The expo is not that big here, but there is a lot of emerging companies that just do an incredible work - not to mention big companies that continue to push the technology. Let's take Photoshop CS3 Extended (the high end version of photoshop, which has been released a few ays ago). This is the first version that is really able to display a 3D object. Granted, you don't create them in the software, but you can load a COLLADA file, and it will create a layer with your 3D object inside. You can change the lightning, you can move the object, play with it, add special effects on that layer, and so on. That's pretty cool. Even cooler: the textures of the object appears as separate sub layers in your 3D layer.
Of course, for game developers, this is a bit awkward (except that you can now edit your texture and see the result in real time, instead of having to load it in your modeler, tune it, save it, load it again and so on).
More interesting - I mean, that's really interesting - is the Unfold3D product (version 2.0 has just been released). Unfold3D takes your mesh and flatten it to create your UV map. But contrary to any other technique you might find in any other software, it actually works, and creates a nearly optimal UV map. I requested a demo with different models, and the result is amazing (even with high poly model: the texel distortion is minimal). But more important (if you ever tried to UV map a complex model): it does that in a snapshot. Your only work is to define cut lines ie lines where you want the map to be cut. That's actually easier than I thought, as they did that very well. And then, click the unfold button and (depending on your model) in 1 to 20s you get an uterly good UV map.
That's what I call a production pipeline optimization.
Speaking of production pipeline, I attended the talk of Torfi Frans Olafson, entitle "EVE Online: space ship to avatars". I can't discuss much about that because most of what he said is quite business sensitive. I will only say that they lead a very good reflexion about their production pipeline and about who was able to achieve the right job. That's how you finaly hire people that were not originally in the game industry, while still maintaining a very optimized production pipeline. Players of EVE Online will probably have their heart explode when they'll get their hand on the next expansion pack.
But that was not the only talk I attended: I also wanted to hear Gilles Monteil of Ubisoft ("We all want emotions in games"). Gilles presented a way that have to be explored and that should bring a whole new level of emotion in games. You can actually see some early results of his work in a previous Rainbox Six games (I don't remember which one; you know, I'm bad at remembering things (and that's not a problem, since my computer is very good at doing just that [smile])), if you stop killing everyone and if you start looking at your teammates. Basically, he want to import a movement grammar that, by itself, express emotions. We tend to think that emotion is coming from facial animation. The fact is that it's not true: if you got some drama course, you probably have been told that the body and movements express emotions, feelings. If you want a better idea of what I mean, look at the Thinker of Rodin, and mentally remove his face: do he stop to convey the same feeling?
Of course (and I guess I don't spoil much here), I'll make my best to make a better report of each talk I attended - I take loads of notes, and I should be able to write down something that goes deeper in each subject.
For now, I have to find something to eat, because I just can't go home right now - I'm so unlucky that I have to attend the Realtime Party which is later this evening. I promise I won't get drunk [smile]