By Chris Street
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Note: This article is not endorsed by, or affliated with, Clickteam in anyway. Should information be incorrect, it is because I misinterpreted it, and I apologise, and if this is the case please contact me and I'll amend the article accordingly.


INTRODUCTION
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I don't plan to go into the deep depths of this years convention as I have done with past reports, for one important reason - video footage! Yes, I managed to record the entire convention on video and soon you'll be able to enjoy it for yourselves, either by YouTube or by downloading from the official Clickteam site. For now though I'll guide you through what actually took place. Sadly a couple of events had to be cut from the convention - the photo shoot - and Simon Colmers WebIt demonstration, which is a shame.



ORDER OF PRESENTATIONS
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1. Meet and Greet
2. Francois: Quiz Object Demo + Java Runtime
3. Paul Boland: Shooting Stars 2 / The Caretaker

4. LUNCH BREAK

5. MelliGeorgiou + Simon Duong: Immunity Content Studio
6. Francois: Hardware Acceleration Demonstration
7. Francois: Questions and Answers session

8. LIJI: Running MMF on Linux
9. Chris Carson (Kisguri): Indy Game Development

10. Chris Street: Mr Stump's Dentures 2
11. Jam and Villy: Extention Management
12. Flavien Clermont (Sphax): Extentions and Projects

13. Summary


1. MEET AND GREET
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Arrived at 8.30am, half an hour earlier than planned. A few other conventioneers were already there, including the Clickteam staff and forum moderators, LIJI, Sphax... can't remember who else. I didn't really get talking to anybody this time, so after I had ordered a hot chocolate I went upstairs to the main room and formally met once again Jason, Yves, Jeff, Francois, DT and Chris Carson before setting up the video camera. Chatted to Yves and Francois a little and clicked (geddit) with Jason. Eventually everyone turned up - including Clubsoft who I wasn't expecting to be there. He, myself, Chris Nimmo and Simon Colmer generally hung around together during the breaks. The conventioneers gradually started filing upstairs to the main room without prompting from Jason or Sarah. Such eagerness


2. FRANCOIS: QUIZ OBJECT DEMO + JAVA RUNTIME
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Francois kicked things off with a demonstration of the power of the new Quiz Object - incorporated into Build 245 of MMF2. There were no events required at all - everything was made using the object which is nice and powerful. Some of the features that Francois touched upon included time limited questions (in which you had to answer a question within a time limit... somewhat obviously), YES/NO or TRUE/FALSE only answers, and a nice option in which you had to match answers up by drawing a line between them... so for example, you could create two columns - one of questions, one of answers and the left column could have some mathematial questions jumbled up, the right column could have the answers jumbled up and you'd draw a line from left to right. It was great stuff.

Francois demonstrated the ability to hyperlink to internal images and showed a data form, in which the user would input their details... name, address... whatever you wanted to put in, really. This was a perfect feature for a questionnaire. More importantly though the results would be generated at the end of the quiz object, telling you how many wrong answers you had, the percentage of correct answers - and there was even a feature included that would allow the user to save the results to an external file and view them in considerably more detail.

The second part of Francois' demonstration involved a long-awaited feature of MMF2 - Java runtime! A new MMF2 build will have a new "Save To Build" feature, called Direct3D. Francois demonstrated two Java games in the form of the orignal Concentration and Gracillis V (probably got the name wrong) included in the original Klik and Play. At this current time though the Java games would tend to run at about half the speed in Linux, but its also possible to develop games for mobile phones - although compromises would have to be made, such as the reduction of the screen resolution and overall file size.

Francois also stated that the runtime is free and would probably be made available as a Christmas present... I think.


3. PAUL BOLAND: SHOOTING STARS 2 / THE CARETAKER
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Convention regular Paul Boland was up next, with two games to show us. Actually, one was a video, but the other was, for the first time in Pauls convention career, playable! Paul spoke of how his original game - Shooting Stars - created a new genre and had been his most successful game to date - and he had decided to start work on its sequel. An interactive conversation took place between Paul and the characters in the first video that he ran, which amused us all, and then shortly afterwards another video was shown, set in space, and it featured a character being sucked down to Earth by some kind of tractor beam.

Next up was The Caretaker and the transformation that has taken place over the last two years is actually quite astounding. The game now uses an isometric grid-based playing board and is graphically intense. It's a huge improvement over the original version. Paul demonstrated the game using four players (and he controlled them all) and it's a game I'm now looking forward to. The MMF2 Build 244 bug was evident however, the text had disappeared from the button objects


4. LUNCH BREAK
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We all left the room for lunch downstairs and just loitered around. Mr Colmer tried to buy me a pint but instead my overwhelming generosity and forcefulness came through and I got him one instead Simon and I sat down by ourselves and just chatted about anything, we got on really well. Then Chris Nimmo, who I've been quite eager to meet again since his last convention appearance in 2002, joined us, and then Clubsoft jumped all three of us from behind. My jacket potato arrived, I ate it, and we went outside by the large pond and just chatted some more. And then we went inside again for the daylight was burning our skins.


5. MELLIGEORGIOU + SIMON DUONG: IMMUNITY CONTENT STUDIO
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These two chaps kicked off an incredible demonstration, which clearly showed how adept they both were with MMF2. ImmunityCS is a series of tools designed to make your game creation life much easier. Three programs were demonstrated... the first was a terrain editor which allowed the user to use a variety of object libraries and paste them into an image. A terrain manipulator was demonstrated and different varieties of textures of varying opacity were applied to the initial background. Houses were then taken from the graphic library, and could be resized at runtime. In addition to this, the terrain editor features a fantastic layering system. As well as assigning an object to an individial layer, ImmunityCS can optionally also detect whether an object should be in front of, or behind, another object. It was truly amazing to see.

Also shown was a character editor which could have various items of clothing assigned to him/her/it. Once again the character could be resized or rotated at runtime, and the skins could be manipulated in external programs such as Photoshop. This was demonstrated by MelliGeorgiou as he opened Photoshop up and applied a green hue to the "skin" bitmap that he had just saved via Content Studio... then he reloaded it and suddenly the 3D character was green.

Finally the music editor was demonstrated. At this time, all of the samples were unlicensed but half weren't original - this should change in time for the products release around November time. This programs features rivalled those such as FruityLoops and Ejay. MelliGeorgiou displayed pre-loaded tracks built into the software as well as creating his own drum rhythms.

A "help" program was shown, as well as a website hosting plan, which includes 50GB of webspace and unlimited bandwidth, for 9.99 per month - and the hosting plan features software that allows the user to easily transfer their things to the space without the hassle of complex FTP programs. There was also a cheaper hosting option, but there was limited webspace... I'm certainly considering the 9.99 option


6. FRANCOIS: HARDWARE ACCELERATION DEMONSTRATION
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It's what klikkers have been crying out for years and all of a sudden our wishes were granted - MMF2 will feature hardware acceleration!

Francois opened up an application which featured a single, solitary duck, bouncing around at 500-600 FPS. He then cloned the duck 99 more times, thus creating 100 ducks - and they still bounced around at 500+ FPS. Then he enlarged the ducks by making them three times bigger. Still 500+ FPS. Then he coded a constant rotation effect to the ducks. They were still bouncing around at 500 + FPS. Then he added anti-alias effects, and they slowed down to about 300 FPS. Other ink effects were added (there are new ink effects too) - monochrome was added, and a special RGB filter which essentially made the ducks a single colour... in this case, all the ducks were black. The blur was removed and the frame rate increased once again.

Then everyone at the convention was given a disc containing the hardware acceleration beta Also given away were copies of Paul Bolands CDs, a Clickteam mug and pen and some keyrings! The highlight of the convention!


7. FRANCOIS: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS SESSION
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To my discredit, I can't really remember offhand the answers that Francois gave to the questions, but they were divided into sections - MMF2, Install Creator and About Clickteam. It was about this time that I started to get a very aggravating headache. You'll have to read some other reports or watch the soon-to-be-released videos... I can only apologise. What I can remember though is Francois talking about MMF3, potentially to be released in a year and a half. There are about 3500 things that Clickteam have in the form of a list, and there'll probably be voting in the Clickteam forums to determine the most important or most wanted features. There was talk of revamping the event editor. Also, there is no word on the Irrlicht object. Clickteam are in the dark about this, as the developer had created and abandoned several extentions. And speaking of extentions, Clickteam don't really want to get involved in making them anymore - its up to you extention developers now! And don't expect Install Creator 3 for a while yet. Do however expect Vitalize 4 by the end of September time.


8. LIJI: RUNNING MMF ON LINUX
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LIJI was up next and ran a Powerpoint presentation on the benefits of using Linux and Wine, and how to get MMF working on it with as few problems whatsoever (which I know nothing about at all whatsoever). It was a pretty interesting presentation; LIJI stated that to get MMF working, there are some basic rules that need to be followed... one of them was not to use DirectX... in fact, LIJI made it clear it was a BAD IDEA. For someone as young as 14, LIJI displayed an incredible amount of knowledge on the subject and I was impressed with his demonstration - as well as his English.


9. CHRIS CARSON (KISGURI): INDY GAME DEVELOPMENT
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Chris' presentation focussed on a variety of things. He spoke of how he publishes games that people are working on through Gamesare, as well as making his own, and demonstrated his first finished game - Kinesis - a breakout game with a stipulation - each time the ball hits the paddle, some of its energy is depleted, and the way to replenish it is to catch falling stardust from the bricks that break. Chris demonstrated a game - I forget the name - based on an island, and the task is to place weapons that would blow up UFOs. Come nightfall, the UFO invasion would begin, and the game would take on a more action based role. It's one of the few games I've seen that combines action with strategy in this sort of way, it was very interesting to watch. Jewel Fever was also shown, I was seriously impressed with this and I'm tempted to buy it. It's a mix of Columns, Puyo Puyo and Lumines. The graphics were incredible to watch. Even more impressive was a platforming/beat-em-up. It featured out-of-this-world graphics and a rock solid engine. I'm looking forward to its release.

Chris spoke about finishing games, and how important it was to keep your mind on a project and not constantly restart it. He also seemed to pick on me a lot during his speech... calling me "Mr Restart Your Game Four Times" - but at the end of the convention, I had a drink and sat with Chris and the rest of Clickteam - and he urged me to get Mr Stump's Dentures 2 published He's a great and funny guy and his presentation was enjoyable to watch.

Chris also demonstrated the Flame extention. It created some wonderful graphical effects and isn't just limited to fire. Waterfalls, fountains and underwater haze effects were shown, and could be manipulated in real time. He also demonstrated the gradient background changer, in which you can change a gradients colours at runtime as well. This was prevalent in a Final Fantasy Tactics engine that he had created; one of the characters jumped up into the air and the colour of the background changed to simulate perhaps some kind of magic spell or summon. Both of these are incredible extentions and demonstrate true in-game power in MMF2. As I mentioned, a great presentation.


10. CHRIS STREET: MR STUMP'S DENTURES 2
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My presentation, however, perhaps wasn't quite so enjoyable to watch. I've never been a great public speaker and it later transpired that I was talking a bit too quietly. Nonetheless the presentation ran smoothly - there were no music problems and there was little slowdown. I displayed nine different portions of the game - the first five focussed on the first level with enemy kill combos and seriously cute characters and graphics, Super Stump (which is NOT stolen from Mario, haha), a Bonus Stage (collect all the gems and find some Mini-Dentures), an upside-down level, and the boss. The rest consisted of two excerpts from Level 2 - the Dusty Ruins (primarily demonstrating conveyorbelt, bouncy wall springs, trigonometry powered rotating mines and auto-scrolling), Level 3 featured the obligatory lava stage, complete with dodgy heat haze effect and flamethrower wielding blue suited enemies. Level 4 - Steel Island, demonstrated inverted gravity again, but it was also intergrated with the default engine and in a certain section the player would flip upside down and fall towards the ceiling. Oh, and somehow I managed to blag a mid-way round of applause for telling everyone that I was proud of my game

Multiplayer wasn't demonstrated, but I did leave a pack of 50 CDs out for people to take from - each one featured the original MSD and all of the abandoned versions of MSD2, 5 video trailers of MSD2, free MIDI files and some screenshots of MSDs magazine and internet fame.

Very depressingly, only 14 CDs were taken. And three of them were by the same person


11. JAM AND VILLY: EXTENTION MANAGEMENT
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Jam and Villy were up next and demonstrated extention management by the use of their own rSDK. Jam opened up the SDK in Visual C Basic (I think) and began fiddling around with different flags and things, and, in the end, created a basic extention which asked "Is Jam At The Convention?" Jam was very quick with the programming and was clearly very knowledgeable in the subject. However, extention creation is beyond my knowledge and I found it very difficult to understand what both Jam and Villy were talking about. Nonetheless, it was a very well carefully planned presentation. And now, to my knowledge, they have released the SDK!


12. FLAVIEN CLERMONT (SPHAX): EXTENTIONS AND PROJECTS
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Sphax spoke about, and showed, many impressive things in his demonstration. His company, Complex Softwares, is currently working on 10 extentions. One of them was a very impressive real-time bezier-curve manipulation sort of extention, and he demonstrated this by running an application with a bouncing ball. Flavian could draw shapes and manipulate the balls bouncing angle. He also demonstrated the extention by running another demo: an underwater scene with different coloured fish. He would create a "net" around the fish and they would then disappear.

Sphax also spent a large portion of his presentation demonstrating an astoundingly brilliant looking platformer featuring a panda. The gameplay was very reminiscent of the Worms series but it only featured one player. There were so many technical features to this engine, such as a bridge bobbing about according to how quickly you are moving or falling - and destructable scenery. The bridge could be destroyed by cutting it in the middle, and its relevant parts would follow the laws of gravity without completely detaching themselves from the land. Sphax told me over dinner that the Overlay Redux object... another object which I can't remember and his own Vortex extention seriously aided in the creation of the demo.

Enemies could be created at the click of a mouse, and all had wonderful degrees of artificial intelligence.

The water level could be raised and lowered at will, and the panda would float to the top edge. He could also swim underwater, and Sphax demonstrated this by allowing him to swim through caverns that he created - and the screen would gradually get darker the lower underwater he went - representing the fading light. It was a wonderful example of what can be achieved with MMF2 and, like all of the presentations, was entertaining and creative.


13. SUMMARY
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So I guess that's it, really in terms of knowledge. As I said at the beginning of the article, I have skimmed over many things, but you'll find these detailed in other reports, such as Joshteks at the Clickteam forums. I'll also be arranging, as I also said, for the video footage to be uploaded soon. There's a lot of it, and its going to take time to edit it... but I hope you can be patient enough

In terms of the actual convention, the day wasn't quite over. About 25 of us remained to enjoy the meal - this time it was held at the Watermill itself, rather than at the pub across the road... apparently they couldn't cope with such huge numbers last time. It was an honour to meet all the clickers that I did meet - some new, some old - and it was an honour too to get chatting to Clickteam - especially at the very end when I sat with them in the bar and they all encouraged me to get MSD2 published... I felt quite proud of myself and I really had a good time - despite my nervous disposition. I want to thank everyone involved in the organisation of the convention and to Clickteam for turning up again, taking time out of their busy schedules to satisfy our insatiable appetites for knowledge. It was great to meet you all, especially Simon Colmer, Clubsoft and Chris Nimmo...

Roll on 2008