Friday, March 24, 2006

GDC - Friday

Friday has been my most busy day at GDC. I started the day off by attending a session put on by two guys from Epic on Modeling next-gen characters. They detailed the process of creating a character starting at the concept stage all the way through to the completed in-game model. There were tons of details and they went through it all really fast. Here are some of the highlights: They spent 6 weeks concepting their main character and another 4 weeks modeling him. They break their characters up into parts and create a library of max files with lots of parts to they can reuse them. When exporting a model to Zbrush, it's important to use quads, not triangles. They go back and forth between Zbrush and Max when working on the detailed model. Once their models are detailed in Zbrush, they have to break them appart and run them through Polygon Cruncher to reduce the poly count so Max doesn't crash when they import. They use obj format for going back and forth between Zbrush and Max. Their characters typically use 2 2048 textures. They use Max's render-to-texture to create diffuse maps, height maps, ambient occlusion maps, and normal maps for the low res mesh. The most important map is the normal map. That's where all the detail is. The diffuse map is mostly just flat color. Overall, this session was very informative.

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(


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"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"

Ahh... man! I knew it was only a matter of time before someone else thought up dynamic normal maps too. That's exactly what I was hooking mine up to... bone rotations and facial animation morph targets.

Oh well... as long as they start showing up in games I'll be happy (even other peoples games). I'd love to get a look at how their shader code is written though.

Sounds like GDC had some pretty cool stuff this year... I'm sorry I missed it.

March 28, 2006 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hiya... Thanks for the textures you put up. Quite useful and very goo-natured thing to do ^_^

June 07, 2006 1:17 AM  
Blogger Zuplemento said...


Maybe I use bamboo_fence02.jpg


June 15, 2006 4:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your metal textures. I've been looking for a specific pattern all over and you had exactly what I need.


July 12, 2006 6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just wanted to say thanks for the textures. they're really comming in handy for class

July 16, 2006 12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Another guy saying thanks for the textures. I made a repeating background from the ivy.

July 20, 2006 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, just want to say thanx 4 the wood textures. I'm using #16 as a BG for a school business project. Thanks again.

July 20, 2006 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanx for the textures. I really appreciate having high quality textures that I don't have to spend a fortune on.

August 11, 2006 3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome collection of textures David! I'm always looking for new images to blend with my artwork. Thanks a tonne :) J

August 27, 2006 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice Textures. Im gonna use the first one, the box with the engraved S on the front.

August 29, 2006 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From one of your pages:
> Feel free to use these textures for any project, personal or professional. They are my gift to the 3D community. If you do use them, email me or post a comment in my blog so I'll feel like it was worth the effort to put them up.

I was looking around the internet for a generic sheet metal image for a personal project, yours was not only the best, but also free. Thanks for the graphics!

September 01, 2006 7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Another thank you for the great textures on your site. I'm using the road texture for a Uni rendering project. It has come in very handy. They were definitely worth the effort to put them up!

Thanks again,

Tony Bigby

September 10, 2006 12:06 AM  
Blogger suny2000 said...

Hi Ben, do you know by any chance where i could find the slides from Neil hazzard from the gdc06 ? They seems to be the only documentation availlable about shaders in max, and it's a shame it's not released freely...

September 13, 2006 10:01 AM  
Blogger Ben Cloward said...

suny2000, I put a zip file on my web server that contains notes/slides from three presentations given by Neil Hazzard - one of which is the gdc 06 presentation you're looking for. The other two might be helpful as well. You can find the zip file here:

You can also find a small amount of documentation on Max specific FX shader syntax here:

I hope that helps!

September 13, 2006 12:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I´m triying to explain to my students the way the Mayan culture build their numeral sistem, which they use wood as board and I found your magnificent art work and gave me lots of ideas to teach them. Thanks for your kindness and great skills.

March 27, 2007 12:42 AM  

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