GDC 2013 Sessions: Blizzard Entertainment Speakers

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Diablo 3 News, StarCraft 2 News, World of Warcraft News

gdc-2013

The 2013 Game Developers Conference will take place in San Francisco, CA through March 25-29 (Expo dates: March 27-29).

The Moscone Center
747 Howard Street, between 3rd and 4th streets
San Francisco, CA 94103

Blizzard Entertainment has a strong presence at the GDC, as usual, with several developers from all three franchises.

Those who wish to visit the Blizzard Entertainment booth it may be found at the Business Center (North Hall) booth BMR101. It’s always a good idea to bring resume, portfolio and demo reel of your work to the event. Blizzard Careers have been at the GDC Career Pavillion in previous years.

Floor Plan


Speaker: Brian Kindregan (Lead Writer)
Title: How Hard Could It Be? The Story of a Cinematic
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Description: StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm embraces cinematics as a high-level storytelling tool, a tactic that has been under fire in the games industry in recent years.

This panel will examine the strengths and weaknesses of that approach by tracing the story development of one particularly difficult cinematic. By showing multiple versions of the animatic, we will track the differing speed of cinematic production vs. game design, the feedback we received, the choices we made, and how they impacted the story.

We will cover the obstacles that we overcame, those we didn't, and the lessons we learned.

Takeaway: Attendees will gain insights into the pros and cons of cinematics as a storytelling tool, and the tough choices that go into story-oriented cinematics. They will learn about the nuances of communication between the development and cinematics teams, and hear about the challenges and solutions in the cinematic process.
Intended Audience: Mid to lead designers who are learning to work with a cinematics team. Writers who are attached to either a development team or a cinematics team. Cinematic artists and directors who work with a game team. No prerequisite knowledge is required.
Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Main Conference Pass

Speaker: Erin Catto (Principal Software Engineer)
Title: Physics for Game Programmers
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Description: Game physics engines are used to create games like Angry Birds, Half-Life, Tomb Raider, Red Faction, MotorStorm, Limbo, and Diablo 3. Games would be far less compelling without the realistic physics simulation that engages the player's intuition and stimulates their motion awareness.

Physics has become a staple of the modern gaming tradition as we try to re-create and re-interpret the world around us. The Physics for Programmers tutorial brings together speakers from Blizzard, Dtecta, Havok, NVIDIA, Sony, and Valve. Topics include collision detection, continuous simulation, constraint solvers, and demos.

The focus is on rigid body physics and real-time simulation in games. There will be a mix of introductory topics, recent algorithms, and practical tips. Time is reserved for Q&A.

Takeaway: Attendees will learn fundamental elements and practical considerations for using collision detection and rigid body physics in games.
Intended Audience: Intermediate to advanced programmers looking to learn or build upon their math, collision detection, and physics skills. Knowledge of vectors, matrices, and some calculus is expected.
Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Summits, Tutorials & Bootcamps Pass

Speaker: Wyatt Cheng (Senior Technical Game Designer)
Title: Through the Grinder: Refining Diablo III's Game Systems
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Description: As with all Blizzard games, Diablo III went through many iterations before the final product was released. Wyatt will describe different game systems that were attempted, explored, and then ultimately removed. We'll go into detail about the pros and cons of each system, what worked and didn't work, and how the team used each failure to bring them closer to success.

1. Health Recovery: From Regenerative Damage Shields to potion dilution, where potions become less effective as you drink them, many different health recovery mechanisms were tried. What were the major issues with each of these systems and how did it lead to health globes in the end?

2. Controls. At Blizzard, control is king. Although simple on the surface, a number of iterations were required to polish the Diablo III interface, in order to provide the player with tight and responsive controls.

3. Skill System: The skill system underwent multiple revisions. Early systems involved different variations of point spending, an evolution from Diablo II. Later systems had runes, with multiple rune ranks that dropped as items, which could be used to modify skills.

Takeaway: Blizzard has a number of game design values. A postmortem on the development of Diablo III gives us an opportunity to see these game design values in action. Values such as "Control is King," "Avoid the Grand Reveal," and "What is the Fantasy." Ultimately these values are driven by iteration.
Intended Audience: This talk is intended for anyone who is interested in concrete examples of the iterative design process. It's particularly aimed at those who aren't afraid to peek behind the curtain to see failures, as well as successes. Portions of the talk will delve into technical detail, but nothing too scary.
Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Main Conference Pass

Speaker: Joe Rumsey (Principal Software Engineer)
Title: Network Serialization and Routing in World of Warcraft
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Description: Online games need robust, easy to use network APIs. No one should still be struggling with how to get their data from one place to another. JAM is World of Warcraft's inter-server serialization and routing layer.

This talk describes how JAM came to be, and how it is used today. Real world sample code from WoW and other Blizzard projects are used to illustrate key concepts, such as machine generated code for serialization, and dynamic protocol negotiation. Comparisons to similar open-source projects will be made.

Takeaway: Attendees will learn how World of Warcraft solved network serialization and routing issues. Code at both the application level and the internal networking level will be shown. Open-source alternatives will be presented, and the trade-offs will be detailed.
Intended Audience: This session is intended for programmers dealing with network serialization and routing in online games. Basic knowledge of networking practices and some experience with C++ is assumed.
Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Main Conference Pass

Speaker: Matt Schembari (Senior Software Engineer)
Title: Cutscenes Everywhere: The Tech Behind StarCraft II's Storytelling
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Description: This session will present how the new cutscene editor and its underlying engine were built in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. The talk will review the design process, and how having a user-focused approach shaped both the tool and engine alike.

It will then provide an overview of the technical design and architecture of these systems. Finally, the talk will discuss the emergent workflow that resulted in having the artists so heavily involved in the development process of their tool.

Takeaway: Attendees will gain insight into how the StarCraft II editor team employed a user-focused approach to build a new editor. In addition, they'll be provided with a technical design and architecture, so they can begin building their own cutscene editor or related tool.
Intended Audience: This talk is aimed primarily at tools programmers and others involved with the technical aspects of their team's art pipeline. Some experience as a tools or engine programmer is recommended.
Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Main Conference Pass

Speaker: Brian Schwab (Senior Software Engineer)
Title: Working with Designers: Scaling Your AI Both Up and Down
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Description: As game designs lean on AI more and more (finally!), there is an increasing need for a tighter interface between AI programmers and game designers. While much of this relationship is about communication, there are other important considerations that AI programmers can address to make their life with designers easier.

The first part of this lecture will offer suggestions on how querying designers can correctly help the programmer to design an architecture that will scale up to handle the inevitable feature expansions that spill out of design throughout production. The second portion of the session will present methods to gracefully scale down AI systems as needs change.

This includes "killing the baby," which is when a programmer is forced to cut out their wonderful, clever, elegant, amazing, best AI feature ever because it doesn't fit the overall design, or simply isn't fun.

Takeaway: This session will present practical, concrete, from-the-trenches advice on how to think ahead in the design of your AI, so that you can expand or contract as needed.
Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Summits, Tutorials & Bootcamps Pass

Speaker: Keith Self-Ballard (Art Manager)
Title: Art Director and Lead Artist Roundtable
keith-self-ballard-next-gen-mmo-art-manager2Description: The Art Director and Lead Artist Roundtable is an open forum intended to provide its attendees with both insight and information pertaining to the management, leadership, and direction of game development teams and studios. This session is devoted to the exchange of experience and approaches to the most pressing issues facing art directors, artists, and art culture.
Takeaway: Attendees will have the opportunity to interact with industry peers and listen to accounts of how different studios have dealt with similar problems. The purpose of this roundtable is the sharing of experience and the contrasting of ideas. Those with an eye toward future management or direction positions will have an opportunity to pose questions to the roundtable. Ultimately, one of our prime goals is the growth of art leadership and art culture across our industry.
Intended Audience: While this roundtable is understandably art-centric in its focus, it is open to attendees from any discipline who are eager to gain insight into how an art department functions. Attendees are not required to be current art leads or art directors; they are however, required to have an interest in how art leads and art directors identify and respond to challenges in our industry.
Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Main Conference Pass

Speaker: Andrew Vestal (Senior Localization Producer)
Title: English Is a Localized Language: Translating Diablo III
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Description: Items in Diablo III can have one of 400,000 possible names. How do you translate and test this huge pool of randomized content? By developing flexible systems up front that work for every language - including English.

This presentation outlines the development pipelines that allow localization to support Diablo III's high level of replay value and randomization. Special focus is given to conversation implementation, and the randomly constructed item and monster names.

Blizzard's internally developed localization tool will also be shown. Stop translating whatever the developers hand you, and start thinking of English as another localized language!

Takeaway: Attendees will learn how proactive localization development practices can improve the quality of all languages, and how Blizzard's internal localization tool supports both translation and QA.
Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Summits, Tutorials & Bootcamps Pass

Speaker: Blaine Whittle (Senior Software Engineer II, Team 1)
Title: Under the Hood of Blizzard's Internal Build System

Description: Game sizes at Blizzard and other game companies have grown significantly over the years. This has led to a situation where most game build systems are I/O bound, making it difficult to maintain fast build times.

This session will present Blizzard's in-house distributed, multi-platform build system, which was designed from the ground up to minimize disk and network IO, and to maximize scalability. Blizzard used this framework to reduce Starcraft II's build time from 6 hours to 30 minutes.

This session will cover the technical architecture of the build framework, and present a number of the scheduling algorithms involved.

Takeaway: Audience members will learn a number of strategies and techniques for scaling existing tool chains.
Intended Audience: This session is intended for tool chain programmers or programmers involved in cluster computing. Knowledge of existing build tools such as Make, Jenkins, Ant, etc. is recommended.
Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Main Conference Pass

Speaker: Jay Wilson (Game Director)
Title: Shout at the Devil: The Making of Diablo III
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Description: When building any game, but especially when it's a sequel to the beloved Diablo series, it's critical that you have a series of core design goals, or pillars, that you can use as a guide to making decisions and defining what you want the final vision of the game to accomplish.

In this postmortem, we'll explore the pillars that guided Diablo III's development and how well we felt we accomplished each of them. We'll focus specifically on the ones we feel we struggled with and the game design lessons we learned during those struggles.

Examples of specific challenges of living up to these values will be provided, prioritizing them against one another, and evaluating how well they were accomplished after Diablo III was released.

Takeaway: Attendees will receive insight into the value of defining the core design elements that will drive their game development. In addition, they will learn the importance of measuring their game against those values, and using that knowledge to iterate on the final product, both pre- and post-release.
Intended Audience: This talk is intended for a general audience, including those who are interested in game design as well as project leadership. Project leads of all levels will also gain the benefits of good lessons learned on driving and iterating a game's vision. The intention is for the talk to be general enough that specific knowledge of the Diablo series is not necessary, but such knowledge will be beneficial.
Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Main Conference Pass

Originally posted: February 5, 2013

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