Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Robot Gladi8tor, yet another iOS game created with UDK

Sticking to the same theme as the previous blogpost, Robot Gladi8tor by Speedbump Studios is yet another iOS game created with Epic Games' UDK. What's more Robot Gladi8tor has a lot in common with the flagship UDK iOS title, Infinity Blade, as the game plays very similar to the coveted and hugely successful Chair Entertainment title and looks almost as good too.

Robot Gladi8tor, while not too original in nature, is definitely one of the games showcasing the possibilities of mobile gaming and UDK for that context area to its fullest and is definitely worth checking out.

Darkness Rush: Saving Princess, another UDK-powered iOS title

Another recent UDK-powered iOS title is Darkness Rush: Saving Princess. This time the fantasy-themed game falls under the platformer genre, which (with the strong werewolf and vampire themes permeating the game) has strong hints of the classic Castlevania titles. The game can be seen in the trailer below and has indeed some very strong visuals, achieved by Epic Games' proprietary technology.

It is good to see more diverse titles delivered by UDK (not just first person shooters or shooters in general) and I am hoping that more platformers similar to this one will be delivered in the near future.

Paper accepted at CASA 2012 conference

A conference paper I am the co-author for, titled "Feature-Based Probabilistic Texture Blending With Feature Variations For Terrains", has been accepted for publication at the prestigious CASA 2012 conference (the 25th annual conference on Computer Animation and Social Agents), taking place in Singapore this May.

All accepted full papers at the conference will be published in a special issue of Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds journal published by Wiley (impact factor 0.629). For more information about the conference itself you can visit the official website here.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Short course in games development at Bournemouth University

Game development is today a multibillion-dollar industry; currently surpassing in income traditional entertainment ventures such as, most notably, the film one. Covering basic expertise of its three most prevalent aspects can be a great way to prepare yourself for a degree in this area, start working on a portfolio for an internship in a company or even applying these skills to your own startup project.

On this short course, taking place at Bournemouth University in early April 2012 and taught by the author of this blog, 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).

During the course you will be taken through the typical pipeline used in the development of a contemporary game; to begin with, you will be introduced to the industry-standard 3D modelling and animation software package in the field (3D Studio Max) and guided through the development of real-time-appropriate, low polygon, fit for purpose content which can be easily integrated in a game engine. This will include the highlighting of processes such as texturing, rigging and animation cycles. Additionally, you will be also introduced to two of the most popular current game engines (Unreal and Unity), with a detailed discussion of not only their different purpose, operations and rationales but also a beginner’s how-to guide on the creation of an interactive game on both of them. This specific part of the course will include coverage of a number of diverse areas, from good practice guidelines in first-person shooter level design, to Javascripting for games and import/export of content from one application to the other.

Finally, you will be expected to put all these skills together in a short project which can begin to form the basis of an interactive portfolio piece. Therefore, at the end of the course you will be in an optimal position to not only comprehend the aforementioned three main aspects of video game creation but also be prepared to put them in practice in a real-world project.

The course, delivered over 3 working days is intended for a wide range of individuals; for example, multimedia professionals can extend their current skillset towards game development; which also incorporates peripheral areas such as 3D content creation, mobile entertainment, interactive world generation and others, further education/college students can get a fascinating technical insight in the processes of game development while keen hobbyist gamers could further their understanding of the medium.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Dragon's Lair documentary in the works

Quite possibly the seminal non-photorealistic graphics-based game, often described as an interactive or playable cartoon, Dragon's Lair, is set to have a documentary based upon it. While Dragon's Lair has received many criticisms over the years as a game (which were not wholly undeserved it has to be said), watching its cel-shaded, laser-disc driven graphics in 1983 was miles away from the graphical experiences all other video games offered at the time.

The trailer above looks very cool and you can follow the progress of the film (titled Inside The Dragon's Lair and set to be released next year in celebration of the game's 30th anniversary) on Twitter too (here).

Combat Arms: Zombies, another UDK-powered iOS game

Combat Arms: Zombies is yet another new UDK-powered game for the iOS platforms which again showcases the possibilities of the Epic Games engine for Apple mobiles. Nexon Mobile's game is predictably enough, and as can be seen from the screenshot below, a first person shooter with a fairly obvious objective; eradicate as many zombie waves as you can so you can survive.

While in terms of originality and execusion the content is not hugely inspired, it is great to see more developers adopt Epic Games' engine for their iOS titles. With Unreal 4 around the corner (see previous post) this is is a trend which is predicted to become more widespread and can only benefit the quality of mobile gaming.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Unreal engine version 4 to be released in 2012?

Epic Games' Mark Rein has already been quoted to have said that the much anticipated fourth iteration of the Unreal engine will be showcased later this year. Not a lot of other information is official or available yet, other than the fact that 2012 is finally the year that version 3 (which has been out for quite a while now) will see its replacement demoed in public.

This is very exciting for people working with UDK for a number of reasons; other than the fourth iteration of the engine there is the Flash/Android plug-ins to look forward to (which are still not out yet) and also a possible tie-in with next-gen. I will of course post updates on this once more detail is available.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Bay Bridge Explorer iOS application powered by UDK

On a similar San Francisco related theme to the previous post I have been recently playing around with the Bay Area Bridge Explorer iOS application which can be found on the iTunes store for free. The application allows you to interactively explore the changes to the Bay Bridge by driving through the new routes (I have just been going through the eastbound detour), made necessary for seismic safery reasons. Although only one of these is available (for now at least), it is still a very innovative way to expose and inform an audience to urban planning processes.

The application is powered by Unreal and is basically a simple first-person 3D driving game with touch and tilt functions. UDK is put through its paces very well here so it is also worth downloading and playing around with if you want to see the potential of a gaming engine for further work in this field.

Driver San Francisco, another urban modelling gaming example

Sparked off by the recent Ubisoft Reflections' recent visit to Bournemouth University (see post below), I have been revisiting a game I couldn't spend much time on earlier in 2011, Driver San Francisco. Typically, as with the rest of the Driver game series franchise, the title is a high-octane racing game, what however is more interesting to me is the great effort in recreating or capturing the essence of the well-known American city in a 3D urban model.

What adds to the great urban model is not just the detailed nuances but the game mechanics offered to the player. Without giving too much away, the player can 'shift' from one body/car to the other, providing instantly a very open-world/exploratory feel to the virtual location. In fact that (combined with the high-quality 3D virtual city included in the game) I can imagine easily wasting time on, i.e. just messing with that gameplay feature alone. Well worth exploring for anybody into real-time (the game runs at 60 fps) 3D virtually reconstructed urban locations.

Ubisoft Reflections and EA Criterion visit Bournemouth University and its Games Technology course

During the last couple of weeks we have received visits here at Bournemouth University from two of the biggest games development studios in the UK, the Newcastle-based Reflections (part of the Ubisoft family, makers of the Driver series) and the Guildford-based Criterion (part of the Electronic Arts family, makers of the Burnout series). These visits were predominantly driven by the interest from our BSc Games Technology students (under the Creative Technology framework for which I am the framework leader for) but also the industry's interest in this particular course too.

Both talks were excellent, covering insights of experts from the industry to graduate recruitment tips plus also on occasion very extended and hugely useful to our students Q&A sessions. I am looking forward to more visits like that from other studios (and also of course furthering the relationship with places such as Reflections and Criterion).

For more information about the Bournemouth University Games Technology course please see here.