Wednesday, March 29, 2006

GDC 2006 Summary

This is a summary of my GDC 2006 experience. Keep in mind that I attended only ~15 out the the several hundred lectures available, and most of the ones I attended were in the programming track.

GDC 2006 was a continuation of last year's topics. Compared to last year, there was nothing terribly revolutionary (which was to be expected... there's already enough for people to learn without having to worry about, say, yet another hardware platform). With all the new hardware coming out, most of the focus was on preparing developers for the transition to parallel processing. Overall, it was a great conference; I think the GDC is one of the most important conferences available for people interested in real time computer graphics, simulated physics, AI, software development techniques, 3D modeling, etc.

In the game programming world, there was more of a push towards parallel architectures and algorithms. This change started last year with the introduction of new hardware (the Cell chip for the PS3, Ageia's PhysX chip, and multiple core chips for PCs).

I attended the following sessions. For some of these I was working as a conference associate; the rest I attended for my own interest. More info on these can be found on the GDC 2006 site.

  • A day long tutorial, "Embodied Agents in Computer Games," by John O'Brien and Bryan Stout.
  • A roundtable discussion, "Technical Issues in Tools Development," moderated by John Walker.
  • A keynote speech, "Building a Better Battlestar," by Ronald D. Moore.
  • "The Next Generation Animation Panel," by Okan Arikan, Leslie Ikemoto, Lucas Kovar, Julien Merceron, Ken Perlin, and Victor Zordan.
  • "High Performance Physics Solver Design for Next Generation Consoles," by Vangelis Kokkevis. This included a demo of 500,000 particles running in real time on the PS3.
  • "Sim, Render, Repeat - An Analysis of Game Loop Architectures," by Michael Balfour and Daniel Martin.
  • The Nintendo keynote speech, "Disrupting Development," by Satoru Iwata. They handed out several thousand free copies of Brain Age for the Nintendo DS.
  • "Serious Games Catch-Up," by Ben Sawyer.
  • "The Game Design Challenge: The Nobel Peace Prize," by Cliff Bleszinski, Harvey Smith, Keita Takahashi, and Eric Zimmerman.
  • "Spore: Preproduction Through Prototyping," by Eric Todd.
  • "Half Weasel, Half Otter, All Trouble: A Postmortem of Daxter for the Sony PSP," by Didier Malenfant.
  • "Physical Gameplay in Half-Life 2," by Jay Stelly.
  • "Behavioral Animation for Next-Generation Characters" (Havok sponsored session), by Jeff Yates.
  • "Crowd Simulation on PS3," by Craig Reynolds. Showed 10,000 fish interacting @60 fps on the PS3.

I made a few new connections this year. I talked to Steve Wozniak, Dan Goodman (who works with Kevin Meinert, a former VRAC researcher, at Lucasarts), Leslie Ikemoto, and a bunch of people from the conference associates group. I also talked with several people that I have met before, including John Walker (High Voltage Software), Mat Best (Natural Motion), and Ken Stanley.

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