Learn from home – modelling sea level rise and flooding video

We hope you are all keeping yourselves as safe as possible during the current period. We are very much missing being out and about and sharing our games and activities with everyone. To help share some of our work, Chris will be making short video tutorials and the first revisits the very beginnings of the SeriousGeoGames Lab and how we model the impacts sea level rise will have on flood risk.

The model used by Chris in the video is the Beta version of Humber in a Box (our first virtual reality activity) as used at Hull SciFest in 2014. The model code and data from this model were used by the developers to build into Unity-3D and add the beautiful, immersive, graphics. Sadly, Humber in a Box can no longer be used but you can get an idea of what it was like in the video below.

To go alongside the new tutorial, we are making the files for Humber in a Box Beta available so you can try it at home. It should run reasonably well on any modern PC. For a guide on how to get it running, skip to 10 minutes through the tutorial. Files can be downloaded from here.

Don’t forget to check out our previous post on how to use Flash Flood! from home too.

Enjoy and stay safe!

Resilience – Development of a Card Game

I’ve been working on a prototype card game for SeriousGeoGames for a while now. The game, with the working title Resilience, sees players take control of a city and its surrounding area with the aim of staying in that job until the end of the game. The catch is there is another player with their own city also trying to reach that goal. With the ability to make events happen in each other’s cities, you each pose a threat to the other’s political survival.

Although I toyed with the idea of having multiple stresses to deal with, the game just got too unwieldy, so the focused down on flooding as the main hazard. Players can build defences, enact resilience measures, or implement things purely as they are popular – if they want to be aggressive, they can send a storm towards a rival city. Through playing the game, players will learn about the complexity of flood defence from physical, societal, and political perspectives.

360 time lapse of players trying an early version of Resilience at the EGU 18 Games Night.

The game is designed to be a deck builder, so rather than each having the same deck of cards players can choose a pile from their collection allowing them to try different strategies. I’m designing the game to have enough layers – through use of cards, dice, and tokens – that there will be numerous styles of play possible. The main goal of the design is for the game to be fun, with plenty of replay value, yet the deck building aspect adds in a further dimension – collectability.

I still have piles of Pokemon and Star Wars cards from when I was a kid, even though I never played either as a game. When I get free packs of cards in gaming magazines for games I will never play, I keep them. Especially the ‘shinies’. There is something tactile and attractive about a well-designed, crisp, high quality card, and this is something I want to tap into with Resilience.

My rubbish PowerPoint mock up (left), and Kelly’s design to use on the back of the cards (right). A big improvement!

Enter Kelly Stanford, Sci Artist. I’d been looking for an artist for a few months and seen some nice work, but no one seemed quite right for the game. Then I came across Kelly’s work on her Twitter and was blown away. She is a specialist in making science-based art and has worked on numerous public engagement projects, working in a range of styles from sculpture, hyper-realistic, and cartoon. She’s also a gamer and after a coffee meeting at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry it was clear she got what I trying to achieve.

I commissioned her at the beginning of the year to develop the designs, and Kelly has wasted no time producing great designs for the cards – nothing like my rubbish PowerPoint efforts! So far we have the awesome logo for the back of the cards, a card template, and some concepts for the card types.

My original card template (left), Kelly’s template design (middle), and Kelly’s concept sketches.

I’m hoping to try out the first full prototype combining game and art designs at the EGU Games Night on April 10th, and after that I’m still not sure where it will go. There are several options to look at for production and dissemination, such as getting funding for a limited run, crowdfunding, getting a commercial backer, or simply releasing the game in a PDF to print your own cards. The game is designed so that additional decks can be added to the initial deck to add further complexity and variety, and I plan on offering bespoke limited edition shiny cards for events and projects.

I’m really excited about this project. I think the game has the potential to not only be fun but really help with the communication of flood risk management and its complexities and challenges. There is nothing quite like a game for putting you in someone else’s shoes. Keep an eye on this blog and Kelly’s blog for further news about Resilience.

Flood Defender – Developer Report

A few weeks ago we heard from the SEED Masters students working on developing TideBox. This post hears from another group developing Flood Defender, a gamified version of a long-standing flood risk management practical used in the Geohazards module at the University of Hull. Flood Defender will merge our hydraulic model with the Unreal 3D gaming engine and allow people to test their own flood defence schemes – can they stop the Uncanny Valley city from flooding, and can they do it within budget? Let’s hear how they are getting on – 

Flood Practical Gamification also known as Flood Defender is a flood simulation that takes place in the fictional Uncanny Valley city (but is based on the real city of Carlisle) which implements a simplified CAESAR-Lisflood model. The project presents many challenges and within this blog post we the developers of Flood Defender would like to talk about these challenges and experiences.

defendcity1

The first challenge as a team was to familiarise ourselves with Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) which is the chosen games engine the project had previously been developed on. None of us had any prior experience and this is a constant on-going learning experience for the team throughout the development.

Another challenge the team faced was to understand the existing project as we inherited it, making improvements to the existing implementation where necessary, and continuing the progress. This is made more complicated due to a lack of design and technical documentation being passed on from previous project.

Each member of the team had different primary responsibility which they spearheaded and collaborate with fellow members to accomplish; we have Adam that works on the UI (User Interface), Christopher whom works on the flood defences, and Alex who is working on the flood model. Despite these roles each of us worked closely together to ensure each member is moving forward and is remained informed on recent changes as part of our team development strategies.

defendcity2

“Working on the flood game has been an exciting new challenge for me. I was attracted to this project due the fact it was using the Unreal engine. It was a chance for me to learn a new engine and have the responsibilities of working in a team. My main responsibilities has been UI development and Zoning cost calculations. I’ve enjoyed my role in the project and look forward to future development on this.”  – Adam Davies

“The only single word I could use to describe my time on this project would be ‘Experience’, working with unreal challenged me, as my previous experience was using libraries such as DirectX and openGL. Having the chance to work using a full environment game engine was exciting to say the least.

My main responsibilities on the project began as fixing issues which existed from the previous project. This mainly consisted of limited implemented features and completely broken implemented features, most of which were associated with reset functionality of the application.

Further into the project my role changed, I began implementing features relating to flood defences. To gain a good idea of the client’s needs, multiple methods which may be used were prototyped and demonstrated, and the preferred method is being further developed into a fully implemented feature.” – Christopher Atkinson

“My main responsibility is the CAESAR-Lisflood model and this is an extremely challenging endeavour for me as I have no experience in this field. It has however been extremely satisfying for me to research this topic, reviewing existing implementations and trying to adapt the model code correctly into the flood game” – Alex Dos Santos

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We’ve been given the fortunate experience on working on such a great project and we’ve always focused on delivering the best we can to the development of the project. We have aimed from day one to leave the project in a much better state then when we initially received it and we feel as a team that we have and continue to do this. This experience has taught us, as developers, many valuable lessons that we will go on to take to our future careers.

Thank you for reading,

Adam Davies, Christopher Atkinson and Alex Dos Santos – Flood game developer team of 17-18

What’s coming up? Lots!

Ok, I’ll admit, we’ve been a little quiet of late. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy working on new games to fascinate and entertain you at future events.

At the NERC science showcase, Into the blue, we won one of the four prizes and this has allowed to develop Flash Flood! further. We’ll be using the prize to make interactive YouTube walk-throughs of the game meaning anyone with an internet connection can try it, and using a cardboard headset can even get a sense of the VR.

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Dr Matt Perks – @catchmentsci – demonstrating Flash Flood! at Into the blue

Last September we began working with students from SEED Software on two (yes, two!) projects. The first is a rebuild of Humber in a Box, making it smoother and more intuitive – this new iteration of the game will be called TideBox, focussing on the science of estuaries more generally than just the Humber (although the Humber still features prominently).

Development shots from Defend the City

The second is our most ambitious project yet – Defend the City. The games uses the CAESAR-Lisflood model to simulate the flooding in our town, Uncanny Valley. The player(s) get to build in their own flood defences on the attractive 3D environment, and then see just how successful they have been. It will be used during workshops, and will convey two key issues of flood defence –

  1. You can never eliminate flood risk completely
  2. Flood Managers have to strike a balance of cost and benefit with any scheme

We hope to debut all three of these projects at Hull Science Festival, April 2-4 2017. It is free but you will need to pre-book some activities.

Finally, if you want learn more about the Humber, its landscape and how it has inspired poetry, you can hear SeriousGeoGamer Chris Skinner on the Radio 4 Seriously… Podcast ‘I, by the Tide of Humber‘.

The Origins of TideBox (aka Humber in a Box)

You may know it as Humber in a Box but because we have big plans for the application we are changing the name to TideBox Beta. Whatever the name, TideBox has come from very humble beginnings.

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VR view of TideBox Beta

It all began in the first couple of weeks of my first job after my thesis submission. I was working as a part-time Research Assistant for a project called Dynamic Humber, and my job was to use the CAESAR-Lisflood model to simulate long-term development of the Humber Estuary.

This was half a year before the storm surge of December 5th 2013 and flooding was not on the radar for the research programme – instead we were trying to crack modelling the sediment processes in the Estuary. The model is designed for rivers primarily, so needed to be adapted and tested for use in tidal conditions. I was continuing the work of Jorge Ramirez, and even now this work is ongoing with PhD candidate Chloe Morris leading the charge.

I was asked to present the Dynamic Humber project to the public at the Hull Science Showcase, the forerunner of the massively popular Hull Science Festival. I had no experience of science outreach at all, and only two weeks in the job – with the help of my colleague Sally Little (we were the Dynamic (Humber) Duo), we produced a poster and a short video detailing the programme. They were bad and a great example of how not to do public engagement.

Recently though, the “On This Day” feature on Facebook did trawl up a long forgotten memory for me – part of the video featured an ArcGIS fly through of the Humber Estuary data we were using for the model, including the Humber Bridge towers (very much not to scale). It took a few attempts to fly between the towers! I guess this was the initial inception of what would become Humber in a Box, and hopefully TideBox.

Thanks for reading,

Chris