Categories
Life

Danny on BBC Radio Humberside

Yesterday John, Nick and I were on the BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show to talk about the advent of the game development industry in Hull and Humberside. This was particularly relevant yesterday because there was a huge release party for Assassins Creed 3 at the Prospect Shopping Center in the City Center, including a guest apperence from one of the lead programmers on the hit game.

We were asked questions about the game itself, the game development and computer science industry and general and what it might do for the local area. 🙂 I think we were professional, sounded like we knew what we were on about and answered the questions well. I should hope so anyway as there was between 200,000 and 300,000 people listening!

The three of us were particularly pleased because at the end of the show one of the producers said that if we ever had any games that we had made we could go back and plug them on the show! Maybe you’ll be hearing about TOAST live on air in the near future 😉 For now you can listen to us by clicking here.

Thanks to everyone at BBC Radio Humberside for having us on and Rob Miles for setting up the opportunity for us.

Danny

Categories
Programming University

Three Things, 24 Hours, 1 Game – Three Thing Game is Approaching

Well, it’s safe to say that I’m pretty excited for Monday morning — and anyone who knows me will be shocked that those words just appeared on my blog. The reason is that on Monday Rob Miles will be the auctioneer in the most important auction of the year, The Thing Auction, in which all the teams involved in Three Thing Game will be able to purchase the rights to use three things in their game.

Said teams will then spend the next 5 days writing their game before a 24 hour programming marathon to finish it off — starting Saturday at midday. On Sunday the games will all be judged by Rob & Co. and some winners will be chosen.

Having learnt a lot from our last Three Thing Game we’ve reformed “Uncle Mikes Recursive Prolog Party” under the slightly altered name “Did you mean Uncle Mikes Recursive Prolog Party?” This a play on the word recursion, which means the process of repeating items in a self-similar way. It also takes inspiration from googles ‘did you mean recursion?‘ joke.

Did You Mean Uncle Mikes Recursive Prolog Party? -- Image Lovingly Produced by Rob Crocombe
Did You Mean Uncle Mikes Recursive Prolog Party? — Image Lovingly Produced by Rob Crocombe

Unfortunately Sean wasn’t up for the competition this year but Rob Crocombe, Nick Case and I are fairly confident of our chances after another few months of programming experiance, and more importantly project management experience. We were also the first team to sign up this year, which for some reason I have convinced myself means that we’ll win 😉

I’ll keep the blog updated when we have our three things and start development. We’re also thinking about live streaming the entire 24 hours, so keep your eyes open for that 🙂

Finally, good luck to everyone involved. I wish you all the best of luck!

Danny

Categories
Life

Why the Budget was Great News for Computer Science in the UK

I don’t pretend to be a political person, though I do take an active interest in the subject as I think it affects us all and we should all have some knowledge of it, but I can tell you that the 2012 budget was great news for me, everyone on my course and every software engineer (particularly game developers) in the country.

You can see an overall view of the budget on the BBC News Website, but the most important things as far as Computer Science is concerned are “Super-Connected” cities and Tax breaks for game designers and developers.

Super-Connected Cities may have a somewhat weird and meaningless name, but the idea is very much important to the development of the “digital economy” the government is trying to build. As all computer scientists know, a system is only as fast as its slowest component. I use a resonably powerful laptop, with a dual core second generation Intel i3 processor, but you could go and make yourself a cup of tea in the time it takes to boot up, this is because it’s slowest component, in this case the hard drive, is limiting the entire system.

In this country the internet is holding back not only Computer Systems but the digital economy itself. So many people, even in realitely populated area’s, have to deal with speeds of ~2mb and some people in more rural areas are still stuck on dial-up, how are these people supposed to be expected to want to take part in online-shopping, e-learning, working from home and perhaps more importantly access online government services including NHS Direct? They can’t be, and thats why we need more bandwidth on the network. Well, all that stuff and less laggy games on Counter Strike: Source.

Chancellor George Osborne announced in the budget that London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and “10 smaller cities” will have £100 million poured into improving their networking infrastructure, providing up to 100mb/s internet connections. The BBC states “By 2015 it is hoped the investments in cities will provide ultrafast broadband coverage to 1.7 million households and high-speed wireless broadband for three million residents.” This will mean 4.7 million more people who can enjoy instaneous on-demand video, allowing video conferencing for businesses, instantly music album downloads and good access to Government services, and that can’t be a bad thing for anyone, especially those of us in the IT industry.

I hope Hull sees some of that money, its a “smaller city” and has one of the worst networks in the country due to the fact that BT never laid cables here, and therefore competitors like Virgin Media cannot provide their services either. At the moment there are only two ISP’s in Hull, KC and The University of Hull and that doesn’t promote competition on speed or cost.

The second important annoucment of the Budget for Computer Scientists was that the government will be giving tax breaks to the games industry. According to the video games industry trade body Tiga “tax relief for the video games sector should generate and safeguard 4,661 direct and indirect jobs, offer £188m in investment expenditure by studios, increase the games development sector’s contribution to UK GDP by £283m and generate £172m for the Treasury.” Again, this can’t be bad for anyone, it will actually make a profit for the country as a whole, so even if you dont like games or have anything to do with them you will, in some way, benifit.

However, I don’t think that the finances are the whole story. What this initiative will do is retain jobs, and more importantly, retain the clever people responsible for making games such as The Grand Theft Auto Series, LittleBigPlanet and RuneScape, all of which and many more were made in the UK.

Though I have my own ideals and ideas, and therefore don’t subscribe to the idea of supporting any particular political party I must say I think the conservatives did well on this one.

Danny

Categories
Life Mobile Application Development Programming University

Lessons learnt from Three Thing Game

We made some Mike Brayshaw masks during the night and took a team photo showing off our three things.

Well, the competition is over now, congratulations to the winners. The Infamous Two Sirs came in first place with their PS Vita game, and my good friends John and Russels team came in second place with their Sheep Killing Windows Phone Game, Shear Carnage. That’s a huge success for some first years. 🙂

Our project didn’t go quite so well, but I still feel it was a great experiance due to having so much fun over the night as well as learning many lessons which have changed my ideas about coding and development in general, as well as teamwork.

The team we had was good, Rob is amazing at Graphic Design, and I think Sean, Nick and I are pretty good programmers, but none of us had ever worked in a development team before and its so much different to single-programmer programming, much more different than we had realised previous to this competition.

Collaborating on one code base is difficult, we essentially all had to have an identicle copy of every part of the code even though all of us were constantly making changes, emailing stuff to each other and using memory sticks simply doesn’t cut it.

Earlier in the week this hadn’t been an issue as we all had totally seperate jobs to work on; Myself on the menu, Nick on the invasion game, and Sean on some classes related to weapon management, rob of course didn’t touch any code. However, in the competition when we needed to get all of these modules to work together and then needed to tweak each we came undone, Nick or I would make a change to our section of the code and it would totally break any progress sean had made one the weapon management or visa versa.

This constant anhillation of each others progress understandably upset people, I feel especially sorry for sean who had his code broken at least 10 times by changes either Nick or myself had implemented.

The teams who did well used a system called “Subversion Visual SVN”, which the university provides for projects like this. The system basically allows you to back-up your code to one central repository and “commit” changes to a code base the whole team use. This means every memeber of the team always has the most up to date files. Earlier in the week I had looked at SVN, but I must admit I didn’t really realise its potential, especially having taken 20 odd minutes to initially set it up and using it on my own rather than in a team. Now I understand its use… Its a great idea! 😛

So, I’ve learnt to use Subversioning in team projects, and possibly my own in order to have constant back-ups. I also learnt how to modulate code, and why this is a good idea.

In sweepy cleaner at the moment I have code like:

protected override void Update()
{
           if(gameState == GameState.Menu)
           {
                 if(finger.Intersects(playButton))
                 {
                         DoSomething();
                 }
                 if(finger.Intersects(highscoreButton))
                 {
                         DoSomething();
                         DoSomethingElse(playButton)
                 }
                 //More ifs, elses, method calls
           }
           if(gameState == GameState.Game)
           {
               //More ifs, elses, method calls
               //More ifs, elses, method calls
               //More ifs, elses, method calls
           }
}

Over the course of the week I’ve found that having code like

protected override void Update()
{
           if(gameState == GameState.Menu)
           {
                   MenuClass.Update();
           }
           else
           {
                   if(gameState == GameState.Game)
                   {
                           GameClass.Update();
                   }
           }
}

Is better. Rather than having all my program logic within a huge method, I have classes for each state with their own Initialize, LoadContent, Update & Draw methods which get called when required.

One of the learning objectives of my Module 08120, Programming 2, is to learn how to effectively use classes. I’ve certainly got that one covered over the last week.

In conclusion I feel Three Thing Game was a success, its made me a better programmer and has made me realise how fundementally different programming in a team is to working alone. I think next time we will be much better prepared to produce a genuinly good game. Having said that, this weekends game, Granddad Invasion: Battle of the Gas Works, wasn’t as much of a failure as I think our team felt it was in the last few hours of the 24-hour development time. We did actually have a genuinly fun, humorous game with setting and highscore and a kick-ass menu and story behind it. We also had great fun making it over the course of the week previous and the 24 hours.

Thanks to everyone who took part and/or took part in the Live Blog for making it so much fun :). I think next year I will do a live video stream.

Danny