Using motion capture and video game technology we are creating an online multiplayer game where you can become a real T'ai Chi master. Read more
Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on November 30, 2012.
About this project
Tai Chi elements is a project ten years in development. It's an innovative idea, in actual fact it's an entirely new medium combining an online multiplayer game with real world training.
It is our background playing online games and our experiences working on game engines and developing websites, as well as the training and skills we have developed over thirty years building a team of T'ai Chi masters that have given us the skills to produce an interesting and innovative resource.
We have dedicated ourselves to developing an on-line environment where you can learn T'ai Chi even if you are miles from the nearest class, in the comfort of your own home. What's more this project will enable you to have direct contact and feedback from highly trained and experienced teachers and join an on-line community of other students. It's also of great benefit as a form of reference to people who are already learning T'ai Chi.
Students will be encouraged to be graded during their training just like in a real class by filming themselves on a webcam, mobile phone or video camera and uploading the footage to our server. To this end we have been developing an in-game browser that can be watched by a students and teachers together for feedback. Students can choose to be assessed in exactly the same way they would in a class.
Here's a brief run through of some of the features we are in the process of coding into the interface for people who want to learn the T'ai Chi form sequences.
You can see our test model Mei Yin running through her forms and a moveable web browser screen which can be used to compare your uploaded videos so we can give feedback about your progress.
There's also an alternative approach we are working on which is an on screen overlay which can be faded in and out to compare particular stances and postures in detail.
You can also see the in game browser which can be used to locate other training materials on our website.
We have now made a successful prototype of the virtual environment which has animated computer generated 3d models with motion captured movements taken from a real T'ai Chi master. So far we have run this prototype on a server as a proof of concept and run continuously successful trial logins on a variety of machine specs and run extensive tests on our development machines. We have a stable and working application.
The virtual environment contains all the elements of a T'ai Chi class including forms, Tao Yin or deep breathing exercises, Kai Men Chi Gung and partner work. It also allows you to focus on a particular sequence and look at it in greater detail than would be possible in a conventional class. In addition you will be able to visit our training courses in the UK so they you can have the full benefit of hands on contact with the rest of the group.
The game explores the theme of the five elements or Wu Hsing, unlike the western concept of elements these are not basic constituents of matter but are five phases or stages in a cycle like the seasons. It's a complete online mutiplayer experience with many interesting and innovative new features to help players learn about the culture and principles behind T'ai Chi training.
Central to these concepts is Chi or life energy. Chi forms a network of energy lines throughout your body, it is the creative principle within you and within everything in the Universe. Sages from before the dawn of history studied the principles of the flow of energy around them and within them and called it the Tao, or the Way. The Tao is not a thing, it is a way of things, and it is deep inside you and surrounding you all the time. When we were deeply rooted in the natural world before we had cities and machines we felt it's presence and lived according to it's laws. Even now the awareness of this energy is within each of us lying dormant, it is what has brought us here, a survival skill, a sixth sense.
Players will embark on a journey whereby they must learn to acquire a store of Chi, their ability to survive will depend on it, they will travel through five regions and acquire a sense of the quality of each of the five elements.T'ai Chi training is not just about learning moves and posing around in Yoga postures, it is also the oldest and most potent form of combat training. Player combat will centre around the same basic principles and training exercises that we practice in a real class. T'ai Chi is unique in it's sticky hands training exercise where students learn to test each others balance in a game of skill, those who learn to use strategy and recycle the force of the opponent will find their store of Chi increases especially as they transfer these principles into their everyday lives. Players who always block and use force will find their store of energy burns up quickly. This kind of exercise gives people real feedback about how they are progressing which goes far beyond learning forms or pre-scripted techniques. In a critical survival situation there often isn't time to think or remember what you have been shown before, it's far better to get in the habit of a spontaneous response which is a skill that can be employed in a wide variety situations at home, at work, in fact in any kind of situation where you have to interact with others. Our goal is to use PhysX to enable real time controllable interactions between players rather than pre-scripted and animation driven combat.
Game play will revolve around three core concepts:
- Your personal energy development.
- How you enhance the environment.
- How you form groups and interact with other players.
Players who bring their elemental energies into a state of balance will find they have a bonus and can store energy at a faster rate. Also if players form a group which achieves a degree of balance this will enhance the energies of all the players in the group. The cycle of the five elements is like the seasons, each one affects the next and can support it or control it. This means that even players who have imbalances can work together in a team for the benefit of the whole. Each player will have a say over how these bonuses are allocated and will vote on their experience grouping up with other players, someone who is anti-social for example will not survive for long.
Players will also have the option to sacrifice themselves and become either a pure spirit or be reborn as another character. Their comrades will be able to honour their sacrifice by pledging some of their own store of energy to reincarnate that player.
Energy flows around us just like water flowing through the streams and lakes in the natural landscape. Just as Chi can be stored in the human body it can be stored in the landscape too. By investigating the evidence and interacting with natural objects in the game players will find they can enhance the environment. Similarly they will find they may be tempted to exploit resources and this will create a dynamic tension between different factions.
Each player will also be accompanied on the path by a guide. Each guide is a real world Taoist master skilled in tactics and strategy who themselves have learned the tradition passed down through generations of Taoist masters from ancient times.
Together they will embark on a journey of discovery involving self exploration, realization and philosophy, and a practical method for change and rebuilding the lost link between ourselves and our origins in the Natural world.
Here are some music samples from the game.
The Musket33rs are a small company of independent games developers.
We are also members of an Association of T'ai Chi masters and students, and we sell books through our website to students of T'ai Chi all over the world, we also run training courses in the UK. We often get enquiries from people across the world who have read our books or learned our style before and want to know how they can take their studies further.
I know from my own personal experience of over thirty years and teaching thousands of students that T'ai Chi is of great benefit to people of all ages and from all walks of life.
We are backed by a team of teachers who are running their own T'ai Chi classes, they are experienced people who have been graded to a high standard. They are part of a much larger group of advanced students in our T'ai Chi style who will be populating the online world to provide assistance and advice to newcomers as guides.
The way is open for you to get involved. We are looking for dedicated and enthusiastic people who will join us on the path to building a colourful and interesting environment. Our philosophy is to recruit advanced game players and take them beyond playing to shape the game play itself.
So far we have developed the prototype environment but there's plenty of work to be done before the project can be released. We need enough backing so that we can acquire professional software to finish building the models and creating the animations that are needed to populate our online world. We also need to capture and refine a comprehensive catalogue of motion data and develop the interface we will need to make it all work smoothly. We want to be able to give this project our full time attention and buy the tools we need to do a professional job.
Take a look at the list of rewards we have offered and pledge your backing for this project and you will take the first step on the road with us to bring this project into reality.
Find out more on our website Taichielements.com
Our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/taichielements
Risks and challenges
There are technological hurdles involving programming, artistic design and practical considerations which must be overcome.
The biggest challenge for us is to recreate the experience of a T'ai Chi class in a virtual environment. There will of course be certain elements of a class which we cannot reproduce over the internet and the biggest of these will be training exercises which involve contact with another student, for example sticky hands. This is a very important and unique aspect of our training which involves developing sensitivity and balance through hands on contact with a partner. It teaches people interpersonal skills which can be of immense practical value at home, at work, or in any kind of challenging situation which might confront us. One way of overcoming this problem would be to show examples of this kind of partner work and to encourage students to find a training partner to work with. Of course students will also have the opportunity to attend real-life training workshops periodically to brush up their forms as well as partner work, but this may not be possible for everyone.
Although there may be some disadvantages of training in a virtual environment there are also advantages, for example:
- Players can log in at any time of the day or night whenever it suits them, in the real world classes are limited by the practical considerations of getting everyone attending a venue at a set time.
- Players can train for as long or short a time as they wish and choose the elements they wish to concentrate on, they are not constrained by the limitations of a traditional class.
- Players can get regular feedback from teachers and personal contact with people from all over the world and be part of a large on-line community.
- Players can train in the comfort of their own home and they don't have to waste time travelling to classes, they can train as often as they like with only one subscription per month, it's good value.
Although some other aspects of contact with real life students and teachers may not be possible, the on-line environment and in particular the game format will allow us to set challenges and quests which the player can undertake to teach them some of the background philosophy to T'ai Chi and not just concentrate on the physical aspects of the moves. This is something we want to develop further in the future but in effect it means the continual development of an on-line multi-player gaming environment with more traditional game-play elements which will educate players about the culture and philosophy behind T'ai Chi, in particular Taoism, the philosophy of nature. This is the core philosophy which holds our training together and it is rooted in an understanding of the relationship which has evolved from ancient times between Man and Nature.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The subscription will be £6 per month or $10 USD.
The monthly fee is to pay for the servers, website, and other fixed maintenance costs of running an online game. Also the game will have real T'ai Chi masters online to guide and advise people and we think that this is something worth paying for. Plus we want to continue adding new features after the initial launch which means paying artists, coders, musicians, web developers, and buying new software.
Our primary goal is to provide an environment to teach people T'ai Chi. Once we have the framework for this we will turn our attentions to adding new features for example a multiplayer role playing game element which will enable people to discover some of the culture and history behind T'ai Chi training themed around the Wu Hsing or five elements. Each element is linked to an emotion and an internal organ and energy meridian according to Chinese Medicine and it's useful for people to learn these concepts if they want good feedback about their health, after all T'ai Chi is a health exercise and we were taught Chinese Medicine along with our T'ai Chi and Kung Fu. We also want to add some Kung Fu stuff to the game and develop the online feedback and community elements so that people can enjoy a rounded experience and become part of a wider family.
They will film themselves on a mobile phone, video camera, or webcam then upload the file on the in-game browser to our server. A teacher will review the footage then meet the player in-game and offer guidance on their progress and correct any mistakes. You can see this in-game browser in action on our kickstarter video and screenshots.
The initial download will cost £30 or $50 USD.
This will help us pay us back for all the time and energy we have spent on this project over the last ten years but the main thing is it will give us enough funds to develop the new areas of the project we really want to work on and make it into an exceptional and useful resource for people all over the world.
We have been looking into the possibilities presented by the Kinect, one problem would be capturing the detail of the hand movements and so on in T'ai Chi sequences. However the possibilities are obvious and it would present an ideal way to give live feedback to players instead of having to upload a video and wait for it to be reviewed. To be honest the main reason we haven't done it yet is that we really want to get the basic framework of the game up and running so the Kinect is not at the top of our to do list. It's something we will definitely be working on, it's just a matter of time.
- (30 days)