MAX Assignment 1: Magic Mirror

Task: Using Max, create a virtual magic mirror that fades and brightens depending on the distance between the person and the mirror

  1. Detection of the person’s face and the calculation of the size of the face, marked by the green box (sensing)
  2. Inverting, changing the opacity of the image, rgb2luma and prepend frgb (effecting)

What is Max?
Max is a visual programming language that connects objects with virtual patch cords to create interactive sounds, graphics, and custom effects. Like a mind map, sort of.

This is my first experience with Max and I find it very different from the previous coding languages that we were exposed to in the previous semester. What I like about Max is that the mind map structure makes it easier to comprehend the function of the programme as a whole. However, the new terms, commands and flow of the programme was a little challenging to grasp.

Started off this assignment by learning the basic objects, messages, numbers and how to connect them using patch cords.

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(right) The face detection is done using cv.jit faces, a function that scans a greyscale image for human faces. Hence, it is necessary to input jit.rgb2luma before cv.jit.

(left) The objects jit.iter and unpack separates the coordinates of the detected face into 4 values. To calculate the minimum and maximum area of the detected face (which directly proportional to the distance between the face and the screen), the x and y values are subtracted and multiplied. The resulting minimum and maximum areas are then scaled down to 0 and 1, before it is input into jit.op which controls the brightness.


Problems encountered:
Couldn’t get the programme to work for awhile because I mixed up the (n) objects and (m) messages, the number (i) and float (f).

Programme does not work with >1 detected faces on screen

Overall, it was a great learning experience and I look forward to exploring more features and possibilities with Max! 🙂

Narratives for Interaction – Ideation (2)

TOPIC 1: Nature
Surviving in the wild

This game revolves around the theme of nature, and tests the player’s ability to strategize in a life-and-death scenario, by rationing available resources. Throughout the course of the game, players can learn about the names of some common edible/poisonous plants and the importance of clean water.

Act #1: You are stranded in the middle of a forest, in an unknown location. Armed with a compass, you plan to navigate towards the direction of safety (which will take days to reach by foot).

Act #2: With limited supplies in your backpack, you need to source for ways to stay alive in the wild. Your aim is to maintain your levels of hydration and energy in order to survive.

Hydration level – decreases over time. You need to source for water from rivers/streams nearby, and purify before drinking.
Can’t find a water source – dies from dehydration.

Energy level – decreases over time, especially from travelling and other vigorous activities. You need to source for food by foraging for edible plants, fruits and small fishes.
Eats poisonous fruits – dies from poison.
Can’t find food – dies from exhaustion.

Act #3:
Outcome 1 – You fail to survive and died.
Outcome 2 – You succeed in reaching safety and requested assistance from people nearby.

TOPIC 2: Blind

Prison Break

This is an interactive story about escaping a prison, but with a twist – you can barely see. With limited visuals, the player is encouraged to focus on the background narration and audio, in order to complete the mission.

Act #1: In an operation gone awry, you are injured and find yourself 80% blind. Having been framed, you are wrongly accused and thrown into prison. However, you are the only person who knows the truth behind what happened and only you know where to go to uncover it.

Act #2: Due to prior training, you know how to break out of prison, to solve the case. However, being unable to see makes the situation so much worse.

What to do – to source for useful materials to unlock the prison and escape to safety.

Outcome 1: Get caught. Game over.
Outcome 2: Escapes successfully!

Act #3: It’s 11:00pm, you reach the office of the culprit who framed you. There is a hard drive containing crucial information which you have to retrieve in secret. There is only one worker in the office who is working overtime.

What to do – search for the hard drive without making too much noise. Avoid crashing into things around the office, considering that you can’t really see.

Outcome 1: Crashes into something, the worker gets alerted and you get caught. Game over.
Outcome 2: Steal the hard drive successfully and expose the culprit!


Narratives for interaction – Ideation (1)

Topic: Nature/ Natural environment

Concept: Simulation of real life conditions, with educational facts and data

What is it?
An interactive webpage that features two to three different modes, each with their own storyline – Forest, sea, and pitch-black mode. Players will be allowed to choose their modes at the start page. Each mode can be narrated in two different ways – purely text and voice-over narration.


Blindscape is a piece of experimental storytelling that takes place entirely through sound. The narrative is told from the point of view of a man in an authoritarian society who wants to escape his intolerable life by ending it.

I find this game story very engaging and immersive, despite its complete lack of visuals. It’s focus on sounds and narration, paired with some interaction along the story (like finding stuff in the dark) heightens your sense of hearing and touch, and results in a unique player experience.

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  1. Motion tracking – swimming gesture using the arms as the story progresses, possible tools/gadgets: camera tracking, gesture tracking software and PIR sensors (detects infrared radiation)
  2. VR surroundings – for better visual and all rounded experience. Players can explore 360 degrees from one spot, to find clues or to learn about their surroundings
  3.  Enhanced sound effects and ambient sounds – especially for the pitch-black mode (e.g. rustling of the leaves, clear narration, bubbles underwater)

“Narrative, Interactivity, Play and Games” by Eric Zimmerman

Review of

Narrative, Interactivity, Play and Games:
Four naughty concepts in need of discipline by Eric Zimmerman

By Joan Li

             This essay by Eric Zimmerman talks about the trend of game developers increasingly utilising the technique of story-telling in the design of their products. The escalating use of “game-stories” and its never ending possibilities has thrown everyone into a whirl of dissatisfaction and frustration, due to the lack of understanding of the medium. Zimmerman approaches the topic by extracting four concepts from the term “game-story” – narrative, interactivity, play and games.

By J. Hillis Miller’s definition, a narrative starts with an initial state, which undergoes several layers of change to results in a final outcome or insight. While this is a very inclusive statement, it is also very true. Our goal should be to discover how something is narrative rather than to draw a distinct line between we think are narratives and what isn’t.

Interactivity is defined by its characteristic two-way communication between two parties, often between the user and his/her device. Zimmerman then points out that this general definition of interactivity can be applied for all sorts of narratives, thus calling for a more specific breaking down of the term. Cognitive, functional, explicit and cultural interactivity are four types of interaction involving varying degrees of user participation.

Zimmerman helps us understand the clear distinction between the terms “play” and “games”, which are often misinterpreted. Play represents the movement and free spaces between the rigid rules of a game. It cannot exist if interaction is completely pre-determined, hence the freedom of decision making and actions within the parameters of the system is crucial when providing play. Games, on the other hand, are these parameters. It is a voluntary activity with a set of rules for players to follow, provides artificial conflict and a quantifiable outcome during end game.

The aim is not to replicate the traditional understanding of games and stories, but to generate new experiences from the concept of a “game-story”. I find Zimmerman’s quest to explore the possibilities in which a game can be narrative in ways that other media can’t, rather meaningful. Personally, I believe that in this ever-growing society, the trend of merging concepts and ideas (in this case, games and stories) is inevitable. Instead of being frustrated with its limitations, sophistication or the lack thereof, we should channel our energy into discovering the possibilities of the newly emerged concept, and the new experiences it can provide.