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University of Hull - Games Design in VW's

Page history last edited by Darren Mundy 6 years, 8 months ago

Executive Overview on the Use of the Euroversity Framework




Pre-course preparation:


This course was one of the courses written into the original Euroversity application. Students on the BA Design for Digital Media and Digital Arts programmes at the University of Hull have an optional module in Semester 2 (January - June) of each year to undertake a module called Game Art and Design.  This particular course focused on building games in virtual worlds was to be a pre-cursor to this module offering students the opportunity to gain familiarity with constructing games in virtual world spaces.  Within the module students are introduced to the UNREAL development engine, therefore the focus for this particular course was to give them an experience of a different form of virtual world, a decision was made at the beginning of the Euroversity project by the course team to focus this particular development on Second Life (SL). The idea was essentially within a short series of workshops to take students (some of whom had never experienced SL before) through the stages of constructing their own games in a virtual world.  SL seemed appropriate as the tools needed were simple and the environment itself was fairly forgiving with no need in the initial instance to provide students with a detailed knowledge of scripting (it is noted however that to go beyond the simple games built through these workshops scripting education would be required).


Decision making process




The aim of the series of workshops was to:


Introduce students to building games in massive open world environments - providing them with an understanding of the challenges they faced in building structures in these spaces including the challenge of collaborative virtual team building.


This essentially broke down into the following objectives:


  • Introducing students to the environment, including building in the environment.
  • Demonstrating existing game spaces with SL.
  • Focusing students on constructing basic game spaces.
  • Concentration on game space design in virtual world environments.
  • Development of new games spaces in SL. 





The course was constructed as part of the Euroversity project process, so time was embedded into the budget for the instructor to design and deliver the programme of workshops.  The workshops can take place in subsequent years of the programme though their placement is likely to change to focus on Semester 2 delivery in conjunction with the Game Art and Design module.  The workshops were designed to work within public spaces limiting the requirement for private areas within SL - this in itself brings about one of the issues discussed below.




The course was delivered partly physically and partly virtually.  The course was delivered in a physical classroom environment so we had limited concerns regarding technology.  SL was already installed on all the machines and the process of ensuring SL functionality was in place had already been conducted because of the use of SL in other modules within our campus environment.  The course was delivered in a room of Apple iMacs which were fairly new (purchased in the last 6 months) and the lecturer was present physically in the space.  Whilst the workshops were being conducted the lecturer was available physically and virtually, observing students as they engaged through physical interaction with the environment and as their avatars in SL manipulated the virtual environment.




The course consisting of three workshops ran during November 2013 over three consecutive Tuesday afternoons on the Scarborough Campus of the University of Hull.  The students were present within the virtual world space but tuition was provided in a physical format.  Tuition itself did not take place within the virtual world although the lecturer involved was also present observing and directing the activities of the students through both physical and virtual interaction.


Course syllabus (didactics)


Workshop 1: Familiarisation


In Workshop 1 those who had never experienced SL before needed to create their avatars and gain some basic familiarity with the space.  This familiarity process has become much better over the years since the initial construction of the SL environment.  Those unfamiliar with the space took a very short time to gain familiarity with manipulating their avatar in the series of tasks that followed.  After basic familiarisation students were taken to three game spaces within SL and encouraged to experiment with the games involved.  The games included: ten pin bowling (students needed to gain familiarity with obtaining the bowling ball, working the bowling lane, and using the mouse view to bowl); Combat island (students needed to obtain a gun and add it to their avatar then use the spawn engine to move into the space, a strange result of this environment was when the avatar dies in the combat island space they get transported to a series of weird and wonderful locations - so they had to navigate back to the start); finally students were introduced to a game of Mahjong (this space had had no other individuals in it on all visits by staff members, however, this time three of the game boards were in use limiting the potential for the space to be used).  After navigating the game spaces students were taken to a public sandbox environment where they were encouraged to build an assault/obstacle course.


In Workshop 2, students engaged with experimenting within the SL space to understand what types of games they would be able to construct in the public sandbox environments.  Time was spent focused on design games for the spaces and time was spent constructing traditional games - a game of draughts.  Students came up with two basic ideas for games to construct in the final workshop session, one involved hiding characters as 'props' within virtual world environments, the other game was essentially a game of catapults where one team build a wall and the other used a catapult to knock it down.


In the final workshop the focus of the workshop was building the suggested games within the SL environment. 


Advertising of the course


The course was advertised as a series of workshops existing outside the formal course infrastructure of the programmes of study offered by Digital Media at the University of Hull.  Rather than restrict the courses to a singular group of students the advertisement opened up the course to all levels of student group across multiple BSc and BA programmes of study.




Major issues not covered by the framework were as follows


Discovering Spaces


One of the issues in the planning of the above workshops centred around discovering appropriate places to take the groups of students, in particular in this case existing games spaces.  The search tool was used both on the SL website and within the context of the SL browser to find appropriate places but each of the places had their own issues that needed to be dealt with in order to be able to play the games.  For example: The bowling alley required a series of clicks and steps in order to get avatars into a position where they could bowl the ball and the Combat Island also needed a similar number of steps.  All of this activity took time in relation to the pre-planning process.  Aside from this there wasn't really a feeling that the spaces selected for this activity were perhaps the best places to take students to, they were just spaces which existed which would work for the purpose of the workshop.  Therefore it would be useful in the framework or outside the framework to be able to capture activity spaces that other network members have explored and recommend dependent on which VW environment has been used.




The final workshop session was severely disrupted by a public SL member who unfortunately decided to have 'fun' with the students as they were constructing their materials.  The individual concerned essentially ran a series of object scripts in the space which trapped students for periods of time and in severe cases forced students to re-start their machine as the individual had placed too large a load on their graphics processor.  The framework needs to have more included on what to do when individuals such as this one are encountered with VW spaces.  The only option we found was essentially to move to a different public sandbox environment, however, a fair amount of time was lost dealing with the problematic individual and the alternative Sandbox environment used was not as effective as the first sandbox environment chosen. 




As noted above SL can be problematic as a games space for students who are used to sophisticated graphics and 'non-clunky' interaction.  Playing, building, moving, manipulating were all complex tasks for students to perform within the SL space.  Towards the end of the workshop there was a question as to whether or not it might be better in the future to just move the workshops into an environment like Minecraft, designed for game construction, rather than to stay in SL which whilst it can work for game construction does not really have this completely in mind.




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