November 1, 2007 As a kid, Stephen Taylor didn't just want to play video games ... he wanted to invent them too. Now, his dream is reality. Bored during a college break, he developed a video game called Plasma Paddles -- it's a psychedelic twist on the classic game of Pong. Steve used a computer-simulating program to create the game. A click of the right-mouse button creates a vacuum that sucks the ball in. The left mouse button shoots out a jet stream of "trippy liquid" that pushes the ball for extra speed -- giving new life to an old game.
Each year brings the latest and greatest in video game technology. Now, one college student re-invents a version of a classic game that’s a huge hit!
As a kid, Stephen Taylor didn’t just want to play video games … he wanted to invent them too.
“I’ve always dreamed of growing up and being this game developer,” said Taylor, who is a senior at George Mason University.
Now, his dream is reality. Bored during a college break, he developed a video game called Plasma Paddles -- it’s a psychedelic twist on the classic game of Pong.
“Imagine a game of pong inside of a lava lamp,” Taylor explained.
The idea of the game is the same as the original -- to get a ball past your opponent’s paddles. But the game "flowed" in a whole new direction when Taylor applied what he was learning in his fluid dynamics class.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of having fluid inside of a game,” Taylor said.
Of course, it’s not real liquid. Steve used a computer-simulating program to create the game. A click of the right-mouse button creates a vacuum that sucks the ball in. The left mouse button shoots out a jet stream of "trippy liquid" that pushes the ball for extra speed -- giving new life to an old game.
“If you’ve got this complex fluid running in the background, I figured it would be easier just to have a simple game concept around that,” Taylor said.
The game became a smash hit overnight with internet downloads slowing the school’s server to a crawl, and putting the 21st century game on the map.
“Plasma Paddles is really fun for the modern person, for someone my age,” Sean Gagnon, a George Mason University student told Ivanhoe.
And Taylor’s dream of designing a video game came true.
The American Association of Physics Teachers contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
BACKGROUND: The classic 1970s video game Pong gets a makeover, thanks to applied math, physics and computer science. Plasma Pong is the brainchild of George Mason University student Stephen Taylor, who started writing code for a revamped version of Pong while bored during a winter break. He re-invented the visuals and added some interesting 2D physics simulations in the form of liquid plasmas. The game was an instant success: when Taylor first posted it online, the GMU server slowed to a crawl because of constant downloads. To date, the game had been downloaded over 50,000 times. Tech site Wired.com recently named Plasma Pong one of the top five independent online games.
HOW IT WORKS: A simple mouse click sends a jet of liquid across the "court", or, alternatively, creates a suction effect to draw the ball toward you. The bright colors constantly pulsate and change, occasionally sending particles flying around the screen. There's also a function that allows players to alter the viscosity of the "liquid." It is even possible to turn the game environment into a giant bowl of Jell-O. The complexity of fluid behavior makes Plasma Pong unpredictable much fun. The ball can easily get caught in eddies and currents. While the effects are difficult to precisely control, sometimes you can use this to your advantage. Firing a plasma into your opponent's playfield can create an eddy, enabling you to score.
WHAT ARE PLASMAS: Plasmas are ionized gases that technically make up a fourth state of matter. “Ionization” occurs when there are one or more free electrons – those not bound to an atom or molecule. In a plasma, the ionization gives would-be gases distinct fluid properties. And since the plasma is therefore electrically conductive, it can be manipulated by applying electromagnetic fields.