Our Paradata Document

Our Minecraft project has particular significance for local Ottawa history. We mainly devised it from a city plan that was never fully implemented. Jacques Greber, a Parisian city planner, made a speech to the National Capital in 1945 before developing a report on what he envisioned Ottawa to look like. Greber considered Ottawa’s increasing population and formulated a plan to meet those needs while keeping the city from expanding too far away from its core. Wishing to find a true identity for Ottawa, William Lyon Mackenzie King commissioned Greber to develop a city plan that would be unique and appealing to people. Greber completed his plan in 1950.

Earlier this semester, our group connected to discuss potential project topics for our game. We gathered with no idea of what we wanted the subject of our game to be among the three options. Matt previously covered the Greber Plan in an assignment for another class and proposed that we should make a game on the report, choosing the Ottawa Valley as our focus for the Minecraft project. The group had a very positive reaction to this idea because it offered an original topic that we could explore and make our own. Choosing the Greber Plan, however, challenged us to create a group project on a document that five out of the six members knew nothing about. We began studying the plan and analyzing fire insurance maps from mid-twentieth century Ottawa in order to expand our understanding.

Our group soon realized that it would be impossible to build Greber’s entire vision in Minecraft. We decided to select the areas we interpreted as most significant to the redesign of Ottawa. Our priorities for building are as follows:

  • Roadway design – Greber preferred traffic circles to intersections, minimal street parking
  • Greenbelt – Integrated green space to keep Ottawa from building away from the city core
  • Railway design – Plan to move the railway to the outskirts of the city
  • Locations of government buildings – Greber designed a grand City Hall at Confederation Park; he suggested that other government buildings (except Parliament Hill) should be relocated to the outer limits of the city

These sections became our main focal points for our game, though the Greber Plan contains more in-depth propositions.

Our building process began by visiting the Maps, Data and Government Information Centre (MADGIC) to find a topographical map of Ottawa. We then inputted it into Worldpainter. Our group spent weeks in this phase modifying the map, experimenting with scale and elevation.

This is the original map we obtained with the help of the MADGIC desk:

Screenshot 2014-12-02 11.17.48

This is the map we uploaded to Minecraft after modifying it in Worldpainter (drew in the canal, fixed the elevation):

Screenshot 2014-12-02 10.39.58

When we finished modifying the map in Worldpainter, we sent it to be uploaded. During the group presentations in class, we learned about a program called MCEdit. We looked up tutorials on how to use it and eventually downloaded it. MCEdit was useful for flattening land, paving roads and filling the canal with water (some of which we soon turned to ice). Because of the changes we made with MCEdit, our group had to send another world to be uploaded into our server. This forced us to work in single player for the time being, which significantly slowed down our building process. We also sent a teleportation mod and asset packs – in order to make our world look more realistic and less blocky.

We have not completed building at this point. We do, however, have a clear vision for what our end product will be. The player will begin in Greber’s office where he/she can take a look around and stumble upon a few of Greber’s diary entries. The player can teleport from his office to a high platform overlooking the world. In case the teleportation mod does not work out as planned, we posted signs on the ground to guide the player from Greber’s office to Ottawa.

As we were building, we soon realized we did not have enough time to complete our original plan. Our original plan focused on creating a representation of the roadways, traffic circles, and government buildings of the Greber Plan. In response to this issue, we decided to make our world into a 2D map of the report (where the player flies and looks at it from the sky). We left signs for the player indicating he/she should complete building in different areas. Our group will continue to work on our world in preparation for the NCC presentation.

Kee and Graham write that “the past… exists beyond the rules of language.” By using Minecraft to build our interpretation of the Greber Plan, we present local history beyond the rules of language as well. While exploring our world, the player experiences Greber’s city design in a way that it has not been presented before. Our game allows the player to interact with the plan and contribute to the project. Like Fogu suggests, games with historical themes can provide a new outlet for historical sourcing. The game provides a more meaningful interaction for the player in replace of reading the report. It initiates a comparison between today’s Ottawa and the Ottawa Never To Be.

Kee and Graham suggest that “the best way to teach history in an age of pervasive computing is through collaborative learning with computer games.” Our group is a direct example of this theory. Throughout our collaboration this semester, we have achieved a strong understanding of the Greber Plan by game-making.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Class Presentation

Yesterday, we presented how we’ve analyzed and developed the Greber Plan in Minecraft over the past few months in our Digital History class. It was a great opportunity to share our experience with our classmates, receive questions, and hear suggestions. Check it out:

The Presentation

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We’ve Entered the Building Stage!

Pat and I just completed the finishing touches to our world in Worldpainter. We’ve sent the file to Professor Shawn Graham to upload it to our server. This means we will begin the building process.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Is Building Inspector an example of “good” digital history?

Building Inspector asks the player to enter the address of the outlined structure on each map.

Building Inspector asks the player to enter the address of the outlined structure on each map.

We played the game Building Inspector by NYPL Labs, tweeted by Ed Summers on Professor Shawn Graham’s twitter feed. We were analyzing whether the game provides a good history of city planning in New York City. We played ‘enter address’ mode. The game takes you through various fire maps, and allows you to label the maps.

Even though we played together, we both have vastly contrasting opinions of the game. Jessica Kenny enjoyed it; Patara McKeen did not.

Jessica thinks the game is interactive and educational. The game lets the player gain insight into the process of map digitization. For every address entered correctly, the player gets a point added to their score; this is good motivation for the player to continue through the game and learn more about city maps as a result. The game also lets the player analyze buildings that no longer stand in New York City, which teaches the player more about the history of the area.

Patara thinks that although the game is educational, it does not keep the players attention long enough. The game is repetitive and the score does not seem to reward the player. Instead, it just keeps track of how many addresses that you’ve entered. It’s more relevant to people that live in New York City. It doesn’t seem to get more difficult, as every stage is essentially the same level. It would be interesting if Ottawa did something similar.

Why add this to our own blog? Well, it gives us more experience analyzing fire maps, which is something we are doing to help us build Ottawa in Minecraft.

In conclusion, does this game make good history? Jessica: thumbs up. Patara: thumbs down.

Here is a link to Building Inspector: http://buildinginspector.nypl.org

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Matt Creates Dow’s Lake in Worldpainter

Progress was made today! Matt began digging the canal in our map of Ottawa on Worldpainter. To be as accurate as possible, he overlaid an image of Ottawa onto our Worldpainter map. Here is a video of him digging out Dow’s Lake and filling it with water

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Notes from group meeting of November 4th, 2014

We discussed the discussions we are to lead on the upcoming thursday.

Afterwards we made an attempt to import map information to Minecraft, but will resume that later on.

Next we took a look at the Greber Report. What follow are our very rough notes on the report so far:

Rough Thoughts on the Greber Report

“The planning of the Capital is therefore a national undertaking, of which each Canadian can be proud and through which national desires and aspirations can be expressed through material accomplishments. The first accomplishment, initiated by the Federal Government, will go down in history: it is the decision that the planning of the National Capital be dedicated to the memory of Canadians who gave their lives to the nation in the second world war.” Pg. 158

Two goals, the one above, and other goal to create a city which the inhabitants may be proud of and happy to live in. Ottawa is recognized as an established city.

“We must remember, if we wish to produce a useful and practical work, that a master plan is a flexible creation rigourously conditioned to the needs of the inhabitants of the studied territory.” Pg. 159

wants to revitalize traffic movement through both creation of new roads and the enhancement of older.

Importance of preservation of the national landscape (and other green spaces), not everything was to be urbanized.

“In the centre, the urban region is delimited by a perimeter, intended to prohibit tentacular and linear extensions of constructions abutting upon highways. To that effect an area, zoned as a greenbelt, frames this perimeter and is subjected to regulations to protect the area comprised within the greenbelt against un­desirable development. Outside of the extreme limit of this greenbelt, the territory will retain its rural character, with the exception of limited and controlled minor and appropriate developments.” Pg. 159

So we will not need to worry about any of the suburbs nesting around the Greenbelt. Kanata, Barrhaven, and Orleans will not be included in this vision of the city.

“Nuclearization” of neighbourhoods, communities becoming more smartly laid out, and self

Wanted to regulate population density by placing limitations on structures, rather than area.

Big focus on the decentralization of public service and governmental buildings

Importance of open spaces (parks, green spaces, pedestrian boulevards, etc.)

Today we questioned our future roles as interpreters of Greber as well as attempting to faithfully represent the Plan for National Capital. Some of what Greber proposed was vague (such as the actual locations of parks and parking spaces and neighbourhoods). As long as we are clear to the player which parts of the game are “Authentic” Greber, and which parts are our own interpretation.

Self direction of municipalities. Especially with regards to road widenings and expansions.

Relocation of railway from the downtown core was a major factor in the construction of the report. Relocation in order to make more room for commercial buildings and complexes.

Essential government departments and national institutions are to remain downtown, or in high profile areas, but research labs, back offices, and other more administration purposes should be relocated to suburban areas.

These are very rough thoughts so far. The next time our group meets we will refine these and add more ideas which we hope to cover.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Checkpoint 2 – Greber’s Ottawa in Minecraft

Our group is studying the Greber Plan – also known as the General Report on the Plan for the National Capital (1946-1950). Jacques Greber developed a city plan for Ottawa that was partially implemented into the expansion of the city.

For our project, we will be recreating notable parts of the Greber Plan into Minecraft. We will present how Ottawa would have existed if the Greber Plan had been fully implemented. We are currently discussing what aspects of the plan to focus on – such as the proposed roadway system, proposed locations of prominent buildings and other ideas presented in the plan.

Our group has worked together to begin initial plans and to brainstorm ideas in the past two weeks. We’ve experienced a few obstacles, but have worked to overcome them. Here is an outline of our work since Checkpoint 1:

  • Struggled to find times when all group members are available to meet
  • Established a “Doodle” to figure out availability times
  • Sunday, Oct. 19 – Brainstorming Session; We made our first attempt to import a map of Ottawa into World Painter using QGIS
  • Tuesday, Oct. 21 – Further attempts to establish a precise map of Ottawa using QGIS in the Underhill Research Room; Booked an appointment with Joel from the MADGIS in the library; Created a blog on WordPress to share our work with the world – but to also update each other and our instructors on our progress
  • Thursday, Oct. 23 – Appointment with Joel – He worked with us to obtain a map with more detail in the topographical data of Ottawa; We learned QGIS works well when importing a larger geographical area compared to a small one, such as the Ottawa region; Joel showed us how to use GeoBase to find maps; He showed us the Fire Insurance Plans for Ottawa (1956); Joel provided useful insight into how we should input map data; Underhill Research Room – We downloaded the bitmap file of Ottawa and opened it in World Painter; We are now ready to build a topographical map of Ottawa in Minecraft.

Next steps:

  • Put our map into Ottawa
  • Begin construction of the Greber Plan
  • Organize tasks
  • Win at life
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment