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

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 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