Tag Archives: Programming

GDC12 – Thursday


There really wasn’t too much unique or interesting in the way of swag this year. There were the usual pens and stress balls in addition to some bottle openers and pins. I do have several t-shirts in M through XL and a few digital picture frame keychains which are cool. Those you’ll have to earn!

I didn’t do much in the way of sessions, today, just attended one on the flood effects in Uncharted 3. To be honest, I thought the method they used was clunky and looked 2nd rate. They simulated a torrent of water cascading down a hallway using a hybrid of Eulerian fluid modeling, done once to capture the mesh animation, and laid a few particle emitters along the surface to create the splashes. It looked very blocky and segmented. To be honest, I don’t understand why they didn’t use SPH to model the water in this case. It seems like the perfect situation in which to deploy it. Oh well, they’re getting paid the big bucks and I’m not.

GDC12 – Wednesday

It’s Swag Day!! The Expo Hall opened today along with the starting of the main part of the conference. Although the Math and Physics for Game Programmers tutorial of Monday and Tuesday were over, the math and physics discussions were just getting started!

Normally, the first event of the day on Wednesday is a keynote address from someone who had a significant influence on the industry such as Shigiru Miyamoto or Hideo Kojima. This year, they decided to instead have 100 of the presenters over three days of the conference pitch their talks in 45 seconds or less. This “Flash Forward” concept was interesting, entertaining, and it influenced my session choices, but I still miss hearing a talk from a legend in game development. I’m hoping they go back to the traditional format for next year.

My first session of the morning set a theme for the entire day looking at fluid modelling. Carlos Gonzalez-Ochoa gave a brilliant talk, Water Technology of Uncharted, discussing the various techniques used to generate realistic looking water elements in the Uncharted series of games. This was a surface-mesh modeling technique, not a fluid simulation, but a vector field representing the bulk flow of the water was used to modulate textures and the wave directions. Rather than building a spectrum of wave frequencies and modelling that multi-harmonic wave motion, they instead created a random collection of “wave particles”, pulses that could be tweaked to be as round-topped or as peaky as desired by the artist by adjusting a single parameter. Rather than generating a spectrum of these wavicles, a single set of them is generated and then scaled down and replicated to model the higher frequency components of the total wave motion. Although these wavicles have their own random local velocity, the ensemble is modulated by the bulk flow vector field to generate a more realistic-appearing surface. The final piece of the modelling is to include larger amplitude long-wavelength modes to simulate swells, rollers, and retromotive waves in rivers or channels. Combining all of these together creates some absolutely stunning looking water with very believable dynamics and behaviour.

My next session was actually a talk on a topic that got me first excited about the technical sessions at the GDC when I first attended back in 2007. In my first trip to the GDC, I was blown away by the intense mathematics involved in many aspects of intensity-mapping and lighting. The talk was on the advantages of using radial basis functions as an alternative to spherical harmonics. This year, it was the radial basis functions that were under attack. Spherical harmonics still suck, but the presenters, Robin Green and Manny Ko, argued for the advantages of spherical needlets as an alternative to either spherical harmonics or radial basis functions. The talk itself began with a crash course in Hilbert spaces, overcomplete basis sets, and how to create good basis functions. That was all well and good, and interesting, but I would have preferred that they spent more time on the exact specifics of needlets, their advantages and disadvantages, and a demonstration of their usage. Unfortunately, there was not enough time in their talk for this.

There were a few other talks I attended today, which meant minimal swag-gathering in the Expo Hall. Tomorrow’s schedule of interesting talks looks to be more sparse, so I’ll be in full swag accumulation mode and will have pics then.

GDC 2012 – Monday

The 2012 Game Developers’ Conference officially got started this morning. For me, it seemed like a late start with the first sessions beginning at 10am. For someone who’s up at 5am on a regular basis, that’s a lot of morning time to kill before getting started! Fortunately, my camera is with me everywhere and I had lots of time to explore before hitting Mel’s Drive-In Diner for breakfast.

The “discovering new experiences” part of the day started VERY early as I experienced my first earthquake. A 4.0 magnitude quake struck the Bay Area at 5:30 this morning. While it wasn’t that strong of a quake, it was still disconcerting while occupying a room on the 8th floor of an old, sketchy hotel! At least now I can scratch “survive an earthquake” off of my bucket list.

Sessions for the day were part of the Math for Game Programmers tutorial. In the past, this has been a weak tutorial, but I was pleasantly surprised by its evolution. While the oratory skills of the organizer had still not improved one bit, nor had his specific talk, the quality of the other presenters and presentations improved quite a bit. First out of the gate was a talk on Bezier curves and splines. Might have to see about working curves and splines into the MATH/PHYS 191 course. It would be a natural succession to introduce them after we discuss parametric equations.

There was also a good talk on collision detection methods which reaffirmed that the work we’re doing in the MATH/PHYS 191 course is in line with what’s being done in the field. All very interesting, and I’ll have links to the slides in time. The last talk of the day was about data as paramount when thinking about how to construct code. The speaker’s motto was “understand the data, and you understand the problem”. As a computational physicist, my reaction was, “Duh!” Preaching to the choir, there.

One of the great things about coming to San Francisco is having the opportunity to meet up with some of my friends and fellow IndyCar fans from Twitter. Tonight, I was introduced to a new place, Pesce, which specialized in tapas-style seafood dishes. It was fabulous! I would include a pic of the lobster ravioli and the pan-seared scallops, but they didn’t stick around long enough. Delicious!

So the first day was successful. At least more than it had been in past years. Tuesday, the second day of the tutorial, is all about Physics for Game Programmers. It will be interesting to see what new things they bring to the sessions this year. Also, the IGDA party is Tuesday night! It’s never been a real blow-out type of party, but at least there’s free food.