When Gen Con opens its doors in Indianapolis, a massive multiplayer alternate reality game created by 40 students and five faculty in the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI will be center stage.
The game, “Return of Aetheria,” utilizes video mapping and projectors which creates a large crystalline display, stereoscopic 3D, a phone app, the entire convention center as a play area and costumed actors portraying characters in the game.
The game was developed as a result of an educational partnership between Gen Con and the school’s Media Arts and Science program.
The students and faculty have worked eight months on the project, crafting a game based on the theme of an epic quest to restore magic to the world. The phone app will guide players through various quests to save the world and bring back magic to it.
As quests are completed, players will see the results upon the large crystalline display in real time through video mapping projectors. As the game continues, more and more dramatic events will appear on the crystalline structure and surrounding space.
“We are blurring the lines between reality and the game through the use of cutting-edge technology. Having the entire convention center space act as our play-area will bring an uncanny gaming experience to all our players,” said Powers.
One of the largest gaming conventions in the world, Gen Con attracted 40,000 visitors in 2012. Known for introducing revolutionary gaming to the public, the annual convention has taken place in Indianapolis since 2003. The 2013 Gen Con takes place August 15-18 at the Indianapolis Convention Center.
The partnership between Gen Con and the Media Arts and Science program brings together an event that is committed to the advancement of play and gaming and an academic program that that is dedicated to the creation and production of games.
“We are combining several unique levels of technology and game design to create this experience,” said Mathew Powers, a lecturer in the Media Arts and Science program, and the project’s leader. “This has never been attempted before at this level and we will demonstrate what the heck we can do, because I think we do some amazing things here.”
The project has involved 3 D and 2 D artists, video mapping, animators, computer programmers and narrators and actors who will be costumed and role playing as part of the game.
“Since the partnership was established last year, the Media Arts and Science program has added two classes, one on pre-production and the other on production of games,” Powers said. “While students learn how to create games, he said, perhaps, most importantly they gain what potential employers want: the real world experience of actually doing it.”
Powers plans to have students add to the game each year, creating new versions for display at future conventions.