PhD games research topics on offer at Ulster

Two of our games related PhD project proposals have gone live on the University of Ulster website:

Deriving Context-awareness in Quality of Service for Real-Time IP Cloud based Multiplayer Gaming


Motion and Camera Sensor Data Fusion for Personalised, Adaptive and Interactive Rehabilitation Connected-Health Systems

The 1st topic continues research by Stephen Workman and connects with state-of-the-art work currently being undertaken by Prof Gerry Parr and his group. In this PhD the student will investigate mechanisms for the enhancement of cloud-oriented streaming game services.

The 2nd topic moves on from successful PhD work of James Burke and other VR and games rehab research at Ulster. The particular focus of this PhD will be on the fusion of sensor information from motion and camera sensors to develop more personalized and adaptive physical rehabilitation interactive systems.

In the past we have offered machine-learning in games, intelligent interactive story-telling (MMO games context), and games enhanced learning PhDs that have been very successful. I would be interested in discussing future extensions to the work to suitably qualified and motivated candidates in the future.

Funding is available for suitably qualified candidates either from within Northern Ireland further afield (difference funding sources). Shortlisted applications are interviewed and after this process selected candidates are offered funding (conditional on meeting min. educational requirements).

Contact me at for further information

GDmag Frontline Awards

The Game Developer Frontline awards for 2012 have been announced. The winners were:

  1. Art tools: modo 601 by Luxology
  2. Audio: Pro Tools 10 by Avid Technology
  3. Free: Blender (open source)
  4. Game Engine: Unreal Engine 3 by Epic Games
  5. Middleware: Havok
  6. Programming: Mozilla Foundation

In addition to this, Unity3D received a Hall of Fame award, perhaps setting it aside from competing game engines Unreal Engine, CryEngine, and others. I have been using Shiva3D, which hasn’t been nominated, though has favourable license/cost terms for small companies/indies.

modo 601 was an interesting winner in the “art tools category”, beating established products such as 3ds Max, Maya, and Photoshop. It seems to have integrated a range of tools for 3D art asset production that sets it apart – I hope to have a play with this one day. I really don’t know enough about audio to comment on this section, but Blender winning an award in the “free” category says a lot for how far this tool has progressed. My wife’s company, SilverFish Studios use both Blender and Gimp commercially, and they find them very productive and flexible tools. In my teaching I use this these programs for graphics production as well as nominee Box2D physics within a range of game development tools. Ogre3D was also nominated in the “free” category, we have also used this tool in our teaching and research – it great to see Ogre3D still doing so well.

GameMaker was nominated in the “game engine” category, reflecting the fact that it has made a significant impact this year with its new capability to create games on multiple platforms. Personally I would say that the new GameMaker :Studio has impressed me most this year. However, the development software that I have used most over 2012 was Photoshop and Visual Studio. Both excellent tools.

My favourite games of 2012

Its been a funny year for me, I’ve bought a lot of games but haven’t had time to play/finish them all (note to self – wise up!). I’ve also become a bit jaded with playing games that are basically small iterations on a popular design format. This year I’ve been more involved in consultancy and have really enjoyed providing advice on serious game design for local companies. I’m finding that I’m increasingly enjoying game design and development over playing – maybe I’m just getting old!

On my play list from 2012 are Halo 4, Halo Anniversary, Dishonoured, The Kingdoms of Amular: Reckoning, Diablo 3, Guild Wars 2, Assassin’s Creed 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Gear of War 3, Carcassonne (iPad), Lord of the Rings Lego, Journey, Dear Esther, Fez, Spelunky, The Walking Dead, Skylanders Giants, Rayman Origins, Okami HD, The Unfinished Swan and many others. As usual, I haven’t played a few of the most highly rated games and I have my eye on Far Cry 3, XCom, and either Need for Speed or Forza.

All of these games are excellent in their own way but my choice of favourite games are influenced mainly by how easy it is to get into the gameplay and by how novel they are. So, in order:

  1. Fez (10% completed)
  2. Journey (completed main part)
  3. Rayman Origins (20% completed)
  4. Spelunky (can it be completed!)
  5. Guild Wars 2 (Level 60)
  6. Halo 4 (completed)
  7. Lord of the Rings Lego (just started)

I’ve only started playing Dishonoured and The Kingdoms of Amular but they are looking really fun. Okami and Ico are old games that I still love in HD.

2012 was a year that the Wii died for me – still only playing Zelda games (and Mario Galaxy if I had the time) – and I haven’t got excited about the Wii U yet. My PS3 is still mainly being used for Blue-rays as I can get most of the same games on Xbox 360 and I love Xbox Live Arcade. The gaming platform for me this year has to be Steam though – I love being able to access my games on any machine via the cloud. Steam has a great mod community and they now sell software as well. GameMaker was released on Steam this year and the availability of development software through Steam could be a significant development.

In 2013 I’m planning on buying less games so I can finish the mountain of classics that I already have!

“Create UNAOC Challenge” 2012 Entry

We have been working late nights and weekends (and lunch-times!) over the last two weeks. A key reason for this was our work on an HTML5/JQuery Mobile App for the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations “Create Challenge”. Last night we managed to get the prototype completed and edited the video for the entry pitch.

My brother is heavily involved with a program called Civic Voices. This a world-wide program that supports young people in making video interviews with people who have an interesting and informative perspective on a key historical event within their community. This program has been very successful within Northern Ireland and many interviews have been conducted with people from a range of cultural backgrounds within the community.

Over the past couple of months we have designed a App that can make the most of this valuable resource, and our entry to the UNAOC competition is a iPad prototype that demonstrates the key features of our design. Students will be able to investigate the video and audio archives by site and date. Multimedia is pinned to an interactive google map, e.g. a person who is talking about “Bloody Sunday” one minute into their interview will have this location in the video pinned to Derry/Londonderry City place on the map. Multimedia can also be filtered by a date range, e.g. 1970 – 1972.

Learning activities are central to the App design. For example, users can pin their own content to the map (podcasts links etc.), can upload blog posts, and the app will have structured learning activities (including live chat sessions) between schools/groups involved with the program. Users and schools will also have a gamified profile comprising badges that are earned through engagement with the App.

We are sure that the competition will be very competitive, but if we managed to make the top 5 Apps in the competition the prize money would enable us to build a fully functional App. However, we mainly used the competition to motivate us to make progress with the App and we will look for other support to progress its construction – we feel that the App could be used in a range of learning contexts.

Former Coleraine Computing student receives his BCS prize

Jason Mitchell who recently graduated from the University of Ulster with a 1st Class BSc Hons, Computing (Game Development) visited us last week on the Coleraine campus. He was invited back to receive his BCS award for top student in the Faculty of Computing and Engineering (2010-2011) and also to chat to our current final year students. Jason now works as Software Developer at Blacklight Software in Leeds and so he was able to provide good advice on surviving final year, gaining employment, and moving away from Northern Ireland. Jason is one of the most naturally gifted programmers to have studied Computing at Coleraine so it’s always fun to catch-up with him and chat about his latest project, which he often writes about on his blog site.

Coleraine game development students receive prize from Citi Group

We are fortunate at Coleraine to be supported by industry in many ways, including the provision of student prizes. Last week Mark McCormack, from Citi in Belfast, visited our campus to present the 2nd year mobile game development prize to Aaron Hutton and Adam Mackenzie. In presenting the prize in front of this year’s 2nd year group, Mark praised the quality of work and the level of creativity of all of the shortlisted students. He reaffirmed Citi’s support for work on campus and encouraged our current 2nd years to work towards this year’s prize.

Aaron and Adam’s winning game “Rescue the Princess; Save the World”, was designed and programmed  for Windows Phone 7 over 6-8 weeks as part of their “Game Design and Development” module coursework. The game provided interesting gameplay, a quirky aesthetic, and a fascinating theme/story-line.

The two other student games by Scott Irvine and Kyle Davidson that were shortlisted for the prize were also of a very high standard. All three games, with some further work, have the potential to be successful commercially.