Author Archives: Andrew Marunchak

Diagetic Gaming Interfaces

Imagine flying a modern passenger aircraft but without the complex array of instruments you’d expect to see informing you of air speed, altitude and heading. All you have at your disposal is the flight yoke, which you recognise from having seen countless pilots pull out of nose dives, moments before impact, in movies. There’s also a throttle control (for speed) and let’s throw in another dozen or so anonymous levers and buttons of varying importance, perhaps based on how colorful they are or how many can be pressed at once. Just to make things interesting, we’ll start you off at 36,000ft in the air. You can tell you’re pretty high because you can’t see any […]

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The Narrative of Weather in Gaming

The chaos of a raging storm or the tenderness of a falling snowflake both have the ability to evoke an emotional response. They set a scene and prepare the audience for what’s to come. This audiovisual conveyance is what captures the attention of a user and provides a buffer for slower paced storytelling, whether that’s through gameplay or otherwise. The first time I became enamoured with an in-game environment was after seeing the introduction sequence to Zelda: A link to the past running on the SNES. The scene has become iconic in gaming – the player wakes up in the midst of a thunder storm, during the night, to follow after their father who has […]

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Beyond Inventory Systems

Going on an adventure means, at some point, having to look through your pockets for those all important bits of kit. Whether it’s a map, compass or gauntlet of power, you need to make sure your preparations weren’t in vain and that you’ll last long enough to reach the next safe spot. Inventory systems are a core component of many genres and aren’t exclusive to roleplaying games. Choosing your loadout in a first person shooter, making sure you have your long and short range options carefully considered also qualifies. Rather than focusing on the different ways of handling a grid of images (as most discussion on this topic seems to get stuck), I wanted to […]

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Cartography in Gaming

To this day, I continue to get excited whenever I see a game map. I feel the urge to explore and my imagination goes into overdrive, creating stories for the areas depicted and quickly convincing myself that the world is more expansive and fantastic than it usually ends up being. This ‘runaway imagination train’ effect is something I always look to experience when I pickup a new game and hope to be able to replicate in future projects. In games, maps tend to provide context. They show us where we sit in the scheme of things and sometimes allow us to gauge our progress en route to a terminal destination, be it a snowy mountain […]

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Demonstrating Virtual Reality at the University of Hertfordshire

It’s not often that we get the chance to demonstrate what we’re working on as, in education, it’s more about the finished product and conclusions. Nevertheless, during the HEaTED East of England network event , we were given the opportunity to allow people to wonder around a bespoke 3D environment while using our HTC Vive headset and touch controllers. We used the controllers themselves emulate the functional behaviours of a smartphone. The reactions were all positive and I managed to have chats with some senior managers about where it is we’re hoping to take our vision for VR at the University. You can find a brief video depicting the space below: The idea was to […]

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The HTC Vive in a smaller space

Granted, there are plenty of videos showing how the Vive works in large, open environments but few of them deal with the real-world scenarios faced by many when it comes to introducing virtual reality to their living rooms. Much like how the Nintendo Wii needed a similar amount of space in order to allow the user to swing their arms around as they participated in sword fights, golf and bowling, the Vive needs even more to do it justice. Having said that, it seems to work incredibly well, even in something of a cramped space. I don’t doubt that, as the prevalence of VR continues to grow, we may undergo a radical culture shift involving […]

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HTC Vive Commercial Release – First Impressions

Shortly after receiving our HTC Vive, I rushed to set everything up in a bid to sample the delights of the virtual reality applications available through Steam. For those of you unfamiliar with Steam, it’s an online content distribution service, initially set up for gaming but has since diversified its offerings in a bid to reach out to wider audiences. We’re hoping to improve the student experience by creating engaging visual content for use in our concept classrooms and the promise of virtual reality in this area is quite something. Unboxing the headset and its accompanying assortment of wires made me wonder how portable a solution the Vive could be. Much of what we do […]

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Mixed Reality with the Oculus DK2

The irony of virtual reality is that, despite being a visual medium, it remains incredibly difficult to convey in a faithful manner. It’s not just about the visual impact of an experience but also the immersion factor. I made a post a few months ago in which I filmed myself using the Oculus Rift at a desk. In that video, I cross-faded the perspectives of a bystander and user in an attempt to communicate how people can interact with a 3D environment using a headset. Virtual Reality represents something of a growth industry right now but it will take time to convince people of its promise as a means for channelling emotional bandwidth. In the […]

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What do artificial intelligence, virtual reality and gene editing have in common?

I’m something of a transhumanist and in possession of a woefully optimistic view of where technology can take the human race in the next hundred years. A lot has happened in recent times, we have a surge in the public interest of VR, new genetic therapies which are starting to offer treatments for everything from HIV to cancer and the early stages of artificial neural networks which hold the potential to both dwarf and augment our collective intelligence. Advances in these mediums have been made possible thanks to hardware improvements in GPUs (simple graphics cards). Thanks to their efficiency and number crunching abilities, they’re able to do more than simply create breathtaking visuals. NVidia are […]

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The Logistics of Virtual Reality and Thunderbolt 3

The end game for many technologies involves integrating seamlessly with our being, turning us into space-dwelling cyborgs. The problem is that while the process of miniaturization is always in motion, there will always be a suite of technologies on the fringe which have yet to undergo such optimization and start out in something of a clunky state. Virtual Reality headsets are such things, they are new, large and cumbersome. While the phone-based experiences made popular by the Gear VR hold promise (in that it is a lightweight solution without wires) it remains expensive. Upgrading to a new phone is also problematic. When all one needs is a faster GPU, the only option is to purchase […]

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