Today is the second day proper of the Unity3D conference - here's the official Unity blog post on what happened at the keynote which happened yesterday. Fun stuff.
So far I've been to a secret talk about secret stuff, and a talk on developing apps for the Oculus Rift 3D headset. The technology in the Rift is so much more than a stereo viewer, and I can understand the excitement around it. The talk demonstrated how on a Windows system it was a piece of cake to take a Unity3D project and drop in some new 'prefab' objects to create a complete Virtual Reality experience. There's a big dev community for this hardware. Can't wait to get to write my own apps for one.
Next up was a talk on optimizing games for 2D. The heart of this was to avoid using simple quads for rendering sprites, and to instead make custom shapes from triangles that best suit the shape of the image. Even transparent areas on a sprite on a quad takes rendering time on modern graphics hardware: so cutting down the sprite can speed things up by an amazing amount: up to 32 times in some cases. It's interesting that the forthcoming version of Unity3D is going to do this for us.
Have you heard of Kerbal Space Program? No? What's wrong with you? It's an awesome spaceship sandbox game. The developers gave a talk on the difficulties involved with creating a universe, and guess what? It's hard. It's mostly hard before floating point math just breaks down when you need to model something a few meters from you AND something on the other side of the solar system. They used all sorts of interesting tricks such as moving the universe around you in a kind of local frame of reference, to writing new double precision datatypes. Then they got into solving 2-body gravitation problems to model the orbits of the planets and moons, and how to apply a texture to a planet which looks from launch to orbit without using 16,000,000,000 vertices. Smart guys.
I ended the day with talks on using existing art and model assets, so now there is nothing holding me back from publishing some Windows App Store games. Watch this space.