Saturday, August 04, 2007

500 Pages of Documentation

That was the promise of one of the panels about open source game development at SIGGRAPH's Sandbox Videogame Symposium. "500 pages of documentation." Open source packages represented by their creators on the dais included Blender (the 3D modeling rival to Maya), the Open Source Computer Vision Library or OpenCV, the Bullet Physics platform, and G3D. Panelists no longer celebrated what they called the "politics" of the free culture ideology and instead emphasized business opportunities, rapid prototyping, and innovation in game play made possible by enabling independent developers. Achievements chronicled included the feature animated film Elephants Dream, a contest where the winning submission was a series of Rube Goldberg machines, and the victory of Stanford's robot in DARPA's recent autonomous race across the desert. Eigenface face-recognition technology now being deployed at airports apparently also has a history of public domain knowledge. Of course, the diversity of possible licenses in the digital development ecology of initiatives labeled "open source" to offer alternatives for software developers to proprietary models appears to be generating anxiety, and problems with copyright ownership -- which sometimes must be solved by open source developers in authoritarian fashion -- make these programs less attractive to the legal departments of many corporate entertainment conglomerates.

Politics and ethics were also of concern to the famed developer of Deus Ex, Warren Spector, who gave the keynote address. Spector now also keeps his own blog. On the first day of the conference the big theme, which Spector first introduced was emergence, which continued with several papers, including Celia Pearce's work on Mermaids. As Pearce points out, emergent social behavior can also include public protest, including a civil demonstration by World of Warcraft players who marched to register their discontent with the appearance of their avatars.

The big story in the evening session with IDGA was media conglomeration and how middle-range studios were being squeezed in the production cycle of AAA big-budget games. Theory of Fun author and Star Wars Galaxies creator Raph Koster took a relatively dark view of what "mid-sized: meant in which he argued that even EA might not have the power of competing multinational megamedia corporations like Viacom and Disney. Online delivery, particularly of Flash games was also a much-discussed topic. Unfortunately, there were many broad generalizations about casual gamers and female players, so I was pleased to be sitting next to Celia Pearce of Georgia Tech who vociferously debated the repetition of tired truisms.

Update: Out on the floor of the exhibits hall, I followed the COLLADA treasure hunt by collecting stamps from participating booths and also trailed perhaps the biggest intellectual property story in the entire SIGGRAPH year. COLLADA is an "open digital asset exchange schema for the 3D interactive industry." They also maintain a wiki and a bank of 3D models to encourage the sharing of user-generated content. In layman's terms, COLLADA functions as a three letter extension in which you can save individual files (like .pdf or .doc or .swf), but one that can be created in either a proprietary software package like Maya or an open source program like Blender. In addition to giving users more ownership and control over the digital assets they create by making them more independent of competing corporate software companies, it also allows design professionals to move more easily between proprietary and open software.

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Blogger Morgan said...

We've posted the media for "When Worlds Collide." Cheers!

8:25 AM  

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