Previewing GDC 2009: Inside The Visual Arts Track

[In the second of a series picking out the most notable Game Developers Conference 2009 lectures, sister site Gamasutra examines the Visual Arts Track, which includes talks from the Gears Of War 2, God Of War and Braid creators on cinematics, animation, and art in their games.]
Game Developers Conference 2009 (organized by Gamasutra parent company Think Services) is set to take place in San Francisco’s Moscone Center from March 23 to 27, 2009.
With nearly 280 sessions now confirmed for GDC 2009, we’ll be taking a track by track look at the conference’s line-up over the next few weeks.
Second on the list is GDC’s Visual Arts Track, which “delves into the nitty-gritty of the artistic side of games, and [also] offers longer format classes to allow speakers the time to walk attendees step-by-step through the latest tools and techniques.”
Notable highlights thus far announced for this track, which takes place on the main Wednesday to Friday of GDC (March 25-27), are as follows:


– In ‘Behind the Scenes: The Gears of War 2 Cinematics Pipeline’, Tanya Jessen and Greg Mitchell of Epic Games discuss how the company created a completely new development pipeline for the sequel – explaining how “pre-planning and locking down the timing early on in motion capture helped streamline the process in the end.”
– David Hellman’s lecture is called ‘The Art of Braid, and the artist responsible for the acclaimed title’s watercolor landscapes “will share the intentions and thought process behind his contributions to the game. Also included will be a demonstration of the level-building tools used to create the organic-looking environments.”
– Volition’s Chris Fortier is presenting ‘The Universal Character System in Saints Row 2′, explaining how character customization and the random NPC generator work in the multi-platform open world titles. Topics include “[the] universal body mesh, character morphing, normal map blending, layered clothing, shader-based customization features, how we assemble NPCs and how all this character variation affects animation.”
– Newly announced is ‘Self-Limiting Rigging Methodology Used on God Of War, from a trio of Sony Santa Monica and SCE technical artists, explaining the rigging processes and pipeline in making the latest in the franchise. They will be focusing on “self-imposed limitations on their processes and pipeline to achieve fast deployment, fast animator feedback, and fast runtime content.”
‘The Brutal Art of Brütal Legend, from Double Fine’s Lee Petty, examines how the Tim Schafer-headed developer “met the challenge of creating a unique, stylized look while also delivering a “AAA looking” game on the current generation of consoles.”
In addition, the full Visual Arts Track line-up to date includes many more notable lectures and roundtables, including modular procedural rigging, real-time tessellation and displacement mapping, ‘lighting with purpose’, making your project look better “without bloom and motion blur”, and more.