Final project: Merrell’s Bottom Dollar.

So, the basis of my story is an interactive adventure that I created using inklewriter. The story itself quickly became incredibly complex. Just how complex, I will demonstrate in a moment when I discuss the creation of each section.  For additional media types, I used some elements of design, some animated gifs, some visual aids, and of course the whole thing contains an decent amount of writing: ~4000 words.  Composing the story alone took well over 20 hours, although a good portion of that was just keeping the story line straight.
So, the basics of the choices I included are as follows. There are some choices that will give you entirely different outcomes no matter what, there are some choices that will give you direct options for different outcomes, there are some choices that will give you more information to make informed choices later, and there are some choices that accumulate or intersect to give you access to, or sometimes guarantee different outcomes.
In the first section of the story, I just set a bit of background. I included a couple randomized elements just for a bit of variance for people who read the story more than once, which most of the endings encourage readers to do.

This is a blurry image of the total map of the first section. In all the sections but the last, all choices meet back up on the main story before transitioning. Some of them just carry different flags that make a difference later in the story. For the most part, section one is rather straightforward, but it does contain some of the most important choices in the story. One of them is a guarantee of death, and after great deal of consideration, I decided not to tell the people who met that death why. It is, from the outcome, at least moderately straight forward.

This is the map of the second sections.

In this section, most of what occurs is that some of the choices from the first section play out. This contains many of the “give additional information that helps readers make more informed choices later in the story” type of choices.

Section 3 gets rather more complicated.

Much of it is a two cycle loop. Readers must choose, in this section, how to spend their time wisely. There are 5 other main characters, one readers encounter in the first section. In this portion, the 4 other poker players are available for conversation, but readers only have time to speak with 2. The entire purpose of this section is to allow readers access to information they need to make the right choices in section 4. But this point, some of their fates are already sealed from section 1.

Section 4 contains the actual poker game and the various possible outcomes.

When all is said and done, there are a total of 5 different outcomes, and more paths to get to each of them than I could readily count if I wanted. In addition to the several outcomes, there are different inline logical dialogues build in that reflect choices that have been made up until that point. Some examples are, the love interest is more flirty if readers have flirt with her, Merrell never refers to someone by name that he has not met, and small pieces of information are revealed to people who would have observed some necessary event earlier in the story.
In addition to the main story, I created some pieces of media to go along with it all.

I did have some trouble incorporating the media types I wanted. Inklewriter only displays thumbnails of images, so animated gifs were out for the internal parts of the story. I isolated their use until the ending(s).  The next section of this post includes all of the media that I created or used for parts of the story.


This images is an animated gif (you will have to click the image for it to animate) that I made for the “ideal” ending of the story. I just used a grass brush package to create the grass and a western brush package, from Obsidian Dawn, for the cactus. For the sunrise and shifting background, I just drew some circles and the heart, put ovals behind them as overlays, feathered the edged by varying degrees, and used the bucket fill tool for the sun, and used the gradient tool tool to move the background as the sun rose.


This is another animated .gif I made for an ending. For this one, using the revolver and muzzle flash images, I created the animation. The first few frames are of the bullet and the flash growing larger. Then, I remove the bullet, to indicated that it has hit the target, and there is a frame that is mostly just muzzle flash. The next several frames are of the gun, bullet no longer in the chamber, getting narrower in a way it might if the person’s eyes were closing, or at least, that is the effect I was aiming for.


The next image, which is actually the first image in the story, is of a saloon. It was mostly just an incredibly lucky find. The old hotel has the images of a few cards on the outside, it is typical for the period of the story,  and it did not have the name on the outside which left me free to name it myself.  I did make the image black and white, because it looked more natural on the inklewriter website, which is designed to look like a book.


The image after that, I made black and white as well, with a bit of an exception. 

I used the idea from a a ds106 assignment to leave a single, important, element of the photo in color. The white background blends with inklewriter, so it just looks like the image is printed on the page; there is no visible box. But the color of the liquor is there to signify the importance.

Another image that I designed for the story is this tombstone.

For this, I used gimp and a series of filters, noise, blurs, renderings, and overlays until I had something that looked like the stone I liked. Then, I added the text with one the western fonts I downloaded for the semester. I put the text in, then duplicated it. I beveled the first copy, and I used a technique with drop shadows to sort of burn in the other copy, and combined them all. Then, I found a non copyrighted image of some branches, put it over the top, positioned it as best I could, desaturated it, put the later in overlay mode, then used a Gaussian blur to create the image of shadows. I could have used a much simpler tombstone of some kind, but this one really had the somber, dreary feeling I was looking for.


British lord of the ringtones.

Maybe they grabbed the wrong costumes?  For the photo for this assignment, I put a couple of odd balls in a scene where they do not belong. They look like naturals though, I don’t even think they noticed.  The assignment was to put something in a movie scene that was totally out of place. I have been waiting all semester to use something from LOTR, so I knew now I have my chance. I just grabbed a couple other random photos of people, watched Return of the King in 8x till I found a good scene, and put them in to the scene.  I lightened them and did a few other things to make them blend. I didn’t realize how wide a suit of armor makes a guard till I tried to cover him with a guard wearing just clothes.

World Wide Western News Logo

I designed this logo for our radio program group using gimp. I had a rough plan at the outset, a circle with w’s twisted to different angles, but I did not like the outcome. So, I just experimented keeping things I liked any moving on until it looked complete. I used one of the western fonts I had downloaded for other projects to make the w’s. I created a slogan of sorts and stuck it on the design. I was satisfied with it all, but since .jpg cannot handle transparencies, I had to add a background circle to the whole thing to make it complete. Here is the result,

Don’t leave your catchphrases out in the elements.

For this assignment, I started by picking a character with a catchphrase from a show that I enjoy. It took a minute to come up with one, but once I thought about this line, I knew it was perfect. I made a few changes in my initial design decision, but the basic theme remained the same.
After I had the idea, it was simply a matter of creating it in Gimp. I try, every week, to use software to do something I have never done. I am glad this course is inspiring me to expend my GIMP repertoire. So, this week, I used this tutorial from youtube to learn how to create ice text. I downloaded a copy of the front front the show, and I got to work. There were several steps in the process, and I won’t go through them all because the tutorial explains it all much better than I can. After I completed that, it was a matter of adding the necessary context to the text to make the catchphrase, which I did by adding a thought bubble. I like this one enough, I think I will share it on facebook. Here is the result.

On a side note, I just realized that Flickr is turning my .png’s into .jpgs and reducing the quality. I guess they don’t like the image data size. I will go back to exporting jpg’s, but of larger sizes to preserve at least some of the lost quality, even though .jpg is a lossy format.

One additional realization here…. I made a mistake and had to edit it out, and because I had not paid careful attention the kerning of the text, there is actually a place where the letters had overlapped that is, to me at least, a bit of an eyesore. Every element of text matters.

Primary Characters.

So, for this assignment there were two basic elements that went into completing it. The first, and by far the most difficult was thinking up the content. I had the idea to put Tyrion in the center right from the beginning, but I had some trouble thinking of ways to describe him that let me come up with other characters. In particular, short and rich gave me trouble until I thought of Scrooge and the whole thing came together. I tried at first to keep it to just Game of Thrones characters, but I couldn’t think of any way to get the content. I may do this assignment again in the future if I think of something for it.
The next aspect of the assignment, however, was to design it and put it together. I chose the primary color mix because I felt like the mixtures are familiar and understandable. It took a few methods to get the colors to mix the way I wanted, and in the end, I had to lay other colors over the top in a few spots. I just created the three circles on their own layers and dropped the opacity to 50 percent. I then duplicated each colored ring and put them over but in a different order to blend the colors better. I layered the text of the same font but two different sizes over the top of it all, and tried to position is uniformly. This is the result.

Lifetime of love, after a few misfortunes.


So, for this assignment, I had to locate a photo of a couple and provide a back story. I looked in this case for an older couple because I feel like they have more noteworthy love stories. When I selected the image, it was odd to see where it originated because the story it was from is not at all the story I had in mind when I saw it, so don’t click the link unless you want to spoil the fun. Other than being an older couple, that it was shot from behind makes the subjects someone nondescript, and to me, that means that their story is far more open ended than a photo where facial expressions and looks are included. Faces tell stories all their own, so I wanted different elements of this story to speak to me.
William, his friends call him Bill, and his wife Margaret, who refuses to allow her name to be shortened, have been married since their early twenties. They met at a gathering of Bill’s brother, and after a shot bit of conversation, realized that she was a nurse at an army medic camp in Vietnam where he had stayed for several weeks recovering from a military career ending injury, and that he had been there once prior for another injury that won him a purple heart but had recovered and gone back to his unity. She treated him on both occasions, but he was out when she had and he did not recall. They still joke that if he had just woke up and seen her the first time, he wouldn’t have had to lose the use of his left arm when God decided to play matchmaker a second time, and that if had woke up the second time, they wouldn’t have had to endure Bill’s Brother’s wife’s cooking at that party.
This assignment was useful because it caused me to think about the way in which images have lives and stories of their own. Like some more abstract poetry or music, they don’t necessarily have a concrete meaning to convey. Images can mean a million things to a million people, and accordingly, good photographs have their own merit outside of what they literally depict.

Fun with fonts

So, for this assignment, I decided to take my newly downloaded Brady Bunch font abroad. The assignment was to recreate a popular logo using a new font. I searched around for silly and crazy fonts for a bit before deciding to use the Brady font I downloaded for another assignment, but I just didn’t find anything that appealed to me. After completing it, I think it would have looked more interesting with a more outlandish font, however. What I did here was create the new text and get the correct size, outlined it using this method, then I shifted the baseline on the bottom text to match the original. I placed the original and my new one on top of one another to juxtapose them to see the contrast. Another observation that I had while competing this assignment was that a plurality of logos use incredible plain, san serif fonts. Very few logos I saw when I was picking one had done anything else.

Drawing Babies

For this 2 star assignment, I was supposed to take an image and turn it into a pencil drawing.
I made two attempts at it because I did not like the first one. I didn’t care much for the second one either. I chose this assignment because it involved manipulating images in ways that I have not before. I sometimes mod custom textures and appearances for games, and now I wonder how it would look if I turned those textures into drawings.  Anyhow, for the first image, I chose this tutorial on youtube. The results looked more like I had turned the image black and white rather than into a drawing.


The next image I created using this tutorial was for a soft color pencil drawing instead of  plain black and white. The result in this case looks more like a grainy photo than a drawing. I did notice some elements form each that I might be able to combine in the future if I want to perfect this technique. The interesting thing to note here is that in each of tutorials, they had spectacular results with the photos they chose. The takeaway here is that the editing process for this, and probably for other manipulations depends quite heavily on the characteristics of the photo being manipulated: no one size fits all. 

The Hiser Bunch

This assignment was to create a Brady Bunch image using family or friends. Picked people for this one was a breeze because my family is already sort of a Brady Bunch. I have one child from a previous marriage, in the bottom right, my wife has three, all on the left, and we have one child together. We also have two cats, Shadow and Flame. (know the reference?)
Putting the photo together was fairly simple. I chose  photos of each of us, it was at this time that I realized I have almost no good photos and that maybe it is time to actually invest in an SLR camera. Cell phone tech, at least in my phone, just isn’t cutting it yet. After choosing the photos, I just had to crop, remove the background, and place them into the image. I used the natural angles of the photos to make them look as proper as possible in the boxes and chose a family arrangement that made sense like the original Brady Bunch. The font, although not as good as my apple original I used for something yesterday, was a pretty good Brady imitation. There are thousands upon thousands of fonts out there and searching for something like Brady Bunch font is sure to return some results.
So, what I took from this is that I need to spend time getting better photos that can stand as photos for their own sake rather than just poorly shot visual representations of memories.Since I learned about the basics of photography a visual design class, I have always wanted to get more into it, but I still have not done so. Canon Rebel, here I come… maybe.


Tools of the Gambler Trade

Merrell, the savvy gambler that he is, has a few necessities that he carries with him on the trail. For this assignment, I created an image of the overturned contents of Merrell’s saddle bag.

The first step was, obviously, to give some thought to the sort of items he might carry, starting with a the saddle and bags that overturned in the first place. Obviously a gambler would carry around a deck of cards and a pair of dice, so those there easy. The next item I chose was an old western style pistol, being in the west without one is a dangerous prospect for any man, but especially so for one who makes his living by winning bets against other men. Everyone in a while a cheat, a sore loser, or a plain ol mangy varmint might want to test their mettle to get back what they lost or to take what they never had. A traveling man that he is, Merrell gets quite a bit of use out of his old compass and map as well, looking for new spots to travel and make his way. Obviously all the swanky saloons are marked, and there is a coded addition to help him locate his buried loot. Banks are none too useful out on the frontier. Last, but certainly not least, is his luck rabbits foot given to him by his father when he set out on the road. It is both a token of the hard work and sacrifice that his father underwent to raise him proper, and a trinket to bring him good luck when his outstanding wits and skills aren’t quite enough.
Afterward, I had to find images in the commons that I was allowed to manipulate to create the image. The challenge here was finding places to search images and using search terms that would lead me to the things I want.
Finally, I compiled it all into the image seen below. Each of the items was put on their own layer with an old wood grain table as the background image. Not that it looks entirely realistic, but putting the pieces together requires some rearranging and consideration to make it look like a coherent image rather than a bunch of scattered items posted on a background. I did not go so far as to add the shadows to make the image look more realistic, but looking at it now I wish I had. Maybe I will update it if there is some time.

Merrell’s Gear