Coding Error

Another week of slow decomposition of the physical form, typical of the entity that we call “Student”. Yet thankfully enthusiasm and mental effort has not been lost. So despite missing a few more lectures other work has been advanced putting me forward in three units but behind in two. The goal then is to complete two units so that the last four can be completed at a good pace: Image Creation; Tools for Games and Animation; 3D modelling; Technical Game Demo.

Next week will be an extraordinarily busy one with every evening rehearsing and performing in the Shakespeare “As You Like It” with the wonderful “Southsea Shakespeare Actors” but the rehearsal process has been a little strain on time and therefore when completed work, boxing, fencing and all the rest can continue un-hindered. At least both the process and the company have been fantastic.

On to the juicy bit…

Monday I completed the ePortfolio unit a major breakthrough but one that will require a couple of minor updates over the year. Nevertheless this takes away a weight. Our first cancelled lecture was luckily none other than ePortfolio to so that suited the situation fine. The later lecture I unfortunately did also not attend due to a friend being rather unwell and unhappy and whom needed company. Thankfully this lecture in Define Games was once again self-explanatory meaning a 6 minute read of the powerpoint allowed me to memorise the various camera positions within games: 1st person and 3rd person with variations due to constraints or character. It was also a terrifying day because it was Halloween. First time in a club and it was alright. Perhaps because I typically don’t drink and have yet to be drunk it was not quite my scene however with some friends it was quite fun. Unfortunately by the time it got fairly late and the music didn’t ever get more interesting it was time for bed and thankfully it wasn’t so late as to inflict upon the morning anymore than most nights.

Tuesday is, like most weeks, a free day that involved a £50 shopping trip and getting a contact lens stuck in my left eye. Both of which were equally as traumatic. One to the wallet and the other to the owner of said wallet. Luckily the shopping trip will last me a long time and has barely been dug into in the first week meaning it should last another 3 making it almost a months worth of food. Meanwhile the hero of the contact lens dilemma was none-other than my mother who just so happened to be engaged in her weekly course which is situated opposite my flat. After one hour and a half of exhausting energy on poking my eye she managed it in two pinches. Mums are quite the miracle workers! This came after not being able to go to the local opticians as they had all closed at that time of night. Being my first month and a half with contact lenses it was only inevitable that this event would happen soon. A bonus to do the day was I got in some more “The Last of Us” in which I entered the chapter “Winter”. It was fantastic and well scripted, a much enjoyed romp that changed both the pace and the formula of the game for a short stretch.

Wednesday was back to coding. This did not go down particularly well as for some reason it did not make any sense to me, it was quite simple in some ways but I couldn’t quite work out how the computer was understanding what I was inputting. This stalled me from making progress as it just confused me. One lecturer struggled to explain  it and even got quite frustrated, thankfully the lead lecturer did manage to get the message across. Unfortunately for some reason the computer failed to save the file properly so the template we created was lost meaning so is my memory of the knowledge. Back to the drawing room with that one I suppose. It’s all about mindset. Some people can do music, some people can do coding and we all work it out in our own special way. With this I have yet to tap into my ability to comprehend it, hopefully we’ll get there soon but it will take some work and motivation of which, for coding, there is little. After that things took a turn for the better with a Games Tech meeting where only two of us eventually got round to it. Luckily that meant pancakes, a bit of bailey’s irish cream and some playing of Nidhogg (A well designed fencing simulator which has an influence on our design for our tech demo) went a long way.

Thursday, even when missing the Art lecture, was a day of art. The Playstation Classic Medievil has been a great inspiration for me in gaming and therefore the concept design I am currently pursuing for the little art project we were tasked with is a variation of Sir Daniel Fortesque, the protagonist of the series. A much pleased Avastrat has finished the face design and now begins work on the body of Sir Dan. This was also the day which I began a new Halo playthrough to finally complete the series having only played Halo Reach and the first one due to an obsession with playing the games in order and not being able to get my mitts on Halo 2. Once again an amazing friend has another games console on which I am now able to get the chance to play these excellent games.

Friday was another 3D modelling session. In this the second workshop was completed and understood. Though being a week behind, which could perhaps be redeemed fairly easily, my comprehension of Week 1 and 2 I feel fairly confident in as the tool kit seems to make sense. Hopefully this wont be quite so bad as coding. To add to this productive day as a little team some of us organised a coursework group to finish the Define Games coursework. Many of us five are also not confident with coding but with the coursework out of the way, that for us being the far easier part to the course, we’ll be able to knuckle down and work together to finish the other units.

So to wrap up yet another slightly less appealing week motivation should pick up at some point. The pieces and parts are all laid out and so it is when time arises for it to be taken that a step towards more appealing weeks begins. In the meantime attention has been drawn to the incredibly well written, scripted, directed and shot Netflix series Black Mirror. Without spoilers, for that would entirely ruin the point of watching, it is a show with individual episodes, all of which are standalone, that reflect a potential future, both recent and far, with a twist on technology and the world around us. It can be moving, sinister, shocking or all of them together and with each episode different you never know what to expect. It is more than excellent. If you have the time that is my recommendation for the week. To be even more appealing the first season is 3 episodes long each episode only 35-45 minutes. If you like it then there’s more in season 2 and 3. If you don’t not much time has been wasted. Now, aside from the unfortunate consequence of Netflix prices, there should be nothing stopping you.

A Curious Case of inConsistency

A strange week it was indeed. Highs and lows all over. After a great weekend of Reenactment we returned feeling elated. With a busy morning starting with of course the important activity of playing more The Last of Us, sadly the last time I would this entire week, which then led to preparing for my first ever Job Interview. This involved testing a collection of suit jackets all of which felt perhaps like over-dressing for a Motion Capture Technician Role, thankfully this seemed not the case for the interview. We’re always told this is the case! Unfortunately despite my confidence in being an open character my confidence in fashion is almost non-existent. So despite being told I looked good it did take effort to go out, thankfully (like with generally being confident in personality) it actually pays off to look good when going out – surprise surprise. Strange how someone who logically applies confidence to normal situations and recognises the pay-off and advantage it brings and yet cannot apply that logic to the physicality. Or of course strange for the opposite to: One who looks fantastic on the outside and remains confident in fashion yet has no inner self confidence. Our human capability for denying logic even when it is applied successfully elsewhere in our lives is most confusing.

It turned out that as I prepared for the job interview I’d lost track of a meeting with my poor Father. Luckily it all worked out in the end as we went to a rather nice little brewhouse and kitchen near Guildhall in Portsmouth for a lovely catch up talk. After which the interview went swimmingly. Rather informal and just a general chat to see what the job was about. It was all incredibly positive however I cannot know the outcome of this until Monday.

So now actually onto the Course which the blog was set up to tackle…! The Define Games lecture was a lengthy talk n the history of “Gaming Platforms” being the consoles or PCs which have defined the progress of games. The benefits for example of designing games for Xbox over an Arcade system for instance. We had a look at poor Nintendo and their release of The Nintendo Switch. Which, in my mind, does not look like something that would take off. Not only this when a room packed with 150 hardcore gamers gets asked if they’d be interested in considering a Nintendo Switch a month into release only about 18, if that, put their hands up. Sadly the downside to the lecture was its length and the fact that it again was rather self-explanatory, which they did also address. A final interesting point in the lecture was to consider some games as ‘platforms’ themselves. For instance the Call of Duty games which are almost a genre in themselves now. They’re a medium on which you play that specific type of game.

Tuesday began with a lecture on modelling methods about how 3D modellers choose which way to create what you see. They also hinted that actually a model is not what you see but the data that makes it happen. This means that when asked to give the model for an item you should imply the data for it in the structures which suit your choose of method rather than the actual “model” built. This was actually slightly harder to understand than previous lectures and was some satisfying brain food that suggested the complexities of what will come later. The day also harboured a playthrough of Dark Souls 3’s new DLC which is available on my YouTube channel. Despite incredible area design and a fantastic final boss it was brought down by some strange design decisions and its unsatisfying length mixed with a non-existent conclusion which left many individuals asking “Now what” once completing the set task.

Sadly Wednesday became the beginning of a strange and seemingly lengthy time of feeling utterly awful. Seemingly lengthy because now looking back at it only being Wednesday I haven’t been feeling bad for long but instead it feels like weeks! Missing an important lecture to recover, thankfully knowing that there would be a repeat of said lecture on Friday. This does however mean I am now more or less a week behind on coding which is not good considering the work is noticeably a lot more independent and complex from now on. Wednesday did end with a fantastic Boxing session with the University boxing union which does keep me motivated for that in the future.

Thursday did go quite nicely despite still having difficulty getting motivated. More art involving charcoal which does seem to be something I can do, at some point the pictures should be uploaded to this website so keep an eye and I shall warn you when they do. Jiu Jitsu that evening also went well aside from the fact that all the submission holds previously learnt had been forgetting meaning all I could do was hold someone off as long as possible till I would go down.

Friday started with the Game Tech Demo lecture where four groups had to present their ideas. Many seemed quite professionally done however they were behind some other groups, including our own, and unfortunately the lecturer said decisions really ought to be made by this point. Due to this as our group left the lecture we quickly decided on Blender as our 3D modelling tool as it is free and our 3D modellers seemed comfortable with it despite us now learning 3DS Max. More details on this in the BSc Computer Games Technology section on this website. The rest of the day involved some concept art for a new project in Image Creation which asks us to draw concept art for a humanoid character. Mine will be a Sir Daniel Fortesque inspired character due to my love for the old Medievil franchise. If curiosity kills your cats then do google search results for Sir Daniel Fortesque and I’m sure you’ll be greeted by his affably skeletal tones.

To conclude this weeks blog it has been a strange seemingly bridge week. Now that it is over finding out whether I have this job is the first step and then to catch up/complete various pieces of work is the next or vice versa.

Fear not, passion for the course remains but it is just a case of being physically under the weather more than anything.


Practice makes Permanent


One month in and I’ll be honest. I missed my first lectures this week. Two of them in fact, and on the same day. Thankfully, according to the many supportive individuals all studying in the course, nothing too much was missed; nothing that couldn’t be salvaged from a quick trip to Portsmouth’s own Virtual Learning Environment “Moodle” for the powerpoint. So Monday’s first lecture was actually one ePortfolio one simply saying what’s already been said meanwhile the later one was about Analysis vs Reviewing games. Once again the text speaks for itself but of course it is necessary to know. The difference between Analysis and Review is one is a subjective look at the art while the other is a critical objective approach. Which being which is self-explanatory. The first reason for missing lecture was a lack of timetable reading skills, perhaps a powerpoint would be useful to explain the components needed to improve on this, and the other was an incredibly in-depth and meaningful philosophical conversation with a flatmate and admittedly I wouldn’t trade those for the world.

Monday did hold perhaps one thing video-game related. Year Walk is an interactive exploration of Swedish folklore that… little did I know… was a horror game. Here Avastrat goes on a jolly walk through the wood, approaches the well-drawn form of a mildly haunting singing women. You’re tasked with following her into this hollowed out tree to then solve a puzzle which could have simply been solved through luck. Then finally you draw near to her and… Her face contorts and lurches forward with an ear-rending scream. This somewhat put me into a cold sweat for the rest of the playthrough but braving on I continued for as long as I could until completing it later that evening. To all those curious to see this panic it is available on YouTube:

Tuesday was far more “Productive” with another free day! This time however our Game Tech Demo group had an excellent meeting which put our confidence up. Game Design documents will now be our project for next week including an asset list to understand what steps need to be taken. Another incredibly important point is that I was lent “The Last of Us” which is considered by many to be the game of the decade (Though that’s certainly a large statement) but almost universally accepted as the game of 2013. Having not known the hype and been in the dark on this game for 3 years I’ve finally gotten my hands on it and… It’s most definitely good. More than that I have yet to say having played only about 4-6 hours in which clunky controls and stupid deaths have gotten in the way of an otherwise immersive game. My best description is an interactive and amazing series of The Walking Dead, that’s a compliment!

Wednesday was interesting with another coding workshop which re-inspired the logical side with an interesting array of ‘And’, ‘If’ and ‘Else’ statements which decide what happens if certain variables are met. Completing this and yet not having completed Week 3’s workshop it would be until Friday that Week 3 was finally completed. After another mini-meeting for the group with three of us doing some concept art inspired by iRobot, Ex Machina, Star Wars and Portal. Conor had some exceptional designs which we’re all mighty excited to see implemented. After was an optional talk on the post-production team called “Envy” who use the industry-standard Avid to work on TV shows like “The Voice” to produce the final product. It was incredibly interesting and humbling to hear that the poor guy gets 140 CVs a week applying for jobs. So he was basically saying keep it to a paragraph or two and then present the cv while also personalising it to Envy, the company like to feel special like any other. This Avid talk was all new to me so it was good to get a little insight to the Television side of the industry. In Envy everyone starts as a runner, simply doing the teas and coffees, but progress can come at anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months depending on your adeptness at the software etc. After this I attended part of a weekly life drawing session where I was greeted with this stark naked man on a stool. Once the initial shock had worn down it was time to prepare the tools and draw. Unfortunately too much had been done this day and with the mind jellified I left thinking the student rep meeting was at 4 not 5. Thankfully this gave a much needed break involving rice pudding and more “The Last of Us”.

Finally the Student Representative meeting was good fun but still not particularly informative as to what specifically we do either way people seemed to like the idea of fortnightly course lunches implemented. So that’s the first goal, based on what happened on that first day last month.

Thursday involved another drawing session and this one came to great success, artwork may eventually be presented on this website and I will endeavour to warn you when this is the case! Either way it helped to reinvigorate me while also showing that charcoal is a utensil I felt drawing, perhaps because it avoids the fear of having to use colour in images… All this excitement and the fact that there was an interesting talk moments after packing up led me to leaving the art folder in the room and wandering down in deep conversation. Typical. It was indeed a great conversation which also made me late for study support to help with Week 3’s coding. Maybe I’m being too honest on this blog, but as Henry in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” says: “One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner”. If there’s a life lesson to learn from that novel it should most definitely be this. Thankfully the support, which admittedly I thought was in groups and turned out to be 1 to 1 (a good sign for all those who wish for it), was still there and so structures in coding were explained enough for me to finish it the next day. Thursday night involved a much needed chill out session with close friends eating pancakes and later playing Halo and trying Gears of War for the first time, not my cup of tea but I do like the taste of Earl Grey and Fennel Tea so I’m a bit weird anyway.

Friday was another chatty day for this rather chatty guy. Reading back over the blog presents the life lesson “Talk less”. Yet Henry from Doria… Nevermind. Except such talking has led to some new individuals being introduced into these exciting times. From freerunners to friendly freshers; everyone was interesting and I await more great days getting to know these people! With an evening booked to get me having a couple of drinks, which thankfully didn’t happen, we had a great night anyway involving 3 contrasting games of Pool. Perhaps luckily this blogger typically only likes the more expensive stuff and even then doesn’t find them satisfying enough to guzzle down one after the other so instead will happily break into some Port and Cheese on a Sunday evening, I did warn you I’m weird. The first game of Pool involved losing disastrously meanwhile the second being a tense match with the winning move being a beautiful shot placing the black ball into the hole… followed by the white. Having not played in a long time this meant that this rule was long forgotten so after a quick victory dance I was told we lost. The final game however was a resurgence that could only be dreamed of with some incredible shots from both teams but my friend and I’s assured victory…

Hang on. This is a blog about Computer Games Technology not Tabletop Game Stories!

Perhaps a slightly less productive week but one that ims the beginning of a balancing act which shall come through practice. After that disappointing session of MMA a couple of weeks ago there is still one thing I remember. The teacher scrapped the idea of Practice makes perfect because if you practice badly then you wont be perfect, you’ll be bad. So instead told us that Practice makes Permanent. If you practice perfect then you will be permanently perfect. Maybe this week was bad practice but it is a step in the right direction for University life, unless of course you readers would highly object to this statement. Let us learn from the mistakes and also the benefits of all this talking to find that perfect practice for us to make permanent.

Programming your Life

Despite a positive and productive week perhaps my proudest achievement was this Sunday’s marathon of “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. Having strangely not read a book properly in a couple of years, regardless of the fact that prior to stopping I was an avid reader, it was time to sit down with a classic whose name has rung in my head for a long time. What I learnt from this new novel is that as long as I don’t act like Dorian Gray in these next four years Computer Games Technology should be a fun ride. Unfortunately however this is not the place for a discussion on classical literature so let us jump straight in at Monday’s ePortfolio meeting!

According to our lecturer, the affable Peter Howell, this unit can actually be done in not longer than an hour and yet is the most failed unit of them all. People consider it “pointless”, as spoken about in one of the previous blog posts. Poor Peter begged our year to be different from the last few and to actually complete this unit because it does attribute to your degree and is therefore not pointless considering how easy it would be to simply complete and hand in.

Speaking of Peter he was interestingly involved on the level scripting for Amnesia: The Dark Descent and explains how he never wishes to see another door in that game again, because most of those he had to script using a rather buggy engine. Amnesia Machine for Pigs he also explained was going to be far better than the product and how most of the game was sadly removed for some reason or another. So there’s a bit of industry insight for all ye Horror game fans.

Soon after this meeting we had another Define Games lecture. This’ll be weekly, so please bear with me… I’m sure a lot of the same things will crop up again and again! It was more or less continuations of last few weeks with talk on what makes games games. An interesting tidbit that did stir the brain was a definition that suggested players should be “Emotionally attached to the outcome”, can you think of a game that you’d bother playing if you weren’t? Personally it is surprisingly apt at defining most games I’ve played, if I wasn’t emotionally attached to the outcome even if it were simply for the feeling of victory then why even pick up the game in the first place. Mobile games maybe, but even that is about the satisfaction of the moment to moment gameplay. In the lecture we did a “Bot or not” quiz to see whether poetry was written by humans or bots. Worth checking out and does show how AI and computers are beginning to be capable of replicating the art of humanity perhaps for games as well in the future.

A reality check for some but also simply a logical conclusion is the concept that games need money to be made, money requires people’s support and people like and look for fun in most games. So the unfortunate side to making games is you also need to make money therefore, like in film, theatre and all the rest; if an idea couldn’t make money no matter how innovative or unique it will probably not be made.

The term Systemic also raised its head, perhaps worth a note,  which suggests games consist of players, technology and the program acting together in a system. This implicates that player input is necessary for the game to act, logical I suppose but it can point out the idea that in some games a player could be doing something quite unique to the system and is almost creating something unintended. Look at Minecraft perhaps, the combination of blocks to form a structure no-one else has accomplished. As a player you’re almost coding the system into that unique shape.

Tuesday saw a lecture in 3D modelling which was jam packed with more logical and fundamental concepts which perhaps could go without saying but are so important it is worth saying anyway. Such as the conversion from 3D world space in a program to the 2D viewing angle which you see on your monitor is simply called “Projection”, who’d have thunk?

Perspective projection is also what it says on the tin as it replicates a human perspective within a game engine. Showing the 3D models from various angles depicted as we would see a real world object.

Terms like “Clipping window” suggest what we see through the camera plane which then projects that data to our monitor. It does perhaps show just how much work computers do moment to moment when running engines or rendering games. It is all instant on the monitor and yet there are hundreds of micro-processes happening in milliseconds to make that response time.  The measurement for clipping plane distance, how far one can see, is called view volume and dependent on that variable is where the near and far clipping planes are. So trees load on the far clipping plane so that you can see them in the distance whereas maybe leaves do not. We were taught to recognise the individual co-ordinate systems within the world co-ordinates in a program like 3DS Max. Each 3D model has its own co-ordinates as one would when standing in the real world. For the computer to render the viewing angle or camera it has to have its own co-ordinate system.

Many seemed to think it was complex and it does sound it but it is far more simple when recognised it is basically a way of the computer processing how to simulate the real world. These processes run through in order is called the “Graphics Pipeline”.

So the next few days did somewhat blur together giving you all a break from the incessant ramblings for some shorter snappier descriptions.

So on the Wednesday we had a recruitment fair which seemed oh so useful for everyone but Computer Games Technology. Thankfully my safety net plan is to finish University and study for a PGCE, long story as to what inspired me but in short my Primary School headteacher was a legend, and there was a teaching talk to accommodate this. To put the icing on the cake for this plan was the idea that even when you do a PGCE and get a scholarship to do so you are not committed to immediately start teaching. It may seem a bit cheeky to do all that work and then not teach but the plan is to study and in the meantime get some game/s made, perhaps also getting that Grade 8 Singing theory nailed while on the job. If that were to kick off then the world could perhaps be my oyster but if it were not to there’s either the industry to join or a teacher to become. Both of which are safe and reasonable options for someone who struggles with job-think.

Straight after this, Wednesday was a wonderfully busy day, was the meeting for a little in-house University project involving game development which sadly I doubt I can talk about. Yet there’s an opening for a First Year managerial position which sounds perfect. That application is going straight in my basket.

Finally to wrap it all up there’s the excitement of programming structures with a long workshop to code a football system… Fun… With football not being a particular favourite (myself being a hipster when it comes to sports) nor coding lengthy scripts being top of my enthrallment radar admittedly I’m a little bit behind. Let’s hope Peter will get around to structuring his routines, schedules and his codes. Is it too late for him to turn his life around? Find out:


Be Prepared

With less to say but plenty more done this next week more or less continues from the last beginning with discussing more of the definition of games. It was useful reading the textbook as this set both myself and another student up well to deliver our excitable definition of Video Games.

First however we had a lecture on our ePortfolio. This is a unit entirely on creating a website which gives a portfolio of completed work. Well… Suits me. This is all online and many argued the lecture didn’t need to happen as the resources are on the university ‘moodle’ page but it was necessary as without it many would be unaware of the importance of our portfolio including most who complained.

Defining Games was far more interesting with our look at current definitions of “Video Game” from philosophers, dictionaries and the industry-standard. All surprisingly are either too vague or too broad. After ten minutes of discussion we were all to present one. My compatriot was immediately triggered by the influence “fun” and “entertainment” had around the room despite the prevalence of games which instead invite experiences or training. So with great discussion we formulated one which seemed fairly solid however it remains perhaps too broad to be industry-standard.

“An interactive digital system of rules and signs, given meaning through interpretation”

Despite its focus on digital and interactivity so therefore definitely defining a game the problem lies in breadth. We attempted to define a video game and yet this could also define a Wikipedia page game or a game using texts over the phone.

We also discussed what features a game typically has and why. This led us to brushing over fundamental human needs and survival and then noticing how many games fulfilled these criteria in our lives for instance in finding shelter and gathering resources. There was also a slide showing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a general approach to our basic human needs. Other theories were presented including Roger Callois latin words suggesting the different types of games. Most of which is at least briefly mentioned in the unit textbook (Game Design and Development -Fundamentals of Game Design – Ernest Adams and Andrew Rollings).

The next few days was more of the same from last week. We investigated variables and how to avoid making mistakes in your code. Again this was fundamentals so nothing too exciting for the few veterans that littered the workshop.

Our group meeting for the project demo proved incredibly productive as our settled idea begins. This wasn’t the only time we’d meet that week as our Friday lecture involved a bonding quiz, typical ice-breaker, and a talk on Tuckman’s group theory “forming, storming, norming and performing” which he advised us to study.

Meanwhile the next drawing class came with a draw-back in my case. Freshers Flu had caused an eternal hunger. After a couple of life model forms drawn using a technique involving not looking at the paper the stomach refused further work. The things we do for food.

Speaking of Fresher’s Flu. Some have had it bad, others worse. It is unfortunate but it is likely to happen. Be prepared.

Let Them Come

Three weeks in and now having to write for week two. With the culmination of events leading to this point time has swept away both extraordinarily quickly and yet dutifully slowly. When reflecting on the days the calendar has moved apace but thinking on the present moment the hours gently drift. Having been one mostly in command of the time following the motto: “You don’t have time, you make time”; University even surprised myself. Supposing you do sign up to all those unions and actually attend them then you really will be busy. Though not everyone signs up to Jiu Jitsu, Tabletop RPGs, LARP, Boxing, Rowing, Climbing and fits in a Radio show on the side; At least know that Computer Games Technology has had noticeably fuller weeks than more traditional courses.

So let’s jump right into the beginning of week 2:

The lecturer that last week took us to the pub had given me the chance to attend a third year lecture further clocking up contacts and understanding of the next four years. This opportunity was nigh and so off went a first year to his lecture without battery on his phone. With much flurry at realising the lecture hall number was nestled within an email I embarked onto some stranger’s phone to log in and retrieve details. On entering I was ushered into a seat and so began an excellently led and highly amusing talk on the third year compulsory project.

It was magnificent.

It confirms that by that point we actually will know what we are doing and that we will be capable of working in the industry. A variety of choices were displayed all of which asked for by professional clients. Working products must be completed to the necessary degree for military, medical or social purposes. A VR historical theatre; A VR Aircraft Carrier simulation to train certain tasks; testing a new Military engine designed to outmatch ARMA’s current engine; An Augmented Reality Mary Rose game for the local exhibition; and Audazzle a company that intends to have games made for the deaf or hard-of-hearing. All sounded wonderfully challenging but most importantly possible.

With much fervor, though interspersed with personal and emotional developments typical of both the age and the settling in, the next few days were embarked upon.

Coding started well. Taught from the ground up and at a snail’s pace the first few weeks, much to the dismay of coders with previous experience, the fundamentals were ingrained immediately. The IDE (Integrated Software Development Environment) we are using is Visual Studio 13 which can be, as a student, downloaded onto your home computer to practice with. It is nice enough to use especially with the basics but perhaps those with more experience would prefer something else. As this is not my expertise I shall refrain from commenting further.
We were given hints and tips in reference to games and what coding needs to do for instance providing output – what you give to the player for interacting. This is fundamental to video games and it is also the coders job to put it into practice. Much to my luck and not to many others we must also begin a coding blog to post online updating the lecturers of our work.

The next unit that was begin this week was “Image Creation”. This was a joy to participate in but did come with mixed reception. We are to do life-drawing.
Concept Art is important in video-games; it is known within the industry that programmers and artists must work together more often than they would like therefore even the programmers must be taught some form of drawing and artwork. Personally it was delightful. Having always wished to learn to draw but without the patience to play around with brushes and strokes it was a chance to fulfill a dream. We even had a model who performed poses which we must use various taught techniques to reproduce on paper. According to the others he even removes his shirt, being a wrestler this was gratefully received by many in the group. I have yet to experience this aspect but considering others have been taught different techniques it should come soon and when it does, you will know.

Finally on the Friday we were set the task of creating a game demo. This seemed a little vague but with some digging we revealed that the demo must be the “minimum viable product”. The lecture was more about the assembling of the group we’d be placed into. Yes: Placed into. We had no choice. For many this has turned out well but of course some will be less pleased. Admittedly I am more than pleased with my group. We seem to gel well and get the job done. We’re all excited to begin the concept that has been proposed by the group and so onward we must march. With full access to University Facilities and supported by industry professionals this project is most definitely plausible.

There we are. A weeks worth of lecturers, seminars and workshops. This course continues to shape well and there are still more units to begin. Let them come!

Think Professional

After two years of studying Classical Literature, Philosophy and Ancient History life’s path has now steered to a BSc in Computer Games Technology. The reactions from this vary but those who have an understanding of the industry often seem pleased.

The Video Games Industry requires artists, directors, producers, musicians, actors, animators, programmers and a whole lot more people to produce even the most basic modern video game. Because of this all walks of life are welcome and even more: needed.

So upon entry to Portsmouth University for the renowned “Freshers Week”, which all students are subjected to, the course was indeed greeted with a vast quantity of unique individuals. Perhaps more cynical people would expect an all-male cohort whose square eyes and gaunt faces remained hidden beneath an inconceivable amount of spots; yet the ratio of average people to basement dwellers was 1:0. Not only a surprising amount of extroverts crossed the first lecture room but those who were less predisposed to speaking opened up as they recognized the company they now kept were all together because of one huge cultural and magnificent artistic case-study: The Video Game.

The lecturers reflected this as well. Each one unique and entertaining but most importantly brimming with knowledge and experience.

To start us off we were given an introductory talk, much like the one we all faced in the open evening months before, were run through the mildly amusing health and safety animation and then immediately put on the spot for a vote on who should become a student representative for the next 3 years.

A lot of shuffling and uncertainty later some stood up to then give a 1 minute speech as to why they should be a student representative, largely without knowing what this entailed. This isn’t entirely the point though. Immediately each lecturer could see who was looking to push themselves. Luckily my instinct didn’t ground me to my seat and perhaps due to the fact that I was among the first 3 speakers, with whom most people had exhausted their 2 votes before reaching the other 17 applicants, the representative torch was handed onto me. This has already opened doors and given me face with the lecturers. If your university has a student representative feature take into account what one teacher said: “We’ve just found out who has the balls to stand up and try”.

Once the initial shock of being signed up to meetings for three years subsided we were all reinvigorated by the potential work on an exciting secret in University project. It involves making a large game for a certain console. A project which any course member can put a hand in wherever needed. This kind of activity is considered vital for building your all-important portfolio of work. Sadly, much like the acting industry which had inspired me prior to my investment in classical literature, to get experience you need experience and therefore this is what University can provide. It is often argued within the industry that a degree in Computer Games is pointless but many others would disagree providing the counter-argument that actually within the degree you’re supported to build your portfolio and are not entirely self-reliant from the get-go and instead have time to learn safely so that when you finally make it into industry you are ready to step out alone without being abruptly crushed.

We were also told that what is important is to “Think Professional”. According to the lecturers we are now, or should perhaps consider ourselves, professional. Maybe flattery but with this hard-as-nails life path it could be essential. Morale will be key in maintaining our course. To show us how professional professional really is we were all given access the GDC Vault (Game Developers Conference) where professionals are provided professional advice by professionals through professionally run conferences.

A problem may be that there are 1400 creative technologies students overall and 140 of which are Computer Games Technology/Computer Games Enterprise. That’s a lot of competition being taught the same thing. So despite there being a new wave of professionals in the field one could create a portfolio from home and show their dedication to their art in other ways, possibly verifying the concept that a degree in Computer Games is pointless.

A point worth of note is the value for money in doing this course. Consider the comparison between a £9000 degree in Philosophy and a £9000 degree in Computer Games Technology. In Philosophy you’re still paying for your text books and running the course mostly off powerpoint slides. In CGT you are sitting continuous workshops, provided with state of the art software, given access to the highest gaming, art and simulation technology all available for hire. It is likely you’d spend more hiring out the Motion Capture Suite (Which any student has access to when booked) for a month than you would on the entire degree. So if you use what is provided then there should be no regrets on your expenditure!

The second lecture of the day took place in a large lecture theatre a-top the Eldon Building, where the majority of your Creative Technologies’ time will be spent. In here we were given another chat with similar information but all important. For those interested in other languages you can use the Institution Wide Language Program to add another tongue to your degree or if you need to re-take any units there is a set period available to you.

There was a myth debunked. A strange myth which pops up now and again about your independence. You are an independent learner but despite that you will be chased if you miss lectures consistently. Moral of the story, don’t miss lectures!

Perhaps the most exciting part of this week?

The moment when after your second lecture of the first day your lecturer takes a group of you out to the pub. The story begins with a small group had already formed and one of the Computer Games Enterprise leaders found us all chatting enthusiastically. Without a second thought we were down at Portsmouth’s “Fleet” eating burgers talking about life, the industry and everything. It is actually something that was initially common but it became over-crowded and they need to find a way to balance it. As a student representative it has already been set as my task to rejuvenate this activity. It was thrilling and gave everyone in that group an immediate passion for the course. We are all ready, willing and able and also closer between each other. To think also that others have not come back with such a story it makes Computer Games Technology, with its expected introverts, appear in a entirely new light.

The “ice-breaker” was given the next day. In a short 20 minute lecture. We were to get into groups and pitch a game to the rest. Gulps aside it was much fun. As stated many of us had become close already so our group worked efficiently. All the groups parted with a sense of competition and nerves. This is also perhaps the best ice-breaker I’ve seen in my school career. Another highlight was that having been set the 10:00 slot for our lecture a brave student queried for 10:30 to which the lecturers accepted without question. Both points were celebrated with much clamour and great cheer. There was already a growing atmosphere.

After a day off we were greeted with the class awaiting our pitches. We pitched our 1v1 exoskeleton face-off game to relative success in the “who would buy” department and seemed to please the lecturers. It seems competition would be rife however as Dragon Simulator, a philosophical exploration about a high-school ghost and best of all the job simulator took the stage. Job simulator was to be one of those games everyone wanted to play, even if it were for a couple of minutes. A videogame for VR in which you play the most accomplished worker in the business. You’ve obtained all the accolades and been the employee of the month every time for the last 8 years. Unfortunately… You’re bored. So you now must do whatever it takes to get you fired. Many of the pitches remain far-fetched in their inventiveness however this stuck to the possibilities of the technology. It also recognised where it was obviously taking its inspiration. An important point that the lecturer’s continue to bring up:

Plagiarising is the single worst thing you can do. You must give credit wherever it is due and also given in the appropriate format. This is the same with any degree yet with Computer Games Technology there are potholes not just in essays but in assets ranging from music to programming.

The final warning is to include everyone, at least for this first week. To much oooing and ahhhing one group had only one speaker, who was rather self-assured, to which the question at the end from another student was “Are you the only one in the group capable of speaking”.

In conclusion?

This is still only week one but what a week it was. Not just for the living experience but actually due to the course.

Next week things get even more interesting. Life drawing and Programming awaits!