Harvey: A Post-Mortem Reflection

It seems like Fall 2014 was just yesterday and the Digital Humanities seniors and Design Animation and Modeling III class were merely brainstorming ideas for what would soon become Harvey; a virtual and interactive representation of UW-Stout’s Harvey Hall.

Outside view of virtual Harvey Hall
Outside view of virtual Harvey Hall

Now, 6 months after the project officially ended, I turn to Brittany Zimmer, one of the graduates from the Digital Humanities concentration, to reflect on the pros, cons and various aspects of the project.

Marisa: What did you like about the creation process of Harvey?

Brittany: My favorite part about the Harvey Hall Project was taking a huge step outside of my comfort zone. Not only had the Digital Humanities students never worked on such a huge research project before, we had also never worked with such a vast array of people outside of our program. Getting to meet the students that actually designed and developed the game, and the in-game videos was so much fun. I never thought that I would take an interest in designing video games, but watching the students who were studying to become professionals in that field was really eye opening. It changed the process from being semester full of tedious research to something fun, tangible, and exciting.

The Spring 2015 Harvey Team
The Spring 2015 Harvey Team

M: On the other hand, what was challenging about the process?

B: My least favorite part about the Harvey project was the confusion it brought. Before we really dug our heels in and understood our separate roles in the game development process it was total chaos. We did not have a good way to keep track of our research and the weeks started to blend together in their similarity in that we were told to go to the library and find old pictures. The problem was that no one really knew what they were doing yet and although that was definitely a huge part of the project, and a lot of the fun as well, we certainly didn’t know it at that point. The uncertainty and misunderstandings in the beginning definitely set us back.

M: What would you say is your favorite part of the Harvey game itself?

B: My favorite aspect of the Harvey Game is the realism that the Digital Humanities students built into it. Everything is based off the original 1916 and 1950 eras. The music, clothes, classes, even the building reflects all of the research that was done and helped make Harvey more than a game. It’s an experience for people to take advantage of and learn about their school, as it was when it was just getting started. And the wasps. I cannot forget about the wasps.

A memo from the UW-Stout Archives discussing the wasp problem in Harvey Hall
A memo from the UW-Stout Archives discussing the wasp problem in Harvey Hall

M: The wasps are my favorite part too!

Well there you have it. Research, chaos, wasps, and much more went into Harvey’s creation. See it for yourself at the 2016 Independent Game Festival! If you cannot wait that long, Harvey will be available for download in early 2016!

Finding Harvey’s Voice

In order to create a truly immersive game, we have to draw users in and make them feel like they are part of something special. One way to do this is to give a voice to our characters, and no character is more important than the main man himself, Lorenzo Dow Harvey! L.D. Harvey is the first character players encounter during their gameplay. He introduces them to the game, informs them of its purpose, and gives them direction. This introduction is arguably the most important aspect of the game because without it, the user would be lost. Since it is so important, we needed to create enticing dialogue and find the perfect voice to play L.D Harvey.

Steven Alm, the voice of Lorenzo Dow Harvey
Steven Alm, the voice of Lorenzo Dow Harvey, in the recording studio

A special dialogue team was created in order to write for L.D Harvey. The team was comprised of Henry Barbee, Lauren Brooker, Nick Goodsell, Jace Johnson, and Sara Westman. While they were in charge of creating Harvey’s words, Professor Kevin Pontuti found the man who performed Harvey’s voice. This is where Steven Alm comes in. Alm is a professional voice actor, musician, and husband to the beloved dean of our college, Maria Alm. Kevin Pontuti was aware of Steven’s past work and knew he could deliver L. D. Harvey’s stern yet endearing voice. The process was simple. Kevin sent Steven the script, and Steven sent back a test recording. After exchanging notes, Steven was able to craft the voice of L. D. Harvey. In two smooth recording sessions, Steven had recorded all of Harvey’s dialogue.

The audio team edited the audio footage and passed it to the animation team—along with accompanying video of Steven’s face that was shot during the recording. Kyle Field painstakingly animated Harvey’s lip and facial movements in synch with the audio, referencing Steven’s natural facial expressions as he performed Harvey’s voice. This lip synched animation is part of the introductory animatic sequence—written and developed by Nick Goodsell, Henry Barbee, Jacob Bloom, and Lauren Brooker—that transitions the user to gameplay from our live action introduction into the game. Bringing Harvey to life has been another satisfying part of the Harvey project. We hope it helps our users to connect with history and immerse themselves in the Harvey world.

Screen Shot from the in-game animatic
Storyboard sketch from the in-game animatic

To witness the product of this hard work, and to get your hands on the game itself come to the Game Launch on May 5th!