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

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

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 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.