GDC 2017: The Most Essential Sessions for an Artist

GDC 2017: The Most Essential Sessions for an Artist

We took the liberty to compile a list of some of the most interesting sessions that you should visit during GDC 2017.

We took the liberty to compile a list of some of the most interesting sessions, you should visit during GDC 2017.


Find Kirill Tokarev on the picture! He’s there!

Monday, Feb 27

Advanced Graphics Techniques Tutorial Day

Advanced Graphics Techniques Tutorial Day will be an interesting set of sessions for technical artists and game developers, who want to work with DirectX technologies. While it’s aimed at people, who are building cutting-edge PC game graphics, it might be also useful for indie developers. During this day you’ll be able to learn more about Vulkan, DirectX12, particle simulation and cinematic depth of field (everyone loves that old good depth of field).

Art Direction Bootcamp

This is a day-long event dedicated to art direction and broader artistic vision. You’ll hear a talk from Denis Rogic. Greg Foertsch (Firaxis Games) will discuss pre-production, Jason Connell (Sucker Punch) will share his thoughts on the creation of Infamous Second Son (which is one of the most beautiful games on PS4 to this day). Plus, don’t forget to visit the amazing talk by Brian Horton from Infinity Ward, who will touch on ‘hero-building’ in games. Erick Pangilinan and Christian Nakata from Naughty Dog are going to explain cinematic environment production – a real treat for readers.

Tuesday, Feb 28

Level Design Workshop

This is the seventh time GDC is running this workshop. As usual, the speakers are running talks on a variety of topics. This year you’ll hear Clemence Maurer from Eidos-Montreal talk about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Steve Lee from Arkane talk about Dishonored 2. A great talk from Elisabeth Beinke-Schwartz (Certain Affinity) will be devoted to level design in single/multiplayer games. Lisa Brown will discuss the creation of Hyper Light Drifter and how they’ve managed to build the world of this game. We also recommend visiting the talk by Robin-Yann Storm (Io-Interactive), who will discuss tool design. Later that day, be sure to listen to Jolie Menzel (Ubisoft), who will tell how to make levels with intricate stories.

Technical Artist Bootcamp

This one will be happening simultaneously with the Level Design Workshop, so you will need to choose the right slots for you. There will be talks from NVIDIA, AMD. SideFX will present a lot of interesting things about procedural technologies, thanks to Luiz Kruel. Mary Cassin (Google) will discuss the difficulties of building technical solutions for VR. Ben Cloward (BioWare) is giving a lecture on shaders. There’s also going to be a very interesting session Tech Art for Educators, which might be interesting if you’re just trying to figure out where do you want to do and what do you want to study.

Wednesday, March 1

Porting a Real Life Castle into Your Game When You’re Broke

Joseph Azzam  from World Void talks about the way you can use photogrammetry to add a lot of very cool content into your project. Joseph managed to get a whole castle into his game for just $70. Very interesting, if you’re working on a tight budget.

Future of Art Production in Games

Andrew Maximov from Naughty Dog talked about the way you’re going to create art in the future. If you’re interested in photoscanning, procedurally generated content, neural networks, VR – this is a talk you can’t miss. Andrew is a very clever guy and a very eloquent speaker. Always a pleasure to listen to his talks.

Photogrammetry for Games: Art, Technology and Pipeline Integration for Amazing Worlds

This is a sponsored talk from NVIDIA, which will help you understand photogrammetry a little better. They will teach you how to choose the right tools, how to build a good pipeline and how to make good shots.

Bringing Epic Characters to Life in Paragon with UE4 and Substance

Brad Smith & Harrison Moore from Epic Games will show you how to build awesome materials for game characters using Allegorithmic’s Substance Tools. Brad is a master of procedural material building. You can find one of his interviews here. During this speech they will concentrate on Paragon’s awesome heroes and how to paint them to look good in UE4.

‘Agents of Mayhem’: Physically-Based Materials in a Stylized Open World

James Taylor  takes the stage to talk about PBR and the way this standart could be used in stylized games with open world. His talk mostly centers on ‘Agents of Mayhem’. A great way to learn more about the way you can mix the PBR with stylized content. Some topics, which will be mentioned: memory management of the additional specular textures, shader techniques, the importance of color choices and use of documentation, world materials, material stylization.

Art Leadership Roundtable

Our recent guest Keith Self-Ballard invites every artist to discuss pressing issues which face artists and art culture in the game industry. The main topics are leadership, management, direction and development. You’ll also be able to get advice for future art leads / directors as well as those who regularly collaborate with their own studio’s art department.

GPU-Based Run-Time Procedural Placement in ‘Horizon: Zero Dawn’

‘Horizon: Zero Dawn’ is one of the most technically advanced games of its time. During GDC you’ll be able to listen to Jaap Van Muijden from Guerrilla Games, who’s going to discuss the GPU based procedural placement system that dynamically creates the world of ‘Horizon: Zero Dawn’ around the player. This is a procedural system, which assembles fully-fledged environments while the player walks through them, complete with sounds, effects, wildlife and game-play elements. You’ll be able to see the entire pipeline, from the graph editor where artists can define the procedural placement rules to the GPU algorithms. Very interesting stuff.

Thursday, March 2

Character Pipeline and Customization System for ‘Far Cry Primal’

Julien Lalleve and Kieran O’Sullivan  from Ubisoft Toronto talk about the way character customization system was implemented in ‘Far Cry Primal’.

The Art of ‘Overwatch’: Evolving a Legacy

William Petras and Arnold Tsang will discuss the way they’ve created the iconic visual style for Overwatch. They talk about early challenges, such as how to develop an art style for a new universe among a family of established franchises like’ Warcraft’, ‘Starcraft’ and ‘Diablo’. You’ll also learn about the key points of art direction that was established early on, such as diversity, a hopeful future, a vibrant world, etc. They’ll also walk through the process, and inspiration behind designing some of the heroes and maps of ‘Overwatch’ up until launch, and how the art team continues to tackle new challenges with post-launch events.

‘Owlboy’: The Motivational Power of Inspiration

Simon Stafsnes Andersen from D-Pad Studio (one of the best pixel artists of his generation) discussed Owlboy. Here he will talk about the things that inspired him to build this amazing game.

Art Direction of ‘Street Fighter V’: The Role of Art in Fighting Games

It’s not often that you get a chance to listen to Toshiyuki Kamei  from Capcom. In this session, he will explain why art is so important for fighting games.

Capcom has been creating fighting games for 30 years. 30 years of experience has influenced the art of game creation, and vice versa, art has influenced the structure of the game. Capcom has game creation history and techniques that can only be learned from documents and mentors within the company. This history is important for making a fighting game more visual and understandable. It can be said that these techniques are the reason why Capcom fighting games have maintained such a high quality throughout the years. In this session, Toshiyuki will introduce Capcom’s techniques of art creation in its development of fighting games and discuss how the art has played a role in the overall game structure.

Building Beauclair

A great chance to learn how one of the coolest cities in Witcher 3: Blood and Wine was created. Senior Environment Artist Kacper Niepokolczycki discusses the creation of this location from early design to final pass. He will precisely break down what kind of technical restrictions the team was facing when working on this most demanding area of Toussaint, as well as how they’ve managed to overcome them. Stay to learn about the efficient ways of using available budgets for textures, meshes and other game elements.

Friday, March 3

Shoot for the Sky: The Ambitious HDR Time-Lapse Skies of ‘Forza Horizon 3’

Forza Horizon 3 is one of the best looking driving games on Xbox One. Playground Games’ Lead Lighting Artist Jamie Wood will talk about the way the skies were created in this game. The team developed a technique for shooting high resolution 24 hour HDR time-lapse photography using a custom camera rig, on location, and then projected these evolving sky captures onto the in-game sky. The improvements this brought to the lighting system as a whole and the unexpected benefits of capturing the true changing nature of the sky offer a unique option for any videogame/real-time application that features moving time of day.

Creating the Art of ‘ABZU’

Matt Nava from Giant Squid Studios will talk about the way he created the amazing artstyle of ABZU. You can also read a little interview about his game here at

You Look Smashing: Procedural Art Direction of ‘We Happy Few’

Whitney Clayton from Compulsion Games discusses the way she approached the production of the dystopian sandbox ‘We Happy Few’. Pre-production research, world building, and production challenges are all covered in this talk.

This is not a complete list by any means. If you have any suggestions, please, leave them in the comments. We’ll try to add them to the project.

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    GDC 2017: The Most Essential Sessions for an Artist