2007 Sandbox Symposium


Rapid Prototyping: Visualizing New Ideas

Henry LaBounta, Panel Moderator

WW Studios Chief Visual Officer, Electronic Arts, Vancouver BC

As World Wide Studios Chief Visual Officer, Academy Award nominee Henry LaBounta uses his 20+ years in computer animation and applies them in overseeing the visuals of EA's games.

LaBounta joined EA in 2001 as Senior Art Director for "SSX3" and has also worked with many game teams including "Need for Speed" and "NBA Street". He came to EA via PDI/DreamWorks where he supervised visual effects for the Steven Spielberg film "Minority Report". Other recent film credits include "A.I.", "Mission Impossible 2" and "Forces of Nature". He originally joined DreamWorks in 1996 to supervise the climactic Red Sea sequence in "The Prince of Egypt".

Prior to joining DreamWorks he worked at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) on many feature films including: "Twister", "Casper" and "Star Trek VII Generations."

Position Statement:

Creating new IP or even new Game Features can be a challenging endeavor. How can you be sure that the new idea will work short of just building the game? Rapid prototyping new ideas is becoming even more important now that games are getting more complex and expensive to build.

This panel will discuss techniques they've used to prove out new ideas through rapid prototyping. Examples will range from visualizing a game play level in 2D with Flash to using Virtools to quickly develop a playable 3D prototype. Attendees will see some of the techniques that have been used for a variety of games including 'Spore', 'Boogie' for the Wii as well as handheld Nintendo DS games. There are many options to consider, everything from quickly coding directly with XNA to Game Sketching which is a new low tech human interactive way of simulating a game experience with interactive HI (human intelligence).

Attendees will leave with a better understanding of how game sketching and prototyping can answer specific design questions as part of the creative process for making interactive entertainment. Attendees will also see some of the many potential tools available to them for rapid prototyping. Panel discussion will include insight into what process, tools and techniques worked best for solving which problems.

Creating entertaining games is a very iterative process and rapidtyping is a counter-intuitive idea. The quickest way to build a good game is to first rough 'sketch' something, test it, throw it away, repeat and then build only what actually works.

Chaim Gingold, Prototyping on Spore

Game Designer, Maxis/Electronic Arts, Emeryville CA

Chaim is the design lead for Spore's editors and cell game, and has done extensive prototyping across the project. Prior to joining Maxis/Electronic Arts, he studied at Georgia Tech, where wrote a masters thesis about player creativity and game aesthetics. He has spoken at GDC and around the world on prototyping, game design, and player creativity. Growing up, his favorite toys were Transformers and Legos.

Position Statement:

Prototyping is much like the mystical Force of Star Wars: without it, the universe would fall apart. The prototyping force can be used for great good, but if the power of prototyping falls into the wrong hands, or just clumsy ones, it can be used for great evil. Prototyping is one of the most powerful tools developers have at their disposal for exploring the space of possible designs. Software development is inherently difficult and game development even more so, so experimenting with new ideas cheaply, iterating, and communicating them via prototypes is indispensable. Prototyping used improperly, however, can flip the sign bit on these gains.

Jeremy Townsend, Rapid Prototyping with XNA

Producer, Tiburon/Electronic Arts, Orlando FL

In 2005 Jeremy Townsend joined EA Tiburon as a Game Designer to help diversify Tiburon's sports-centric development portfolio.   He is currently a Game Designer in the EA Tiburon Original IP group who is applying his design philosophy to several titles in development.   Townsend started working on games in the late 90s as a designer and animator before changing hats to earn his Computer Science degree from Georgia Tech.   Since then his generalist approach has been useful in creating game play focused prototypes with a variety of media.

Position Statement:

Given the complexity inherent in 3D games it is natural to assume that the development of any new 3D IP requires great risk, greater investment, and even more faith.   Armed with science, cutting edge tools, and modern development processes, Game Designer Jeremy Townsend will share a number of techniques that the EA Tiburon Original IP group uses to dispel the notion of "faith based" play design.   In practice these techniques allow small groups to rapidly prototype and iterate on the play of a 3D game before committing to full production of an interactive 3D experience.

Kyle Gray, Rapid Prototyping using Flash

Producer, Tiburon/Electronic Arts, Orlando FL

Kyle Gray is currently the lead designer on the Small Games Team.   Prior to joining EA-Tiburon in the summer of 2005, he was part of Carnegie Mellon University's Experimental Game play Project. In 2006 he spoke with Kyle Gabler at GDC on the topic of "How to Prototype a Game in 7 Days."

Position Statement:

Kyle Gray will be speaking about his prototyping process as part of EA - Tiburon's Small Games Team.   Using Flash, the team of 2 prototyped an original DS title in less than 3 months: art, design, sound, code and all!   Prototyping is an essential, and often under looked, part of game development.   With rising team and tech costs, it's more important than ever that designers spend more time experimenting (and failing) during the prototyping phase rather than later when the cost of change is too high.

Dr. John Buchanan, Game Sketching

Director, Entertainment Technology Center, Carnegie Mellon, Melbourne AU

Fired from his first job for playing video games Dr. John Buchanan is now the University Liaison officer for Electronic Arts.   After getting fired from his job as a janitor John went to the University of Windsor where he pursued a double honors degree in mathematics and computer science.   In his last year there he wrote a shareware game.   This game grossed 10$.   Unsatisfied with his first attempt to break into the video game market he proceeded to do his MSc at the University of Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Ron Baecker.   Then a small trip west and north ended in Vancouver where John pursued his PhD under the supervision of the late Dr. Alain Fournier.   In 1993 realizing that he had traveled as far west as he could without swimming he headed back east and north to Edmonton where he spent five years as an Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta.   There he investigated the use of computers to generate Non Photorealistic Images.   After this he took a leave to visit Radical Entertainment, a video game company, in Vancouver.   Two months later he joined Electronic Arts Canada as the senior research scientist of a three person research group.   He was then Director, Advanced Technology for the Canadian studio and University Liaison Officer for the company world wide.   From 2002 - 2006 he focused entirely on the University Research Liaison aspect of his job.   During this time he frequently visited the Entertainment Technology Center of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.   The ETC has been recognized industry wide as the leading advanced degree in digital media.   In May 2006 he was invited to join the ETC and help establish a campus for the school in Adelaide South Australia.   He is currently the director of the South Australian ETC and professor of Computer science for the pacific rim campuses of the ETC.   He is also currently working with Singapore universities towards a future expansion of the ETC into Singapore.

Position Statement:

In every other creative design field there is a concept of a sketch.  The game industry has not adopted this term.  Instead we find ourselves with a  confusing number of terms such as early prototype, final prototype, vertical slice, etc.  My talk will focus on the introduction and definition of the term game sketching and will also make an impassioned plea for us to stop using prototype (proof that we can build it) tools for exploring in the creative/ideation stage.  As part of this talk I will also have a demo of the current software platform used for Game Sketching.

Vander Caballero, Prototyping game play with Virtools

Game Designer, EA Montreal, Montreal, QB

Vander Caballero has been the Design Director of EA Montreal since its opening in 2004. While his main focus has been to introduce innovation by changing the game design process, he has also worked in collaboration with Alain Tascan, in the development of EA's newest original IP "Army of Two" & "BOOGIE". Before joining the Montreal Studio, Vander worked as an Art Director for the FIFA franchise at EA Vancouver. Vander studied Industrial Design at the "Instituto Europeo de Design", Italy. Upon his arrival in Montreal in 1998 he began to work in Virtual Reality & Architectural Visualization. In 1999, along with Daniel Langlois (Softimage founder), he co-founded the Montréal Studio 4-Elements. There Vander dedicated himself to the development of games--including 3DO's "Army Men" and Southpeak's "Dukes of Hazard" franchise. Since joining EA Montreal, Vander has been a Chapter Adviser in the IGDA Montréal Chapter.

Position Statement:

Shifting power:

"In the beginning of cinema power was held by those few people who could create a cinematographic camera",

Sounds familiar?

With today's technological advances in tools like "Virtools", artists and designers can actually create interactive prototypes to prove their ideas.

Based on my experience I can see the shifting of power, in the past people challenged my ideas constantly and many, many of them where rejected. Today, with prototypes, people have a hard time refusing my ideas. If you have an interactive prototype people have a hard time shooting down your ideas.

Open Source Tool Chain

Mark Barnes, Panel Moderator

Mark Barnes joined Sony Computer Entertainment US R&D in July 2003 as a Staff Software Engineer where he is the Project Lead for COLLADA and the Khronos COLLADA work group chairman. He has given presentations about COLLADA design and features at Siggraph 2004-2006, Imagina 2005, IGDA SF 2005, and GDC 2005. Mark ' s experience and knowledge in the field of visual simulation includes database tools, distributed processing, and real-time graphics. Mark is well known for his work on the OpenFlight format while at MultiGen-Paradigm Inc.

Position Statement:

New and better tools are needed for video game production! Video game quality is no longer limited by console hardware performance. On the contrary, the current generation of consoles are starved for high quality content that is stressing the capabilities of artists using proprietary tools whose features are lagging behind the needs of the industry. Your next-gen gaming experiences are being held back for lack of innovations in the tools of a very few companies with bloated, expensive products. The video game industry thrives on innovation and creativity and is searching for solutions! Open source software is prevalent in computer graphics today. As game production becomes more expensive and complicated, it's valuable to quickly combine available software packages to support novel tool pipelines rather then creating an entire pipeline from scratch. Our panelists are primarily the project managers for open source projects and are here to discuss the motivation, collaboration, and integration of open source tool pipelines that meet the growing demands of next-gen game developers.

Jon Phillips

Jon Phillips ( www.rejon.org ) is an Open Source developer, artist,
writer, educator, lecturer, and curator with 13+ years of xperience
creating communities and computing culture. His involvements with mixing culture and software development have been presented internationally at Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (2006), Sun Yat-Sen University (2006), Desktop Developers Conference (2005), SFMoMA (2004), University of Tokyo
(2004), Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology (2004), UCLA Hammer Museum's Digital Storytelling Conference, UC-Berkeley's 040404 Conference (2004), USC Aim Festival IV (2003), and the ICA London (2002). He is a core Open Source developer on Inkscape ( http://www.inkscape.org ), a scalable vector graphics editor, the Open Clip Art Library ( http://openclipart.org ), and is writing/producing a book, "CVS: Concurrency, Versioning and Systems." Currently, he is visiting faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute ( www.sfai.edu ) in the Design+Technology department and is community developer for the Creative Commons ( www.creativecommons.org ).

Phillips completed his MFA in June of 2004 at the University of
California, San Diego, where he studied with Lev Manovich
( http://www.manovich.net/ ) and additionally with Sheldon Brown, Geof Bowker, Jack Greenstein and Joseph Goguen. He completed a BFA, New Media, at the Kansas City Art Institute where he studied with Patrick Clancy ( http://www.patrickclancy.org/ ). He is affiliated with San Francisco Art Institute, Overlap ( http://overlap.org ),   FreeCulture.org ( http://freeculture.org ) and various free and open communities.

Position Statement:

Game Development is a process with many variables including number of developers, proper tools to do the job, shifting timelines, and actively rearranged resources. Building upon open source, where the source is easily amendable and the tools are aplenty increases productivity of a development studio and allows for an organization to focus on making a quality game. In this section of the presentation, Jon Phillips will discuss how to further lower transaction costs with open content licenses provided by Creative Commons. These licenses will be exemplified and shown through the Open Source drawing program, Inkscape with images from the public domain user collection, Open Clip Art Library. By both using open source tools and open content, it will be shown how a studio can clear away the noise of development and focus on the signal of solid game development .

Erwin Coumans

Erwin Coumans is working as Simulation Lead for Sony Computer  Entertainment America. This involves optimizing Physics Simulation for  Playstation 3 CELL, and steering the COLLADA Physics specification. Born  in the Netherlands, he studied Computer Science at Eindhoven University.   After working for Guerrilla Games, now part of SCE Worldwide Studios, Erwin worked on Collision Detection and Physics development for Havok in  Ireland and SCEE in London.
 He is involved in Open Source projects like COLLADA and Blender and  started the Physics Forum and Bullet Physics Library at   http://bulletphysics.com .

Position Statement:

Physics based animation is an active area of research and development.   Movie and game projects are using fracturing and deforming objects interacting with rigidbody, fluid and cloth simulation. Character animation is blending input from technologies like rigidbody ragdolls, inverse kinematics, animation and balancing models steered by a behavioral model.
Those technologies require a lot of CPU power, and are often implemented using the latest hardware features like SIMD and parallelism through multi core processors.

Erwin Coumans will be discussing how open source physics library Bullet ( http://bulletphysics.com ) supports collaboration in various directions.   Some examples:

•  Playstation 3 licensed developers benefit from a parallel SPU optimizated version of Bullet, while the Zlib license allows commercial usage on other platforms.

•  Open source nature allows developers to take all or parts of the C++ software, optimize and customize it entirely to their needs.

•  Bullet supports COLLADA Physics through the optional COLLADA-DOM and libxml library to import and export rigidbody and collision data from popular 3d modelers like Maya, Max and Blender.

Morgan McGuire

Dr. Morgan McGuire is an assistant professor at Williams College, where he is establishing a computer graphics lab with a research focus on video sensor networks and video games.   His contributions to computer graphics include techniques for identifying foreground objects in video, including the first unassisted natural video matting method, and algorithms for real-time rendering in games. He is the co-chair of the 2008 symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics and Games (I3D) and on the editorial board of the A. K. Peters game development textbook series. Dr. McGuire is the project manager and founder of the open source G3D graphics library and iCompile cross-platform build system.

Prior to coming to Williams in 2006, he worked in commercial game development at Iron Lore Entertainment, ROBLOX Corporation, and Blue Axion, and in business-to-business graphics software development at PeakStream, Curl, and Oculus. He received his M. Sc. and Ph. D. in Computer Science from Brown University in 2006 for developing a multiview video camera and M. Eng. from the Massachusetts Institute of   Technology in 2000 for developing a programmable hardware graphics system.

Position Statement:

Games are not about characters, stories, graphics, or sound.   They are about interaction.   The approaching long-tail of internet distribution favors games that deliver new experiences.   Games with stale interaction and massive quantities of expensive content are neither sustainable nor compelling in this market.   Instead developers must discover how to leverage technology to support not just artistic creativity but also gameplay creativity. The recipe for developing creative gameplay is clear: replace   monolithic, cookie-cutter game engines with flexible modules. Interoperable modules let designers rapidly innovate on   gameplay.   Open source tools embrace interoperability and flexibility.   For years researchers have used these tools to explore radical new ideas for graphics publications.   Industry is increasingly adopting mix-and-match open source tools like ODE, G3D, Lua to build innovative gameplay and reduce technology licensing costs.   Companies that invest in open source and open pipelines will find themselves nimble and creative in the face of rapid game development; those that don't will only see their content budgets skyrocket without a proportional return.

Gary Bradski

Dr. Gary Rost Bradski is VP of  Emerging Technologies at Rexee Inc. He is also a consulting professor in the CS department at Stanford University, AI  Lab where he mentors robotics research  He has a BS degree in EECS from U.C. Berkeley and a PhD from Boston University. His current interest is in applying highly scalable statistical models in computer vision. Some external tools he started for this are the Open Source Computer Vision Library (OpenCV http://sourceforge.net/projects/opencvlibrary/ ), the statistical Machine Learning Library (MLL comes with OpenCV), and the  Probabilistic Network Library (PNL).  OpenCV is used around the world in research, government and commercially (for example in wide use within Google).  All libraries are open, and free on Source Forge for commercial or research purposes. The vision libraries use and helped develop a notable part of the commercial Intel performance primitives library (IPP).  Gary organized and worked on the vision system for Stanley, the robot that won the DARPA Grand Challenge autonomous race across the desert for a $2M team prize.  He lives in Palo Alto with his wife and 3 daughters and bikes road or mountains as much as he can.

Position Statement:

Computer vision is advancing more than the public is aware of.  Recent successes in robotics (the winning of the $2M  Darpa Grand Challenge Robot Race), Google and Microsoft's fusing of massive image bases in their Maps and Earth views along with examples of massive scaling in recent work by Zisserman's  and Nister's lab show this progress. OpenCV is used as a substrate in many of these efforts. Vision can play a role in games by motion tracking to transfer realistic motion into movies or to deduce camera motion; segmentation and 3D capture can be used to input models; robot vision allows potential interaction of games with robots; and finally vision can serve as an interface.  OpenCV is a free and open library under a BSD license that allows free commercial use.  It is increasingly multi-threaded using OpenMP and it seamlessly takes advantage of Intel's Integrated Performance Primitives libraries for run time acceleration. With OpenCV comes a lesser known but powerful statistical machine learning library suitable for AI and object recognition tasks.  OpenCV vastly lowers the bar for considering uses of computer vision and AI in games and other fields.

Ton Roosendaal

Ton Roosendaal is Blender's creator, and the co-founder of NeoGeo, the largest 3D animation house in the Netherlands in the nineties. Mr. Roosendaal founded Not a Number (NaN) in 1998 to market and develop Blender. In March 2002, he started the non-profit Blender Foundation with the goal of resurrecting Blender as an open source software project. A deal was reached with the   company's investors to initiate a fundraising campaign to buy back the rights to Blender, at a cost of €100,000. Thanks to an

enthusiastic group of volunteers including several ex-NaN employees, along with donations from thousands of loyal Blender supporters, the €100,000 target was reached in seven short weeks. Blender was then freely released to the world under the terms of the GNU General Public License. Since 2002, Mr. Roosendaal is working full time employed by the Blender Foundation to coordinate Blender projects, ranging from software development to manual publishing. He is also the producer of the CG short film

Elephants Dream.

Position Statement:

Open source tools have already proven to be of value in the creation   pipeline for current and next-gen gaming content. It has a steady and   growing relevance for the game industry, but - although it has a lot of   visible exposure - I consider of minor importance for an organization   like the Blender Foundation. Instead of targeting to bring Open Source into the game industry, I   rather reverse this by targeting on getting high-end tools and pipeline   technology into the hands of independent game makers, small teams or   individuals who deserve to have the best tools and technology to make   content as well.   Related to that is also the distribution platform; openess and freedom to spread or sell games is of great relevance to support.