Stobhill is a dark and intense 3D interactive story with a rich soundscape and spoken text developed from the Edwin Morgan poem ‘Stobhill’, created at Culture Hack Scotland 2012.
Data used: The poem Stobhill was a special request, kindly granted in addition to the the initial offering of Edwin Morgan poems and Scottish poet database from the Scottish Poetry Library.
What’s ace about your hack?
Stobhill is a unique 3D interactive experience based on Edwin Morgan’s poem. Set in the spooky, shadowy abandoned hospital of the title, players discover the audio logs of three people with a history within its walls and slowly uncover a sinister and disturbing plot with a dramatic climax.
Tell us the starting point for it?
We thought we would take this opportunity to work on something completely different. It’s the first 3D project we’ve undertaken and it’s also the first narrative driven experience that we’ve put together. In order to make that narrative as strong as possible, in order to do that, we worked with local theatre group DropHound to boost our creativity.
What information or prior knowledge did you have about the arts organisation and the data set, and did it influence your approach?
When we first looked at the dataset, I noticed that some of Edwin Morgan’s poetry was available. My first experience of Morgan’s work was at school, with the beautifully written Stobhill. Up until then, I had thought poetry was just clever people writing in rhymes about the world – then out of nowhere came this thought-provoking piece of storytelling. It made a big impression on me and, on asking around the office, it appears several of us had the same experience. We wanted to see whether we could retell such impactful literature in an interactive, immersive manner.
What tech/programming languages/platforms did you use and how do they make it work?
We used the Unity game engine, designed to work across multiple platforms, and we programmed the game in C#. Unity3D is useful in circumstances like these because it is built for creating these sorts of 3D environments easily and painlessly.
Describe the process of development, and your team dynamic.
After settling on the storyline, we spent hours looking at hospital layouts so we could place each of the rooms we wanted to include in an authentic way on Friday evening. Our sound engineer pulled an all-nighter on Friday night recording chilling sound effects and music, and on Saturday our programmers set about creating a virtual version of our planned hospital.
This is the abridged version: I actually wrote a very detailed blog post about the process in case anyone wants to repeat/learn from it. But it is far too long to repeat here! Go check it out at http://interface3.com/deconstructing-our-experiment-with-immersive-poetry/
Any developments following CHSCOT?
Nothing further so far. Although we’d love to take the time out to build the whole experience out to what we wanted it to be.
What was your Culture Hack Scotland highlight or lightbulb moment?
My CHS highlight was definitely Saturday evening and seeing what people had come up with during the 24 hours. Some of the hacks were amazingly impressive and imaginative: everything ranging from hardware hacks to poetry generators. The whole set of presentation was a show all by itself. It had ‘wow’, as well as comedic moments. Thank you to the SYNC team for creating an environment to be able to make all of this creativity flow!