Sunday, 21 November 2010

Authenticity and the Desire to Roam

I couldn't help but notice that the front cover of the Guide section of my Saturday Guardian was taken over, well replaced, with a front and back cover advertisement feature for Ubisoft's new offering Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. In the ad, Ubisoft are at great pains to emphasis the degree of historical authenticity in this new outing for Master Assassin Ezio, based in Renaissance Rome, with a street plan based on contemporary mapping and impressively detailed models of key historic buildings.

The game looks fantastic, and its historical leanings are interestingly discussed by the Gardian's game blogger Keith Stuart.  Much kudos goes to Ubisoft for authenticity, and for choosing a less than obvious historical setting.

I have to say that, personally, the opportunity to end the lives of numerous virtual antique Romans doesn't thrill me, but the opportunity to wander around the lushly detailed city model has me reaching for my wallet.  The sheer thrill of exploring these detailed virtual worlds never leaves me, can I be the only one who loads up multi-player mode just to stroll in solitary wonder a recreated world all my own?  Perhaps. There is something here about leaving behind the urgent, violent narrative drive of the typical FPS and subsiding into the freedom of  exploration and open ended discovery.

Saturday, 20 November 2010


Anyone trying to download the demo version of my favourite visualisation package CityScape will have discovered that it is no longer available as PixelActive have been acquired by mapping giant NAVTEQ.  Exactly what the future holds for this fine visualisation tool is uncertain, I can only hope that its new owners continue to support its development and availability.  NAVTEQ's website provides a rather opaque press release.

17 November 2010
NAVTEQ Acquires PixelActive
Acquisition Reinforces the Company’s Commitment to Leadership in 3D Mapping

Chicago, IL – November 17, 2010 – NAVTEQ, the leading global provider of maps, traffic and location data enabling navigation, location-based services and mobile advertising around the world, has acquired PixelActive.  The acquisition is an extension of NAVTEQ’s strategy to accelerate expansion from a 2D to 3D map, as well as providing further opportunity to leverage 3D technologies for all NAVTEQ products.
The acquisition of PixelActive Inc., a California-based company with 16 employees prior to close, supports NAVTEQ’s move to a 3D-based architecture.  PixelActive specializes in tools and technologies for 3D modeling of detailed road networks, buildings and terrain.   The company’s Cityscape product has been utilized by NAVTEQ in the development of product offerings such as 3D Junction Objects and 3D City Models.  The acquisition of PixelActive is aimed at expanding NAVTEQ’s ability to efficiently build products in a 3D environment.  Steve Rotenberg and Michael Kelley, the founders of PixelActive, will stay with the company and continue their roles in the R&D organization supporting these efforts.
“Future developments in navigation and other location-enabled solutions will rely heavily on 3D mapping capabilities,” said Cliff Fox, executive vice president, NAVTEQ Maps.  “Putting this critical product architecture in place will provide a foundation for the rapid creation of 3D content and keep NAVTEQ on the forefront of the industry.”
“The acquisition of PixelActive underscores NAVTEQ’s continued commitment to providing the most advanced digital maps,” explained Larry Kaplan, president and CEO, NAVTEQ.  “We are quickly moving to a world of 3D maps and NAVTEQ is taking the necessary steps to continue to provide our customers with a superior offering from which they can differentiate their products.”

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Guardian Tech Weekly podcast: Stories in games

The Guardian Tech Weekly podcast has a nice games focus this week, with discussion from the Bradford Animation Festival. Listen in below.

Second Site

I seem to have spent a lot of time recently delivering essentially the same presentation to various audiences in an attempt to drum up interest, support and funding to pursue some of the ideas and aspirations that tinkering with game-based visualisation of landscape has engendered over the past year.

So here is that very presentation, or a version of it, a kind of personal statement, part homage, part agenda and part ambition.  Now give us the money...