GestureWorks Gameplay is a revolutionary new
way of interacting with popular PC games. Gameplay software for Windows 8 lets
gamers use and build their own Virtual Controllers for touch,
which are overlaid on top of existing PC games. Each Virtual Controller overlay
adds buttons, gestures, and other controls that are mapped to input the game
already understands. In addition, gamers can use hundreds of personalized
gestures to interact on the screen. Ideum’s collaboration with Intel gave them
access to technology and engineering resources to make the touch overlay and 2-in-1
awareness in Gameplay possible.
Check out this one-minute
video that explains the Gameplay concept.
It’s All about the Virtual Controllers
Unlike traditional game controllers, virtual controllers can
be fully customized, and gamers can even share them with their friends. Gameplay
works on Windows 8 tablets,
and even multitouch
tablets and large touch screens.
‒ Gameplay in action on Intel Atom-based tablet
"The Virtual Controller is real! Gameplay extends hundreds
of PC games that are not touch-enabled and makes it possible to play them on a
whole new generation of portable devices," says Jim Spadaccini, CEO of Ideum, the
makers of GestureWorks Gameplay. "Better than a physical controller, Gameplay’s
Virtual Controllers are customizable and editable. We can’t wait to see what
gamers make with Gameplay."
Figure2 ‒ The home screen in Gameplay
Several dozen pre-built virtual controllers for popular
Windows games come with GestureWorks Gameplay (currently there are over 116
unique titles). Gameplay lets users configure, layout, and customize existing
controllers as well. The software also includes an easy to use, drag-and-drop
authoring tool allowing users to build their own virtual controller for many
games distributed on the Steam service.
Figure3 ‒ Virtual controller layout view
Users can place joysticks, D-pads, switches, scroll wheels,
and buttons anywhere on the screen, change the size, opacity, and add colors
and labels. Users can also create multiple layout views that can be switched in
the game at any time. This allows a user to create unique views for different
activities in the game, such as combat versus inventory management functions in
a Role Playing Game.
Figure4 ‒ Virtual controller global gestures view
Powered by the GestureWorks gesture-processing engine, aka
GestureWorks Core, Gameplay provides support for over 200 global gestures.
Basic global gestures such as tap, drag, pinch/zoom, and rotate are supported
by default but are also customizable. This allows extension of overlaid touch
controllers, giving gamers access to multi-touch gestures that can provide
additional controls to PC games. For example, certain combat moves can be
activated with a simple gesture versus a button press in an FPS. Gameplay even
includes experimental support for accelerometers so you can steer in a racing
game by tilting your Ultrabook™ or tablet, and it detects when you change your
2-in-1 device to tablet mode to optionally turn on the virtual controller
Addressed During Development
Developing all this coolness was not easy. To make the
vision for Gameplay a reality, several technical challenges had to be overcome.
Some of these were solved using traditional programming methods, while others
required more innovative solutions.
2-in-1 Transition Support
Early on in Gameplay development, we decided to include
basic support for the 2-in-1 transition (going from clamshell to tablet mode)
available on some new Ultrabooks. The vision was to hook into the game as usual
but not display the overlay if it was launched in clamshell mode. Then, during
game play, if the system was switched to tablet mode, the Gameplay Virtual
Controller overlay would immediately appear to allow touch-only game control.
You can see this capability in action on any virtual controller run on an
Ultrabook with 2-in-1 support. In the virtual controller edit mode, just enable
2-in-1 mode switch support in the experimental section of the settings tab.
Figure5 ‒ Virtual controller settings view
For those interested in learning more about detecting the 2-in-1
transition, there is an excellent guide with a sample application listed in the
DLL injection is a method used for executing code within the
address space of another process by getting it to load an external
dynamically-linked library. While DLL injection is often used by external
programs for nefarious reasons, there are many legitimate uses for it,
including extending the behavior of a program in a way its authors did not
anticipate or originally intend. With Gameplay, we needed a method to insert
data into the input thread of the process (game) being played so the touch
input could be translated to inputs the game understood. Of the myriad methods
for implementing DLL injection, Ideum chose to use the Windows hooking calls in
the SetWindowsHookEx API. Ultimately, Ideum opted to use process-specific
hooking versus global hooking for performance reasons.
Launching Games from a Third-Party Launcher
Two methods were explored for hooking into a target process’s
address space. The application can hook into a running process’s address space,
or the application can launch the target executable as a child process. Both
methods are sound; however, in practice, it is much easier to monitor and
intercept processes or threads created by the target process when the
application is a parent of the target process.
This poses a problem for application clients, such as Steam
and UPlay, which are launched when a user logs in. Windows provides no guaranteed
ordering for startup processes, and the Gameplay process must launch before
these processes to properly hook in the overlay controls. Gameplay solves this
issue by installing a lightweight system service during installation that
monitors for startup applications when a user logs in. When one of the client
applications of interest starts, Gameplay is then able to hook in as a parent
to the process, ensuring the overlay controls are displayed as intended.
During development, several game titles were discovered that
incorrectly processed virtual mouse input received from the touch screen. This
problem largely manifested with First Person Shooter Titles or Role Playing
Titles that have a "mouse-look" feature. The issue was that the mouse input
received from the touch panel was absolute with respect to a point on the
display and thus in the game environment. This made the touch screen almost
useless as a "mouse-look" device. The eventual fix was to filter out the mouse
inputs by intercepting the input thread for the game. This allowed Gameplay to
emulate mouse input via an on-screen control such as a joystick for the
"mouse-look" function. It took a while to tune the joystick responsiveness and
dead zone to feel like a mouse, but once that was done, everything worked
beautifully. You can see this fix in action on games like Fallout: New Vegas
or The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.
Vetting Titles for Touch Gaming
Ideum spent significant amounts of time tuning the virtual
controllers for optimal gameplay. There are several elements of a game that
determine its suitability for use with Gameplay. Below are some general
guidelines that were developed for which types of games work well with
| Gameplay Playability by Game Type
§ Role Playing Games (RPG)
|| § Simulation§ Fighting
§ Sports§ Racing
§ Real Time Strategy (RTS)
§ Third Person Shooters
| § Platformers
§ Side Scrollers
§ Action and Adventure
While playability is certainly an important aspect of
vetting a title for use with Gameplay, the most important criteria is
stability. Some titles will just not work with the hooking technique, input
injection, or overlay technology. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but
most commonly it is due to the game title itself monitoring its own memory
space or input thread to check for tampering. While Gameplay itself is a
completely legitimate application, it employs techniques that can also be used
for the forces of evil, so unfortunately some titles that are sensitive to
these techniques will never work unless natively enabled for touch.
While still early in its release, Gameplay 1.0 has developed
some interesting user feedback in regard to touch gaming on a PC. There are
already some clear trends to the user feedback being received. At a high level,
it is clear that everyone universally loves being able to customize the touch
interface for games. The remaining feedback focuses on personalizing the gaming
experience in a few key areas:
Many virtual controllers are not ideal for left-handed people. This
was an early change to many of the published virtual controllers.
- Button size and position is the most common change, so much so
that Ideum is considering adding an automatic hand-sizing calibration in a
future Gameplay release.
Many users prefer rolling touch inputs vs. discrete touch and
We expect many more insights to reveal themselves as the
number of user-created virtual controllers increases.
GestureWorks Gameplay brings touch controls to your favorite
games. It does this via a combination of a visual overlay and supports
additional interactions like gesture, accelerometers, and 2-1 transitions. What
has been most interesting in working on this project has been the user
response. People are genuinely excited about touch-gaming on PCs, and ecstatic
they can now play many of the titles they previously enjoyed with touch.
How to Write a 2-In-1 Aware Application: http://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/how-to-write-a-2-in-1aware-application
Krita Gemini Development of a 2-In-1 Aware Application
with Dynamic UI for Laptop and Tablet Modes: http://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/krita-gemini-twice-as-nice-on-a-2-in-1
Detecting 2 in 1 Conversion Events and Screen Orientation
in a 2-in-1 Device: http://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/detecting-slateclamshell-mode-screen-orientation-in-convertible-pc
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