Pizza and Pixels – July 2015

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Pizza and Pixels, Canberra’s monthly game development meet up, is undergoing changes. The exact nature of these changes was detailed in last month’s Pizza and Pixels article. A main feature of the changes to the monthly meet up is the move toward considering and detailing the commercial considerations involved in game development. In line with the recent changes to the event, new event host Jarrod Farquhar-Nicol took attendees through recent items of note, including: the Stir educational platform; Reload Bar’s local indie showcase and upcoming events; the upcoming Adelaide based AVCon anime and video games convention; the July 6th deadline for submissions to Pax Australia and the need for volunteers to help run the event; the Oatsea Foundation’s ‘Teacher Virus’ program and submissions to the Xprize Awards; the upcoming HACT Canberra Winter 2015 event and the need for volunteer mentors; a new Canberra based JavaScript meetup and an upcoming Xerox bookkeeping workshop to be held in the Entry 29 co-working space.

The Oatsea Foundation is a not for profit organisation which brings together a community of teachers, developers, authors, artists, translators, students and parents to create free education initiatives. The Oatsea Foundation is competing for the learning category Xprizes, and is looking to establish a community to answer the problems and challenges detailed in the award category. Those looking to contact the Oatsea Foundation can do so via the Foundation’s website.      

Following the rundown of upcoming events and recent items of note, attendees returned to exhibiting their games. The below are interviews with Pizza and Pixels attendees who have recently exhibited their games at the event.

One of the games featured at the Pizza and Pixels meetup for the month of June was Dragon’s Wake, developed by Stephen Ashby. Kieran Roberts was contracted to provide music and sound effects, and Crhista and Glenn Rorlach provided illustrations. Dragon’s Wake is being built using Unity, and will be released for PC.

Could you give me a brief synopsis of the game’s plot?
In Dragon’s Wake you play as a very young dragon. You hatch from your egg to find yourself alone in a large cave. From there you must explore, discover what is going on, and find a place for yourself in the world.

– How long did the game take to create?
Dragon’s Wake has been in development for the last year and a half. I expect it will be a full two years by the time it is released.

Are you considering marketing the game? If so, in what fashion?
Dragon’s Wake will be available on Steam when it is released. I have been marketing the game at PAX, GammaCon and other venues throughout development, and will continue to do so after it is released.

Adding an extra dimension

Regular Pizza and Pixels attendee Ian Munsie has exhibited several games at the event over time, mostly big titles games which he has modified, more recently by converting 2D games into 3D. Below is the Canberra Entrepreneur’s interview with Ian.

– Which games have you converted into stereo (3D)?
So far I have converted around 20 games to into stereo. Far Cry 4 has definitely been the largest project I’ve worked on to date, but I have also converted a number of other titles, including: Miasmata, Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty, Life Is Strange, Dreamfall Chapters and World of Diving. The next big project I’m currently working on is The Witcher 3.

– How many people are involved in the creation of the mods?
The Far Cry 4 fix was a collaboration between four modders: Mike_ar69 and myself worked on the actual stereo fix, bo3b Johnson and I worked on the tools necessary to make it possible, and DHR discovered the necessary driver tweak to make it work on single GPU systems.

But Far Cry 4 was kind of an exception – big name AAA games tend to attract the interest of a few modders. While smaller or unusual indie titles are usually fixed by only a single modder, maybe with some
assistance from one of our experts. As a general rule, we fix the games that we want to play ourselves, so having modders with differing tastes means a wider variety of fixes.

All up I think we have around half a dozen currently active modders of varying skill levels, plus a few more who are learning the art through Bo3b’s school for shaderhackers. Some of the original legendary
modders have since moved on, so it very much feels like The Next Generation right now.

– Which platform or technologies do the mods operate over or make use of?
Our stereo conversions start out by using NVIDIA’s 3D Vision technology as a base. This takes care of creating two perspectives but usually can’t automatically make the various effects render correctly in stereo (such as water, lights, shadows, fog, etc).

Most of the work we do involves tracking down the shaders for the broken effects, patching them to fix the effect and injecting them back into the game.  We have a few tools to enable this – for DirectX
9 games we use Helix Mod. For DirectX 11 games we use an open source tool called 3DMigoto (of which I am an active developer). Helifax has also written a tool to convert OpenGL games which was a bit more involved since NVIDIA’s 3D Vision automatic doesn’t support OpenGL out of the
box.

– How long does it take to modify a game?
It can vary – some games I can make playable in under an hour, and can have polished in a day or two – but that’s only the case for games using engines I’m familiar with and aren’t doing anything too unusual.
Most games would take much longer, especially if the patterns aren’t already known and we have to develop new fixes from scratch.

Far Cry 4 has been the longest project so far I’ve worked on so far, taking almost three months from start to finish. However we didn’t make much progress for the first half of that, due to a driver issue making the game unplayable on many systems. Some of that time was also spent on adding features to 3Dmigoto to make first person shooters playable in stereo – like adjusting the weapon sights & crosshair depth while aiming so the players can actually hit their targets.

– Are you considering marketing the game modifications? If so in which fashion?
We have a blog over at http://helixmod.blogspot.com where we release fixes.  Most gamers who get a 3D Vision setup find it pretty quickly when they go to play their first “broken” game and google for a
solution, then they can follow it to keep up with our new fixes. We also hang out in the 3D Vision section of the GeForce forums.

The next Pizza and Pixels is only four short weeks away, follow the event’s Meetup page to keep abreast of developments and announcements.

Coverage of previous Pizza and Pixel events can be found here.

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