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Preparing for Second Year Review
Another year is almost over! I’ve completely finished all materials for my second year review and look forward to presenting to my committee on Friday the 28th. I’m especially excited to receive more feedback on my topic from the various areas of expertise to further solidify my project. I’m also considering bringing on some extra committee members in the future to act as supplementary advisors. These people would likely be Jeremy Patterson and whoever serves as my mentor at Imagineering.
Cooperative Submarine Game Conference Materials
Mila and I are finishing up our conference materials for Cooperative Submarine Game Two. We selected HCI International to be our conference of choice. We felt this conference was most appropriate because of its focus on early prototype/in-progress projects and an exciting student design competition. We compiled a bunch of our materials into a themed poster with some basic information about our game, a documentation video, and a webpage where viewers can go to learn even more about the project. We both look forward to submitting this sometime next year!
Lots of Updates!
- Open House Debrief
- Moving into Documentation for Cooperative Submarine Game
- Preparing for Second Year Review
Open House Debrief
The ACCAD Open House was a huge success! We had a great turnout for the event overall, and we were able to present a functional and enjoyable version of Cooperative Submarine Game. Our setup for the open house included the large cork board pictured above, the periscope setup, and then the control panel & TV setup. The cork board was more for onlookers to read about the project and get a feel for the experience, and it also served as a way to gather feedback from players.
Of course no project is without fault, and we realized some issues while people were playing.
- Some objects like the toaster and bottle of lotion were hard to discern in the bathtub level.
- Some players expressed frustration with not being able to tell how far or close they were to an object/surface.
- The buildings in the second level were too complex for players to identify, and the objects inside of them weren’t visible enough to serve as meaningful landmarks.
- The periscope and Oculus attachment came loose during gameplay.
- The joystick on the control panel fell through and had to be taped so that it could be resecured.
We did get lots of feedback on gameplay and enjoyment and will be reviewing them when we write our conference materials. More pictures:
Second Year Review
My presentation is now completely done for the second year review, and I’m starting to edit the initial proposal I submitted to my committee. I also plan on including a preliminary 3D prototype for my overall idea.
Revisiting the Cooperative Submarine Game
The project that I’m working on for the open house is revisiting the cooperative submarine game. This version 3 of the submarine game will include some better environment theming and setup, an actually functioning control panel, and some general improvements to various assets. Thomas is working on refining some the mechanical aspects while Mila and I will be responsible for refining some of the more artistic/experience-based assets. We will also be writing up documentation for the project and putting together a video reel that can be sent to conferences. After the open house we will be looking for a conference that best fits our project. Our hope is to include a documentation section as well as a section outlining the ideal version of the game in a public environment such as COSI.
As of today we have tentatively gotten the control panel to work within VR. Thomas just needs to confirm and doublecheck that everything works within both of our levels. I have also started working on some onboarding material with Mila and have begun setting up the space around the 2 players.
Project 2: Trash Room VR – Final Update
Over the last week or so, Mila and I have been working to finalize the assets for the game and getting everything ready for the presentation today. We’ve been hard at work getting the space to look messy and lived in to fit the aesthetic of the game. In addition to this, I prepared some basic branding for the presentation and added some fun elements to contextually explain certain elements from the game.
We’ve also developed some of the more concrete story points and lore for why the player finds themselves in this sad trash room. The entire toy factory is scheduled for demolition and the player must find their way out by interpreting clues to open the failsafe exit door before time runs out. We see this level as a precursor/tutorial for a larger puzzle game based on this square buttons mechanic.
This project has been a nice exploration of creating something for the Quest Pro headset. Mila has been handling he mechanic development but she has voiced that the development process is very similar to Quest 2 development and overall Unity workflows. I was involved with creating most of the environment assets and importing some external assets for decoration. Because of the Quest Pro’s higher-definition quality, textures and models needed to be adjusted to render correctly since the player can get very close to the objects. This meant denser UV maps, 4k textures, and lots of smoothing on the model itself.
As far as the finished product of the game, I do wish we had some more time to implement some tiny additions to make the game even better. It was a little awkward to have Spring Break right in the middle of the project, and it was difficult to work on the project while I was on vacation. I do think some additional environment elements like a sign for the toy company & an entrance chute could have improved the story within the experience. Nonetheless, I’m proud of what we accomplished within such a short time frame.
Some more images from the project:
Class Critique on In-Progress Work
So our comments from yesterday’s critique were super helpful in further refining our idea. The biggest suggestions were to think a bit more on how we can get the player to explore and interact with the environment, making the exit a little more obvious, and thinking about what can motivate the player to escape.
Strengthening Environment Interaction:
Our idea for this is to break up the grid and scatter it around the room. This solves our problem of players being able to brute force the solution while also getting them to engage more with the space. We’ve broken up the grid and decided on 5 points of interaction scattered into the corners and center of the room. Each interaction will include a clue embedded into the environment that tells the player what order this interaction should be activated. Right now we’re thinking and developing what those clues might look like:
- Button 1: This button is in the center of the room and likely the most noticeable one. The clue would be “One”
- Button 2: Items that signify two will be scattered around this button: A pair of scissors, pants, shoes, gloves, a number block
- Button 3: The letter C, a play castle with 3 towers, 3 barbies, etc.
- Button 4: Connect 4 game, a math equation on the wall
- Button 5: A book opened to “The End”, Star stickers (5 points), Number 5
Making the Exit More Obvious & Motivating Escape
This will be done by adding the countdown clock above the door and some signage relating to the toy factory. The countdown timer would be under a sign that says “countdown to demolition”. This timer would explain the need for urgency in escaping the space, and would provide insight into why you’re trapped in the space. The player will start in front of a trash chute, signifying they fell into the trash room by accident and must now escape before time runs out.
Trash Room Puzzle Game
That’s the working title of our exciting new VR puzzle game! We are currently working on getting the headset mechanics working in Unity and bringing in the first large assets for the environment. As of now, the headset and base movement mechanic are working correctly within our project, and we’re moving from the whitebox stage to the initial modeling phase. Here are some progress shots:
Scenic Design Project
For my third project in my scenic design course I’m finally able to work digitally. This is an excellent way to prototype and learn for my future thesis installations. These projects force us to create scenery and work within the constraints of the space, which is something I will have to do for my eventual thesis. For this project, we are focusing on creating a set design for Of Mice and Men. This is my progress so far, and features some texturing progress and development of my different scenery elements.
For project two, Mila and I have decided to unite for one last collaborative project before our thesis year. We’ve settled on creating an immersive VR puzzle room that has one large central puzzle with clues hidden around the room. The goal of our experience is to experiment with the fidelity of the Quest Pro Max, as well as it’s room calibration technology for enhanced spatial recognition.
Our experience will be short, with the main goal of the player being getting to the other side of the room. In the middle of the room there will be a large three-by-three grid puzzle that will require players to step on certain squares in the right order. The hints as to how to go about that will be hidden around the room on various objects. The player needs to explore the space to find the hint objects and then put everything together to solve the puzzle.
The environment will likely be the trash room of a strange toy-factory. The room will be lined with garbage, dumpsters, large machinery, and most importantly, defective toys. The toys themselves will hold the clues for solving the puzzle. The player will know they’ve completed the correct sequence through visual and audio feedback, as well as security gate which will unlock at the end of the room.
Some ideation sketches
Second Mentor Check-In
This week’s mentor check-in was largely uneventful. I feel like I have to put a big pause on my thesis progress since I’ll be doing my internship from May to December of this year. We also discussed some important notes on what next year’s structure will be regarding the Thesis Writing and Thesis Production courses. The current plan is to take my final elective course next Spring and then present an in-progress version of my thesis. In July of 2024 I’ll plan to do my defense and present the project to the various faculty and students that will be here. I also took some time to look through the grad school requirements and specific timeline for the final semester:
This sets a perfect production schedule for Spring and allows me plenty of time to complete my project and get valuable feedback. The April open-house will serve as the largest playtest day and will be a great place to get valuable feedback and critique. I’ll then have a little over 2 months to make final adjustments and implement feedback before my big final presentation!
So last week I spent about 5 hours painting, pasting, and laser cutting to bring our submarine console to life. I put down a base coat of acrylic paint and then spray painted with a brushed aluminum color. I then cut some pieces of foam board to the styrofoam body and cut holes out for the various components. I also created some stencils for the black labels and then put everything together! This was a really fun process to get the look and feel I wanted!
Now that my panel has been painted and assembled, I’ve moved on to assembling the electric components and attaching the breadboard to the panel. I have to wire and assemble everything in a weird upside-down way that doesn’t prevent me from making small fixes or adjustments. Because of this I attached a new base to put the panel on an incline, and plan to assemble the breadboard/microcontroller setup on this little shelf.
This past week has been full of challenges regarding integrating the Arduino system into the Unreal project. Some fixes I tested like the keyboard emulator just didn’t want to communicate with Unreal engine for some reason. I do however plan on revisiting the emulator method and playing around with the keyboard.write vs keyboard.press functions. If the emulator does in fact not work at all, we’ve found a SERIAL COM plugin for Unreal that I’ve been trying to learn to use. It seems to be a more complex version of the UE4Duino plugin but unfortunately this plugin does not work for Unreal 5.
Today we were able to finally get the joystick working with Unreal Engine. It required some tinkering but we used the Rawinput plugin in Unreal and then spoofed the computer into thinking the board was a game controller. This allowed the computer to interpret the axis inputs from the joystick and map them directly to x and y values for the computer. The only thing left for the controls is to set up the button push and get everything assembled. We have officially solved our biggest issue in regards to the controls, and are now ready to begin assembling!
The past few days have been a wonderful deep dive into prototyping and creating some big control systems for the submarine game. We are hammering down our final mechanics and developing the connections between the controls and the main experience. The large control system will live within one piece of Styrofoam and use the Iduino Leonardo board.
In the images above, you’ll find some prototyping ideas and a control schematic. The way our controls work with the Unreal game engine is by mapping the inputs from the microcontroller as presses on a keyboard. Since we have no potentiometers or value-based inputs, we can work with analog methods and map joystick/button inputs to specific keys on the keyboard.
The entire control system will consist of 1 joystick mapped to the WASD keys, one sonar and one repair button mapped to E and R, 2 fake power switches to stimulate the touch-based exploration, and 6 LEDs (4 of the 6 will be fake, while 2 will correspond to the repair and sonar buttons).
The entire piece of Styrofoam will be spray-painted and stylized to reflect the grungy metal material you find inside submarines. The goal of the control system is to immerse the player into the environment of the submarine; the buttons feel clicky, the switches feel heavy, and the joystick feels grounded and functional.
This Thursday, we’ll be doing some basic playtests using the new controls and level layout. There will be valuable feedback and opinions recorded to further improve and refine our experience.