Sunday, 28 March 2010

Nintendo working on 3D handheld device

It appears that a 3D successor to the DS is on the cards from Nintendo, aptly titled Nintendo 3DS. This new mobile device will feature 3D displays with added depth and detail without the need for any special glasses (it will use two screens instead).

The new device will also be be backwards compatible with older DS games and will launch in Nintendo's financial year starting from this April (essentially meaning it will appear by March 2011).

3DS is the working name incidentally, it could change till then. This is very exciting news indeed, though dampened somewhat by memories of the same companies failed efforts in this area in the past (does anyone remember Virtual Boy?). Still, this should be an incredible leap forward for mobile gaming should they manage to get it right this time around.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Masters Of Doom book

I have recently picked David Kushner's Masters Of Doom book up, an inside story of John Carmack and John Romero, the co-creators of the Doom and Quake games and founders of id Software and it is a rivetting read! The "Two Johns" created an empire, ruled a multi-billion-dollar industry and provoked a national/international controversy several times. Borne out of extensive research and many interviews, the book reads like fiction but is an accurate description of the emergence of 3D first-person shooter gaming.

Masters Of Doom is well worth picking up for aspiring game designers and programmers or even for people wanting detailed descriptions of events surrounding games like Commander Keen, the Doom and Quake series and also Wolfenstein 3D.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

TexTools 3.0, script for texturing in 3DS Max

TexTools version 3 is 3D Studio Max maxScript package which resembles a Photoshop toolbar, covering a lot of ground towards untying the hands of texture artists. It can be installed anywhere at any Max packages (9+) without the need of administrative rights or script installation knowledge. It is also free and also open to modifications as you get the source code too.

This is incredibly useful if like me you do a lot of texturing in Max as it automates and simplifies many processes that Max itself does not on its own. Download it here.

Unity version 3 announced

Version 3 of Unity has now been announced. The biggest success story in terms of game engines sees another update this time with many additional features. Most notable of all are the support of PS3 and iPad moves it into a truly multi-platform application (it has already been supporting Mac, PC, Wii and iPhone for awhile).

Other important highlights include unified editor for all versions, beast lightmapping, occlusion culling, deferred rendering and source level debugging with MonoDevelop. More details on the latest update here.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

International Journal In Game-Based Learning, inclusion in the editorial review board

I've recently been invited to join the editorial review board for a new academic journal, published quarterly by IGI Global. The journal is titled Game-Based Learning, further details can be found here. It is already accepting submissions, with the first issue scheduled to be out in 2011.

The mission of the journal is to publish multidisciplinary research from fields that explore the cognitive and psychological aspects that underpin successful educational video games. There's more details about possible topics on the website, well worth a look for future dissemination of any edutainment research results.

Monday, 15 March 2010

OpenGL 4.0 spec out

Khronos Group has released the full specifications for OpenGL 4.0. OpenGL 4.0's specification includes the GLSL 4.00 update to the OpenGL Shading language. This can enable developers to access to new GPU acceleration tech.

Other (specific) additions include;

- two new shader stages that enable the GPU to offload geometry tessellation from the CPU
- per-sample fragment shaders and programmable fragment shader input positions for increased rendering quality and anti-aliasing flexibility
- drawing of data generated by OpenGL, or external APIs such as OpenCL, without CPU intervention
- shader subroutines for significantly increased programming flexibility;
- separation of texture state and texture data through the addition of a new object type called sampler objects
- 64-bit double precision floating point shader operations and inputs/outputs for increased rendering accuracy and quality;
- performance improvements, including instanced geometry shaders, instanced arrays, and a new timer query

Sounds quite exciting. OpenGL 3 was disappointing to many people but there is a big buzz that the new spec will be far more impressive and widely accepted.

Valve advocates the use of biometrics

During the recent Game Developers Choice Awards, Valve Software's co-founder strongly advocated the collection of more personal, intimate information from the player, with that data being used to refine the experience. This will be achieved using biometrics techniques.

Following Wii's exploration of motion (and subsequent vision systems) infiltrating games, it appears that games companies are now considering going a step furher by measuring player state with a range of techniques such as pupil dilation and heart rate (to name but two). Those are the techniques are going to give games enormous impact in the future, according to Valve.

In addiction to this statement I should point out that brain-computer interfaces also dropping in cost and increasing in popularity (even if that is amongst the research community). It appears an exciting time to research game interaction at the moment, although break-through for some of these techniques in mainstream use may take a while yet...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Monkey Island 2 rumoured for the iPhone

There is a circulating rumour that LucasArts is working on a 'special edition' of Monkey Island 2 for the iPhone, based on the immense success of the original game on the Apple device. It is claimed the publisher could unveil its planned release at this week's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

The updated version might come with "all-new graphics and audio", similar to the original. Another rumour is a Tales Of Monkey Island-series type of release (similar to the recent episodic PC one). It will be interesting to see if these rumours substantiate, this is after all one of the best adventure games of all time.

Game-Based Learning 2010 event

Towards the end of the month I will be attending the Game-Based Learning 2010 event in London, taking place at the Barbican on the 29th and 30th of March. This event brings together education leaders, designers, innovators, policy makers, publishers and practitioners to explore how video games, digital and social media are having a positive impact on learning while developing essential skills that learners and the industry require to compete in the 21st century.

Now in its second year, speakers include representatives from Nintendo UK, the Shadow Minister for Culture and Creative Industries and a varied programme which includes networking sessions as well as dedicated themed talks.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Torchlight game

This is a game I've been playing for awhile now and has got to be one of the most enjoyable action-based hack and slash RPGS I've ever encountered. Created by the original creators of the Diablo series Torchlight sets an adventure in a mining settlement, nearby mountains and depths below open to discovery.

Players will choose from among three character classes, and venture from the safety of the town of Torchlight into randomly generated dungeon levels, with a huge variety of creepy monsters, endless variations of loot to find, and quests to complete. The endless randomization ensures a long-lived gameplay experience.

What is even more interesting is that the game has been created with the open source 3D graphics engine OGRE, with very impressive results, including a very unique stylised, almost painterly rendering style (albeit with a slight and non-intrusive touch). Well worth checking out to either gauge the capabilities of OGRE or if you simply cannot wait for the Diablo III release.

Monkeys of Doom, Quake 3 Arena toon-shaded mod

This is a game which has been around for a while but I've never had the chance to mention it in the blog. Monkeys Of Doom is a mod created using the Quake 3 Arena source code. Unlike many of the other mods around for Quake (or indeed other first-person-shooters), this is rendered entirely in a toon-shaded format.

In many ways this is reminiscent of Ubisoft's XIII (anybody remembers that one?), only this one is perhaps even more extreme in stylization. The excellent website of Monkeys Of Doom (found here), features a background in the development of the project using the id Tech 3 engine, concept art development and an assortment of mod packs and levels created with the unique cartoon rendering style. There's even a shop to purchase your Monkeys Of Doom T-shirts from!

However the most interesting part is the fact that the game has been ported on a Nokia N95 (including accelerometer use for interaction). I wonder how long it will take for an iPhone version to appear?

Non-photorealistic rendering in Shockwave 3D

I've just read an interesting article regarding Shockwave 3D's non-photorealistic capabilities (which I wasn't aware of till now). The Toon modifier, developed in Intel Labs and included in Macromedia's Director 8.5 Shockwave Studio provides easy-to-use nonphotorealistic NPR techniques within the context mentioned.

The Toon modifier temporarily converts the model's current shaders from standard to painter type. Other properties remain the same, so the model's colors will be consistent but the rendering style will be changed. The article below covers the process and operation of Toon in Shockwave 3D in more detail and is well worth a read.

You can read this here.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

PhD studentship at Bournemouth University's John Kent Institute for Tourism

The John Kent Institute in Tourism was established in November 2009 through a gift made to Bournemouth University by one of the world's leading tourism entrepreneurs, John Kent. This new BU-based Institute will fund a considerable number of PhD studentships in tourism research, starting with eleven PhDs over the next four years. I am involved as a 2nd supervisor with one of those titled "3D Mobile, Context-Aware Tourism City Applications: Technology challenges and user requirements".

The full description of this is as follows; "Context-based services are one of the most promising technology enabling developments of recent years. This is particularly the case in tourism where consumers are by definition mobile and visit unfamiliar places for business or leisure purposes. Context-aware applications are applications that adapt themselves to a given situation (or context). This mobile environment/context may include and encompass a range or combination of concepts, such as location, time and identity of user. Mobile applications for tourism with context awareness are a cutting edge development area that is expected to drive research and business agendas in the future. However, only very recently have mobile devices been able to cope with the fairly advanced technical specification needed in order to create more engaging and rewarding navigational experiences for users. Several appealing propositions for tourism attractions, retail companies and mobile operators are therefore expected to emerge from this technology.

The project will investigate the user requirements of 3D mobile applications in the tourism context. Based on these requirements and a study of existing technology, a cutting-edge, prototype using an interactive and fully navigatable 3D graphical city mapping application will be explored in a given urban location, with a number of context based parameters added on top of it to make it even more functional. The user will be able to fly and zoom through a photorealistic three-dimensional city model fluidly on his mobile device, all in 3D. An additional feature can be the introduction of augmented reality, which can operate by superimposing, using GPS and digital compass proximity and orientation, useful context-aware information on the camera display of the mobile device. Experimental trials will be conducted, examining how user requirements have been met and the usefulness of the application on a number of levels; performance, human-computer interaction, usability and contribution to customer satisfaction. It is anticipated that the research will explore fully the benefits of these technologies for purchasing decisions, interaction with the environment and context as well as customer satisfaction in the tourism context.

The project will focus on user requirements and customer satisfaction and will also contribute to mobile information systems developments within tourism context-aware applications. Hence this project has a dual contribution a) user requirements and contribution to information seeking and enjoyment within the context of the tourism industry and b) in the development of mobile information systems, user experiences, and human-computer interaction."

The deadline for applications is the 30th of April 2010. More information, including application procedure, can be found here

Firefox 3D browser

Researchers from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence and the Intel Visual Computing Institute at Saarland University in Germany plan to release a version of the Firefox browser which includes the built-in ability to view 3D graphics. This is a capability that could (potentially) open the door for more interactive Web pages from developers. Up until now plug-ins have been created that allow 3D graphics to be viewed. The innovation of this latest approach is that one is no longer required.

The researchers have focused on real-time ray tracing, which is also aided by integrating real-time ray tracing technology, called RT Fact, into Firefox and Webkit, the rendering engine for browsers such as Safari and Chrome. XML3D is then utilized and the browser itself can render the 3D scene.

The approach was demonstrated at the recent Cebit trade show, where a Wikipedia entry on Venice was enhanced with a 3D walkthrough of one of the city's palaces. This an interesting approach and after many false strats on getting quality 3D in browsers it will be interesting to see it take off.