Color Filter

Over the course of multiple projects I have explored the theme of how color affects our perception. What we perceive is different from what anyone else sees and this colors our experience. My first attempt at this was a capstone project in the fall of 2005, midway through my undergraduate study.


Crayos! is a game about crayons saving their storybook world ruined by the careless drawings of a small child. Crayon graffiti monsters have overrun the crayons’ picturesque story. Luckily they have the power to color the animals in their world, giving them different powers to navigate through the many graffiti obstacles.


Colors change animals’ behaviors in ways related to the emotions corresponding to that color. For example, red turns animals brash and angry, allowing them to charge through and attack obstacles. Yellow makes creatures happy and makes them stay in one place as they danced. Players have a set amount of time every level to save that page’s animal. Gameplay proceeds as a Rube Goldberg-like series of puzzles with an exact sequence of color moves allowing the player to finish a level. Exploration of the various options to see what combinations are beneficial is encouraged.

The game prototype was created in the Torque game engine. The project has a cel shaded art style using 3D models that look like a 2D cartoon through the use of filters and special models. I discovered that having only one specific solution to this kind of puzzle did not encourage exploration as I had hoped and was frustrating to players. The use of a set timer further stopped players from trying new things. The emotional connections correlating with color are different from person to person, particularly to those of different cultures. I decided then it would be better to use the inherent color of objects to affect with color perception as natural objects are generally the same color in any environment.

In the summer of 2006 I played the Intern Game at Microsoft, a 48 hour long puzzle hunt. I was inspired at 3 AM when we encountered a puzzle involving a Microsoft PixelSense prototype. The PixelSense is a huge table with a giant interactive screen that can be touched and controlled by multiple people. The puzzle involved three people wearing three different colored glasses. The screen showed four separate squares each with four sliding tiles in them. Each pair of colored glasses revealed a different solution in the sliding puzzle so it is impossible for a single person to see all of the puzzle at once. I loved the communication between three separate people as they all tried to reach their own goals so that everyone finished the puzzle.

After that I created a 3D puzzle of a similar nature to be played by one person. Viewing the puzzle through different color filters allowed different elements to be seen. I played with the items only existing if it was visible, allowing physical objects to disappear in the virtual world. The added dimension along with multiple viewing modes proved to be too confusing to navigate. It was hard for one person to remember what they saw in the other views in a three dimensional space as they tried to solve a complicated spatial puzzle.

My third attempt is the 2D game Pandarazzi. It is a color filtering animal herding game made for the two week long Ouya CREATE game jam. Players change between different filters to see the whole world change color and animals change shades. Players use different items to lure and repel the animals with similarly colored items to get the right group photo. Animals are not visible if they are the same color as the filter or others lose certain colors when viewed through a colored lens. Animals that are not visible in the current color filter are not affected by the items you use.

Pandarazzi explores how a single space can change when viewed through different lenses. While the physical space is small the challenge lies in understanding how the red, green, blue, and white filtered spaces work together and alter the boundaries. We chose to go with an additive color model because this is a video game and it is easier to control additive color using RGB digital values than in the more common subtractive model.

Pandarazzi is the most successful of the prototypes I’ve made exploring color perception. I believe that expanding back into having multiple people view the same experience at the same time with different colors will be a richer experience as they must communicate their personal viewpoint to someone who cannot see it the same way. I would like to make a stronger story driven experience rather than a puzzle based one so that the communication between players paints a complex story instead of a completed puzzle.