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2021 – New Year, New Me (Again?)

It’s the same story every year, isn’t it? We all make mistakes, decide we need to make positive changes, or just want to do something different, leading to new year resolutions. The saying “new year, new me” is a little (ok very) cliché, and like a lot of people say that but don’t end up changing much, if at all. 2020 proved to be a challenging year for all and most of us managed to have more than just lockdown to worry about, myself included. Now, 2021 is upon us, and it is a frightening new world we live in.

I’ve had a lot to think about, and now I need to make some goals for this year. I have goals for the decade that I set at the end of 2019, but I don’t have much in the way of short-term goals. So this list is here, more as a way to keep myself accountable than anything, but also to prove to myself that I am capable of recovering and moving forward.

  • Get a job
    • Pretty obvious for this one. I’m fresh out of uni and I need a job. Hopefully I get one as a game dev, but we’ll have to see how things pan out.
  • Screw my head on straight
    • The last few months have been tumultuous for me. I’ve had very mild anxiety and depression for some years now, not enough to have needed any help, but enough to be occasionally noticed. However lately, it’s been worse. Way worse. I’ve had so much consume my mind in the last few months that I started slipping and losing control of my own thoughts. For a while there, I even believed I could get it under control on my own. Turns out I needed a more… distressing and final incident to learn how deep this went. So I’ve organised a psych to see what I can do to improve my situation and I want to get to the end of the year saying that I am in control.
  • Pay off at least 50% of my HECS debt
    • This one is self-explanatory, and relies on getting a job. But I want this debt out of my hair ASAP. I have the luxury of being able to do that, with very few costs to otherwise worry about, so I feel this is very achievable. Ideally I’d pay off all of it, but we’ll have to wait and see…
  • Bowl 300
    • Easy enough, right? Of course, this will depend on if the pandemic causes another lockdown here, but I’m hopeful that this year I’ll be able to bowl almost as much as I used to, giving myself ample opportunity to achieve that golden score.
  • Increase my bowling pace (cricket)
    • I want to become a better bowler, so to do that, I need to improve various facets. I feel increasing my pace will play a good part in improving my wicket-taking ability, cause I always seem to get hit around due to my slower pace right now.
  • Complete my Breakout Urban Android game
    • It’s been nearly a year since I picked it up and then dropped it. I bought the Play Store developer thingy and I still haven’t finished the game. I need to actually do something about it so it gets done and on the store.
  • Participate in at least 3 game jams
    • Unless I get myself a job that satisfies my cravings to make games, I’m thinking 3 is a good number. GGJ this month is a definite contender to be partaken in, I just need to get a team together. Then it’ll probably be the 2 LD jams in April and October? We’ll have to wait and see.

7 goals ain’t bad. All of them achievable this year, too. Woo! Go me!

*Secret goal achieved: Set goals for 2021*

Seriously though, I’m happy with this list. Each goal may have smaller goals to help achieve the larger goals, but I won’t list that here. Anyway, that’s all from me for now, hope y’all had a safe and happy transition to 2020 pt. 2 2021. Make sure you have your own goals for the year, too. Finally, let’s make 2021 the year where the pandemic is beat!

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Too early year review – 2020

Yes, it’s early November. There’s also nothing really left for me this year, save for trying to re-integrate into society. Uni is done. Forever. So now’s as good a time as any for me to reflect on what 2020 was, and what it could’ve been.

First of all, fuck you COVID-19. I had so many hopes and dreams for this year and instead all I got was anxiety and loneliness.

I had planned to bowl my first 300 this year. I normally bowl 3 times every week, 3 games each time. I’d also bowl in the odd tournament or 5 to test my skills and try and come out with a little cash. This year, I can count on my 2 hands how many times I went bowling. 8 times. Like seriously, what the hell, world?

The main things that annoy me though is the lack of options I’ve had to try and connect with the local game industry, and the missed opportunity to make new friends and become better friends with existing ones. Coming out of the harshest lockdown in the world means I have to readjust to socialising (something I was already not great at) and somehow regain the energy to go out and do things.

Uni’s been interesting, to say the least. Not going to any classes or lectures, everything handled online, some units doing it more successfully than others… It’s fair to say it’s been a clusterfuck of a time, especially trying to do a capstone project. I don’t know how we managed it, but we pulled through in the end. We made a game, and I also completed all my other units without too much trouble in the end. Trying to do group work without being able to meet in person is stupidly hard though.

I am eternally grateful for my software engineering team for being the absolute best human beings/teammates possible. Y’all made my capstone experience just that little bit better!

Goals

I made a huge thread on twitter last year, reflecting on the 2010’s and setting some goals for this decade. Fair to say I haven’t had a chance to really achieve most of them.

My goals for the 2020s
My goals for the 2020s

Looking back on them, let’s see how I’m tracking:

  • Move out
    • Not even close. Wasn’t gonna happen for a while anyway, so not worried.
  • Learn more on UI/UX and programming
    • Yeah, I did learn a bit about all of the above. Once I’ve had a break, I’ll look into doing more for this though. Gotta keep learning!
  • Complete my degree
    • Yep. Done this. Unless I somehow fail one of my units, in which case… yikes!!
  • Get a job
    • Never planned on having one this year, and I honestly need a break before I try finding one.
  • Work as a programmer and/or UI designer in games
    • Kinda ties in with above
  • Continually work on becoming more empathetic and personable
    • Really hard to do when I’m not seeing people. Really want to though, and need the support of my friends to help I think.
  • Bowl my first 300
    • Didn’t have many chances this year
  • Win a bowling tournament
    • Never had one on to attend this year
  • Partner with a manufacturer and bowl in more bowling tournaments
    • Was never happening this year anyway, and quite a stretch to ever happen at all
  • Get my first 5fa
    • Haven’t started the next cricket season yet, maybe over the coming summer?
  • Get my first hattrick
    • As above
  • Play in the 2s, then in the 1s
    • As above, again
  • Find a partner
    • Never had the chance to get a partner.

2/13. Probably. No real guarantees I actually complete my degree this year haha! But, if I keep up 2 goals per year, I might have most of the things I want.

One final thing. I’m going to start seeing someone to help me through the mess that is my mind. This year took a huge toll on me, as it has many, many others, and after having one-too-many meltdowns, I’m gonna see what I can do to manage that.

Well, that’s it I guess. Not much else to say. I think I might do a game jam in December sometime (friends permitting, screw doing a solo jam!), so I’ll probably post again then, or whenever something else newsworthy pops up.

Have fun y’all. Those heading into a new lockdown elsewhere around the world, please take care of yourselves, physically and mentally! The rest of us in Melbourne, let’s do our best to reopen safely and responsibly!

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Netcode – A personal review

“I didn’t expect this to work, but I had hope.”

That’s effectively been our motto for netcode. Any time we tried a different solution to fix a problem and it proceeded to fail, this was what we would say. Every so often, though, our solutions worked and we’d either rejoice that that’s over and done with, or cry in pain when we worked out it was deceptively simple.

We’d put most of our development time into the netcode, blocking out a good 5+ weeks to get main functionality working. We worked hard, came across many issues and tried to learn as much as we could to ensure development went as smoothly as possible. Progress was consistent; we managed to go quite a while without falling too far behind our goals. But ultimately, even with all the documentation, all of the examples, and the many forum posts, no one has ever done net code for our game.

We have unique mechanics, such as phasing through walls, turning invisible while moving, and possessing objects to gain their powers and abilities. As far as my understanding goes, no one has made a game quite like that and frankly, if they had, their solutions for implementation was probably vastly different to ours. So, for a bunch of otherwise quite competent engineers, we were always in for a bumpy ride. We knew from the outset it wouldn’t be easy and we were willing to hedge our bets on getting online play working. The whole team backed us in, everyone knowing the consequences if we did ultimately fail.

Fast forward to now. We have been working on a bug for nearly 2 weeks now. It’s been blocking development. Players’ movement as a weapon doesn’t sync between the rest of the clients. We try literally everything we can think of. Nothing. Endless Google searches. Nada. Then, I had one final glimmer of hope. We had a very similar issue with the ghosts earlier on. I plugged in the same solution as what we used for the ghosts.

This was one of those moments where I was sure it would work. I had full confidence that we would have this fixed and we could move on. One of those rare moments where we said:

“I expect this to work”

It didn’t. At this point, we’d exhausted all of our options and spending more time to determine another possible solution was impractical. 2 weeks on a single issue was already too long and our morale was right down. We had no energy left to keep working on it. We decided to call it off there and then.

Overall, I’m disappointed we didn’t get it working. I felt like we had a point to prove when some people suggested it may be too difficult. If we didn’t have lockdown, we would never have considered online play. Probably. But we felt it necessary to help facilitate playtests during Stage 4 restrictions. Things were going pretty well and to fall off on just 1 bug… it’s annoying. That’s why we aren’t committing to giving up on netcode. The branch will be there and, if we feel so inclined and have the free time, we can go back and try another thing or 2.

For now though, it’s back to focusing on the rest of the game. I don’t know if we’ll ever try netcode again for this project, and I don’t think I’ll ever want to try again on any project again after this. I have a new-found respect for network engineers, as there is far more to it than I had anticipated.

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Hello world!

Well I guess this is a thing now.

I didn’t think I’d ever start a blog and honestly, I have no idea how long I’ll keep this up. I guess you could call this an “iso hobby”, one of a few that has piled up. At least I did something about this one.

Look. Installing WordPress on my NAS was one of the more annoying things I had to deal with, but that’s no fault of WordPress. All I wanted to do was download the WordPress package and install it, but nooooo that was too easy, can’t have that! To spare the boring details, I had to manually download, extract and set up the database for this.

Now it works, but it looks like trash. I have a long journey ahead of me as I learn how to navigate this, so I can eventually make it look like the rest of my website (if you haven’t checked it out, you should click here).

Life has been… interesting to say the least. I’ve had the great joy of adding netcode to my capstone game, Purgatory Punch-On, and it has caused more than a few headaches. Like I have the full help and support of the rest of the engineers in the team but we manage to find a lot of brick walls. That’s currently our favourite analogy of what’s happening, with many potential solutions also bearing the tagline, “I didn’t expect this to work, but I had hope”.

Motivation has gone downhill thanks to netcode, like it wasn’t already low enough. I’m getting things done, but it’s mostly due to the help of deadlines. I’m taking a couple other units that require plenty of writing, one of which I despise and kinda wished I never had to do it. The other, I would normally be enthralled in; it’s called User-Centred Design and Evaluation and it’s run by Steve, probably one of my favourite tutors. I gained a small ember of passion for usability over the course of developing Get the Fog Out last year, so I was looking forward to this unit, until COVID-19 kinda came and kicked everyone up the ass. Now it’s just another thing that I need to do to get through the year in one piece.

I’ve kinda run out of things to say, so I guess that’s it for this post? How the hell do you end a blog post?

This is weird…