Tuesday, 23 December 2008

CityEngine now available for Mac and 64-bit Windows

An urban modelling tool which I have discussed several times in this blog, CityEngine, has now received a few more very important updates. Procedural Inc. announced that their 3D city generation software CityEngine is now also available for Mac OS X. In addition, the free 30-day trial version of the CityEngine comes now with stunning example cities such as a spectacular future New York City.

Procedural Inc., an innovative software company located in Zurich, is home to the world’s foremost procedural modeling technology. With the CityEngine, Procedural Inc.’s graphics experts have created a radically different 3D application that allows professional users in entertainment, architecture and urban planning to efficiently model 3D cities.

“We are happy that our Mac friends are now able to benefit from the huge advantages of the CityEngine.” says Pascal Mueller, CEO Procedural Inc. “To celebrate it, we created Apple City consisting of thousands of Cupertino headquarters. So in case Mr. Jobs intends to rebuild Cupertino, he has now the tool to plan it on his new MacBook”. The video of Apple City can be watched at http://www.procedural.com/

More good news for CityEngine users dreaming of infinite cities: the CityEngine includes now full 64-bit support on the Windows platform. That means no more memory constraints due to 32-bit. In addition, the CityEngine comes now also with extensive example scenes which allow architects and designers to quickly create detailed cities via parametric modeling only. Other highlights of the upgrade include:
#1: ATI graphics cards are now also fully supported
#2: Introduction of city layer editing functionalities
#3: Several minor improvements such as 100x faster street growth

Monday, 22 December 2008

Elsevier's Entertainment Computing journal, new computer games research journal

A new journal starting out in 2009 for everyone in computer games technology research, from the very reputable Elsevier publisher, is Entertainment Computing.

Entertainment Computing publishes original, peer-reviewed research articles and serves as a forum for stimulating and disseminating innovative research ideas, emerging technologies, empirical investigations, state-of-the-art methods and tools in all aspects of digital entertainment, new media, entertainment computing, gaming, robotics, toys and applications among researchers, engineers, social scientists, artists and practitioners.

Theoretical, technical, empirical, survey articles and case studies are all appropriate to the journal. Specific areas of interest include:
• Computer, video, console and internet games
• Digital new media for entertainment
• Entertainment robots
• Entertainment technology, applications, application program interfaces, and entertainment system architectures
• Human factors of entertainment technology
• Impact of entertainment technology on users and society
• Integration of interaction and multimedia capabilities in entertainment systems• Interactive television and broadcasting
• Methodologies, paradigms, tools, and software/hardware architectures for supporting entertainment applications
• New genres of entertainment technology
• Simulation/gaming methodologies used in education, training, and research

In the area of empirical and experimental studies the journal is looking for contributions which are very well documented, innovative, and tested or evaluated in a particular entertainment domain.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Poster accepted at 1st IEEE VS Games 2009 conference

I have just received confirmation that a publication I have co-authored has been accepted as a poster for the upcoming 1st IEEE International conference in Games And Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications, to take place at Coventry, UK between the 23rd and 24th of March 2009 (http://www.vs-games.org.uk/). The paper is titled "Framework for the Development of Online, Location-Specific, Expressive 3D Social Worlds".

The first IEEE International Conference in Games and Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications 2009 aims to meet the significant challenges of the cross-disciplinary community that work around these serious application areas by bringing the community together to share case studies of practice, to present new frameworks, methodologies and theories and to begin the process of developing shared cross-disciplinary outputs.


Paper accepted at 1st IEEE VS Games 2009 conference

I have just received confirmation that a publication I have written has been accepted as a short paper for the upcoming 1st IEEE International conference in Games And Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications, to take place at Coventry, UK between the 23rd and 24th of March 2009 (http://www.vs-games.org.uk/). The paper is titled "Towards the Development of an Interactive 3D Coach Training Serious Game".

The first IEEE International Conference in Games and Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications 2009 aims to meet the significant challenges of the cross-disciplinary community that work around serious games application areas by bringing the community together to share case studies of practice, to present new frameworks, methodologies and theories and to begin the process of developing shared cross-disciplinary outputs.

In order to achieve this main aim the conference will pioneer new methods for bringing together and supporting communities of practice emerging in themed areas beyond the duration of the conference. Using the conference as an ignition to support a wider aspiration to form and sustain a community of practice around the field. To achieve this, the team at the SGI will use innovative software called Intronetworks, which allows conference participants to create their own profile allowing them to identify like-minded and complementary skilled colleagues.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Cityscape, automatic 3D urban modelling application

A new kid on the block in urban modelling to rival the likes of CityEngine? PixelActive is pleased to announce the latest release of CityScape, their high speed, intelligent world editor. CityScape enables users to create complex urban-themed virtual landscapes 10x faster than traditional modeling tools, while maintaining a high level of quality.

The product is ideal for video game and virtual world developers who need to build large worlds that are optimized for real time engines. CityScape has been shipping to game developers for two years and the latest version adds support for multiple users, allowing several artists and designers to work on the same environment simultaneously. Other new features include support for astrometrics (accurate solar and lunar entities based on geography, time and date), larger worlds, and optimizations for faster performance. Current clients include Volition, Inc. (creators of the Red Faction® and Saints Row® franchises), Bunkspeed, Inc. (creators of visualization technology for design and marketing) and others.

CityScape was built from the ground up to solve the problem of creating cities quickly and efficiently. "For game developers, CityScape allows designers to get in their world sooner to test out design ideas and iterate, iterate, iterate," says Steve Rotenberg, CEO of PixelActive. "But serious game and simulation developers can also benefit from CityScape's support for importing GIS data, allowing geospecific modeling of real world locations."

Most studios currently use a general purpose 3D modeling package to create these cities, but the process is tedious and expensive due to the high labor involved. CityScape gives designers and artists the power to interactively create complex road networks, shape the landscape, place props and buildings, and place application-specific data, all in a single application that works with their entire asset pipeline.

CityScape integrates into most workflows seamlessly via COLLADA, an open standard for digital assets. More about the application (and a demo download!) at http://pixelactive3d.com/

Freeworld 3D, terrain and world editor for games

Freeworld3D 2.0 is an advanced terrain editor and world editor all in one, designed specifically for 3D game development and the easy integration into existing 3D engines. Freeworld3D 2.0 offers features and capabilities comparable to FarCry's Sandbox terrain editor, yet is designed for beginner and independent game developers. Using the power of OpenGL, Freeworld3D creates realistic 3D terrain and worlds with the simplicity and ease of a few mouse clicks. Freeworld3D takes away the steep learning curves of other game development tools and is geared towards beginners and advanced users alike.

Freeworld3D 2.0 was developed from the ground up, featuring a brand new rendering engine with the following features:
- OpenGL Rendering Engine
- GLSL Shading Language
- S3TC Texture Compression Support
- Vertex Buffer Objects
- 10x Faster And More Efficient Terrain Editing
- 10x More Efficient Terrain Painting
- 10x Faster Lightmap Generation
- Real-time Water Reflections Using GLSL
- Up To 4096x4096 Texture Maps
- Up To 10x Faster Texture Collapsing
- Over 10 Model Formats Supported With More To Come (3dsmax (.3DS), 3dsmax (.ASE), AC3D (.AC), Blitz3D (.B3D), Wavefront (.OBJ), DirectX (.X), Milkshape (.MS3D), Milkshape Ascii (.TXT), Quake II (.MD2), Ogre3D (.MESH))
- Realistic Lighting And Fog
- Advanced Entity System, Skyboxes, Skydomes And Skyplanes
- Easy To Read Export Formats In Ascii and XML, Organize Scene Using Scene Layers
- Group Cached Meshes Into Separate Folders

Freeworld3D 2.0 also supports a new water rendering system with dynamic reflections using the OpenGL Shading Language. Check the official site which includes a demo download trial download at http://www.freeworld3d.org/

10 tips for great games texturing article

I have been trying to cover games texturing for two units I am teaching at the moment and have just run across a great little article by Jeroen Maton at the equally fantastic CGSociety website which I can recommend to everyone looking for general, practical information on enhancing their texturing work.

The main goal of this article/tutorial is to give the aspirining games texturing artists a few hints and tricks that might help to make textures look better. This covers advice on material definition, base materials, sharpening textures, photo-sourcing, using photo overlays, using ambient occlusion maps, rust /dust / damage placement and others. Photoshop hints are also offered for each one of the 10 tips alongside more general remarks.

You can find the tutorial here.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Paper accepted at HCI International 2009 conference

I have just received confirmation that a publication I have written has been accepted as a full paper for the upcoming 13th HCI International 2009 conference.

The paper is titled "Evaluation of Non-Photorealistic 3D Urban Models for Mobile Device Navigation".

The conference takes place between the 19th and 24th July 2009 at San Diego, California, USA and proceedings will be published as part of the Lecture Notes In Computer Science series by Springer.

The HCI International 2009 jointly with the affiliated Conferences, which are held under one management and one Registration, invite you to San Diego, California, USA to participate and contribute to the international forum for the dissemination and exchange of up-to-date scientific information on theoretical, generic and applied areas of HCI. Symposiums include;

- 8th International Conference on Engineering Psychology and Cognitive Ergonomics
- 5th International Conference on Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction
- 3rd International Conference on Virtual and Mixed Reality (the symposium under which my publication is presented)
- 3rd International Conference on Internationalization, Design and Global Development
- 3rd International Conference on Online Communities and Social Computing
- 5th International Conference on Augmented Cognition
- 2nd International Conference on Digital Human Modeling
- 1st International Conference on Human Centered Design

Check the conference out at http://www.hcii2009.org/

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Animex 2009

University of Teesside hosts the International Festival of Animation and Computer Games, Animex, now celebrating its 10th anniversary. The programme includes talks and presentations from some of the most respected artists in the world involved in animation and computer games. The Animex International Festival of Animation and Computer Games takes place every year in Middlesbrough in the North East of England. The festival has its roots firmly planted in the creative side of animation and computer games and acts to provide animators, directors, students, artists, designers, writers and educators with a forum in which they can share their knowledge and skills and promote the art of animation and games.

Festival delegates are able to attend talks, presentations, workshops, screenings, parties and mingle with friends, old and new, from the all over the planet. Since 2000 Animex has been pioneering events that make the festival a unique experience for all of its visitors. Animex 09 sees the return of many of its fantastic events including Animex Game and Animex Talk!

Game and Talk! see speakers from some of the planet's best animation and games development studios converge on Teesside. The best new talent emerging from the world's foremost seats of learning will be showcased in the Animex Awards which will culminate in a major Awards Evening during festival week. Finally, Animex will be taken to the Street as walls, windows and monitors all over Middlesbrough become temporary screens for animated content from around the globe.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

3D stereoscopic games on the way?

UK-based Blitz Games Studios (Tak and the Guardians of Gross, Bratz: Girls Really Rock) says it has developed proprietary technology enabling stereoscopic 3D on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 games, and it demonstrated the tech for the first time at Los Angeles' 3D Entertainment Summit today. The company says its in-house tech can "replicate the full HD 3D experience" as seen in 3D theaters. Blitz Games co-founder and CTO Andrew Oliver says that 3D games will be "even more immersive" than existing titles, but noted that the industry still needs to learn design issues associated with using 3D.

The company says its technology allows for its games to run in both 2D and 3D in a single version by "simply flicking a switch," and Oliver also expects that 3D-capable television sets are likely to gain in popularity as more compatible film and game content proliferates. "Our BlitzTech technology will prove beyond all doubt that we are already doing what some industry experts have said is impossible on today’s game consoles," claims Oliver. "Our highly tuned engine is capable of producing real-time interactive graphics that are close to offline rendered CG movie quality."

Sunday, 23 November 2008

ICFCC 2009, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The 2009 International Conference on Future Computer and Communication (ICFCC 2009) will be held conjunction with ICIME 2009 and ICSAP 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 3 - 5, 2009. The aim objective of ICFCC 2009 is to provide a platform for researchers, engineers, academicians as well as industrial professionals from all over the world to present their research results and development activities in Future Computer and Communication. This conference provides opportunities for the delegates to exchange new ideas and application experiences face to face, to establish business or research relations and to find global partners for future collaboration.

All accepted papers will also be published in the conference proceeding by IEEE Computer Society, which will be indexed by EI Compendex, INSPEC, Thomson ISI, IEEE XploreTM, IEEE Computer Society (CSDL) digital libraries.

Check the conference out at http://www.icfcc.org/

Saturday, 22 November 2008

New features on Procedural's City Engine

Zurich-based middleware developer Procedural Inc. released an upgrade to 3D city modeling software CityEngine, which now includes, among other features, an OpenStreetMap import feature that enables users to generate 3D recreations of cities and their buildings within minutes.

Other highlights of the new CityEngine release include an interface for controlling specific parameters such as building height or age, the ability to export generated to models to Pixar's RenderMan and Google Earth, and new learning resources such as video tutorials and user manuals. CityEngine is designed to allow professional users in entertainment, architecture, and urban planning to efficiently model 3D cities and buildings.

When launching the software earlier this year, Procedural Inc. announced its involvement with the Rome Reborn project, an interactive 3D digital model of ancient Rome created with the help of several industry and academic partners. “Usually it can take up to several man years to model a 3D city” says Procedural Inc. CEO Pascal Mueller. “The CityEngine significantly accelerates this process. And with the new OpenStreetMap feature, users can import now every urban street network in the world. On the corresponding parcels, users can then instantly generate 3D buildings by using the CityEngine’s unique grammar rule engine.”

Google's Sketchup 7 released

Google released on Monday the long-awaited SketchUp Version 7, a significant upgrade to the popular 3D design software. Google SketchUp Product Manager John Bacus says the emphasis in the new release is on collaboration, including the release from beta of SketchUp LayOut, a companion presentation tool. There are also major changes to core usability throughout the program. SketchUp 7 continues to be available in both free and Pro versions, for both Windows and Mac OS X.

The Pro version price remains unchanged at $495. The Upgrade price is $95, and is currently only available in English. In previous versions of SketchUp, if two lines were to cross in a single plane, they would overlay and not interact. “A missed opportunity in the modeler,” notes Bacus. In SketchUp 7 the two lines merge and break. “It is a minor change to the user, but it is not a minor change in the object model,” notes Bacus. “We really think this will make it easier to draw things like a building facade. Lines will break and be ready for pushing and pulling right away without a lot of cleanup.” Bacus says the change to overlapping lines is representative of “a lot of small tweaky changes throughout the modeler.”

SketchUp 7 also introduces Dynamic Components, a collection of behaviors that add significant power to SketchUp. Users can now apply constraints to geometry, bringing a sense of feature awareness to a component. For example, a component of a bookshelf could be constrained so that if stretched for height, new shelves would be drawn automatically. In the same say, a picket fence component would add new pickets when stretched or contracted.

A window object could be set to manufacturer specifications, but allow the user to change frame color, mullion patters, or other features. Another Dynamic Components feature is the ability to create simple animations, such as a door that opens or closes. Data can now be assigned to specific objects in the model, making it possible to pull reports together from model data for export to spreadsheets or other software.

If you're interested in checking out the new features of Sketchup as provided by Google themselves then navigate to the full list found at http://sketchup.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=115424

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Blitz Games Studios open days for lecturers and students

Blitz Games Studios announces dates for 2009’s Open Days at its Leamington Spa studios. Successful since their inception in 2005, Blitz Open Days give students and lecturers interested in game development the chance to experience the reality of the industry, give them a feel for what the work entails and share in the experience of Blitz employees. The Open Days are exclusively for students and staff on videogames related courses at universities and colleges throughout the UK, and can include those studying any number of courses where the core skills are related to games development.

For 2009, there will be one day specifically for lecturers – Friday 27 March, 2009 – offering an unparalleled opportunity for those involved in teaching any pertinent courses, to come and see the skills and attitudes needed in the games industry, and to hear about the expectations from both perspectives. This is intended for those who have not attended a previous Blitz Open Day. Blitz is also running two days open to anyone studying a games-related course on Friday 6 March 2009 and Friday 13 March 2009.

And for the first time, there is also a day specifically aimed at programmers – Friday 20 March 2009, ideal for anyone studying Games Technology, Computer Science, Maths, Physics, or related disciplines.

The agenda for each Open Day will give the attendees unique insights into the various processes involved in creating top quality videogames and help them prepare appropriate portfolio work for submission to potential employers. Kim Blake, Education Liaison Manager at Blitz Games Studios, said: “We’re constantly evolving the content and structure of our Open Day offering in line with the demands and interest of the industry. This year particularly we’ve upped our content for students with the addition of a programmer-specific day and we’re keen to receive applications from as many people as possible.”

Check out http://www.BlitzGamesStudios.com/OpenDays. Closing date is Monday 19 January 2009.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

3DS Max vs Maya vs Softimage XSI, and the winner is...

I've now been teaching 3D Studio Max for awhile on two different units at Bournemouth University. One question I often get is whether Max is any better or worse compared to its two main rivals; Maya & XSI. I've just come across an excellent article comparing the three which has come from Softimage recently commissioning Jon Peddie Research to conduct a series of tests on XSI, Maya and Max.

The objective of the tests was to quantify the performance advantages and disadvantages of each software package.

"Softimage has devoted considerable resources to optimizing their software for multi-core computing on the CPU side. As a result, they wanted to find a way to quantify and demonstrate the advantages. Jon Peddie Research was hired to certify that the tests were reasonable simulations of a users workload. We also recreated the tests in house and found that our results were similar to those obtained by Softimages engineers. We recognize that this is far from perfect, and we hope that other software vendors will participate and recreate the tests in their own products. The .FBX files of the models used to create the tests are available on our website and can be used to create similar tests."

So what did they measure? The tests were;

- Jogger 6K triangles and High res jogger, 35K triangles - both of these tests are good examples for game development with its emphasis on character and also skin deformation.

- Massive Urchin Turning - The massive urchin is just what it claims to be, one million polygons of sea creature with a turn movement to simulate transformations.

- Massive Urchin Twisting - The same million-polygon urchin but this time with deformation. This test stresses the machine the most in all cases.

- One Million Particles - The one million particle test demonstrates the ability of the software to generate particles along a path.

- 1000 Cubes Rotating - The turning cubes also demonstrate the ability of the software to handle transformations for 1000 objects.

- 10000 Particles with Four Goals - The 10000 particles and four goals demonstrate particles being generated and also transformed.

Read the results here. Some of the conclusions emerging (which I personally find very interesting if somewhat disappointing for a long time Max user like me) are that firstly all 3D applications on Windows Vista are extremely problematic. More importantly when performing the same tasks, with the same models, XSI consistently won while Maya was a close second and Max a distant 3rd (sadly for a Max user like me!).

If you were completely new to 3D and were choosing a software application, why would you choose Max given this information? I think Autodesk will soon realize this if they haven't already. There is no need to have two apps (Max and XSI) geared towards the same users. Especially if one is far more efficient than the other. Moreover, while this article covers performance it is important to note that performance is not the only thing 3D artists are interested in! Using a user-friendly, intuitive, easy-to-operate, particularly for teaching novices in 3D is extremely crucial and to me Max does that far better than the other two. Still, seeing that all three competitors are under Autodesk's wing now it will be interesting to see where we go from here...

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Games outselling video and movies for the first time

An important piece of news; UK sales of games will outstrip music and video for the first time in 2008, says a report from Verdict Research. A huge shift in consumer attitudes has turned video games into the UK's most popular form of entertainment, say the retail analysts. It predicts spending on games will rise by 42% to £4.64bn in 2008, with sales on music and video at £4.46bn.

In the last five years the video games market has more than doubled in value, while music sales have stagnated. The good news for game makers in the report was balanced by grim tidings for high street retailers.

"The music and video market is not just suffering from a slowing of growth but a massive transfer of spend to online," says Malcolm Pinkerton of Verdict Research. It is online sales of CDs and DVDs that have grown rapidly, rather than digital downloads, which still only account for around 4% of music and video sales.

In contrast, video games spending has enjoyed explosive growth, with the launch of major new titles such as Grand Theft Auto IV and FIFA 08, and the Nintendo Wii continuing to broaden the appeal of games. Great news for all involved not only with computer games but also everybody researching computer games technology as well!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, special issue on history of computer games

IEEE Annals of the History of Computing journal will publish a special issue for July 2009 on the history of computer games.

The term "computer game" is understood in the broadest sense of including any form of digital game based on computer hardware or software, playable on a range of devices and networks from game consoles to the Internet. Essays covering this subject area from a variety of perspectives are welcome.

These perspectives might include historical studies of hardware platforms, interfaces, artificial intelligence, programming, player interfaces, virtual reality, military simulation, commercial games, player-generated content, social networks, case studies of game development, or the evolution of the game industry. Perspectives on both development and use of computer games are welcome. Please keep in mind that every essay in this volume should contribute to the journal’s intention of "recording, analyzing, and debating the history of computing."

It is expected that the issue will contain four or five original essays, along with two or three classic papers that document the impact of games on the development of computer science or computing technology. The original essays should not exceed 7,500 words in length, including all text, the abstract, keywords, bibliography, biography and captions. Deadline for abstracts is 15th of May.

Simul Weather, real-time weather modelling-system

Realtime, volumetric, dynamic clouds are now possible on current games hardware. Available for PC and major console platforms, the Simul Weather SDK is an interesting product that illustrates just how far we've got in this area.

Simul Weather is a C++ library which generates weather system data and updates it in real time. Simul Weather creates volumetric cloud data and provides realtime access to that data via a lightweight API. The cloud system generates pure volumetric data, it is cross platform and renderer-independent. The sample applications that come with the SDK show how realtime clouds can be rendered using the generated cloud data, in various graphics API’s.

So features include;
* Live, realtime volumetric clouds
* Eye-wateringly fast
* Physics-based cloud generation
* Realtime weather-changes
* Clouds you can fly through
* Simple C++ API
* Windows, console versions
* Renderer-independent
* Sample render code and shaders available
* Documentation for OpenGL, DirectX implementations
* Works with any 3D API or engine* Built-in load, save and XML streaming

Simul Weather can generate live, moving, animated skyscapes - alternatively, you can render a sky at the start of each level. The SDK is now available to developers wanting to incorporate realistic live weather in the next generation of games (and indeed one has already been confirmed to have licensed it, Midlands-based Eutechnyx).

Develop conference 2009 in Brighton

Grab your diary and pencil it in - the 2009 Develop Conference and Expo will take place from July 14th to 16th in Brighton. Back for its fourth year, the event will once again bring together the cream of the international development community for three days of learning, inspiration, networking and fun. In addition to all of the talks, panels and roundtables you'd expect, next year's event will place increased emphasis on the first day's themed proceedings.

"The Develop Conference in Brighton is firmly established as the leading UK game developers conference," said Andy Lane, director of conference organiser Tandem Events. "It brings together every branch of the development community who come to learn as well as network, and our high quality conference programme is one of the things that sets Develop apart".

"For 2009 we're adding a new dimension to the event by focusing the first day on the latest innovations that are taking place in social, casual, handheld and online - the next frontier - of game development. Once again, the main programme will include more big name speakers from around the world - the Develop Conference has a global reach - attracting speakers from America, Europe and Asia as well as the very best home grown talent," he said.

"And on top of all the brainy stuff, there are the networking opportunities, parties, drinks and awards and, dare I say it, the chance to have a bit of fun by the sea in sunny Brighton."

Keep your eyes peeled on the official Develop Conference website for more information.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Google Earth launches on iPhone

Google just released an iPhone version of its popular Google Earth desktop mapping application. There's been a wide range of interesting iPhone applications lately, but few have been as impressive, or as relevant to mobile navigation, as Google Earth on the iPhone. Google has taken the basics of the Google Earth interface and brought them to the iPhone.

Besides bringing the basic Google Earth features to the phone, the iPhone app also displays links to Wikipedia articles and photos from Panoramio. Because Google integrated a browser into the app, you can seamlessly jump back and forth between the app and the web content. Of course, the app also makes use of the iPhone's GPS, though the lack of street names on the satellite images still gives the standard Google Maps application an edge over Google Earth for navigation.

A drawback would be that for some reason Google thought that it would be a good idea for the app to zoom in from space to your last location every time you start the app. Also, while Google Earth on the desktop allows you to add various layers with information, the iPhone app doesn't even have the ability to show a layer with street names (probably due to the limits of the phone's processing power and memory). Finally, Google Earth uses the iPhone's accelerometer to tilt the screen. As long as you are sitting at your desk, this works great, but once you hand your phone to somebody else, the screen will inevitably tilt and move the focus, which can be quite annoying.

All in all, despite the minor gripes above it is great to see Google Earth on the iPhone and hopefully Google will see sense to expand its 3D navigation capabilities to suit the mobile device rather than see it as another desktop-to-iPhone port.

Sony patents Ultrasonic interaction controller

Sony Computer Entertainment America has filed a new U.S. patent describing a controller that employs "hybrid video capture and ultrasonic tracking" technology. The patent states that the system senses the movement of "one or more" controllers in a 3D space.

From the patent's abstract: "The captured video information is used to identify a horizontal and vertical position for each controller within a capture area. The ultrasonic tracking system analyzes sound communications to determine the distances between the game system and each controller and to determine the distances among the controllers. The distances are then analyzed by the game interface to calculate the depths within the capture area for each controller."

The patent was filed on June 24 this year. The breakapart controller displayed in images accompanying the filings could be assembled as a large sound- and space-sensing scepter. If such a product ever sees the light of day, it could look considerably different than the pictures exhibit, as SCEA stated "certain changes and modifications may be practiced" within the parameters of the patent.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Bournemouth University Open days

I spent this morning and afternoon at Bournemouth University (where I work as a lecturer) as part of one of their Open Days, answering questions from prospective questions and, perhaps more importantly, demoing 3D modelling and animation work for the upcoming Computer Games Technology BSc degree that the University is recruiting for (to start in Sep 2009).

The next Open Day that we have is on November the 15th, if you're interested in the Computer Games Technology course, or indeed any other course the University runs you're more than welcome to attend. You'll be able to attend talks by academic staff on the subjects of your choice and have an opportunity to ask questions plus also be shown around the campus and ask our student ambassadors questions. Finally you can also enjoy a bus tour around the Bournemouth area including a view of our accommodation, Student Union locations, beaches and the town centre.


Friday, 24 October 2008

Autodesk (owner of 3DS Max and Maya) acquires Softimage XSI

Maya, 3ds Max and MotionBuilder owner Autodesk is to acquire its rival Softimage for $35m. The surprise deal, announced last night, puts all the leading 3D graphics applications used by the games industry (Softimage is responsible for the XSI and FaceRobot apps, amongst others) under one owner following three years of active acquisitions on Autodesk's part.

Autodesk bought Maya creator Alias in 2006, and has kept development of the application going ever since. Last year it bought high-end renderer Mudbox creator Skymatter, and in early 2008 acquired AI specialist Kynogon. Founded in 1986 by Daniel Langlois, Softimage's technology is already in use a number of entertainment graphics and special effects firms, including Digital Domain, Ubisoft, Sega, Capcom, and The Mill. The company itself has had a chequered ownership history, at one point being owned by Microsoft before being bought by Avid and integrated into its large family of digital editing and media tools. Avid will be paid around $35m for the acquisition.

Although the two businesses will now be combined, Autodesk said that it will "continue developing and selling Softimage’s core product line, while integrating certain Softimage technology into future versions of Autodesk solutions and products".

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Tiga calls for UK to improve game development-related education

In the latest issue of its policy magazine Download, UK independent developer association Tiga has called on UK authorities to improve the standards of higher education in order to increase the number of talented students ideal for a job in games development. Tiga outlined a number of recommendations it was putting to the Government;

• introduce a pilot programme whereby the tuition fees for students studying mathematics and computer science are reduced to give students a greater incentive to study these subjects;
• reverse the cuts that have taken place in computer science course funding; and
• aim over time to increase higher education funding from the current 1.1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in order to enhance the quality of UK universities (the USA and China spend 2.9% and 1.3% respectively of GDP on higher education).

Tiga also called for the establishment of a Tiga managed Games Education Fund which could, for example:
• promote industrial secondments by funding the placement of lecturers in games businesses;
• fund research fellowships by enabling lecturers to concentrate on research activities rather than administrative and teaching responsibilities for between a term and an academic year;
• enable more games businesses to engage in education outreach and knowledge transfer with universities; and
• award individual lecturers and their universities for excellence in teaching, judged by their commitment to teaching, building industry-university links and other actions which ensure the output of first class quality graduates for the games industry.

"If the UK video games industry is to maintain its competitive edge then we must address the skills shortages hampering the industry. We need to improve standards in mathematics and the sciences in schools in order to increase the potential pool of graduates in these disciplines. Stronger financial incentives to attract the best graduates to teach in schools are part of the solution," said Richard Wilson, CEO of Tiga.

"In higher education, tuition fees for mathematics and computer science students should be reduced in order to increase the supply of graduates in these areas. Additionally, our universities must be adequately funded. Cuts in computer science courses should be reversed. Students need up to date equipment and software".

"Employers have a vital part to play in improving skills in the games industry. The Government should aim to reduce corporation tax on businesses to leave them with more money available for investment, including on training. We need to strengthen industry-university links in the games industry. The establishment of a Tiga managed Games-Education Fund would achieve this objective. Deploying the Fund to promote industrial secondments, research fellowships, education outreach and knowledge transfer programmes, and excellence in teaching would not only strengthen links between developers and academia. Ultimately it would help to enhance the competitiveness of the UK games development sector."

Saturday, 18 October 2008

XNA 3.0 to be released, support for mobile device and Visual Studio 2008

Microsoft has revealed that XNA Game Studio 3.0 will be released on October 30th. The latest version chiefly adds Microsoft's Zune music player as a development target, as well as supporting the new Xbox Live Community Games initiative - itself planned to launch as part of the New Xbox Experience hitting Xbox 360s worldwide on November 19th.

More importantly for most, it's the first release of XNA to properly support Visual Studio 2008. In preparation for the Community Games launch, the XNA team has also penned the first draft of what it calls the Community Games Best Practices - a set of guidelines geared towards providing the best experience for players and converting them into buyers.

Skillset's London Games Festival

The deadline is nearing for interested attendees to register for this month's Skillsweek. The London Games Festival event is a week-long Skillset-backed set of workshops and seminars to look at talent and training. The event runs from October 27th to 31st, and hopes are high that over 250 will attend, repeating Skillsweek's success after its debut last year.

Kate O’Connor, executive director at Skillset, commented: "Game development has one of, if not the, most diverse skills requirements of all modern media. From mathematicians and physicists at one end of the spectrum to, actors and architects at the other, the UK gaming industry must be able to tap into these skills to maintain its position as one of the world leaders. Successful and popular forums like Skillsweek are exactly what the industry needs to help confront the skills challenge. It provides the perfect platform from which experts can debate the issues and exchange views on best practice."

According to Skillset, this year’s programme includes:
- The return of last year’s Mod Workshop. Everyone will be taught the basics of level design with Unreal Engine 3, from basic geometry to lighting and implementing AI.
- Scarce Talent Seminars: looking at how to cross the gap from mod-maker or bedroom programmer to professional developer, how to get into audio for games, research and development jobs in the games industry. Tuesday will delve into topics often neglected by games industry events
- A Game Design Workshop: the best way to focus on game design is with a paper prototype. In this workshop, you'll learn how to produce a prototype board game from scratch
- The Coding Dojo Workshop: learn Agile Development Skills and the basics of flash as well as pair programming and other agile techniques
- The C Word: a whole day of high level panels and talks on the skills shared between VFX, animation and game development

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Softimage XSI case study on Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden

Following from last month's post of me praising the making-of article on the official Softimage XSI website where Metal Gear Solid 4 was shown throughout its various stages of creation, the nice people at Softimage have done another one of those excellent features, this time on the Ninja Gaiden 2 game title.

Behind the development of this game is Team Ninja, a game production group at TECMO, LTD. The team said that their objective for the new Ninja Gaiden 2 was to develop a game that was as enjoyable to look at as it was to play. In particular, their mission was to fully utilize the processing capabilities of the next-generation Xbox 360 to take real-time image display to the next level.

To create expressive animated characters the creative team started working with real-time shaders to add details that would improve the game resolution required for a next-generation console. But the main issue they faced was how to raise the quality of the facial animation that would accompany this added detail. It was at this time that one of the directors of Ninja Gaiden 2, Hiroaki Matsui, took a look at SOFTIMAGEFACE ROBOT. The team felt that Face Robot provided the level of accuracy required for facial capture operations. The fact that it was designed with an export function for game run-time was another major reason why they decided to adopt Face Robot...

Read more about this here, while this article is not as thorough as the previously mentioned Metal Gear one it is still well worth anyone with a research or practical interest in 3D games modelling and animation.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

UnrealScript Studio now available for commercial license

Pixel Mine's tool brings Visual Studio look and functionality to UnrealScript coding by recently making their UnrealScript Studio product available for licensing for commercial game development.

UnrealScript Studio, which recently won the second place in the Tools category of Epic's Make Something Unreal competition, applies many of the features available in Microsoft's Visual Studio to UnrealScript editing, including a comprehensive source-level debugger with breakpoints, stepping and user watches, IntelliSense code completion, Class and other views and code snippets.

The tool builds on Pixel Mine's experience with UE3 - it developed the PC versions of BlackSite: Area 51 and Turok - to provide advanced UnrealScript-specific features, such as mixed-mode simultaneous debugging of C and UnrealScript sources.

While the company will be selling the tool for commercial development, it has also pledged to provide a free version for mod makers and educational institutions built on Microsoft's free Visual Studio 2008 Shell. "We built UnrealScript Studio as a language service for Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 and 2008," said Sam Harwell, project lead on UnrealScript Studio. "This provides a familiar interface that effectively eliminates the time it takes to become proficient with the editor's abilities. It includes both an advanced text editor with IntelliSense and a source-level debugger for UnrealScript 3 that are fully integrated into Visual Studio."

As a big advocate of both UnrealEd and UnrealScript for serious research purposes this is a major development IMO. Check out the company's site at http://www.pixelminegames.com/.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Unity game engine

While game engines like id Tech 5 and Unreal Engine 3 are undoubtedly cutting edge these days and used both for unofficial mods and also for big-money licensing, there's a number of smaller ones that have been making waves recently, particularly noted for their incredible drag-and-drop simplicity and none more so than Unity.

Originally launched as a Mac-based integrated creation tool and game engine for games that worked with a browser-based plug-in, it sat firmly in the same space as technologies such as Director and other Flash-based tools. Coming from a tiny upstart company (Danish outfit Unity Technologies), it was vital Unity worked as simply as possible, at least for gamers. The 3MB plug-in worked with all browsers and, crucially, didn’t require you to reload your webpage, much less restart your browser or enter any registration details.

Additional streaming functionality allowed for the further reduction of load times; something given away by the overall high quality of the graphics. The final key was the pricing: a $200 indie licence per seat for companies with turnover of less than $100,000; a $1,600 pro licence; or the most expensive $2,000 licence, which also includes an integrated version control server.

All told, then, it’s no surprise that year on year Unity has been growing from a secret success story into an ever more public one. Unity is currently being used to create three game portals, five virtual worlds and two MMOGs (Cartoon Network’s FusionFall and an as yet unannounced casual game from Age Of Conan publisher Funcom), while there are also several venture capital-funded projects making use of the technology, not to mention the thousands of licences sold to everyone from bedroom coders to established game studios.

There are other business implications from the model too. The 20-strong company, which splits development duties between studios in Denmark and Lithuania, plus a sales office in San Francisco, has only one full-time support person. It’s something that’s forced it to focus on ensuring the stability of releases, as well as nurturing a strong community.

What makes Unity particularly emblematic of today’s gaming culture, however, is the way it has moved from its web-player roots. First up was the ability for developers to create standalone PC and Mac games. Nothing too difficult there, although neat crossplatform features such as optimized graphics pipelines for DirectX 9 and OpenGL helped. Meanwhile, June saw the announcement of the company’s official status as a middleware provider for Wii, while there’s a current internal push to complete support for iPhone.

Of course, iPhone provides the clearest path for casual web developers to get their games on another relatively open platform, but studios are also using Unity to develop Wii titles. Finally, the company expects to add support for other consoles. Currently a Mac-only platform the platform is set to embrace PCs and Windows within the next year or two (at least according to its creators, who, while non-commital on the subject, have gone on record to say how beneficial for the firm a move like that would be).

Check out this very promising engine at http://unity3d.com/

Saturday, 4 October 2008

New Grand Theft Auto game embraces non-photorealism

Some details have been released about the forthcoming Grand Theft Auto game on the kid-friendly DS console. It's going to be isometric, not 3D or top-down, like other GTA games, and more importantly, it's going to be cel-shaded.

New gameplay features seen in GTA IV remain, like the mobile phone, and the GPS directions system which saves you bringing up the map every ten seconds while driving. There's also a different system for your "wanted" rating. Instead of it dissipating if you hide, you're going to have to "disable police cars in any way possible". Aiming will involve the D-pad, but there's also a autotarget. Weapons include the everpresent flamethrower and a chaingun. Finally, there'll be "tasteful" minigames and the ability to upload stats via WiFi to the internet.

I'm looking forward to seeing this as someone with a strong research interest in cel-shaded graphics. It's always encouraging to see AAA titles such as the new Prince Of Persia (featured in an older post) and now this one embracing expressive, non-photorealistic rendering as it shows the commercial potential / dynamic the technology has.

Friday, 3 October 2008

UK Video Game Archive coming to National Media Museum

Academics at Nottingham Trent University are partnering with the Bradford, UK National Media Museum to launch the country's first National Videogame Archive, to preserve the history of the medium and recognize the significant contributions made by videogames to the diversity of popular culture across the globe.

The Archive will not only collect consoles and cartridges, but a broad range of items from across the industry, documenting games as a cultural phenomenon with ad campaigns, magazine reviews, and artwork. It will be housed and cared for at the museum and built and researched in collaboration with the University's Centre for Contemporary Play.

"We don’t just want to create a virtual museum full of code or screenshots that you could see online," says the Centre's Dr. James Newman. "The archive will really get to grips with what is a very creative, social and productive culture." The film industry was late to start building such a trove, says the University, meaning that "countless pieces of historically significant material have been lost forever."

The aim here is to start creating a historical preservation resource early. Paul Goodman, Head of Collections & Knowledge at the National Media Museum, says there will be challenges in exactly how to present the archive. "We must balance the necessary conservation requirements of these materials, with the need to allow the public to understand and interact with them both now and in the future, which is really the cornerstone of what we are trying to do," he says.

The National Videogame Archive will launch at this year’s GameCity 3 festival in Nottingham, for which Nottingham Trent University is the lead partner. Says Newman, "The National Videogame Archive is an important resource for preserving elements of our national cultural heritage.It will not only be a vital academic resource to support growing disciplines in videogame studies but will also be something that the general public can fully engage with."

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Adobe Photoshop CS4 to feature nVidia acceleration

The latest version of Adobe's Creative Suite will support hardware acceleration with Nvidia GPUs, it has been announced. Photoshop CS4 will utilise any present GeForce or Quadro GPUs in order to speed-up intensive operations such as HDR tone mapping, colour conversion, 3D movement and brush resizing, while also enabling real-time rotation and zooming of images.

Creative Suite stablemates After Effects and Premiere Pro will also benefit from the extra horsepower to quicken HD video editing and effect generation. “A critical element of CS4 was to capture the enormous power of the GPU,” said John Loiacono, senior vice president of Creative Solutions at Adobe.

“The difference is astounding. Performance is important to creative professionals and with the Nvidia GPU, they are assured to be able to interact with images and videos in a much faster, smoother, more engaging way.”

Dan Vivoli, executive vice president of marketing for Nvidia, added: “The GPU being a central ingredient of Adobe Creative Suite 4 is a monumental milestone in the computer industry. Adobe is the recognised leader in revolutionary content tools and this marks the beginning of the GPU accelerated creative revolution. We are honored to have been able to work so closely with the talented engineers at Adobe to help them take their world renowned suite to the next level.”

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Two-year project for a revolutionary MMO Technology Suite

Nottingham-based Monumental Games has won almost £300,000 of funding from the Technology Strategy Board as part of a project to “revolutionize the Monumental Technology Suite”. The £700,000 project, which will focus on making the massively-multiplayer engine accessible to all and providing a browser-compatible development route, kicks off this month with the aim of commercializing the results within two years. The Monumental Technology Suite currently has over 40 licensees worldwide.

“This is the first year that the Technology Strategy Board has invited applications from the creative industries, and it is encouraging to see recognition for the contribution made by such industries to the UK economy,” said project chairman and Monumental CTO Rocco Loscalzo. “This award for Collaborative Research and Development has enabled us to kick-start a commercially viable but inherently high-risk project, and we can’t wait to get going with our partners,” he added.

Monumental Games will lead the project, partnered by Staffordshire University, Media and Game Technologies, PlayGen and Digital Native Academy. In early September developer Monumental announced that it had seen its staff headcount almost double over the last six months as the firm ramped up development on its flagship MMO title Football Superstars (pictured) and began work on two as-yet-undisclosed projects.

Friday, 19 September 2008

The death of graphics APIs such as OpenGL and DirectX?

According to a very recent interview Tim Sweeney, co-founder of Epic Games and the brains behind every iteration of the widely licensed Unreal series of 3D game engines, claimed that we are soon to see the demise of very popular graphics APIs such as DirectX and even the venerable OpenGL.

At NVIDIA's recent NVISION conference, Sweeney, during a wide-ranging conversation predicted the impending fall of the fixed-function GPU, a fall that he maintains will also sound the death knell for graphics APIs like Microsoft's DirectX and the SGI-authored OpenGL. Game engine writers will, Sweeney explains, be faced with a C compiler, a blank text editor, and a stifling array of possibilities for bending a new generation of general-purpose, data-parallel hardware toward the task of putting pixels on a screen...

All this because "CPU's become so fast and powerful that 3D hardware will be only marginally beneficial for rendering, relative to the limits of the human visual system, therefore 3D chips will likely be deemed a waste of silicon (and more expensive bus plumbing), so the world will transition back to software-driven rendering. And, at this point, there will be a new renaissance in non-traditional architectures such as voxel rendering and REYES-style microfacets, enabled by the generality of CPU's driving the rendering process. If this is a case, then the 3D hardware revolution sparked by 3dfx in 1997 will prove to only be a 10-year hiatus from the natural evolution of CPU-driven rendering".

Sweeney also mentions that "in the next generation we'll write 100 percent of our rendering code in a real programming language—not DirectX, not OpenGL, but a language like C++ or CUDA. A real programming language unconstrained by weird API restrictions. Whether that runs on NVIDIA hardware, Intel hardware or ATI hardware is really an independent question. You could potentially run it on any hardware that's capable of running general-purpose code efficiently."

Another interesting quote is this one; "graphics APIs only make sense in the case where you have some very limited, fixed-function hardware underneath the covers. It made perfect sense back with the 3Dfx Voodoo and the first NVIDIA cards, and the very first GeForces, but now that you have completely programmable shaders, the idea that you divide your scene up into triangles rendered in a certain order to a large framebuffer using fixed-function rasterizer features is really an anachronism. With all that general hardware underneath, why do you want to render scenes that way when you have more interesting possibilities available?"

You can read the rest of this very interesting interview here.

The making of Metal Gear 4's game art

I've just come across an absolutely fascinating article / case study on Metal Gear Solid 4 on the Softimage website. SOFTIMAGE XSI was the main tool used for this game so the people there interviewed the Kojima Productions team after they had finished development on the title and as the release date for MGS4 was approaching.

In this interview, they were able to speak with staff from all the major development units, including characters, background, machines, 2D, event demos, motions and even programming.

This is a must read for anyone interested in games development as it offers a very detailed insight in the step-by-step development of a top modern gaming title ranging from initial storyboarding to the role of the programmers in the modelling/animation of the game assets.

Tons of images featured in there too which make the description of the processes even more insightful. Easily one of the best features I've seen in this area, check it out at the official XSI site, found at the link below, if only more game developers bothered to do 'making ofs' of this calibre!


Friday, 12 September 2008

1st International IEEE Conference in Games and Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications

The emergence of serious or non-leisure uses of games technologies and virtual worlds applications has been swift and dramatic over the last five years. As a result, there has been little time to develop the theoretical and academic rigour in the emerging field. This problem has been exacerbated by the largely technological drive of the technologies, with often little time to consider more user-centred approaches to design and use of serious applications of games and virtual world technologies. Another factor affecting the field has been the general aspects of convergence between new technologies, for example augmented reality, mobile technologies, GPS technologies, sensor technologies and social software.

Together this has presented potential for developing new technologies based upon immersive and interactive interfaces and has in parallel produced many unanswered questions in terms of the usage of the formats. As a result there is a clear need to consider new frameworks, theories, methods and design strategies for making serious applications of games and virtual world technologies more effective and useful as part of education, health and training.

The first International Conference in Games and Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications 2009(technical co-sponsorship with the IEEE Computer Society pending) aims to meet the significant challenges of the cross-disciplinary community that work around these serious application areas by bringing the community together to share case studies of practice, to present new frameworks, methodologies and theories and to begin the process of developing shared cross-disciplinary outputs. In order to achieve this main aim the conference will pioneer new methods for bringing together and supporting communities of practice emerging in themed areas beyond the duration of the conference.

Using the conference as an ignition to support a wider aspiration to form and sustain a community of practice around the field. To achieve this, the team at the SGI will use innovative software called Intronetworks, which allows conference participants to create their own profile allowing them to identify like-minded and complementary skilled colleagues.

The conference will be taking place between 23rd and 24th of March 2009, for more details (and submission deadlines!) check the official site at http://www.sgandvwconference.net/

Thursday, 11 September 2008

The history of 3D Studio Max

3D Studio Max is a piece of software which I have personally started using in late 1999 and now, almost 10 years after, still remains my preferred animation/modelling content creation tool. The version I started out on was version 3 (we are now on version 2009 which is effectively version 11...).

However, there were some DOS versions of 3D Studio Max before that and I was very intrigued to find this very recently uploaded and updated Wikipedia page detailing the very turbulent history (owned by Kinetix, then Discreet and today Autodesk) of the application from its conception in 1990 onwards. Essential trivia reading for all 3D Studio Max afficionados out there!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Research work produces new low-cost texturing application

In researching architecture graphics software, scientists at the University of Manchester have stumbled on a new low-cost method for generating game environment textures - and they plan to give it away once it is finished. The team says they can create detailed textures using just a digital camera and their proprietary software.

As long as the camera in question has a flash, the app can get to work, comparing two pictures - one with a flash and one without, and working on the assumption that the brightness of a surface is related to its 3D position. According the developer, the naked eye can't tell the difference between laser scanned images and their cheaper creations.

Team member Dr Mashhuda Glencross told the Manchester Evening News: "It's a really low cost and easy way to get depth information. We plan on releasing it as a free application from our web page as the technique has already been presented at a top conference." The prototype software has attracted attention from a computer games company and a firm that was creating a dome projection movie for planetariums about Mayan civilisations. "We initially developed the technique for the architecture industry, where it would be used for visualising buildings and adding surface detail for increased realism. There is also potential for it to be used in movies."

A very interesting piece of research work indeed, you can check out the SIGGRAPH application describing it here while more information about the research project this prototype belongs to, Daedalus, can be found here.

iPhone/iPod Touch, the future of mobile gaming?

The 'mobile-game-boom' hype has been on the cards for a number of years now, yet it always fails to materialise. Having said that it is a much safer bet to say we're close to it these days ever since the introduction of the iPhone.

At its seasonal product unveiling yesterday (09/09) Apple showed off expected new models for its agenda-setting music hardware the iPod. However, it was games, not audio, which CEO Steve Jobs pushed to the forefront. Jobs revealed that 100m applications have been downloaded from the AppStore, the area of iTunes which distributes software. There are 3,000 apps on the store - 600 of which are games titles, many of them free.

But "some of [the games] are getting pretty fantastic. There is something here for veryone". To prove it, he called Apple's senior VP of product marketing to demonstrate three new iPod Touch/iPhone games, the Gameloft's Real Soccer 2009, the recently released Spore Origins and upcoming Need for Speed Undercover by EA (a very important association there IMO). Gameloft has programmed an on-screen d-pad into its game and has included gesture controls, while EA has transposed traditional racing game controls to the interface for its car racer, both interesting takes on interfacing with an iPhone user.

Jobs summed up, claiming that Apple's iPod Touch is no longer great for just music and video, but now games too. "Now you can make a pretty good argument that it is the best portable device for playing games on - and a whole new class of games," he said.

He also revealed details on the might of Apple's place in the market as a digital distributor. iTunes was described as the "largest online content store in the world", offering also 8.5m songs and 30,000 TV episodes for download. And there are 65m user accounts with registered credit cards on the service. All of this has "enabled us to slowly climb up to become the number one music distibutor in any format in the US," ahead of traditional retailers like WalMart and Best Buy, said Jobs.

My take on all this; if Apple taps into the mobile game market using a) the (fairly advanced) graphics hardware the iPhone has to offer b) their abilities as a distributor to reach the end user and c) associations such as the EA where big developers are finally starting to take mobile gaming far more seriously then it could well be possible that in the next year or two mobile gaming could -at long last- be the next big thing rather than the poor relative of game development.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Upcoming conferences for late 2008/early 2009

Some upcoming conferences for late 2008/early 2009 of interest to my research area...

(1st International Conference In Games And Virtual Worlds For Serious Applications)

(6th Annual International Conference In Computer Game Design And Technology)

(IEEE Virtual Reality 2009)

(Eurographics 2009)

(International Symposium On Computational Aesthetics In Graphics, Visualisation And Imaging)

(Computer Graphics International 2009)

(17th International Conference On Computer Graphics, Visualisation And Computer Vision)

(Foundations Of Digital Games)


(Mirage 2009, Computer Vision/Computer Graphics Collaboration Techniques And Applications)

(HotMobile 2009)

Friday, 5 September 2008

New position... Lecturer In Media Technology at Bournemouth University

I have recently taken up the position of Lecturer In Media Technology at the School Of Design, Engineering and Computing (DEC) of Bournemouth University. Couple of small changes at this blog, the contact email address is now different (although my old one is still valid) and I have also added a link for my Bournemouth University affiliation.

Other than that it is business as usual here, I am carrying on with my PhD research (officially entering final write-up draft stage in a couple of weeks) at City University and beyond, focusing on a lot of the same topics (urban modelling, mobile graphics, non-photorealistic rendering etc.) but also new ones to tie in with both my teaching duties (more on that on a future post, they are however very games-oriented) and also the new research/academic group I belong to.

Needless to say I am very excited to have taken up this new post, I will soon try to add a personal profile/website on the Bournemouth University website, till then you can have a look at http://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/ for more details on the institution. Incidentally, yes, the town itself might be a seaside place but you could almost forget that on day like today (when it's been raining cats and dogs :))!

Creative Urban Suite city modelling tool close to completion

I've posted something about this a few months ago (found here) and it is now great to see, hot on the heels of CityEngine going publically available as a commercial proposition, another application in exactly the same field (automatic urban modelling) soon to hit the market... There's plenty of interest when it comes to middleware that use procedural techniques to either reduce the size of downloadable games and/or maximise precious bandwidth when it comes to streaming textures from a disc or hard-drive. There's not been too much focus on how they can accelerate workflow or improve the quality of gameplay prototyping though. That's one of the angles that French middleware company Gamr7 is pushing however.

It's working on its Creative Urban Suite, which consists of three tools that will enable you to procedurally create everything from huge cities to individual buildings. The first version, covering cities and smaller areas, is due for release sometime in late 2008, while the entire suite is pencilled in for a GDC 09 unveiling. But in the meantime, working with select partners, Gamr7 has been pointing out how the technology could help out when it comes to the more prosaic problems that can arise at the end of a project.

One of the most amusing examples described in its literature at the Leipzig Games Convention 08 concerned a WWII game where late in the project it was found the tanks had been made bigger than they were supposed to be, which unfortunately meant they wouldn't fit down some of the streets. The advantage of using such a procedural technology in such a situation is it's easy to tweak the basic underlying definitions of the city to make the roads wider. The only other alternative would be to be time-intensive process of redoing the streets (or tanks) by hand. "We provide a smooth curve from prototyping to full production," says Gamr7 technical director Lionel Barret. "We can make a city more complex very easily. If you suddenly want to add lamp posts, we can add 50,000 in the correct position immediately".

There's going to be a full feature about the Creative Urban Suite in the upcoming issue of Develop magazine, looking forward to both reading about and also seeing the final product out in the market! Till then visit their site at http://www.gam7r.com/