Off the Map, a unique collaboration between Crytek, British Library, and GameCity, is a competitive project encouraging students to create interactive environments using CRYENGINE®, and this year brings forth a sinister twist: the theme of 2014 is gothic, based on the forthcoming exhibition of the British Library called Terror and Wonder: the Gothic Imagination
Tim Pye, Lead Curator of the British Library exhibition: “I’m expecting great things from the students this year. Gothic was a theme that really resonated with the students and they are fully engaged with the sub-themes that we’ve selected. There’s an infinite pool of source material and gothic itself is incredibly adaptable, so the finished projects should be very dark and spectacular!”
Participating student teams will have three maps to choose from, selected for them by curators of the British Library: the gothic splendor of Fonthill Abbey, Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Masque of the Red Death, and the seaside town of Whitby, which features in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The teams also have a variety of gothic-themed sounds, images, effects, and illustrations at their disposal.
“My expectations are equally high,” says Tom Harper, Curator of Antiquarian Mapping at the British Library, as well as a judge on the final panel. “I’ve seen what the CRYENGINE is capable of, but also having been involved in organizing last year’s competition I was able to see the breathtaking talent and dedication of the students. This year will be even more stunning, as the gothic theme lends itself to atmosphere, darkness, and drama. I have no doubt our expectations will be surpassed yet again.”
This year, 25 teams have registered, representing the institutions De Montfort University, University of South Wales, Confetti ICT, The Leeds College of Art, Temple College London, University of Northampton, Southampton Solent University, Birmingham City University, and Sheffield Hallam University.
The students are again supported by Crytek’s proprietary CRYENGINE. Scott Fitzgerald, Sandbox Product Manager at Crytek: “CRYENGINE is a wonderful engine for this project, considering its quick iteration times for asset and gameplay development. Our system allows users to quickly test out their newly created assets as soon as they hit ‘export’; this greatly speeds up the development process, as you do not have to wait for objects or items to compile.”
“Off the Map is so great because the user or player is able to explore an environment that hasn’t been seen in its full glory for a long time. The visualization in 3D space brings the user that much closer than any text or picture can, and it offers a unique experience for anyone who perceives it. Rebuilding the environment is only a small part – there is the possibility of adding gameplay elements as well. The students have full control of their projects, and the thought, planning, and execution that goes into the entries is truly amazing.”
At the end of the competition, the teams will show off their finished projects at GameCity, a festival organized through Nottingham Trent University. “Off the Map is a great way of thinking about technology, art, and literature in ways that can illuminate the potential of videogames to a broad audience,” says Chloe Smith, Even Coordinator at GameCity. “It’s been wonderful to tie the competition to such a rich theme as well; the collections encompass a wide range of materials from real maps to imaginative spaces, so I’m anticipating a very diverse set of responses.”
Tom Harper has a final piece of advice for the students currently working on Off the Map: “Often the key to success is returning to the source and discovering a feeling or an essence of the original work; read the novels because in them will be the answer. If you want to truly understand a place: go there and experience it directly.”
GameCity runs from October 25 – November 1, 2014, and event proposals for the festival’s Open Program can be submitted here.