WHO WORKS HERE
People Staff Interview
Physics Engine Development Engineer
Came to Polyphony Digital in 1999 after working at a different game development company, joining the Polyphony development team from "Gran Turismo 3". Responsible for mathematical calculation libraries, driver and crowd character motions.
A local electronic store was his classroom
A small electronics shop in the Gunma Prefecture where I lived had a few PC's at the storefront, and high school kids on their way home from school used to play games and also program. This was back in the days of the MZ-80 series, PC-8000 series, and FM7. I was in 4th or 5th grade then, and used to watch what they were doing with great interest.
One day when I was playing with a pachinko game, it all of a sudden switched to the program screen. So I changed the ASCII art in the code, copying knowledge I had learned just from watching. I remember I also rewrote the code that looked like the score, and remember being very excited that it was reflected inside the game. After that, some older high school guys taught me BASIC, and I rose to a level where I was able to make simple shooting games.
The shock of Virtua Fighter
From Jr. High I became busy with school clubs and class councils, and learning math from a great math teacher which made learning mathmatics fun, so I didn't touch computers for a while. And when I moved to Tokyo to attend Waseda Univercity in the Mathmatics section of the Engineering Department, I frequented the Budokan competition hall to watch professional wrestling which I enjoyed alot.
I was a great fan of professional wrestling since watching "Tiger Mask" when I was a child, and when Virtua Fighter came out that was a big shock to me. I went to the arcade a lot back then. For a fan of professional wrestling and competition fighting like me, I could see that the movements of the characters were very legitimate.
A bank or a game development company
When it was time to look for jobs, when I thought of what exactly is it that I wanted to do, I was split between getting involved in working with exchange rates, using my mathematic skills, and at the same time my fond memories of the fun I had making games as a child. So I decided that I would apply for a bank and a game company, and join the one which accepted me first.
As a result, I joined my first game development company. After working there for 2 years, an older colleague was changing jobs to join Polyphony, and he suggested I should as well, and so I joined Polyphony myself.
Fighting games, motorcycle riders, and drivers, they are all the same in that it involves a human body.
At first I was responsible for tools, but after a few years we were to show a motorcycle demo at E3, and I became involved in making a motorcycle rider. Ever since then I've been involved with character motions. What is typically used in games like this is motion capture or an animator applying the motions, but I generate all the movements in real time.
This is because "Gran Turismo" has a huge number of cars included in the game, and having all the driver motions in captured data would incur a huge cost. I've seen Mr. Tan work out and assemble all the functions of a car one by one to simulate their movement, so the driver movement is assembled that way as well where specific interiors for each car would decide where a drivers hand would go, where his feet is positioned, which then decides which way the joints would face, how the skeleton and muscles would be in those positions, etc. It's a method called inverse kinematics.
And knowing the status of the skeleton also has the merit of being able to apply external forces to the motion. To me, fighting games, motorcycle riders and drivers, they are all the same in that it involves a human body, and it's a field I want to keep pursuing.
The character of Polyphony Digital
The first thing I thought when I joined is that "there are really a lot of really talented people here". The sheer amount of knowledge each and every person has, is incredible. On the other hand there was frustration initially that it was hard to see where, when and who made work decisions. But now we have an internal chat system where all work exchanges are open, and we can see what's going on in all aspects of the development if you look for it. Programmers can make comments to artists, and vice versa.
Not even half a year after the 2011 Earthquake, an office was opened and operating in Fukuoka for risk distribution. I feel a strong company policy to "make society better" and "and do the right thing as a company, to set things in motion quickly" here. I think the large number of married staff and people coming back after having left the company for a while really shows the true value of this company.
Regarding the hiring of Physics Engine Development Engineers
The game physics engine is a bit special in that it has to calculate within a limited time and resource, and that you can't predict what kind of movement that the user will make. You need a specific sense of balance to combine a fast and stable program with realism, so it would be a great strength to have prior game development experience.
Meanwhile, things that PC's can't do now might be possible in 10 years. When thinking along those terms it is very important to have knowledge of physics and mathematics, and being able to read and understand new theories.
I only know mathematics, and my programming skills had stopped in elementary school when I started game development work, so I had to study computers quite hard to catch up. People joining us will probably be people with a certain level of knowledge, but I think Polyphony is a great place if you want to reach even higher. I've never had a question unanswered from someone in the company any time I asked something computer related.