An innovative new product in the blurred area of virtual geography and games is currently in the works. This project is entitled Virtual Queenscliff, and is being developed by the school of mathematical and spatial science at RMIT University.
Queenscliff is a coastal town located in the urban outskirts of Sydney, Australia. This is the site for an innovative geospatial virtual environment, or geoVE. Previous examples of geoVE’s generally focus on hypermedia/multimedia approaches, which have a tendency to lack meaningful interactions and realism, especially when compared to games.
Hypermedia and multimedia approaches generally rely on programmes such as GeoVRML, Flash, Director3D etc.,Computer Aided Design (CAD) or Geographic Information System (GIS) applications. These are difficult to use and require some sort of background knowledge. Pipe dreams to those normal folk who don’t have a degree in geography.
Step in, Virtual Queenscliff.
No more ‘just enough’ data or flat mapping for you, no sir. Virtual Queenscliff is a geoVE project specifically designed to be a crossover point between virtual geography, spatial data storage and game-based multimedia. Spawned by a new age of 3D geographical data, it takes the ideal aspects of mapping urban areas and applies classic game-based aspects such as unlocking achievements and badges.
Initially the project sought to provide new ways of mapping and representing data over the web. Since it’s start it has developed further by providing a new way of looking at reality, allowing analysis of user-specific perception of place and space, and by utilising a platform which does not limit the availability of geographical knowledge in a way that journal articles or paper maps do.
Essentially, it’s way more interesting than that map your GCSE geography teach told you to colour in.
So on to the game engine side of the design we go. It was decided that Epic’s Unreal Editor 2 was the most appropriate 3D game engine in satisfying the research requirements.
Obviously this took into account a number of alternatives, such as Criterion’s RenderWare, id Software’s Quake III, 3D GameStudio, and String Collaborative Virtual Environment (CVE) (an altered version of GarageGames’ Torque Game Engine which was used for the initial prototypes before further analysis forced a switch to Editor 2).
By using a game engine the geoVE of Queenscliff encourages non-expert usage from the general public, and aims to generate more informed and visual learning about the town. Eventually, the virtual reality, or VR, of the area will be available for individuals to add their own data about an area within the town. This will create one of the few functioning live data storage systems using a game engine.
In a nutshell using a game engine and basic game traits in a geoVE makes data simple to interpret, easy to use, and most importantly engaging to the public. As soon as the real thing is available I’m sure I’ll post a review, where more importantly you guys will be able to check it out too.
For now, have some pretty pictures and imagine what they will be like virtually, so you can imagine what it would be like in real life. Ah, geoVE’s, you crazy.