Some bugs just don't want to be squished, so learn to love them.

30 August 2017

Categories: PhD-Life (7) , Games (6) , Conferences (6) , Travel (4)
Tags: phd (9) , event (11) , games (6) , us (1) , first (7)

Hello and welcome.

Presentation: (PPTX) (PDF) (Youtube) (Youtube-Full-Stream)

(A lot of pictures from NY, still sorting through them. Pictures to come.)

I’d never been on a plane for more than 3 and a half hours. Even that sometimes feels like a lot. But this time, after lots of running around for a visa, I jumped on a plane for 7 hours, heading west and over an ocean. US was so far away from little me once. But then my excited feet got to walk around in the JFK airport and later stumbled around Brooklyn trying to find my temporary home for a week. Yep, little me got all the way to New York. Who would’ve thought, huh.

Thing is, the kid in me expected to be walking around in a magical land where you’d turn a corner and poof! there’s one dream you’d had for a long time and now it’s come true. That’s how the stories go, don’t they? And don’t get me wrong, I did like it there. I love lights at night and Manhattan does have plenty of those shining and challenging the stars for a spot in the sky. I love impressive views and the skyline of super tall buildings did impress me. And there were so many little things that I’d seen in movies and I could relate that to the real world, right in front of my nose. I may have slightly injured my neck staring up at the top of the sky scrapers.

But there was a lot of very greasy food. And very sweet food too - even meatballs in tomato sauce tasted bloody sweet! There was so much traffic. There was an old looking and confusing tube system. And Brooklyn, where I stayed, was not very well kept. I think my street was one of the prettiest in the area, so I lucked out on that front. Above all, it was just another city with some very tall buildings and yellow school buses. I didn’t get any dreams poof!-ed. And I probably wouldn’t be very excited to live there (but hey, I used to say that about London and guess where I’ve ended up now).

I still liked the trip. I got two days after the conference to explore the place: the first day we checked all the tourist points, full on walking day morning to evening. The second day I could barely move and we went for a relaxing day on Governor’s Island instead. Some highlights of these two days would include a doggie park, the Friends appartment, Central Park (this one was a big disappointment, I had very high hopes for this magical place before it turned out to be just a park), getting dizzy in Times Square (so many things and lights everywhere!), donuts that I was told were amazing but I couldn’t try, a jazz festival with everyone dressed and acting like in the 20s and a hot dog. I really wanted a hot dog.

As for the conference, which is what I’d actually gone to New York for, that was good too. It was probably the first one that I’ve gone to where most talks are either relevant to what I do, in some way relatable or just interesting. I particularly enjoyed that there were several talks on generating games of strategic depth, something I myself dabbed in a bit. There were also a bunch of people I knew there, which was very cool. It’s nice going to a conference where you know people!

The social events were quite cool too. The first was going to a place filled with old school arcade games and a bar as well. We got quarters served in a bucket for free use of the machines which turned out to be great fun! And the second was a fancy dinner where the waiters were waaay too happy to keep serving wine.

And for the first time since new people joined the crew, we could have a nice big GVGAI meeting with everyone currently involved. That ended up taking 3 hours, maybe we should have those more often so we don’t end up losing a whole evening for it. Lots of ideas thrown around, some ideas kicked out. Do look for cool new things coming up though, there are many plans to improve both the framework and competition.

I also got to do a presentation on my latest paper, Rolling Horizon Evolution Enhancements in General Video Game Playing. This was recorded and streamed live, for the whole world to see. Which is actually pretty cool, although I still cringe when I see it. I guess that happens with everyone. So this time I can share not only my slides, but also what I spoke on top of them and the Q&A section at the end!

My mum watched the stream. She didn’t understand much. She thought I was amazing.

Have a lovely day,

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