I Ruined My Life in the Nicest Way

Posted by aBethke on Tuesday Oct 22, 2013 Under Secret Projects


On august 21st I got engaged to an absolutely wonderful lady that I’ve known for about half of my life at this point. This completed four months of scheming, secrecy and preparation. For my engagement I wanted to do something special and multifaceted and so I set for myself a quest. Herein you will find the tale of my deeds, the trials I faced, the silly things I did to win my love and the details of how I got engaged with a puzzle made inspired by Hellraiser, made from Lego and a speech starting with the perfection quote from Fight Club

For my quest I wanted to create a series of challenges to overcome that were either an extension of myself or my lady. As a martial arts enthusiast and practitioner I’ve always had an appreciation for stealth and secrecy so the first component of my challenge was to keep it on lockdown. Normally for a secret of this nature I’d have a really hard time keeping it but that was the exact requirement I set for myself. For four months I made my other preparations in almost complete secrecy until everything was ready.

For the second requirement I wanted to do something a bit challenging that extended from my passion to design and create things. I also wanted to incorporate something game related since I spend most of my time creating and even occasionally playing games. After some consideration I decided to design and build a puzzle box. As I was doing research on various styles I came upon the idea to build it out of Lego, which at the time seemed like a massive time saver but due to my life as a catastrophe magnet took a bit longer than planned. In the end I spent 34 hours designing and 4 hours building an approximately 1000 piece, 7 step puzzle box. Friend and fellow Bento Miso member Robby Duguay was kind enough to donate a not insignificant amount of his time and talent to video tape and edit the footage of me building the puzzle box.

v1 final box


Longer with commentary

The final piece of my devious scheming was an abstract concept of epicness. I wanted to do something grandiose with a bit of showmanship. I thought I had fulfilled this with the rest of the plan however in hindsight I can see that the universe was only too happy to provide me with some additional challenges which I’ll speak about later. In fact there were several unplanned challenges that came up that on which I will elaborate.

Once everything was in place the plan was to light some candles on the balcony, bring K out there, say my partially prepared speech and then present the puzzle box. This part of the plan actually went as it was supposed to and K was a good sport about figuring out the puzzle box on her own. I have to admit I had gotten a little worried earlier in the day when as I was finishing up the puzzle box Damian asked the question “does she like puzzles” and I was not able to say yes with complete confidence.

The Story of the Ring
The ring I proposed with is a third generation family heirloom which was originally a gift of appreciation given to my great aunt for the extended care she gave to an ailing friend. Before my great aunt died she gave the ring to my grandma. After my dad proposed to my mom, my grandma gave the ring to him to give to my mom as an engagement ring. When my dad and mom got divorced, they put the ring away for safe-keeping for just such an event as my engagement.

We were at the DMG Mother, May I? game jam, taking a lunch break and I casually mentioned to my mom, amongst various other topics, that I was lamenting trying to save up for a ring. Merely noting the desire and saying nothing at the time, my mom returned the final day of the game jam and pulled me into one of the meeting rooms. At the time I thought she simply wanted to discuss the exciting new art direction we were persuing for our game Brother Nature but much to my surprise she produced the ring and offered it to me to give it K. Completely unprepared for such a thing at the time my reaction was something close to “shit just got really real”. With that I began my scheming.

Lego > Canada Post
This is a really long and painful story the short version of which is that Lego DESTROYS the hopes and dreams of Canada Post at least when it comes to taking care of screw ups and customers. Lego shipped my package, Canada Post damaged it, held it without informing me and never once returned any of my phone calls regarding my case for at least 2 weeks before my package finally showed up. In the meantime Lego had reshipped my entire order at no additional cost and threw in a $25 gift certificate just for good measure. When asked what I do if I end up with both orders? They said keep it. That’s class right there. Canada Post i condemn you to the blackest hells of your own customer service and you should learn something from Lego.

Puzzle Box Redesign
So if the whole delivery nightmare hadn’t been stressful enough there were two hiccups during the actual construction of the puzzle box. The first was simply that a small number of pieces weren’t shipped with the order so I was missing some. Luckily I had ordered spare parts of each type and was able to salvage it by replacing some colours and modifying the visual design of the outer shell. The second issue was midway through building the puzzle I realized I had created a set of Lego pieces that didn’t physically work outside of the 3d modelling tool in terms of sliding locks for the overall puzzle. Originally it was a 9 step box but with some adjustments I was able to fix the design at the cost of 2 sliding pieces. All things considered the damage could have been a lot worse.

Puzzle Box v1

Fight Club quote
A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 3

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Writing an Artist Statement

Posted by aBethke on Monday Oct 21, 2013 Under Randomness and Ramblings

I recently had to go through the exercise of writing an Artist Statement as part of a funding application I’m working on for a grant. I’ve never had to do this style of writing before and found the whole experience weird and a bit pretentious. Usually Andrew and I lament any time we have to write bios and find the ordeal painful and bizarre in that way that talking about yourself in the third person always can be. Artist statements as I quickly learned are an entirely different sort of beast. Anyways, I slogged through it after putting some thought into my game designs for Seraph and Brother Nature. Here’s what I came up with XD

Brother Nature
This project was a collaboration between myself and my mother and was developed over a weekend at the Mother, May I game jam hosted by the Dames Making Games organization. For this project we wanted to play with themes around creation and life, male vs female and organic vs constructed.

The concept for the game was that Mother Nature has many daughters but a single son. Usually the daughters spread life but Brother asks, ‘Mother, May I?’. Users play as Brother controlling seeds that they must navigate past various obstacles like stars and asteroids to bring rocky barren planets to life.

The art style and presentation of the assets to the user were particularly important in this game as they were the main reinforcement of the themes that we were exploring. The dead planets were presented in a very washed out grey to convey a sense of barrenness and death with revived planets conversely in vibrant colour and patterns.

The story concept for the game was largely taken from the fact that I was making this game with my mother for a game jam event hosted on Mother’s Day weekend and as such it seemed a very natural extension to make a game about Mother Nature and her son. Extending further from that idea we wanted the art style to really reflect the male vs female theme and that our character was the only son of Mother Nature and to that end we designed the revived planets with very inorganic fractal and geometric patterns in mind.

Play Brother Nature

Based on the Experimental Gameplay Project winner “Star Fall”, Seraph is a game about a wish-born falling star soaring across a surreal landscape collecting dreams and avoiding terrible nightmares. As you hurtle through the sky faster and faster, slow down time to help navigate the crowded dreamscape. Keep your falling star burning as long as you can by gathering the blue-tinted Lucid Dreams to strike back and cleanse nightmares.

Seraph was a game with a simple core mechanic that tried to subtly look at themes of life/death, speed vs control and balance. Players start as a brilliant star full of life that quickly drains away if they do nothing. Touching dreams restores life to the star and increases the movement speed while hitting nightmares drains the star and slows it down. The player is presented with a basic problem of live and soar through the landscape at the cost of maneuverability or slow down enough to control your movement but at the same time move ever closer to dying. It was through this core mechanic that the player is forced to try to balance their actions.

The star itself is a metaphor for each of our lives. We start vibrant and pure, full of energy and as we progress through life we slowly drain away while doing what we can to find the balance between joy and adversity and striving to keep living for as long as we can. In life as in Seraph it is inevitably impossible to exist forever no matter how hard we struggle and Seraph tries to hint at this through its gameplay.

iOS – App Store
YouTube Trailer:

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