The week of Thanksgiving we decided to take off from most work to make sure that we’re prepared for all the chaos that we know will begin to ensue following break. We’ll be getting the final list of BVW projects for festival and will start receiving all the materials that we’ve been expecting in the week following.
Combing through the data that we’ve gathered from our synchronous playtest on Nov. 22, we found a sizable amount of desire for the ability to form a private call with other attendees while still walking around the space. Testers found the chat booths either limiting or difficult to use with a group on the move. After looking into some of the features available for Photon Voice, we found that folding in support for a direct calling system would be relatively straightforward, but there was a major question about how to present this option to our guests in such a way that would not overwhelm them with options or menus.
For this reason we decided to split the voice chat systems into two main purposes. Chat booths can be walked into and will directly activate your microphone and broadcast it to anyone within the same chatbooth as you. This is convenient for large groups and the automatic nature of it prevents confusion due to navigating a connection list or call accept/decline list. The direct call feature will be limited to one-to-one calling, accessed through another user’s profile page. Selecting call will trigger an ‘accept call’ screen on the receiver’s end. Once you are both in this call, you are unable to enter a chat booth or join a new call until the first call is disconnected. Again, the focus here is on keeping calls clear for users in regards to who they are talking to at any time, and they cannot connect to two calls at once.
The other major thing that we saw from our playtest on Nov. 22 was a major need for technical help with onboarding and explaining features. We had about 70 guests in a Zoom call and about 45 of them were completely naive. While we’re incredibly happy with how this playtest went and all the feedback we got from it, we began to get worried about the potential of our team to easily and clearly provide tech support through the event. A tutorial was always on the board for us, but it became a priority following break. We needed to get anything that we could into the project as a resource for guests to use to help them to self-troubleshoot. Three hours can go by incredibly quickly in the festival, and ten, fifteen, twenty minutes waiting for tech support won’t do for the event.
We’re pulling inspiration from the tutorial level of Cuphead for our tutorial. It will just be a 2D hallway that highlights all the interactables and features of the project. It will also be optional, allowing guests to choose to take part or not, depending on their prior experience. Clicking on Wiffy in the personal room will bring up this tutorial level at any time.
Hopefully this will help to triage some of the easier tech support needs away from our main help Zoom room, leaving it open only for those who truly need help with a bug.
This week we received the final decisions from jury regarding which BVW projects had been accepted to the festival. We’ll be featuring synchronous BVW work in the festival space and asynchronous BVW work on the website for public download.
The final list is:
Virtual Space (synchronous)
9 Take You to the Light
10 Tone of Freedom
12 Paper Crane
14 Under the Bloody Moon
32 A Story About Foot Binding
33 Spy Guy
36 Let Me Be Your Eyes
Each of the teams submitted a plan for their BVW rooms within the festival space. However, there is a great deal of iteration required on their end to provide us with all of the appropriate assets for their project. We looked over everything that they had submitted to us to document their plans and gave them feedback on Thursday.
We are requiring that they turn in their room templates to us by Sunday evening so that we can push to implement them in the space and have everything ready for their BVW class on Tuesday for them to get a chance to see it all in the world.
We had soft presentations early this week and they went generally well. Some of the major questions we were asked can be addressed here.
- How do I find someone in the virtual space?
- While there’s no way for us to have a public guest list tracking who is where and when, we have implemented the direct call feature which allows guests to connect when they stumble across one another and keep track of each other when separated.
- Is there a uniform identification or nametag system?
- Each avatar has a profile which guests can enter their personal information into including: job, email, and bio. We love the suggested idea of forcing certain identifications onto ETC students, faculty and staff. We’re working on implementing a system that will display standardized identifications for a select set of individuals directly underneath their name in the world including: ETC First Year Student, ETC Second Year Student, ETC CloudWorks, ETC Faculty, and ETC Staff. This way we can clearly communicate to our guests who is who and who may be able to answer their questions. We’ll be using our guest database system to be setting this up with each person’s login information.
- What’s the plan for a Mac build?
- This is definitely where we felt the most push back and had the most discussion after the fact. Early in the semester we were working to host the festival in the browser using WebGL, but we found that it was incapable of accommodating the more reliable plugins that were becoming necessities for the experience. So we made a difficult decision to focus our development timeline on providing a robust Windows build. After some feedback we decided to put a Mac build into our final week’s schedule as a stretch goal. We knew that in order to provide a Mac build, some of the main functionalities that rely on Windows calls would have to be removed, making the Mac version more of a Beta build, but would at least give these users some access to the space. In order to prevent a double merge late in the project, we need to wait until the Windows version is complete and ready to go for the festival so that we can branch it off and develop the Mac version. This means we will only have about two days to work on this, if everything goes according to plan. We’re looking at next week optimistically, but know that we’re looking down the barrel of a lot of work to accomplish and only so many hands to do it. In an ideal scenario, there will be a Mac build, but we will need to update this news next week.
As scary as it is to put into words–festival is next week!
As we look forward, we will be holding a final playtest of the BVW space to help train the first year students on hosting and expose any issues with their rooms. We will also be rushing through the entire week to implement the BVW rooms, make changes based on the playtest, chase down final missing assets, rehearse, set up our database registry, and send out invitation codes. Fingers crossed that the six of us survive to Sunday. See you at Festival!