Escape Studios add recruitment to their services

27 03 2007

London-based training studio Escape has widened its recruitment services to all those looking for work in the games and visual arts fields. Until today, Escape’s recruitment service was open to those that studied at the company’s arts facility in London’s West End.

The BBC, Sumo Digital, the Mill and MPC (The Moving Picture Company) have already signed up to use the company for its recruitment of art-focused staff.

Paul Wilkes, Escape’s recruitment manager, commented: “We are thrilled to finally extend our service to those who may not have been through Escape’s doors. It reflects our commitment to providing a high standard to our clients and we look forward to welcoming new recruits to the Escape Studios community.”

Sony Ps3 Sales break new records

27 03 2007

ChartTrack has confirmed to that PS3 shifted 165,000 units in its first two days on sale, beating Wii’s 105,000 units and Xbox 360’s 70,000. There are issues with the semantics of terms like ‘shipped’ and ‘sold’, and the Gamesindustry article uses the latter.

Of course, direct comparisons are troublesome here as both Nintendo and Microsoft experienced chronic stock difficulties with their British next-gen launches – Sony, however, flooded us with 220,000 machines. More telling perhaps is the latest software sales Top 40, released by ChartTrack – from Gamasutra:

“According to software chart data, the PS3 release has also pushed a number of launch titles into the UK’s top 10 best sellers. Resistance: Fall of Man took the top slot in ChartTrack’s top 40, with Motorstorm Evolution coming behind at number two, and Virtua Tennis 3 at number four.

Formula One Championship Edition, Ridge Racer 7, Virtua Fighter 5, and Genji: Days of the Blade also debuted on the top 40 chart at numbers seven, 11, 14 and 16, respectively.”

Lego Red Nose Day

22 03 2007

Via Wonderland comes news of the finest easter egg I’ve ever seen: Red Nose Day was built into Lego Star Wars 2.

LSW Red Nose

Donations earn players a code that unlocks red noses 🙂

(P.S. Toby did this 😉 )

Designers SUCK

21 03 2007

First this is not a ‘games’ post it is a ‘life’ post.

Bruce Nussbaum was a pioneer in championing design and innovation at Business Week US and is perhaps associated to a large degree with innovation being annoted as ‘the new black’. This is probably one of the best essays on the current state of design that I’ve seen this year.

In a great retrospective and recent blog post he challenges designers much as Clement Mok did years ago in his seminal piece on What the future requires of the design profession.

“There has clearly been a steady decline in the design profession for over 30 years, and the source of that decline is the profession’s intractable stasis.

We are unchanged professionals in a changing professional climate, clutching at old idols, while failing to create new offerings, failing to reinvent and reinvigorate the practice when needed, failing to inculcate a professional culture that is accessible and fair.”

Enjoy. I have copied the article from Bruce’s blog, and the images are from the excellent Logic + Emotion blog

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8 03 2007

I’m seeing the uncanny valley everywhere right now. It’s something I wrote about in the context of visual aesthetics 18 months ago, but since then I’ve realised it has a much wider scope. Watch the beginning of this video (Ignore the Havok physics title, it’s Euphoria by NaturalMotion):

A self-righting Indy with gripping hands impresses me… but it doesn’t fool me.

Similarly, Image Metrics have been showing some astounding work recently. Looking at the CGI head on the latest Develop cover, I am once more impressed, but once again not fooled. There are all sorts of subtle mismatches in texture and light that add up to it not quite being human.

Likewise, when set against speech bubbles, the body language of these avatars in PSHome is reminiscent of stereotypical cult members.

Everything that might be wrong with a digital representation of a human is also potentially wrong with a digital representation of anything else. The difference is in us: a significant amount of the human brain is specialised for evaluating human appearance and behaviour.

As Scott McCloud pointed out in Understanding Comics, we can infer a face from a circle, two dots and a line. Put a circle with a big dot in it inside any random shape, and it will suddenly tend to resolve into a face. We can recognise faces made of less than 100 pixels.

We intrinsically have higher standards in evaluating humans as real compared to, say, rocks and trees. If we weren’t human, the level NaturalMotion and Image Metrics are at might fool us. We are though, and it doesn’t, even as it makes us go “oooh”.

It will all get better of course. Simulating one component of the unconscious at a time, we’re building more realistic AI. At some point though, they will stop looking like good AI and begin to look like bad actors.

(Hello, I am TK422, otherwise known as David Hayward. I’m going to be posting here alongside Toby. There may be some crossover between this and my own blog, Functional Autonomy, but overall I’ll be putting different content up on each).

GDC07:2007 Game Developers Choice Awards Topped By Gears of War

8 03 2007

2007 Game Developers Choice Awards Topped By Gears of War Epic Games and Microsoft Game Studios’ Xbox 360 shooter Gears of War won Best Game at the Game Developers Choice Awards, hosted by the Game Developers Conference (GDC) at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. The title also picked up awards for Visual Arts and Technology.

The Game Developers Awards are the only peer-based, open nomination awards program in the industry. GDC Executive Director Jamil Moledina commented of the awards ceremony that it is “like no other”, adding that “by celebrating our visionaries by name, we give the audience and the public at large a chance to give credit where credit is due”. Nominations are open to all members of the International Game Developers Association, with the finalists chosen by the Choice Awards Advisory Board, before winners are finally voted on by IDGA members.

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GDC07: Sony outlines new online vision

8 03 2007

Phil Harrison’s GDC keynote explains plans for new PS3 Home online community network.
In his GDC keynote Sony Worldwide Studios president Phil Harrison has told the development community that software driven by user-communities, such as as its new virtual world Home, will “empower the next decade of growth in our industry all around the world”.

Sony will actively back this strategy with a number of its own applications. The primary one is Home, a free avatar-based 3D world that lets users congregate, meet friends, ‘own’ a private apartment and visit virtual shop-fronts.

Developed by London Studio, Home is a best of breed take on avatar-based environments like Second Life, but uses the PS3’s capabilities to deliver a world that fills the gap between the interface on the PlayStation XMB dashboard and games themselves.

Users can customise their avatar’s appearance, clothes and accessories – in time players will be able to pay for, or unlock via game achievements, the latter. The same goes for each user’s own virtual private apartment, which players can invite friends to, fill with furniture and even stream music and video from their Hard Drive to.

A ‘Hall of Fame’ also takes pride of place in the Home world – this lets users display new 3D trophies that are unlocked through in-game milestones in PS3 games.

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GDC07:Industry responsibilities

8 03 2007

In what may be remembered as the best speech of this conference, Vivendi’s global director of strategic growth Nichole Bradford today called on the industry to act on its responsibility towards the education and aspirations of young people.

She told an audience of developers to show leadership to young people, and excite them about their own potential. Bradford said that the United States had only produced 70,000 graduates in engineering in the last year, adding that children are failing to se the potential of learning math, science and literature. Thius, she argued, was a failure of leadership by the game industry.

Bradford spoke on this subject at a diversity round-table last year, but in 07, the message was heard by a much larger audience. She told them, “We have a leadership responsibility to excite young people about math and science and literature. We make games and so we have the best hook to address the real challenge of poor learning in schools.”

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GDC07:June debut for London Studio’s PS3 SingStar

8 03 2007

The PS3 version of SingStar will hit Europe in June and the US in the autumn.
The PS3 version of the game relies heavily on the PlayStation Network. The previous versions of the franchise, which were all purely disc-based, have already sold seven million worldwide with 30 songs on each disc, delivering a total of 200 million songs to players.

For PS3, SingStar is “all about extending the experience online – downloading content and uploading content,” explained Sony Worldwide Studios president Phil Harrison.

Via the SingStore players can download tracks and preview music videos, purchasing tracks to build their own tracklist for a sing along session. Using a USB camera players can upload videos or pictures of themselves singing which can be rated and scored by other players. Users can also access wallpapers and other content to customise their version of SingStar.

“Where we are going with the integration of community and commerce blended together is a very compelling experience on PlayStation 3,” added Harrison.

“We’re are working very closely with the music industry to get a very wide variety of songs up on the network.”

GDC07: 2007 Independent Games Festival Awards Topped By Aquaria

8 03 2007

2007 Independent Games Festival Awards Topped By Aquaria Bit Blot’s dreamlike 2D underwater adventure game Aquaria won top honors, collecting the $20,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize for Best Independent Game, at the 2007 Independent Games Festival (IGF) Awards.

The winners were announced tonight at the 9th Annual IGF Awards ceremony, hosted by the Game Developers Conference (GDC) at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.

The IGF awards have been described as the Sundance Festival of the videogame industry, and offer both global exposure and over $50,000 in cash prizes to the lucky winners. Other major award recipients included Queasy Games’ abstract shoot-em-up, Everyday Shooter, which grabbed the awards for Design Innovation and Excellence In Audio, upcoming Xbox 360 Live Arcade title Castle Crashers, which won for Excellence In Visual Art, Three Rings’ online title Bang! Howdy, which came out on top in the Technical Excellence category, and stylish Flash-based point-and-click puzzle adventure Samorost 2, which triumphed in the Best Web Game category.

There were two other notable Main Competition awards given out on the night — the Audience Award, adjudicated from public voting at major consumer game website GameSpot, was won by The Behemoth’s Castle Crashers, and IGF Platinum Sponsor GameTap gave out $20,000 in advances for indie games to appear on its PC subscription download service, as part of its special GameTap Indie Award – with Everyday Shooter getting a $10,000 advance and $5,000 advances going to Cryptic Sea’s Blast Miner and Naked Sky Entertainment’s RoboBlitz.

In addition, the IGF Student Showcase recognized ten student-designed games and, for the first time ever, awarded a $2,500 Best Student Game prize. The award went to DigiPen Institute of Technology’s fast-paced capture the flag game, Toblo.

The IGF Mod Competition, now in its second year, celebrated the best amateur mods of existing videogames with a new $5,000 award for Best Mod Game. Cut Corner Company Productions took home the Best Mod award for Weekday Warrior, their corporate office adventure mod for Half-Life 2, also the Best Singleplayer FPS Mod.