GDC Spotlight Interviews: Google, Oculus and Facebook

| FEBRUARY 2017

In This Issue:

  • Oculus – In this interview, Oculus’ Steve Arnold updates GDC attendees on what’s next for the VR company, and what we can expect out of virtual reality development in 2017.
  • Google Play – In this interview, Google Play’s Jamil Moledina talks about his current strategy for games: how developers can make their games successful on Android and get the most out of VR/AR and other emerging technologies.
  • Facebook – In this interview, Facebook’s Leo Olebe gets GDC attendees caught up on what’s next for Facebook’s VR business and its burgeoning Instant Games.

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GDC Spotlight Interviews: Unity and Amazon Lumberyard

| JANUARY 2017

 

In This Issue:

  • Unity – In this interview, Unity’s Clive Downie catches us up on what’s new for the engine-maker in 2017, and what’s next in VR development at GDC 2017.
  • Amazon Lumberyard – In this interview, Amazon’s Hao Chen lends some insight on what to expect from Lumberyard in 2017 and lessons learned from 2016.
  • Amazon Lumberyard – In this interview, Amazon catches us up on almost a year of developers working with Lumberyard, and shares tips on integrating Twitch broadcasting and functionality in their games.

Clive Downie
Clive Downie
Chief Marketing Officer

In this interview, Unity’s Clive Downie catches us up on what’s new for the engine-maker in 2017, and what’s next in VR development at GDC 2017.

Q: Can you introduce yourself and your role and Unity?

My name is Clive Downie, I’m currently Chief Marketing Officer at Unity. Every day I’m listening to the community and working with teams from across the company to make sure we align and deliver towards the community’s needs through our products, services, and events. I also spend a lot of time meeting, connecting, and collaborating with Unity creators and partners, learning about the newest titles, their experiences and brainstorming how we can continue to make Unity the best possible platform for game and VR/AR development.

Q: What do you see as Unity’s next steps for defining itself as a go-to engine for game developers? Last year, we saw multiple engines get into the “Free engine” game, and I’m curious to how Unity sees itself continuing to differentiate itself down the line.

Simply, we won’t stop working. Graphics and stability continue to be a core area of focus, as you saw at Unite in November. Native support for Vulkan, Metal and DirectX is integral to maintaining the best tools for our mobile developers. Partnerships with companies like Otoy to accelerate the improvement of cinematics, is again, critical. But graphics are only one part of what it takes to make a successful game. We think Unity’s great advantage is, and will continue to be, the ecosystem. Unity’s highly extensible, and we provide the means to optimize revenue through ads, understand your players and better optimize design through analytics, and paths for global distribution. The size of our user base cannot be understated, another key benefit to users and the industry at large. The vibrant community provides support through forums, collaborates on docs, training tutorials — there’s no shortage of answers and inspiration. And there’s much more to our services, from Unity Connect to Unity Certification. Bottom line, only Unity supports creators at every point in the development lifecycle.

Q: Have you begun any research at all into tools that allow Unity to work well for developers without strong programming skills? (I’ve been intrigued by some tool offerings from other developers)

Absolutely. A 2017 priority is ongoing research and work to make the engine and pipeline more friendly to artists and audiences beyond programmers. Programming skills should not be a barrier to creation. And while we’re not there yet, we’re taking steps. For example Timeline is a track-based sequencing tool that applies a “drag and drop” approach to choreograph animations, sounds, events, videos, and more, for creation of beautiful cut-scenes, procedural content, and in-game scripted moments. Unity’s also seen more adoption with filmmakers, and new tools, like the native 360 video support makes it easy to capture, import and render 360 video. Expect to see more from us here for in the months and years ahead.

Q: What impact do you feel Unity’s new kind of “job board” (where devs can post that they’re looking for devs with specific skillsets) will have on the overall game development industry?

You’re referring to Unity Connect, the first-of-its kind talent marketplace dedicated to Unity creators, game developers, and VR/AR developers. On Unity Connect, users can post and seek jobs, but they can also host a portfolio and increase discovery of their work, whether it be a game or object found on the Asset Store. Unity Connect sprang from natural behavior we saw in the forums and at events, and it’s clear there was a need, and in fact since beta opened in November we’ve seen thousands of developers and creators get involved. We think Unity Connect can serve as the linchpin between a booming industry and talented individuals. The recent inclusion of social validation through credit helps not only validate one’s’ skillset but fosters natural connections that could be the first step toward matching with the perfect project. We’re already hearing about early successes, like students who leveragedclass projects to secure freelancing gigs and earn extra income while in school. This kind of democratizing of development and discovery has huge implications on the long term success of the industry, not only for today’s creators but for up and comers, the future of our industry.



Hao Chen
Technical Director

In this interview, Amazon’s Hao Chen lends some insight on what to expect from Lumberyard in 2017 and lessons learned from 2016.

Q: Can you introduce yourself and your role at Amazon?

I am a technical director on Amazon Lumberyard, leading our graphics and VR technologies. I also drive research and development of disruptive ideas that combine world-class engine technology with the vast on-demand power of the AWS Cloud. I’m passionate about helping game developers create experiences of higher fidelity and scale than they could achieve today.

Q: It’s been almost a year since Amazon Lumberyard’s announcement—how’s that year gone for you all, and what have you learned from working with developers?

It was a great year, and we’ve come a long way since we launched in February 2016. We’ve been able to onboard and support lots of new developers, and I’ve really enjoyed hearing about the incredibly ambitious projects they are building with Lumberyard. We’ve been relentlessly improving the engine, especially in key areas around performance, modularity, and its ability to quickly create world-class content. It’s rewarding to work closely with our customers and making meaningful differences to their games. At the same time, we are just getting started, and we have much still to do. We constantly hear that game developers can’t succeed by making fun, beautiful games alone — they also need to reach new fans and connect them together. We constantly hear developers’ aspirations for greater scale, higher fidelity, and more connected multiplayer experiences. We love engaging with the community to ask how we can help, whether it’s building a new forward-looking feature, improving workflows, or helping them use AWS to scale their game across the globe.

Q: What are some of the major changes to Lumberyard we can expect at 2017?

Our team has grown a lot over the last year, and we continue to grow.  In 2017, you’ll see a steady stream of new features and refinements, including a new component entity system so you can build complex gameplay faster than ever, a new asset pipeline that lets you import and do live updates of game assets across target platforms in seconds, a new multi-threaded rendering architecture that takes full advantage of the latest technologies, an improved editor UX, new cloud integrations to help you dynamically change game data on the fly to better engage your players, and, of course, new integrations with Twitch to help you reach and engage that audience of 100+ million hardcore gamers.

Q: If devs want to swing by the Lumberyard booth on the show floor, what can they expect to find, and what kind of questions do you think they should ask?

We’d love developers to come by and ask how Lumberyard can help them bring their most ambitious creative projects to life. We’ve worked hard to deliver a highly-performant, AAA engine that delivers incredible visual fidelity, and pushes the envelope in client and cloud technology, while focusing intensely on developers’ needs. And we’re just getting started. We’re proud of our new demos, classroom sessions, and workstations set up for people to learn about Lumberyard, AWS, and Twitch, and can’t wait to share them with show attendees.


Jason Bay
Jason Bay
Technical Manager

In this interview, Amazon catches us up on almost a year of developers working with Lumberyard, and shares tips on integrating Twitch broadcasting and functionality in their games.

Q: Could you please introduce yourself, your role at Amazon, and what developers can expect from Amazon’s dev day?

As a technical manager for Amazon Lumberyard, my most important job is to guide our overall product vision that puts the needs of the game developers first, regardless of whether they are a AAA developer with years of experience, or a small indie about to launch their first Kickstarter. Dev Day is an exciting event for us, because it’s an opportunity to reach new developers who may be curious about Lumberyard, AWS, or Twitch, and also help existing customers become experts and discover new techniques for building high-quality games using the vast storage and compute of the cloud. We look to learn just as much from the community at Dev Day as they learn from us.

Q: Since Lumberyard was announced right before last year’s GDC, how can developers who are new to the engine expect to learn from developers already on it?

When you first pick up a new engine, your initial learning is all about the mechanical details – the interface, tool set, and so on. But once you master the basics, the real power for new and experienced developers alike is in understanding the higher-level aspirations that drive Lumberyard: How can I connect my fans with the cloud without hiring a big backend team? How can I build a great multiplayer experience that can scale to virtually any number of players? How can I design my game to be as fun to watch and stream as it is to play? How can I use the latest graphics features to create real-time visuals that approach the quality of modern cinema? Those are some of the questions we’ll answer in the talks. Our goal is to build technology that helps you create experiences that would otherwise be impossible, or very difficult, for you to build today.

Q: Will developers be able to gain any advanced knowledge on integrating Twitch broadcasting into their games?

Absolutely. There are 1.7 million streamers on Twitch, and these fans are incredibly influential on the success of modern games. Streamers are megaphones that can reach tens of thousands of new players. One of our Dev Day talks will teach developers how to use Lumberyard’s new Metastream feature to empower streamers to deeply customize their broadcasts, with options like building graphical overlays that can react in real-time to game events. We’ll show you a case study of how our Breakaway game team leveraged Metastream when they launched last year. Lumberyard is deeply integrated with Twitch, and there are several additional integrations that developers can use to create innovative moments that engage fans. While we think our integrations are already powerful and flexible enough for developers to invent audience-building features that we haven’t even imagined yet, we’re just getting started — so bring some new ideas for us to brainstorm together.

Q: What advice would you give to developers to help prepare themselves for Amazon’s dev day at GDC?

Our Dev Day presenters are industry veterans with years of secrets to share, so we think our talks will be compelling even if you haven’t tried Lumberyard yet. But to get the most out of the sessions, I’d recommend downloading Lumberyard and spending some time exploring the editor and tools, maybe going through a few of our new tutorials. Other than that, bring an open-minded sense of curiosity and exploration. We hope some of what you’ll learn will challenge you to think bigger about the future of game development. We’re excited to find ways we can help you achieve some of those big ideas.

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Unreal, Autodesk and Unity

| JANUARY 2017

In This Issue:

  • Unreal – In this interview, Unreal’s Tim Sweeney talks about the future of using virtual reality to make games, and what the company’s big plans are for GDC 2017.
  • Autodesk – In this interview, Autodesk’s Wesley Adams gets GDC attendees ready for Autodesk’s first developer day to help them get ready to build great experiences for VR.
  • Unity – In this interview, Unity’s JC Cimetiere explains what developers can expect from Unity’s developer day, and offers tips on networking and engine-hunting for the aspiring indie dev.

Clive Downie
Tim Sweeney
CEO

In this interview, Unreal’s Tim Sweeney talks about the future of using virtual reality to make games, and what the company’s big plans are for GDC 2017.

Q: What we can expect from Epic at GDC 2017?

At GDC 2017 we’ll show folks even more ways to use Unreal Engine technology. The most newsworthy hour will be our “State of Unreal: Epic Games Opening Session” happening on Wednesday, March 1, at 9:30am PT in Moscone West 3001 and livestreamed to Twitch.tv/UnrealEngine.

Last year, developers learned how to build their VR projects in VR using Unreal, and we released the VR Editor at GDC. We also introduced real-time cinematography through a collaboration with Ninja Theory, in which a human-driven performance based on their game Hellblade was captured live in real time and cut into a movie using Sequencer, the engine’s built-in cinematic and storytelling tool.

Plenty of Unreal Engine games across PC, console, mobile and VR were playable at the show, and a number of folks outside of games, such as NASA, Nickelodeon, Disney and McLaren, discussed how they’re using the engine for training, animated entertainment, live attractions and visualization. At this year’s GDC, you’ll be able to see how this has laid groundwork that is changing how people experience learning and entertainment.

Following our opening presentation, we will host sessions in Moscone West 3001 throughout the day on March 1 to go deeper on the latest advancements.

Our booth will be located once again in Moscone South 1024 where you’ll find lots of learning content and demos of great new projects for PC, console, VR and mobile.

Q: One of my favorite tools I’ve seen Unreal put out in the last year has been the VR Editor from early 2016 – what do you feel the future of tools like this is in the industry, and can they open doors for designers without traditional programming backgrounds?

Artists and designers with no programming knowledge can be productive with the VR Editor. Our designers on Robo Recall have been using it in production, and over the past year we’ve been bringing more functionality of the Unreal Editor into VR mode.

For example, the VR Editor now ships with mesh and foliage painting, a handy transform gizmo, and a number pad. You can also build content in VR and go straight to playing your game in VR without removing the headset, which speeds up iteration time. It’s a workflow that feels natural.

Q: While Unreal Engine has been a big part of Epic’s 2016, can you talk about what’s next for the company from a game development perspective, and what we can expect from games like Paragon, etc?

Paragon launched in Early Access at GDC 2017. Players in the community have given us lots of feedback which has helped us evolve the game, and it is now in Open Beta for PS4 and PC. As with all of our internal projects, we continue to bring features we’re building for Paragon to the UE4 development community.

Q: What do you think developers should keep in mind if they wind up engine-shopping at this year’s GDC?

Anyone can get started with Unreal Engine for free by downloading it at unrealengine.com. Our developers will be on the GDC floor at our booth, South 1024, to chat with folks who want to see tools and demos. We’ll be there talk through questions and listen to feedback. We’re here to help. See you in San Francisco!



Wesley Adams
Marketing Support Representative

In this interview, Autodesk’s Wesley Adams gets GDC attendees ready for Autodesk’s first developer day to help them get ready to build great experiences for VR.

Q: Can you introduce yourself, as well as what developers can expect from Autodesk during the 2017 GDC Dev Day?

I’m Wesley Adams, and I’m on the Games Team at Autodesk.
GDC 2017 will mark Autodesk’s very first Developer Day and we’re excited to share our vision and strategy in games and in VR. Dev Day will give developers and artists alike the opportunity to learn from our internal research team as well as some of our most forward-thinking customers who will dive into their experiences developing for VR, discussing everything from motion controls to storytelling to non-games VR projects.

Q: A lot of attendees are beginning to express an interest in VR development, what should they do to gear themselves up for learning about Autodesk’s VR support at GDC?

The Autodesk Developer Day is entirely focused on VR, and also a great opportunity to talk with the Autodesk games team on-site. We’re going to be sharing a lot of our advanced research projects in VR as well as have some of the most forward-thinking developers share what they’ve learned in VR. People can also come prepared with questions about how to build better production pipelines, and specific questions about some of our tools, like 3ds Max and Maya, since our team will be available to chat.

Q: What kind of talk subjects should attendees interested in Autodesk’s offerings at GDC be pursuing? Any specific track or roundtable they should be looking for?

Autodesk is all about designing tools and service that allow developers to build great games and VR experiences. Many game developers are thinking about VR as their next target platform, so they should look for any session covering real-world VR development experiences, like the Dev Day sessions we’ll be offering. The other interesting trend right now is learning to use games knowledge of tools and techniques in non-games industries, which are really starting to embrace the world building, story-telling, and realism that games have come to represent.

Q: What advice would you have on developers looking to share knowledge, or gain knowledge from their fellow Autodesk users during your dev day?

Be ready to mingle and bring questions for our team! The Autodesk team will be around all day to answer your questions and we want to hear about your experience working with our tools. VR is new territory for everyone – big tech companies included – and our team is available to share what we’ve learned in VR, games, film and design.


Jason Bay
JC Cimetiere
Sr. Director of Product Marketing

In this interview, Unity’s JC Cimetiere explains what developers can expect from Unity’s developer day, and offers tips on networking and engine-hunting for the aspiring indie dev.

Q: Can you introduce yourself, your position, and what attendees can expect from Unity’s dev day at GDC?

My name is JC Cimetiere, I’m the Sr. Director of Product Marketing at Unity Technologies. Unity’s dev day have always been about helping creators bring their visions to life. Unity’s product development teams provide deep insights on the latest features and discuss our roadmap. This year we’ll be discussing the evolution of Unity’s rendering pipeline, storytelling toolset, VR improvements and monetization. We also see it as a valuable time for artists, creators, and game developers to network and learn from each other.

Q: If developers are attending GDC to shop around for a new engine for their game, what questions should they be asking if they swing through Unity’s Dev Day?

What can Unity do for me? I think that’s a great place to start, because in reality, Unity is much much more than a game engine. You can see Unity as a platform that lets teams manage the lifecycle of their creations, enabling collaboration, helping to understand user behavior and optimize monetization. Yes, of course we’re still focused on offering an amazing engine, with a robust development environment supercharged with the Asset Store where you’ll find tons of models, plugins etc, to help jumpstart your game. And, our newest Connect service is not only a place for you to market your skills, but also match — and be matched — with projects in need of Unity skills. Unity isn’t just a game engine, it’s an ecosystem to empower your success.

Q: As game development expands, and the accessibility of development tools reaches beyond programmers, what can attendees who don’t fall into that programming category expect from Unity in terms of making the engine accessible for their work?

There are a host of creators from graphic designers to filmmakers that use Unity and many would not fall into the traditional developer camp. We’re doing quite a bit to service those audiences because they are an integral part of the creation process. The technical depth of our sessions during the dev day will vary but we will be covering tools and features beyond programmer. Stay tuned for the detailed agenda.

Q: Unity’s made an effort this year to link developers together on its own forums—what kind of advice for networking would you have during Unity’s GDC dev day?

While at the dev day, I always say take copious notes, capture slides/screen to help remind you of what you saw. And come see us at the booth to continue the conversation. Before you arrive, you should make sure and create your Unity Connect account. It’s a great way to get you name out there and network before, during, and after the event. It’s also a place you can send people to learn about you and what your interests and talents are. Last, talk to people: you never know who you’re going to meet, what they might teach you, or whether you’ve found the perfect partner to start your next game with. Have fun!

GDC Spotlight Interviews: NVIDIA, Intel, and Khronos

| DECEMBER 2016

 

In This Issue:

  • NVIDIA – In this interview, NVIDIA talks about the future of development with the Nintendo Switch and explains major changes in the video card marketplace that could affect developers’ work.
  • Intel – In this interview, as Intel gears up for GDC, we spoke with Randi Rost, Director of the Achievement Unlocked Intel Game Developer Program, about RealSense, graphics optimization, and what the company has in store for game developers in 2016.
  • Khronos – In this interview, Khronos’ Neil Trevett explains the benefit of industry standards for VR and offers developers advice on how Khronos can promote their game at GDC.

John SpitzerJohn Spitzer
VP Content and Tech for NVIDIA GeForce
Rev LebaredianRev Lebaredian
VP Content and Technology

NVIDIA talks about the future of development with the Nintendo Switch and explains major changes in the video card marketplace that could affect developers’ work.

Q: Can you introduce yourselves and your role and NVIDIA?

Hi, I’m John Spitzer and I’ve been working at NVIDIA for what seems like forever, it’s only been 17 years. During that time, I founded the NVIDIA office in Moscow which currently has over 150 employees. While in Moscow, I kick-started a project which eventually became GeForce Experience and invented most of the algorithms behind our “Optimal Playable Settings”. So if you’re unhappy with how we tune game settings for your PC, now you know who to blame! After growing the user base to 25 million, I handed off GFE development to our software team and turned my focus back to my original love — real-time 3D rendering. I lead a worldwide team of scary-smart graphics engineers who help game developers make the most of our GeForce GPUs, whether that means integrating the coolest visual effects or optimizing performance for silky smooth stutter-free gaming.

Hi, I’m Rev Lebaredian, Vice President of GameWorks and Lightspeed studios at NVIDIA. In my role, I am responsible for developing and productizing NVIDIA’s GameWorks technologies, as well as developing first party games. GameWorks includes various real-time visual effects modules tailored for video games; NVIDIA Destruction, NVIDIA Clothing, HairWorks, WaveWorks, etc…, as well as the most popular real-time physics middleware for video games, PhysX.

Q: I recently saw in the news that NVIDIA is returning to the console market in partnership with Nintendo–can you tell us about NVIDIA’s partnership with the Nintendo Switch, and why they think developers should consider the platform

Working with Nintendo on the Switch has been nothing short of amazing. They have such a unique perspective on gaming and we can’t wait to see what developers will do with the world’s most capable mobile gaming system. We’re certain it will absolutely delight gamers whether they’re “on the go” or kicking back on the couch.

Q: I was updating my own NVIDIA drivers the other day and found the NVIDIA experience platform installed on my computer – Can you explain why NVIDIA’s entering the platform business, and why developers might want to consider making sure their games can be supported on this platform?

Though you may have just become familiar with GeForce Experience, it celebrated its 4th birthday recently. At its debut, it only supported driver install and game setting optimizations. Since that time, we have constantly strived to add new and exciting features, such as Shadowplay, GameStream, and soon — Ansel. Most of these features require no action from the game developer, and the ones that do (eg Ansel) offer significant value for the effort needed to integrate them.

Q: Switching back to the general video card market, I’ve noticed that the pricing for video cards has dropped slightly with specialty high-end cards dropping into what would normally have been mid-tier video cards. What forces do you think have driven this drop, and can developers expect a larger audience of players with high-end PCs in the future?

Our recently introduced Pascal generation of GPUs brings nearly a 50% perf increase from our previous Maxwell generation. As PC gamers around the world buy Pascal-based graphics cards and systems, developers can expect a significantly larger number of PC gamers to be playing on systems that would have been considered high-end a couple of years ago. It’s also notable that we completely revamped our product lineup “top to bottom” since announcing GeForce GTX 1080 in May, a feat which had never been accomplished in such a short time.


Frank Soqui
Frank Soqui
GM, Virtual Reality and
Gaming Group

Intel explains how its RealSense technology can help VR developers, how intel technology is help shaping the economics of the VR market, and how they’ll be supporting students at GDC 2017.

Q: Can you introduce yourselves to our readers, and explain what we can expect from Intel at GDC this year?

I’m Frank Soqui, GM of Intel’s Virtual Reality and Gaming Group. 2017 is going to be an amazing year for VR because there will be so many new opportunities for developers as “mainstream VR” starts to take off and premium VR gets even more compelling. At GDC we’ll be showing off the tools, Intel technologies, and developer programs you’ll need to be successful.

Q: Let’s start off with VR—now that the VR market has launched, what do you feel developers need to consider when starting development on games in 2017?

2016 saw VR really start to blossom with premium solutions like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift needing fast Intel Core i7 based PCs to really shine. Popular and visually stunning titles like Raw Data and Arizona Sunshine really showed off what a premium VR solution could do. According to Superdata, a research firm, nearly 800,000 HTC Vives and Oculus Rifts sold in 2016. 2017 will bring even more compelling premium content but also add “mainstream VR” to the mix. As we announced at Microsoft’s WinHEC event in November, Microsoft will offer versions of their Windows Holographic product that will support a much wider range of PC SKUs, including 7th gen Intel Core PC SKUs with minspec Intel HD graphics at Holiday ’17. Microsoft expects new mainstream HMDs at the $299 pricepoint to pair with this expanded range of mainstream PCs for sale on shelf at Holiday ’17. In addition to enabling a mainstream VR experience (travel apps, social, mainstream gaming) these products will also be more plug-and-play friendly with easier setups which is great news for developers. Add in emerging all-in-one solutions like Intel’s Project Alloy and there will be a lot for developers to tackle in 2017.

Q: Will Intel RealSense technology be making a return from last year, and if so, what should developers consider when thinking about adopting it?

Intel is excited about what RealSense can add to the VR experience. With its depth sensing and socialized cameras, RealSense can enable uses such as hand tracking, 3D scanning, and multi-user interaction. Intel engineers continue to work with the developer community on bringing great experiences with RealSense.

Q: Intel’s also done a great work showcasing student games at its booth on the show floor in years past. What general advice would you have for students thinking about entering the games industry?

Today’s game development students will be the pillars of the gaming industry in just a few short years. Supporting students and university game development programs is one of the ways that we strive to support the gaming industry as a whole. From diversity scholarships, to school grants, to our own Level Up developer contest we want nothing more than to see the next generation of game developers meet their full unbridled potential. Our Intel University Games Showcase at GDC has become the premier event in the games industry for allowing top university programs to showcase their best projects and students. Perhaps the most important thing that we do for students is to work with industry partners like IGDA and AIAS to provide mentors and networking opportunities to help open doors for them as they break into the industry. For students thinking about entering the games industry, have a look at the top university game developer programs — they do an amazing job of teaching students ALL of the skills needed to succeed in the game industry. And then take advantage of ALL opportunities to meet and build relationships with people that are already succeeding in the industry. And most of all, pursue your passion!


Frank Soqui
Neil Trevett
VP Developer Ecosystem and Khronos President

Khronos’ Neil Trevett explains the benefit of industry standards for VR and offers developers advice on how Khronos can promote their game at GDC.

Q: Can you introduce yourself, your position, and what attendees can expect out of Khronos’ dev day?

I am Neil Trevett, Vice President of Developer Ecosystem at NVIDIA and President of the Khronos Group. Khronos’ Developer Day at GDC will focus on highlighting the very latest updates and techniques surrounding the cross-platform API ecosystem from the Khronos Group. We will particularly focus on bringing together insights from real-world developers on their first 12 months of Vulkan experience – following the API’s launch at GDC last year. Khronos will also be using GDC to update developers on Vulkan’s roadmap and listening carefully to the community’s input and feedback.

Q: How will Khronos’ recently announced VR standards affect what it has to offer developers at this year’s show?

We believe the recently announced Khronos’ VR Initiative will be a cornerstone in enabling cross-platform portable VR Content. Although still in early phases of development, Khronos will be able to share the initiative’s direction and gather feedback from the Virtual Reality community to ensure this standard genuinely meets the needs of the VR industry.

Q: How do you feel developers can best prepare themselves for improving their games’ performance and optimization at this year’s GDC?

GDC is a unique opportunity to gain insights on the latest development tools, optimization recommendations from GPU vendors and experience from leading developers. Khronos Dev Day will be a unique forum at GDC that brings together key hardware, tools and developers from diverse corners of the industry to generate actionable insights.

Q: When it comes to showcasing their own work, what do you feel can developers do at GDC to help show off their skills to the industry and potential recruiters?

Khronos is promoting innovative work around its APIs, including Vulkan and WebGL, on the Web and at GDC. Developers with demos, apps, engines or tutorials are encouraged to reach out to marketing@khronos.org to help Khronos promote their work!

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Amazon Appstore, Amazon Lumberyard, and Intel

|May 2016

In This Issue:

  • Amazon – As Amazon continues its efforts to provide a fully vertically integrated game development solution, we spoke to Nate Wiger, Head of Gaming Solutions Specialists at Amazon, to find out what’s new with Amazon Web Services, just in time for their developer day at GDC.
  • Amazon’s Lumberyard – Now that Amazon’s Lumberyard engine has been revealed to the public, we decided to dig a little deeper into the integration of Amazon’s other products, like AWS and Twitch, ahead of the company’s developer day.
  • ELEX – ELEX is one of the newest exhibitors at GDC, but has been around in China for 8 years now, as one of the largest social game network operators in the country. We spoke with ELEX title Clash of Kings’ game producer Peng Yue about ELEX, and its plants for the future.

Unity Technologies
Nate Winger
Nate Wiger
Head of Gaming Solutions Specialists

As Amazon continues its efforts to provide a fully vertically integrated game development solution, we spoke to Nate Wiger, Head of Gaming Solutions Specialists at Amazon, to find out what’s new with Amazon Web Services, just in time for their developer day at GDC.

Give us a top-line overview of AWS products and services used by most game developers?

Nate Wiger, Head of Gaming Solutions Specialists: AWS offers a comprehensive suite of services used by game studios both large and small, including mobile companies such as Supercell and Glu Mobile, to console companies such as Naughty Dog and Nintendo.

Game developers are using EC2 to host low-latency, multiplayer game servers from dev/test up through production. For game assets, the combination of S3 plus our CloudFront CDN is hugely popular for distributing game downloads and patches, and S3 integrates with Amazon Glacier for long-term game archival storage. For asynchronous or turn-based games, Amazon Lambda lets you run code in the cloud without provisioning or managing servers. You pay only for the compute time you consume at millisecond resolution.

From a database perspective, we offer Relational Database Services such as MySQL and SQL Server, but increasingly game companies are selecting DynamoDB, our managed NoSQL database, due to its scalability and flexibility. For mobile games, Amazon Cognito makes it easy to save mobile user data, such as app preferences or game state, in the AWS Cloud without writing any backend code. Finally, we just released the Amazon Lumberyard game engine, and the AWS game server scaling service, GameLift, aimed specifically at the games industry. We go into deeper architectural descriptions of all our products and services and how they work together in our Developer Day sessions and at our booth on the expo hall floor at GDC.

Say I’m a smaller developer looking to integrate server tech into my first eSports title. How easy is it for me to get up and running quickly?

Wiger: Getting started with AWS is pretty easy. New AWS accounts receive 12 months of AWS Free Tier access. The AWS Free Tier is designed to enable you to get hands-on experience with AWS at no charge, and covers most all of the services we just mentioned. Launching a game backend is as easy as choosing an EC2 instance and then uploading your code, or, using Amazon Lambda to run serverless code snippets for you. With eSports, you can upload video replays to S3, index them in DynamoDB, and then distribute them to your audience worldwide using CloudFront.

AWS highlights its analytics software – how can developers start with Analytics and AWS?

Wiger: When it comes to game analytics, we offer Kinesis, which is a managed real-time streaming service that game companies are using to collect metrics from their games. Once analytics data is in Kinesis, it can be routed to Amazon Redshift, our fully-managed data warehouse, which makes it simple and cost-effective to run deep analysis on your players. We recently released Amazon QuickSight, a cloud-powered business intelligence service, which integrates with Redshift to enable you to build quick visualizations and graphs of your data. For mobile games, Amazon Mobile Analytics is a free service which can measure app usage and revenue, and can export this data into Redshift as well.

How can AWS help studios with game monetization?

Wiger: There are a variety of offerings we’re covering in our Developer Day sessions. Attendees will be hearing about Amazon Underground from the Appstore, where you can monetize 100% of your player base. Appstore also offers Amazon Coins for in-app purchases, that reward your game power users, and Amazon Merch, where you can set-up online retail for fan t-shirts with no up-front costs. Amazon handles making the product and fulfillment of the order. So fans go online, get their shirts, and the studio just collects the money and never deals with inventory and such. As mentioned, AWS offers a full suite of analytics services that enable you to gather real-time analytics from your game. You can then use these analytics to power data-driven game design, that allows you to tune your game and make the most of in-app purchases.

What do you want attendees to take away from your Developer Day at GDC?

Wiger: Amazon Game Studios, Lumberyard, Amazon Appstore and AWS all continue to innovate and deliver products and services meant to empower game developers. We are passionate about game developers and dedicated to enabling you to be successful. My hope is that when you come to our sessions and booth, you can see the ecosystem we’ve put together, and you’ll leave with some new ideas of how to leverage these services in your game. We’re a customer obsessed company, and hopefully you’ll see how embedded gaming is at Amazon.


Imagination Technologies

J.C. Conners
Nick Whiting
Technical Director

Now that Amazon’s Lumberyard engine has been revealed to the public, we decided to dig a little deeper into the integration of Amazon’s other products, like AWS and Twitch, ahead of the company’s developer day.

 

First, tell us why developers should shift their projects over to Lumberyard (or begin new ones there)? What makes it different?

J.C. Connors – Head of Product, Amazon Lumberyard: Choosing game technology is one of the most important choices a developer makes. Lumberyard is for developer customers who want to create games that inspire and engage with large communities of fans.

When we’ve talked to game developers over the years, they’ve consistently asked for tools that not only help them create amazing games, but also help their games connect players and fans. The Lumberyard team aspires to help game developers create the highest quality games, engage massive communities of fans, and connect their games to the vast compute and storage of the cloud.

Lumberyard has all of the components developers expect from a AAA game engine, such as a full-featured editor, native code performance, and stunning visuals. It also provides native integration to the AWS Cloud to make it easier to create live and multiplayer games, and native integration of Twitch features that can help developers connect their games to the world’s leading social video platform and community for gamers.

Tell us about your business model, and how it differs from the rest.

Conners: Lumberyard is free, including full source code. There are no seat fees, subscription fees, or requirements to share revenue when developers use Lumberyard to build their games. We make money when developers use AWS services, and many of today’s game developers are already using AWS to host games or features that rely on the vast compute and storage of the cloud. Using AWS is not required, so if a developer wants to build a free-standing single-player game, they could use Lumberyard entirely free.

Big question – how does Lumberyard integrate with Twitch and Amazon Web Services?

Conners: Lumberyard provides three integrations into AWS. The first is integration with Amazon GameLift, so developers can easily deploy and operate session-based multiplayer games (e.g. FPS deathmatches, MOBAs, racing games, etc.) and scale server infrastructure based on player demand. Amazon GameLift dramatically reduces the time required to build a multiplayer backend from thousands of hours to just minutes by eliminating the need to write server backend infrastructure and client side code to coordinate with a game backend. All this comes out of the box with Lumberyard.

The second integration with AWS is Cloud Canvas, which enables engineers and technical designers with little to no backend experience to build live online game features, such as community news feeds, score sharing, and server-side combat resolution. With Cloud Canvas’ visual scripting interface, a game team can build connected game features that access AWS services, such as DynamoDB, Lambda, S3, Cognito, SNS, and SQS. In minutes, game designers can create features such as granting a daily gift or sending in-game notifications without having to write a single line of code.

Finally, Lumberyard is integrated with the AWS SDK for C++, so engineers can take advantage of the AWS Cloud, both to connect large communities of fans in online multiplayer experiences, as well as to go beyond a single device’s capabilities to create new game experiences. The AWS SDK for C++ helps reduce the complexity of backend coding by providing C++ APIs for dozens of AWS services.

Lumberyard also provides two Twitch integrations. Twitch ChatPlay helps developers build gameplay that interacts in real-time with Twitch viewers. For example, a developer could build a game where spectators can vote on game outcomes, gift power-ups to their favorite players, or change the level based on the number of viewers watching the broadcaster. Using Lumberyard’s Flow Graph visual scripting tool, non-technical game designers can easily create chat channel commands for their game. This means developers could build a multiplayer shooter where viewers can vote to destroy pieces of the arena by typing #earthquake in the Twitch chat channel, or build an entire game that is played by a live community, similar to the games seen on Twitch Plays. Additionally, the Twitch JoinIn feature within Lumberyard lets developers build multiplayer games that allow Twitch broadcasters to instantly invite fans to join them side-by-side in the game. Once invited, a fan can jump into the broadcaster’s game with a single click in the Twitch chat channel.

We’re just getting started with Lumberyard, and we’re working with our customers to continue to add new AWS, Twitch, and engine features.

What delivery platforms can Lumberyard currently push to, and what’s in the works?

Conners: Lumberyard already supports PC and console games. We have mobile support for iOS and Android devices coming soon, along with VR support for both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

For those who want to learn more about Lumberyard under the hood, what can we expect from your developer day?

Conners: Our GDC developer day on March 15 is going to dive into the Lumberyard technology in a number of areas. We will be providing a mix of practical deep dives into the tech, and a preview into our longer-term thinking. For those who want to learn more about our cloud connected features we are going to go into detail on both Cloud Canvas and Amazon GameLift. Our Cloud Canvas talk will provide an overview of Cloud Canvas visual scripting, and discuss in depth how to set up a game team to more easily build cloud-connected features with Cloud Canvas. In our Amazon GameLift talk, we will walk through the complete process of deploying a game into service, and demonstrate rapid scaling to meet demand. On the Twitch side, we are going to dive into building games for Twitch, covering what ChatPlay and JoinIn offers today, and where we think it could go in the future.

We are also going to show some of the other advances we are making in Lumberyard. We will be unveiling new graphics features that we are pretty excited about. You’ll have to wait to get the details on that. We’re also going to discuss the architectural direction we are taking the core of the Lumberyard engine runtime and how we are think about workflows with the new component entity system. We will also talk about improvements we are working toward.


ELEX

ELEX is one of the newest exhibitors at GDC, but has been around in China for 8 years now, as one of the largest social game network operators in the country. We spoke with ELEX title Clash of Kings’ game producer Peng Yue about ELEX, and its plants for the future.

 

Give us a quick overview of ELEX for attendees who may not be familiar.

Peng Yue, game producer of Clash of Kings: Beijing ELEX Technology Co., Ltd. was founded in 2008 and is headquartered in Beijing, with branch offices, R&D, and customer service centers in St.Paul, Nanjing, and Hefei. ELEX is an influential game provider in the non-English speaking game and software markets of the world, having established a strategic partnership with leading internet companies such as Tencent. ELEX’s business covers more than 30 countries in Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin-America.

ELEX’s gaming business covers the field of social games, browser games and wireless games, primarily. As a leader in the Chinese gaming industry, ELEX not only focuses on providing high-quality services, but also commits itself to the continued development of gaming industry. In 2010, ELEX cooperated with Tencent and Innovation Works, and established a cloud computing research platform for games, called “Xing Cloud.”

To develop the highest quality products, provide the most localized service, and the world’s top games and internet content for players all over the world is the dream of ELEX. Everyone in ELEX upholds our “simple, practical, and efficient” vision to fight for this dream!

If developers are interested in distributing their games in China, what advice would you have for them?

Yue: You should cooperate with experienced large local publishers. Chinese players conume a lot of game content, so you really need to pay close attention to what they’re doing.

Browser games are slowing in popularity in the US – how are they doing in China?

Yue: The fever of browser-based games in China is reducing as well.

Is there a future for Social Network Gaming? How do you see it?

Yue: Social still has a great future, which we feel has vast undeveloped potential. As the NO.1 social game developer in Asia, ELEX holds nearly 20 million users. The social games of ELEX such as “Happy Harvest,” “Happy Harvest 3,” and “City Life” not only have excellent performance on global platforms such as Facebook and Google, but also cover over 20 leading localized platforms in Latin America, Europe, and  theAsian Pacific market.

What’s the next big market after China? Where are you going next?

Yue: ELEX would like to be bigger louder, and more active in the American market. The American market is our next focus.

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Unity, Unreal, and Imagination Technologies

| February 2016

In This Issue:

  • Unity – As Unity firms up their updates to Unity 5, we spoke with Head of Global Communications Marcos Sanchez, ahead of the company’s developer day and talks at the Game Developers Conference 2016.
  • Unreal – The Unreal house talks VR, new features, and increasing mobile support, as Epic gears up for their Developer Day and VRDC at the Game Developers Conference 2016.
  • Imagination Technologies – As the renowned PowerVR chipmaker Imagination Technologies readies itself for GDC, we spoke to Senior Marketing Communications Director David Harold about VR, Kickstarting hardware, and free software suites.

Unity Technologies
David Helgason
Marcos Sanchez
Head of Global Communications

As Unity firms up their updates to Unity 5, we spoke with Head of Global Communications Marcos Sanchez, ahead of the company’s developer day and talks at GDC.

Q: First off, give us a preview of your developer day! What subjects will you be covering?

Marcos Sanchez: The Unity Developer Day, held March 15 from 10:00am-5:00pm PT at Moscone West, will bring together hundreds of Unity developers, executives, and influencers to share best practices and learn how to get the most out of the Unity engine. The event will cover a broad range of topics and provide guidance on how to use various Unity tools and services, including building VR experiences, targeting WebGL, optimizing team work with Cloud Build, monetizing with Ads & IAP, among many others.

Q: Unity 5 has had a lot of significant upgrades, from improved shader rendering, to improved 2D support. What are some features that developers might not be as aware of?

Marcos Sanchez: Unity’s latest version, 5.3, has added a variety of new updates and features, ranging from new multi-scene editing tools and automated unit testing, to new VR improvements and samples. We are building a true game development platform and engine, and have made great strides to accommodate all types of games and experiences. And as this is a continuous pace of innovation, we will have much more in store in the coming months, such as new graphics rendering, WebGL improvements, and the integration of in-app purchases. More information on our upcoming tools and features can be found on the Unity roadmap.

Q: Now that AppleTV is supported, how many platforms does Unity deploy to? How important is ease of porting to multiple platforms to Unity’s success?

Marcos Sanchez: Unity now supports 24 platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, Windows Phone 8, Windows Store Apps, Tizen, Mac, Linux/Steam OS, Web Player, WebGL, PS3, PS4, PSVita, XboxOne, Xbox360, WiiU, Android TV, Samsung SMART TV, Apple TV, Oculus Rift, Gear VR, Microsoft HoloLens, Playstation VR, Universal Windows Platform, and the New Nintendo 3DS.

Mulitplatform support is at the heart of Unity’s engine, and is a critical component of our success. On Unity, developers can easily create multiple builds and publish across platforms. Using Unity’s Cloud Build they can automate the process to create the build for multiple platforms, allowing them to save significant time and money and focus on developing the best game or experience possible.

Q: Unity 5 comes with a lot more animation tools than in the past. How do these make developers’ lives easier?

Marcos Sanchez: Unity 5 took game creation to a new level and includes more features than ever. Our mission is to democratize development and make it easier to make great content, and many of the features we’ve introduced in Unity 5 do just that. That includes new features – like Physically Based Shading and Global Illumination – that allow developers to create the visually enticing experiences consumer crave. A great example of what’s possible now is The Blacksmith, a recent demo developed by Unity that showcases the advanced graphics features that come with Unity 5. These tools allow developers to create impactful games and experiences faster and cheaper than ever before.

Q: How much has developer feedback affected Unity 5’s updates as it moves forward? Any examples?

Marcos Sanchez: Unity wouldn’t exist without the developer community, and we are always looking to improve our product, so dev feedback plays a large role in the tools and features we focus on.

Unity releases regular updates to respond quickly to user feedback. And the community participate via our forum and feedback site.

We have teams here at Unity that focus solely on engaging developers and responding to feedback, and we always make an effort to incorporate their thoughts into future updates. Our goal is to create a full suite of tools that serves all developer needs, so we encourage the community to reach out with any questions, thoughts or concerns.


Imagination Technologies

Nick Whiting
Nick Whiting
Technical Director
Ray Davis
Ray Davis
Studio Manager

The Unreal house talks VR, new features, and increasing mobile support, as Epic gears up for their Developer Day and VRDC at the Game Developers Conference 2016. We spoke with Technical Director Nick Whiting and Studio Manager Ray Davis to get the scoop.

 

Q:How is UE4 supporting VR?

Nick Whiting: UE4 has been in the VR space since 2013, when the first Oculus HD prototype set was unveiled with an interactive version of our Elemental demo at E3. Since then, we’ve evolved as the VR space has evolved, and support all the major platforms, like Oculus, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and Samsung Gear VR out of the box. VR is a technically challenging platform, and our primary goal is to worry about those technical issues, so that content creators can focus on solving the myriad design challenges of the first new medium to come along in a very long time. To do that, we make sure that using UE4 for VR is simple, and works the same across all of the platforms out there. Make your content once and use that same content on the different devices!

In order to get ready for what’s next in VR, we’ve been investing a lot of time in improving our rendering performance to further raise the bar for visuals. We’ve recently used Bullet Train to push the limits of what the engine can do in VR, and out of that came some huge performance gains in our renderer. We have even more in store, and are working hard with all of the VR platform creators and graphics card manufacturers in order to make sure that anyone can use UE4 to make great VR content.

Q: How have Blueprints evolved over the last few months? We’ve seen more new developers and non-technical designers using them to create experiences with less of a programmer ask.

Nick Whiting: Blueprints have come a long way recently. Originally when we were just starting out with UE4 and designing the Blueprint visual scripting system, we weren’t expecting people to make entire games with them! Today, all of Epic’s internal projects make heavy use of Blueprints. In fact, all of our VR content is entirely Blueprint-based! We do that so that engineers and designers have a common language to speak; when everyone can contribute to prototyping and implementation, games can be much more interactive and alive than previously possible. Because we’ve gone so broad with our usage of Blueprints, our efforts for the past few months have been focused on squeezing more and more performance out of them by converting them from script code into C++ code. That allows them to run super fast on all platforms, while maintaining the democratized workflow that’s become such a big part of our game making process.

Q: UE4 works great on the mobile platforms it supports – when will we see more phones supported by the engine?

Ray Davis: With each update to Unreal Engine comes improvements to mobile compatibility, performance, and additional features to continually broaden the set of devices that developers can target. In the last release of UE4 we added several scalability settings which allows developers to automatically scale down their content to still maintain great performance. This allows a project to run beautifully on a Galaxy S6 Edge alongside a much older device such as a Galaxy S3, for example. We’re also working closely with the teams driving the next generation of mobile graphics, primarily Apple’s efforts around Metal, as well as the OpenGL ES successor Vulkan for Android devices. This effort, along with close partnerships with mobile GPU manufacturers, will ensure that UE4 always supports the latest mobile platforms for quality game development.

Q: What do you want developers to take away from your Developer Day at GDC? What are the big points?

Nick Whiting: For VR, we strongly believe that sharing is the best way to make sure VR is truly the revolution that we want it to be. That’s why we’re so open with sharing not only our successes — which we roll right into UE4 for everyone to take advantage of — but also what didn’t work out. We are all invested in VR succeeding, and the best way to do that is to help others. Thanks to UE4’s open source model, it makes sharing our advancements much easier and quicker.


npnf

David Harold
David Harold, Senior Marketing Communications Director

As the renowned PowerVR chipmaker Imagination Technologies readies itself for GDC, we spoke to Senior Marketing Communications Director David Harold about VR, Kickstarting hardware, and free software suites.

 

Q: Imagination Technologies has a Developer Day at GDC. We know you primarily as a technology R&D house – what will the company be talking about during your Developer Day?

David Harold: Technology, sure. But crucially how it affects developers. From what you need to be prepared for, like ray tracing and the new Vulkan API from Khronos, through to how to code to get the best from the technology in new devices. For example we have a great session on SPIR-V, the intermediate Vulkan coding language. Plus, as ever, we’ll have some cools guests, including EPIC and Codeplay.

Imagination Technologies has a 20 year history in “making worlds better” by creating the revolutionary PowerVR GPU family, which has been used in many arcade, console, OTT, tablet and mobile gaming platforms.

Q: How does your hardware suite scale for developers who might want to create something more custom, like a VR headset or a kickstarted micro console?

David Harold: Well for VR we have everything you need in order to split the display and make sure the images work for the eyes with a decent refresh and low latency. That’s the fundamental bits you have to get right. We are in lots of VR helmets coming through in 2016, and because PowerVR can deliver good performance at low cost a lot of those will be very mainstream devices. You’ll be able to see some at our booth in the GDC Expo Hall.

For things like Kickstarter we actually have a part of our business now, IMG Systems, that can help those people get into production and make sure they have a solid product. The thing that kills Kickstarter companies isn’t getting up front interest, it’s when they’ve made the hardware and a couple of months later it all gets returned because the quality wasn’t there. Imagination, which has been doing high volume consumer grade manufacturing for decades, can really help there.

Q: You offer support for developers working on PowerVR-enabled mobile devices. Which are these, and how can you help?

David Harold: My gosh! The internet is big right so we have space to list them all?? PowerVR has shipped in billions of devices across iOS, Android, Windows, and more. We are in numerous handsets, tablets and OTT boxes today – as well as some TVs. Hundreds of devices shipping. In terms of how we help, we have a great team in-house who work very closely with the engine companies, so that for most developers the work of optimizing for PowerVR has already been done at the engine level.

However, we also have an amazing tool chain, which we give away for free. How can it be free? Well, we make our money from hardware sales, and we know there won’t be hardware sales without great content, so we do everything we can to enable that. Add to all that our education program which includes our IDC and online events, our forums, as well as in-house teaching for larger companies, and you have a really world class support program.

Q: Seriously, though, can we get a new PowerVR chip to make the Dreamcast 2?

David Harold: Okay, let’s be serious about it then. We have GPU IP that is highly scalable and would be ideal for a console. We’re in a current handheld console – PS Vita – as well as in the three top OTT boxes with gaming capabilities from the industry giants. So we have some play in the space. However, with our hybrid ray tracing technology we have what I believe is the technology that can set a bold console maker well ahead of the competition. So now we have the question: who is ready to be different? To have games which actually look different from the competition in real ways, not just a few frames faster or with less blur. And to have technology that sets artists free from a lot of the drudgery, and lets them focus on creativity. We’ll see, but I think there’s a decent chance that someone will have the nerve to make that step before too long.

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Amazon Apps & Services, Biba and PlayPower

| March 2015

In This Issue:

  • Amazon – Corey Badcock, head of developer evangelism at Amazon Apps & Services, reveals some of the highlights of Amazon’s overview of the Amazon Devices and Services for Game Developers talk at GDC SF 2015, and why the conference is such an important part of the company’s marketing strategy.
  • Biba – Matt Toner, president of Biba, chats about the process of blending digital games with real-world play, about how developers can get in touch to help create Biba games, and about the two talks the company will be giving at GDC SF 2015.

Unity Technologies
David Helgason
Corey Badcock, head of developer evangelism, Amazon Apps & Services

Corey Badcock, head of developer evangelism at Amazon Apps & Services, reveals some of the highlights of Amazon’s overview of the Amazon Devices and Services for Game Developers talk at GDC SF 2015, and why the conference is such an important part of the company’s marketing strategy.

Q: Corey, at GDC SF 2015 on Tuesday, March 3rd at 10 AM, Amazon is presenting “An Overview of the Amazon Devices and Services for Game Developers.” What do you expect will be the highlight of that talk by David Isbitski? What new information is he planning to unveil that developers may not be familiar with?

COREY BADCOCK: We’re excited to be hosting an Amazon Appstore Developer Day at GDC for the second year in a row. A lot has changed since last year — we introduced Fire TV last April, and it quickly became the best-selling streaming media box on Amazon. In June, we launched Fire Phone and announced that the Amazon Appstore would be preloaded on BlackBerry devices. Then, in September, we launched our next generation of Fire tablets, and in October, we introduced Fire TV Stick. If you add all of that together, it’s quite the expansion in less than a year. We’re excited to talk to developers about the new customers they can reach on these devices and in the Amazon Appstore.

Q: You have over 25 game-related jobs opportunities listed on your website. Summarize for me what sort of people you’re looking for and why should developers be interested in applying.

BADCOCK:  We want people who are passionate about games to come and work at Amazon, and I think we offer a diverse set of opportunities for candidates. We are always on the lookout for new talent to join our teams in multiple roles. All of Amazon’s open positions are available for candidates to apply at our Web site.

Q: Amazon is sponsoring a full Developer Day at GDC SF 2015. Why should developers want to attend and what will be some of the takeaways?

BADCOCK: I think there’s a little bit of something for everyone at our Amazon Appstore Developer Day. If you’ve already got a game and you’re looking for ways to reach new customers, we have a session that details how to easily optimize your existing Unity game for Fire TV. We’re also really excited to have Twitch join us to talk about how game developers can reach new customers with Twitch. With over 100 million visitors a month, Twitch is a great opportunity for developers. We’re also doing a session on how to evolve players into fans based on what we’ve learned from working with the Top 50 game developers in the world. With all this, if you have an existing game and you want to reach new customers, these will be great sessions.

For developers who are in the process of building a game, we’ve also got some great sessions lined up. The Amazon Web Services team is going to facilitate a session on how to build and deploy your mobile game with AWS, and a deep dive on how to use analytics to improve the performance of your game. And for developers who have an existing game that they’re trying to optimize, we have a session that describes how one of our own evangelists made his game “no fun” by blindly following best practices and what he learned in the process.

All of our sessions are going to offer practical tips, so whether you already have a game, you’re building your first game, or you’ve built many games, I think there’s a talk for you. The Amazon Appstore Developer Day is free, so developers should feel free to drop by and check it out.

Q: Why has GDC become such an important part of your marketing strategy? What do you believe you get out of being a supporter of the conference?

BADCOCK: GDC is one of the largest gatherings of developers in the world, so it’s a unique opportunity for us to connect with thousands of developers in one place. At our Developer Day on Tuesday, March 3rd, we’re going to meet hundreds of developers one-to-one. Of course it’s a great opportunity for us to tell them all about the Amazon platform, but the bigger opportunity is to get their feedback and learn how we can continue to improve opportunities on our platform.


Imagination Technologies

Bryce Johnstone
Matt Toner, president, Biba

Matt Toner, president of Biba, chats about the process of blending digital games with real-world play, about how developers can get in touch to help create Biba games, and about the two talks the company will be giving at GDC SF 2015.

Q: Matt, Biba and PlayPower recently announced a partnership aimed at blending digital games with real-world play. Why do you think it’s important to combine the two?

MATT TONER: We think it’s important to re-imagine play for children who are growing up using touchscreen devices from an early age. Most mobile games for kids tend to be screen-centric, sedentary activities. Together with PlayPower, we’re introducing a solution that blends the technology-driven world that modern kids expect with the health benefits and joy of active outdoor play. We’re bringing back the basic joy of games by creating a new category intended to change what screen time means, enticing kids back outside and turning playgrounds into the ultimate destination for healthy, active fun.

Q: You say that Biba games will work best with Biba-Activated playgrounds. Can you explain what being a Biba-Activated playground means?

TONER: Biba games will be optimized for use with “Biba-Activated” playgrounds from PlayPower where augmented reality markers will create deeper gameplay experiences. Biba apps will provide information about the gameplay experiences available at each playground, enabling families to search and find their favorite playground destinations. Some of the Biba games will work with playgrounds that aren’t Biba-Activated, since Biba games allow players to tag which types of playground equipment are available to them.

Q: You are currently developing your first Biba games internally, but from what I understand, you are also looking for other developers to get involved and create Biba games. Why do you want developers to work with you and how can they reach you?

TONER: Biba is an ongoing project that brings wacky and unexpectedly great games to life for kids. While we’re creating the first Biba games internally, we want to introduce more games by working with developers who are inspired by the potential of this new mode of play. Our first Biba games will be coming to mobile devices very shortly at the same time that Biba-Activated PlayPower playground equipment will begin populating city parks across the country.

Any developers interested in learning more can come by and see us at GDC SF 2015 during our session on Thursday, March 5 at 4 PM in West Hall, Room 2014.

Q: I know you’re an exhibitor at GDC this year. What do you have planned for the show?


TONER: 
We’re really excited to be coming back to GDC and can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on with the rest of the video game industry. We’ll be on the Expo Floor at booth #1702.

We’ll have an interactive Biba-Activated PlayPower swing set up so that attendees can experience Biba interacting with real-world playground equipment for themselves.

We’re also giving two talks during the show. Our first design-focused talk takes place 11:15 AM on Monday, March 2 during the Smartphone and Tablet Games Summit. Our product designer, Dr. Nis Bojin, will talk about the design process for our game and about design principles for kids’ games derived from our focus group and play-test sessions.

The second, moderated by Biba chairman and BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk, will be an open discussion with indie devs about the design philosophy for Smart Playground games, and that’s the session that will take place on Thursday, March 5 at 4 PM in West Hall, Room 2014

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Unity Technologies, Imagination Technologies, and npnf

| February 2015

In This Issue:

  • Unity Technologies – David Helgason, executive VP, Unity Technologies, talks about why he turned over his CEO post to former EA CEO John Riccitiello, what new directions that will mean for Unity, and why devs will want to visit the Unity booth at GDC SF 2015.
  • Imagination Technologies – Bryce Johnstone, senior manager, 3rd party alliances at Imagination Technologies, discusses optimizing games for mobile, and why devs will want to consider applying for any of the more than 120 job openings in locations as diverse as San Francisco, Sweden, and India.
  • npnf – Chris Y.J. Lee, CPO of npnf, chats about the high barrier of entry for Western developers in Korea, how devs can give their titles the right exposure in Asia, and why GDC SF 2015 is so important to his company’s marketing efforts.

Unity Technologies

 

David Helgason
David Helgason

David Helgason, executive VP, Unity Technologies, talks about why he turned over his CEO post to former EA CEO John Riccitiello, what new directions that will mean for Unity, and why devs will want to visit the Unity booth at GDC SF 2015.

Q: David, Unity recently took the gaming world by surprise by announcing that EA’s former CEO, John Riccitiello, would be replacing you as Unity’s CEO and that you would remain in the company as executive VP. What was the thought process behind that shift and give us some insight into what new directions that will mean for Unity.

David Helgason: Unity was founded on a simple idea — to democratize game development. As Unity grew over the years, we were always challenged to create the best possible technology, to make it support all the platforms that matter to developers (and that’s a lot), and to make it all really easy to use. This is a really hard project and we have worked on it for many, many years.

In early 2014, Unity moved into a new phase where we decided that just providing the engine was falling short of our mission — to be really successful, game developers need software tools to be able to connect their games with audiences and to optimize how their games engage with their audience once they’ve been released. To do that, we knew we’d have to think big and be creative. We grew the team a lot during that year, and have recently launched services like Unity Ads and Everyplay and have several more in beta testing like Cloud Build. The goal is ultimately to help developers of all sizes succeed with tools that help navigate through the entire process of building and operating awesome games. And we’re really far along that path.

With that in mind, it was time to bring someone in with a lot of experience running larger operations — and John Riccitiello is that guy. He believes in our mission, is very passionate both about the industry and Unity’s mission, and is helping to guide Unity where it needs to go.

Q: You’ve just released version 4.6 of the Unity engine which introduces a brand new user interface system and also the beta of Unity 5 is available for preorder. Tell me a little bit about what the two versions have to offer and whether developers should go for Unity 4.6 or wait for Unity 5?

Helgason: Anyone buying Unity 5 now gets both access to Unity 4.6 as well as the pre-release version of Unity 5.0, so most people don’t really have to worry about which they use.

Unity 4.6 was mainly about our new UI toolset and we’re extremely proud of what we’ve done with it. It really has to be experienced, as it’s a really fresh take on building UIs.

Unity 5, on the other hand, is truly a new beginning. We’ve gone deep and wide with Unity, rewritten and streamlined performance critical systems, and added incredible features on top.

Physically based shading and global illumination are probably two of things that end users of games will see most readily, but things like the 64-bit editor, new audio tools, WebGL deployment option, introduction of IL2CPP, physics updates, incremental asset bundles, and a load of other additions will be a big help to developers.

Thousands of projects are already being worked on with Unity 4.6, and many are fine as they are. However, with all the new power in Unity 5, we see tons of developers upgrading their projects.

Unity 5.0 is the first release to ship with our automated Script and Assembly Update capability (besides largely being backwards-compatible, we’re very careful about that), so with little or no work, developers can upgrade existing projects to make immediate use of the new features and performance improvements.

Q: Unity is sponsoring one of the Developer Days at GDC 2015. What will be some of the highlights that should attract a crowd?

Helgason: We’ll be going into a lot of detail about how to get the most out of Unity 5’s new features to create awesome games. We’ll also be diving into how to take advantage of services like Cloud Build to increase production efficiency, Analytics and Everyplay to connect with and understand audiences, and Ads to help generate revenue or find new players.

Q: As usual, you’ll have a booth at GDC 2015. Why should devs want to visit? What will be some of the takeaways?

Helgason: GDC is a great chance for us to meet developers new to Unity or looking to learn more about our tools and services as well as to reconnect with many of our old-time users and discuss their needs and thoughts about what we can do to help them be even more successful. So we designed our GDC booth with that in mind. We’ll have plenty of stations up to demonstrate all of the great new features in Unity and some coming down the line. We bring a lot of the development team to the show to make sure visitors to the booth have someone knowledgeable to talk to.

Our booth is also a great place to come and get inspired by those who are actively using Unity to create some amazing games. Unity can be used to create all manner of genres in a massive range of art styles across more platforms than any other engine, and the games pavilion is a great way to see all of that in action.

Finally, Unity is more than an engine, so we’ll also be able to chat about how we can help developers find success and connect with audiences using services like Everyplay, Unity Ads, and Unity Analytics.


Imagination Technologies

Bryce Johnstone
Bryce Johnstone

Bryce Johnstone, senior manager, 3rd party alliances at Imagination Technologies, discusses optimizing games for mobile, and why devs will want to consider applying for any of the more than 120 job openings in locations as diverse as San Francisco, Sweden, and India.

Q: Bryce, I’m told that at your GDC 2015 booth #1142 — you’re anxious to talk to hardware developers with multimedia requirements or developers working on titles for PowerVR-enabled mobile and embedded platforms. I know one of the subjects you plan to discuss is optimizing games for mobile. In a nutshell, what will you be telling devs who show up?

Bryce Johnstone: In terms of optimization, we are here to talk about our PowerVR Tools, utilities, and SDK, which is a free download from our various Web sites around the world. PowerVR has a long history of being a leader in mobile and embedded graphics so we will be able to show the power of the tools, such as PVRTune which pings the hardware registers of the actual device to give an incredibly detailed view of what the code is actually doing allowing the developer to rapidly get to the code that might be CPU, GPU, or Memory bandwidth-limited. The full suite of tools enables developers to get to the nub of performance issues and resolution in as short a space as possible.

Q: You’ll be sponsoring one of the Developer Days at GDC 2015. What are a few of the things visitors expect to see, hear, and experience if they attend?

Johnstone: This will be our third Developer Day at GDC. This time the focus is on more technical details about the PowerVR architecture, giving more insight into what can be done with it using some of the in-house demos as the vehicle for education and highlighting some of the suggested techniques to optimize for PowerVR. We will also be using demo examples that our internal teams have put together to illustrate good (and bad) techniques to use with the PowerVR architecture.

We will also be talking about ray-tracing technology and how much of a paradigm shift that will be for both engine and game developers. Ray tracing is the next logical point for mobile graphics to get to as it incorporates tech used in movies and TV. We are very excited about the possibilities of hybrid rendering engines and fully ray-traced solutions in the coming years.

There will also be presentations by some of our leading third parties to give their experiences of working with PowerVR graphics architecture and what results they achieved by using the full feature set and performance.

We will also have our annual panel where we will be collecting some of the great and good from Games World and will be subjecting them this year to the question from Console to Mobile. This is normally quite a lively debate between industry veterans so it is always an enjoyable experience. Developers can take the opportunity to pick the brains of this august group. Previous panelists have included the likes of Julien Merceron (then of Square Enix) and Aras Pankevicius of Unity.

Q: I was floored by how many job openings you list on your Web site  I count almost 120 in locations as diverse as San Francisco and Santa Clara to Sweden, India, Korea, and the UK. What’s behind all the growth and why should developers be interested in pursuing your company?

Johnstone: The growth is based on the requirements. We have a scalable architecture that spans from wearables all the way up to desktop levels of graphic (Teraflop range). There needs to be a tuned core for each key point in the roadmap. We are also addressing a larger range of market segments. Traditionally, we were focused on mobile but now we encompass anything from wearables, tablets, phones, set top boxes, IOT devices, automotive, health, and energy, to name but a few. As a company to work for, we do have some of the best companies in the world that we work with to deliver a range of iconic products. We are at the bleeding edge of mobile and embedded graphics and are pushing the bounds of GPU compute on devices to enhance OEM differentiation. We are a global company with key locations in the UK, Sweden, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, the Bay Area, India, China, Korea, and Japan.

We have grown rapidly in the last 10 years from 300 back then to nearly 1,700 people worldwide. We are always looking for talent who is looking to work in a challenging environment at the leading edge of technology.

Q: You’ve been a big supporter of GDC for the last couple of years. Why is the conference such an important part of your marketing strategy?

Johnstone: Simply, it talks to our DNA as a company that started out building graphics cards and technology embedded in devices such as the Sega Dreamcast in our Videologic days. The great thing about GDC is that we are a known entity and we can get right down and focus on what is important for developers with any preamble as to what we are.

We use GDC as a fantastic opportunity to get in front of all the key players and to find out what they are looking for in graphics platforms and to inform them of how we intend to intercept their requirements over the coming years. We can get three months of meetings in a few days at the show and get to meet the real movers and shakers from each of the main gaming and engine companies. For us, we get to build the Imagination (PowerVR) brand in both graphics and ray tracing, and let people who otherwise may not know of some of the other key bits of tech that we deliver, including the MIPS CPU family that is now fully supported natively in Android.


npnf

Chris Y.J. Lee
Chris Y.J. Lee

Chris Y.J. Lee, CPO of npnf, chats about the high barrier of entry for Western developers in Korea, how devs can give their titles the right exposure in Asia, and why GDC SF 2015 is so important to his company’s marketing efforts.

Q: Chris, for developers who aren’t familiar with npnf, can you summarize what services you offer?

Chris Y.J. Lee: We focus on three key areas in mobile gaming:

  • Casual core game development. First and foremost, we love building games. This year, our first party studio will release a host of new titles in the “casual core” space.
  • Korea Publishing. We offer a one-stop publishing shop for Western developers looking to expand their market to Korea. Our Seoul office specializes in localization, culturalization, marketing, event management, and player support.
  • Game Development Platform. We’ve written a set of flexible gaming modules that provide solutions to problems that just about every developer must solve when they build a game. Using our modules will shorten your development cycle immensely.

Q: I’ve heard that there’s a high barrier of entry for Western developers in Korea. What can you do for anyone who wants to get into Asia and needs help getting their titles the right exposure?

Lee: While Korea is one of the fastest-growing mobile gaming markets in the world, a strong publishing partner is an absolute must for any Western developer. Our partnership with SK Planet provides us with unparalleled distribution power. SK Planet’s T-Store is the second-largest Android marketplace in Korea with close to half the marketshare. It’s a really powerful user acquisition channel for our developers.

Q: You’ve said that “casual core” games are the new frontier in mobile gaming. What can these games achieve in terms of monetization that simple casual games cannot?

Lee: The success of Disney’s Tsum Tsum in the U.S. is a testament to the rise of casual core. While the primary gameplay is casual, there is plenty of complexity in the meta-game with power-ups, gacha collections, and special event-based content. The proper application of these mechanics is an extremely effective engagement and monetization driver. The Candy Crush Saga’s of the world will always have a place on the top grossing charts, but many users are now looking for more.

Q: Tell me about some of the strengths of your npnf platform, other than the fact that it’s advertised as letting developers build games quickly and efficiently.

Lee: Every game must create a user, which is an object in code that represents the player. If you implement the code yourself, you might start with a blank screen. You could utilize the user object from a BaaS (Backend as a Service) provider as a starting point. These user objects are stored in the Cloud and offer basic facilities for authorization and authentication. Our platform takes the user object a step further — a super user of sorts — that offer additional game-specific logic. When you create a user on the npnf platform, every user also gets a player inventory system, virtual currency, and an energy bar.

The main properties of our system are:

— Configurability. All of the attributes of these systems are set up in our Developer Portal. Support for change is built into our platform by separating configuration from implementation. You can set up your configs at design time, overhaul them during development, and live-tune them after launch — all with minimal impact. For example, you could set up a currency called Gold in our Developer Portal. Every user created will have a currency attribute called Gold. Later, you might decide to add a currency called Silver. Every user created so far will be retrofitted with this additional currency, and every new user created will have both currencies.

— Supportability. How do you support your players after your game goes live? If you use our Platform, you also automatically (no extra effort) get an admin portal that lets you manage all your players. For example, if a user e-mails and complains that all of his currency has mysteriously disappeared, you can log into our admin portal, look him up, and credit him with currency.

— Sources and sinks. As we build our own games, we add new modules that build on this basic foundation. For example, our gacha module lets you configure a system that consumes currency from a user, randomly selects a game object from a predefined pool of game objects, and adds the new object to a player’s inventory. We also have a Fusion/Evolution/Crafting module that lets you define recipes, where a recipe defines input requirements and outcomes. For example, a basic recipe might specify that a player must have one Gold coin and a twig to craft a magic wand. In our backend, we validate the input requirements, deduce one Gold coin from the user’s currency balance, remove the twig from his inventory, and add the magic wand to his inventory.

We built this system to help our own first-party studio build games faster. It helps us to get more games onto the app stores in a shorter time, and (hopefully) iterate to a successful title more quickly. Now we’re releasing it to the game development community, and we think they will find it useful, too.

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Google, Wargaming, and Oculus

| February 2015

In This Issue:

  • Google Play – Bob Meese, global head of games business development at Google Play, talks about his current strategy for games, about how developers can make their Android TV games successful, and about the best way devs can get Google’s attention.
  • Wargaming – Jay Cohen, general manager of Wargaming America, discusses what it takes to successfully move a game from one platform to another, where eSports is headed in 2015, and why becoming a GDC Diamond Partner has become an important part of his marketing strategy.
  • Oculus – Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus, chats about why developers should be interested in the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype technology, about the 50-plus open positions on the Oculus Web site, and about the sessions Oculus is sponsoring at GDC SF 2015.

Unity Technologies

 

David Helgason
Bob Meese

Bob Meese, global head of games business development at Google Play, talks about his current strategy for games, about how developers can make their Android TV games successful, and about the best way devs can get Google’s attention.

Q: Bob, what is Google’s current strategy for games?

Bob Meese: We have several gaming initiatives at Google, including projects within Android and Google Play, ads and analytics, and even within new projects like Cardboard and virtual reality.

I lead games business development for Android and Google Play, and we want to be the platform that connects the most people through gaming across device form factors — including phone, tablet and TV –and across geographies, with more than 1 billion people using Android devices every month globally.

We try to stay as focused as possible on game developer needs. For example, we created the Google Play beta testing program in response to developer suggestions to help developers get ready for launch by facilitating feedback from players. Developers have described player feedback from Google Play beta testing as “invaluable.” We offer other services like Google Play Game Services, including popular features like saving game progress across devices, and upcoming features like advanced analytics about player behavior.

We also want to enable developers to integrate Google services into their games as easily as possible. One example is the addition of the Google Mobile Ads SDK to Google Play Services so that developers don’t need to integrate a separate ads SDK. Also, plug-ins and extensions are available for many leading game engines to enable developers to more easily integrate Google Play Game Services into their games.

Q: What’s the latest on Android TV? Can you give me some updates?

Meese: We’re excited by the early progress with Android TV. More Android TV devices are coming to market this year, and we’re excited to see our Android TV partner, Razer, win “Best Gaming Product” at CES 2015 for its Forge TV.

We have a high-quality, well-rounded mix of titles now available to suit every type of gamer, and we’re actively adding more games to the catalog. Developers who are excited about getting their games onto TV are optimizing their titles for the living room. Infinite Dreams, for example, optimized Sky Force 2014 for the landscape orientation and added cooperative multiplayer controller support. We’re also particularly excited about Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Ubisoft’s award-winning Valiant Hearts, Disney’s Castle of Illusion, and Senri’s Leo’s Fortune.

We’re seeing developers experiment with different business models, and have a higher percentage of premium games on TV than we see in our smartphone and tablet gaming ecosystem. We offer developers plenty of information to make their Android TV game a success at developer.android.com.

Q: If a developer wants to get Google’s attention, what is your best advice on doing that?

Meese: There are a lot of developers in this category, but it is possible for anyone to get through to us. First, it’s important that you really care about the product you’re developing. We can tell when developers are passionate about their games, and we want to see developers creating something new rather than taking too much inspiration from existing games.

Next, we look at how well you’ve already incorporated the best practices of Android and Google Play into your game. We provide many resources to help at developer.android.com/distribute, including best practices, checklists, and sample code to help make your game great. We’re looking for developers who are motivated to seek this information out themselves, but who may need some additional help with intermediate or advanced topics.

Finally, our team is growing, and we attend many industry events. Come find us at one of those events, or if you’re looking to connect by e-mail, it can help to get a mutual introduction from another developer who we both know. One of the best parts of my job is finding new developers making high-quality games, so please come out and see us at GDC.

Q: Speaking of which, what are you doing at GDC?

Meese: We’re hosting a Google Developer Day on Monday, Mar. 2 for developers, designers, and business decision makers focused on mobile game development. The Play team will be very well represented at this event, and we’ll have speakers and attendees from many different parts of Google.

During the event, you’ll learn about tools and best practices that help game developers make great games as well as build your businesses. We’ll show you what’s new for Android game developers. We’ll also have some cool code labs where we’ll help you build, for example, an actual cardboard VR game. If you want to speak with our team, our GDC developer day is the best opportunity all year. We’ll also be at our booth (#502), so come see us.

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Imagination Technologies

Bryce Johnstone
Jay Cohen

Jay Cohen, general manager of Wargaming America, discusses what it takes to successfully move a game from one platform to another, where eSports is headed in 2015, and why becoming a GDC Diamond Partner has become an important part of his marketing strategy.

Q: Jay, one of your recent successes was World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition which is a free-to-play title for console. Tell me a bit about the game’s success. Is that an area you intend to pursue with additional titles?

Jay Cohen: We launched World of Tanks for the Xbox 360 in February of 2014 and have seen massive success with over five million downloads to-date. It not only marked our first title on console, but also allowed to us to reach a new audience of gamers around the world. Expanding onto new platforms has always been a major focus for Wargaming. We did that for World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition and most recently with World of Tanks Blitz on mobile platforms. So the success we’ve found on console has been incredibly reassuring to us. I can’t say where we’ll be heading next, but we’ll always be keeping our eye on new opportunities.

Q: You’ve had a few multi-platform launches this year, including the game we just discussed as well as World of Tanks Blitz for iOS and Android. What does it take to successfully move a game from one platform to another? 
Cohen: We started out in 2014 on just one single platform (PC) and, in the last year, we’ve expanded onto three more, including mobile which was no easy task. With the launch of World of Tanks Blitz on iOS and Android, the team spent months extracting the raw elements that make the PC version so successful to deliver a triple-A quality game to mobile and tablet device users around the world.

From a development standpoint, the game is tailored to the needs of a mobile player who is used to much shorter game sessions, a more simplified user interface, and easy and intuitive controls. That’s why, in Blitz, we’ve implemented smaller maps and 7 vs. 7 battles up to seven minutes long (usually between 3-5 minutes on average).

There are very few mobile games on a similar scale of quality and complexity out there, so as far as our development approach was concerned, we tried to be bold and ready for experiments, adaptations, and newer mobile-specific features.

World of Tanks Blitz owes a lot to its predecessor for laying down the foundation that the team has built upon, and there’s still a lot more for our players to look forward to in the future.

Q: At the beginning of the year, Wargaming talked about investing $10 million in its eSports Wargaming.net Leaguestrategy, up from $8 million last year. What is eSports all about and how is that working out for you? 
Cohen: We broke out in the eSports scene in 2012 with 30,000 players and skyrocketed to over 250,000 in 2014 with our community being the driving force in this growth. World of Tanks currently has over 100 million players, and with each update we now also focus on gameplay and balance as it relates to our eSports league. These changes allow for more engaging entertainment for both the players and spectators, and help in building the cultural phenomenon that is eSports today.

With our success, we are also aiming to create an ecosystem to cultivate professional development between our players and their teams. Not only do we want to support the advancement of the Wargaming.net League, we also want to make sure that these athletes are given the tools and skills to find partners and brand sponsors for their teams.

We have big plans for 2015 and can’t wait to see how eSports continues to evolve within the industry.
Q: Wargaming is a Diamond Partner of GDC 2015. What does that achieve for Wargaming and why is that important to you? 
Cohen: As our portfolio of titles continues to grow, we must also focus on our own development as a company. Joining the GDC Diamond Partner program was a natural fit to combat those needs.

The benefits of the program give us the exposure we need to reach top talent through higher visibility on promotional materials, networking opportunities, and exclusive access to events.

But, most importantly, being a Diamond Partner is about supporting the gaming development industry as a whole. GDC is an invaluable event for sharing ideas, collaborating on new ones, and getting a deeper understanding of the roles we play in this truly exciting industry. Having Wargaming be a Diamond Partner, we hope, shows that we’re not just committed to delivering great games, but also in helping foster and grow this entire industry.


npnf

Chris Y.J. Lee
Palmer Luckey

Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus, chats about why developers should be interested in the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype technology, about the 50-plus open positions on the Oculus Web site, and about the sessions Oculus is sponsoring at GDC SF 2015.

Q: Palmer, at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in January, Oculus showed off for the first time its Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype along with Gear VR Innovator Edition and mobile VR content. Tell me a bit about those technologies and why developers should be interested in them.

Palmer Luckey: Crescent Bay is largely representative of the technology that will be in the consumer Rift low-latency 6DOF tracking (critical for feeling present in a virtual space); 90-hz, low-persistence OLED displays (eliminating motion blur and greatly increased visual stability); and integrated audio hardware that is optimized to work with our 3D audio SDK.

At CES, we were also showing Gear VR Innovator Edition with the same 3D audio SDK, and spending a lot of time talking to devs about why 3D sound is so much more important for VR than traditional gaming. It’s never been possible to properly model audio response for head translation and position with traditional monitors, and we’re excited about the possibilities.

Q: I’m guessing you’ll have something new and different to show off at GDC SF 2015 with the Oculus Rift. Care to give us a hint?

Luckey: We’ll be showing a lot of different things in our booth (#1224) at the show. We have a couple of sponsored sessions as well where we’ll be sharing information about the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition. All of the information about those sessions can be found on the GDC Web site.

Q: What are you plans on the mobile side with Samsung Gear VR at GDC? What can you share?

Luckey: No specifics to share just yet, but we’ve learned a lot from the launch of Innovator Edition, and we’ll be talking more about the future of mobile VR at GDC.

Q: Oculus has over 50 open positions on its Web site, mainly in software and hardware engineering and in content. What sort of people are you looking for and why should they beexcited about applying for a spot in either your Menlo Park, CA or your Seattle site?

Luckey: We’re always looking for the best and brightest, especially as we draw closer to the consumer launch of the Rift. In the past, we’ve been primarily focused on hiring hardware and software engineering, but now we’re hiring for almost every discipline required to launch an incredible consumer product. Come help us build the future!

GDC Spotlight Interviews: Intel, Epic and Sungame

| January 2015

In This Issue:

  • Intel – Christos Georgiopoulos, VP, Software & Services Group and GM, Developer Relations Div. at Intel, reveals the cool game technology it is delivering by working with the top game engine vendors, and what will be hot at Intel’s eight GDC 2015 sessions.
  • Epic – Ray Davis, general manager, Unreal Engine at Epic, talks about Unreal Engine 4’s new subscription model, the Unreal Engine Marketplace, and what visitors to Epic’s booth at GDC 2015 can expect to see.
  • Sungame – Guy Robert, COO of Sungame, talks about its World 3Developer Challenge and how GDC 2015 visitors will be able to try out and vote for the winning 3D games and apps, and also crowd-fund their own 3D programs.

Intel

 

Christos Georgiopoulos
Christos Georgiopoulos

Christos Georgiopoulos, VP, Software & Services Group and GM, Developer Relations Div. at Intel, reveals the cool game technology it is delivering by working with the top game engine vendors, and what will be hot at Intel’s eight GDC 2015 sessions.

Q: Christos, Intel seems to be doing some cool things now with the top game engines, meaning Unity and UE4. Can you give me some specific examples?

Christos Georgiopoulos: Yes! We are excited to be working closely with all of the game engine vendors, including Epic and Unity, to deliver some very cool game technology and performance improvements on x86 platforms powered by Intel processor graphics. By working with these game engine developers, we make the benefits of x86 and Intel processor graphics accessible to millions of game developers and consumers worldwide.

We’ve partnered with Unity on Windows x86 support for many years, and we are very excited to bring native x86 Android optimizations to the Unity game engine beginning with last November’s Unity 4.6 release. These optimizations are now available by default to all Unity developers for new projects and it’s trivial to re-export an existing project and add x86 support. Intel is now the largest supplier of Android tablet processors, so this enables Unity developers to reach a larger number of devices and consumers.

Some of the benefits game developers have already been achieving using the Unity game engine include dramatic improvements in their Android apps running on devices with Intel Architecture — faster performance, improved load times, and better power usage — all from simply ensuring x86 native support is selected and from exporting the project again. Jumpstart, for instance, achieved a 146% improvement in the frame rate for School of Dragons by enabling native x86 support (see the write up here plus a few case studies on our Web site here). In order to get the word out, Unity and Intel collaborated on a number of developer events and marketing opportunities in 2014. We are working on even more technical improvements and additional developer activities in 2015.

We are just as excited about the great, long-time partnership with Epic and how Intel and Epic engineers worked together to deliver a number of additional capabilities to Epic’s Unreal Engine 4. Android developers can easily build native x86 Android applications and PC developers can easily support tablet/touch user interfaces and clamshell/keyboard transition (aka 2-in-1 support), as well as further advances in significantly faster texture compression (BC6H and BC7) to increase the content productivity pipeline. Additional benefits for UE4 developers include state-of-the-art threading and memory allocation source code with Intel’s Threading Building Blocks, and additional instrumentation of UE4 to enable developers using Intel’s Graphics Performance Analyzers to more easily debug graphics issues and better understand the workings of their engine. More advancements are underway now, including DX12 and Intel compiler support, and we expect to continue our strong partnership throughout 2015.

Q: Intel is sponsoring eight different sessions at GDC. Which are the most exciting and what can devs look forward to learning from them?

Georgiopoulos: Our technical sessions are shaping up to be the best ones we’ve ever offered at GDC. Using a best practice we learned from the SIGGRAPH conference, a must-attend session is our leadoff Intel Fast Forward session where we cram the highlights of each and every Intel session, presentation, and demo at GDC 2015 into one short session. This is a great way to quickly get a taste of the breadth and depth of Intel’s offerings at GDC, enabling attendees to decide which of these talks and demos are of most interest to them.

Although we are still shaping the final slate of presentations, we are planning to showcase Intel optimization work done with notable ISV partners such as Blizzard and Square Enix. We work with many leading game developers to help them incorporate unique Intel features or bring out the full performance or power efficiency of systems built on our processors. At GDC, we plan to show other developers how we worked with Square Enix to add performance-boosting native x86 support to Hitman Go. With Blizzard as a co-presenter, we will be sharing how we used unique Intel graphics extensions to add post-processing effects to Blizzard’s World of Warcraft expansion Warlords of Draenor. These are exciting, practical techniques implemented by top game developers on their biggest titles and we are honored to share these so that other developers can use and benefit from them.

We are also expecting to present material that highlights the new features and capabilities of the latest versions of the graphics APIs, DirectX, and OpenGL/ES on our latest hardware. As you are likely aware, Intel partners with the game development community to ensure that these industry standards represent the developer needs for higher-quality graphics techniques, better performance, and battery utilization. Gone are the days when Intel was a laggard for API support. We are now showing that we are releasing drivers that support the newest API versions as soon as the specifications are ratified, and we will have talks that address power-efficient programming, OpenGL ES 3.1 and the Android Extension Pack, and Intel’s latest graphics extensions.

Q: Are you planning anything else for GDC that would interest our readers?

Georgiopoulos: If you want to see where games are heading, you should plan on attending the Intel University Games Showcase at GDC. We did this event for the first time last year and it was a huge success. We brought together student game developer teams from the leading academic programs and had them pitch their games to an all-star panel of judges and to a large crowd of people. Last year’s entries were amazingly engaging and high quality, and we’re expecting even better projects this year. The participants are expected to include USC, SMU, Digipen, Drexel, RIT, CMU, Drexel, University of Texas, University of Central Florida, University of Utah, and NYU, all of whom offer compelling graduate-level programs in game development.

We are trying a couple of new things this year, too. We’ll have an Intel Tech Lab at GDC. This is a great way for developers to get a little technical assistance from Intel engineers or to learn how to use our graphics performance analysis tools. If you’re a game developer who wants to know how to make your game run better on Intel platforms, all you need to do is stop by our main event location in South Hall lobby and make an appointment. Our engineers can help you try your game on our latest platforms, give you some tips on performance or power optimization, and answer your technical questions.

We’re also planning to have a variety of scheduled but informal meet-ups. We’ll be publicizing the list of topics and times, and people can just show up at the Intel meet-up area in South Hall lobby. We plan to offer meet-up sessions covering a wide variety of topics, including adding x86 support to Unity apps, volumetric rendering, power optimization, Q&A sessions with our technical session presenters, demo deep dives, UE4 and x86, and much, much more.

Q: Intel is always a big sponsor of GDC. Why is the conference such an important part of your marketing strategy?

Georgiopoulos: We want both game developers and game players to have the best experience on Intel platforms. We view game developers as critically important for Intel because games drive consumer demand and are always in the top three use cases for all platforms. There is no question that games can drive sales of consumer computing devices.

GDC is a unique conference that brings together the worldwide leaders in the game developer segment as well as thousands of practitioners. This audience is perfectly aligned with our game developer outreach efforts. Therefore GDC is a great place for us to meet with game developers, help them learn about the benefits of Intel tools and technology, and work with them to extract the full potential of Intel platforms for the games they create.


UnrealEngine

Ray Davis
Ray Davis

Ray Davis, general manager, Unreal Engine at Epic, talks about Unreal Engine 4’s new subscription model, the Unreal Engine Marketplace, and what visitors to Epic’s booth at GDC 2015 can expect to see.

Q: Ray, back at GDC 2014 in March, you released Unreal Engine 4 through a new subscription model. Anyone can now pay $19 a month plus 5% of gross revenue resulting from any commercial products built using UE4. That’s quite a change from Epic’s previous policy of charging AAA devs millions of dollars for the engine. How have devs reacted and what has the new subscription model accomplished?

Ray Davis: Offering Unreal Engine 4 through a subscription model has opened up the engine to a huge number of developers who have already built some impressive and creatively diverse projects. By also including the C++ source for the engine in the subscription, we’ve seen a large number of significant community contributions that we’ve been able to integrate for future releases. Overall, the journey over the last year has been fantastic and has presented great opportunities to grow a thriving UE4 development community.

Q: In September, you launched the Unreal Engine Marketplace. Tell me how that works and what it does for devs.

Davis: With the Unreal Engine Marketplace, we’re aiming for high-quality content for developers to share, sell, and purchase. We believe it’s more important to offer a curated selection of assets that are built with consistency and that are easy to integrate with any other assets offered on the Marketplace. As a game builder, it’s rare that you only need a single model in a style to successfully build your project, so we make sure every asset pack includes 5+ models, and that they’re built in a modular way so that you can easily combine them with other content. Already we’re seeing a lot of great progress in our efforts here, and we’ll be continuing to expand the Marketplace significantly in the coming months.

Q: I understand that, as part of your new education initiative, you’ve released UE4 to schools and universities for free. What’s the initiative all about … and how are schools utilizing UE4?

Davis: We’ve made the engine free to educators and students alike in the hopes of better integrating UE4 into their curriculum. Every day, there are more and more students interested in game development, and we think UE4 is one of the best tools to help students learn the skills they need to be successful game creators. Many other educational disciplines, such as architectural visualization, are also finding value in UE4’s photorealistic rendering capabilities, and we’re excited to continually find new ways to be involved in those efforts.

Q: As a GDC 2015 sponsor, you’ll be having quite a sizeable booth at the show. What can visitors to the booth expect to see — and learn? What will be some of the takeaways?

Davis: At the Unreal Engine booth, we’ll have a mix of developers showcasing content they’ve built with Unreal Engine 4 along with some content demos built by Epic. Our hope is that anyone visiting our booth will gain a good understanding of the wide diversity of projects that are possible with our technology — from hobbyist game development all the way to professional visualization. We also hope to have a surprise or two, that may or may not be related to VR.

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Sungame

Guy Robert
Guy Robert

Guy Robert, COO of Sungame, talks about its World 3Developer Challenge and how GDC 2015 visitors will be able to try out and vote for the winning 3D games and apps, and also crowd-fund their own 3D programs.

Q: Guy, I know Sungame is the organization behind Freevi which has two distinct products the FlightDeck.tv content management and discovery platform and the Vidirectory.com business directory service. For devs who aren’t familiar with Sungame or its products, can you give them a little insight into what’s hot at Sungame these days?

Guy Robert: Yes, as you say, Sungame is the organization behind Freevi, the manufacturer of the FlightDeck, the world’s most innovative 3D (stereoscopic) tablet. For developers, we are launching our 3D developer tools and SDK, and also announcing exclusive news at GDC about our new platform, an exciting new ecosystem that targets returns from the tablet via distribution and content creation. You can get more information on our Web site or follow us on all social media channels at @freevi3D #W3DC

Q: At GDC/Next in November, you invited devs to participate in a World 3Developer Challenge by submitting a product to your No-Glasses 3D tablet. Winners in 12 categories were awarded a total of $25,000. What did you hope to achieve with the Challenge and what was the outcome?

Robert: That’s correct! In November, we launched our World 3Developer Challenge at GDC/Next (see #W3DC and @freevi3D on Twitter) and the response was incredible. Our objective was to communicate #W3DC to all game developers attending, demonstrate the FlightDeck, and introduce the incredible ROI opportunities associated with submitting a proposal to create content for our team to review.

Naturally, we have had an incredible response to the challenge and are now working through the 100 accepted proposals from game developers looking to participate in our challenge by building or porting new or existing games and apps for submission to our FreeviNation community. We will be announcing the finalists of our World 3Developer Challenge at GDC 2015 and will be offering GDC visitors the opportunity to experience first-hand the finalists’ apps and games running on our tablet and then vote for their favorite game or app.

For those Unfunded Freevi-Nation Citizens who didn’t make the short list, there will also be an opportunity for each developer to crowd-fund within our ecosystem. As a result, everyone has a chance!

Q: Freevi is a Gold Sponsor of the Independent Games Festival (IGF) and a sponsor of its Choice Nominee Reception. Why is that important to you and what do you hope to achieve by being a sponsor?

Robert: Our goal is very simple. We are passionate about indie game development and about providing the tools, processes, simulators, hardware, distribution, and community to grow and pioneer stereoscopic 3D game development. We are here to communicate this opportunity to the people who matter most talented game developers!

Q: You�ll have booth space at GDC 2015. Why should devs want to visit you there? What can they hope to learn by showing up?

Robert: By coming to our booth, developers will have the opportunity to try the FlightDeck tablet first-hand and then experience some of the content already created by our #W3DC finalists. They will also be able to:

  • Discuss with our technical team how to get started on the platform by purchasing a tablet and understanding the revenue opportunities of joining our nation as a Citizen.
  • Learn how to crowd-fund their first 3D app or game.
  • Learn how to get started and create an application via Unity or OpenGL by accessing our SDK.
  • Test out the W3DC finalists’ submissions and vote for their favorite game or application via our Web site.

All I can say is we’re so excited!