Atomic ‘Earobics’

Video Game Series a Design Marathon
by Carl Kozlowski

Atomic Imaging designers are intensely cramming what is normally a one-year cycle for a game into six months of work.

The game they’re working on-the third in a series of five-isn’t the usual Nintendo 64 entertainment fare.

The “Earobics” series is an educational product designed to check and build children’s auditory skills. Speech pathologists use it to work with the learning disabled, explains Atomic’s head man, Ari Golan. It is geared for schools and therapists at the professional level and sells for several hundred dollars.

Atomic Imaging has worked with Cognitive Concepts of Evanston, led by president Jan Wasowicz, since the company was launched two years ago to produce specialized “Earobics” CD-ROM games.

The second product Atomic created has received “all sorts of recognition and applause from the community and at trade shows,” says Golan. “Industry speakers use it as an example of how games should be structured and note the quality of the content.”

Guided by lead designer Jim Abreau, 16 staffers, including eight artists and five programmers, are devising the five games.

Backgrounds, 3D and interface are done simultaneously. The programmers take the artwork generated and put it into the functional design. The game goes into field testing with representatives from target audiences. “We closely study testing results,” adds Golan, “address bugs and viewer feedback. After changes, the game then goes into a final round and finally, a golden master and duplication.”

Each “Earobics” game, focusing on a different aspect of hearing, is created primarily with Electric Image and Aftereffects and the Organica metaballs modeler. Players are presented with choices and dictate the outcome of the game and its respective 3D interfaces through their responses.

After reaching certain levels, users receive “payoff” 3D animations related to the interface theme as animal and human characters speak to the children.

The third “Earobics” has an October completion date. Cognitive Concepts will release an unspecified number of games to schools and speech pathologists and specialized retail outlets.

Atomic Imaging was split into a separate department six years ago, although “it was around longer than that” as a function of 13-year old Golan Productions Inc., says Golan

“We are very diversified in Web development, computer-based training, corporate sales and marketing and Webcasting of live concerts over the Internet,” he says of Atomic.

Atomic is a Mac shop, although it has PCs and NT workstations-“they’re in the minority and are here by necessity not by choice,” says Golan. Main tools used are Electric Image, Adobe Effects, Media 100, Commotion and Macromedia Director authoring tools.

One of Atomic’s current jobs is centered around the Real Motion physics-based animation program. Hired by a law firm representing major automakers, Atomic imagers recreate accidents caused by everything from poor road surfacing to excessive winds.

“We input the various data of road conditions and the vehicle specs across numerous categories, like wheel base and friction indexes, and Real Motion provides physics-based accurate depictions,” Golan explains.

“We’ve provided demonstrative evidence before, it was always manual and we never had the benefit of a simulation program that could generate information for us.”

Atomic Imaging is located at 1501 N. Magnolia, Chicago, 60622; phone, 312/649-1800.

JULY 27, 1998
VOL 20 NO. 25
PG 37

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