Tag Archives: Game Developers Conference

GDC 2013 – Monday Math Madness

2013-03-24 07.44.26It was a bit sketchy, but we finally made it to San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference (GDC). The insanely late snowfall in Kansas City resulted in our flight being delayed, but at least it wasn’t cancelled. This was the first time I have been through the deicing process. It was interesting, if time-consuming. Once we were in the air and above the clouds, everything seemed far less dreary and dreadful.

Upon arrival, we did the usual things: take the noisy BART ride to Powell station, leave our bags at the hotel, wander aimlessly until check-in time, check-in, get our GDC badges when registration opens, and celebrate with Naan & Curry. I’ve been to many different conferences, some big, some small, and the folks running the GDC have the process down to a science! Once registration opened, we were in and out with our badges within a couple of minutes. It was amazingly quick!

PowellTurnaround_smMonday morning also began in the traditional way with me waiting for the rest of the crew down by the cable car turn-around at Powell St taking photos. I know that I end up taking a lot of the same types of shots year after year, and I need to work on my variety, but I just dig that spot so much for imaging the cable cars. Once everyone has mustered, we head off to the best breakfast joint in the area, Mel’s Drive-In. Mel’s is one of the best places around to have breakfast, and with steak-n-eggs only costing $7.99, it’s tough to beat the price, especially in San Francisco!


Every year, I go to the Math and Physics for Game Programmers. Monday is all about the mathematics and Tuesday is all about the physics. The topics and presentations are usually the same with minor tweaks from year to year, but today the presentations were outstanding. Squirrel Eiserloh from Southern Methodist University gave his usual talk on interpolations and splines, but with more focus and less superfluous material than last year. Here’s last year’s presentation: http://essentialmath.com/GDC2012/GDC12_Eiserloh_Squirrel_Interpolation-and-Splines.ppt. Be sure to also download his OpenGL-based demo tool. It’s a fun little app for exploring the properties of the various types of curves and splines he describes in his talk.

The second talk of the day was by Jim Van Verth, who is notorious for losing his voice at GDC. Normally, this takes about half a day, but this year, he was tight and scratchy from the get-go. His energy level this year, however, was much higher, and he was a much more engaging speaker than in the past. He also did a LOT of work on his presentation. I found his previous presentations on rotations and quaternions rather unenlightening. This year he knocked it out of the park! I think I actually get this quaternion stuff! It helped that he related them back to quantum physics and spin groups, with a nice sprinkling of hyperspatial geometry thrown in for good measure. You know it’s a good conference when you hear a serious discussion of hyperspheres and how to visualize them. His 2013 slides aren’t up just yet, but you can check out his site, http://www.essentialmath.com/ in a couple of weeks. He’ll have them up before too long. If the rest of the conference were cancelled right now, I think that my finally understanding the nature, behaviour, and deeper mathematical roots of quaternions makes the whole trip worth it. The rest of the week is gravy!

Tomorrow is all about the physics! Last year, there were some great talks regarding integration methods and collision detection. Hoping that this year, I can finally wrap my head around this configuration-space stuff.