Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Description of the system and project phases

'My New University Life' will be an interactive 3D game that presents a 3D model of the university including the Stafford and Stoke campuses and the Lichfield building. The user will be able to explore the university grounds in 3D virtual reality, helping them to get their bearings and familiarise themselves with the campus. In addition, the game will introduce the user to various scenarios that new students will face on arrival at the university, and guide them through the steps they will need to take.

It is proven that we retain more information when we are obliged to interact with it and seek it out, as opposed to being presented with static or passive content. Through the use of interactive technology, users will be able to navigate around a virtual world of the university, digesting the information in a visual way, absorbing the key messages, and clicking on highlights to find out more details.

The aim is to create a compelling alternate reality world in which different scenarios are brought to life for new students. The ARG will function as an interface through which the user will be able to access key information on the university website, using hyperlinks from within the game to specific URLs within the website. The game will feature virtual assistants who will offer advice to the user, and this advice will include dynamic text and hyperlinks which can be updated as and when required.

Phase 1 : 3D Modelling

The first step will be to create a realistic and recognisable 3D model of the university grounds. This will include the two main campuses – Stafford and Stoke – and the Lichfield building. We will source high resolution aerial photography in order to show the campuses in the context of the wider area, and we will visit the university to photograph all the buildings and other features. This will give us the reference material we need to produce a realistic and lifelike 3D model of the campuses, complete with trees, landscaping and people, ready for the 3D game. In addition to the exterior of both campuses, we will create a generic interior office environment, for the parts of the game that require the user to inside a building.

We will include realistic animated people in the backgrounds of the scenes in order to bring the campuses to life. Developing the user's avatar and the virtual assistants etc. will be part of phase 1 of the project.

Visual Richness

The whole presentation will be created in full colour 3D animation. This level of visual richness will ensure a 'stand out' presentation that will not only be a highly engaging informational resource, but also a powerful marketing tool for Staffordshire University, offering the ability for people to explore the campus at events and exhibitions.


We will construct the models in such as way as to allow scope for adding interior areas and new storylines at a later date. We will also be able to update the 3D scenes individually should the need arise in future, ensuring that the presentation can evolve over time to keep pace with the developments on campus.

Phase 2 : Creating the Interactive Campuses

The next step will be to optimise the campus models and implement them within the 3D game platform, the iViewer. This involves setting up the navigational controls, and programming the content of each campus so that the user can walk around and explore. Key buildings will be labelled, and the interactive campuses will also function as a 'map' so that the user can find particular buildings or departments that they need. At the end of Phase 2, we will deliver an interactive application which allows the user to explore each campus and click to see what different buildings are.

Phase 3 : Programming the Storylines

The next step will be to program the tours and storylines. There will be different sequences for each of the different faculties, as well as a general campus tour. Each of the storylines will be developed in the form of a flow-chart, with text content for the Virtual Assistants' speech bubbles, so that we can program these sequences into the game. We will design the user interface so that the user can select the relevant storyline when they start up the game, and ensure that navigation is simple and intuitive throughout.

Each storyline will have it's own control panel to enable users to see their progress. For example, this could be a checklist, where items of the list are ticked off as each task is completed.
  • Level 0 – Introduction
    A screen, or series of screens, inviting the user to select their tour / storyline  
  • Level 1 – The 3D Campus
    The user is taken to the start point of their chosen tour / storyline. A virtual assistant gives them their first instruction. They can then navigate to the first location as instructed, where they will meet another virtual assistant with another instruction. The assistants will approach the user when they enter a specific zone, or the user can click on them to elicit the next instruction.
  • Level 2 – A Generic Interior Area
    Depending on the storylines, it may be necessary to enter some of the buildings and we will therefore create one or two generic interior areas for these purposes. These could later be replaced with scenes showing specific interior areas within the university.
Phase 4 : Linking to a database of URLs

Our intention is that all the text content within the game will be dynamic – ie it will reference a database to pull in text and hyperlinks. This means that the text content and links can be updated as and when required. Instructions will be presented in the form of speech bubbles. The text content will be database driven, and can include hyperlinks to information on the university website, such as forms and documents that new students will need.

Phase 5 : Launching the iViewer version of the game

After a period of testing to ensure that the game is intuitive and simple to use, we will launch the iViewer version of the game as part of the University website. The user will need to either:
  1. Install the iViewer plugin to run the application (first time only), or
  2. download and run the application full screen as an EXE or DMG file.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Project plan (7): budget

Management of the budget

In this instance Debbie Cooke will have overall financial control of the project and will therefore act as Grants Manager. All invoices will be signed off by her and the relevant purchase orders raised.


Project plan (6): Timeline

(Click for bigger)

Work Packages
Although we have no formal off the shelf project management software we are well versed in running multi dimensional projects for multiple audiences in a limited time frame.

We have developed an internal system called SMART which allows us to post comments against creative work, share large creative files without clogging up in boxes. The other tool we use is Dropbox. This a remote file sharing service which allows multiple people to view creative work at any given time. It also allows the recipient to download files to their own PC.

Project methodology

At the start of any project we scope out the parameters so all are clear on where we need to get to and their role in achieving this. We call this the 'common vision'.

We make sure we follow the basic principles of:
  • Defining the task and goals, (specifically design, technical and best practise) whilst making sure there is a match to the end user's demands/needs.
  • Measure and identify what areas of the project are critical to quality.
  • Analyse the creative designs based on sound marketing principles. Strive to push forward with the most creative, thought provoking work.
  • Design details. Make sure the design is optimised through integration at a technical and communication level.
  • Verify the design. Allow for testing of the product, make sure integration is seamless.


Project plan (5): Project team

Debbie Cooke, Joint Project Leader. Debbie is also Head of Strategic Marketing.

She will have overall responsibility for the budget and communications plan and will keep close to the project and have regular weekly updates from Allison.

She will view designs/concepts/WIP at each of the 6 phased reviews. She will be copied on notes where appropriate. Debbie and Allison have a weekly Tuesday status meeting to discuss all their joint projects. She will review the blog regularly.

Debbie will have final sign off on all communications collateral.

Allison Ridge - Joint Project Leader
Allison will galvanise cross departmental colleagues and external suppliers to make sure the project comes in on time and budget. She will manage all day to day relationships with suppliers and be the single point of contact for iCREATE. She will be responsible for providing the final flowcharts to iCREATE for development at the end of week 4.
She will make sure work is shared at key times with relevant parties to get sign off/approval.

She will write the comms brief and brief the creative agency. She will manage this task in its entirety, reporting directly to Debbie. She will endeavour to keep the blog relevant and up to date as a way of keeping the wider team abreast of the project.

Chris Goostry, Creative Web Developer at the University

Chris will be responsible for making sure that the iCREATE designs integrate and are compatible with the Staffs University website. He will attend the first meeting to make sure the scope of the project is clear. He will provide all the meta data schemes. He will liaise with the internal IT department and the external supplier to make sure that all URL and URIs are linked correctly. He will manage the database and interface and he will be responsible for testing the site before it goes live. He will be responsible for all licensing once the game is Staffs property. He will also be responsible for inviting new members to the blog. He will work closely with the project managers to deliver the technical side of the project.

Nia Wearn, Senior Lecturer in Games and Design

Nia will be advising both Chris and the Project Leaders throughout the process. She will be part of the mind mapping meetings and will advise on the flow charts that Allison produces. She will bring her wealth of experience and talent to making sure the game's vision is not lost. With Nia's expertise in social media this could be another communications channel that could be explored.

Mark Stiles, Professor and Mentor to the project and Deputy Chair of JISC-JLT

Mark will be project mentor to the team. He will advise if we are fulfilling all our JISC obligations as we progress with the project. He will offer advice to keep the project on track.

Janine Holdway, Business Manager at the University

Her main responsibility will be to share with the project leaders (from her knowledge) the most FAQs by sub sector groups. She will be intergral to the game achiveing its objective of being relevant and intersteting to the new students. It is through her knowledge that Allison will be able to supply iCREATE with the flowcharts for each customer journey.

Matthew Morgan, IT Officer at the University

Matthew will work closely with Chris to make sure the Universities CMS (Tridion) is re-structured to provide the systematic content/data management that the game requires. Matthew will report to Chris and Chris will keep Allison informed that all technical requirements are on track.


Project plan (4): Copyright and licencing

Project plan


We will happily share our work with all other HE/FEs.

Blog Licence
We are using the Creative Commons - Attribution-Sharealike license for our blog and this is posted on each blog page. Will will share all outputs via our University website.

Code Licence
For the code we release this under a BSD License.

Data licence
For any data we will release this under PPDL license.


Project plan (3): Risk analysis

Table 1 Project Risks






Loss of key personnel




There has been a change in the personnel involved (Beebe Chen has re-located). Allison Ridge and Debbie Cooke are now the new project
leaders. Both have delivered many high profile projects both for the university and elsewhere.

Project is over ambitious




Unlikely. The project is estimated to take 12 weeks based on
iCREATE’s timings. If we begin on 1st April this gives us 22 weeks to new launch date of 31 Aug.

Organisational strategy changes




Senior management commitment to the plan makes this unlikely.

Technical problems with connecting to systems




This project is based on existing sound technology. Any issues in this risk area are likely to be minor.

Cultural issues




No adverse objections have been raised to date, however some objections are inevitable and these will be addressed ASAP to when they
are raised.

Failure to communicate and promote to audience




A comms plan will be out in place to actively communicate the game to students. Comms to be sent out week 1 of September in
preparation for enrolment a few weeks later.

Table 2 Game Risks




Games interface is not ready and working on time

This could cause the project to be delayed in launch until 2012’s intake of students

Constant weekly updates from I-Create. Monthly blogs. Meetings should keep the project on track

Incorrect or confusing information sent out in the letter

Hard to get users playing and interacting with the game

Unlikely as the Head of Marketing is now one of the project leaders. All information before it goes live will need final sign
off/approval by key parties

Communications issues

Miss communication about what it’s for and about. This could lead to students having issues with the functionality and the usefulness
of the game overall.

Make sure all parties are clear what this is.
Project leader’s to showcase this at key stages at management meetings to keep buy in high.

Success plan

Table 3 Success Risks



Too many students log on and the game crashes.

Web Manager will make sure all relevant functionality is in place to make sure this doesn’t happen. Any success will be managed
appropriately. As a University we are used to running competitions on-line which cause spikes in traffic so we do not envisage any
successes to be able to be viewed negatively


Project plan (2): Benefits

Institutional benefits

By receiving the funding Staffordshire University will be able to start the project.

A re-usable web application that could be rolled out across our website.

Qualitative benefits are being able to test this system out on new starters before deciding, (depending on its success) whether this should be rolled out university wide.

It is hoped it will make the website more customer focused and intuitive. This will allow us to gain credibility in the university sector and will further add to our 'reputation in the real world' brand thought as testament to being ahead of the curve with our thinking.

This will allow Staffordshire University to be one of the first Universities to showcase this technology.

It will allow a new project team to form a relationship which should increase transfer of knowledge across departments.

Community benefits

The University will ensure that Alternative Reality Game (ARG) is made available as required by JISC to other institutions (as required by JISC's Open Source principles).

IPR access to information will be free at the point of use and access to data will also be free to UK FE, HE and the Research community in perpetuity and in accordance to JISC's Open Access and/or JISC's Open Source Software Policy.
To share, on a proactive arrangemnet information and have open discussions with Southhampton University, University of Oxford and Coventry University.

Benefits to both

To provide, in the form of a survery the results from the launch and website traffic figures, this research/survey should evidence the success of the project.



Project plan (1): Aims and objectives

  • To develop a prototype Alternate Reality Game (ARG) that allows 'new students' to Staffordshire University to view our mainly passive information led web content. It will allow new students to understand what exists on campus beyond their immediate faculty. It allows them to familiarise themselves with both campuses not just the one they will be studying at. It will allow them to see where, for example the Accommodation Office and Finance Office are, where buildings are located, where faculties are, what other facilities the campus has - (cash machines, Student Union, cinema, cafes, library, chaplaincy) in a fun, interactive and stimulating way.
  • Make our website more customer focused and interactive by re-designing URIs to bridge to the the Alternative Reality Game (ARG) and to make our CMS system allow for systematic content/data management. The key developments include: website structure in hierarchical data model, user journey in mind map, URI syntax, HTML + RDFa pages and ARG .
  • Produce (via photography and mapping technology) a 3D image of our campuses.
  • Use mind mapping for information and journeys via distinctive sub sets of students, e.g. local/international. This information will be derived from an understanding of the FAQs students ask. These can then be mapped within our ARG.


  • To produce the project on time and on budget
  • To be relevant to the audience
  • To keep key stakeholders informed on progress as it develops
  • To provide relevant, well thought through mind map information to our creative partner to make sure the ARG is stimulating, relevant, rewarding and sticky to our audience.
  • To allow for future creative and technical developments to be added at a later date - such as improvements to the Avatars and internal imagery.
  • To, via JISC roll this prototype out to other HE/FE's
  • To improve the users experience on-line
  • To maximise the effectiveness of our content management system, (CMS).
  • To programme our URLs and URIs in such a way that they can be pulled out at the right moment within the game by the player
  • To re-organise our URIs according to a specially designed URI syntax


To provide a University Alternate Reality Game (ARG) that can be re-badged and used as a basis for other institutions to make their web copy more customer focused and relevant.

It is a proven fact that we retain more information when we are obliged to interact with it and seek it out, as opposed to be presented with static and passive content. Our game will allow students to navigate around the virtual University world, digesting information in a visual way, absorbing the key messages and clicking on highlights to find out more.

Staffordshire University would like to provide JISC with an open approach to ensure both the details of the project and the results are shared among other institutions. It is hoped the model and methodology will be easy to understand, integrate and tailor.

To provide Staffordshire University with a bespoke product that will maximise CMS and could, if successful be rolled out to other areas of the website.