Digital Space and Place

Northeastern University, Spring 2018

Course Description




February 21st: Gaming / 3D Modeling


Today’s workshop has two goals:

  1. Concretize the relationship between gaming, virtual worlds, and theories of place and space.
  2. Continue to learn how to build 3D models using Google SketchUp

To do so, we’re going to continue with the process we started last week by constructing models of two historical buildings of what would later become Northeastern University. During the first half of the workshop, each group will brainstorm an idea for a historical game and storyboard a potential “scene” for the game that might take place in or around their particular building. During the second half, each group will try to create the virtual space for that scene by building a 3D model in Google SketchUp.

Part I: Getting Oriented

To review from last week:

Group 1 will be looking at an 1897 Sanborn map of where Northeastern’s first classes took place. This is Map 11: You will be modeling the building labeled “YOUNG MENS CHRISTIAN ASS’N”.

Group 2 will be looking at an 1897 Sanborn map of the present-day campus. This is Map 53: You will be modeling the building labeled “E. J. W. MORSE CO” (located at present-day Meserve Hall).

To make things a bit easier, I’ve pre-loaded two SketchUp files for each group that contain the Sanborn map geolocated onto present-day coordinates. The map is going to your working blueprint for building a model of the building, although you might want to use a high-res JPG of the map in a photo viewer outside of SketchUp for reference. I’ve also created a rectangular footprint of the building that you will be modeling. Make sure everyone in your group has managed to download and open the file:

Part II: Storyboarding

Confer as a group and brainstorm an idea for a historical game that takes place in 1897 Boston. You don’t need to get too much into the weeds, but try to come up with a rough idea for the central character, plot, and story arc. Next, hone in on a particular level or scene within your hypothetical game that will take place in or around your group’s historical building. If you’re having trouble, think back to your experience playing Walden this week for inspiration.

Part III: Modeling

Come up with a gameplan to implement your group’s vision by creating a 3D environment in Google SketchUp of the scene’s environment. You might have one person focus on building a model of the main building, while another person adds surrounding buildings, streets, etc. Or perhaps you want one person to focus on modeling a particular room within the building that the character will explore, adding furniture or other components from the 3D Warehouse, etc. Finally, think about how you’re going to merge your work together at the end of class (you can copy and paste individual entities from one SketchUp file to another). The goal is not to have a flawless model, but to go through the process of trying to create one.

During the final 15 minutes of class, each group will share their model over Slack and briefly walk through their scene to the rest of the class.