Get ready for Philly Tech Week!

Philly Tech Week has almost begun! Microsoft is sponsoring, and I plan to be all over the event as much as I can.

Here’s where you can find me and Microsoft next week…

Starting on Friday, where the Arcade @ Dilworth event is going to bring in local game developers from all over town! (UPDATE: this event is now Saturday, due to rain. So Saturday night!)

On Saturday, I’ll be at the 4th Annual Philly Women in Tech Summit, talking about Cloud computing!

On Tuesday, I’m going to be at Girl Develop It! Rise and Shine to connect with the great GDI Chapter here.

Wednesday, Microsoft is hosting a special all-day event: Doing Business and Developing in the Cloud. We are going to have great info, and also some great raffle prizes to give away, so don’t miss out on this if you can make it!

On Thursday I’m going to talk about Kinect and exercise at the Dev Day Talks. And I’ll see you at the Dev Day After Party too!

And it’s all over next Friday, with the big Signature Event!

A full list of events Microsoft is recommending, and where to sign up, is located right here: http://phillymtc.com/SitePages/ptw2015.aspx

Unity Roadshow and other Philly Game News

Quick programming notice:

Unity Roadshow is going to be in Philadelphia this week! I’m very excited to be there on April 2 at the Philly Game Forge. If you want a great day of Unity training, it’s not too late to register for free!  Hope to see you there!

Also, if you love Philly games, please check out the results of the latest Philly Dev Night Game Jam: ProfitJam.

The GDC Vault also released lots of free content today. This includes the GDC Failure Workshop featuring Will Stallwood from Philly’s Cipher Prime and Indie Soapbox featuring Philly developer Greg Lobanov talking about his adventure biking across the USA. Cipher Prime’s Dain Saint also did a cool talk about the Universe from a game design perspective, and How to Break the Game.

So much love for local devs! Can’t wait to see many of you this week!

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Currently Playing – Ori and the Blind Forest

I had a weekend set aside to relax, so I spent some of it playing Ori and the Blind Forest on Xbox One. I first saw the game at the ID@Xbox showcase at GDC, and then it was available just a few days later, so I took the plunge. It’s super pretty but super hard, like Super Metroid mashed up with Super Meat Boy … and then rolled in a Miyazaki film (I ran out of ‘supers’). I’m just past the 50 percent mark, and I’ve died over 200 times. Which is probably lousy!

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But look how pretty it is!

I just changed my Twitter background to this just because it’s so soothing. It felt a little weird to have Mario and not a Microsoft game in that background (even though I still love Mario).

I’d definitely recommend the game, if you have a high tolerance for thumb numbing frustration. (Or, naturally, if you are much better at tricky platforming than I am. The GDC demoer had a much easier time with the “tree escape” sequence than I did.)

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The big trends in indie gaming this year so far seem to be Metroidvanias in the single player, and 4 or 8-player local arena games for the multiplayer. Towerfall and Sportsfriends are the trendsetters here. At GDC I also spent some time with ClusterPuck 99, which I’ve written about at Tap-Repeatedly after a good chat with the developers.

Metroidvanias I’ve played so far this year:

  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Chasm
  • Axiom Verge

Local Arena games I’ve played (or at least watched) so far this year:

I feel like I’m forgetting some, and here it’s only March.

Feel free to talk about how “metroidvania” is a bad name for a genre – I am not 100% on it, but it seems to be what everyone’s settling on for now.

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Learn Some New (or older) Game Technology!

Having just got back from GDC, I saw a little bit of That Reddit Post that’s going around. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t worry about it, though I for one support colorful hair and hugging (As I said in so many words on Twitter – Hug a Dev – Ask First). Specifically, though, I want to address just part of the post that I found interesting, which was about the game technologies on display at GDC.

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First of all, I noticed that this poster praised Torque, which I found odd. A few jobs ago it was the engine I was using, and everyone that I said that to expressed their sympathies. Nothing against the people working on that middleware, but it had a really difficult asset pipeline, especially for teaching to students. And it lacked flexibility; things that seemed like they should be easy, like moving platforms for a platforming game required hacking the base sourcecode. I still think we learned valuable skills working in Torque. But when I saw how simple the same tasks were comparatively in Unity, I was really happy to switch. Maybe that makes it easier for just anybody to make moving platforms, but there’s no point in emphasizing a higher barrier to entry for the same exact resulting game mechanic. (Please note that is is all just my personal tech opinions, but it’s something that I worked with for several years.)

At GDC I was part of the Quick Start Challenges for Microsoft’s booth, right on the expo floor, and people were allowed to check out whatever challenge they thought was most interesting. The premise: code up a coding challenge and enter a raffle to win great MS prizes. From my observations (and our post-event surveys) people were most interested in checking out our Unity challenge above all. Maybe it was because they were already familiar with the engine and thought it seemed easy. Or maybe it was because of the really amazing graphics in our sample game, Zombie Pumpkin Slayer (Source code and assets available on GitHub thanks to the amazing Adam Tuliper).

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But there were some other challenges in the QSCs equally worth checking out. For one, we showcased the Xbox Live SDK for Windows 10, which will allow developers to use XBox Live Leaderboards, Friends Lists, etc, in their Windows 10 games. I’m really excited about this because it’s a feature people have been asking for, and that I’ve personally wanted too.

We also had a Cocos2d-x Challenge!  I don’t know if this is a surprise to the Reddit poster who seemed to imply it wasn’t around anymore, but Cocos2d is a platform MS is committing support to, and if you want to learn it, we’re here to help. I helped out with the live event for the Cocos2d-x tutorial on Microsoft Virtual Academy, which is lead by Eric Mittelete and Sanjeev Dwivedi. If you want to check out the challenge that people were able to do on the floor at GDC, it’s available on MVA as well.

Microsoft is posting a lot of free game development tutorials on Virtual Academy to get beginners started. There’s resources for WebGL, C++/Direct X, and MonoGame, as well as the “easier” middlewares like Construct 2, GameMaker, and of course Unity.

And here’s some other MVA’s Microsoft is encouraging people to check out right now:

C# Fundamentals for Absolute Beginners (Very valuable to me as I started my C# journey in Unity 3D)

Microsoft Azure Fundamentals (If you want to learn about Cloud and how that can fit into your pipeline)

Developing Universal Windows Apps with C# and XAML (The Universal App Platform is what Windows is moving toward in in the future – no separate codebase for your  PC and Phone versions!)

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So… maybe you want to dive right into writing code. Or maybe you find that intimidating, and something more graphical is more your speed. Whatever it is, I’m happy to help point you in the right direction. Good luck to all the beginners, and experienced coders, and riffraff out there.

Where to Find Me

A quick update on my upcoming plans and appearances:

I just got back from IndieCade East (look for more coverage soon).

Now I am heading to the Capital Region Celebration of Women in Computing where I am presenting a TouchDevelop session on Saturday!

After that, I am speaking at the Narrative Summit at the Game Developers Conference! I’m very excited about this opportunity, where I will be discussing my game narrative research in a presentation focused on how gamers make moral choices. If you want to find me at GDC, let’s chat!

And when I’m back in town, I’ll be a mentor at LadyHacks, Philadelphia’s women-focused hackathon. See you soon!

The Value of Game Critique and Reviews

At MAGfest I was lucky enough to be on several panels as part of the MAGES wing of the conference! You can see the panel I headed up  about Game Critique and Reviews, here now on this video on YouTube! Joining me are Chris TottenLuke Peterschmidt, and Bobby Schweizer.

It’s hard to see the slides (which are a bit text-heavy), but you can check them out on my OneDrive or on SlideShare.

To be honest, I’ve wanted to cover this topic in my blog for literally years. I’ve had an item sitting in my draft folder since August of 2012 asking “what is the value in game critique”? The problem was I never came to any real conclusion about it that worked well as an essay. So I boiled my feelings down into this panel talk instead and invited many to take part. There’s a lot of great questions, discussion, and diverse opinions. I know the panel videos are long (and yeah the concert vids on MAGFest may be way more interesting to most people) but I hope a few people will check it out and get something out of it!

The info in this panel is already out of date – as I was making the slides, Joystiq decided to stop using review scores, but now, just like that, Joystiq as we knew it has come to an end. Today, however, Eurogamer has announced they’re dropping review scores, so the debate continues. I’m in favor of this method, but curious what other people think!

If you want to see more about how I personally review a game, you can read my latest, too: Hyrule Warriors.

I’d like to thank MAGES for inviting me, and everyone who took part in this amazing discussion!

 

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I Used the MakerBot

I had always seen 3D printers from afar, as some kind of miracle device that could just effortlessly make stuff. The hype online about 3D printing was incredible. But when I talked to anyone who had used a 3D Printer, they quickly warned me that the devices aren’t really magic. In fact, it actually takes some practice to get a 3D Printer to behave, and nothing turns out great at first.

I think the world should know.

This post exists primarily to catalog my series of failures in 3D Printing. Hopefully you’ll find that educational, and appreciate an honest look, along with my tips.

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