Sunday, 27 March 2011

GTA design document made public

To those interested in game design, after 16 years the original design document for Grand Theft Auto has been made available online, released by DMA Design programmer Mike Daily. Dating back to 1995, the document is 11 pages long and contains both ideas that made it and some that didn't make it into the game (such as networked play). The game design document reveals the title was to be called Race N' Chase and includes three real-world cities (New York, Venice, Miami), the original top down perspective and the now infamous gameplay mechanics of car chases and heists.

It is very interesting to see the humble beginnings for what subsequently became such an iconic title, definitely worth going here to explore this.

King's Quest series reboot?

Courtesy of Joystiq comes a new story that the evergreen Sierra Online adventure series King's Quest is soon to be resurrected. This is to be attempted by Telltale who have announced an agreement of a multi-title and multiplatform deal to reboot the franchise. This will be apparently very much in the vein of the Monkey Island reboot the same company very succesfully has launched (which is also now, at long last, getting a store release rather than being exclusively DLC). More is to be revealed at E3 this June.

I have to say I am really excited by this news. Not sure if King's Quest can work without Roberta Williams and to be honest something like the Space Quest series would have worked better for a company like Telltale but since King's Quest 2 was the first adventure game I ever played (many, many years ago now!) this still sounds particularly intriguing...

Friday, 25 March 2011

Fundamentals of Computer and Video Games Development short course at Bournemouth University

In my capacity as a lecturer at Bournemouth University I teach, amongst the regular undergraduate courses, a short course in July (5 days long, with 4 hours of tuition per day) on the fundamentals of games development. This course is ideal for beginners with an interest in improving their skills and understanding of the game dev pipeline.

On this short course 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.

More information about the course can be found here.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Centre for Digital Entertainment conference

Last week I was at the University of Bath for the first Centre for Digital Entertainment conference. The CDE’s purpose is to train the next generation of leaders in the visual effects, computer games, virtual worlds and animation industries. Funded by EPSRC (as a collaboration between Bournemouth University and the University of Bath) it offers a unique doctoral program that places researchers directly in companies to work on real projects while studying for an Engineering or Professional Doctorate.

The conference's purpose (which was incidentally the first one) was to bring together academic (I am on the supervisory team for one of the students) and industrial supervisors alongside all the current students on the scheme for a range of presentations and networking opportunities.

I also presented for one of the sessions (my presentation was titled "My experience of doing a PhD in close collaboration with industry" and based on my experiences of studying under an EPSRC scheme) and with this set to be an annual or bi-annual gathering it looks like there is great scope in turning this into a very useful event.

For more information on the CDE, current opportunities and a description of the work of the students already on the scheme please visit

New PhD studentship advertised at Bournemouth University

The John Kent Institute in the School of Tourism at Bournemouth University is advertising a new PhD studentship, for which I will be the second supervisor for. This is a fully-funded position to begin in October 2011. The John Kent Institute in Tourism builds on BU's research strengths and research potential, focusing on specific areas of interest within Tourism which attract national and international recognition.

Research will be encouraged to be multi-disciplinary, embodying the BU spirit of cross-school collaboration and support. There are already 4 students on the programme who started in October 2010.

More information on the studentship itself, titled "Location based services in the context of tourism from a consumer-centric perspective", can be found here while details on the scheme itself can be found here.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Kinect used by surgeons

Since Microsoft's Kinect has been released there have been numerous "hacks" for it, many of them allowing it to be used for more serious applications other than gaming. A great example of these is the one reported by the Winnipeg Free Press which describes how surgeons at Sunnybrook Hospital are using the device to manipulate images of medical scans.

This apparently saves up quite a significant amount of time with the original process now replaced by using hand gestures to call up, rotate and zoom in on images. The process has already been used on 6 procedures so far with the hospital hoping to use it in other areas as well (such as physiotherapy).

Dare To Be Digital documentary on C4

Channel 4 (in the UK) will be screening a three-part documentary about the Dare To Be Digital competition, a UK software development competition where student teams pool resources to create a video game together. The documentary will be called Crunchtime and is to focus on the arduous challenges of games development within a restricted timeline.

Crunchtime begins on Sunday March 27 at 7.25am, I'll definitely be watching this with great interest, as should everybody else in games dev education (whether they are a student or a teacher).

Skullgirls, another cartoon-shaded beat 'em up

Yet another non-photorealistic graphics driven game is to be released soon, showcasing the increasing popularity of this approach. This time in the vein of a cartoon-shaded Street Fighter IV Skullgirls is fast-paced 2D fighting game that allows players control of female warriors. Featuring the art of Alex Ahad (Scott Pilgrim, Lava Punch), this will be released in Autumn 2011 for the XBLA and PSN.

Well worth checking out in the vid above as a very impressive realisation in real-time of great 2D artwork within an interactive gaming environment.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

UDK-type product in preparation from Crytek

Crytek has now been quoted to be in preparation of a similar product to Epic Games' free Unreal Development Kit (UDK), for their own particular engine CryEngine version 3. This was from Crytek co-founder Anvi Yerli who has mentioned that there is “a business model in mind” for this, while “the barriers for entry will be very low, and perhaps [it will be distributed] for free”.

This at the moment is very vague of course as the aspects such as the revenue model are not even covered, however as an educator and researcher I would be incredibly interested in an alternative to the UDK which is user-friendly and utilises/sits on the cutting edge CryEngine. Hopefully there will be some more concrete news soon on this.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

City Kit, the new kid on the block in automated virtual city generation apps

City Kit is a new app which focuses on automatic virtual city generation; this time as a plug-in for Cinema 4D. With a fairly low price ($149) the app is capable of instant city generation with some cool additional features such as, most notably, being able to choose between night and day (a feature that many would find quite useful for composition shots).

You can see a demo of the app in the video above, for more info and purchasing City Kit go to

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Argon, the mobile AR web browser

Funded by Alcatel-Lucent through its University Innovations Program (who a few years ago partly also funded my PhD), a new mobile web browser with augmented reality extensions, called Argon, has been built by researchers at Georgia Tech University.

Argon operates by taking video from the phone's camera and then rendering content on top of it. The prototype/initial release operates by taking any content from the Apple iPhone's mobile Safari web browser and "pushing it" out on virtual billboards. More interestingly, the creators of Argon promise 3D content support in soon-to-come releases. Other platforms, like Android, are also to be supported in the future.

Read more about Argon and KHARMA, the platform it is affiliated with, at

Monday, 7 March 2011

Member of the International Program Committee for ICADIWT 2011

I have been asked to be a member of the International Program Committee for the Fourth International Conference on the Applications of Digital Information and Web Technologies (ICADIWT 2011). The conference is a forum for scientists, engineers, and practitioners to present their latest research results, ideas, developments and applications in the areas of Computer Communications, Communication Networks, Communication Software Communication Technologies and Applications, and other related themes.

This conference (ICADIWT 2011) will include presentations of contributed papers and state-of-the-art lectures by invited keynote speakers and is set to take place at Stevens Point, Wisconsin, USA between the 4th and the 6th of August (for more info please check here).

AR hotel reviews on the iPad

A new application of interest to augmented reality researchers (particularly the ones with a location-based focus) is TripAdvisor's online hotel review app which has chosen the iPad as its exclusive platform of choice.

The application is based on Google Street View with additional content superimposed on its visualization (relevant to the hotel theme) and while not truly AR per se (and how could it be as the iPad currently does not have a camera, although that it said to change soon with iPad 2) this still is a novel idea which can find great use in the interested audience, and of course can be further extended with future evolutions of Apple's device.

You can find the application here.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Valve is a strong supporter of biometrics in games

In one of the most interesting, at least to me, recent Game Developer Conference talks, Mike Ambinder from Valve (the development studio/engine vendor/owner of one of the most successful online game portals) outlined the importance and huge future potential of game biometrics. According to Mike; "Current control schemes provide one-dimensional gameplay - they map only player intent. What you don’t get with that is a reading of feeling or long-term goals. Those feelings are not communicable though current controls, and at Valve we want to attack that issue".

Ambinder, currently holding the (particularly ungame-like!) role of experimental psychologist at Valve focuses, as revealed from the above statement on, for example, how players feel while in a heated battle or when encountering a tough puzzle. A number of technologies have been examined for this so far such as heart-rate measurement devices, eye-trackers, brain-wave activity monitoring interfaces and others.

Interestingly, Adminder dismisses (for now) BCIs (brainwave interfaces) as the brain is too noisy to read with current inexpensive devices. Instead, in an experiment using the Left 4 Dead game (discussed during the GDC talk) Valve measured electrical resistance of the player’s skin. This was in order to get an impression of their interest and emotional investment in the game. The data from this was used to increase the challenge of the game during lull of activity, thus producing adaptive manipulation of the games difficulty.

The subsequent survey demonstrates that when the biometrics adaptive mode was in play the subjects found the game significantly more fun. It'll be great to see where Valve can take this and also very impressive to see a company that could be churning out another installment of Half-Life instead investing some of its resources to more visionary research like this.