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:


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