Saturday, 29 October 2011

Raspberry Pi

In what is quite possibly one of the finest British computing innovations of the last few years, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a registered charity in the UK, has come up with an ultra-low-cost computer which is intended (primarily) for use in an educational environment. The spec is quite modest (700 MHz ARM11, 128 or 256 MBytes of RAM etc) but the cost of this is shocking, currently estimated at $25.

What is even more shocking however is the size, with the Raspberry Pi machine being the same size of a credit card and easily plugged in a TV.

While the educational potential of this immensely cost-effective hardware is obvious, a lot of people have been pondering on its use for gaming (with the video above showcasing a Raspberry Pi running Quake 3). I would expect this would be ideal for playing old PC games on for example!

More information about the Raspberry Pi can be found on the official website here.

Monday, 17 October 2011

GameiT conference in Copenhagen and launch of project handbook

Last week I visited Copenhagen for a few days for the final event of the EU-funded GameiT project (more info on the official site here) that I have been involved with for the last 2 years (since October 2009 in fact). We decided as a consortium to wrap the project up with a mini-conference of talks from a number of invited distinguished guests from the game-based learning field, one of which was Tim Rylands who is always a joy to see present (the image below has in fact been shamelessly taken from his own website and description of the day).

At this mini-conference the GameiT project also launched the final deliverable described in our original EU funding proposal in 2009; a handbook with a number of chapters detailing different approaches (from different partners and for different curriculums and subjects) to game-based learning oriented education. I authored one of these chapters, titled "History Lessons via Gaming; A Review of Current Approaches and the Design of a Case Study using Rome Total War".

The whole book (pictured above) was made available to everybody attending the event in-print and will soon be also available online as a pdf (I will post an update when that takes place).

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Book chapter publication

An edited book for which I made a contribution for with a chapter has now come out both in print and also via online access. The book is titled "Handbook of Research on Practices and Outcomes in Virtual Worlds and Environments" and the chapter I co-authored "Addiction in World Of Warcraft: A Virtual Ethnography Study". The book, weighing in at 840 pages (20 out of which are on the aforementioned chapter), also contains many other contributions of interest and is published by IGI Global (DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-762-3, ISBN13: 9781609607623, ISBN10: 1609607627, the cover can be seen below).

The abstract for the chapter I co-authored is the following: "
This chapter presents an investigation in determining whether players are addicted, or show signs of addiction, to the Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft. Criteria to ascertain addiction in World of Warcraft players were developed based on well-documented theories in the area. A questionnaire was used in order to obtain data for analysis. This was distributed to a population of World of Warcraft players by use of advertisement on guild websites and on the official game forum. The results of the questionnaire show that 11.86% (n=21) of respondents matched the developed criteria of addiction in World of Warcraft. These respondents are considered to be addicted or are at “High Risk” of being addicted. This figure is confirmed by other studies of addiction levels in MMORPGs undertaken by existing research."

More information about the book, all other chapters and the opportunity to purchase it (or individual chapters as .pdfs) at the IGI Global site here.

CryEngine to Flash pipeline also a possiblity

It appears that following the news of first Unity and now the Unreal engine offering a Flash Player export, Crytek is seriously considering a similar feature for its groundbreaking CryEngine tech. Unlike the other two cases this, for now, is just a statement of intent rather than something backed up with a live demo but it would be very exciting to see them offer this nonetheless in the near future.

Flash Player's latest version (the 11th iteration of this) was released recently and is, according to Adobe, significantly advanced over previous ones. It has been a long time coming but it appears that real-time 3D graphics are finally arriving to one of the longest standing browser-based standards.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Shank 2, non-photorealistically rendered game receives sequel

A fairly recent non-photoreastically rendered game which was available in digital format only, Shank, is now to receive a sequel. Created and published by Klei Entertainment and EA Partners Shank 2 will be released in 2012 and, similarly to the original, features graphics of stylised form (as can be seen in the screenshot below).

I am looking forward to playing this one as I enjoyed the first game and (more importantly) its unique graphic novel-like approach to visualization, it is always very encouraging to see high-profile titles with non-photorealistic graphics.

Unreal Engine 3 and Flash

Hot on the heels of Unity which has recently presented its strategy for a Unity to Adobe Flash pipeline, Epic Games has now announced at a keynote at Adobe's MAX 2011 event that it will be able to export a game from the latest version of the Unreal engine to Flash 11 in real-time.

This was facilitated using a live demo to back the case of this up and is huge news if and when it becomes available, as real-time, interactive 3D graphics of high quality are at long last becoming available in a browser-based capacity (for developers and public alike). I will feature more news on this technology as it develops.

Infinity Blade 2 is announced

Quite possibly the game that has advanced (graphically at least) mobile gaming more than any other one is Epic Games' Infinity Blade. While it attracted a lot of criticism for its one dimensional gameplay, Infinity Blade showcased for the first time the potential of a cutting-edge games dev engine for a mobile device (UE3 and iOS in this case). It was also commercially hugely successful, further highlighting how beneficial financially this approach could be and how it resonated with the public.

It has now been announced that the game is to receive a sequel. Released in December, Infinity Blade 2 is to take advantage of the new iPhone 4S capabilities, which has recently been announced by Apple. The video above is certainly impressive and I am eagerly anticipating the game's release in order to witness how much further it can push the envelope regarding real-time mobile visualization.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Authoring a book on UDK for iPhone development

I have been working on finalizing this for quite a while now; last week myself and my publisher finally signed contracts for me to author a book on UDK iPhone games development. The book is tentatively titled "UDK iPhone Game Development Beginners Guide" and the publisher is Packt Publishing. It is fairly obvious from the title of the book exactly what I'll be striving to cover; I would like to believe that authoring this book comes at an incredibly crucial time for mobile gaming in general with all the momentum currently behind it, particularly in terms of using Epic Games' UDK for iOS platforms.

I am quite excited by this but also in full realization of just how much work it will be for the next few months for me in order to complete the eight chapters agreed upon. Hopefully the book will come out in 2012, till then it is worth checking out the publisher's website here as they already have a number of titles dedicated to games development and also specific game engines (CryEngine, Unity etc.) which you may find of interest.

Collaboration with 4T2 on an EPSRC-funded EngD

Today a student I will be supervising for his doctorate under the Bournemouth University EPSRC-funded project called CDE (Centre For Digital Entertainment) has started working on his research. I have posted about the CDE before; the purpose of the project is to train the next generation of leaders in the Film/Visual Effects, Computer Games, Virtual Worlds and Animation industries. More information about CDE can be found here.

Part of this is placing the student within an industrial environment throughout the course of the EngD; the company involved with this doctorate, which is also co-sponsoring the student himself is 4T2, a games development company based locally in Bournemouth. You can find out more about 4T2 and their portfolio of past efforts at the company's official website here. I am very much looking forward to this collaboration, which will be lasting for 4 years in total, as it is a unique opportunity to infuse academic research in games development (with a strong software engineering focus on this occasion) with a real-world, live context.

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

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.

You can find more about the conference that houses this tutorial and its rates here.

International Program Committee member for IASTED HCI 2012

I have been invited again this year to be on the International Program Committee for the IASTED HCI 2012 conference. This is the 7th IASTED International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI 2012), which aims to be a major forum for international researchers and professionals to present their latest research, results and ideas in all areas of human-computer interaction. Its objective is to strengthen relations between industry, research laboratories and universities.

The conference takes place in Baltimore, USA between the 14th and the 16th of May 2012 with the deadline for paper submissions being January 21st. More information about the conference can be found on the official website here.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Showcasing UDK's mobile capabilities, Desert Zombie: Last Stand on iOS

This is an upcoming title that has recently made a lot of waves and as a result of this is featured on the official Epic Games' UDK website as a showcase of the capabilities of their engine specifically for mobile game development; it is Crystalised's Desert Zombie: Last Stand for the iOS (both iPhone and iPad).

The game is a third-person shooter similar to Gears Of War in many ways but delivered on hardware where visuals of this quality where unheard of only a couple of years or so back. Read more about the game (and watch one of the trailers here), it is in many ways fascinating to finally see mobile platforms catching up with traditional gaming consoles and PCs after many years of false starts for mobile gaming. Certainly UDK's support of iOS has played a big part in this and will continue to do so with more titles of this visual quality expected in the next few months.

Unity 3.5 features

Unity has outlined recently at their Unite conference some of the features that are to be added to version 3.5 of their engine. These include, amongst many others, the following;

• multi-threaded rendering
• HDR rendering with gamma correction
• radiosity normal mapping lightmaps
• Shuriken, a new particle effects system
• crowd simulation integrated

For a full list of features check out Develop's article here. Also, it is stated that Unity will be up to 60% faster as a result of a number of optimisations carried out, quite an impressive number if accurate. Finally, there is no word on the anticipated Flash plug-in (see previous post on this blog about the Shadowgun here) though hopefully this will make it for the next version of the engine.