I'm back! During the last week, I had a beautiful experience as a volunteer at the Nucl.ai 2016 conference, one of the nicest Game AI related conferences in Europe.
I like this conference. It has a very informal atmosphere and both speakers and attendees are incredibly friendly and very willing in giving advice. You can go there like a complete no-one (for instance, like me) and you can speak and have a beer with Lead AI programmer in Triple-A games, in top notch industries like Google, Blizzard or Epic as if they are your friends.
This is possible because I can guarantee that the people involved in organizing this conference are very passionate about the topic and, most important, they do it while having fun!
But that's enough with advertising! Let's talk about what I got from attending this conference!
Obviously, I went as a volunteer to save some money, but most important, because this forces me to interact with people. Long story short, I have some social issue that didn't allow me to be extremely social in the short time period of a conference and therefore I need some help. Working as a volunteer forces me out of my comfort zone because you need to work with other people and you cannot hide. How a famous out-of-context quote of Nale Walsh say, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone”.
I'm so glad I did it. Even if I constantly wear my poker face and from the outside it seems that I care about nothing, I'm so grateful and happy for every people I can bring on the boundaries of myself. And if those people share my expertise and passion I'm even happier!
The second goal of this conference was to have a feedback from people in the industry. As you know, I currently work in the academia. When working on Games AI in academia is very easy to be pushed away from what the people in the industry think it is important. You need to convince academic people that your work is scientifically significant (and games interest in academia is quite recent) but at the same time, if your work is too abstract and scientific, you will probably have hard times convincing game developers to implement your stuff.
I presented a poster in Nucl.ai about Smart Pathfinding, that is where I'm investing a lot of effort during my Ph.D. Smart Pathfinding is strange name that I use to collect all my work on pathfinding algorithms that can do “more” than finding a path between A and B. If you want an example, I wrote this article on Gamasutra on Inventory-Aware Pathfinding, that is one of the algorithms in the general Smart Pathfinding framework.
Anyway, I presented this poster. During the three days of the conference, I met many people interested in my work. This was a huge satisfaction! I showed my work to people in the industry and they told me that there is value in what I'm doing. I'm really happy to have received this feedback!
But then I got more. The majority of the attendees voted my work for the Best Poster competition. I don't think my work is the most amazing thing in the Game AI world, but I got a great feedback that there is interest in my work. This will push me to work more. This will give me the strength to do an even better job!
And, looking at my schedule for the next six month, I really need this strength!
Now I'm back home. And I am a bit exhausted but I cannot completely relax. I have a lot of work to do before the next conference. That is the next week! In fact, starting from 1st August I'll be at DiGRA/FDG in Dundee. I hope to meet many other interesting people and to have many other positive feedbacks.
That's all, for now. Follow me on Twitter for more real-time updates on my adventures on Game AI conferences in Europe! :D
Have a great week!