Thursday 22 April 2010

A day with Seb Lee Delisle('s iPad)

Today me and a few other Creative Lynx developers had a rare opportunity to get out of the studio and spend the day marveling at Seb Lee Delisle's iPad. It was definitely worth the £99 entry fee, and as an added bonus we also got a full day's AS3 training from Seb (in between looking at the iPad, touching the iPad, and talking about the iPad).

(image: @theRushen)

I jest. We were in fact there for some more top-notch training from Seb (courtesy of the awesome guys at Technique), who we'd had some training with at the excellent Technique Retreat in Morcambe a few months back. This time the session was on our home turf; luckily Seb managed to somehow get back here in time after the ash cloud o' doom grounded everyone.

There were a few people on today's session that weren't on the Morcambe one, so it wasn't a continuation of those sessions; instead we went down a Flash games route, starting at relatively simple clones of stuff like Space Invaders and Asteroids. The session level was pitched just right: starting off reasonably simple at the start of the day, getting steadily more complex as we got stuck in. Admittedly it was a lot to get into one day, which is kind of why I'm sat here at the moment blogging and writing up my notes so I can hopefully get some more of this to stick!

Seb's teaching style is ace: his work is fun and interesting, and being able to work with a few rough builds before the final finished piece is a great way to see how decisions we make early on affect stuff later down the line. It was also great to see that he got stuck in straight away instead of pondering the details or over-explaining anything unnecessary.This was definitely reflected in the sound advice that it's more important to get stuff working first, and then begin to refine and optimise it later if required. I really like this approach, mainly because I know/admit that I'm one of those guys who gets fixated on little bits of cool stuff rather than making the bigger project work before getting into the nitty gritty. Seb's advice on getting stuff to 'feel' right was important; on a rough platform game demo (just a cube and some platforms) we experimented with gravity and player movement before adding any graphics at all, to make sure that the game really feels right before getting stuck into any of the other elements. Definitely something to bear in mind next time I think about tackling something complicated and terrifying.

We ended the day looking at some awesome motion tracking experiments, the highlight being a multiplayer webcam Pong game that tracks player movement (in a large group of people) to control the bat. This stuff was an impressive (if slightly daunting) way to close the session, and is something I feel an immediate desire to mess with! From a more practical point of view, the games portion was incredibly useful both for stuff I've got coming up and stuff I really want to experiment with more. Considering we were only here for the day I picked up an amazing amount of stuff: covering Pythagoras and trig properly in relation to actual Flash work was really useful: my previous stabs at it have been guesswork at best, so it was good to get a proper understanding of how to use it. We unexpectedly went on a nerdy tangent at the end to get our collective heads around Hex colours and binary shifting too, argh! It was at this point my brain started to melt slightly, but I think I got it.

So overall it was an excellent day, and by the sounds of it the iPhone and HTML folks had a great time too. Seb and (I think) Brendan Dawes are going to be talking at Northern Digitals in August, which I'll definitely be going to. All I need now is a Flash On The Beach ticket and I'm all set.

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