Creating the Proof-of-Concept, Part 2 (of 2)

Hswaxgwmtóm, everyone.

Last month I discussed in this post how the Anatolian Trail was first created and how the narrative team produced a script and recorded dialogue for the proof-of-concept.

Today, I would like to talk a little about how the game itself was created by some of the wonderful folks at EKU.

You may not know this, but just down the road from the University of Kentucky sits Eastern Kentucky University.

And fortunately for us, they’ve got a fantastic Gaming Institute that teaches undergraduates how to create games, led by Dr. George Landon.

Mine 18

Right before we applied for the NEH grant, a small group of students at EKU were working on a game called Mine 18, which centers around exploring an abandoned mining town in Eastern Kentucky. 

The game is a walking simulator inspired by the landscape, depot, and mines of Blue Heron, Kentucky. You play as a historical surveyor who investigates the mines and tries to figure out why the mining town was abandoned in the late 1800s. The player collects old journal entries written by various members of the town to eventually learn that Black Lung was becoming a huge problem for the local miners. 

The prototype game was developed in the Unreal Engine with high quality graphics to accurately portray the environment of a small Eastern Kentucky mining town. While this game serves as a high-quality playable demo, it was developed in only 10 weeks in a classroom setting. 

Despite its short period of development, it was selected as one of five finalists for the national E3 College Competition event, chosen out 400 submissions! 

Below is an image of some of the team that put Mine 18 together.

Utilizing freely available mapping software available within Google Earth and ground level imagery from Google Street View, the team developed topology within the Unreal Engine level design system. Mining facilities, homes, and other buildings were modeled and textured using a combination of current street-level images and historic photographs. 

You can see a video of gameplay here or download a copy of the game here.

Creating a Proof-of-Concept for the Anatolian Trail

Brenna, Phil, and I were *super* impressed with the work the EKU team had done on Mine 18. When we saw what they could do, we thought, “Hmm, maybe making a game about PIE is not that crazy after all!”

We lucked out. We met two of the Mine 18 team members, Lacey Lansaw & Kyle Nestmann, who were both excited about the Anatolian Trail and volunteered their time during the month of May to help us put together a proof-of-concept in about three weeks.

Kyle Nestmann
Lacey Lansaw

Our goals for the proof-of-concept were relatively modest, aiming to recreate a small zone on the shore of the Black Sea in 3000 BCE in which the player may explore a photorealistic 3D 3rd person view generated in Unity.

As was done on Mine 18, the team utilized freely available mapping software available within Google Earth and ground level imagery from Google Street View, in order to generate the topography of a specific coastal area of Crimea next to the Black Sea. This topography was then uploaded into Unity and textured to accurately represent that region.

Characters were generated in Adobe Fuse & animated through Adobe Mixamo, both free of charge.

Nearly all of the 3D models in the proof-of-concept were royalty free, though three were purchased from the Unity Asset store – a birch tree, a willow tree, and a berry bush.

The hut (yurt) was created by Nick Tiemeyer (thank you Nick!), a student in the EKU Gaming Institute.

What's next?

It was exciting to produce a proof-of-concept that represents Crimea 5000 years ago, but we now know that the game we’re currently developing won’t really resemble it in any way, at least in game style.

But more soon on that (*knock on wood*), once the government opens back up!