Note: These are my raw scribbled notes. I need somewhere to keep them, so I might as well share...
The day for me started with J Allard's keynote "Vision The Future of Games: Unlocking the Opportunity". I won't go into any detail here has you can catch the whole thing on Major Nelson's site - he podcast the whole thing. Also, the text is now up on xbox.com.
One thing to note, when talking about the "remix generation", J explicitly called out podcasting and blogging. It was also cool to hear him talk about the launch of DirectX back in 1995 as I was there as part of that launch.
At the end of J's keynote, XBox and Samsung gave away 1000 (yes, one thousand) HiDef TV's. Basically each member of the audience was given either a yellow, black or red badge when they entered the ballroom. At the end of the keynote they ran a race in Forza Motorsport and when the yellow car one, all the people with yellow badge's got a shiny new HiDef TV. Cool! Except Microsoft employees weren't given a badge. Damn.
Next up was a panel session: "Game Design Challenge: The Emily Dickinson License". This was very cool with panellists Clint Hocking (Ubisoft: Splinter Cell), Peter Molyneux (Lionhead: just about the best game designer out there) and Will Wright (Maxis: The Sims, etc...) They had ten minutes each to outline a game design based on the life and works of poet Emily Dickinson.
Very impressive stuff, Will Wright won (based on audience cheers) with his design "USB Emily", where Emily would be a Tamagotchi/Clippy/Seaman style product delivered as a loss-leader on USB thumb drives.
Peter Molyneux had built a prototype called "The Room" - a very stunning visual demonstration based on the idea that poems are are compression technique for emotions and that it can then be protrayed visually.
Clint Hocking gave a great design based around constraints (marketing, platform, etc...) and then went into great detail about using the Nintendo DS's features (stylus, wireless) to explore design features.
After lunch I saw Peter Molyneux again with his lecture "Gameply Moves Forward Into the 21st Century". Here are notes, sorry if they're a tad unintelligable:
His premise is that games are maturing, and people can feel straightjacketed by current games and game genres. Quote: "Best way to predict the future is to invent it."
What is needed:
- Clear concepts The industry slowly becoming mass-market - the player does not want to learn how to play, he just wants to play. A sentence should convey the concept. Fable - "Be a hero", "Movies" - "Run a studio", GTA - "Be a gangster".
- More accessibility You have ten seconds to grab someone. At E3 Lionhead will get the press to demo the game instead of demoing to them.
- Simpler to understand
- Deeper interaction The things I can do must give me more things. Allow player to experiement and define character.
- Play and experiment
- Player's agenda
- Morphable gameplay Games should be made for multiple audiences, not just one.
And do new cool stuff. (censored - was another four letter word). Breaks previous rules ;-)
The Movies Demo - No UI or icons. AI guesses what the user wants to do next. Information is in the world.
Black & White 2 - God of War or God of Peace. A God game and a War game. Much easier to control, Black & White 1 was overly complex to control.
Last up for the day was "The Age Of Empires 3 Graphics Engine." It's fully 3D with shader paths from 3.0 all the way down to fixed function - the strategy is to go balls-out for the high-end and the low-end will sort itself out. For me, the biggest thing was that they're going fully HDR, supporting 64bit floating point render targets with alpha blending with all the cool goodness of bloom, EXR (from ILM) tonemapping. The bloom paths take advantage of FP bilinear to downsample.
All models store a precomputed ambient occlusion term per-vertex and use hemispherical sky/ground lighting.
The water simulation is precomputed to avoid overwhelming the CPU.
And that wraps it up for the day. Now I'm off to the IGDA awards ceremony. Tomorrow I'll post notes from more lectures and some overall thoughts about the event and expo.