Notacon 9

Notacon 9 weekend is over.

I gave my Game Maker Crash Course talk, which went well. I livecoded Space Invaders using Game Maker 8.1. This was my first-ever livecoding talk, and let me tell you, it’s not easy to talk intelligibly while coding!

I was really anxious about screwing the talk up the night before, but when I got into it I was able to keep my mental focus in both the talk and in the code, and got through enough of it in 90 minutes that I felt like I’d gotten most of the fundamentals across, and took Q&A at that point. The talk went much better than my first go at it at my sneak preview/dress rehearsal, which means the March 10 rehearsal did it’s job admirably — but there was still a lot of things that I glossed over and didn’t explain as fully as I’d intended in my notes and slides.

But I think that actually worked out better (it was more an ad lib to go off script than an error), because I ended up just sticking to the immediate project and didn’t digress into confusing subjunctive sidebars about all the other things one might possibly do in Game Maker with a given type of resource, Event, or Action. I only flubbed a couple times (apart from the intentional errors that I made to demonstrate how the process of building up a project iteratively really looks — building and testing incremental bits of progress toward the final project), and recovered gracefully and kept the talk moving, and I didn’t end up needing my detailed outline notes at all. I’m not sure how well the audio got picked up by the microphone, as I could not really hear myself over the monitors at all while I was speaking, but it will be interesting to see if they can do anything in post-processing to salvage the video.

One of the best things at Notacon this year, and possibly one of the best all time things at Notacon, was the Artemis Starship Bridge Simulator workshop led by Mike Substelny and Tom Robertson. I was very happy that they came to their first Notacon in a roundabout way because of me. When I was working on my proposal for A Game Any Game, I approached Mike and asked him if he would like to help me out with a Game Maker workshop for the weekend. Mike was the instructor who led the intro to game design class at Lorain County Community College, which is what finally got me back into game design and programming, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to work together on a project like this with him. He declined at first, but after thinking about it some more decided to submit his own proposal with Tom, and that’s how that happened. I love seeing my enthusiasm for community events bring in more people and their energy for the things that they are enthusiastic about.

I saw a lot of friends this year, and by that I don’t mean the usual hacker scene personalities; I mean local people who I’ve known for years, but never had seen at Notacon before. Even though I always felt many of them would be into it and enjoy the talks and activities, and many of them were friends or friends of friends with people who went each year. I’m not sure whether my talking about how great it is to be there for the past three years had any influence or not, but it doesn’t really matter.

However, this year’s event was quite a bit smaller than past years, overall. I’m not sure why that is, and it makes me wonder. The same good feelings were there, about being at a great party with brilliant people, and actually in some ways maybe they were stronger than past years, the luminaries and bigger personalities who were missing gave the event a more down to earth and sedate tone and I think maybe allowed those who were there to embiggen themselves a bit to fill out the empty space more than they might have otherwise. I felt like there was something missing for much of the weekend, so many people who’ve been coming for years who weren’t there this year.

A Game Any Game was not as successful as I had hoped, but ever since I submitted the proposal to do it, I had this feeling that it would be difficult to attract participants when there’s so much else to do all weekend long. We had a few people come to the table we were at, to talk and get the software from me, and build a little start of something. And any amount of that to me counts as win. I hadn’t planned on making a game myself, as I’d wanted to be available to help others with their questions as they got acclimated to Game Maker, but with the lack of participants, I ended up working on a game and completed it just before the event ended.

It really isn’t much of a game, in fact it’s really pretty broken in some ways, and the code, if you look at it, it quite rough. As I worked on it, I had the feeling I used to get from drawing margin doodles while sitting around waiting for inspiration to grab me. It was less an attempt at designing something good, and more an experiment, to stretch my legs a bit and do something I hadn’t done with Game Maker before, and so I chose to do a game that used mouse controls. Doing the controls was a little tricky, mainly because I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted, and I’m not certain that the approach I ended up with is the best, and probably it isn’t, but for the purposes of exploring the mouse functions and doing something with them, it was a good experience. I only spent maybe a total of four hours over the weekend seriously engrossed in building it, and much of the rest of the time I was working on it, it was an aimless, design-less exercise.

So, enough excuse-making, I think I’ve adequately established that this is probably not worth playing, but for posterity I’ll have the .gm81 file water if anyone wants to look at the code, build it, play it, or mess around with it. I don’t plan to develop it further.

I’m planning on getting back into MUST!GET!EGG! in the next week after Ludum Dare. For those who I met this weekend who might be reading this, that will be a more inspired creation and should be a decent game by the time I finish it.

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  1. Actually, I’ve just been reminded that I have met Peter Fein. He spoke at Notacon 9 just last month. I only met him briefly, and had no idea about any of this at the time. Small world:)


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