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.

Recent Unity educational announcement

Unity recently made the much welcome announcement of making their extremely popular engine available for free for institutions such as Universities. 

This was back in November this year and the institutions it should be noted do need to qualify (see here for the terms of that).


More on the recent blog announcement on the official Unity site here

With the immense popularity the engine has gained in the last few years; combined with the fact that its competitor (Epic Games' Unreal) has been doing this for a while, this is a very good and astute decision, setting Unity up nicely for 2017.

SCRIPTed journal article now published

A journal article I am the co-author on has just been published on the SCRIPTed journal, titled "Human Aspects of Digital Rights Management: the Perspective of Content Developers".


The article can be found in full here.

Packt book offer

Packt Publishing currently has an offer for e-books and videos which is very good value, see more on this here

This is involves $5 pricing and includes a book I co-authored for them a while back (2012) for UDK (Unreal engine 3).


Definitely worth checking out as there are many games development resources included in this promotional offer.

PS VR dominating the market?

Picking up from previous blog posts on VR, an interesting piece of research was reported earlier this month; and one that shows Sony's Playstation VR finishing the year ahead of the Vive, Oculus etc. 

This work was carried out by 01consulting and you can read it in more detail here in this Venturebeat article.



It's not really much of a surprise when one considers the PS4s that are out there but certainly seeing PS VR beat Oculus and the Vive as 2016 only has a few more hours left does showcase that Sony may well have had less headlines for their VR headset but their approach that has led the way, commercially at least.

It is left to be seen what 2017 brings for this device, as well as the competition.

PG Connects event

This was a year where we did a number of field trips with students of the Games Technology and Games Programming courses here at Bournemouth University; and we have another one coming up in mid January.


The PG Connects London event is taking place on the 16th and 17th of January (2017) and is packed with great talks and networking opportunities; more information and a complete schedule for this seminal mobile games industry conference here.

Oculus Touch now released

With Vive out there Oculus did need something on the controller/interaction front to rival what is for many its biggest competitor and, as of the earlier this month, they have their Oculus Touch device out there for this.


You can read more about this in a snapshot on the official Oculus blog here, the biggest innovation here for me (as can be seen above) is the fact that the Touch appears to do finger tracking. 

That is a fairly useful feature indeed and could give Oculus an edge over something such as the Vive, even though the latter certainly had the headstart on innovation in controllers. 

Wireless Vive

I have been spending some limited time with a Vive the last few weeks and it is an impressive piece of kit; which is something that most people that I have seen use it certainly will agree with. The biggest limitation of the device is by far the cabling that restricts the user. 

It appears there is now new developments on that front; there is a device listed on an official HTC Vive website here (it is the Chinese one as you can also make out from the image below).


The fairly severe regional restriction does mean it is still quite premature to envisage Vive gaming freed from the cumbersome cables but it is clear that an official solution for this is not too far from our reach now and could well be a reality in the new year.

Unreal 4.14

Unreal engine updates are marching on and it appears we are about to finish the year with 4.14.1 (seeing that it is the evening of 31/12 that this blog post is being written!).

The latest version (4.14) has been out since November. The LOD work Epic has incorporated stands out for me but there are many other new aspects of this version that will be of help to developers using the popular engine.


For more info on updates, enhancements and fixes see the full list on the official Epic Games site here.

HoD for Creative Technology at Bournemouth University

As of October I have been serving as the Acting Head of Creative Technology in addition to my normal duties, which is a Department in the Faculty of Science and Technology at Bournemouth University. 


This is a Department with, currently, 4 undergraduate courses, which of course include the games development courses we deliver. 

For more information on the four courses see here for the Games Technology one, here for the Games and Programming one and here for the Music and Audio Technology one. Finally, the Music and Sound Production Technology course details can be found here.

Nintendo Switch announcement

This is a few weeks old now granted but as a major piece of news I thought it was worth including (plus I have previously discussed the Nintendo Wii U successor in past blog posts several times).

Nintendo has finally announced their next home console this fall; making 2017 an exciting year for them if all goes well. This is to be called the Nintendo Switch and the innovations are now much publicized from the trailer Nintendo released back in October.  It is important there are also more recent rumours of VR integration too, based on a patent. For more of this see this Verge article here.


It is of course anyone's guess as to how successful this will be with the generation of gamers weaned on Xbox One, PS4 and Steam-based PC gaming. Still, Nintendo does need a hit and this could well deliver for them. To see the official Nintendo trailer I am talking about above, where this screen grab is also taken from, visit here.