VIS-02449 - Immersive Landscape: Representation through Gaming Technology


Course #: VIS-02449


Fri 9:00-12:00 Gund 109


Eric de Broche des Combes, Chad Oppenheim

Course Description

The course is aimed at investigating new ways to interpret, conceive and describe landscape. While traditional methods of representation will prevail for some time, they make the cognitive process a one-way circumstance with an "emitter" and a "listener" that barely interact. Game technologies permit the creation of realistic, oniric, utopian as well as dystopian universes. It is possible to use, disregard, twist, bend or re-invent the laws of physics, the flow of time, the hazards of weather, the perception of depth, but most importantly, it permits absolute freedom.

Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, connections will need to be made through studies of landscape representation in the arts, movies and, not surprisingly, video games.

Through the investigation, conception and construction of virtual “altered states" you will acquire the techniques required to develop your ideas from the early stages of preparatory work to the deployment phase, bearing in mind that technical skills matter less than the search for smart and imaginative solutions. Game fabrication should be envisaged as a mental layout where elements have to be structured and organized in a way that they are not perceived as being intrusive, unless, of course, you want them to be.

Some of the topics that will be covered include: "mastering planning and research", "Strategies of representations", "the finding of a graphic style", "creating meshes and textures for game engines", "building nature in Unity", "realistic vs. non realistic approaches", "sound design", "navigation and interaction", "document.write("Hello World!")", "targeting different platforms", "having fun" - while it's not exactly technical, it's a fundamental notion that should not be lost, especially when speaking of games.

The classes will be divided in two parts, alternating weekly, where one class will be focused on theory, methods, and criticism, and the other will focus more on the technical, where will be put into practice what has been investigated. Both sessions will include lecturers and other guests.

Our software of choice will be "Unity3D" (http://www.unity3d.com), a real time 3D engine, which is an industry standard in game creation and simulation (most of the processes can actually be easily transferred to other engines). "Cinema 4D" (http://www.maxon.net/products/cinema-4d-studio.html) , because of its very stable and simple workflow, will be used for most of the 3D operations. Students familiar with other 3D packages are free to use them as a possible replacement. Still, the most important tools will be a pencil, a piece of paper and your brain.

mail: edebroche@gsd.harvard.edu