Game Development

SIGGRAPH 2011 Game Content Overview – Part III

Posted by Mariebeth Aquino on July 02, 2011
Conference, SIGGRAPH / No Comments

The following is Part III of a three part interview with the key individuals who make game content at SIGGRAPH possible.


Part III – Interview with Naty Hoffman, SIGGRAPH 2011 Game Development Community Director

Naty Hoffman, Game Development Community Director

Naty Hoffman, Game Development Community Director

Naty Hoffman is a Technical Director at Activision Studio Central, where he assists Activision’s worldwide studios with graphics research and development. He is a co-author of the book “Real-Time Rendering, 3rd Edition”.
What are your responsibilities as Game Development Community Director?
My responsibility is to engage with the professional game development community, both to encourage them to submit more content for presentation and to facilitate higher industry attendance at the conference.

It must be hard motivating a game development community which has its own big conferences like the Game Developers Conference, how do you engage them?
It can be challenging, but SIGGRAPH has some unique things to offer compared to industry-specific conferences like GDC, such as the opportunity to interact with top graphics minds not only within the game industry, but outside it as well. SIGGRAPH attendees can see content presented by people from companies like Pixar, ILM, Disney, Digital Domain, Dreamworks, etc., as well as researchers from top academic institutions around the world. In addition, the graphics focus and extremely high quality bar means that for anyone involved with the visual side of game development (such as artists and graphics programmers), the breadth and depth of relevant content at SIGGRAPH is simply unmatched.

This year, I have enjoyed the able assistance of the game development subcommittee; a group of prominent developers who have been advising me and helping me reach out to studios across the world. Other members of the conference committee with game industry ties such as Drew Davidson, Jason Smith, and Chris Williams have also provided invaluable help.

It is important to note that we did not start from scratch; we benefit from the momentum slowly built up over previous years. Each year SIGGRAPH has more content submissions from game developers, more presentations of interest to them, and more awareness in the game development community in general. I hope that within a few years, we will be close to parity with the film production community in terms of content and attendees.

How important are emerging technologies in game development, or rather, are upcoming technologies supported by game studios?
The game industry is highly technology-driven; new technology is constantly being evaluated, and if it fits the needs and constraints of production it is integrated into the engine and/or tools pipeline. A few examples of note include screen-space ambient occlusion, filter-based anti-aliasing, deferred shading, and high-dynamic range image-based (HDRI) lighting. All of these have been covered at SIGGRAPH – one of them (filter-based anti-aliasing) is the topic of a half-day course this year.

Industry and research can often tell different stories (i.e in goals and communication) – is one more important to game development, and one to SIGGRAPH? Or if not, where and how do these two areas intersect?
Game development tends to be focused more on short-term development, but we do keep an eye on longer-term research as well. SIGGRAPH covers both – some programs (such as the Technical Papers) are targeted more at research and some (such as Courses, Talks and The Studio) at current industry practices.

Which upcoming trends in game development do you see having the greatest impact on game production? And are these featured in this year’s SIGGRAPH games coverage?
Rendering techniques are always evolving in our industry, both on the PC side (where constantly increasing hardware power enables new techniques) and on the console side (where much ingenuity is needed to squeeze out better visuals ever year from the same hardware). The courses “Advances in Real-Time Rendering in Games” and “Beyond Programmable Shading” cover both sides of this divide; many of the techniques presented are also relevant for emerging platforms such as tablets and mobile phones.

A specific example of technology used to increase visual quality on consoles is the recent rise of new techniques for filter-based anti-aliasing, which (as I previously mentioned) has an entire course devoted to it this year: “Filtering Approaches for Real-Time Anti-Aliasing”.

Another important trend is the convergence of techniques between film and games – we have a lot to learn from the film industry and I believe they are interested in learning from us as well. SIGGRAPH has a variety of content addressing this. Some are explicitly targeted at both industries (for example, the courses “Destruction and Dynamics for Film and Game Production” and “Character Rigging, Deformations, and Simulations in Film and Game Production”). Also, content presented by people from one industry is often of interest to the other – I often find interesting content in the film production Talks and Courses, and I hear from my film industry counterparts that they find useful information in the game development content at SIGGRAPH.

As free-to-play, mobile and independent games become more popular (for gamers and developers, alike) is there potential to optimize top notch technology for such games?
Definitely. Mobile platforms in particular are rapidly increasing in power, and as they continue to do so in the future, they will enable unprecedented visual quality on the go. Since the types of games, input devices, and visual styles often differ from games on more traditional platforms, there is also a need for new technology as well as adapting existing methods.

The game development community is expanding. Great ideas and concepts are now emerging from the independent community – without the use of high performance technology. Will SIGGRAPH cover these noteworthy areas as well?
SIGGRAPH welcomes ideas from all areas of game development, not just “blockbuster” console titles. One of the talks this year (in the “Light My Fire” session) is by an independent developer, Q-Games; Frontier Developments – another independent studio – is presenting their game “Kinectimals” in the Real-Time Live! program. I would like to see more submissions from indie developers in future years, especially from some of the smaller teams.


Back to Part I+II of the three part interview:
Part I – Interview with Drew Davidson, SIGGRAPH 2011 Games Chair

Part II – Interview with Jason RM Smith, SIGGRAPH 2011 & 2012 Real-Time Live! Director and Chair

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SIGGRAPH 2011 Game Content Overview – Part II

Posted by Mariebeth Aquino on July 02, 2011
Conference, SIGGRAPH / 2 Comments

The following is Part II of a three part interview with the key individuals who make game content at SIGGRAPH possible.


Part II – Interview with Jason RM Smith, SIGGRAPH 2011 & 2012 Real-Time Live! Director and Chair

Jason RM Smith

Jason RM Smith, Real-Time Live! Director and Chair

After successfully leading the SIGGRAPH 2010 Real-Time Live! program, Jason RM Smith continues his legacy as Chair for 2011 and 2012. In his life outside SIGGRAPH, he is Digital Production Supervisor at LucasArts San Francisco.

What are your responsibilities as Director and Chair of “Real-Time Live!”?
It’s actually a combination of things which makes the role so interesting.

Firstly, I’m accountable for ensuring Real-Time Live! and the Sandbox are each a success in their own right at SIGGRAPH 2011. Fortunately I get to work alongside a bunch of super smart people who know how to organize an amazing conference, which makes my job much easier.

Secondly, I get to move the two events further forward in terms of placement and understanding as part of SIGGRAPH; they are still both relatively new compared to many other areas of the show so a goal for 2011 was to ground them in their own right, building on the great work established by Evan Hirsch in previous years.

The last major goal was to look to broaden the content (and hopefully the interest) in RTL! Computer Graphics has such a great community it was relatively easy to establish a subcommittee who provided outreach across a wide range of industries and groups that are pushing the boundaries of real-time graphics.

The sub-committee was almost too successful – we ended up with so many strong submissions that deserve to be on stage it was a real challenge to keep the show within its allocated time-slot.

What is the Sandbox? What was the vision behind it and what role does it play at SIGGRAPH?
The vision behind the Sandbox is very straightforward. Real-Time Live! is all about the live presentations from the artists and engineers responsible for the work, and the Sandbox was setup to allow SIGGRAPH attendees to try these projects hands-on, for themselves. (I’m also using it to squeeze in additional content just because there were so many great submissions; be sure to check out the handful of projects in the Sandbox you won’t find anywhere else at the show).

It’s also a really nice change of pace; after a few hours of lectures it’s fun to exercise the physical reflexes a little. Whether you want to race cars or interact with virtual Jellyfish, the Sandbox has something for everyone.

With the rapid evolution and advancements in technologies such as Real Time Rendering, are games using top-notch technologies as impressive to gamers as they are to game developers? Are users more aware or appreciative of what goes on behind the scenes to create their games of choice?
You know, I’m constantly amazed by the number of gamers and communities who are extremely real-time tech savvy just through their interest in the medium. They represent a minority group of players but their depth of knowledge is just incredible.

Looking at the gaming audience in general, I think it’s much more a question of how the technology contributes. If developers’ use breakthroughs to drive a more holistic, compelling experience overall there is no doubt the work involved is appreciated, even where the exact areas of improvement aren’t obvious to most people playing the game. Ideally, we want to focus one-hundred-percent of the player’s attention to the situation we’re presenting on screen. In many ways, if the technology behind the scenes is obvious or demands attention as an element, then we have failed at delivering the most immersive experience possible.

In-Game cinematics temporarily take gamers out of the active play role and place them in a more passive role. With large game development studios placing high importance on the quality of these cinematics, do you foresee a shift towards maintaining player involvement by making these segments more seemingly active?
Yes; there’s no doubt that developers are becoming more comfortable delivering meaningful action and narrative to garner an emotional response from the player using real-time sequences. As this becomes standard, our understanding of cinematics will be challenged as the boundaries between interactive and non-interactive disappear.

As an industry, we’re just beginning to understand how to balance multiple levels of interactivity to deliver a rewarding experience that sits comfortably between storytelling and retaining an immersive experience. The trend has started; it’s interesting to see where it will lead over the next couple of years.

Which is the stronger driving force:
– Video game hardware technology or video game software technology?
– The artist’s craft to create video game content or the programmer’s knowledge of the latest render technology?
None of them; or all of them. It’s a trap!

What makes a creative industry successful can be broken down or split up into many component pieces, but ultimately the one thing that drives all of those areas is innovation. It’s not always about doing something new, using the same pieces in a new way can be just as progressive, but it’s the underlying creativity that makes the difference, whether affecting one or all of the areas above.


Part III – Interview with Naty Hoffman, SIGGRAPH 2011 Game Development Community Director

back to Part I: Part I – Interview with Drew Davidson, SIGGRAPH 2011 Games Chair

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SIGGRAPH 2011 Game Content Overview – Part I

Posted by Mariebeth Aquino on July 02, 2011
Conference, SIGGRAPH / No Comments

A melting pot for all aspects of computer graphics and interactive techniques, SIGGRAPH continues to showcase the best and brightest in these fields. With video games continuing to gain exposure and popularity, it comes as no surprise to see this reflected in this year’s conference lineup.

SIGGRAPH 2011 offers a record amount of game development content: courses, talks (technical, studio, and exhibitor talks), workshops on game development, game and technical papers. In addition, game content can be found in the Computer Animation Festival, in which Real-Time Live! showcases the latest trends and techniques in games. And for those wanting a hands-on experience, the Sandbox provides the ideal environment to test drive the latest in interactive entertainment.

The following is a three part interview with the key individuals who make game content at SIGGRAPH possible. Join us to learn firsthand what’s in store for this year’s SIGGRAPH game content, speaking with Drew Davidson, SIGGRAPH 2011 Games Chair; Jason RM Smith, SIGGRAPH 2011 & 2012 Real-Time Live! Director and Chair, and Naty Hoffman, SIGGRAPH 2011 Game Development Community Director.


Part I – Interview with Drew Davidson, SIGGRAPH 2011 Games Chair

Drew Davidson, Games Chair

Drew Davidson, Games Chair

Drew Davidson is a professor, producer and player of interactive media. His background spans academic, industry and professional worlds: he is the Director of the Entertainment Technology Center – Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University and the Editor of ETC Press.

What are your responsibilities as Games Chair?
To oversee and coordinate game-related content at SIGGRAPH, working with Naty Hoffman, Jason RM Smith, and T.L. Taylor (who chaired games papers this year).

In terms of Games Papers, how many submissions were received? Was there an increase in the number of submissions? Did you notice any trends in the content received?
We had around 100 submissions this year, which is right around what we were expecting. Since we’ve had Game Papers for several years now, we have had between 80-100 submissions each year. As for trends, there seems to be more attention being paid to indie games and user-generated content.

How has the growth of the video games industry affected the amount of game content at SIGGRAPH? Has it affected this year’s game content lineup? And do you foresee this trend expanding game content inclusion in future SIGGRAPHs?
That it’s there at all attests to the growth of the industry, and Naty Hoffman, Game Development Community Director has done some great work this year getting involvement and participation from the industry in this year’s SIGGRAPH. As for expansion, that’s tough to tell, it’s been successful and it’s going to be more of a PR issue as SIGGRAPH works to get the word out to attendees about the amount of good content related to games.

Since games have a little bit of everything, where does game development fit in SIGGRAPH?
Games fit into SIGGRAPH both in terms of graphics (with real-time rendering and such) and also in terms of interactive techniques (issues around design and player engagement) so there’s some good fit with SIGGRAPH.

SIGGRAPH 2011 is in Vancouver, a location that has long been associated with game development. Any thoughts on what has made this location a hub for gaming?
Well, it’s a great city all around, so it’s an appealing place to work, and there has been a lot of local support to do business here. And with the local universities, there is a lot of potential talent. All of this has helped make it a great hub for game development.

Has the conference’s location this year impacted the gaming content being included, interest level in content, or amount of submissions/participation by the local community?
It definitely has. Sylvain Provencher and Glenn Entis have been great in helping with some outreach, and again, Naty has done a great job coordinating with industry as well.


Part II – Interview with Jason RM Smith, SIGGRAPH 2011 & 2012 Real-Time Live! Director and Chair

Part III – Interview with Naty Hoffman, SIGGRAPH 2011 Game Development Community Director

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