Digital Humanities and Game Design students virtually recreate Harvey Hall

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By Billy Tuite —

As the current Harvey Hall renovation aims to bring the historic building into the future, there’s a class project that will be re-creating versions of Harvey Hall from the past. Students from both the Professional Communication Emerging Media and Game Design programs are developing a video game entitled “Harvey” that will allow players to interact with the Harvey Hall of yesteryear.

“Harvey” is a collaborative class project being developed by students of Professor Mitchell Ogden’s Digital Humanities capstone and Professor Dave Beck’s Senior 3D Modeling and Animation course. Students from each course are working in separate teams to develop the game engine, the characters and the environments that will make up the virtual recreations of Harvey Hall from 1916 and its first renovation in 1970.

Game Design senior Matthew Ferrara, who is leading the game engine team on the project, explains the concept of the game: “You are a student in the present day listening to a slightly boring lecture on the history of Harvey Hall. You slowly fall asleep… Suddenly, you wake up in a dreamlike world outside of Harvey Hall in 1916, when it was brand-new. Harvey himself greets you and introduces you to Stout Institute, and you enter the building and explore its many secrets.”

Of course, the team isn’t creating an empty shell in which players just walk around. “Harvey” will also be populated with people to talk to and activities to partake in, such as a mini-game that tasks players with eliminating the wasps that infest the 4th floor of the building.

“We want these games to be historically accurate,” said senior Marisa Malahowski, who is leading the digital humanities side of the game engine team. “We want the games to have a relationship with the building’s history and not be something completely made up,” she explained.

Recreating Harvey Hall and making it fully interactive has proven to be a massive undertaking for the team, as their commitment to historical accuracy is unparalleled.

“From the DH side of things we are constantly in the archives searching for anything we can find on Harvey Hall whether it be the building itself, rooms in the building, people, etcetera,” Malahowski said. “We have spent this whole year looking for information and interviewing people.”

The project becomes even more complex when it comes time for the Game Design students to bring this research to life.

“When I model or design something, I have to make sure it fits with everything we’ve built so far,” Ferrara said. “It involves a lot more fact-checking and analyzing.”

“No one knew in 1916 that in 2014 students would be making a virtual environment, so it is not like we have perfectly categorized information we can look up and take to the Game Design students,” Malahowski added. “It would be a lot easier if we could time travel, that is for sure!”

Despite these difficulties, creating “Harvey” has been a worthwhile and rewarding experience for everyone involved.

“I feel like I’m a part of something really big, and seeing so many people working together trying to make one product can be an exciting experience,” Ferarra said.

To find out more about “Harvey” and track the progress of the game’s development, head over to the team’s development blog at harveygame.wordpress.com, or give them a “Like” on their Facebook page at facebook.com/TheHarveyGame

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