Tuesday, March 8, 2011

GDC 2011 Report

Some of my observations from GDC 2011:

I've been mispronouncing Bokeh for years, and posted before about how there's a lot of room for improvement vs what's common on PS3 and Xbox 360. Well, it's all the rage these days. E.g. check out the Unreal demo and stills. Blur alone was a topic AMD discussed on DX11 day, discussing perf and memory optimizations of the heat distribution method from Kass et al at Pixar.

Tessellation and Displacement Mapping were put to good use in a variety of places too, e.g. terrain in Battlefield 3, character morph in Unreal demo.

On a much different note, I spent most of the rest of my sessions in design and rant topics. Much of that is hard to summarize, but here are some bits:

Trip Hawkins quote from the Social Rant: "Think more about the browser. The browser will set you free." after he described challenges Nintendo, Apple, etc have presented for game developers in the form of license agreements.

In general I was disappointed by the Social Game Devs Rant back, in that no strong defense was made for social games. Much of what was discussed was the same anti slot machine techniques we've already heard.

The Experimental Game Design session had two games with recursion build in. One spatially, e.g. the level had a model of the level in it, and you can manipulate objects from the different scales. The other “inside a star filled sky” with the player, enemies, and power ups all agents but also levels that can be entered and ascended out of.

[update] I forgot to mention user generated content. Andy Schatz (Pocketwatch Games / Monaco) discussed it and pointed out his site: http://hellodotdotdotgoodbye.com/ (cool, simple idea I keep being drawn back to) and others http://infiniteblank.com/http://playpen.farbs.org.

I've not been keen on the 3D wave in cinema, TVs or games. So, I thought I'd better take a good look at the Nintendo 3DS which is the best option I've seen yet. Autostereoscopic works nicely in a personal device like a hand held, and I can't stand glasses. The 3DS works well if it’s close to your face, not as well at my comfortable playing distance ~1.5 ft. Was very cool to see, but I’m concerned about eye strain. I played a few demos looking for any where the stereo effect really helped them. But none really stood out, and were all just as nice to play with the effect turned off. But, the always on wireless feature to exchange data between games seemed cool.

Google (I work there on Chrome) had a stronger presence than previous years with 2 tutorial days, booth, and some additional appearances. I gave a talk "HTML5 and Other Modern Browser Game Tech" (slides up soon, promise) which was received well.

I got a chance to meet up with friends, including the guys at Activate 3D, who had a cool demo running on Kinect. Being able to jump, swing on ropes, zip lines, monkey bars, etc, with video motion capture is pretty cool. They need to update their website's video, they had a nice rooftop race demo running.

David Jaffe pointed out that Consoles are way too slow to resume playing your game -- why can my DS pop back instantly and my plugged into the wall console takes minutes.

And finally, I'm inspired to do more design work and game Jams. Especially Stone Librande's talk 15 Games in 15 years, where he described creating games for himself and children was superb. Build fun in your life.