My MSc Dissertation is now Online

It’s finally online! All the 3D work I’ve been posting recently on York St Mary’s Abbey is all in this dissertation submitted for my MSc in Digital Heritage at the University of York (Department of Archaeology) 🙂

This link will take you to my page on where you can view/download the paper:

Hannah Rice (2014) ‘Exploring the Pedagogical Possibilities of applying Gaming Theory and Technologies to Historic Architectural Visualisation’.

Abstract: This paper deliberates how gaming theory and technologies can be applied to historic architectural visualisation for educational use by museums and its pedagogical potentials. It presents a proposal for a pedagogical digital game, Pilgrim’s Peril: St Mary’s Abbey, based on a qualitative survey and the discussed issues throughout the paper on Serious Games, commercial games and digital learning methods. Issues such as authenticity, gamification, edutainment, place and narrative are also considered together with the social and cultural significance of fusing gaming with historic architectural visualisation.

Level Up! MSc Done!

Its been awhile since I last posted and logged in (sorry for late comment replies!), I had to concentrate on completing my dissertation, which FINALLY has been handed in!

My topic was “Exploring the Pedagogical Possibilities of Applying Gaming Theory and Technologies to Historic Architectural Visualisation”. My main case study was my St Mary’s Abbey model which I’ve been blogging about on here for a while now. In my first part of my dissertation I looked at the theory of place, authenticity, “edutainment”, narrative and gamification with regards to pedagogical methods and how this is utilised by museums, Serious Games and commercial games with an architectural history focus. In the second part I used all of the theory I discussed in part one to propose an educational game (planned as a first-person RPG) based on my model of St Mary’s Abbey. I may decide to upload this paper once I’ve officially graduated (July)…if you’re into computer games and heritage you may enjoy it!

Now I’ve finished my MSc I’ve been thinking about where to head next… I’ve been working on my own website, built from scratch (thanks to my web dev module at uni, and my partner Si Stamp for helping me with the PHP! ). The address is and on here I’ll upload my 3D work. Now university is over I will be looking out for projects to work on and promote on my website. I’ll also be transferring this blog across at some point, and possibly adding a shop section. I will also start doing more game reviews- particularly on the topics of environments, architecture and history, and how they are portrayed in games.

I really enjoyed my time at the University of York. My thanks in particular go out to Sara Perry for her informative lectures on Cultural Heritage Management and support, and Anthony Masinton for his knowledge on gaming and historic visualisation, and also introducing me to Blender!

From my MSc I’ve learned how to create a website from scratch (that fully validates with W3C!), developed my database design skills, discovered new 3D modelling software that I am now obsessed with, learned how to survey historic buildings and also increased my knowledge in the management of cultural heritage. I would really recommend studying at York (I was there for 5 years!) if you’re wanting to study anything historical. Having experienced studying both in the History of Art and Archaeology departments, the staff really are the specialists in their fields, and the campus is also a nice, green space (full of ducks!).

Something for you to fill in…

If you have a spare 10 minutes (maybe to procrastinate?) please fill out my survey for my dissertation. It’s about gaming technologies for architectural heritage education, particularly in the experience of “place”. It will help me in designing my York St Mary’s Abbey game.

I would be grateful if you could fill it out, no gaming or heritage experience necessary, thanks in advance! 

PROJECT: Re-Visualising pre-1539 St Mary’s Abbey, York- Part 2

Okay…so I have now hit the 12 hour mark (I am tracking this as I go along) and I have made some (a little) progress since my previous post on my dissertation project.

I have now modelled the plan of the abbey and it’s surrounding architectural complex. I may add the precinct walls after I have finished the main structure, but here is a screenshot of where I am up to regarding the abbey plan:

3b plan complete

My plan of the abbey is modelled to scale based on a reference image that is formed from archaeological record, as most of the abbey is not standing for us to see today.

My next steps are getting the elevation proportions correct. This will be very difficult as the only images I am relying on are artist’s impressions such as this one below by Edwin Ridsdale Tate (1929) Image source: Mee, F and Wilson, B (2009) ”St Mary’s Abbey and the King’s Manor, York: The Pictorial Evidence”).

Edwin Ridsdale Tate 1929 impression- Mee and Wilson p23

For the other buildings in the complex, such as the chapter house and cloisters I will have to use my architectural knowledge of proportion alongside a close examination of Ridsdale’s elevation to work out how high I should elevate the walls, or what architectonic decoration they should have (particularly with St Mary’s being a Benedictine abbey, it will be very ornate).

I have started using Ridsdale’s elevation impression for modelling the tower, spire and roof, and I will also lower the heights of the abbey’s surrounding buildings. The screenshot below is is where I am at the moment of this project.

Overall, I am aiming for accuracy in my visualisation, both archaeological and architectural. This project is certainly bringing to light issues in visualising the uncertain. How will I represent the uncertain in my model? Also, to what extent can I rely on Ridsdale’s artist impression? What research did he base his drawing on? Whilst I model the abbey I have to think about these types of issues.

4 elevation beginnings and tower

PROJECT: Re-visualising pre-1539 St Mary’s Abbey, York- Part I

St Mary's Abbey(above, St Mary’s Abbey ruins, York. Photo author’s own)

My MSc dissertation for my Digital Heritage degree is due in just over a year, a huge benefit to me as a part-time PG student, which means I have plenty of time (hopefully!) to actually model what I plan to discuss in the main paper.

Through my dissertation, I hope to explore the benefits and limitations of using gaming technologies for educating and experiencing the pre-dissolution architecture of St Mary’s Abbey in the Museum Gardens, York (see my above photo). Gaming and architecture are my specialist topics so why not bring them together for my dissertation!

I chose St Mary’s Abbey as it’s one of my personal favourite locations in York, it’s very picturesque as it’s now in ruins, yet it’s history is overshadowed by other monumental heritage sites in York, such as the Minster. It was one of the richest Benedictine abbeys in England at it’s height in the 13th and 14th centuries, and was thought to be entirely constructed in the 13th century gothic style. To be able to create an application to allow other people to interact with and visualise the reconstructed ruins is a much needed-app for the heritage of York as a lot of museums are turning to digital methods of public engagement.

To coincide with the discussion in the paper, I am creating a 3D model of the Gothic (not Romanesque) St Mary’s Abbey pre-1539 to demonstrate some of the benefits and limitations in the creation stage, and if I finish it, to pilot it out with some users as part of a heritage gaming application. Ideally I would like it to be interactive, and perhaps to contain a narrative that leads to an end-game goal. I will create the abbey in Blender 3D then import the model into Unity gaming software.

I have just worked for three hours in Blender 3d software and this is what I have at the moment, still in the extreme basic polygon meshing and manipulating stage but it’s all to scale and based on a reference image of an architectural plan of the abbey (plan source Mee, F and Wilson, B (2009) “St Mary’s Abbey and the King’s Manor, York: The Pictorial Evidence”). I still have to mesh the other buildings in the abbey complex, but here’s a couple of screenshots of my progress so far:

2- manipulating polygons

2b- manipulating polygons

I intend to post a lot more developments on this dissertation project, so watch this space!

Immersive Digital Environments & Gaming Potentials

Just spent a couple of hours in the “3Sixty” which is a room in the Ron Cooke Hub at the University of York (see photo below).


photo source:

The 3Sixty consists of four walls in which digital images are projected onto from a computer. In my session today myself and peers were immersed actually inside a 3D visualisation of a French Cistercian monastery in Greece (created by Dr Anthony Masinton, University of York) which was based on archaeological data.

Although the room is named the 3Sixty, we actually got a 180-degree view and we could look around us as though we were actually standing inside the monastery. I found this exciting as I could get a real sense of scale of the monastery’s interior though it would have been nice to have had an additional screen on the ceiling to further enhance the immersion. We also listened to some   chant music and found that the use of auralisation in a 3D model enhanced the sense of place compared to being just a representation in “cyberspace”.

This got me thinking- can technologies used in the 3Sixty be utilised for gaming?   Before experiencing immersion in a computer generated environment I would have said “definitely yes”, but with hindsight I left the 3Sixty feeling amazed at what I had just experienced but also very disorientated and a bit nauseous, so now I’m thinking yes but it will need a lot of work into making it more user-friendly. I only spent around two hours in the room, sat down looking at the static image of the monastery that surrounded me.That was fine, until we started “walking” through the monastery like on a computer game, and that’s when the dizziness hit.

It would be amazing if the computer games industry could utilise these technologies so you, as the character, could navigate actually inside another world and fully interact with other players (perhaps in a World of Warcraft style) in a more unencumbered manner, so no peripherals such as a headset, or mouse, keyboard or controller. It may be the future of gaming, or it may not due to motion-sensitive people like me…

Gaming and Cultural Heritage: The importance of crossing the disciplinary boundaries

Whilst rummaging through the university library (JB Morrell) for dissertation research I have definitely realised that exploring other departments to your own has it’s benefits. I have just come across these awesome books (academic of course!) in the computer science department.

Gaming Books

As I am doing an MSc in Digital Heritage, and I have a passion for gaming it seems natural that my dissertation topic will be on gaming in heritage. It will be based on looking at the benefits and limitations of using virtual reality for the exploration and interpretation of the pre-Dissolution cultural heritage of St Mary’s Abbey in York, and will possibly be submitting a proposal for my own game based on this research. I’m thinking Dear Esther style…

Hence my venturing out of the humanities departments! But I think it is important to cross the disciplinary boundaries, particularly in cultural heritage, archaeology and art/architectural history. These disciplines seem very traditional in their ways and have only started to use computing technologies since the 90’s as new ways of presenting and disseminating research and interpretations to the public. I think this is great, however there is always the risk of “popularising” the discipline by using “blockbuster” visual media as a way to appeal to a none-academic audience. I am personally highly supportive in those who want to blend art and science in their research as it offers us new ways of looking at cultural heritage, however I would love to see more heritage related gaming as it’s a very overlooked area of learning that has so much potential.

For more on this topic I would consult Katy Meyer’s article (Oct 25th 2011) on Play the Past as it provides a great argument for how we can learn from Assassin’s Creed in the creation of educational computer games.