Busy week of Games Dev events

So far my blog posts have all been for software releases, but I guess that isn’t really what blogging is all about, so I thought I’d try doing a more standard blog since last week was quite an interesting one. On Monday I ran a whole day of staff CPD training for Kersland School in Paisley, which is a School for children with additional support needs. A few of their staff had been at a previous CPD event I had run and requested I do a whole staff training event for them. They were particularly interested in how they could use xGames and Kinect in the classroom, so I focused on my Kinect Games, xGames and also did some Kodu with them. Overall it went extremely well, although perhaps it could have been more tailored for their learners.

Kinect Angles being played by teachers from Kersland School

On Tuesday I was at a meeting with the Principal & Vice Principal of the college, along with other staff, about the future E-Learning strategy of the college. I think I was mainly there to give an update on the xGames project, however it was very interesting to hear the thoughts of the management on the way forward in regards to embedding IT more in the learner experience in the future and I hopefully managed to contribute a little as well.

On Wednesday I organised what I think was a very successful event, we had 3 graduates from UWS, along with a final year UWS Computer Animation student and a guy with 30 years experience working mostly freelance in the Games Industry. Two of the UWS guys were ex Reid Kerr College HNC Games Graduates and one of them recently graduated with a 1st class honours and has secured a job as a programmer in industry.

The big lecture theatre in Renfrew North was packed with standing room only left by the time the event kicked off and we had well over 100 students from the various Computer Games courses and from Creative Arts.

Packed out RN Lecture Theatre for talk about Jobs in the Games Industry

The main speaker was Lauren McKellan from One Thumb Mobile in Glasgow. Lauren graduated from UWS with a degree in Computer Animation and now works for a mobile games company as their Lead Artist, mainly working on 3D models and Animation. She spoke in detail with the students about how to get a job in the games industry and gave them some invaluable advice about online portfolios and the content they should put into them. Sean also gave some great advice on the business side of things for those that might want to work freelance in the industry.

In the Q&A session at the end, the 2 ex-RKC students (James & James) really came to the floor and answered a lot of questions about the progression from College to University and what would be expected of them. They hopefully demonstrated that FE students can go onto University and achieve and go on to great things, through hard work and dedication.

On Thursday I had to deliver an online webinar for JISC RSC TV on the xGames JISC funded project. In this I provided an overview of the project from initial concept to completion and I also went over the benefits of the games for learners of all ages. The session should be available soon to watch back by clicking here.
Later on the same day, I was taking part in the first Virtual University session for Microsoft Partners in Learning Appathon Competition. I am one of 50 educators from around Europe taking part in this event. 25 out of the 50 educators will be selected by Microsoft to join them in January for an all-expenses paid trip to London to take part in the first Microsoft 24 hour Appathon for educators, where we will work with an expert to create an educational app for Windows mobile 7/8 platforms. The winning app will be put out onto the Windows Store for educators’ world wide to make use of.

The first sessions was very good, however I struggled to keep up as I was unaware that Microsoft’s TouchDevelop platform was HTML5 only and IE9 on my Windows7 laptop isn’t compatible. It must have pained the MS tutor to say it, but I was informed by him to install Google Chrome which is HTML5 compatible. Once I got Chrome installed it was all good. I also had the weird experience this weekend of playing about with Microsoft TouchDevelop on Google Chrome on my Apple Ipad.

At the end of the session we were set our first homework assignment, the second part of which was to use the Turtle library in TouchDevelop to come up with a script to draw something of our own choosing. In my vain attempt to court favour from my Microsoft tutor I came up with a script to get my turtle to draw the picture below. You think it will work?

USA Flag created using the Turtle Library in MS TouchDevelop

It doesn’t stop there, next week I have a meeting on Monday with someone from East Renfrewshire education department about using Games Dev in East Renfrewshire Schools and how we can assist with this; perhaps in the area of CPD for teachers. On Wednesday we have a guy called Dave Sharp coming in to speak to our students. He has 30 years experience in the games industry, including time spent working overseas, in places such as New York. He currently runs a video game company (Digital Asylum) and was one of the key guys behind the successful train2game online course. He will be speaking to them about the paths into the games industry.

Should be fun!


Video showing my USA Flag Turtle script running on Google Chrome on my Ipad.

xGames Version 2.1

I’m banking on this being the final release of xGames. I think I’ve done everything to it that I can and I am very happy with the final result. I plan to do a blog soon about the 3 year journey from the initial concept to this point; so watch out for that coming soon. In that blog I will probably release the final source code too. A special thanks to Kenneth Robb who created the editors for me in VB.

xQuiz being played at Lochfield Primary School

The main difference in this release from the last version is in the editors, which now allow you to select any JPEG or PNG from anywhere on your hard drive and it will automatically copy the image into the PICTURE folder for you. I have also made some minor fixes to the all in one installer so that it doesn’t try and install drivers that are already present.

xBots on BBC News

So please click here to download xGames.

xGames Installer

Kinect Games v2.5 using Kinect SDK v1.6 including source code

This new release of Kinect Games fixes a couple of bugs from the last release which affected performance, the main thing being that I wasn’t correctly disposing of some unmanaged resources which slowed down the framerate. As well as fixing those bugs I have also used the new Kinect SDK v1.6 in this release which should also improve performance.

I have also added a new game to the installer called Kinect Pong, which is just a simple pong game which can be played 1 player against the computer or in 2 players mode. You simply use your right hand to control the bat; the game senses whether 1 or 2 players are standing in front of Kinect and automatically implements AI for the 2nd bat if only 1 person is playing.

There are a few keyboard controls for Kinect Pong:
F11 toggles full screen mode
UP and DOWN cursor keys move the Kinect camera angle up and down
SPACE BAR toggles the video feed on and off (turning it off will improve framerate on slow computers)
ENTER starts a new game when a game has ended
ESCAPE quits the game

Please click here to download the new all in one installer for Kinect Games, the installer includes Math Mage, Kinect Angles, Kinect Time, Kinect Magic Cursor, Kinect Pong, .net 4.0 framework, XNA4 runtime and Kinect SDK v1.6.

Kinect Pong v1.6
Picture of Kinect Pong in play

Source Code
Click here to download Kinect Angles v2.5 source code
Click here to download Kinect Time v1.6 source code
Click here to download Kinect Pong v1.6 source code
Click here to download Kinect Magic Cursor v1.6 source code

You might notice in the Kinect Pong source code that I haven’t used classes much, that was because I was writing the Pong game for a structured programming unit I teach which doesn’t go into classes but only structures. I simply added the Kinect stuff into the game I wrote for that class, so that is why it doesn’t use classes much. I suppose if you are a beginner to XNA/Kinect programming this may make the code easier to follow, or not as the case may be 🙂

Kinect Games v2.42

This will come as a shock to you all, but I made a mistake with the last release of Kinect Games :-(. In my haste to release the all in one installer of my Kinect Games, I failed to properly test it. I was told by a reliable source at MS that I didn’t need to package up the full Kinect SDK 1.5 with my games, just the 1.5 runtime; turns out that isn’t the case. I had tested my installer on my multiple PCs, however they were all mine and they all already had Kinect SDK 1.5 on them, so it worked fine. However I tested it today on a machine without the SDK and the games wouldn’t run. I have also changed all 3 applications so that an error message will appear and ask you to plug in Kinect if you haven’t done so; previously if you ran them without Kinect plugged in nothing would happen, they wouldn’t even launch.

So go ahead and download the new and improved Kinect Games all in one installer by clicking here.

Kinect Angles being played at ALT-C 2012 at Manchester University

Kinect Time being played at the High School of Glasgow – Junior School

Kinect Games all in one installer

Kinect Angles, Kinect Time and magic cursor
All in one installer for Kinect Angles, Kinect Time and Kinect Magic Cursor.
Following on from my last post and while I was creating an all in one installer for xGames, I thought I should do the same for my Kinect Games. The installer below will install Kinect Angles v2.4, Kinect Time v1.1 and Kinect Magic Cursor v1.2. It will also install .net4, xna4 runtime and Kinect Runtime v1.5, basically it will install everything you need to run my Kinect Games. All you have to do is run it and then plug in a Kinect for XBOX360 or Kinect for Windows and you are set.

Click here to download my Kinect Games installer.

xGames Version 2

xgamesv2 front end
I am releasing an updated version of my xGames educational suite of quiz based games which make use of wireless XBOX360 controllers. This version uses XNA4 to bring it into line with my Kinect game releases. I have also made improvements to the games; the most notable being that the three 2D games now have a single front end as shown above. Another big advantage is that xQuiz, xDrop and xBots also now all share the same question folder bank which means when you create a quiz for one it will instantly be available in the other 2 games as well.

I have also packaged them up in a proper professional installer file, which contains the various runtimes needed for the games such as .net and xna4 runtime. This means that if you download and run the installer file below it will install everything you need to get the games going and it will create shortcuts etc. It also will install the drivers for the wireless XBOX360 receiver and controllers for WinXP 32-bit, Vista 32-bit, Win7 32-bit and Win7 64-bit.

Click here to download xGames version 2.2.

To avoid the file size getting too massive, I left out the controller drivers for WinXP 64-bit and Vista 64-bit as I doubt many people are running them, but if you need the drivers for them they are below.

Click here to download XBOX360 controller drivers for Windows XP 64-bit
Click here to download XBOX360 controller drivers for Windows Vista 64-bit

Kinect Magic Cursor version 1.2 with source code

Kinect Magic Cursor allows you to use Kinect connected to a Windows 7 pc to control the windows mouse pointer and perform left clicks. Once you install the software you simply use your right hand to control the mouse pointer by standing in front of Kinect and moving your hand. To simulate a left mouse button click you just raise your left hand above your shoulder. It certainly could have plenty of uses, an interactive presentation projected onto a whiteboard or wall, which could then be controlled by a user standing in front of it controlling it with their arms is one use and I’m sure you can think of many other uses.

Release 1.2 comes with source code after I had a few requests after the last release.

Kinect Magic Cursor

Keyboard Controls to change application settings

ESC key Quits the application.
K key toggles between kinect and mouse control.
LEFT-ARROW & RIGHT-ARROW keys change the scale, which is basically how far you need to move your hand in each direction to move the pointer to the edge of the screen.
UP-ARROW & DOWN-ARROW keys allow you to adjust the angle of the Kinect camera.
SPACE key freezes the video feed into the application, which is useful if you are running on a slow PC.
S key starts the video feed again.

You will need a Windows7 PC, Kinect SDK v1.5 and XNA4 runtime installed and obviously a Kinect (XBOX360 Kinect or Windows Kinect).

Click here to download Kinect Magic Cursor version 1.2 installer.

Click here to download Kinect Magic Cursor version 1.2 source code.

Once you run the application you can minimise it and it will still function, however you will need to click back into it to exit it and stop the Kinect mouse simulation from running.

xRemote version 1.2 with source code

If you already use my xGames educational games suite and have a wireless XBOX360 controller with USB wireless receiver for Windows then you should try this. It allows you to use a wireless XBOX360 controller as a wireless mouse and multimedia remote control. It is very useful as a wireless presenter device for the likes of powerpoint (Right and left bumpers perform left and right arrow clicks which allow you to navigate slides in powerpoint), however you can also control the mouse with the left stick something you can’t do with most multimedia remotes.

Version 1.2 has a couple minor bug fixes and when you simulate cursor keys using the D-PAD, it has a slight delay between each cursor key press as I felt it was too rapid. I am also releasing the source code this time too.

Controls

Left and right sticks on the controller will control the mouse pointer.
A Button performs a left mouse button click like a real mouse, you can hold it down and perform operations like drag and drop.
B Button perform a right mouse button click like a real mouse and can also be used for operations like drag and drop.
Left Trigger simulates a left mouse button click and release, so can only be used for single-clicks.
Right Trigger simulates a right mouse button click and release, so can only be used for single-clicks.
X Button simulates a left mouse button double-click.
BACK button quits the application.
LEFT bumper button does a LEFT-ARROW keyboard press (useful for powerpoint).
RIGHT bumper button does a RIGHT-ARROW keyboard press (useful for powerpoint).
The D-PAD works as cursor keys, allowing you to perform LEFT, RIGHT, UP and DOWN cursor key presses.
LEFT-ARROW & RIGHT-ARROW keys on the keyboard allow you to adjust the mouse speed from within the application.

You can minimise the application and the controller will still function as a mouse.

You will need a Windows 7/XP PC and XNA4 runtime installed and a wireless XBOX360 controller with a USB wireless receiver to plug into the PC.

Click here to download xRemote version 1.2 instatller.

Click here to download xRemote version 1.2 source code.

Kinect Magic Cursor and xRemote

I’m releasing 2 very small applications for Windows that are nevertheless invaluable. There is already software out there that does these jobs, but this is my take it them using XNA4.

The first release came about as I was asked to do a magic wall thing using Kinect and I managed to put this together in about 5 hours (finished it at 2.30am), so it might not be perfect, but it’s worth a go. It basically allows you to use Kinect connected to a Windows 7 pc to control the windows mouse pointer and perform left clicks. Once you run the software you simply use your right hand to control the mouse pointer by standing in front of Kinect and moving your hand. To left-click you just raise your left hand above your shoulder. It certainly has plenty of uses, an interactive presentation projected onto a wall, which would then be controlled by users standing in front of the wall and controlling the pointer with their hand is our initial thoughts, but it could have so many other uses.

Kinect Magic Cursor

There are various keyboard controls to set things within the application.

ESC key Quits the application.
K key toggles between kinect and mouse control.
LEFT-ARROW & RIGHT-ARROW keys change the scale, which is basically how far you need to move your hand in each direction to move the pointer to the edge of the screen.
UP-ARROW & DOWN-ARROW keys allow you to adjust the angle of the Kinect camera.
SPACE key freezes the video feed into the application, which is useful if you are running on a slow PC.
S key starts the video feed again.

You will need a Windows7 PC, Kinect SDK v1.5 and XNA4 runtime installed and obviously a Kinect (XBOX360 Kinect or Windows Kinect).

Click here to download Kinect Magic Cursor version 1.2

Once you run the application you can minimise it and it will still function, you will need to click back into it though to exit from it and stop the Kinect mouse control.

My second application is based on the first one, as I thought, “why not also do this with the wireless XBOX controller”. So if you already use my xGames and have a wireless XBOX360 controller with USB wireless receiver for Windows then you should try this. It basically allows you to use a wireless XBOX controller as a wireless mouse and multimedia remote control.

Left and right sticks on the controller will control the mouse pointer.
A Button and Left Trigger perform a left-click.
B Button and Right Trigger perform a right-click.
X Button does a double-click.
BACK button quits the application.
LEFT bumper button does a LEFT-ARROW keyboard press (useful for powerpoint).
RIGHT bumper button does a RIGHT-ARROW keyboard press (useful for powerpoint).
The D-PAD works as cursor keys, allowing you to perform LEFT, RIGHT, UP and DOWN cursor key presses.

LEFT-ARROW & RIGHT-ARROW keys on the keyboard allow you to adjust the mouse speed from within the application.

You can minimise the application and the controller will still function as a mouse.

You will need a Windows 7/XP PC and XNA4 runtime installed and a wireless XBOX360 controller with a USB wireless receiver to plug into the PC.

Click here to download xRemote version 1.2

(UPDATE: Minor update which allows you to use A and B on the controller like proper mouse buttons so you can drag and drop things.)

Kinect Time version 1 release

Kinect Time is my second Kinect educational game, one that has been suggested by many people who saw my Kinect Angles game. Please download it and test it for me. It is aimed at a younger age than Kinect Angles, probably for kids aged 6 to 10. It has both one player and two player modes. The point of the game is basically to set the hands on the clock to match the time digitally displayed, you do this by moving your arms; Kinect captures the motion and my game translates it to the hands on the clock face. Watch the video below to get the idea.

The game will work with the commerical Kinect for Windows SDK version 1.0.3.190 and with the latest Kinect SDK version 1.5. You will also require XNA version 4 runtime.

Download Kinect Time version 1 here.

Download the source for Kinect Time version 1 here.

Special shout out to my ex-student Tom Beattie (tombeattie12@gmail.com) who did most of the art work for the game.