I am on the M/V Celebrity Century at sea out of Miami as I write this. The Internet is expensive and I'm not sure I want to spend the money for it. These are my first day notes and while I intended to write every night the need for sleep overtook me after the first night. I will write more about it this week though I promise.
Being at a conference on a cruise ship is different from being on a land based conference. For one thing we are out of range of shore based Internet and cell phone coverage. For another there are not the same distractions that one sees on land. Oh sure there are stores and swimming pools and the casino. But all the places to eat are on the ship and you can't really go that far without seeing people who are also on the conference. What happens is that people wind up talking to each other - a lot!
A lot of good networking goes on as people meet others from schools and universities both near and far. When I say this conference is International I don't just mean that the ship visits another country, although it does. No what I mean is that there are people from 20 different countries at this conference. We have people from major research universities, teaching universities both large and small, community college faculty members and a number of teachers from high schools. We also have representatives of some major game companies. Electronic Arts is a major conference sponsor. Linden Labs (they run Second Life) is here. So is Garage Games the makers of TorqueX.And since it is a Microsoft related conference you will not be surprised to know that Microsoft Game Studios and XNA Game Studio are also represented. So are researchers from Microsoft Research. It's quite some event.
One highlight of the day for me has to be John Nordlinger's talk on ethics as they relate to computer games. John is with MS Research and has a degree in philosophy. His talk was both interesting and thought provoking.
Ken Perlin, professor at New York University and winner of an Academy Award for technical Achievement among other honors, gave an amazing talk of some innovative work he and his team are doing with things like sensors for game input and developing procedural means for animations to allow them to react rather than being completely hard coded. Very cool stuff!
One theme of the day was that there are tough problems in serious game development. These are real in depth technical programs. Game companies don't need programmers as much as they need real computer scientists. They need people who understand the theory of computer science and who can manage real complexity. Thin, watered down computer science curriculum will not cut it for these people. More on that tomorrow after I hear John Case from Blizzard Entertainment talk about "The Perfect 1010 - What makes an ideal game development software engineer."