Presentation and Playtest!

Come one, come all!

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 3.48.42 PM

You are invited to an in-progress Virtual Harvey Hall presentation and playtest, this Thursday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in UW-Stout Micheels Hall 290. Now in its second semester, the project has grown to a three-class, 45-student collaborative transmedia project (overseen by Mitch Ogden, Kevin Pontuti, and Dave Beck). While this presentation will still be an in-progress view of the experience, we hope to gather more feedback from all of you as we move into the final stage of the project’s development.

The key area of feedback that we hope to gather is in the “playtesting” phase – giving you a chance to sit down with the project and experience Harvey for yourself!

Swing by to hear a short presentation on the current build of Harvey and and sit down to a computer to play the game yourself. We want feedback from anyone and everyone!

Working With Wireframes

NAME: Alec Diab
SENSAI: Dave Beck
POSITION: Game Engine Team [UI/Sound Director]

I am currently working on the technical design and layout of the “Scrapbook” in the Harvey game. The game engine team is in charge of implementing and bringing to life all assets created by the other artists. There is also a lot of creating that needs to be done with the user interface, or “UI,”  so that we can ensure that the player is able to easily navigate through areas that we create. The challenge with most UI situations is trying to forget what you know about navigation and think through the eyes of your target audience and account for all situations that need to be explained and how the player will interact or solve those problems.

With that in mind, I have been tasked with designing the layout for one of Harvey’s more important UI asset: The scrapbook. The scrapbook is an item that the player will have with them at all times and is the main “go-to” reference for what the player needs to do, where to go, see what they’ve collected–such as achievements or completed missions–and more. The actual physical scrapbook will first be created by the digital cinema team (they need it for the game intro), and then we will have it modeled, textured, and utilized for being made into the type of item the player will need.

"Main Section"
“Main Section”
Scrapbook Rooms Visited Tab
“Rooms Visited”

Creating a Likeness

Hey everyone, my name is Emily Dillhunt. I’m a junior here at Stout, and just recently started working on the Harvey project. It’s an honor to be able to help out in a project like this, I see great things in the future of our program.

If there’s anything that’s come to my attention in the first few weeks of taking part in this project, it’s how passionate and committed all of the students are. It’s a great experience to be able to take part in such a large group of designers, all putting forth their unique specializations to create a game. I can’t wait to see what the final project will turn out to be.

Speaking of unique specializations, I’m a part of the character sculpting team. What we do is a bit of a mixture of technical skill and aesthetic decision making; it’s not enough to just make the characters look nice (though that’s pretty important), they have to be built so they can function well, too. If they’re not built properly, the animators will have a tough time doing their job.

CaliforniaPeters

Sculpting a character starts out simple: you need a reference. In my case, as a new member I was tasked with the creation of Clarence “Cal” Peters, a muralist who painted at Stout in the ’30s. The tricky thing, however, is that when Cal was at Stout painting his murals, he was 32… And my references are from 30 years later, when he is 60 years old. You can see (right) what he looked like at some point in his later life, after he moved out to California.

So here’s what I knew about Cal: He was 32 when he painted in the basement of Harvey Hall. He liked history and strived to be historically accurate in his depictions. He always wore a white t-shit when painting, and was described as being “slight, unruly haired.” And then, of course, I needed to de-age him about three decades. After some quick ideation sketches, I started to develop the basic shape of his face–working out how his nose, ears, eyes, and chin were shaped–and from there it was a lot of scaling (did you know your ears and your nose never stop growing?) and minor tweaks like figuring out his eye shape and how his hair would look.

Eventually this was the final result, which will potentially go on to a sculptor to create the 3D game model. Who knows, maybe you’ll see Cal later in Harvey Hall! Only time will tell.

DillhuntCalPetersCharacterSheet

New to the Team

Hi everyone, Adam Toth here. I’m a new artist on the Hard Surface Modeling team. I’m extremely excited about furthering the progress made in the past semester and finishing the project. I was initially hesitant about being dropped into such a large project half way through development, expecting a tidal wave of work. Luckily for all us newbies, Dave Beck assigned us a series of tutorials according to our respective disciplines. These tutorials helped further our understanding of our group specialty, preparing us for the final push to finish Harvey.

Fan Reference
Fan Reference

On the Hard Surface team in the past semester, there was significant priority given to modeling, UVing, and texturing available rooms for the player to explore. This work did a great job of building the backbone of Harvey and creating its atmosphere. Work on additional rooms, such as adding new rooms like Cal Peter’s Studio and the Chemistry Labs, will continue, but focus is also being given to other elements of the environment. Some rooms are in need of finalized modeling, but we also need to target the props that populate the rooms.

Most of the other modelers were assigned new rooms to model or old rooms to finalize, but a couple of us have been allocated to modeling the props found in the rooms. At this point in-game, Harvey feels like the building, but it’s still rather empty.

Student Desk Reference
Student Desk Reference

Generic objects like fans, phones, school supplies, signs/posters, etc. will be added as well as unique room-specific objects. Players may pay little attention to many of them, but not adding these objects will rob Harvey of its defining spirit. We’re hoping that with the addition large assortment of props and new, animated characters from the other teams, we can make our rendition of Harvey feel like a living, breathing environment.

Weaving in a Story

The Library reading room of the Mabel Tainter.
The Library reading room of the Mabel Tainter.

After a long winter break and a fresh start to the new semester, the development team is back in action, with a few new gadgets on our swiss army knife. We’ve got loads of new and talented people working on Harvey this semester. This project has many facets. We have taken in a class of Digital Cinema students, many new 3D artists, and a graphic designer. We’re working on branding, short films to serve as cutscenes as well as trailers, and even a coffee table book to augment the project.

One of the more exciting announcements we have is that we’re finally hashing out the details to the storyline to drive the player through the game. We’ve created a Narrative Team that’s broken up into several small teams of students from all three classes to write the story for the opening cutscene, an in-game animatic, and the individual events that turn the narrative.

Picture this: A student is studying alone late at night in a library. Lightning flashes outside the window. It’s raining heavily. The student is digging into the history of UW–Stout for a class project. The library is near closing. She has been working hard and is very tired. Down the hall she can hear a door close, then another. It’s the custodian locking up for the night. He looks familiar to her for some reason, but she doesn’t know why. He is a bald man. She sees the man walk past her and approach the doors to the stacks containing the library’s collection of rare, old, and protected books. He locks the door. At least she thinks the custodian locked the door… There is light coming from a crack in the door. The student packs her book bag and stands up to investigate. She approaches the door cautiously. She is scared. She places a hand on the door and it swings open with a creak. She enters the room, and the door swings shut behind her. It’s locked. Inside, she finds the source of the light. It’s coming from high up on a book shelf. The student climbs an old ladder to investigate. She finds a book emitting a faint blue glow. She is stunned. Lightning cracks outside. Thunder booms. A window is blown open, the student is startled, and she falls. The book falls with her. She closes her eyes… But when she opens them she is standing face to face with Lorenzo Dow Harvey. The time is 1917.

That is the brief and general story of our opening cutscene. We are considering locations for filming, too! Right now, the backstage area in Mabel Tainter Theater—that once housed a public library collection—looks like the perfect set.

Vault Door to Mabel Tainter stacks
Vault Door to Mabel Tainter stacks
Ladder in Mabel Tainter Stacks
Ladder in Mabel Tainter Stacks

Digital Curation and the New Museum

I’m Mitch Ogden—a co-director/co-producer of Harvey and a professor of digital humanities at UW–Stout. I’m chiming in during the winter break as our students are either recovering from a strenuous semester or neck-deep in a compressed, 3-week winter term class.

One feature of the field of digital humanities that I think of very often is the notion of curation. Curation used to be an activity for a select few—a kind of cultural elite located in the most traditional cultural institutions, primarily museums and art galleries.

But the explosion of digital tools, web publishing, and maker-culture have created an environment that democratizes curation. Recently, the Wall Street Journal took notice of the innovative embrace of curatorial crowdsourcing at art museums across the country and declared that “Everybody’s an Art Curator.”

That curatorial energy drives the Harvey project. Our digital humanities students are discovering countless historical treasures—little bits of microhistory—that capture the nuanced spirit of a building and a century of events, occupants, and artifacts. The art and animation students fashion these treasures into attractive digital forms. Together—as game designers and digital curators—they are finding ways to make that content rich, meaningful, and layered.

For example, a scrapbook of news clippings and other ephemera has been curated into Harvey, based on several scrapbooks that Minnie Becker—who served as a secretary to the president for more than 40 years—curated herself. In Harvey, Minnie is present as an interpretative guide and users can engage her in dialogue to better understand the narrative pastiche.

Interpretative labels (as you see above in the 1950s textile room) are a standard of traditional curation. In Harvey these labels are just one layer of information that is enhanced as objects are built into mini-games and interactive demonstrations that activate the content. In the textile room, you’ll be able to see the vintage fadeometer (below)—used in textile laboratories to observe the effects of extended UV exposure on fabric—in action, deepening the user’s understanding of what students did in this space 60 years ago.

Harvey is not just something to play. And it is not just a space to explore. We are creating a new kind of space—a remediation (Bolter and Grusin‘s term) of many different media at once. A serious game. An interactive archive. A new media museum.

The Electro Writer and Tele-lecturing at Stout

Hello, my name is Jordan Ogdahl, and I am the team lead for the Digital Humanities side of the Hard Surface/Environment team. My team’s job is to come up with the best rooms and objects to be to be represented in Harvey, being that we don’t have the time to create every single room. We spend hours each week finding rooms and objects that are special to those rooms, along with as much information about them as possible to keep everything accurate and educational. Each object has its own special tie to UW–Stout’s history, and show what kind of amazing school it is. One item that I found particularly interesting and revolutionary for stout was the “Electro writer” device.

Long before our current age of cell phones and web messaging, people had to communicate long distances in ways feasible at the time. In the early 60s a device came about known as an Electro writer, which was basically a one-way fax machine. The device would run a metal sheet through, while the user would use the attached burning pen to make smart marks and write short words. During this process the user could also record alongside the written message either to go along with a recorded message, or narrate a live feed. The pen would complete an electric current that would burn images into the sheet, and then the same marks would appear on the receiver and could be projected for wider view.

elecwrite

This impressive object has been linked to UW–Stout’s distance education past, and President Micheel’s interest in “Tele-lecturing.” The electro writer gave Micheels the ability to educate other schools while remaining in Menomonie, and bring the knowledge that Stout has to offer across the country. Tele-lecturing was a new concept when Micheels introduced it to UW–Stout in the mid 60s, and it brought the school closer to the level of online/distance education we have today.

micheelswriter

The photo above is of Micheels himself using the electro writer. In this photo he was lecturing to an education conference in Oregon. With the headset he had, he was able to communicate all the way to Oregon, and use the electro writer to illustrate his thoughts, all while being in Wisconsin at UW–Stout.