Saturday, 31 December 2016

Warcraft, the adventure game

For the very last blog post of 2016, this is something which came as a surprise to me; apparently not only did Blizzard design a classic adventure game based on Warcraft (called Lord of the Clans) back in the late 1990s but this was also leaked a few months ago (earlier this year), almost 20 years after its cancellation.

This is no longer available of course but you can check out the game in the play through video above if you are curious to see what a very traditional, 2D and point-and-click in nature adventure game set in the Warcraft world, with hand painted graphics, would look and play like.

Blueprint Digital Media's Relapse: How to Build Content for Horror Games article at 80 Level

A great article from Katie, a graduate from the Bournemouth University Games Technology degree from a few years back, can be found here at 80 Level, titled "Relapse: How to Build Content for Horror Games". 

This production article focuses on the Relapse game (pictured above) from Blueprint Digital Media, which is created in UE4 and takes the reader through the development of this upcoming title, including a discussion on how assets, materials and even Blueprint scripts for it have been put together.

It's a great read, well worth going over and an excellent promotion for what is to be a great horror  adventure game.

Google's Daydream View

I have covered Vive, Oculus etc. more extensively than more modest efforts such as Google's Daydream View, understandably as the former two are more games related (especially when we start talking about AAA games).

The Daydream View on the other hand, recently released in the UK, appears to be following in the steps of the Oculus/Samsung Gear VR device, i.e. it is much cheaper, lighter and less cumbersome and of course much less expensive than the heavyweight efforts. It also needs a mobile phone (of specific type) to operate, very much like the Gear.

The Daydream View does appear to have some differences to the Gear VR, such as the dedicated remote controller  and of course the name, brand and resources of Google behind it. 

I have a Gear VR though not a View yet and I can definitely see what the benefit of such an inexpensive VR headset could be; and also just how much it can eventually promote the higher-spec tech of this medium. 

Hopefully the Daydream View, alongside the Gear VR, will gain more popularity, games and apps, in 2017 to achieve this very objective and push virtual reality forward.

Unity certification

In a move that is novel for game engines; Unity (on more news from the past few weeks related to this engine) has announced very recently a certification programme. 

Certainly this is something that in areas such as IT has prevailed for years, if not decades, but it is very interesting to see somebody attempt to bring it to (for what could well be the first time) game engine usage, knowledge and expertise.

It is early days yet though you can read where Unity is with this here on the official blog; I am curious to see if other engines such as Unreal will follow this approach in 2017.

Recent Unity educational announcement

Unity recently made the much welcome announcement of making their extremely popular engine available for free for institutions such as Universities. 

This was back in November this year and the institutions it should be noted do need to qualify (see here for the terms of that).

More on the recent blog announcement on the official Unity site here

With the immense popularity the engine has gained in the last few years; combined with the fact that its competitor (Epic Games' Unreal) has been doing this for a while, this is a very good and astute decision, setting Unity up nicely for 2017.

SCRIPTed journal article now published

A journal article I am the co-author on has just been published on the SCRIPTed journal, titled "Human Aspects of Digital Rights Management: the Perspective of Content Developers".

The article can be found in full here.

Packt book offer

Packt Publishing currently has an offer for e-books and videos which is very good value, see more on this here

This is involves $5 pricing and includes a book I co-authored for them a while back (2012) for UDK (Unreal engine 3).

Definitely worth checking out as there are many games development resources included in this promotional offer.

PS VR dominating the market?

Picking up from previous blog posts on VR, an interesting piece of research was reported earlier this month; and one that shows Sony's Playstation VR finishing the year ahead of the Vive, Oculus etc. 

This work was carried out by 01consulting and you can read it in more detail here in this Venturebeat article.

It's not really much of a surprise when one considers the PS4s that are out there but certainly seeing PS VR beat Oculus and the Vive as 2016 only has a few more hours left does showcase that Sony may well have had less headlines for their VR headset but their approach that has led the way, commercially at least.

It is left to be seen what 2017 brings for this device, as well as the competition.

PG Connects event

This was a year where we did a number of field trips with students of the Games Technology and Games Programming courses here at Bournemouth University; and we have another one coming up in mid January.

The PG Connects London event is taking place on the 16th and 17th of January (2017) and is packed with great talks and networking opportunities; more information and a complete schedule for this seminal mobile games industry conference here.

Oculus Touch now released

With Vive out there Oculus did need something on the controller/interaction front to rival what is for many its biggest competitor and, as of the earlier this month, they have their Oculus Touch device out there for this.

You can read more about this in a snapshot on the official Oculus blog here, the biggest innovation here for me (as can be seen above) is the fact that the Touch appears to do finger tracking. 

That is a fairly useful feature indeed and could give Oculus an edge over something such as the Vive, even though the latter certainly had the headstart on innovation in controllers. 

Wireless Vive

I have been spending some limited time with a Vive the last few weeks and it is an impressive piece of kit; which is something that most people that I have seen use it certainly will agree with. The biggest limitation of the device is by far the cabling that restricts the user. 

It appears there is now new developments on that front; there is a device listed on an official HTC Vive website here (it is the Chinese one as you can also make out from the image below).

The fairly severe regional restriction does mean it is still quite premature to envisage Vive gaming freed from the cumbersome cables but it is clear that an official solution for this is not too far from our reach now and could well be a reality in the new year.

Unreal 4.14

Unreal engine updates are marching on and it appears we are about to finish the year with 4.14.1 (seeing that it is the evening of 31/12 that this blog post is being written!).

The latest version (4.14) has been out since November. The LOD work Epic has incorporated stands out for me but there are many other new aspects of this version that will be of help to developers using the popular engine.

For more info on updates, enhancements and fixes see the full list on the official Epic Games site here.

HoD for Creative Technology at Bournemouth University

As of October I have been serving as the Acting Head of Creative Technology in addition to my normal duties, which is a Department in the Faculty of Science and Technology at Bournemouth University. 

This is a Department with, currently, 4 undergraduate courses, which of course include the games development courses we deliver. 

For more information on the four courses see here for the Games Technology one, here for the Games and Programming one and here for the Music and Audio Technology one. Finally, the Music and Sound Production Technology course details can be found here.

Nintendo Switch announcement

This is a few weeks old now granted but as a major piece of news I thought it was worth including (plus I have previously discussed the Nintendo Wii U successor in past blog posts several times).

Nintendo has finally announced their next home console this fall; making 2017 an exciting year for them if all goes well. This is to be called the Nintendo Switch and the innovations are now much publicized from the trailer Nintendo released back in October.  It is important there are also more recent rumours of VR integration too, based on a patent. For more of this see this Verge article here.

It is of course anyone's guess as to how successful this will be with the generation of gamers weaned on Xbox One, PS4 and Steam-based PC gaming. Still, Nintendo does need a hit and this could well deliver for them. To see the official Nintendo trailer I am talking about above, where this screen grab is also taken from, visit here.

Aardvark Swift's 2017 Search for a Star and Rising Star competitions

Aardvark Swift recently visited us for a great guest talk (alongside nDreams) earlier this month; they have once again their student facing competitions this year, Search for a Star and Rising Star.

This is for artists and coders alike and you would be much encouraged to check this out here and here as the deadlines appear to be in January 2017.

ICMWT2017 Program Committee

Another conference program committee I have been invited to participate in is the one for ICMWT2017, or, as the full title of the conference is, the iCatse Conference on Mobile and Wireless Technology. 

This one is the fourth outing of this conference and is to take place in Kuala Lampur in June 2017.

More details on the official website of the conference which can be found here.

CGVCVIP 2017 Program Committee

I am on the Program Committee for CGVCVIP 2017, which is next year's outing of the Computer Graphics, Visualization, Computer Vision and Image Processing conference. This is to take place in Lisbon, Portugal in July 2017.

You can see the committee for the conference here where you can also access other information such as deadlines etc.

TIGA's education report from November

With the last blog post being on the TIGA awards event I thought I would also include another, very separate, piece of recent news from them. 

TIGA, as the UK games development trade association body, released a report on games dev related education in the country last month which I was too, amongst other people in the sector, interviewed for, providing some quotes and insights.

The TIGA press release on the report can be found here.

TIGA Awards 2016

We were very proud this fall to win the Best Educational Institution award at the annual TIGA awards (for Bournemouth University); a great games industry event that takes place every year. 

We have been nominated for this before but have never won it in the past so this came as a very welcome surprise! 

It was also a great evening and an even greater honor to be able to be there on the night. More information on other winners here on the official TIGA site. 

Edutainment 2017 General Co-Chair

I am involved with Edutainment 2017; a conference which is to be organised in summer 2017 here in Bournemouth, UK, with a strong focus on serious games, game based learning and various other related concepts.

I am to be the General Co-Chair for this, the conference is also to have Springer published proceedings but also special issues in journals. For more details on all of this, deadlines and other information please check the official website here.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption game

The makers Corey and Lori Cole, of one of my favourite game series of all time (Quest for Glory from Sierra Online), are working on a new game, titled Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, which appears to have a lot of similarities with the QFG series.

You can see more about the ongoing Hero-U development here on the official site, a must visit if you have played and enjoyed any of the five QFG games.

Ninja Theory and real-time cinematography

Having just returned from SIGGRAPH 2016 there are many very interesting developments exhibited there this year I could list, one of these is definitely the one showcased in the video below where Ninja Theory demonstrate their real-time cinematography approach, using Epic Games' UE4.

The possibilities exhibited here are certainly many and it should come as no surprise the approach won an award during the conference.

Changes in Unity business model

Unity made some changes to their business model recently; these are explained best here but the most major addition/alteration appears to be the introduction of Unity Plus. It appears the idea with this is to create something which sits between the basic (Personal) version and the Pro version (these two so far have been the main two versions Unity has rolled out to developers).

Unity thusly intends to offer more of the features Pro has to Plus users at a lower cost. It remains to  be seen if this is a policy that will take off.

Brian May and VR

With the many different VR headsets around today here is a more unlikely one, with a very famous person behind it (yet not one immediately associated with tech). Brian May, the guitarist from Queen, recently revealed a device called Owl (pictured below).

More information on this can be found on its official London Stereoscopic Company site here, where you can also order the headset (incidentally the website also lists another - Lite - version of the device).

BCUR 2017 at Bournemouth University

Next year the annual British Conference for Undergraduate Research (BUCR) will take place at Bournemouth University. This is to be in April 2017.

More information on this can be found here.

Xbox One S

With the new iteration of Microsoft's current console now upon us it is worth understanding the differences between this and the standard Xbox One that many of us have.

For a quick overview of this the Digital Spy article here is certainly a very good place to start, before moving on to the offical Microsoft site here.

NES Classic Mini

In a surprise move (or maybe not so surprising given the huge interest in retro gaming these days) Nintendo has decided to release their one time classic NES console which reigned in the 1980s but with a twist; the console is now of a much smaller size to the original (pictured below). 

It will also contain a number of games and, as this is 2016, HDMI output as well.

This is to be released in September, more on the official Nintendo site here.

Visual Computer article

An article I am the co-author on has now been published on Springer's Visual Computer journal (i.e. it is available online).

This article is titled "Biologically Inspired Simulation of Livor Mortis" and can be found here.

TIGA and their Brexit suggestions

Following on from a previous blogpost from last month, TIGA, the domestic trade association for games developers, has now released - recently - a more detailed report on what it suggests the government should put in motion regarding the games industry here in the UK (and its future), with the impending leave from the EU looming on the horizon.

More on this on the official website here, definitely a very interesting read.

Reviewer for ACE 2016

As per previous years I have once again been a reviewer for the ACE 2016 conference, Advances in Computer Entertainment, this time taking place in Osaka, Japan this November.

More information on the conference on its official website here.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Ubiquitous Gaming Interaction Design workshop at BHCI 2016

As part of the British HCI 2016 conference (taking place here at Bournemouth University) I am one of the three chairs for a workshop co-located with it; focusing on Ubiquitous Gaming Interaction Design.

The workshop (consisting of presentations of peer-reviewed papers but also keynote talks) will take place on the 12th of July (second day of the conference) and has its own website here.

British HCI 2016 poster publication

I am the co-author on a poster soon to be presented at the upcoming British HCI 2016 conference, which takes place here at Bournemouth University between the 11th and the 15th of July. 

The poster publication is titled "Design of a Videogame to Explore Morality".

You can see the rest of the programme for the Works-in-Progress section of the conference here on its official website.

ICGIP 2016 Technical Committee

Staying with the conference committee theme; another conference I have recently been asked to be on the technical committee for is ICGIP 2016 (the 8th International Conference on Graphic and Image Processing). 

This takes place this year at Tokyo, Japan in October.

You can find out more about the event here.


On a similar topic; I have once more been invited to participate on the international program committee for the GALA 2016 (Games And Learning Alliance) conference, taking place in Utrecht in the Netherlands during December later this year.

More information and details on the event can be found on its official website here.

ENTER 2017 Scientific Committee

I have been invited to be on the Scientific Committee for ENTER 2017, which takes place in Rome, Italy in January 2017. 

More on the conference on its official site here.

TIGA's position following the Brexit last week

With the EU referendum results in the UK now behind us, TIGA, the UK trade association for games developers, has set out what it views as the four fundamental needs of the sector going forward (with the current result).

It is worth reading this in detail in their press release here.

Unreal 4.12.4 out now

The continuous Unreal engine version 4 updates are marching on; a few days ago we had version 4.12.4 released by Epic. It is great to see this constant improvement of what is a very strong tool for games development; even if it sometimes comes at too rapid/relentless a frequency to absorb!

More on what has been added/fixed/changed here and here.

RATE publication

Recently a publication I am the co-author on was published on the SAGE Journal of Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies Engineering. The paper is titled "The use and effect of video game design theory in the creation of game-based systems for upper limb stroke rehabilitation".

The full publication can be accessed here from the official journal website.

Demonstrator position at Bournemouth University

Picking up from the previous post, we are also currently advertising for a demonstrator position, again in the same Department (Creative Technology) and Faculty (Science and Technology) with the same skill set required (games development).

More information on this post can be found here.

Lectureship position at Bournemouth University

We are currently advertising a lectureship position at Bournemouth University. This is within the Creative Technology Department, at the Faculty of Science and Technology and with a games development specialization.

More information can be found here.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Day of the Tentacle Remastered now released

As of a few weeks back Double Fine has released the remastered version of one of the most iconic adventure games of all time; Day of the Tentacle. 

Effectively Manic Mansion 2, the original LucasArts game is a great example of what adventure games did best back in the 1990s.

Now that it has been brought up to date a bit visually it is well worth checking out for a great example of game design blending original puzzles and humour with a strong and very unique story line. 

AMD VR headset

Whilst the VR headset market is not exactly an unsaturated one currently there is another interested party now emerging with a potential claim to a share of this; AMD. Their device is called Sulon Q and has its own site already here.

One of the most interesting features of AMD's effort is the fact that the device promises to be wireless; which could possibly be quite a major plus point over the competition. 

Amazon's Lumberyard game engine

For every game engine that leaves the scene (see the post on Project Anarchy below) there is another one which emerges on to it; Amazon recently announced their first effort in this area, Lumberyard.

You can read more about this here (or even download its beta for experimentation), this is based on the CryEngine and given Amazon's clout could potentially be a real competitor in the months/years to come for companies such as Unity and Epic Games.

Diablo pitch/proposal document now available

For aspiring game designers who enjoy dissecting the creation of iconic games from the past this is a must; here you can find the original pitch/proposal document for Blizzard's Diablo, an absolutely classic game that launched the successful series that is of course ongoing (with the third game of the series).

This is borne out of a recent GDC 2016 talk and is a great read indeed to see how the game was eventually envisaged and then shaped (if you have played it). Maybe we will one day see a similar document of GGD (game design document) for Diablo 3 too.

Unity engine certification

It appears that Unity is now starting a certification programme for their engine. This is not a new concept generally but it is one that the major game engines have not been involved with much before so it will be interesting to see how this evolves and whether competitors will follow. 

More information on this initiative on the official Unity site here.

The end of the road for Project Anarchy

An engine that showed much potential when first announced, from Havok, is now unfortunately no longer a going concern. This is Project Anarchy, more information on this can be found on the official site here.

This is a shame and is very indicative of the fierce competition in 2016 in this area.

Creating a game level in UE4 in VR

Picking up from the previous blog post, Epic Games has recently showcased the possibilities of creating an Unreal engine level not in the traditional way that everybody has been used to for many years now but, this time, in virtual reality.

This, if of course it takes off as an approach, could be a major revolution in game level design. It is worth watching the video above to see the vision of Epic Games on this front.

UE4 4.11 released

A few weeks ago the much anticipated final version of UE4 4.11 was released, after a few months of test versions being available for the community to try out.

This has now already, during April, progressed to version 4.11.2 with an even more recent update.

For the usual very comprehensive full list of the updates, changes and fixes that this version offers over 4.10 visit here.  

CGVC 2016 at Bournemouth University

The CGVC 2016 (Computer Graphics & Visual Computing Conference) is this year taking place at Bournemouth University in mid September. I am myself part of the Local Organising Committee for this.

Proceedings will be published after the conference in the Eurographics digital library. You can find more information on submission processes, deadlines and dates here.

Lecturer and Senior Lecturer positions in Games at Bournemouth University

We are currently advertising for two positions, one for Lecturer and one for Senior Lecturer at Bournemouth University, in the Creative Technology Department, for the undergraduate Games courses we run here (BSc Games Programming and BSc Games Technology).

More information and the application forms here.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

New Doom level

John Romero, the seminal level designer who worked on the original Doom game has now created a brand new level for it which he has made available to the community.

This can be found here; with John Romero's iconic status this is well worth a look for fans of Doom but also aspiring level designers.

iGBL conference

I am amongst the Committee names for iGBL 2016, the Irish Conference on Game Based Learning, taking place in September in Dublin, Ireland.

More information on the official site of the event here.

Iron Maiden game in the works

I blogged about Iron Maiden's video for Speed of Light from their last album and its take on video gaming history a few months ago; it appears that the band is now to also work on a game (not the first time in their history, see Ed Hunter from quite a while back).

This apparently is to be a mobile RPG and to be called Legacy of the Beast (more here). An interesting move from the band; which will hopefully yield in an engaging game too.

VS Games 16 IPC

I am once again a member of the International Program Committee for the VS Games conference, this time to take place in Barcelona, Spain for its 2016 outing. The conference was organised in 2013 here at Bournemouth University.

It is envisaged there will be a special issue from the conference in Springer's Virtual Reality. More details on this on the official site of the conference here.

SIGN talk at Bournemouth University's EBC on 10/02

Our annual BU-organised SIGN talk is coming up, SIGN being the Southern Independent Games Network initiative between BU and the Games courses at the nearby Universities of Portsmouth and Southampton Solent.

This year we will have Rebourne Studios talking about the experiences on starting their company but also developing their Rite of Life game. More info and bookings here.