Archive for February, 2008


GDC 2008: Hot or not ?

February 26, 2008

So what was cool at the GDC and what wasn’t? The following is just my opinion as a gameplay developer, general game dev fan, and gamer, on the sessions I saw so it may be not representative of the whole event. I’m not gonna summarize the techniques and talks I’ve seen but it’s more like a sum-up of a few lectures so you can check (or not) at the video recordings or powerpoint presentations you’re interested in, if they are online somewhere.

I saw 16 sessions during these 3 days, which are:

  • Storytelling in Bioshock: Empowering Players to Care about Your Stupid Story
  • Rules of Engagement: Blizzardโ€™s Approach to Multiplayer Game Design
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: How LucasArts is Building a Game, a Development Team and a Technology Pipelineโ€ฆ At the Same Time
  • Structure VS. Style (Chris Hecker)
  • Pollinating the Universe: User-generated Content in Spore
  • Uncharted Animation: An In-depth Look at the Character Animation Workflow and Pipeline
  • Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Post-Mortem: Amazing Feats of Daring
  • Adventures in Data Compilation and Scripting for Uncharted: Drale’s Fortune
  • Beyond Printf: Debugging Graphics Through Tools
  • Prototype: Open World, Open Mind, Next Generation Thinking
  • Truer Impostors
  • Crysis Next Gen Effects
  • Practical Light and Color
  • Interactive Actors That Express Emotion (Ken Perlin)
  • Natural Motion: Runtime Character Animation with Morpheme
  • The Next 20 Years of Gaming (Ray Kurzweil’s keynote)

I was expecting a lot from the programming track, and actually the best sessions were the ones about game design! The programming ones were either too technical and short or not deep enough. I’m sure it’s very difficult to make a good lecture for the right audience, anyway I was a bit disappointed of the ones I attended to.

However, the most interesting (in the programming category) was maybe the one about the Next Gen effects in Crysis, and curiously I wasn’t expecting that much from this one! It was cool because by describing many steps of their effects, they kind of explained ‘why it is beautiful‘, especially by giving their secrets to make the water (procedural animation, caustics, light beams, shore, physics), the frozen things, and the different motion blurs (object motion blur, camera motion blur). I was surprised how their techniques for these motion blurs were simple (using depth and velocity masks). They did lack a little of time to cover everything but the slides (with shader codes) should be available online soon.

A nice surprise was the one called Truer Impostors. It was all about a new student’s technique for rendering lot of detail with a high frame-rate. I won’t explain it in here, his paper is a much better source for that, but just as an apetizer: his demo was a scene with 250 000 animated birds in the sky running at 30 fps on a 7800GT. It was a 20 mins lecture so a bit too short for such a technical subject. There are good chances his technique replaces all the other ways he talked about (parallax mapping, relief mapping, true impostors) in future games.

The most impressive live demos I’ve seen were the ones of Prototype and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

Prototype was REALLY spectacular with features like: climbing over all the buildings, cars, dynamic objects, a really huge and detailed city, and globally very cinematic and violent combat scenes (very good camera). After at least 10 minutes of explosive playing, I was asking myself: yeah but what’s gonna be the gameplay? I mean ok you kill everybody, you run away from monsters, you steal tanks and helicopters, you climb over everything and you make crazy jumps from the top of skyscrapers, but then what? The basic gameplay is to recover your memory by stealing the one of others, that’s good for 10 mins but what is it besides that? I hope there’s a deeper (macro) gameplay after that.

SW: The Force Unleashed was cool, because what we saw in the trailers is true and well working. I mean the simulation-based gameplay is not a lie, the combination of standard physics things, (all kind of) realistic breakable objects, and the AI/physics-based character animation (Euphoria technology) is awesome. But nothing new actually. I thought they would explain more technically how did they manage to get these 3 technologies working together, but they talked more about their whole production philosophy (new team, hiring, the name of their engines, ‘yeah it was hard but now it’s working’), beh .. ok then.

storytelling in bioshock

The best lecture I saw was: Storytelling in Bioshock: Empowering Players to Care about Your Stupid Story. I won’t explain anything because it would need a full post for it, but to make it simple, they had awesome game design ideas to make the player like the game for both hardcore story fans and the rest of the world that doesn’t care about the story and wants to finish the game ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m starting to get bored of writing all this, but some ideas for the last sessions:

  • Craziest lectures: Structure vs. Style, The next 20 years of gaming.
  • A bit boring: Amazing Feats of Daring: An Uncharted Postmortem, Adventures in Data Compilation and Scripting for Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.
  • I liked a lot: Interactive Actors That Express Emotion (Perlin), NaturalMotion: Runtime Character Animation with Morpheme, and part of the Practical Light and Color.
  • Momentum vs. Animation was canceled (or delayed of very late), too bad, great title.
  • We should really try morpheme and it’s API, Actor Machine (Perlin), FX Composer 2’s shader debugger.
  • I would have liked to see Uncharted Animation: An In-depth Look at the Character Animation Workflow and Pipeline.

I’m not talking about what I saw in the expo hall, that’s already a big post ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’re reading this and were to the GDC, let me know your opinion!


Last day in San Francisco

February 23, 2008

Hey! I did just have my last day at the GDC and in San Francisco, and will fly back to France tomorrow morning. There’s a transfer in New York but it’s a couple of hours to take the second flight, so too bad I won’t be able to visit this city. Anyway these 3 days in here were pretty good! I’m not gonna say ‘awesome’ because some of the (programming) sessions didn’t met my expectations (too technical and fast and not so useful, not technical at all, etc.), and also because 3 days is really short to visit the city, especially when you are all days long in a building.

But I repeat it was great! We went to the Ubisoft’s party at the Fluid Bar (it’s a kind of club more than a bar) for the End War game’s presentation and .. I don’t even remember the initial theme/goal of the party. Anyway we enjoyed the free bar, I came back to hotel with a perlin disturbance in my walk and this morning was really difficult …

Today, after the last session at the Moscone Center, I took a random cable train near the hotel (on Powel St) and stopped at the last station! And in fact I arrived at Fisherman’s Wharf (top north of SF), and it was really nice. I found the cable train really cool, with great sightseeings from the top of some hills.

fisherman's wharf

People here are cool! In half an hour I met 4 different people, I mean I spoke to them between 5 and 20 minutes, in the street, in the cable train, … and this kind of situation never happens (to me at least) in France. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m French and they can hear that or because I was alone (Arnaud took a walk in another part of the city), but I think it’s more a general way of life because they talk to others American people too. Whatever that’s a nice feeling, and they’re also polite and do not seem stressed, it’s totally the opposite of the Parisians behavior.

There was a very strong smell near the Fisherman’s Wharf, because of the bay I guess and all the fish and crab restaurants! So I walked a little, the night was falling, and I reached a pier where I could hear and see some seahorses and have a nice view on Alcatraz, the Golden Gate bridge, a big part of the city all lighted, and other cities around forming tons of lights on some kind of small mountains. It was really nice!

san francisco

I’m totally exhausted and tomorrow is gonna be a looooong day. I’ll try to talk more about what I’ve seen at the GDC and post some photos soon ๐Ÿ˜‰


First day in San Francisco

February 21, 2008

Hey! First of all, Arnaud could make it, he’s here, it’s gonna be quite more fun for the next days to discuss about the GDC sessions we’ll see and visit San Francisco.

Yesterday after dinner, we had a long walk, and went on the top of some hills to see a bit more the city. Well the view is not that good because of all the buildings hiding everything, but there are some good spots anyway! Some hills are incredibly sloping (maybe 30 or 40 degres)! It’s impossible to stand at the ground’s normal (geek stupid joke in the street).

Before he arrived from the airport I went for a walk too with my D200 camera, and now my battery is not charged anymore, like I planned (I forgot my battery charger at my mom’s). I bought a few candies and chocolate stuff that you can’t find in France (peanut butter M&M’s, cinnamon stuff, etc.). Here are some random things I noted:

  • people don’t have dogs
  • people are doing jogging (I saw 3 or 4 persons, 6, 9, .. and then a group of about 30 runners!)
  • there are a lot of classy hotels
  • there are many homeless people
  • Starbucks is much cheaper than in France (3.4$ vs. 4.6E for the same beverage)
  • the city is very nice!

I can’t post any photo because I didn’t took my usb cable! I’ll make it up once I go back home.

It’s 7:22am and we’re going for the 2nd day at the GDC! I’ll tell you more about the first day at the GDC next time, it was REALLY great! Just to tease a bit, the session of the Bioshock’s storytelling (Empowering Players to Care About Your Stupid Story) was the best I saw and maybe has the best interest to be applied in our games.

Oh and just a thing, in my both flies (Paris – Chicago, Chicago – SF), there was this french movie actor, I even asked him for a pen, but I can’t figure it out who’s this! I have a ridiculously tiny photo took with my cellphone, so someone could tell me his name! That’s weird he took the fly to SF too, I have a doubt he’s actually a Ubisoft employee, but .. no I’m sure it’s an actor! Or not.


18 hours later

February 20, 2008

Hi there, just a few words to say I just arrived to my hotel. It has been a 18 hours trip with a transfert at Chicago. I have no news about Arnaud, he has been stuck in Paris because his passeport wasn’t a biometric one, and on the U.S. only, it has to be. I hope he did succeed to obtain a new one within the day and will take a fly today …

I’m currently connected to a free WiFi access, lucky me because the hotel’s Wireless connection isn’t free.

In Chicago, I met some engine programmers from Midway that were going to the GDC. I was waiting for the flight when I heard about ‘Design … Halo 3 … everything in the same time’, then I asked and my guess my right ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m gonna take a few steps outside to see what’s near the hotel (I’m a bit hungry but I don’t know if there is anything still open), and after that a short sleep (I’m totally exhausted) before going to the Moscone Center.


GDC 2008

February 18, 2008

Hi there, today was my last presentation at school (there’s still my intership presentation at the end of the year but..) about my external activities during my 5th year, meaning my work at Ubisoft. So now I can really say my work ‘at school’ is over!

I’m working in the company for 2 years now, and tomorrow I’ll be flying to San Francisco with my friend and colleague Arnaud to assist to the Game Developer Conference (GDC) 2008. It’s only a 4 days trip, but I’m sure it totally worth it!


There are so many lectures and presentations, we can’t see everything we want to :/ But we’re really looking foward to watch some of them:

All these are in the Game Design track (remember we’re developers ;)) but seem to be very interesting from a gameplay point of view. And of course technical sessions like:

And personally, I would enjoy assist to the next ones but it’s often in the same time that to biggest ones above.

Here is the programming track (almost 100 sessions) and here is the game design one (about 150 sessions). These are the two tracks we’re really interested in. Too bad we can’t see the Ubisoft’s conferences.

I’m really exited with the idea of going to the United States for the first time! I’ll try to take a few photos of San Francisco, stay tuned.


Snowscoot at Meribel

February 17, 2008

I was in my old town (Aix les Bains, Savoy, in the Alps) this week end, where my mom and some of my best friends live, and as often during the winter I went for a ride at Meribel Mottaret with my buddy Jeff. This time I wanted to try snowscoot, and I did!


First thing: it’s SO heavy, when you have to carry it in the street and can’t make it slide because there is no snow, it’s such a pain in the ass.

Well I gave it back to the renting store about 30 mins after I took it! The ride was incredibly intense, I mean after taking one downhill I couldn’t feel my muscles. It’s quite easy to control the first time (if you’re already snowboarding I guess), you have to do some hard and quick moves with your pelvis and legs, and balance your weight between the two skates. So after 2 or 3 turns I was controlling it, but the hardest part is to resist during the full ride to shakes (even if it has shock absorbers) and the pain in your hands/arms! I guess my technique wasn’t the best one but I seriously need to strengthen myself! SharkOne, I totally disagree with your “muscles suck”.

I could have keep it but I thought quite quickly that the sensations were not as cool as I expected and I would have regret my snowboard 1 hour later because I go snowboarding only a few days every year, so …

Anyway I succeed to do a ridiculous jump AND a small fall. That was a really good experience, I wanted to try, now it’s done and I’m sure I’m definitely a snowboarder ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh and lucky me, what a sky and sun all day long!


I can’t edit the video shot by Jeff of me riding the snowscoot, but I’ll post it when I come back in Paris, till then here is a video showing some insane gap jumps with snowscoots:


My turn!

February 14, 2008

Hi everyone, I’m Romain Dura aka Romz and after my 2 friends and collegues Nico and SharkOne initiatives, and my last blog attempt (about 6 month ago with only 1 post!), here is my new try for a blog!

I’m 24 years old and finishing my 5 years computer science studies in Epitech (actually the last year is finished and to complete it I have to do an internship). I’m working for two years in Ubisoft (Paris) as a 1.5yrs part-time job + a 6 month training course, and I’m waiting for a full-time renewal.

I’ll use this blog to let people know about my life, my work (as long as it respects the inevitable NDA) , my personnal projects, some photos I make, and other random stuff ๐Ÿ™‚


I have the position of gameplay developer at Ubisoft but I like experimenting all kind of game programming, I mean general 3D programming, physics, shaders, tools making, etc. And here we go, ‘tools making’, I’m currently creating an Ogre editor and game engine, but instead of hijacking that first post, I’ll tell you more about it soon.

I hope this time I’ll have the courage to keep this blog updated, and I hope you’ll like it! And the default header image won’t last very long I guess.