Erik Champion

Interactive History & Digital Culture

Past Projects

The following are snippets of projects I supervised at Massey University.

4 Touchscreen Flash Games For Chinese Cultural Learning

student. Wang Li (Neil Wang)

Neil Wang, a Master of Design student at the Auckland School of Design, was awarded the best student paper at the CHINZ2011 conference in Hamilton.  He presented his pilot study results, (final results will appear in IEEE explore digital library, and was presented at VSMM2012 in Milan). Neil received NZ$300 and a certificate from the 12th ACM SIGCHI-NZ Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, held at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, over 4-5 July 2011.

Neil Wang

The “Go” game on the HP touchscreen.

Abstract: Four simple single-player games (based on the “Four Arts” of traditional Chinese culture) have been designed in Flash for a touch-screen display. The aim is to allow players to experience a digital interactive recreation of traditional Chinese culture, in order to understand features of traditional Chinese culture and related philosophical concepts such as Daoism. To evaluate the effectiveness of the design, a pilot study was conducted with twelve participants, six were Chinese speaking and six were not. The pilot study suggest that there are differences between Chinese and non-Chinese users in perceived notions of authenticity and ease of use and it has provided us with ideas on how to improve both the games and the evaluation.

Although built in Flash, Li Wang’s touch screen taoist games may now also work in html 5, and across PC, touch screen PC and mobile touch screens!

Publication: final project presented at VSMM 2012, Milan Italy 2-5 September. Paper will be in the IEEE explore digital library. Paper for the pilot study presented at CHINZ2011 is available in the ACM digital library.

Status: Project finished, masters achieved, Neil and I are discussing HTML 5 projects.

The following are summaries of some student projects I supervised at Interaction Design, School of ITEE, UQ, 2005-2006. Please do not use the below images without  permission and acknowledgment.


Student: Charles Henden

Problem: Currently using a curved mirror and a  projector we can project real-time games onto many different 3D or curved surfaces but we would require a specialist to create warping code for each environment so that the game environment projects correctly.

Solution: Develop warping mesh and a GUI so non-experts can via a simple GUI can warp the mesh so that a game (in this case UNREAL) projects accurately onto curved and 3D surfaces.

Status: Finished. OPEN GL code done, prototype evaluated. I would like to re-evaluate using perhaps other games engines, and across more compatible competing screen displays.

Publication: Presented as “A Surround Display Warp-Mesh Utility to Enhance Player Engagement” at the 7th International Conference on Entertainment Computing (ICEC 2008), Pittsburgh. Added to Jeffrey Jacobson’s CAVE UT open-source project.


Student: Andrew Dekker

Problem: Players  have physiological reactions to games that are not incorporated into the game due to the limited Windows and mouse/joystick interface devices. Is it possible to use biofeedback cheaply, and accurately in a game that adds to enjoyment even if the player does not directly control or even realise biofeedback is being used? Also, could this be used as an indirect evaluation method?

Solution: Create a socket between a cheap biosensor device and a game that suits the genre and setting, (in this case a horror zombie level). Dynamically change the AI, music, Field of View, shaders, and other elements according to how calm, stressed or bored the player is.

Status: Biosensor chosen, game and game level chosen, sockets and game code created, prototpye and control level tested against 14 people, biofeedback, subjective recall and video recorded.

Publication: DiGRA: Situated Play conference, Tokyo Japan 23-28 September 2007.

Masters /honours Project: 3D GAME ENVIRONMENTS

Students: Bonnii Walker and Jonathan Barrett


Problem: Games are typically on flat screens obscured from a wider audience. Can we include the audience and enhance spatial presence?

Solution: Create low-cost domes and tents and use (where appropriate) a curved mirror to spread the projection around the player. Create thematic interfaces and interaction devices that suit particular games and this new form of playspace.

Status: Completed.

Publication: Mentioned in DACH 2007 paper presented in Taiwan, and an as yet unpublished chapter for Intermedia book project.


Student: Andrew Dekker and Petra Thomas


Problem: New digital systems such as Google Maps are increasing in popularity. Unfortunately these present some limitations in terms of understanding both route and survey information, and in particular navigation and orientation, such as intuitively understanding a plan view no matter which way one is facing, so visitors can quickly and intuitively learn how to get to specific buildings or to specific facilities. Digital systems may also alienate older and non computer literate users; and they display contextual information inside an interface which limits the possible range of interaction methods offered by physical interaction.

Solution: Create a 3D physical model that one could spin, which would in turn display digital panoramas that spun in rotational alignment with the physical city model. Further, the user could place category tokens in intersections of the city model, which would bring up digital panoramas on the screen and highlight facilities linked to the category chosen. Rotating the token would also rotate the digital panorama.

Publication: at CAADRIA: Beyond Computer-Aided Design, Chiang Mai Thailand, 8-12 April 2008.

honours Project: HYBRID MMORG/RTS

Student: Kim Sellentin

Abstract: As the market for next-generation PC Games becomes increasingly  competitive, many top Games Developers are entertaining the idea of  combining elements of other genres to keep their titles fresh.  The  hybridization of PC game genres is of immediate commercial interest to  a local games company as there has been little research on this in the  past, although such titles are already beginning to have a prominent  presence in the industry.  This study investigates the core design and  mechanics of RTS games and determines the validity and feasibility of  applying each of these mechanics to MMORPGs.  It will draw on the  successes and strengths of currently popular RTS and MMORPG games from  an end user perspective and touches on various gaming elements such as  combat systems, character identity and interface design.  User testing  involves industry experts and ensures the presentation of a framework whereby successful transition from a pure RTS to a hybrid RTS/MMORPG can be achieved. (From student poster).

Status: Not finished, Kim’s fulltime job in a game company prevented her from finishing this project. I am interested in supervising other students in this hybrid evaluation area.

Publication: Not published. Kim presented the initial work at the end of 2007 in a student seminar at the University of Queensland.

Honours special topic Student: Adam Carter:

Title: Expressive Digital Avatars: Mixing Player and Artificial Intelligence Avatars With Expressive Digital Avatars.

Problem: Chatbots are not integrated with the 3D game environment, do not afford an enhanced sense of environmental presence, and are not aware of what the player is doing or interested in except by text input, thus making the visual appearance of the chatbot relatively redundant.

Solution: Create a chatbot that gathers spatial information about the environment and the player’s relation to the game space (or virtual environment) and to the chatbot guide.

Status: Thesis completed. Unfortunately the code was not completed and the software we had to  use was not then resolved. I did find related software and research projects and am still interested in supervising a project in a similar area.

Final year undergrad:

Students: AI Studios (Amy and Isaac).

Problem: Can the beta version of torque be used to develop new forms of games with unconventional interaction and interface mechanisms?

Solution: Created three Games using torque and laser gun, bouncing ball, zombie ghost game, and chinese calligraphy writing teaching tool using a tablet.

Status: Completed and on display at End of Year Exhibtion.

Publication: Briefly noted at DACH 2007 and mentioned in unpublished chapter for Intermedia book project.

Students: Kiel and co.

Problem: Can Torque 3D be used to create a game based on interacting with music?

Solution: Torque game based around sound interaction.

Status: Finished (but prototype not totally resolved).

Students: Labyrinth Ltd.

Team: Renee: Bio feedback, Matt: Quake, Liam: Half Life, Aaron: Greek mythology and archaeology.

Problem: Can the constraints of the HMD be overcome through simple game design, and can this game use historical knowledge and physical computing (biofeedback etc) in an interesting and engaging way?

Solution: Develop a game style level and test against peripherals (HMD, 3D joystick, and biofeedback) to connect to the projected virtual environment, and evaluate user response in terms of immersion, enjoyment, and usability factors. Constraints: Dark environment, stalked motif, biofeedback of past players mapped to environment.

Status: Level (Minoan labyrinth) created. Minotaur created. GSR created and working on presentation day. The project did not carry through to semester 2 (unfortunately).

Collaboration: Advice from psychology department, permission to use Knossos panoramas (if required) by archaeologists in the UK.

Publication: Briefly noted at DACH 2007.

Students:  DECEPTION labs.

Problem: Can Erik Champion’s Cultural Turing test idea be used convincingly in a serious game? IE can a historical setting and an imposter interaction method create a stealth learning situation (where players learn authentically without realizing?)

Solution: Create impostor multi player game with Faked Scripted or Emergent Artificial Intelligence, based on cultural Turing test idea (Champion, VAST2005 paper).

  • Game mod: Set in Venice on Marco Polo’s return.
  • Social setting: Encounter situations, communicate to hide or to reveal. Player learns social role, positions and identities.
  • Deception detection methods: (to be researched) include dialogue, appearance (where and when), spatial information, and actual player responses (user feedback).
  • Character motivation: history change, death by accident (have to impersonate victim), recover artefacts, etc.
  • Breakdown: Interrogation-George, Engines: Blake, Historical Scenarios-Jalen, AI-Jon, Gameplay mechanisms: Nigel.

Status: Game level in HL2 created, Bayesian Logic used, but not working on presentation day. I would like to revisit this project.

Publication: Mentioned briefly at DACH 2007 etc. I need to revisit this, perhaps with a different historical scenario.

Students: Project BWAR.

Problem: Can players learn about history or archaeology in an interesting and not violent-focused way? Can the interface be a learning tool?

Solution: Used Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind to create interactive Egyptian archaeology project. The player has to answer questions to be given the powers of the Egyptian gods. The map is an inventory of skills and glyphs learnt.

Status: Completed. Shown at the end of year exhibition.

Publication: Mentioned briefly in DACH 2007.

Students: AI Studios (Isaac: Gameplay, Amy: Programming).

Problem: Is Torque 2D (beta) able to create an interesting simple game?

Solution: Using Torque 2D editor create tank game with moving turret and landscape puzzle breaking ability while testing each feature of game engine.

Status: Completed and displayed (and played) at the end of year Exhibition.


Games Interface Design

Final year undergrad: Project Unreality

Students: Andrew Dekker and Mark Hurst.

Problem: Low-cost game environments with thematic interaction are rare in virtual heritage.  Secondly, can 3D spatial projection enhance a sense of spatial presence and atmosphere?

Solution: Develop a virtual heritage environment as a thematic game using non-traditional interfaces and non-traditional projection.

Colleagues: Mirror Projection: Paul Bourke, Swinburne University. Advice on CAVE UT/UT2004 and sensors: Jeff Jacobson, Pittsburgh University.

Status: prototype completed and on exhibit at end of year exhibit.

Publication: mentioned at IE 2005.

Multimedia Project Students: Annamarie, Ramon, and Mark Hurst.

Problem: Low-cost game environments with thematic interaction are rare in virtual heritage.  Secondly, can 3D spatial projection enhance a sense of spatial presence and atmosphere?

Solution: Develop a virtual heritage environment as a thematic game using non-traditional interfaces for intangible heritage, with video inserted guides (spirits).

Colleagues: Bernadette Flynn (external client).

Status: prototype completed and shown by Bernadette at a conference in Malta.

Publication: mentioned at IE 2005.

Pink and White Terraces, “the Eighth Wonder of the World”

I was fortunate to receive a small grant as part of a College Research award. The money will go towards starting a visualization / virtual heritage project centering on the Pink and White Terraces, destroyed in 1886 by the nearby Mt Tarawera eruption. To get to Lake Rotomahana (Maori for warm lake) you need a guide or a guided tour by boat or possibly permission from the local Maori tribes.

Lake Tarawera

Lake Tarawera

There are Maori legends of a ghost canoe (waka), the tragedy of over one hundred people dying (although figures are debated), a buried village, and the issue of recreating not just the Pink and White Terraces, but also the legends that surround them, and the huge volcanic eruption that buried them. Plus the controversy between scientists as to if any of the terraces remain buried under the rubble. The wikipedia also states (anonymously) that some of the terraces remain in private hands, but the operator at the Buried Village tells me she has not heard of any remnants surviving the disaster.

Despite the violent history and current controversies, the entire area is a beautiful part of the country.

For more see,

Photos: see

Update: nearby Warbrick Terraces may give some texture clues to the appearance of the Pink and White Terraces.  A photo of the nearby area by a professional photographer is on flickr. There are several tours of the area.

Update2: NZ Railway magazine in vol.6 issue 5 Nov. 1933 wrote “It is contended by some well qualified to judge that the lowering of Rotomahana’s level by 120 feet or so, by means of cutting a channel through the ash and mud deposit to Lake Tarawera, might reveal one at any rate of the beautiful terrace formations.”

Gameplay Therapy Using Biofeedback grant-fully funded

Research question: can biofeedback help ADHD sufferers improve their attention, and awareness of their own reactions and that of others? Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurobehavioral developmental disorder, commonly results in attention deficit, hyperactivity and/or impulsiveness, especially in children. Entertainment media such as computer games do not typically develop their literacy, improve their attention and awareness of their own reactions and moods, or engage their awareness of other players.

Hypothesis: Using entertaining and creatively configured biofeedback I believe we can help such children (or adults) monitor and improve their own reactions.

Objective: To develop a biofeedback device that connects to a multiplayer game and improves the attention span of participants and helps them to self-regulate their social behavior.

Methodology: Create (using Maya 2009 unlimited) and connect a popular virtual environment editor (URL: to a biofeedback sensor, developed by the emotiv company (URL:, and test if it has potential to improve ADHD and general social awareness through biofeedback that constructively and creatively affects the game-play. Low-risk human ethics approval will be sought for pilot study testing of five participants, and use a subjective questionnaire correlated to the biofeedback data to see whether the pilot appears to enhance players’ understanding of their own and others behavior while inside the test environment. Two players will encounter each other over two sessions, alternating wearing the emotiv headgear or a nonworking facsimile headgear. They won’t know one works and one does not to ensure there is no placebo effect.

Aim: Show biofeedback does enhance their sense of immersion and awareness of their own reactions and body state, and awareness of others.  NB: This is to test whether the technology and pilot content is suitable for full-scale deployment, not as a psychology experiment.

Previous work: at University of Queensland we captured players’ biofeedback to creatively enhance the rendered environment through the game’s graphic shaders. The paper was presented at DiGRA 2007 conference in Tokyo, (entitled “Please Biofeed the Zombies: Enhancing the Gameplay and Display of a Horror Game Using Biofeedback”). At MIT 6: In transitions conference at MIT in April 2009, I presented more serious uses of biofeedback, including therapeutically appropriate exemplars.

3D inside MOODLE

We have our own version of called Stream. I now have some grant money to implement a 3D game engine (probably unity3D but could be Blender 3D or similar) to run inside our STREAMed Moodle pages.

Some inspirations (and I would like to add more):

SLOODLE : SLOODLE is an Open Source project which integrates the multi-user virtual environment of Second Life® with the Moodle® learning-management system.
SLOODLE provides a range of tools for supporting learning and teaching to the immersive virtual world; tools which are integrated with a tried and tested leading web-based learning management system.

Play Paradise Paintball – Cmune

Paradise Paintball 3D is a fast paced multiplayer FPS which mixes all the fun of paintball with counter-strike style shooter action. In single player mode, …Or run it on Facebook or as a Mac widget..


3 thoughts on “Past Projects

  1. Thanks for the article, is there any way I can receive an email every time you publish a fresh update?

  2. Pingback: Erik Champion: Visualization and Games – three dimensional dynamic data exploration for dh research

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