Monday, September 29, 2008

Some first decisions

Some time ago, I met with Storm Bastard -it's his war name-, who is a good friend of Pau Novau. Sergi -Storm Bastard's real name- is going to be my companion in the Master in Creating Video Games, and we talked about the video game we'll make.

Sergi has some good ideas about the main characters and the aspect of the game, crazy ideas, but they're fun, lots of fun. But it's still too soon to write about them. Before, we will have to find in the Master two artists who like the ideas and want to work hard on it -something very difficult to find-.

The first decision we have to take is whether we want a video game for Xbox 360 or PC, maybe Wii is possible. Work for Xbox 360 implies a development with XNA, what implies creating a graphic engine from zero. This means dedicating less time to the story or playable elements, basics to obtain an amusing game. But XNA has a community with forums, tutorials, samples, tools, Microsoft behind the tool, etc.

Also, Xbox Live Arcade is a great platform of game distribution and a perfect place to be published and to obtain a certain recognition -if the game is well done-. And who knows if some money to finance the next video game.

I think that it's another advantage to develop for Xbox 360 because you don't have to worry about software and hardware configurations, something that happens on the PC and gives you headaches. This advantage could turn into a disadvantage, because not everybody has a Xbox 360, instead many people have a PC, but it's also true that not everyone who has a PC uses it to play.

However, PC is the platform for games creators per excellence. For a long time, people have been developpings for PC, there are lots of libraries, add-ons and tools, with a big community working every day on it. There is a tool well known called Ogre, a graphics rendering engine that can be used to create games and it's Open Source. The Teddy Incident has used this graphic engine -and other tools-. There are other graphics engines as Torque that doesn't look bad -but it isn't free- and lets you create video games for PC, Wii, Xbox 360 and, even iPhone.

We have to study the all options better, seeing what advantages we prefer and what disadvantages affect us less or with what tools we can work. Then we'll choose a platform for our game. Anyhow, let's wait for what the professors from the Master have to say. For sure, they can give us a better orientation.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Final Projects of a Master

On Tuesday 23th of September, I went to the presentation of the final projects from the Master of Design and Creation of Video Games. A master of the UPC that also takes place in Barcelona. There were 6 video games. But I'm going to write only about two of them. The two I consider are more remarkable.


This team starts the presentation with the game trailer. As you see, it is a third-person genre with a graphic style like Fable . It take place during Napoleon's era. The game is for Xbox 360, it has been done with XNA, which means that the graphic engine was made from zero. They continued with a technical demo, where they showed aspects such as:
  • Dynamic Day/Night
  • Long Range View
  • Dynamic GPU GeoMap Mapping
  • Dynamic Shadows
  • Bloom Post-Process effect
  • Custom Material Shaders
  • Object Instancing
  • Advanced Frustum Culling
  • Realistic Particles System
  • Animated Vegetation
I suppose I will write about these technical terms in future posts. When I was watching it, I though of the technical demo of Crysis. They have done a great job. The only defect was the animation of the main character when he walks or runs. Strange movement. But I don't understand why, because the other animations, specially the fighting ones, are very good. I remark one where the character makes a final attack that looks like one in the film Troya. It's a handmade animation done with XSI Softimage.

Anyway, I was very impressed, thinking how would I be capable of doing something that looks similar to this. But, when I saw the next game, I realized my self that the story and characters are more important than technology -what doesn't mean that it isn't important-. You can have the best technology, but without a cool main character, charismatic secondary characters or a good story, you can forget about success.

The Teddy Incident

You're a little boy who is sleeping. You see how your teddy bear wakes up and goes through the corridor. At the end of it, a door is opened. Suddenly, a horrible shadow captures you teddy bear. You hide in your bedroom. You take courage and decide to go and save it.

Now, add to the story and characters the 3D platform genre with Nightmare Before Christmas style -not so dark-. You'll obtain The Teddy Incident. In the previous link you can download the game and some tools. Perhaps, apparently it's not a technical wonder, but it's the best finishing. A video game I would buy. Appealing and colourful graphics, funny story and characters with lots of personality. An awesome game.

One of the people behind the video game is Pau Novau. He has worked as programmer and artist. He has also created a useful tool. A tool to animate the characters. It's based on the Animation Blending. Explained in a simple way, joining basic and simple animations you obtain a complex animation as a result. You can find more information about his animation system here and the runtime on Sourceforge. In spite of being written that it's only for Ogre 3D Engine, Pau has told me that it works with any 3D engine. What a master!

Congratulations to all the teams and please excuse me for not having time to write about all of them!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Big expectations

Some days ago, I went to the offices of the Master in Video Game Development, to give my university title. The person on charge is a cool guy that showed me the temporary facilities. Temporary because the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) is building new facilities, but not any facilities. UPF is building the communication campus in Barcelona innovation district, 22@. A place were we'll have all the tools to create anything from video games to animated films.

Returning to the guy, when he took me to the classroom, he explained things we would do. Apart of the Master agenda, the most outstanding things were:
  • Some Xbox 360 to play.
  • Edge magazine, Spanish edition -I would prefer the English edition because the Spanish one has a month of delay-.
  • Close contact with the people from Master in Animation. Because interactive movies are a new tendency in video games. See The Bourne Conspiracy, Heavy Rain, or Splinter Cell Conviction. -I will talk about this tendency in future posts-.
  • Video games conferences with people from video game industry. They're trying to bring the creators of Gears of War to the UPF, for example.
But the thing most awesome was the idea to choose the two best video games projects, and join all teams to improve these two video games and participate in contest around the world. See the game Galaxy Scraper, finalist in the Independent Games Festival '08. The new in Spanish here. This game was create with only 5 people. Think what could happen with a team of 15 people.

Another good news. The guy said companies as Konami and Codemaster were coming to Barcelona to open offices. That means a close contact with the Master. But I haven't been able to find anything on this for the moment.

Anyway, big expectations. We will see what happens.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

First post

Welcome to the blog!

Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a Engineer in Computer Science who is going to begin a Master in Video Games Development -or Master in Creating Video Games as they say-. I need a place to share and to explain what we do. Because, if you're capable of explaining something and others understand it, this proves that you've understood and assimilated this knowledge.

The course begins in October 2008 and ends in November 2009 for only 30 persons: 15 artist and 15 programmers. I feel very lucky to be included. The course has two big blocks, in the first one, artist and programmers work together, because it is important to know the role and the work of the other. In the second one, you go to the specialized branch. Finally, you are in a team of two programmers and two artist -more and less- where you get to develop a video game.

I have many expectations with the course. I love technologies, animation, cinema, and overall, video games. In the future I would like to work in the business. But I'm going to take this course along with other project: eventuo. It's a big project, my partners and me are very involved in it. Take a look at our blog (Spanish).

I hope this post will be the first of many and that you will enjoy all of them.