Backstage Pass Seminar on Scientific Visualization

A Seminar on Scientific Visualisation – By Sathish Kottravel, a Doctoral Researcher at Linköpings University, Sweden

A picture speaks a thousand words.Therefore, the world prefers that acomplex ideais conveyed through an image.

Scientists deal with huge amounts of data when dealing with physical phenomena such as the weather, space, human brain activity, and molecules. They visualise the data using various techniques of image generation. Since these images are based on data, they are accurate. Also, they are more comprehensible than the raw data. Scientists use the images to explore the data better.

According to Wikipedia, scientific visualisation is used to graphically illustrate scientific data to enable scientists to understand, illustrate, and derive insights from the data. Scientific visualisation is a subset of computer graphics which in turn is a branch of computer science.

Seminar

We invited Sathish Kottravel, a doctoral researcher at the Linköpings University of Sweden to Backstage Pass, to conduct a seminar on Scientific Visualisation and its significance in game development.

We bring you an excerpt of his interview and a peek into the seminar.

About Sathish

Sathish Kottravel is a doctoral student at Linköpings University in Sweden. He specialises in Scientific Visualisation. He has published research papers in Scientific Visualisation.

His rendezvous with computer graphics started when he started working, after a bachelor’s in computer engineering, as a simulation software developer. After 6 years of work, he joined the master’s programme in Advanced Computer Graphics from Linköpings University in Sweden. After the master’s programme, he joined the university’ research force as a Research Engineer and went on to become a doctoral researcherspecialising in scientific visualisation.

Scientific Visualisation – The Seminar

Sathish started the seminar withimages of scientific visualisation and introduced the concept to us. The very techniques used for scientific visualisation also power the 3D graphics engines of game design tools. This is the common thread between scientific visualisation and game development.

Further, he spoke about the application of molecular and volume visualisation to 3D graphics and games.To elaborate,he explained how thecommon techniques such as raycasting and the depth of a field are used in making games.

The use of aesthetics in scientific visualisation was also a dominant theme of the seminar. He described the common features that aesthetics and game art and design share.

The session was interactive,and Sathish answered many questions that students had.He enthralled the audience with images and graphs showing the effective and right application of scientific visualisation.

Interview with Sathish Kottravel

Sathish, thanks for visiting us at Backstage Pass and spending 3 days of your vacation here with us. Please tell us something about your research interest?

“Thanks for having me here. I loved the interaction with the students. I specialise in the field of scientific visualisation. This is a unique field of study where mathematics, programming and aesthetics overlap. This field is also quite interdisciplinary, meaning the knowledge that you gained can be applied in many areas such as game development, special effects, graphics application developer, research, and so on.”

Can you tell us about your research in this field?

” I do research in thevisualisation of scientific data. Currently,I specialize in molecular visualisation. Here, my primary goal is to explore material structures and proteins at theatomic level in high-detail. Also, my research implicitly includes volume visualisation at low-detail representation.

My team of researchers work in close collaboration with physicists to help them understand the scientific process through any desired visualisation techniques. Some of my research publications are published here.

How is this related to computer graphics and gaming?

“The volume visualisation techniques such as volume rendering is often used in 3D graphics. For example, realistic rendering of fire. In molecular visualisation, we use techniques such as ambient occlusion to create the effect of soft shadows to improve the depth perception. The depth of field is also another technique inspired by digital photography thatfocuseson one plane. All these techniques are quite common in 3D games that borrow ideas from computer graphics.”

What are the new technologies that are being used in Scientific Visualisation?

“The new technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and haptics are used for scientific visualisation.”

What Activities Did You Conduct for the Backstage Pass Students?

“On Day 1, I conducted a seminar to give an overview of scientific visualisation and its significance in the field of 3D graphics. On day 2, I organised a workshop.  The aim of the workshop is to introduce shader programming tasks to implement special effects filters. We framed the tasks into basic, intermediate and advanced levels and day 3 was open for discussions and Q&A.

How was Your Experience Interacting with the Students of Backstage Pass?

“During the seminar, the students were very enthusiastic about the techniques that I presented in the seminar and had many questions. They asked about GPU optimization and raytracing.

During the workshop on Day 2, the student’s feedback was excellent. Also, I observed that the students are good at programming. They could solve all the tasks that we assigned to them. They showed interest in extending the basic ideas discussed on Day 1.

This shows that the institute has awell-structured syllabus and active environment for learning game development. I am certain that the students are industry ready.”

What is Your Advice toBackstage Pass Students?

“Backstage Pass has an excellent infrastructure that is easily accessible to students. The college has strong ties with the gaming industry, and these industry collaborations put themmiles ahead as the ties increase the students’ industry interaction multi-fold. To stand out in the crowd, students must make use of this resourceful environment as much as possible.”

 

Thank you, Sathish, once again, for sharing knowledge and giving a glimpse of scientific visualisation in gaming.

Backstage Pass alumnus game - Enemy Waters Naval Simulation Game

Backstage Pass Alumnus Launched Enemy Waters, a Naval Simulation Game

TeaPOT Games has launched a naval battle simulation game called Enemy Waters.

About Enemy Waters

Enemy Waters is a naval battle simulator where you can command and manoeuvre warships and submarines to fight pirates. The aim is to defeat the enemy warships and submarines using deck guns, depth charges, and torpedoes (a torpedo is a cigar-shaped self-propelled underwater missile fired from a ship or submarine). By defeating your enemies, you can conquer seaports and oil wells.

The game features the submarines and warships from nine countries. They were used in World War II, Cold War, and some of them are part of the current fleets of leading navies.

This is an action-strategy simulation game where you ambush and destroy Pirate John’s convoy by laying the perfect trap. You are the captain of the ship and you can choose to sneak past Pirate John’s convoy or face their torpedoe salvo directly and launch a counter-attack before they destroy your ship. (A salvo is a slew of weapons released from one or more warship or submarine in quick succession.)

The simulation grade controls will let you fire missiles and torpedoes, engage silent running on your submarine to sneak past the enemies, control the depth of your submarine and dive into deeper waters as you escape the depth charge from enemy warships.

We bring you an exclusive interview with Satish Chandra, founder of TeaPOT Games and an alumnus of Backstage Pass Institute of Gaming & Technology:

Why did you choose to make a naval battle simulator?

“The inspiration to make this game came from the many anxious moments spent watching underwater war films. We wanted to create an authentic submarine experience for the gamers who play a lot of mobile games.”

Can you elaborate the stages the game went through from start to finish?

“The game’s combat mechanics went through many iterations to get that perfect balance between simulation and fun. We felt we were spending a lot of time experimenting without any sense of direction. However, in the end, we are satisfied with the well-balanced combat mechanics you see in the game. Our effort didn’t go in vain. All this was possible as we were very clear about our objectives and target audience.”

How difficult is it to play the game?

“At TeaPOT Games, we make hardcore games accessible to the mid-core mobile audience while sacrificing as little as possible on realism or attention to detail. This was the reason behind the success of our game, Avion Flight Simulator.

Enemy Waters is fairly easy to start, but as you progress and come to manage and lead a fleet of warships and submarines, you will compete with an even bigger enemy fleet. You will have to come up with your own tactics as the game slowly ramps up its level of difficulty. This is the challenge, and a big one in fact.”

Is it a multiplayer game? How do you get the best experience playing this game?

“We are working on the multiplayer part of the game at the moment. You can’t pay, buy stuff and win. Instead, you have to use the warships or submarines from the campaign. But unlike the single-player version of the game, you can only control one vessel(warship or submarine) in a 4 vs. 4 or 3 vs. 3 team battle.”

What challenges did you face? How did you overcome and what did you learn?

“One of the main challenges was optimising the game given that the game is both CPU and GPU-intensive. One of our major objectives was to have scalable graphics making the game look absolutely gorgeous on high-end devices and also be suitable for mid to low-end devices. This was not an easy task. We sank 2 months of work into optimising the game and found many unknown optimisation tricks in Unity 3D. We optimised the game to such an extent that it will run smoothly even on a 6-year-old flagship device. This is a major learning for us, something that we will certainly use in our upcoming games.”

Can you tell us about the monetisation aspects of this game?

“The game has two in-game currencies: oil and money. Both of these resources can be earned either by completing missions or by controlling oil wells and seaports. The player can purchase oil using real money and exchange the oil for money in a market that is inspired by the market system in AOE 2. In other words, the more you sell the less you will get for that particular resource. Every mission in the game requires a certain amount of oil to play, and the money is used to purchase new ships or perform repairs on the damaged vessels.”

Enemy Waters has been shortlisted for Indie Prize Showcase by Casual Connect USA 2017.

Check out the game play trailer and the game links on both Android and iOS.

Sushil George

@Home with Gaming – Sushil George

Today, we are showcasing one of our faculty members, Sushil George. Sushil considers himself a Hyderabadi. He holds B.Tech. from JNTU, Hyderabad and has been working as a game developer for over 6 years now.

Childhood, Motivation and Inspiration

Sushil GeorgeIn hindsight, I see that games inspired me more than people as I was growing up. When I saw a DOS game load on a Windows 95 PC, I would get excited beyond words. I was playing all the games I could lay my hands, though the games were difficult to find in those days. The two years of junior college(Intermediate)that followed were busy years as I had to prepare for various engineering entrance exams. After joining B.Tech., I was back to playing games. I learnt C and Java as part of the courses in graduation, and the learning helped in my later years as a game developer.

Soon after I completed graduation in 2010, I joined Gameloft as a QA tester and understood the process of game development. A few months later, I left Gameloft and joined Backstage Pass to pursue the Advanced Diploma in Game Programming. The training has really helped in my later years as a game developer, thanks to my experienced and talented mentors. Later, I joined Avakai Games and since then, there is no looking back.

Gaming as a career is relatively new in India. The 40+ population in India hardly plays computer games. My parents do ask me occasionally if this is the right career for me. But I guess what matters to me is l feel at home in gaming. I believe that when I am at home in a particular area, I give it my best. And that is what important. At some point, money and passion will come together anyway.

Advice for Wannabe Entrepreneurs

Unless you have someone ready to invest in your venture, it is not really possible to start off as soon as you come out of college. So it is better to work for 3 to 5 years in a company. This will help you save some money for your venture and also give you a firsthand knowledge of how to run a game development team. When working, handle as many responsibilities as you can so that you know something about everything. And don’t forget to build in-depth experience in at least one chosen area of interest and keep networking by attending all the conferences within your reach.

Before you launch your own venture, ensure that you have released at least 1 or 2 games. That will help you understand what it takes to ideate, develop and release a game. Releasing a game is of great significance because the market not only teaches the process of and hurdles in marketing a game but also acts as a touchstone for your career.

Want to Pursue a Career?

This works fine for many of us. If you go abroad and get employed in a company with a good track record, you can probably retire from the same company. This is so because, in the West, the gaming industry is so well developed and is growing non-stop. They play games as individuals, families, friends and professional gamers. It means a healthy growth for the industry.India is not far behind as the job prospects are better than ever and will continue to grow.

The Chosen Path

No matter which way you want to go, give it your 100%. The most important thing: never stop learning and seeking newer game technologies.You will do just fine.

Wishing all of you a great journey in gaming.

— Sushil George