Search form

GDC Round Up

The 2011 version of GDC at San Francisco Moscone Center proved to be another great year for creators, publishers, and consumers alike.

The 2011 version of GDC at San Francisco Moscone Center proved to be another great year for creators, publishers, and consumers alike.   The major techonology players like Autodesk and Nvidia, showcased the latest versions of their software. Console games are providing a more immersive experience than ever.  Technology solution providers like Image Metrics and Xsens are providing the right tools to creators.  Computer games and social games are evolving into a deeper experience.   Companies like Making Fun unveiled a new business model for Computer and casual game developers.  Many trained and experience animators are finding console game and casual games an exciting and profitable new arena for the their skills and talent! Read the AWN GDC Round Up and learn more about this thriving business.

XSENs streamlines animation pipeline.Xsens asks you: How much animation can you do in a day?

Xsens MVN is a flexible motion capture system that can be used indoors and outdoors.  Xsens demo'd their technology at GDC San Francisco at Moscone Center March 2 - March 5.  The MVN System was on display with some enthusiastic booth bunnies who looked eye catching in the lycra suit and body markers.   The smooth lines of the dancers at the X sens booth highlight the smooth lines of the Xsens MVN system itself that produces clean and smooth data that saves UP TO 80% of post processing time.Here is a link to a testimonial of their work that was featured on USAToday:

Image Metrics Launches Faceware 3.0 and Acquires 3d Avatar Co. Big Stage

Founded in 2000, Image Metrics (OTC: IMGX) has pioneered the field of 3D facial animation through its revolutionary technologies. The company provides complete solutions for the videogame, film, television and commercial markets, and through its consumer products, enables Internet users to create new immersive experiences in games and social networks. Over the past decade, Image Metrics has established itself as the go-to leader in the TV, film, game development and Web content industries with clients such as Activision-Blizzard, Rockstar, Microsoft, 2K Sports, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sega, Sony, Bethesda, Double Negative, Motion Theory and Moving Picture Company. Image Metrics is headquartered in Santa Monica, California with its R&D centre located in Manchester, UK. For more information, please visit

AutodeskSocial Gaming SuperNova - by Maurice Patel

With Apple’s iPad sales approaching 15 million and smartphones everywhere, everyone these days is walking around with a powerful 3D graphics chip in their hands. So it’s no surprise that this GDC we continued to see more evidence of the strong shift in gameplay that is transforming the industry. It’s not that there is less interest in AAA titles, it is just that Mobile and Social gaming is going supernova – somewhat eclipsing the console market. And was it just a coincidence that Apple announced the iPad 2 that same week in San Francisco?

Add to that the fact that the more you browse the web, the more you see content gamification – enabling users to interact with online content in new and innovative (read more fun) ways. Take the Motorola City website, for example. It allows users to “experience Motorola’s mission critical public safety solutions.” Now that is not a topic that one would normally expect to be much fun! But the site, created in 3D by Taylor James, does a great job of making it an engaging experience – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Everyday more and more advertisers are using 3D to tell a better story online. This year, Autodesk posted a gamified version of its GDC booth (running in the Unity engine) to its AREA community site.

Mobile and Social gaming is also rapidly going 3D. In fact, history seems to be repeating itself. Two decades ago the game industry underwent a transformation from raster graphics to 3D graphics. Today, we are seeing the beginnings of a similar transition, from 2D Flash to 3D game engines, driven in large part by the availability of lightweight 3D engines from companies like Unity and Epic. In 2010 Autodesk saw a strong increase in demand for its 3D animation applications from a slew of Mobile/Social gaming companies known for their 2D and Flash games. As with many an animated series for television, it is often easier (and better) to create 2D games in 3D.

This GDC anyone paying close attention would have seen these trends reflected in the dual focus of Autodesk’s Games strategy. Nowhere was this dual focus more evident than in the announced acquisition of Scaleform and the preview of a technology prototype called Project Skyline.

Scaleform is a leading provider of Flash-based UI tools and middleware, used to create everything from game menus to Heads-Up Displays (HUDs). Lost among the noise of the show might have been the announcement of support for iOS and Android, enabling content developed in Flash to be run on these devices. Scaleform is part of Autodesk’s long-term strategy for better serving the needs of its gaming customers and in particular those of its rapidly increasing number of Mobile and Social game developers.

Project Skyline, on the other hand, is part of Autodesk’s strategy to help improve the game content authoring process especially for AAA titles. Autodesk are actively researching new technologies and workflows to (1) increase production efficiency and (2) improve the creative process, by eliminating iteration inefficiencies between the creation of game content and its execution in the engine.

Also at GDC Autodesk announced the 2012 releases of its 3D animation products: the Digital Entertainment Creation Suites, 3ds Max, Maya, Softimage, Mudbox and MotionBuider; of its middleware products, HumanIK, Kynapse and Beast and of its open 3D data framework FBX. If you missed Autodesk’s GDC announcements, product demonstrations, customer presentations (including Eidos, EA and Harmonix) and MasterClasses, you can watch them online on AREA TV.

Maurice PatelEntertainment Industry Manager, Autodesk


Making Fun, Inc., the social game publishing division of News Corp. Digital Media Group, today announced its intention to commission independent game studios to develop innovative, high-quality social games. The company’s initial target platform is social network web sites, expanding to smartphones, tablets and beyond.  Making Fun is truly the 1st Full Services Publisher in the Social Games Category.  They have it all and they are making it available to independents.  Capital, Tech, Distribution Channel, Industry Experience, Creative Support, Marketing Know How  and Strong Leadership .  They are using that same famed space from the IGN Indie Studios!  What exactly are they looking for?

Passionate developers who have a successful track record, ability to execute, and maybe even a  unique idea for a Social Game!  They are hiring Animators right now for especially anyone that has ability in the Art Direction or Engineering side of things.  They are interested in publishing on multiple platforms.  They are flexible and believe that successful console game developers can make the switch to social games design ...and why not :).

As the first full-service publisher in the social games category, Making Fun provides independent developers with a wide range of services including capital, technology and industry expertise to create, operate and market social games across digital platforms. The “full service” model at Making Fun goes far beyond simple distribution, providing developers with capital for both initial and ongoing product development as well as a partner committed to live operations, customer support, marketing and franchise development. Making Fun is actively seeking to build new relationships with experienced, passionate development teams to grow concepts into franchises.

Making Fun is helmed by industry veterans, including GM John Welch and CTO Lee Crawford.

“As gaming platforms mature, Publishers emerge to assist talented developers who lack sufficient funds to bring their dreams to full fruition,” said Welch. “Explosive growth in the social games space has attracted substantial game development talent, raising the costs to effectively compete. Making Fun provides funding and other essential services to enable our partners to focus their energy on making great games.”

Making Fun has three publishing deals already in place, with title launches slated for this summer. The company is actively seeking additional developer partners.

For more information on Making Fun, please visit:

NVIDIANVIDIA Quadro case study: GPU Performance Changes the Game for Tigar Hare

CHALLENGE:Los Angeles-based Tigar Hare creates cinematics and trailers for some of the hottest video games around. These kings of the console have been delivering the goods for Electronic Arts, Warner Bros., Sony Online, Activision, THQ and other companies since 1997, keeping their operation small while increasing their productivity by revving their pipeline to handle increasingly complex graphics. Some of the titles they’ve worked on include the blockbuster “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” “Apache: Air Assault,” “Project Gotham Racing,” “Red Faction: Guerilla” and many more.

“We need solutions for speed,” said Tigar Hare co-founder Dave Hare. To keep things humming and handle a regular flow of compute-intensive tasks like particle simulation, fluid dynamics, 3D motion blur and depth-of-field, the company updated its pipeline with a fiber optic network, and relies on graphics processing units (GPUs) from NVIDIA. The NVIDIA Quadro professional graphics solutions drive key renderers and modeling software at Tigar Hare, delivering a 40X speed improvement in some processes for the studio. “We’ve had great GPUs for years,” said Hare, “But until recently, no one had really figured out how to take full advantage of them.” SOLUTION:A long-time user of Chaos Group’s V-Ray rendering packages, Tigar Hare recently upgraded to the new V-Ray RT technology, which is greatly accelerated by Quadro GPUs based on the new NVIDIA Fermi architecture. The studio also exploits the GPU when using the mental image’s iray renderer within Autodesk 3Ds Max modeling software, “We’re finally at a point where software has caught up to hardware,” said Hare. “GPU rendering is a game changer — for us and for the whole industry.”

One of the first projects Tigar Hare put through their GPU pipeline was Activision’s “Apache Air Strike,” creating cinematics that feature beauty shots of the Apache helicopter. “We used a lot of depth-of-field to get a photorealistic look,” said Hare. “On the CPU, depth of field can be really time intensive because you’re constantly dialing in and out of focus to give it the right level of detail. It would have taken us hours or even days to render a whole sequence to see if we’d gotten it right. On the GPU we were able to change the frames, determine the focus and see the results in real time. It really opens up your creative options because you have time to keep trying things instead of living with what you have time for.”

They experienced a similar performance boost on title sequence work created for the upcoming Nicholas Cage movie, “Drive Angry 3D.”  Hare explained, “We were using background plates to generate a reflection map for the main title and wanted to dial in the reflection through a move. With V-Ray on Quadro we could see the reflection in real time and dial it out — 600 frames of animation — to get it exactly how we wanted it.”

He added, “With a Quadro, I am comfortable doing this kind of work in client sessions with someone over my shoulder. That would have been unheard of before.”

Hare also spoke to the benefits that GPU-enabled V-Ray RT within 3ds Max brings. “Viewport operations will become more like a render. Before, what we saw in the viewport was flat shaded or wireframe. With the GPU, that’s changing to be more of a photorealistic environment. You can create an object, put on a texture and begin to see reflections, refractions, ambient occlusion, shadows and more, early on.”

In addition to the speed benefits artists can see on their workstations, Tigar Hare also leverages Quadro GPUs behind the scenes, distributing rendering across workstations to boost throughput and productivity even more.

Rick DeMott's picture

Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks