Bio of Eric Wu-Chinese resource at CSLS

Hi there,

This is guoyong wu, you can call me Eric.I grew up in China and earned my BA in English language and literature at the Shanghai International Studies University in 2007 and an MA in international business at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economic in 2009. I then worked as a full time English teacher in the international education office at the Shanghai University of Engineering Science (SUES) from 2009 to 2013.

I came to Vanderbilt last year in 2014 and currently doing my master degree program in Teaching & Learning department with concentration on English language learners at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University.

This semester I will be working at the Center for Second Language Studies at Vanderbilt as one of the graduate students associates, in particular, as a Chinese language tutor and resource. My working hours are as follows:

Monday 9:00 am-11:30 am

Wednesday 9:00 am-11:30 am

Thursday 1:00pm -4:00pm

The CSLS is located at Furman Hall, Room 001 Phone: (32)2-2818

so feel free to drop by and let’s talk in Chinese.

Emergent Houses / Emergent Gameplay

The landscape in Sieghartsweiler is still undergoing some modifications, and will probably continue to do so, but the basics are mostly taken care of. Over the past couple of weeks, the houses have been my first priority. Due to the limited availability of suitable pre-made object meshes in the Asset Store, I realized that I would need to be able to make my own. Thus I needed to learn how to do 3D modeling in Blender. (There are other options, but Blender has the decisive advantage of being free.) After a series of YouTube tutorials, a good deal of experimentation, and transient bouts of frustration, I managed to build and import several meshes that will become the houses.

Here are my house meshes in Blender, before importing to Unity. I built them all in the same file so that the scale would match exactly, but then saved each piece in a separate file in order to simplify the importing and texturing processes.

Here are my house meshes in Blender, before importing to Unity. I built them all in the same file so that the scale would match exactly, but then saved each piece in a separate file in order to simplify the importing and texturing processes.

The house meshes are modular so that I can vary them in Unity by adding different textures and different numbers of storeys. So far, I have only placed a couple in the landscape as an initial test. One extremely helpful thing that I did find in the Asset Store was an “18th century doors and windows” pack. I stuck one of each onto one of my houses, again just as a test – these required a fair amount of scale adjustment in order to be human-sized.

Because of their modularity, it's easy to vary the color of the stucco. The guy in the yellow hard hat is for scale testing purposes, not a stray member of the Village People.

Because of the houses’ modularity, it’s easy to vary the color of the stucco. The guy in the yellow hard hat is for scale testing purposes, not a stray member of the Village People.

I’m a little concerned that my birch trees aren’t rendering in very much detail in the background – have my models got too many polygons already? Are my specular textures too complex? I guess we’ll find out as I continue to build.

As I inch closer to the point at which I will be making more decisions about gameplay mechanics and fewer about appearances, I have been pondering the issue of emergent gameplay, particularly as formulated by the ludologist Jesper Juul:

[…] most computer games are the combination of two different ways of presenting the player with a challenge, one which I will term emergence (simple rules combining, leading to variation) and one of progression (serially introduced challenges).(1)

As I develop quests for this game adaptation, I will have to consider how to balance these forms of interaction. The implementation of these gameplay dynamics will have a significant impact on what the players can potentially learn through the game. It would seem that progressive play gives the game designer much more control over the narrative arc of the game. As theorists have widely noted, emergent gameplay is often distinctly separate from the narrative elements of video games. Narrative is often presented through cut screens or other devices which offer little or no player interactivity and occur “in between” episodes of gameplay, such as at the beginning or end of levels or other markers of progress. On the other hand, one of the most appealing aspects of games is their very interactivity, such that too-severe limits on emergence could compromise the effectiveness of a game. I have been wondering about possibilities for integrating both emergent and progressive elements: Would it be better? In what situations? Is it even possible?

This is something I’ll have to keep thinking about, but for now, it’s time to start building some humanoid meshes!


German Romanticism, Waterfalls, and Birch Trees

In my CSLS project, I have decided to focus on the Romantic novel The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr by E.T.A. Hoffmann (commonly known as the author of The Sandman). I will be using Unity 3D to create a video game based on selected scenes that could function as one part of a course on German Classicism and Romanticism. I already have several ideas about how I would develop a syllabus around this, which I plan to discuss further in a future post.

Hoffmann’s novel takes place in a tiny (fictitious) town called Sieghartsweiler, which must be located somewhere in southern Bavaria. I assume this because the characters mention that they can see in the distance a (real) mountain called the “Geierstein,” which is located on the border with Austria in the Bavarian Alps.

The initial challenges mostly involve learning how to use the software. Shaping the landscape into hills gave me some limited familiarity with the toolbars and commands, but the real progress started when I had to build waterfalls. Lots of them. And why would I do that? Well, when you place water in Unity – in my case, so that I can have a stream running through Sieghartsweiler – it exists as a flat plane. So if you need to change elevation, which I most certainly do, since the stream flows downhill, you have to do something so that your two planes of “water” are connected. Otherwise, there will be edges of water planes poking out awkwardly in mid-air.

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 1.43.54 PM

Here, I’ve hidden a drop of about a meter and a half using a combination of rocks, grass, and a “water particle generator.” The latter isn’t readily visible in this image, but it shows up in gameplay mode.

The next major undertaking was to populate Sieghartsweiler with trees. The novel mentions birch trees by name, and photos from this region confirm that tall, straight, spindly trees are the norm here. Unfortunately, none of the free tree assets from the Unity store fits this description; on the other hand, this compelled me to learn how to use Unity’s built-in tree creator, as well as how to paint and import textures and materials for the bark and leaves. I made three different versions, so that there would be variety, and then used the nifty “mass place trees” tool to rapidly stick several thousand trees in my scene.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.02.53 AM

Here’s the empty scene where I built my tree prefabs. The little red and yellow thing is a humanoid figure that I placed as a scale reference.

The only problem was that there were then trees growing in the water, so I had to go back and erase those. Although Hoffmann’s writings are full of bizarre and uncanny elements, there’s no mention of lake-trees.

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 1.41.08 PM

Lake. No trees.

The next step will be buildings, at which point the landscape will really start to look like it “belongs” to the novel. I’ll keep you posted!