Monday, 26 December 2011

CyberCity 3D updates building model repository

Time to revisit an urban modelling solution I covered a long time ago on this blog (in its first year in fact!) which is still around and has just had a very recent update/upgrade. This is CyberCity 3D which has, earlier this month, added multipatch footprints and shapefile buildings with roof features (according to their press release found here) on their Off-The-Shelf building library.

CyberCity 3D currently covers 48 major cities worth of 3D building data (mostly US-based according to the list on their site but also ones found elsewhere, such as Paris and Amsterdam, amongst others) with free partial samples of this information also available for download should you want to check them out before purchasing.

CyberCity 3D's website is well worth checking out on the whole, not just to read about the current press release outlined above forming the latest update of their service but also some of their other initiatives too (such as, for example, ArcGIS integration, their models being featured on Google Maps for mobile and others).

iCade, a gaming cabinet for the iPad

Seeing that this is the season for gifts (even if this post is somewhat belated to that now!) one very appealling accessory for iPad users into retro games is the iCade. Pictured below, the iCade is a custom-made arcade cabinet for your iPad which resembles a miniature of your usual arcade cab that you will remember from your youth. This comes with proper joystick controls, communicates with the iPad via Bluetooth and while you do have to put it together yourself it looks like an amazing way to play older games on your Apple tablet.

iCade supports both iPad 1 and 2 and is supported by Atari's Greatest Hits app (which has just about all old Atari classics you remember from the arcades) but also other developers too (a list of their games can be found here). Well worth looking into if you want to inject a bit of retrogaming interaction to your iPad gaming.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

CryEngine used in US Army simulation project

I have noticed that two new YouTube videos have been made available online demonstrating the work of RealTime Immersive's CryEngine-based development for a US Army simulation title called Dismounted Soldier Training System.

The videos can be seen above and are very impressive (the first is a in-engine cinematic collage while the second a tech demo). The title is tied to a cost of $57 million and is not at the moment to receive a public release but nonetheless remains, on the evidence of the videos above, an excellent showcase for the modding capabilities of the game engine that powers the Crysis games.

Developing Computer and Video games short course at Bournemouth University

Game development is today a multibillion-dollar industry; currently surpassing in income traditional entertainment ventures such as, most notably, the film one. Covering basic expertise of its three most prevalent aspects can be a great way to prepare yourself for a degree in this area, start working on a portfolio for an internship in a company or even applying these skills to your own startup project.

On this short course, taking place at Bournemouth University in early April 2012 and taught by the author of this blog, you will develop an in-depth knowledge of contemporary game development. Via a set of intensive lecture and tutorial sessions you will comprehensively cover the basics of the three main aspects of modern video game creation; 3D modelling and animation, level design and engine programming.

You will be taught in state-of-the-art, dedicated games development laboratory facilities at Bournemouth University’s Talbot Campus, using industry-standard software such as Autodesk’s 3D Studio Max (used to create content for games such as the Assasin’s Creed series), Epic’s UnrealEd (used in games such as the Gears Of War series and Batman Arkham Asylum) and Unity (a very popular up-and-coming multiplatform indie engine capable of producing browser-based 3D games).

During the course you will be taken through the typical pipeline used in the development of a contemporary game; to begin with, you will be introduced to the industry-standard 3D modelling and animation software package in the field (3D Studio Max) and guided through the development of real-time-appropriate, low polygon, fit for purpose content which can be easily integrated in a game engine. This will include the highlighting of processes such as texturing, rigging and animation cycles. Additionally, you will be also introduced to two of the most popular current game engines (Unreal and Unity), with a detailed discussion of not only their different purpose, operations and rationales but also a beginner’s how-to guide on the creation of an interactive game on both of them. This specific part of the course will include coverage of a number of diverse areas, from good practice guidelines in first-person shooter level design, to Javascripting for games and import/export of content from one application to the other.

Finally, you will be expected to put all these skills together in a short project which can begin to form the basis of an interactive portfolio piece. Therefore, at the end of the course you will be in an optimal position to not only comprehend the aforementioned three main aspects of video game creation but also be prepared to put them in practice in a real-world project.

The course, delivered over 3 working days is intended for a wide range of individuals; for example, multimedia professionals can extend their current skillset towards game development; which also incorporates peripheral areas such as 3D content creation, mobile entertainment, interactive world generation and others, further education/college students can get a fascinating technical insight in the processes of game development while keen hobbyist gamers could further their understanding of the medium.

Friday, 23 December 2011

OnLive cloud gaming now on Android mobile devices

I have posted in the past about OnLive; a cloud gaming solution that has made quite a few headlines recently for its impressive ability to offer a new business model for gaming title access. During this past month OnLive has finally made it to mobile covering Android devices (for now anyway, hopefully iOS too soon, I have to say that at the moment there is nothing on this on the iTunes Store other than a viewing application so watch this space if you are an Apple device owner).

This particular blog post has been sparked off by the even more recent announcement/update by OnLive which made possible the use of Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY's Playstation controls to be added; rather than the wireless OnLive controller (or basic touch controls for selected titles only), this means that I really should find the time to test this out now.

Desert Zombie: Last Stand on iOS, created using the Unreal engine

Similarly to the post below, here is another Unreal-created game released this month; Desert Zombie: Last Stand. I have posted about this one before (while it was still in its production stage) and it really is a fine example of how UDK/the Unreal engine can be used to create a third-person shooter game (in the vein of Gears Of War) for the iOS.

Again then, this is well worth checking out in order to gauge the capabilities of Epic Games' engine for the iPhone/iPad. It is also worth visiting the game's official website as it has a section titled Developer Diaries (found here) which takes you through different stages of the production pipeline, from concept art to motion capture sessions.

It is fascinating to see the amount of effort put in in different parts of the production for a mobile gaming title today; effort which a short while ago would/could only be justified for your AAA super-commercial retail console/desktop gaming release.

Batman Arkham City Lockdown, another Unreal-powered iOS title

As I am continuing work on my UDK for iOS book I am simultaneously checking out as many Unreal-powered iPhone/iPad games as I can. One of the latest titles fitting this bill is Batman Arkham City Lockdown which was released a few days ago for Apple devices. Other than being developed with Epic Games' engine this also has many other gameplay similarities with Infinity Blade 1 and 2 as it is too very duel-oriented.

Well worth checking out if you're into the Infinity Blade titles and a great example of UDK's current potential for iOS game development.

Unity Flash plug-in now available in beta form

After the inevitable publicity it generated (which I also covered in this blog) the Unity game engine Adobe Flash Player export/plug-in tool is now available for everybody to test out. This is via a public beta of version 3.5 made available yesterday with an integrated for the first time add-on of the eagerly awaited Flash functionality.

In addition to this Unity is obviously keen to get the community to start working on the tool as soon as possible, as it simultaneously announced a Unity Flash competition with a cash prize of $20,000, more on this and the tool itself here.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Muscle-controlled gameplaying

Advancer Technologies has put together an input prototype which can enable a player to use individual muscle groups for interaction with any given game. Named USB Biofeedback Game Controller, the device operates with the use of electromyographic data for varying muscles and is very adequately demonstrated in the video below whilst being used to drive the classic Super Mario Bros 3 game.

This does look impressive and could have many applications from patient rehabilitation to simply different modalities (in an age where everyone seems to be intent on exploring them). Advancer Technologies have in fact put together a how-to guide of creating the USB Biofeedback Game Controller, this can be found here.

Article on game design teaching at Gamasutra

The excellent Gamasutra website recently had a very interesting article titled Teaching Game Design: The Problems by Lewis Pulsipher, which essentially argues that teaching game design is very different to teaching games production, the latter being a practice a lot of educators follow.

While there is of course an opposing argument to this (which comes to the fore in the comments section after the article where a debate takes place on this very issue), the point Pulsipher is making is very good and worth reflecting on for all of us in games development education.

The article can be found here.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Unreal-powered FPS shooter to use NVIDIA's Tegra 3 on Android

NVIDIA's recent announcement of its new Tegra 3 chip (in November) is now followed up by a game on the Android platform utilising it called DaVinci THD. The game (as can be seen in the vid below) is a first-person shooter through and through and has been developed using the Unreal engine (version 3/UDK).

While there's no release date announced yet, the results are stunning, which leaves me (and other mobile graphics developers/researchers/afficionados) wanting for two things; a) the addition of Android port functionality to the free UDK available (maybe 2012 is the year for this?) and b) Tegra 3 itself which appears to be very strong on lighting results (as seen again on the video above).

Infinity Blade 2 out

One of the most important mobile games ever has now received its sequel, a few days ago Infinity Blade 2 was released for iOS. I've just found the time and am now downloading it so I can have a blast myself, reviews however can be found across the Internet and they seem fairly positive, not just on the visual side of things (which let's face was always a given seeing that this is the sequel to a game that pushed graphical boundaries for mobile as never seen before!) but on gameplay/story too (which many, including myself, judged as very one-dimensional for the first outing of the series).

You can see more of Infinity Blade 2 on the launch trailer above.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Mobile iOS map and app for Skyrim

Bethesda's Skyrim is one of those games I sadly do not have time for these days because of the pure size of the virtual world involved and the time it takes to explore it; this is brilliantly demonstrated by the fact that there is now an application for the iPhone called Dragon Shout which is an interactive map for the full game environment.

Instead of using the standard map or some sort of pdf version of this very expansive world, Dragon Shout displays the full map on your iPhone but also goes beyond that by allowing you to set markers and journal entries for locations (for example marking where you dropped items etc.) but also sharing this information in a more social context with other users. Dragon Shout is a fantastic (and free!) example of the pervasiveness of modern role-playing computer games and is well worth tracking down if you are currently wading through Skyrim.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Contact lens with embedded display

University of Washington and Aalto University researchers have now developed a contact lens which can display (wirelessly of course) a single pixel image on an eye contact lens. Testing has also been carried out (though not with human subjects).

Furthemore, research is now carried out for a multi-pixel version of this as an extension of the current prototype though already the potential applications are limitless, particularly on ones with augmented reality connotations. While applications such as military usage for example are obvious, it would be fantastic to see this used in gaming as it could be used as a great enhancement of contemporary visualisation technology.

CryEngine to be used by CrystalCG

Crytek, the creators of the CryEngine which powers the Crysis game series, has now made an announcement on its collaboration, via a licensing deal, with Crystal CG. The latter is a Chinese company which focuses on visualization projects with their most notable/high-profile ones being the opening ceremony at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and also work the upcoming 2012 London ones (such as the mascot work).

This another great example of a top-of-the-range game engine being used for serious applications and also another reminder of the huge potential of the CryEngine pipeline. You can read the full press release at Crytek's site here.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Doom 3 code now available

When a few days ago I posted about the Doom 3 code patent issues and about John Carmack rewriting parts of it I expected the code to be delayed weeks, if not months. Well apparently John has already completed work on that or all issues were resolved! The code, without actual game data, is now already uploaded online and can be downloaded by anyone.

I think the 2004 game is now also worth revisiting as I remember not really taking to it back when it first came out, meanwhile you can dowload the code from here.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Unity-powered Leisure Suit Larry 1 gets HD and multiplatform remake

I have posted about this before when the news first broke out but seeing that this is one of my favourite games ever and there is now more information (which I read at Eurogamer) about this it is definitely a topic worth revisiting. Sierra Online's evergreen Leisure Suit Larry 1 is getting an HD remake which will also be released on many platforms (Android, Gaikai, iOS, OnLive, PC, PlayStation Network, Mac, Steam, Xbox Live Arcade are already mooted). More importantly the publisher, Replay Games, has secured the help of the original creator Al Lowe (who designed all games up to the last proper LSL game, the seventh outing of the series) to revive this.

Other important news on this include that the developer (Adventure Mob) will actually be using the Unity engine for the development and also that Al/Replay Games are not ruling out new Larry games should these ones do well commercially (similar to the Secret Of Monkey Island remakes which spawned Telltale's Tales Of Monkey Island). On the top of that, screenshots and concept art from the game are now released and it looks fabulous, with an HD take on the very cool stylised, hand-drawn graphics LSL 7 had. Very much looking forward to this and of course any new Larry titles that may spawn on the back of it!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Round up of recent Unreal-powered iOS titles

As I am making progress with the UDK iOS book I am authoring, I am, at the same time, catching up with all new(ish) iOS games titles that are being released having been developed on the aforementioned Epic Games engine. For me this is a good way to see what can be achieved on the platform, while at the same time understanding the limitations and potential of Unreal itself for Apple's device.

Naturally enough there have been a number shooters created using UDK (and a few coming up too, see my previous post here about Desert Zombie: Last Stand which still isn't out yet). One of these is Warm Gun, a futuristic wild west first-person shooter. Released last month, the game showcases UDK incredibly well in terms of very detailed level-design (though the action itself is a bit clunky on the framerate front on my 3GS, maybe because of the hardware?).

Another shooter title, this time of the third-person variety, with all the Gears of War characteristics that this entails (such as taking cover etc.) is EPOCH. Again set in a futuristic backdrop, with the player handling a killbot of some sort, this is a very impressive visual experience and probably the title I am playing most out of all presented in this post.

It's good to also see UDK used in other genres and not just shooters, with a prime example of that being Gyro13 - Steam Copter which is a helicopter game with strong emphasis on physics rather than battle. It's definitely a good idea for a game and it comes across very well though I have to say it's very unforgiving for beginners with the controls being very very tough to master.

Finally, I have also spent some time with Dark Meadow, which is hard to categorise in a genre as it carries many different elements, although it could potentially be classed as a first-person mystery game (it takes place in a run-down hospital and there is an elaborate story behind it).

The best way to describe it is as Infinity Blade (action sequences) mixed with the Epic Citadel demo (in terms of navigating through the environment) and old-fashioned adventure game elements. Unfortunately, this is not nearly as engaging as it sounds though I would definitely not fault it graphics-wise as it is very smooth, slick and incredibly detailed. Probably worth experiencing for that alone.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Framework leader for Bournemouth University Creative Technology degrees

I was recently asked to take on the responsibilites of the framework leader for the Creative Technology Bournemouth University degrees. The framework currently consists of five degrees, three undergraduate and two postgraduate ones, the BSc in Music And Audio Technology, the MSc in Digital Music And Audio Production, the BSc in Games Technology, the MSc in Computer Games Technology and the BSc in Media Technology.

Previously I was the course co-ordinator for the Games and Media degrees above as well as a Lecturer in Media Technology, which also recently changed to Senior Lecturer in Creative Technology.

You can find out more about the degrees themselves here at a very comprehensive website which also includes lots of additional information such as open day event dates etc.

Doom 3 release of source code delayed

The long awaited release of the Doom 3 code, a traditional id Software move (i.e. releasing the full source code of a game based on an older version of their engine once the new one -Rage's id Tech 5 on this occasion - has been released) is now delayed.

This is because it appears that the game uses a patented graphics technique called stencil shadowing that was co-written by John Carmack and Creative Labs (the technique was called Carmack's Release). Unfortunately it appears Creative Labs legally owns the full patent for this rather than John Carmack so he may have to rewrite certain parts of the Doom 3 code before it can become available (according to a Twitter post of his).

Thursday, 3 November 2011

"Using the Unreal Engine and Development Kit for Research Purposes" tutorial at ACE 2011 conference

This is a final reminder that in a few days time I will be delivering a half-day tutorial at the November Advances In Computer Entertainment (ACE) 2011 conference in Lisbon, Portugal. This is titled "Using the Unreal Engine and Development Kit for Research Purposes" and is to take place on the 8th of November.

There are two main objectives for this tutorial session. The first is to showcase the potential and also prior/existing use, via specific scientific literature examples, of the increasingly popular Unreal engine (and/or Unreal Development Kit, or UDK for short). The second is to expose the audience to some first fundamental lessons of using the engine and its editor.

These lessons could form the basis of using UDK in the future for research in a variery of directions, all under the computer entertainment/simulation/educational field. It is expected that, post-tutorial, the participants can walk away with both an understanding of how the engine is currently used in research but also tangible skills to put that to use in their respective areas.

You can find more about the conference that houses this tutorial and its rates here.

UDK receives October update

A new October version of UDK is now released by Epic Games with new features worth highlighting, such as for example Facebook integration available for iOS development. While other tools have also been updated (foliage ones for example) the Facebook additions are very welcome as it means that UDK iPhone games can interact with Facebook users (wall posts, friend lists etc.)

While I have never been one for Facebook games (or Facebook itself for that matter), it is important to see the mobile version of UDK integrating further with this social networking application, particularly considering its vast user base. A fuller list of the updates can be found on the official UDK site here.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Raspberry Pi

In what is quite possibly one of the finest British computing innovations of the last few years, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a registered charity in the UK, has come up with an ultra-low-cost computer which is intended (primarily) for use in an educational environment. The spec is quite modest (700 MHz ARM11, 128 or 256 MBytes of RAM etc) but the cost of this is shocking, currently estimated at $25.

What is even more shocking however is the size, with the Raspberry Pi machine being the same size of a credit card and easily plugged in a TV.

While the educational potential of this immensely cost-effective hardware is obvious, a lot of people have been pondering on its use for gaming (with the video above showcasing a Raspberry Pi running Quake 3). I would expect this would be ideal for playing old PC games on for example!

More information about the Raspberry Pi can be found on the official website here.

Monday, 17 October 2011

GameiT conference in Copenhagen and launch of project handbook

Last week I visited Copenhagen for a few days for the final event of the EU-funded GameiT project (more info on the official site here) that I have been involved with for the last 2 years (since October 2009 in fact). We decided as a consortium to wrap the project up with a mini-conference of talks from a number of invited distinguished guests from the game-based learning field, one of which was Tim Rylands who is always a joy to see present (the image below has in fact been shamelessly taken from his own website and description of the day).

At this mini-conference the GameiT project also launched the final deliverable described in our original EU funding proposal in 2009; a handbook with a number of chapters detailing different approaches (from different partners and for different curriculums and subjects) to game-based learning oriented education. I authored one of these chapters, titled "History Lessons via Gaming; A Review of Current Approaches and the Design of a Case Study using Rome Total War".

The whole book (pictured above) was made available to everybody attending the event in-print and will soon be also available online as a pdf (I will post an update when that takes place).

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Book chapter publication

An edited book for which I made a contribution for with a chapter has now come out both in print and also via online access. The book is titled "Handbook of Research on Practices and Outcomes in Virtual Worlds and Environments" and the chapter I co-authored "Addiction in World Of Warcraft: A Virtual Ethnography Study". The book, weighing in at 840 pages (20 out of which are on the aforementioned chapter), also contains many other contributions of interest and is published by IGI Global (DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-762-3, ISBN13: 9781609607623, ISBN10: 1609607627, the cover can be seen below).

The abstract for the chapter I co-authored is the following: "
This chapter presents an investigation in determining whether players are addicted, or show signs of addiction, to the Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft. Criteria to ascertain addiction in World of Warcraft players were developed based on well-documented theories in the area. A questionnaire was used in order to obtain data for analysis. This was distributed to a population of World of Warcraft players by use of advertisement on guild websites and on the official game forum. The results of the questionnaire show that 11.86% (n=21) of respondents matched the developed criteria of addiction in World of Warcraft. These respondents are considered to be addicted or are at “High Risk” of being addicted. This figure is confirmed by other studies of addiction levels in MMORPGs undertaken by existing research."

More information about the book, all other chapters and the opportunity to purchase it (or individual chapters as .pdfs) at the IGI Global site here.

CryEngine to Flash pipeline also a possiblity

It appears that following the news of first Unity and now the Unreal engine offering a Flash Player export, Crytek is seriously considering a similar feature for its groundbreaking CryEngine tech. Unlike the other two cases this, for now, is just a statement of intent rather than something backed up with a live demo but it would be very exciting to see them offer this nonetheless in the near future.

Flash Player's latest version (the 11th iteration of this) was released recently and is, according to Adobe, significantly advanced over previous ones. It has been a long time coming but it appears that real-time 3D graphics are finally arriving to one of the longest standing browser-based standards.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Shank 2, non-photorealistically rendered game receives sequel

A fairly recent non-photoreastically rendered game which was available in digital format only, Shank, is now to receive a sequel. Created and published by Klei Entertainment and EA Partners Shank 2 will be released in 2012 and, similarly to the original, features graphics of stylised form (as can be seen in the screenshot below).

I am looking forward to playing this one as I enjoyed the first game and (more importantly) its unique graphic novel-like approach to visualization, it is always very encouraging to see high-profile titles with non-photorealistic graphics.

Unreal Engine 3 and Flash

Hot on the heels of Unity which has recently presented its strategy for a Unity to Adobe Flash pipeline, Epic Games has now announced at a keynote at Adobe's MAX 2011 event that it will be able to export a game from the latest version of the Unreal engine to Flash 11 in real-time.

This was facilitated using a live demo to back the case of this up and is huge news if and when it becomes available, as real-time, interactive 3D graphics of high quality are at long last becoming available in a browser-based capacity (for developers and public alike). I will feature more news on this technology as it develops.

Infinity Blade 2 is announced

Quite possibly the game that has advanced (graphically at least) mobile gaming more than any other one is Epic Games' Infinity Blade. While it attracted a lot of criticism for its one dimensional gameplay, Infinity Blade showcased for the first time the potential of a cutting-edge games dev engine for a mobile device (UE3 and iOS in this case). It was also commercially hugely successful, further highlighting how beneficial financially this approach could be and how it resonated with the public.

It has now been announced that the game is to receive a sequel. Released in December, Infinity Blade 2 is to take advantage of the new iPhone 4S capabilities, which has recently been announced by Apple. The video above is certainly impressive and I am eagerly anticipating the game's release in order to witness how much further it can push the envelope regarding real-time mobile visualization.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Authoring a book on UDK for iPhone development

I have been working on finalizing this for quite a while now; last week myself and my publisher finally signed contracts for me to author a book on UDK iPhone games development. The book is tentatively titled "UDK iPhone Game Development Beginners Guide" and the publisher is Packt Publishing. It is fairly obvious from the title of the book exactly what I'll be striving to cover; I would like to believe that authoring this book comes at an incredibly crucial time for mobile gaming in general with all the momentum currently behind it, particularly in terms of using Epic Games' UDK for iOS platforms.

I am quite excited by this but also in full realization of just how much work it will be for the next few months for me in order to complete the eight chapters agreed upon. Hopefully the book will come out in 2012, till then it is worth checking out the publisher's website here as they already have a number of titles dedicated to games development and also specific game engines (CryEngine, Unity etc.) which you may find of interest.

Collaboration with 4T2 on an EPSRC-funded EngD

Today a student I will be supervising for his doctorate under the Bournemouth University EPSRC-funded project called CDE (Centre For Digital Entertainment) has started working on his research. I have posted about the CDE before; the purpose of the project is to train the next generation of leaders in the Film/Visual Effects, Computer Games, Virtual Worlds and Animation industries. More information about CDE can be found here.

Part of this is placing the student within an industrial environment throughout the course of the EngD; the company involved with this doctorate, which is also co-sponsoring the student himself is 4T2, a games development company based locally in Bournemouth. You can find out more about 4T2 and their portfolio of past efforts at the company's official website here. I am very much looking forward to this collaboration, which will be lasting for 4 years in total, as it is a unique opportunity to infuse academic research in games development (with a strong software engineering focus on this occasion) with a real-world, live context.

"Using the Unreal Engine and Development Kit for Research Purposes" tutorial at ACE 2011

This is a reminder that I will be delivering a half-day tutorial at the November Advances In Computer Entertainment (ACE) 2011 conference in Lisbon, Portugal. This is titled "Using the Unreal Engine and Development Kit for Research Purposes" and is to take place on the 8th of November.

There are two main objectives for this tutorial session. The first is to showcase the potential and also prior/existing use, via specific scientific literature examples, of the increasingly popular Unreal engine (and/or Unreal Development Kit, or UDK for short). The second is to expose the audience to some first fundamental lessons of using the engine and its editor.

These lessons could form the basis of using UDK in the future for research in a variery of directions, all under the computer entertainment/simulation/educational field. It is expected that, post-tutorial, the participants can walk away with both an understanding of how the engine is currently used in research but also tangible skills to put that to use in their respective areas.

You can find more about the conference that houses this tutorial and its rates here.

International Program Committee member for IASTED HCI 2012

I have been invited again this year to be on the International Program Committee for the IASTED HCI 2012 conference. This is the 7th IASTED International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI 2012), which aims to be a major forum for international researchers and professionals to present their latest research, results and ideas in all areas of human-computer interaction. Its objective is to strengthen relations between industry, research laboratories and universities.

The conference takes place in Baltimore, USA between the 14th and the 16th of May 2012 with the deadline for paper submissions being January 21st. More information about the conference can be found on the official website here.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Showcasing UDK's mobile capabilities, Desert Zombie: Last Stand on iOS

This is an upcoming title that has recently made a lot of waves and as a result of this is featured on the official Epic Games' UDK website as a showcase of the capabilities of their engine specifically for mobile game development; it is Crystalised's Desert Zombie: Last Stand for the iOS (both iPhone and iPad).

The game is a third-person shooter similar to Gears Of War in many ways but delivered on hardware where visuals of this quality where unheard of only a couple of years or so back. Read more about the game (and watch one of the trailers here), it is in many ways fascinating to finally see mobile platforms catching up with traditional gaming consoles and PCs after many years of false starts for mobile gaming. Certainly UDK's support of iOS has played a big part in this and will continue to do so with more titles of this visual quality expected in the next few months.

Unity 3.5 features

Unity has outlined recently at their Unite conference some of the features that are to be added to version 3.5 of their engine. These include, amongst many others, the following;

• multi-threaded rendering
• HDR rendering with gamma correction
• radiosity normal mapping lightmaps
• Shuriken, a new particle effects system
• crowd simulation integrated

For a full list of features check out Develop's article here. Also, it is stated that Unity will be up to 60% faster as a result of a number of optimisations carried out, quite an impressive number if accurate. Finally, there is no word on the anticipated Flash plug-in (see previous post on this blog about the Shadowgun here) though hopefully this will make it for the next version of the engine.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Microsoft patents interchangeable smartphone

Microsoft has recently filed a patent for an interchangeable, modular smartphone which has a number of secondary devices that can be added/removed from it. As can be seen in the pic below the patent allows for the addition of keyboards, batteries and (most importantly) gamepads (to end up with a mobile device similar to the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play).

This is an interesting move from Microsoft which perhaps illustrates that there is a strategic decision to place some emphasis in the mobile market, particularly in light of their Nokia partnering.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

An XBox 360 Kinect/controller fusion?

In an article found here at the Gamasutra website, two University students propose a concept and its prototype specs for something which at the moment is (to a large extent) missing from the commercial (console) games market, a controller that uses the best of both worlds in user interaction; i.e. motion sensing and the traditional and time-honoured controller, which many hardcore games and gamers alike cannot part for something more casually-oriented such as Microsoft's Kinect.

The proposal is very interesting (and depicted above) and definitely worth a read. Personally, I have had a Kinect sitting next to my XBox 360 for almost a couple of months now without it even leaving the box yet, it is very difficult to convince someone who plays games such as Gears Of War or Crysis to the everyday merits of motion sensing and it is refreshing to see proposals such as this one attempting to offer a new solution.

Urban Pad now exports to UDK

Urban Pad, one of the most most prominent contenders in the auto/semi-automatic urban modelling field, has now received its September update to version 3.0.9. While there are many interesting features on this, from the obligarory bug fixes to using templates as defaults to assist begineer users, the one that caught my attention is the streamlining of the ability to export to Epic's UDK (as an .fbx file). A test example of this is shown below.

If you want to try this out yourselves a short tutorial of this can be found here while the Urban Pad application itself can be downloaded as a trial version from here.

Urban Network Analysis, MIT's free urban planning application

MIT (and in particular the City Form Research Group) has recently released an application called Urban Network Analysis (UNA) which measures how the layout of a city impacts the life of the people in it. This is done by taking into consideration many parameters such as for example the volume of traffic and the number of a variety of services and resources available to the populace. Buildings themselves are also very important to the calculations taking place.

More importantly, the application is completely free and available for ArcGIS as an open-source plug-in. It is definitely recommended that urban planners/modellers (seeing that applications like CityEngine are now integrated in its pipeline this could be of significant interest to 3D virtual city creators too) check this out here.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Unreal engine now for Mac OS, multi-display support also offered

Epic Games has now added the functionality to the UDK (Unreal Development Kit) to deploy games on Apple Mac operating systems. This is a natural move that has been in the pipeline following the iOS support that Epic Games has provided for the Unreal engine for a while now. It should be noted that this applies to actual UDK games, not the editor itself (which remains PC-only for the time being).

Other than this important update to expand the potential platform base of games that have been developed with UDK, the software has also received multi-display support functionality (showcased above) which looks very appealling, particularly in terms of moving with the times (see Nintendo's proposed Wii U).

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Source code for Doom Classic and Wolfenstein 3D Platinum now freely available

Aligned to an ethos of making source code available to the community which goes back a number of years, id Software has now made the source code of Wolfenstein 3D Platinum and Doom Classic freely available. These are both iPhone versions of the classic original games and it should be noted that the code made available is from the latest update the games have received.

These can be downloaded from here and here and could be very useful for prospective iOS programmers/game developers.

Monday, 12 September 2011

GameiT conference in Copenhagen, Denmark on the 13th of October

The EU funded project I/Bournemouth University have been a part of for the last 2 years called GameiT and with game-based learning pedagogy firmly as its focus is coming to a conclusion in October. As part of that we will be launching a handbook with recommendations/chapters from each individual partner on how to incorporate games in a classroom. This book will be launched at a mini-conference/event on October 13th 2011 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

There is the intention to establish the conference as a recurring tradition, where educators, researchers, game developers, politicians and other interested parties meet to follow the newest tendencies in the field, exchange ideas, establish networks and – hopefully – found new exciting projects. There are also a number of speakers from the general video games/game-based learning area invited for keynote speeches.

You can find out more details about the conference here, whereas information about the EU Leonardo Transfer of Innovation project that spawned it can be found here.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Unreal engine game development competition

A competition for students and hobbyists, powered by Epic Games' very popular Unreal Development Kit (UDK), is to take place on the 4th of November. This will be in the form of a 48-hour session with the proceeds (there is a an entry fee) going to charity. It should also be noted that Epic Games themselves are supporting this game jam.

If you are learning the tool, plan to use it for a future game and can put together a team consisting of 6 to 10 people this is well worth checking out. For more information about this competition which will take place at the University of Bedfordshire, including all assorted guidelines, please visit here.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Intel makes graphics performance tool available

Intel has recently made available for free (albeit to the Intel developer partner program members) a performance toolset for real-time graphics applications, called GPA (Graphics Performance Analyzers). The current version of this is 4.1. These analyzers operate by collecting data during the run-time of the application and then offering visualizations of this in terms of performance over not just the CPU but also the GPU.

This is a tool particularly useful for resource-heavy applications such as (most notably!) games and is well worth checking out. More information by Intel themselves here, including not just a technical specification/manual of the toolset but also how-to videos and examples plus case studies of current games and game engines using the software to great effect.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Flash and Unity convergence, Shadowgun demo

Unity has now released a very promising example of a fairly high-quality iOS/Android game (in terms of graphics) called Shadowgun and developed by Madfinger Games, running not only in a browser but also using Flash. This is the first time Unity has attempted something like this and what's even more impressive is the capability to support the usual advanced features of the engine such as physics, particle effects etc. despite running from a basic .swf Flash file.

The demo is incredibly impressive indeed, has caused quite a stir and the only criticism that could be levelled at it is the fact that it is purely a tech demo at this stage; there's no release date from Unity on this, at least not yet. More can be read about this here on the official Unity site, which is where you can also see the Shadowgun vid itself.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Invitation to submit article for special issue in Transactions in Edutainment

Following the publication of a paper I co-authored recently for the IEEE VS Games 2011 conference, titled “Elemental: An Insight into the Development and Evaluation of a Secondary Education Chemistry Game Using XNA” and found here on IEEE Xplore, the work has now been selected for potential publication in a special issue tentatively titled ‘Serious Games and Interactive Worlds’, on the Lecture Notes In Computer Science Transactions on Edutainment Springer journal. The article will be a significantly extended version of the original work presented in the conference.

This journal serves as a forum for stimulating and disseminating innovative research ideas, theories, emerging technologies, empirical investigations, state-of-the-art methods and tools in all different genres of edutainment, such as game-based learning and serious games, interactive storytelling, virtual learning environments, VR-based education and related fields. More information about the journal can be found here.

I will post an update in the coming months when the special issue is published.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Real World Blues, an article in photorealism/non-photorealism in games

A great, position paper-type article has appeared in both the in-print but also now the online version of Develop magazine about the potential of stylised/abstracted (i.e. non-photorealistically rendered) graphics in games.

Written by Atomahawk's Design Director Cumron Asthiani, the short article is well worth a read as an insight into the contrast of visual photorealism/non-photorealism from a games development professional perspective.

The article (very aptly titled Real World Blues) can be found here. I personally found it very interesting, as a year ago I completed my PhD investigating a similar/related argument, albeit in the field of mobile navigation rather than games, titled Evaluating Non-Photorealistic Rendering for 3D Urban Models in the Context of Mobile Navigation (the full abstract of which can be found here).

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

DICE's Frostbite engine to release modding tools in the future?

It appears that there are considerations for modification tools to be added, post-release (similar in other words to the Crysis 2 tools which appeared online months after the game was launched) by DICE to the next Battlefield series game. This was something refused up until recently but apparently there have been strong voices from the modding community asking for it and it is currently being contemplated at a high level by DICE/EA.

Hopefully it will happen, for several reasons, because it would mean that; a) it would be good to have a new engine rivalling the likes of Unreal, Crytek etc. that can be used by people such as hobbyists and researchers b) Frostbite 2 is a fairly advanced engine, capable, amongst others, for quasi-real-time radiosity.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

"Using the Unreal Engine and Development Kit for Research Purposes" tutorial at ACE 2011 conference

This is a reminder that I will be delivering a half-day tutorial at the November Advances In Computer Entertainment (ACE) 2011 conference in Lisbon, Portugal. This is titled "Using the Unreal Engine and Development Kit for Research Purposes" and is to take place on the 8th of November.

There are two main objectives for this tutorial session. The first is to showcase the potential and also prior/existing use, via specific scientific literature examples, of the increasingly popular Unreal engine (and/or Unreal Development Kit, or UDK for short). The second is to expose the audience to some first fundamental lessons of using the engine and its editor.

These lessons could form the basis of using UDK in the future for research in a variery of directions, all under the computer entertainment/simulation/educational field. It is expected that, post-tutorial, the participants can walk away with both an understanding of how the engine is currently used in research but also tangible skills to put that to use in their respective areas.

I will be posting more about this tutorial in the coming months, meanwhile you can find more about the conference that houses it and its rates here.

Sony researching biometrics use in gaming

There have been some interesting statements from Sony executives recently, as part of a panel debate (which has been transcribed in full and can be found here, in fact it's worth checking out as it focuses on the next ten years of Playstation and covers many interesting issues). Shuhei Yoshida and Mick Hoking have both suggested that biometrics can play a significant role in mapping the character profile and mood state of the player during (Playstation or other console/PC) gaming.

It is intriguing that they focused on observing the player with a camera during gameplay as part of extracting information such as body language or facial expressions, to name but a few of the input data suggested for this process. It also appears that Sony may also be already actively investing time and effort in R&Ding this area (along with other companies such as Valve, see an older post in this blog about this here) from the statements made. While this sounds somewhat intrusive on paper, the potential can still be immense, particularly if the concept is realised in a respectful to the player and his/her wishes and idiosyncracies manner.

Crytek's CryEngine free SDK achieves a record number of downloads

According to the Develop magazine website Crytek's CryEngine free SDK has broken a new record; it has achieved more than 100,000 downloads in less than one week since being released (see my blog post from a few days ago). In fact, this number was achieved in just 5 days which is very impressive indeed. Competitors such as Epic Games' UDK achieved ~50,000 in roughly the same time span while the very popular Unity achieved ~20,000 in the first two weeks of its (free) release.

This is all according to company-released data and quite an important feat; it does remain however to see whether the CryEngine SDK can become as popular as the UDK over a longer period of time and also more used by communities other than game modders such as, for example, researchers.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

AR functionality patent for iOS

News has broken that Apple has filed a patent which features augmented reality functionality for the first time as part of the core of iOS software, all linked to the capabilities it already has for mapping. This will be in a very similar way to the approach that existing third party AR apps are conducting it; i.e. by overlaying content/data onto the camera feed. It can be seen in more detail in the picture below.

While this may potentially worry developers such as Layar or other existing developers that are working on/have proposed AR solutions for Apple devices already, it is in my opinion a very positive development for seeing the medium attain more widespread usage from the average iPhone/iPad user.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Unreal Engine 4 and new Epic Games in the works

Epic Games, the creators of the Unreal engine, have announced that they are gearing up towards the production of five different new game projects plus also a new engine. This engine is of course version 4 of the Unreal engine, though apparently the five said games are not connected in any way to the Gears of War brand (the third version of which is soon released).

Rumours include a new Unreal Tournament game (it has been ~4 years since the last one) though personally I am more excited by; a) seeing whether one of these five games will be a mobile iOS title, similar to the groundbreaking Infinity Blade the company produced (pictured above) b) what the new functionality of Unreal Engine 4 will be, version 3 has been with us for a few years now and despite constant updates it would be excellent to see it significantly overhauled with new features taking advantage of recent advances in PC hardware.

CryEngine free SDK now available

Hot on the heels of the free level editor (which you do require Crysis 2 for though) Crytek has now made an SDK version of the CryEngine available for the modding/research/hobbyist community. This was mooted months ago and it is good to see the company sticking to its word on this.

This is offered on a number of different business models; a) CryEngine 3 is, first of all, free for use in educational facilities (even ones with tuition), with this now including individual students. The engine is now also b) free for non-commercial use; i.e. if you are a company/individual developer distributing your game and/or application for free there is no additional license required or cost incurred. Finally, for independent developers c) making a profit out their games, you must seek a development license but Crytek appears to be committed to having attractive options for smaller indie games companies with shorter development timescales (though the specific details of this are not disclosed as such, at least not yet).