GDC - Friday
Next I attended a session by Paul Steed on Defining the Next-Gen Character. It was basically just a laundry list of all the stuff a character has to have to be considered "next-gen."
After that I got into the Epic booth and got to see a live demo of Gears of War and Unreal 2007. It was a very cool presentation. I was impressed that they're able to use partial rag doll and even full body rag doll and have the character recover and return to what it was doing before. The also demoed FaceFX. It's a facial animation add-on for the engine that automatically parses wav files and extracts phonemes. Then it creates the lip synch for your character and you can go in and add detail and tweek the animation as needed. The cool part was the ability to control the intensity of normal maps with the sliders in addition to the morph targets so wrinkles in the face to be created. I was happy to see that they've solved the issue of billboard particles clipping into things. That's been a pet pieve of mine for awhile.
Next I attended a session by Kevin Bjorke about creative uses for textures in the shader pipeline. He talked about mip maps and what you should and shouldn't do with them. He talked about a shader that he's written that helps you know what texture res to use on your model and find the areas where the UVs are stretching. I'm definatly going to start using that! He showed a tool that he wrote for Photoshop that creates mip maps so you can edit them. He also showed some reall interesting BRDF style shaders that allowed you to paint on the BRDF input textures until you got the results you wanted. He ended his talk with a toon shader that was pretty cool.
To end the day, I attended a talk by Neil Hazzard from Autodesk on using real-time shaders in Max. He explained a lot of things about Max's shader support that I didn't know about. A lot of the problems I've been having lately with my shaders can be solved with the features he discussed. I'm going to be studying his slides for a long time. Neil gave me some time during his presentation for me to show off some of the shaders that I've written. That was really fun and people seemed to like my work. Several artists came up to talk to me after the demo about getting together to colaborate on shader writing. That is probably the most valuable thing for me about the whole trip - meeting some other artists that are also interested in shader writing.
So that's it - my 2006 GDC experience. I've made some friends, hooked up with old friends, and really had a great time. Now I have to get up at 4:30 am to catch my flight home. :0(