The team go behind the scenes of $100m crowd-funded game Star Citizen. Plus a look into what went into some complex Star Wars Episode VII movie scenes. Includes tech news.
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Now on BBC News, it's time to Click.
This week, Star Citizen.
And spam karaoke.
# I am Mrs Lily Jones... #
Well, this is a strange place.
It's digital art, but art that seems to follow you around the room.
A collection of exhibits at London's Whitechapel Gallery that date from
1966 right up until the present day.
Everything here has some sort of relationship with technology,
from CCTV chandeliers to karaoke performed with lyrics taken
from spam e-mails.
# Though this medium has been greatly abused
# I choose to reach you through it. #
Moving swiftly on, this exhibition goes by the name
of the Electronic Super Highway.
That term was coined all the way back in 1974
by the father of video art, Nam June Paik, from South Korea,
who was really excited about the potential
of telecommunication systems.
This is one of his pieces from 20 years later, from 1994.
This is called Internet Dream.
Go further back in time and you get to this,
the history of moving images, which is all blips and blobs
until you move a bit further away from the screen.
Videogames feature too and it's weird watching games in this
gallery setting, as you do start to appreciate the artistry that goes
into their creation when viewed in this context.
Look at me, I'll be hosting an art programme next!
The games in this work are some of the most expansive in history
and are also some of the most expensive in history to develop,
But there's one videogame on the horizon
which promises dwarf everything and it's been funded by the fans.
Mark Cieslak enters the universe of Star Citizen.
It blew away its initial crowdfunding goals,
raising over $100 million,
making videogame Star Citizen the most successful
crowd funded project ever.
It's an ambitious game for PC, featuring a gigantic explorable
universe, with tons of spaceships to pilot
and shooting stuff in first person.
All online and massively multiplayer.
It's the brainchild of Chris Roberts.
In the 1990s he created the successful Wing Commander
series of games.
Star Citizen is going to be an absolutely massive game.
So big, in fact, that the company behind it, Cloud Imperium, have got
four different studios in three different countries.
This is the Los Angeles studio, currently being made ready
for all of the developers and designers to move in here.
There are a lot of different activities going on in the studio.
The full game isn't yet completed,
but ships can be purchased with real world money
and played with in limited, pre-release tasters of tiny
portions of the game.
It's been a difficult campaign, but we're winning this thing.
Thanks for your efforts.
As well as in the US, developers Cloud Imperium have studios in
Germany and the UK.
Just outside Manchester is where I caught up with Chris Roberts.
He first announced the game back in 2012.
It was supposed to be released two years later.
It's still in development now, which means Star Citizen is late.
One of the oxymorons of crowdfunding is that
you're asking for money to make this game.
You don't know how much you will get.
Unless you want to pocket the rest of the money,
which isn't my thing at all,
I want to make the best game possible,
so if you give me $100 million I'll give you a $100 million game.
If you give me $10 million, I'm making you a $10 million game.
Of course there are big scales between those things, but you don't
know upfront that you will get $100 million.
But the time it is taking to recognise the grand vision of this
game has drawn criticism online.
If you are in the game business, games get cancelled all the time,
games get pushed back, schedules.
By the time you hear about the game it's probably been in development
for three years and already had a bunch of delays.
But that, I guarantee you, isn't the first time we got
pushed back, you just didn't know about it.
So there's a whole bunch of stuff that I know, from when I was an EA
or working with Microsoft making games,
where loads of games got cancelled, loads got pushed back.
Things always took much longer than they thought,
but the general public isn't aware of that.
I think maybe on the crowdfunding side we can all do a better job.
If I was crowd funding again I would, like, spell this out more.
Stateside is where Cloud Imperium handles communications
with its fans and backers.
As this is a crowd funded title that's raised an enormous amount
of money, they've decided to do something quite unusual.
They have their very own television studio here.
A small team here produce online videos almost daily,
filling in the audience on how the game's development is going.
Crowdfunding can be scary thing.
It's still a relatively new frontier and we're at the front of it.
Everything is geared towards pulling back the curtain and letting you
get an inside look at everything.
The developers are also working in innovative ways to get this title
ready for the public.
You've got different studios in different countries.
Does that affect the workflow in any way,
with time differences and things of that nature?
It allows us to be more versatile,
because it's this idea of follow the sun development.
We're never asleep, we're always making Star Citizen.
So that allows us cool opportunities of
say there was a bug we wanted to fix before release.
We couldn't get it done here, so we send it to the UK when we go to bed.
They say money never sleeps.
Games design never sleeps.
While the team in America continue to work on Star Citizen's persistent
universe, in the UK they work on the single player story driven
element of the game, called Squadron 42.
Here the player assumes the role of a rookie pilot, preparing to
rumble with some unfriendly ETs.
We are at war!
Roberts has assembled a starry cast, including Mark Hamill,
Gary Oldman and Gillian Anderson.
Incoming! Stay sharp!
I had a great time.
We shot last year at Ealing Studios in London.
We shot for about three and a half months and did this
really long shoot, about 66 days,
which was the longest shoot I've done for any movie.
What the goal post for release?
The next year?
The year after that?
We are starting to layer on additional game features
We'll flesh out the star system and then towards the end of the year
we will open it up so you can visit some other star systems and that's
existing in our online universe.
And, in parallel, we are working on Squadron 42.
We we're aiming to have that done by the end of this year.
All right, gentlemen, fire up!
Try to keep up.
Well, Mark's here now.
What is it about this particular game that has attracted
that much backing?
I think there are a lot of people who are sitting back and
waiting for something to be finished before they put their cash upfront.
Some fans must just want the game out already, never mind expanding it
and delaying it and delaying it.
His plans have changed quite dramatically, because
they managed to raise as much cash as they did.
He says it's the dream game that he has always wanted to make.
While it has caused a lot of fuss, there have been some very vocal
people online who say they want to see something happening right now.
he's also had a lot of support from quite a few of those fans,
quite a few of the people who paid for this to be made in the first
place, and they've said to take as long as he needs to make the thing,
which is being planned on this huge, huge scale.
So you've played portions of the game.
Is it any good?
It's difficult to say.
It's like watching a tiny bit of a movie or listening to
a small bit of a song or reading a tiny bit of a book
and trying to figure out whether the whole work of art is any good.
The bits I've seen and the bits I've played I like,
but you kind of need to see all of it to get a sense of whether the
whole thing is going to be any good.
Hello and welcome to the Week in Tech.
It was the week that robotics manufacturer iRobot announced it
would be selling off its military division of awesome machines and
concentrate more on household vacuums.
And the record for the world's fastest mobility scooter
was smashed to pieces, reaching an incredible 107 mph!
Google's driverless car project also revved up a gear.
The smartly named National Highway Safety Administration says that, in
light of the tech getting smarter, Google's self driving system could
soon carry the same legal definition as a flesh and blood motorist.
Music to the search giant's ears, as up until now any car without
a human driver wouldn't be considered roadworthy.
It was also the week that Twitter started tailoring its timeline.
In the new opt-out service, tweets it thinks you'll be most
interested in will appear at the top of the timeline, above new tweets
as they come in.
They will stay there until you swipe them away.
The change could be one of many, as shares in the social network
fell, following news of slow user growth late last year.
And, finally, researchers in China have developed
an artificially intelligent robot chameleon that can change its colour
to blend into its background.
The cute bot uses light sensors to detect surroundings
and then quickly projects similar tones onto its surface's screens.
AI camouflage. Oh, yeah.
Meanwhile, in India this week, Facebook's Free Basics programme
was dealt a blow.
To its supporters it promised internet without charge to
the world's poor, the billions living in the developing world
who can't afford to get online.
For those against Facebook's mobile platform it was
a cynical online land grab that would destroy the open internet.
Now Mark Zuckerberg has been told the venture can't go ahead
in its current form at least.
So, what now for Free Basics?
David Reid is in the Indian capital, Delhi.
Late last year Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sneaked
into a side entrance while visiting a technical college in Delhi.
Waiting students were deprived a glimpse of their hero
and got a little miffed.
Now I hear he has entered a secret way and it somehow
disappoints me a lot.
Limited seating meant only a few could get inside.
Facebook's Free Basics was limited to the number
of lucky website allowed on the platform but it is free to access.
Free Basics has been criticized in India from the outset with opponents
seeing it as a threat to net neutrality, the idea that everyone
should be free to go unhindered where they want to on the net.
India's telecoms regulator launched an inquiry and asked for
submissions on how it should rule.
Facebook argued that Free Basics would bring
the Internet to those who cannot currently afford to go online.
The net neutrality complainers called it a walled garden,
great if your website or online service is hand picked by Facebook
for inclusion but not so great if it isn't.
By using these walled gardens, they influence consumer choice
and the ability to create content and we don't want that kind
of marketization of the web.
After months of public consultations, the regulator came
out with its verdict this week.
They have come down on the side of net neutrality, saying operators
cannot discriminate on price.
Needless to say, for Facebook and Free Basics, this is a setback.
Free Basics in its present avatar is clearly dead in the water.
OK, it's a little bit more than a setback.
They will have to immediately withdraw that from the marketplace.
On Twitter, the reaction to the Free Basics ruling has seen Facebook
branded as the East India Company and one of its directors forced to
make a groveling apology for blaming India's economic woes on
anticolonialism but in all of this, little has been heard from the
people who vote most often during the debate, the country's poor.
India's telecoms regulator to much of its founding through the Internet
which, as we have seen, the poor have little access to.
When it asked for responses back, guess who responded?
Anyone who had access to a computer or a smart phone or who
knew how to put together a response to the questions.
You are looking at 800 million people who don't have
that so clearly their voices were not heard in terms of recognising
the need of that segment.
Back to talk of gaming and in the heart of picturesque
Amsterdam, it is not just about beautiful canals, museums,
a lot of bikes, and a vibrant nightlife but also a hotel that is
all about keeping guests indoors.
Arcade is the new gaming hotel.
It is a work in progress and not one for those lusting
after a spa but when all levels are complete, every room here should
have a different console.
With devices old and new and a library loaded with games to
choose from, this is hoped to become a destination
for the gaming community.
It is still early days for this project but it is clearly
one driven by passion.
You can go to a hotel and find Netflix or Apple TV
but there is nothing for us gamers.
We have never really been focused on it and I think this is
the time where we are 30-40-year-olds, we are businessmen,
dentists, lawyers, what ever.
We may not have a lot of time to play the old classic
games that we love, but by coming here, we get that chance.
At the moment we have an Atari, a Nintendo, a Super Nintendo,
a Nintendo GameCube, a Sega Dreamcast, a Sega Mega Drive
is on the way, a Sega Eight Bit is on the way, we have a
Playstation One, an Xbox original and and Boy me Boy and Gear.
Game Gear. We're looking for of umber
of others. Eventually we will have an S4, and box1, and
That is just showing off but this doesn't mean
game over for sightseeing, it is just somethin
little something extra to take or leave as you desire.
Now, if you have kids, you may have heard of the Activision Skylanders,
Disney Infinity, or Lego Dimensions.
They are all part of the wildly popular toys to life
video game genre.
It has only been around for a few years and is now worth
billions of dollars.
These toys at a 3-dimensional element to the game by unlocking
new levels and characters.
Independent games makers are also getting in on that action with
some more experimental designs.
Jen has been to learn more.
I'm going to a place where you can play Doom
on a piano and drink cocktails with names like Assassins Mead.
This bar is inspired by Tokyo's gaming cafes.
Its patrons include independent hardware gaming designers.
We have come to try their games.
Fabulous Beast is like a digital animal Jenga.
Launched on Kickstarter, its prototype parts were created
on a 3-D printer.
Instead of blocks, you have mishapen creatures fitted with tags so you
can scan them into the GameCube.
When you scan it, it asks what piece it is and then tells you what it is.
There is also a weight sensor.
The tablet app creates jeopardy by introducing new creatures
and challenges including time constraints.
Am I playing against you?
We are playing together.
What about this?
I also got to try Codex Bash, designed for use at festivals or
parties which incorporates physical and online play.
It uses a wireless button for the lights, which are connected
to a computer by Bluetooth.
The programme is done on the small boards.
The small size and cheap cost make them easy to
prototype on different levels.
In one you have to search for links between spies on a piece
of paper and clues onscreen.
We are creating games which involves people using real, physical spaces.
We have the opportunity to engage people's personalities and get
them to come out of their shells.
And get them to work together and communicate.
How you delegate in your team is up to you to discover for yourself.
And this totally 1-dimensional game is more like a piece of art.
It uses a joystick and LED light strip.
It is a 1-D game but it exists in a 3-D world.
Every time I set it up I try to conform it to
the existing architecture so it is going around pillars or
trees and here, up this bookcase.
I think it is quite an interesting aspect of gameplay.
It was inspired by pawing at the springy doorstep in an online video.
The game uses an accelerometer and the LED strip makes it slightly more
expensive than the others to make.
Just before Christmas there was an awakening in the force.
Have you felt it?
Well, obviously a whole lot of us did because Star Wars: The Force
Awakens has earned almost ?1.4 billion in the worldwide box office.
The film has earned praise from diehard fans
for its combination of practical and computer-generated effects
and it has even been nominated for a visual effects Oscar.
Over 400 shots for the film were put together here
in the new London office of Industrial Light and Magic.
A large portion of time was spent working on this
character, a bar owner, played by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o.
And I was lucky enough to peek behind the curtain and get
an exclusive break down as one of the film's most complex scenes.
This is the entrance into the castle.
It is a technically tricky shot because it is joining three
different plates together.
You can see the breakdown here.
We go into the studio set further inside the bar and we have to join
the camera through the doorway.
As she turns around, you can see that her face is covered in dots
and it looks like every possible muscle they could have tracked.
They are evenly distributed across her face.
We will take those markers and track those, and work out where
they are so we will be able to rebuild a 3-D representation
of her face and how it was moving.
Then we can analyse that and work out what expression she was making.
Then transfer that into the CGI person.
It is a block version of the actor's performance, the animation layer
on top really brings the character to life and captures all
the subtleties of the performance.
Simple things like how much of the whites of the eyes you can see.
When are her teeth visible?
Things like that that helps to transmit the performance.
And the genius about this kind of motion capture is she can be
on set with other actors, so there is a proper interaction.
Yes, it is super important that whoever
is performing is onset, not just for the performer who we are taking
data from but also for the other actors, so they can see the person
and interact directly with them.
Give us an idea of how long a scene like this would
take to design and then render.
It was one of the first shots sent over to us and it was pretty much
the last shot that was completed.
Because of the complexity of the camera moves but also it had to
go through a lot of design phases.
It was quite a long shot.
In terms of rendering, we will do it in different passes
rather than all at once.
You have the castle and the flags, we will split all of that up to keep
working on our own little bits.
At the end of the day, it was something we got going
in the evenings to do overnight.
To render a file, we'd process it overnight and we
would get them back the next day.
It would go through iterations as we got closer to the end of production
and we had less because there was less time to make changes.
Also people have zeroed in on what they are after.
So this sort of shot will probably have gone through
400-500 versions of the shot.
We wish the team all the best of luck at the Oscars at the end
of the month.
That is all from the Electronic Superhighway here in East London.
More next week from BBC Click and see you soon.
We saw winter wonderland scenes across parts of eastern Scotland
and north-east England on Saturday, frequent snow showers giving
considerable accumulations of snow in places, as proved here by a
Weather Watcher picture in Aboyne in Aberdeenshire,
and also this lovely picture showing heavy snow in the Pentland Hills
just outside Edinburgh.
Meanwhile across southern Britain, Saturday was a grey,