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Friday, June 19, 2009

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Vendetta Online: Detail Textures, Graphics Adjustments
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Guild Software has posted an update on the news blog for its massively-multiplayer online space strategy game, Vendetta Online. Upcoming changes discussed in the entry include the introduction of detail textures and adjustments to graphics support for older hardware.

First and foremost, I had Ray drop detail textures into the engine. This is a feature that allows the primary texture on an object to be modulated with a secondary "high detail" texture; so when the first begins to look blurry, the second comes through and creates the impression of increased surface detail. Combine this with specularity and bump shaders, and you can add a lot of detail. This is particularly important with Very Large Objects, since they tend to have much more obviously "blurry" textures. Large or small, however, detail textures can have a big impact on the perceived visual quality of objects in the universe. Adding detail textures only took him a few hours, but handling the more aesthetic tradeoffs and balancing that against shader performance has been an ongoing process.

We had been planning to add this feature for years, but just "hadn't gotten around to it". Although they have general applicability on any object, the need for detail textures tends to be greatest with large objects. For this, and other reasons, we've historically tended to avoid "really large" objects, preferring clusters of smaller objects to yield more detail. However, as part of the greater "Universe Redux" process, I'm looking at getting some physically-bigger content into the galaxy. If I'm going to spend the time to repopulate most of the galaxy with more asteroids, I would just as soon add in some new types of asteroids, and giant ice, and other features that can add to the tactically complex environments that will become that much more central to future gameplay. Aside from this, you'll also begin to see a lot of added detail on ships like the HAC and Constellation, as well as our stations and the like. Some of the current asteroids, like the broken tan-color chunks, will be among the first to get the added improvement. All in all, detail textures add a significant bit of enhancement for a relatively small amount of development work, which is exactly the sort of graphical update that is worthwhile when convenient (despite all our pressing gameplay needs).

Detail textures will only be visible to people with "fairly" modern hardware (ie, only six years old, heh), as it will only be present for shader 2.0 capable cards.
Read the full post at the link below.

Vendetta Online News
Guild Software
Strategy First
Vendetta Online

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Report Forecasts Impressive Growth For Virtual Worlds
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Strategy Analytics, a market research firm, recently released a new report forecasting a large growth in players for virtual worlds in the next few years. Among other things the report predicted that the number of players will grow from the current 186 million to almost 640 million by the year 2015.

The firm said it sees the global population of virtual world users growing from 186 million today to almost 640 million by 2015 -- that's almost one hundred million new players a year, a nearly 25 percent compounded annual growth rate. The fastest growing demographic is kids between the ages of 5 and 9 which the company predicts will grow 27 percent; the current largest segment of virtual worlds players, tweens and teens, should grow by some 21 percent, according to the company.

Overall, as virtual worlds continue to improve the user experience, Strategy Analytics see a conversion rate from registrations to active users at a growth rate of 38 percent through 2015.

"The high conversion of registrants to active users demonstrates that users are finding value -- in the form of entertainment, engagement, and social interaction." That is according to Barry Gilbert, Vice President of the Strategy Analytics Gaming Sector and author of the company's just-released Virtual Worlds Market Forecast 2009-2015.

"Virtual worlds have largely overcome enabling restrictions in terms of broadband access, computing power, and ease of use, and are now experiencing significant interest among major brands, as well as traction among targeted demographics," added Harvey Cohen, President of Strategy Analytics.

When it comes to revenue growth, the key drivers, the company says, will be microtransactions, subscriptions, and advertising/sponsorships, with microtransactions expected to grow from slightly over $1 billion in 2008 to $17.3 billion in 2015. Microtransactions will account for approximately 86 percent of all revenue generated by virtual worlds.
Click over to the page below to read more.

Virtual Worlds News: Skyrocketing Growth

EA's John Pleasants: A Digital Distribution Future For Games
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

VentureBeat has posted a new interview with Electronic Arts COO John Pleasants. In the interview the executive discusses a variety of topics including the shift from traditional game distribution to online models, how the idea of games as services will lower costs, and the company's future plans.

VB: How do you look at this whole shift from software to Internet services? Everyone from Microsoft to Autodesk is doing this.
JP: Ticketmaster was a software and infrastructure company that moved to a direct-to-consumer model. For anyone in software, the move is going to be like moving from Blockbuster to Netflix, record label to iTunes, Siebel to They all carry elements that are directly parallel to us. If you believe all games will eventually be services ó as I do ó then the idea of game teams that make a game, ship it, and then do something else goes away. They will now ship and day one begins when the customer gives feedback to the live service. The way you distribute will be different. The way you charge will be different. There will be more permutations in pricing. Merchandising will be much more important. Co-marketing will be much more important. You have to have persistent identification and entitlements for a user, no matter where they are or in what game theyíre playing.

VB: But there is something I donít understand about how much games cost to make these days.
JP: Thereís no question that in a world where games are a service, the cost to deploy any one game should be coming down over time. We have been investing in infrastructure for that. You can make games faster and then test them and revise them. We had big teams in high-cost locations. We had $2.3 billion in costs and were on track to spend $2.6 billion last year. We took $500 million out of that run rate through internal cuts. None of that was pleasant. But we did take the cost structure down significantly. At the end of the day, you have to make hits. If we donít grow our revenue and we have $2.1 billion in costs, thatís not good enough. If we grow revenue by a billion, then itís OK to have $2.1 billion in costs. You look at the bang for the buck you get from your investment. Our operating margins this year are double digit, but theyíre low double digit. Thatís unacceptable to us as a management team. We want to double the operating margin over time. To do that, you either grow revenue or cut costs. We want to grow revenue or shift revenue to higher-margin products. We are making fewer titles to focus on quality. If you make fewer titles, you have to make more revenue per title. Itís a hit driven business. You are only as good as your hits. EA used to have lots of hits. If you looked at the top 30, we used to have 10 games on it. Last year, we had four. If you do the math on it, your cost structure is not right.
Visit the page linked below to read the full interview.

VentureBeat: Shift To Digital Game Distribution
Electronic Arts

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The Most Popular Ships In EVE Online
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

CCP Games has released a new development blog for its sci-fi MMO, EVE Online. Following up on user requests the post crunches the numbers to reveal the most popular ships in the game. The popularity of vessels was calculated by determining the amount of trading associated with each ship type.

After the release of the last statistics dev blog, one of the main requests for information to go alongside the PVP data was for information on the actual popularity of various ship types. Instead of raw numbers on how many are blown up, in this blog we shall show the relative popularity of various items against others of its type on the market throughout the past. These do not show the total individual numbers of these ships/items, they show the number of them traded on the market. This means that if the same ship was traded through the market twice, it would count for two.
Head over to the website link listed below for more information.

EVE Online Blog: Ship Popularity
CCP Games
EVE Online

Mac Games News for Thursday, June 18, 2009

Apple Games Features The Path6:00 AM
Chronicles Of Riddick: Assault On Dark Athena Announced6:00 AM
Plants Vs. Zombies Reviewed6:00 AM
Will Wright Discusses Future Of Spore6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Thursday, June 18, 2009 on one page

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