Peopled Virtual Heritage (Worlds)

The youtube link is to Colleen Morgan’s presentation at York University 20 January 2015. The John Robb article (Towards a critical Otziography: inventing prehistoric bodies) she referred to is an excellent read (and just after I could well have used this in my upcoming book! Dramatic Sigh). But what has really got me thinking are the questions at the end on representing or creating people in virtual environments especially for archaeology and the critique by someone at 49:50 minutes in (an architect? I had trouble hearing him).

My thoughts:

  • The “peopling” in architectural presentations is not meant to reveal the building in all its architectural glory, but to sell the building independently of how it will actually be used. There is an old architectural joke that new hospital buildings would be perfect if they didn’t have people using them.
  • Architects and archaeologists so often seem to have different approaches or understanding (I noticed this when at UCL in 2003 or so when both understood vomitorium differently).
  • The notion of a virtual environment as a process rather than a presentation seems lost.
  • Archaeological VR/VEs can show the process and systematic differences between our world and another world (of past perception). Imagine putting on a virtual medieval suit of armour. It is really really heavy, and uncomfortable and inflexible. To you. To a knight say 7 centuries ago it may well be such a badge of honour and a functionally superior life saving device that it seems to weigh less. Plus they will have spent years lifting it as a squire and wearing it, they were probably balls of bone and muscular. So should the simulated weight be the weight you would experience or the weight that a trained knight would experience? I would argue, both.
  • When emailing with Bond University PhD student and game designer Jakub Majewski (exploring roleplaying worlds such as Skyrim), we differed on the extent of immersivity we preferred. For heritage purposes I did not value it over task ability, and I would shift to third person view so I could see and navigate more easily. While Jakub wanted to stay in first person view at all times for full roleplaying-immersivity. So I/we may not be designing games per se. We may not fully want to. That said, I can see the value of avatar-using virtual worlds, and I did briefly list some reasons in my book chapter on narrative. But it is a chapter or book on its own (or perhaps an edited book of cross-commenting essays). So much to ponder further!

NB there was also a reference to my use of NPCs in Adobe Atmosphere, as virtual (talking) furniture! Well I could have them move but in my already streamlined 3D models of the Mayan city Palenque Mexico,, running inside Internet Explorer was taking the 2001-2003 technology to breaking point! You could bump the NPC though..

When we ported the three environments to one environment using UT2004 in 2005, we did not have problem and there were NPCs scampering all over the place. I should try and see if I can get this old environment working in UT2004 then porting to UDK..

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