unity Workshops as Game-Jam PREP

Over the past month I and another Unity Student Ambassador have been running introductory workshops at Hull University. In order to provide motivation and increase engagement with students interested in game development, we decided to hold two preparatory workshops for the University’s Bi-annual 24h GameJam: 3TG on the 3rd of November. This gave us around a month to prepare the students, so we planned two fortnightly workshops, on the 10th and 24th of October.

For this format, we decided to have them complete a whole game in each 2h workshop, no matter how simple. Each workshop was set out as a self-contained project, focusing on creating a fully playable game whilst learning specific Unity functionality:

  • In the First workshop we started from absolute scratch, introducing basic concepts and User Interface, then moved on to simple C# scripting, collisions, materials and scene changing. The class slides were available online as a .pdf tutorial file, which was very useful for those who couldn’t attend, but also for those in class. It allowed them to more easily read the coding sections, and for different levels of students to continue engaging. This first workshop was a great success. The tutorial and Graphical assets are freely available here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1c2EKiWGuPq4jmlBGbZHU4ez1HqBmSjk6
  • In the Second workshop we introduced a lot more, as it was the final workshop before the gamejam. We looked at unity packages, 2D sprites and animations, physics, triggers, prefabs and audio. This workshop unfortunately could not be completed in 2h, and stretched to 3h for those who did not have to leave. Many people completed it at home however, as the assets are available online: https://drive.google.com/open?id=18B3Tql9mSsiWSh7WrUm0pmCGLd0TzuQe

There are many lessons to learn from running these workshops, such as content prioritisation, time estimation, and class management. In hindsight, three workshops would have been the ideal to cover all of Unity’s basic functionality at a calm and unhurried pace. That is how we will set it up in the future.  Another challenging aspect that we came across was addressing the different levels of participants, and engaging with them all, despite the massive experience difference between one person and the next. As mentioned previously, providing the tutorial slides during the workshop was a big help, and permitted the students with more experience to continue progressing, whilst students with less experience were not left behind, and could set the pace of the main teaching.

Overall, the workshops were very successful in preparing the attendees, and promoting the gamejam. Many of the students began with no experience in game development whatsoever, and would not otherwise have felt ready to enter a gamejam. But after completing two small games, and covering all the core functionality of Unity, they not only felt confident participating, but created some really great games!

Mixed Reality Accelerator

For those who don’t know, I attended VISR’s Mixed Reality Accelerator earlier in the year. It finished this August, and I finally have the time to sit down and go through it. Thankfully I have been given permission to speak about our project without any restrictions from the Non-disclosure agreement. I do not have good quality promotional media yet though, so I will add those at a later date.

It was a great experience, no question. We created some really innovative solutions, and not only that, we formed a good community of like-minded people that will hopefully last well after the Accelerator. Below I’ve split the experience into two sections:

The Preparation

The First two weeks were dedicated to team-building, teaching and preparing the participants. We had lectures on C# programming, the VERTX platform, 3D asset creation, and Unity from the team at VISR. Around these lectures we were assigned into small groups and competed in two Game Jams in order to put our knowledge into practice, and foster teamwork and coordination. This was undoubtedly the best way to prepare 20+ students for a real-life project.

  • The First GameJam was also our first time working with each other, and the concept was simply to make a Game and build it to the Xbox using UWP (Universal Windows Platform). This was tough but rewarding, as we had to figure out all aspects of collaboration, such as source control, task management, and planning, whilst some members of the group had just been introduced to the basics of Unity. Learning how to build to UWP was crucial, as this is the process we would later use to build for the Hololens.

 

  • The Second GameJam was geared more towards preparing us for the Hololens, as each group had to create an app that allowed you to manipulate 3D objects in space, and had to include multiplayer networking logic. Thanks to the first Game Jam, we found it much easier to work as a team, and create the game itself. The real challenge was the networking logic, which was new to all of us, but it was a great learning experience. In order to complete this task we used VERTX plugins integrated into Unity.

 

The Project

After that, our groups were finally assigned the companies that we would be working with, and everybody met their Industry Representatives. Our group partnered with LearningMate, a large Education and Training development company. The POC (Proof Of Concept) they envisioned was an application to be used by engineers to aid in maintaining complex machinery. This was to be achieved by combining Hololens functionality with an IoT integrated electric box via the online VERTX platform.

We liaised with our Industry Reps on a daily basis, they were amazing help throughout the entire process, in all areas from Business, to Programming, Graphics and UX. Together we pinpointed 4 key functionalities that would serve as an MVP (Minimum Viable Product): Live Information of components, Interactive guide, Remote Assist, and a collaborative learning exercise. Additionally, all of these holographic functionalities needed to be positioned correctly respective to the physical electric box, and be easily accessible from a main menu. This was the storyboard I drew up for the User Journey:

LearningMateFinalStoryBoard.png

Our group of 4 then divided up the tasks, I took the tasks of project management, 3D asset creation, and Unity/C# developer, another focused on the IoT aspect of the project as well as managing the teams source control (git) and the other two worked almost exclusively as Unity/C# developers.

We followed Agile development methods, having a scrum every morning to report progress and blockages, using an online Kan-ban board, and splitting the four aspects of our MVP into sprints: 2 weeks for the applications main menu, and the first functionality, 1 week each for the other three functionalities, and 1 week for final polish.

With a lot of hard work, and a few late nights near the end, we were able to deliver all of these, and the project was a resounding success. Our final application showcased:

  • An intuitive method of scanning the environment and placing a visual anchor on the electric box for alignment.
  • A simple an clear menu with subtle animations, perfect for all levels of Hololens users, leading  professionals from Microsoft to praise our UI.
  • A holographic exploded view of the Box’s components, with windows showing live information on the status of each of those components, as well as logs showing previous service history. All visible before even touching the physical box, and with the ability to leave a recorder message for future engineers.
  • An interactive guide, directing the user to perform a maintenance bypass and replace a fuse safely. This was possible due to integrating IoT sensors on all components of the box, so that every physical action performed by the user was logged, and that information was sent directly to the Hololens for it to proceed to the next instruction. Having the holograms respond instantly to physical stimuli is an incredible feeling, and is the star of our application. It greatly increases immersion and usability.
  • Integration of “Microsoft Remote Assist”. Allowing the user to place a call directly from within the app and receive audiovisual assistance from a remote expert.
  • A collaborative feature showing the possibility of several Hololens users manipulating the same virtual components in order to construct a virtual electric box. Being able to see and interact with the same holograms as other users adds a lot to the perception of realism.

Images of each function are pending, and will be uploaded when possible, for now you can see short videos of all projects here: www.visr-vr.com/vertx-projects/#learningmate

Hopefully we will be able to get a video that shows off all functionalities soon.

Mixed Reality Accelerator – VISR

Finally finished with first year, I should be receiving my results any day now. More importantly however, is the Accelerator program that I will be attending until mid August, ran by Hull based VR company VISR!

www.visr-vr.com/accelerator/ 

The program trains students in developing for the Hololens, providing real projects to work on, from real big-name companies. In the next few months, my fellow students and I will be producing real interactive spatial solutions to address industry needs.

Two weeks have already passed, but only now have we been assigned our work groups and partner companies. For these first two weeks we have had several workshops ranging from the use of singletons in C# to the creation of 3D assets, and have had two “GameJam’s”. Game Jams you ask? Yup. And I can think of no better method to get 24 individual students to: work together, learn new software and hardware, build teamwork, and gain experience.

Very excited, but I probably won’t be able to post much due to the NDA. Hopefully when the project is completed, I will be able to share. Until then, here is what microsoft have to say about it:

news.microsoft.com/en-gb/2018/06/20/university-of-hull-and-visr-launch-worlds-first-microsoft-hololens-summer-school/

 

Another great “3 Thing Game”!

Earlier this year I posted that me and my team had won Hull Universitys 2017 Autumn Three Thing Game Jam

Well now I can happily report that we have also won the 2018 Spring Three Thing Game Jam! Well done to the team, and a massive well done and thankyou to the sound dev guys who put music to our madness!

Team “Parse(Nips);” came together again, though this time with an additional member, making it 3 first years and two second years. The three random words that we needed to incorporate into our game were “Angry”, “Rolling” and “Drake”. Whilst all three interpretations of “Drake” would have been entertaining (Singer, Duck, Dragon), we decided to use the duck.

Full video in my next post!

Semester Two, Strike, and Recruitment Fair

Just realised that I havent posted anything this month. I know myself well enough not to expect to update weekly, but I should at least make sure to update monthly!

We’re half way through semester two now, and I have been kept relatively busy with coursework, especially the “Fault-tree analysis” project, and to a lesser extent the “Algorithm Performance Analysis” report.

The strikes have caused students quite a bit of disturbance. Hearing the complaints of third year students in the Student-Staff Forum and Course-Rep meetings make me glad that this happened in my first year, and in no way affects my final grade.

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I also attended a very interesting (if small) recruitment fair organised by the university, and talked with representatives from companies like “Stellar Entertainment”, “VISR”, and “Wren Kitchens”.

Now “Wren Kitchens” might look out of place among game and VR development companies, but after visiting their headquarters along with a few other students who were invited, I was amazed. It was very interesting to see a real life implementation of Agile methodologies, and talk with lead developers regarding their online CAD software and the new VR showroom set-up.

“3 Thing Game” Game Jam Winners!

A bit late, but now that I’m blogging, three months ago me and my team won Hull Universitys Autumn 24h Three Thing Game Jam!

I teamed up with two fellow first years, and a second year, forming the 4 person team “ParseNips”.

The three words that we needed to incorporate into our game were “Hull”, “Culture” and “Change”, in accordance with Hull being the City of Culture that year. We decided to create a game that encompassed several minigames and took the player on a journey from a humble whaling village to modern day Hull. It was very interesting working as a team to create our vision in such a short amount of time.

Starting this blog

This will be the first post of my blog, and probably the best place to explain who I am, and why I have created it in the first place. I may talk more about my background in future posts, but for now I will keep the introduction relatively brief and career oriented.

I am currently 25 years old, my background includes IT, graphic design and 3D/VFX, and I am currently working weekends as a “Technical Support Advisor” whilst studying Computer Science for Games Development at the University of Hull.

I am extremely interested in 3D graphics, Visual Effects, Virtual Reality, and Deep Learning.

Whilst reviewing my grades for the first semester of the first year, one of my lecturers suggested I start a blog to document my progress, and to act as a portfolio for my personal and university projects.

Well here it is!

Before I start uploading new content,  I will be uploading a backlog of projects and items from previous websites and portfolios. I hope you enjoy my sporadic updates, and maybe my information can actually be of help to someone one day.