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GDC 2008 - Tuesday

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Did the 'Microsoft Game Developer Day' today, well, most of it.

The first session, 'Games for Windows - LIVE - Just the Facts' primarily dealt with incorporating LIVE into games. LIVE for the XBox is a known and accepted platform, and pretty much every game currently on the XBox (all of them afaik), use LIVE to some extent. Granting achievements, leaderboards, multiplayer match making, and rankings are all done through XBox LIVE. With LIVE on windows you can do pretty much all the same things you can on the XBox. Earn achievements, leaderboards, and match making (including the Gold subscription skill based match making) are all supported. Overall the session was basically an overview of LIVE and how some of the functions that can be incorporated (including the API calls). Unfortunately the API is under NDA, and you can only obtain an evaluation API by agreeing to an NDA. Furthermore, the full on LIVE API can only be utilized if you have an approved title, and if your game passes the quality assurance requirements. Overall the session was OK. The speaker paused too many times so the speech felt... like it was stuttering.

The second session was more up my ally, dealing with multicore and planning not for today, but for tomorrow when machines have more than two or four cores. Three possible threading models were looked at: bulk batch processing, Communicating Serial Processes, and a task based architecture. In the end he recommended a task based architecture. I liked the talk, the speaker (Ian Lewis) had a very solid foundation in threading and his speech wasn't overly boring to listen to (Hey, I was sleepy). No random performance figures were stated, instead he just presented the models, their advantages, their disadvantages, and gave a fairly well reasoned explanation for why he felt a task based architecture was superior. I also met one of the Microsoft folks who is on the XBox side of things. He was amusing to talk to, and I believe I've seen him on channel 9 before...possibly not.

The XBox 360 update focused basically on the various APIs that were being implemented and updated on the XDK. Overall the information wasn't surprising in the least, and many of the tools and APIs exist in other forms for the PC. It was informative though, and he had plenty of demos to show off what he was talking about.

Finally I took a look at the 'Performance Tools Update' session, which was basically all about Pix. Pleasantly it appears that they've done some serious work on it, improving many aspects of it both in terms of functionality and usability. Good news for everyone. I didn't yawn once during the entire speech... maybe I should judge the quality of the speeches by how many times I yawn...hmmm

Tomorrows going to be a long and facinating day, with tutorials scattered all over the place, but its all good. I'm focusing more on threading and other such tutorials to see where people are in the industry. For a long time servers and business applications have been at the forefront of concurrency on the desktop. However we're now moving into an era when even games are becoming extremely CPU and thread happy. Its good to see people starting to embrace the advances of computers.
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