Saturday, April 7, 2012

Everything I've Been Doing Lately

Now that it's been almost two months since my last blog post, I figured it was time for a mandatory blog update. Because I don't have time right now to finish one of the longer posts that I've been working on for the past several weeks, I decided to write a quick post that will hopefully make the slowness of updates seem more justified.

There have been many times when I've wanted to post about some of the cool things that have been happening to me lately, but I just didn't like the idea of posting several small updates about them. If I did that, then the smaller updates might start to crowd out the "real" ones, which might turn this blog into a self-promotional personal blog, rather than a game design analysis blog. So to prevent that, I'll just dump everything I've wanted to say into one big post.

Game Design Research with Riverman Media

Some of you may remember that I teamed up with Riverman Media last semester to run an online advertisement campaign for them as part of a class project. Even though the marketing campaign wasn't a very good idea in the first place, the co-founder of the company, Jacob Stevens, wanted to continue working with me, so he offered me an internship / independent study with them.

Since it's more of an independent study than an internship, Jacob assigned me a project that would allow me to explore a challenging game design problem. So throughout this past semester, I've been researching, designing, and building an educational game that would be appealing for adults, as opposed to kids who are in school. It really is an incredible learning experience, not just because of the experience that it's giving me, but because I'm exploring one of the most infamously broken genres of video games, learning from their failures, and trying to come up with solutions that actually work.

The internship was originally planned to last for one semester, but I plan to continue this project next semester for my Honors Thesis, which is basically a research project that students must accomplish if they want to graduate from the Honors College of the University of Arizona.

Teaching and Public Speaking

I've been giving educational talks at my club for about a year now, but we've only just now started recording them and uploading them to YouTube. If you can get past the low sound quality, bad public speaking, and the fact that these videos are each one hour long, then you might want to watch these if you're interested in learning more about game development and how to break into the industry. I suggest approaching these videos as if they were podcasts, so you should find something else to do while watching them. Maybe play Minecraft, because Minecraft is a great game to play while listening to podcasts.

I wish my speaking skills were as great as my writing skills. I've definitely gotten over the fear of being in front of a crowd a long time ago, so I just need practice with speaking more clearly and designing better talks. I was hoping these videos would help me become more aware of my flaws, but I think what I really need is good coaching. This is why I've recently joined the local Toastmasters Club (a public speaking club), and I'm currently trying to see how much I can get out of that club without paying their dues.

Speaking at my club has really gotten me interested in teaching. It turns out that the Computer Science Department at the University of Arizona has a Section Leader Program, similar to a teaching assistant (TA) program, which basically gives students the opportunity to teach the discussion sections of the department's core courses. Unfortunately, I've decided not to apply to this program yet because I won't have enough time for it next semester.

I have, however, applied to become a TA for the SISTA department's Game Design Workshop this summer, but even if they accept me, I'm not sure if I can afford to pay for summer housing.

I've Been Interviewed, Twice!

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Jesse Tannous, a reporter for who wanted to write an article about the club. He still hasn't published the article, because it seems like reporting isn't his main job and because he prefers to put extra effort and polish into his articles. He seemed like a really cool guy, and I definitely recommend checking out his work.

Earlier this week I was interviewed for another article, this time for the Daily Wildcat, which is a local newspaper targeted towards students of the University of Arizona. I'm not a big fan of this newspaper, mainly because their articles tend to be rushed and poorly written, but I'm glad this article turned out to be pretty decent.

These interviews really seemed to have come out of nowhere, because the club really hasn't done anything that was particularly news worthy. Most people seem to be impressed by the simple fact that the club has managed to stay active.

The Game Developers Conference!

About a month ago, I attended the Game Developers Conference for the first time. I absolutely loved being at the conference. It was incredibly inspiring to be completely immersed in the world of game development, to be surrounded by developers from all over the world, and to talk to them about games and the industry. This trip confirmed my beliefs that this is definitely the industry that I want to work in.

The conference lasts for five days, but I was only able to attend the last three days because I had purchased the Expo Pass ($200 USD, the second cheapest pass), which unfortunately didn't even give me access to any of the talks. I tried to see if I could sneak into some of talks, but they were too heavily guarded. I definitely want to go again next year, so hopefully I'll be able to afford the Indie Games Summit Pass ($325 USD, the third cheapest pass).

To prepare for this trip, I bought 250 "free" business cards from Vistaprint for about $14 USD. Their default card templates seemed to have been designed with the sole intention of being as ugly as possible, but I resisted the urge to import my own designs because that would have doubled the price. Instead, I chose a blank template, and then I spent hours looking for exploits and glitches in the template system that would allow me to add extra spacing (and even an underline!), in an attempt to improve the typography a bit.

I definitely could have networked a lot better. I gave out about 50 cards, which isn't bad, but I really should have followed up with more of my contacts once the conference was over. It was very convenient that I had spring break right after the conference, which should have given me plenty of time to follow up with people, but for some reason, I just never found the time.

Preparing for this trip has also forced me to finally make an online portfolio page, as well as a fleshed out LinkedIn profile, which has a very generous depiction of my work history. My main motivation for putting those things in my work history was for formatting purposes. I've never actually had a real paying job before, and this is why I don't have a lot of money. I make a very small amount of money from ads on the Interguild, but most of my money tends to come from random web development work for my father's websites, or from gifts from relatives.

If you look at the top of the sidebar to the right of this post, you'll notice a link proclaiming that I'm looking for internships. That's technically a lie, because I don't really want an internship right now, for reasons that will become clear in the next section

If you want to learn more about my trip, as well as my friends' trips to GDC, you should watch this meeting of the Game Developers Club.

The Ambitious IGF 2013 Project

At the Game Developers Conference, I shared a hotel room with Tyler May, a friend of mine and an officer in my club who wants to become a producer in the games industry. While we attended the IGF/GDC Awards show on Wednesday night, we decided to start a project in order to win next year's Independent Games Festival.

For the past month, Tyler and I have been putting tons of effort into assembling the perfect team to help us get to next year's Independent Games Festival. After working on countless team projects for the past few years, I've grown really tired of working with disappointing teammates, so I saw this project as a way to work with the team of my dreams. I put extra care into designing the ideal team experience, not just for myself, but for every single one of our team members, and I'm really proud of the results so far.

At the time of this writing, we are almost done with the recruitment process. We would still like to find a musician, and it would also be nice to have an artist who can animate. Once our team has been finalized, I would like to write a retrospective of the recruitment process, because I think there's a lot to learn here about how to assemble a strong, unified team.

Everything Else...

Before the IGF project, I was pretty busy, but now my schedule is just overflowing with work. Normally what happens when I get busy is that I neglect some projects in favor of others, but this is the first time I've ever had to force myself to let go of some of the things that I want to do.

For instance, it wasn't until recently that I realized that I had become involved with four clubs: GameDev, ACM, SEO, and Toastmasters. Now I've pretty much stopped going to all of them, except for GameDev, of course.

I've also been forced to neglect the Interguild for much longer than usual, which has motivated my members to start a forum thread called "Livio's what we want him to do List," which contains a list of complaints and requests that I should address upon my return. When I finally did return, it was just in time to set up this year's April Fools Day prank, which I imagine must have been very suspicious.

And of course, this blog is also a big part of my schedule. It's pretty embarrassing how I've been working on a post for the last several weeks that I still haven't been able to release yet. I should probably consider changing my writing style. Rather than making large comprehensive posts that present many interesting ideas, perhaps I'll start writing smaller, less ambitious posts, like this one.


  1. Your smaller, less ambitious post is 1830 words. I think you could go smaller and less ambitious still and get plenty across. This blog has helped me a lot in dealing with the "I want to do everything" problem.

  2. I follow that blog too. But whenever I consider "What would Cal Newport do?", I feel like he would probably start dropping responsibilities at this point. Unfortunately, I really don't want to give up some of my projects, so maybe the next best thing would be to declare some kind of hiatus from them.

    Haha, maybe I shouldn't have used the word "smaller", because word-count doesn't really say much about how difficult it was to write a post. The reason this post was so quick to write was because there wasn't a lot of analysis going on here so I didn't have much of a problem trying to figure out how to organize and structure my ideas properly.

  3. This was long to read mate, but it sure was worth it. Looks like you've been quite active lately, I have to congratulate you on most stuff. Despite me being quite a no-know about these things, it looks like you're going the right way and stuff. I was reaheaheaaaally impressed with the 1-hour-long video and the fact that you've been talking these for a whole year now. You should be keeping track of these videos, especially if you're the one who both created and talked them out. This will be a good tool for you in the future, as an example for 'teaching' or colleagiating experience.(is that a word, what I said? lol).

    Anyway - if that's how your life goes on, you have the permission to be absent from the IG :)

  4. At first I was pretty convinced that "colleagiating" wasn't a real word, but then I found this:

    I have 4 weeks of classes left before my summer break begins. It's probably a deep-rooted tradition by now that I'm supposed to get all excited about how much more time I'm going to devote to the Interguild this summer. I've actually been looking forward to making more Minecraft videos of the new server, but I'll probably be spending most of my time working on the IGF project, much in the same way that I spent almost all of my winter break working on Aeon.

    Maybe it's because I'm always so critical, but I've never considered my talks to be very good. So thanks, it's really nice to hear some positive feedback on them!