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  • Passion and Experience: The Avatars Project Postmortem

    [08.29.17]
    - Justin Gibbs
  • The Guildhall is dedicated to supporting research efforts at Family Research Center, spanning the past 10 years, to raise awareness of dating violence and allow teens to practice assertiveness skills. The Guildhall first created a Half-Life 2 mod (2006) for which a research article was published, Reducing Sexual Victimization Among Adolescent Girls: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial of My Voice, My Choice. The Guildhall later implemented the project in Unity 5.1 in 2015 with added VR support.

    The Guildhall is now developing The Avatars Project, a further expansion of the first VR simulation. The Avatars Project will simulate the experience of a high school or college student at a party with a counter part to simulate high-stress social situations and train students how to navigate those situations. In addition, the project will add a third scenario where the avatar and the participant will sit in a school setting for the same purposes.

    The Guildhall team was comprised of three faculty artists, a contract programmer, two student producers (myself included) and a faculty producer. The project was completed over the period of 8 weeks in conjunction with the SMU Department of Psychology.

    What went well

    • Working with a passionate development team
    • Following the project plan (once it was finished)
    • Implementing the sound design
    • Completing autonomous work outside of the team
    • Meeting with developers during stand-ups
    • Hosting the clients to recieve feedback
    • Focusing solely on this project for an entire day once a week

    Takeaway:

    This project was part of a class called Directed Focus Study 1 at the Guildhall. Myself and another production student were given the opportunity to run this small project. This was our first experience being largely responsible for an entire project by ourselves. We were developing a porch scene and a school scene. Each one of us was given a scene to produce along with some other responsibilities. This process took place over 8 weeks and we met as a team once a week.

    What made the project a success was working with several passionate developers. Having artists and a programmer with a ton of experience between them who were excited and engaged with our product was very fruitful. When problems arose, they jumped at the opportunity to solve them. For example, the drinking animation in the Porch scene was troublesome at the beginning.

    A combination of our developers stepped up to create assets and program certain elements to generate a solution that was acceptable to the clients. The drinking animation is visible in this trailer. By trusting in our developers and giving the project our best shot as young producers, we ended up hitting our development milestones and finishing the product on time.

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