Year 13 student Daniel Cowpertwait describes his Portal Unity Project. This is a "mod" for the online game Portal he has developed along with three other students as part of the Impact Project at Albany Senior High School. Daniel describes how the cross curricular nature of the project has opened his eyes to the way different disciplines can be combined into a career. The authentic real world context has provided many opportunities for learning including specialised technical skill development, a deep understanding of copyright, and working successfully as part of a team. He has been supported in his learning by an expert via the Internet and a mentor. He comments, "The more work we did the more excited we got about the project so we did more work, then it got bigger."
Hi I’m Daniel Cowpertwait and I’m one of the leaders for the Portal Unity Project.
The basics of it is, we’re creating an entire new game from the engine for the video game Portal. It’s a complete revamp, visually and story wise. We completely revamp the game in every way that we can see possible. We’re a group of four, each one of us has our own designated task for the project, like me, for example, I work on all of the visual stuff for the game so I do logos, texturing, basically anything that you see in the game is done by me.
And then you’ve got one of my friends does the coding for the game; he does all the programming behind it and all of the technical side. He creates the world that you go into and he creates the basics of what we’ve got and the real solid foundation for it.
And then my other two friends they work on the maps for the games. So the actual storyline, what it’s composed of, everything that builds up to what we have now as our project.
Every Wednesday, of course, we work together. So originally we worked at school then we started doing EOTC’s. When we’re away from each other we usually use online social networking to communicate with each other, chat online that sort of thing.
Originally my ideas on what I wanted to do for a career were based on, well, curriculum. It was very science and single subject based but when I discovered what I could do with this game my entire perspective on education changed. I realised that I could do all these arts focused subjects. At first I wasn’t able, I couldn’t branch out my thinking in that way, and then when I got into this technology it just opened my eyes to all the career opportunities and awesome subjects that I had available to me. So, it was that and ever since then, I’ve kind of been moving towards a very art focused career which I’m really, really excited about.
We have naturally (because it was our first time working with a project like this) we encountered a lot of issues. Actually, I learnt a lot of my texturing by contacting this guy online who does it professionally. He’s been modding for a lot longer than us. We contacted him because he actually contacted us first. He said that he was free with his project for a while and he’d really like to help us out in any way that he could, that was pretty cool for us. We looked at a lot of other people’s work and that influenced us as well into what we were going to do. Also our mentor helped us a lot when it came to overcoming obstacles.
We distributed it as open source. You have to have the video game portal first because of course we run it off another engine, which is owned by a company. We don’t want to, we can’t really distribute that without copyright issues but all of our work that goes onto this game is free. You can manipulate our code as much as you want as long as you don’t redistribute it and claim it as your own, I guess.
We were expecting maybe 100 downloads at the most and now we’ve got just over 6500 and over 60 000 views I think. It got picked up by PC gamer who are an international magazine based in the UK. They did an article about us twice and so we’ve had one in the July issue and there’s another one coming out in the October issue about our project.
Actually our project originated something similar to ours. It started as a map, just general map making which is, we didn’t make any of our own stuff, we just built it out of what was already there and then we kind of felt like we weren’t getting enough out of that. So we decided to expand the project a bit and we decided to make a big map pack for Portal and then that expanded again and then we decided to make a mod after I decided to make textures and Rory decided to do more coding. It just escalated as we went through the project. The more work we did the more excited we got about the project so we did more work, then it got bigger.