Sprinting Through Week 3

This week our team began to get into a project rhythm as well as preparation for quarters. Our first step this week was finalizing a project timeline and sprints. We agreed upon a schedule of almost entirely two week sprints throughout the semester. Because our previous coursework, the class “Building Virtual Worlds,” had us working in two week cycles, we feel comfortable with the timeline. This also allowed us to plan out a play testing schedule and mark out potential risks. We then began assigning tasks from the scrum board as well as the process of estimating hours associated with each task.

Branding has been in progress throughout the week as our team’s artist, Wonjae, continues to iterate on logo and poster designs. Our aesthetic is focused on procedural art so it has been tricky to find a graphic style that it matches. And, we are not married to any of our current visual concepts. Using the imagery we have discussed for this first build is risky because there is a good chance we will pivot. Simple vector graphics did not convey our project’s goal or theme. Capturing the core of our experience, something dreamlike and performative, might be the key challenge.

This week was the first time we began to dive into the look, feel, and of course sound of our experience. This began with mock-ups from our sound designers, Urvil and Yujin. They started by exploring the idea of “testing-out harmonies”.  What does it sound like in our world to search for a chord. What kind of audio-visual feedback do you get to explain the connection between the notes?

The other question was, what is the nature of the sound in this world. How synthy or electronic is it as compared with organic? Yujin brought in his electric violin one day and feed the notes into Ableton to begin testing out what kind of sound we might achieve using granular synthesis. In parallel we began storyboarding the experience. Some assumptions made about the look and setup of the world made it clear that we needed a shared road map. We talked through our world step by step so that it could blocked out visually.

 (Particle Hand Trails)

We are also getting into some complex technical challenges. An important visual component of our world are the particles that represent sound. To get them to appear as so they are moving in air our interaction designer, Yifei,  has been playing with “curl noise”. This should give their movement a fluid effect. Particle hand trails were also implemented this week using an open-source API called Skinner; they will be gravitating to the particles to create a sense of connection and attraction. Tools are getting made alongside our feature development to speed up our prototyping and iteration, such as volumes that can spawn a number of objects through a few settings. In addition, we utilized another tool called NoiseBall to make blobby shapes that represent the notes that the guests would interact with in the world.

 (Particle Tooling)

Our week ended with a Skype conversation with Nathan Prillaman, an experienced audio engineer, who gave us a few tips on producing procedural sound in SuperCollider, as well as some ideas on possible interactions for controlling sound. One of the useful feedback we received from him was the possibilities of using non-western tuning as a basis for creating chords. Gamelan tuning, for example, divides the octave into 5 or 7 notes, as opposed to the 12 semitones, in equal temperament tuning, creating a unique combination of tones not frequently heard in western music.

 (Noise Ball)