Hardware Maintenance

Early this week My long used laptop charger developed a fault. It still functioned, but part of the wire was frayed revealing the layer under the rubber coating. Not like it was sparking, but not something I wanted to take risks with either. So until I could get a new charger my work laptop couldn’t really be used as normal. So what to do with the day? Clean my keyboard.

 

I have a pair of mechanical keyboards for my two computers, and I had never cleaned them. I new the idea of how to clean them: remove keys, clean underneath, clean individual keys, replace keys. Fairly simple. But… I had no idea how to remove the keys safely. Then I got a special tool specifically for the job and it was off to the races.

Spent most of the morning cleaning my “work keyboard”. First removing the keys (carefully keeping them in order), then scrubbing under where they were. So much dirt, oil, and other detritus had accumulated that it took some work to get most of it out. Next up was blasting it all with a can of compressed air. As a side note, I’m not sure if I will ever get used to how cold compressed air cans get when in use. With the board itself (mostly) clean I moved onto the keys themselves. Nothing fancy for these, wipe them down with a wet cloth, then dry them with a dry cloth. Got the dirt rings off them and made them shiny again. Only took a few seconds per key, but that adds up for a full keyboard. Just put on a podcast and let the Zen of repetitive action take over.

While I was dealing with the keyboards a thought kept popping up in the back of my head. Near the end of dealing with the second keyboard I decided to check on that thought. And sure enough I was right. Turns out I had a spare charger that had been sitting in a box for several years. So now I have two clean keyboards and a charger in good condition. What happened to the old charger you may ask? Toothpick as a splint to keep that part from bending and some electric tape to keep it secure and safe. Not a pretty solution, but it works as a “new” backup charger.

With everything done, I replaced the keys and had a clean keyboard for the first time in… too long. The difference is like night and day.

And I Thought Making the Game was Complicated

So my game is approaching the point of being done. That is to say, while there is always something that can be worked on, it is feature complete and working. I just have a few more features to iron out, mostly quality of life improvements for the player. So, what’s next? Getting it into the hands of players (and hopefully monetizing the thing).

The problem is that actually getting an app on to an app store is a long and annoying process. At first I thought it would be simple: make a profile, submit app, get approval (after inevitable edits), app in store. Simple and straightforward right? Wrong. Even just a cursory glance at the actual process showed me it would be much more complicated than that. Lots of steps to secure the project, steps to make the submission secure, steps to make sure the app isn’t malicious. Add onto that an almost $100 cost to have the honor of being able to submit apps for Apple’s consideration.

At first all of this was paralyzingly overwhelming. Where do I even begin? What does any of this mean? What is going on? But then I calmed down enough to remember the simple fix to being overwhelmed: take it one step at a time. In this case I am aiming for both IOS and Android distribution, so just focus on one for now. Make sure I understand each step before moving on to the next. And try not to get sidetracked and add more to my plate.

Of course, when looking up tutorials on how to do this I found a tutorial on adding ads to Unity games. Something I need in order to monetize the game… Will this ever end?

Trepidation and Momentum

Often with my work I feel a sense of oncoming dread. Not quite full on fear, but anticipation of hardship that leads to anxiety. Hence, trepidation. I know I should ignore this feeling… But you try ignoring gut instinct. Not so easy is it? Usually this comes about when I need to make something new in my project or need to learn a new technique or skill. I just have this expectation that things will go badly. And the “logic” of my fearful mind is that: as long as I don’t start the thing, the bad thing won’t happen. I know this is foolish, I know it is nonsense… and yet…

So where does Momentum come into play? Momentum is the other side of the coin. Once I work myself up enough to get past my trepidation the coin turns to its side. No longer shackled by trepidation I can get work done, but I am not yet fully productive. But if I maintain this long enough I fully flip the coin to momentum. That is when I have gotten so into the work, done thing after thing without stopping, that I don’t have time for trepidation to set in. In that state I simply don’t have the time to think about “What if this goes bad?” and just get on with the work.

Sometimes my work slows down and the coin flips back to its side or even fully back to trepidation. But that is why it is “trepidation and momentum”. Like a rolling stone gathers no moss, once I get moving I have no time for trepidation.

What Does A Game Need To Be?

Recently I saw a post online stating that a game does not need to be “anything”. And this argument has some merit, but I think games (and all art) actually have one requirement: they need to be “interesting”. But what does that mean? Because some people don’t seem to understand what I mean when I say that. So here we go.

Lets start with a simple definition of what interesting means. Interesting: Adjective, arousing curiosity or interest; holding or catching the attention. So in short it means to hold attention. But what I mean has a little more nuance to it so lets dive into that.

Lets start with the obvious, games that seek to be sold for profit need to be interesting in order to do that. This does not mean the game needs to be “fun”, “thoughtful”, “challenging”, or “complex” but it absolutely needs to be “interesting”. If it isn’t it gets rightfully left in the dust and forgotten. A game can be a bombastic action piece or a somber reflection on depression. Totally different games for which the only thing they likely have in common is that they are both games and therefore interactive but both can be just as “interesting” for totally different reasons.

In writing this I now see what the “Games don’t need anything to be called games” crowd is talking about. And it is fairly simple. The games that fail to capture attention… are still games, even if they aren’t commercial successes. But my counter argument is that those games were still at least trying to be interesting. However they lacked something, whether that be budget, vision, timing, graphics, playtesting, whatever, that prevented them from capturing the attention of their audience.

But you may have noticed I have made a point of talking about games “seeking to make a profit”, and that is because there is another type of game creation. That is when a creator makes a game for themselves. And I would argue that this game still needs to be “interesting”. Let me explain. When I say interesting that comes in many forms. Yes the primary form is that the final product finds the experience interesting. But when discussing a creation without an “end user” what needs to be “interesting” about it? The process itself. If neither the process of making the game nor the envisioned final product are interesting, I honestly cannot imagine someone creating that piece. (This of course ignores making the game as a job or commission)

And I would apply this to all forms of art. If an artist is making something for their own enjoyment/betterment I can only imagine them doing so if they find the process or goal to be interesting. That could be a painter wanting to use a new type of paint and playing with that. Or the same painter might just really want to paint that one composition just to have done it. Or a rapper might be experimenting with new rhymes just for the joy of the craft. And a game maker might challenge themselves to use a new tool or work in a new genre to get a new experience. But all of these endeavors are sustained by the artist’s interest in their craft. Therefore the craft itself or the final product of said craft must be interesting to, at minimum, the one creating it.

But this might all just be my ADHD brain not processing something that others find blindingly obvious. Perhaps I will try to defend the “games don’t need to be anything” angle next. Perhaps I should, after all it seems to be a shockingly niche opinion for something so demonstrably true.

Returning to Posting

Okay, here we are again. THIS time I am going to try something a little new, at least to me. In the past I have tried to set myself a strict schedule and stick to it, but as with many strict things such a schedule was brittle and once broken was hard to keep going. I have come to realize (from similar experiences in other things) that part of this is my having preconceived notions of “how this is supposed to be done”. And if I couldn’t do them that way I must be failing and better to run away.

But then, when talking to someone about one of those similar activities, I said “Wait… I can do that?!” because it had honestly not occurred to me that I could change the schedule of when an event should take place. In my mind it always took place at a specific time, and to deviate from that was to do it wrong. But now with this new understanding I can be much loser about things.

Long story short: hopefully this time I will have made the changes I need to so that I can actually keep posting here. The main two being this: one I am going to post about work on Fridays and two I will also allow myself to post whenever I want about whatever I want if I feel like it.

Surviving Global Game Jam

For those that don’t know, Global Game Jam is an event that takes place world wide where people gather to make a game in 48 hours. These people include artists, programmers, game designers, audio engineers, professionals and independents. Every year a new theme is chosen, it is revealed only when the Game Jam starts and is used as a catalyst for creative designs. Once teams have decided what they are making they have the rest of the 48 hour period to make the game. Sounds simple right? Hehehehe….. I used Surviving in the title for a reason.

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When I say you have 48 hours to make this game I mean more like 42 hours because of the difference in start and end times. That is cut down to about 40 because of introductions, team creation, and brainstorming. Then you will probably take about an hour to set up your equipment. The idea for your final product WILL change (mostly because of over-reaching in initial idea or just cool new ideas). Then you have to factor in food and sleep. And different people have different schedules and limits for those things. So now you are down to about 30 hours. Then inevitably people will be waiting around for something else to be finished or given work that turns out was pointless. Also your equipment WILL have some sort of problem (Murhy’s Law). So yeah, simple premise, difficult execution. Also if you have been doing the math I only allotted about 8 hours for food and sleep, about 2-3 of which are for food runs and such. Yep, say goodbye to sleep if you want to get this done. This last jam I slept twice, the first time for about 3 hours and the second time for about 5…. I think.

So, what happened this year? The theme for this year was “ritual”. Lots of the ideas for this theme involved Satan, demons, or the never ending repetitiveness of your everyday lives as servants of society, I will let you decide which of these is scariest. My team went with an Incan theme for our game. The idea is that you are the strongest child of your village and must take part in ritual combat to prove yourself and attempt to ascend to god-hood. The game’s style is reminiscent of classic beat-um-ups like golden ax and double dragons. I helped with the programming and design of the game. Two of our programmers where not familiar with the Unity game engine so Victor and I helped guide them through it, but I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly they learned to use Unity.

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At the end of the event our game wasn’t quite what we set out to make but we are happy with it, although I did hear some of the others say they wanted to work on it more so who knows?

New Banner Picture

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I have a new banner picture! So Why does it have two pictures of me? Those that know me know that I often grow out a beard (usually because I forget to shave) and keep it grown out like that for long periods of time. But I also shave the beard off at the drop of a hat. So when people see me it is a bit of a coin toss whether or not I will have a beard, hence the double portrait.

Work on the site continues! Nothing of note posted yet but work is going on behind the scenes and should be ready soon.

More Updates

More updates to the Game Projects page with better descriptions for most of the games.

Also I took a bunch of pictures to be used for the website. Both with and without my beard.  Look forward to seeing those.

Continuing Website Work

Still working on updating my website here is some of the stuff I have done in the last few days.

Moved everything over from the old site to the same site as my blog. Still have lots of update work to  do but this first step already makes it look better.

Getting close to a revamped resume and will shortly update the online version.

Reworked the Art gallery in to slide shows. WordPress made this very easy.

Moving over my animation work wasn’t as simple as everything else because of some of the formatting decisions I made previously. But this meant I got to learn how easy it is to add YouTube videos to a WordPress page.

Made an about me page for me to ramble about myself on. Adding to it as I think of relevant things to say. Currently on it: basic overview of me, Design vs. Development, and why it took my 6 years to finish college.

Started working on the Game Projects page. Moved over all the files to word press so visitors can download the games. Starting to update the descriptions.