Saturday, March 28, 2009

GDC 2009 Friday

I had a great Friday at GDC, even though I had to duck out of my last session a little early to catch a flight home. My first session was called "Authoring for Real-Time Tesselation and Displacement Mapping." It was hosted by AMD/ATi and showed off a new tool they've developed called GPU MeshMapper. The tools allows artists to author a 16 bit displacement map, normal map, and ambient occlusion map from a high res mesh for use on a low res mesh. Using this tool, ATi created a nice demo for the release of their Radeon HD4870 graphics card. The demo contains about 3000 frog-like characters that use the tessellation/displacement technique when they're close to the camera. The technique allows the characters to appear perfectly smooth with no visible polygon edges. It's also relatively cheap since it's handled on the GPU - but currently their method of GPU tessellation only works on ATi graphics cards. This technique is definitely something I'm going to keep my eye on.

Next I attended the tech artists round table again. What I really love about these round table discussions and the web site is that it feels like we're really pulling together as a tech artist community and forming a guild. It's great because I'm getting to know so many others that share my same interests and challenges! Topics covered at Friday's round table session included artist/programmer shader authoring, programmers training tech artists and tech artists training artists, a debate about whether or not intermediate file formats are helpful, several funny stories about horrible tools, and whether or not good tools actually make a difference to the quality of the final game. We ended the session by talking about the concept of "spear fishing" or "shoulder surfing" where the tech artists watch the artists at work and get ideas for ways to improve the pipeline based on observing the artist's work flow. Overall, we had a great time discussing the things we do every day.

My next session was entitled "Platform-Independent Shader Development with mental mill: the Making of DEAD RISING 2." It was basically a sales pitch by Mental Images for their Mental Mill software. Laura Scholl from Mental Images went over the basics of the work flow using Mental Mill in game production and did her best to make Mental Mill sound really useful. Then Izmeth Siddeek from Blue Castle Games talked about how they used Mental Mill to prototype the shaders in Dead Rising 2. While his work was pretty neat and they had developed some nice shaders, the whole thing was overshadowed by the fact that the session was paid for by Mental Images. I attended it mainly to see what other people thought of the session, and based on the questions asked at the end and on comments I overheard on the way out, it sounds like people weren't that impressed.

My final session of the show was "Technical Art Techniques Panel: Tools and Pipeline." The panel consisted of Ross Patel from Microsoft, Seth Gibson from Bungie, Jeff Hanna from Volition, Rob Galinakis from Bioware, and was moderated by Chris Evans from ILM (formerly of Crytek). The guys covered all kinds of technical artist related topics including ideas for building art pipelines, how to handled artists' wants vs needs, how tools testing is handled, what you use for the level editor, and how tech artists should handle creating frameworks and libraries of commonly used code. Unfortunately I had to leave this session early to catch my flight home, but it was really cool to hear from these guys about challenges they had tackled, and their ideas and opinions on many different tech art related topics.

Well - my head is all full of ideas for how to improve my own skills and things we can do to improve our current project. My creative batteries are all recharged and I'm ready to head back in and make great stuff for another year!


Blogger Jason Brackman said...

Thanks for sharing!

March 30, 2009 12:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Ben.
It was great to read your posts since I had to miss GDC this year.


April 03, 2009 4:09 PM  
Anonymous shadow_DVA(Delicate Visual Arts) said...

hi Ben,
I was searching for some textures and found some on ur website Just wanted to say thanks and I really appreciate the work you've done.

October 03, 2009 12:30 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

One day I will attend GDC. But now thanks to you I can enjoy a bit over the web.


February 23, 2011 12:11 PM  

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