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Starship Physics and Controls that Feel Real: Bringing the Toys of Starlink to Digital Life

Michael Wasilewski (Team Lead Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto)

Location: Room 2001, West Hall

Date: Friday, March 22

Time: 11:30am - 12:00pm

Pass Type: All Access, GDC Conference + Summits, GDC Conference - Get your pass now!

Topic: Programming

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: All

How do children play with their toys? They skim them along the floor, tumble them around in the air, and smash them into walls. In Starlink: Battle for Atlas, one of our key pillars was that the digital ship should feel true to how children might play with its physical toy equivalent. In this talk, we will describe how we brought the ships of Starlink to life. By combining specialized but reusable behaviors, designers can control how vehicles handle in multiple navigation modes, as well as how dynamic they look on screen. The tricky bit with highly configurable vehicles is tackling the ensuing combinatorial explosion of tuning that comes from each part affecting the outcome. Finally, relaxing the coupling between physics and gameplay can lead to more interesting environmental impacts and corresponding angular momentum preserving recovery animations.


Attendees will take away an understanding of how small sets of reusable behaviors can define how a vehicle handles and looks on screen while keeping tuning from design under control. Techniques for impactful environmental collisions and subsequent recoveries used in 'Starlink' can be applied to other games with vehicles.

Intended Audience

The target audience for this talk includes gameplay programmers and technical designers. Although it is a technical talk, the descriptions will be visual and accessible to a wider audience.