GDC 2010, Day 1: The Missing Middle

Real World Gaming, Microsoft Surface, And More

Real World Gaming

What happens when you apply game development techniques learned when developing Diablo III and World of Warcraft into the real world? You get MyTown.

Keith Lee, CEO of Booyah, the developer of MyTown, gave a talk filled with interesting insights into the increasing overlap between virtual and real worlds. MyTown is an iPhone app that allows you to “buy” real-world real estate, like your local Starbucks or H&M. You don’t really own it, of course, but you are competing with others who are bidding or buying up these real world assets in a virtual way.

Lee covered some fascinating examples of using gameplay techniques in applications with real-world implications, like Nike+ and Wii Fit. Booyah’s own application, MyTown, currently has 1.3 million registered users, who spend an average of 70 minutes a day in the game.

Lee painted a somewhat frightening, yet strangely compelling universe of “smaller, tighter compulsion loops” to keep players engaged. MyTown’s business model generates revenue both by brand partnerships (as with H&M clothing stores) and micropayments by players for virtual goods.

Is this the future of gaming--turning the real world into a giant Skinner box, treating players like hamsters eager for the next virtual food pellet in exchange for real dollars? We can only hope for a backlash.

Game Design For Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface is a pricey PC with five embedded webcams and a huge, massively multi-touch display. It’s literally a tabletop computer.

Microsoft presented a talk on designing games for Surface. Interestingly, Surface was originally called the “Microsoft Playtable,” and was originally oriented towards early childhood education. So, gaming was always in the cards for Surface. Demos were shown of the Dungeons and Dragons prototype developed by Carnegie Mellon graduate students and several arcade titles by Vectorform Game Studios.

What’s interesting is how Surface illustrates, in a large scale way, some of the real-world game interactions that are becoming memes of game developers these days:

  • Using Surface seems more natural than working with a PC. Surface removes a layer separating PC from user, those ubiquitous input devices like mice and keyboards we all love and hate.
  • Microsoft Surface is “massively multi-touch.” We’re not talking about two or three gestures, but up to 52 touches occurring simultaneously. This enables more robust, real-time multi-player experiences. One example shown was a Scrabble-like letter tile game using physical tiles. Each tile was pre-registered with Surface, so it knew which letter the tile represented. Players could move the tiles around in real time, form words, and modify words. And multiple players could all be doing this simultaneously.
  • Surface is inherently multi-user. This opens up new possibilities, like multi-player pinball, and Vectorform’s Galactic Alliance, a multi-player, real-time tower defense game.
  • Surface recognizes objects that are placed on the screen. Since it can recognize objects (there are five cameras, remember), objects exist in full 3D space. Physical objects on the screen can be used as blockades, attractors, weapons, mirrors, refractors, and more.

Currently, the price of Surface--$15K or more--is still too high for most home users. But the developer’s kit is free, and apps can be tested on more limited multi-touch interfaces available on tablet PCs. Dev kits are downloadable right here.

More To Come

GDC is really just getting started, so drop by and check out further reports on the show in the next few days. We’ll talk more about highly multi-threaded games, Civilization V, Borderlands, and more.

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
46 comments
    Your comment
    Top Comments
  • Onus
    nVidia, please take a Bullet for the team. Let PhysX die, and embrace a shared, open standard.
    ATi, if it will help them swallow a bitter pill, do your 3D their way.
    To get the best features, I don't want to be limited to only certain games based on whose GPU I bought. You'll fracture the PC gaming market, and I really don't see how that is in anyone's interests.
    26
  • rad666
    jtt283nVidia, please take a Bullet for the team. Let PhysX die, and embrace a shared, open standard.ATi, if it will help them swallow a bitter pill, do your 3D their way.To get the best features, I don't want to be limited to only certain games based on whose GPU I bought. You'll fracture the PC gaming market, and I really don't see how that is in anyone's interests.


    I second the motion.
    17
  • Other Comments
  • Onus
    nVidia, please take a Bullet for the team. Let PhysX die, and embrace a shared, open standard.
    ATi, if it will help them swallow a bitter pill, do your 3D their way.
    To get the best features, I don't want to be limited to only certain games based on whose GPU I bought. You'll fracture the PC gaming market, and I really don't see how that is in anyone's interests.
    26
  • rad666
    jtt283nVidia, please take a Bullet for the team. Let PhysX die, and embrace a shared, open standard.ATi, if it will help them swallow a bitter pill, do your 3D their way.To get the best features, I don't want to be limited to only certain games based on whose GPU I bought. You'll fracture the PC gaming market, and I really don't see how that is in anyone's interests.


    I second the motion.
    17
  • JohnnyLucky
    Interesting developments. I don't think the major players really want to share unless it is absolutely, positively necessary.
    4
  • bitterman0
    jtt283nVidia, please take a Bullet for the team. Let PhysX die, and embrace a shared, open standard. ATi, if it will help them swallow a bitter pill, do your 3D their way.To get the best features, I don't want to be limited to only certain games based on whose GPU I bought. You'll fracture the PC gaming market, and I really don't see how that is in anyone's interests.

    rad666I second the motion.

    It's called "competition". And it is considered a norm to have two or even more (in extreme cases) competing technologies to become "standard". After a while only one technology remains and becomes a de-facto standard. Nothing to get yourself worked up about, really.
    1
  • falchard
    Since nVidia does not have the performance crown, they most likely will be unable to push a closed standard like PhysX or nVision. Any game developer who uses such technology will do so at a dive in the total amount of customers they can have.
    8
  • shin0bi272
    I thought amd didnt want anything to do with physics... are they scared of nvidia's physx now or something? All of a sudden they are pushing for an open source standard when 3 or 4 years ago when ageia was up for sale they wouldnt touch it with a 10ft pole. Seems amd is scrambling to find a solution that will benefit them equally with their competitors because they screwed up and are now covering their asses while pointing their finger at nvidia saying that a hardware dependent solution is unfair etc etc.
    -5
  • Trueno07
    Ahhh i love seeing this.. Rebirth of the PC and with it, new and flourishing competition.

    Makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
    6
  • Onus
    Oh, I'm all for competition. Compete on price and performance though, not on a mutually exclusive feature set that forces uncomfortable choices. People complain about game quality now, how do you think it will get when developers know they're only writing for that portion of the market that uses {ATi | nVidia} ? Ugly. Or compete on a value-add. Write a driver that uses one vertical column of pixels at each edge as a sort of "sound level meter," so those of us who are deaf in one ear (or entirely) will know where the sound is coming from; stuff like that.
    0
  • Anonymous
    I don't see any reason for nVidia to drop PhysX, since Bullet will run on the GeForce chips just fine using OpenCL or DirectCompute, but if the game supports PhysX then nVidia can get a boost in performance since that's specifically designed for their chips.
    -5
  • Anonymous
    Isnt the Xbox "Microsoft" Natal compatible with windows? Wonder how many games will support it.
    0
  • Anonymous
    As for PhysX , watch it die in the next 2 years, save my words. A quad core can fully handle physics equations to trace explosions and bullets damage and that does only use less than 10% of the Cpu power of a Q6600.The problem is on the game developpers that denies optimizing those calculations on the Cpu and rather do them on Gpus, why? You probably know the answer. We are already seeing 6 cores to remind you or if you just want the fastest, Opteron 12corex 4 Sockets= 48Cores. Crysis is using Cpu physics while we never see a Cpu load of higher than 50%. All consoles uses Cpu directed physics processing.
    -1
  • Anonymous
    Enabling PhysX on Gpus shows a Big hit in Fps, the Gpu power is more efficently used when only doing graphics and not damage linear calculations.
    -1
  • Anonymous
    Yea, the most exciting gaming hardware we will soon see will be the Project Natal, coders will find ways on how to use it in creative ways like moving your mouse pointer with your fingers taping in the air, I know its not necessary but that shows a BIG advancement in Computer Science Technology area. I will take one. That would be awesome for a Media Center with the big TV.
    0
  • joe gamer
    PC gaming always has an upsurge near the middle of the console "lifespan" because PC hardware grows in a linear fashion and consoles grow in spurts with ever larger lengths of stagnation in between. There is a convergence point where a PC can quite cheaply become much more powerful(and is always more versatile) than consoles.

    Far more terrifying for PC gaming to my mind is the proliferation of DRM, publisher greed, and investment stagnation. Everybody of course wants to blame piracy but that argument doesn't really cut it for me, If I buy the game I want to play it whenever, however I want. None of this "needs internet for single player" BS. This is all a symptom of games becoming more and more profitable, as publishers(who know jack squat about good games) have all the god damn money, they continue to put more limits on developers and crank out sequel after sequel, and movie based abominations. It just seems as if everything is getting worse. I think there are what? Three different studios with their fingers in the Call of Duty pie? Seriously?

    As games are made for a wider and wider audience I just can't help but be reminded, most people are idiots. When I see Farmville being touted as "the most successful game of 2009" it hurts my brain, in the middle and a bit toward the back, right in the Common sense portion. I seriously worry about humanity as a whole when this is mainstream entertainment. Let me know when "Owe My Balls" airs on Fox so I can start climbing the clock-tower.
    2
  • mindless728
    Anonymous said:
    I second the motion.


    also with this notion, not only does it lock out ATI cards, but also people with lower end NV GPU's that can't handle both

    also, most physics can be done on the cpu just fine, look at havok and the physics engine from crysis
    -1
  • hannibal
    Ferni will most propably be a beast in PhysX, but is it enough? If game developer can sell more games because they use standard that more customers can use, in this case "Bullet", it is economically more usefull put time and money to it.
    Nvidia has good connections to game developers, like the Unreal 3 engine upgrade to 3D resently. Hard to say if they can monopolise physics or any other part of these new features. I personally hope open standards and competition in speed. I am guite sure that Ferni could be very fast allso in Bullet physics engine, because of it's calculation features, but it would allso allow ATI and Intel users to benefit same features. It would be up to speed vs cost factor then.
    2
  • xcamas
    try to separate me from who is my best friend, is evil
    what is evil needs to be corected
    if we cant corect, we have one option, KILL IT BEFORE IT KILL US

    lets kill PhysX before it kills us all.
    Thats why AMD is pushing for a standard that will save even nVidia and all gamers
    -1
  • anamaniac
    jtt283nVidia, please take a Bullet for the team. Let PhysX die, and embrace a shared, open standard.ATi, if it will help them swallow a bitter pill, do your 3D their way.To get the best features, I don't want to be limited to only certain games based on whose GPU I bought. You'll fracture the PC gaming market, and I really don't see how that is in anyone's interests.

    I understand your point, but the drama of actually having real reasons (other than performance) t choose one vendor over the other adds to the excitement. =)
    dreamphantom_1977Alright, anyone who thinks nvidia should make physx open to ati- read this.http://www.tomshardware.com/news/n [...] ,5841.htmlthen read thishttp://www.bluesnews.com/s/108344/ [...] x-commentsthen read thishttp://www.ngohq.com/graphic-cards [...] esent.htmlthen read thishttp://www.extremetech.com/article [...] 555,00.aspAti fanboys- in short here is some educationNvidia paid for physx Nvidia was going to license physx to havoc to Ati extremely cheap.Ati didn't want physx - ati wanted havocNvidia wanted Ati to have physx- even on the cheap, soNvidia built drivers that supported Ati's cards to run physxNvidia paid for the coding to include Ati's card on physxAti still didn't want it. Anyone notice how much ati points fingers at nvidia?Nvidia got sick of Ati pointing fingers, and got sick of paying for ATI GPU's to be coded into physx WHEN ATI didn't want it.Ati didn't want physx because it wasn't open standards. But, nvidia says anyone can use it and write there own software to use it, every system has it, even the iphone, wii, xbox 360, and ps3, and it's free and legal to write your own software for it, as long as you licence it. . You just have to licence it like just about any other program written. So, lets get this straight- Nvidia didn't BLOCK ati cards from using physx, ati didn't want it, so nvidia just stopped writing software to support ati cards. Ati doesn't care if physx is popular, they aren't gonna pay to licence it because it's owned by nvidia, and they will do whatever they can to make nvidia look bad, including make stuff up. Ati doesn't want physX. Thats why nvidia pulled support. Nvidia wanted ati to have support. Ati said no, even though it is the most popular physics software.WHY SHOULD NVIDIA WRITE CODE TO SUPPORT ATI IF ATI DOESN'T WANT IT?You all are blaming nvidia, but you should be blaming ati for caring more about money, and less about what gamers really want. Nvidia was willing to work with ati, ati said no, now everyone is mad at nvidia. If nvidia didn't buy physx, physx wouldn't be were it is today. NVIDIA has been paying to bring physx to games, because havok wasn't going anywhere and wasn't as popular and physx was better. Why should nvidia have to pay for everything? If ati wants physx they should have to pay too. The games that use physx are not blocking ati hardware, as you can see by using different drivers. Physx just doesn't know how to use ati hardware because nvidia isn't including the code (that ati should pay for) to take advantage of physx. The companies that use physx pay coders to code with physx because it's better. Nvidia pays programmers to code physx. Why shouldn't ati have to pay? Last question- If it only costs a few pennies - "PENNIES per gpu" to licence physx and enable physx on your ati hardware- would you do it?Keep in mind that nvidia has to pay programmers to code it, support it, and implement it into the physx software. When was the last time you got free coding?Ati- quit thinking of money, you design graphics cards, you should support the gamers who buy your products. If nvidia didn't own physx today, if asus bought it, ati would have licensed it. It's just because it's there rivals.

    I think I remember that.
    I would still prefer a open standard anyways. Too bad ATi didn't play ball though, I'd be satisfied with PhysX on my 5770.

    Something that has me interested though. People running a computer with both dedicated (a 5770) and integrated (GMA 4500) using the crappy integrated for physics. You have an extra unused chip, that should be able to handle physics better than a CPU without the need for a second dedicated card, so why not? (Except for us X58 users with no integrated video)
    Also, for multi monitor setups, I'd like a true FOV across all monitors. I hate seeing the images stretched and zoomed horribly on my sides monitors. Maybe have each monitor have it's own unique point of view? (Such as FSX, where you can setup multiple point of views)
    That'd be sick. It'd also motivate me to finally buy a second 5770.

    Happy gaming all.
    1
  • cheepstuff
    Quote:
    Is this the future of gaming--turning the real world into a giant Skinner box, treating players like hamsters eager for the next virtual food pellet in exchange for real dollars? We can only hope for a backlash.


    great analogy, this is a dangerous and yet predictable outcome of virtual entertainment. Western culture is based around the idea of happiness and entertainment which means for the foreseeable future stuff like this will become popular. hopefully the social changes wont be to severe.
    1
  • JDFan
    Thing is though as long as Nv owns Physx they might say they will allow others to use it as long as they license it but what do you think happens once it becomes a standard and games are written for it at the exclusion of other standards --- Nvidia decides to raise the licensing fees to ridiculous amounts and tells everyone to either pay or stop using it !!
    0