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GDC Day 4 - Talking with Legends, Finding New Toys

Dr. Allen Patridge of Adobe ran the Director 11.5 release presentation, and he went over some of the things users can expect from the new Director software. He approached this from three angles: Dominate, Accelerate, and Impress.”

David Crane (l) and Steve Cartwright.Written by Evan Goncalo

I was off to an early start this morning – the good news being the hearty breakfast I wolfed down when I learned more about Adobe’s new Director 11.5 release. Dr. Allen Patridge of Adobe ran the presentation, and he went over some of the things users can expect from the new Director software. He approached this from three angles: Dominate, Accelerate, and Impress.”

The first item refers to Adobe’s high user and penetration numbers; Shockwave’s penetration is currently around 60% of all web users. Accelerate is related to the “drag and drop ease” of the engine, and unified authoring across multiple platforms. Lastly, the way Director impresses is with a rich feature list, including true 5.1 surround sound, flash media streaming video, Google SketchUp import/translation, and PhysX support.

After my breakfast with Adobe I got a chance to sit and speak with two game developer legends, David Crane and Steve Cartwright. I asked some things to benefit the new aspiring artists out there, as well as some “just for fun” questions. AWN: What should aspiring artists learn, and how should they approach getting hired?

DC: As an artist, find out what 3d rendering program is used at the studio. Spend time with it. Spend hours every night hacking on the software to be able to tell the employer you are comfortable using it. Learn any middleware involved as well. Artists should be conscious of what’s moving in the world. Knowledge of how video games are assembled out of multiple pieces of art. It’s not about how pretty your art is, it’s the understanding of what goes into it.

SC: Ability to adapt to different styles is important. Having a diverse range of skills.

Pitfall is a classic!

When I asked them what their favorite titles were they had worked on, Dave said that he liked something about each game he worked on, but "Pitfall" was clearly the most successful. Steve said it was fun working on the "Tiger Woods" series because he got invited to so many golf tournaments, but really enjoyed receiving an award for "Hacker 2." He received the “programmer of the year” award, which he thought was funny because he was “widely known as the worst programmer.” It all came down to coming up with a simple method to render on-screen snow and other basic effects that he wowed people with.

Afterwards, I took a look around the expo floor for a while and stopped by Image Metric’s booth. For those that aren’t familiar IM is a marker/makeup free facial capture solution that is priced well below other competitors. Customers can send in their own reels of film and IM can quickly turn over results.

They run a campaign called “End Helmet Tyranny” which encourages developers to come to them, rather than resorting to placing helmets and masks on their characters in order to make deadlines at the end of projects. You may say it’s too pricey, or overkill for what you need, but they have three different levels of service – Value, Pro, and Premium. I saw clips of each, and they all looked great. When hand animation can run up to $5,000 a minute in the most expensive of cases, they do it for half the price.

Image Metrics also recently announced that they have begun to a rigging service as well. This should be highly beneficial for developers who are crunching in the final stretch, and need good results, fast. With experience working on games like "GTA IV" and movies like "Benjamin Button," the folks at IM are some of the best in their industry.

I made it over to the Nvidia booth as well and had a chance to learn about PhysX’s brand new module, APEX. APEX was created to reduce the need for programmers while dealing with physic objects, and it provides a high-level interface for artists that enables easy production of great results quickly. APEX Vegetation. First things to launch will be APEX Destruction and Vegetation, but we should also see APEX Clothing soon, and APEX Turbulence later in the year. The names are all pretty self-explanatory and each solution provides quality scalable dynamic content. “Destruction” taking care of elements like automatic fracturing, and “Clothing” things like animation blending as well as full clothing simulation.

APEX is available on all systems, and is already integrated into some of the most popular game engines like UE3, GameBryo, and Hero Engine. On top of that it is integrated into middleware like SpeedTree and Morpheme. My favorite aspect of it all is that APEX is completely free for PhysX developers. You can’t beat free technology, especially when it’s as polished as APEX!

With another day behind me I’m headed back to my hotel to prepare myself for the craziness that should ensue tomorrow, the last day of the 2009 Game Developer Conference. Come back tomorrow to find out what happened during day 5 of the conference, and for an inside look at "Battlestations: Pacific." Evan Goncalo is currently a game development teacher at Bristol Community College. Evan started in the game industry when he was 18 has worked in QA, Marketing, and Design in AAA studios that include Turbine Inc, Blue Fang Games, and Hasbro Inc. In his spare time he creates 3D art and textures for game modification and as a hobby.