Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Studying Games Development

I'm rather slow at updating this blog. Something something be more committed to deadlines, something something. Anyhow, onwards!

Games development isn't for everyone. It's a profession in a hobby, before you even get to the professional level. It's something you have to want to do. This may seem like common sense, but I see people not treating it seriously even in matters as small as games modification projects.

At least, that's how I view it. I welcome other opinions from those who're actually in the professional business, instead of floundering around in Amateurland like myself.

You have to immerse yourself in the field. Even if you're a genius, I'd imagine. Even if you've got a handle on a brilliant, simply fantastic idea that'll turn into an international hit. You'll encounter problems, be they technical or even social in nature. You have to learn to manage expectations, far more than you would at an ordinary job. The gamer/games fan is a loud beast, and not shy of giving you critique. Conversely, when you're starting out, you don't have anybody to manage. Getting any feedback at all is preferable to no feedback, even if that feedback is terrible and ain't indicative of your game.

You have to immerse yourself. Follow developers on Twitter, read up on GDC articles and slides. Gather as many resources as you can, because every piece written by someone in the industry is an education. I've read articles on neural nets, A* searches in pathfinding, rendering techniques . . . some things I don't understand fully, others I have enough of a background in the relevant areas to get what they're on about. It's a learning process.

It's also why it's possibly so difficult for people to keep at, especially in the amateur circles. All of this takes time, time you find eaten up maintaining things like Twitter, the web forums you invariably end up on, blog posts (har de har). You have to tie it all in, in order of relevant, to your own projects. You have to be disciplined. It's almost like a second job in itself, only you don't get paid for the pleasure. Thankfully, if you are invested in it, it can be rewarding in itself. It can be frustrating in equal measure, but that's something that comes with the gig. Nothing is free, even if there are days you feel like this trying to figure out a problem that turns out to be stupidly simple in hindsight:

Nothing in life comes for free. You don't have to be a genius to do games development (but, as with a lot of things, I figure it might help). That's enough of the generic life advice, mind.

Games development comes in many forms. The important part is - what do you want to be? 3D artists are generally (nearly always) artists of some description first. Career progression there is pretty simple, though sometimes a matter of luck (as a lot of job-seeking is). Programmers, ahh, we're the mad ones. But it's fun, fun I tell you. Then there are the games designers. The job people think is terribly easy and that developers suck so much that they can't see just how wrong they are! But it ain't easy, not one bit. A games designer has to immerse him-or-herself in as much information as programmers have to immerse themselves in APIs and third-party libraries.

Heaven forbid you attempt to do all of it at once, to make a game by yourself. But ultimately, that's the best way to get noticed.

Read everything. Understand that the people in the industry got there because they deserve to be there and because they worked for it (as with any job discipline, there will invariably be exceptions. That comes with being human). Learn from them. It's very easy to say someone sucks at their job. It's a lot harder to do their job for them.

Perseverance is a powerful human trait. Heck, it took me from:


In a couple of weeks, coding an hour or so a day. Not a great achievement by anyone's yardstick, but an achievement for me in that it was my first working game (and evidence that the platform beneath it works). A culmination of everything I've read, by people still far, far better than I.

So, what're you waiting for? Get reading!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Being An Ass Online

Being an ass on the Internet is incredibly easy. Even if you never wanted to be one.

When people say "watch out for the bad people on the Internet", one day you may eventually have a realisation akin to this:

Forums can be a toxic place to spend your spare time. Especially if it's your spare time, that time you usually spend to relax. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of good, constructive forums out there. You meet great people - I've met great people.

But then there are the trolls. The people who literally have nothing better to do with their time than waste everyone elses. Often distinguished from people who are genuinely upset or confused because those people you can either convince, or understand their grievances. Trolls are the people that'll say one thing in one thread, because OUTRAGE, and say another thing in another thread because they don't want to agree with that specific brand of OUTRAGE. They're even easier to spot if they pull this kind of stunt in the same thread they started off in.

And this is why we have moderation. However, after so long, after several sites, after moderating web forums for over five years . . . you kinda end up like this:


Myself included.

The problem sets in when you believe that you are right, because you have this wealth of experience. That you couldn't possibly be wrong, because goddamnit you're so used to these trolls that you know that they're trolling.

But you've lost sight of something important. You've lost sight of that chance that you're meant to give all angry, confused people you meet, whether online or in Real Life (heaven forbid). There are often reasons for this; disillusionment with moderation, an increasingly-hostile community, a changing perspective that comes with age, less free time to deal with the online drama people love to create . . . but those reasons don't excuse the end result. You're potentially making the situation worse.

You're turning into a troll. Or an instigator at best. You've gotten so used to arguing against the same people all the time that you don't give them a chance anymore. Even worse, people have formed a similar image of you, because that's how you've rolled for a few years. Impressions stick around for far longer than the consequences of your actions do. Or perhaps those impressions are the most important consequence of your actions. Think about it.

Take a step back. Look back at who you once were, why you first contributed, got involved, helped people out. Is there anything you can do? Of course. Just sit back, and relax. Think twice before you hit that Post Reply button.

Take the time to think . . . how am I coming across?

It's never too late to address how people perceive you. And hopefully, like me, you'll realise it's all too easy to be an ass, and hopefully get your head around the necessary steps to change that.

It's a part of growing up. The Internet is with us, for better or worse. The best we can do is slow down how much it changes us.


This blog post was totally not an excuse to roll out some of my favourite image macros.