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.

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