Thursday, 29 January 2009

Games-based Learning 2009 Conference

An interesting event for those based in London and researching serious games; the Game Based Learning Conference 2009. This is the only event of its kind currently in existence that deals with all aspects of games in learning.

Game Based Learning provides a discussion forum via various invited talks on stimulating, challenging and provocative dialogue spaces at the intersection between the education, gaming, social media and consumer electronics sectors. Speakers for the 2009 version, taking place on the 19th and 20th of March are;

- Tom Watson, MP, UK Cabinet Minister for Transformational Government
- Nolan Bushnell, Founder of Atari, father of the video game industry
- Alice Taylor, Commissioning Editor, Education, Channel 4
- Dr Richard Graham, Clinical Director of Adolescent Directorate, Tavistock Centre
- Marco Minoli, Director, Slitherine
- Sean Dromgoole, CEO, Some Research & GameVision
- Derek Robertson, Learning & Teaching Scotland
- Terry Deary, Author, Horrible Histories

Game Based Learning 2009 will focus on:
- Examining practical examples of how games and other entertainment software are being embraced in schools, universities and other establishments.
- Presenting and discussing latest market data, trends and behaviors.
- Debating the implications of video game and Internet rating systems in the context of learning and teaching.
- Providing valuable social and networking opportunities for all delegates.
- Creating, capturing and making available unique reference material for the interactive entertainment industry, policy makers, education professionals and the public.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

First 3D virtual city based game on iPhone?

Fastlane Street Racing, with 8 routes to race, is possibly the first 3D virtual city-based game on the iPhone. It comes with an impressive 3D rendition of a city and showcases in the best possible way why the iPhone is becoming increasingly important in the mobile game market but also how cool some simple 3D urban modelling on a device like that can be.

The movie above details Fastlane Street Racing with attention to the particularly impressive rendering of the cityscape.

The game itself can be bought from iTunes (via and includes 8 city routes, 2 speed racetracks, 6 challenge tracks, 5 game modes and save and review replays amongst other things. It also runs on iPod Touch.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Google Earth's Monster Milk Truck!

One very cool little application latched onto Google Earth which I've just been made aware of is the Monster Milk Truck, an application born during the sessions of a recent Google I/O developers conference where discussions led to how applications can be developed to take advantage of the new Google Earth Plugin API.

One of the examples provided is a little game that really shows the possibilities of Google Earth plugin mashups. The game is called Monster Milktruck and can be accessed here.

Once loaded, simply use the cursor keys to drive the little 3D truck around while looking at the bottom of the page for alternate locations where you can place the truck. While it is very simple in nature it does in my opinion demonstrate in the best possible way the potential of using Google Earth (and also how far the concept has come since first being introduced), well worth checking out!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Unity engine comes to the PC

I've hinted at this a couple of times with posts in the past but Unity Technologies has today lifted the veil on the latest update to its popular Unity engine, including the long-awaited and expected ability to develop games on Windows machines. The free update adds support for both Vista and XP, featuring 100 per cent feature parity and interoperability with the Mac version. Games developed will function on both operating systems automatically.

Also coming in the new 2.5 update are significant improvements to the user interface, including a new tabbed layout, redesigned components for more intuitive development and 130 new script hooks for tailoring your own authoring tools.

The update is currently in beta, with Unity hoping to release it soon. More information about the update can be found at the official Unity website.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Dare to be Digital 2009 competition

Dare to be Digital is a video games development competition for extremely talented students at Universities and Colleges of Art. Teams of 5 students, usually a mix of artists, programmers and audio, assemble in a development hothouse for 10 weeks to develop a prototype video game, receiving daily support and weekly training sessions from industry specialists.

At the end of the competition, the prototypes are displayed at a special talent showcasing event in Edinburgh, Dare ProtoPlay, alongside the Edinburgh Interactive Festival in August. The general public as well as industry experts get to play and vote for the games. Prizes are then awarded to the winning teams at a special awards ceremony. Later in the year the winning teams attend the BAFTA Video Games Awards to compete for the coveted "Ones to Watch Award".

Deadline for submissions this year is 15th of March, check out the official site at

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Nintendo in exploration of automated gaming

A patent application by Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto from mid-2008 has come to light that reveals the company’s interest in the development of an automated gaming system to help players. The ‘Kind Code’ technique effectively acts as an optional autopilot system that players can turn on, essentially making every element of a given game a cut-scene.

It is unclear as to whether the automated system would make use of a full length recorded play-through or an edited down, true cut-scene. As well as providing a less automated text-based hint system, Kind Code’s full ‘Digest’ option will allow players to jump back into the gameplay section being shown at any time, returning to a point dictated by a save-point downloaded automatically through a network.

The proposed technology would allow less seasoned gamers to complete titles aimed at the traditional and hardcore markets, but may be difficult to implement as open-ended and free-roaming titles become more commonplace. This piece of news is very important since it showcases the trend to converge hardcore and casual games by downlaying the level of complexity in the first, without compromising the more dedicated player.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

A smartphone locked in a console?

What with the recession and the Nintendo/Microsoft/Sony machines with plenty of shelf life left no consoles are launching in 2009, right? Not so. Brazilian manufacturer Tectoy, most notable outside of South America for its long partnership with Sega and official distribution of its consoles in Brazil, will be releasing an entirely original product called Zeebo.

While that on its own is hardly staggering news what piqued my interest in this case is that the concept is centered around downloadable games distributed only over a 3G wireless network, with the console exclusively designed for emerging markets (Latin America/India/China). Looking at the specs it looks like a smartphone locked in a console box! It already has high-profile partners and games including Electronic Arts's FIFA, Id Software's Quake and Namco Bandai's Tekken. It will save its small, standard definition titles, many of which will initially be BREW mobile game ports, to the system's internal flash memory. This is intended to sidestep the issues of piracy, home internet availability and retail distribution of game titles.

The company is 57 percent owned by Tectoy and 43 percent owned by mobile tech company and BREW creator Qualcomm. As well as the above-mentioned larger companies who will release games for the console, Zeebo is hoping to attract independent developers as well. English info on the console is exceptionally rare so far, with no launch yet slated for North America. But there is opportunity here; the firm feels there's potential for a repeat of the indie-led App Store boom Apple is currently seeing with iPhone.

Nvidia offers new true 3D gaming hardware

3D (vision) gaming seems to be an area with a lot of movement lately... Another company jumping on that bandwage is Nvidia. The company announced at the recent CES event 3DVision for GeForce, a product that claims to be "the world’s first high-definition 3D stereo solution for the home."

The system, designed for PC, uses a pair of glasses, a USB-based IR emitter and software to generate a 3D effect. Nvidia said 3D Vision works with Samsung and ViewSonic 120 Hz LCD monitors, Mitsubishi DLP HDTVs and the DepthQ HD 3D Projector by Lightspeed Design. The product works with 3D gaming, 3D movies and 3D photography, Nvidia said, and has "out of the box" compatibility with over 300 games. The company added, "In addition, NVIDIA’s 'The Way It’s Meant to Be Played' program ensures that future games will support 3D Vision."

A "3D Vision Viewer" also allows users to take in-game screens and view them later in 3D stereo, "or import and view stereoscopic pictures and movies from a variety of different capture sources and online Web photo galleries." The product is available now from U.S. e-tailers.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Craft Animations and Gamescaster announce the release of Craft Camera Tools for GCS3

An interesting technology I have just come across; Craft Camera Tools for GCS3 offers users a superior and cost-effective solution for virtual cinematography, completely eliminating the time-consuming and costly process of traditional keyframing of virtual cameras in 3D animated scenes. This revolutionary development draws from two pioneering technologies: Craft Animation’s Craft Camera Tools and Gamecaster’s patented GCS3 virtual camera control hardware.

Together, this custom bundle forms a completely new way of directing animation -- through the viewfinder of the GCS3 virtual camera controller itself, with start-to-finish hands-on control over the virtual camera of 3D animation, visual effects and previsualization scenes. Craft Animations and Gamecaster have also developed an exclusive line of camera tools for use with the GCS3 virtual camera control hardware.

Via the GCS3 hardware, the GCS3 FreeCam™ and GCS3 TripodCam™ provide real-time physical control of the virtual camera’s pan, tilt, zoom, crane and dolly, walk-cycle and explosion motion, as well as spline control motion. Professional users of Craft Camera Tools for 3ds Max and Maya have reported reduced production times by up to 90 percent during the creation of natural motion paths for 3D vehicles and cameras on-the-fly through autopilot functions, or a variety of input devices such as gamepads, joysticks and keyboards.

The custom Craft Camera Tools for CGS3 software and hardware bundle is now available. Craft Director Tools, including Craft Camera Tools, Craft Vehicle Tools and Craft Accessories; are available now for 3ds Max and Maya, Mac and Windows platforms, and are individually priced between US$129 and $1,199.

A new visual programming language for creating games

Microsoft has unveiled Kodu, a new game creation tool for Xbox 360 and PC set for launch on the Xbox Live Community Games channel. Kodu, originally called Boku, was developed by Microsoft research as a game building tool for kids, and allows people to create 'playgrounds' with programmed actors using just the Xbox 360 controller.

The visual, event-based programming system is based on real-world primitives such as vision, hearing and time to control behaviours. Programs are broken down into pages, which are further broken down into simultaneously-evaluated condition and action pairs. According to Microsoft, the tool has been evaluated 'for hundreds of hours by people from ages five to 45,' to ensure that it remains accessible while providing enough flexibility for extended use.

“We’ve done everything possible to make sure that creating a Kodu playground is not only easy, but that it is also fun and engaging for people of all ages and backgrounds,” said Matt MacLaurin, principal program manager for Microsoft Research and lead Kodu designer. “Since Kodu's interface is intuitive and prevents common programming mistakes, we’re making it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of game creation.”