I'm a visual artist and writer in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

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Make No Wonder and Random Islands

  • Random polygon islands 1
  • Random polygon islands 2
  • Random polygon islands 3... one big one.
  • Random polygon islands 4
Random polygon islands 1

Random polygon islands 1

Random polygon islands 2

Random polygon islands 2

Random polygon islands 3... one big one.

Random polygon islands 3... one big one.

Random polygon islands 4

Random polygon islands 4

I found out recently that I have been awarded a Professional Project Grant from the Newfoundland & Labrador Arts Council to work on an interactive digital art project. My proposed project is to create an ecology-themed game artwork, tentatively titled Make No Wonder. I’ve posted a little about it on my Projects page.

This project is a progression from a couple of previous art-game projects, Probable System and Favimon. Probable System is an exploration game that takes place in a typographical world inspired by Canadian experimental poet bpNichol (it can be played online at probable.ca). Favimon lets you collect and battle your websites based on their favicons in a never-ending quest to capture every website, and can be found at favimon.com. In February 2011, Favimon won the Most Original award in the Mozilla Labs Game On 2010 open web gaming contest. I wrote a long blog post about developing Favimon for the Mozilla Labs blog.

Make No Wonder will take place in a virtual archipelago, allowing the player to explore the environment, gather resources, and gradually build bridges, rafts, and other forms of technology. As players explore, their actions and traces permanently affect the ecosystems of the islands, encouraging them to think critically about their choices. The artwork will investigate ecological concepts such as biodiversity, resource management, and invasive species. The game will be coded in HTML, JavaScript and PHP, and will run in a web browser. I have a ton of ideas for things that I want to work into the game, some more challenging than others. I’ll be writing about the project here as I work on it, including posting some code and links to interactive demos.

The images above are from some early sketches for Make No Wonder; I wrote a little script that generates random polygon-based islands on a square grid. I’ve been experimenting with the Raphaël JavaScript library for this project. It’s a great way of working with SVG (vector graphics) in JavaScript, but it’s been a bit finicky trying to get it to play nicely with jQuery, and it slows down considerably when dealing with hundreds of SVG paths, so I may not end up using it for the final project. Still, it’s been handy for quickly prototyping things. I’ve actually done a lot of work since generating the polygon islands above, and have been experimenting with hex grids instead of square tiles. Hexes can be very unintuitive from a coding perspective, but they allow for a less boxy-looking landscape, and movement across hex tiles feels more natural. It probably also helps that I have been playing a lot of hex-based games such as Settlers of Catan and Slay. One inconvenience about hex maps is that movement in six directions doesn’t map nicely to arrow keys, but I want to work with mouse-based interaction for this project anyway, as it will be easier to translate into a touch interface.

I’m really thrilled and honoured to have received the Arts Council grant. I put a lot of work into my application, but wasn’t sure the committee would go for it; the idea of games as artwork is still something that has not gained wide acceptance. I am incredibly grateful to the NLAC for granting me the opportunity to really focus on this project over the summer, and am looking forward to documenting the project here as I go.

Content ©  2017 Matthew Hollett. RSS