HandmadeCon 2015 Schedule
By Anna Rettberg
Casey Muratori
Sometimes in life you are just really, really lucky. For example, have you ever wanted a specific color of gumball, put a quarter in the machine, and had exactly that color gumball come out of the machine? That is precisely the kind of thing that is largely irrelevant to this discussion because it’s not really all that lucky. Typical gumball machines have only around seven total colors, so getting the color you wanted is bound to happen fairly often if you chew a lot of gum. Honestly, I’m not even sure why you brought it up. It’s a really bad example.
I’m talking about being really lucky, like when you need 1.21 gigawatts of electricity, the only thing that can generate 1.21 gigawatts of electricity is a bolt of lighting, and you just happen to know precisely when and where one will strike. That is the kind of lucky I’m talking about.
1.21 gigawatts lucky is the kind of lucky I was with the speaker lineup for HandmadeCon 2015. When I first started planning it, I made a list of the people I would most want to talk to at the conference. I figured maybe I’d get one or two of them if I was lucky, and then I’d move on to thinking about who else to get when the rest of them said no.
Instead, when I asked, all five people said yes.
So here it is, ladies and gentlemen  —  quite literally the five people I most wanted to talk to about programming, in the order they will be appearing at the conference on December 5th, 2015:
Tommy Refenes: 10:30AM  —  11:45AM
Kicking off the conference is none other than Tommy Refenes, the sole programmer behind the massive hit Super Meat Boy. Extremely difficult platformers like this live and die by their control schemes, and Super Meat Boy stands out as a universally lauded example of how to do player controls right.
Platformer control programming is still much more art than science, so I really wanted to talk to Tommy about how he approached this classic problem, how he handled the interaction of the controls with the game physics, and what sort of tricks he employed to make Super Meat Boy feel so smooth and intuitve. From there, I’ve got a ton of other questions, ranging from how he built and maintained the art pipeline for Edmund McMillen to how he deals with the challenges of programming games entirely by himself.
Mike Acton: 11:50AM  —  1:05PM
Next up is Mike Acton, a programmer from the other end of the team scale spectrum. Mike leads the programmers at Insomniac, the developer famous for the Ratchet and Clank series, Resistance, Fuse, and Sunset Overdrive. As he laid out in his now-famous CPPCon keynote on data-oriented design, Mike believes in focusing on the hardware and eschewing the typical OOP design methodologies common in large-scale programming.
I’ve got a bunch of questions for Mike, but first and foremost I’ll be asking about his experiences managing large teams of programmers while still maintaining sane development practices. On Handmade Hero, I’m constantly asked whether practical programming techniques “scale”, and I can’t think of anyone better to answer this question than Mike.
There ain’t much time for lunch.
After Mike Acton, there’ll be a brief break for lunch, but I chose to maximize the time we spend with the speakers so it’s only about 30 minutes. Plan on grabbing something quick, or bringing a lunch with you!
Pat Wyatt: 1:35PM  —  2:50PM
Kicking off part two of the con is Pat Wyatt, one of the main programmers behind some of the best-known series in gaming history: Warcraft, Diablo, StarCraft, and Guild Wars. He co-founded ArenaNET, and personally designed and programmed the core networking code for the original Guild Wars launch, one of the most robust multiplayer networking launches I’ve ever seen.
On Handmade Hero, one of the most common things I get asked about that we don’t cover is network programming. If there’s one person who knows network programming for games inside and out, it’s Pat, and I have a ton of questions for him about how he approaches network architecture, both client-side and back-end.
Jonathan Blow: 2:55PM  —  4:10PM
Next up is Jonathan Blow, lead programmer and designer of the classic platform puzzle game Braid and the massive, highly anticipated 2016 puzzle-exploration game The Witness. Looking ahead to the complexity of his future game designs, and unsatisfied with the state of C++ as a game programming language, Jon recently undertook the design and implementation of his own brand-new programming language, in which he has already demonstrated several advanced features that make C++ look like an antiquated toy.
There’s so many things to talk about with Jon, it’s going to be hard to fit it all in, but I’ll do my best. We’ll talk about how he’s managed the complex programming necessary to bring his intricate puzzle designs to life, what spurred him to start working on his own programming language, and how he sees it changing the way he programs games in the future.
Ron Gilbert: 4:15PM  —  5:30PM
Bringing the conference to a close is none other than a programming hero of mine, Ron Gilbert. Quite literally the inventor of the traditional point-and-click adventure game, Ron programmed the original SCUMM scripting language and lead the LucasArts team that created what is arguably the most beloved graphical adventure of all time, The Secret of Monkey Island. Last year, after having helmed dozens of games at big studios, Ron decided to return to his roots and write a brand-new adventure game engine for a new indie adventure series, Thimbleweed Park.
When I was a kid, I played the heck out of Monkey Island (and Monkey Island 2), and as an aspiring programmer, there were so many questions I wished I could have asked Ron about how it worked. HandmadeCon is my big chance to make those wishes come true :) And it’s going to be even more illuminating now to hear about what has changed and what has stayed the same in his approach to creating an engine for the genre which he pioneered.
Apologies in advance if we sell out.
So, the good news is, with such uniquely talented and accomplished people coming to share their wisdom, HandmadeCon is going to be insanely awesome. The bad news is, I may have booked too small a venue. The first time you plan a conference, you don’t expect that all your top choices are going to say “yes” to coming. I apologize in advance if this ends up selling out, I honestly thought it’d be plenty of space. If we do sell out, next year I’ll be sure to rent a bigger space.
Anyways, while they last, tickets are available here:
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Anyway, I hope everyone is as excited about this lineup as I am… this is the first time I’ve been eagerly awaiting a conference in, like, something like fifteen years.
Can’t wait to see you all in December!