Posted by Michael - Friday 7th June 2013
About a year ago, we started a series of internal Tech Talks within the company. These give everyone the opportunity to learn about tools, techniques and methodologies that other teams are developing, helping diffuse our discoveries and challenges across the company for maximum win.
Last week we kicked off a new season of talks with a presentation by Enrique, Jon and Mike called 'Bringing Creatures To Life'. The aim was to show off a brand new pipeline we’ve created for animating the many weird and wonderful creatures in [SNIP! It’s not been announced yet! – Secrecy Ed], a native iOS and Android game created using Mediatonic’s proprietary game framework and the popular 2D toolkit Cocos2d-x.
The turnout was excellent, with the games room filled to the brim… although that was probably helped along by the free biscuits. Enrique kicked-off the talk by highlighting the features of our toolset which, by using Flash as authoring tool, allows us to create amazing animations ¬– not only by using the classical frame by frame technique but also adding motion and a basic implementation of skeletal animation, and use them in our new games.
Then, I provided a demo of the Texture Tool - an AIR-based application that loads the Flash animations prepared by our artists, and exports the frames as a series of PNG sequences. While there are similar tools out there, in this case we are able to customise the tool towards our particular needs. For example, we require different versions of the animation at different sizes for compatibility across mobile device resolutions, and the tool can output these. The tool can also be invoked from the command line, making it possible to integrate the whole art generation process into a build script. In fact, that’s what we did: our build server takes Flash SWF files and uses the tool to automatically generate and package textures in the form of spritesheets into the game.
After the build process, anyone in the team can check the results by using our internal animation viewer, which displays the animation the same way the game does it. Thanks to this tool, we can test that everything works as expected and the animation is ready to be used in the game.
Jon demonstrated the process by opening up Flash, showing how he had defined the different animations for one of the creatures. He also showed off how we can add control points, which are detected during the export stage, that allow programmers to attach other objects to the animation, such as a sprite, another animation or a particle emitter. Using this we can create fully-animated creatures with amazing effects ¬– like creatures that wriggle and breathe fire – with little programmer involvement.
To finish the presentation, Enrique showed how easy it is to use animations from the code by using a set of C++ functions that are now part of our native 2D framework.
These tools are but a small part of our continuing effort to hide the nuts and bolts and allow artists and coders to contribute equally to a single workspace. That way the creative juices can flow and the game can come alive.
Posted by Ed - Monday 11th March 2013
Did you hear? Amateur Surgeon Hospital – our highbrow hospital management game set in the Amateur Surgeon universe – was nominated for a BAFTA Games Award.
Let’s just say that again: Amateur Surgeon Hospital was nominated for a BAFTA.
That meant that some members of the team got to go to the glitzy awards ceremony, hosted by Dara O’Briain and, weirdly, Boris Becker. Yeah, we don’t really understand either, but hey. Anyway, here some of them are, dressed up all nice like:
(Totoro didn’t get to go. He's fine with that though, honestly. If – hypothetically – you opened the images in this blog post in a hex editor and – hypothetically – the string ‘YOU BASTARDS’ just happened to be repeated over and over again, well, what are the chances, eh? Truly there is beauty in our universe’s chaos.)
We didn’t win – SongPop was a worthy winner, we (begrudgingly) admit – but just being nominated was pretty amazing. It was our first BAFTA nomination ever, and now we’ve got a taste for it we’re more resolute than ever that it certainly won’t be our last.
And with Foul Play out in the next few months, everyone who judges the BAFTA Games Awards in 2014 had better watch out – Baron Dashforth knows how to throw a punch…
Posted by Ed - Friday 1st February 2013
Yesterday, we were lucky enough to be visited by Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. If you don’t know who that is, he’s one of the most important people in the UK Government.
L-R: Vince Cable (Secretary of State), Dave Bailey (Mediatonic CEO), Paul Croft (also works here)
Mr Cable toured the studio to learn more about the games industry, and specifically how we pull in talent from many different fields to create a beautiful pot-pourri of experience and imagination. (Don’t worry, we didn’t actually say those words to him. That would have been pretty awkward.)
As one of the highest-ranking officials in charge of skills development in the UK Government, it was a great opportunity to show off how games are a fusion of art, technology, vision and management, all of which are enhanced by having wide areas of background knowledge and experience.
We showed him some of our cross-platform HTML5 technology, and he and his advisors played a game simultaneously across various tablets and browser. He also took a look at Foul Play, our upcoming XBLA game, and saw how its London setting and ‘British humour’ has seen it lauded (by other people!) as an example of a game that would pass the proposed cultural test for the new Games Tax Breaks.
Mr. Cable and Jo Twist (Ukie CEO)
The visit was topped off with a roundtable discussion held in our boardroom, where some of the UK’s leading games figures took the chance to discuss the issues facing the games industry and its contribution to the UK economy. Present were Jo Twist, CEO of Ukie; Ian Livingstone CBE, Life President of Eidos; Fergal Gara, Vice President of SCEE; Andy Payne OBE, Ukie chairman and president of Mastertronic; Miles Jacobson OBE, studio director of Sports Interactive; plus our CEO Dave Bailey and chief creative officer Paul Croft.
Overall, it was a great success and we were delighted to have Mr. Cable visit. Big thanks to everyone at Ukie for all their co-operation and help with the event!