Friday, December 9, 2011

On Stage at the Fall 2011 BVW Show!

Great news!  Two of my teams' worlds from this semester's Building Virtual Worlds class were selected to be featured in the Fall 2011 BVW Show!  Each year BVW students are allowed to submit worlds from any round to the BVW Jury for review, who then assemble a show from the best worlds to be put on stage in front of a live audience.  This semester over 90 worlds were created, 60 were submitted to the jury, and fourteen of those were selected to be in the show!  Here are clips from the show of the two worlds I was a part of.  I was a performer on stage in both of them.

Mouse <3 Mouse (yes, that's me in the mouse costume)

Electro Techno Corps (playing the role of Captain Electro in the middle)

The entire show was a huge success!  You can watch the whole thing online here:

This marks the end of my first semester at the Entertainment Technology Center!  Next up is a short winter break, during which I might find a little time to get back to work on Shining Force PC!  After that the next semester starts in mid January which will be a whole new adventure working on a full semester long project as opposed to the short 2-3 week rapid prototyping rounds of BVW.  I have to say that this semester has been the most exciting three months I can remember in forever!  I've made so many great friends and had a wonderful time creating amazing things together with them!  I only hope that the rest of my time here at the ETC will be this rewarding!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Building Virtual Worlds - Round 5 - Electro Techno Corps

The theme of Round 5 of Building Virtual Worlds is Its Showtime!  Students are given one month and are tasked with building a world that is big on showmanship and spectacle with the goal of being featured in the Building Virtual Worlds Show at the end of the semester.  Unlike previous rounds, students are permitted to form their own teams and pitch a concept to the professors or take the luck of the draw and be assigned to a random team like in previous rounds.  I was placed on a random team and the world we came up with was a giant robot themed game called Electro Techno Corps (a pun on ETC.)  The world is in the vein of saturday morning cartoons and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Three performers share two Wiimotes and two nunchucks to pilot a giant robot against a mad scientist whose giant creations run amok in the city.  The current video only has the game aspect of the world on display, if and when a version that also includes the live performers becomes available I will update this post. Update: a version with live performers is now online, check it out in this post!

Despite the large time frame, one of the major challenges of the round is time management and proper scoping of the project.  Many teams reached too far and ended up having to scale way back or start over completely around the halfway point in the round.  My team just barely managed to finish our world based on our original plan, which was way too close for comfort.  I wish we would have cut one of the events early on and spent more time on polish, playtesting, and fine tuning, but thankfully everything worked out in the end.

One of the more interesting aspects of the project was using CityEngine to model the city rather than doing it by hand.  Our texture artist, Anisha Deshmane, spent a lot of time in undergrad working with CityEngine and we were able to get the city modeled, exported to 3DSMax, trimmed down, and imported into Unity in under 2 days!  It saved us a lot of time and effort and looked great in game, which let us spend more time and effort on other aspects of the project.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Building Virtual Worlds - Round 4 - Mouse Heart Mouse

Building Virtual Worlds Round 4 is the Storytelling round.  Groups are given three weeks to build a world that lasts 3 to 5 minutes that tells a complete story.  Students have two days to come up with and pitch two story ideas to the professors and the class and receive feedback from them.  They then choose one of these ideas to build storyboards for, which are presented at the end of the first week.  Over the next two weeks students build the world laid out in the storyboards.

My group’s story told the tale of a mouse who meets a computer mouse atop a desk in a messy dorm room while scavenging for food.  The two fall in love at first sight, but are separated when the owner of the room returns and sits down at his desk and reaches for his computer mouse but grabs the furry mouse instead.  Shocked, he flings the mouse away and runs from the room screaming.  Our hero must find a way back to the top of the desk to reunite with his love, and then the two must find a way to escape the room and enjoy their freedom and their new life together.

My team this round worked exceptionally well together!  We all really liked the idea we came up with and that lead to very good buy in from all the members of the team.  Everyone made strong creative contributions to the project and we all worked very hard to make Mouse <3 Mouse a big success!  One of the things that I believe greatly contributed to that success was our choice of platform, the Nintendo Wiimote.  Since this was a small, simple piece of hardware, we were free to use it at our desks and we could playtest and iterate constantly unlike the rounds where I worked with the Kinect.  Since the Kinects and televisions were in very short supply, teams had to schedule limited time slots to playtest and it was harder to get a feel on how the world plays and make adjustments when working with that platform.  The freedom to playtest regularly on the Wiimote made it easier to fine tune the controls and left more time to polish the room and make it as lively and interactive as possible.