned into something huge on it’s own. The Subzone now stands as a virtual landfill, which projects samples of the huge influx of content being pushed out by people for people.

The most tedious and challenging part of the project was getting the technical aspects sorted out. This involved finding ways to circumvent problems if users are unable to access the Subzone due to a missing plugin for example, where they would then be able to choose to download the content to their local desktop and access it from there. Another conundrum was that of a moral one, as using Facebook wall images as the textures meant I might have to mask the images of faces. This also brings up issues of privacy intrusion, as I was essentially making their private Facebook walls public by using screenshots. I decided to target just the public pages on Facebook instead to get around this touchy issue, as the intentional idea to make something public would at times mean that the owners have no problems with other people knowing what they were up to.

Inclusion of the darker sides of Facebook meant having to trawl through comment threads and Facebook pages where the “keyboard warriors” will often come to gather to leave hateful comments. As for pornography and adult content, Facebook already has a stringent policing rule in place to detect and take down such content. Even so, that doesn’t stop many Facebook pages from getting around this by posting extreme risque photos of models (and this applies especially for Facebook pages maintained by adult entertainment companies).

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A perfect illustration of data regurgition on the Internet.

All of this sourcing for what material to include and how to present them led me to think of it all as one big black hole of virtual nothingness. Even though each of these various “material” are something in essence, in the bigger scheme of things, these trails run cold and leave the user spent. It is much like how most of social media is today: they tempt, they instigate, they provoke a reaction. In this respect, the Subzone could be regarded as an ever-growing amalgamation of this cycle which becomes outdated in content the moment it stops being updated.

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Project Update 04: The Subzone (Spelunking with Glitches)

I took some time to see how else I could fiddle around with Unity. Eugene Soh’s GALLERY.SG initiative was looking for beta-testers, and since it also ran on the Unity engine but had simple characters and textures loaded for an alpha level, I joined the server and started to play around. I discovered an interesting phenomenon, whereby logging in two machines to connect to the same server leaves a shell of the first user stuck in the skybox area of the map. What I realised only later after conversing with Eugene was that he couldn’t see the first avatar at all, and all he saw was me in my second avatar standing on nothing. I found this interesting and also a little funny, so I recorded myself in Eugene’s gallery.

I then decided to document unintended glitches happening while I went about my daily routine. While the main idea is to only limit my “glitching of textures” to only Facebook screenshots, documenting these glitches which occured naturally outside of where I was looking seemed to be more attractive. In any case, these would help me to be more picky about the kinds of glitch aesthetics to employ in the Unity space.

The following video below documents a glitch on Facebook, after scrolling to the bottom refused to load more posts for reasons unknown.

A glitch on YouTube which occured while uploading a gameplay video I recorded. The progress bar kept fluctuating with it’s numbers, which only served to frustrate me further as the upload seemed like it would never finish (but it did finish, eventually…)

A glitch from something I broke while using Quartz Composer. I think I plugged in something that I shouldn’t be plugging in. The weird effect continued to play in fullscreen, but the weird thing was it only showed up as a static image in the recording below.

A quick check on my Tumblr site hosting the Unity webplayer showed that everything is still in working order. As of right now, I can begin the process of updating the assets and the environments textures.

Here are some shots from the Tumblr site with added navigation text at the top.

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Screenshot from the main page, with the header and accompanying text.
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Screenshot from the “What is this?” section of the site.
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Screenshot from the “Participate!” section of the site.
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Screenshot from the “Ask me anything” section of the site.

At the moment, I am still trying to figure out if it is possible to add a page on the Tumblr site and use it to host the incoming submissions. If that doesn’t work out, I might have to link the submission to another site and link it via a hyperlink. Also, Tumblr seems to act a little funky sometimes, which explains why the “Click here to submit” hyperlink on my site is not…hyperlinked…at the moment.

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How I’d probably look like when things don’t work

For now, more testing  on-going.

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Project Update 02: The Subzone (Simple Test)

I have been trawling through online forums to find a working embed code which will allow me to put up a test demo Unity scene within a blogpost on Tumblr. I had considered perhaps shortening the Dropbox url using goo.gl or bit.ly and putting that link out as a main landing page. But the downside is, that it would just land the user on a blank white page with the scene loading in the middle. It would be a waste of screen space as only the Unity scene would be there and nothing else. By having it on a site like Tumblr, I could place hyperlinks and buttons at the side to draw the viewer in to check out more details about what they were interacting with.

I landed upon the Tumblr blog of Josh.C Futureworks and he had prepared and publicly shared some javascript code which would help one to embed Unity 3D scenes into a Tumblr post.

Screen shot 2014-03-18 at PM 07.04.41Screen shot 2014-03-18 at PM 07.06.02The two lines of code highlighted in blue were the ones I had to change to redirect to my files on Dropbox. At first, I made the mistake of not uploading the game files to the “Public” folder on Dropbox which caused the Unity scene to not load. I had mistakenly assumed that having the url would be enough. After correcting this and putting them in the proper folder and trying again, I was able to load up the scene on Tumblr.

 

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Screenshot from my Dropbox folder
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Screenshot from my Tumblr post
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Screenshot from my Tumblr site after first landing
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Screenshot from my Tumblr site after allowing Unity plugin to run
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I already had the Unity webplayer plugin installed on my computer, so I did not experience any problems so far. I will need to include some form of auto-prompt or a link for users who do not have the plugin so that they can just download it from the site without leaving it. Also, I will need to include some pages on the Tumblr site to separate all the different sections (e.g. What? Why? etc). I could perhaps also include a link back to my project links and hyperessay work done here as an extension for viewers to find out more.

I plan to include a section on the tumblr site dedicated to video documentations and maybe even simple GIF animations to record all my experiments in Unity.

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Project Update 01: The Subzone (Phase 01- Construction 101)

I have been busy exploring Unity 3D over the past week. Coming from a background in being more well-versed in Maya, the user interface and the controls in Unity were quite easy to get used to. The clean user layout allowed me to clearly navigate my way through getting used to working in Unity. I was also pleasantly surprised to know that Unity handles imported animations and models from Maya via the .fbx format. This got me thinking about possibly creating small animation tests and using them in Unity later on to test out animation triggers when users interact in this virtual space.

The Unity startup screen
The Unity startup screen

I had always wanted to tinker around with making games, and learning how to use Unity and it’s tools has been a pretty enjoyable experience so far. The wealth of tutorials and training archives on the Unity website proved to be immensely helpful as I found myself going through each of them to get a better understanding of the program I was working with. If there was one thing I wished I knew how to do, it’d be coding. I hung out around one of the livestreams on Twitch to catch Mike Geig conducting his free live training classes.

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Another plus I discovered was that I could essentially export a test scene from Unity and use an online file storage site like Dropbox to host the game files. This means that I could just embed the url link in a blogpost or anywhere on the Internet, and users will be taken directly to the game when they click on it. With Unity, one thing that needs to be noted in that users will need to download and install the Unity webplayer plugin in order to use the interactive space.

To test this out, I created a simple setup scene in Unity where the textures of the virtual objects are screenshots of websites. In this example, I used a screenshot of my Facebook news feed as a shared texture, so all of the objects in the scene are covered by the same texture to give a sense of disorientation in this subspace. The user can navigate around the space with the WASD keys, spacebar to jump and move the mouse to look around.

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Video documentation

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The Subzone (Role of the Viewer)

 

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Screenshot from Gmod (sandbox game) where a gamemap is glitched due to missing files on the player’s computer.

The viewer is expected to be an active agent, to interact with and to navigate around the virtual subspace. Instead of being led on to do something, the viewer would have full freedom to explore the area of the subspace. The viewer will not be held back from leaving the “gamearea” so to speak, and he or she will be allowed to freeroam to any part of the world map within the virtual environment.

The viewer would be able to intereact with objects and artifacts in this subspace, which may trigger reactions to occur in other parts of the space. The viewer would then become a catalyst for visual changes to occur within the subspace.

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The Subzone (Influences)

“Hole in Space”

Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz created a “portal” in the real world through which people could see and interact with one another even if they were miles apart. It was a 3 day event which attracted many active participants and provided for an entertaining archive footage of the whole affair. For my work, I wish to consider if it is possible to tear open a portal or hole in the third space, to reveal the underbelly of the hidden structures in the virtual game world. If this first stage is possible, I would consider about the possibility of inhabiting this said space.

Jon Cates

Jon Cates creates and also archives his various experiments with glitches. It is interesting to note how he views gifs as “cultural artifacts” and that they are a form of cultural cinema for the next generation. Taking a leaf from his practice, I intend to capture my experiences traversing and discovering hidden subspaces within the third space via gifs. Screenshots would also be a backup.

Robert Overweg

This Dutch photographer archives his explorations in the virtual realm, and I found his particular series of what looks to be building parts floating in space pretty interesting. The series, entitled “Flying and Floating”, consists of screenshots of buildings and architecture within a virtual environment which are cut off in various parts. To get such an effect, the photographer (i.e. Robert) would have to move himself into a position within the virtual landscape where he straddles between the subspace (i.e. between the normal virtual world and the unknown worldspace hidden beyond). By putting himself into such a position, the game becomes “corrupt”, where renderings of the virtual surroundings start cutting off at unpredictable angles and planes start disappearing. Just a simple shift in a physical location is enough to dynamically alter the actual perception of the virtual environment. The fact that this altered perception would be unique only to the photographer (Robert in this case) and that  this perception would be dynamically different for other users, is something I wish to explore in my work.

Some examples from his “Flying and Floating” series:

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Hotel 2011, Robert Overweg, Mafia 2
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The Garage 2011, Robert Overweg, Mafia 2
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jodi.org: The Desolation of Text and the User Interface

In this day and age, the majority of us are familiar with the World Wide Web. We already have a conventional idea of what websites are, how websites are supposed to look like and how they can be navigated. We go through a preset array of motions, scrolling and clicking our way through this digital terrain, as we traverse bytes and data.

Surely nothing new can faze us now right? Have websites become predictable in terms of form and function?

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When a user lands on the homepage of jodi.org, he is greeted with…and therein lies an interesting twist. The homepage is never constant. Never. Visiting www.jodi.org again will result in an entirely different landing page. The URL in the address bar would change by itself, redirecting the user somewhere else even though he typed in the correct url.

What peaked my interest as I continued exploring the site was the complete lack of an attempt to let the visitor know what to do, where to go, what to click on and so forth. There were no instructions, no guides. The only available form of text was butchered and chopped up, mixed together with a healthy dose of symbols and ascii art elements. On the surface, it just looks like one big mess. But perhaps there is something larger at work?

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Sometimes some portions of the text are clickable, leading the user on towards parts unknown. This reminded me of  SURPRISE.SG (one of the many websites which are part of the Web Art Movement initiated by OSS alumni Eugene Soh) where the user is presented with a big red button to click on to move from watching one video to another without being able to know in advance what he is going to watch. The videos which play one after another and their content range from the absurd to the absolute surreal (hence the title, “SURPRISE”)

Extracts from SURPRISE.SG

05_monster 06_train 04_dexter 03_arnold 02_fatman 01_heman

Where jodi.org differs from a website like surprise.sg is that it abandons the idea of even making something actually look clickable. Hyperlinks could be hidden virtually anywhere, residing in-between chunks of “nonsensical” text and gibberish, waiting for the user to hover their mouse over them. The conventional notion of web aesthetics and user interface are thrown out the window with wild abandon, resulting in unpredictable user experiences for anyone who visits jodi.org. Clearly it seems as though the creators of the website do not want users to attempt to understand what is going, and they seem to taken great care to ensure that there is no possible trace for visitors to pick up on to even know what is going on.

Screengrabs from jodi.org

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I attempted to visit jodi.org again for the “n”th time, and sure enough I got redirected to another url (www.wrongbrowser.com). The following below details this particular visit which bore an unexpected present.

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I landed on an almost barren page.

There were no instructions, no popups telling me what to look at or what to follow. I was completely left to my own devices.

On the left were what appeared to be hyperlinks which would bring me to other sites hosted on different domains. In the middle of the site, there were two small squares of black and yellow. Above them, the words “mac osx” and “pc win” were flush aligned against each square. Right at the top, “%WRONG Browser” screamed in bold and above that, a “9.04”.

Even though this just how sparse the layout was on the site, it was enough for me to draw a relationship between the two squares and the words at the top.

It was enough for me to come to the following conclusion: If I was on a Macintosh, I should click the black square. If I was on Windows, I should click on the yellow square. Seemed straight forward enough. I inched my mouse over the black square and clicked it. Immediately, my browser started downloading something. There was no prompt, no warning beforehand. All I saw was the progress bar filling up as my browser downloaded what seemed to be a zip file which was suspiciously titled “COM.zip”.

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Leaving my sense of better judgement behind, I went ahead and unzipped the file (but not before making sure I had saved whatever stuff I was working on in case something terrible unfolded on my computer). The contents of the zip file was only an executable, nothing more. I double-clicked it, as though by some hard wired response.

Nothing happened.

Or so it seemed.

My cursor turned into a spinning beach ball.

My screen went black.

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A few seconds later, my screen was the host to a sea of white, populated by random blocks of blue, green, red, black and yellow.

Lines of text started running on the screen, growing in length, stopping, and starting again.

I had lost control of my computer.

 

Could gibberish be a new form of cryptography? Maybe the various symbols stem from some sort of system grounded in logic? Or maybe they don’t? Perhaps the site pokes fun at security, and the lengths to which one might go to hide their digital footprints in many more subsections of digital footprints scattered across a server. Whatever may be the intent, there is clearly a sense of mischief afoot in the minds of the creators of jodi.org.

When encountering jodi.org, the web visitor is encouraged to be an active participant. Instead of being spoon-fed instructions on how to navigate and what to look at, the unassuming web surfer gets pushed into a system of organized chaos. A system where language, text and usability get subverted, maybe even exploited and abused, leaving behind a long unending trail of web-domains and hyperlinks which link to one another. Even in the wake of such sheer abandon and destruction of conventional forms, a new aesthetic form is being given birth to: a form where the very raw and at times crude visual amalgamation of media and text become visually striking and maybe, even visually unique from anything else we have been exposed to on World Wide Web.

Welcome to the net.art movement.

For more thoughts about jodi.org, check out Nasir’s musings.

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The Subzone (Introduction)

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Exploring the idea of the subspace within the third space.

An example would be in games where areas are closed off and characters are supposed to only roam within a restricted space. In some instances, venturing off from the restricted space creates penalties for the playaer (e.g. timelimit warning to return back to the “safe zone”, death).  Other times, constant attempts to access the subspace within the third space in the games may cause corruption of data, unintended glitching and sometimes even crashing the game client. Can a player in the third space truly inhabit this space which is hidden from the naked eye? If so, at what cost to the other players or the game? How would this conflict with the intentions of the game itself?