Sunday, August 26, 2012

Middle of Month 8

Wow, it's been almost 4 weeks since I've posted.  I've been incredibly busy.  I'm still not finished with Stairway to Stardom, the music education program I teach.  There've been unexpected delays at the studio.  I'm *hoping* it will be finished by Monday.  This is my 17th year teaching the program.  Obviously, I enjoy it, though it's caused me to miss two Dawnshine art meetings in a row, and I feel like that's caused the project to slow considerably.

That aside, although my back has recovered considerably, I feel like I'm in health care hell.  X-Rays of my back uncovered more, older problems.  For the last few years, I've had partial paralysis in my left leg.  I have no idea why.  I can walk without a limp, so I don't really care.  The doctors have spotted the pre-injury spinal damage so I keep having more doctor visits for that now.  Having 4 hour hospital visits every couple weeks just sucks.  I'm really close to telling the docs to just leave me alone.  I think I've gone to hospitals more in the last two months than I have my entire life before that.  It's really aggravating.

Combine that with I've been trying to get a full time job because trying to hustle up freelance work all the time stresses me out too much.  You know how they say looking for a job is a full time job?  Well, I'm doing that and I also decided to go back to school.  I'm talking a class in php, html5, and techniques of management.  I've decided to go for an AA degree in Management and, while I'm at it, brush up on my web development skills

So my classes just started this week.  And to add to the fun, I have jury duty starting tomorrow.  I really hate my life right now.  Yeah, I know.  As a student, I can postpone serving.  But my classes are in the evening and online so they don't really conflict.  Yeah, it's not like they're going to check that out.  But still, it's my civic duty and all that.  It's part of being a proud American, and it's the least I can do.

Sorry, I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining.  Everything will work out.  I just hate being distracted from the Dawnshine project and missing meetings.

Anyways, enough of that.  I recently went to a game jam.  I got teamed up with Joe Burchett, the organizer of the Sacramento Game Dev Meetups.  He did all the programming and I was the 2d artist.  I've started to get really good at UI design.  But to my point.  Working right next to him was pretty cool.  He could tell me exactly what he needed rather than me making a bunch of stuff that wouldn't get used or didn't have the right attributes for what he was doing.  It was really efficient.

It reminded me of a comment one of the artists said--instead of driving all the way out to the art meetings and talking about what we need to accomplish, I could be at home spending that time creating stuff for the game.  It made me realize that if we had the whole team in an office working on the project one day a week, we'd get a lot more accomplished.  I think that would also let people know if it was something they wanted to do for a living.  I mean, tons of people think working in the game industry would be awesome, but when you actually sit down and do it and realize how much repetitive / busy work is required, most people would change their mind.

So I'm thinking about looking into one of those shared office spaces.  There's a few of them in Sacramento.  So one office floor, but with several companies renting rooms in that office.  We would only want a weekend, and those are hard for these places to sell, so I could probably get a great deal on it.  I need a steady job for that first.

In terms of progress, one of our beginning programmers wrote a bunch of broken code for the combat system.  He's since left the team.  Instead of picking up where he left off, it made more sense for our lead programmer to rip it all out.  He'll start fresh instead.  I have the formulas written out.  It's just a matter of getting the new character system node working and writing a new combat system to work with it.  Our combat system is really unusual, but the fact that we're on month 8 and it's barely even started, is pretty discouraging.  I wanted to be alpha testing by now.  At our pace, that's not going to be for another year.  I really need to figure out a way to increase productivity somehow.  I can find good programmers like we have now, but not ones that can devote a steady amount of time per week to learn the engine and code what we need.

A big problem we're having with programmers is that the HeroEngine is such a massive system to learn.  The syntax is a breeze, but there's so many systems that work with other systems.  It's not as simple as tweaking just one thing unless you understand every single system attached to it.  So the time consuming part is memorizing what hundreds of other scripts and nodes do before you can change anything.

But that aside, I think our programming team is starting to get a little more stable.  I like the people on our team.  I wish I could recruit more like them.  At least the ball is starting to roll.

Art side of things, while I was off with my Stairways to Stardom band in the studio, the artists met at a local park and filmed two other the artists on the team acting out our first cinematic.  This will be helpful to use as a video reference for the animation team.

The storyboard is done.  All the concept work is done.  Now it's all up to the 3D team to build the assets and do the animation.  While the 3D team is busy doing that, I've been emailing the Concept team about building concepts for Instances.  I can't wait to get started on that.  finally, I'll be able to start planning out quest content with the artists.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

End of Month 7

I've worked on a lot of projects over the years.  I tend to join, then take over control of some part of the project.  I take it in directions beyond the scope and understanding of the managers above me, though they do tend to really appreciate my work.  Eventually, managers, due to their lack of understanding as to what I'm doing, will change something that fundamentally causes my work to break down.  I can remember times I've tried to explain why their overriding of my work will hurt the project.  That's when they bust out with the, "This is my project, and I want it done like this," and the discussion is over.  I leave the project and, in many cases, burn all bridges behind me thinking about what an idiot the guy was.

Now I'm the manager on a project.  The project has grown beyond the scope of what one person could be in charge of all the details for, creating a need for team leads to be in charge of sections of it.  I mean, I know what the programmers are doing, but I couldn't break it down much further than that.  For example, I thought the designation of character animation associations should go with the abilities class, not the weapon class.  The animations should be associated with the abilities since different abilities will have different animations, even if they use the same weapon.  The programmer team lead disagrees with me on this, because he feels tying animations with the weapon class(something that will be loaded in memory at all times), will send less server calls then if done my way.  I don't agree with that.  In the end, will it really matter? Is it worth making an issue out of it?  He knows the engine a thousand times better than I do.  Might he know more about the situation and he's just not articulating his reasoning well?

There was a problem that happened at the last art meeting, so I changed a policy to prevent it from happening again, and reassigned one of the artists to a different task.  Well, turns out it was a misunderstanding, and it wasn't really a problem after all.  That means my "solution" messes up something, and that artist needs to be assigned back to what she was doing originally.  I superseded what my art team leads had set up when it turned out, I should have left it alone.

Now everything I'm saying here is really, really minor.  But do you get what I'm doing?  I'm doing the same crap to my team leads as idiot project managers have done to me.  They understand what's going on in their piece of the puzzle better than I do, and I have to accept that and trust them.