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How Next-Generation Game Engine Works

As gamers demand more sophisticated experiences, so must the game engine evolved.

What Is A Game Engine?

A game engine is a type of software which, like the engine of a car, is responsible for running a game. Whatever you see displayed in a game is a result of calculations made by the engine.

When a player takes an action like throwing a grenade, the engine calculates as quickly as possible, the physics involved, such as the path the grenade takes, displays the explosion at the right time and plays the correct sounds. Other functions of an engine include controlling the reactions of the game's characters.

What Do Next-Generation Engines Do?

Next generation engines provide more realistic-looking, interactive games with an increased emphasis on "Shaders", which control the way light behaves in the game. Previously lighting effects were uniform and static, causing skin to appear plastic and shadows in the environment to be fixed.

Next-generation game engines also take advantage of more powerful computer hardware to create bigger game worlds. Previously, most 3D games would take place in enclosed places like a building. Next-generation games can display entire words with more details and objects that the player can display entire worlds with more details and objects that the player can interact with. Computer-controlled characters, using artificial intelligence, will also react more realistically to player actions.

Extreme Gaming

Game Violence Imitates Life Or Is The Crime Prompted By Games?

Mortal Kombat

It was this 1992 title that turned the ripples of earlier protests -about the violence in video games - into a tsunami of controversy. The game's depictions of mutilation, decapitation, spine-ripping and immolation were uncomfortably graphic -for the time. It marked a turning point in the regulation of the games industry: The outcry led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), a selfregulatory organisation that rates the content of all US-released games. While garners today might find the game's violence almost comedic in its pixellated state, the image of Mortal Kombat's Sub-Zero holding a head ripped off his opponent - spine still attached - has for critics become an iconic image of an industry gone violently wrong.

Death Race

On the surface, the aim of the 1976 game was to run over "gremlins" to score points. But the game received scorn, with allegations that it simply pandered to violent urges in people to run over innocent pedestrians. Especially when it was revealed that the game's original name was - you guessed it - Pedestrian. Despite the controversy, similar games like Carmageddon continued to be released in later years.

Rated "D" For Dismal

IT WAS TIME for the games industry to protest when pthe United States' National Institute for Media and the Family gave the Electronic Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings system a near-failing grade of D+ overall. Citing lax enforcement, poor public education and inaccurate ratings of game content, the Institute determined the ESRB as "beyond repair". It did not provide any suggestions for improvement, declaring instead its intention to come up with its own ratings. The ESRB responded by assigning the report card an "F", claiming inaccuracies, misleading statements, omission of facts and flawed research in the report.

Doom

Doom game physically to Colombine High School in 1999 when teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, mowed down 15 students and teachers with shotguns. The 17-year-olds, it was revealed, were huge fans of first-person shooter, Doom. They killed themselves after the rampage. Harris had nicknamed his shotgun Arlene after a Doom character, and some of the Doom levels he designed has similarities to the school's layout. Ominously, on the day of the shooting, he had written on his website that he would "make Doom a reality". The duo had also recorded a video in which they said they looked forward to using their weapons just as in the game. However, at no time did the duo blame the game for their actions, and lawsuits against video game companies by the victims' parents were unsuccessful.

Thrill Kill

Playstation Fighting Game, originally slated for a 1998 launch, would have been the most explicit game ever. But it never saw the light of day in the market. But its content created a storm for its unprecedented levels of brutality, as well as its adult imagery fighters were togged out in kinky French maid or nurses uniforms. The game developer, Virgin Interactive, was believed to have actually completed game development. But its publisher Electronic Arts decided not to release it because "its content was not appropriate".

The Zealot

Miami-based laywer Jack Thompson's claim to fame is his tireless campaigning against video games, so much so that he has since lost many of his original supporters. His crusade began in 1999 with a US$33 million (S$55 million) lawsuit against several entertainment companies such as Sony, Time Warner and Atari, alleging that their content inspired teenager Michael Carneal to shoot three others. Since then, Mr Thompson has blamed shooting game Halo for creating the Washington Sniper, action game Manhunt for the killing of British teen Stefan Pakeerah and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for containing a sex game that didnot exist. Mr Thompson was disbarred for inappropriate behavior last year. His response: This "minor" detail would not stop hunt.

Grand Theft Auto

This controversial title is well-known for its high level of graphic violence and morally questionable storyline: The player, a low-life, gets ahead in the criminal underworld with acts like carjacking, robbing, and even shooting innocent passer-bys. Last August, 20-year-old Devin Moore, murdered two policemen and a civilian who tried to foil his carjacking attempt - just as in the game. When arrested, the Grand Theft Auto fan said the "life is a video game, you've got to die sometime". Besides violence, alleged graphical in-game sex scenes incurred the ire of Senator Hilary Clinton, who became the highest-profile politician to take issue with a video game.

Law And Order

In an episode of the popular cop series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit earlier this year, the police investigate the brutal killing of a prostitute apparently inspired by a video game. When caught, the perpetrator tries to pin the blame on the game, saying that it influenced him into committing murder. The detectives manage to find evidence otherwise, and the cold-blooded killer goes to jail for his sins.

Fatal1ty Steps Up To Bat

While professional gamers were already around by the time Jonathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel made his professional debut in October 1999, it was Wendel who eventually gained super stardom not just in the gaming world, but outside of it. Becoming the poster boy for the industry, Wendel's charisma helped to change the way garners were represented in the media. This led to a gradual, more positive shift in public perception of players. Today, Wendel travels the world playing in games tournaments for a living. He uses the events as a soapbox to spread his message of healthy gaming, both physically and mentally.

In Praise Of Gaming...

Mr Harrison, 36, who plays video games with his two boys aged eight and three "I don't think playing violent games will be affected. In general, I have no problems with my kids playing violent games, or even games like GTA (Grand Theft Auto) that may impart the wrong values, although I would want to be there to give them guidance if I find them playing these games." What I have an issue is, are the games with nudity or sex. These are a strict no-no for me."

Mr Andrew, 49, a lifeskills coach whose son aged 10, plays games "Of course the violence in video games can influence kids. It is not uncommon for them to play games for hours, during which they are constantly processing thoughts of violence and of inflicting injury on others. But it is unfair to generalise as different children have different behaviors. It depends on whether they have the knowledge and the mental filters to overcome the the unwholesome values they see in games. I allow my son to play games, but I restrict the time spent on them to about an hour, after which I make a conscious effort to engage him in wholesome activities like sports. Video games have the fun element, but they do not help build social skills and relationships."

Computer Games 'Help Family Bonding'

A third of American parents play computer and video games, with 80 per cent of them doing so with their kids, says a study. In fact, 66 per cent of parents believe playing electronic games with their children will build closer ties, according to US-based Entertainment Software Association, which conducted the study. Sports, puzzle and action game titles are popular with both parents and children.
 

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