Yesterday in Trinity College something landed. Something big. Something new and fun. Something that might keep me up late at night...
The XNA European Tour began right here in Dublin, filling two 150-person lecture halls for the entire day with 300+ students and game developers. In fact we had been expecting half of that, but as registrations came pouring in, Steve Collins, a lecturer at Trinity, was able to put together an additional room and have the speakers do morning and afternoon sessions!
I arrived a bit later as I flew in that morning from the US, but was still able to catch three sessions: Dr. Joaquin Quiñonero-Candela on "Learning to Race by Model-Based Reinforcement Learning", Charles Cox on "Diving in to XNA Game Studio 2.0 and the XNA Framework" and Rob Miles on "Building a Game in 60 Minutes with XNA Game Studio 2.0." I heard the talks were recorded and expected to be available in the next couple of weeks, so I'll send a pointer when they're ready. Joaquin showed a great demo where a racing game "learns" an algorithm by the user driving a car once around a track and can then drive itself around the track based on what it's learned. He also talked a bit about what it is like to work on his research team, which is the Applied Games Group at Microsoft Research Cambridge - seems like a pretty fun team. Charles Cox showed off some of the newer features in GS 2.0 like the networking capabilities and the VS integration. One of the coolest things he demo-ed was playing a game on the XBox 360 while debugging it on his laptop. Very nice! Rob Hull was one of the best, most engaging presenters I've ever seen. He pointed out that he could have actually built the game in ten minutes and told bad jokes for the rest of the hour. To top off his bad jokes, he also had games which involved batting cheese wedges with baguettes, which is pretty fun it turns out. He also proved that some games don't really need the screen, such as his game "Hide the gamepad." His website http://verysillygames.com has information on his book and some silly games.
I was really hoping to make it to see Dave Mitchell, Director of XNA, speak, and so I'm definitely looking forward to the videos. I was able to meet and chat with Dave a bit in between the sessions, and I have to say I don't envy the tour's travel schedule. They're basically flying every evening out of one country and into another for the rest of the week, and then going home on 4/12, hitting Austria, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. Whoa. Dave did say that the final version of XNA Game Studio would be out by the end of the year, so that's good news for all of us.
Special thanks to Liam Cronin, Microsoft Ireland's Academic Engagement Manager and everyone else who helped put together a great event.