The 2017 Digital Delta summer research fellowship, funded by a SEED grant, provided Pacific students with the opportunity to recover the history of Stockton’s historic Little Manila and to bring it to life using 3-D modeling technology. Over five weeks, six students learned historical research and technical skills to build a historical game documenting the history of this community that was decimated by the Crosstown Freeway in the 1970s.
This interdisciplinary fellowship involved students from various different departments: Danielle Thomasson (Graphic Design), Kyle Sabbatino (Graphic Design), Jamie Lynn Culilap (Computer Science), Sarah Kuo (Geological and Environmental Sciences), Ronnie Sanchez (Social Science), and Hannah Tvergyak (History). Faculty advisors included Josh Salyers (Special Collections), Dan Cliburn (Computer Science), and Edie Sparks (History). Good communication between team members was essential to the success of the project.
The Holt-Atherton Special Collections was a highly useful tool that helped with gathering information about Little Manila. The staff of Special Collections guided the student researchers through a myriad of historical resources.
Students interviewed those that experienced Little Manila, because they were more closely related to its impact in Stockton. Listening to the people who lived through those times allowed the students to have a deeper understanding of Little Manila that cannot be learned from books or other texts.
Then designers learned techniques in two programs, 3Ds Max and Maya, to construct the models. Each model then had to be made with specific constraints to work within the gaming program, Unreal Engine. Most of the buildings in the game had unique textures applied to the walls, floors, and other structural components that required custom modifications to produce a photorealistic effect.
Perfecting the lighting creates a more realistic environment. Dynamic lighting settings can help reduce the artificiality of the gaming environment and mirror real life.
The photos used for historical accuracy were from the 1920s-60s. Modeling buildings and objects from photographs required the students to research dimension specifications for reference objects (1950s cars for example) and adjust for camera locations and angles. They combined these height estimates with architectural standards for floor heights to create accurate and playable buildings.
Little Manila Recreated was designed to be a historical simulated video game. Since the target audience is students, faculty, and members of the Stockton community, the user interface design had to accommodate for this diversity. The game had to be user-friendly to allow users to enjoy the game without any technical frustrations. One of the main interactions of the game is informational icons, which show users that they can play or interact with an object.
The game employs a first-person open-world narrative set in the mid-twentieth century. The player, a newly arrived Filipino immigrant, begins at the intersection of El Dorado and Lafayette streets to meet their cousin, who explains the importance of Little Manila and what places to visit. The player is free to explore the environment, meet their cousin at the Quezon hotel, and stop at the Lafayette Lunch Counter. The narrative is intended to replicate an immigrant’s first day in Little Manila.
Little Manila Recreated was made in the Unreal Game Engine, which can be broken up into two main sections: blueprints and the scene editor. The blueprints hold the code that makes the game functional and it can be customized for more unique uses. The scene editor shows what the environment can look like and developers can edit the scene by placing in actors, lighting, and materials.