“To raise awareness about what happened is most important, above all,” is the mantra driving Maxwolf Goodliffe and his team at Crystal Studios in constructing a sprawling, interactive Chernobyl Memorial. Though the famed meltdown of the nuclear reactor happened over twenty years ago, its effects are still permeating and containment remains an issue. In order to raise money for the Shelter Implementation Plan, Crystal Studio has put their building skills, creativity, scripting and technological prowess together to form an edifying simulation of the power plant and its meltdown.
Using photographs of the original Chernobyl and its surroundings, Maxwolf and his team have created a shockingly precise duplicate of the reactor. The sim’s terrain rolls with exact curvatures, covered with textures; the building’s structures resemble the original, and they even face the correct global polarities. “The land is exact,” remarks Maxwolf about his near-obsessive replica.
Maxwolf says Crystal Studio has contacted over ten Chernobyl-related charities, just “to sponsor for their efforts. I offer them my services completely free. Crystal Studios funds the memorial entirely. No money will be required at any point.” They hope to draw enough attention to the sim to raise funds entirely through donations from guests, 100% of which will be given to Chernobyl containment causes and relief organizations.
Speaking of drawing crowds, here is what to expect in the future of Chernobyl. The reactor is not complete, but the plans for it look downright brilliant. Operation will occur on two different levels; one catering to those travelers who wish to simply browse the place for a few minutes and leave, and another for those who really want to immerse themselves in the experience, and learn all they can about what happened at Chernobyl.
For the casual visitor, merely admiring the care taken to replicate the location will amuse for a while. General information about the disaster, and the sim’s goal for relief will be readily available. There will be plenty of information in the public areas on the exterior of the structure.
For those truly interested, a role-playing game of sorts will be created, prompting the discovery of information in a real-time system: A 3D, interactive textbook, where people can learn as little or as much as they want based on their own ambition. As Maxwolf puts it, “imagine watching an educational television show on something that interests you, feeding you bits and pieces of story at times… letting people draw their own conclusions, then smashing them with more plot… it revolves around self-discovery of a storyline that shows people what happened but not in a regular way… I want to make something users have to dig for. Something you can get into a lot, or browse lightly and leave.”
The experience will be an incredible demonstration in the capabilities of the Linden world, used in a didactic fashion unique to Chernobyl. A HUD will display facts, figures, dates and information. Ghosts inside the reactor will operate controls from the night of the reactor’s explosion. A cast of computerized avatar NPC guards, scientists, engineers and other bots will roam the area. Hacking doors, bribing guards, and finding entrances without getting caught will be required to even get to the reactor’s interior; a task required for those who truly wish to experience the sim and grasp the information available. Oh, and people will have to constantly monitor their radiation level, or they may get cooked.
As stated, everything is still under development. However, you can access the area as-is, stroll around and get a feel for what is already an impressive location. Keep your eyes open for the grand opening and the implementation of the “game” elements. It is bound to be a fantastic experience, and a great awareness builder of what happened many years ago.
For more visuals, see the Chernobyl Flickr page. http://flickr.com/photos/cstudio/collections/72157600167437400/