Upcoming Panels (3/29/2015)

MTAC, Nashville, TN, April 3-5

  • Game Development for Fun (and not profit)Friday, 10am – How to get into game development as a hobbyist. We’ll focus on some examples of 2D games in Unity (a cross-platform game dev tool), other tools that are available (some free), and how to find the support and motivation you need to get involved.
  • Otaku Board and Card GamingSaturday, 5:15pm – A discussion of tabletop games that were either originally designed in Japan, or have otaku-related themes. We’ll also talk about a bit about types of game mechanics and the genres these games fit into.
  • “Learn to Play” sessionsTBD – I’ll be in Analog Gaming demoing various board and card games.

MomoCon, Atlanta, GA, May 28-31

  • Tabletop Game Mechanics for Video Game DevsThursday, 5pm – What can a video game designer learn from tabletop games? This talk will discuss the overlap between analog and digital game mechanics. For those new to the hobby, I’ll cover some of the categories and genres of modern board and card games. I’ll also highlight particular games that are good examples of these genres or have interesting implementations of certain mechanics.
  • Replacing Your RPG Habit with Board GamesThursday, 11pm – RPGs used to be a part of your life, but between scheduling conflicts and being a responsible adult, you just don’t have time anymore! We’ll talk about why we play RPGs, and how simpler games that require less out-of-game preparation can fulfill those same roles.
  • Board Gaming 201Saturday, 2pm – Have you dipped your toe into the tabletop gaming waters, but need some help navigating the vast expanse of board and card games out there? We’ll give some tips on how to identify the types of games you enjoy and recommend some lesser-known board games!
  • Game Development for Fun (and not profit)Saturday, 5pm

HamaCon, Huntsville, AL, June 26-28

  • [WSIG]: The Tabletop Game Recommendation PanelTBD – A panel discussion on board gaming, inspired by /r/boardgames. Tell us what you like, and we’ll tell you What you Should Get.
  • Analog Gaming – This will be my first full con as Analog Gaming director, and I’ll be stocking the board game library and running “Learn to Play” sessions throughout the con.

Upcoming panels and such (10/30/2014)

Anime Blast Chattanooga, November 7-9, Chattanooga, TN

  • Board and Card Gaming 201TBD – An overview of how to identify the types of board and card games you like, as well as board game recommendations.
  • Game Development for Fun (and not profit) TBD – An overview of “hobby” game development, including how to get started, the (free) tools available, and how to find support in user groups and game jams.
  • Drawing with InkscapeTBD – A brief introduction to Inkscape, free/open source vector graphics software, as a complement to other art programs like Photoshop or GIMP. Covers some of the basic functions, with some thoughts about how to build your technique around them.

(From what I understand, these panels should all be on Saturday, but that’s subject to change.)

Hamacon Minicon, November 15, Huntsville, AL

  • Analog Gaming – The minicon is my first con as Analog Gaming director, and I’ll be stocking the game library. Available for recommendations, demos, and any other game-related questions.

 

Upcoming panels and such (10/17/2014)

Geek Media Expo, October 24-26, Nashville, TN

  • Game Development for fun (and not profit) – Sunday 3pm, Clydesdale panel room – An overview of “hobby” video game development, including how to get started, the (mostly free) tools available, and how to find support/motivation in user groups and game jams.

Hamacon Minicon, November 15, Huntsville, AL

  • Analog Gaming – The minicon is my first con as Analog Gaming director, and I’ll be stocking the game library. Available for recommendations, demos, and any other game-related questions.

Upcoming panels (8/31/2014)

Knox Game Design, September 14

  • A Primer on Tabletop Game Mechanics – A talk about what video game designers can learn from board and card games; popular genres, categories, and mechanics; and interesting implementations of some common concepts.

Anime Weekend Atlanta, September 26-28

  • Otaku Board and Card Gaming – TBA – An overview of games by Japanese designers, as well as Japanese- and “otaku”-themed games. (This is sort of a specialized version of my general tabletop gaming panel.)

Blog re-purposing

There’s been a couple of gamedev-oriented blog posts I’ve been meaning to write for a while, so I figured it was time to take a look at the old blog again. I’ve pruned off all the random personal posts, leaving mostly the gaming and coding posts.

This isn’t one of those infamous “I really need to blog more” posts; it probably won’t be a regular thing. However, I find it’s helpful to create up specific outlets for specific types of posts, and I’ve sorely needed a space for this category of post.

I’ll also be using the blog to note upcoming panels I’m doing, since that’s becoming a regular thing for me these days.

Upcoming Road Trip

So I have an interesting road trip planned in a couple of weeks.

I say “interesting” because it’s been a while since I’ve done any serious travel on my own and I’m looking forward to it. But also because it’s just a crazy combination of destinations.

Geek Media Expo

October 21-23 I’ll be in Nashville for the Geek Media Expo. So far I’ve had three panels accepted (XNA Jam, Podcasting 101, Nonfiction for Geeks), but the schedule isn’t up yet.

GMX has been in the cards for months. I wasn’t really sure which days I’d be going or where we’d stay, but I knew I was going. (As it turns out, “all three days” and “in the con hotel.”)

The new thing, and the thing that turns this into an honest-to-goodness road trip, is that I’m also going to be in Memphis. I’ll be at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital earlier that week to participate in a medical study.

St. Jude

When I was in high school, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and went through treatment at St. Jude. (Incidentally,
since I haven’t had a relapse after 14 years, the chance of recurrence is nil.) I’m taking part in a study on the long-term effects of treatment.

Essentially, it’s three days of medical tests. My After Completion of Therapy checkups stopped 10 years after treatment, so it’s more data to help future research, as well as some medical tests at no cost to me. Plus, there are no travel costs and they’re paying me for my time (for some reason, participating in a medical study just sounds cooler than merely a very thorough checkup). In short, it’s a good excuse to take some time off and travel.

I won’t lie, I’m a terrified of the whole thing. First, the idea of three days of procedures and tests isn’t pleasant. And while I see it as an opportunity to catch potential health problems early (whether side effects from treatment or not), there’s always the slight chance that a battery of medical tests will turn up something serious. The best I can hope for is getting griped at about my weight and general being out of shape (which, not surprisingly, doesn’t help the blood pressure reading).

The plan is to leave out that Sunday, drive to Nashville for a day, head on to Memphis on Monday night, and then come back to Nashville Thursday after my last appointment.

Since I have some extra time, I will try to see family when I’m out that way. I’ve talked to dad about nailing down some plans on that front–mom and dad will likely be going on Sunday and Monday. (I’m in Nashville every year for MTAC, but usually ride with friends and spend all my time at the con. I always feel a little guilty.)

Thoughts on Google+

(For those interested, I’m on Google+ at http://gplus.to/dylanwolf.)

I’ve been on Google+ less than a week, and I’m still calculating my approach. Setting up on a new social network always feels like the most fun part of social networking–exploring the profile options, making new connections, and organizing all of this information. If nothing else, it’s a blank slate with nothing but potential.

As I said on Twitter, I still don’t know that I have much interesting to say, but I can organize the crap out of people I could say it to if I did. With Google+’s Circles, I’m living the backwards, introverted, OCD social networking dream.

The most surprising part of the process has been groking my own reactions to the way Google+ expects me to think. It feels like Google+ is triangulating a position between Facebook’s seemingly out-of-control privacy and app sprawl and Twitter’s more limited, content-focused service. But since it’s neither Twitter nor Facebook, it’s also given me some insight into the different ways I use other social networks (or rather, how they’ve conditioned me to think).

On Facebook, I’m careful with who I friend. I try to only friend people I’ve met in real life (although I’ve posted in a few “post your Facebook” forum threads, and feel a little awkward having Facebook friends I barely know, but feel it would be rude to unfriend). Because it’s a two-way street, I’m also careful about who I add–usually, I wait for other people to send the request. It’s a filter, really–a logical rule I can use to avoid playing fast and loose with gut decisions. I would feel creepy if I added everyone within one or two degrees of separation without thinking, but unsure where I’d draw the line otherwise.

But, as reading between the lines of that last paragraph might imply, it’s not just about filter, it’s about my perspective on what each service aims to be. Facebook centers around the concept of a “profile,” so Interests, Friends, and all that good stuff feels like an intrinsic part of the public profile I’m presenting to the interwebs. Even the apps I use–or, rather, the chance that an app will misuse access to my profile–feels like a defining characteristic.

On Twitter, I’m looser with who I follow. This is where I follow the musicians, actors, writers, artists, prominent developers, etc. that I want to keep up with. Like Facebook, I often wait for acquaintences to follow me first, but I’m much more loose with that filter. Twitter is a one-way street, so I don’t feel like I’m intruding by following.

Since there’s no true “about me” page, my Follow list doesn’t seem like it’s intrinsically supposed to communicate something about myself or my connections. People only care about my tweets, because that’s the main way I’m defining myself. As long as apps don’t post to my feed, I’m a little less nervous about giving them access to Twitter than Facebook, because they’re going to be lost in someone else’s Tweet stream. (I have been feeling guilty that most of my non-reply Tweets anymore are GameMarx retweets, but that’s another issue.)

I feel like Facebook defines, while Twitter communicates. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. In fact, because they’re for different purposes, I’m not sure the comparison is even valid.

Google+ threw me for a loop because I instantly wanted to categorize it as either a clone of Facebook or Twitter. At first glance it’s trying to be Facebook. It’s a profile and supports more than 140-character text messages. It uses a language of connection (“in a circle”) like Facebook rather than action or content like Twitter (“following,” “followers,” “lists”). (Thankfully, Google+ isn’t using the overly chummy “Friends” terminology–I think that’s a very responsible choice given the connotation of the word, and its inaccuracy in the online world.)

Because of this, I keep wanting to think that Google+ connections should ideally be two-way, Facebook-style. Of course Circles act more like Twitter’s one-way follows, but this assumption immediately sent me into the fearful, cautionary approach I use with Facebook. Knowing this is a false assumption, I’d like to break this and use Google+ to build a wide, multi-tiered network of connections, something I don’t feel the urge to do on Twitter and don’t have the ability to do on Facebook.

I assume more people will be like me and feel the need to make two-way connections on Google+ than with Twitter. I assume many people will have a throw-away Circle that they filter out. (Actually, I guess people do this with Twitter now, but I don’t really use Lists.) Right now, I’m using Acquaintances as my catch-all, but I’m not filtering anything out of my stream. (Also, I guess I need to learn how to spell “acquaintances” now. It has an ‘a,’ not an ‘e.’)

Circles seem like an ingenious way of building privacy into the model. (Again, that’ll never work as a sales pitch, but I wish it did.) It provides organization, filtering, and privacy, but without exposing that in an obvious way. Additionally, it uses the Incoming feed as a loophole to allow a privacy model that’s based on pushing content in a medium that requires pulling content to prevent spam. (Time will tell if that actually works, or if Incoming undergoes some major changes.)

Facebook’s grouping tries to achieve the goal of privacy, but it doesn’t feel like it has the disconnected, ACL-quality that Circles has. On the plus side, Facebook allows you to explain to profile visitors how they’re connected to you. On the other hand, you can’t stick people in a Facebook group called “JERKS” and not look like… well, a jerk.

Of course, I’m looking at Google+ through rose-colored glasses right now. Every major piece of technology seems to go through an arc where it manages to do something awesome, builds to an apex and becomes a household name, and then goes on to become as maligned as the product it replaced. Partly, it’s because the application starts out as a blank slate, or as an exclusive club (it’s obscure; you’ve probably never heard of it). But in other cases, it’s because of deliberate choices the developers made. I submit Firefox, MySpace, and Facebook as examples.

I have to believe this is a corollary to Zawinski’s Law, or at least a version of the law for the next generation of applications. Every web application attempts to expand until one of two things happens:

  1. Believing that, because they’re popular, they can do no wrong, the developers will make boneheaded or outright anti-user decisions.
  2. Developers will provide users with more and more flexibility until such time as they can create retina-burning animated backgrounds or send out a hundred game requests a day to hapless followers.

The latter point, incidentally, is a natural consequence. As much as I gripe about Farmville, there are legitimate Facebook apps that wouldn’t exist without many of the API features it uses. All other factors being equal, services that provide this flexibility and openness will eventually usurp those who don’t.

So even if all goes well, eventually we’re all going to fall out of love with Google+ and we’re going to go chasing after the next social service that decides to embrace simplicity. At least until we realize all the things simplicity didn’t let us do.

And well but so anyway, I’m not going to make a prediction about Google+’s ultimate success or failure. None of my discussion here takes into account the big-picture choices that will make or break the service. I’d like it to fight the Facebook monster and win, both as a victory for privacy and for a more sensible approach to social networking. (I feel like the latter is partly the reason Facebook usurped MySpace.) I’d like it to do so without becoming a monster in the process.

Either way, I’m fascinated at how Circles represent a new take on the conventional wisdom of social network connections. I’m even more fascinated at how I have to adjust my initial assumptions to deal with it. I won’t say it’s necessarily the best take on social networking; that’s going to depend on how users decide to use it.

Geek Media Expo 2010

This weekend, John and I drove over to Nashville for Geek Media Expo Volume 2.

I didn’t attend the first GMX last year, but we have been attending their parent convention, Middle Tennessee Anime convention, for several years now.

Originally I’d pre-registered thinking I’d get away for a weekend and see what the new con was like. (The last couple of years, I had a distinct preference for the multi-fandom DragonCon over most of the anime conventions we usually attend. I blame kids these days with their Naruto and their Bleach and their Axis Powers Hetalia.)

Through several twists and turns, it became a two-man, three-panel whirlwind tour.

We didn’t know what to expect at GMX. I assumed it would be something like MTAC, only smaller and slightly less anime-focused.

Main Events

Smaller, yes. Not too small, but not too big. For the convention’s size, I think the Opryland Radisson was the perfect choice. The large, open atrium was used as the Main Events track, which

I thought was brilliant. Unless you were in a panel room, you knew what was going on at any given time.

Main Events
Main Events

There wasn’t as much anime as I expected based on the MTAC connection. The schedule was extremely varied, although (between our short stay and running our own panels) we missed a lot of

interesting-looking panels. Given the breadth of the topics covered and the size of the con, there were occasionally blocks where I couldn’t find much interesting going on. I suspect a lot of

that will settle out in the coming years as the con grows and the most popular events return.

Not being a huge Stargate or Voyager fan, I wasn’t too excited about the guests. I was disappointed that Aaron Douglas (Chief Tyrol on Battlestar Galactica)

canceled because of a scheduling conflict. However, I was surprised at the caliber of guests GMX, being only two years old, managed to line up.

Still, I love the atmosphere. I’m sold on going back next year, and probably presenting a few more panels. If I can sell it to everyone else in the group, attending all three days and

staying at the con hotel would be awesome. To save some cash on this experiment, we stayed one night at an Econo Lodge a ways down Briley Parkway, and I felt like I missed out on a lot.

Upside, though: soap dispensers from the world of tomorrow
Upside, though: soap dispensers from the world of tomorrow

The panels I did attend were entertaining. The Man Power hosted the slightly off-topic but always hilarious Spoon! A Tick Fan

Panel and Jackie Chan: Master of Cinema. The Man Power put on an awesome panel, even if you don’t have the slightest clue about the topic (confession: I’ve only seen a

handful of Jackie Chan’s movies, and only the American ones).

Saturday night, I was in Standing Too Close To The Fire: Burn Notice, which mostly featured stories from the set (the host was the son of one of the show’s crew).

I also caught Boba Fett: The Man, The Myth, The… Clone? on Sunday morning. I’m not a huge Boba Fett fan, but I did happen to agree with the general sentiment that making Boba Fett a clone was one of the horrible side-effects of the prequel trilogy.

Our panels went fairly well, despite the fact that I nearly had a panic attack on Saturday morning worrying about them.

Game Development with XNA went over well. I’d initially geared my talk and slides for non-programmers, but I realized about halfway through that I was getting too technical

while not touching a bit of code. Skipping through most of my technical points, I opened up for questions and discussion about halfway through. Turns out there were several coders in the

audience with specific questions. (This is also where I’m glad I attended that Windows Phone 7 Developer Bootcamp.) The questions and discussions were great–it’s always a good sign when

discussion among attendees breaks out during the Q&A segment.

Dungeons and Dragons And Other Stuff, Too was surprisingly a success. As Chad and Charlie had to drop for various reasons, it was just John and me. I had no fear of

contributing to a conversation, but I figured there’d be little to play on if audience participation was light. Thankfully, we had a great and active crowd and some amazing discussion take

place. I learned a little bit that I didn’t know about AD&D 2nd Edition.

If there was anything I found slightly disturbing, it was that people were asking us for our opinions on general concepts like homebrew settings. I’m happy to offer my thoughts and spur discussion, but on such

a broad and diverse subject as tabletop RPGs, I’m not sure my word is gospel. But open up a discussion panel and I guess people think you’re an authority.

Our final panel, Podcasting 101 was a good end to the con. Gothic Gaara from the Naruto podcast Konoha

Corner, who we’d met at the AWA Podcaster Roundtable, stepped in. (Having a second set of opinions was great, especially from someone who does a much different style of podcast than we

do–there’s no one right way to do a podcast.) The turnout was a bit light, but that meant Q&A was a bit more loose and free. We filmed this, and it should be up on YouTube sometime this

week.

Our time at GMX was fun, short, and too full. We met some new friends and caught up with old ones–something we’ve never been able to do quite the same way at MTAC or AWA, given the crowds

those cons draw in. I’m impressed, and I’m looking forward to next year.

(I took a very few photos, which can be found on Flickr.)