Computer Graphics World

January/February 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 45 of 51

44 cgw j a n u a r y . f e b r u a r y 2 0 1 5 classic game shrouded in mystery. A cold, deep west-central Wisconsin cave. Two professors who wanted to experiment a little bit. It sounds like the makings of a Halloween thriller. For Kevin Pontuti and Dave Beck, from the School of Art and Design at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, it was even better than that. They devised a semester-long, innovative course project that channeled the power of the game Zork, challenged their students, and used cut- ting-edge industry technology. Pontuti and Beck brought students together from multiple classes (Digital Cinema Studio and Advanced 3D Modeling and Animation) to explore the con- vergence of cinema, animation, and games. Working in teams, students created an animated short fi lm (or trailer) for Zork, one of the world's fi rst interactive fi ction games. Zork, a text-based game created in the late 1970s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, represents the dawn of game design. The "engine" un- derstands basic text commands, such as "Look Up," "Go East," or "Open Mailbox." Each of these commands solicits a response from the game that describes the outcome of the command. The game was later divided into three sections and distribut- ed by Infocom, and still has a cult-classic following today. Although Zork does not include video, it remains popular in an age dominated by video games. Pontuti and Beck decided to use Zork as a point of departure for the class project. "2015 marks the 35th anniversary of Zork, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to celebrate the game," says Beck, an assistant professor and chair of the de- sign department. Many of the students in the class are game design students, and many had never heard of or played the game, so it was a great way to introduce them to this classic title, notes Pontuti, an associate professor and director of the entertainment design undergraduate program. Also, because the game is entirely text-based, meaning there are no visuals, it's very diff erent from contemporary video games in that the viewer/ player has to imagine the world as it's explored and experi- enced. It functions basically as an interactive script. Students, therefore, were required to cre- ate a video interpretation of the game. A total of 20 students from two classes worked for four months on the cross-course interdisciplinary project, created via live action and with com- puter-generated images. (The videos can be seen at http:// stoutcinemagames.wordpress. com/student-videos/. "Since we were framing the semester around the idea of cin- ema and game convergence, we decided to cra a project where the teams would create fi lm trailers or hook scenes for a game that was being adapted into a fi lm, or basically, a game-inspired short," says Pontuti. One of the goals of the project was to have students collaborate in a way similar to the entertainment industry ap- proach, with cinema, animation, and games converging. "The idea to team-teach our cinema and 3D animation cours- es emerged," Pontuti says. "Stu- IMAGINING ZORK AN INNOVATIVE COURSE PROJECT COMBINES CINEMA, ANIMATION, AND GAME DESIGN A

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Computer Graphics World - January/February 2015