Unreal Engine 4 Tech Demo Displays Ultra-Realistic Graphics


You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a real photograph of a real flat but you would be wrong. It is, in fact, a screenshot taken from a recent Unreal Engine 4 tech demo by 3D artist and level designer Benoît Dereau. Since it’s unveiling at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in 2013, scores of demos have emerged that display the graphical power offered by the latest iteration of the Unreal Engine but none have been as shockingly realistic as this piece of fairly mundane scenery.

The textures, reflections, and lighting on display in this demo – available for download at Dereau’s website – are all incredibly lifelike and, when brought together, are more than the sum of their parts. The walls and ceilings are covered in lush patterns, there’s dynamic sunlight flooding in through the windows, and the textures all have incredibly fine detail; it’s almost as if you could reach out and touch it. In short, it’s impressive. Even when the subject matter is as ordinary as a Parisian flat – or perhaps because it’s such an everyday scene – it’s hard not to be wowed by this demo and the potential for high fidelity graphics in games going forward.

It is just a tech demo however and it’s always hard to tell how representative these showpieces will be of the games of the future. With that in mind, it’s also worth noting that this was the work of a single person, not the legions of artists that work on most big-budget games, and this is a very exciting notion indeed. It means that visuals like these could be replicated by small teams of adventurous indie developers, not just by massive AAA studios backed by huge publishers and staffed by an army of professional developers.

The Unreal Engine 4 has also caused something of a stir over its pricing model. For nineteen U.S. dollars per month and five percent of the gross revenue of any games made using the engine, anyone can have access to it. In comparison, a license for Unity Pro will set you back seventy-five dollars per month and you can’t even get a price for CryEngine Pro without signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This does mean, however, that the company that own and develop the Unreal Engine, Epic Games, stand to gain much more money from those games that do sell well. For example, were I to make a game that grossed one million dollars, I would then owe Epic fifty thousand of those hard earned bucks as opposed to paying only a few thousand for a license up front. The flip side of this deal is that the bar to entry has never been lower. With a little talent and some technical expertise, even someone as skint as I am could scrape together nineteen dollars a month (less than thirteen pounds at the current exchange rate) and start making a game using this powerful software. The potential is astounding.

The featured image is the property of Benoît Dereau and was taken from http://www.benoitdereau.com.


British Museum to be recreated in Minecraft


Minecraft, to those unfamiliar with the title, is an open world “sandbox” style game about building stuff with blocks.  It is, essentially, a limitless Lego set.  It is also a global cultural phenomenon.

Since its official release in 2011, Minecraft has sold a total of over 54 million copies across just about every gaming platform that you can think of (PC, iOS, Android, Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, and PS4) and the Swedish company behind the game, Mojang, was recently bought by the tech giant Microsoft for $2.5 billion (£1.5 billion).

Many ambitious players from around the world have built incredibly detailed replicas of global landmarks – like the Eiffel Tower – while others have recreated their favourite places from fiction – like the truly astonishing recreation of the world of Westeros from Game of Thrones – and some government agencies have even gotten involved.

Earlier this year, the Danish Geodata Agency launched a full 1:1 scale recreation of the country in Minecraft and the British Ordnance Survey has constructed a map in the game that recreates 224,000 square kilometres of the UK.  Now the British Museum in London has offered its support to a project to create a digital facsimile of the institution – and its exhibits – in the game.

The Museum – which receives almost six million visitors a year and houses eight million historic objects – is currently staging a “Museum of the Future” scheme that they hope will encourage discussion about the role that technology plays in public education and to expand its appeal amongst the general public; especially kids and teenagers.  An employee of the British Museum recently posted details of the venture on the social media site Reddit and asked for volunteers to get involved.

“The museum should/will be providing a server, once I’ve proved it’s a viable project, and we have Museum Minecraft players lined to help (although they are few and far between)”, they said.

They received an enthusiastic response from Minecraft players around the world and are hoping to have completed the first stage of the build – the digital recreation of the Great Court and façade of the building – by 16 October to coincide with a public debate entitled “Changing public dialogues with museum collections in the digital age”.

In an interview with the BBC, Ed Barton – who researches gaming for the independent analytics firm Ovum – stated that this project would help the British Museum to be “perceived as something fun” and that it would serve as a valuable educational tool for young gamers.

“What a cool project it would be to be asked to build the Elgin Marbles in Minecraft,” he said in reference to some of the more famous objects housed in the Museum such as the Elgin Marbles, Rosetta Stone and Sutton Hoo helmet.

“It’s the digital equivalent of building the British Museum in Lego.  You have to build it brick by brick”, he said.  Barton added that the institution should be commended for crowdsourcing the project “as it turns into a collaborative thing” and could, as the institution hopes, engage young Minecraft fans in the work of the British Museum.






Accessed 24-09-2014

Female Gamers Outnumber Male, Study Shows


A new study into the nation’s gaming habits has found evidence suggesting that more women play games than men.  The survey of 4,058 people in the UK aged 8-74 was commissioned by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IBAUK) and conducted by the independent research agency Populus.  After questioning the participants of the study via online surveys in June 2014, the research agency conducted 30-minute face-to-face interviews with 22 gamers and four industry experts to support their findings.

The research asserts that 52% of the people who have played some form of videogame in the last six months were female.  The study also indicates that more people over the age of 44 are playing games (27% of the total game audience) than children aged 8-17 (accounting for only 22%).

To many – particularly those who think of gaming as the preserve of teenage boys – these findings must seem surprising; especially due to the hyper-aggressive marketing of many big-budget AAA games that are already brimming with machismo (the Call of Duty and Halo series’ being perhaps the most famous examples).  The vast growth in popularity of gaming within certain portions of the population is not due to any change in direction from the AAA world however and is instead driven by the popularity of tablets and smartphones.  These mobile platforms have made videogames significantly more accessible and convenient than ever before and the survey found that 54% of those who participated played games on their smartphones and a quarter of those people played on their phones every day.

“The internet and mobile devices have changed the gaming landscape forever,” says Steve Chester, Director of Data & Industry Programmes at the Internet Advertising Bureau. “They’ve brought down the barriers to entry, making gaming far more accessible and opened it up to a whole new audience. In the past you needed to go out and buy an expensive console and the discs on top to get a decent experience, now you can just download a free app.”

This factor coupled with the swathes of intuitive and – at least nominally – free puzzlers (like Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga) and social games (like Farmville) available as mobile apps has driven the rise in popularity of games.

The survey found that 33% of the total people asked named trivia, word, and puzzle games as their favourite genre while 56% of women 45 and over and half of women aged 25-44 prefer puzzle games.

Free-to-play puzzle games on mobile platforms driving the growing popularity of games in the UK mainstream

When it comes to the amount of time spent playing games, the average 8-15 year old gamer plays for roughly 20 hours a week while the average gamer aged 16 and over plays games for around 11 hours a week.  According to the survey, the average Briton spends six hours per week playing games which accounts for around 11% of their total media consumption in a typical week – roughly the same share accounted for by social media and only slightly less than listening to music (14%).

The study also reported that the UK gaming audience has now hit 33.5 million people of all ages (that’s 69% of the population).  So it would seem that videogames, of one kind or another, are now well and truly mainstream and it will be interesting to see what these trends mean for the future of the games industry.

Source:  http://www.iabuk.net/about/press/archive/more-women-now-play-video-games-than-men

Accessed 18-09-2014