We have been working late nights and weekends (and lunch-times!) over the last two weeks. A key reason for this was our work on an HTML5/JQuery Mobile App for the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations “Create Challenge”. Last night we managed to get the prototype completed and edited the video for the entry pitch.
My brother is heavily involved with a program called Civic Voices. This a world-wide program that supports young people in making video interviews with people who have an interesting and informative perspective on a key historical event within their community. This program has been very successful within Northern Ireland and many interviews have been conducted with people from a range of cultural backgrounds within the community.
Over the past couple of months we have designed a App that can make the most of this valuable resource, and our entry to the UNAOC competition is a iPad prototype that demonstrates the key features of our design. Students will be able to investigate the video and audio archives by site and date. Multimedia is pinned to an interactive google map, e.g. a person who is talking about “Bloody Sunday” one minute into their interview will have this location in the video pinned to Derry/Londonderry City place on the map. Multimedia can also be filtered by a date range, e.g. 1970 – 1972.
Learning activities are central to the App design. For example, users can pin their own content to the map (podcasts links etc.), can upload blog posts, and the app will have structured learning activities (including live chat sessions) between schools/groups involved with the program. Users and schools will also have a gamified profile comprising badges that are earned through engagement with the App.
We are sure that the competition will be very competitive, but if we managed to make the top 5 Apps in the competition the prize money would enable us to build a fully functional App. However, we mainly used the competition to motivate us to make progress with the App and we will look for other support to progress its construction – we feel that the App could be used in a range of learning contexts.
Jason Mitchell who recently graduated from the University of Ulster with a 1st Class BSc Hons, Computing (Game Development) visited us last week on the Coleraine campus. He was invited back to receive his BCS award for top student in the Faculty of Computing and Engineering (2010-2011) and also to chat to our current final year students. Jason now works as Software Developer at Blacklight Software in Leeds and so he was able to provide good advice on surviving final year, gaining employment, and moving away from Northern Ireland. Jason is one of the most naturally gifted programmers to have studied Computing at Coleraine so it’s always fun to catch-up with him and chat about his latest project, which he often writes about on his blog site.
We are fortunate at Coleraine to be supported by industry in many ways, including the provision of student prizes. Last week Mark McCormack, from Citi in Belfast, visited our campus to present the 2nd year mobile game development prize to Aaron Hutton and Adam Mackenzie. In presenting the prize in front of this year’s 2nd year group, Mark praised the quality of work and the level of creativity of all of the shortlisted students. He reaffirmed Citi’s support for work on campus and encouraged our current 2nd years to work towards this year’s prize.
Aaron and Adam’s winning game “Rescue the Princess; Save the World”, was designed and programmed for Windows Phone 7 over 6-8 weeks as part of their “Game Design and Development” module coursework. The game provided interesting gameplay, a quirky aesthetic, and a fascinating theme/story-line.
The two other student games by Scott Irvine and Kyle Davidson that were shortlisted for the prize were also of a very high standard. All three games, with some further work, have the potential to be successful commercially.
Debbie Rankin successfully defended her PhD thesis yesterday and should be able to graduate in the summer after making a few minor changes. She demonstrated a great depth of knowledge in her area of research, Iris Recognition, and the results of her experiments show that the Iris pattern can change significantly over a short period of time (it is a common assumption to make that the Iris is does not change).
Debbie has started work at SilverFish Studios and is now the 3rd person employed there who has a PhD qualification and joins a team who have all graduated from the University of Ulster. I called into SilverFish recently and I was impressed with the exciting range of apps and games related projects that they are currently developing. I think the highly qualified, young team makes a great difference to the culture of the company and innovative qualities of their products.
I taught Richard through his degree and supervised him through his PhD along with my colleagues David McSherry and Michael McNeill. This week he got to the end of his long journey at Coleraine by successfully defending his PhD thesis within the area of interactive adaptive digital storytelling.
During his research he developed a storytelling system called MIST. For me this research project was very interesting and Richard made several very useful contributions to adaptive story planning – particularly in relation to plan failure detection and re-planning within the context of persistent, multi-player online worlds. My motivation for being interested in this work is partly that I’m dissatisfied with MMO game design over the past decade – and I’ve played almost all the big games. What we set out to achieve on Richard’s project was to develop a way for story-lines to be more emergent, for player and NPC behaviour, actions and choices to have an impact on the story that other players experience. Existing games use variations of instancing and phasing along with fixed quests to provide stories, and to a large extent players all experience the same story. Personally, I have become bored with this.
What we achieved on Richard’s project was to remodel HTN planners within the MIST architecture so that the system can provide abstract story plans, which have many instance permutations within a dynamic, non-deterministic game world. A story manager, much like a dungeon master in D&D games, then ensures that stories are valid and structured properly.
Richard’s thesis needs a few minor corrections before it is ready but we have 2 published papers that provide some the detail of the MIST story system: