GDC 2009: Day 4

March 28th, 2009 · No Comments

More physics and fluid dynamics! YAY! Ok, actually less physics and fluid dynamics theory, and more on their role in game design. The first talk was How Sackboy Learned To Love Physics by Dave Smith co-founder of Media Molecule which produced the triple-award winning Little Big Planet. The talk wasn’t so much about the physics used to create the game as it was about how physics can influence design. Any game that has onscreen movement must include some level of physics, but how much? Is more always better? The example that Dave used was Donkey Kong. Of course there is some physics involved since there is certainly movement, and there has to be some level of collision detection. However, now we have more sophisticated hardware and can perform full 3D rigid-body simulations at 60 Hz, would Donkey Kong be a better game if it were rendered in 3D will full physics? Of course not, so rather than applying mad amounts of physics to every single game, a designer needs to consider how much physics to include. There is a trade off, the more physics and dynamics one includes in a game, the less control the designer will have over the direction of the game play, and the greater the risk of a kablamo resulting from unanticipated paradoxes or crashes. As a physicist, my default reaction is “Yay more physics!”, however, after hearing Dave’s talk, I can certainly see that, in a game environment, high-end physics simulation can sometimes get in the way of game design. Its back to the overall theme I’ve been seeing all week, know when it’s “good enough!”

Hideo Kojima's keynote talk

Hideo KojimaThe second big keynote talk was given today by none other than Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear series of games, the first of which gave birth to the genre of stealth games. Although he wasn’t as dynamic of a speaker as Mr. Iwata, he had a lot of really great insights about game design. The major takeaway that I got from his talk was the three basic elements to overcoming obstacles in game creation: hardware technology, software techniques, and game design. When limited by the hardware, one must be more creating with the software techniques that one employs and the design of the game play. The reason why the original Metal Gear became a stealth game was because of the limitation of the MSX2 platform for which the game was being built. Each iteration of the game over the past two decades had to overcome similar challenges. As the hardware improved, more and more was possible, but also more and more was expected, so clever game design was still very critical to the commercial success of the series.

The poster presentations were pretty sparse this year, but there was one very good one from Dr. Michael Gourley at University of Central Florida on the modeling of fluid turbulence. Check out this video demonstrating his simulation methods.

Wind tunnel simulation

The last interesting session for the day was titled Beauty of Destruction. I should have read the abstract instead of just the title. I saw the title and thought that it was going to be a discussion of the animation and simulation techniques for modeling destruction of game objects, but rather is was a discussion of using the C++ destructor function. This is NOT what I had expected, but it was certainly interesting.

After the end of the day’s sessions, I met up with my good friend Steve who now works at Berzerkly and we ventured out to Johnny Foley’s again and had fantastic cottage pie, Guinness, and a desert of Bushmill’s 16yr single malt. YUM! I won’t bore you with all of the incredibly nerdy conversation we had regarding fluid dynamics, stress tensors, and the pitfalls of SPH, but that wasn’t all we discussed. After seeing my haul of swag, he was super jealous! The AGU conference doesn’t have swag anywhere half as cool as GDC. We also spent a lot of time discussing how excited we were about the coming IndyCar season and especially the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. It was a good evening. I’ll see you in May, Steve, and I have your uber piece of swag!

Tags: Gaming · Science

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