Grant Awarded, Game Progress, and Application for Summer Gaming Institute

Some good news to report: The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (CATL) at Elon University has awarded me with a substantial grant to foster the development of the DigiBahn Project. The grant will be used to upgrade the game engine from the free Unity3D Indie to Unity3D Pro (license comparison here), which will allow me, among other things, to improve the render-to-texture effects in the game, optimize game performance with the editor profiler, and import streaming videos into the game. I’m thinking that the latter will be especially useful for inserting instruction videos into the game (such as those I make for my beginning German language courses using Camtasia) via an in-game hand-held PDA device. Incorporating such a device virtually in the game might be a good way to blend instruction and the game environment in a non-obtrusive manner that minimizes impact on the game flow. I will even have some grant money left over to get some textures from Arroway.

Now that I am on Spring Break, I have been spending a lot more time with game development. I’m still working on developing what I have termed Building A for the game, which will be located adjacent to the tower, and had the chance recently to do a quick render:

The render showed that I needed to tweak the bump map a bit and, perhaps, that I also need to revisit the color map as well. I’m not too fond of the corners of the building. I’m also wondering what I should do with the doors. Eventually, I’d like to be able to open them, but I’m not exactly sure how I will go about doing this at the moment. As Building A is an older structure, I’m thinking that it will probably serve the purpose of a city museum (Stadtmuseum), such as the kind that is also located in an old building in both Munich and Göttingen.

Finally, I just sent off an application to the upcoming Humanities Gaming Institute, which will take place 07-25 June on the University of South Carolina. My wife and I are expecting our second child (a boy) shortly before the institute kicks off, but hopefully I will be able to attend as much of the institute as possible. I will keep you posted regarding developments in this area.

3 thoughts on “Grant Awarded, Game Progress, and Application for Summer Gaming Institute

  1. Congratulations! I hope your new baby boy gives you many years of joy! Also congratulations on getting a grant for your project too!

    As for the doors, there are a couple options. The easy way is to model the door right on the building and then put an invisible object just in front of the door for the players to interact with. You would have to code something in the game engine to say that when a character clicks on or touches the invisible object they get transported to a new map or scene that would represent the inside of the building.

    The slightly harder way to do it is to model the building and have a dark hole where the door is. Then model a door and have the players interact with that object instead of having an invisible object. If you want to animate the door to open you could possibly do it in the engine by just telling it to rotate on the Y axis where the hinges are when someone interacts with it.

    Also if you wanted players to go into a building without a loading screen and be able to look into the building from the outside you would have to model the building inside and out in one model. It can be done but its a little harder to manage and could cause the scene the town is in to take a long long time to load if there are a lot of objects in the buildings.

    If you are streaming videos you may want to make sure any one area isn't too big or the players may experience lag if there are several people around watching it, assuming your game is multiplayer. Streaming videos will take up extra server bandwith, however you can probably stream them from other servers other than the one your game is running off of.

    As you have seen, RemixedCat and I switched from an RPG to a Racing game. The biggest reason is the scope. A racing game is a lot smaller and does not need as much story line development or as many assets made. Also I am a fan of futuristic buildings and RemixedCat likes interesting architecture, so we have a lot more inspiration for our new project. We may return to our previous project some day though.

    Have fun at the Humanities Gaming Institute if you have the chance to go! I look forward to hearing about it!

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  2. Thanks for all the good advice and well-wishes, Andrakon. I remember – hopefully correctly – from my brief exposure of doing Oblivion mods that the building meshes in that game had a door modeled right on the building and then you would have to put another door object (which looked like a door, I think) in front of the first door, with which the player would then interact. I think that I will probably end up going this route, as would be infinitely easier than modeling something inside and out.

    As soon as I get my models developed, I'm going to see how they import into Unity3D. Supposedly Unity3D supports Blender native files, which makes brining them in a lot easier, but Unity3D also supports Maya native files, which is good inside of academia as many digital art students train on Maya. So, should I ever get some serious help from these students, it would make things easier to get artwork into the game from Maya. We played around with Oblivion modding for a while, but that game uses some weird proprietary format, which resulted in layers of file conversion, data loss, and headaches.

    In any case, I'll keep you and RemixedCat in the loop regarding my Unity3D/Blender adventures, and will let you know how the Gaming Institute goes (if I get accepted). I won't hear anything until around 15 April. And thanks for the well-wishes regarding the new baby. More sleepless nights ahead…

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