Saturday, 26 July 2008

Torque game engine optimized for iPhone use

A piece of news interesting for everybody researching mobile graphics and mobile gaming; GarageGames has announced that its popular Torque engine now supports the iPhone. According to the press release, Torque developers are now able to use the engine's 2D and 3D functionality to create games for the iPhone (and presumably iPod Touch).

GarageGames Torque for the iPhone SDK includes a a full-featured WYSIWYG realtime editor, easy integration with many 3D modeling packages, a powerful scripting language and more. All this and you can develop your game on a PC and test your application on an iPhone emulation of your application using Apple's iPhone Developer SDK. GarageGames has provided additional iPhone-specific functionality for Torque with:
- Multi-touch Input Support
- Touchscreen Gesture Recognition
- iPhone Optimized Compressed Texture
- Advanced Character and Shape Animations

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

DirectX 11 announced by Microsoft

Microsoft has, as of today, revealed the first details on the latest version of its DirectX SDK at the Gamefest event in Seattle. Chief new features in version 11 are:
a) the new Compute Shader technology, which allows GPUs to be used for general purpose computing
b) support for tesselation, allowing models to be refined and smoother up-close
c) multi-threaded resource handling to help games utilise multi-processor set-ups more effectively

In a new twist, rather than require new hardware as DirectX 10 did, DirectX 11 will be completely compatible with DirectX 10 and 10.1 cards - but will, like its predecessor, only support the Windows Vista operating system.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Academic journals on computer games

Seeing that I have some recent results suitable for publication in a computer games journal (and also future research directions could potentially be in that field too), I decided to do a quick round-up of all available outlets in that field.

While there are not as many computer games journals as I would have hoped (computer games as a serious academic research topic is a relatively new excursion unfortunately), there's definitely enough of them to justify conducting publishable research in the area. Incidentally, the list is by no means exhaustive, please feel free to contact me if I have missed any out!

1) International Journal Of Computer Games Technology (Hindawi Publishing Corporation)

2) Journal For Computer Game Culture (Eludamos)

3) Games And Culture Journal (Sage)

4) Computer In Entertainment (ACM)

5) Simulation And Gaming (Sage)

6) Convergence: The International Journal of Research Into New Media Technologies (Sage)

7) Loading Journal (open access)

8) Game Studies Journal (open access)

9) Journal Of Gaming And Virtual Worlds (Intellect)

Friday, 18 July 2008

Taylor and Francis Young Researcher Focus Group

Yesterday I attended a Researcher Focus group event at publishing house Taylor and Francis' headquarters in Milton Park, Abingdon. Chaired by two senior academics, the day took the form of a structured discussion under a series of key headings. The intention was to gain a clear, accurate snapshot of current scholarly communication and research behaviours, particularly regarding social networking in academia and to ascertain the goals and aspirations of other young researchers.

There was also the chance to offer feedback on the publisher's online journal repository portal (found here) where I was personally very interested to see features such as iFirst implemented (a feature where journal articles are published immediately online as soon as they are accepted, rather than go through the usual 10-12 month wait, it would be fantastic if a trend like that takes off as a lot of research, particularly in technology-oriented fields, is sorely out of date by the time it gets published).

The publisher's official website is

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Cities XL, a brand new gaming take on the city-building gerne

CITIES XL™ is a brand new game which takes on the city-building genre in a fashion similar to Sim City. CITIES XL™, according to Monte Cristo, the developing team behind the title, will expand upon all the features that make city builders fun - such as shaping cities, managing the economy and caring for the needs of city inhabitants. Players can also take their game online and interact with thousands of others on massive persistent planets.

CITIES XL is scheduled for release first quarter of 2009 with online play based around the development of a new planet allowing community members to: a) build cities in a virtual world populated by other subscribers, allowing the creation of a living online community b) trade with others, specialize a city in specific activities such as tourism, entertainment, business development, recycling management and more c) visit other cities and host events for others to attend and enjoy d) cooperatively create a booming metropolis teeming with life and businesses e) participate in competitions and enjoy a calendar of events that will keep you coming back to your planet f) share your in-game experience with friends through a companion community website.

The second vid is a fascinating insight on how the 3D building models were created while the first a trailer of the game itself, for more information check out the official website at

Mali-400 MP scalable multiprocessor graphics solution, high-end graphics for all mobile devices

As someone perpetually frustrated by the lack of decent 3D graphics cards on mobile devices, it is very exciting to hear that ARM announced a few days ago the ARM Mali-400 MP scalable multiprocessor graphics solution, capable of delivering performance of up to 1G pixels/s and enabling licensees to serve multiple product markets with the same architecture, while retaining the flexibility to choose the optimum power, performance and area configuration for their application. The Mali-400 MP architecture offers scalability and lower cost for developers and OEMs associated with platform fragmentation, as no changes are required to support one to four processors. "Architectural reuse of software and hardware components is of increasing importance to SoC developers," said Frank Dickson, co-founder and chief research officer, MultiMedia Intelligence.

"The scalability of the ARM Mali-400 MP GPU, from 300 million to over 1 billion pixels per second, will enable OEMs to deliver a wide range of market-leading products on the same underlying architecture, reducing their total cost of ownership and maximizing ROI."
The Mali-400 MP solution builds on ARM’s experience and knowledge gained in the ARM MPCore technology, implemented in the ARM11 MPCore and Cortex-A9 MPCore multicore processors, designed to reduce system bandwidth, optimize performance and reduce power consumption. Power consumption and area efficiency are key aspects of the Mali-400 MP GPU design. The ability to scale performance to meet different price points and power budgets allows the Mali-400 MP GPU to address the widest possible market while bringing significant cost benefits through utilizing the same single software stack across multiple devices.

Could this mean that, set by the Nokia N95 and iPhone trend (both devices with powerful 3D graphics capabilities), 2008/2009 could really finally be the year for quality mobile 3D? For more details check out

Monday, 14 July 2008

Enkin, a new mobile location-based augmented reality research project

"Enkin", a new mobile AR project initiated by Max Braun and Rafael Spring, introduces a new handheld navigation concept. It displays location-based content in a unique way that bridges the gap between reality and classic map-like representations. It combines GPS, orientation sensors, 3D graphics, live video, several web services, and a novel user interface into an intuitive and light navigation system for mobile devices.

The very comprehensive video above speaks for itself, not only do you see the prototype in action but also how the system architecture is set up and other useful information. Quite possibly the best and most complete mobile location-based AR application I have seen so far...

Check out the official web page at

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Ubisoft acquires Sin City special effects firm

Ubisoft has heralded its acquisition of the VFX firm responsible for effect in movies such as Sin City and 300 as "a groundbreaking event for digital entertainment". At a press conference in Montreal today Ubisoft Montreal, the firm's biggest internal studio, announced the purchase of local VFX outfit Hybride, which works in cinema, TV and advertising.

Founded 15 years ago, Hybride employs 80 staff and has worked on Spy Kids as well as the iconic Sin City and 300. Ubisoft said it plans to work closely with the team to share technology and jointly develop tools "in order to optimise the creation of both video games and visual effects and to offer gamers visual experiences that rival those of the cinema". But at the same time Hybride will continue to work with its film partners - giving Ubisoft a big boost as the firm looks to leverage its IP in the movie industry.

Hybride's film work will be very lucrative for Ubisoft - it forecast that contracts for cinema, television and advertising jobs initially generate sales of approximately €6m to €7m and a current operating income of about 10 per cent of sales. "The future of our industry depends on our ability to create brands that captivate audiences and to extend those brands to other forms of entertainment," commented Yves Guillemot, chief executive officer at Ubisoft. "The acquisition of Hybride falls directly into the strategy that has already led us to open a digital creation studio in Montreal and to acquire the Tom Clancy brand for video games and ancillary products.The exceptional quality of the team at Hybride and the expertise of our Ubisoft teams will allow us to create one of the best 3D animation studios in the entertainment industry."

"This alliance is a true first for the industry," continued Yannis Mallat, chief executive officer of Ubisoft Montreal called the alliance 'a true first for the industry'. "Ubisoft and Hybride share the same vision of entertainment convergence and a common passion for innovation and creativity," he said. "It is the quality and innovation of our artists that made Hybride into one of the most successful studios in cinema and the most important visual effects producer on the North American East Coast," stated Pierre Raymond, founder and chief executive officer at Hybride Technologies.

My take on all this is that Ubisoft, in its continuous quest to explore artistic real-time rendering (see the new Prince Of Persia post from a few weeks ago here), has made a strategic move in this partnering which will hopefully see the boundaries of non-photorealistic rendering stretch even more...

Friday, 4 July 2008

International Animation Conference in Bournemouth

From Friday 18th to Sunday 20th July, internationally renowned speakers from the world of animation will be converging on the Arts Institute at Bournemouth to take part in the Society for Animation Studies International Animation Conference entitled ‘Animation Unlimited’.

The three day event includes pre-eminent scholars and practitioners from some of the world’s leading institutes of animation education who will discuss, debate and drive the industry forward alongside leading organisations such as Aardman Animations. Keynote speakers at the event include Professor Peter Parr from the Institute who will be discussing the use of sketchbooks in animation education; Professor Esther Leslie from Birkbeck College, University of London who will be talking on the flux and flurry of animated words; and Professor Sean Cubitt from Melbourne University, Australia who will discuss some of the problems of animation theory and history.

Other prominent speakers debating the aesthetics of animation include Richard Goleszowski, Animation Director for Aardman Animations, whose creations include ‘Rex the Runt’; Michel Ocelot, from France, the writer and director of animated films including ‘Azur et Asmar’ (which will receive a special screening at the conference, with the director in conversation afterwards with Professor Paul Wells); and Joanna Quinn from Beryl Productions, multi-award-winning British animator (‘Girls’ Night Out’, ‘Famous Fred’, ‘Britannia’) and designer of the popular Charmin commercials. Additional speakers from Australia, Netherlands, USA, Japan, Canada, Singapore, Norway, Germany, UK and Hong Kong will present lively discussions on animation at the 20th anniversary of this renowned event. Subjects to be explored include the investigation of Japanese animation, analysis of the popular cartoon series ‘The Simpsons’ and a look at animated computer games and drawn versus digital animation.

In addition to the conference, the Gallery at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth will be exhibiting works by Academy Award-winning animator Bob Godfrey MBE. ‘A Retrospective’, curated by Professor Suzanne Buchan, Seymour Lavine and Aaron Wood of the Animation Research Centre, Farnham, runs from the 14th July – 22nd August and explores the life and works of one of Britain’s most successful animation directors. The works are on loan from the Animation Research Centre Archive. Bob Godfrey has been directing and producing films since the 1950’s and his films have included the popular ‘Roobarb and Custard’ and ‘Henry’s Cat’ series. His studio, Bob Godfrey Films, has produced work spanning music promos, commercials, short films and even the Oscar winning film ‘Great!’, based on the life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Bob Godfrey’s Retrospective will take a closer look at the political, historical and sexual themes that run strongly through Godfrey’s films, while at the same time revealing to visitors the complex techniques and the creative and art-based processes of animation pre-production that result in the finished films.

This three day event includes three keynote speakers and over 50 guest and panel speakers all discussing and debating their enthusiasm for animation. For more information, or to book a place on this event, please visit

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Mobile users make same mistakes to physically-impaired computer users

As I am about to run my own user study involving mobiles, it is interesting to report on the findings of a related academic research project. Mobile phone owners make similar mistakes to physically impaired computer users when using the technology, according to new research from The University of Manchester. The first set of results from research funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) indicates that many able-bodied people make the same errors – and with similar frequencies – when typing and 'mousing' on mobile phones, as physically impaired users of desktop computers.

According to researchers in the School of Computer Science working on the RIAM (Reciprocal Interoperability between Accessible and Mobile Webs) project, mobile owners press the wrong key and press the same key repeatedly by mistake. They also found mobile users tend to click the wrong area of the screen, click the screen multiple times in error, and make mistakes when trying to drag and drop information. “These types of errors have been a big problem for physically impaired users for a long time,” said Dr Yeliz Yesilada, a senior researcher on the project. “But solutions have been developed for all of these problems in the form of small assistive computer programmes, which supplement Windows and Mac operating systems.”

For the study, researchers at Manchester re-analysed earlier work by scientists at the University of Edinburgh who had looked into the problems of physically disabled users. They then re-ran the experiments with mobile users and found that a significant correlation existed between the two user groups. “In recent years solutions have been built to help disabled users and it is hoped these solutions which can now be applied for the benefit of mobile phone users,” said fellow researcher Tianyi Chen.

“By using solutions developed for disabled users we can help handset manufacturers, such as Nokia and Sony, to reduce the time we all spend correcting errors on our mobiles. Software already developed for PC users with disabilities could automatically correct erroneous commands and help reduce those annoying times when you accidentally cancel a text message or call someone by sitting on your phone.”

The two-year RIAM project is supported by £205,000 funding from the EPSRC.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Interesting news on the future of Symbian

In a major re-organisation Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and NTT DOCOMO will unite the various flavours of Symbian - and join with remaining stakeholders AT&T, LG, Samsung, ST Microelectronics and Texas Instruments to establish the Symbian Foundation.

The aim of the foundation is to extend the appeal of the unified software platform, available for members under a royalty-free licence. To enable the Foundation, Nokia announced plans to acquire the remaining shares of Symbian that it does not already own for £209 million and then contribute the Symbian and S60 software to the Foundation., from the Foundation’s first day of operations.

The spectre of Google Android would appear to be hovering over this strategic move by Symbian, which has hitherto commanded a huge market share lead in the OS space. Symbian has shipped in over 200 million phones, across 235 models. This year already, over 20 new mobile phones have been announced. The news came on the day of Symbian’s ten year anniversary (24/06).

PixPlant, an application for the creation of seamless textures

For those of you that like me have spent ages struggling to create seamless tectures in PhotoShop, here's an interesting new proposition. PixPlant is a smart texturing tool that creates high quality seamless textures from plain photos. Based on ubiquitous photos, PixPlant will add an unlimited choice of realistic textures for your projects: just pick an interesting photo, run PixPlant and get a perfect seamless texture.

Benefits for 3D visualization, architecture and games:
- Quickly create unique seamless textures, horizontally and/or vertically tiled.
- Based on real-life photos, PixPlant generates realistic textures without the complication of procedural texture generation tools.
- Avoid repeated texture surfaces by creating larger textures with less repetition.

For graphics and multimedia design:
- A creative "image alchemy" tool: create high resolution, high quality images with the same characteristics as the photo sources.
- Easily create unique images that can be used as backgrounds, patterns or brushes.
- Expand or complete existing images by adding detail from themselves or from other images.

PixPlant includes the following features:
- Create textures from almost any photo, thanks to advanced straightening and seed pattern controls.
- Highly automated with most textures created in 1-4 clicks. And high performance with usually a few seconds per texture.
- Generate complete images or refine and expand existing ones. Out-select parts of the seed image for fine grain control.
- Carefully designed easy-to-use interface with interactive help and fullscreen tiling preview.
- Available as a standalone application and as a plug-in for Photoshop and compatible applications.