Saturday, November 17, 2012

MIGs 2012 - Trip Experience

Just this week from November 12 to 15th, the Montreal Internation Game Summit took place. Developers from all over the world ranging from programmers, game designers, artists, audio technicians and even the CEOs and executives of companies came to meet over the course of these days. Some even gave very useful presentations about their field of study that would unveil new technology and techniques to either market their own company or help audience members for their feature endeavors.

The Trip Begins

A trip for UOIT students was formed and I was among the students taking the trip to Montreal, leaving on the 12th and leaving home the night of the 14th. We spent only two nights there, being at the conference for day 13 and 14 which were the most important days anyways. We took the 6 hour long bus ride to reach our hotel on the 12th and pretty much spent that day exploring Montreal. The tickets we had purchased did not include the 12th or 15th in it's admission so we would not have been able to get into MIGs for that day.

The first night concluded and the first real day of MIGs began. We spent a 20 minute walk towards the hotel in which it took place (though we got lost the first day) and came late to the first presentation. The first presentation came from Tim Sweeny, the CEO of Epic games in a talk about Challenges of the Next Generation Consoles.
Highlights included a speech from CEO of Epic Games Tim Sweeney

On a side note I want to state that there are lot of important game industries people here at MIGs (though perhaps not as much as there would be at GDC). Tim Sweeny is the CEO of Epic Games, developpers of Gears of War and Unreal and they are a very powerful company for both making games and developping tools for making games. Other speakers included Peter Molyneux, formerly with Lion Head Studios and created Fable, Black and White and other games.

Going back to how the day went, I missed the entire first lecture since I had to help my friend Mr. Freeman who did a problem with tickets. I then split off to go to the lectures I wanted to look at. I was very curious about a lot of the art related topics interestingly enough. Though I pretty much mostly focus on programming in Game Dev, I am still extremely interested in art, perhaps more so than programming.

A quick note about the presentations is that every time slot is an hour. Also there are always 5 other presentations going on at the same time so that means I missed some other presentations I wanted to go to due to conflicting time slots.

To get an idea of the presentations and topics covered, look here! 

The Presentations Begin - Day 1

The first lecture I went to was "Drawing Inspiration" Bringing Characters and Worlds to Life" by Samantha Youssef. She works at Disney now and went to Sheraton College in the art program, being the only one from her year to be hired by Disney when she graduated. Her talk was incredibly informative regarding art and it was very useful as it opened my eyes to some new techniques she talked about (and she was pretty). I took notes as well and I plan to do a personal write up about this topic and some of the other topics later.

Then came lunch break where I explored the rest of the show floor, but before that I will go over the presentations I went to first.

Guild Wars 2 artwork from Lead artist Kekai Kotaki (now at Bungie)

Amongst the other presentations the first day included Kekai Kotaki, the lead artist who worked on Guild Wars 2 and worked on Guild Wars 1. Unfortunately his presentation got shafted as he was supposed to be provided a tablet so he could draw live for us and teach us techniques. Instead he did not get one and was forced to simply go over his existing work which was still interesting but kind of dry since he was not prepared for this event.

I then went to attend a programming presentation, one on GPGPUs which should interesting since it regarded the use of GPUs for more uses but the delivery was very dry and kind of boring so I almost fell asleep unfortunately. I do not remember much from that presentation and if I had been less tired at that time I would have absorbed more information.

Square Enix featured their new Glacier 2 Engine

The most interesting presentation followed, a look into Square Enix's Glacier 2 engine. I have already made a write up of my impressions of the engine here. To sum up that experience, seeing a AAA game engine close up and learn more intricate details and its features is awesome.

I pretty much ended my day there even though there was one more presentation that day since I was probably going to fall asleep in the next presentation

The Presentations Begin - Day 2

The first presentation I went to was the earliest slot, with a keynote from Peter Molyneux. We got in a little late once again and he talked about "Experience and Innovation". It was a little strange though since he was there via Skype call instead of in purpose. Apparently his new game "Curiosity" became so popular it had a server crash and he needed to stay there. He pretty much talked about Curiosity, how it works and a look into the office where the studio works.

I went to a presentation on audio afterwards which I unfortunately fell asleep in. Not because the presentation was boring, in fact it looked really interesting, but I was kept on too late the night before and got very little sleep. Sadface.

RAGE - Featured in the Art Direction presentation

Following that I went to a talk on Creating and Art Direction Visually Successful Games by Stephan Martiniere, who was lead art director for RAGE. It was extremely informative and in fact related highly to game design surprisingly. A few key points about it for now is that he was designing environments the NPCs themselves could inhabit and the environments would reflect in their outfits. I.E. a tech city would have people in more high tech looking outfits. It was a mesh of visual design being coherent to the world of the game and being immersive. The talk was so interesting that I will probably have a write up on that later on.

Details regarding Battlefield 3 Cutscenes and use of Facial motion capture were presented

Afterwards I went to a presentation regarding Voice Acting/Performance Capture, featuring Battlefield 3. The presenter Tom Keegan talked about the use of motion capture needing a lot more physicality now as the actors need to be able to act naturally and actually envelop the character for more natural movement. So an actor playing a soldier would need to hold a rifle and move around like they were doing it. He even talked about having all actors in at once to do a scene versus voice actors just going on different days and doing their recordings separately. It was an eye opener into some of the techniques they use for MO-Cap acting.

One of the most interesting talks of the day came from David Lightbrown, recently hired by Ubisoft Montreal for designing user interfaces. The talk was about "The Art of Creating Efficient Tools" and was actually VERY interesting and very well done. The presentation itself was the most engaging out of all the of them, he actually used the audience, he was funny, his presentation wasn't heavy on text and used simple shapes to engage the audience. This is one of the talks I am going to write about in the future but essentially it was all about developer tools that are so well done that they will reduce the work time to learn them and just use them to create content.

The final presentation came from a combination of a lot of speakers talking about how they think the future of gaming will come about. Some were more serious speeches, while others were more light hearted. It was interesting to see all these people talk on stage within an hour and everyone had a different opinion and topic they coverered. With that, the MIGs trip ended and we took the bus home!

Extras, Extras!

In my lunch break time and time I didn't spend in the presentations, I looked around the rest of the show floor. There were several booths for many companies, from Game Development studios, to Colleges and programs that specialized in teaching Game Development. Amongst them included Eidos (Deus Ex: Machina - Human Revolution), Ubisoft Montreal (Assassin's Creed III), Bioware (Mass Effect 3), and several others I can't remember. At these booths you could meet with the representatives of those studios and get contacts for networking.

Ubisoft Booth

There was also several others areas such as a demo booth which developers of any sort (including indie) could get space to display their new games. Another area was the art gallery featuring art submitted by people for a small fee to be displayed and voted on. The winner would get a prize of some sort (I have no idea what that prize could have been). There were two catagories, one for pictures which included 2D concept art, 3D models, illustrations and another catagory for video. The video could be trailers, or some artsy looking cutscene. Some people even submitted just a piece of music they had composed themselves.

The Sketch Duel area - Participants are focusing intensely on making their art

To top off this area, every now and then they would have a sketch duel. The first day featured professionals going head to head where they would have 15 minutes to draw something based on a randomly generated template. It could be something like "Draw a samurai dancing beside a house", which they would have to agree on. After the 15 minutes the audience would vote on the favourite. The same rules applied then next day when non professionals were allowed to enter and I watched the entire thing to see their technique. It was mostly speed painting and was another good motivator to learning more art.

Unfortunately I forgot to take many pictures and I should have gotten the art gallery...

Final Notes

So that was pretty much the MIGs trip in a nutshell. It was a really fun and interesting experience, something I would love to do again. Next year I plan to have my portfolio all ready, business cards ready and improve my art experience so I can have a chance at winning the Art Gallery. The presentations were definetely interestin and I learned a lot from them, so I will definetely check them out again.

Stay tuned for more posts for MIGs. I will probably have the following topics covered in more details in the future.

  • "Drawing Inspiration" Bringing Characters and Worlds to Life"
  • "Creating and Art Directing Visually Successful Games"
  • "Art of Creating Efficient Tools"

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