The Internet at 11:37 PM

Let's be honest. What's the first thing you do when you hop on the internet. You're like, oh my god I'm gonna go be productive and learn something and it's gonna be awesome! And then you start to type in something that starts with... REDDIT. I dunno, all roads lead to Reddit. 

Something magical happened tonight though, at 11:37 PM on Saturday night. My keyboard automatically typed 'R' (I should probably get that looked at) before I knew it, I was on the front page of Reddit. Clickin' like there ain't no tomorrow, but then, I saw it. Inspiration! 

Clearly a comedy piece, I found many things about this interesting. First and foremost, it mentions video games as an art form. Let me repeat that, it's a piece of pop culture mentioning video games as an art form. I love that.

But more than that, I love the general concept of the joke. Exclusivity is something I love in video games. You put in the time to get good, you reap the rewards. You don't put in the time, or you  just try to blast through it, you are denied. 

Difficulty gating is one of my favorite things in video games. It's present in all games, from difficult puzzles in The Legend of Zelda series, to difficult encounters in Bioshock Infinite or World of Warcraft. In single player games it allows the player to find unique solutions to a myriad of problems. In multiplayer games, it allows a team to come together and play as a unit to complete a challenge.

I feel like I have stories to tell, that's what makes me want to make games. I see difficulty gating as a way to make sure that the players who are truly into the story are the players that are receiving the most benefit from the game; be it intrinsic or external motivation that drives them to complete the story, I wish to reward those who do.

Just an interesting post on the internet that got me thinking, I thought I would share it.




What's stopping us

Twitter user @JoshTaylor0605 posed a question the other day that got me thinking. To paraphrase, his question was roughly: what genre is your dream game, what's stopping you from doing it?

I responded hastily, RPG. Time and artistic ability, but this got me to thinking. What really is stopping me? Art is arguably a bit of a roadblock; but is time a fair roadblock? For some people it may be, but would a better question be: how can I re purpose my time to give myself more hours in the day?

I'm gonna be honest, I do a lot in my day. I go to school, I work my day job, I hang out with my girl, but I wonder how many hours are wasted to re-watching Dragon Ball Z for the 3rd time. Or running around in circles on Diablo? 

Didn't have a lot to say, just a few thoughts and a quick self reflection.

Screen Size Dilemma

Matt wrote an interesting write up on the potential screen size(s) on the iPhone 6. I just wanted to follow up on it with a few thoughts of my own.

The iPhone has always been a very accessible platform to develop for. The 'licensing' on it has always been very cheap ($100 annually) and the cut that Apple takes is very competitive, (30% per sale.) Other than monetary reasons, it is fairly easy to learn to program for. An entire application can be programmed with little to no actual coding, and the code is fairly easy to learn from a beginner stand point.

One of the most amazing features though, is only ever having to worry about one or two screen sizes at a time. We programmed ColorGuess and ColorGuess+ fairly poorly, and really only thought about the 4'' screen, and crammed all our stuff into the 3.5'' screen last minute. We've been more careful with Block'd, using content size references instead of static screen sizes, and so far it seems to morph into the 3.5'' screen pretty well. 

But these are easy, why? You may ask. The widths are the same. Let me share a Vine that's been circling my Twitter quite a bit recently: 

With the potential for multiple widths coming up with the iPhone 6, the barrier for new programmers to get into iPhone development is going to become even steeper, and the market for newbies that don't want to deal with 3-4 different screen sizes, is going to vastly shrink.

I'm okay with a larger screen, it's going to have to be a fact of life, I believe. I don't like it, but I'll deal. But please Apple, don't give us two different sizes to deal with. Especially if one of the sizes is essentially an iPad mini with a microphone.



100 Balls, If I Remade It

I'm gonna try myself a new little series here. I'm calling it (for now) If I Remade It. Basically, my idea is to look at popular apps, and think: well, what do I personally think would make this a better game? 

100 Balls really is a cool game. It had a simple concept, simple mechanics and simple aesthetics working for it. For those of you that don't know, you are given 100 balls, and you drop them through a "flood gate," into cups rotating around the screen. 


Not much to it, and that's great. Scoring is based off of how many balls you get in each cup. With green cups being worth 2 points per ball instead of one, blue cups being worth 3, etc...  

Albeit being a little bit slow, it's a good game. It's fun, and it's short and simple. Not completely my cup of tea, and one of the reasons for that is the way that scoring works.  

I like to feel like I'm working towards something in a game. The 2048 tile in 2048 (or the 4096 tile in my case.) Leveling up in an RPG, or that next piece of gear in Diablo or an MMO. There's nothing to work towards in 100 Balls, except a higher score. If I were to redo it, I would make the colored cups have a growing multiplier. Let me explain:

As it stands, dropping a ball in the green cup turns it green, and every time after that when I drop the green ball in a cup it gives me 2 points instead of one. When I drop that green ball into a blue cup, it turns it blue, gives me 3 points and continues to give me 3 points until I drop it in a green cup, and it gets reset to green. 

I want to see combinations. I want to see a buildup to a ball that is giving me so many points, I will be upset when I drop it and miss the cup! It's weird to say I want to have an attachment to some of these balls, but I really do. The way it stands now is just kinda lack luster to me. Have a cup that makes my balls worth 2 points, and then if I drop it in the right cup, they become worth 4 points, but if I drop them back in the two point cup, I still get 4 points. Give me a reason to not want to drop all the balls into every cup that passes.  

Those are just my thoughts on what I would do differently. Again, it's a good game, and it's deserving of it's spot on the App Store. These are just some things that I personally think could make it stronger. 

Online Homework, an Epidemic Part II

Oh hey look, free time (or, at least, something that resembles it.) Now seems like an excellent time for continuing my discussion on online teaching tools.

Last time I wrote about what my complaints and the downsides that I saw in the way that the current standard for these tools is. Let me stress that it isn’t only Aleks that has these issues, but Pearson and any other tool I’ve ever worked with has the same downfalls.

I’ve already touched on how it’s being misused, but let me recap. Instead of being used as an aid, these tools are being used as the go to place for teaching. They boast comprehensive preparation, which for some students is absolutely true. For the right student, these tools could completely eliminate the need for lecture and recitation in person. However, the problem is that not all students are the type of student that can absorb information via text and reading. Many students need a combination of text, audio and graphical Medias in order to really learn the material. Just reading an explanation of the covered material will never be enough for a student who needs more.

We don’t go to school to teach ourselves the material in homework. We don’t pay universities obscene amounts of money for them to tell us to buy another access code to learn from. We go to school to learn, we pay to be taught. It’s an honest to God problem that Emily can come home from Chemistry and tell me that she learned nothing, and when I look at her notes and see that they don’t cover any of the material on the homework, I know she’s not exaggerating.

To me it seems pretty obvious how the current system could be used better. It should be in supplement to the lecture. A student, Emily for example, should be able to come home after her lecture on Monday, look at the Aleks assignment, and feel like she knows the basic premise of the material. Here’s where these systems can really shine: student exploration and discovery on their own is a very powerful teaching method. Online tools like this can support that in so many ways, encouraging students to look in their textbooks, check online, and seek support from their peers. All of this, however, is unobtainable if the student is going in blind to the assignment.

In short, this can all be summed up as follows: the problem isn’t that the students have questions or that they don’t know what to do, that’s okay. The problem is that students don’t know what the right questions to ask are.

I’m going to leave it there for now. Next time I plan to talk about what things could be added to these tools to make them truly remarkable. Education is changing, instead of using technology to support the old ways, we should change education to utilize the new technology.


Check back tomorrow for another peak at my puzzle project.