Archive | September 2014

Celebrate The Small Things: 26 September

  • f5f01-vik-smallthings2I’m getting the new game Fantasy Life tonight and spending all evening and Saturday playing it with my boyfriend. I can’t wait. 😀
  • Getting a takeaway pizza tonight. It’s a treat we allow ourselves to have every month or so.
  • Started designing a new comic. I’ve always wanted to attempt my own comic but have no idea where to start. I’m not sure how well it’ll turn out but I’ve started putting together some character designs and ideas.
  • Making slow but steady progress on my game. I’m getting carried away with details, like usual.
  • I finished reading White Fang and Call of the Wild. Now I’m planning to move onto the Farseer trilogy. Gradually making my way through the backlog of books on my Kindle :P.

The Difficulties Of Developing For Touch Screens

If I’m being completely honest, I’m not the biggest fan of touch screens, but a while back I joined a Game Jam with a friend where we had to build a tablet game with the theme of ice. It was my first ever attempt at building such a game and as I don’t use that many apps I didn’t really have anything to draw inspiration from. My first thought was to google images of the theme to get my creative juices flowing and this helped me to settle on the idea of ice fishing, which seemed like it would be simple to do with some obvious choices in mechanics. The resulting game was called Reel It In!

When I first started working with touch screens it seemed like a really exciting – still to be explored – avenue. As they don’t have any rigid controls you have free reign to try and develop your own. I soon came to realize however, that creating a good, solid way for users to provide input was more challenging than I first thought. In Reel It In the user has to move their finger around in a circle to raise and lower the lure. While we were praised for implementing such an idea and came second place in the game jam, I realized afterwards that such a mechanic was awkward and could cause your finger to become sore. I’ve also found that different devices seem to have a different feel to their screen surface – like my finger doesn’t seem to slide across my tablet as easily as it does over my phone. Screen size can also vary drastically. I enjoy developing for my tablet, but I have a lot of trouble with my phone. Not only do I have limited space to display information, but the controls also have to be placed in that same space. You also have to take into account that some people have stubbier fingers or longer nails than others.

The other limiting factor that I have is my aversion to virtual controls; for example I could create an analog stick that appears under where the user places their thumb. The problem with these is the lack of tactile feedback. When I use a real analog stick the feel of it informs me as to its location and how far I can push it. I suppose I also feel like we should be playing to the strengths of the device, rather than trying to mimic what can be done elsewhere. There are certain games that I will always resort back to my PC or consoles to play and I just don’t see touch screens replacing them. I think there are certain genres that touch screens could work really well with though, like strategy, puzzles and interactive fiction (anything that requires a strong interface or simple mechanics.) I never really understood why people argued over devices – claiming that one would replace another – when they all have different strengths and weaknesses.

As I grew up on pc and console gaming I think I will always have a preference for them and this is where much of my inspiration comes from (which is probably part of the problem.) It’s always going to be challenging learning how to develop for new devices and I don’t think we’ve yet fully scratched the surface when it comes to what touch screens can bring to gaming. For a developer It can also be fun to take on such challenges, although I think that when I next build a PC game I will be relieved to have all those buttons back. 😛

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Dealing With Rejection

I think this is a really positive read and explains the differences in thinking really well. Usually we’re our own worst enemy and that inner dialogue we share with ourselves can really affect how we feel. I know this can seem strange to people who don’t suffer with anxiety, but often I’m looking inwardly and seeing faults where there are none. When I struggle to get along with people I assume it must be something I have done wrong, as if it is all my responsibility to make the friendship work out. In some ways I find it easier to hang out with people I’ve known for a long time because then I can switch off and be myself without worrying about it. The thing is, you can’t really control how other people act or treat you, only how you respond to it. There are so many different types of people in the world that you can’t really know for sure how all of them would think about you, so don’t let the words of the few get you down.

You Should See My Scars

hope

Lets talk about rejection.   I know that when you have depression, anxiety, or panic, dealing with rejection is probably about 100 times harder for you than the person sitting next you.  And thats not shocking.

All three; depression, anxiety, and panic, are all internalized problems.  We are not raging angry people who lash out when we get hurt.  We turn it in on ourselves.  We make ourselves the punching bags.  (which personally, I think its more noble to be like us, than those people who whenever they are having a bad day, make it a point to MAKE EVERYONE AROUND THEM just as miserable)

Hey look there is a positive point right there!  There at least is some merit in our problems!   Give yourself a pat on the back!

Anyhoo, so yes.  Rejection is harder for us because obviously we will beat ourselves up way harder than anyone…

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The Problem With Psychology

I find certain topics in Psychology interesting (particularly when it comes to behaviour and cognition.) I read the odd book about it and have just signed up to a course on Future Learn, ‘Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture.’ My interest in Psychology started soon after I discovered my interest in Game Design as the two areas can overlap. I have also been diagnosed with moderate depression so I consider it to be important to understand mental health on at least a basic level. Even though I enjoy discussing Psychology, I’m not an expert and much of what I write is a way to explore my own thoughts and ideas.

While I find Psychology fascinating, I think there’s another side to it that can be dangerous; It’s all too easy to apply labels to different behaviours (see ‘Creating the Psychopath Experience: TEDTalks from Julian Treasure and Evan Grant.’) I think many of us are at at fault for making self diagnosis either through performing research or taking online quizzes. For example, I was reading about personality disorders in ‘The Bedside Book of Psychology‘ and one of the descriptions sounded exactly like me. I reckon that almost everyone could find some sort of mental disorder to label themselves with. I also question how we know what is or isn’t normal human behaviour. I’ve read that everyone is on the Autism scale for instance, and that it’s simply a different way of thinking (see ‘The World needs all kinds of minds.’) While a person may struggle in some areas they may have improved abilities elsewhere.

One thing that I’ve come to notice is that much of science is not set in stone; Tests are not always accurate and not all professionals agree with each other, and yet it can be presented to us in a truthful way. I think that you have to be careful when making claims about human behaviour because of the social implications behind them. For example, the Psychologist Arthur Jenson claimed that intelligence was 80% inherited, which in turn suggests that not all social groups are equal (see ‘Nature Vs Nurture in Psychology‘ on Simply Psychology.) I myself have experienced people telling me what I can and can’t do – based on who I am – and following up with examples in Psychology; With a bit of research I was able to find my own examples to contradict them. While it’s interesting to discuss these different claims, I think it’s unwise to try and group people or wholly base your opinions on such findings. While tests and statistics can show trends, it doesn’t mean that there can never be any exceptions to the rule. People are complex creatures after all.

I think when applied correctly Psychology can be useful, like helping people to improve their lives or deal with mental disorders. Psychology is also used in areas like game design or marketing to help understand the behaviour of consumers. I just think we need to be careful not to become too obsessed with applying labels to different people and behaviours. If you’re not sure about something, it’s better to seek the advice of a professional.

Born Free – Douglas The Hippo

Douglas

A while ago I was watching a show called ‘Animal Orphans’ starring Paul O’Grady. During one episode he visited a baby Hippopotamus called Douglas and – probably like many others –  I just couldn’t help but fall in love with him. My sister then went on to adopt him under my name. Douglas was found close to death – abandoned at just two weeks old – but is now thriving and making the transition back into the wild.

douglas drawing

Suffering With Arachnophobia

For the most part, I’m quite brave when it comes to animals. I’ve held a bird of prey, allowed a snake to be wrapped around my shoulders and even stroked a crocodile. I’m a lover of most animals… well… most…. The truth is, I can’t stand spiders or many other creepy crawlies for that matter. It’s currently my least favourite part of the year where they seem to grow in numbers and start invading the house; The start of Autumn must be spider mating season or something.

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Be Willing To Make Changes

I enjoy game design, read a lot of books about it and am good at coming up with new ideas, yet I don’t think I’m very good at it. I think game design can be harder than many of us realize when first starting out. One of the things about creative activities is that the right answer isn’t always obvious, even if you have brushed up on all of the theories about it. Being creative is to explore and experiment with lots of different ideas until finally settling on the right one. If you trap yourself down one path at the very beginning of a project then you’re probably not doing yourself any favours. I saw this on a TV programme about creativity once, that it’s better to start with a more divergent mindset, but to later change to a convergent one.

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Celebrate The Small Things: 12 September

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  • Been going out a lot this week. Went to the pub on Tuesdays. Hung out at my boyfriends on Wednesday and I’m going out for a meal tonight.
  • I decided to drastically change some of the rules in the game I’m currently building and I’ve successfully managed to implement most of them. I was a little nervous changing so much, but I think it was worth it.
  • My friend cleared out his old Pokemon cards and magazines, which has expanded my collection.
  • I found Pharaoh and its expansion pack Cleopatra on gog.com, I loved this game when I was younger and I’m enjoying the nostalgia.

Books That Have Stayed With Me

So I read on the new blog ‘Planet Pasduil‘ that people are currently making lists of the top ten books that have stayed with them in some way. I’ve been re-visiting a few books recently and I fancied compiling them into my own list:

  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – To be honest, when I was younger I found The Lord of The Rings to be a bit too much of a struggle to read, so The Hobbit was sort of like my first introduction to the world of Tolkien. I just really enjoy fantasy and love dragons.
  • Inheritance Cycle (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, Inheritance) by Christopher Paolini – This is probably one of my favourite fantasy series. While it’s classed as a teenage book some aspects of it feel really dark and you could see the author’s skills and viewpoint growing alongside the main character. It also panders to my love of dragons.
  • The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – I went through a phase where I wanted to try a few more classical books. I struggled to understand the language in many of them, but The Picture Of Dorian Gray was one that I not only managed to complete but also really enjoyed.
  • White Fang by Jack London – I read this book quite a while ago, but I’m planning to read through it again next. It appeals more to my love of animals than anything else and I love that it’s from a dogs perspective.
  • Mass Effect (Ascension, Retribution, Revelation) by Drew Karpyshyn – I just think Drew Karpyshyn is a really good author and the series tied in really well with the game. I loved how the final book explored what it was like to become indoctrinated from the perspective of that character. It was kind of disturbing in a way.
  • Harry Potter by J.K.Rowling – Lots of people grew up with Harry Potter. It’s just a really fun magical read.
  • Age of The Five (Priestess of the White, Voice of the Gods and Last of the Wilds) by Trudi Canavan – This series had some really interesting characters in it and a pretty good twist at the end. I think I prefer it to The Black Magician Trilogy myself, although Trudi Canavan books are all generally quite good.
  • Deathscent by Robin Jarvis – I read this a long time ago and for some reason I always remembered it. I think it was the first time I’d experienced anything that felt a bit steampunk in style and it fascinated me. All of the animals in the world are mechanical and the residents can bring any creation to life by using different coloured ichors. The annoying thing is that while the back of the book claims to be the first in a series, no more ever came.
  • Angels and Demons by Dan Brown – I have to admit that even though I have every Dan Brown book on my Kindle I’ve only read Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. I didn’t know which one to list because I enjoyed them both a lot. I found the subject material interesting and I like books where I feel like I can also learn something at the same time (of course it’s important to note that a lot of it is also made up.)
  • Empress Orchid by Anchee Min – I recently read through this book again, followed by The Last Empress. I seem to be fascinated by the lives of people living in China or Japan around certain times. To be honest I found it a bit too dry in places when covering politics or the war, but I really enjoyed reading about The Forbidden City.

There are many others that I grew up with, but I haven’t added them to the list. For example, I’d say that every Roald Dahl book has had a significant impact on many lives. I also read a lot of horror books when I was a kid like Goosebumps and Shivers. There was also the Animal Ark series which I think helped to start my love of animals. I mostly read fantasy books but I didn’t want to the entire list to comprise of just one genre. I’m also reading the odd short story by H.P. Lovecraft and there are some pretty interesting ones like ‘The Thing on the Doorstep’ and ‘The Colour Out of Space.’ I also read a lot of non-fiction books like Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal, Theory of Fun by Raph Koster and Quiet by Susan Cain.

Too Embarrassed To Like Something

As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more mature in my own ability to admit to the things I like without feeling embarrassed (interests that were intended for children in particular.) Now let me explain what I mean by this. When Pokemon first became popular I was actually too embarrassed to admit that I liked it. The rest of my family thought it was terrible from what they’d seen of the anime, but they probably wouldn’t have judged me for disagreeing. Still I missed out on the show and the cards and kept my own secret stockpile of Pokemon stickers under my bed (I gave my friends my pocket money to buy them for me.) Years later when my stack of stickers were discovered I pretended that I’d been looking after them for a friend who had never reclaimed them. I also kept my like of Anime in general a secret for a long time.

I eventually made some new friends who were all avid Pokemon fans and encouraged me to try the game. They taught me everything I know about how to breed and train Pokemon. It was amazing knowing people to share this interest with and it felt a bit like I was making up for missing out during my childhood. I felt like such a newbie, but in time I was soon able to battle them as an equal. I even entered myself into a Pokemon tournament.

At the start of the year my boyfriend treated me to my first ever pack of Pokemon cards. To be honest I wouldn’t advise starting the craze – it’s expensive and terribly addictive – but all I could think about was how cool it was to finally own my own set. I was also given a box full of old Pokemon cards recently from a friend who wanted to make space. Oh how far I’ve come as a Pokemon trainer.

At some point many of us feel like we have to show how grown up we are by selling our old toys. We got rid of all our Disney films and some of our cuddly toys too. Despite the clearance effort, the old cuddly toys began to be replaced by new ones and sure enough we even found ourselves buying new copies of the films we use to own. Just because something is for kids, it doesn’t mean there’s no value in it to be had anymore. I think nostalgia can also be comforting and it reminds you of a time when life was simpler.

There are times when you feel like you have to change for the sake of others – I was once told that I was an embarrassment for playing Pokemon on my DS in public. I’m personally not that embarrassed about my own interests anymore and no longer feel the need to keep up a pretence about who I am; I think that realizing this is rather oddly a sign of maturity in its own right. Life’s too short to allow yourself to miss out on the things you enjoy just because other people don’t like it or regard it to be childish. I regret not being able to enjoy Pokemon from an earlier age.

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