Some Nerdy Stuff

March 9, 2009

Personal Projects

Filed under: Uncategorized — aaronls @ 3:13 am

I’ve always tried to start on doing some programming on personal projects, but I never get very far before something pulls me away.  When it comes to something opensource, I always find myself working with C++, which I am not as good with as I am C#, and getting over the hump of getting it to compile the first time seems the one thing that I have a hard time with.  It is often the least documented thing, or even if it is documented, they’ve changed the way they are doing things drastically since it was documented.

Where I was previously a lead programmer, I always stressed the importance of making sure it is easy to pull down a projet and compile it.  All the dependencies should be easy to pull down and resolve.  Alot of developer time can be wasted if you have a shop where people are hopping from project to project and often find themselves on a computer where they need to pull down the newest version of a project.

Since I’m trying to find a less demanding job or begin a degree, then maybe now I will actually have time to accomplish something.

The complexity of “getting back into” something after some down time, is the same reason I never finish complex games.  If it’s one of those games that uses almost every key on your keyboard, then I can never remember them all, and even though you can normally look in the configuration, it’s still not very fun trying to get your bearings.  I tend to go without playing some computer games for weeks at a time before I get back into them.  If it’s a game like BF2 that is a pain to log into and find a good server, then I generally never play it.  I find it really disappointing how a lot of game makers have moved backwards in usability in regards to how easy the process of actually running the game and getting into are.  BTW, props to the makers of UT3.  The “quick find” feature works fairly reliably for getting into a server fast.  Shame on those developers who have adopted Windows Live login.  Want to cause yourself some frustration?  Try this:

1) Buy Fallout 3
2) Create an offline Windows Live account(You just want to play the game right?  It’s a single player game, so who cares about the internet?  Achievements are just numbers on a screen anyways.), then play your game for awhile saving your progress as you go.
3) Then go out and buy Grand Theft Auto 4, which is another Windows Live game.
4) Again, you just wanna get right into the game, so you don’t want to bother with a Windows Live account, so you use your existing offline account.
5) Play the game for awhile, saving as you go.
6) Decide that you want to play multiplayer GTA4.
7) Now you have to create an online Windows Live account.
8) Upon doing so, you will find that your save games are associated with the other account, and there is apparently no way to transfer them. (Although you can transfer Fallout 3 save games across accounts just by moving files).
9) Additionally, signing in automatically as one account in one game, causes you to also use that account in other games.  Thus you run into this juggling act where you sign into the older offline account to access old saved games, or the newer online account to play online.  When you run a different game, depending on which account you started your progress under, you generally have to sign out, then sign back in with appropriate account.  Good luck remembering which account is which.
10) Bonus round!  In GTA4, multiplayer is accessed via the ingame virtual cell phone.  So you login with your new online account so that you can play online, but you don’t have a game saved, so you must hit Start to begin a new game, and click through the intro, wait for it to load, just so you can bring up the cellphone and activate multiplayer.

Whoever decided to put the multiplayer option as an item on the ingame phone, rather than the main menu, should receive one rabid wolverine in the pants.  You probably thought it’d be “cool” or “clever”.  I’m tired of these developers who don’t know how to put themselves in the shoes of their users.  In this case the developer probably thinks I should go jump off a cliff, and rationalizes that I “can not comprehend innovative concepts like this”.  He or she probably thinks it is so cool that they had the idea to put the multiplayer option on the ingame cellphone.  What they don’t understand is that none of that matters.  This is not some charitable open source product where you can perhaps do it however you want and tell people “if you don’t like it, don’t use it”.  People are paying you to provide them a quality product.  Your users and their experience should be above all, or you will be missing the mark.  If the user’s experience, and your cool idea are ever at odds, then the user’s experience should win out.

The fact is, many people will be tired of single player, as with many other games, but will continue to play the game in multiplayer for years.  This is true for many other games.  The dynamics, humor, and challenge you get when pitted against other humans is totally different than what any AI has yet to provide.  To force upon your multiplayer users these extra steps is absurd.  They will gradually become the majority of the user base as they finish single player or grow tired of it.  Additionally, it is more likely that the users who want to play multiplayer are more likely to be the ones to purchase the game rather than bootleg it, since it is generally very difficult to nearly impossible to play a cracked game online.  So why punish your multiplayer users with a painful user interface, when it is likely that out of all your users, they are more than likely the ones who have paid for the game?

I perhaps am being too mean here, as I’m sure there was some context to it being a good idea, but when you bring it all together, then just taking yourself mentally through a typical use case should have raised some red flags.

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