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BLOXcon Hackathon Winners Share Tips and Experiences

August 17, 2013

by JacksSmirkingRevenge


hackathonNow that all three BLOXcons have wrapped (and we’re hard at work creating our Virtual BLOXcon for September, in case you were wondering), we thought we’d take some time to talk with two top Hackathon performers (NickPatella and Ethancomputermad) to seek out tips for future participants. Their insight can help you get a better understanding of the type of skills it takes to win such a difficult and competitive building and scripting challenge.

To clarify, the ROBLOX Hackathon is a series of building and scripting challenges, where each participant is given something to create, and a time frame to create it. The builder must complete their creation (whether that’s a gun with a reloadable clip, a pig that oinks, or a bubble machine) before time runs out, or get as far along as possible. By the end, our panel of ROBLOX engineers scores each creation based on ingenuity, beauty, and functionality. There are a lot of types of contests we could run at BLOXcon, but the Hackathon blends many of our fundamental ideals, including the spirit and passion of creation and the rush of friendly competition.

We’ve been keeping score at each BLOXcon, so you can see the top Hackathon performers from Chicago, London and New York City. One builder in particular dominated in New York City, having taken first place by over a thousand points. We jumped at the chance to talk with him:

ROBLOX: Did you really finish every single scripting and building competition?

NickPatella: [Laughs] I think that’s slightly exaggerated. I believe I missed one or two because I took a break to catch some of the Main Stage Presentation. But I completed as many as I possibly could.


ROBLOX: What was the biggest challenge in the Hackathon?

NickPatella: Definitely time management between building and scripting. The clocks weren’t exactly aligned, so most of the time I’d have 15 minutes to complete a building exercise, but half the time to complete the scripting. I basically just tried to figure out which tasks I could complete in the shortest amount of time, then kept moving on from there.

ROBLOX: Any particular challenge trip you up?

NickPatella's Hackathon bubble machine looks best from above, where you can watch translucent blue bricks float towards you.

NickPatella’s Hackathon bubble machine looks best from above, where you can watch translucent blue bricks float towards you.

NickPatella: Making a windmill was tough–I couldn’t get the main hinge wouldn’t stick to the side of the brick. It was really frustrating. From a scripting point of view, the bubble machine was definitely the most difficult, which was my fault. I didn’t give myself enough time, and had to improvise parts of it using a sphere mesh at the last minute. That was difficult.

ROBLOX: What do you do on ROBLOX? People will want to know what kinds of skills it takes to earn such a high score in the Hackathon.

NickPatella: I’m mainly a scripter, though I try to build often. I don’t make EBR (Elite Builders of ROBLOXia) quality builds or anything, but I can usually manage to build just enough to get by. This may not be something to brag about in the context of ROBLOX, but for the Hackathon, it’s perfect. You’re under the gun to get the points and there’s a ton of pressure and little time. So you can’t really go for perfect, detailed creations. You’ve just got to build something, and move on.

ROBLOX: What got you started?

NickPatella: I started in October of 2010. I had one simple goal: I wanted to make my own video game. Most platforms I looked at had restrictions, until I found ROBLOX. Then I realized I could literally build anything I wanted to. I started with low-level concept builds, like ships. I remember noticing that certain free models were programmed to actually do things inside the game, and that idea really stuck with me. I started studying the scripts of these models in order to figure out how they work. Stargate was an early ROBLOX game that really got me interested in the ways models work. I just got so into it. Started learning about how tables and raycasting work. Then it was on to learning the syntax of the language, which meant a lot of time on the Wiki studying examples.

ROBLOX: What made you want to enter the Hackathon?

NickPatella: I’ve always wanted to participate. After I learned how scripting worked, I felt like I could create anything I could think of. Thing is, it takes dedication to build on ROBLOX [laughs] and I’m a very impatient person. I like building small things quickly, which happens to be what the Hackathon is all about. This year’s Hackathon was really good practice in many senses. It sort of teaches you to build small creations then ship them out. For now, I’m just happy building models that other users can use to make their games awesome.

ROBLOX: Well, you’re a Golden Scroll winner. What’s next?


NickPatella’s “Model” section of his profile is chock-full of awesome models and scripts you can use in your games.

NickPatella: I’m just going to keep creating models, it’s what I love to do. I recently made a teleportation model that got just over 1,000 takes (advertising helped that number immensely). I also make edits to free models and polish them up and send them back out there. I recently updated a model that got 3,500 takes. I have a ton of unfinished ideas that I end up abandoning because I want to make something new all of the sudden. I don’t have the patience for long-term builds.

ROBLOX: Any advice for participants looking to snag gold next year?

NickPatella: Be goal and time oriented. Don’t go overboard. Build just enough to get by, then move on. Be as fast as you can. Don’t built a super-detailed creation then not have the time to script it. In terms of scripting, don’t focus too much on making the code flawless, just purely functional. Do what you know how to do, and if you feel like you can’t do something, than at least try it, then move on.

NickPatella managed to upload many of his Hackathon creations to his ROBLOX profile. Check out some of the cool stuff he managed to build, here.

There is no one correct way to approach the Hackathon, as evidenced by Ethancomputermad, the first-place participant in London. We spoke with him briefly, as well:

ROBLOX: Congrats on doing so well! What was the biggest challenge you came across?

Ethancomputermad: My kryptonite is raycasting–I just never properly learned it. So one of the challenges was to make a brick that shines a light. That was really tough. Wherever I pointed my brick, the part would fall off and turn into Corroded Metal. I should’ve done more raycasting research.

ROBLOX: What do you do on ROBLOX?

vortextsecurityEthancomputermad: I’m with the Vortex Security group. I’ve been working on their new fort, which is actually releasing soon. They’re a great group, and they keep me busy scripting lots of different things. I’m also in charge of accepting applicants into our Vortex Security Development Division.

ROBLOX: What was your method for earning such a high score?

Ethancomputermad: Building was tough. I managed to get the scripting done for almost all of the challenges quite quickly, and I’d try to build the most creative and detailed model as possible with the remaining time I had.

ROBLOX: Any advice for someone looking to becoming a better scripter?

Ethancomputermad: LuaLearners is a great place to start. I wish they were around when I started learning how to script–they seem to be teaching people a lot about scripting. They service everyone too, from total noobs to proficient scripters. Definitely worth checking out!

Year after year, we are floored by what our users and builders are able to create, and this year was no different. So to all those who came out and participated in the Hackathon in Chicago, London, or New York–thank you! We can’t wait to see what you guys do next year.