Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I'm Moving to a New Blog!

I've moved to a new blog! Here's the link:

I plan to keep this site up for the sake of not breaking any links that might be pointing to this one.

Still waiting for part three of the Magnet Ball articles? Click here to read the full postmortem!

Click here to read about what I have planned for the new blog (and why I decided to make a new blog in the first place).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

It's Time to Revive this Blog

It's been eight months since I last updated this blog! That's basically almost an entire academic school year. So rather than doing what I did last time, where I wrote an 1800-word blog post that basically said, "I'm busy," I'm instead going to talk briefly about some of the near-term plans that I have for the future of this blog.

The main reason why this blog grew inactive was because almost all of my posts tried to become super-huge, mega-articles, and that habit just became too impractical to maintain. I've talked about this problem before, but bad habits are hard to break, especially when you feel like you have to maintain a consistent style of content across the whole blog. I've tried writing smaller, less significant posts before, but I never really liked them because they felt like they were out of tune with the rest of the blog.

One of the good things about coming back after such a long hiatus is that it's a lot easier to stop worrying about things like that, which gives me the freedom to develop a new style for the blog that will end up being more engaging for my readers and less painful for me. I'll probably still end up writing some long articles every once in a while, but I'm also looking forward to writing some shorter ones.

I will also try to remember to post more about myself every once in a while, especially when interesting things are happening to me. I've always been somewhat opposed to writing posts about myself, mainly because I always saw the core content of the blog to be about game design and development rather than about me. Although, I've now realized that this is a really silly sentiment to have when writing for a blog that's named after yourself, and it's especially silly when considering that most of my readers would definitely be interested in my personal updates since most of them know me from outside of this blog.

So what topics can you expect me to write about in the near future? Well, at the current moment, I've been working on a postmortem for Magnet Ball, which was the game that I made for this year's Independent Games Festival. Since that's definitely going to be one of my super-articles, I'll likely release a smaller post before I'm finished with that article, and such a post may end up being as short as this one.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Retrospective of SISTA's Game Design Workshop

As I mentioned last month, the University of Arizona’s new School of Information: Science, Technology, and Arts (SISTA) has been organizing a Game Design Workshop for kids. The workshop was a one-week summer program that aimed to teach kids about game design and development, and I was lucky enough to have been hired as a teaching assistant for it. There was one other TA, as well as three instructors, which meant we were a team of five teachers in total.

Our biggest challenge was the fact that this was a brand new workshop being run for the very first time, so we essentially had to design it from the ground up. The bulk of the work was done by the instructors, while we TAs were given specific tasks to learn Stencyl, take notes on our experience, and design some lessons for it. During the several weeks before the workshop started, we were mostly working remotely, using online tools like Google Docs to collaborate. During the final week of preparation, we all met up to bring everything together and to "test" the design of the workshop so far by running through a mock version of it. The workshop then ran for two sessions, where each session lasted for one school-week (five days), and then end with a big playtesting event, where all of the parents and relatives could come in to play the students' games.

So was the workshop a success? Many of the people involved—from the kids, to their parents, to the rest of the SISTA faculty—were blown away by how amazing they thought the workshop was. The positive feedback was pretty consistent across both sessions, and it’s been immensely satisfying to read through the anonymous surveys that we’ve been collecting.

In this post, I’ll point out the various aspects of the workshop that I thought made it work so well, while also pointing out the various problems that we failed to avoid. Even though I found the typical postmortem format to be pretty useful when writing this, this is more accurately described as a retrospective. I'm not really in a position to be able to speak for the entire team, and since part of the goal of this post was to critique my own performance as a TA, I've added a few self-evaluation sections as well.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I've Gone Viral! . . . In China?

This blog really doesn't get much traffic at all. I get anywhere from 2-20 pageviews per day, and that number usually spikes up to around 40-60 views on the days following a new post. The "low season" in between posts isn't completely dead, because plenty of people seem to land here from Google Images. For instance, I got an interesting spike in traffic last month when Extra Credits started a T-Shirt design contest and apparently a lot of users were landing in my History of Extra Credits articles looking for images.

However, these mini-spikes in views usually aren't very significant compared to the traffic I get from subscribers every time I post. So imagine my surprise when I noticed a spike that was slightly bigger than the usual new-post spike. This spike happened just a few days before I posted my most recent post, and that should have been part of a really low season since I haven't posted an update in over a month. After looking into it, I found not one, not two, but three websites with articles linking to me.

Long story short, someone seems to have translated my article on How to Think Like a Designer into Han Chinese. And since then, it's been getting passed around and reposted on multiple Chinese websites.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why I'm no longer Skeptical about SISTA's new Game Design Workshop

[This article explores some of my fears and predictions about the workshop. To find out how it actually went, click here!]

Starting tomorrow, the University of Arizona's School of Information: Science, Technology, and Arts (SISTA) will be launching its first Game Design Workshop. It's a one-week program designed for kids between 6th and 12th grade, and it's being run for two consecutive sessions. I volunteered to be one of the two teaching assistants helping to run the workshop, and our latest assignment is to write a reflection on how we think the workshop might go. One purpose of this reflection is to produce a more visible representation of the work I've been doing so far, which makes this assignment a perfect fit for a blog post!

Given how busy I've been all summer, I was starting to think that I wouldn't be able to update this blog again until fall, so I'm glad that I was able to use this assignment as an excuse for a new post. Plus this gives me a good chance to practice writing posts with smaller scopes. Most of my posts tend to start out with a vague plan that I'll just talk about everything I want to say on a single topic, and then I'll figure out how to merge them all into a coherent thesis later. It is an absurdly slow process, and it's about time I stopped doing that.

For instance, this post started out as a list of predictions about how the workshop might go, plus some descriptions of the interesting aspects of the workshop's design woven in. Fortunately, I had enough sense to realize that the workshop would probably be over before I could even finish such a post.