Monday, 31 January 2011

PSP2 and the Unreal engine

The PSP2 spec and details were finally revealed by Sony last week. Touted as NGP (Next Generation Portable) it hosts a gamut of features such as, to name but a few, a touchscreen function allowing for ‘touch, grab, trace, push or pull’, augmented reality features using camera and player movement, a front and rear touch-sensitive input, front and rear cameras, gyroscopic motion control (using the same technology as the PlayStation Move), GPS location sensors and others.

Of even more interest however is the simultaneous announcement of Epic Games (at the same launch event in fact) of the Unreal Engine appearing on this new mobile device (see video below). This is essentially a PSP2 upgrade of the popular free iPhone demo Epic Citadel with additional anti-aliasing and post-processing effects (not seen on the iPhone version).

According to Tim Sweeney from Epic Games these additional effects were made possible "by the [PSP2]’s multi-core CPU and shader-based multi-core GPU, which delivers roughly four times the performance we’ve seen on other platforms". Could this sway me to finally invest in a PSP? Whatever the answer to that is, mobile graphics developments have just become, as of last week, even more interesting and exciting.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

MSc in Computer Games Technology at Bournemouth University

Starting in October 2011 the University where I am lecturing, Bournemouth University in the UK, will be offering a new MSc in Computer Games Technology. This is offered on either full-time or part-time routes (and I will of course be teaching on it).

The course aims to provide you with the ability to plan, implement and produce computer games using modern methods and tools. In recent years there have been significant developments in the philosophies, methods and tools for planning, implementing and producing computer games. This course is designed to provide industry with personnel who understand the technical tools and techniques required by the gaming industry.

The MSc provides an in-depth knowledge in key areas of games technology and production. It prepares you for employment in sectors such as games programming, game engine design and game management and production. This course also takes into account the radical changes in the gaming industry from PC to console gaming to Mobile and MMOs bringing new challenges and opportunities for gaming.

A mix of practice-based research through the use of state of the art game production facilities and taught classes by academics and industry experts is offered. Finally, the MSc is comprised of five taught units and an independent project, which can be a dissertation, a portfolio of work, a software application or a combination of deliverables.

More information about the course (including detailed info on applying for it) here.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Kinect used for 3D urban modelling

It appears that the possibilities of using Microsoft's Kinect are really capturing many users' imaginations, prompting the emergence of a variety of cool experimentations with it, with most of them of course related to gaming (which in fact I may have to come back to for a post or two in the future).

One of the most amazing non-gaming ones however is the one by Martin Szarski who strapped the device to his car, connected it to his laptop and a Nexus One mobile phone and thusly recorded a point cloud of the car's journey. The results are very impressive considering the modest equipment used and according to Szarski could been more accurate had a phone with a gyroscope been used. For more details of this great "home-made" 3D urban modelling experiment check out the link here.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Road Blaster iPhone game, another non-photorealistic game for a mobile device

On a roll of posts on games with non-photorealistic graphics I have been train-spotting recently, Evolutionary Concepts has released, on the Apple iPhone/iPad, Road Blaster (also known as Road Avenger). This is best remembered as a Sega Mega CD title (although it is a lot older than that, first released on the arcades in 1985).

The game features very striking anime-style visualizations and is, as the title suggests, a racer. This comes with additional new features over the original such as the usual tilt controls, enhanced graphics for the iPhone 4 and the iPad, leaderboard and GameCenter support and others.

It is however the unique visuals that make it stand out and appear so impressive. Non-photorealistic racers are very rare, even more so on mobile devices, so it is nice to see this particular title brought to the limelight again.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A retrospective look at The Last Express

Picking up from the previous post which discusses a contemporary cartoon-shaded game (Eat Them), I have recently read an article in Edge magazine featuring a 'making-of' discussion of an older adventure game called The Last Express which at the time (it was released in 1997) sadly passed me by.

At a time when FMV (full motion video) was quite prevalent in adventure games and viewed as the future of interactive storytelling, The Last Express took a different approach, and, by using a combination of rotoscoping and line-drawing, attempted to recreate a non-photorealistic style which according to the producer of the game was heavily influenced by Scott McCloud's seminal Understanding Comics book. This was in regards to providing just enough detail in a character and in a visualization (i.e. not too realistic, not too abstract) for the player to better identify with the depicted action.

The game was (for a variety of reasons explained in more detail in the Edge article) not very succesfull commercially and reached a small audience (which explains why I never got into it despite being heavily into adventure games at the time!) but is now available at DotEmu (here) and, according to Jordan Mechner, its creator (and also creator of the seminal Prince of Persia games), could well be soon adapted to an iPad version, subject to interest.

The Last Express is definitely well worth checking out for evidence on how non-photorealistic rendering can enhance a character-driven, dialogue-based interactive story.

Eat Them, new cartoon-shaded game for the Sony PS3

I've just come a cross a great example of a new cartoon-shaded game for the Playstation 3 called, rather imaginatively, Eat Them. As the title suggests, the game allows you to lay waste to a variety of urban areas (and their inhabitants!) with customizable monsters while military forces try to stop you.

It's definitely not an original idea (I still remember the great Rampage made by Midway I had on my 8086 PC that was based on very much the same concept) but the incredible comic book visuals combined with the urban models used here definitely piqued my interest and, game aside, it's worth looking at this just for the excellent non-photorealistic content employed.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Crytek showing interest in iPhone/iPad development

While id Software and Epic Games have already played their cards with the impressive Rage and Infinity Blade respectively, it now appears that another major player in first person shooter gaming is looking for a lucrative opening in the mobile game development field.

Borne out of a job opening that Crytek now has for “designing and developing complex, integrated iPhone and iPad applications” (found on Develop magazine) the company, which has a very strong reputation of pushing the boundaries of computer graphics with titles such as Crysis or Far Cry, joins an ever-increasing number of studios targetting the mobile platform as well as traditional ones.

Looking at the quality of a title such as Crysis 2 (see vid above) it is easy to understand why the news has created excitement to the community, especially if Crytek can bring the same tech quality commitment to a mobile title.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Member of the International Program Committee for ECGBL 2011

I have now been added to the International Program Committee for ECGBL 2011 (5th European conference on Games-Based Learning), which will take place in Athens, Greece between the 20th and the 21st of October 2011. The venue for it will be the National and Kapodistrian University.

Over the last ten years, the way in which education and training is delivered has changed considerably with the advent of new technologies. One such new technology that holds considerable promise for helping to engage learners is Games-Based Learning (GBL).
This conference offers an opportunity for scholars and practitioners interested in the issues related to GBL to share their thinking and research findings. Papers can cover various issues and aspects of GBL in education and training: technology and implementation issues associated with the development of GBL; use of mobile and MMOGs for learning; pedagogical issues associated with GBL; social and ethical issues in GBL; GBL best cases and practices, and other related aspects.

The event is particularly interested in empirical research that addresses whether GBL enhances learning. This conference provides a forum for discussion, collaboration and intellectual exchange for all those interested in any of these fields of research or practice.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Bournemouth University joins TIGA

Bournemouth University (BU) has joined TIGA - the trade association representing the UK’s games industry. The University’s membership is led by the School of Design, Engineering & Computing which offers a BSc (Hons) in Games Technology. I am the co-ordinator of the Degree Programme (and a Lecturer in Media Technology) and I believe that BU students will benefit from the extensive network of industry contacts available through TIGA.

“Bournemouth University is committed to working with the industry to further enhance our courses and create benefits for our students”, I stated in the recent press release. “We would love to speak to TIGA members about opportunities for guest lectures, research collaboration and student placements.”

TIGA is comprised of members drawn from the independent games development industry including games publishers, technology businesses and universities. TIGA's vision is to make the UK the best place in the world to do games business by focusing on political representation, generating media coverage and developing services that enhance the competitiveness of its members.

Dr. Richard Wilson, TIGA CEO, stated: “TIGA is committed to working with its university and academic members to help facilitate greater knowledge exchange to benefit both students, universities and the wider industry. We welcome Bournemouth University to TIGA and look forward to working closely with them in the future.”

The University’s degree in Games Technology is designed to help students improve their knowledge and skills of the technological aspects of media and games programming. The course looks at game development on the latest game platforms and also addresses the growing area of mobile phone game development.

The subject of entrepreneurship is highlighted through learning in the area of business development, including company creation and business planning. The course also offers an optional 12 month placement to give students the opportunity to put the skills and knowledge acquired during the first and second years of the course into practise and will help students make an informed decision about their future career.

Other websites running with this story include;

Friday, 7 January 2011

Google Maps for Mobile receives an update, version 5.0 now out for Android

For the first blog post of the new year, an important piece of news which came about during the last couple of weeks of the previous month; Google has now released Google Maps for Mobile version 5.0. While only available on Android (for the time being at least), this new version of the application offers new features which, most notably, include the adoption of vector graphics and offline access.

The aforementioned vector graphics update (which, it should be noted, was originally a Nokia Ovi characteristic feature that Google has now also fully subscribed to) means that Google Maps now draw maps in a dynamic manner, thus enabling the user to use a tilt function to see them in 3D. This of course comes complete with building model representations from over 100 cities around the globe.

No doubt the iPhone version will appear soon enough, looking forward to seeing these new updates in action on my 3GS device! Till then you can read more about this update here.