Sunday, 12 March 2017

State of Unreal talk from GDC

The best way to catch up with all things Unreal is to watch the very recent GDC Epic talk which is now also available on YouTube.

If you are using Unreal as a student, developer, educator or merely hobbyist this is a must in my opinion, the roughly 90 minutes it lasts is a great overview of where the popular engine is at the beginning of 2017.


Another conference I have been invited on the International Program Committee for is ICGIP 2017 (International Conference on Graphic and Image Processing).

To take place in October in China, you can see more about the event here on its official website.

iGBL 2017 IPC

I have been invited to sit on the International Program Committee for iGBL, the Irish conference on Game-Based Learning (2017).

More information on the conference here, it is to take place in June this year.

Edutainment 2017 and four special issues in journals

Edutainment 2017 that I am involved with as a chair, taking place in the summer this year, has recently had a number of special issues confirmed; these will be for selected, significantly expanded and having undergone another review articles of the conference.

The journals are the following four, Springer's Multimedia Tools and Applications, Springer's Journal of Vizualization, Elsevier's Entertainment Computing (which I have been the guest editor for in the past for a special issue) and, finally, IGI's International Journal of Distance Education Technologies. 

More details here.

Book on level design

There are not many books on (game) level design and I thought it would be of interest to mention a recent (December 2016) release which is certainly worth looking at, that of Chris Totten's Level Design Processes and Experiences.

For anyone immersed in the discipline this is certainly a good read, you can find out more about this here.

Principal Academic in Games Development position at BU

An academic position is now open in the Department I am in, that of Creative Technology at Bournemouth University (at the Faculty of Science and Technology).

This can be found here, has an early April deadline and is for a Principal Academic in Games Development.

VS Games 2017 IPC

I have been added to the International Program Committee for VS Games 2017, which takes place in Athens this September (the conference has in the past taken place here at Bournemouth in 2013 but also Athens too, back in 2011).

More on this here.

Extension of deadlines for Edutainment 2017

Edutainment 2017 which takes place here in Bournemouth now has an extended set of deadlines (for submissions).

Full papers are now in on the 19th of March; this is worth checking out here in full. 

UE4 4.15

4.15 of Unreal is now out (properly and not as a test version). You can read the (full) headlines of new features and enhancements here though for me at least it is the texture streaming enhancements that stand out from the rest.

I am sure 4.15 will be refined over the next couple of months but till then this first iteration of 4.15 is a very welcome addition for people using Epic's engine.

CIE article

An article I am the co-author on has recently been published on ACM's Computers In Entertainment journal.

More on the article, which is titled Transition Contour Synthesis with Dynamic Patch Transitions, here.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Starbreeze's StarVR device

It is easy sometimes to forget that virtual reality can be applied (potentially in a very successful manner) to many other areas and not just games; though it is great testament to games development as a field that consumer end devices like the Oculus Rift and the Vive are being advanced from it. 

So, in 2016 there were developments towards this; and an example of that is the IMAX and Starbreeze partnership which has the latter's StarVR headset (pictured below) at the heart of it (see Engadget article here for more details on this development).

More on Starbreeze and the StarVR device itself with its enhanced field of view here. It will be fascinating to see what application areas like motion pictures/film/VFX do with virtual reality in 2017, as opposed to the trajectory the medium will take with computer and console games.

Owlchemy Labs' mixed reality approach

Owlchemy Labs has recently showcased work which, whilst terming it mixed reality, is essentially their approach towards answering the growing need of showing what an immersive VR experience feels like for the player/user to greater audiences. It's easy to envisage so many uses and applications areas for this as the medium is becoming more and more popular.

This is quite interesting to see in action (see pic above) and you can get a good overview of what the approach offers and how it works here and here on the official site of Owlchemy Labs.

Ninja Theory's DEXED

A VR game which came out in the latter part of 2016 which I can definitely recommend is DEXED, from Cambridge-based developer Ninja Theory.

This works both on the Vive and the Oculus Rift (and Touch, which I blogged about recently) and other than a great VR game is also strong evidence of just how inspirational game jams can be as this game was in fact the product of an in-house game jam idea. The game is also built on Epic Games' UE4, more on this here.
Crytek, another major game engine player next to Epic and Unity also finishes 2016 with a new version of their offering in this area, CryEngine. This is version 5.3.

The official site here lists all the additions you need to know about; I can highlight the beta addition of Schematyc which is essentially CryEngine's take on Blueprints (for the UE4 afficionados amongst you).

Though this one is actually a beta feature at the moment it is an important enhancement to the engine in my view, given the access the Blueprints approach offers on UE4.

Unity and the end of 2016

I mentioned Unreal 4.14 (and its new features) in a blog post yesterday but Unity too leaves 2016 and enters the new year with a significant amount of developments (as an engine/piece of software that is). 

Currently this is on version 5.6 (which is beta) and contains features that many Unity developers would find very convenient such as -and this is just one example- support for Google's Daydream View (which is a device I blogged about yesterday). 

For the many (other) improvements and additions one could refer to the official blog post here that covers these comprehensively.

EGX Rezzed and Unreal

For the first post of the new year, EGX Rezzed is an indie games expo event that takes place in London during spring time, and one we visited with the undergraduate Games courses here at Bournemouth University last year.

This year, the event takes place between the 30th of March to the 1st of April in London again and will have it appears a dedicated Unreal dev area; showcasing Epic's growing interest in smaller developers, an area traditionally monopolized by Unity. 

More info on this here at the official Unreal blog.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Warcraft, the adventure game

For the very last blog post of 2016, this is something which came as a surprise to me; apparently not only did Blizzard design a classic adventure game based on Warcraft (called Lord of the Clans) back in the late 1990s but this was also leaked a few months ago (earlier this year), almost 20 years after its cancellation.

This is no longer available of course but you can check out the game in the play through video above if you are curious to see what a very traditional, 2D and point-and-click in nature adventure game set in the Warcraft world, with hand painted graphics, would look and play like.

Blueprint Digital Media's Relapse: How to Build Content for Horror Games article at 80 Level

A great article from Katie, a graduate from the Bournemouth University Games Technology degree from a few years back, can be found here at 80 Level, titled "Relapse: How to Build Content for Horror Games". 

This production article focuses on the Relapse game (pictured above) from Blueprint Digital Media, which is created in UE4 and takes the reader through the development of this upcoming title, including a discussion on how assets, materials and even Blueprint scripts for it have been put together.

It's a great read, well worth going over and an excellent promotion for what is to be a great horror  adventure game.

Google's Daydream View

I have covered Vive, Oculus etc. more extensively than more modest efforts such as Google's Daydream View, understandably as the former two are more games related (especially when we start talking about AAA games).

The Daydream View on the other hand, recently released in the UK, appears to be following in the steps of the Oculus/Samsung Gear VR device, i.e. it is much cheaper, lighter and less cumbersome and of course much less expensive than the heavyweight efforts. It also needs a mobile phone (of specific type) to operate, very much like the Gear.

The Daydream View does appear to have some differences to the Gear VR, such as the dedicated remote controller  and of course the name, brand and resources of Google behind it. 

I have a Gear VR though not a View yet and I can definitely see what the benefit of such an inexpensive VR headset could be; and also just how much it can eventually promote the higher-spec tech of this medium. 

Hopefully the Daydream View, alongside the Gear VR, will gain more popularity, games and apps, in 2017 to achieve this very objective and push virtual reality forward.

Unity certification

In a move that is novel for game engines; Unity (on more news from the past few weeks related to this engine) has announced very recently a certification programme. 

Certainly this is something that in areas such as IT has prevailed for years, if not decades, but it is very interesting to see somebody attempt to bring it to (for what could well be the first time) game engine usage, knowledge and expertise.

It is early days yet though you can read where Unity is with this here on the official blog; I am curious to see if other engines such as Unreal will follow this approach in 2017.