Fahrenheit – Passion, Practice, and Iteration

This week past brought me the pleasure of completing Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a short, terrifyingly prescient, and thoroughly enjoyable read. I could write tomes about the work itself – I’m sure others already have – but for what I might contribute you should instead read the novella itself as I nod and smile along. What spurred me to writing today though was not the work itself, but the afterword from its author. The thing I want to discuss is not the text itself, but the action of its creation.

In his afterword, written many years after the novella, Bradbury discusses how Fahrenheit 451 came to be: in leaps and bounds, an accumulation of ideas on similar themes around five short stories written over the course of years, finally brought together, ignited and burned by a spark of passion for nine days. I remember this was touched upon in the foreword, where I marvelled at the idea, knowing from his short stories the quality of writing I was to expect, that this entire book could have been composed in only nine days! But the foreword did not make so clear the extent to which this creation was informed by his previous works and experience – that this was the latest iteration and collation of ideas that had long been brewing.

I have been harried constantly in all aspects of my life by my own ambition and my own perfectionism – always aspiring to create great things, to create big things, always fearing failures, fearing missteps, fearing mediocrity. If I’m to write one thing on the actual content of Fahrenheit today it will be this: that for everything Bradbury feared and guessed correctly that technology would do to isolate us, it has done perhaps as much to connect us. That is to say, in our modern, fibre-optic world, a malcontent and recluse such as myself can say with surety that he is not alone in suffering these specific symptoms.

Here then, I will say stupid things, I will say obvious things such as “practice makes perfect” and “don’t try to run before you can walk”, but I will say them in far too many words, because the human mind is a stupid thing that often fails in understanding when given facts or common sense alone. Bradbury says “I am a passionate, not an intellectual writer”, and I realise, my palm affixed sorely to my forehead, the importance of that passion. The urge to withhold from creation, whether to preserve your reputation or to hold back what you deem your best ideas for fear you cannot do them justice, is an intellectual urge, often directly in conflict with the passion that churned up those ideas in the first place. That passion must be given a space to play, to grow and develop the idea, to graze its knee and bruise its lip and learn its place in the world.

My proposal to follow Bradbury’s example then, is this: Allow that passion to carry you for a spell – to shorter destinations at first than you might aspire to, but destinations none-the-less, not rest-stops. Write short stories, paint thumbnails, sketch studies, make maquettes not masterpieces. Do what you can do now and a little bit more. Then, when your passion has had its play engage your intellectual self: step to the side and look at what you’re done. Let it sink in. Appreciate and criticise it. Share it with the world if you wish, whether you’re proud of it or not.

Perhaps, as I, you fear that an idea, once used, cannot be reclaimed, repackaged and presented anew without mockery, in this fast-moving, all new, all now, modern world; this is proven false time and time again. Though my eyes were shut until a year or so ago I see it now in the works of writers, film-makers, musicians and more; in Bradbury and Tolkien and Carpenter, even in whole production teams and companies – especially in video games. Creators constantly reforge the same blade in the same old flame, each time learning the shape and temper of it, removing something, adding something new, presenting it in a new light informed by all their efforts before. The worst that comes of this is that perhaps the newer work is not so well received by those suffering from exposure to its predecessor, but if successful the work should stand on its own and find some new audience to surprise. Besides, you needn’t worry about that yet if, like I, you will tarry in obscurity for a time before producing anything that would garner much attention. Again, here, the internet is an unfortunately double-edged sword – on the one hand helping a burgeoning creator find their audience, on the other perhaps thrusting them too soon into the spotlight, undressed and clutching armfuls of unripe fruit. The choice of what to do with that fruit, as its gardener, is yours alone.

As I finish writing this, I sit here over a year since beginning the series of articles I promised on the NieR/Drakengard series of video games. I have completed only two of those articles, both concerning the first of five games, and have an extensive draft of the first article concerning the second game lingering somewhere in cyberspace. Those articles are considerably longer and more complicated things than this, and as such require numerous sessions and revisions to complete. I lead a relatively uneventful life and yet, for the reasons here discussed, it hasn’t been easy to find the time, energy, or self-assuredness for that. So given the subject of this post I am pleased to have succeeded in my effort to complete and publish this shorter work in a single, undisturbed sitting, with minimal revision. I hope that somebody finds it an interesting read and not overly flawed, but I make no apologies. Perhaps I’ll find a way to say it again, better, in a few years.

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Portfolio Update – Game Behaviour

Hello!

I recently put up pages for two projects from the Game Behaviour module undertaken in the final year of my BScH in Computer Games Programming at the University of Derby, which I have now fully completed and received a very pleasant classification for.

You can now head over to the pages for Crispis and DropCakes, and The Frozen Firepits of Generic Dungeon Name for information on these projects, or to download the source code and executables. The former is simply a 2D physics sandbox built upon Box2D and a custom Entity/Component engine, and probably isn’t or much interest to many. The latter, however, you may find interesting if you’re into game design, classic roguelikes, fantasy games, and such.

The Frozen Firepits of Generic Dungeon Name (TFFGDN) was an experimental game design implemented for an artificial intelligence (AI) assignment; it did well, though the AI isn’t too interesting in my opinion. It’s a fusion of turn-based, physics-based mechanics similar to Snooker or Pool, and classic fantasy dungeon-crawler games where a party of adventurers of traditional achetypes such as Warrior, Wizard, Rogue, etc. enter into a monster-infest labyrinth seeking treasure. In its current state it’s not too thrilling; I had intended to implement magic and special abilities for player characters and enemies, which I think would make things a lot more exciting, but I just didn’t have time. I also feel like the physics could be tightened up a lot to increase the pace of gameplay, but I had to do a lot of fiddling with Unity just to get it working in the first place.

Come next week or so I’ll try to have some more information up regarding my dissertation project which was an investigation into AI for Don Eskridge’s The Resistance. Then I can get onto undertaking some small personal projects while I look for work.

A Note of Intent

Aaargh.

I decided I wasn’t going to bother posting another update here until I’d settled back into uni and sunken my teeth into some fresh projects I could write about. I suddenly find myself almost two-months into the final year of my degree and I’ve been rather too busy to give it a second thought.

So here’s a note of intent: I will, sooner or later, make a proper post about this semester’s projects, before the semester is concluded, including my dissertation project, which was signed off by my supervisor last week and is now awaiting my full attention…after two more urgent deadlines. For now, I’ll just leave a brief list of what I’m currently working on:

1. An essay on the sufficiency of services provided by modern operating systems for accessing detailed information about gaming peripherals [due two weeks from now – yikes!].

2. A Unity game about parkour and painting. Think Jet Set Radio meets Mirror’s Edge meets Tony Hawks Underground. This is a team project with three other programmers from my course, and seven artists from the University of Derby’s Computer Games Modelling and Animation course [due sometime around the end of the semester].

3. For my dissertation project I am to be investigating the posibility of applying various AI techniques to the board/card game The Resistance. This may include search trees and evolutionary techniques, and I will be using the competition framework and bots provided by AiGameDev.com last year.

These are the things I’ll be posting about and/or creating new pages for here when I get chance. All the other stuff I do I’ll likely post about elsewhere if I even have the time to continue doing things other than eat, sleep, and code.

I cook some nowadays, and bake a little; I still study Korean, and I’m trying to snatch back the graphic design and art skills I used to have. But I’d like to keep this blog focussed more on programming, and the larger projects I undertake.

Another Self Indugant Status Update

Just checking in, lest this period of inactivity so soon after declaring my productive intentions fall under scrutiny at some point in the future. Everything went a bit pear-shaped this week, as things do when you arrive home one Friday after work to find water intruding through your ceiling from the unoccupied flat above, it takes three days to get their mains shut off and then you’re left with a gaping uninsulated hole in your ceiling.

This weekend I’m catching up on the relaxation I was deprived of last, and getting some admin chores out of the way such as maintaining my monthly internship journal for my university course, resurrecting my long dormant Lang-8 account, updating my short and long term to-do lists, and posting this.

Whatever this is.

Hopefully next weekend or in the afternoons of the coming week I’ll actually get my ceiling fixed and start pulling my mind back into a useful state. I’ll likely post again tomorrow or next weekend about my intentions for the rest of my time here – I want to finally get a grip on the priority balancing issues that have plagued me since I moved to London.

It snowed yesterday and I would have considered a chilly walk along the Thames early today  had it not all been made all sloppy and yuck by the morning rains. That would have been the perfect opportunity to get my shit together.

Anyway, here’s a photograph of King George’s Park I took yesterday on my phone.Ciao.

Image

year 2013 {

So I’ve been down in London for about five months now, and it’s been about that long since I last posted here. The reason for that is because I honestly haven’t a lot to show for that time; work takes up the majority of my waking hours, and frankly after staring at alien code for so long every weekday it’s hard to conjure up the motivation to do the same in my free time, putting pay to what has been my primary hobby for the last four or so years. All in all I’ve felt a bit overwhelmed  so far, something I hope to cope better with in this new year.

Being in London I have taken the opportunity to go about and see a few of the sites, though I’m being rather careful with my finances at the moment because London rent is insane. I’ve been over to Camden, Shoreditch, Wimbledon town, and have walked along the Thames on multiple occasions, most notably when I went over to the Waterloo region of it for the Mayor’s Thames Festival. I have some nice photographs of these things which I may append to this post, or put up elsewhere, but being in London has been generally uneventful so far.

Back at the flat I have managed to push ahead with a few of my interests. I’ve written a lot more Lang-8 entries in my time here, and gotten a lot more Korean grammar points into my skull, but the few opportunities to speak to Korean people and consume Korean media have shown that my chief obstacles are still listening and vocabulary. I’ve not progressed with drawing and digital art as much as I’d like, though doodling at work during compiles and loading, and a weekly ‘contest’ of sorts with a friend have helped to improve my confidence and get me settled into my tablet.

I have done some programming, mostly in the form of the two (failed) Ludum Dare attempts I’ve made – both times setting my aims too high and giving in shortly before the deadline, but the majority of my programming experience over the last five months has been simply building on my knowledge of compiler, linker, and platform discrepancies through tedious debugging work at the office. I’ve also dealt with a few scripting languages including bash, zsh and perl, and had the ‘opportunity’ to get to grips with Mac UI development with the Cocoa API.

I’ll finish up this long and uninteresting post with links to my Ludum Dare-attempt postmortems, and a few photographs I’ve taken around London. Best of luck for 2013 – whoever you are.

Links
Ludum Dare 24
Ludum Dare 25

Shinies

연희당 팔산대 (Yeonheedan Palsandae) at the Mayor's Thames Festival 2012

연희당 팔산대 (Yeonheedan Palsandae) at the Mayor’s Thames Festival 2012

Building adornment near Waterloo station

Building adornment near Waterloo station

Stables market in Camden

Stables market in Camden

Camden Lock

Camden Lock

Accidental couple shot at the Mayor's Thames Festival 2012

Accidental couple shot at the Mayor’s Thames Festival 2012

London Posting

So a couple of months ago I made this post about what I planned to do with my summer. Well, summer was shorter and busier than I thought it might be, so my best laid plans kind of fell to pieces. I don’t mind of course – I found a decent placement for the year after all – but the chaos that’s dominated the last month or so has left me kind of disorientated.

So where do I stand? I’m in London now, working full-time for a company named ‘Feral Interactive‘, and have just come off of a three-week stint without internet, during which I’ve walked too many miles, watched too many TV series, and played too much Ys. Before that, and before all of the effort that went into arranging the move, I did manage to get through those WebGL tutorials, read a good deal of the Python documentation, and dig through the internet in search of information about network programming for games (without much luck). Mostly though, I just studied Korean and house-hunted. I also bought a small graphics tablet – a Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch – but I’ve had no time to look into digital art, so I’ve barely gotten used to controlling the thing.

The apartment I have here is small, but nice. It’s essentially two rooms with an entrance down a back-alley – what would be the kitchen-bathroom extension on a terraced. I don’t really spend much time here, what with my working hours, but what I do spend here is comfortable. Once I’m settled I want to get to work on the things that got put off this summer. I’m four chapters in on this maths book, but I’ve yet to get around to doing any OpenGL programming and still haven’t regained any confidence in drawing. To be honest I’ve also considered just taking advantage of the Korean presence down here in London – making language study my extra-curricular priority for the year. Work is tiring, life is complicated. Time will tell.

Right now, I’m watching 원스 어폰 어 타임 임 생초리 (Once Upon a Time in Saengchori). Next? Maybe I’ll hammer out another chapter of this maths book.

Something smells good. I think I live next door to a takeaway.

Moley Moley Moley Mole

It occurred to me yesterday that one of my major projects from this year was lacking it’s own page, so I spent a little time today typing up some info. There aren’t pictures yet, because I’m away from my desktop at the moment (actually its in pieces too) and I could never get the Android SDK running on my laptop, but at least there’s something there.

Head over to the new Mega Driller Mole page to check it out, if you like.