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Posts tagged as “San Diego Comic Con”

Comic-con @ an end again

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Some issues with lines but ... not the zoo it was last year. Maybe I am better at navigating it; maybe they're working out the kinks. Regardless, a great con this year - the highlights for me were the urban fantasy and ya panels and the bigscreen finale of Doctor Who.

Recommended!

Lines, lines and comicon

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O.M.G. What a ridiculous mess.

Some people are nice. Some lines make sense. But more often it seems that the nicest people are stuck enforcing the stupidest rules, and the reasonable rules are enforced by people who literally go far out of their way to be total assholes. Geez!

With apologies to all the many hardsuffering comicon employees who try to be nice, if people would just let them.

GDC 2010 Overview

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gdc 2010 at moscone south

Every year I go to the Game Developers Conference to keep tabs on how artificial intelligence in games is developing. Each year I take copious notes. And each year I promise myself I'll blog my notes online, and yet I never do.

Until now.

GDC 2010 seems smaller than GDC 2008, but it doesn't feel wrong. In the past few years it's been held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, taking up the massive Moscone West building and the North and South halls. I say 2008 because 2010 feels about the size of 2009, but where 2009 felt outsized, this year they've ditched Moscone West, filling out North and South "just right" for a smaller, saner, but still vibrant conference.

gdc 2010 show floor

The show floor is still massive, going on and on, filled with books and tools and technologies and games and career opportunities and just about anything you can imagine.

gdc 2010 show floor keeps going

And I mean just about anything. Steve Weibe? Really? No offense, but that seems more of an E3 or Comicon thing. Of course, maybe he's super cool, but since I missed him at the booth it was just a bit jarring to see the machine there all by its lonesome.

gdc 2010 steve wiebe really

The South Hall held the AI Summit and many interesting talks. I'll talk about the AI Summit, Starcraft, indie games, and future technologies (past and present) in a subsequent post.

gdc 2010 north entrance

But there is a whole other hall, where more talks are held. The AI Roundtables occurred here, as did talks on the Sims 3; I'll fold these into the above posts.

gdc 2010 stairs down

But the thing that strikes me about the North Hall (other than the giant black hole of cell reception and borked wifi) is the churn of people going to talks, coming from talks, talking about IP and licenses and techniques and advances. Here, simply because of its physical layout you really can see the industry's creative malestrom churning.

gdc 2010 make games

"I want YOU to make games." Indeed.

-the Centaur

Blogging from the Convention Floor

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marriot marquis at night

Ah, Dragon*Con: that magic time in September when 50,000 of my closest friends get together to transform four hotels in Atlanta into a gateway to another world.

most aliens are less cute than alf

Dragon*Con has some of the best costumes you'll see this side of an Anime convention - much better than what you'll find at the much larger San Diego Comicon. Practically everyone is dressed up and some of them are amazing.

the panels

Another real draw is the fantastic variety of panels. There are literally dozens of tracks at Dragon*Con and programming goes on until 11:30 pm or later - and there are often social events until 2 and 3 in the morning.

the costumes

After the panels it's fun to just peoplewatch; you can do it for hours.

a picture of me? but why?

Women dressed up get quite a bit of attention - though sometimes, as in this case, they seem more surprised to have people taking their picture than you'd expect for all the effort they've put into their costumes.

cylons are less impressive without helmets

Another piece of the fun is the sheer variety of fans. You see of course people pulling off Cylons ... somewhat less impressive with the helmets off...

omg it's dakota frost

You see costumes that mean something only to the viewer, as in this Dakota Frost lookalike...

force push

The ubiquitous Jedi, in this case posing for a photo taken by a Sith ...

a heartwrenching tale

... and then finally sheer randomness by simply creative people.

even sith love slave leia

Fans love taking pictures of fans - it was quite interesting sitting with a Sith shutterbug, watching him take pictures of passing Poison Ivys and Slave Leias.

jedis gone wild

But then some people wanted to take pictures of him ... and then, bizarrely, two women wanted to have their pictures taken fellating his lightsabers. Utterly weird, and a great source of amusement to us and the other people at our table.

derrick and doublebladed sabers

But ultimately that's the fun of Dragon*Con: not just seeing Jedi taking pictures of Sith, but running into old friends dressed as Jedi taking pictures of old friends dressed as Sith. Because in the end its the friendships that make Dragon*Con more than just a fan playground or a party: it's a family.

centaur blogging from the convention floor

From the Dragon*Con Convention floor(1), this is your Centaur reporting. Good night, and good luck.

-the Centaur

(1) Technically, sent from my hotel room because connectivity on the con floor was too poor.

I can be an idiot sometimes

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Portrait of the Centaur as an Idiot

I can be such an idiot sometimes ... or, put in other words, the right way to solve a problem is often much, much easier than the wrong way.

For example, if you're doing woodworking, you may use a modern steel clamp to hold a part tight to work on it. That sounds good and does the job. Of course, when you need to change the position of the part you must unscrew it, reposition the part and rescrew the clamp.

Historical Comics Panel with Dave Petersen

So far, so good ... but, according to David Petersen, the author of Mouse Guard, there is a better way. Petersen researched medieval woodworking equipment for his Eisner-award winning comic and found there was a simpler scheme involving a foot pedal and a lever, which had equal gripping power but could release and reapply pressure in seconds just by lifting your foot.

Moral: newer and more complex is not always better.

Fast forward eight hundred and fifty years. Robert Kroese, a colleague at the Search Engine That Starts With A G, has his own book that he's working on, and an associated web site Mercury Falls. On that site he has a form to enter an email list, and I thought, what a great idea! I should have a form where someone can send me an email list on the Dakota Frost site.

So I started looking into it. To make the form work, you need not only a web form, which is easy to set up, but also some kind of server program on the back end which can accept the results of the form and a database to store it.

Historically, I've had bad luck with scripts and databases on my web sites: Earthlink / Mindspring basically welched on the scripting features of their web hosting that I was paying for, and my next provider, Tophosting, screwed up one of my databases.

So I was hesitant, and I started thinking. Then it hit me...

Then It Hit Me

... there was a simpler way.

Instead of creating a form and the backend plumbing that goes with it, I should use the existing plumbing I had to achieve the same effect. What plumbing was already in place? A web site, a hosting provider, an ability to forward emails to a given address ... and a mail client with filters.

A Better Way

To make this work, I went to the GoDaddy control panel for Dakota Frost and set up a forwarding email: contact at dakota frost dot com. I had that sent to one of my catchall email accounts, and in Gmail I then set up a filter which collected all those email addresses into a single folder. Bam: problem solved.

Even if I want to do something more complex, this solution still works, as long as I keep looking at simple tools that are already available. For example, if I want an official email address list as a separate file, I could always download those email messages to the mail client of my choice, filter the messages to a folder, and grep over the email addresses in the file. For the scale at which I need to do it right now, the problem is still solved.

Moral of the story: the more you overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain. Keep it simple, and things should just keep flowing without effort.

Overthunk Plumbing

Or, to translate this back into development speak: there are two kinds of solutions: solutions which are easy to think up, but take a lot of coding effort to make work, and solutions which require thought, but which can be implemented in staggeringly small amounts of code.

In this one, we have an extreme example: to make this problem work the "no thinking way" would require an HTML form, a CGI script, a database, and considerable configuration on the server side of my hosting provider. To make this problem work the "no effort way" required some thought, but in the end less configuration of my hosting provider and a few minutes setting up some email filters.

An Elegant Solution For a More Advanced Age

You see the same thing in software libraries: really good libraries don't take a lot of code, but that doesn't mean that they didn't take a lot of work. What happened behind the scenes was a lot of thought, wherein the library author searched the space of possible designs until he found a great one before ever publishing the library. You as the consumer don't see that effort, no matter how short or long it took: you only see the pure, parsimonious, elegant efficient piece of code that remains.

If you don't put thought into what you're doing, you might try it sometime. You'd be surprised how little thought can get you substantially improved results.

-the Centaur

At San Diego Comic Con 2009

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My current excuse for not posting (other than feverishly trying to finish Blood Rock) is attending San Diego Comic Con 2009, the largest comic convention in the world. Here I'm seeing talks, meeting friends, working on Blood Rock, leaving flyers for Dakota Frost: Frost Moon, and enjoying the fantabulous nightlife in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter:

Comicon and the Gaslight District

You cannot explain how large Comicon is; you must see it yourself. I could show you the mammoth Exhibit Hall / Show's Floor / Noah's Ark of a Dealer's Room, but it is hard from a single picture to get the scale:

Comicon Dealer's Room

I could show you the external architecture, the huge steps and rounded escalator leading out of the upper levels (actually, the round escalator had just moved out of the picture at this point), but it is still hard to get the scale:

Convention Center Architecture

Perhaps only by showing the huge tide of people leaving after the Dealer's Room had closed can you truly see how large the San Diego Comic Con is:

Comicon Human Tide

It can take up to thirty minutes to reach your car in the parking lot, as we unfortunately found out today when we joined for lunch some friends who had driven. Halfway to the parking lot, you can see the length of the Convention Center, and can see why it takes up a significant part of the city on Google Maps:

Comicon Megastructure

Comicon has been held 40 times over the last 39 years, making it a cultural event only slightly younger than I am. This year is also Green Lantern's 50th anniversary, and the Con and its attendees are celebrating with special T-shirts, movie premieres, and of course, fan costumes:

Comicon at 40, GL at 50

It's all sold out this year, officially 126,000 but rumored to be as many as 140,000 strong ... but if you have even a passing interest in comics, movies or other popular arts, you should make at least one pilgrimage to check it out.

More later. Must crash.
-the Centaur