Category Archives: The Craft

Fandom Feud Survey Post

So I decided that I want to do a Family Feud program for conventions, but it’s hard to get full families at a convention, so it’s getting renamed it to a much more common occurrence at conventions.

Of course we can’t play the Feud without surveys and so I have two for you to fill out. Because I have game show friends who are necessarily into anime and vice versa(???) I’ve set up one survey for all comers and the other for anime fans. Try one or both; it’s up to you. If I can get 100 people quickly enough, I’ll send out two more surveys. The goal is to have 20 viable questions for two full matches, so I want to get through as many as possible without overwhelming you.

You’ll also note at the bottom of each survey I ask for your e-mail. This is indeed for S&P purposes, but if you’d like, I’ll let you know when the next surveys are out.

The links are below and I hope to update them when the next surveys go out. Thanks a bunch!

Survey 1-1 (for all audiences)
Survey 1-2 (for otaku and con goers)


Let Me Be Honest

This has not been a good few weeks for me. My Otakon experience was marred by issues out of the convention’s control. While it was awesome that I was able to talk about Satoshi Kon to a group of 200-300 people in the middle of the night, the external stuff brought everything else down. Between car troubles, illness, lack of sleep, and a whole host of other issues, there will have to be a major reassessment of how I do things if I ever plan to go back. It’s a shame, but there’s not much you can do when you have a near-Perfect Storm of issues.

To compound on this, I had to pull out of Saikoukon due to a work conflict. This is the first time I can recall having to do this and it bugs me to no end. To be fair, I am fortunate to have a day-to-day job that gives me enough time out to do so many conventions—I’m still on pace for attending nine shows this year (more than I did in my first three years of going to cons) doing panels in as many as eight of them (as many as I did in my first five years of doing panels) and theoretically, I could’ve gone to 13-14 shows in total had I not gone to Japan—but there are other parts of my job that are dicey (tl;dr my job is secure, my position is not) and make it less desirable. Ideally, MP would be a side source of income while I find a position that pays well enough and is flexible enough to allow me to continue with MP, but that is still a long way from happening.

Luckily, I still have three shows left on the docket, and 2017 is shaping up to be very interesting, so I just need to find a way to get back on the proverbial horse (or is it panther in my case?) and continue to plug away.

The One That (Almost) Got Away

This is a story about a typo. It’s about how a typo cost me a lot and nearly cost me everything.

My friends in the convention industry have a term for dealing with the problems and incidents when trying to handle thousands of less-than-ruly otaku. They refer this type of management as “putting out fires.” Over the 10+ years I’ve done programming (only formally for about 6), I’ve had to deal with a lot of fires myself. Panelist no-shows, tech no-shows, audience no-shows, life crises, tech crises, and a whole bunch more. Despite all that, I’ve adapted and adjusted and as long as there was an audience, I ran my event. There’s a sort of subconscious pride in knowing that I’ve kept this “streak” up. I had never really dwelled on it, but I’ve seen what happens when someone is unable to run and it’s not fun for anyone. The panelist is defeated, attendees get discouraged, and a level of trust between the two parties is removed. It’s a blow for both the speaker’s reputation and the con’s reputation. Everything gets lost to the fire.

I just had an encounter with that myself. Knowing that I was doing my Doge Wheel of Fortune at Anime Mini six days after I would return from Japan, I tried to make as much of the game in advance as I could because I knew that I would be in no shape to do anything after 10 days of vacation half a world away.

I had no idea how right I was going to be.

One of the faults of my Wheel program is that I haven’t yet fully accounted for punctuation in puzzles. My game runner had brought this up at a previous con and I had an idea for a fix, but I didn’t really get anywhere, and as things often do, it got back-burnered for other things.

Fast forward to June 2016 and Anime Mini. In the middle of a game, there was an error with a puzzle loading. This was news to me, as I had left the game code untouched, except for a couple of updates for prize values and presentation errors. I also didn’t QC the code as I normally did because I was still too jet-lagged to bother. I stared at piles of code for 15 minutes trying to figure out where the snag was, but I wasn’t finding it. Panic started to set in. If I wasn’t able to fix the issue, I would have no game, no panel. My mind raced figuring out contingency plans, I actually said out loud that I wasn’t sure how I could fix it.

Finally, I realized I should check other parts of the game. They all worked, so it was isolated to the one puzzle. I checked that puzzle’s file and I saw the issue. That punctuation fix I started was still there, not yet undone. I changed it back, and the game ran smoothly after that. My panicked statement had sent 3/4 of the crowd out, but there was still enough to have a good time my three players all won fun gifts, and the game still fit within its hour timeslot.

To date, that is the closest brush with disaster I have ever experienced, yet I was still able to put out the fire.

The Meta Panel

One of the panels I was an attendee for at Tekko was essentially a pitch meeting; people would come in, pitch their panel ideas to some of the Guests of Honor, and they in turn would provide feedback on how to make it work. What made kind of odd was that there were only about 5 or 6 people in attendance, which isn’t inherently bad, but I and Brian (who I have worked with plenty) were both quickly roped in to give advice based on our own experiences. So I was a attending a panel on panels where I was also a panelist. BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN
To be honest it was nothing out of the ordinary, though. My advice remains generally unchanged from my “How To Make A Panel” Workshop in that if you have an idea, do it. The price of failure is nowhere near what everyone thinks it is. Plus you could save money.
In non-MP news, check out the 24 Hour Game Show Marathon this weekend. It’s run by some awesome people and they’re doing it for CHOP, so that means the kids win out on this.  Maybe I’ll convince them to do Pittsburgh one year :3

Getting a buzz

A lot of the fun that comes with doing MelloPanther is just working on the creative processes.  In other words, the brainstorming, the molding and the building of things, whether it’s panels or game shows or any sort of programming.  Presenting is fun, too, but it’s getting to that point that tends to excite me the most.  I have folders full of mock-ups and drafts and layouts for just about anything as well as projects that serve mainly as tutorials, unlikely to see the light of day.  Not only is it good practice to hone my skills in design and coding, it keeps the flow of ideas free.  In a way, it’s sort of my version of a doodle pad.

I bring all this up because I recently got into a conversation about the tech I use for my games.  My weapons of choice are currently Flash and buzzers from Buzz! The Mega Quiz.  Flash, because it’s fairly easy to work with and the buzzers because it’s a 20-button joystick which can be mapped to a keyboard.  During that conversation, we fell down a bit of a proverbial rabbit hole.  At the bottom of this hole was the idea for a whole new buzzer system, able to be constructed on the relatively cheap.  If done properly, this new system could drastically change if not revolutionize the way I do game shows.  I can’t say much about it right now, primarily because most of it is above my head (I’m a software guy, not a hardware guy–luckily the other people in this conversation were the latter) but I’m very excited and I hope to get the ball running on this soon because I can’t wait to tell you all about it!


Those of you who have been to Pittsburgh conventions might remember the dreaded iPod, but it’s a full story worth telling.  Since I started hosting Name That Tune in 2010, I’ve had a metallic pink iPod nano as part of the Grand Prize package for winning with honors, whether it’s winning a bonus round, or beating the final round with a certain score.  The problem for contestants has been 1) my endgames don’t kid around in terms of difficulty and 2) Name That Tune hasn’t been played in over a year and at a major convention in nearly 2 years.  So the iPod has sat unclaimed for nearly 40 months, and has become a bit of a running gag.  You may not think it’s valuable, but it is now one of the greatest trophies one can claim from my games, outside of the people’s ovation and fame forever.

Hopefully, that will change at Setsucon, as the iPod and nearly ¥20,000 in other goodies will be up for grabs at the MelloPanther’s first Name That Tune outside of Western Pennsylvania. I’ll post MP’s full schedule very shortly.