In the last decades the success of entertainment video game industry has given birth to new types of outputs in the field of cultural heritage, including serious games and some virtual museum applications (based on mixed reality, virtual reality, virtual worlds, etc.) that share the same infrastructure and core games technologies and use virtual reconstruction and engagement mechanism for edutainment and educational purposes.
Virtual reconstruction is a great didactic tool as it improves cognitive processes making the historical and archaeological data easily comprehensible to anyone; within a video game this potential is reinforced by the dynamics of storytelling, and learning-by-doing. However, the virtual reconstruction of the past imposes many limitations and great effort to ensure the consistency and reliability of the reconstructive hypothesis: historical accuracy and validation are the keywords that portray the virtual backgrounds made for applied VR games. Indeed, producing such products requires a tailored workflow and large effort in terms of time and professionals involved to guarantee such faithfulness.

In the paper “3D reconstruction and validation of historical background for immersive VR applications and games: The case study of the Forum of Augustus in Rome” by D. Ferdani et al., published on the Journal of Cultural Heritage, Volume 43, 2020, Pages 129-143,, the authors propose a complete reproducible reconstruction workflow for the production of historically accurate 3D assets, targeting interactive, immersive VR products.

The workflow for the virtual reconstruction of the Forum of Augustus included 3 phases:

  • Pre-production: preliminary studies including 3D survey and digitisation activities and historical sources collection.
  • Production: archaeological interpretation, reconstruction through 3D modelling of game assets, validation of historical background, performance analyses and optimization of the assets.
  • Level creation and authoring: graphic layout and environmental simulation through the composition of the scene within the graphics engine and the addition of details that confer realism, such as lights, particle effects, sounds, etc.

The produced 3D assets were then exploited for the development of different products, including applied VR games and explorative applications:

  • Forum of Augustus VR, a purely explorative immersive VR application, developed using Unreal Engine 4.
  • A Night in the Forum: an Educational Environmental Narrative (EEN) Game for PlayStation® VR, set in the Rome of Augustan age, whose goal is to make the player understand the complexity of the administration of Imperial Rome.
  • μVR Forum, an immersive VR puzzle-game, based on the μVR game model that combines real walking and multi-scale 6DOF gaming. The model offers users an immersive, physical and engaging re-contextualization challenge within architectural and archaeological contexts. The player has to find multiple misplaced items scattered across the Forum of Augustus and put them back in their original locations (e.g. some elements of the temples, some statues, the colossus of Augustus).