I had the pleasure of attending the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco a few weeks ago, soaking in session after session, learning so much, and gaining inspiration from so many places. It was a hectic week!
The first two days of the conference were for all-day summits and tutorials. Tuesday featured the very popular Unity Developers Day. Unity is a product that we at Second Avenue regularly use. It allows for high-end, 3D accelerated graphics in a browser as well as cross platform app creation. The event was so crowded that we were warned, "If you leave for a bathroom or food break, we cannot guarantee you will have a seat when you return."
There were many great sessions throughout the Unity day. We were given a preview of an incredibly nifty new animation system that features inverse kinematics and animation blending. The demo featured characters running around an area performing parkour stunts. The inverse kinematics perfectly placed hands and feet as they did wall runs and vaulted over obstacles. A release date wasn't given, but when it comes out, that aspect of Unity will become much more efficient for artists and developers. A company called Allegorithmic also showed off Unity's native support for their custom dynamic textures called Substances. The demos showed off some amazing tools for creating dynamic texture effects. The coolest example showed textures in a game world slowly accumulate snow.
Developers from Unity also took some time out to discuss their successes creating a system for publishing Unity applications to the new version of the Flash Player that supports 3D visuals. It's amazing that they created a system that literally converts Unity engine code and C# scripts into Actionscript 3. While not all features are supported yet, most are. This means that Unity applications can be made that no longer require a unique plug-in for browsers!
There were many amazing talks that went on during the second half of the conference. Half Brick's discussion about what went into the design of their iPhone game Jetpack Joyride was especially interesting. The game is a hit in the office here at Second Avenue and it was genuinely inspiring to hear about all of the design and thought that went into a seemingly simple game. All of the little pieces that make it so addicting were carefully calculated during weeks of discussions and play-testing. The game has been a great success for them.
One of the most inspirational talks of the conference was easily Koichi Hayashida's talk about his experience as director on Nintendo's 3DS hit, Super Mario 3D Land. Last year's earthquake happened in the midst of the process. He expressed how it was difficult getting the team back together after such a traumatic event. It was hard to find meaning in game making. They felt they should be out finding some way to help all of the people suffering but they managed to rally after discussing how normalcy is one of the most important gifts they could give people at that moment. The talk concluded with him reading some of the fan letters they received after the game launched. It was incredibly emotional to hear people thank them for the bit of escapism, fun, and charm that the game brought them.
Taking games and game design seriously was definitely a recurring theme of the conference. The development team at Second Avenue is already applying many of the things I learned as we continue to create amazing educational software.
Thanks for reading,