Saturday, 30 June 2012

Tex Murphy set to return in new Kickstarter-funded adventure game

Something which amongst the hectic and extremely busy last month I managed to miss; there has been a recently completed (and successful) campaign on Kickstarter for the funding of a new Tex Murphy adventure game. The prior games (Mean Streets, Under A Killing Moon, Pandora Directive and Overseer) all defined the genre, with Under A Killing Moon being a game I have particularly fond memories of.

Chris Jones (the series creator) is set to return as Tex Murphy and there is even talk of going beyond the PC platform to XBLA and the like, exciting news especially after other similar campaigns by other equally successful 80s/90s adventure franchises.

Current mobile generation and Unreal 4 a no go

Probably stating the obvious with this piece of news but as there has been debate on this it is good to have it confirmed; Alan Willer, who is a senior technical artist for Epic Games, has mentioned here that Unreal 4 will not be supporting the current iOS device generation (for the obvious reason of hardware specification limitations).

This also means that Unreal 3 will remain a supported platform of choice for many mobile game developers for the immediate and foreseeable future (which is important to confirm amidst all the excitement for the new iteration of the engine).

Edge Get into Games 2012 feature now online

The Edge Get Into Games 2012 feature which I posted about earlier this month and has a featured interview with myself on the Bournemouth University Games Technology courses is now available online at the magazine's website. The feature has interviews and discussions with both educators and also people in the industry on preparing for a career in games development and is a great read.

You can find the interview I gave here whereas the full Get Into Games list of special issue features is here.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Microsoft Smartglass SDK now available

Microsoft has recently announced Smartglass, in their own words (from a recent press release): "Xbox SmartGlass is a free application for Windows Phones, Windows 8 and other portable devices. By delivering companion content and control to enhance your experiences on the Xbox console, Xbox SmartGlass makes enjoying TV, movies and music, web surfing, and playing games even better. Imagine that your tablet or phone knew what you were watching on TV and presented bonus features without you having to lift a finger. Xbox SmartGlass turns any TV into the ultimate smart TV."

Smartglass therefore seems as an interesting idea playing on the concept of convergence of devices. Moreover, the Smartglass SDK is now also accessible to developers who are part of the Microsoft Game Developers Network. This consists of a SmartGlass JavaScript library, a sample application and the Xbox SmartGlass Studio. It remains to be seen if this is something which can take off and really become part of both third-party but also Microsoft games however it remains nonetheless an intriguing concept, on paper at least.

Ringbow accessory

There must be more people than originally thought struggling with mobile games that involve touchscreen pads as a new device seeking funding has hit Kickstarter recently. Ringbow does seem like a very cool yet simple idea; essentially it is a bluetooth ring with a physical pad on it.

This is understood to support both Android and iOS platforms and as long as the $100K goal is met by the late July deadline it will go into production (at the time of me writing this it is on around $62K). More information on this interesting accessory can be found here.

Spiral, new iOS Unreal game

Spiral is a recently announced iOS game by UK-based Pixel Hero Games which uses the Unreal engine. It is an episodic action adventure game with an interesting story (the player is situated in a dying world trying to unravel a plot involving a disease -named after the title of the game- affecting it). 

What is even more interesting are the visuals; they do look very unlike Unreal (and other titles defining the engine and platform such as, most notably, Infinity Blade) with a slight yet distinct anime/cartoon-shading flavour thrown into the mix. The game is not released yet but you can track developments on it here.

New Broken Sword game mooted

Charles Cecil and Revolution Software are according to reports (see Edge article here for more detail and Charles Cecil quotes) gearing up for a new Broken Sword game. Though nothing is concrete till the announcement, which should be imminent, it is very likely that we will soon be receiving news of Broken Sword 5.

What's even more important to state is that the game will move back into 2D graphics and, seeing that the first two are quite possibly the best hand-drawn graphic adventure games of all time, the expectation for a similarly impressive artistic visual style is heightened. Eagerly awaiting news on this as I loved both the visual flair and also the first couple of games of the series (plus the iOS remakes Revolution recently made).

Sunday, 24 June 2012

EngD position available at Bournemouth University

Applications are invited for a fully-funded Engineering Doctorate (EngD) in the Centre for Digital Entertainment (CDE) at Bournemouth University, UK, a collaboration between the University of Bath and Bournemouth University, with Salisbury Hospital. This is a 4-year programme which embeds a Research Engineer (RE) in a company (Salisbury Hospital on this occasion), who, supported by an academic supervisor (myself for this particular project), will work on projects of immediate industrial relevance. 75% of the RE's time will be spent in industry. These projects will form the basis of a Doctoral submission by portfolio thesis for the award of an Engineering Doctorate in Digital Media.

This project proposes the exploration of a technology such as gaming-specific BCIs (brain-computer interfaces) for the enhancement of post-stroke rehabilitation. A prototype addressing this type of rehabilitation, using a low cost technology, could have significant benefits over existing traditional physiotherapy approaches, from the associated cost to the mobility and the more accurate online monitoring of multiple patients' progress, to name but a few. I will be supervising this doctorate so please do not hesitate to contact me with any queries or applications! You can find more information about the positon on the following link;

Another Wiley Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds article

An article I co-authored is now published in the online version of the Wiley Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds journal (through the Early View function). This is set to appear soon in a print version too.

The title is of the article is "Painterly rendering techniques: a state-of-the-art review of current approaches" and it is, as the name gives away, a survey. The abstract is as follows; in this publication we will look at the different methods presented over the past few decades which attempt to recreate digital paintings. We compare different methods used to produce different output painting styles such as abstract, colour pencil, watercolour, oriental, oil and pastel.

The article can be found here.

Article published in Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds journal

An article I co-authored is now published in the online version of the Wiley Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds journal (through the Early View function). This is set to appear soon in a print version too. This is part of the CASA 2012 conference proceedings (see earlier post here).

The article is titled "Feature-based probabilistic texture blending with feature variations for terrains". The abstract is as follows; the use of linear interpolation to blend different terrain types with distinct features produces translucency artefacts that can detract from the realism of the scene. The approach presented in this paper addresses the feature agnosticism of linear blending and makes the distinction between features and non-features. Using the blend weights from Bloom's texture splatting, intermittent texture transitions are generated on the fly without artistic intervention. Furthermore, feature shapes are modified dynamically, thus further reducing repetition and adding authenticity.

The article can be found here.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Unreal 4 demo now available

Another post E3 piece of news, Epic Games' version 4 of their Unreal game engine, after months (if not years) of speculation and also some behind closed doors demos earlier this year is now demoed for the public (see video below) and it does look very impressive indeed. Senior technical artist of the company Alan Willard puts the engine through its paces in this very comprehensive video which all Unreal engine enthusiasts should watch.

There are many things in the video above and the new version of the engine worth mentioning (the updates on Kismet or the use of dynamic lighting for example) but for now it is best to check it out and await the release of the tool itself which is set to power next-generation console games (and of course PC ones too).

John Carmack showcases VR prototype at E3

The inimitable John Carmack showcased a VR prototype at the latest E3 which has generated quite a lot of publicity (as, quite rightly, most of John's projects usually do). While this is a mere prototype (you will notice the tape holding this together in the video) the immersion offered is alleged to be excellent (demoed at E3 with Doom 3:BFG edition, which is an upcoming HD remake of Doom 3).

This is very early stages obviously as a project and it is slated to go commercial soon for around $500. While immersive VR for games is a very 90s concept it is always interesting to see where people like John can take a medium which has been waiting in the wings for years now.

You can check out the PC Gamer website here who conducted this interview for some clips where John covers more detail about the operation of the device and his motivation.

Edge magazine interview

There is a interview with myself in the latest issue of Edge magazine (a leading UK magazine in video games). This is in the July 2012 issue (242). The interview revolves around the BSc and MSc Games Technology courses at Bournemouth University where I teach and is featured as part of a special issue in education for games development, with a variety of other interviews and opinions both from other HE/FE educators and also leading developers.

I would definitely suggest checking the issue out for this supplement if you have an interest in games development taught courses, meanwhile you can find the interview conducted with me here.