Have you ever wondered why it is so incredibly hard to create interactive 3D games? There are professional tools that allow you to create 3D shapes, however, these tools tend to have extremely steep learning curves. With support by the National Science Foundation we have investigated 3D creativity and have come up with 3 significant innovations that enable those without a background in 3D modeling or programming to create interactive 3D worlds:
#1 Gentle Slope 3D: Creating 3D, gradually
Why do tools have to be 2D only or 3D only? What if you could start in 2D and gradually turn a flat 2D world into a 3D one? Easily manageable stepping stones allow you to migrate from 2D to 3D at your pace. Turn your 2D characters into 3D models. Add a sky dome. Switch to first person mode. Sounds too good to be true? Watch this movie:
#2 Inflatable Icons: Creating 3D Shapes from 2D Images
Creating 3D shapes is hard. 3D modeling approaches are mostly "shape-then-paint". You start by creating a 3D shape either by combining some basic shapes or by using some kind of sculpting. Then you paint that 3D it. While this creates professionally looking 3D models, it turns out to be extremely difficult and time consuming. Our Inflatable Icons flip this process upside down with a patented "paint-then-shape" approach. Draw a volcano in 2D and use techniques such as inflation, noise, and leveling to turn your image into a 3D shape in just minutes. See for yourself:
#3 Conversational Programing: Beyond Drag and Drop programming
Drag and drop programming - problem solved? NO! We pioneered drag and drop programming (AgentSheets 1994)f. We've run some of the largest programming studies done, and we know the limitations of drag and drop programming. It can overcome the dreaded semicolon-at-the-wrong-place problem, however, but it doesn't make programming simple. Syntactic support is important but not nearly sufficient to overcome the much more daunting semantic challenges of programming. Conversational Programming, built into AgentCubes, addresses the semantic challenge by reconceptualizing a program as a living entity. Conversational Programming uses the power of your computer to constantly run your program and to annotate it graphically to visualize potential futures. This helps you to turn the buggy program you have into the correct program you want. Programming has finally advanced into the 21st century.
Ristretto 3D: Your games in browsers without Flash and Java
Early on, with AgentSheets, we realized users want to be able to run their games in a browser. New mobile platforms like iPads and iPhones don't use Java or Flash. HTML5, in contrast, is quickly growing in terms of functionality and performance. Ristretto 3D is based on HTML5 and employs the powerful WebGL technology to make 3D content available in browsers without the need for Java, Flash or any other plugins. All you have to do is to upload your game to the Scalable Game Design arcade to make it fully playable inside a browser.
Scalable Game Design Arcade: Grow your Skills
Our Scalable Game Design is more than just a place to share your games with others. Of course you can search, download and play games directly in the browser (AgentSheets: Java applet, AgentCubes: HTML5/WebGL) but the arcade also analyzes your games using the Computational Thinking Pattern Analysis. This incredibly powerful feature can guide you towards new game design challenges. Combined with the Scalable Game Design Wiki <url> you identify skills missing to build your next game. For instance, if you want to create advanced SIMs-like games you will find how to implement advanced AI based on Collaborative Diffusion.
Parallel Time Jump Animation: Parallel Animation, just a one slider away
Imagine a complex scene with thousands of agents moving around in parallel. When these agents move from one pile of agents onto another all in parallel how will they figure out where in the pile to move to? Would they not need to know at the start of the animation where they end up going? But given that everybody is moving at the same time, how can this be done? Do not worry. The parallel time jump animation, another innovation built into AgentCubes, figures this all out for you. All you have to do is to adjust the simulation speed slider to add smooth, parallel animation to your game.
Performance: Visual Languages can be compiled
There is a myth that drag and drop programming results in slow code. AgentCubes, and its cousin AgentSheets, have their roots in super computing. The first prototype of AgentSheets was running on a Connection Machine super computer with thousands of CPUs connected in a 12 dimensional hypercube. True to its origin AgentCubes keep up the tradition of compiling the visual language program you wrote into efficient code. This is essential if you want to create sophisticated games and simulations. We have used the Game of Life as a basic benchmark predicting performance of many scientific simulations. Compare the 30,000 cells/sec (2.6 GHz, i5) on AgentCubes in 3D to other drag and drop programming environments. For instance, the "fastest" game of life we found running in MIT's Scratch was performing at 40 cells/sec. That is almost 1000 times slower. Then again, AgentCubes 1.0 has not yet been optimized like AgentSheets running at 350,000 cells/sec in 2D.
Evaluated by the University of Colorado School of Education
Do not just take our word for it. AgentSheets has been evaluated in large scale studies with 8000 student across the USA by the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Education and external evaluators. The results are overwhelmingly positive and suggest particularly high levels of motivation across gender and ethnicity but also indicate that students really gain measurable computational thinking skills.