Don’t get left behind

Do you want to know what the latest trends are in game development? Do you have a fear of being left behind in the game dev industry because you don’t know what such n’ such a technique is? Is there something you can do to make sure you’re not left behind in the dust?  There is!

In this post, I’m mainly concerned with physics and graphics, but the same sort of techniques apply to other fields as well. The following items are what I do regularly to keep up to date in my field:

  1. Read popular blogs and look at their blog rolls too to find even more. They probably have linked other professionals into their blog rolls. If you do’t know any, ask around or find the blog for the author of one of your books. Google search perhaps. I have RSS feeds for all the best ones.
  2. Browse the newest technical books on amazon.com. This technique is only somewhat useful because you may become overwhelmed with the number of results. I haven’t tried it, but perhaps you could browse by release date. Just searching using the words “game and physics” should reveal results related to physics simulation in game dev.
  3. Books that come out in a series usually means that things change rather fast. For example the ShaderX series. Just browsing the table of contents of the latest books (and past too), gives you a very good idea of what people are working on and what the current challenges are.
  4. Look at the available sessions that will be presented for the upcoming GDC, Gamefest, Siggraph, & Intel conventions/conferences. Just by looking at the sessions available gives you an idea about what the latest trends are. Also, after the conferences, it’s usually possible to gather white papers, videos, audio, and powerpoint slides of the sessions sometimes. Either free or not free (GDCVault).
  5. Check out nVidia, AMD, Intel, Microsoft developer areas of their websites. If they have rss feeds, subscribe to them. They may also have presentations, whitepapers, and videos from conferences here too. Be sure to also download their sdks and look at the samples they packaged with it. Their samples give a decent indication of what is new. They usually have a TON of information on the developer areas of their sites.
  6. Large game dev companies usually have R&D websites.  Valve, Crytek, Insomniac, etc. They usually have a place they post whitepapers/presentations/etc. that they presented at a conference sometime.
  7. Look at what the latest tools are at the expos and conferences. A lot of times middleware developers will try to sell their product at expos, so it’s important to actually look at what is being offered and advertised. Things such as Havok, Unity, Granny 3D, etc. Middleware is really important so don’t forget about it.
  8. Hot new academic papers / whitepapers come from schools. The best ones are usually ones with graduate degrees that focus on one or more areas of game dev such as physics or graphics. The most notable being Stanford and Carnegie Mellon.  Sadly, DigiPen doesn’t have jack.  Usually there is a section on their website, but sometimes it’s difficult to find. Professors sometimes post their papers on their own personal website instead of the schools, so keep that in mind. Also, students have excellent papers too. So browsing a student’s website portfolio may provide links to their whitepapers or other works that are useful. Industry professionals also have whitepapers too (employees at microsoft, or other game dev companies). Search for their blogs and/or websites to get juicy info about what they’re working on, what they are attempting to solve, and the whitepapers they may have contributed to.
  9. Don’t forget obvious things such as game developer magazine and company news letters such as intel visual adrenaline. Look for other newsletters as well such as amd, nvidia, etc. Might as well subscribe to gdc, gamefest, & siggraph newsletters too.
  10. It may also benefit you to look at a school’s curriculum and their classes’ syllabi periodically to make sure you’re not getting off track. Particularly the graduate courses.
  11. There are other things such as forums, discussions, and usenet newsgroups, but you may well be wasting your time as they’re usually more useful if you need help with something.

I must caution you though. The hot new stuff (such as academic whitepapers) might not become industry standard. So you may put a lot of effort into learning some awesome new technique, but it may eventually be a waste of time for some reason. I personally like to wait a couple of years to see what techniques are actually being integrated into games before I waste time learning them. Of course this always keeps me a little bit behind everyone else, but I at least know about the technique, even though I haven’t spent the time to implement it.

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