A group of Vancouver grad students are believed to be the first to use open government data for game development with TaxiCity, a Web-based driving game.
TaxiCity lets players take on the role of a taxi driver, pick up passengers and deliver them to landmark destinations in downtown Vancouver, said Dashan Yue, a graduate student at the Center for Digital Media at the Great Northern Way Campus in Vancouver.
Yue co-developed TaxiCity with six other students. The game was created in three months using Microsoft Corp.’s Silverlight development platform, Bing Maps and the City of Vancouver’s Open Data Catalogue, he said.
The students used multiple data sets from Vancouver’s open data catalogue to generate the maps in TaxiCity, such as block outlines, parks, building shapes and the centre midline strokes on streets, he said.
Players “actually drive in downtown Vancouver,” said Yue. “All the docks, all the buildings are actually real.”
The team also developed a Silverlight game engine, which they released as an open source project because they wanted to “give something back” to the open source and open data communities, said Yue.
Open data offers “significant benefits” to game developers, he said, and could potentially change the gaming industry by reducing the time and cost involved in creating virtual worlds.
Creating a virtual game world requires a lot of artists working on 3D models and generating other digital assets, but with open data, large areas can be created with minimal human effort by having a computer process that data, he said. “There are already several games that want to try to incorporate real-world scenes,” said Yue.
“It begins to show us some of the really complicated things that could become possible if cities shared their data,” he said. The game “also takes a step closer to being able to create games where you actually race around the City of Vancouver, which could be fun from a game perspective,” he said.