POSSCON 2011 ended on friday, March 25th, and it was one of those experiences that I wish didn’t have to end.  This was amazing from the start, and while the attendance seemed to drop on the third day quite a bit, overall it seemed to be a big hit, with a great amount of people present.  Todd Lewis, Aaron Griswold, Jennifer Suber, and Matt Hudson did a wonderful job of making me, and my wife Courtney feel very welcome and well, wanted, for lack of a better term.  Open source gaming was a new topic for POSSCON, and it seemed to go over extremely well with the (mostly) young crowd.  My booth was constantly surrounded by people during the breaks between speeches, and I got an opportunity to talk to a wide variety of people about Alien Arena, as well as open source gaming in general.  I was told that the goal for this year’s attendance was 500 registrants, and indeed on the second day, the goal was met.  I hope that having gaming as a part of this contributed to meeting that goal.

I think one of the most rewarding aspects was being able to introduce open source gaming to so many young, bright minds.  A lot of people had no idea that a game could even be open source, much less be of decent quality.  It was awesome to see so many people interested in this, and interested in Alien Arena.  Some people were looking for paying jobs, some were looking to contribute voluntarily, and others just wanted to learn, or sit down and play a few rounds of good old fashioned deathmatch.  I made sure to tell everyone my schedule for speaking.  I think I did a good job of selling it, considering that the room I spoke in had 320 seats, and it was well more than half full, despite three other speeches going on in other rooms at the same time.  According to the organizers, my session had the best attendance during that time.

I have never in my life given a public speech, so the fact that I was giving two was a little bit daunting.  I spent a lot of time preparing them both, as well as constantly practicing, especially my speech on open source gaming in general.  Things didn’t start out smoothly though.  There was a problem with the video output on my laptop, though we quickly fixed it(the connector was not mating well).  Worse yet, my power supply’s cord suddenly began sizzling and smoking(short in the recepticle apparently).  Luckily my laptop didn’t fry, but it did throw me off a bit at first, as I was a bit shakey to begin.  I quickly settled down and was able to deliver the speech as intended, without screwing it up too much.  The only snafu was I did leave out a couple of points that I really wanted to discuss, but otherwise it went fairly well, and I did get a number of positive comments.  I think if I am invited back next year(which it appears I will be), I can vastly improve on some things, as well as making the subject matter a little more interesting for everyone. 

The second speech was actually a workshop, and this was on day three, so the attendence was vastly lower.  I was a bit disappointed that some of the USC and HS students that had said they wanted to be there were not, but there were some that did make it and said they really enjoyed it.  I began with a discussion on some of the very general concepts and basics of using blender to create and animate a game character, then broke down how it was rendered in the game.  I went through a variety of code, from the model loading to all of the rendering, as well as shadows, among other things.  I didn’t really have this one as static as the general speech, it was a lot more interactive.  My wife suggested next time using slides instead of scrolling through code, and she is right.  I also had issues with the code being legible, due to the output on the projecter being too blurry, as well as dark on screenshots.  When I finished up with most of it, the rest of the session became mostly question/answer, as well as demonstrations of the various game modes, which was actually quite fun.  I think that a good amount of people got a lot out of this session. 

As for the vendors, I talked to a number of them, I was really impressed with the greenscreen tech from the IT-Ology guys in the booth next to us, as well as the amazing 3D printing of the “Thing-o-matic”.  It appeared to me that our three booths got the most traffic overall.  I didn’t get to see much of the other speakers in action, but I did get to talk/socialize with them.  There were some pretty big names there, such as William “whurley” Hurley, John “Maddog” Hall, and some people at important positions at IBM, HP and others.  It was very impressive, and englightening to actually talk to them.

The after hour events, as well as the lunches were extremely well done.  I’ve been to some major conventions like this before, and this includes AutoDesk’s, and this was far more organized and well planned, and to be honest, a heck of a lot more fun.  Maybe it’s the southern hospitality, I don’t know, but everyone was so extremely friendly and really went out of their way to make us feel welcome.  By the way, the city of Columbia is a very fun, hip place, and apparently becoming one of those notable tech “hot spots”.  They have this mall area, filled with bars, clubs, and restaurants that was very fun each night we were there.

It was a great experience, and I truly hope to be a part of it in the future.  As I mentioned in my speech, gaming is the largest entertainment industry in the world now, and open source has a great chance to be a growing part of it.  I’m seeing the gap closing between open source and commercial games, and while there is still a ways to go, it’s clearly having an influence on what commercial game companies are doing, and thinking.  POSSCON has grown each year, and seems to be making big improvements with each convention, I have no doubt that gaming should be a part of it, and maybe even expanded upon in the future.