Come See Insomniac Games in Action at GDC

It’s a big week at GDC for Insomniac Games with A LOT of sessions being presented by members of our team this year. If you’re heading to GDC, or just scouring the internet and social media for coverage – here’s what you should be looking for online!

Tuesday March 19th

11:20am-12:20pm – Room 3004 West Hall
Technical Artist Bootcamp: Real-Time Cloth Solutions in Marvel’s Spider-Man
Sophie Brennan

One of the visual pillars of ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ was to have believable cloth-solutions that helped to sell Insomniac’s shared vision of the incredible cast and meet the high standards set in today’s AAA market. Discussed here are the techniques and tools used to author, iterate and polish content. Also covered is what challenges real-time cloth brought, what cloth could and could not be used for, and how to develop and improve the internal pipeline to speed up workflows.

11:20am-12:20pm – Room 3009 West Hall
Art Direction Bootcamp: Team Growth and Preserving Team Culture on Marvel’s Spider-Man
Jacinda Chew

‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ was Insomniac Game’s most ambitious project to date. It was clear that the Art and Animation team would have to grow to meet the demands of the project. Insomniac Games has always prided itself in a culture where good ideas can come from anyone. If the team grew too large, would it lose the characteristics that made it great to begin with? Find out what defines Insomniac culture and how they were able to preserve that culture on the Art and Animation team while doubling their team size from Art Director, Jacinda Chew.

12:30pm-2:00pm – Room 3009 West Hall
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Deep Dive Into the Look Creation of Manhattan (Presented by Substance)
Brian Mullen, Ryan Benno, Matthew MacAuliffe

For Marvel’s Spider-Man, the goal of creating a vast and lived-in Manhattan was daunting, considering it was five times the size of Insomniac’s previous open world game, Sunset Overdrive. Focusing on the art side, Matt McAuliffe, Brian Mullen and Ryan Benno will take deep dives into how each department handled the creation of materials, textures, models, set dressing and lighting across the entire city of Manhattan, and how all of these assets came together. They will focus on how they leveraged techniques and technologies like Substance Designer, and how their in-house tools evolved throughout the project.

5:30-6:30pm – Room 301, South Hall
Level Design Workshop: Building Marvel’s New York in Marvel’s Spider-Man: It’s Still Just Level Design
Josue Benavidez

This session will discuss fundamental level design principles that governed the creation of New York City in ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’, and how they can apply at any scale. It will also discuss the unique challenges to laying out a large urban space and how to adapt basic level design for a larger scale.

Wednesday, March 20th

9:00am-10:00am – Room 303, West Hall
The Animation of Marvel’s Spider-Man
Robert Coddington

Attendees will have a better understanding of Insomniac’s team structure and approach to creating a balanced and high quality game experience on an epic scale. The discoveries, failures, and successes of combat and traversal features will be the focus of this talk. Some technical aspects as well as resources required will be covered.

5:00pm-6:00pm – Room 2005 West Hall
(Super)Humans of New York: Managing the Many Faces of Marvel’s Spider-Man
Noah Alzayer

With more and more AAA projects relying on subcontracting outside companies to create high-end facial rigs, this talk will go over how Insomniac Games’ rigging team created a (mostly) drama-free pipeline for integration, feedback, rig enhancement, and change tracking for approximately 150 facial rigs from a 3rd party vendor without tying up the whole team.

This talk goes over the way this was all achieved and overseen with very little overhead tied to getting new deliveries for characters, the way they managed and tracked their own changes to the rigs, the edge-case issues they ran into for certain characters, and the tools and methods they developed to solve them.

5:00-6:00pm – Room 303 South Hall
GDC Microtalks 2019: Lightning Fast Game Design
Various – but includes a micro talk from Ryan Smith

The GDC Microtalks are back with another year of deep game design thought, future-looking vision, and inspiration! The Microtalks concept is simple: each speaker gets 20 slides, every one of which is displayed for exactly 16 seconds before automatically advancing, giving each speaker a total of five minutes and 20 seconds to dispense their game design wisdom.

Don’t know how this session can fit ten game design talks into just one hour? Come along and check out the fun as nine great thinkers about games and play, alongside Microtalks curator and MC Richard Lemarchand, give you a super quick tour of the freshest game design thinking.

Thursday March 21st

10:00am-11:00am – Room 2001 West Hall
Procedurally Crafting Manhattan for Marvel’s Spider-Man
David Santiago

There is much discussion on managing the scope and implementation of procedural systems so that their final output may benefit from manual polish.

The presentation describes the open world pipeline of ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ and how each procedural system was originally designed to support iterations, and dependencies. Of course, the reality of production provided a larger set of tasks for procedural systems. These dependent elements and areas of the game were in vastly different stages of completion and created parallel pipelines. Insomniac’s resulting procedural systems were used to author, modify and monitor much more content than planned. The anticipated and unforeseen challenges became success stories and have laid a road-map for future projects.

11:30am-12:30pm – Room 303 South Hall
Conquering the Creative Challenges in Marvel’s Spider-Man
Bryan Intihar

One might think that working with such a well-known IP and character like ‘Spider-Man’ would make the development process easier. One might believe, “hey, I already have the answers to the test.” However, that’s never the case. There were several challenges when proving out the creative vision on ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’. This talk will discuss three major hurdles and how Insomniac Games overcame them in order to hit the creative/narrative goals that were set for the game.

2:00pm-2:30pm – Room 2005 West Hall
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Procedural Lighting Tools
Xray Halperin

In this session, Xray Halperin presents how procedural systems assisted the lighting team on ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ to place environment probes and light grids into the open world of Manhattan.

5:30-6:30pm – Room 3016 West Hall
Marvel’s Spider-Man: A Technical Post-Mortem
Elan Ruskin

‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ is Insomniac’s biggest game to date. This talk looks back at how their technology evolved to make it possible, and the setbacks and pitfalls along the way.

This session will discuss the challenges of rapidly growing asset count, and adapting rendering, streaming, and lighting to build a New York City that fits on a Blu-Ray. It will cover the procedural tools for marking up Manhattan, and how their approach to building the city changed over time. Also discussed will be how the pedestrians, traffic, street vignettes, and random crimes grew from humble beginnings to an interactive part of a living city. Lastly, this session will cover making the wrong vertical slice, the perils of pre-baked lightmaps, how Photo Mode came together one volunteer contribution at a time, and more.

Friday, March 22nd

10:00am-11:00am – Room 2005 West Hall
Concrete Jungle Gym: Building Traversal in Marvel’s Spider-Man
Doug Sheahan

‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ presented a challenging traversal target where players enter with high expectations of functionality, fluidity, control, and presentation.

In this session, Doug will provide an in depth view into how the traversal system for the game was created. The talk will focus on how the swinging mechanic was originally executed and the process through which it evolved in order to increase usability and player engagement. This will include a discussion on the integration of additional mechanics as well as how the camera was designed to increase the sense of speed, power, and enjoyment for the system.

10:00am-11:00am – Room 3006 West Hall
Designing the Bustling Soundscape of Marvel’s New York City in Marvel’s Spider-Man
Alex Previty and Blake Johnson

Creating the open-world audio for 2018’s ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ for PS4 was no walk in the park (except for Central Park, that is…). Creating a believable and lively New York City soundscape was a uniquely creative and technically challenging experience. This presentation will cover the details behind the open world’s audio design, working closely with other departments, technical roadblocks that were encountered during development, and how those issues were resolved.

11:30am-12:30am – Room 3016 West Hall
Killer Portfolio or Portfolio Killer Part 1: Advice from Industry Veterans
Panel including Insomniac’s Gavin Goulden

As the game industry has become increasingly competitive, it has also become more difficult for artists to break into the industry and obtain recognition for their work. There are, however, both positive and negative ways to stand out from the crowd.

This panel, which consists of art directors and lead artists from Epic, Firaxis, Riot, Valve and Insomniac, will expose portfolio pitfalls and how to avoid them, as well as providing real world examples of how to succeed in getting, and holding, an art director’s attention. The panel will also discuss common hiring practices and variations among the studios. The panel will be followed by a 2 hour session for individual portfolio reviews.

1:30pm-2:30pm – Room 2002 West Hall
Marvel’s New York: A Case Study in Empowering Your Artist
Jason Hickey

This session will give you an insight into how to create and maintain a highly autonomous art team without abandoning them to figure it out for themselves. Working on a AAA game like ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ does not mean the studio has to turn into an assembly line.

In this session Insomniac’s Lead Environment Artist, Jason Hickey, will talk about the tools and best practices you can use to keep your team highly functioning and engaged with less bureaucracy and management overhead. He will use the case study of building Marvel’s New York at Insomniac Games to show that the increase in productivity and ownership actually increases quality and efficiency by focusing on making the process of world-building engaging while maintaining a healthy team work life balance.

2:00pm-5:00pm – Room 3005 West Hall
Killer Portfolio or Portfolio Killer Part 2: Portfolio Reviews
Panel including Gavin Goulden

Whether it is your first job in the industry or you are looking to switch jobs, getting a job as an artist in games has never been more competitive. This session follows the “Killer Portfolio or Portfolio Killer” panel discussion and will focus on one-on-one portfolio reviews from the panelists. Participants will receive constructive critiques and advice to give their portfolios an edge in this competitive market without the pressure of an interview.

3:00pm-4:00pm – Room 2001 West Hall
Tools for Marvel’s Spider-Man: Editing with Immutable Data
Ronald Pieket

The world of ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ is roughly six times the size of Insomniac’s previous open world game ‘Sunset Overdrive’. To handle the increased data load, Insomniac Games set about to completely rewrite their production tools in C++.

This talk will explain how the team went about replacing the entire tools stack in the middle of developing ‘Spider-Man’, without slowing down production. Ron Pieket will highlight several key technologies utilized in the new tools. Implicit sharing eliminates the need for deep copy or mutex locks when handling data in a multi-threaded application. The concept of immutable objects is a radical old idea, newly appreciated. An immutable object is never modified. Instead, changes are applied by generating a new object. The edit loop is a construct that delivers effortless and fool-proof undo, Perforce handling, and more. Ron will also discuss several pitfalls encountered, and how to avoid them.


Whew! That was a lot! Looking forward to seeing you at GDC!