Insomniac Games Will Talk PS4 and Xbox One CPU Optimization, VR, AI and its Studio Culture at GDC

on February 7, 2016 8:25 AM

Insomniac Games recently published the sessions hosted by its developers at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, and there are a few really interesting ones on the menu, focusing including one that will shed some light on one of the most discussed (often without really knowing what it’s really about) topics out there: Optimization for current generation consoles.

Another very interesting session will see CEO Ted Price talk about how the studio’s culture was built, and there’s more:

Taming the Jaguar: x86 Optimization at Insomniac Games

Andreas Fredriksson | Lead Engine Programmer, Insomniac Games

In this session the low-level optimizations in the AMD Jaguar CPU used in PS4 and XBOX ONE will be analyzed. Optimizing for the out of order Jaguar CPU is very different from previous console CPUs, and in this session a few key optimization techniques will be reexamined in the context of out of order CPUs.

Takeaway
Attendees will learn a variety of practical techniques for optimizing code on the Jaguar CPU, including proper handling of prefetching, unrolling and SIMD code.

Intended Audience
Engine programmers.

Ted Talks: Building the Foundation of Insomniac Games’ Culture (presented by Insomniac Games)

Angela Baker | Sr HR Generalist/Recruiter, Insomniac Games
Ted Price | CEO, Insomniac Games
Carrie Dieterle | Chief People Officer, Insomniac Games

Insomniac Games is known for its collaborative and quirky studio culture spanning 22 years. What’s less known is the story behind the foundation of Insomniac’s culture, and that tale can only be told by the studio’s founder and CEO. Join Ted Price as he shares childhood stories that helped formulate one of the industry’s most tenured and beloved independent development studios. Ted will candidly share how Insomniac has evolved the last two decades, and how the studio is preparing for the future amidst turbulent industry change.

Takeaway
Attendees will gain insight into Insomniac’s culture, and the unique aspects of independent game development. Furthermore attendees will have the opportunity for a lively q/a session.

Three Statistical Tests Every Game Programmer Should Know

Elan Ruskin | Senior Core Engineer, Insomniac Games

“How much does this optimization really speed up my game?” can be a difficult question to answer when you’re measuring differences of microseconds in highly variable framerates. “When I changed the minimap, 15% fewer playtesters got lost” might have been a fluke – or not – depending on how many testers you tried. Fortunately, statistical techniques exist to turn noisy, real-world sources of data like these into confident answers.
This talk is a succint how-to on statistics for answering questions like “does this new camera control scheme make players happier?”, “how many players do I need to test this design change on to prove whether it works better?” and “does the framerate really get faster when I do this thing or is it just a fluke of measurement?” We skip past the mathematical background and cut directly to the practical how-to you can use in Excel today.

Takeaway

Attendees will get the TLDR version of the when, how, and why of statistical techniques they can use to answer these optimization and design questions, and a demonstration of how to run those tests in Excel.

Intended Audience
This talk is for programmers and designers who want a quick introduction to these useful statistical techniques. It assumes no prior knowledge of statistics.

Great Management of Technical Leads

Mike Acton
| Engine Director, Insomniac Games

Congratulations! You’re a lead. Now what? In general, whatever skills you’ve demonstrated that got you to this point aren’t the same things you’ll be doing from here on out (or at least not as much.) This talk is an entry-level description of expectations for any technical gamedev lead. What a lead needs to pay attention to; What responsibilities a lead has to his or her team; What are the most important things that any good lead should be doing; How do you get things done.

Takeaway
Leadership is hard. This talk will provide direction to get new leads started or refresh existing leads on the crucial responsibilities of their role. Learn to set clear expectations, define the most important values for your team, understand how best to define problems and the importance of training your team.

Intended Audience

Programmers recently promoted to a lead position or existing technical leads wanting a refresher.

Explorers in VR: Walking the Edge of Nowhere

Brian Allgeier | Creative Director, Insomniac Games

Virtual Reality has the power to create immersive and thrilling experiences, yet poses many challenges from simulator sickness to simple navigation. Insomniac Games Creative Director, Brian Allgeier, walks through the lessons and pitfalls learned while developing Edge of Nowhere, a third person VR experience and one of the first games published for the Oculus Rift. Attendees will witness early production prototypes, get a sneak peak of unreleased game footage, and learn about the many guidelines gleamed from developing innovative and groundbreaking tech.

Takeaway
Attendees will walk away with a list of guidelines for creating comfortable third person experiences in VR, techniques for developing VR horror, and key development methods for this ever evolving technology.

Intended Audience
This talk is intended for anyone who is interested in VR development and the behind-the-scenes process used at Insomniac Games.

Mind Your Step: Avoiding 3 Common Pitfalls in AI Development

Jan Mueller | Senior Game Programmer, Insomniac Games

While there is a lot of discussion of “best practices” in AI programming, there are “best practices” in AI design as well. Sometimes, these run counter to established ideas of what “good AI” should look like. Using examples from Sunset Overdrive and other games, this session will challenge 3 common misconceptions: The first pitfall is to underrate unique, one-off behaviors to sell your AI characters. The perception of your AI will not mainly be shaped by its usual behavior, but by the times it deviates from the norm. Second, we will challenge the idea that “ally AI should support the player.” Instead we explain why ally AI should first and foremost serve the game. Finally, we show why you should not fear repetition in your AI behaviors. Through the power of escalation you can turn repetition into your biggest asset to create the semblance of awareness in your AI.

Takeaway
The attendee will learn 3 of the common pitfalls that AI programmers and designers make in crafting compelling AI for their games and ways to avoid them.

Personally, I can’t wait for our yearly overdose of information. While trade shows like E3 and Gamescom talk about games at a very high level, it’s at GDC that developers really explains the nitty-gritty of how the games we love are made.

As usual, I’ll probably understand only half of what we’ll hear, and I’ll probably be able to explain to you only half of it, but that much is, in my book, much more interesting than the usual sequence of trailers.

GDC 2016 will start on March 14th, and end on March 18th.

 /  Executive News Editor
Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.