Caught in the Game
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 10 (October 2005)

Caught in the Game

Before long, the neighbors kicked me out, and I faced a much bigger challenge-convincing my parents that we needed a Pong of our very own. The undertaking was bigger than I imagined, but eventually my parents gave in and bought me “the blasted” game. The kids in our neighborhood would gather together on the weekends for Pong-a-thons. We’d play for hours on end, hanging on every hit of the paddle, every bounce of the little white square. Competition was fierce. And even though it was a simple game with uncomplicated graphics and no special effects, it was our first encounter with sports-like video games, and we were consumed-until, of course, something better came along.

Today game developers rely heavily on CG artistry and specialized programming to deliver ultrarealistic, robust gameplay on all types of devices. The big-money business of sports games, for example, continues to blur the lines of creativity and technology as game developers and publishers push to drive profitability and exceed customer expectations. This month in “The Art of the Deal” (pg. 15), Martin McEachern explores the behind-the-scenes battles game developers and publishers encounter when producing sports games. From repurposing content and reducing polygon counts to integrating motion capture and AI programming, streamlining the production pipeline is paramount for success. Visual effects artists, who once saw their futures firmly entrenched in the movie industry, are now bringing their talents to the interactive game development community. And cinematic effects and camera angles, once reserved for game promos, are now becoming an integral part of the game.

But, continued growth in the game development and publishing communities could easily be thwarted by a lack of open standards for file exchange. In the article “Collada: Game On” (pg. 10), Kathleen Maher discusses the advancements in Collaborative Design Activity, or Collada, an XML schema created by Sony that offers game developers a way to losslessly exchange data between authoring tools. Now a part of the Khronos open standards movement, Collada incorporates the collective trust of many game developers, software companies, and hardware companies, such as Alias, Autodesk Media and Entertainment, Softimage, Nvidia, ATI, and 3Dlabs.

Tomb Raider with Lara Croft helped jump-start the crossover of video games to the silver screen. Now companies like MTV Films are cashing in on the trend, recently announcing plans to acquire the worldwide film rights to the action-horror video game The Suffering: Ties That Bind, from Surreal Software, a Midway Games subsidiary. Together with Stan Winston Productions and Circle of Confusion, MTV plans to make the small-screen terror a larger-than-life movie.

As the game development and CG communities come together to immerse our reality with fantasy, the opportunity to get caught in the game is very real.

Are you ready?

Kelly Dove