GDC 2010

GDC this year was a distinct change for me. In all 8 or 9 prior years, we had a booth on the main show floor and we gave demonstrations. The rationale for this is that it helped to generate buzz for the new version of the product and help educate consumers about what we provide. This year, we chose not to have a booth on the main floor and got a suite in the business section of the floor. This meant that Dan and myself were freed up from working the show floor to actually attend a fair number of sessions. I was initially a little worried about this, but Epic and Havok have been doing this for years. In reflection, I can definitely see why. We’re at the point where people know who we are. The show floor booth walkups almost never translated into revenue b/c they already knew who we were and how to get in contact with us. It had one big impact that I didn’t really anticipate… it was quiet. Not in a bad way, but in a, hey.. we can actually talk to our customers without shouting way. This led to more productive meetings overall, which everyone can appreciate.

There were a ton of middleware companies on the show floor this year. It seems that you couldn’t walk 5 feet without running into an engine provider. Time will tell how the marketplace will shake out. All of the competition is bound to be good for consumers.

The biggest change from prior years that I noted is that RAD finally has a new booth. In prior years, they had a booth that probably fit in a box and just expanded to fill their slot. This year they had Telemetry and Iggy to show. Telemetry looked interesting, but it will depend a lot on pricing. Iggy was also interesting, but the developer couldn’t really distinguish their product from Scaleform. I felt like this was a little disheartening. You have to know your market, even if you are coming in at a cheaper price point than your competition.

I made it to 6 sessions:

  • Uncharted fortune animation – probably the best talk that I went to. Nothing new, just some really effective techniques for using additive animation and blending to make great looking characters. The best tricks involved using additive animations of random tiny movements on a frame count different than the base animation. When added together, this produces animation cycles that are far more varied and interesting. Their visualization of this was to show the additive animation on the left, the blended in the middle, and the source on the right. This was a great visualization mechanism and made the ideas quite clear.
  • Unity for people that know what they are doing – I’ve never had the time to check out Unity. As Aras says, “it’s free”, but my free time is not. The talk centered on their UI system, art pipeline, and shader system. The tech does look pretty nice with fast iteration times. They wrote the entire GUI layer in immediate mode for their tools, which was really interesting to me. I’d like to dig in a bit more as to why they felt like immediate mode API’s saved so much time.
  • Streaming in Forza – Good talk, but heavily focused on a linear track racing game. They broke down streaming into a series of caches and gave rough sizes for them. Some useful numbers: They had 47000 models, 60000 textures, 100 tracks averaging 13 miles long.
  • Shears – probably the worst talk that I’ve ever been to. This was meant to cover the threading model used for the Shaun White snowboarding games. The presentation took about 30 minutes to describe data decomposition parallelism. Poor descriptions, low content, and very beginner.
  • Civ5 multithreading – For Civ5 they rewrote their rendering pipeline to be a jobs-based model and claimed to be able to get something like 15000 draw calls at 30 HZ, which is pretty impressive. Jobs models for parallelism seems to be the way to go in the future and I heard this pushed multiple times on the show floor.
  • Asset pipeline for Just Cause 2 – This was another beginner talk. Essentially they have python scripts that let them process the data in their pipeline. They didn’t do anything particularly fancy here.

~ by shaunkime on March 18, 2010.

2 Responses to “GDC 2010”

  1. By immediate mode UI, is the kind of thing you mean?

  2. Nolan, that’s exactly what they’re doing. It is definitely an interesting way of thinking about the problem of UI creation. I’m not sure that I’d want to trade a nice set of GUI controls like what Forms and WPF provide and code that all from scratch with immediate mode GUI.

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