“Games” are, at their heart, high-performance, real-time-optimized, interactive three-dimensional graphics engines. And that means that, by focusing on their live graphical capabilities, they can become incredibly advanced live visual instruments – the stuff of VJs and visualists.

A number of artists have put that to good use. Riley Harmon sends along his work with the Source Engine, the Valve-developed graphics engine behind the classic title Half Life 2 (and Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, and the like). It’s an unusually well-balanced, solid engine that works really nicely, so a good choice. Here, it gets warped to new visual performance applications in a live set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Just what’s going on here, you ask? Riley explains:

Half-life 2 game engine, multiple scenes (levels) i pre-created and then showed up with my desktop. I used the mouse and keyboard to manually move things in beat with music and physics engine had an effect. Every once and while you’d see the console of the game (code) come up as I would change gravity and things like that. Next time I will map MIDI to the different things.

There are some Half Life 2 models making appearances there, as well, along with the brilliant Garry’s Mod -itself an ingenious experiment with the engine.

Side thoughts:
1. I’d love to see the consoles embrace this kind of free experimentation and modification. (I know, that may be a lost cause.)

2. I’d also love to see more live visual experiments with open source engines; I’m personally looking into jReality and jMonkeyEngine in Java. jReality isn’t a game engine, but it has its own nice live physics and scenegraph. jMonkeyEngine seems to have gotten a little fragmented development-wise, but has some nice capabilities of its own, based on the Lightweight Java Game Library (lwjgl). And open source here is ideal, given that modification is at the heart of what you want to do for live visuals. Anyone out there working on that sort of project?

I’m sure you’re thinking “yes, but have you seen –.” Indeed. That’s part of why I’m posting this. Let’s get a round-up of people doing live visuals with game engines. Go!