Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Vizerra, 3D architectural cultural heritage sites with educational information

Vizerra is, according to its creators, the world’s first 3D educational software application, where a connection has been made between high quality 3D locations, full editorial description for every location, full-functional map service and all that in one software application.

3Dreamteam, the company behind Vizerra, has recently launched a unique informational and educational portal which includes a downloadable client. This, after installation, consists of a virtual journey to famous locations in 3D format. Several of them have been added and the results are very impressive. National Geographic Russia is the project’s information partner for the first few locations.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Procedural System Structure, modelling the interiors of building on a grand scale?

The need for a cost-effective, efficient generation and visualization of complex 3D virtual city models plays an increasingly important role in a wide variety of virtual reality related fields including computer games, virtual city guides, social networks, geographic information systems, urban planning, training simulators etc.

The Structure system is a modular and procedural city generation app with the selling point of claiming to overcome the main limitation normally found in virtual city models and games: the "Locked Door Syndrome". Although there are enterable buildings in urban games or city simulations, normally only a small fraction of the buildings can be entered. This is due to the sheer number of buildings in a typical city.

Given limited development times and memory requirements, it is infeasible for developers to create such a large amount of building interiors using the traditional asset creation pipeline, where all buildings in a city have to be individually modelled and placed by artists. To the best knowledge of the creators, current existing solutions attempting to generate or model virtual cities are generating only "fake" building exteriors without indoor areas.

Having buildings with fully exploarable interiors, makes it possible to have dynamic, destructible environments, opening the door to innovative gameplay opportunities. The system is using PhysX (tm) as physics middleware, but does not require dedicated hardware or additional software like. Authoring of destroyable objects is done in the DCC package and the system is automatically handling the destruction at runtime.

Only the portions that are immediately needed are physicalized for collision detection and response. The use of this lazy generation scheme combined with a modular system and instancing, allows the use of only a fraction of the memory that a model of the entire interior and exterior city would otherwise require. Therefore, the system presented allows for exploration of a large city on a standard personal computer or laptop with a video card supporting OpenGL, Shader Model 1.1 (Geforce3 series and up). Esoteric hardware is not necessary.

A mobile phone Augmented Reality game?

ARhrrrr is an augmented reality shooter for mobile camera-phones from the Augmented Environments Lab. The phone provides a window into a 3D town overrun with zombies. By pointing the camera at the special game map virtual and real world content is mixed. The objective of the game is the following; civilians are trapped in the town and must escape before the zombies eat them. From a vantage point in a helicopter overhead, the player must shoot the zombies to clear the path for the civilians to get out. Skittles can also be used as tangible inputs to the game, placing one on the board and shooting it to trigger an explosion.

One of the most interesting AR games I have seen yet, check out the project website at

Sunday, 14 June 2009

1066, a historical educational game

1066 is the most famous date in British history, but how might events have been different if you had been commanding the armies that fought for control of England? Take part in 1066, the unique and historically accurate strategy game and you'll take the field with the Saxons, the Normans and the Vikings to fight out the visceral, dynamic battles which decided England's fate.

This educational game is a Flash collaboration between digital media specialists Preloaded and UK TV station Channel 4 and ties in with the documentary series of the same name the TV channel is currently screening.

A turn-based strategy game set around the Battle of Hastings, 1066 sees you choosing an army from the ranks of English, Vikings or Normans, and playing through either single- or multiplayer skirmishes. Using a 2D side-scrolling perspective the game features a trembling voiceover by Ian “Bilbo Baggins” Holm himself, who even calls the England of the period Middle Earth. It even offers multiplayer features and is well worth checking out for anyone in serious games research.

Mirror's Edge will see a sequel

One of the most impressive games in regard to urban modelling and its unique approach to navigating through that (which I've blogged about before) looks like will be getting a sequel despite poor sales. Electronic Arts has confirmed that a ‘small team’ at Swedish outfit DICE is working on a sequel to Mirror’s Edge. EA’s euro VP Patrick Soderlund told journalists at the recent E3 that they have a small team on it and that he's excited about what they do.

He didn’t offer any impression that the game is beyond the early stages of development, saying that “you will see another Mirror’s Edge for sure. It’s just a matter of when that time is and what we do with it.” The news follows the announcement reported that DICE is also working on Battlefield 3. However, unlike the proven Battlefield series, EA had overestimated sales expectations for Mirror’s Edge and saw mixed reviews for the game, casting doubt on the future of the franchise.

The Mirror’s Edge demo was one of the most downloaded games on the Xbox 360 in 2008, meaning that the incentive to purchase was lost on many. Hope to see a new one out there soon with the same, if not improved, city modelling techniques.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Venetica game, a game benchmark in architectural modelling?

Announced in May last year, Venetica is an action role-playing game from DTP Entertainment that lends itself to a particularly interesting backstory. Set in the 16th century, it follows Scarlett, the daughter of Death, as she embarks on a quest to save her father from a necromancer bent on total destruction.

The game has been described as a "cinematic RPG" by its developers, a description that it certainly lives up to with its highly polished environments full of colour, which is where my interest was piqued since the architectural and urban modelling showcased here is incredibly accomplished (check out the making of video below). Venetica is set in Venice for the most part, but Scarlett also travels to other parts of the world.

Venetica's Venice has improved greatly on the real 16th-century city with more dreamlike structures, canals, and dockyards. The game has a day-night cycle that transforms the city from a bright, colourful, and bustling metropolis to a dark and dangerous underworld of bandits and demons. There is a unique aspect to every location visited by Scarlett, and she'll have plenty of opportunities to wander around and explore as the game's world opens up.

Doom on iPhone

Following on from the previous post, and as a reminder of how far mobile gaming has come, a new edition to id Software’s iconic Doom series will soon be available on Apple’s iPhone. Doom Resurrection has been in development for six months at Texan indie outfit Escalation Studios. The game’s arrival will apparently mark a turning point for the iPhone game app library, in that it will offer enhanced 3D graphics far superior to the initial batch of iPhone titles.

Textures used in the game have been largely taken from the PC game Doom 3 (which is the to date the latest version of the iconic game) and downsampled to fit. id co-founder John Carmack has suggested that a big challenge in designing Doom was the control system, where new approaches were taken with shooting and aiming on the iPhone's touch screen. Can't wait to see this one personally!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Apple iPhone to feature a dedicated 3D graphics chip?

Rumours are doing the rounds that the next-generation iPhone will feature a 3D graphics chip, which would allow the device to support far more advanced games. Next week Apple are rumoured to unveil a new edition of the iPhone at the company's annual World Wide Developers Conference. It is already suggested that the forthcoming version of the device will include a built-in 3D graphics chip, operate on a new, higher-speed network and hit retail in mid-July. Improved Bluetooth support allowing third parties to release add-on accessories such as controllers and other hardware items is also suggested to be featured.

If all this pans out then it will be interesting times for all game developers targetting the iPhone (an already successfull gaming platform), watch this space for more news.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Bournemouth University students at the finals of Microsoft's Imagine Cup

Open to students around the world, the Microsoft Imagine Cup is an annual serious challenge that draws the best of student talent and the competition is intense. The contest spans a year, beginning with local, regional and online contests whose winners go on to attend the global finals held in a different location every year.

The finals this year are held in Cairo, Egypy in July and I am very pleased to say that a group of Computing students that I've taught games development on their 2nd year here at Bournemouth University have qualified for this! Not only that but they are also the only UK-based team in the game development category! Best of luck to the lads for July, you can check the official site here, incidentally the name of the Bournemouth Uni team is Sanguine Labs.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

An non-photorealistic urban animation by Renault Trucks

In a highly contrasted economic climate in 2008, Renault Trucks strengthened its position on its markets, in spite of a slight fall-off in sales. In the over-6 ton category, the manufacturer’s market share (registrations) increased by almost one percentage point in the 27-country area of the EC (EC27), and by 1.7 in France.

Why is this of interest here? I've across a non-photorealistic urban animation they've done to promote ideas and solutions for an effective, energy efficient and environmental friendly urban freight mobility which looks great. Check it out at the YouTube link above.

World's first DirectX 11 GPU

At a press conference in Taipei, Taiwan today, AMD publicly demonstrated the world's first Microsoft DirectX® 11 graphics processor. The series of demonstrations shed new light on the significantly improved computing experience set to debut at the end of 2009. To illustrate, AMD showed numerous examples of faster application performance and new game features using the world's first true DirectX 11 graphics processor.

DirectX 11 features such as tessellation will bring consumers higher quality, superior performing games making use of 6th generation AMD technology. Another DirectX 11 feature, the compute shader, will enable AMD's DirectX 11 graphics cards to help make Windows 7 run faster in a wide number of applications and in a manner that's completely transparent to users, for example, in seamlessly accelerating the conversion of video for playback on portable media players through a drag-and-drop interface.

Perhaps the most important piece of information however is that DX 11 (and presumably, AMD cards to push it) will debut prior to the dawn of 2010.

Secret Of The Monkey Island Special Edition

One of my favourite games ever is getting a facelift, albeit a very respectful and close-to-the-original one. In fact, at the click of a button, you can switch between the original VGA graphics and the new cartoon look. The game in question; Secret Of The Monkey Island Special Edition. LucasArts is bringing Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition to XBLA and PC.

The company has revitalized this classic adventure game in-house along with its Singapore studio with high-def graphics, full voiceover, a remastered score and a new in-depth hint system. Can't wait to see this one, easily one of the best games of all time and a must-play for people wanting to see what was great about intelligent, story-led, 2D-drawn artwork-based computer games.