The End of the Second Year

Well as with most blogs dedicated to the chronicling of University there have been sporadic posts at best during the hectic and intense second year. I suppose the need for the first project to be a team blog and then the second major project to be under and mock NDA means that there was little that I could post about, but more often than not there was hardly¬†time to post about things. Yet I think that is the trouble with most blogs and for most wannabe bloggers, when you have material to blog about you don’t have the time to blog! ūüôā

Anyway the second project of the second year was a very insightful and interesting learning experience, and to be honest it is not one that I would like to repeat any time soon or share on such a public forum. However horrible the experience was there was some good too and it was certainly a lesson in team work that will stick with me, or at least take some time to come to terms with. It has certainly made myself and many others think about how we are to approach the tasks ahead in the third year. Despite the issues with the previous project I cannot stress how useful it was to learn by mistake and to go through¬†unpleasant¬†experiences with people to learn how to cope. Personally I could have done with skipping some of this learning as there were areas in my personal life that seemed to be providing the same one at the same time. Yet I am told that this particular project in the second year is designed to be like this and is always reffered to as the ‘train wreck’ as it never goes smoothly, I guess not everyone carries the curse of ‘May you live in interesting times…’ ūüôā However it is all done and dusted now, the project and the personal issues, what I do want to talk about was my results and my dissertation plan.

The not often talked about side of this certain degree is the written part, there is a lot of importance on the practical lessons and output, which makes sense as how else are you going to¬†effectively¬†going to showcase your game design skills? Yet it is the written side that I am equally, if not slightly more, interested in as we progress. I have always¬†struggled¬†with academic writing, and my unknown to me until a few years ago, dyslexia didn’t help. Yet when the¬†opportunity¬†arises in the past few years I have been getting very good marks for my essays, not only on this course but also while I was at Sussex before hand. After experiencing a stricter more academic University setting at Sussex, Newport couldn’t have felt more relaxed. However the expectation and the hope of the tutors seems to be the same and they certainly do encourage students to try and achieve that higher academic status that is probably not normally expected or found often on a course like this.

The dissertations of previous years are available in the library and I have skimmed through a few while desperately trying to get inspiration for my own. Two things are apparent, firstly the standard set by previous students is high secondly this highlighted to me my biggest failing when it comes to academic writing, actually getting started. I maybe able to get 70% in essays when I put my mind to it at Sussex and I maybe able to get the highest marks possible for the first essay I handed in at Newport, I still lack the motivation and inspiration to actually get started, so I always end up rushing things, not a situation I want to be in for this particular piece of writing.

This was most apparent on the first essay required in the second year, and I have to admit that I can’t even remember what it was about off the top of my head at the moment. It was rushed, not well laid out, not well researched and also got the lowest marks I have ever had, which it deserved I know that. I just wish I could switch it with my first year essay as this one counted to my overall degree grade! Anyway when it comes to the dissertation things appear to be done slightly differently at this University, the second year is when it starts and the¬†Literature¬†Review and Proposal make up the remaining module of study alongside the ‘train wreck’ project. Partly I think it is due to the difficultly of getting¬†everyone¬†in the class prepared and ready to write what seems to most artistic souls as a huge burden of stuffy writing that won’t help them much in the long run. (At least that’s the impression I get in class sometimes.) ūüôā

Anyway it is now the summer and after a lot of commitments to friends and family have not been¬†fulfilled¬†I can now focus and actually expand on that Proposal and¬†Literature¬†Review already handed in. The former being quite strong the later obviously rushed, as it was. So I am going to try and avoid that pitfall this time around. It is however hard to start as without a job this summer I may have an¬†abundance¬†of time to work on my dissertation I am more frequently distracted as I don’t have much of routine at the moment. Even though I had little time I do sometimes prefer the stress of having a job alongside the studies as at least it eases the financial burdens but also makes you focus your time better. Yet that isn’t going to be happening around here as there is little work going in this city, and to be perfectly honest I would actually like to keep the summer off as I am aware it could possibly be the last one for some time. This also means it is a good lesson in self¬†discipline¬†too for me. Meanwhile though I am re-arranging things online and giving up my web-space as I can’t afford it any more, it came in handy in the last project, but I simply can’t afford it any more. I am also doing a full back-up and clean install of my laptop, it’s a little overdue. I guess it’s a belated digital spring clean!

Game Maker Project

Last term the course was set an interesting project as part of our ‘Post Digital¬†Analogue’ module. For this we had a total of twelve weeks to write a design document for a game of our making and then create a level/prototype/vertical slice of the game. However what made it interesting was the catch…we were not to make the game we had designed. Instead the design documents would be handed over to another team (of the lecturers choosing) and then we would make someone else’s. This did also require a blog or development diary to be kept for the duration of both parts of the project but as this was a team effort it was easier for the other¬†members¬†and the tutors for us to use Blogger, that can be found here: Learning As We Go.

I saw this as good practice to not only write a decent design document so that someone else could follow and then create, but to also follow the other teams document. Ironically something that had not been encouraged before in either college or the first year of University.

So with a team of four it was soon established that I would be the one organising the project and writing up the design document in the first half, I would then continue my role as project manager in the second half along with quality control. However during the development of the game we came across some interesting technical difficulties so I soon found myself helping out and contributing to more areas of development that I originally planned. I even learned some GML scripting as well! However the game would not have come together like it had without the hard work of the team and more¬†importantly¬†it wouldn’t look as good as it did without the dedicated artists Niomi and Beth.

But without further ado here is the trailer for the game (a little rushed I have to admit):

Interesting concept and mostly development by my team too as we had such little to go on from the original design document. Which required us to not only develop the game but design it within the last six weeks of the project. The key points from the other team that we kept in mind were: Base it on ants, and make it like ‘Lemmings’ but not like ‘Lemmings’.

Screen shot of Antz on YoYo Games

Click image to go to YoYo Games to play.

It is best played with a graphics tablet as it was ideally designed for touch screen devices aka it will need further tweaking later on to make it mouse friendly. But for now we are all very happy with the final results¬†considering¬†the¬†adversities¬†we had to face as well during development. Personally I would like to revisit this and take the idea further and perhaps put it out onto the Android Market, but right now we are all a bit tired of seeing ants! That and the next two University projects are now under way, so it may have to wait till either the Easter or Summer holidays before work starts again on this. So for now¬†consider¬†this an alpha test that was made in about four weeks by a team with little to no knowledge of Game Maker…which reminds me I have my Kiwi game I now want to dust off and publish on YoYo Games too.