September 15, 2007

Inadvertently Giving You The Finger

I’m up to nine workable digits again. My finger doesn’t seem to be badly injured, but the joints have swollen up as it heals. I no longer need to splint it to my ring finger, but the swelling means I can’t flex the finger for a while. With my middle finger stuck in an extended position it makes it a fair bit harder to grip anything, but it also makes certain gestures a lot easier.

I’m back to typing at a reasonable speed with my operational fingers, but annoyingly I can’t grip a pen or pencil properly and mightn’t be able to for a few more days. I hadn’t realised how much I rely on being able to jot things down. I can type things up I guess, but it’s just doesn’t have the same flexibility and immediacy as pencil on paper. Still, there’s a lot of typing I need to be doing at the moment, so it can be considered a benefit that my actions are somewhat limited to being in front of a keyboard.

On the game development front, I’m slowly working my way through Foundation ActionScript 3.0 Animation - Making Things Move, gaining speed now I can use both sides of the keyboard. I haven’t got much further than the first introductory exercises, but my current impression is that application development in Flash is uncannily like the methodology I was already using in my games; a heavily event and object based approach.

I’ve also been doing a little planning ahead, and I’m realising that I’m not going to have a lot of time for hobbies in the next six months. I’ve got an awful lot of work I need to do to wrap up my Ph.D. research. As such, the priority for my hobbies must shift towards keeping me sane. This doesn’t mean I’ll be stopping game development, as I regard that as one of my favourite pastimes. But it does mean I need to be realistic about my goals; I can’t really work on anything too large in the next few months.

As a consequence, I’m thinking the best aim for me is to continue working on learning Flash and Illustrator, with the aim of working on little mini-games for the next few months. Flash should be ideal for making small games, and I won’t get stuck in debugging engines. It should be a nice break from prototyping algorithms in C++ for my research and writing up results.

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September 13, 2007

Current injuries for the week: 3

In which the number of my usable digits is temporarily decreased to eight

The good news: My knee appears to have mostly healed, only getting light twinges now and then.

The bad news: I tripped on something in my home study area while trying to access a bookcase, twisting around and falling back-first into a (different) bookcase, partially tearing down a shelf. A plastic file organiser broke my fall, and my fall also broke the file organiser into some inconveniently pointy shards. I’ve earned a few long gashes in my lower back; thankfully nothing serious, although the stinging isn’t a cup of tea.

More annoyingly I seem to have injured something in my middle finger of my left hand. While it initially didn’t seem to be anything serious, after trying to fill in a form the pain confirms there’s something wrong there. I’ve put a splint on and tethered it to the fourth finger to keep it stable while it heals up.

Since I’m a lefty, this means I’m fairly limited in what I can do right now. I can still type at a moderate speed (I’m good at adapting my typing strategies to injuries), but I can’t write or draw at all. As a consequence I won’t be practicing Illustrator or the artsy side of Flash for a while; while I can still move nodes around with the mouse it isn’t really the same without being able to use the tablet. Instead I’ll look into beginner ActionScript instead.

Hopefully ActionScript project doesn’t involve quite so many capital A’s and S’s as the name suggests. Hitting shift with my right hand isn’t what I’m used to.

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September 11, 2007

Jorge Cham’s Australian Tour

I’m just back from a presentation by Jorge Cham, the creator of the graduate school themed webcomic Piled Higher and Deeper, who is currently on his Australian tour. I clean forgot that he was talking today, and was kicking myself for not claiming a seat ticket, but luckily there were a few spares. I thought it was clearly worthwhile to listen to a guy who has both completed a Ph.D. and published a webcomic, two things I really need to do myself in the next six months.

Overall I thought the talk went great. Jorge seems like a pretty cool guy, I spent every dollar I had on me on comic books for signing, the Ph.D. student in me was pleased at the free food, and the engineering undergraduate still in me was pleased with the free booze. I’m not sure his theme of “procrastination is okay” is the best for a grad student in the throws of a massive thesis write-up, but it still went down well with the audience. I also learnt how to pronounce “Jorge”, which isn’t as obvious as the letters suggest. All in all a great talk, and incentive for me to get cracking on my own digital penmanship skills.

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September 10, 2007

If Music Be the Food of Procrastination…

In which I use the Internet and GarageBand as half-hearted excuses on my slow progress in learning Adobe products

I bought a new toy yesterday - an M-Audio KeyStation 49e, a USB MIDI keyboard (the kind you play music on, not the kind you type with). I already have a more fully featured 76 key Casio WK-3000 keyboard which I love, but I never got around to getting the MIDI interface to hook it up to a computer. While I’ve been considering getting such an interface for a while, I decided it was probably better to get a smaller keyboard that can fit on a desk and can easily be carted around, hence the KeyStation 49e. It doesn’t have much range and the keys aren’t weighted, but I was after a small size and am used to synth style keyboards anyway.

My recent desire to play around with music stemmed from procrastination in learning Illustrator and Flash - what I was meant to be doing in my spare time last week. While I have been slowly teaching myself the basic tools, distractions were legion and my resolve was weak.

More on If Music Be the Food of Procrastination…

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September 8, 2007

Poll Results: MAGIC game dev contest: What’s more important?

The final poll results for what is more important for the MAGIC game dev contest:

  • Holding another as soon as possible: 2 votes
  • Improving the contest: 3 votes
  • Waiting for 4E6: 4 votes
  • What’s the MAGIC contest?: 2 votes

Waiting for the Four Elements contest is the winner, but it’s pretty darn close with improving the contest. Given that the Four Elements contest has been confirmed to start some time in September, the prudent thing to do re: MAGIC is to wait to see what flavour this year’s contest takes, how much interest there is in it, and whether a small auxiliary game contest can supplement or compliment it. This means I’ll delay holding the contest to probably November, October at the earliest.

I’m going to try and put some more time into the website this month, so as part of that I’ll try to put up a new poll every week. This week I’ll put some time into brainstorming ideas for improving MAGIC, as that will make a decent poll topic. To tide everyone over, I’ll put up one of the deeper philosophical questions of our age, one that my brother and I both independently submitted to Nintendo’s “Everybody Votes” channel but to my knowledge hasn’t been used yet - which do you prefer: cake or pie?

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