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fmx/07 - the insider, day two and three

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Emmanuel Deloget

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Hello there - this is the beginning of the 3rd day at the fmx/07, and this one is going to be quite interesting as well, although it's a bit less hot than yesterday (BTW, sorry for yesterday: I wasn't able to connect to teh intarweb - the wifi hotspot seems to be less convenient that what I thought in the first place).

Speaking of yesterday, I must confess that I was unable to see everything I wanted to see. Part of the problem was the NVidia party on tuesday evening: there is nothing as difficult to manage as free wine and free beer. Not that I'm alcoholic (I'm not: if I drink, that's only because I would be shaking all day long otherwise). But this has a terrible effect on me - woke up with some kind of Boeing 747 in my head, difficulties to understand my own words, and so on. The net result is that I missed the Crytek presentations (why the hell did they put them on the morning? [sad]). I returned to the fmx at the beginning of the afternoon - and I was finally able to attend the talk of the day (I mean, from a game developer perspective): "The Illusion of Life - Revisited", by Ken Perlin himself. The rest of the day went good - with Sebastien Deguy of Allegorithmics, who talked about procedural textures (you have to check their video/demo - their technology is really amazing), Sebastien Racine of Ubisoft (Montreal) who presented us a part of their next-gen pipeline and discussed how realtime suddenly meets pre-render (for instance, the cinematics of Assassin's Creed are using the same assets than the game engine: same character models, same buildings, and so on). That's were I nearly loose conscience because of some kind of hypoglycemia, so I had to find something to eat (and of course, I missed the talk of Pr. Natkin about the future of game). I hope you'll forgive me [smile].

On the overall, the day was nice - I took the time to talk with many bright people from the media industry (movies, special effects, animation and so on). The previous day, despite being less game development oriented, was nice as well. As I told you, there were some reviews that I wanted to attend: Web 2.0, World of Warcraft or Second Life entertained me during the afternoon (well, entertainment was not really the goal: my hands still hurt, as I had to write down what the speakers were saying). The WoW talk was probably the most interesting in that respect: Teut Weidemann, CEO of CDV AG explained us why WoW is just "more than a game". Not only it's a community (and a strong one: 8 to 9 millions players), but it's also a market (I mean, outside the money Blizzard is making: the WoW market is estimated to 1 to 3 billion $. This is a bigger economy than some third world countries), a place where you can lose very important things (3% of the players lost their job/wife/girlfriend because of WoW) or find them (3% of the players met their girlfriend/wife/ found a job by playing WoW). It's just like real life in a virtual world. I will talk about that in a later article.

Of course, today is also quite entertaining. This morning, Microsoft talked about XNA and DirectX 10. I must confess that I'm not really that aware about DX10 - there is so many things I ignore about it, mostly because I am still working on XP with no plan to change in the next month. But I will catch up [smile]). To be honest, I expected MS talk to be quite like "OMG you should use DX10 it's sooo cooool". The good thing is that they didn't have to tell me that: DX10 is utterly cool. From a software architecture point of view, it's much more logical. States are now handled using state objects, shader constants are stored in constant buffers (loads of constants constants, each made of 4 floats, and the possibility to bind up to 14 CB to a shader, together with the unified shader model, virtualised resource memory = theorically, you can draw a complete scene with tons of different objects with only one draw call). The Geometry Shaders are also quite cool, as it's now possible to (for example) create a shadow volume from a model directly on the GPU - that's a good way to reduce fill rate.

After the two MS workshop, the audience (I mean, some game developers + me) were introduced to COLLADA. You all know COLLADA - if you don't, you should [smile]. Remi Arnauld of SCEA did a brilliant presentation about this extremely versatile file format, how it's used, how it can improve asset management, team cooperation, synergies between softwares and (last but not least) the production content pipeline.

Now, the afternoon is to begin. I unfortunately missed the first talk of the afternoon, but this time I have a valid excuse: I was hungry, and I was discussing with Ken "Procedural" Perlin at the restaurant. And frankly, I had a very good lunch, speaking of his work, his interests, philosophy and jokes. That was fun and informative, and I wouldn't have missed that [smile].

I have 15 minutes before the next talks begin, so let's say I'm going to post that, make an announce on the front page, and hope you'll forgive me for having missed the Crytek lectures. See you later !
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