Blizzard Entertainment has a strong presence this year at the 2012 Game Developers Conference (GDC) to be celebrated through March 5-9 in San Francisco. Follow the links to add them to your schedule builder. Simply click the checkbox to the left of each program at the landing page. GDC Attendee Tickets may be ordered here.

Those who wish to apply for a job at Blizzard Entertainment, bring your resume, cover letter and demo reel/portfolio. Blizzard Careers Team will be at the GDC Career Pavilion, Booth #1408.

Erin Catto (Principal Software Engineer)

Physics for Game Programmers
Tuesday 10:00am – 6:00pm

As the visual quality of games has improved, more attention has been given to other aspects of a game to increase the feeling of reality during gameplay and distinguish it from its competitors. One of the most rapidly growing fields is physical simulation, as shown by many of the latest games, from those on mobile platforms to AAA console games. Creating such a simulation may appear to be a daunting task, but given the right background it is not too difficult, and can add a great deal of realism to animation systems, and interactions between avatars and the world.

This tutorial continues the tradition of the “Physics for Programmers” tutorial by bringing together some of the best presenters in both gaming physics. Over the course of a day they will deepen programmers’ knowledge by focusing in on the topic of physical simulation and providing a toolbox of techniques for programmers interested in creating and using physics engines, with references and links for those looking for more information. The focus of the course is to study various pieces of the simulation pipeline and show how problems along the way can be solved and optimized using standard 3D mathematical concepts and engineering know-how. Topics include integration of a physics engine into a game, rigid body solvers, collision detection and contact resolution, physics on mixed CPU-GPU systems, rigid body destruction and networking for physics programmers. Sample code libraries and examples are provided.

Takeaway: Attendees will learn both basic elements of using and creating physics engines, as well as more specialized topics for those who wish to go further.

Intended Audience: Intermediate programmers looking to learn or build upon their physics skills. Knowledge of calculus and linear algebra expected.

Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Summits & Tutorials Pass

Bios: Erin got his start in the game industry at Crystal Dynamics where he wrote the physics engine for Tomb Raider: Legend. He is currently at Blizzard Entertainment working on the Domino physics engine used by Diablo III and other projects. He is the author of the Box2D open source physics engine, used to create Crayon Physics, Limbo, and Angry Birds. Erin holds a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics from Cornell University.

Christian Lichtner (Art Director)

The Art of Diablo 3

Making a sequel to the award winning classic Diablo2 poses many artistic challenges. While many games in today’s market try to top each other with the latest and greatest technology that inherently tends to drive the art direction – we decided to take a different approach. Our aim for Diablo3 was to create a painterly stylized world that takes full advantage of its fixed camera, while finding ways to enhance and support our core gameplay goals. Ultimately, making sure that players in Diablo3 suspend their sense of disbelief and become fully engulfed in the experience of saving the world of sanctuary.

Takeaway: Attendees will gain a behind the scenes look of what prime motivators influenced the art direction in Diablo3. What choices were made, and how it’s stylized painterly look, environments, and characters all support and enhance the game play goals set forth for the game on a fundamental level.

Intended Audience: This talk is aimed at game developers that are interested understanding how art direction and game play drive artistic choices. No prerequisite knowledge is required. Bring your mojo!

Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Main Conference Pass

Julian Love (Lead Technical Artist)

Giant Toads and Zombie Bears: Technical Art Re-envisioned for Diablo 3

From start to finish, Diablo 3’s technical art team challenged the notions of the traditional technical art role. The result is a team with broad capabilities with an emphasis on hands-on game development and intense design collaboration over the usual stuff for which technical art is known. This talk focuses on the motivations, philosophies and values that drive the Diablo 3 technical art team. Examples of how this approach impacted Diablo 3 will be covered, including key contributions to combat responsiveness, the game’s over the top visceral feel, the D3 class skill design process and how the team anticipated the project’s scripting and special effect needs, then transformed itself to meet them.

Takeaway: Attendees will learn how technical art can impact projects beyond tools, rigging or support roles. They will gain insights into retooling their own technical art departments, the benefits of team core values and how to gain stronger team buy-in through broad team involvement in the ideation phase.

Intended Audience: Part postmortem, part team building philosophy, part process reveal and part special effects insanity, this talk has something for almost everyone. However, this talk will be especially valid for Technical Artists looking to increase their impact and team leads who want to improve their team’s overall performance or engagement level.

Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Main Conference Pass

Brian Schwab (Senior AI/Gameplay Engineer II)

Less A More I: Using Psychology in Game AI
Tuesday 1:45- 2:45 Room 2006, West Hall, 2nd Fl

When dealing with game AI characters, psychology can’t help but come into play. Players process what they see and experience through a filter of expectations. We expect human-like game characters to exhibit human-like traits. A by-product of the quest to improve AI decisions, however, is that characters can begin to “feel” robotic and sterile. This session will begin by showing various psychological biases that we as game players bring to the experience. We will then show how characters can be imbued with simple affects to exploit these expectations in order to seem more “alive” and believable.

Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Summits & Tutorials Pass

Turing Tantrums: AI Developers Rant!
Monday 4:30- 5:30 Room 2006, West Hall, 2nd Fl

Sometimes things just need to be said. Saying them out loud in a room filled with (hopefully) like-minded people just makes it all the more interesting and cathartic. Seven AI developers – and one AI evangelist designer – from all corners of the industry will deliver quick, to-the-point and often humorous rants about what’s on their mind regarding game AI.

Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Summits & Tutorials Pass

Bios: Brian Schwab is a Senior AI/Gameplay Engineer at Blizzard Entertainment. He has over 15 years industry experience, including 13 published titles. He has worked seemingly forever on making engaging and fun game experiences by using a MacGyver style combination of anything nearby: be it academic AI techniques, hand rolled state/tree hybrid systems, or multiplying his birthday with the sum of the jump button presses divided by the number of current extra guys. Brian has done work in AI, gameplay, game design, and has even been lead designer on a few titles. He s worked at companies ranging from three person start ups to SCEA. His projects have ranged from edutainment to location based thrill rides to his current gig on a super-secret project at Blizzard. When not cramming fun into a C++ compiler, he has also spent a good deal of time writing. His book AI Game Engine Programming recently released its second edition, and hes also been an AI editor for the Game Programming Gems books.

Brian, during his 18 years of industry captivity, has made AI systems for many disparate products including educational titles, war simulations, sports games, and everything in between. At last count, he has fixed just over 14,600 bugs so far. He has led teams of 2-15 people, done a ton of design work in addition to his coding, and also wrote the book AI Game Engine Programming, now in its second edition. He was also AI section editor for Game Programming Gems 6 & 7, and has served on the planning council for the AIIDE conference for a while now. He’s currently working at Blizzard Entertainment on an unannounced title.

Keith Self-Ballard (Art Manager)

Art Director and Lead Artist Roundtable

The purpose of the art director / lead artist roundtable is to afford attendees the opportunity to discuss pressing issues which face artists and art culture in our industry. This session is intended to be an open forum on topics pertaining to art leadership, management, direction and development. In addition, this session is also dedicated to collecting advice for future art leads / directors as well as those who regularly collaborate with their own studio’s art department.

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 towards 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 culture across our industry.

Intended Audience: While this roundtable is (understandably) art-centric, 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

Bios: Keith Self-Ballard – I have been a professional developer in the gaming industry since 1998. Originally a production artist, I have contributed to a variety of titles including entries in the Deer Hunter, Myst, Everquest and Saints Row franchises. As a studio art director, I oversaw development of both Saints Row the Third and Red Faction: Armageddon. I am currently an Art Manager at Blizzard Entertainment overseeing production on Blizzard’s unannounced Next-Gen MMO

William Barnes (Senior Manager, Platform Services)

StarCraft II – Carte Blanche Localization
Tuesday 5:05- 6:00 Room 2002, West Hall, 2nd Fl

When Blizzard launched StarCraft II in July of 2010, it was lauded globally as one of the most thoroughly localized games ever. Jim Raynor enunciated perfect Korean, Dr. Hanson’s French was sublime, and Tychus Findlay spoke flawless Russian. The multi-player unit VO was every bit as entertaining in Italian as it was in English. The melting pot city streets of the multi-player maps hinted at Ridley Scott’s depiction of Los Angeles 2019. The in-game cut-scenes and pre-rendered sequences were tailored perfectly for eleven locales. And even the Map Editor was launched fully localized in 11 languages. Hear how and why Blizzard elected to localize StarCraft II as comprehensively as they did.

Takeaway: William Barnes, senior platform services manager at Blizzard, will discuss his creative VO lip-synch solutions, working with geometric text, the glory of localizing VO with no time restraints, radical localization that doesn’t alienate players and the necessary team dynamic essential for radical localization.

Eligible Passes: All Access Pass, Summits & Tutorials Pass

Bios: William Barnes is a localization professional working for Blizzard Entertainment in Shanghai, China. His current title is Senior Manager for Platform Services overseeing the localization and quality assurance for Blizzard’s games released in China.