The Growth of Mobile Gaming

“The screen is just too small”, “Control systems are poor”, and “There is little to none quality control” – these comments are what we normally heimage fortnight gaear from gamer with respect to mobile game. However, there is a fact none of us can deny: we have all played mobile games, whether frequently or not. People choose to play mobile game for a variety of reasons, including its portability which means you can play on the go. And for those reasons that mobile game, introduced to the large world audience long after PC game, has gained the most popularity over any other gaming mediums. In order to understand more about this ever-growing field of mobile gaming, we have to take a brief look at the history of it.

The $47 billion worth mobile gaming industry with roughly 180 million users took off in 1994 with the first mobile game ever Tetris, launched aboard the Hagenuk MT-2000, a phone designed and manufactured in Denmark by the Hagenuk Corporation. At that Tetrismoment, Tetris was already 10 years old and had conquered the world of gaming, coming right from the Soviet Union. The tile-matching puzzle video games requires players to stack tetrominoes (geometric shapes of four square blocks each) while making sure the figures don’t stack to the top of the playing field.

If Snake and Tetris are the first generation of mobile game, the second generation is WAP games. Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) is a standard given to technology to enable mobile device to connect to the internet and by the late 1990’s there was a micro-browser that could run on mobile phones together with a version of the web called UP Link. Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson joined together and with the WAP Forum now called the Open Mobile Alliance, a partnership began which ensured standardization in Europe. When mobile phones and WAP combined together, the basic ecosystem was created that allowed developers to make games and sell them to the willing public.

Technology kept improving to provide better quality games on mobiles; however, it wasn’t until 2007 that the newly introduced iPhone marked the beginning of a new era for mobile gaming.apple-iphone-game This excellent piece of technology worked well and with the launch of the App Store in July 2008, the mobile games industry had a platform that enabled consumers to buy their favorite games directly to their phones via iTunes. This new platform also enabled the developers to sell their games directly to consumers without the hassle of dealing with operators or publishers. With the App Store accepting over 1,000 new apps per day you can download anything that interests you, and gaming titles kept growing exponentially.

With the introduction of the Google Play store with Android games, alongside the success of Apple Store, tens of thousands of new games were published every year, with Angry Birds reaching 17000 daily installation, Candy Crush Saga receiving more than $1.5 million dollars every day. Moreover, you can now play a lot of classics games on mobile version such as Portal, Paper Please, Sonic the HedgeHog, Pac-man.. The ability of mobile technology to simulate games on PC makes the industry even more appealing to a larger audience.

Let’s take a look at the mobile gaming industry in relation to other gaming industries. The mobile gaming industry is an absolute record breaker. With an ever-growing number of smartphone users expected to go over 5 billion in 2018 (considering the world’s population is 7.6 billion), it is no wonder social and casual mobile games win wider audiences. This steady growth is partially stimulated by the influence of the Asian countries, China, South Korea, and Japan. GTAIn contrast to Europe, Asian gamers are more likely to adopt smartphone games, not PCs or consoles. In the past few years, mobile devices have undergone notable changes. Their processors have become more powerful, and RAM sizes have increased at warp speed. This has brought them close to being competitive with PCs, especially when mobiles devices began using the cloud. With the plethora of devices developed, a gamer simply plugs his mobile phone into the docking station connected to a large screen and enjoys the game as if it was launched on a PC. Mobile screens have increased in size and resolution. It has become possible to play games only available on computers a few years ago, for example Grand Theft Auto Vice City.

2012-2021-global-games-market-1200x743The figure above shows that mobile game is on its way to dominate the gaming industry. There are trends on mobile gaming now that make the industry even more friendly towards users. With cutting-edge advancements like Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR, we can say we will sure see new improvements in the in the space of virtual reality experiences. Due to thrills of live events and activities, today’s mobile games offer much more than just fun and entertainment. Developers nowadays leverage certain live elements of the mobile games to create interest, retention, and loyalty.

Multi-player game development has begun to flourish even more and integration of social activities has become an integral part of modern mobile games. On the left is a picture of me playing Pubg mobile with my friends.PIC Pubg Another trend is offline games that allow players to continue their game sessions even when internet connectivity falters especially during traveling. Below is the image of one of my games playing World Conqueror 2 offline.

game choi vs banOffline game Fruit Ninja has earned the reputation of the most downloaded offline game in Apple store and made $1 million per month. In conclusion, mobile gaming is gaining much wider reach and impact than PC and console games. And all the credit goes to affordable prices, creative graphics, technology-enabled improvements and user-friendly themes.

Source: https://dzone.com/articles/9-trends-that-will-define-2018s-mobile-gaming-outl-1

https://www.mobvista.com/en/blog/mobile-gaming-now-bigger-console-pc-gaming-combined-still-growing-always-changing/

https://www.innovecs.com/ideas-portfolio/mobile-gaming-vs-pc-gaming-tendencies-in-game-industry-development/

An Mai

 

A Reflection from the Frankenstein VR Team

Coming into this project, our group felt similar to that of an oil prospector, searching a goldmine under the ground that would take time and labor to extract. While this metaphor undoubtedly seems far-fetched, what it symbolized was the feeling within our group that we had by far the most interesting and coolest project as well as one of the most difficult projects to bring to life. Despite all of our background knowledge in computer science and coding, Virtual Reality (VR) was a whole new creature for all of us, as it is for most of the world, giving us all a new interesting challenge.

At first, the project seemed near impossible. After our initial meeting with one of the Wondry’s VR specialists, Vivian Li,  it became clear to us that the initial parameters of what we wanted to accomplish were appeared far out of reach. Creating a single object alone seemed intense, let alone an entire environment where everything worked together. Had the project been a VR environment for let’s say a futuristic environment, it may have been easier since modern aesthetics point to more simplistic, sleek designs. Since, however, all the objects are from Frankenstein, all the objects required great attention to detail in regards to both age and Victorian aesthetic. Luckily, with much support from Vivian Li, the project became much more palatable. Not only was she gracious enough to offer creating the VR environment for us, she also helped us transfer the blender files to actual Unity VR files, which ultimately left each of us with one duty: pick an appropriate object from Frankenstein and create it in Blender.

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The finished scene to display our objects in

Choosing the Objects

With thousands of words and objects contained in the Frankenstein story, it was pertinent for the group to select the most signifying and important symbols of the book and Mary Shelley’s life without making the monster itself. Each of us decided on a different object, which, due to the abundance of symbols throughout all of the versions of Frankenstein, made it easy as all of us were not fighting over the locket or the jar or what have you. At the end of the day, we all realized that each object was probably going to be equally difficult to create. Also, while all the objects did not have a direct relation to the book itself, they still had enough Halloween aesthetic and importance to Shelley to be relevant. For example, even though gravestones are in no way a big part of the book, it is said that Mary Shelley had an almost unnatural obsession with the grave of her mother.

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This grave helps represent the Gothic theme

Not only is it claimed she would spend inordinate amounts of time at her mother’s gravestone, but it is also rumored that she lost her virginity on top of said gravestone. While this clearly has no relation to the novel, it does very much explain the Gothic nature of Shelley’s writing, which we felt made the gravestone important enough to add.

Abnormal Brain
The abnormal brain

The abnormal brain is a symbol from the 1931 film Frankenstein the Man Who Made a Monster. The brain stolen by Fritz (Frankenstein’s assistant in this movie) is portrayed to the audience as the reason why the monster acts different than Frankenstein expects (due to its abnormalities). Obviously, the movie takes some liberties from the novel, but these liberties display the different paths that Frankenstein could go down, and the multitude of ideas that have been inspired since its creation. Every movie based off the novel is going to be slightly different than its source material, so to see a physical explanation behind the creature’s behaviors goes a great way to further humanize it.

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This fire was the only object that are group created in Unity instead of Blender

The fire, to us, felt obvious to include as an object. After all, the entire work is the modern Prometheus story, just as its original title signifies (Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus). In the Prometheus story, he brings down fire from heaven to earth, which then allows the people of Earth to progress to new levels of society.  Today, scholars and historians can surmise that the world began to change once fire was discovered. However, Shelley’s relation of fire to the creature was a wonderful metaphor for how all of us learn to grow and adapt, something too important to leave out of our project.

Frankenstein Locket Blender
Katherine Frankenstein’s locket which later identifies William Frankenstein

The locket serves as a forward force in the plot since it informs the creature that William Frankenstein is a part of the Frankenstein family, leading to not only William’s death, but the first of multiple murders in the novel. Without this locket, there would be little connection to how the creature is able to initially reconnect and find Frankenstein’s loved ones.

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This journal educates Frankenstein on the human world as well as his creator

The journal is a symbol of learning not only for Victor, by being a log for all of his studies, but also as a tool for the creature, who studies this journal in order to become as much of a functioning human as possible. The creature learns the English language through Victor’s journal and is eventually able to find and communicate with Victor. Without this journal, the creature would have never been able to destroy Victor through the deaths of those close to him either.

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This table is where the creature is initially brought to life

In the 1931 film, one of the more memorable scenes is how the creature’s body, initially constrained to the table, is brought to life through a lightning storm. This table is where the story takes motion, as the life of the creature will bring the horror that lasts throughout the rest of the film.

Each of these objects, even though each seem meaningless on their own, have a special meaning and presence in the novel and films of Frankenstein.

 

The Process of Creating the Objects

At first, rendering software such as Blender often seemed near impossible to work with. With the ability to set frame rates, resolutions, vector sizes, origins, rendering, etc. it initially appeared that every object was going to take hours upon hours for the group to complete. For us however, we began to realize that only a small number of these tools were necessary in order to achieve our goals. In the world of Blender, if the entire program was a graduate degree, all we needed was a GED to know enough for what we needed to do. Using basic shapes and transformation manipulators (Vectors used to change the x, y, or z length of the object), it seemed that all of us were going to be able to achieve our desired object. For example, while our gravestone seems to be made of intricate and chiseled shapes, all it took was the resizing of 3 cubes and adjustments to the smooth texture.

Blender Cube
All Blender projects start out with this simple cube, which can then be taken out or modified into the projects that this group created

With that being said though, it did still take much research from the internet as well as help from Vivian Li in order for our projects to be done to the best of our ability.

The tombstone, for example, had multiple nuances, such as creating a stone-like texture.  Upon opening Blender, we were all faced with the default cube. Despite it appearing to be easy enough to resize or move something as simple as the default cube, it actually took a significant amount of time just getting use to the system of Blender itself and pick up these simple tasks. While these tasks were eventually solvable with simple solutions through the help of an experienced 3-D artist (whether from YouTube or Vivian herself), the amount of roadblocks that each of us ran into proved how daunting a task like this could really be. By doing something as easy as switching to transformation mode, it became easy to do something like resizing the cube into a tombstone head, first reducing size in the x to create a thin rectangle, and then expanding the z in the positive direction to give the tombstone some length. Simple tasks like this were what led to all of our projects looking the shape they currently are.

Once the general shape of each object was created, the next thing to do was to add textures to our objects. To do this, the first step was to change from object mode (the mode used to shape the object) to texture modifying methods such as edit or sculpt mode.

Locket Edit Mode
Through the use of texture modifiers given in something like the edit mode, objects were allowed to have more detail, such as the ‘F’ on Katherine Frankenstein’s locket

 

In modes such as the ones mentioned above, there are a myriad of options to change the texture of the object. For example, blob mode (found in the sculpt mode) creates bubbles at the top of the surface that almost resemble the bubbling of CO2 in soda. Within sculpt mode, we could adjust the size of the cursor (the amount of area affected at once), whether the sculpting changes were mirrored on both sides of the tombstones and various other settings. Perhaps the most crucial setting to determine when sculpting objects was relative detail or constant detail. Constant detail, the most simplistic mode, simply creates the same details no matter where you are, so if you run the cursor over an area that has already been sculpted, nothing will occur. Relative detail however does exactly what it sounds like, it creates even further texture on an object relative to the current texture of an object. So, if an already sculpted area is affected, it will become ever more rugged, sculpted and textured. For the gravestone, relative detail was used as every bit of rock will have slightly different edges and cracks as opposed to an almost uniform and unrealistic rugged look. All of these modes were utilized in different ways by members of the group in order to give the objects more of an authentic look.

Once each of us figured out these as well as other techniques, with additional help from Vivian and online resources, the challenge became less figuring out the program and more trial and error to create the perfect look for the project. For example, every time one tries to sculpt an object, the nuances of the surface will be different every time. Whether it be because of cursor size, constant v., relative detail or even the method used to create the texture (blob v. pinch v. draw etc.), it took each of us hours manipulating our objects to create the perfect look. This part of the project was probably the most important learning moment for all of us. Because at its core, VR and video game design is quite easy, but creating the perfect object becomes less about the technicality of it and more about the own artist’s inspirations and time spent on the object. So, while the base objects of every video game may have been easy to construct for the video game designers, what separates any game is the level of love and commitment given to the project. It would have been easy for any of us to shape rings, spheres and cubes to create a basic object, but for each of us to pour our heart into our objects took a lot more commitment. For example, again using the tombstone, while the actual outline of the tombstone was created in 10 minutes, hours of time was dedicated just to make sure that tombstone looks realistic. This gives an incredible further appreciation of the time and detail that all video game designers put into their work, probably working for weeks on a single project.

Luckily for us, the category of Frankenstein/Halloween became one of the most crucial part of the project. Had we taken a random category, the group would have required lots of planning and meeting to decide exactly what aesthetic we wanted to use, how the objects should be tied together etc. However, since all of us ultimately knew the novel we would be referencing in the project, it was much easier to consult the actual book rather than waiting on a group member to answer in Slack regarding direction. It gave us the perfect blend of both independence and dependence from one another. We could bounce ideas off one another, but at the end of the day it was our choice on what we felt was the best way to approach each object. And once all our objects were complete, the rest of the project essentially finished itself. For example, making our poster at the beginning of the assignment would have been near impossible since we had our idea, but had no screenshots, stories to tell etc. However, just like a real video game, once you have created the visuals the story can almost tell itself. Even now with this blog, the struggles we faced were so plentiful that there are even ones forgotten to be mentioned here. Even the most minute little nuanced difficulties on Blender became 45-minute learning experiences trying to figure how to effectively accomplish the small thing you wanted to do. Difficulties that may seem small on paper but were almost the make or break between an effective project.

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Overall, for all of us, this project was an exceptional exercise in taking what is visualized in one’s mind and making that a concrete reality. When any person reads Frankenstein, they are going to have a slightly different picture in their minds eye. Some may see the monster as the prototypical green, blocky monster depicted in the movies, while others may simply see an ugly man, stitched together from the parts of other humans. And just like Mary Shelley had to start her masterpiece with just one sentence, we all had to begin our projects with a simple block on blender. From there, it was up to us to create an entire Gothic world using an advanced computer program from 200 years in the future from when Frankenstein was placed. As corny as it sounds, this project almost felt as a modern Prometheus story just as Frankenstein itself. We small-minded students were shown the power of Blender and Unity, the fire behind many video games, and from that we were able to create our own thriving world of VR objects.

 

Augmented Empathy: VR/AR’s Impact on Gamers

Game psychologists are looking to a relatively new gaming medium to explore the effects of in-game experiences on the real lives of gamers: virtual and augmented reality. According to the Virtual Reality Society, virtual reality gaming is “where a person can experience being in a three-dimensional environment and interact with that environment during a game.” In contrast, augmented reality gaming is “the integration of game visual and audio content with the user’s environment in real time. … While virtual reality games require specialized VR headsets, only some augmented reality systems use them.”

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What these two forms of new gaming have in common is the integration of the gamer into immersive storytelling. Rather than watching the effects of gameplay choices play out on a flat screen using a controller, the gamer becomes the controller and experiences the impact of their in-game decisions in real time.

In the case of augmented reality, gamers can even experience the impacts of their decisions on their real environment through a camera. This leads to a sensation gamers call TINAG, or “This Is Not A Game,” in which one of the main goals of the game is to deny and disguise the fact that it is even a game at all (Virtual Reality Society).

Because of the real-world, real-time feel, gamers often feel there are higher stakes to their in-game decisions. Game psychologists argue that “VR experiences can impact the empathy of their users and immediately translate to positive real world behavior.” One example of this comes from a study done on VR gamers who were instructed to cut down a virtual tree. After cutting down this tree in the game, the gamers used an average of 20% less paper in real life.

Another study suggests that the more a gamer immerses in the environment of the game, the more likely they are for in-game choices to affect their empathy outside of the game. For example, when a gamer picks and customizes an avatar, they often bring traits from their real life into their game life. This causes them to identify more strongly with their in-game persona and blur the line that separates gaming from real life.

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AR and VR games are the final frontier in eliminating that line completely. When your in-game character is no longer distinguishable from your true self, your choices in and outside of gameplay affect one another inherently.

The implications of this empathy-building through gaming are massive. Some game psychologists argue that it is the moral responsibility of AR/VR game developers to consider the empathic development of their gamers when creating storylines, often with a focus on empathy for other persons, animal rights, and the environment.

Whether or not you believe the onus of creating a more empathetic generation falls on game developers, the impact of these AR/VR games on the emotional development of gamers is undeniable and will likely only grow as the technology flourishes.

Kathleen Shea

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563214003999
https://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality-games/what-is-vr-gaming.html
https://venturebeat.com/2018/09/24/augmented-reality-can-foster-empathy-and-games-can-take-advantage/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563217305381

Inside Aech’s Basement: A VR Group Project

Our group project was to create various objects using Blender to incorporate into the VR room that is Aech’s Basement from Ernest Cline’s novel, Ready Player One. Each group member brought their complementary individuality which added unique insight, helpful suggestions, and overall, great team camaraderie.

Below, each member of the group highlights their creation process and touches on how important intermediary group projects are to boosting confidence, gaining experience, and pushing academic boundaries.

But first, please enjoy this Game Trailer created by the invaluable, Vincent H.:

https://youtu.be/StVIVT0FUZM

Cheers!

 

ENGL 3726-01 Final Group Project

Janelle O.

The Stages of Using Blender as a Tech Novice

 

Stage 1: Fear

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I’ll admit, I let my insecurities get the best of me.

Make a virtual reality object? Me? Someone who’s never worked on anything STEM related before? In a software that has millions of buttons to press and things to mess up?

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I watched countless YouTube tutorials and felt like the hosts were speaking in a foreign language. It was so difficult for me to believe that I could comprehend, and eventually implement, what they were telling me. The self-inflicted intimidation inevitably led to…

 

Stage 2: Frustration

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No commentary necessary.

But, if you were wondering how many times someone can restart a project on Blender and come thiiiiiiiiiiis close to throwing a computer across a room…

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On the brink of a complete meltdown, I took a step back and realized that I may have been giving Blender too much power. Were the tutorial gurus really speaking in a different language? Was is truly as difficult as I believed it to be? Absolutely not…and once I accepted that, it was smooth sailing toward…

 

Stage 3: Success

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Ultimately, completing my object brought me relief; relief that I would never have to use Blender again! Kidding…kinda.

I felt a wave of satisfaction and pride knowing that I proved myself wrong. I was able to use software I had never used before to make an object in a world I had never visited prior to this semester. This project allowed me to fine tune a skill I didn’t know I possessed in a field that intimidated me beyond belief.

Am I switching my major to Computer Science? Absolutely not.

Did I gain experience and insight in an important field? Yes.

Most importantly, did I learn and grow in ways I never could have imagined? Yes.

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Vincent H.

Skee-Ball Machine and Game Trailer

 

With limited experience with MATLAB and none in computer graphics, I cautiously approached this project that proved to be an interesting venture into the world of 3D modeling.

Our task: supplement an existing virtual reality model of Aech’s basement based on Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

Since many of the objects explicitly named in the book had already been created, I needed to immerse myself into Cline’s world and extrapolate other plausible objects. I was inspired by his line: “Most of them were gathered around the row of old arcade games against the wall.” Though not quite old enough to be an 80’s kid, waves of nostalgia still swept over me as I recalled running through a labyrinth of arcade games in Chuck E. Cheese’s as a child. Each corner was filled with vibrant lights that tempted me with the opportunity to win tickets. Stopping in front of a Skee-Ball machine, the objective seemed simple. Whichever prize I earned would be a manifestation of my skill and not chance.

This childhood memory compelled me to create a Skee-Ball machine, and so I did.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 11.45.21 AM.pngPerspective view of Skee-Ball machine in Blender

I started by searching for various makes and models of Skee-Ball machines to provide a historically accurate model; in doing so, I also learned more about the rich history of the game. Skee-Ball was invented in 1908. Aggressive marketing campaigns created an exciting buzz around the game, eventually being featured in various media outlets, with one of those being a game called Superball on The Price is Right.

After finding the ideal model to recreate, I began in Blender by creating a scaffold of rectangular blocks to create a vague table-like structure. Blender has a variety of tools for detail work, so after creating the basic shape, I began adjusting the edges, gradually working towards the sleek and tapered model. After using bevel to create curved surfaces, knife to stencil point values on the backboard, and subdivide to generate the metal mesh, my Skee-Ball machine came to fruition and fits well in the room.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 11.46.07 AM.pngClockwise from top left: (1) Model of vintage 1980s Skee-Ball machine for design accuracy, (2) Wireframe view of final object created in Blender, (3) Rendered view of Skee-Ball machine and ball in Blender, (4) Rendered view of Skee-Ball machine and ball in room environment created with Unity

The object at the end of this meticulous process was similar to the wireframe structure shown above, except for one important feature: it was colorless. I spent the next few days experimenting with different shaders in Blender to generate the matte texture and metallic luster of the machine’s frame. Upon completion of the frame, I was stumped by the deceptively intricate and random texture of the felt for the machine’s surface. Luckily, a trove of insightful guidance and templates were available on the internet, so I found a relevant node map and adapted it for my use.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 11.46.42 AM.pngNode map of blending shaders to create colors and textures

After a few finishing touches, I exported the object and passed it to Vivian for the final step: uploading to Unity. This project gave me a profound appreciation for the computer graphics all around us, increasingly seen in movies. Although the true experts with years of experience are capable of creating models nigh indistinguishable from real-life objects, anyone with the dedication to learn can become proficient within a month. As a STEM major, I truly valued this rare opportunity to exhibit artistic creativity and learn cross-disciplinary skills in an epic quest to remediate Ready Player One.

 

Robert W.

The Music

 

My responsibilities differed a little from the other group members. My time was pretty evenly split between the softwares Blender, Finale, and Cubase. I wanted to add a little aural spice to the otherwise silent basement. Since a large portion of Aech’s and Parzival’s time is spent playing video games, I thought video game music would make the most sense as an incidental soundtrack. One of the only games the author mentions explicitly as a favorite of Aech and Parzival (which also has a decent soundtrack) is Golden Axe.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 11.47.33 AM.pngMy 3D model of the Golden Axe Genesis cartridge

I turned to that soundtrack as a source material for my synth work. I arranged a piece of music from the game, which took several hours of transcription and input in the notation software Finale (the only piece of software I was already familiar with).

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 11.47.43 AM.pngThe Finale file of my arrangement

From there, I exported the midi file into the digital audio workstation Cubase. Cubase is where I got to transform my generic midi file into a slightly more interesting electronic piece.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 11.47.50 AM.pngRaw import of my Finale file in the Cubase DAW

I wanted my percussive sounds to emulate those of a sega genesis system, so I worked with the virtual instrument VOPM, a digital synth designed specifically to emulate a sega genesis sound chip. My work with this synth proved a unique challenge. You must describe a sound in your head in terms of attack time, attack delay, reverb, detune, modular shape, etc. in order to create the instrument sound you desire.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 11.48.01 AM.pngVOPM interface

In order to add a unique, slightly more palatable character to my arrangement, I used some virtual instruments created in the Spector digital synth, which is a more modern and practical plugin than VOPM.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 11.48.15 AM.pngSpector synth. Fun fact, the total cost of the software I used for this project exceeds $1000. Thankfully Blair owns all the software so I didn’t have to foot that bill

Even though music is the focus of my degree, my engagement with Cubase and electronic music in general has been limited. Nearly every step of this project (outside of arranging the original track) was a new and valuable experience for me.

 

Wooseong C.

Modeling and UV Mapping  

 

I came into this project without even knowing what Blender was. When I opened the software for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the number of different tools and view modes the software offers.  I mainly learned from Youtube videos that showed the step-by-step process for making a 3D object. During the process of learning to use this software, I learned two Blender fundamentals – modeling and UV mapping.

Modeling simply refers to crafting the shape of your object to match that of the real-world version. This often requires you to have a second window with a picture of the real world object you can refer to:

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 11.51.37 AM.pngModeling an open magazine – I chose to create comic books to add to our VR version of Aech’s basement. I wanted to have a comic book that was open to add to the “realistic” aspect

Having a reference is really helpful, as it allows you to be more detailed and accurate. The process of making an open comic book entailed making a plane, extruding edges to make the folded part and curvature indicated by the red arrows (above), and adding the subdivision surface and solidify modifier:

Another blender skill I learned was UV mapping. This step allows the user to map an image acquired online onto his/her object. This allowed us to map images onto our posters and comic books:

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For the Astrosmash cartridge, additional steps were needed during UV mapping. Because I needed to add different images to the different surfaces of the object, I had to incorporate the use of Photoshop. The steps entailed unwrapping the 3D object into a 2D map, exporting this UV map to Photoshop, adding the online pictures to the photoshop, and importing the new UV map back to Blender

Overall, learning to use Blender to add objects to our VR representation of Aech’s basement was a very valuable experience. Although the initial learning stage was difficult, I can now use Blender at the beginner level. I now appreciate the vast amount of options and tools that overwhelmed me in the beginning, because it reflects the infinite amount of possibilities one has to create characters and objects. I am very glad that I took this course during my last semester at Vanderbilt. This course was different from all the other courses I have taken, going beyond the traditional essays and lectures, ultimately creating a more hands on learning experience. This final project really gave me appreciation and the confidence to continue using programs like Blender and photoshop in the future.

 

Vivian L.

Uniting All Elements in UnityScreen Shot 2018-04-24 at 10.40.01 PM.png

My role in the Aech’s Basement project group was to take each of my other group members’ separate Blender 3D objects and any other creations they worked on and implement them into the Unity Scene, ensuring everything looked as it was intended and worked properly. Another portion of my job was to raise the almost non-existent level of interactivity in the room. Prior to this semester’s final project, the player was not allowed to move within the room at all, and there was no way to touch or pick up objects, and I desperately wanted to change this.

At the beginning of this project, while all of my other group members worked on creating their assets, I researched and tested different ways to allow camera and body movement in VR. I looked into Unity Oculus Rift support pages, watched many Youtube video explanations on how to track the headset, and what the sensor controllers were called when used in the Scene. My initial thought process was to create a system in which there was a camera affixed to a Capsule 3D object that represented the player. The capsule would then rotate and translate itself according to the detected player headset movements and the Oculus Rift controller joystick input. To create the hands, I wanted to move two Sphere Colliders anywhere that the touch controllers were sensed. Lastly, to simulate the ability of picking up objects, when the player moved their hand Sphere Colliders to hit any other object that was meant to be moved, had a collider on it, and the grip trigger on that hand was being held down, the object would follow the Sphere Collider’s movement.

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Sounds fairly simple, right? I had initially thought so too.

However, I soon realized that although I had the thought process down, I had no idea how to physically code them into the room. I had scarcely any experience with writing C# code, which is the primary language in Unity, as well as using any of their numerous class libraries. I was also still piecing together how the controller input was read in Unity, and was largely unsure of how to read physical headset location. Another difficulty was the inability to test my code outside of the VR space in the Wond’ry.

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After another week or so struggling to write my own interactive player in VR, I decided to ask for Dr. Molvig’s help on the issue, since he was my professor last semester in the class Virtual Reality for Interdisciplinary Applications. He showed me many helpful websites and more videos on VR player bodies, especially Unity’s own player model. Following tutorials, I was able to put the model into the scene, but it didn’t quite work as expected.

#1 tip for all things Comp Sci: It never works like you expected

In fact, it crashed the game many times, and even when I got the Scene to play, my attempts in creating the hands painstakingly exact to a video I was recommended were ruined by the fact that it seemed as if the controllers were not being tracked in the scene at all! I believed that it was partially due to last semester’s attempts to create a teleportation system that was quite ineffective, and the tampering of the Scene files.

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This led to another large difficulty in my project. Since Unity does not allow the copying of Scene objects with their existing properties into another separate project, I would have to choose between spending more time trying to fix the existing scene, or create an entirely new Scene and copy all of the objects into it by hand. Given all of the time already spent trying to bugfix whatever was going on in the original scene, I decided that starting over may be my only choice if I wanted the movement and object interactivity to be a part of the room. I spent many days re-importing and organizing every detail of the room, testing it along the way to make sure that body and hand movement still worked.

Once I had finally recreated the original room, I held my breath when hitting the “Play” button one more time. It worked! The camera moved, my hands moved, and my body moved! I was filled with relief, but this was only the first step.

It was time to put the efforts of my teammates into the Scene. Altogether, we had quite a few assets created to put into the room; comic books, a skeeball machine, posters, a VCR player, game cartridges, and more. (I’m sure my teammates could tell you a lot more than I can about the specifics of their objects!) I also added a few Coke cans, mainly for hand and object collision testing.

A few things happened when I trying moving the objects into the Scene.

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  1. Objects were completely devoid of color.
  2. They were ginormous.

I knew I had to fix the color issue, but the size was not a problem. I could scale it to my will, but adding the correct materials was a separate hurdle. I researched what each of the little options on the objects did, and realized that clicking a button labelled “Lightmap Static” allowed many options, one of which was to assign materials to certain surfaces of the object. This meant that I would first need a material to assign, though. My teammates largely used pictures online to properly wrap around their objects, so I looked up how to create Unity materials from images. Once I figured out how to do that, I realized that objects that were supposed to have separated images on each face, like the Betamax VCR player, had only one surface on which to put the material. Without a proper UV map, I went around this issue by creating the object out of 6 quads, each representing a side. Then, I assigned a separate material for each of them. This worked nicely for neat geometrical objects, but I worried what would happen with more complex ones.

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 10.52.23 PM.pngThankfully, my teammates supplied me with UV maps that worked like magic for some of the other objects. For others, I simply looked up images online and utilized those. Sizing was done as realistically as possible

Eventually, every asset created was put into the Scene with the correct coloring and sizing. I was very happy with the results and seeing everyone’s work in the space, in VR, amazed me. Lastly, I was to put Robert’s Golden Axe music into the scene. I decided to create a Audio Source centered at the TV. I attached the Golden Axe audio clip to it, and changed the radii to reflect the distance at which the volume plays normally, and the distance at which it completely fades out.

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This marked the end of incorporating each team member’s object (and music) into the final room. Aech’s Basement is far from complete, but progress is progress, and each team member had our own learning experiences completing their parts.

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The Virtual School, the Better Choice?

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Dr. James L. Moore

 

 

As an education major at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development, I have a particular interest in different ways students can learn. When my class read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, there were parts of the novel that denoted different ways in which the main character, Wade Watts (avatar Parzival online) learned and studied in a virtual world called the OASIS. What was most interesting is this apparent dichotomy between learning in a physical versus learning in a virtual setting. It appears that the OASIS, as you will soon come to learn in the opening chapter, emphasizes virtual components as the main vehicle of getting really almost anything done. Along with currency and communication being almost completely virtual, the schools seem to be as well. Taking a look at a quote in the beginning of the book,

” I was more or less raised by the OASIS’s interactive educational programs, which any kid could access for free. I spent a big chunk of my childhood hanging out in a virtual-reality simulation of Sesame Street, singing songs with friendly Muppets and playing interactive games that taught me how to walk, talk, add, subtract, read, write, and share,” (Cline 15).”

This quote points out the power of Virtual reality in promoting the healthy social/emotional development of students a an early age. An award winning and in my opinion one of the best, highest quality children’s programs of all time, Jim Henson’s Muppets- Sesame Street- Cline discusses through the main character how certain elementary concepts and lessons on social skills could be learned at a more interactive, much more tailored pace through this use of virtual education. Let’s take a look at a video that relates to this (Video #65 on the list:

After watching this, you may recall Dr. James L Moore III remarking that, “We need schools that are student centered and always factor in the human element.” This is juxtaposed with this idea of virtual learning that is the way of learning and understanding in the OASIS. What is better? Virtual learning to give an extremely tailored learning experiences to almost all students, or more expensive individualized learning, with a physical presence of a teacher?

Harassment in VR Spaces

(Spoiler warning for Ready Player One by Ernest Cline in first two paragraphs. Links contain sensitive content relating to sexual harassment in online/gaming communities.)

Ready Player One: 80’s nostalgia trip, celebration of gamer culture, cyberpunk dystopia, hero’s quest, and – teenage love story? I’ll admit, I haven’t finished the book yet, but from the beginning our protagonist Will Wade/Parzival is smitten with Art3mis, a fellow gunter and popular online personality. He even has pictures of her (or at least, her avatar) saved on his hard drive. When he first encounters Art3mis in the Tomb of Horrors, he gives her advice on how to beat the lich king. Once they’re both High Five celebrities on the famed scoreboard, they begin a casual romance. Art3mis breaks it off when she feels their time together has become too much of a distraction from the hunt. Parzival, lovesick, sends her unread messages, flowers, and stands outside of her virtual castle with a boombox: part persistent “good guy,” part slightly creepy stalker.

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One has not (yet) examined gender politics on the OASIS, but it acknowledged the age-old mantra: “There are no girls on the Internet.” Even in a world where virtually the entire population uses OASIS and a game event with a massive prize, the default is presumed male. Parzival persistently questions Art3mis’s gender until he is assured that she’s “actually” female, accusations that Art3mis takes with good humor.

(Spoilers end here.)

But as we all know, there are women on the internet and in the gaming world, and they have been there since the beginning – even when the climate is hostile. Shortly after starting Ready Player One I found this article about the writer Jordan Belamire’s experience with sexual harassment in virtual reality. Despite all players having identical avatars, another player recognized her voice as female and followed her around attempting to touch her avatar inappropriately. She finally exited the game. The game’s developers were shocked and dismayed when they heard of the incident and in response developed an in-game “power gesture” that creates a privacy bubble around the player. They hope that other virtual reality developers will take harassment into consideration when designing their games. Online or in-game harassment is nothing new, but as we pioneer exciting new platforms and experiences, it continues to be a thorn in the community’s side.

Ready Player One might take place in the distant dystopian future, but in characters’ interactions with each other the culture seems closest to the Wild West of the 2000s internet – complete with flame wars and skepticism on women’s presence in the OASIS. Presumably, harassment continues to be an issue in this brave new world of the OASIS – but is the response closer to QuiVr’s developer-implemented “power gesture,” or the old advice of “just ignore it and it will go away?” Perhaps it isn’t even a talking point in the OASIS’s community – why worry about it when, after all, there are no girls on the internet?

What do you think of QuiVr developers’ response in implementing the power gesture? Do you think that this is a valid solution, or do you believe it is too much/too little?  What responses to harassment have you seen on other platforms and games?

Virtual Hopes

VR is an exciting way to experience media in a more immersive way although it still has a long way to go before it is truly available for everyone to experience in their daily lives. This is largely because of the cost for a single setup even before you buy any games or interactive experiences to enjoy with your headset. You can either have no interaction with your environment other than turning your head or you can have a fully immersive experience that costs a ton. Another major setback is that these expensive setups that can track your movements are not always very accurate which was a problem we ran into while solving a puzzle in our first experience with the HTC Vive. We were far enough from the walls and close enough to an object in the game that we should have been able to pick it up but the tracking system believed that we were much closer to the wall and prevented us from being able to grab the object until other people in the room moved around and the tracking started working correctly again. It is also rather obvious that you have a screen right in front of your eyes no matter which virtual reality setup you were using and depending on how clear the resolution is and how the screen is created it can get hard to watch really quickly.

Even with these limitations there is a lot of space for VR to expand in videos, games, and simulations for educational purposes. For example, it would be cool if they could have doctors practice surgeries in virtual reality so they don’t have to get cadavers all the time and they can practice over and over with different representations of peoples bodies. Personally, I would like to see VR improve with its tracking capabilities so that it becomes more immersive and can truly simulate real world experiences. VR has already been able to explore many concepts and styles of play by transforming regular three dimensional media into something you can stand in the middle of and feel like you are actually interacting with your environment rather than just sitting in front of a screen where you can’t touch any of the objects surrounding you. For example, there are many VR experiences that allow you to experience things that you wouldn’t be able to do in real life. This includes climbing Mount Everest and becoming a bunny in an animation. Experiences such as this where you can walk a plank at great height can even allow people to experience the things that terrify them without facing any real danger. VR can even transform games that start out as PC games into an immersive experience  allowing you to become a surgeon or play fruit ninja in almost real life. A great side effect of games in virtual reality is that it allows you to become active and practice archery or tennis without ever having to go too far or find a gym to work out in. And if you want to be able to play sports with friends or strangers around the world then you can do that as well though you can’t play with any friends who do not own their own VR setup. Virtual reality can even allow you to experience completely impossible environments that have an animated, drawn, or dreamlike feeling. Though these are all really cool advances in virtual reality that demonstrate how it can be used socially or in an active or dreamlike environment to enhance the way you experience a piece of media the tracking and visibility are not quite at the level they would need to be for it to be used in a truly educational sense for surgeries and other applications. Once these advances can be made and the price comes down to an accessible level then it everyone will truly be able to experience and enjoy virtual reality.