Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A New Spin on Class Participation

In my game programming class last night I was reminded yet again that the world has changed since I was a student. I've set up a Subversion server in my lab so that the artists and programmers can keep a group repository of their developing game. During class I assigned a homework to be submitted on the subversion server, and lo and behold, as I was showing them on my laptop how to turn it in, I see that one of the students in the class had already accessed the repository from his laptop while I was lecturing.

This is a Good Thing.

Professors today need to remember that this is an "on demand" world and tailor their classes accordingly.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I brought home something from the class that I wasn't expecting - the flu. :(

More later.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Torque X Boot Camp: Day 2

This is the third day (I started numbering at Day 0). We briefly went through the process of adding delegates to a game object in our 2D games. Now we're looking at Torque 3D. There's no Builder, so everything is done in XML. They're working on a 3D Builder though, which will make the whole process much easier.

They're focussing on the Art pipeline. We're going to create an object in 3D Studio Max and bring it into the Torque 3D terrain demo. After that we messed with the code a little to make the player teleport to the place a grenade ends at. It's all quite simple code, as usual with this kind of thing the majority of the time is spent in deciphering the wrappers and figuring out which class has the responsibility we need, and then figuring out what they named the appropriate function. Sigh.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Torque X Boot Camp: Day 1

Now we're working through a tutorial guided by the instructor.

Notice the coffee and banana for breakfast. Dilbert again. Here's a short video showing what we're doing - bouncy Garage Games logos.


Finally, Breakout with flies.

At dinner we broke up and a group of out-of-towners opted for steak, while my wife and I drove a small goup to Jinbeh in Lewisville, arguably the best sushi in the area. The cognitive dissonance of being served by two Mexican sushi chefs is made up for by the excellence of the food. We're not talking Fusion here, we're talking classical Japanese restaurant-style sushi.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Torque X Boot Camp: Day 0

Up at 6:00am. Argh. I'm seeing the sunrise from the "other side", I'm getting flashbacks to being a graduate student again. Shower. Breakfast. The dog looks at me like I'm crazy.

The drive to SMU at Legacy is easier than I expect, less than 50 minutes. They have a reasonable breakfast set out, heavy on the bananas. Are they sending us a message here? I'm thinking of the Dilbert cartoon that says that Engineers tend to lose credibility when they're eating bananas.

There are about 17 students in class, and 3 instructors from Garage Games. Stephen Zepp and John Kanalakis are the instructors, Davey Johnson the facilitator. So far, so good.

Here we go...

We're going around introducing ourselves. There's a good mix, high school teachers and university faculty. So far everybody seems to be a newbie... some have industry experience and are new at the academic thing, and some are academics and/or teachers just starting out with game development.

That took a long time. The rest of the day discussed concepts. It might have been too long for those of us who already know what we're doing, but totally incomprehensible to those who don't.

Dinner was at Mi Cocina just around the corner from the Guildhall.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Torque X Boot Camp, Day -1

Aspiring game developers among you will be aware that Torque is an incredible game engine that is available for newbies to learn the ropes of game programming, so to speak. Garage Games are holding a Boot Camp for teachers tomorrow at SMU's Guildhall for the upcoming Torque X, a version of Torque for Microsoft's XNA Express.

My first thought was that it's a little elitist. They're holding it at the Guildhall, which right away is an elite institution, charging upwards of $30K per year for a game development diploma. But at least it's pretty centrally located in Dallas, and it's a venue that adds a little pizazz to the event. Garage Games are charging $750 for the Boot Camp, $600 if you register early. On the face of it that's pretty damn good value for 3 days of training, but at my institution (which unlike Guildhall charges students $3K per year) if I have that kind of money I usually have more pressing things to spend it on rather than personal training. RTFM is free, after all. Fortunately, Davey Jackson was kind enough to let me attend for free if I write a review and give them pointers on how to improve the presentation.

I'm all over that like a rash. Thank you!

So far I'm not exactly a happy camper. Yesterday I received an email asking me to bring a laptop (no problemo) and to have pre-installed on it:

1. MS XNA 1.0 Refresh (Note: Torque X is not currently compatible with XNA 2.0, you must have the 1.0 Refresh build available on MSDN)
2. Visual C# 2005 Express (or other Visual C# compatible with MS XNA)
3. SP1 for Visual C#
4. Torque X
5. Torque X Builder (Full or Demo version)
6. Torque X 3d Beta

Right away I run into problems. Visual C# 2005 Express is no longer available. When MS released Visual C# 2008 Express they pulled all the 2005 copies off the web. So I download the 2008 version, but of course XNA 1.0 won't install with it.

I search (or rather, I have a grad student search) the computers in my lab for a cached version of the installer for Visual C# Express 2005, but they're all gone, thanks to Murphy I guess.

Unfazed, I drop the problem in Davey's lap and go to get the Torque downloads. I'm annoyed to find that they want me to create an account there - one more damn username and password to remember. Next I get given an activation key to save for later. One more annoyance. I get the installer, attempt to run it, and I'm damned if it doesnt fail because I don't have Visual C# Express 2005 installed.


So, I have two pieces of advice for the folks at Garage Games.

1. Don't make your classes depend on software that is unavailable.
2. If you do, don't notify your audience that they need it two days before class.

I'm assuming that these are easily-fixed bugs though, in spite of a certain amount of gritted teeth and raised blood pressure here. In subsequent versions of this Boot Camp I'm sure they'll have all their ducks in a row software-wise. Not to worry.

Fortunately I got a response from Josef Rogovsky from Garage Games within the hour. There's a version of Visual C# Express 2005 on the XNA Creators Club website: http://creators.xna.com/Resources/Essentials.aspx. Progress!

Turns out I should have just installed TorqueX 3D. It includes the other two. Duh. Uninstall Torque X, install Torque X 3D. Ready to rock and roll.

Friday, January 04, 2008

I've shaken the hand of a man (Robert Terrence Holt, 1922-2007, my father-in-law)...

... who has shaken the hand of a man (John Harmon Rowe, 1856-1941, his grandfather)...

...who has shaken the hand of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).

Pretty cool, huh?