SIGGRAPH Games News Round-Up

SIGGRAPH Games News Round-Up
Michael French

By Michael French

August 12th 2007 at 9:31PM

If you weren't at last week's Siggraph event in San Diego, don't despair. Develop was the only trade site on hand at the show delivering live updates throughout the past seven days. So we've summarised all the big announcements, with links to our in-depth coverage, belowâ?¦

'Future of game graphics could hinge on user-made content'
Storytellers have only 'scratched the surface' of games

Although SIGGRAPH is focused on the wider computer graphics scene (so technical research was presented alongside work from film, special effects and game studios), when it came to the event's keynote talks there was plenty of food for developers.

EA's Glenn Entis, chief visual and technical officer, presented the first of the two 'featured speaker' slots - chosen this year instead of just one keynote - exploring what was to come for game graphics. To him, and probably most developers, its clear that games developers have a bigger challenge to face than the likes of Pixar, as they are expected to deliver great-looking effects in real-time. But soon they might not be expected to deliver just the graphics - they'll be expected to deliver the tools to let consumers make them.

Using the work done by Maxis on The Sims and Spore, and development on Endemol and EA's 'Virtual Me' concept, he explained that user-generated content could play a major part in how games graphics ideology develops. He said: “Do not underestimate peoples desire for self expression and self creativity. Social networking and self content sites like You Tube, MySpace, Facebook are leading the way. This is the rebirth of creativity in the hands of the many.”

Click here for a full report on the keynote, including his often-discussed 'Zombie Line' theory for character animation.

Meanwhile, comics guru Scott McCloud talked up games' potential as a narrative medium in his speech. Like comics, he said that the games medium has lots of potential for relaying stories to players - with current efforts "only scratching the surface" of interactivity's potential.

2008 editions of 3ds Max and Maya unveiled
There was of course no shortage of new technology announcement at SIGGRAPH, either.

Autodesk got the ball rolling on the Monday by unveiling the new 2008 versions of its tentpole Max and Maya products. Its MotionBuilder 7.5 software also received an Extension to is functionality, too, while the company announced it was to acquire Skymatter and its high-end Mudbox 3D graphics application. We've got a run-through of all the key new features in the announcement piece here, plus comments from key Autodesk execs on what the changes mean for game studios and how developers have influenced the development of their products can be found here.

New features for Softimage's XSI and Face Robot
Softimage wanted everyone to know that it hadn't taken its eye off the games industry, either, with XSI version 6.5 and Face Robot version 1.8 specifically tailored to improve efficiencies in games production pipelines.

With Lionhead, Valve, EA, Pandemic and NCsoft being key partners - along with a raft of Japanese developers (Capcom's Lost Planet project leads were explaining how they used Softimage projects for their game in demonstrations on the showfloor) - it's clear the firm has been paying close attention to games developers the world over. We run through the key new features here.

Nevercenter launches Silo 2.0
In stark contrast to Autodesk and Softimage's pricier kits, low-cost 3D sculpting app Silo from Nevercenter hit version 2.0. The update features brush-based displacement for high-detail surface sculpting. More details can be found here.

Vicon sharpens with Blade
Of course, it wasn't just the top-line 3D rendering companies that were on hand - mocap companies were out in force. Vicon stole headlines by announcing it had moved into software development with Blade, a tool designed to let developers have closer control over the data they collect from motion capture.

Animazoo demos new mocap kit in San Diego
Meanwhile Brighton, UK-based Animazoo showed off its new IGS-190 kit at the show, following on from its debut at the Develop conference and expo.

Red 5 adds Morpheme to pipeline
Allegorithmic unveils new version of ProFX
But for those wanting to let hardware help generate (or even totally generate) animation and art content, Natural Motion and Allegorithmic were on hand to demo new versions of their software.

Natural Motion was showing off Morpheme 1.1, which includes a number of optimisations and tweaks - and new MMO studio Red 5 announced that it was using the technology for its upcoming game.

MMOs were also mentioned in the confirmation of Allegorithmic's procedural texture generating tool ProFX hitting version 2.6. The tool can make textures up to ,500 to 1,000 times smaller than regular compressed bitmaps, making it ideal for games that need to be downloaded or updated over the web. More info here.

OpenGL 3 officially announced
New NVIDIA server breaks visual records
Luxology launches TV site
Mercury releases MultiCore Plus SDK for PS3
And, lastly, there were plenty of technology announcements, from new graphics standards and computing speeds, through to Web 2.0 services backed by graphics app vendors, and even a new SDK to better help PS3 developers. Click the links to find out more.