My Review of onGameStart 2012

September 26, 2012

To be perfectly honest, I've attended and spoken at many events, but onGameStart definitely joined the Top 5. As Andrzej Mazur said in his blog, Michal Budzynski deserves an standing ovation, from both speakers as well as attendees. He really is an excellent host and an overall great person.

I arrived to Warsaw on Monday after an 18-hour flight with one stop in Rome, unfortunately the jetlag took over and I didn't have time to roam around the city as I feel asleep the second I entered my room at the excellent Metropol hotel. Michal was actually kind enough to pick me up at the airport and took me to the hotel, we exchanged a couple of words and he went back to work - I can only imagine how hard it must be to organise an event of this magnitude.

As it was my first time in Warsaw, and in Poland, on tuesday I woke up early, had some breakfast and started to walk around the city, where I had the chance to take some pictures of the place. Compared to other cities in Europe (such as Rome, Paris or Berlin), Poland is extremely cheap, specially for things such as food or clothing. At noon I had lunch at a british pub, where I ordered a pint of Guinness and some fish and chips. After lunch I went to the Palace of Culture, the tallest building in Poland, where they were showing a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition. While the exhibition was a bit dissappointing (they didn't have any original artwork, just pictures) I hopped into an elevator that took me to the top of the building which also allowed me to see the whole city from above - if you ever go to Warsaw you must go there, trust me.

On Wednesday I had the chance to meet some of the other speakers, and to greet some people that so far I had only talked with through Skype or G+ Hangouts. I was extremely amazed and a bit jelous of the level of knowledge the other speakers had and many times I found myself surprised, humbled and extremely privileged to share the stage with these lads. All of them were "World Class" developers.

The first day of the conference were the workshops, and unfortunately I could only attend to one of them, although I'd have loved attending all three. I finally settled with Jerome's tQuery Workshop; A simple, yet brilliant, API that combines the power of Three.JS and WebGL with the syntatical simplicity and sugar of jQuery.

At night we had the speaker's dinner, where I was able to meet the rest of the speakers that arrived throughout the day and had an stupendous time. I also remember that on our way back to the hotel we passed right next to a stadium where U2 Coldplay (Thanks @bartaz) was playing live.

I'll give a short description of the talks I personally enjoyed the most, although in general they were all excellent.

Second Day (Thursday)

Michal Budzynski: Opening Session - Current state of HTML5 Games
On the second day of the conference, thursday, Michal welcomed attendees to the event by giving a talk about the current state of HTML5 Games. While internally I felt a bit guilty, he did say something that I completely agree with: "We must stop making demos and start making games". He mentioned that at this point we all have experienced what this technology stack is capable of (HTML5 + JS) and we must start using these tools to make real-world products. Spot on Michal. He also used the opportunity to present onGameStart.us which I must admit got me pretty excited.

Laurent Hasson: Anatomy of an App Store
Laurent, which I was surprised to find out he was born in France as his american accent was perfect, gave an overview of the Blackberry App Store and presented interesting numbers. Besides, they were one of the main sponsors of the event. I can't thank them enough for supporting onGameStart and can only recommend that they continue to support these sort of events in the future. Because of this, from now on I'll start speaking more fondly of your company.

Andrzej Mazur: 13 Simple steps to create a compo
Andrzej was the organiser of the js13k game development event that had ended some days ago. In his talk he not only described the difficulties of organizing a game development contest without receiving support from any sponsors (and investing his own money to make it happen), but also announced the winners.

Nikolai Onken: BonsaiJS, building multiplayer browser games
Nikolai and Peter van der Zee are from the Netherlands and work for a company called Uxebu that developed an incredible FOSS framework called "BonsaiJS" that allows artists and developers to convert Flash projects to HTML5, among other features. Truly revolutionary stuff and definitely worth checking out.

Seb Lee-Delisle: Beauty in the browser
Seb calls himself a "digital artist", and to be honest, he has definitely earned the title. You'd be surprised and how easy he makes it sound when he talks about his work, and the things he has done over the years - which shows how smart this lad really is.

Jerome Etienne: Creating a WebGL game in less than 10 minutes
This crazy french chap, which is as crazy (in a good and humurous way, obviously) as he is smart, gave us all a lesson in API simplicity and presented amazingly beautiful demos done with just 10 lines of code using his framework, tQuery.

Will Eastcott: Making a Multiplayer 3D Shooter in the Browser
Will is a game development industry veteran that has worked at several companies, including Criterion (which was bought by EA some time ago) and developed several successful console titles such as Burnout, one of my favorite games. Some time ago he quit his job and started working on a framework and online toolkit called Playcanvas that allows users to create amazing 3D games with console-like quality that can be played right on your web browser without having to install any plugins. Truly brilliant stuff.

After the second day ended, we were all invited to party at the Black Sheep Store where I had the chance to not only have a relaxed talk over a pint (or 5... perhaps, I can't remember) of beer with all the other speakers, but also with the attendees as well. I loved meeting people from all walks of life, discussing our cultural differences and sharing our love for the open web. I must admit I had a great time.

Third Day (Friday)

Selim Arsever: Why would anyone use your library?
Selim develops an incredible jQuery Plugin called gameQuery that simpifies game development and is based on the massively popular and familiar JavaScript framework used by many web developers. If you've ever used jQuery, you'll find gameQuery to be extremely easy to use and I wholeheartedly recommend you to try it out.

Jonas Wagner: Rendering Voxel Worlds using WebGL
This brilliant lad works on one of the most mindblowing projects I've seen so far done inside a browser. It's a voxel engine with a truly amazing performance, support for physics and procedural world generation.

Cristoph Martens: Cross-Platform Games with HTML5 and native OpenGL
Cristoph had an excellent idea: Getting rid of all the abstraction layers between OpenGL and JavaScript to achieve maximum performance in all devices. His project, lycheeJS, does exactly that.

Emeric Florence: The DOM is on Fire!
To me, Emeric's talk was one of the most interesting ones - not only because it was extremely funny, but because I couldn't believe that he came across the same set of problems and weird bugs that I did when developing Tracy and loved learning how he managed to solve them in his own CSS-Powered 3D framework, Sprite3D.

Kamil Trebunia: Physics Engine Anatomy
How many people on earth do you know that are willing to code a complex particle physics demo in front of an impatient audience (and an angry event host) in real time? Well, here's one. Just brilliant.

Finally on a brilliant closing keynote, Jordan Mechner, the developer of Prince of Persia and The Last Express, gave us a very inspirational and educational talk about all the problems that he faced when developing his games and how he, with a lot of persistence and hard work, managed to make his dreams come true.

Closing Remarks: I had a wonderful time in Warsaw and I'm hoping that one of these days I'll have the opportunity to attend onGameStart again.