Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Real World Blues, an article in photorealism/non-photorealism in games

A great, position paper-type article has appeared in both the in-print but also now the online version of Develop magazine about the potential of stylised/abstracted (i.e. non-photorealistically rendered) graphics in games.

Written by Atomahawk's Design Director Cumron Asthiani, the short article is well worth a read as an insight into the contrast of visual photorealism/non-photorealism from a games development professional perspective.

The article (very aptly titled Real World Blues) can be found here. I personally found it very interesting, as a year ago I completed my PhD investigating a similar/related argument, albeit in the field of mobile navigation rather than games, titled Evaluating Non-Photorealistic Rendering for 3D Urban Models in the Context of Mobile Navigation (the full abstract of which can be found here).

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

DICE's Frostbite engine to release modding tools in the future?

It appears that there are considerations for modification tools to be added, post-release (similar in other words to the Crysis 2 tools which appeared online months after the game was launched) by DICE to the next Battlefield series game. This was something refused up until recently but apparently there have been strong voices from the modding community asking for it and it is currently being contemplated at a high level by DICE/EA.

Hopefully it will happen, for several reasons, because it would mean that; a) it would be good to have a new engine rivalling the likes of Unreal, Crytek etc. that can be used by people such as hobbyists and researchers b) Frostbite 2 is a fairly advanced engine, capable, amongst others, for quasi-real-time radiosity.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

"Using the Unreal Engine and Development Kit for Research Purposes" tutorial at ACE 2011 conference

This is a reminder that I will be delivering a half-day tutorial at the November Advances In Computer Entertainment (ACE) 2011 conference in Lisbon, Portugal. This is titled "Using the Unreal Engine and Development Kit for Research Purposes" and is to take place on the 8th of November.

There are two main objectives for this tutorial session. The first is to showcase the potential and also prior/existing use, via specific scientific literature examples, of the increasingly popular Unreal engine (and/or Unreal Development Kit, or UDK for short). The second is to expose the audience to some first fundamental lessons of using the engine and its editor.

These lessons could form the basis of using UDK in the future for research in a variery of directions, all under the computer entertainment/simulation/educational field. It is expected that, post-tutorial, the participants can walk away with both an understanding of how the engine is currently used in research but also tangible skills to put that to use in their respective areas.

I will be posting more about this tutorial in the coming months, meanwhile you can find more about the conference that houses it and its rates here.

Sony researching biometrics use in gaming

There have been some interesting statements from Sony executives recently, as part of a panel debate (which has been transcribed in full and can be found here, in fact it's worth checking out as it focuses on the next ten years of Playstation and covers many interesting issues). Shuhei Yoshida and Mick Hoking have both suggested that biometrics can play a significant role in mapping the character profile and mood state of the player during (Playstation or other console/PC) gaming.

It is intriguing that they focused on observing the player with a camera during gameplay as part of extracting information such as body language or facial expressions, to name but a few of the input data suggested for this process. It also appears that Sony may also be already actively investing time and effort in R&Ding this area (along with other companies such as Valve, see an older post in this blog about this here) from the statements made. While this sounds somewhat intrusive on paper, the potential can still be immense, particularly if the concept is realised in a respectful to the player and his/her wishes and idiosyncracies manner.

Crytek's CryEngine free SDK achieves a record number of downloads

According to the Develop magazine website Crytek's CryEngine free SDK has broken a new record; it has achieved more than 100,000 downloads in less than one week since being released (see my blog post from a few days ago). In fact, this number was achieved in just 5 days which is very impressive indeed. Competitors such as Epic Games' UDK achieved ~50,000 in roughly the same time span while the very popular Unity achieved ~20,000 in the first two weeks of its (free) release.

This is all according to company-released data and quite an important feat; it does remain however to see whether the CryEngine SDK can become as popular as the UDK over a longer period of time and also more used by communities other than game modders such as, for example, researchers.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

AR functionality patent for iOS

News has broken that Apple has filed a patent which features augmented reality functionality for the first time as part of the core of iOS software, all linked to the capabilities it already has for mapping. This will be in a very similar way to the approach that existing third party AR apps are conducting it; i.e. by overlaying content/data onto the camera feed. It can be seen in more detail in the picture below.

While this may potentially worry developers such as Layar or other existing developers that are working on/have proposed AR solutions for Apple devices already, it is in my opinion a very positive development for seeing the medium attain more widespread usage from the average iPhone/iPad user.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Unreal Engine 4 and new Epic Games in the works

Epic Games, the creators of the Unreal engine, have announced that they are gearing up towards the production of five different new game projects plus also a new engine. This engine is of course version 4 of the Unreal engine, though apparently the five said games are not connected in any way to the Gears of War brand (the third version of which is soon released).

Rumours include a new Unreal Tournament game (it has been ~4 years since the last one) though personally I am more excited by; a) seeing whether one of these five games will be a mobile iOS title, similar to the groundbreaking Infinity Blade the company produced (pictured above) b) what the new functionality of Unreal Engine 4 will be, version 3 has been with us for a few years now and despite constant updates it would be excellent to see it significantly overhauled with new features taking advantage of recent advances in PC hardware.

CryEngine free SDK now available

Hot on the heels of the free level editor (which you do require Crysis 2 for though) Crytek has now made an SDK version of the CryEngine available for the modding/research/hobbyist community. This was mooted months ago and it is good to see the company sticking to its word on this.

This is offered on a number of different business models; a) CryEngine 3 is, first of all, free for use in educational facilities (even ones with tuition), with this now including individual students. The engine is now also b) free for non-commercial use; i.e. if you are a company/individual developer distributing your game and/or application for free there is no additional license required or cost incurred. Finally, for independent developers c) making a profit out their games, you must seek a development license but Crytek appears to be committed to having attractive options for smaller indie games companies with shorter development timescales (though the specific details of this are not disclosed as such, at least not yet).

Friday, 12 August 2011

SIGGRAPH 2011 round up

SIGGRAPH 2011 has now concluded and while I originally planned to do a number of posts about it, the sheer amount of information hitting you after attending this particular conference is too overwhelming for that to be of any use! I will however list some of the highlights, at least in my opinion;

- Cory Doctorow's keynote talk on copyright issues for digital media (which can be viewed in its entirety here)
- the fantastic production focus/postmortem of the Killzone 3 game on the last day
- the Game Papers track which offered a welcome relief from the more algorithmic content!
- the course on Modelling Urban Spaces and in particular the Pixar contribution on it which closed it off
- the course on Modern OpenGL Programming highlighting the changes from the earlier versions of the API to the more modern outings
- Disney demonstrating a new tactile technology in the Exhibition part of the conference, called Surround Haptics, which delivers physical sensations to the player (using the Split/Second game)

According to the conference website, the conference welcomed 15,872 artists, research scientists, gaming experts and developers, filmmakers, students and academics from 74 countries around the globe to Vancouver, Canada where it took place this year. Next year it takes place in Los Angeles, hopefully I can attend this again as it has been a very worthwhile experience indeed.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

CGI 2012 conference to take place at Bournemouth University

Bournemouth University and the NCCA (National Centre for Computer Animation) will be hosting the Computer Graphics International (CGI) 2012 conference, a long running and very well respected conference in the area of computer graphics. What is of particular note is that the the 30-35 best accepted papers of the event will be published in the Springer Visual Computer journal.

Next best accepted papers will appear in the electronic proceedings with an ISBN and their authors will also be also invited to submit, post-conference, an improved version for the same journal. With a deadline of full paper submissions for the 12th of February 2012, it is very good news indeed to see a conference like this take place next year at the University I work for.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Unlimited detail engine?

This has been making the headlines across the Internet so I thought I would post something about it too (despite the many reservations/criticisms of this that have emerged). This is Brisbane-based Euclideon's video of its engine, which showcases the replacement of traditional 3D polygonal graphics with point cloud data (i.e. floating atoms) in order to add incredible amounts of detail to the limited capacities of the current polygon approach, all in real-time.

This has sparked off controversy as it's quite a bold claim (and a huge shift from the way of currently doing things). People such as John Carmack have claimed that it could work but not on current technology and would also lead to very challenging production issues. There are also other unanswered questions (how would animation or physics be incorporated in this radical shift from polygons to a new approach etc.) so at the moment this has yet to convince many people. It will be interesting to see Euclideon release something more concrete on this in the next few months.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Doom 3 source to become freely available

I have blogged about this many times before but I think this worth an update; John Carmack of id Software said during his recent Quakecon keynote that parent company Zenimax has now cleared the release of the Doom 3 source code (based on id Tech engine version 4).

He also mentioned that while it still needed a polish and also the formal approval of the legal department of the company, it can and probably will be made available some time after Rage, the company's new game, is released in October. Great news for all the people that have been playing with the Quake code for the last few years; at long last there will be a more contemporary version of that to experiment with.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Short course in the fundamentals of game development at Bournemouth University

In my capacity as a lecturer at Bournemouth University I teach, amongst the regular undergraduate courses, short courses, the next of which is in April 2012 (3 days long, with 6 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.

The Engineer article on Bath/BU EngD project

As I have posted in the past I am part of the supervisory team for a CDE (Centre for Digital Entertainment) funded EngD (Doctorate in Engineering) project. CDE is a collaborative effort between Bournemouth University and the University of Bath which is funded by EPSRC in order to create a doctoral training centre with a VFX, animation and visualization focus.

The EngD project that I am involved in co-supervising, which focuses on using artificial intelligence to model how crowds move, is, other than BU and UoB, also involving Buro Happold, a large engineering consultancy where the student is housed for a big part of his doctorate. The outcome of the project could help architects design better buildings. This has now attracted some publicity with an article at The Engineer website.

For more information about this project I am involved with, and also quotes from Julian Padget from the UoB (who is also the lead academic supervisor) check the article itself here.