So many cool things to talk about but I'm going to post some of the highlights of my time in San Fran. I have to say that I came back totally inspired and ready to work more on my portfolio and personal projects. I haven't updated in a while but I was busy working on projects, helping friends move, visiting family, and then GDC hit. March was kind of a crazy month for me. Now I can get back into the swing of things. Weirdly I did't take a whole lot of pictures this time while in San Fran and I'm a bit disappointed at that. I wanted to get atleast one of me under the GDC banner again this year but I was too busy running around from talk to talk, and meeting up with old friends.
First off I actually had a Main Conference pass this year so I got to hit up a bunch of the talks. I went to a few talks about next gen shaders and material systems, as well as facial rigging set-ups which were all super cool and exciting to see(especially the realtime ambient occlusion systems) but the ones I found the most inspirational on a personal level were the Guacamelee art talk and the Child of Light talks...
I've been kind of in love with the Rayman series 2D reboot coming from Ubisoft for a while now and ever since I heard about their Ubiart framework and how they've empowered their artists to push their creativity with this great toolset, I've been intrigued by their process. They are beautiful and fun platformers you should check out, I have both on PC and my PS3:
This is a pretty good breakdown of how they used the Ubiart framework for Rayman Legends as well:
1. Preventing clashes between artists and designers(this seemed to happen a lot and tons of good art was wasted when bad design was thrown out)
2. Secret to design in the Rayman reboot: RIF or RAPID ITERATIVE FAILURE
3. Fail often-prove concepts first really fast
4. No Idea is sacred-iterate or die
5. Learn to let go of initial idea
6. Don't waste anyone's time but your own-prove or disprove your design before moving forward
7. Don't waste artists or programmers time
8. Work separately them come together
9. Pass work back and forth quickly
Ubiart works in layers so that artists and designers can work simultaneously on a level.
10. Artists can give designs constraints based on visual appeal-great design can come from these restraints
Child of Light
Victorian Age Illustration Influences
He went over several concepts of how the game came to be, but the coolest part of the art style is how they referenced old school children's books and illustrators from the Victorian era(roughly 1830-1900), which is considered the Golden Age of illustration. One of the artists he mentioned were Arthur Rackham. I'm kicking myself because I didn't write down the other influences he mentioned, but I will try to get them once the talk is released to the GDC vault.
This was especially interesting to me because in undergrad I had studied printmaking and Victorian age techniques for illustration myself and was so happy to see someone from the modern games industry take an interest in this era of art. Too often I feel like no one wants to go past the 1900s in terms of illustration or art influence in the games or comic industry, and the Victorian era is often overlooked for more well known movements like the Renaissance, Baroque or even the more modernist ones like Art Nouveau and Art Deco.
It was cool to see that Patrick Plourde, who comes from a AAA game background, wanted to make something so beautiful and lighthearted. He admitted during the talk that he played mostly JRPGs in his spare time and that this was a dream personal project for him. He also talked a lot about how hard it was initially to convince his AAA colleagues to get behind this style of game, and how he was totally ok with the idea of a female protagonist but many were not. One of his most potent anecdotes was talking to a guy at a bar who said that "he would never play this game because it had a female main character" and Plourde's reaction was basically he(Plourde) didn't care because that dude wasn't his target audience anyways.
One interesting design/art problems was the flow of Aurora's hair. Plourde wanted her to have very flowy liquid-type hair but this was harder to achieve in 2D so her actual character is a 3D model with node based hair folicles that move like water. Another problem was getting her to look as if she were properly moving along the 2D art paths without going behind the image planes that make up the environmental pieces. Since the Ubiart framework is made to be 2D they had to rewrite parts to allow for her 3D model to be animated offscreen and the avatar you control is really a video projection onto a plane in front of the main camera.