Available on:Nintendo DS

Imagine Beauty Stylist

Imagine Beauty Stylist is a game for the Nintendo DS, developed by Playbox Games and published by Ubisoft. IBS was also the first professional game I worked on.

I started work on Imagine Beauty Stylist joining a small team of two other programmers and around three artists. The game was still in pre-production and went through a number of iterations with gameplay ideas and features being prototyped and refined through continuous consultation with Ubisoft. My first assignment was to work on getting spline based camera animations from 3ds Max, through the Nitro SDK's proprietary 3d format and into the game. The camera animations were used initially for a prototype of the salons reception area where the player arrived in a 3d first-person perspective. Later the main salon was altered to be viewed in 2D and the camera animation system was used in client introduction cut scenes and hair cutting / hair accessory mini games where the camera zoomed, panned, and rotated around a 3d model of the clients head.

Another key area of the Imagine Beauty Stylist game I worked on was the in game PDA. The PDA (which started out as a laptop) allows the player to manage their salon, and find out more information about their clients and their relationship to each other. An in-game email system allowed the player to follow the progress of clients who had left the salon. While a tips section allowed players to see real life beauty and style tips they could unlock during gameplay and share with their friends. A Bank section let the player manage their salons finances, with an overview of costs and income, while a 'salon space' social networking section allowed players to see client relationships and strategies which clients to focus on in order to bring in celebrities. Finally, A map section allowed the player to view their salons notoriety on a world scale. Over the course of the games development, the PDA's design changed significantly, originally proposed as a laptop viewed with the DS hardware at a horizontal orientation, with a mouse pointer controlled by a virtual mouse pad on the lower touch screen, and eventually becoming a PDA with all windows being touchable on the lower screen. Due to the number of design changed, I decided to write a common set of windows-like functionality where the scale and orientation of page elements could be arranged through external data specifications, i.e. the pages could be rendered in any configuration depending on the desired orientation of the device through nested transforms.

A similar area to the PDA in Imagine Salon Stylist was the appointment book. In the game, the player was presented with an internal view of their salon as if they were standing behind the main reception desk. On the desk were the PDA and an appointment book which were accessible by touching them on the screen. When a client entered the salon, a brief introductory cut scene was played and the player was presented with a view of their appointment book, registering the new client Through a conversation with the player, each client specified which salon treatments they required (i.e. Hair, Makeup, Spa or a combination of treatments) and also gave a little background on their characters motivation for needing a makeover. Treatments were then logged in the appointment book which the player could use to select each appointment and perform the desired task. The appointment book allowed the player to see their progress through the game and also the satisfaction rating of each client following their treatment. The appointment book was also responsible for saving the games progress.

Another area of Imagine Beauty Stylist I worked on was the hair cutting and hair accessory mini games. If a client required a haircut, the player was presented with a clipboard from which to choose a hair style which matched with the clients’ specification, satisfaction points were achieved by how closely the style matched with the hair cut the client hinted at through their dialogue. The satisfaction of the client was displayed to the player trough the facial expression of their client and a series of hearts in the appointment book. I worked with one of the artists on getting a relatively high bone count skinned head animation into the game which would display the facial animations required, and also contained helper points for attaching different hair style meshes and points for adding accessories such as hair clips, bands, fascinators etc. In the final version of the game, a single animated head model was used where hair / eye colour and skin tone in the texture were specified to make the 3d model match each character, and various hair styles, accessories were then put on top of the model. Makeup was then written into the facial texture.

During the development of Imagine Beauty Stylist, a number of hair cutting mini games were prototyped, eventually settling on a series of games which were derived from different ways of using scissors. I worked with another programmer on implementing a number of the mini-games found in the shipped title. One game called 'zigzag' where the player traced a zigzag like pattern with their finger along a section of hair, a pair of scissors followed the pattern, and depending on the accuracy of the players’ movement, the scissors either cut through the section of hair or failed. Another game featured a pair of scissors travelling along a b-spline where the player had to rotate dials in order to direct the scissors correctly. The other mini-games I wrote involved the player moving their finger up and down in an area behind a pair of scissors to open and close them and rotate them to follow a path. Each of the hair cutting mini games were tuned based on player feedback and testing by children in the games target demographic.

Imagine Beauty Stylist took roughly nine months to develop, and over that time, I feel that I progressed greatly, both in my personal development as a programmer and in my ability to work as a part of a programming team. IBS was my first real experience of working professionally as a game programmer, and I was proud to take the project from its early pre-production phase, right through main development, TRC compliance, and testing. Finally I was happy to see the product of my hard work realised and released out to the world, seeing my game on shop shelves, reading players’ reviews, and seeing users enjoying the game made all the hard work worthwhile.