Thursday, 28 April 2011

iControlPad, a retrofitting option for your iPhone

I have succumbed to buying a Sony Xperia Play now based on the both the hype but also the analog gamepad offered with the phone, however it appears that users of devices such as the iPhone can retrofit something similar and not rely on touchpads anymore for gaming action (or indeed interaction of similar sort).

The iControlPad operates via Bluetooth, has 6 face buttons, 2 rear buttons and 3 pads/nubs and actually fits other mobile devices as well (including Android phones), although it is reportedly a bit hit and miss on that front (so it might be worth checking experiences from other users with it before forking out). More information can be found here.

Monday, 25 April 2011

CryEngine to release level editor and SDK

While I've yet to find time to play Crysis 2, Crytek has now announced via an open letter to the modding community on that they will be launching a level editor for Crysis 2 (i.e. CryEngine 3) early in summer. This will allow modders to build new maps, items and more custom content for Crysis 2. As you may remember (and I did criticise them in this very blog for it I am afraid) the game shipped without one in late March.

Moreover, Crytek will in August 2011 launch a free CryEngine SDK (similar to the Epic Games' UDK it seems). This is a fantastic move which should get the tool great recognition and mileage and it is great to see the company behind one of the most impressive game engines around getting decisions like that right.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Special issue of the International Journal of Interactive Worlds (IJIW) on Non-Photorealistic Graphics in Games and Animation

I will be the guest editor for an upcoming special issue of the IBIMA International Journal of Interactive Worlds (IJIW), titled Non-Photorealistic Graphics in Games and Animation.

After many years of computer graphics research striving for results which cannot be distinguished from reality, there is now, in parallel, an increasing amount of work focusing not on the approximation of the real world, but on the simulated depiction of more traditional human artwork styles. These styles come with a variety of implications such communicative, emotive and perceptual processing aspects that these approaches can convey, via the inherent abstractive forms and stylization they are associated with.

The research field itself is called non-photorealistic rendering (or NPR in short) and can today be observed in a number of application areas, including real-time computer and video games plus also animated feature films. Contemporary hardware has made possible recent mainstream gaming titles such as Sega’s MadWorld (for Nintendo’s Wii) and Ubisoft’s Prince Of Persia (for a variety of platforms), employing comic-book/sketched and cel-shaded rendering styles respectively. Equally, Disney’s upcoming feature length film Tangled simulates oil-painting techniques. Titles such as these demonstrate that there is considerable interest from developers, film-makers and public alike to explore the possibilities for alternative graphical representations that modern NPR techniques, because of their flexibility in different stylizations, can offer in the area of computer entertainment.

Only original research papers will be considered. Authors should limit initial submissions to no more than 30 double-spaced pages in 12-point font with appropriate margins, inclusive of all materials. A double-blind review will be conducted and papers will be returned to the authors, with explanatory notes for further action. Submissions will be screened to ensure coherence with the theme of the special volume and will be accepted for by the 30th of June 2011.

More information about the journal and the special issue itself can be found here.

SAGE Simulation And Gaming journal special issue on serious games

The SAGE-published Simulation And Gaming journal will be running a special issue titled "Serious games: Analysis and case studies". The guest editors are seeking contributions that advance the state of the art in the technologies available to support the sustainability of serious games. Topics of interest include:

•Serious games research
•Theory, including taxonomies
•Interactive serious games
•Virtual and augmented reality serious games
•Research on effectiveness and quality of learning from serious games
•Serious games for mobile platforms
•Multimodal human computer interaction
•Artificial reality in serious games
•Multimedia games and learning
•Debriefing in serious games
•Effectiveness of learning

The deadline for initial proposals is the end of 2011, more information can be found here.

Short course at Bournemouth University in the fundamentals of games development

This is a reminder that, 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. This a great taster of the ins and outs of games development and well worth checking out if you have even a passing interest in this.

ghostTown urban modelling 3DS Max script

ghostTown is another fantastic effort to utilize 3D Studio Max's Maxscript language to generate an urban modelling tool. Features include low polygon/high polygon buildings, a tool for road layouts, a system for material usage and others. The script currently works on the latest version of Max (2011).

Well worth checking out by first looking at the video above and then visiting the site here. The best thing about ghostTown is of course the fact that it is free and very available for anyone interested in exploring the potential of automatic/semi-automatic city generation.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Wii 2 appears to be in the pipeline

On a story that has broken today, it appears that Nintendo has a Wii successor in the pipeline, with third-party studios having development units for months now. The rumours have it the motion control is again (unsurprisingly) pursued, as with the original console, although it is not certain whether a camera will be used or not.

More interestingly, rumours suggest graphical capabilities beyond the XBox 360 or Playstation 3. Backwards compayibility is also mentioned. At this point information is very sketchy and the above may or may not be true but it definitely appears increasingly likely that Nintendo will be getting the head-start in next-gen.

Unity games now on an Android platform

A piece of news of interest to mobile developers which I left unreported; as of early March Unity has now made available an Android plug-in, enabling interested parties to deploy Unity-based games on this platform. It also comes with a remote similar to the iOS one, allowing for tests of the game on the fly.

This retains the same pricing model with the iOS too, with Unity Android being $400 and Unity Android Pro $1500. For more information (and also a trial) please visit the official site here.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

SupaBoy, a portable SNES

It looks like Hyperkin will be releasing a new product called SupaBoy, which essentially be a portable Nintendo SNES console capable of running ordinary SNES cartridges, styled after the controller of the original console. The obvious difference will of course be that it will also have a 3.5" screen (see picture below).

Also equipped with controller ports, AV-out for use on a television and a rechargeable batter lasting for (reportedly) five and a half hours, this looks like a really cool proposition for mobile gaming and retro-gaming fans.

Dream:scape, new Unreal-powered iPhone/iPad game

After the phenomenal success of Infinity Blade, which showcased the great and very impressive technical potential of the Unreal engine on the iPhone/iPad, Speedbump Studios has announced a game powered by the Epic engine again, called Dream:scape. The concept of the game sounds very interesting (and different) as the player is tasked to reconstruct the past of someone who is caught in limbo between life and death.

The premise sounds intriguing but it is even more exciting to see another game attempting to utilise a resource that so far has produced the most impressive mobile gaming results ever. Looking forward to this one.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Darkness II, another non-photorealistic game in the pipeline

Another game with strong non-photorealistic extensions is Darkness 2, to be released in late 2011 from Digital Extremes. It has a more unique perspective on cel-shading compared to other games with similar approaches in so much that it is based on high-contrast lighting and hand-painted textures, similar to a graphic novel.

As can be seen above, this results in a very good compromise betrween impressionism and realism and bodes well for a fantastic and fairly unique visual style for the eventual game. More information about Darkness II can be found here.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Ruined, a browser-based, non-photorealistically rendered Unity game

Always great to see new non-photorealistically-rendered gaming titles, Ruined is a post-apocalyptic 3D action game created using the Unity engine and running on a variety of browsers.

With very stylish cel-shading and based in San Francisco, the online game allows the player to attempt and become the most dominant killer/villain in the city.

The game is currently in beta until further notice but should make for a great proposition when finally released. There is a touch of Ubisoft's XIII there when looking at the action and the visuals which only heightens expectations! More information about the game can be found on the official site here.

Unreal 3 engine's new features

Epic Games have now released another video update showcasing new and very impressive additions to the Unreal 3 engine, made possible by Direct X version 11. These include subsurface scarrering, deferred rendering, realistic foliage, soft-edge motion blur, shadowed point-light reflections and added physics involving clothing.

Other additions (also shown in the vid above) include mobile game development features (such as a remote and mobile previewer) and also improvements on the supplied editor (UnrealEd) itself (improved content browser, new transform gizmos and others). All of these are well worth checking out for anyone interested in Unreal development, whether that is with the SDK or just with the editor.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Real-life Manhattan versus Crysis 2 Manhattan

I just got Crysis 2 yesterday (both for the PC and my XBox) and while the jury's still out on that one (I am sorely disappointed by the fact that there is no editor with the game, how can that measure up to approaches like Epic Games' UDK?!), here is a very interesting comparison to a real life scene as opposed to one depicted in the game.

Courtesy of Kotaku, the video here compares an area of downtown Manhattan where State St. meets Bridge St. in the financial district. This is a great example of how close real-time engines are getting to approximating real-world urban locations.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Cities in Motion

A game with a very strong 3D urban modelling theme is Cities in Motion, a city-based transport simulator (which is at the moment available on PC platform only). The game operates by allowing players to construct their own transportation company, building a subsequent public network with a variety of vehicle types with the ultimate objective being of course to generate a successful/efficient network.

More info about Cities in Motion can be found here, it is also worth pointing out that at the moment there is also a competition in progress with with one prize winner being offered the chance to travel to one of the cities featured in game. This would be Vienna, Helsinki, Berlin or Amsterdam and is to be won on the creation of a customized map using the in-game map editor.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

CityEngine tutorial event at Escape Studios

Escape Studios will be, on the 7th of April, providing a day-long tutorial event for an application I have blogged many times in the past, Procedural's CityEngine. As one of the top automatic/semi-automatic 3D urban modelling apps around today the event will cover demos and and examples of cities you can create but also provide the participants with the opportunity to try out CityEngine themselves at dedicated demo stations.

The event takes place in London and is free of charge, more information can be found here.

TIGA 10th anniversary party

On the 14th of April I will, schedule permitting, be in London for the 10th year anniversary of TIGA, an association body which represents the interest of the game development industry in the UK (which Bournemouth University is also a member of). TIGA has so far done great work in lobbying for tax breaks, providing networking opportunities and bringing the community together on several important issues. The event itself will take place at the Channel 4 studios in Central London, on Thursday 14th of April, 2011.

More information can be found here.

Team Fortress 2 production focus

A great 3D modelling production focus (or postmortem) of one of the best non-photorealistically (and in particular cel-shaded) games can now found on the CGSociety website. This is for Valve's Team Fortress 2 and was created/uploaded a while back but is still a great read for anyone interested in games development with strong attention to both NPR and modelling.

The article covers mostly character models and environment scenes (it would be great to see another production focus article on the character animations of this title) and can be found here.