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Games enthusiasts go quackers over new technology

Cutting edge technology designed to help remove nuclear waste has inspired scientists in Sheffield to go quackers!

Enterprising scientists at Sheffield Hallam University have been showing their softer side by using a complex mathematical model designed to simulate how materials behave to create the most realistic flowing water ever seen in a duck inspired computer game!

Games enthusiasts throughout the world can test their skills on the new game - Super Rub-A-Dub - thanks to the latest developments in simulation from the University’s Materials and Engineering Research Institute.

The game, which features a swimming gaggle of ducks, has been developed by Sheffield games company Sumo Digital and is one of around thirty which will be available on Sony’s newly launched download site.

Sheffield Hallam’s involvement in the game began when the Materials Modelling Group, headed by Professor Chris Care, realised their research had led them to something which could have a major impact on helping improve realism in games.

He said: "Much of our work involves developing computer programmes which simulate the way different materials actually behave, enabling much greater understanding of their properties and providing detailed information to aid product development in a wide range of industry sectors.

"Our Thinking Water technology is one such programme which offers a highly efficient means of simulating fluid flow. It’s a technology which has already been used in work with major companies such as BNFL and Rolls Royce, but we started to think about other ways in which it could have an impact and that’s when we hit upon the idea that it could bring something quite new to the games industry.

"As our use of algorithms in research became more efficient and games consoles were becoming increasingly more powerful, it became clear that there could be a mutually beneficial link-up, and that’s why we approached Sumo."

The team at Sheffield Hallam responsible for the development of Thinking Water is Dr Richard Webster, Dr Ian Halliday and Professor Chris Care. Their background is in mathematics and theoretical physics, so the development into games software is a new departure, which has allowed them to use their knowledge of physics to create more realistic games environments for the next generation of games consoles.

The end result of that initial contact with Sumo, one year later, is Super Rub-A-Dub, a game in which a mother duck is guided by the game player, using a Sixaxis controller, round an extremely realistic tub of water – with ripples and reflected light – in her attempts to free her offspring from the bubbles and lead them safely home, whilst avoiding a range of obstacles.

Carl Cavers, Chief Operating Officer at Sumo, said that working with Sheffield Hallam had helped them to move the game’s realistic features up a gear: "When the University first presented the technology to us we thought this is cool and we could see opportunities to use this in a video game. Our design team fleshed out a few ideas and a year later we have the result"

The research team at Sheffield Hallam now hopes that their innovative approach could lead to further involvement with the games industry.

"As the demands from the entertainments industry for ever increased realism grow, this kind of technological innovation will become increasingly important in future developments," said Chris. "When you add that to our growing reputation as a provider of taught courses in games development at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, you can see that Sheffield Hallam is rapidly becoming a significant force within this growing sector."

Suzanne Lightfoot | alfa
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