This year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC), held in early March, saw the largest crowd yet for this annual event. According to show organizers, attendance topped out at a record 22,500—a 17 percent increase over last year’s total.
Popular among the crowd of computer game professionals this year were mobile games, including those developed for smartphones and tablets, as well as social and online games. Given the large number of these business models at the show, it’s hardly surprising that there were (seemingly) just as many booths on the expo floor pitching monetization services to go hand in hand with these types of games. Though “mobile” and “digital” were popular terms at the show, the larger console makers and console/PC game developers still held court with their cutting-edge releases.
Among the 300 exhibitors at GDC were traditional game developer tool vendors as well, showing off new and tried-and-true products for creating the next big game. After careful consideration, Computer Graphics World has selected the following for the magazine’s annual Silver Edge Awards at GDC, presented to companies whose particular product represents the best of show at this leading conference and exhibition.
Launched at Autodesk University last November and available now, Infinite Z’s “zSpace” platform can display 3D images that appear solid in space. Using the prototype demo, people wearing 3D glasses can pick up any of a number of models in a scene by clicking a button on a pen, move them, zoom in and out, turn the objects this way and that, look inside, and take pieces apart, just as if they were real. The company calls the environment holographic, and because the solid objects appear between the screen and the viewer, it probably is. But whatever they label it, people squeal in delight when they try it. Honest. The 24-inch LDC monitor has tracking sensors built in; the eyeglasses have trackable markers. The stylus has three buttons and an integrated infrared LED and accelerometer. Priced at approximately $6,000, the system requires 8GB memory, 64-bit Windows 7 or XP, an Nvidia Quadro card with 2G onboard memory, and an Intel quad i7 or Xeon CPU.
New from OptiTrack is a $999 motion-capture camera with 1.3-megapixel sensor resolution. The Flex 13 has a 120 fps sample rate and a 56-degree or 32-degree field of view with 5.5mm and 8mm lenses. The camera also offers infrared and visible-spectrum filtering options, camera sync over USB cables, on-camera image processing, grayscale scene video, and on-camera MJPEG compression. OptiTrack plans to ship the product in April, and as with other products in the company’s motion-capture line, Flex 13 is available online. Jim Richardson, president and CTO, estimates that users could set up a 15- by 15-foot capture volume using 16 Flex 13 cameras for approximately $20,000.
Kinect without the gizmo? XTR3D’s patent-protected, real-time, software-based 3D motion-capture technology enables consumer devices equipped with a standard 2D video camera to recognize and be controlled with body gestures from as far away as 17 feet. You can be the remote control for an Android or Windows-based smart television set, PC, tablet, or computer running XTR3D-enabled games and applications. Potential developers stopping by the booth at GDC received preview versions of the Israeli-based company’s 3D motion-capture and gesture control developer’s kit.
If mobile is the future, EA is on the right track. Among a long list of games for smartphones and tablets, two stood out at GDC: “Mass Effect Infiltrator,” a fully featured interpretation of Bioware’s premier science-fiction universe—for iOS in March and Android later—provides a remarkably immersive experience on a tablet. Also, “The Act,” developed by React Entertainment and published by Chillingo for iOS devices, is an interactive movie created by former Disney animators. “The Act” is notable for the quality of the drawings and animation, and for the possibility of turning other linear animated films into interactive experiences using React’s technology.
The latest version of Autodesk’s video game user interface (UI) solution, Autodesk’s Scaleform 4.1 is suitable for all types of video game development but is designed especially for mobile game development, as well as 2D games and apps. New to Scaleform is support for BitmapData, AS3 XML, and regular expressions. In addition to other enhancements, the solution now can be used with the Unity 3 engine. It also supports the new Microsoft Windows 8 Metro platform, which provides a touch-based interface to tablets and PCs.