Tech

Equal consoles

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I think it’s finally clear that things have settled down for good and (except of course for the really hardcore fanboys) everybody can rest at peace that 360 & ps3 are pretty even visual-wise. yeayy!! it’s up to the content/what we like to call "artwork" to make the games not the hardware. Yipeeee!!
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Back in 1989…

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Kotaku has a very cool article: news from the past. It talks about the Sega Genesis launch, which i find delightful, as I’ve often contemplated the fact how a new game/console can seem to us soooooooooooooo awesome and cool, like everything, and how we can’t wait a few years and if we do it feels "old". When in fact our old is lightyears ahead of somebody from the pasts sci-fi dreams of oldage. Take for example from the article

Benefits of Genesis include high definition graphics; increased color and motion; stereo and high-fidelity music

Now you can just know a lot of people drooled and dreamed about that, sound familiar? People talk about high definition graphics in consoles… when in truth our HD gaming is often times not even 720p, rendered lower & upscaled. One can only presume that maybe the next generation of consoles, 5 years or more down the line is the one that will actually render at 1920×1080 (which if you think about it is just about 2 megapixels, which for a camera everybody would say it sucks these days)… nevermind that resolution doesn’t even matter as much as realisting lighting (eg. the news on a SD tv looks realistic without having a high definition) which is probabily much further down the line… so my personal attempt is to control my desire & learn to delay games & still enjoy them as new. Just hope i don’t die before and miss any good ones :P

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Shadow of the colossus tech tricks

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I’ve often been in awe how the "ancient" hardware of the ps2 was able to make amazing games work with features where on the PC it required "future hardware"/very expensive cutting edge ones: here are some tricks explained in a reasonably understandable language:

The Making Of "Shadow Of The Colossus"

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real katamari ball

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Wow! not only is that super cool, but also presented (and even made?) by a girl who seems to know her electronics (yep, i don’t understand anything she says :P ). hip hip hurray for gamer girls!
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video & 3d (tech demo)

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This was done in 2004? wow! I’d get excited how this will be used in games but something tells me the depth feeling cameras have more than just vision and may be expensive to get into consoles yet… stilll… this is the kind of stuff i was kinda expecting Sony to hit the market with in the next years for Playstation Eye attacking the now Wii fascinated audience with casual movement/interaction fun. But like MS has surprised before with their great 360 execution I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d be close behind. Still… i seem to recall some vids of Sony research department for PS Eye so i’d place my tiny bet on that sooner. Or is Nintendo motivate enough to 1up the Wii in 2-3 years?

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A globalized game market?

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I’ve just read with great interest this article Analysts warn of "struggle" for Xbox. I’m proud to say things are slowly turning as i had anticipated last year, when everybody was praising 360 domination and crying ps3’s doom… even the Wii seems to be getting it’s warning signs, but i expect there may be another year before it gets serious. Anyway, how does this affect us artsy gamers? Well, first off I’m probably what they call a "core" gamer… and in theory I’m 360’s target. Yet I don’t have one (yet): I have yet to have my confidence gained in a durable reliable system (at a mainstream price). I don’t have their data but if somebody had asked me I would have assumed this might be the reason Europe wasn’t won over by the 360: MS seems to me to have strongly supported US while getting a bad rep & low support in Europe… but what do I know? I live in my own little world (but they know me here :D all my imaginary friends).

Anyways, a more relevant point would be this: i’m happy to announce that I feel this is proof that we’re becoming a more and more globalized society. Not winning everybody over seems to be a "dooomed" level of "bad". This is really great for the games industry (us!) because it combines with the second point i wanted to mention: one genre is no longer the definition of games, meaning games have grown up a lot, meaning we may see the end to game cliches and the kind of variety that spawns passionate niches, people who love their particular types of games… and many types… which is sooooo great I just can’t say it in words! Long live the games-are-art niche!!!
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Tim Sweeney on the future of hardware

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It’s been many years now since I’ve ‘declared’ Tim Sweeney as one of my personal heroes… and he’s still going strong: right now I’m quite excited about his latest statements in an interview on tomshardware.com. I find the whole interview fascinating, but here are some snips to tempt you:

There is a long life ahead for Unreal Engine 3. Version 4 will exclusively target the next console generation, Microsoft’s successor for the Xbox 360, Sony’s successor for the Playstation 3 – and if Nintendo ships a machine with similar hardware specs, then that also. PCs will follow after that.

That’s a huge shocker… it used to be that engine generations would follow pc video card technology. It might not have been every video card generation but every 2-3 generations there’d be something big like T&L or shaders… Big stuff. Actually I think this will be great even for PC gaming: more standardization & a wider audience.

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The big problem with PC gaming

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Now you might think I’m bashing PCs: yes, I love consoles, but that’s for personal reasons, for my confort and spending on hardware, knowing everything will run without me first tweaking when starting up BUT I actually support PC gaming. Especially now that it seems more games are starting to support gamepads. I started out gaming on the PC and I hope to always have something to play on my PCs. Still, like I was saying I probably am biased. But then I read this amazing interview on tomshardware.com. I’ll just say WOOOOW. Things are worse than I thought. I thought it was just people buying more on consoles, piracy, confort… but it turns out things are much more serious. Well, actually I had suspected that, but still, amazed to see Tim Sweeney, one of the programmers I’ve admired most in the last decade, talk this seriously.

There are many overpriced computers out there. It’s like sports cars. They are everywhere, everybody writes about them, but there are only a few who can afford them. There isn’t a great amount of people that will spend large amounts of money on that. In the case of PCs, they mostly don’t deliver that amount of performance that you would expect to justify that cost. You pay twice as much money for 30% more performance… That is just not right.

But that’s just half the story, more seriously:

If we go back 10 years ago, the difference between the high end and the lowest end may have been a factor of 10. We could have scaled games between those two. For example, with the first version of Unreal, a resolution of 320×200 was good for software rendering and we were able to scale that up to 1024×768, if you had the GPU power. There is no way we can scale down a game down by a factor of 100, we would just have to design two completely different games.

The problem with this, is that while everybody may be talking about a new system or a new high end game, very few will be buying it, thus discouraging developers from taking PC gaming seriously. You know it’s insane when with a $1800 video card + the rest of a high end system you can’t even set a game to max details… This interview totally deserves a full read IMO.

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Having phun

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I was talking recently with a good friend who’s a physics teacher and he asked me why I believe that a lot of the stuff taught is not relevant: my theory is that back when physics started peple had a lot of motivation, they encountered practical problems every day, had a lot of experiences sparking their curiosity, while the modern man has few practical experiences leading him to question physical reality. However if we did get to experiment more we would enjoy that. I see proof of this theory of mine in the constant recent flux of games which are basically experimental playgrounds. And while the 2d approach (above: Phun, a 2d physics sandbox master thesis by Emil Ernerfeldt) is a nice simplification allowing a faster learning curve, I think this area will evolve even more. Just wait until somebody manages to create a good particle/water simulator game a few years down the line when raw computing power increases…

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Mova Contour

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Another awesome technology headed to games. The cool thing about this one is that it captures face animation without a kazillion markers and reconstructs the surface using multiple viewpoint cameras. For a better intuition of it they have a flash presentation page, … unfortunatelly not embeddable.

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UT3 progress

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More great news from the middleware front!!!

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Mental Ray, Ageia… the importance of middleware

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I’m always very interested in middleware. Why? Well, it might be my programmer background, but I don’t think so: the true reason is that I want game creation to be as easy and cheap (and high quality) as possible. It’s only when powerful middleware will be readily available that we’ll be able to hope for some trully niche genres to emerge, strange and original subject matter, obscure approaches… good stuff. Why this focus of mine on "strange" things? Because I find more and more that "mainstream" (Wii sports sells amazingly!) is pretty boring to me, both from a personal and artistic standpoint.

So, I’ve seen some pretty shocking developments as of recent: being long into Softimage:XSI I was blown away a while back when I saw that NVIDIA now owns Mental Ray. That could lead to huge things!!! Imagine graphics hardware acceleration starting to not only optimize but design more with ideal rendering in mind! Also now I read that Ageia has gone NVIDIA also. That’s huge also. I thought these two would be battling it out: Nvidia optimizing for Havoc, dual-wiring it’s chips to be workable for physics too… but now it’s also got Ageia… very interesting stuff. Something else that might prove interesting in the future is Q Middleware.

All this (piled on top of Unreal Engine becomign so well spread & other engines emerging) says to me that things are going good, that we can expect in the years to come many high quality games! Yeayyy

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A window to another world

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What a very exciting idea! The immersion of such a thing would be amazing, even if used to a very small degree. Actually I think the settings should be turned way low usually & for most people but still the slight movements would be very interesting and it would be yet another thing to add immersion… but more importantly than such technical things I’m hoping we’ll see more art oriented content, drama, story… for example like Heavy Rain promisses these days.

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Mackie Rocks Guitar Hero III ?

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    Being a long time ‘audio guy’, I was really surprised by the latest trends in gaming sound in the sense that more and more professional audio technology brands start to see and embrace the growing market of the gaming industry. This seems to be the case in the collaboration between the high praised Guitar Hero III and long time pro-audio company Mackie.

Likely to be one of the biggest video games in history, Guitar Hero III is ready to roll and Mackie is ready to rock as the game’s exclusive PA System.
…Guitar Hero III will take the game and a Mackie PA system on the road, scheduled for 10 cities and 40 different tour stops where expert Guitar Hero gamers will compete to be their city’s resident Guitar Hero. It’s every would-be Guitar Hero’s dream: playing for throngs of fans and groupies while Mackie SRM 450s fill the auditorium with thunderous rock melodies!

More at mackie.com
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Sci-fi hand air movement – the possibilities

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     Quite ingenious, don’t you think? Thumbs up to the guy for actually doing it!
I was thinking a few days ago about the possibility of such game control in the context of wondering about the audience captured by the Wii through the more physical game interaction. A possibility that wouldn’t surprise me (and at the same time, of course, it would) was if the Playstation Eye would be used for motion tracking and big games would be made based on it. I imagine good motion tracking is a rather difficult problem, but say you had to paint the tips of your fingers different colors to aid the recognition, or were to wear a glove, nothing electronic, just so that it’s colored. Game interaction could be changed forever. Well, for certain games, like the Wii speciffic games. I myself love the gamepad control system, both in precision and complexity (well, it should evolve in precision until we can play strategy games as easily as with a mouse).

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