A Game of Code

So code development can be remarkably like working out.

When you do it, it’s easier to keep going. The practice becomes self-sustaining, enlightening and enjoyable, making you feel better and better about yourself. But just as with exercise, a halt in your efforts can endure. It’s harder and harder to open the IDE (think studio for developing) and get in a few lines of code.

I hate to admit that I was strangely reluctant to start coding this new project. I had discussed it with Manuel and Andrew for a while, and originally envisioned a collectible card game. Because my friends live in the UK, I suggested that doing a demo on Android could make it easier to play test.

But discussion about the m300px-Demomanarket slowly changed our direction. And although we’ve only added the prefix “digital” to the collectible card game title, ipso facto… we are developing a video game.

After agreeing to it, I began to feel reluctance. Coding is exhausting, a mental strenuous practice of researching API (application programming interfaces) possibilities, reading through how-to guides, trial-and-error approaches to problem solving. There can and certainly will be days you drill down the details and exhaust all possibilities on how to solve some issue, only to arrive at frustrating dead-ends because of inexperience.

Today, I finally cracked my inhibitions and began working. Just some easy User Interface (UI) designs, I admit, but not without a few challenges and making me recognize some of the tools and approaches I will be taking to develop the game. Handling the Java-derived functionality is usually easy. And thus far, the User Interface specifications are either in the scope of my experience or just outside of it and won’t take long to crack. However I have entertained the possibilities of moving beyond the “card game” demeanor and embracing… something classic.

Part of this desire was sparked by a recent sale I’ve been conducting on eBay. I am preparing to move to Arlington, Virginia in a week, so I thought to unburden myself of old items that I no longer need. Mundane things, like clothes and unneeded kitchen goods, found their way to the local GoodWill. But books and old Playstation games were placed on sale, some of which selling quite handsomely despite being nigh twenty years of age.

As I didn’t wish to sell damaged and useless goods to my customers, I went ahead and tested my games against my old PlayStation 1. The majority of titles on sale were from SquareSoft, before its merger to Enix. In those days, Square had exceedingly good programmers and designers, their titles enjoyable and fun, a mix of traditional with the new processing power the console offered them. Some say this approach ended with the release of Final Fantasy VIII, when the focus on art and graphics shifted attention from meaningful innovation of core game play.

Recent indie titles, such as The Banner Saga, Risk of Rain and the renovated ShadowRun series, have proven to me that not only is their a market for old-school gaming, but forgotten fun to be had. And yet these titles did not require warehouses of artists either.

Now to be fair, I am aware that there is a good chance this project may never be finished. A few years back, I looked at documentation for Steam Engine projects on their wiki projects page. Many of them had great ideas but didn’t get off the ground either due to lack of technical talent, time or interest. It’s hard to invest it something like this when one is not getting paid. (Not to be cynical, but being a starving artist carries the downside of actually starving.)

Now I will set aside time once a month to discuss this project. A lot of details keep getting shifted around although we have a core idea that we’re sticking with. But we’ll see what happens next.

Job Hunt and Writing Women

A brief update today. My day is not as productive as I hoped. I needed a few moments to write this out as to help me focus.

On the job hunt, I’ve got a really good one tomorrow. It’s a phone interview plus an assessment test I have to take. My Java studying has not been successful as I had hoped. I study but screwed up an assessment test last week that really ruined my Friday.

I’m determined, however, to finish everything on my “to do” list this week. And it is a very long list. Some of it is day-to-day, including working out, writing and studying. I’ve added cooking at home to cut back on expenses and to eat better. Besides this, I also have a number of other chores that need doing, such as getting my passport and doing my taxes.

I made time to do some writing this week. Or rather, I’ve set aside five sections of my list with 1,000 words a piece. What’s made this new piece more difficult is that it is:

1) More political, focused on the issues of a kingdom.
2) Takes place in an Arabian fantasy theme.
3) The main character is a woman warrior.

Now, that last one throws me. Anyone who claims to know what is going on in a woman’s head is absolutely lying, even if they are another woman. They don’t want you to know. And many will tell you they don’t like the thought of someone to have “cracked the code” on the mind of women.

The Yoga Master 5000.

Robo-Ripley, rip!

So I ask, why bother? Don’t get in her head. Let her have her secrets and just look at the action, at what they do. Besides, what people do is what really defines them anyway.

For every awesome strong female lead, there are probably a handful of bad ones. It’s pretty hard to do a great action heroine, but I can still think of a few examples. Sigourney Weaver in Alien and Aliens certainly was. Sometimes, certain actresses do well in that strong support role, like Lena Headey who played Leonidas’ wife in 300.

I can list off bad heroines, but why bother? In scientific theory, one can learn more from mistakes and failed theories than one can from a theory that is proven correct. But in engineering it’s the other way around, as those successful theories are widened and improved upon, expanded and further uses and applications are found.

Considering that I’m drawing inspiration from games like Diablo and stories like Berserk and 1001 Arabian Nights, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not pioneering a new frontier. So I’d rather figure out a character that works drawn from successful and interesting heroine, rather than try to devise a new archetype.

Long Day, Longer Night

I want to tell you that I spent my day writing and trying to finish up my final story for my anthology. But that would be a lie.

No, today I had an interview that both the company representative and I thought would take only 30 minutes. In reality? It took 2 hours plus change, plus… still, kind of going on. I’ll explain in a minute.

My resume wowed them enough that he introduce me to two other faces who work among three separate bureaucratic divisions within this company. After two hours of being grilled and repeating myself, I was subjected to a technical assessment test for Visual Basic.Net, despite the fact that they wanted me for a Java position.

I took the test and did as best I could without references, scoring about 50%. They sent me home with a packet of information to review and gave me access to an online site for studying Java. I then took two Java tests, one for entry level and another for J2SE, as well as letting me retake the VB.Net test.

On the retake, I pulled off a nice 83%. As for the two Java tests, I scored 50% and 52%. The test results even have the “global average” which is interesting because I can compare my results to every other programmer (or wanna-be programmer) who attempted it.

Apparently, if you do average they’ll let you retake the test. So I agreed to do so. Which means that, tonight, I’ll be studying Java out of my ears, eyes and any other orifice known for leaking code.

The things that really trip me up are the terms and conditions of various methods and classes. These are not simple. It’s a lot of information to keep handy mentally.

In truth, I don’t have to take this assessment test. But if I don’t, I’m just delaying the inevitable. If this is what I want to do, then I would be challenged anywhere else I went. I would be tested regardless. So tonight, I’m going to play my game for perhaps an hour, go get stuff to make dinner. Work out, write for an hour. And then load up on coffee and study all night long.

C’est la vie.