London Games festival Fringe

31 08 2006

We’re beginning to get some shape to the London Games Festival fringe programme’ which will look at activity outside the mainstream video games industry, exploring aspects of interactive entertainment as culture, creative form and a market that falls outside the recognised games industry. The Fringe will involve performances, exhibitions, master classes and seminars, participatory workshops and, of course, opportunities to play.
Highlights of the programme include:

Lizards’ Lair
Central London location – 2nd October
Got an idea for a new game? Want to meet the makers and work at a games developer? Then this is the event for you. The London Games Festival is inviting you to enter your game idea, and then if successfully picked, present and pitch the concept to a panel of industry experts from some of the most respected publishers and developers. Each panellist will select their favourite game and the winners will receive a week’s hands on experience at a games company.

Playing Films, Watching Games
BFI’s National Film Theatre – 7th October
Playing films, watching games will be the forum for an exploration of the convergence between what are arguably the two most powerful entertainment forms. This event will see a panel of some of the most innovative drivers from film and games come together to discuss how the two industries currently relate to each other, and where they are taking us.

Sense of Play – A Game Design Symposium
Central London location – 6th October
Sense of Play is a one-day symposium, co-sponsored by the University College for the Creative Arts. The event aims to promote lively debate on the nature of game design: what it means to different people – both inside and outside the industry. Games designers are often considered to be key to the medium’s creative future and this event asks how we can best equip emerging talent to square up to the considerable challenges they face as the industry moves forward. Sense of Play will also look at whether talent from other industries could make a difference to the creative process.

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Poor communication is holding back the industry, says Iain Simons of Gamecity

31 08 2006

The inability of publishers and platform holders to communicate with companies outside of the games industry is holding back the entire market, according to GameCity organiser Iain Simons.
Iain revealed to Gamesindustry.biz has revealed his frustration at publishers and platform holders that fail to grasp new concepts – unlike their counterparts in the development community and the public sector.

In an interview discussing the GameCity event, which is set to take place in Nottingham this October, Simons said: “Our frustration, to a certain extent, has been working with the platform holders.
“The public sector has really gotten behind this, and a lot of developers have to such a large degree that we were hoping that platform holders would be more upfront in their collaboration too,” he continued.
“If the games industry wants to be taken seriously by the rest of the world, and culture in general, it needs to be able to step up and work with external people – with the rest of the cultural industries, and think about how it’s going to present itself.”
Discussing the thinking behind the five day event he’s currently organising, Simons said: “The intention of GameCity is to spread games, talk about games and the experience of games across an entire city, to as many different places as we possibly can – cafés, pubs, libraries, universities, shops – to allow people to stumble across them in their everyday lives and create a real festival atmosphere.”
But, according to Simons, videogaming won’t be taken seriously until the industry as a whole can learn better ways to communicate with other entertainment and cultural industries.
“I can’t see how games are going to participate in any kind of meaningful culture – we keep banging on that games are as big as film or music, but the way in which film and music PR is handled is completely different to this really sanitised PR that we have over games,” he said.





Attention, and economies 2.0

30 08 2006

Dan Hill has an amazing post regarding the topic of what i call content 2.0.

Much talk in new media has revolved around concepts of ‘Web 2.0’ and ‘attention economies’. The paucity of thinking in both of those worlds is often frustrating. Pure Web 2.0 media models don’t allow for much in the way of composition or orchestration towards a particular arc – other than the sub-set of activity facilitated by emergent behaviour. It’s often a case of “if you build it, hope they’ll come” whilst implying most previous systems of organisation are either irrelevant or out-of-control. Talk of an attention economy invariably concerns itself with how bottom-up organisation might reinforce bottom lines, and little else.

I’m not sure that ‘attention seeking’ is a theme we really need to be encouraging at this point, particularly around the contemporary media.

So I here is a look at a couple of ways of organising or articulating movements in media, without losing the intrinsic power of out-of-control media … to plot a course between between the top-down, fully-articulated, designed, broadcast models and the fully-participative, emergent, vernacular, bottom-up, open-ended models. Essentially believing there is some value in both, and lots in their potential fusion. Ideally, this would be something beyond simple ‘push versus pull’. I’ve been looking for potentially useful analogies as a result. The purpose of these analogies is to suggest alternative ways of thinking, to spike preconceived ideas with previously unrelated examples, in the hope that these ‘spikes’ will stimulate some thoughts in your own mind about a different stance with which to approach this new landscape .

read more: http://www.cityofsound.com/blog/2006/08/movements_in_mo.html#more





Free Radical increase games in production

24 08 2006

LucasArts and Free Radical team up for next-gen project
via GI.biz

Free Radical Design, the studio behind the Timesplitters series, has teamed up with LucasArts to produce a new title for next-generation machines.

This project is the second next-gen title from the UK-based development team, which is also working on the first-person shooter Haze, to be published by Ubisoft.

“Free Radical has always been about titles with great gameplay and innovative design,” said Peter Hirschmann, vice president of product development at LucasArts.

He added: “In the battle for videogame quality, these guys are at the front of the line. This team’s pedigree is one of the best in the business.”

“In recent years, LucasArts has established itself as one of the hottest publishers on the planet,” said Steve Ellis, director at Free Radical Design.

“We’re honoured that they’re every bit as interested to be working with us as we are to be working with them.”





Digital Cities

24 08 2006
via digitally distributed environments (http://digitalurban.blogspot.com/search?label=Cities+in+Games)

The best architectural renderings of cities are not to be found in research labs or in virtual reality theatres but on game consoles and of these Project Gotham 3 Racing (PGR3) on the Xbox 360 stands out from the crowd. Developed from the original Metropolis Street Racer on the Dreamcast PGR3 takes architectural rendering to new levels.

The movie below concentrates on views of the cities, notable is the London Eye towards the end of the clip.

Continuing in our series of Cities in Games we cast our eye back to Metropolis Street Racer (MSR) on the Dreamcast Console by SEGA in 2001. MSR holds the accolade of being the first game to make us sit back in wonder, not at the gameplay but at the rendition of the cities of London, Tokyo and San Francisco.

The use of games in both architecture and planning is limited, yet back in 2001 Bizzare Creations, the creators behind MSR, had a better model of three of the worlds cities than most, if not all, of the architecture companies at that time. Games should not be seen as something more aligned to teenagers and kept tucked away in bedrooms, the latest, and indeed consoles from the past, should be given pride of place in the the office as a reminder of how advanced city visualisation currently is and how many companies are still struggling to reach 2001 console levels of rendering.

The development of MSR was, at the time, impressive – allowing players to drive around areas of London including St James Park, Trafalgar Square and Westminster taking in all the sights of Buckingham Palace, Admiralty Arch and Leicester Square to name but a few. In a city plagued by congestion to scream around city and end with a handbreak turn outside Buckingham Palace couldn’t fail to make you smile. Which is why perhaps games are so frowned upon in the

workplace…

Technically however, MSR now seems very simple. Each city was constructed from block extrusions and texture mapped with a simplified texture taken from a photograph. The screenshot above of Tokyo was compared favorably in a interview on IGN as being almost indistinguishable from the real location. In reality of course the building is a textured box, but in 2001 this was state of the art. Coming forward to 2006 this is where we are today with SketchUp modelling and Google Earth. Version 4 beta of Google Earth allows texture rendering and by linking with SketchUp you can create rapid city models with phototexturing, in a similar manner to MSR.

The use of textures to provide the sense of location is clearly demonstrated in the video of MSR below:

MSR was a first – a series of cities created from textures that finally allowed the user to identify with locations, it was the first game to truly replicate the real world and give the user a sense of location and space. Sadly the Dreamcast was Segas’ swansong and marked their exit from the hardware market.

MSR was re-rendered and rejuvenated on the XBox under the title Project Gotham Racing 1 and 2 and more recently version 3 on the XBOX 360. These versions will be the subject of a future post on Cities in Games as they moved on from creating cities using simple phototextures to increasingly complex geometry.

Fresh after we posted on The Getaway – London – Cities in Games we view a post on Londonist that the forthcoming Playstation Portable Game ‘Gangs of London’ has been released into the wild via bitorrent before the code is complete.

Of interest to us is the intro movie below which shows how London is rendered on the Playstation Portable.

We recommend you wait for the official release but in terms of visualising cities it clearly demonstrates what can be done on hand held consoles.

London has been featured in many games over the years and in increasing levels of detail as game consoles and budgets increase. In the first of a more detailed look into the production of 3D cities for games we turn our eye to the forthcoming PlayStation 3 and The Getaway.

The Getaway originally appeared on the PlayStation 2 recreating a 3D rendition of London covering approximately 10 square miles (16 square kilometers ). The team produced a wire frame model based on a photographic survey of London and then projected the resulting textures onto the geometry. The game is viewed from the street level allowing some simplification of buildings. In a write up for the BBC Senior producer Peter Edward mentions that “The street sites are like a western movie. They don’t have wooden slates at the back but they are just the fronts”. This is the easiest (if easy is the word) way to rapidly create geometry by ignoring the overall building footprint and pasting on rectified images to create facades.

The recreation of London is impressive and gives an insight into the budget required to build realistic representations of cities in console games. The next Getaway update is scheduled for release to co-inside with the launch of Sony’s PlayStation 3 in November 2006. The movie below shows the model development to date, concentrating on the area around Piccadilly Circus:

The use of High Dynamic Lighting, real time traffic, pedestrian simulations, and detailed geometry is impressive. The game looks like it will represent the state of the art in city modelling when it is released, owing its roots to a previous generation of cities built for consoles.

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Bizarre Creations on their IP and protecting it from ‘clones’

17 08 2006

Multiple news sites recently reported on a request from Bizarre Creations sent to Mark Incitti, creator of the downloadable Geometry Wars clone for the PC, Grid Wars, to stop making his game available for download.

The letter from UK independent developer Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing 3, Geometry Wars Evolved) states: “We’re beginning to feel the effects of the Geometry Wars clones on our sales via Microsoft now and are beginning a process to begin to more robustly protect our copyright and intellectual property. Therefore, I’d like to ask you in an amicable fashion to stop infringing our IP and pull the game ‘Grid Wars’ from the internet for download. I hope you understand and are able to do this without us having to take further steps.”

Following significant press interest over this issue, Bizarre Creations has followed up with a lengthy and interesting public statement on the matter, posted on its website, illuminating some of the issues behind game ‘cloning’ and intellectual property. Gamasutra is reprinting the statement, titled ‘Send In The Clones’, in full below:

“We’d like to clarify Bizarre Creations’ position on our recent decision to request developers of certain Geometry Wars ‘clones’ to halt development.

As a relatively small company, with our roots in ‘back bedroom’ coding, we have always wholeheartedly supported the ‘indie’ games development community. But in order for this industry and community to continue to survive, we feel originality must be allowed to prevail.

The creation of our Geometry Wars series of games has been a labour of love, conceived by one of our respected members of staff – Stephen Cakebread. In the instance of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (GW:RE) we had an opportunity to try and expand the company portfolio onto a new platform. But just as importantly, we could also show fellow game creators that developing games for a company as large as Microsoft (in this case via XArcade) could be ‘cool’, accessible and feasible, and not solely the domain of larger development studios.

With GW:RE we deliberately set as low a price point as we could for the full game. Even the demo was designed to give as much ‘value for money’ as possible, by giving minimal ‘buy me now’ nags and a generous amount of playtime, showcasing as much of the game as possible to a potential purchaser. We only wanted people who would get value from a longer experience (ie. could last more than the 4 minute demo) to want to purchase the game.

As an indie developer we were desperate to not give the perception that we were ‘ripping anybody off’ – this is not our way, as all of our games are designed to give a great potential value for money to the end-user. The reasoning behind the comprehensive nature of the game demo was that there was little more ‘new content’ to see in the full game, other than the scoreboards. The concept was pure – a truly retro experience, only for those who really ‘got it’.

As GW:RE is so freely available, it has had an extremely wide exposure. And as it is (on the surface) a simple concept, it is easy to imitate – at least superficially. The issue that we have with the proliferation of GW:RE ‘clone’ games is their own lack of originality – particularly on the visual front. Only hardcore gamers will be aware of any differences between a clone and the original game beyond the visual level. This potentially takes sales away from our product and weakens our brand – especially if-and-when we decide to launch a version of GW:RE on a platform where a clone is already available. All too often we have seen people confused, calling our game by the name of a clone, and a clone by our name.

In this day and age, coming up with an original brand is extremely difficult and rare, and retaining ownership of the IP to that title, especially as an independent developer, is rarer still. As a relatively small developer, we survive by the originality, quality and reputation of our titles, and the income that they generate. No income means no funds to support our staff and overheads – and this struggle for income is why there are so few independent companies surviving today. Obviously it would be great to provide games for free, but commercial reality does not allow this, and with GW:RE we felt we were working with a nice balanced approach to this, with the generous demo and low price point.

One often repeated comment is that Geometry Wars is merely itself a clone of Robotron. The only real similarity between the two games is the ‘two stick’ control method – and a control method alone makes neither a game nor a brand. A game is about visual and aural style, pace, structure, depth, emotion, player involvement and balance. And obviously on all of these levels the two games are radically different. Showing a screenshot of Robotron to a layman, they would certainly not think it was Geometry Wars. However, putting (for example) a screenshot of Grid Wars next to one from GW:RE, that same layman would find it extremely hard to tell the difference, regardless of how the two games played. And this is a big concern.

The fact is that GW:RE IS our Intellectual Property. The game was created as an entirely original product, and as a package, bears no relevant similarity to any pre-existing title. It is not trying to ‘pass itself off as’ any other game. And it is because it is an original IP that it has won awards. Just because it uses scoring, vector graphics, geometric shapes, a grid, or a particular control method does not make it any less of an original IP nor deem it to be ‘open source’.

It’s unfortunate also that, at the moment, if you don’t have a 360, we’re afraid that you can’t play ‘Geometry Wars’. Obviously we don’t expect people to shell out for the console just to play the game – this would be crazy – but this still does not provide a legitimate argument to condone the game being blatantly copied and effectively passing itself off as our original.

If you want to play Gran Turismo, but don’t have a PlayStation, you play different racing games, on different platforms. Imagine what Sony/Polyphony would do to protect their IP if a company or individual were trying to clone ‘Gran Turismo’ for another platform? The scale is different, but the issue is fundamentally the same. Just because Geometry Wars is ‘easy’ to copy, it doesn’t mean that it should be copied.

The way forward…

What we are requesting is that if anyone is inspired by the simplicity and elegance of our game, can they please use their talents to originate their own ideas and not produce replicas that simply imitate and could be passed off as, and confused with, the original.

Originating new concepts is what keeps the games industry fresh, moving forward and successful. As a company we have managed to survive and thrive in this turbulent industry for the last 12 years – partly down to luck, but mainly due to a huge amount of hard-work and enthusiasm, and our passion for the creation of games – and the origination of new ideas and concepts.

We certainly don’t want to have to stop now.

Thanks

Bizarre Creations.”

POSTED: 06.51AM PST, 08/17/06 – Simon Carless





Games Market Europe Cancelled

16 08 2006

Organisers cancel event planned for September
via Gamesindustry.biz

The organisers of Games Market Europe have confirmed that this year’s event, which was scheduled to take place in September, has been cancelled – but said there are plans to revise the format for 2007.

According to an official statement issued by co-organisers Barrington Harvey, more time is needed to properly assess the changing needs and desires of the industry. As a result, the GME event which was scheduled to take place on September 6th-7th in London has been postponed.

“As industries evolve so do the events that serve them and nothing demonstrates this more than the recent changes to E3 in the US,” the statement reads.

“Whilst the Games Market Europe event format has previously proved popular in the UK, a decision has been taken to postpone this year’s GME until 2007.”

GME was designed as a low-cost networking event for publishers, distributors and the retail sector, but exhibitor interest has waned following last year’s show.

There remains a general uncertainty with regard to the future of such events, following the news that E3 is to evolve into a much smaller show. Because of this, GME’s organisers have decided to take time out and reassess the entire event.

“It gives us the chance to review the timing and specific format to ensure we deliver a high quality event in 2007 that reflects the UK games industry’s needs,” the statement concludes.