Simulations and games take place in virtual worlds. Such worlds can either be models of existing environments or can be fictitious. They can have a very realistic look-and-feel or they can be imaginary. Although creating models of 3-dimensional virtual worlds has received a huge amount of attention over the past 30 years, it is still a time-consuming and labor-intensive activity.
To efficiently generate virtual worlds of existing environments one needs to use available data. This data comes in many forms: from various kinds of maps such as roadmaps, height maps, maps about vegetation, or from data from remote sensing, stored in Geographic Information Systems. There can be images and videos of the environment or data from specific reverse engineering devices. And there can be more general data about for example building style, population density, and the amount of traffic.
Rapid advancements in graphics hardware performance are making it possible to support much larger, highly detailed virtual worlds. However, the creation of these worlds is still mainly done by hand, requiring an increasingly large amount of time, effort and money. Virtual world designers can possibly be relieved of some of these laborious modeling methods, but automatic creation of such worlds is still a largely unsolved problem.
To create adaptive game-play, dynamic world models are required that can automatically be adapted to changing requirements. For example, in a driving simulator, the density of buildings and the complexity of the road network should be adjustable to the proficiency of the user. Also, one might want to automatically change the global artistic style of an environment, for example from a realistic style to a more cartoon like style. Such adaptation can completely change the user experience.
The term affective appraisal in the context of gaming and simulation refers to the judgment of the user on the affective quality of the synthetic environment, which may for instance appear depressing, stressful, modern, attractive, dilapidated, etc. The (natural or man-made) environment represented in games and simulations is obviously an essential element for the experience of the user. The affective appraisal of the user influences his mood, emotions, cognition and behavior. Affective appraisal is therefore an essential factor in areas like citizen participation in environmental development, prototyping and training, and education and gaming.
The GATE theme “Modeling the Virtual World” has been divided into three work packages:
Building virtual worlds from real data such as panorama images is still a very labor intensive work, error prone, slow, and expensive. Therefore, the result is often small-scale, of low resolution, and inaccurate. Our objectives are to research new algorithms to build virtual worlds automatically using multiple data sources in order to resolve these problems.
A huge amount of time and money is currently spent generating virtual worlds for games and simulations. One of the main reasons for this is that as virtual worlds become larger and their complexity increases, it becomes more and more difficult for designers and artists to accurately express their intent, and to preserve all previously expressed aspects of this intent.
For many applications it is essential that a virtual environment not only conveys the spatial characteristics of the environment, but also elicits an affective response similar to that experienced by a user in a corresponding real environment. Cognitive as well as affective responses thus determine the validity of many virtual environments,