Thursday, June 30, 2016

More Prototypes

City of Light

Very much inspired by Pixel City ( I started doing some procedural generation experimenting of which the following screenshots are the result. At this point only the roads, water and some building parameters are actually procedurally generated. Next step: generate the facades procedurally (fixed textures right now) for bigger variety. End goal: no-**-clue.

This last screenshot was actually the result of an implementation mistake, but I kinda liked the result :)

Things That Make Me Happy

This is actually one of the earliest apps I've made that made it to production. The original idea came just around finishing my master thesis at the University of Amsterdam. At that time I had worked on several software ideas, all which turned out way too big to execute. Inspired by my girlfriends' Things That Make Me Happy blog posts ( and trying to create something very simple I came up with an app idea where you can read and share your own happy text messages. To get it going we added thirty initial messages, with examples like:

"The very first day that you can wear flip-flops again (and then never having to take them of again)"
"The nice bus driver who even smiles at 5 in the morning"
"Tasting the food you were craving for"
"Having the full moon as the only light source in the dark room."
"When someone suddenly grabs your hand"

For everyone that knows me and reads this (thanks mom&dad), you'll agree this isn't particularly my favorite domain, but that's besides the point. The point was to start and finish a full (frontend/backend) project within reasonable time, which I did. Also, the point was to see if users would actually use the app as intended. In that regard, this app has been somewhat of a victory. Although it has very few users, overall users are quite engaged and do participate in writing messages. Currently, the counter is at almost 200 messages with new ones showing up every now and then. More interestingly, I almost never had to do any 'moderation' in deleting inappropriate content. I cannot stress enough how much fun it is to see users actually use your application in production and track how it's being used.

Currently, the app is in it's third iteration having recently added a comments feature. Also the backend I rewrote a couple of times, starting I think in Python/Django and then moving to Node. Of course research and experimenting was done with different databases, 'because it had to scale' (yeah right, all my 4 users/month). In the end now I'm using Firebase as backend/database, which has provided me a very easy setup for building these kind of prototypes.

Unnamed prototype

This is definitely one of the weirdest and most useless prototypes I've made. Basically, it allows you to build/craft your own wooden constructions, like a carpenter. Build in Python/Panda3D. Since it is pretty raw in that placing wooden planks is all manual (no number/exact system), it takes quite some patience and skill to get things aligned properly, especially as your construction tends to grow. Again, like a carpenter.

As is the case with City of Light, the goal of this project is not very clear. There is just something comforting in patiently placing wooden planks and building something from scratch or realizing a creative idea. Also, there is something about the imperfectness of the end result. It seems more natural compared to building something similar with a 3D modeler (which would of course be way more efficient).

There is several ways I still would like to extend the current prototype:

  • Allow choosing from different wood textures, which would give the model bigger variety.
  • Collision detection to prevent overlapping.
  • Sawing/cutting which allows for planks with different dimensions and non-rectangular shapes. This would open the door for more woodworker kind of activities, like building furniture.
  • Hooking up the system to Firebase and making it a multi-user experience. Of course this requires more thought, but I think it would be really nice to work on a large project with multiple users.

As always, feedback, thoughts and ideas on any of these projects are more than welcome and really appreciated! Cheers.


  1. I like the application "things that make me happy." Joyful messages, colors and design, font, and idea. Very nice thought!