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20 Feb - first day of chaos

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Last night was fun. Went to dinner with a bunch of the
gamedev.net gang, at the Cheesecake Factory on Union Square.
LONG wait. I think we got a table around ten o'clock. Good
conversation. Everyone has their own flavor of whackiness
(aka "coolness").

Today's a big day! The first day of the GDC 2008 exhibition.
Lots more people. Feels like maybe 3-4 times the amount of
people who had been here earlier in the week. As I mentioned
earlier, I think they expect something like sixteen thousand
people to attend.

For myself, this is the best part of GDC. While the tutorial
days sometimes tend to drag, covering one subject in detail
each day, the latter half of the week enables me to jump
among a wide variety of topics, usually learning something
new every hour. Plus, though I tends towards shy, towards
wallflowerishness (while being friendly), I love being in the
scene, in the community. I am energized, motivated, with
new ideas flowing freely.

This morning, I attended a session optimizing Direct3D
rendering pipelines for multicore processors. Lots of good
info, with the key themes being profile often, profile
using lots of tools, and don't be too naive about approach
or expectations.

Later, I met with ARM to discuss their current mobile 3D
graphics hardware, as well as a new mobile 3D software designed
for their hardware. As with the other company interviews, plan
is to transcribe and publish next week.

Early in the afternoon, I attended a session on challenges
in tools development. Focus here was on *constructing* tools
and not so much exporters/importers. Lots of opinions as
to whether it is best to have all in-engine tools vs. external
tools or plugins to 3rd party tools with exporters. Lots
of scripting engines in use (Python, Lua, Ruby, Perl, C#,
Java, others) but in this audience *very few* custom scripting
languages and lots of good reasons *not* to go custom.

Some cool stuff in the exhibit area also. I did a quick walkthough.
The fellow who did the GPU physics demos linked from the Ogre
forums has a physics engine called OctaveEngine Hongo
(www.octaveengine.co.jp), based on his University research. The
IGF entries are awesome this year, with lots of totally fun
and beautiful casual games.

Mid-afternoon, session on pollinated content (now being called
simply user-generated content) in Spore. Some very cool stuff
here...ability to purchase coffee mugs via Zazzle with
images of your creature, T-shirts, and maybe (if they can
work out the kinks), 3D plastic printouts of your creature. The
demo was done on the latest developer build of Spore. Many
cameras/camcorders in the audience, so I'm sure you if Google
you can find new images shortly.

Last session for today was Chris Hecker's talk on structure vs.
style. Impossible to take detailed notes, given Chris'
tendency to talk at 200% speed. Gist of talk was the idea of
solving "hard interactivity problems" (I'll try to define in
a post-GDC summary) by decomposing the solution into structure
and style. His familiar example: the textured triangle as
structure (well, sort of data structure) is something you can
write fixed code to analyze, query, ray-trace, etc., while
the style is the actual position of the verts, the actual texture,
etc. Kind of obvious, but his point is subtle. The purpose
of the talk seemed to ultimately be that we haven't yet figured
out this decomposition yet for AI. The sort of traditional
ways of modeling AI tend to always end up being code. Approaches
such as neural nets may have simple structure, but the style
(training data) doesn't really have the intuition that makes
it good style. Chris wants us to figure out how to develop a
"Photoshop for AI." Very strange, I know. I sort of get what
he is talking about, but it may be one of those things that
you either get or you don't. And certainly contraversial...not
everyone will agree that this decomposition is a meaningful
idea or possible.

Last things for tonight....the last half of the Booth Crawl and
then the Game Developer's Choice Awards ceremony!
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