The computer games industry in Germany is growing steadily and has internationally active publishers, a strong developer scene and important trade fairs to show for. In order to sustainably strengthen North Rhine-Westphalia as a games location, TH Köln has now joined forces with three other universities from NRW. The long-term goal of the cooperation is a research and innovation center for games.
Although the signs for the computer games industry in Germany are clearly pointing to growth, games developed in this country still play a negligible role on the world market. The number of jobs in games development is also rather low by international standards. One reason for this is that scientific findings and developments have so far found too little entry into the games industry, as Prof. Dr. Arnulph Fuhrmann from the Institute for Media and Photo Technology explains: “In Germany, there have so far been rather few activities aimed at integrating outstanding technological innovations developed in research projects into games. This is a gap that we want to close.”
A key goal of the Games Technology Network that has now been formed is therefore to promote game technologies. “In order to make this happen, we will start with conducting workshops involving the industry and other stakeholders from the cultural sector, academia and public institutions to define requirements and explore innovation potentials. Our focus will be on regionally based stakeholders,” explains Prof. Björn Bartholdy from the Cologne Game Lab (CGL), who, along with Prof. Fuhrmann from TH Köln, is involved in the new network.
In a second step, demonstrators will be designed based on the findings in order to further research the most promising development branches. The fields of work of the Institute for Media and Photo Technology and the Cologne Game Lab will include surface detection and -representation. “Computer games are often already photo realistic in the sense of believable representation of objects, but the precise reflective properties of real objects are not yet accurately reproduced. We want to develop solutions that increase the optical quality of games, but at the same time require as little computing power as possible,” says Fuhrmann.
In addition, the so-called pathfinding will be further researched. Pathfinding strategies in games describe how characters move independently through the virtual world. “The creation of such movement profiles is very complex and can now be revolutionized with the help of artificial intelligence. We also want to exchange ideas in this area and unlock potential for innovation,” says Bartholdy.
All of the insights gained and game technologies designed or optimized in the network are to be made freely available to developers. In addition to networking with external partners and developing demonstrators, the participating universities will also continue to network with each other in teaching and training – for example, through interdisciplinary doctorates and joint events.
Besides TH Köln, the Institute for Visual Computing at Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences (project coordination), the Visual Computing Institute at RWTH Aachen University and the Department of Media, Mixed Reality and Visualization at Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences are also involved in the Games Technology Network that has now been founded. The project is initially scheduled for two years and is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia with funds from the NRW Future Fund.