Virtual Pwnies

Virtual Pwnies
Delving into the overlooked world of horses in media and video games.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Color Genetics Simulator by Jennifer Hoffman

As some of you may know, I am an equine color genetics geek. Hardcore. How genetics influence an animal's appearance and health is fascinating to me. I have old books from my mother's days in college studying pre-vet courses that I grew up reading as a kid. It is my addictive hobby that does not have a 12 step program.

So some of you may have come across a color simulator that had a 3D horse with buttons for each gene at a particular locus. The color would change on the model depending on what genes were activated. It was a bit outdated with its genetic accuracy but it was still fun to play. And I have to give kudos for it having a 3D horse with texture maps applied to it.

The only things I really ever successfully made in 3D were a coffee cup and toaster. I attempted my own horse color simulators twice. One in PowerPoint and the other in HTML for college projects, but neither were spectacular by any means. And for me coding is not a forte. So this simulator has a whole lot of respect from me.

Well, recently it's creator Jennifer Hoffman has given it a complete revamp with more colors, a 2D horse for the examples and she has been updating the genetics to be more accurate. There are all 4 options at the agouti locus, LP and PATN1 interact as partial dominants, gray actually grays out, and you can only have 2 KIT mutations at a time. I know most of you probably have no clue what I'm on about but it's really neat I assure you.

Jennifer joined Horse Grooming Supplies Forum after seeing a critique of her simulator and asked the color gurus for help in making everything more accurate. Myself and the other equine color genetics enthusiasts on HGS got to help contribute information on how the genes and colors interact with each other. I asked Jennifer if I could feature her here on this blog which she agreed to.
Give us a quick run down of who you are and how you got involved in horses.
My name is Jennifer Hoffman.
I'm a 3D tech artist/animator by trade (I do animation and the systems set-up it requires for 3D media). I had a horse crazy spell in middle school when I knew a few people who had horses and I could go riding with. And while it sort of tapered off when it became clear that I would never own a real horse myself, it seems like once you taste the horse frenzy, it never truly leaves you. One of my other hobbies / off and on fascinations is genetics, so its no surprise that horse genetics is something I think about from time to time.

How did you come up with the idea for the color simulator?In 2007 the game studio I worked at shut down, and in my period of joblessness that followed I played with the idea of doing web design instead. That was when I started to work on the original color simulator. I had been playing with fantasy genetics sims online and was disappointed in their lack of depth, but before I could build up the courage to invent my own genetic schemes, I thought I should tackle a project with real genetics first. That became the horse color simulator. I did eventually go on to make my fantasy genetics sim, which is a griffins virtual pet game.

What programs and methods were used to create the color simulator?
I'm sort of old fashioned with my web work, so the horse simulator was made in HTML, CSS, and vanilla Javascript by means of a text editor. The original simulator used a horse model I had made for the game studio that closed its doors, which I had extensively re-textured to cover all the variation I needed. In my revamping I switched to painted graphics so I could have more control over the subtle color changes.

What has been the hardest part of creating this project?
The hardest part of the project was, and probably still is, accounting for all of the ifs, ands, and buts with regards to genetic interactions. Finding good information on just how all of the different moving parts mesh together is tricky, and its also rather tedious to make all of the minor but important changes to the various graphics. A thing like palomino vs dunalino is subtle, but if you don't include it the genetics just aren't very solid. The duns and silvers in particular probably doubled the number of graphics files I had to make.

What is/are your favorite horse color(s)/pattern(s)?

My personal favorite colors are any variety of gray (not the gray gene in particular), and I usually gravitate towards grullo. I have a friend with a really lovely Peruvian horse which I think is a dark-maned black silver. He's got a lovely chocolate coat with a slightly more caramel colored mane and some really striking eyes. I've been leaning more towards that lately as a result, but I'll probably eventually wind up back at gray.

Who is your favorite fictional horse? (mythological/literary/movie/video game ect.)

My favorite fictional horses are actually not named characters, though they really stole my heart. They're the horses from the video game Assassin's Creed. I saw a joke once about the girlfriend who stole "Assassin's Ponies" from her boyfriend, and I think it probably applies to me. Don't get me wrong, I love the game overall, but I spent way more time than you're supposed to just riding around on their horses. It's got some of the best controls I've ever seen for horse riding in a game, including the games that are supposed to be completely about horse riding. I adore the almost imperceptible delay between when you give a command and when the horse obeys. It doesn't do exactly what you ask every time, but the result is a smoother ride where some of the idiotic button presses you make get ignored.

I have a website where I showcase my professional work, mostly consisting of animated shorts or animation-related stills:

Check out her stuff it's really neat. The moving horse animation she has done is adorable.
Equine game developers take note.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

MLP: Friendship is Forever?

must be a spinoff of Friendship is Magic.