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Amelia Roth: The Community Game Development Toolkit

Amelia Roth, Gustavus Adolphus College

Project: The Community Game Development Toolkit–Developing accessible tools for students and artists to tell their story using creative game design

Mentor:  Daniel Lichtman

About Me: I’m majoring in Math and Computer Science at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota.

Week 1: I begun the week by working on several tutorials in Unity to better learn the application and how I can use it to improve the accessibility of the Community Game Development Toolkit (CGDT). When meeting with my mentor earlier this week, we decided that improving the accessibility and functionality of the CGDT was our main goal during these 8 weeks. We would like to shift the creation of visual art and stories from Unity to an interactive in-game experience. Over the next few weeks, I plan to work on the in-game editor.

 

Week 2: This week I was able to use my new Unity skills to start using the toolkit and understanding the scripting behind it. I created a GitHub account and soon, I’ll have access to the code for the CGDT! I met with my mentor at the beginning of this week and we created a to-do list for me over the next couple of weeks. To create an in-game editor, my first steps will be working on selecting objects, moving objects, and most importantly, making sure that any in-game changes will be saved once the user leaves play mode in Unity.

Here’s a bit of art I made in the CGDT, check it out!

 

Week 3: I spent this week working on the code for the CGDT and uploading it to the repository on Github so that my additions are documented in the CGDT. I met with my mentor twice this week to work get help on the coding needing and we got quite a bit done!As of now, while in play mode, a user can select an object (which highlights to show it has been selected), move that object in circle around them, towards and away from them, and up and down. They can also make the object smaller and bigger. Since this took less time than expected, I can move onto the next step which would be allowing the user to save changes in play mode instead of just in editor mode. I also think it would be helpful to add functions that allow the player to rotate objects on the object’s axes, so I’ll ask my mentor if he thinks we have time to add this in.

I also began writing my paper this week. The REU had a cowriting session on Tuesdays that we plan to implement indefinitely so that us students have set aside time specifically to work on the papers and ask questions in real time if we need help. I’ve been looking for previous research that relates to my project somehow, and one very interesting thing I found is called the Verb Collective. With the Verb Collective, different verbs such as “to scatter”, “to drop”, and “to spell” have functions attached to each of them, which is turn can call other verbs and their functions. I think it’s related to my project in the way that the CGDT is meant to be a storytelling tool. Both the Verb Collective and The Community Game Development Toolkit are interested in exploring VR as a way to see the world with a new perspective.

Week 4: This week hasn’t had as many satisfying results as last week, but I’m in the middle of working on several things that should hopefully be done next week. One of the things I’m currently working on is movie textures. Right now, the CGDT has an automatic importer for textures that turns images in usable sprites, but no such script for movie textures. I have learned how to do it manually, though, and if you look closely at the cube in the image below, you’ll see it has a video attached of Grand Central Terminal!

Dan and I are also working on saving the changes we make in play mode so that user’s hard work doesn’t go to waste! Some of the necessary functions are a bit over my head for this so Dan is lending a helping hand. I’ve also started working on some documentation for the CGDT, so that it’s easy to find a tutorial for exactly what you’re trying to learn how to use.

The writing for the paper is going well, I’ve got a solid related works section and a good start on my introduction. It is also our midterm REU presentation tomorrow, and I’m excited to share the work I’ve done on the CGDT with my fellow REU students!

 

Week 5: As with all things, this project has its ups and downs in terms of how much I get done in a week. This week was one of the slower ones. Saving and loading automatically is turning out to be trickier than expected, and building the CGDT project I have on Unity to my Quest 2 is turning out a whole slew of errors so far. But, the work I’ve done this week has progressed my understanding of these problems, and I feel confident that I can finish them up in week 6. I also created some new documentation for the CGDT this week on downloading and installing Unity, and how to use assets that were originally IRL art in the virtual setting.

In the next week, besides finishing up the lingering tasks of week 5, I plan to adapt the code I’ve written for moving, rotating and scaling objects so that the can be controlled in VR through joysticks instead of on a keyboard on the computer. Some of the original code of the CGDT might have to be adapted as well, such as Player Movement, which is also down with the keyboard currently. Looking further ahead, once I feel the CGDT has all the implements I’d like it to, I’ll test the usability of these functions in a small study. Once all these pieces are in place, I’ll be able to finish my paper!

Week 6: Week 6 had one of the most rewarding experiences of this REU so far: figuring out how to make automatic saving and loading work! It was very exciting to leave play mode, enter play mode again, and see the changes I had previously made saved. Even if I restart Unity and reopen the project, the changes remain. In my opinion, this is the most important aspect I’ve added to the CGDT. Without automatic saving and loading, the tools for moving, rotating and scaling objects aren’t very useful. Ideally, I’d love to add an inventory in play mode, so that dragging and dropping objects from the project window isn’t necessary, and a way to delete objects in play mode as well. Both of those things are definitely possible in the time I have left, but finding a way to save those changes as well might end up being beyond the scope of the project.

Week 6 also brought another change of plans as well. I’ve been trying to build the CGDT to my Quest 2 so I can work with it on a headset. Unfortunately, I’m still getting a lot of errors. It may have something to do with how the new scripts I’ve added to the CGDT. However, Dr. Wole and I agreed that working on deployment issues, especially when they’ve taken up a lot of time already, is probably not the best way to spend my remaining weeks of the REU. Although seeing the CGDT on a headset would have been very cool, I actually think working more on the desktop version is truer to the mission of the CGDT. The CGDT is meant to be accessible for students, artists, and non-game developers in general, and and lot more people own computers than VR headsets. At this point, though, I’ve learned to never say never, so who knows what Week 7 will bring!

Week 7: Success building to the headset! There were a few scripts in the CGDT that were editor-specific and therefore causing the building problems. I was able to remove those scripts and once I did, my scene built to the Quest 2. However, it doesn’t have any of the new capabilities that the desktop version of the CGDT has, so I’ve spent the last couple days figuring out what needs to change for the headset version. I created a new prefab for the CGDT that is VR-specific so that it relies on an OVRCameraRig instead of a Camera. Once this prefab is added, the user is able to fly around in the scene they’ve created, moving forward in the direction they’re facing, and rotating if they wish. I’d also like to move objects with raycasting, same as I did for the desktop version, so I’ve added the raycasting laser, although it isn’t able to grab anything yet.

There was some other great stuff I did this week for the program. I participated in a user study for another student’s project, and the whole program went ziplining at the Bronx zoo together, which was really fun! The deadline on the paper is also coming up quickly, so I’ve been polishing my abstract and working on the implementation section of my paper. I was recommended a few applications to use to draw some illustrations of what my functions do, so I’ll be adding those illustrations into my paper in our final week.

Week 8: The final week! Everything I worked on this week was related to polishing my paper and creating my presentation for the final day of the REU, today. I’ve learned a lot during this REU both in terms of programming tools and skills like writing and presenting. I’m think my presentation went well, and I look forward to putting the finishing touches on my paper today. I wish I could have gotten more done on the VR-CGDT version, but as this is an 8 week program, I’m really happy with everything I was able to accomplish. Thanks to all of my mentors for making this such a great experience!

Final Report was submitted and accepted as a 2-page paper (poster presentation) at VRST 2022:
Amelia Roth and Daniel Lichtman. 2022. The Community Game Development Toolkit. In 28th ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology (VRST ’22), November 29-December 1, 2022, Tsukuba, Japan. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3562939.3565661 – pdf

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