We did it!
We hi-jacked the weekend before the EAGE conference, called it the “subsurface hackathon” and the theme was games.
It was the first time Matt Hall from Agile Geoscience tried it in Europe. He has some experience with these events already at the SEG, where gems like pickthis.io were created. But having a bunch of water in between your event and you ups the ante, so I offered to help out wherever I can. For me, it wasn’t the first event to organize either. It was the first hackathon, though. Some conversation and finding sponsors beforehand, as well as writing to universities to advertise to their students had to be done.
The venue for the subsurface hack
The Friday before the event we decided to go to the coworking space called Impact Hub, which would be our venue. The place was simply amazing. It’s a place you just feel you want to be creative and productive. So we decided to work from there for the day. All packages arrived on time and the people in the hub were very professional and welcoming.
On the day of the event, everything went so smooth and Matt was so in control that I was able to join up with a team. Turns out just bouncing ideas off each other with Emma Blott, Natalie Turner, and Chris Hamer went so well that we ended up forming a team. Over the course of the EAGE, I met up with them quite a few times and others did not believe that we had never had met before the weekend. There was definitely some chemistry.
Traptris – Hacking a game classic
In the ideation process, we decided to go for a Tetris clone that we aptly called Traptris. Ever wondered where the lines in a Tetris game went? Well, to us it was evident, these blocks would build our subsurface model. Once a source rock was buried deep enough it would start producing oil. Migrating upwards it gets trapped under less permeable layers. If you manage to create a trap for the oil and capture it all, you win the game. As if Tetris wasn’t hard enough already.
We quickly decided we would occupy one of the meeting rooms of the Impact Hub. Unfortunately, while the ideation process was fun, none of us were proper developers. Therefore we decided to go for an existing openly licensed version of Tetris and break it. I for myself can say that I definitely encountered the ominous flow moments of where you just code away and do not realize how time passes. As well as dark times where I could not for the hell of it figure out how to make a certain change in the code and be saved by the others sweeping in a matter of minutes.
It is really amazing how the dynamic of a team changes under the different conditions. In the last 15 minutes, we could see everyone feeling the stress. The tone was a little rougher, feet were shuffling everyone had their personal stakes in it. While at the end every one of us felt like they were definitely not the main contributor, somehow we managed to get something nice together. And please don’t believe we were grand coders or super presenters, we were in it for the fun and the challenge and somehow at the end, we shipped something that amazed us all. (… Including the jury. I hear the sponsor’s child has already playtested our hackathon version. World fame here we come.)
In the end, we had a working version of our game including music, a splash screen to start and three rock types that would steer the oil migration, which was also working up until the demo, where it turned buggy (sorry folks, it was me!). I firmly believe, no one including ourselves has imagined that this kind of product would emerge from us, the proper lords of chaos at this event. This was our demo among the four groups.
Four Hacks – Four Results
Those groups ended up having four very different approaches the theme of subsurface games. The question about the scientific background of our game was one we could only answer with a wink and tongue in the cheek. Although I admit it’s not the worst basin model I have ever seen. A different game called “Flappy trace” is a flappy bird inspired trace picker. “Guess what” is a human seismic inversion game, where you guess the reflectivity of a synthetic trace. “Diamond digger” sends you through a journey of the subsurface towards a reservoir you have to collect diamonds and be careful about the cuttability of the rock so the drill bit does not break.
All in all, it was a great experience and I hope I can be part of it again.
Traptris can be found on GitHub and currently runs under python 3 with imports from pygame and numpy.