Destiny Beta

We are in interesting times for developers. A beta is no longer just a working prototype. Instead it has to be a workable, playable, usable experience. The aim of a beta now is to stress test network code, to examine mass user player statistics and to get the people who want to play your game to help build it.
Bungie made a big splash the last few weeks with their Destiny beta. Initially you had to buy into the beta by preordering. That gave you access to test. So… based on the reputation of the developer (of Halo) you could get an access code to download and join in a mass test if you promised, or actually bought it.
I was interested, but I was not so interested in having to pre-order a physical copy in order to access it. Xbox One does not have digital pre-orders yet. I was happy to see the beta just turn up anyway though. In this case it was for Xbox Live Subscribers. So obviously they needed more people.
It was, I have to say, very good. It had a slick next gen feel to it, but it was also very “metaversey”.
The initial mission of this RPG FPS had you run around and shoot a few things, but before long you were in the lobby/hub/base. I gounf it very amusing as the little unity3d project we have been doing has a room and a table and window out into space, and I was also surprised a relatively serious RPG had dancing mapped to the dpad. There were a few comms gestures.
It was possible to shout Xbox Record That and then edit it up in Upload studio and sent it to onedrive, of which this link should work.
====Update
Here is the youtube embed which is much more friendly to use

I did not record any of the shooting or coop play as that often looks similar across games. I was interested in the virtual world aspects. Could I have green hair ? why yes I could πŸ™‚
It was great ti drop into 3 player team coop and spending 20 minutes reviving one another as we tried to take out a monster spider machine. It was just a shame it crashed just as we did.
That of course is the price of beta testing, you can’t moan, you can only think that your presence and activity has helped make it just a little bit better.
It certainly left me wanting more so roll on 9/9/14 πŸ™‚

It does what? Vessyl – Knows what is in your drink?

It is getting really difficult, even as an future tech specialist, to separate science fact and science fiction sometimes. Some of the devices that have appeared the past few years seemed unlikely only a decade ago. Not impossible, I try to avoid thinking anything is, but unlikely to be in everyones hands at a reasonable price. Today I saw an link to this Vessyl. It has a name that has its clever internet spelling as we have seen since Flickr and alike. Vessyl is a container to drink out of. It is selling as a pre-order of just $99. Thats a lot for a stylish designed mug for your coffee.
However, it is claiming, and this is where I feel a little skeptical, that you can pour any drink into it. It will detect everything about that drink from the amount of caffeine, to the calories, the type of drink and even some brand names?
The idea being it will track your hydration, talk to your smartphone and generally be a good admin assistant to your personal wellbeing.
If this is actually true, then it is brilliant. $99 for general purpose deep sensing and network capability, plus something to hold your coffee?
If it is not true then it is also brilliant. The production values of the video, the cool chic nature of the product visualisations and the website, and the product name are great.
If its a scam to get $99 out of people, well then the internet is obviously an evil place and we should all not use it πŸ˜‰
I feel I want to order one to just support such a clever fabrication of a product and company, if that what it is. Like supporting a clever artist. I fell I want to order one because it might work and hence be fascinating to explore. I don’t see what they are focussing on selling us drinks containers when that have apparently got sensors that could probably with the “tricorder” x-prize though.

I look forward to watching the reveal either way.

Lost archive returns – Opensim

A few years back (April 2011 !) amongst the many other things I got to bring to kids TV I did a piece on virtual worlds and in particular Opensim. None of the shows clips are on the web any more, which is a pity as they are still useful resources in explaining things. I found a rare lost archive of my Opensim piece with Sy Thomas . So I thought I would pop it onto youtube (I hope I am not in breach of any copyright!) as a flavour of the sort of thing we put on 39 shows on Saturday morning kids tv on ITV.
Opensim is still very much alive and well and available, virtual worlds like Minecraft do very similar things. I would have done a follow up on Minecraft anyway. Equally now we have the rise of the Virtual Reality headset and immersive 3d environments are having their 3rd or 4th renaissance. Of course in this I point out that 3d creative environments are also distribution platforms for 3d printing and manufacturing.

Archie Productions (who made Cool Stuff Collective) latest fantastic film about the Lancaster Bomber airs this weekend on 21:30 on BBC2 Britain’s Flying Past So check that out too πŸ™‚

Kinect 2.0 and Choi Kwang Do

My kinect 2.0 arrived this afternoon so I got straight to trying it out. The previous Kinect was less able to cope with shoulders and some of the subtle extra s of joints.
The new Kinect 2.0 seems to be able to cope much better. Though maybe not with the speed of a martial art like Choi Kwang Do.
However, with the basics of form it is doing a very good job just in the Kinect Studio. This enables developers to turn on and off features. As I was using this out of the box it may well be doing more than it needed to do. e.g. just focusing on the skeleton might be smoother than dealing with all the point cloud data and and the ghost image.
The studio has the same thing I tried in my previous example of being able to change the view form front to side to top. The video shows this in this order. The side view is about 40 seconds in and I think is the most useful in terms of technique. We often train with mirrors or looking at another person but seldom see side on unless it is recorded and played back. This is a live mirror from the side view πŸ™‚
I seem to confuse it with a twisting kick too πŸ™‚

Now to look at specific code and trying to match movements to a reference move. Spotting the weight transfer etc.
Still it looks like this might be another step forward to another helpful tool for training.
Lets see how this goes. I have not seen if there is a unity3d plugin yet but thats next on the list.

A new wave of tech

The next few months is going to see an interest second wave of technology that I am very interested in.
The first is the Windows version of Kinect 2.0. This is the consumer packaged full body sensor that uses the same base as with the Xbox One. The original Kinect from the Xbox 360 was just a USB device so had the maker and hacker community exploring how it use it on regular machines before the official Windows development version arrived. When the Xbox One launched it’s Kinect 2.0 cmd with a completely different plug, making it impractical to explore. The Xbox One was slated to be a development machine for all (consoles at the moment have specific machine models for developers and a different one for consumers). This development kit has not been forthcoming (it may or may not turn up later). All this means I could not continue the work I wanted to do with the kinect for Choi Kwang Do.
v2-sensor-front
The new Kinect sensor stye body better and in particular shoulders, and also weight transfer. So I have had to pre-order a Kinect 2.0 for Windows. It is due in September. I am hoping it will all work with Unity3d again!
I have applied to id@xbox the developer scheme but a one person company working on a non game related piece of work on the fringes of the games industry probably didn’t flag up as a priority πŸ™‚
Talking of Unity3d, it’s 4.6 patch is rapidly approaching. This upgrade will feature the much needed GUI changes. I love Unity3d development but anything with buttons or sliders and GUI layouts is so incredibly awkward it is hard to see how we get anything working. The new GUI system is going to treat GUI objects just like any other object. They will appear on the scene during development. At the moment GUI objects only show up when you run, making getting things lined up and working a bit of a black art. This also sets us up for Unity3d 5.0 a major new release. Lets just hope all my code still works !

The third big piece of kit is the Oculus Rift DK2 (Development Kit 2).
camera_dk2
Now owned by Facebook but still approaching construction in the same way the original Kickstarter did. This is really exciting as the first Oculus Rift was and is still a liberating experience. With DK2 the resolution of the screens is much higher now a 960×1080 per eye. It also comes with an additional relative position sensor. One that can, like Kinect, see where the headset is in the space in front of it. It is fully supported by a Unity3d library too (as with the previous version) It is not the only VR headset heading to the market but it is the one you can get your hands and eyes on.

The pen is mightier than the sword…

…. particularly when you you can make a sword with the pen!
This week I had a small broadband outage when the cables got cut during some engineering work down the road. I took the opportunity to escape the current project and popped to Maplin to stock up on some bits and pieces.
Whilst there I saw they had the 3dDoodler pen in stock. I had very nearly Kickstarter backed this one but missed the deadline. So I thought it was high time to get get one and try.

It is the same principle as a 3d printer, but instead of stepper motors it is controlled by hand.
The pen has a very hot tip, through that is pushed a thing plastic rod that melts . As the plastic melts it is soft and can be piped around and then hardens very quickly.
My first attempts with it we note great.

However I checked out the gallery and saw that many of the builds were in fact done by making the various component faces then using the doodler to stuck them together.
Rather than make a giant structure I thought I would try the company logo. Feeding Edge as a logo has existing in many forms form its early draft on a in game skateboard tshirt to virtual world instantiations and decals on cars. So a 3d doodle of the logo was worth try.
It works really well to print out a stencil and draw around it, which is what I did, the paper does not burn, it cools the plastic and the model does not stick.
I know it’s July and this looks like a christmas tree ornament but it was fun to do.


I also tried a Dodecahedron but I think I lost the a piece, however it is a 3d structure.

So I would say it does what it says. It lets you doodle in space. The 2 speed settings of ejecting the plastic and the freedom of movement give this a very craft maker feel. Working out how and where to solder joins of elements or how to break something down into flatter faces is an interesting thought process.
The predlets asked if I could do the Choi Kwang Do logo. That may take a bit of work but may give it a go. Though I thing it then needs to be sealed in a casing afterwards.
The smell of burning plastic was probably not the ideal odour for out new kitchen but us early adopters have to suffer for our art πŸ™‚
In a twist of serendipity I was invited to the twitter UK offices by @andypiper when I was in London yesterday. Amongst their cool installations there was this neon sign.

The sentiment is one I agree with and many more firms should aim for this. However it did get me thinking I wonder if there is glow in the dark meltable ABC plastic I can out in the 3d doodler. Rather than the stained glass leading window effect of my logo I could have a neon style glow in the dark one πŸ™‚

It’s #CreateUK week

This week sees an interesting government initiated week to celebrate creativity in the UK and today (monday) is focussed on the Games industry (and presumably the slightly off centre elements of the games industry that I inhabit πŸ™‚
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DMCS) are promoting this and it it has a suitably live hashtag social media aspect to it.
The official link is here
“The UK’s Creative Industries generate a staggering Β£8 million per hour for the UK economy and continues to go from strength-to-strength.”
That is pretty impressive isn’t it.
Our little project for a far away land goes live today with some 8 year school kids. It has been an interesting process, being research we have to adjust to requirements changing and to the creative process.
I wrote about it a few weeks ago, to show the sort of scope. Still can’t do screen shots as its secret. Here though it s bait of the development environment, a state machine for animation and some of the exposed parameters for the main game control object
Dev env
Mixing a virtual environment for multiple users, with a teacher in charge and also adding a completely different style of interaction with additional 2.5d side scrolling jetpack games has been a challenge.
As usual a small 3 person project needs lots of cross role work. Being tech support for the build etc and being tech design and tech code each required a time consuming mental context switch. You know at any moment you may have to swap roles, stop what you are doing to fix something. I have learned a lot on this project though. Learning is the fun part after all.
Anyway, join in with #createuk, and check out what @DCMS are doing. Making games and games related tech is hard work but worth it. Of course most of what I do is hidden as its code (wishing I was a graphic designer) but then equally most of what I do is hidden (glad I am not a graphic designer) πŸ™‚ It is all still very creative and requires leaps of faith to get things to work sometimes.
Right back to go live day then !

The future of broadcasting via super8, Wimbledon, CKD Road Trip, twitch and tango – flush 13

Another exciting monday morning as the new edition of Flush The Fashion magazine goes live.
As usual there are loads of great articles and also some great prizes to be won in the magazine. This time Kano raspberry Pi kits πŸ™‚
On page 74 I have my article “We go live in 3.2.1…” which once again looks great with the layout and the images that @tweetthefashion put together.
I discuss the evolution of home movies from the 70’s and super 8 film to the amazing changes in being able to broadcast live right now to everyone. On the journey are the experiences of trying to some early multi platform broadcasting and virtual worlds elements at Wimbledon (which starts today so that’s good timing) to the ability to just say xbox broadcast to share your game play with commentary to anyone anywhere. Being an emerging tech section I also have to consider the wonderful Project Tango from Google too.
The full magazine is here


The ipad version will be live very soon.
This will get you to my little article

Knockout game – UFC

The new UFC mixed martial arts game/simulation arrived today for the Xbox One. I had got very interested having played the demo. In Choi Kwang Do we don’t do this sort of fighting, as we don’t compete and hurting people is not really on the list of things to do. However with my developer hat on I wanted to see how the moves looked, some of which are obviously similar to the flowing sequential moves we have in Choi. Having looked into how the kinect can capture out moves it is interesting also to see how the mixture of motion capture and artistic adjustment is done in a high end fight game for this generation of consoles.
It is very impressive. The quality of movement and engagement that you feel as a player is very good. Being UFC is it as much about grappling and ground work and punches and kicks. Another thing that we try to avoid in CKD πŸ™‚
This is of course a game and punching buttons is very different from launching a powerful kick. Practicing a martial art though does help you appreciate the power that anyone can generate, and hence imagine the power the professional athletes dedicated to this style of combat can create.
The animations and models of the fighters are some of the best that I have seen in a game. It is complex to have to deal with the multitude of movements and blending the animations together. If you have tried to create animations, or combine them, even on a small scale (like my current project in Unity3d) it is by no means straight forward and as big an art form and speciality as programming or visual design.
This version of UFC has a brilliant model of the great Bruce Lee. he will be familiar to many people as an iconic and talented martial artist so it helps to see him if you haven’t seen the other fighters in action to appreciate where the start of the art is.

A lot of these knockouts have the move that caused them played a few times afterwards as button basing tends to happen. However that lets us see the way that those moves are represented.
I am still hopeful that with Kinect 2.0 (the windows version is due very soon) and a bit of work I can get some degree of fluidity to represent our more peaceful art using similar technology.

Admiring the diversity and variety in games

As I was hurtling along the Nurburgring in Forza 5 I was once again hit with the brilliance of all games. I have to admit I was going through a non gaming patch. Probably because of building a small one. The release of the Xbox One had also had me a little non-plussed until the path that allowed me to add extra storage. Knowing I can now play games and get to them easily again has sparked me back into life. (it was only a mini non gaming patch). Having been a gamer for nearly 40 years it’s not going to go away just like that is it ?
I used the Uplaod studio on the Xbox One to put 5 videos together in one comic book framed montage. This is only really as a mental and social bookmark to the thoughts that were occurring as I drove along the road

Forza 5 offers a very intense and very solid driving experience, the quality of the simulation and physics models that allow you to hurtle around in so many different, beautifully rendered cars on accurate modelled tracks is, if you like car games just brilliant.
Watchdogs, another free roaming world, but here I was just messing around on a motor bike. I had gained the ability to make bridges raise and lower via the pretend hacking. So, again another physics engine and a wide variety of vehicles and experiences, this time in free roaming meant I could just go jump the bridge, just for kicks.
Max and the curse of the brotherhood, once again physics is involved by in 2/2.5d, a completely different style of game. yet with a freedom to solve puzzles, here drawing a swinging rope with a magic marker then jumping on it as time slows down for you.
FIFA 14 in world cup mode. Controlling players, kicking a ball around and scoring a goal with all the celebrations and animations that go with it.
Peggle 2, a variation on good old fashioned bagatelle and pinball. All very cartoony, the ball drops and bounces around, its never totally predictable and you have to deal with gravity.
I know some people still think all games are the same, but clearly they are not. The 5 all use a degree of physical simulation, but not the same sort of simulation. They have wildy differing control mechanisms, but each has a feel to it. Some use depth into the screen, the illusions of speed is things coming at out. Others user side on cameras with things going past or up and down.
We have weather systems in the first two games that change, the lighting and the mood changes depending on the time of day that is being simulated.
There are cartoon graphics, there are high end full renderings of real things, there is escapism and there is story telling and narrative.
Each of the games is part of a genre, so there are similarities with other games, but that does not make them “samey”. All our other entertainment and art fits into categories, has similarities.
The compute power, the design skills, the technical ability, the project management, the funding, marketing, selling, testing, fixing and many more skills used to create these experiences are then built upon by our own interaction with them. Our own moments of excitement, or humour, stress and achievement.
Games…. they just are fantastic aren’t they?