Saturday, 7 September 2013

Going to Campus Party EU

'All sorts of synergies will take place. It is going to be the place to be – a Glastonbury for geeks'

Really, this is the first I'd heard about Campus Party. A statement from Boris Johnson reading it in the Metro. I think I'd heard some murmurs beforehand, but I really didn't know what it was or what I'd be expecting. In London, there are always tech meetups, so it's hard to really differentiate between the small groups and the substantial ones.

Glad I didn't have to stay in one of those tents..
Anyway! After finding out what it was and what would be there, I wanted in. I love those sort of events, playing with new types of tech or just meeting other people with similar interests. Usually, they're more business related with attractive people trying to sell you things, but the Xbox One was going to be there, so there wasn't really a choice in the matter.

Long story short, I managed to go! With my full time job at Marmalade, I don't have as much free time as I used to, but as Marmalade are now a Microsoft Partner and the Marmalade SDK can now deploy to Windows Phone, they needed some tech support at hand during the hackathon. Yipee!

The Event
Come Wednesday morning, I'm up and ready to play with some gadgets. I was contracted to be helping between 2 - 4, so I figured I would go a bit earlier to investigate the atmosphere. I got there at around 11 and made my way around the large venue. I couldn't make any of the talks unfortunately. Being at the O2, it was huge however. In my opinion, a benefit and a disadvantage.

Hackers. Hackers Everywhere
Even though the space was there, the lack of the O2's maximum limit of attendees made it look a bit empty when it really wasn't. It was just the illusion of the venue size. Regardless, wearing my pretty new name tag, I explored what was at hand.
Due to time constraints, I didn't get to check out every booth, but some things definitely stuck out. 

Oculus Rift
Just wow. I can't really explain it. The things people dreamed of in the 90's. Off the top of my head, I believe a similar venture was attempted by Nintendo with the Virtual Boy. Though a little before my time, I know that it was a failure, but the Oculus Rift.. just wow. First of all, it wasn't a helmet. It was a sort of circular device that went around my head over my eyes. For sound, a normal pair of over-ear headphones. 

Without wearing the device, you could only see what is on the laptop screen
Now, it's really hard to explain. You do have to try it to understand it. Essentially, I was seeing something like this, and so were the other people behind me on the available laptop screen:
Padding; for his pleasure
But when it was actually over my eyes. God damn. I was immersed:

Alright it's not absolutely perfect. I was on a roller coaster track and the graphics were very pixel like; to be expected with a tech demo and a product still being tweaked. Regardless, it was cool to look around physically and see the direction I was looking in represented in the virtual reality. I turned my head to the left; I'm looking left in this virtual reality world. I look up; I can see the blue sky. It was all very cool, but I could still tell what I was doing. It wasn't until that I saw myself looking vertically down at the first dip on the roller coaster track that my legs turned to this:

WOAH! Seriously, as I fell vertically towards what I thought would be my death, I thought I was actually there. My legs went weak and I was physically shaking. A similar effect to being on a real roller coaster.  I couldn't believe I was tilting left and right just as the roller coaster bent and twisted, but I was. It was a natural reaction. They saved the best until last when I was actually launched off the track to land on the other side (insert death joke here). I specifically remember exclaiming 'Jesus Christ' to some laughter behind me. I couldn't believe that I'd been able to feel all of that through a helmet. A device. It was so realistic.

My verdict? The frickin' future man. Immersive as hell and I can only imagine what could be done with the hardware. Horror games? Wear nappies. FPS shooters? Better actually look towards where you can hear the shots coming from. The things that can be done are amazing; endless possibilities in my opinion. Imagine trying something that you would never try in real life? I don't know. Bungee jumping. All you need is a powerful fan and as far as your brain is concerned, you are falling 100's of feet. 

I should write that one down..

Overall, it was a great experience, and I can't wait to see it advance. Though I am sure it will have it's fair share of privacy and health issues, we can leave the lawyers to deal with that. For now, we can just enjoy it for what it's going to be; the future.

Xbox One
One of the big releases this year I suppose. Me? I'm not phased too much. I'm longing for the time that I am part of the PC master race, but until then..

It was pretty nifty. A bit of a throwback to Killer Instinct which I strangely remember playing on the Super Nintendo (at that age, I probably shouldn't have). As I'm not really into fighting games, I wouldn't really be able to differentiate it between that of Street Fighter and Soul Calibur, but it definitely was beautiful. I loved the particle effects from every hit colliding with each other and bouncing all over the place. 

New haircut?
As far as my fingers were concerned, I was just trying to mash the buttons and destroy my new found friend.

Extreme selfie

I lost. Regardless, it was a lot of fun. Definitely not encouraged to get one yet, but maybe one day. 

Comfortable controller too.

Microsoft Surface
I'd seen an advert on these.  A lot of clicking:

Pretty snazzy. I must have seen this one a million times, so you can't blame Microsoft for their marketing team. Still, I'd never actually used one. James Croft was also there representing Microsoft, and I also bumped into my old lecturer Rob Miles!

First impressions? It's crazy light, and I love how sleek it is. Want a tablet? Disconnect the keyboard, or just wrap it to the back. Want a PC? Go to Desktop mode. I definitely see what Microsoft are going for, and funnily enough after being a bit of an Android nut, it surprises me that they're not doing more successfully  A quick portable Windows computer with the advantages of a tablet. Whats not to love? To be honest, I'd consider getting one. At least they aren't doing as bad as Blackberry. Ouch. That Halo game was pretty sweet too. Reminded me of the top down levels from the old Contra, but much prettier.

Kinect 3D Printing
Finally, the créme de la créme. I'd seen some reports of 3D printing, the more controversial ones anyway about people printing their own weapons. Apart from that, I'd never really explored them, but get me. I got my head printed in 3D by the Kinect! Charging £35 for an actual bust of my head, I was happy with just the model, but wow! 

3D print of a brain.. really
The Kinect has certainly come a long way since it's predecessor getting every nook and cranny of my silly mug. How about an Oculus rift horror game that changes as the Kinect measures the persons facial reflexes and heart rate. Can you even imagine.

I'm next gen
Apart from that (and because I have already written a ridiculous amount), it was your typical tech event. Start ups a plenty and people developing. I only got to go to one day of the week long event, but there were were a surprising amount of people playing League of Legends when I went, and we know my opinion on that.. Still, great fun. Even managed to fit in a game of fifa at the gaming section. 

Finally, this:

If you know what that is, please feel free to let me know.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Why you should check your variable names, and then check them again

Because it's the smart thing to do.

For real. It seems that the trickiest bugs that I have encountered are the ones that don't throw an exception in your face. You get so used to your own code that you kind of just assume that everything has been typed correctly. Sometimes that isn't the case.

I've been trying to fix a bug related to my silly ice bergs not relocating properly. Basically, after they relocated, a boolean was changed to true saying that they are currently respawning, but when they passed a certain value on the x axis, this is changed to false. However, instead of checking the ice berg array, I was checking a completely different array. Rookie error.

I don't know; the code works now.

Bloody hell.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Job in the Games Industry GET!


I'm pretty sure I wrote a blog post last month saying how I was going to blog more. Ironically, that is just about the same time when my life got pretty busy, but things will change now as I am pretty settled into my new job.

Say what? A new job?! That is correct! After months of interviews and assessments and presentations and fun(?), I managed to nab a position at Marmalade; the creators of the Marmalade SDK for cross platform mobile development used to produce such classics like Cut the Rope, COD: Zombies, and Draw Something. For about a month now, I have been a Developer Support Engineer and have worked with the likes of Konami, Sega and EA. It's been pretty fun!

In other news, I am working hard to rewrite my final year project and get it on the Android market. I'll definitely write a proper post about it soon, but I can't wait until it's finished. It's already much better than what I demonstrated at University. Can't wait to get it out there!

And there is other stuff, but it's late, and I am tired from work. 

That is right! Work! Did I tell you I got a job?!

Oh I did..

Now to find some free time..

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Wii U? More like Pee U

Let me just declare that I love Nintendo. I have for all of my life, and I probably will for the rest of it. I just needed a stupid title to get your attention, but hey look, you're here!

Nintendo. Nintendo Nintendo Nintendo. Seriously, they can't catch a break, and it seems they're used to it if the past few generations are anything to go by. After the NES/SNES days where they were basically market leaders without real competition, it seemed that except for their core user base, the general market were more interested in what was on offer from competitors. Don't get me wrong; the core user base (me included) is HUGE, and Nintendo can definitely survive with them even if that means not winning the generation. The N64 and Gamecube can vouch for that.

The Wii however was a whole different case. Nintendo went basic, and appealed to the casual market. Cheap software, cheap hardware, and a cheap gimmick: motion controls. The console was so close to the previous generation in terms of specs that it also meant there were cheaper development costs, and third parties just used it for quick cash, mostly consisting of mini game compilations, but regardless, it was a success. The core gamer got their Zelda's, Mario's and Metroid's, and the casual gamer got Wii Fits, Wii Zumba, and.. whatever. The point is, they weren't competing with the PS3 and 360 for those cross platform third party games. They just didn't need them.

The problem is, Nintendo seemed to apply the same sort of strategy with the Wii U. Go cheap, go basic, and don't forget some sort of gimmick. This isn't Wii days anymore, and as recent stats show, things do not look good. They tried it before; it worked, but now we are in a new modern world where smart phones and tablets are also seriosu threats. Partner that with the upcoming release of the PS4 and the Xbox One, and the outlook just doesn't look good for Nintendo. You said your body was ready Reggie.

I will definitely not fail to mention their:
  • lack of games: It's cliché to say there are none, but really, they are. It's one thing to have no third support, but no first party titles either? Come on Nintendo.
  • third party support: It happened with the Wii and it's happening now. Rubbish ports with less features than last generation versions, and they wonder why their games don't sell.. they put in less features because the Wii U community is small, but the Wii U community is small because the third party games have less features. The vicious cycle.
  • games available: First party titles keep the Nintendo fanboy happy, and help to bring in other players. During their first year, the only Mario title has been New Super Mario Bros Wii U, a sequel to New Super Mario Bros Wii, which is similar to New Super Mario Bros DS (which also has a sequel New Super Mario Bros 2 on the 3DS). Where is Smash Bros? Mario Kart? A real Mario platformer? ZELDA?! 2014. Over a year late to the party. The just releases Pikmin 3 isn't going to keep gamers happy for that long.
  • marketing: Have you seen any adverts?
- but as stated, these aren't even the main issues anymore. Nintendo needs to sort out their image. Get people to know that the Wii U exists, and it's not just a Wii extension. It's a whole new experience..

- when the games show up.

Will they lose this console war? Probably. 

Are they going to go bankrupt?


They really just need to think of a brand new strategy. Target a new audience. The Wii U has a lot of potential, but it's being wasted on rehashes and bad ports. I'll never give up on Nintendo, but I'm not strubborn enough either to say they shit gold. Maybe it can be like the 3DS. Have a bad first year, and then end up becoming fricking success. They just gotta wise up. There are so many games being released for the 3DS (third party included) that I can't even count. Get this drive over to the Wii U, and we have a winner.

Or not. Nintendo is no stranger to mistakes.

The memories.. they burn..

Saturday, 6 July 2013

League of Legends: A Game of Blame

"Reported"~ Every League of Legends player ever.

If you've played the hit online multiplier battle arena game before, then you can probably relate to the typical scenario of a loss. Even if you were outperforming your team or doing everything by the book, inevitable trolls or just lack of skill in the other positions on your team ultimately end in your 'DEFEAT' at the end of the match. 

But that is online gaming. That is the risk of playing with strangers who are according to the ranking system, in your skill set. It isn't like League of Legends is alone in this known issue. In fact, Microsoft are trying to combat this problem with their release of the Xbox One using a reputation system for each player..

Xbox One's Reputation System
- but unfortunately, I really can't see a system like in place doing much. This is because it's within our human nature to blame others for when things go wrong, and crave appreciation when things go right. Only the near altruistic can accept a loss gracefully even if they performed their best. 

Which brings us back to League of Legends. As an avid gamer, I can safely say that League of Legends is by far, one of the most stressful experiences within gaming that I have ever encountered. It has many problems that can contribute to arguments; it's almost as if summoners log in preparing for a fight. For example, if players aren't arguing for any role but the support position, then they are arguing for an already filled position. The graceful player would accept this and choose another role, but the typical player ultimately sulks, and chooses to be difficult by not choosing what the team needs. 

And if it's not that? The classic excuses."Lack of wards", "lack of ganks", "feeding", etc. Unfortunately, all valid excuses, but as mentioned previously, it's the risk of playing with strangers.

As most can relate, the arguments can get pretty sexist, racist, ageist.. anything with 'ist' on the end. It goes with the whole 'online anonymity' state of mind users get; feeling more confident in their insults and saying things they would never even think of in real life. Riot's one major attempt of player punishment with the tribunal which allows players to judge others was a respectable solution, but alas, has only scratched the surface. Most recently, a player was sentenced to jail for a threatening comment on League of Legends. It's this sort of mentality that causes problems.

So why do people keep coming back? Personally, I have no idea. The game play mechanics seem dated and its essentially the same game every single match. I think that I can assume its because of the feeling of victory. In a game of LoL, victory has to be earned, either through skill against the opposing team, or through skill in connecting and making your team work together. It becomes a game of hoping for a good team, and if not, blaming others. Someone once told me that you have to be good enough to carry your team even when they are bad, and with my experience with League of Legends, that cannot be further from the truth.

Goodbye Teemo
I feel that in it's current state, the game has no return; at least in the solo queue. It becomes a game of hope; hope for a good team even before the game starts. I am certainly not professional, but I can definitely attribute most of my losses to a bad team. My experience has been far too inconsistent and I now feel that I am wasting my time. Maybe I will try again when the next season starts. Maybe then, the community would have established itself, but that sounds too good to be true. Perhaps if Microsoft's reputation system works, Riot Games can attempt their own version, rather than just pairing players up in the same ranks. Otherwise, I feel that the only way to properly succeed in this game is with trusted players that you know. Maybe one day Team 5v5.

Maybe one day.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

I have no excuse not to blog right now

Laziness is the best right? It motivates you to take the easy way out and not do what you should be doing; be it something productive, getting out of bed, or in this case.. blogging.

Awesome right?!

Hell no. Laziness is a disease that needs to be stamped out as soon as possible. I'm plagued by it every day and I only regret my laziness when ironically, I have no time to be lazy. However, give me a free day and I can assure you that I will do almost nothing that I should be doing, unless you count catching up on beauty sleep as productive. Then in that case, you can call me Shirley, and I am serious.

Regardless, the first and only step of getting out of that hole is by just.. doing something. Anything, and here we are. I am writing my first blog post in about .. a year? Some blogger huh, but I really have no excuse now. I've made the successful transition from student to unemployment, and with this new found freedom, it's about time I start doing the many activities I say I'll do when I'm not able to. Unfortunately, I cannot blame my studies anymore (like that was a good excuse anyway).

This includes:

  1. learning to draw
  2. animating again
  3. doing stop motion again
  4. learning the guitar!
  5. learning to program better
  6. submitting my final year project to the android market
  7. getting fit! and last but not least..
  8. getting a job

And travelling when I'm rich. Man that would be sweet.

Oh yeah! I am a computer scientist; for realsies! Genuine and all graduating with a 2.1 from the University of Hull with a degree in Computer Science with Games Development. Not too shabby huh? Didn't hurt that I got a first on my final year project either, but I will probably go into detail about that and my degree in a summary post about my experiences at university. Here is a screenshot anyway:

Shes my baby

Hopefully you can experience Gritta in all of it's awesomeness soon. 

Anyway, I am back Blogger. Not for the random person who managed to somehow stumble upon this blog (though welcome without a doubt!), but for me; to keep me on track and give me a bunch of goals. I am fortunately still young and have the rest of my life ahead of me, so it's now or never. Otherwise, I will be regretting my wasted time 20 years from now with no alternative choice available.

Then what? What would be my excuse for laziness then?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Representing the Games as a London Ambassador

The Games
Can you believe it has been 7 years since London was selected to host the 2012 Olympic Games? It's scary to think about how much the country has prepared for this monumental event, and with less than a month to go, the expectations of the country will finally be put to the test as the games begin on the 27th of July.

Talk about pressure! As they say, 3 is the magic number, and funnily enough, this will be the first occasion that a country has held the games for a third time. I feel privileged to see the glorious colours of Great Britain reign victor as the host of the Olympics atleast once during my life time. Incredible.

I can't begin to explain the wonders that the games are going to do for the country. One of the most important things in my opinion is our reputation. With the recession still looming and England still recovering from the riots of 2011, we haven't exactly been witnessed in our best light. Funnily enough, I feel responsible for enforcing that reputation! The reason being is that I am one of the 8,000 London Ambassadors who will be welcoming visitors from all over the world. To be honest, I can't really say it better than the website:

London Ambassadors will welcome visitors from all over the world during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We're looking for volunteers to be the face of London; people who are passionate about the capital and want to tell millions of people about the hidden treasures that makes London one of the best capital cities in the world.

The country has stood together, and many citizens of London have agreed to volunteer their own time for the good of the country. If this doesn't speak for itself, then I don't know what will. In terms of the games, these mostly full into 2 categories;  London Ambassadors and Game Makers.

Team London Ambassadors
My journey began during early 2011 where I saw the Game Maker scheme randomly advertised on a bus. Excited by the prospect, I went straight to the website where I was unforunately welcome by a 'Applications now closed' message. How annoying. However, when one door closes, another door opens. I was linked to the London Ambassadors program which I'd never actually heard of before. After getting through the first round, I was taken to a group interview in Camden. In summary, I had to find London landmarks on a map, role play as a drunk visitor, and then explain the word 'colour' for 2 minutes! Not your most stereotypical of interviews!

Months later, I was happy to find that I had been chosen at one of the 8,000 London Ambassadors who would be representing. What an honour.

The help and training provided to us has been amazing. Rather than being considered another one of the bunch, we have truly been supported and I feel that it can't be appreciated enough. After 3 modules of training which expanded on what we would be doing, where we would be doing it, customer servie training by John Lewis and other suck perks, we will finally be put to the test as our volunteering schedules begin to start. Not to mention the incredible gifts for giving up our time such as a free ticket to a westend show, a chance to be in a world record treasure hunt, and even a free ticket to see Saracens vs. Harlequins. I was lucky enough to be one of the Ambassadors chosen on the day to speak for us all. What was I feeling you ask? Fear. Pure fear; but at the same time, I have never been so proud. It was the most surreal moment of my life.

We are introduced at about 3.18, I speak at 4.58!
We were told that we needed to simply state our names, where we were volunteering, and what we were looking forward to most for the Olympics. Easier said than done!

With less than 3 weeks to go until my volunteering schedule at Wembley starts, all that I have left to say is that I am optimistic. After all of the training and preparation, and after witnessing the technical rehearsal of the opening ceremony last night, I can only hint at the surprises that will be revealed to the public of London 2012, possibly making this the greatest Olympics to ever exist. #savethesecret

Here are a few from my phone last night before my phone died!