Reality is a Game

Game thinking from Adam Clare

Tag: Arduino

Stardoz! My Game Which Uses Heartbeats To Spawn Enemies


First version of Stardoz

Stardoz is a crazy experimental biometric-driven game I built at TOJam a few weeks back. In the game you fly around in a spaceship shooting at giant floating heads and hands. It’s similar to many flying in space combat games.

The catch is that your heartbeat controls the spawn rate of enemies. The pulsing red border on the screen shows the player’s heart at work.

If floating heads seems familiar to you, it’s because you may remember the movie Zardoz starring Sean Connery. Just watch the trailer to see how zany the movie is.

Really, the gameplay is similar in play insofar that “the gun is good” and that one survives by ‘killing’. It’s very simple gameplay with a neat twist. I made Stardoz to test out some space-based game mechanics and to incorporate some biometric data into a game.

Playtesters have liked the heartbeat spawn mechanic and only one player took issue that the game is hard for people with high resting heart rates. I’m still tweaking the spawn rate but it’s alright for the most part.

Stardom being played

The art confuses players and that’s a design goal of mine. I wanted it to cross between the ridiculous and the overly-symbolic. Thus, instead of a score it lists how many egos you’ve destroyed and how many emotions you have. .

You are flying through space (or is mindspace?) destroying representations of human forms. In some cases it’s heavy handed and in some ways quite subtle (only one person has figured out the symbolic placement of the TOJam goat).

Getting the Heartbeat

Pulse Sensor

With the excellent help of J Lee, I was able to get an Arduino Uno board to work with a pulse sensor which meant that heartbeats could be tracked using Unity. The heartbeat is tracked using this pulse sensor which was really easy to connect to the Arduino and to configure it into Unity.

“Fun fact”: for Windows use COM4 and /dev/cu.usbmodem1421 for Macs as the port for Unity to talk to the Arduino. At least this is what worked for my setup. Results may vary.

The pulse sensor goes around the player’s finger and surprisingly doesn’t interfere with gameplay controls. It can be attached to the player’s ear but it just feels weird.

Here it is in action around the left index finger of a player:

Heartbeat sensor with game controller

Next Steps

For this game will be to see if I can get it working with the Apple Watch (or Android Wear), if it works maybe I’ll release it for anyone to play. In the meantime I’m hoping to show it at upcoming events.

Stardoz restart

Some Alternative Human Computer Interfaces For Games

With new computer interfaces getting more attention I’d like to take a quick moment to list a few of them. A couple years ago I linked to a funny interface and game: kiss bowling. You can see it in action here:

Here are other crazy ways to interact with computers (and thus games). The more practical ones are towards the bottom. It’s with noting that many of these nifty interfaces are thanks to a little device called an Arduino, which is an open source prototyping chip board. It’s also worth mentioning the MaKey MaKey which is a simple way to make your own custom controller.

Fruits and Vegetables

And here’s a MaKey MaKey in action creating music using fruits and vegetables:

The Tekken Piano:

The TekkenPiano from Mc Cool on Vimeo.

This is the final product of my project for interaction design. Took the whole semester, to get this to work but it was worth it. How it works: The piano sends a Midi-Signal, which is transferred to an arduino. According to the signals, the arduino triggers transistors, which then trigger inputs on a paewang PCB (This is the PCB of an arcadestick). The paewang is connected to an Xbox360 (you can also use it on PS3).


This is made by the fun loving people at Site3 coLaboratory.

[It] is a simulated fighting game in the style of Street Fighter. However, instead of playing a traditional video game, the participants interact with the game with motions and thoughts; wearing interactive sensors for each fist, and an EEG headband.

Google Glass

Let’s admit that this belongs in the ‘crazy’ section of this post as it makes you look like a glasshole and Google Glass gives people headaches (via Hacker News). After all, my mobile can accomplish just as much as Glass (although it’s in my pocket).

More sane HCI

Of course, there is the stuff that you (probably) already heard of like the Oculus Rift. An Oculus developer did an AMA on Reddit, there he provided this insight:

Scale that may look right on a screen will be off on the rift if its not exactly like it is in real life. HUDS don`t work. Menus need to be in 3D. Motion needs to be perfect or it will make you sick. For instance in half life you are sprinting everywhere and its very uncomfortable. head bob doesn’t work. cinematic cut scenes that take control of your head, will make you puke.

The Razer Hydra is essentially a complex two-handed joystick that knows its relative position. Combine this with the Oculus Rift and you got a stew going!

Use your hands
Noteworthy are both the Myo band and the Leap Motion. They have the same basic functionality of swinging your arms and pointing to interact with screens. There is an inherent problem with these sorts of interfaces though: your arms will get tired.

What makes these two interfaces interesting though is they are meant to augment your current workflow and not replace it.

There’s also the Kinect, Playstation Move, and a myriad of augmented reality apps.

I’ve also willingly ignored a ton of wearable tech as that would be a post on its own, same with voice control (like Siri and Google Voice).

There are tons of other weird HCI options that I’ve probably missed. Feel free to leave them in the comments.

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