Sunday, 19 June 2011

Publication claims to be able to predict MMORPG player behaviour

A new paper, which will be presented at the Foundations of Digital Games conference in Bordeaux, France in late June, titled "Using Sequential Observations to Model and Predict Player Behaviour", claims to have come up with a methodology to predict MMORPG player behaviour. This is based on cliques, i.e. groups of achievements which have been collected together, as argued by the paper from North Carolina State University researchers.

After analysing badge data from 14,000 World of Warcraft players, the authors of the paper observed which achievements a player within a clique has not picked up yet. This can lead to accuracy of prediction for player behaviour of up to 80%. Interesting work, and of course in the eventuality that it is sound, it could mean that companies such as Blizzard could use this information to further improve their titles in the future.

A New Beginning, new non-photorealistic rendered adventure

A new adventure game called A New Beginning by Daedalic Entertainment has caught my eye because of its very beautiful hand-drawn art; as shown in the image below. Described by its creators as an interactive eco-thriller, the game immerses the player in a story which combined both time travel but also, and perhaps more importantly, global climate change.

Recently released for the PC platform, this appears to be one of the strongest point and click titles that have emerged of late, with the non-photorealistic rendered artwork showcasing how much this type of visualization can enhance the impact of a storytelling-driven game. A making of (pre-release) for the title (discussing the artwork creation amongst other issues) can be found here.

Levitation art project via the use of EEG

As I am conducting an experiment using EEG devices at the moment, here is a very cool art installation, created by a team at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where students have combined an EEG BCI device with a flying harness. This enables the individual with the EEG to levitate using input directly from the headset, i.e. fly using their thoughts.

Called the "Infinity Simulator" (while the art installation is called "The Ascent"), the set up will also allow users to trigger light, sound and video effects using the EEG device, other than of course flying. This effort uses the Emotiv EEG device (which I have previously discussed in this blog), is described by its creators as a platform similar to Wii or Kinect and looks particularly impressive in its prototype, work-in-progress form (check out the video above).

Anti-pirate MMO used by the US Navy

It is reported by Gamasutra that the US Navy is attempting to use an MMO to battle Somali sea pirates. The design document describes a simulation of three different stages on anti-piracy issue strategies, all equally important; namely the protection of sea lanes, the prevention of attacks at ships and, finally, the rescue of hostages.

More information on this very interesting project/serious game, which battles an existing problem can be found here.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Kinect's SDK released by Microsoft

Microsoft has now released an SDK, albeit in beta form, for Kinect. This is for hobbyist-use only and includes drivers, APIs for raw sensor streams, audio functionality, sample code and other useful material.

I expect this means that Kinect will be used for research purposes a lot more in the immediate future (which can only be a good thing); in fact I would bet that in the next few months many new pieces of work with the device at their core will be submitted to academic journals and conferences.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Open days at Bournemouth University

As we start organising the delivery of our open days at Bournemouth University (for which I will be around to talk about and present on the BSc Games Technology degree), here is a reminder of the dates for 2011;
- Saturday 18 June
- Friday 9 September
- Saturday 10 September
- Saturday 15 October
- Saturday 22 October

Please visit the site here to book a place for one of these open days if you are interested in the course. Also, you can get a taster video of the Games Technology degree (for which I am the course coordinator for) by viewing the video above.

Guest editor for journal special issue in NPR

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.

Short course at Bournemouth University in 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.

Keynote at Context-Based Services In Tourism Workshop

On the 8th of July I will be giving a keynote talk at the International Federation for Information Technologies in Travel and Tourism (IFITT) Context-Based Services In Tourism workshop, which will take place at Bournemouth University, UK.

Context Based Services is emerging as a key research area and a great business opportunity and challenge. This is particularly the case in Tourism where location and context based services will be used for serving the travellers of the future. The aim of this workshop is to bring together industry leaders with scholars and researchers with an interest in the interaction between Context Based Services, technology and Tourism.

My talk is titled "An overview of location-based gaming", for more information about the event please check its site here. The event offers the opportunity of submitting a full paper for peer review and formal presentation, towards the development of special issues in JITT (Journal of Information Technology for Travel and Tourism).

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Rage SDK to become available

id Software has confirmed that there will be an SDK which allows modding with the upcoming, long-awaited and much delayed Rage title the company has been working on the last few years (albeit the PC version of this). This has been attributed to John Carmack's popular sense of sharing with the gaming community and could, potentially, offer some great competition to the UDK and also the upcoming CryEngine SDK.

The first person shooter game itself will not be out for a few more months but this is very good news indeed to all hobbyist/student level designers and modders out there.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

OnLive will offer availability of the cloud to tablets

OnLive, the cloud gaming provider, has recently made an announcement suggesting their services will be offered, for the majority of OnLive games, for iPad and Android tablets. This is to be available in autumn and will support OnLive's Universal Motion Controller but also touch control.

This seems as a direct answer to the new Wii U announcements Nintendo has provided, though it should be noted that an OnLive iPad app already exists, albeit with very limited coverage of apps. It will be very exciting to see this implemented, particularly in terms of seeing the motion control functions of the devices used, as well as synchronised and independent video playback (both of which features are suggested to appear in this).

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

GTA Liberty City on Google Maps

Who said Google Maps could only be used for real-world cities? has recreated, using the Google Maps API and over 80,000 screenshots, an interactive map of the New York City depiction in the popular Rockstar Grand Theft Auto 4 game.

What is of course most impressive about this depiction is the Street View function which is almost complete and makes me hope for similar projects for other in-game virtual cities and locations. You can find this (and like me spend half an hour exploring it!) here.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Leisure Suit Larrry 1 remade by Al Lowe and Replay Games

One of my favourite games of all time, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, originally released by Sierra Online (and then remade again in 1991, the image below is from this version of the game) is now to get yet another facelift. The good news is Al Lowe, its original creator who infused the game with inimitable style and humour (making it a template for comedy adventure games) is involved in this, along with Replay Games.

The announcement was made at the recent E3 and apparently the game is to appear on a host of platforms (including mobile and tablet ones).

Rayman mod using the Crysis engine

Picking up from the previous CryEngine post a few days ago, I've just come across a mod using the previous version of the engine (version 2) which recreates a very popular platform game that slightly older readers may be aware of, Rayman. Titled Rayman 1.5 "Revenge of the Darkeness", the game comes with 16 levels, 13 characters and finally 12 original music scores.

More information about this effort can be found on the Crymod forum here, as you can see from the screenshot above the results are quite impressive.

Monday, 6 June 2011

International Program Committee member for ACE 2011

I have been invited to be a member of the International Program Committee for the Advances In Computer Entertainment Technology conference (ACE 2011), which takes place in Lisbon, Portugal in November this year. This is the 8th outing of a conference which serves as a forum for dissemination of cutting-edge research results in the area of entertainment computing.

The conference has ACM Digital Library inclusive proceedings as well as two journals lined up for the best articles, more information about ACE can be found here.

New book on adventure games

While I've yet to read this (other than the occasional sample), there is a new book on adventure games, compiled and edited by Kurt Kalata, called The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures. Clocking in at 772 pages, it covers in excess of 300 games and includes material on all of the yesteryear adventures you might want to brush up your knowledge on.

As someone who spent quite a lot of time with old Sierra and Lucasarts titles, this seems like a great read. More info about the book (including a 29-page pdf preview) can be found here.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Vision Game Engine available for the Sony NGP

It appears that the first game engine for the Sony NGP mobile device is now available, called the Vision Game Engine and created by Trinigy. The engine has been available for other console platforms in the past and now extends its coverage to the Sony device with custom features developed to make optimal use of its hardware.

Some of these include, according to Trinigy's press release, an optimised character skinning system, full support for cross-platform and platform-specific texture formats, a multithreading system, an efficient rendering system, optimised shader/shader constant handling, support for normal and parallax maping, specular maps, dynamic lighting, post-processing effects and many others. Because of all of the above, the end result is stated to be very close to current gen quality, albeit on a mobile platform (check the vid above which certainly does look very impressive it has to be said).

More information about the NGP Vision Game Engine can be found here.

Crysis 2 engine to be used for VR army simulator

In anticipation of the release of the Crysis 2 SDK and level editor to the public, it appears that the US Army has already started using the engine to power a training simulator titled Dismounted Soldier.

For this the soldiers in training will be using a wearable head-tracking VR helmet as well as a microphone, stereo speakers, body-mounted sensors and last but not least handheld weapons. More information about Dismounted Soldier and the way it operates (plus screenshots and a vid) can be found on the official website here.