Technical Issues in Tools Development
Roundtable format. I didn't get much out of this. Most of it was about the use of databases in games. Some discussion of designers and artists visually scripting versus hiring a programmer to do the scripting for them. Interesting tidbit: Madden uses an in-game SQL-like database to query statistics, player information, animations, etc. Sounds like existing version control software for assets doesn't handle dependencies well. (It's not easy to query for models that reference a certain texture, for example.)
Microsoft wins. XBox 2 is going to be pretty cool, especially for the developers. J Allard says... Microsoft cares about game usability and consistency. Thus, they are building a whole framework for things like system pop-up notifications. They want nearly every game to connect with XBox Live. They have this thing called the "Gamer Card" where you can connect with your friends list, view player ratings, and challenge other players to games.
They're also building a developer studio-like thing for programmers *and* artists. Not too many details yet.
Micropayments! Microsoft is going to be the first company to get micropayments in the mainstream, provided they don't crash and burn. It'll be interesting at least.
This focus on developers is key. Good quote - and subtle dig at Sony - "If you design your hardware to have the maximum peak performance, but the first game takes years to develop, you haven't done anything for the developers."
Managing the QA Process
This roundtable was a disaster. The conference staff decided it would be a good idea to put TWO roundtables in one room, separated by a thin cloth wall. Notice that cloth doesn't really prevent the other's discussion from spilling into yours.
Physics in Parallel: Simulation on 7th Gen Hardware
David Wu says (in a humorous but unorganized and silly way)... "7th generation" hardware is massively parallel, supports large computational intensity, and memory access is somewhat expensive and high-latency. This talk discussed how to efficiently make use of it for physical simulation. Not much in here that you wouldn't learn from browsing some papers or taking a computer science class on parallel programming. Explanation of various sync structures (spin locks, lock-free structures, critsecs) and parallelization methods (forking, pipelining). The interesting parts I remember: collision detection is forked, AI is serial, physics/integration/constraint-solving is forked, rendering is forked and pipelined, audio is on another thread. He did say that it's useful to have your scene tree structures contain a large number of children (8) to help localize memory access and make several decisions at once, improving branch prediction.
Why You Should Have Paid Attention in Multivariable Calculus
Chris Hecker is hilarious. The talk contained random tidbits of vector calculus - mostly derivation - and insights into how it related to linear algebra. Not sure how I could explain it without destroying it. :) If you ever have the chance to see him talk, go. It's amusing. Was going to say hi, but I didn't want to interrupt the crowd of people around him with a "Hi! I'm from the Cal3D list!".
Beer. Chinese food. People. Met Lee Wilson and some friends of his. Met Bill-Licea Kane of ATI Research (ARB dude, works on GLSL I think) and griped about a few things. :) Met Victor Jiminez of Northrup Grumman (sp?) and got his card. Met some other dude at ATI who basically told me I was silly for using OpenGL on Radeons. Looks like he was trying to sell some FireGL cards... :P Went out to sushi with Lee, Hans (OpenGL ES guy), and Steve (AI guy). I was rambling about reducing/eliminating fragmentation on consoles using a page table, and Steve says "You don't know this, but I wrote the virtual memory subsystem on the GameCube." heh. Got his feedback, and it looks like I'm not totally making stuff up. So Sony! Make your developers happy! Listen to me!
Game Developers Choice Awards
Half-Life 2 This. Half-Life 2 That. Katamari won a lot too. Some drunk or brain-fried people rambled for a while. An absurdly retarded reality TV spoof "Career Eye for the Game Guy" got booed. One of the Gish developers proposed to his girlfriend on stage while accepting an award.
(I'm behind a few days, but I have to go to a talk now. More later.) Update: Everyone took my advice and went to see Chris Hecker again. People spilling out into the hallway.
Wednesday, in short: I saw cool things and forced myself to meet cool people.