First Workshop Postmortem
I held my first workshop today, and I think it went pretty well. A big thanks to all those that attended, and for those that missed, the video tutorial will be up on Saturday afternoon! Check back here for the post with the documentation and video, which will be titled “Learn UDK in a Day Workshop.” Since the workshop went rather well, I think I will be doing a few more over this semester, but, just like with any game project, I figured it would be helpful to write up a short postmortem on the workshop to help understand what went right and wrong. Since this was my first time hosting a workshop, there were, of course, a few things I feel I could have done better, and if you attended and had any feedback, please let me know! I’m taking the feedback from this workshop and applying it to the video, as well as future workshops.
The workshop was entitled “Learn UDK in a Day,” and was a sort of introductory course for learning the basics of the Unreal Development Kit and creating a very basic level. It took place in an electronic classroom at my college, the University of Advancing Technology, so there were computers available for students to follow along with what I was doing on the projector. I handed out several papers to each person who attended, including a summary of topics sheet, two pages of step-by-step instructions to follow along with, a tutorials list, and a feedback form. The workshop lasted a little over two hours, with about twenty or so people showing up, about half of which were beginners and the other half just wanted to brush up on skills. There was a fairly even mix of game designers, artists, and programmers.
What Went Wrong
The biggest issues people ran into during the workshop were computer and program related. The room that had been reserved seemed to be undergoing computer repairs, seeing as how people from IT came in asking when we would be done, various cables were unplugged, and a few computers that were completely unusable. While most of the computers were working, there were numerous issues with UDK running on them. Attendees were asked to bring a copy of the May 2011 beta on a flash drive or external with them to avoid having issues with running the school’s version of UDK, which was not completely up to date, but not everyone did, and those who didn’t had to use the version already on the school computers. Some students had minimal problems with running the school’s version of UDK, while others had to switch computers several times and suffered from severe lag and crashing problems. This slowed the progress of some students, who fell far behind as we tried to move the workshop forward. I often found that the majority of students had already completed the steps I had shown thus far and were bored while waiting for me to help the others with technical issues catch up. A lot of time was spent on my part walking around the room to make sure everyone was on the same page, and while this is certainly a good thing since it allowed me to help people directly, it was very time consuming and took away from the time I was actually at the projector. Because of this, I found myself moving a little too quickly through the material on the projector, and some students fell behind simply because I was moving too fast for them. Since more time was being spent helping students, I was not able to cover all of the material that I wanted to, and actually missed out on a few things that I think would have been important, especially for the beginners.
What Went Right
The documentation, particularly the step-by-step instructions, seemed to be helpful, since it provided a way for the attendees to either work ahead or catch up, and allowed people to work at their own pace. Advertising that there would be a video version of the workshop didn’t do a whole lot for attendance, but it did seem to be effective in generating interest. For those that went to the workshop, the video will serve as a sort of review, covering some of the things I missed in the actual workshop and providing more in-depth details, while for those who missed, it will serve as a new tutorial to follow along with. I think the idea of helping people one-on-one was effective for some students’ learning, but the time spent doing so could have been better managed. Even with the computer problems, almost everyone was able to create a basic, working level with swimmable water and an animated door.
Changes for the Future
The video seems to be a big hit amongst both those who missed and those who showed up to the workshop, even though it isn’t out yet. The workshop itself provided a good way to give one-on-one help to beginners, but next time I will need to make sure that an equal amount of time is being spent between one-on-one help and actual showing on the projector. Most students were able to follow along fairly well, although I will try to slow things down a bit next time to allow participants more time to do the steps themselves without missing anything. The step-by-step instructions were a big help for that, but more detail could be put into them since they did not always explain where everything could be found. As for the rest of the documentation, I don’t think the overview of topics sheet was necessary, and some people seemed annoyed at the number of papers they received, so that should be reduced without sacrificing quality. The main thing I will need to work on for next time is time management, especially between one-on-one time and actual teaching. To help remedy that, I was suggested to get a few helpers who could help students out while I ran the workshop. It would also help to narrow the amount of topics covered, since there was a lot to cover and this was only intended for beginners. I think a little more time could have been spent in learning the interface, and a lot more time for helping students understand the basics of Kismet and Matinee. We ran through both rather quickly, and I didn’t feel like anyone got a very good grasp on what all they can do, so that will be emphasized next time.
Regarding the computer and school’s UDK issues, next time I will highly advise attendees to bring a laptop with the latest version of UDK already installed. Since not everyone will probably have a laptop, we would still meet in an electronic classroom so everyone still gets a chance to learn, but I might request a different room and do a test run of UDK in that room before the workshop. It was also noted by one attendee that next time I should warn people about the slow computers prior to the workshop, and I think this could have helped more students in understanding this problem.
I’ve received a lot of suggestions for future workshops, mostly for more advanced topics, so I hope to put a few more together for this semester. Any new workshops and videos will be posted here, so check back for more news! Again, thanks to those who made it out today and keep an eye out for the video this weekend!