Making the perfect cyst hat

My partner Brian is a game developer for Unknown Worlds Entertainment, a little indie game studio in San Francisco whose last ten years has been devoted to creating the second incarnation of a mod to Halflife, Natural Selection.


On October 30th they released the game, which is a very very big deal after years of development and hard work. I am particularly amazed and inspired by the community of support that swelled up to help in the endeavor.  Programmers, artists, and technicians from around the world pitched in their time regularly for years often pro bono because they believe in the game. This isn’t typical in the game industry.  Much of modern game development is out to make money, and games are continuously veering not towards making games fun, but for making games addictive. Natural Selection II is a dynamic, fast paced, collaborative combat game that has inspired a passionate following.  Today there is a major “superbowl” of sorts for competitive gamers coming to their final rounds of NS2 competition in Germany.

For the completion of the project Unknown Worlds flew in many of the developers who were helping make the game a reality. On the evening of October 30th Unknown Worlds threw a party and Brian asked me if I could make him a hat for this very special event.

My inspiration was the cyst, a tool used by players in the game to expand the alien territory (see orange glowing object in the image above, and a model of it below). I used a balloon, orange tissue paper, flour, water, two brown paper grocery bags, acrylic paint, a safety pin, masking tape, three glow sticks and a book light.

My goal was to get the hat to glow like the cyst in the game, so I opted to use a translucent top and a solid base with lights in between. The cyst looked like it could make a great bowler hat, so I went for that style, thinking it really quite dapper for an alien growth.  I used a combination of the hat creation method shared by bobcow56 and this tissue paper bulb method shown by Whimsymachegirl on YouTube. Besides the balloons and glowsticks, I had everything else that I needed to create the hat on hand, which is always my goal.

I used the air filled balloon as my “head” to create the hat base but used paper bags instead of newspaper because that’s what I had. I put strips of tissue paper on the balloon with the mache mix to create the thin and already colored top, then cut it to a bowl shape and fit it over the crown of the paper bag hat, painted the sides of the hat and attached appendages, painted it and decorated it.  I inserted the glow sticks inbetween the two pieces and even strapped a little booklight that we had to create a glowing effect.  To ensure that light could get through even more I used a safety pin to poke holes in key points of the tissue top as well.

The hat was a hit, and ended up getting passed around throughout the event.  I love how it turned out, and now Brian has a fun hat to remember this big accomplishment by.

Make sure to check out the trailer of this very dynamic, well done game here!

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