We've Moved

The blog has been retired - it's up for legacy reasons, but these days I'm blogging at blog.theodox.com. All of the content from this site has been replicated there, and that's where all of the new content will be posted. The new feed is here . I'm experimenting with crossposting from the live site, but if you want to keep up to date use blog.theodox.com or just theodox.com

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Back from GDC

Another year, and another horde of game developers have washed over the Mosconce Center like a tidal wave leaving devastation, half-eaten Peruvian chicken sandwiches, and flyers for UE4 in their wake.
hot times on the hiring floor this year!
This was a pretty upbeat year at the show. It was big -- numbers aren't final yet but it looks like the biggest one yet -- and buzzing: the show floor and (perhaps more interesting to the crowd here) the hiring floor were pretty busy. For an old GDC vet it was still a bit of an odd scene on the jobs floor -- the titans of old (EA, Blizzard, Sony, and Microsoft) no longer dominate the space with huge booths and long lines of art school kids -- the biggest booth was from wargaming.net and the busiest ones were hiring for things like VR or even SpaceX (by the way, that rumor I've heard about SpaceX hiring tech artists is not true, at least not according to the folks at the booth this year).  The job market for TA's looks to be pretty hot too: there were a lot of people in the TA roundtable looking to hire. Of course, everybody want to hire "senior" TAs, which is a tough thing for the less-senior to contemplate. Much discussion of how to get people from the entry level to the big leagues, I think there's a future post in there somewhere.
A different kind of change is the vastly expanded demographics of the show -- it's a much bigger, more diverse and more interesting set of faces than you used to see back in the day. The tech art round tables (thanks as always to +Jeff Hanna  for that pillar of the community) had a great mix of people and good questions from all over. Even the dinner at Bucca's had lost a bit of it's pallor, at least until the end when the bottle of chianti and 6 pound calamari plate had circled the table one too many times.
Here's a few things that stuck out to me at the show:

  • the TA Bootcamp was bigger and more badass than ever. We're not afraid to tackle the controversial subjects, from a rigging system in Max to processing budget reports! By all means check out the bootcamp sessions on the GDC vault(link) when they go up in a month or so.
  • the animation bootcamp has also grown into a big treasure trove of great information. If your job involves supporting animation, you should check it out and make sure you know what the animators care about when they aren't whining about where you put the sliders or the shape of your nurbs handles.
  • PBR Rendering has definitely become ubiquitious -- now that Unity, UE, Crytek and Stingray are all offering PBR it's going to be the AAA standard in a year or two if it's not already. I suspect that mobile will stay with conventional forward-rendered shaders for a while yet -- Marmoset's Skyshop(link) is beautiful and all but it labors to render a single model at speed on my iPad -- but I would not be suprised to see cheap-ass versions of the PBR workflow being ported back to mobile either. Start getting ready to pronounce 'metallicity' a lot, and while you're at it check out the talks from Certain Affinity at the TA bootcamp on their PBR pipeline, as well as last year's Order 1886 rendering talk.
  • Almost as can't-swing-a-dead-cat common as PBR was Substance from Allegorithmic. Lots of sightings in talks and in various booths around the show floor. One thing I picked up from their sponsored talk: the batch tools in Substance are python-scriptable, and include notification callbacks for things like texture changes: this could be a very useful trick for the perennially unkempt fringes of the pipeline. I expect I'll have a blog post on this one in the near future once I learn what's going on (or, more characteristically, before I learn what's going on).
  • I think a lot of TA's will find some value in this book from David Lightbown:
     His talk was great, with insights into many of the things we often get backwards in tool development.
  • VR, VR, VR.  Yadda yadda. I'm not jaded, just a little motion sick.  Although that will all be better once I get a virtual nose.  Bootcamp FTW!
About the only disappointing thing about the show was the lack of really stunning tech talks (fair disclaimer: between meetings and checking out talks I helped out with, I didn't see as many talks as I'd have liked to). The only graphics talk I found really compelling was from Q-Games on their bizarro Stalinist platformer The Tomorrow Children.

The renderer does some really interesting non-standard tricks. It's got a real-time 3-bounce GI system, using a hardware voxel representation of the world -- I think even the Enlighten middleware (used in Battlefield, for example) only does a single bounce. They also use what seems like a volumetric method for doing sub-surface scattering that does an amazing job for things like icebergs and waxy surfaces: unlike all the conventional screen space tricks it renders the effects of light sources (including indirect sources) behind a surface. The techniques looked hellaciously complicated, but the results were pretty impressive and visually unique.

I'm sure I'll come up with some more stuff as I sort through my notes, but there's a quick set of expressions from a great show. Hope to see you all there next year!