Bungie.net launches Render to Video feature for putting game videos on the web

Bungie game studios has just launched a public Beta of their new Render to Video feature. (I've been participating in the Beta.)

The new feature is essentially a YouTube for gaming, allowing gamers (with one mouse-click) to put videos of their favourite gaming moments online. It has been deployed on Bungie.net, the web portal for Halo 3, the market-leading game for the Xbox 360 games console. Videos can be displayed in HD, or SD like the example below.

Players have been looking forward to this; it's a great feature. It's also very interesting commercially and technically. It's a landmark step in the evolution of interactive entertainment. The dividing line between the experience on the web and that on the gaming platform has been further blurred.

Until now, surprisingly, there has been no easy way to get videos onto the web from games played on a console. The prevalent method involves purchasing expensive video capture hardware and setting it up to work with both console and a PC, before uploading to a generic content sharing service like YouTube. Understandably, the average casual gamer simply doesn't bother. Yet every gamer has experienced memorable moments which could be fun to share, especially in multiplayer gaming.

Bungie.net was already leading the way in web functionality and features for games, pioneering far ahead of its competitors. It's by far the best game web site, by any measure. The web site provides access to extremely rich relational metadata from every game, including statistics, charts, heat-maps, medals, and assets like high-res images, browsable and searchable. Every player can have a detailed service record on the web site. No other game developer provides anything that even comes close to this, either on the console or on the web.

As well as screenshots and stats, Halo 3 has always automatically recorded literally everything that the player does in any game. Videos can be clipped, edited, shot from different angles, and played, producing HD videos, in the Theatre feature that comes with the game. Gamers have always been able to share Halo 3 videos over Xbox Live and download and play them on their console. Making the video content available online was the logical next step.

It's an exciting time for gaming and interactive entertainment. Next month we have the E3 Expo 2009, and we're anticipating news and announcements that will shape the future of this multi-billion-dollar industry.

I've been thinking about using XNA to create a simple app for the Xbox to make use of the new video content, but I'll need permission first -- watch this space!

Example: video clip from a Halo 3 multi-player game

12 May 2009

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Tim Acheson (06 Jul 09, 19:55)

The architecture for the overall Render-to-Video system, known internally as "The Hydra", comprises a synergy of established and newer Microsoft technologies, in an intuitive variation on the n-tier pattern.

Video is surfaced in a version of the Bungie Media Player, a light-weight, high-performance inline video player produced in Silverlight. The web platform is ASP.NET on IIS. The database is SQL Server. The encoding/streaming infrastructure is Windows Media Services. The primary media format is Windows Media Video.

Silverlight is a relatively new browser plug-in technology, providing a superior alternative to Flash for the development and deployment of rich client applications.

Bungie's dev teams for the web and for the game specialise in Microsoft technologies, with C/C++/C# being the dominant programming languages.

Tim Acheson (13 Nov 09, 17:45)

Update: from this week the Beta is over, and we now have unlimited Halo video rendering! Additional render minutes can now be purchased online.

"Okay, so admittedly it took us longer than we anticipated to get this up and running, but if you have Bungie Pro and you've been anticipating picking up some additional Bungie Pro Video Render Minutes to pad out your standard monthly allowance, your wait is over. ..."

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