Saturday, April 4, 2015

What are you working on that they don't know about?

I recently came across a blog post on reddit entitled  "The Best Professional Advice I Ever Got", written by Eric Niebler, in which Eric describes some of his experiences while working on Windows 2000 at Microsoft.  He had a boss who one day came into his office and said:

"Eric, every now and then I’m going to come into your office and ask you, “What are you working on that I don’t know about?” You should always have something to tell me."

I immediately bookmarked this article, as this concept hit me pretty hard as a college student.  It seems those who are bound to attend college are hard-wired with the mindset that that your coursework is your life.  I myself went in to college primarily with the goal of having a well paying job that I wouldn't hate in order to secure a good future for myself and my future family.  This meant good grades, which in turn meant hard work.  When you are also faced with the need to work in order to pay rent and bills, you really have little free time or energy to even think about creating on your own terms.

Even as I write this post, I am drilling myself on another monitor to my left on specific bits of Assembly and C for an exam tomorrow morning.  On my right I have a notepad where I have jotted down various applications and command line tools that I hope to learn in order to excel at my new job as on-campus IT support.

Reading this article however has stuck something new in my head, outside of my job and education... "Make something they don't know about."

It seems those who are bound to attend college are hard-wired with the mindset that that your coursework is your life.  The number of students who actually take the time to apply this education to their own projects and not just to work for a grade really seems to be diminishing.  I include myself in these numbers, as at the end of the day, it's difficult to be motivated to continue the productive state that you have been carrying for the majority of the day.

Thankfully, I've been exploring the internet long enough to realize how limiting a college degree program can be.  It really needs to be treated more-so as a gateway to the kind of things you can be doing as opposed to everything you need to know.  Among the courses I'm taking this semester, I'm gaining a fair amount of experience in Java, Assembly, and C, but only with limited applications.

Starting now, I want to expand.  I'd still like to participate in game development, but I want to take what I am learning and build away from the notes that are written on the whiteboard.  As I am still limited on time, these projects will start small.  For starters, I'll actually write my Dice Bag program I planned out last summer, which will probably be written for the terminal in Java.  I have 2 or 3 books I would like to start reading as well, including my Java textbook, "The C Programming Language" and "the Unix Programming Environment".

Once the semester comes to a close, I have plenty more options to choose from: taking a crash course in android development, exploring open-source projects on github, getting back into python development and, most importantly, continue work on my game projects.  What all of this comes down to is this:  it is important to keep yourself busy with work you are interested in.

A note to self: Never be afraid to have more than 1 project on your table.  When someone peeks over your shoulder to ask "What are you working on?", aim to have a new answer every time. 

See the blog post by Eric Niebler here:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Winter 2014 is in Full Swing

Yessir, the holidays are coming.  In fact, Christmas is only 6 days away!  Might not be the best time to jump back into "Depth", but its collected dust long enough...

First a few updates.

  1. I mentioned before that I had been working on a larger project with the New Mexico State University Game Development Club.  We have finally got a website up and running, and you can take a look at our projects here.
  2. I am also devoting some time this break to learning Unix coding.  I've become pretty addicted to coding on my Macbook Pro, and I typically have the terminal open for my to play around with.
  3. My wife has done some pretty cool art for "Depth", creating a few possible characters and a story to go along with it:

Kicking Kole

The North Star

I think its pretty safe to say at this point she is a part of the team.
She has also begun to produce a score for the game, which can be found here.

Where We Left Off

Upon opening GameMaker once again, I am reminded of the stopping point of the last session:

This probably doesn't look like much...
What is going on here is an attempt to start a level I had designed last semester.  What it is meant to be is a slippery-slope;  the protagonist is caught sliding down a slope and can only (slightly) control how fast he is going by pressing the left and right arrow keys.  What I am currently working on is allowing the character to jump while stuck sliding down this slope.

It might be important to note that I've started moving into level design with this... thing.  There is still much I need to cover about game maker, like tying rooms together and actually creating a start and ending point.  But the creative aspects of game design are just too hard to ignore.


It would appear I had a hard drive fail while I was in the midst of creating this post.  Naturally, it would be the drive with the operating system as well as the files for the game.

Thankfully, not all is lost.  Keeping this blog allows me to go back and review/reuse the code I have already written in reconstructing the progress I have made.  We are closing in on the start of the next semester (I started writing this blog post ~2-3 weeks ago), but I'm still going to try my best to dedicate the time to re-build.

Overall I am pretty content with the progress I've made in the field of game design as well as the progress I've made in my independent studies of programming.  I'll keep trying to update as often as I have the time and energy to do so.

Hope you all had wonderful holidays,