Building Virtual Worlds

Five virtual world experiences

Student (3-D modeler/animator)

Building Virtual Worlds (Fall 2007) was a project-based course taught by Jesse Schell at Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center. The class emphasized technical mechanics of how to build virtual world experiences, as well as basics of environmental design, interactive game design, non-linear storytelling, virtual reality, and interdisciplinary teamwork.

In this course I collaborated in a series of four-person interdisciplinary teams to design and implement five interactive virtual worlds, each completed in three weeks or less from initial brainstorming to class presentation. In my assigned role as 3-D modeler/animator, I used Maya 8.0 to create the models and animations for each project. In addition, I took on a variety of other roles and tasks depending on the unique needs of each project, including: producer, research, game design, environment art, character color and vectoring, obtaining materials, set construction, and tutorial creation.

Three of my five worlds were jury-selected for inclusion in the 2007 end-of-semester show; a fourth received the "First Penguin" Award, which recognizes brave and innovative concepts.

To Be a Yoga Master

To Be a Yoga Master is a single-player game for the PlayMotion, a platform that allows players to use their own shadows to interact with the projected game display. The game consists of a series of virtual walls that move towards the player. Every wall has one or more oddly-shaped holes in it, and the player must contort to fit his or her shadow within the confines of these holes in order to clear each barrier.

My three teammates and I completed this project in sixteen days from initial brainstorming to class presentation. A jury selected To Be a Yoga Master for inclusion in the BVW end-of-semester show, where it was successfully played by a naïve guest in front of a large audience.

Starry Night

Starry Night is an activity-based virtual world that lets a guest decorate the night sky with stars. It uses a head-mounted display and two gloves with position-tracking sensors. The guest can pick up a star shape using both hands, dip it into paint buckets to give it color, rotate and size the star by moving hands closer together or further apart, and release the star into position by pushing gently with palms out towards the sky. When the starry sky is complete, clapping three times ends the experience, triggering an ending sequence that gives a full view of one’s handiwork before clearing the sky in a shower of stars.

My team created Starry Night in ten days, and our work was jury-selected for inclusion in the end-of-the-semester BVW show.

Crazy Cave

Crazy Cave is a three-minute performance piece that blends live acting and a physical set with 3D anaglyph video and scrim projection. Our original goal to use a theatrical technique called the Pepper’s ghost effect to extend the Jam-o-Drum platform into the realm of theatrical horror became a broad crash-course exploration of stereoscopic and projection effects.

Twenty-five days after the project began, we debuted a proof-of-concept performance as a candidate for inclusion in the end-of-semester BVW show. The jury approved our work on condition of certain changes and improvements, and thanks to an outpouring of help from the ETC community, Crazy Cave was performed for public audience two days later.

Juvenile's Dilemma

Juvenile's Dilemma is a four-person game for the Jam-O-Drum based on the game theory problem of the prisoner's dilemma. The story centers on four delinquent middle school students who backstab one another as they lie, cheat, and steal their way through the day of an important exam. Players face challenges requiring total group collaboration and situations in which they must single out a player to serve as scapegoat and be eliminated from the game. The final two players face off in a modified version of the classic prisoner's dilemma.

My teammates and I completed this project from start to finish in twenty-one days. Juvenile's Dilemma received the Building Virtual Worlds 2007 "First Penguin" Award, which recognizes brave and innovative concepts.