Monday, 23 May 2011

Guest editor for NPR special issue at IBIMA IJIW journal

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.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Short course at Bournemouth University on game dev fundamentals

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.

Beta level editor kit for Portal 2 now available

As someone who teaches level design for games in higher education I was very glad to see the release a couple of weeks or so ago of the Portal 2 authoring tools for free, albeit in beta version. These allow for the creation of maps (both single and multiplayer), skins for characters, models and audio and are now downloadable through Steam.

Apparently there is more to come from Valve on this front and between them, UDK and the imminent release of the free CryEngine SDK/level editor there is now plenty of updated material on different platforms for aspiring level designers (and educators!) to sink their teeth into.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

GameiT EU project partner meeting hosted at Bournemouth University

For the last few days (between the 15th and the 17th of May) I have hosted the third partner meeting of the GameiT EU project that I am a partner of here at Bournemouth University’s Executive Business Centre (the first two took place in Denmark and Norway respectively). The project, which kicked off in October 2009 and finishes this coming October, has received 250,000 Euros of funding in total, across 7 different participating institutions from countries such as Denmark, Norway, Germany, Italy and (of course) the UK.

A longer piece on this and the main objective of the project (game-based learning pedagogy) can be found at the Bournemouth University research blog which has covered the event.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play and the Havok engine

As I've mentioned in a previous blog post I've recently gone for a Sony Ericsson Xperia Play as my next new phone; it appears that the device is gathering support from a number of developers including Havok which has brought its very popular physics engine to the Xperia Play (and subsequently Android 2.3).

In the demo above you can see what having this physics engine running on a mobile device means as you can watch a number of animations that have been achieved with it. Havok for Android seems to significantly raise the bar in terms of gaming (animated) graphics so the vid is well worth checking out.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Kinect and iPhone interaction in a game

It is very interesting to see truly multimodal gaming attempts such as the (yet untitled) prototype below. Essentially the game, created by Singapore developer Rockmoon, consists of a co-op effort of two players; one on the Kinect controlling the hovering spacecraft and one on the iPhone as the co-pilot taking care of the gatling gun.

This is a very early effort according to the developers but impressive nonetheless, it will be very interesting to see mobile devices interacting with Kinect on a variety of apps (not just gaming!) in the future in a similar manner.

A new non-photorealistic rendered game, Rayman Origins

A new non-photorealistically rendered game has been recently announced by Ubisoft (to be released in 2011), called Rayman Origins and based on the original title which was one of the better known platformers in the mid-1990s. The game has of course now been updated and includes very impressive cel-shaded graphics (check vid below).

While Rayman Origins was originally supposed to be a downloadable-only title, it appears it will be getting a proper retail release which is very encouraging news both for fans of the original game but also for people who strive to see graphics in their entertainment titles which go beyond realistic representations.

Dragonsphere available for free on Good Old Games

Good Old Games (GOG) an online retailer specialising on retro games has now made available for free Microprose's Dragonsphere. Dragonsphere was released in 1994 (hard to believe it's 17 years old for those of us that remember it from back then!) and is a point and click adventure game.

The setting is a fantasy one and the game itself is one of the finest examples as to why adventures ruled gaming in the mid 90s, well worth checking out just to see what the fuss about this genre was back then (or, if you're like me, to actually complete it this time around!). You can find Dragonsphere here.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

A standard for 3D virtual cities?

A piece of news of interest to urban modelling researchers which CG Architect has reported; the Open Geospatial Consortium and Special Interest Group 3D (SIG 3D) have now signed an agreement of cooperation in standards for the visualization and exchange of 3D geospatial content. The focus of the exchange of this content is of course via web-based technologies.

This is an important agreement as SIG 3D memebers defined the first version of CityGML (which I have posted about in the past), essentially an open data model framework/encoding standard for 3D virtual cities. This agreement moves closer to something that many researchers (but also developers) have been debating for for years, i.e. a more accepted/official/standardized format in this field. This will be boosted by the Open Geospatial Consortium's authority and credentials as it consists of currently over 410 government agencies, research institutions, industry partners and Universities.

More information about CityGML and the Open Geospatial Consortium can be found here and here.

Bournemouth University Research blog

Bournemouth University has recently set up a very useful research blog which covers, amongst other topics, news and achievements from BU researchers, calls for funding bids for a variety of scientific disciplines, news on research support events and editorials from the PVC of research of the University. It already has amassed a significant number of posts since March (when it first launched).

The blog can be found at and is well worth checking out.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

IEEE VS Games 2011 conference

I have been for the last couple of days at IEEE VS Games 2011, taking place at the National Technical University Athens in Greece. Yesterday I chaired a short papers session on "Virtual Worlds and Games Technology" while today I presented a full paper I co-authored titled "Elemental: An insight into the development and evaluation of a secondary education chemistry game using XNA".

This article discusses the creation of an educational game intended for UK GCSE-level content, called Elemental. Elemental, developed using Microsoft’s XNA studio and deployed both on the PC and Xbox 360 platforms, addresses the periodic table of elements, a subject with extensions in chemistry, physics and engineering. Through the development process of the game but also the eventual pilot user study with 15 subjects (using a pre and post test method to measure learning using the medium and self-report questions), examples are given on how an educator can, without expert knowledge, utilize modern programming tools to create and test custom-made content for delivering part of a secondary education curriculum.

The article will soon be on the IEEE Xplore repository for download whereas the conference itself (the 4th outing this time) will take place in Genoa, Italy next year at October. More info here.