This release is available in Spanish.
Developing an online multiplayer video game that takes advantage of the potential offered by enhanced reality: that is one of the objectives of Pyxel Arts, a company that was born in the heart of the Universidad Carlos III of Madrid's Scientific Park, and which hopes to apply this technology to other fields of knowledge, such as medicine or education.
This research project is focused on the area of MMOs (Massive Multiplayer Online), which are video games that multiple users access by means of an Internet connection. "For the first time in the history of MMOs, we are trying to make it possible for an application to be transferred to a mobile device with which it will be possible to continue playing in real time with a PC, integrating enhanced reality and creating missions and additional contents that can be personalized", explains the director of Pyxel Arts, Rafael Espinosa de los Monteros. His company has received financing through the Avanza Contenidos Digitales (Digital Content Advancement) funding awards set up by the Industry, Tourism and Commerce Ministry for this project, baptized as NINLIL in honor of the goddess of air in Sumerian mythology.
One of the keys to this project lies in the use of enhanced reality, a technology that allows fictional elements to be mixed with other real world elements. The aim is to, in this way, create a digital content platform with connection, interaction and multimedia resource administration capabilities that are unprecedented, according to its developers. Later, they intend to export this innovation to other industries that may require it, and to raise awareness in the general public of the enormous advantages presented by the use of interactive products in a variety of fields, such as medicine, education, simulation or resource management. In fact, there are many areas outside of the world of video games that already need this type of technology. "Right now we are focused on the part related to simulators, where the results we are able to achieve with our 3D modeling, 3D vision technology and enhanced reality capabilities are amazing our clients ", affirms Espinosa de los Monteros. "This is not only important for us as a company - he adds - but also in that it can raise the profile of a sector, that of video games that has been so taboo and unknown in our country up until now".
The idea for beginning this line of research arose when these innovators were considering how to unify new technologies in different types of games. "Previously - comments this 34-year-old industrial engineer - enhanced reality was the exclusive preserve of mobile devices, and it was always used at the level of small game entertainment; it was never applied to MMOs, which last longer, and where it can take hours to develop a character". Therefore, Pyxel Arts intends to put an end to this paradigm and carry out an experiment that will be a pioneer in the industry: to create a platform that allows users to play games with other users who are connected to the virtual world in real time, using the enhanced reality application to generate missions and events that can also include real elements that are captured by the mobile devices' cameras, taking advantage of their multimedia capabilities.
In practice, with a system of this kind, a player could connect from his house using a PC, while a colleague could do the same on the street thanks to his smartphone. Thus, both of them could participate in missions taking place in the virtual world and in a real scenario, because the system could accurately combine elements from both worlds. "This would mean game mechanics that are unprecedented in the history of MMOs, particularly in video games, as this will allow the user to personalize the experience by integrating elements captured in the real world, such as chairs, clothing, etc, into the videogame", assures the CEO of this company, who hopes to gather the first results when the project is finished, in approximately two years' time.
Pyxel Arts Digital Entertainment is a company that UC3M's Vivero de Empresas del Parque Científico (Scientific Park Business Incubator) has supported since its creation in 2010, offering advice regarding public subsidies, putting the firm in contact with researchers at the University, or facilitating its presentation in the sector's forums and trade fairs. "This support has been essential to the company as it got started; thanks to the meetings with investors, attendance at events, etc, it gave us a level of visibility that would have been difficult to obtain otherwise", comments Rafael Espinosa de los Monteros. In fact, almost one third of the company's staff has come out of this Madrid university.
Parque Científico de la UC3M (UC3M Scientific Park): www.uc3m.es/pcyt
Pyxel Arts Digital Entertainment SL: www.pyxelarts.com