ACM SIGGRAPH Outreach
|Tasks and Goals of the Outreach Program||Report on Game Developer's Conference 2000 (Theresa-Marie Rhyne)||Another Report on Game Developer's Conference 2000 (Hanspeter Pfister)|
|A report on Game Developer's Conference 2001||A report on the Electronic Entertainment Expo, (Michael Macedonia)||SIGGRAPH 2000: Views from a game developer, (Aaron Foo)|
At the ACM SIGGRAPH Outreach to the Game Developers Community Roundtable, we had about 15 people in total. A sign-up sheet was distributed. At first, our attendance looked small but we gathered more people as the session progressed.
I handed out a one pager representing the PowerPoint slides shared with you earlier. There were 4 slides that encompassed: ACM SIGGRAPH contacts and a list of a few computer games sessions that we held at either SIGGRAPH 1999 or SIGGRAPH 2000. A few items from the upcoming SIGGRAPH 2001 were also mentioned. Scott Owen provided copies of the SIGGRAPH 2001 Advance Announcement as well as other SIGGRAPH 2001 conference items. Alyn Rockwood showed a few video clips that acted as samplers to the type of videos associated with SIGGRAPH conference papers of the past.
We then opened our session up for discussion. Happily, we found representation from ACM SIGGRAPH Local Chapters as well as former SIGGRAPH conference contributors who shared their experiences organizing panels and courses. The notion of having a SIGGRAPH sampler panel at a future GDC event was mentioned. We did indicate that this item was proposed for GDC 2001 but the GDC Advisory Board was concerned about how well it would be received by GDC attendees.
There was an interest in setting up a email list of attendees at the session and someone from the San Francisco SIGGRAPH Local Chapter agreed to set this up. There was also interest in moving forward with the presentation of more games development content at future SIGGRAPH conferences as well as considering future games projects at the ACM SIGGRAPH organization level.
We were pleased with the results and high degree of conversation and people interaction during the roundtable session.
From my perspective, I found the speaker registration process to go smoothly, the room to be just the right size for our roundtable, and the submissions process as well as your support to be excellent. Those "Faculty" T-Shirts were a real plus!
Thanks so much to the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) for providing us this opportunity to conduct this roundtable at GDC 2001.
Another item mentioned at the roundtable was the notion of establishing a formal relationship between IGDA and ACM SIGGRAPH. So, I have copied on this note the ACM SIGGRAPH Executive Committee and the SIGGRAPH Conference Advisory Group to see if they wish to carry this forward into the future. The ACM SIGGRAPH Vice Chair is directly responsible for such formal cooperations. Since you are the IGDA Program Director, we have a start. Jennifer Pahlka, Executive Director of IGDA and director of the Gamma Network unit responsible for the Game Developers Conference, is also included on this email. Alan Chalmers - current ACM SIGGRAPH Vice Chair - is a member of the ACM SIGGRAPH Executive Committee and thus is also copied on this note.
As noted in the Februrary 2000 issue of Computer Graphics, ACM SIGGRAPH began the 2000 year with a new special project to outreach to the computer games community. So far, we have received a terrific number of emails from computer games professionals and other interested folks. Simultaneously, the SIGGRAPH 2000 Courses Committee accepted an innovative course entitled: "Games Research: the Science of Interactive Entertainment". Craig Reynolds of Sony Computer Entertainment America and Chris Hecker of definition six, inc. are the course organizers. Please see: (http://www.siggraph.org/s2000/conference/courses/crs39.html). As part of this SIGGRAPH outreach effort, the CMP Game Media Group provided me a warm welcome at the Game Developers Conference 2000. Below is the report of my adventures.
The Game Developers Conference 2000:
The Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2000, managed by the CMP Game Media Group, was held March 8 - 12, 2000 at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California. This yearly event is where game designers, programmers, artists, producers, audio professionals and others converge to share ideas, network and chart the future of the computer games industry. GDC 2000 was organized around several tracks: Visual Arts; Audio; Programming; Game Design; Production: Business & Legal. For each track, there were recommendations on tutorials (held Wednesday and Thursday) and conference sessions (held Friday through Sunday) to attend. There was also a keynote session for each track. For a more detailed discussion of each conference track, see: (http://www.gdconf.com/2000/tracks.html).
For GDC 2000, tutorials ranged from beginning topics like "Game Design Fundamentals" to intermediate topics like "Community Design for Large-Scale Gaming Worlds" and "Producing Games: Start to Finish" to advanced sessions on "Artificial Life for Computer Games". There were also courses on 3D Studio Max, Advanced OpenGL Game Development, Direct3D Programming, and Maya 2.5 Real-Time Content Creation. Since the computer games community is new to me, I attended the "Game Design Fundamentals" tutorial taught by Noah Falstein. There I learned about the concept of convexity for game design. Convexity is the notion that one option or choice expands into many and then back to one again. A game designer applies convexity structure by creating choices that continously diverge and later converge at "crisis points". The GDC 2000 event seemed to have its own convexity structure where the crisis points of convergence for attendees were breakfasts, lunches and receptions.
The GDC Classic Conference defined the various papers and panels presented
Friday through Sunday. The Keynotes for each track included:
The GDC 2000 Expo included demonstrations of over 150 services, tools and platforms for computer games. Exhibitors included 3dfx Interactive Inc., Alias/Wavefront, Dolby Laboratories Inc., Electronic Arts, LIPSinc, NVIDIA, Apple, Microsoft and Sony to name a few. A comprehensive listing of exhibitors is available at (http://www.gdconf.com/exhibitors/homepage.htm).
In addition to the many receptions, industry forums, and special interests group meetings, the Computer Game Developers Association (CGDA) also held a well attended session. From more information on CGDA, see: (http://www.cgda.org/).
The GDC 2000 event was a high energy conference with approximately 10,000 or more attendees. The CMP Game Media Group did an excellent job of organizing the conference program to facilitate many opportunities for networking and socializing among attendees. Clearly it is "THE" place where game developers come together.
Many individuals in the computer games community have provided me with insightful suggestions. Special thanks to: Aaron Foo of Ratbag Games and Eve Penford of Infrogrames in Australia for their interest and for being the first to join in on this collaboration. Luke Ahearn of Goldtree.com helped get the word on on this project, see: (http://www.goldtree.com/), as did Dan Smith at 3D GameDev.com, see: (http://www.3dgamedev.com/).
Carl Schmidt, Chair of the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina (USA)
SIGGRAPH Professional Chapter, also provided me with the exciting opportunity
to present the SIGGRAPH Computer Games Outreach effort at the February
2000 meeting of the RTP, NC SIGGRAPH Chapter. I am also appreciative of
some words of wisdom provided to me by Chris Tome of the 3D Design Conference
and Ming Lin at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Game Developer Conference 2000
San Jose, March 8-12, 2000
This was my first attendance at the Game Developer Conference, and boy did I like it! The tutorials were informative, the presentations interesting and diverse, the keynote addresses truly outstanding, and the exhibition and parties a lot of fun. Oh, and did I mention that they were giving out free beer at various booths on the exhibition floor? ;-)
The conference was attended by about 10000 people, up from 6000 two years ago. Game development is finally recognized as a very important form of computer science and entertainment. The list of keynote speakers is indicative: Bill Gates, Phil Harrison, Kurt Akeley, Danny Hillis, Jon Bentley, and various game developer luminaries. As Danny Hillis put it: "Game developers are creating the future by driving technology, innovating new forms of play and learning, and making the building blocks that shape tomorrow's interconnected society."
I come home truly inspired and convinced that we are just at the beginning of a revolution of interactive entertainment.
I attended two full day tutorials, one on "Game Development" (Noah Finkelstein) and another one on "Producing Games from Start to Finish" (AJ Hendrick). Both were very interesting and introduced me to some novel concepts. The quality was better than that of typical SIGGRAPH tutorials, mainly because a single speaker can present material with more focus and consistency than a sequence of speakers. Also, the topics and presentations throughout the GDC are very applied, hands-on, and accessible.
In the first tutorial I learned about the creative process of developing a game. It is surprisingly structured, very similar to producing a movie or writing a novel. Even the titles of the different roles come from the movie industry and not from engineering: producer, director, artist, talent, etc. The tutorial was fun, except for a long demo and discussion of "Medal of Honor." It is a WW II first person shooter where players indiscriminately shoot at anything in sight. The game exemplifies everything that's wrong with this industry: gender bias, sexism, historic distortion, violence, and cruelty. Unfortunately, the speaker did not address these issues.
The second tutorial could have been called "Project Management and Software Engineering Fundamentals." The speaker advocated a very rigidly structured development process that - not surprisingly - can be applied to any software development project. To my surprise, game development at big publishers has matured from a "hacker" mentality to sound software engineering principles, including OO design with UML and design patterns. I found this tutorial very well organized and fun, despite the somewhat dry subject matter.
There were several parallel sessions of talks, some of them sponsored by industry (mainly Intel). The topics included discussions about the state of the game industry, art, game design, programming advice, game production, and various game technologies (AI, graphics, sound, etc.). The speakers were typically game industry veterans with the exception of the occasional researcher.
I was very surprised by the high quality of all the talks I attended. They were far more informative and entertaining than most talks given at academic conferences (maybe with the exception of SIGGRAPH). The common theme of the programming sessions was a focus on real-time algorithms and practical implementation issues. For example, I attended a session about a real-time terrain generation algorithm with far better results than I had ever seen at the Visualization conference. I also attended the best talk on subdivision surfaces I had ever heard. As the speaker (from Intel) put it: research papers focus mostly on the mathematical aspects of subdivision (e.g., continuity). This is of course important, but it also does the field a great disservice by making subdivision not accessible to most. Instead, this session focused mainly on implementation issues such as data structures, boundary conditions, patching surface cracks, etc. I finally realized that subdivision is not magic and easy to implement, repeating my experience with wavelets a few years ago.
All in all I was very impressed and come home inspired to try some of these ideas in my projects. One drawback: The printed proceedings are incomplete and of low quality (although very voluminous). I will have to send email to get some of the more interesting PPT files directly from the speakers.
If the tutorial or talks didn't convince me that this is a mature industry then the keynotes certainly did! I have never seen a more illustrious group of keynote speakers.
Bill Gates, Microsoft:
It started with the highly anticipated keynote of Bill Gates. The line for this event went full circle around 2 city blocks! (Fortunately it didn't rain, for a change.) Bill Gates' talk was smooth, entertaining, and informative. He announced the XBox, Microsoft's entry into the game console market and an attempt to gain control of your living room. The specifications of the XBox (scheduled for fall 2001) are truly impressive and will give the SONY Playstation 2 a run for its money:
Gates showed a couple of very impressive demos. The first few were running live on a prototype mock-up of the XBox with 1/10th the performance. He chose to show the familiar PS 2 demos (particles, bumps, reflections, real-time physics, etc.), but more embellished, faster, and with higher image quality. For example, he showed a Japanese garden with high texture detail, bump mapping, a reflecting pond, water with reflection and refraction, real-time physics, and hundreds of butterflies flying around with intelligent flocking behavior (they spelled "XBox" in the sky...).
To top it off, Gates showed a video of what will be possible on the XBox. Of course it was a game scene, and of course it involved a scantily-clad female fighter. But the quality of the rendering was truly amazing! If this is indeed the image quality of the XBox, then we will soon be seeing interactive movies with virtual actors. Another cool feature: every XBox in every living room will have 8 GB of disk space. That means content can be delivered over the internet, which will change the name of the game (as noted by Phil Harrison, see below). If Microsoft pulls this off as planned, the XBox will be a key component of the post-PC area.
Phil Harrison, SONY:
The keynote on the following day was by Phil Harrison from SONY entertainment. He talked about the future of Playstation 2. Given the buzz around the XBox his message was a bit muted, but nevertheless interesting. SONY wants to dominate interactive electronic entertainment, and they are well on their way to achieving it: since PS 2 launched a week ago they have sold > 1 million units in Japan, 60% in retail, and 40% online (!). They will announce the price and availability of PS 2 in North America at the upcoming E3 industry show, but Harrison said they were on track for a fall 2000 launch.
Harrison gave a very interesting outlook on the future. He envisions that most PS 2 users will have broadband internet access and a hard disk add-on. He talked about "episodic content," where games are shipped as episodes once a week. Instead of talking about the latest Ally McBeal episode over lunch people may talk about the latest "Quake X Millionaire Deathmatch." He mentioned embedded dynamic ads, where products are placed inside games (e.g., a hyperlinked BMW for James Bond). SONY envisions a "pay per play" distribution scheme, similar to pay per view. And they will deliver episodic content, where a game or interactive story progresses every week with user feedback.
Of course his presentation included many live demos and videos, including demos of recently released PS 2 titles. However, I noticed that the current PS 2 games are not fully scene antialiased, which leads to noticeable visual artifacts. I think this will be different over time when games take full advantage of the PS 2 hardware. But - as was noted at the conference - programming the PS 2 Emotion Engine's VLIW SIMD processor is not for the faint of heart... (Another advantage for the XBox.)
Hillis recently left Disney to form his own startup. The announcer said something about "research and having fun" - sounds similar to what he did at Disney. In his keynote he was paying reverence to the game developer community. It was a very good speech with only three slides, but very entertaining. Hillis predicted that the future Steven Spielbergs of interactive entertainment were in the audience.
Bentley, author of the great "Programming Pearls" series of books, gave an entertaining talk about programming tricks of the trade with a lot of audience participation. He started by asking: "How much water flows out of the Mississippi a day?" and went on with many similar problems. It became an exercise in asking the right questions - which is apparently the trademark of great programmers and debuggers. His talk and slides are online at HREF="http://www.programmingpearls.com/tricks.html"> http://www.programmingpearls.com/tricks.html
The exhibition was about one-third the size of the SIGGRAPH exhibition. The GDC is not a general gaming conference like E3, and consequently the exhibition focus was on game technology (sound, graphics, etc.) and not so much on the games themselves. All the major PC graphics vendors (NVIDIA, 3dfx, S3, ATI, etc. and Microsoft and Intel had prominent booths. Surprise, surprise - Apple had a large booth as well. Rumor has it that Apple is suddenly very committed to games and interactive entertainment. A notable absentee was SGI: as far as I could tell, there was not a single SGI machine to be found.
GigaPixel showed a very interesting demo of their GP-1 rendering chip. Yes, they finally have silicon! And it looks great. Their chip renders the scene in 32x32 pixel tiles, which cuts down dramatically on memory use. (I don't know how they manage to interface to the OpenGL and Direct3D APIs.) The GP-1 has full-scene antialiasing with 4x jittered super-sampling. In their demo they showed the GP-1 next to the NVIDIA GeForce 256 - and the difference in image quality was striking! I hope this will force full-scene anti-aliasing on all other vendors as well. Rumor had it that Gigapixel's chip will show up in the XBox. But Bill Gates' announcement made it clear that Microsoft will use NVIDIA chips. Nevertheless, Gigapixel already has three licensees.
3dfx showed off their new Voodoo 5 card, also with full-scene anti-aliasing. The difference was again striking, especially due to the lack of shimmering pixels or motion aliasing. They also showed a fun game that uses depth-of-field effects, essentially focusing attention on a particular character in the scene. The Voodoo 5 will be available in April.
Both AMD and Intel showed off their 1 GHz processors. Screaming performance, as they say. (Giving human attributes to processors is a bit scary, I think.) Intel had a very large booth where they showed off some of the graphics and vision technology from Intel research. They sponsored several talks about their graphics technologies, which they license through Digimation. Seems like a great idea to me.
It was remarkable how generous the exhibitors were with giving out free stuff: graphics cards, joysticks, web cams, you name it. There was a very large area where companies set up recruiting booths. The industry is doing well, and companies are hiring aggressively. One major difference to SIGGRAPH was that some exhibitors were giving out free beer. (Wow! :) Needless to say, the overall atmosphere was very relaxed and playful.
Many exhibitors had multi-player setups for Quake III. I found myself playing Quake III "deathmatches" and - of course - being blown to pieces. One company even hired a professional (!) Quake III player and was challenging anybody to beat her to win a large software package. Of course she blew everybody to smithereens - also called "to frag" somebody. It was a lot of fun to watch this!
Think SIGGRAPH, but without the hassle of begging for tickets. There
was a party every night, and - again - the companies were extremely generous
with food, drinks, and freebies. Somebody explained to me that the GDC
attracts a very uniform audience, so that companies can be quite sure their
generosity is targeting the right people. (With the exception of me, I
guess...) The highlight was on Saturday when the GDC rented the Great America
amusement park. Their "Top Gun" roller coaster beats any game hands down!
Electronic Entertainment Exposition 2000
Los Angeles, May 11 - 13, 2000
I spent two days at the the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, California. Attendance at the LA Convention center were about 100,000 people. The E3 Show is sponsored by the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA). All the major companies (Ninentendo, Sony, Sega, Microsoft, EA, etc) displayed their fall lineup of products. There were also some talks by major industry officials such as Bob Pittman, President and COO of America OnLine, Inc. (AOL).
The annual ACM SIGGRAPH conference held 23-28th July at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, Louisiana, showcased the most innovative and visionary theory and concepts in computer graphics to date. No exceptions to the outstanding quality in all aspects of the conference were made, with the standard breakdown of courses, papers, panels and parties lasting well into the night. This was my first SIGGRAPH, and like my peers and colleagues, game developers are attending in ever increasing numbers. It is my hope to shed a little light on these mysterious creatures, who are driving consumer hardware, rivaling the box office and emerging as a new breed of graphics professionals.
From day one with so many things occurring simultaneously, it was hard deciding on events to attend. Preparation and knowing what to expect were essential to getting the most out of the conference. Information on the Pathfinder's web site and a chapter on "How to attend a SIGGRAPH Conference" in Jim Blinnís "Dirty Pixels", were two invaluable sources of tips and background information.
Courses started Sunday with Disney's "The Art and Technology of Disney's 'Dinosaur'" and Tuesdays "Industrial Light + Magic: The Making of 'The Perfect Storm'" were inspiring presentations, discussing both artistic and technical problems faced during production of these ground breaking films. Being an 'interactive graphics' person, I attended Monday's course "Approaches for Procedural Shading on Graphics Hardware". The material covered new techniques and presented 3 different approaches in creating an interactive shading language. It would have been great to see the course topic extended to Interactive Photorealistic Rendering, including techniques such as the paper on "A Fast Relighting Engine for Interactive Cinematic Lighting Design".
"Advanced RenderMan2: To RI_INFINITY and Beyond" was an excellent discussion on the finer points of RenderMan and the technical challenges in the making of 'Toy Story 2' and 'Stuart Little'. It was a tough decision to attend this course, over "Advanced OpenGL" or "Games Research" but as made quite clear by Mondayís course, procedural shading and lighting will be critical for computer games in the coming years.
Ray Kurzweil's keynote, "The Human-Machine Merge: Why We Will Spend Most of our Time in Virtual Reality in the 21st Century", depicted a chilling yet highly compelling vision of the future. He described, from the study of exponential "S" growth curves, how and why a human-machine merge will occur, and the essential role computer graphics will play in this event. The keynote was so popular it was extended during the lunch break on Thursday.
Paper sessions began Wednesday, presenting the latest developments in cutting edge research. Subdivision presented theory and ideas for surface representation, with an excellent discussion on increasing geometric detail using displaced subdivision surfaces. Thursday's Simplification and Compression session discussed approaches on reducing mesh transmission bandwidth, and Efficient Rendering began with "Silhouette Clipping", a practical method to increase the perceived geometric detail, and concluded with "A Fast Relighting Engine for Interactive Cinematic Lighting Design", a truly innovative technique that moves a step closer to production quality rendering at interactive speeds.
Friday's session, Hardware Accelerated Rendering, discussed excellent techniques on shading, and the design of next generation graphics hardware. Lastly, Non-Photorealisic Rendering addressed algorithms to generate Cel, and stylized rendering facilitating the deformation of the Linux Penguin into classical art.
Panels started on Wednesday, and continued until Friday allowing technology leaders to present their ideas and visions of the future, including questions and discussion with the audience. Consumer products were on show at the expo, displaying the latest and greatest in hardware, software, and some really cool display technologies. Sony's GSCube was particularly frightening, rendering a shot from "Final Fantasy" the movie in realtime. "Emerging Technologies: Point of Departure" was a step into the future, with building sized screens, direct retina projection, and hardware concepts from the pages of a sci-fi book.
Finally Kurt Akeley, the 2000 Papers Chair, concluded with a video presentation by Eugene Fiume, next years Papers Chair. This was a call for papers and words SIGGRAPH 2001, in Los Angeles, California will have diversity never before seen, focusing on "Creating Interaction and Digital Images".
The week had finished as soon as it started, with SIGGRAPH 2000 leaving thousands drained and exhausted, but enlightened with the latest knowledge, trends and perhaps a clearer picture of the future. It was a conference similar to game developer events but with content of a much higher standard. There were only a few things that could be suggested: Firstly, not content but public speaking skills of some presenters could be improved and secondly, paper sessions presented excellent ideas and techniques, but there wasn't a great deal discussed that couldn't be extracted from the paper. It would have been nice to see more than the final solution such as alternate working, what approaches failed or developments since the initial submission.
Overall SIGGRAPH 2000 to me, as a game developer, provided insights into trends in graphics hardware, new techniques, and inspirations for future research. Aside from theory, the cross-disciplinary interaction between, film, the web, and the academic world was an eye-opener, and invaluable experience. ACM SIGGRAPH 2000 was a unique experience where art meets technology, paving the way of the future - something I highly recommend and will definitely be back for in 2001.
The goal of this special project, beginning in January 2000, is to establish an ongoing platform of interchange between these two communities.
Project Leader: Theresa-Marie Rhyne, ACM SIGGRAPH Director-at-Large
Tasks of the Outreach:
The ACM SIGGRAPH Outreach to the Computer Game Developers' Community will involve the four following steps:
Step #1: Determine in what ways Computer Game Developers can effectively contribute to the ACM SIGGRAPH community. This could be through submissions to the technical program (e.g. course, panels, papers, technical sketches), ad hoc discussions on computer game development techniques (e.g. small seminars in The Studio) and contributions to the Exhibition at the annual SIGGRAPH Conference. Other activities could include participation in the SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics newsletter and small conferences or workshops.
Step #2: Attend the March 8 - 12, 2000 Computer Games Developers Conference in San Jose, California to outreach directly in the computer game developers' arena.
Step #3: Prepare a report that highlights the information gained through implementing Steps 1 -2 that will be published in ACM SIGGRAPH's Computer Graphics newsletter and posted on SIGGRAPH's Web site. (March - April 2000)
Step #4: Report on the Computer Game Developers outreach efforts at SIGGRAPH Conference Advisory Group meetings and SIGGRAPH Executive Committee meetings. Evaluate additional steps that need to be taken for the outreach effort and execute these additional steps. (June - Dec. 2000)
We welcome your comments and insights on this collaboration, feel free to send an email to Theresa-Marie Rhyne (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Computer Game Developers 2000 Conference Web Site