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Video games getting smart, social and mobile

Video games getting smart, social and mobile
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First Published: Fri, Mar 09 2007. 11 00 AM IST
Updated: Fri, Mar 09 2007. 11 00 AM IST
SAN FRANCISCO: Reality, mobility and community were prime themes at the international video game developers gathering that ends on Friday in San Francisco.
Thousands of engineers who craft software for games played on computers, consoles or mobile devices mingled through the week, showing off innovations, forming alliances and swapping insights.
The Game Developers Conference was billed by organizers as the largest event of its kind and an estimated 12,500 people were expected to attend.
“If films were the entertainment industry of the last century then this century it is video games,” said Paul Kruszewski, chief technology officer at Montreal-based Engenuity Technologies Inc.
Kruszewski and his team showed off AI.implant, software that essentially made computerized video game opponents smarter with artificial intelligence.
As was clear from demonstrations throughout two cavernous exposition halls at the conference, video game graphics were nearing film-quality imagery.
Technology from Silicon Studios of Tokyo enabled gamers to put animated copies of their own faces onto customized animated characters used in computer games or virtual worlds such as Second Life.
Firms that make other game-enhancing software, referred to as “middleware,” also displayed technology that immersed players in three-dimensional scenes.
“The visual is done; we are almost at photo quality,” Kruszewski told AFP. “The next generation of gaming is about interactivity. They have given us realistic environments and we are giving them realistic opponents.”
Imbuing video game enemies with artificial intelligence lets them adapt to changing conditions such as debris scattered by explosions or improvised player tactics.
Computerized video game opponents have traditionally been limited to specific programmed actions, making them predictable to those that play repeatedly.
The increasing realism of game visuals and environments has caught the interest of the US military, reported to be a driving force behind the development of “serious games” designed for training instead of fun.
“I’ve been coming to the Game Developers Conference for seven years and never saw a uniform before this time,” Kruszewski said. “There are a lot of military here and they want the latest simulation technology.”
A large swath of the exposition was devoted to mobile games with wireless technology firms such as Qualcomm enticing developers to create games for the skyrocketing number of people who play on the go.
“Everything is going to converge -- iPods, mobile phones, MP3 players, video games,” Howard Yeh said as he lured passersby into playing a version of Dance Dance Revolution powered by a Qualcomm chip in a handheld device.
“Our competitors from all over the place are here now.”
A cornucopia of new mobile game titles were being previewed at GDC.
“Mobile gaming is getting huge,” said Jo Stichbury of Nokia’s premier mobile game platform N-Gage. “It’s one of the biggest sectors of the download market.”
Along with games for the gamut of devices, including rival PlayStation, Xbox and Wii consoles by Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo respectively, were ways to play against friends either online or by wirelessly linking handheld devices.
“What gamers are looking for in games isn’t always the best graphics, audio or picture, but communication,” Nintendo game-making icon Shigeru Miyamoto said on Thursday in a keynote speech at the conference.
“We must always remember the human touch.”
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First Published: Fri, Mar 09 2007. 11 00 AM IST
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