Learn how to make content that can be deployed throughout the Metaverse with a minimum of stress. Format your workflow, and organize your workgroup for maximum creative flow. More of a workshop than a talk, Annabelle will share her working methods and invite your participation.
Ann Cudworth (Annabelle Fanshaw) is an Emmy award winning set designer in the physical world, and creator of virtual environments in the Metaverse. She and her build team have been making interactive landscapes and story/game sims in Second Life and OpenSim since 2008. In early 2014, Taylor and Francis will publish her first book- "Virtual World Design". Excerpts from that will be included in this workshop.
HI everyone- great to see you all!Design workflow for creative ideas is the circulatory system of your project. It must be kept unobstructed by the blockage of incompatible software formats, inconsistent work standards and lack of proper planning. In this presentation you will be introduced to standards and practices that enable your team to function more efficiently, scale up more effectively, and optimize your content creation practices. I like to call this the “Build it Once" system.
In this presentation, I will talk about 3 major topics:How to organize your building methodologyHow to develop a great teamHow to make content that can be deployed throughout the Metaverse with a minimum of stressAs a designer for virtual spaces, you will eventually work in all sorts of environments, and will need to repurpose content, as well as refine it in the more advanced systems. No one likes to waste time rebuilding something because it will not load properly into a 3D modeler or a virtual world. The pitfalls are many, and can catch the unaware or unprepared designer. By planning your project within the “Build it Once” framework, you create a set of work standards, and you save your team the headaches and lost time of backtracking and redoing work because something got lost, or made incorrectly.
Wisdom: We have a lot to build for the Metaverse- why should we waste time? The creative spark is what sets us apart from big data and its predictions about what we want. We need methodologies for building so we can follow these dreams easily.Be an aggregator- take the best aspects of all these elements and forge them into something newWe are shaping the visualization tools of the near future, as well as the look and functioning of social media- we don’t want to waste timeIt’s up to you to take the path of your interest, and to augment your experiences on it
Project Manager = YouThink of “Critical Paths”- Project Management is like pushing a wheelbarrow of frogs to market.Here are 5 basic steps you can take now, to set up a Standards and Practices , and streamline your next project.Let’s go through them one at a time.
Richard Powers said“Type a few lines of code, you create an organism.”Finding a code that fits- what is the DNA of your project?I like to think of it as the “Tag and release” program.Creating a 3-letter name that can be retrieved anytime.To work correctly, you must ask for consistent application across the team.
Let’s say your project was about building a schoolhouse-If you wanted to make a three letter word for this, you might choose OVS- Our Virtual Schoolhouse.This is the main branch of your DNA code- everything for the project gets this code.Then depending on what you are making for the OVS, you start to define them using a logic tree.For instance, if you are making a texture for the inside wall of the schoolhouse, you would name the texture “OVS-insidewall_schoolhouse.jpg” If you are using spotlights or projectors- you can add in an additional code- in this case SP for spotlight- and what kind of lighting the spotlight is doing, in this case a wall wash of blue. Now from each of these names, you know exactly what the object or texture does, and what project it belongs to. Sorting is easy when your inventory gets disorganized, simply ask for all the objects with OVS in the title, and viola, you have them. Available to drag and drop into the project folders.
Charles Dudley Warner said “A great artist can paint a great picture on a small canvas.” The Power of 2 compels you!Power of 2- 2 to the Nth-1024 is 2 to the 10th, 512 is 2 to the 9thFind the framework, learn its rules, and then let it be your second nature.
Julius Caesar said “No one is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected.”While you are streamlining your methodologies ask yourself:Can the file be made smaller, lighter?Is it named properly?Are you making it in the fewest possible steps?Collectively what is the total server load for these textures and objects?
The last 10% of a project takes 50% of the effort. Refining the details is only possible if you have a detailed planWhat’s a detailed plan?It has the following items:1) it creates an environment that supports the backstory, message or overall p.o.v. in terms of terrain, architecture, pallet, sound, lighting, avatars, textures, scripting and all other items you are adding.2) the design and creation of this is broken out into sequential tasks3) A timeframe is established for each step
I believe its important to understand the work - not the job descriptions- that people do in your workgroup and how they communicate about it.Actually, the most important part of this chart are the connective arrows – the lines of communication.Traditionally, a graphics company, or a design company would break out into two large groups roughly divided into Creative and Management.This is not to say, that there are no creative managers, or management minded creators.Our job descriptions are inaccurate for the current workplace, in my opinion One thing I have noticed, is that the more connections, and lines of communication a worker has, the more influential and effective they become.
Another complex system you need to understand is the actual progress of a project. I believe you need to understand that, in order to manage the workflow, making maximum time available for creative thinking.Anyone familiar with the tidal changes on a seaside harbor has observed that as the tide comes in, there will be lots of swirls and eddies in the water, all surrounding the main direction of the tidal flow. Project development takes the same sort of shape, conceptually speaking; there are many side circles of development going on, which all contribute to the overall push in the direction of the goal. In the world of software development there is a term called Agile Development , which has been adopted by the Lean Start Up business movement to define the process of iteration and incremental development as a productive and successful approach to creating a new business model. This approach has merit in the process of designing a new virtual environment as well. In the Project Development Workflow chart, you will see that the central flow of the project is surrounded by “Agile Cycles”. On the right side are the Verbal elements of the environment, on the left are the Visual elements of the environment. As the project progresses up from concept through development to creation, each level will contain a cycle of iteration and incremental change which gets fed into the mainstream for overall construction. This is necessary because each new element added into a virtual environment will affect the overall balance, the load on the server, and the accessibility. Of course, there are limits; no one can build a house if the brick maker keeps redesigning the bricks. Most of the cycling will be done in the concept and preliminary phases. These will spin very fast, changing daily if not hourly. Farther up the ladder, the cycles of levels design, model making will spin more slowly, as changes to those elements take more time and effort. In the center of it all are 4 very important co-related systems: the 3D/2D designing, the Coding/Script writing, the Optimization, and the Sound Design. All of these systems impact each other, and the members of these groups need to be in constant communication regarding their needs and impact of other work on their constructions. Finally, at the top of the chart, in synch with the creation of the final virtual environment, will be the creation of the video trailer and website to advertise and promote the new build.
Let’s zoom in on one of the Agile Cycles. In the center is the iterative/innovative cycle going around. It is following the “Creation/Rest/Test” format that a global based design group can provide. While members of one team are creating and testing, members on the team located many time zones away are resting, and will pick up the creation and testing cycle when they come back in the next day. Of course, it is always optimal to have the global teams close enough so that they can actually have a meeting in real time once a day.
Eventually, your build group, design company or school may find the need to organize a large group of people for a project. This can be a real challenge to a workflow, if productivity and creativity is hampered by excessive layers of management, unproductive meetings and bureaucratic office procedures. Here is a basic office structure for a large virtual environment design office. Again, this is a conceptual representation of the structure; your office may need to include an educational planning department, a human interface testing department and/or a mobile media integration department. The structure of the team should be flexible enough so it can add on departmental modules like those when new projects require them. In keeping with the design spirit of this book, you may decide to make your company all virtual, and have the company headquarters in a virtual world. Daily communication can be supplemented by having a company group chat channel, the virtual equivalent of the water cooler meeting, so people can take advantage of crowd sourcing when they have a problem or question.
You may be just starting out, or for project budgetary reasons, need to keep your team smaller. A small dedicated highly skilled team can accomplish much with careful planning.The first things you should assess are how your skills break out, and combine to complement each other. To some extent you should each know how to do the other persons job, so you can step in if they get overloaded. This is how a small design team functions best, they exchange tasks, and work together to keep as much fluidity and flexibility in the creation process as possible. Of course, good clear constant communication is of paramount importance here. You should all know both your strengths and weaknesses, and work together to buttress each other’s efforts.
No matter the size of your design group, what helps them become a great team, are these factors:They have clear simple goals that are meaningful to them, even if they are working on a very large and complex project.2) They provide each other with mutual support in skills and morale.3) All members of the team are constantly striving to improve their skills and understanding of design and that effort is supported and encouraged by the entire company.
Thischart that illustrates the “Build it Once” content flow for design development in Second Life, OpenSim, and Unity3D. The software was chosen to fit a workgroup that utilizes both Mac and PC platforms. This design method structure is focused around a “Shared Content Library” full of items with file formats that can be utilized by all the destination platforms. You should look for the common file formats that can be imported and exported from the software your team likes to use. Sure there are plenty of translators, Mesh Lab (http://meshlab.sourceforge.net/ ) is a fine example, but your goal here is to streamline the workflow as much as possible. Just because the final platform of your project will accept 18 file formats, doesn’t mean your team should be working with all of them. Try to utilize the most common file formats like the Collada (.dae format), the Autodesk (. fbx and .3ds formats), and you will have fewer translation issues. Bear in mind that it’s the Collada .dae, not the Autodesk .dae file format that is universally accepted in Second Life and OpenSim. The strength of using SketchUp Pro in this scenario is that your prototype models can be viewed in the virtual worlds and on Unity3D. Blender is a free program, so you can set up lots of workstations for an expanding team without much overhead. 3DSMax is an industry standard for Architecture, Filmmaking and Prototyping. There are probably some more software programs you like and want to include here, but these three will cover most of your needs and fit your price range.
In our virtual worlds we are at the crossroads of humanity. People of all ages and abilities are running their avatars across your landscapes. It is especially important that you consider all levels of ability when you design a virtual environment and make sure that you have created access in Visibility, Audibility, and Mobility. 9% of the male population of the world is red/green color blind. This can become problematic when you are using color to signal with, so always check your graphics with a color proof plug in that allows you to see the graphic as a color blind individual would. Also make sure the fonts and size of lettering is readable, and in a good clear contrast.To make the signage even more accessible, you can add in a proximity activated sound clip, that reads the pertinent information to the visitors. Also, having an audio component to your tour vehicles will support accessibility.Make sure your landscape is accessible, your doorways high enough for cameras, and hallways wide enough for turning around in with the camera in tow. Support the mobility of someone who may be using puffs of breath to move their avatar, by making sure there are no places they can fall into, or get stuck in. When you take the small amount of extra time to check these things, you assure yourself of a happier, more immersed visitor population.
Workflow optimization and creative development techniques have only been lightly explored in this presentation You as a designer, can find deep mines of information about this topic all over the web, and learn even more about it from your peers. Always take the time for a “long view” on a project, so you can get the structure of the working environment sorted out before the creative tornado sweeps through the system. You will reap the benefits of a quality design delivered on time and on budget.
I’ll take any questions now, if we still have time.There is more information about my book and our projects here:[Next slide]
OSCC 2013 - Build it Once Approach to making content for the Metaverse