WHO WORKS HERE
People Staff Interview
After graduating from the graduate school of Information in Waseda University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, joined Polyphony in 2008. From "Gran Turismo 5" and on, working on occlusion culling and up-conversion of movies.
Graphics is fun
In elementary school, there was a MSX PC at home that my father used to play games on. But if you start the MSX without a cartridge, it starts up in BASIC. My first experience programming, was entering code from books and magazines into this machine without really knowing what the code meant.
After making a friend in Jr. High with some knowledge of programming in a club, I slowly learned to program. In programming there are a lot of different fields, but because you can see changes with your eyes, I thought graphics was fun.
For example in that club, I played around and made a program that randomly changes the number of hair on Namihei Isono's (a balding cartoon character in an old Japanese anime) head when you boot the computer.
Participating in a community with graphics engineers
After entering high school, I was still learning fundamental programming through trial and error, "to draw clean lines" and "to fill a triangle" and so on, and I wrote a blog that introduced that process.
That led to me exchanging comments with other blogs writing about similar content, and my blog started to be picked up by antennae sights which compiled similar blogs. So it turned out that for a time I was amongst a community where Japan's graphics engineer would gather, and discuss graphics related things in the middle of the night through IRC.
I was the first generation of AO (Admissions Office) entries into Waseda University, and for the admissions test I did a presentation regarding the next generation of data archivers for a group of professors, which got me accepted. It had nothing to do with graphics, but at the time that was the most interesting. During my student years I was lucky in meeting good classmates and professors, and worked part time in a software development company that a friend set up, and travelled on my motorcycle.
Can apply if you have skill, even straight out of college
When I advanced to graduate school and started talking about needing to look for jobs soon with my friend, he said to me "You should apply for Polyphony. They let you ask for the salary you want there". But when I looked it up, there was only an application form for people with experience, but it also mentioned that if you have the skill, you could apply fresh out of school. This scared me a bit, but that friend pushed me to try, and I turned in my application.
I liked "Gran Turismo" and had played the first GT to the present including "Tourist Trophy". I had also read a comic story called "The men who made Gran Turismo". And I felt attracted that a game device had less restrictions than a PC or web browser, and that development can be performed from the hardware according to your needs.
In the job interview with Mr. Yamauchi, I remember very clearly asking about specs regarding the first GT, and he said to me "Mr. Tan is right over there, let's go ask him", and I was able to ask him in person. I was like "The real Mr. Tan who was in "The men who made Gran Turismo" is in front of me!".
The challenge of occlusion culling
When I joined it was in the midst of "Gran Turismo 5" development, and I was given the task of figuring out how to display SD movies with as little loss as possible on an HD screen in game. There was talk about the PlayStation®3 up-conversion feature being really good at the time, and I asked for support from SCE as well.
After that I was involved in the processing of objects around a track such as trees, and in "Gran Turismo 6" I was working on occlusion culling using the PlayStation®3 SPU. This involves omitting backgrounds that will not appear on screen to improve processing speed, and it uses the SPU to simulate a small display area and then drawing to the GPU. It's a part that isn't normally noticed by users, but I think it went well.
The character of Polyphony Digital
There are many game development companies who use game engines bought externally, but Polyphony makes everything from the top to the bottom from scratch. I think being able to make everything how you want to, and understanding every nook and cranny is really satisfying for an engineer.
I think it's priceless, that there is a company culture where you can propose, "let's write this from scratch ourselves", when normally you would get specs you have to adhere to from your bosses, or have to decide on purchasing something externally.
I also think that the close distance to the cutting edge hardware development company like Sony is also an advantage that is not common elsewhere. And personally speaking I have a newborn daughter, so I think this company that is very flexible in terms of time, is the best for people who want to take time raising their kids. Of course this also takes self-control, so that you don't let yourself slack off.
Regarding the recruiting for Graphics Engineers
In the engineering inside the company, there are a lot of subjects we would like to work with, but we don't have enough hands. Every subject is very specialized; for example how light moves on a surface of a particular object, etc. I think by making the game engine from scratch, you can pull out the full performance of the hardware, and the compilation of those minute details is made possible.
Of course if we can find a super engineer that has all the knowledge and skills listed in the hiring information that would be fantastic, but even if that's not the case, we would at least like to find someone is confident, that can say that "I'm the best in this particular field". Even myself, I had weak knowledge of subjects other than graphics when I first joined, but if you are an avid researcher, it's never too late to learn.