Thursday, March 12, 2015

GDC 2015 Takeaways: So Much VR!

Well the whirlwind of excitement from GDC has come to an end and I've finally had the chance to sit down and write about my experiences. There weren't as many bizarre adventures this time around, but I met a lot of interesting people and got to see tons of cool new things. As the title of this post mentions, the VR presence on the show floor this year was almost overwhelming.

From full body motion suits to omni directional treadmills, more than ever there seems to be a heavy focus of getting the player "inside the game." Whether we're entering the future we always dreamed of or whether it will just turn out to be another Wiimote wagglefest is yet to be determined. But this revolution is coming whether we like it or not. Personally I haven't been sold on it completely yet, but I did experience some really cool demos.

My favorite wasn't necessarily even gaming related, but it opened up the door to some really cool ideas. At Virt's VR Mixer, I tried out something called JauntVR. It uses a 360 degree camera to record live-action footage that is later viewed with a headset. The demo I tried put me on the stage of a George Harrison concert and allowed me to turn my head in any direction as if I were actually there. With the crowd cheering, the pyrotechnics going off in front of me, and surround sound blasting in my ears, it was a pretty incredible experience. There is still a bit of a disconnect when you view CG that close to your face, but with live action I think there is a bit more immediate potential. Can you imagine attending live concerts, sporting events or even conferences with this kind of technology? It sounds pretty amazing to me!

I also attended an art portfolio session with a handful of art directors including Shawn Robertson (of Irrational) and Wyeth Johnson (of Epic). They provided a ton of amazing advice that will definitely help to improve my web portfolio. The biggest surprise was that most art directors don't like when modelers have demo reels. The main reason for this is that they can't view individual models on their own time and are instead stuck viewing what you think is important. It forces them to rewind and skip around to take another look at a particular model. I know a lot of amazing artists who include turntables and such in their portfolios, so this was quite a shock to hear from the pros.

I took a ton of notes during the session but some of the other highlights were:
  • Render in-engine (preferably what the studio you're applying at uses)
  • Each piece should have sketches, individual prop renders, UV layout
  • Never be afraid to re-apply at a studio again down the road, but never apply using the same portfolio content.
  • You will be judged by the worst piece in your portfolio, so everything you include should be able to completely represent you as an artist (which means I'm going to be trimming some fat from my portfolio very soon!)
  • Most studios don't care what tools you know - they care more about your skills:
    "We can teach you any tool in 2 months"

Hopefully some of that advice is helpful to you. I know it was to me. In addition to sessions, I also got to play some really fun new games on the show floor. Amplitude and Gang Beasts were two of my favorites. I really wanted to try Bloodborne as well, but the line for that seemed to get even longer every time I passed by! But overall the conference was a great success, and I am already excited for next year.

Lastly, I wanted to show a bit more of the Soup Can Alley project that I put together before GDC. I was still piecing it together just hours before my flight left, so I didn't get the chance to post about it last week.

There's still a bit of work I'd like to do to it, but the video above is the general idea. I would definitely love some feedback if you have any thoughts on it. Eventually I plan to add a title screen to the beginning. These are a couple of the different concepts for that:

While I feel that this one looks interesting, this would require animating that 2D smoke and I'm not sure it's something I want to pursue. Instead I am a bit more interested in showing slow moving 3D art with text overlayed atop it. This is the kind of title screen you see in games like MGS4, Persona 4, Wolf Among Us, and Heavy Rain.

The idea here is that everything in the title sequence would be in classic black & white. It would show the outside window with rain pouring down, a close up of the cigarette in the ash tray, and a shot of the detective deep in thought like the mockup above.

I learned a lot about Unreal 4 through this project, especially particle effects. Through the electricity, cigarette smoke, rain, and purple fog monster, this was probably the most heavily I've jumped into VFX for a single project. I also spent a lot of time in Matinee, using a lot of different camera tracks. It was definitely a good learning experience.

Without a doubt though, the most time consuming aspect of this project was the main character. There are a lot of little pieces that come together to make him work, and I'm proud of how far he has come since beginning life as a school project years ago. 

I love comparison shots, so I'll end by contrasting this with my old work. It has definitely come a long way. Anyways, apologies for the lengthy blog post, but I had a lot to say this time. I will probably post one more update on The Case of Soup Can Alley soon, but as usual, my head is already overflowing with ideas for my next project. I won't say too much about it just yet, but it is going to have a more stylized, cartoony feel to it. Thanks for reading. Until next time... adios!

(By the way, my website if officially live now so you can actually view this blog directly on as well!)