Week 2: Sinking our teeth in

This week we got a chance to look back at the results of the student, alumni, and faculty surveys that we sent out last weekend to see what people were thinking about festival. From these findings we were able to distill this down into three major design pillars to frame our project.  

Engagement for us means that we want attendees to be connected to both the work shown and the ETC students themselves. We want them to have a full, well-rounded experience, despite the online format, and stay accessible to all ages of guests.

Interaction implies that guests should be able to interact directly with the student work and talk with or ask questions of the students in real time. They should have an experience beyond that of just watching a lecture.

With camaraderie, it may be easy to think this is about allowing for networking opportunities between students and industry professionals or alumni, but we are targeting something softer. While there is the opportunity for networking at festival usually, the most important connections for people were the more interpersonal, passive interactions between old and new friends. ETC students should feel a sense of ownership of their work and belonging within the larger community.

First Proposal

What we are looking to create with festival now is a five day event, spreading the traditional experience across a week. This is done primarily to avoid issues related to ‘Zoom fatigue’. Many of our guests are likely taking and making video calls through their work week and the last thing we want to do it pile on 4+ hours of video conferencing at the end of their week.

Each day will feature different programming to show off different project work. Tuesday would feature the opening ceremonies and introductions to the project work from faculty and staff. The following four days would be a series of live broadcasts at two or more different times to accommodate time zone separation. 

With the broadcast portion concluding on Friday night, a special invite only interactive virtual festival would happen on Saturday. This would take the form of a lobby modeled after the ETC with chat functionality. From these lobbies, guests will be able to move from room to room, viewing streams of the work and getting a chance to play or interact with the work themselves. From here they can jump into a video call with the team for Q&A after, and then back to the main lobby.

First Playtests

At the end of this week we held some informal playtests. The first was in Rec Room, a VR/mobile game creation system. The team and a few of our friends from other projects joined a private room to begin to experiment with navigation within the existing platform. We found from this the importance of adjacency focused voice chat and streamlining of a feature set. For a platform that will be used for the very first time the night of, a guest should be able to quickly and easily navigate its interface.

We also put together our first tech prototypes for functionality of text chat, animation, and springboarding from one application to another. These foundational features will be major parts of our ultimate proposed plan for the interactive portion of festival. Chat functionality is so important for capturing those moments of passive socialization. And ensuring that guests may navigate through from a ‘project room’ to a teams actual project is core to our desire to allow them to actually play the experiences.

Our tech team identified several plug-ins for Unity to allow for voice and video chat functions as well as support for live Twitch streaming within the application. With these plug-ins our plan is to continue to develop these prototypes.

Next Week’s Agenda:

Next week we will be looking to continue to develop the prototypes by including voice and text chat functions. We also plan to identify more specifically what our technical restrictions are. Also on the docket are the playtest to explore workshop and several meetings with faculty to guide our process.