Friday, February 15, 2013

All about the games...

Lately it's been all about the gaming. On a whim, to do something related to my Computing degree I went off to see the Global Game Jam a few weeks ago. This was the Glasgow Jam - one of three in Scotland. It's a 48 hours designing marathon - everyone is given a theme, and 48 hours to build a game based on this theme.

With much nervousness I peered over the edge to see everyone hard at work, and summoned up the courage to go down and be social and talk to people. Doing an Open University degree in Computing is a lonely path at times. Sure I have the forums. But I never meet most of my fellow students. At most we get 3 face-to-face meetups in a 9 month course, which isn't much chat time, and at any rate it's a teaching meetup.

No-one in my circle of friends has any idea what I'm talking about when I talk coding, and when I get stuck on some programming issue or another it can be incredibly frustrating not to be able to talk it out. Combined with my newbie status in this world of coding, it's a hard slog. I've been learning the foundations of coding since 2009, and only in the next few months am I going to get to a stage where I can actually code some of the ideas I'm convinced are going to make me millions!

At any rate, I was very glad I did venture down the stairs to the teams sitting with their finished (or almost!) games awaiting the judges. Everyone was so friendly, and took the time to chat to me about their games, and give me advice on what to download and look at. There was so much talent there! So many brilliant and clever games. I don't know anything about how a game is designed and coded, so I was surprised to find graphic designers, artists and sound people, as well as coders. I guess I never thought about the art, even though it is so fundamental to a game. So I've managed to convince my graphic designer husband that he wants to join me next year to take part in this fun game! He's a whizz at putting together drawings (and sells his own t-shirts)

Since going to the game jam I've been trying to cram all the knowledge I can about game programming (even though I haven't yet covered GUIs or how games are coded in my degree yet). Slick2D, Unity, GameMaker, Github, OpenGL, Twine and many more terms are coming together. Tutorials for this and that. Learning about init() and render(). So far, I've managed to install the Slick2D libraries on Netbeans and get a black Hello World screen to open!

This has been more fun than working on logic and boolean algebra...

This week I also went along to the Game Jam Party, where everyone had set up their games from the Jam weekend for everyone else to try. I played a few I hadn't yet played, spoke to more people and got more advice and help with how games are made. The research I'd done in the meanwhile meant that I had a teeny bit more of a clue this time, and therefore had new questions. Although I forgot to ask whether coders can form teams with other coders if they don't know the same programming language? Again - everyone was so friendly, and it really helped, as I'm not naturally at ease meeting new people.

I also discovered some great podcasts: Programming Throwdown, and (thanks to a UWS tutor Daniel) MIT and Stanford iTunes U classes in algorithms and such like. I still have to find the time to listen to the classes, but I have managed to squeeze in some time between studying and working full-time to listen to the podcasts - in stages, in the morning while making my lunch and eating my breakfast! I'll take whatever time I can find.

Other game news was going to see Wreck It Ralph for Valentine's Day. A brilliant, brilliant, highly recommended, fun film! I was so excited to see Tapper featured - a game I played furiously when I was 6. I now see how inappropriate it is for a child, but at the time I loved the smashing glasses and the (totally sexist!) dancing can-can girls.

In other news I've scored well in M263 - with 95% and 99% in assignments, and made a good start with M257. A weekend of study beckons...

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