Sunday, 24 February 2008

Subversion game, in-game rapid 3D city generator

Game developer Introversion, creator of indie darlings Darwinia and DEFCON, have announced their next project will be called Subversion. Company co-founder Chris Delay made the announcement earlier last week, noting that the project is early in production and the development will be blogged.

Part of this blogging process so far is a fascinating insight into creating a rapid city generator for the game content creation process. Chris Delay is already gushing over the game's scalable city generator, which is not only able to custom-build its own cities - with around 70,000 buildings in them - but each individual building's design as well. The process can be witnessed on the YouTube vid below.

Check the blog entry describing the city generator in much more detail, it does look incredibly impressive indeed and a step forward for rapid city creation for games...

Saturday, 23 February 2008

CG Chosen, Architecture Magazine No.7

To everybody interested in manual 3D architectural modelling, a new issue of downloadable PDF CG Chosen Magazine is dedicated to the endless theme of architecture. As many CG artists work in the area of architecture visualization which usually assumes making an ordinary job on modeling and rendering a certain object one can say it's no more a creative work... The mag tries to prove the opposite by mixing ordinary visualization projects and real masterpieces devoted to outstanding architecture buildings.

You will find really interesting projects described here in 6 Making Of articles, stories about artists and companies working on architecture visualization and design in 2 interviews and lots of inspiring artworks including 4 Chosen Artist sections and the Gallery. All that on the 90 page of the magazine that is moreover available for printing now.

Download a free sample copy of this great mag from:

Microsoft DreamSpark provides Visual Studio and XNA bundle at no charge

Chairman of Microsoft Bill Gates unveiled a few days ago a new free software scheme for students that gives them development tools designed to 'unlock their creative potential and set them on the path to academic and career success'. Called Microsoft DreamSpark, the student program makes a range of development and design tools available for free. Microsoft said that software is available to 35 million students studying around the world in 10 countries (Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K. and the US). More territories will be added throughout the year.

DreamSpark is available to all students whose studies touch on technology, design, math, science and engineering. Specifically for game development, the developer tools available are Visual Studio 2005 Pro and Visual Studio 2008 Pro, plus XNA Game Studio 2.0. Students also get a free Acadamic membership for the XNA Creators Club. Microsoft said this move meant students would "be able to invent compelling new gaming content and make their dream game a reality by porting their creations to their Xbox 360 console".

Microsoft's Expression Studio and platform resources SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition and Windows Server are also available for download. "We want to do everything we can to equip a new generation of technology leaders with the knowledge and tools they need to harness the magic of software to improve lives, solve problems and catalyze economic growth," Gates said. "Microsoft DreamSpark provides professional-level tools that we hope will inspire students to explore the power of software and encourage them to forge the next wave of software-driven breakthroughs".

I too think this is a great move and very clever of Microsoft. It has to be noted that from memory they are the first console game company that unlocks the full power of its SDK for the masses, for XBox 360, and that is an action that not only them but a number of graphics programmers can benefit from.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

m-LOMA, a 3D map project for mobile phones

Writing this blog entry from Innsbruck, Austria where yesterday I presented a publication of mine for the 10th IASTED Computer Graphics And Imaging conference (the publication itself can be found here, more details on it on a previous blog entry too, here). One of the most interesting things I saw while at the conference was a demo on a Nokia N95 of the m-LOMA project from a fellow conference attendee which really caught my interest.

The m-LOMA application is one of the first full-featured mobile 3D maps. In comparison to 2D maps, 3D maps offer recognizability via a more realistic representation. m-LOMA, mobile LOcation-aware Messaging Application, delivers a real urban virtual environment to mobile users, with optimized wireless networking and efficient rendering. It allows entire cities to be rendered in real-time in mobile devices, even those lacking 3D hardware. It supports both vector and raster 2D maps, and navigation features such as GPS and routing. It also acts as a platform for location-dependent information.

Users can annotate the 3D world with their messages, and even track their GPS enabled buddies. The environment can also be annotated by service providers, which can be queried directly from the 3D view via the associated logos, or via textual searches. In addition, any annotation attached to a building is linked to the entire building, the location is not just an XYZ position. These annotations act also as bulletinboards, where users can discuss, or evaluate the services. The application runs on many different devices including mobile phones (Symbian S60v2 and S60v3, such as Nokia 6630 and N93, respectively), PDA's and personal computers (Linux, Windows, MacOS X, unices).

More information on the official site of the project found at, well worth checking out for a number of reasons; a) this is an approach that focuses greatly on rendering locally the 3D urban models without the need of a remote database b) it manages, using OpenGL ES, to display large scale models, fully-textured, not on PDAs but on simple cellphones with even more limited processing power! c) the VR engine used is extremely user-friendly but more importantly very efficient when it comes to FPS framerates. Also worth taking a look at are the publications that have come out of this project, found at

A mobile Zeevolution, new controller device for mobile games

Most gamers will admit don’t play many mobile phone games, and they’ll inevitably say that it’s because of the controls. If the N-Gage has taught people anything, it’s that in order to be successful a phone must be a phone first and foremost and that means a layout not particularly conducive to gaming.

Massachusetts-based tech startup Zeemote thinks the solution isn’t producing a phone that looks like a gamepad but separating those components out into two devices and the company is currently courting developers, with an SDK release ahead of the device’s rollout later this year.

Asked how mobile developers could benefit by implementing support for the device, Zeemote CEO Beth Marcus is clear in the message: “Better sales, better visibility and enhanced gameplay. It attracts consumers who wouldn’t necessarily play the game because they think that this 3D game couldn’t possibly play well on their cellphone. But with a Zeemote, they immediately know that they’ll get a gaming experience that they are used to”.

Key in designing the SDK, says Marcus, was making sure that it didn’t get in the way of developers. “It’s cognisant of developer concerns with getting product out that we make it as easy as possible for them to take this thing and go, without needing a lot of work. Developers have said that it only takes them an hour to implement”.

Of course, she explains, an hour is the figure for implementing basic functionality. The real draw of the Zeemote, though, is the switch from digital button presses to analogue movement, and taking full advantage of that will take extra time. It’s this analogue movement that is critical to 3D gaming, and possibly the reason why the uptake of mobile 3D titles has been slower than anticipated.

The quick implementation time also means that developers can rapidly engineer support into older titles, which Zeemote is already doing with several of its partners. It also plans to launch, a one-stop portal for Zeemote owners that the company believes will drive extra revenue to the whole ecosystem as users share information on the latest Zeemote-enabled titles, giving a second lease of life to older titles as well as effectively promoting newer ones.

Finally, although Zeemote sees applications beyond gaming for the device, it’s keen to stress that the emphasis is on game developers. “Right now the SDK is focused on game developers, it’s crafted around their needs. We expect other stuff to happen after release. Still, our main goal is to get out of the way of people being creative and help them to succeed”.

Two versions of 3D Studio Max in 2009?

Autodesk has announced that it will release two versions of the 2009 edition of 3D Studio Max - one for entertainment software and another for design professionals. The firm launched 3D Studio Max 2009 Entertainment Software at it's World Press Days event. 3D Studio Max 2009 includes a new Reveal rendering toolset, the ProMaterials material library for simulating real-world surfaces, and biped enhancements and new UV editing tools.

"Every design has a story to tell," explained Marc Petit, senior vice president, Autodesk Media & Entertainment. "Entertainment technology enables design professionals to explore ideas, validate concepts and communicate design intent. It allows them to experience their designs before they are real. Autodesk 3D Studio Max now comes in two distinct flavours to better meet the specific needs of our entertainment and visualisation customers. 3D Studio Max 2009 and 3D Studio Max Design 2009 provide users with tailored online experiences, user interface and application defaults, tutorials, samples, and more. This simplifies the learning process and makes it easier for users to find the information that’s most relevant to them".

It's a step that shows how important 3D Studio Max is for game development today and it remains to be seen whether other modelling/animation packages such as Maya or SoftImage XSI will follow down the same route...

Friday, 8 February 2008

Call Of Duty 4, Chernobyl in real life vs the 3D urban model

Picked up from the ever brilliant Digital Urban blog, one particularly chilling, yet technically very accurate, rendition of a 3D urban model worth highlighting is that of Chernobyl, featured in Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, a first-person game developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision.

The game is available for Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 it features various real world locations, one of them being set in the aforementione tragic city where a very well-known nuclear accident took place in 1986...

The first movie showcases some real-world, recently-taken still images from Chernobyl with a fascinating story behind them, found at

The second movie is the full Chernobyl level itself in the game, the similarities are, somewhat disturbingly enough (the area is still a high-risk radiation spot, which is quarantined, even after 20-odd years) there for everybody to see. A great piece of in manual urban 3D modelling nonetheless and definitely a good incentive for myself to finally get convinced in investing in a copy of Call Of Duty!

3D Architecture Animation Creator 3D Studio Max plug-in

For all of us using dedicated MaxScript to setup video walkthroughs of urban and architectural scenes, here's a valuable little tool I have just come across.

3D Architecture Animation Creator is a 3D Studio Max plug-in which can help designers quickly creat animations, especially for architecture growing animations. By using it, you can fast create position, rotation, scale, as well as visiblity animations for several objects.

Key Features of Standard Version:

1) Generate position, rotation, scale and visiblity animation
2) Along the x, y, z direction generated animation
3) Along the path generate animation
4) Anti-direction generate animation
5) Generated by random order
6) Objects along the x, y, z direction or randomly generate position, rotation, scale animation
7) Objects along World or Local Coordinate System generate position, rotation, scale animation
8) Can point out start frame of animation, length of frames for every segment of the animation, length of internal frames between animation segments
9) Internal and segment of animation generated randomly
10) 3D Architecture Animation Creator can calculate position of the end frame
11) Set the moving distance, rotating angle and percentage of scale
12) Any combination of position, rotation, scale and visibility can create complex effect

Key Features of Professional Version (besides all features of Standard Version it also includes):

13) Control the speed of generation
14) Set moving distance, rotating angle, percentage of scale as well as turn on random options which can get numbers of distance, angle and percentage randomly
15) Batch adjust coordinate pivot of objects

You can find both versions at

Microsoft buys developer of 3D modelling software for Virtual Earth

Microsoft has bought Caligari, a developer of 3D modeling software, in a move that could help enrich the graphics experience in Microsoft's Virtual Earth mapping system. Caligari started making 3D modeling and animation software for the Amiga computer in the mid-1980s. Its signature tool, called trueSpace, has a user interface that makes it easy to build complex 3D animations, according to an entry on the Virtual Earth blog on Wednesday announcing the acquisition.

Caligari has offices in Mountain View, California, and Slovakia. Its development team will work with the Virtual Earth group, and Caligari's "tightly knit community of beta testers" will stay the same, said Roman Ormandy, founder and CEO of Caligari, in a blog posting. He said the company will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft. "Now we will have more resources to rely on, larger market to consider and I hope more fun doing that," he wrote.

Microsoft was reportedly not available for additional comment but it seems to me that this could be a key move that will take their system in front of Google Earth's competition...

Monday, 4 February 2008

3DS Max 2008 Architectural Visualization book - Beginner to Intermediate

One upcoming book on architectural 3D modelling which I find a very good purchase based on the information about it so far, is 3DATS only 3ds Max 2008 book dedicated to architectural visualization: Brian L. Smith's 3ds Max 2008 Architectural Visualization - Intermediate To Advanced. This 480 page, full-color, hard-cover bound book takes you through the challenge of learning one of the most complex computer programs ever created, by way of easy-to-follow tutorials and time tested production techniques. It specifically focuses on those parts of the program you need to know to be productive in this part of the industry today.

It looks like the intent is not to show you every possible way to accomplish a task, but rather some of the fastest and most efficient ways. 3ds Max is a large and complex application - but by learning just the features that apply to visualization int his field. Included at the end of the book is a large gallery of 3D visualizations by some of the top artists in the field, along with their best advice for beginners trying to advance in the industry. Special discounts from leading industry vendors and valuable downloadable content is also available to readers. Support files are available in release 9 and 2008.

For a sample chapter and an order link check the URLs below:

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Garmin nuvifone, an iPhone with GPS and geotagging capabilities?

Garmin's recently (and abruptly) announced handset obviously marks the firm's first solo foray into the cellphone arena, and according to Cliff Pemble, the firm's president and COO, it's the "breakthrough product that cellphone and GPS users around the world have been longing for".

That being said, the unit will feature a 3.5-inch touchscreen with a trio of primary icons - Call, Search and View Map - along with an internet browser, HSDPA support and preloaded maps of North America and / or Eastern and Western Europe.

Furthermore, it houses "millions" of POIs, doles out turn-by-turn, voice-prompted directions and becomes Garmin's first device to include Google's local search capability.

As for pricing and availability? We're probably, according to rumours, looking at a Q3 2008 release, but we'll have to wait things out before finding out a price and who exactly will be carrying it. Certainly an interesting device that deviates from the norm, by being a direct iPhone competitor which includes GPS but also geotagging too (directly to something like Flickr via 3G or Wi-Fi) and should be eagerly anticipated!

Burnout Paradise, best urban modelling on a racing game yet?

Well I think it might well be! Having spent a few hours with this Criterion title on my XBox 360 I can safely say that apart from it being a thoroughly enjoyable racing game, the 3D urban model its based on takes some beating in quality terms. Burnout Paradise's fundamental change compared to older titles is that instead connecting from event to event automatically like in the past, players can explore the whole Burnout Paradise (the name of the virtual city!) world without waiting for new levels. While Burnout does come across as a sandbox, i.e. I spent much of my time exploring the streets and jumping off ramps, oblivious to any premeditated game goals, the openess offered also gives you the chance to freely explore a full-blown 3D virtual city of the highest order.
According to the creators of the game, while they didn't have a specific square area, but they estimated Paradise City to be about 15-to-17 older Burnout tracks merged together. Mountain passes and rural areas are mostly outside of town. However when back to the city, the urban landscape loos like a single dense spot, just like a real metropolis from a distance! Still, when downtown, you are surrounded by detailed buildings, completely obstructed from the previous vantage point. In short the game architecture looks great!

Criterion mentions they copied real buildings and facades from research trips around the world. One of the reference cities, Chicago, was clearly represented with the downtown river, bridges, and brick-and-iron designs. Anyway, you can feast on your eyes on the pics above and you'd also be well advised to check the game out yourselves for what is surely point-of-reference, absolute cutting-edge architectural real-time modelling in 2008!

VideoTrace: Rapid interactive scene modelling from video

VideoTrace is a system for interactively generating realistic 3D models of objects from video - models that might be inserted into a video game, a simulation environment, or another video sequence. The user interacts with VideoTrace by tracing the shape of the object to be modelled over one or more frames of the video. By interpreting the sketch drawn by the user in light of 3D information obtained from computer vision techniques, a small number of simple 2D interactions can be used to generate a realistic 3D model.

Each of the sketching operations in VideoTrace provides an intuitive and powerful means of modelling shape from video, and executes quickly enough to be used interactively. Immediate feedback allows the user to model rapidly those parts of the scene which are of interest and to the level of detail required. The combination of automated and manual reconstruction allows VideoTrace to model parts of the scene not visible, and to succeed in cases where purely automated approaches would fail.

Apart from the very cool vid above you can also check the following links, the first one the official project site and the other one a download of a last year's SIGGRAPH conference describing the work:

Saturday, 2 February 2008

A new SIGGRAPH conference, SIGGRAPH Asia

Asia is rising. While Japan has been dominant economically for decades, China and India are growing at a phenomenal rate, and the four Asian tigers, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are still strongly on the prowl. Asian governments are pumping billions of dollars into digital media technology research and development, and Asian contributions in this field have increased tremendously.

SIGGRAPH conference figures show that while the number of papers from Asia has more than doubled in the new millennium, Asian attendance at the conference has fallen by about a third, due partly to cost and visa problems. These form the background to a meeting between Scott Owen and Alyn Rockwood, the President and Vice President of ACM SIGGRAPH, and a group of Asian delegates during SIGGRAPH 2006 in Boston. The meeting explored the possibility of having some form of the SIGGRAPH conference in Asia, which would also include Australia and New Zealand which lead to the first ACM SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia opens in Singapore on 10th December 2008.

My opinion on all this? It is a great idea to extend what is the best computer graphics conference to a new research and industrial market as long as the quality remains intact. Now how about remembering Europe and perhaps setting up something similar over here as well (although I am sure this argument has already been discussed many many times before!)?

Prototype, capturing a 1:1 New York 3D model for gaming purposes

A very much anticipated new game title which has focused a lot of its publicity on the urban modelling work conducted for it is Prototype by Radical Entertainment. The creators of the title have attempted an 1:1 recreation of New York City with developers taking 22,000 photos to get it right, capturing the city exactly as it was in 2007.

Of course capturing a city requires a photographic survey of an enormous scale, but once the 22,000 photos are in place it can create a unique archive of the city at the point of creation. If this is combined with open game play (which to me personally looks very Assassin Creed-like, only in a modern era!), we end up with a potentially extremely impressive digital version of New York.

The game is scheduled for release on PC, PS3 and XBox 360 in 2008 with the date yet to be confirmed (latter part of the year most likely). Check the link below for movie trailer of the game including an interview detailing some of the processes involved with its creation.

Article accepted for publication at X Symposium For Virtual And Augmented Reality

I've just received confirmation that a full paper I authored has been accepted for publication at the 10th SVR (Symposium on Virtual and Augmented Reality) conference, a major conference in VR and AR sponsored by SBC (The Brazilian Computing Society). The conference takes place at Joao Pessoa, Brazil between May the 13th and May the 16th.

The title of the publication I am presenting is "Developing a Framework for the Automatic Generation and Visualisation Of 3D Urban Areas on Mobile Devices". For more information check the link below, I will of course post a full report on the workshop when I return from it, so check this space for an upcoming post on this!

For more information about the conference check

Friday, 1 February 2008

Electronic Arts mobile gaming titles with improved 3D graphics

Electronic Arts' mobile games will soon offer a 3D performance equivalent to traditional portable gaming consoles. Broadcom and Electronic Arts recently signed an agreement to enable popular EA Mobile game titles on mobile phones powered by Broadcom solutions. These game titles will be optimized for the latest generation VideoCore III mobile multimedia processor from Broadcom, which supports HD content and graphics performance equivalent to today's dedicated handheld game consoles.

"Low power 3D hardware graphics acceleration will allow developers to create games for convergent mobile devices that can compete with or surpass games for dedicated handheld gaming devices. True high-resolution 3D graphics will entice consumers to download and play more mobile games," says gaming analyst Billy Pidgeon at IDC.

Broadcom's VideoCore III solution features 2D and 3D graphics accelerators and improved audio technology. The low-power graphics pipeline is optimized for hardware acceleration of the OpenGL ES 2.0 3D graphics standard and supports graphics-rich 3D games with rendering performance up to 32 million triangles per second.

Broadcom promises over 6 hours of gaming from a standard cell phone battery, and multimedia users will find over fifty supported standards, formats, codecs and resolutions. Mobile games can also be played on televisions up to HD resolution via an included HDMI output, which should provide a more versatile gaming experience than a tiny screen can provide.

So, when can we get our hands on all these goodies? The first mobile phones powered by the VideoCore III solution will likely appear sometime around 2009 and while there's plenty of time till then this all sounds very promising for mobile gaming and mobile graphics in general...

3D World Magazine March issue: architectural tutorials

I've featured this magazine in this blog before but this month's issue of UK 3D World mag (March 2008) really is a must purchase for all interested in urban modelling since (as you can tell from the cover!) it is chock full of architectural 3D tutorials. This most notably includes one on inserting 3D models into a video clip using Boujou Bullet and also techniques for mastering compositing in a New York street scene.

More information on the magazine at