Entertainment Technology Center: Building Virtual Worlds

Round 5 : “Show Round”
Timeline: 4 weeks
Showcased at the Fall 2011 BVW Show
2D Art, Texture Mapping, CityEngine Tech, Storyboard Animation, Story Development

Introducing the ElectroTechnoCorps!  This was our final project of the semester, and our requirements were to make something with the BVW show in mind at the end of the semester.  In essence, play to spectacle!  We took that idea and ran with it, creating a wiimote-powered, campy, power-rangers style action experience.

To check out the interaction and performance, hit the video at the end of the page.

One of my teammates helped us out a lot with a great idea of a gigantic mech robot that’s piloted by three people – and they have to work together to move it around the world.  We ended up taking this story and running with it – and turning it into the ElectroTechnoCorps, a group of three superheroes who pilot the Mark 18 to save Burghopolis from the evil Dr. Sinister, who is using his Gigant-o-ray to create minions to take over the city (which ends up not always being as effective as he thought).

We looked a lot at really campy 80s and 90s cartoons, including Voltron, Power Rangers, and Transformers, trying to get as cheesy and spectacular as we possibly could… but in doing so we overscoped a lot with how much we wanted to put into the project.  We ended up scaling back a lot, simplifying to just three challenges: defeating a giant snake, rescuing a puppy, and climbing a building to find the Gigant-o-Ray, only to find that Dr. Sinister has once again escaped, sending a final robot dragon to try to finish us off.  Even including all of this proved to be quite a challenge, but we pulled it off in time for the BVW show, which we were selected to perform in!

One of our biggest challenges was creating a city layout that wouldn’t kill Unity, the game developing tool we’re currently using, and wouldn’t be terribly time consuming to model and texture.  We lucked out a lot with my experience during my undergrad with CityEngine, a procedural modeling software for urban environments.  I was easily able to write a quick script in the wizard that could generate a city for us and exported it for our programmer, Ken Hilf, to put into the game.  Luckily, I could also separate each model by the building so he could make a destructible environment with particle systems.  Each building in the world could be completely destructed, which was a great feat for our scale and happened to work out really easily for us because of CityEngine.

One of the main things I took away from this project is that improvisational acting is a GREAT skill to develop.  So much of our script and story development started as a nebulous idea that we used our skills from our improv class to evolve.  We created a lot of the dialogue that ended up in the final performance through improvising and committing to the narrative, and often some of the ideas we came up with that ended up in the world (the Gigant-o-ray, for example) were thought of during these impromptu improv/brainstorming sessions.  Acting isn’t just a great skill for artists and animators but it really helped us get the juices flowing about fun material to include in our project.

Because much of the project is performance-driven, I’ve also included the recording of our performance at the BVW show.