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The GDC week and all that’s new in technology

While thinking about the week spent at the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC), I can’t help but recall the immense learnings I had there. And learning was not all, there was a lot of inspiration to bring back home and start the new year building games using that inspiration.

Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) was one of the biggest draws this year. No one can say for certain whether this technology will thrive or cease to exist in the future. But at the moment, the VR experience is realistic and engaging, similar to living the game world created by the developer.

Some of the VR devices that I tested included the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Sony Playstation VR, the Samsung Gear VR and even the good old Google Cardboard. I found the Vive and Playstation VR to be outstanding, but thought that Samsung Gear VR had an edge as well.

The great part of VR is that when it is combined with other hardware simulators, it gives VR a whole new dimension.
For example, the motion simulator along with the VR device from Nexperience brought about an awesome 6D experience.

Nexperience

And then there was Birdly that used VR with a mountable stand to explore sensory-motor, wind generator along with strong visual impact to create a fantastic flight simulation experience.

BirdlyUnlimited Hands was another interesting technology that used VR along with a haptic game controller to help the player feel the objects in the gaming world. This controller used muscle sensor, 3D motion sensor and multi-channel electronic muscle stimulator to detect the users hand movements for responsive feedback.

Virtual Reality Games

The Virtual Reality devices were incomplete without the games. Some of my favorite games included –

The Climb powered by the CRYENGINE gave a thrilling experience of climbing a rock mountain. There were times where I missed on catching a grip on the rock, the experience of falling down the rock thereafter was terrifying.

Paranormal Activity, the game is built on the popular horror film franchise. As a player, you will see yourself inside a house at night time interacting with objects only to realize you are not alone. The game does a fabulous job of making you feel uneasy!

The Everest is a must try, especially if you love the Himalayas. The virtual experience of of climbing one of the highest and riskiest peaks of the world is just as terrifying!!

Alt. Ctrl
In today’s age of technological advancement and gaming gadgets, the alt.ctrl at GDC was quite a pleasant surprise. Alt.ctrl stands for alternative controllers and almost all the participants were entertaining with their ideas. Some of the ones I played and liked included –

Crank Tank powered by Aurdino used crank controllers to play a multiplayer arcade game.

CrankTanks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Threadsteading is a two player strategy game using a modified quilting machine.

Threadsteading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palimpseste is a first person exploration game that makes use of Filtered Reality i.e. Using a mounted device to view the game through the independent RGB filters. When a color filter is changed, it can show the player areas of the game unseen through the earlier filter.

Augmented Reality

Image Metrics is a face and expression recognition technology. It can capture head movements and rotations, as well as extract face textures. It then uses this facial data to overlay it with graphics. I played around a little with their IOS app Turned which used this technology brilliantly to create zombies out of our faces.

On the subject of Augmented Reality, I must mention another AR technology – Magic Leap. Although I did not see this at GDC, there is so much I’ve heard and read about it.

It is said to be the most exciting thing in Augmented Reality right now. It’s basically a startup which is working on an augmented reality technology. It overlays digital 3D graphics onto your view of the real world via a headset with transparent lenses or smartglasses.

I’m looking forward to Magic Leap opening up to developers soon.

Development Engines

Unity is one of the most popular engines that developers use to make games. CRYENGINE, UNREAL, and Amazon Lumberyard are other interesting game development platforms.

Google had a large space of their booth dedicated to PROJECT TANGO. Project Tango is a technology from Google where it uses vision sensors on devices to move through the world just as humans do. It uses 3D motion tracking and depth sensing to understand position, orientation and depth of objects in the real world. For example you can measure your floor using the phone before you go carpet shopping. Or walk into a maze and use Tango to quickly give you its plan in 3D for you to escape out of it.

Overall GDC was a massive event. There was so much to do that the week was not enough. But the good part is, the inspiration that I drew from it, will be enough to make me keep reading, learning and experimenting more till the next GDC!

I would personally like to thank Blake Merriam and the GameDesignersNetwork to enable the scholarship and provide networking opportunities with game developers within India and outside.

If you too are interested in attending GDC 2017 next year with a scholarship from GDN, make sure you fill out the form and stay in the loop for the announcement.

Mariam

The Ups and Downs of HTML5

I’ve been off writing for a while mostly because most my time had been taken up with work. If I did get any time off, I preferred spending that time away from the desk. But lately I’ve been missing writing, so thought of starting off with a short article on how I view the platform I’m investing my time in – HTML5.

Rewinding back by four years

It all began in April 2010 when the then CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs issued a public letter titled “Thoughts on Flash” dismissing it as platform no longer relevant for web based content. All of a sudden it sparked debates in the media and developer circles with HTML5 by being pitted against Flash, threatening to topple it down. The general opinion was that HTML5 is King and will change the way people look at content on mobile, as Flash will languish in oblivion.

As time passed, the glory of HTML5 starting fading a bit. In 2012 Mark Zuckerberg was quoted saying at the Disrupt conference that his biggest mistake was “betting too much on HTML5 as opposed to native”.

In 2013 LinkedIn too switched from mobile web-based apps to native because of performance issues and crashes.

In 2012 at the Intel Developer Forum, Intel admitted that HTML5 was over hyped, while continuing to be a strong developer supporter for HTML5 development even today.

HTML5 games was a small, almost non-existent market.

Back to recent times

Times are better today. There is still a constant conflicting debate on whether HTML5 is sustainable in comparison to native or platforms like Unity.

Native and web based apps can never be compared because they both work differently. While a native app runs on a mobile’s OS and machine firmware, HTML5 apps run within a browser. It is upto project stakeholders to decide whether their product is best designed for native or web.

SpilGames and SoftGames have the largest catalogue of casual HTML5 games. They have built this catalogue to target their casual game audiences that play games on the web. They along with FGL are encouraging developers with an ecosystem that includes monetization across platforms. Amazon too has started excepting HTML5 web apps.

GREE, a Japanese social games company recently announced a shift of focus from HTML5 to native apps. I don’t see this as a news that will damage the current HTML5 ecosystem. It is known that HTML5 can never compete with console quality games, especially on mobiles. What HTML5 can provide though, is quick access to games when a user visits a website without having the pains of connecting to app stores, downloading content or paying for it. HTML5 is best suited for quick game-plays and easy discovery through web browsers.

What I also loving about the platform is its community. The community is responsive and constantly building and improving frameworks to make the process of HTML5 development easier.

So to sum it up, the adaption of HTML5 has been like a wave curve. It’s seen adaption and  abandonment. The platform is yet evolving, and it’s only going to get better, while mobile phones will get more powerful.

If you have thoughts on the HTML5 ecosystem please feel free to share it. I to hope continue sharing more articles on developing games and apps using HTML5.

Also check out

Chrome experiments; they have some fantastic work but never tested them on mobiles

Mozilla Developer Network

Mariam