Imagine you're skating through a long pathway with three friends, all of you trying to catch a thief on the run. And as you chase the thief, you're assailed by numerous obstacles-all of them ideas from books which will soon be housed in the Hunt Library. This concept is now (virtual) reality courtesy of students enrolled in the advanced game development class offered at N.C. State.
Computer science students teamed up with students from the College of Design to develop a motion-based input video game named for the James B. Hunt library. The game, called NOL, is large enough to run the length of a 21-foot wall.
R. Michael Young, Associate Professor of Computer Science and executive director of the N.C. State Digital Games Research Initiative, said this collaboration is different from joint projects undertaken by the two departments in the past. "Normally what we do in this class is we make smaller-scale projects," Young said. "So usually we'll have three to four different games developed, so there would be teams of four or five computer science students and one or two designers. This time we have one single large-scale project, so the scope of this project is much larger than what we historically have done." The objective of NOL-which is shorthand for the word "knowledge"-is to have up to four team members run along a ribbon-like path through space in pursuit of a character who has stolen some knowledge from the library. The challenges of the game include navigating along the ribbon using body motion to control the playable characters. The designers accomplished this by joining two Microsoft Kinect units together. According to Yuxin Ma, a senior in computer science, the use of Microsoft's Kinect system was a challenge for the team. Having been on the Kinect team, Ma was in charge of the "gesture model," where the Kinect outputs the computer's understanding of what the player's body is doing during the game. This includes moves to the left and right, jumping, and other body gestures players use to overcome obstacles in the game. Not only does the game utilize players' body movements, it also incorporates the library's circulation data in real time. Whenever a book is checked out, the data gets streamed into the game, and the obstacles change based on the types of books that get checked out. The inspiration behind the idea of NOL came from the designers and staff of James B. Hunt Library itself. They encouraged the students to design the game with the Hunt library's core mission-the pursuit of knowledge at the heart of Centennial Campus-in mind.
The result of the finished project has led to positive outcomes for many of the students involved, according to Ma. "On the day of our game showcase, a lot of game companies came," Ma said. "I believe a few of us got internships and job offers. It's a great opportunity for all of us. I believe this might be the coolest thing I will ever put on my resume... for now."