HandmadeCon 2016 Sessions
By Anna Rettberg
Casey Muratori
HandmadeCon 2016 is just two short weeks away, so now is the perfect time to start getting acquainted with the schedule. “Hello, Schedule,” is a good example of how you could break the ice. The schedule might then reply, “Hello there! I am the schedule. Here is a list of things that are happening and when they are happening.”
Of course, this social nicety is only relevant if you’ve already got a ticket. If you haven’t, well don’t you worry, you can still buy them here:
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Assuming you do have a ticket, let’s roll right into the details…
Friday, November 18th
HandmadeCon doesn’t start until Saturday morning, but many people are arriving on Friday afternoon. If you’re arriving on Friday, and want to get together with other attendees before the conference, you’ll want to check or post on the 2016 meetup thread. As with last year, I will try to make it out to the larger Friday gatherings, time permitting.
Saturday, November 19th
Doors open at 9:10AM
Sunday we have the building all to ourselves, but Saturday we don’t. This means it is critically important that you enter through the correct door Saturday morning. Here’s how it works.
First, get yourself to McCaw Hall:
The main road that runs by McCaw Hall is called Mercer Street. You want to use the doors on the side of the building parallel to this street. It’s the entrance specifically for the Nesholm Family Lecture Hall, which is where all the HandmadeCon talks will take place. It’s our own entrance, with our own lobby. These doors will open around 9:10AM, and the conference will begin at 9:45AM.
You’re going to go in these doors and give your name to a person with a list of names. They’re going to check you off the list and give you a totally baller HandmadeCon 2016 lapel pin. This pin will be your proof of admittance for both days, so don’t lose it! If you lose your pin, you can no longer get into the conference, and we can’t help you get another one.
OK, so if you mess up the entrance part, and accidentally go through the large glass doors on the adjacent side of the building, you will be at a different conference. I believe it is actually TEDx Seattle that’s being held concurrently, so if you find yourself sitting in an auditorium listening to a talk about how a brave new startup is trying to save the polar ice caps by switching to node.js, you are at the wrong conference. Do not panic. Calmly get out of your seat, exit back through the glass entryway, go around the building counter-clockwise, and enter through the correct doors to HandmadeCon 2016!
Assuming you eventually find our conference auditorium, here’s the schedule for Saturday:
Saturday, 9:45AM  —  11:15AM Fabian Giesen, Jeff Roberts
One of the topics we haven’t touched on during Handmade Hero is compression. It’s a huge topic in its own right, and it takes a long time for a programmer to get experienced enough with it to do good work. To help bridge that gap, Fabian Giesen and Jeff Roberts from RAD Game Tools will be kicking off HandmadeCon 2016 with a discussion about compression in the trenches, what the modern compression landscape looks like, and the differences between how you think about compression as a beginner and as an old hand.
Asset Systems and Scalability
Saturday, 11:30AM  —  1:00PM Chris Butcher
Destiny is a big project, with tons of content and game systems, at a scale that was new for Bungie. A recurring theme over years of development was the performance, stability and iteration speed of the asset and build pipeline. In HandmadeCon 2016’s second session, Chris Butcher is going to talk to us about the initial architectural decisions and dependencies that made this a difficult problem, what sorts of symptoms manifested as a result, what changes were necessary to eventually get things running smoothly, and how these changes were managed given the ongoing nature of on-line game development.
Lunch around Seattle Center
Saturday, 1:00PM  —  2:30PM
Throughout the day on Saturday, there will be food and drinks sold at the venue for your convenience. But by 1PM, you may be interested in a more substantial feeding. Thankfully, the conference is situated among a number of nearby lunch options.
Across the street and one block over is Metropolitan Market, an upscale grocery with a nice hot bar that serves good prime rib sandwiches and a myriad of other quick lunch options. Kitty-corner from that is Racha, a good Thai restaurant with lots of seating. On the other end of the block from that is Pagliacci, Seattle’s most popular pizza-by-the-slice restaurant. Around the corner from that is Roti, a good Indian food restaurant.
If you’d rather stay within Seattle Center, there is actually a covered path through the park that goes from McCaw Hall to The Armory, a nearby food pavillion with a wide variety of restaurants available in one central location. If you’re not sure what to do for lunch and just want a room full of food counters, this is your best bet.
Technical Direction at Blizzard
Saturday, 2:30PM  —  4:00PM Marco Koegler
Each year at HandmadeCon, I try to invite a speaker to talk about the part of game programming that isn’t about the programming itself: how programming teams are managed, how new programmers are recruited, what programmers are expected to know, and what makes a great team member from the perspective of a major game developer. This year, Marco Koegler from Blizzard is going to talk to us about the technical direction of one of the most famous games of all time, World of Warcraft.
Large-scale Systems Architecture
Saturday, 4:15PM  —  5:45PM Jason Gregory
By its nature, Handmade Hero can only show the effects of programming decisions on an independently developed codebase. But what about all the unique problems that arise once you have dozens of programmers, artists, and designers all working with and depending on the codebase? For Saturday’s final session, Naughty Dog lead programmer Jason Gregory will talk with us about how to manage codebases and studios for the kind of large-scale development effort it takes to make huge games like The Last of Us and Uncharted 4.
Saturday night
There are no official events planned for Saturday night, largely because I am going to need to go home and be completely silent all evening to ensure that my voice isn’t dead on day two. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something fun! If you’re looking to get together with other attendees for the evening, you’ll want to check or post on the 2016 meetup thread. If you’re just looking for a nice restaurant to eat at before retiring for the evening, here are some recommendations:
Just a few blocks from the conference venue is one of the best places to eat in Seattle, Campfire Barbecue. They’re on the expensive side for barbecue, because they use only premium meats and prepare them in traditional overnight smokings, but if you’re a barbecue fan, it’s a must.
If you’re looking for something on the less expensive side, Seattle’s International District has the best price/performance ratio. For Szechuan cuisine, try Seven Stars Pepper. For ramen, try Samurai Noodle. For traditional Chinese barbecue, go to Kau Kau. There’s also lots of other options, and you can check MSG 150 for a more extensive listing.
On the other hand, if you’re a professional developer on an expense account and want something fancier, there’s good upscale Italian at Tavolata, and a great steak selection at The Metropolitan Grill.
Sunday, November 20th
Sunday we have the building to ourselves, so you can arrive confident in the knowledge that there is no risk you will be exposed to TEDx. You can enter through the same doors as Saturday, or through the glass doors on the adjacent side of the building. Whichever entrance you choose, make sure you have your lapel pin from Saturday, as it is required for entry!
Because we have the building to ourselves on Sunday, we also were able to rent the lobby area, so throughout the entire conference, there will be tables set up for hanging out during breaks and meal times.
Here’s the schedule for Sunday:
Anatomy and Health for Programmers
Sunday, 9:45AM  —  11:15AM Emily Scherb
One of the most common questions I get from programmers actually has nothing to do with code  —  it’s about hand and wrist pain. Although “carpal tunnel syndrome” is the most widely-discussed affliction involving computer use, the truth is that the source of your pain is most likely not the source of your problem. Proper diagnosis and treatment makes a big difference in your quality of life as a programmer.
To help educate us on this widely misunderstood aspect of programming, I’ve invited Dr. Emily Scherb from Pure Motion to talk to us about how our arms and hands work internally, what causes the symptoms we may experience when typing, and what we kinds of practices and exercises we can do to keep pain at bay. She’s quite literally the only medical professional I’ve ever met who successfully debugs difficult musculoskeletal problems, and I’m psyched to finally have a chance to get her knowledge out there to help folks struggling with hand and wrist pain.
History of Software Texture Mapping in Games
Sunday, 11:30AM  —  1:00PM Chris Green, John Miles, Sean Barrett, Chris Hecker
In today’s world of dedicated graphics processing units, we all take high-performance texture mapping for granted. But during the formative years of 3D gaming, there was no such thing  —  it was just the lonely CPU and a few game studios that were trying to figure out how to get realistic-looking 3D graphics out of machines tens of thousands of times less powerful than today’s. In this panel discussion, Chris Green, John Miles, Sean Barrett, and Chris Hecker are going to help us step back in time to the world before real-time texture mapping, and walk us through the experimentation, research, collaboration and competition that helped bring about seminal 3D engines like Car and Driver, Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Strike Commander.
Sunday Lunch
Sunday, 1:00PM  —  2:30PM
Sunday lunch is a lot like Saturday lunch, but with a bonus: since we have the building to ourselves, we will have the reception area available where you can purchase lunch from the venue and have seating available for eating and chatting. So if venturing out for food isn’t your thing, you can stay at the venue and eat there.
HandmadeCon 2015 Q&A
Sunday: 2:30PM  —  5:45PM (with breaks) Tommy Refenes, Pat Wyatt, Jonathan Blow, Ron Gilbert
Remember how the PlayStation 2 had a PlayStation 1 chipset in it for backward compatibility? Well HandmadeCon 2016 has a HandmadeCon 2015 in it, too! The final session of the day will be a two-part session with HandmadeCon 2015 speakers Tommy Refenes, Pat Wyatt, Jonathan Blow, and Ron Gilbert, where I’ll ask them all the audience questions we didn’t have time for at HandmadeCon 2015 due to last year’s compressed schedule.
If you have a question you’d like asked during this session, please be sure to submit it on the Q&A thread beforehand!
Sunday Dinner and Job Fair
Sunday, 5:45PM  —  9:30PM
After the last session, we’ll break for dinner. During this time, you can go get dinner, or congregate up in the reception area, where there will be food for purchase throughtout the evening.
The reception itself starts at 7:30PM. The concept is simple: there will be big, free-standing banners that let you know where to go. Near the banners will be people wearing special lapel pins with the image of the Handmade Hero magic glove. Those are the people you want to talk to if you’re interested in the topic indicated by the banner.
Amazon, Blizzard, Bungie, SpaceX, Thekla, Unity, and Valve will all have job fair banners to guide you to the representatives from their engine teams if you’re interested in talking with them about working there.
Emily Scherb will be at the Pure Motion banner to talk about RSI problems, or if you want to get her company’s contact address for making appointments.
All the projects we use on Handmade Hero will have their own banners as well, but they might not have their maintainers at them the entire time. We just wanted to honor the projects we rely on with their own banners, but the folks who run the projects might be milling about enjoying themselves.
That was a lot of stuff! This is one of those blog entries that goes on and on and on… but what can I do? That’s how much stuff is happening at HandmadeCon 2016! It’s going to be pretty epic.
See you all there…