Archive for June, 2011

The raw creative process

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

If you read those words, and it invokes that sense of nostalgia and very fond memories, then we have something in common. Ocarina of Time was an integral part of my late childhood and was possibly the last game which I played where I truly felt like I was interfacing with a piece of magic.

Why am I suddenly ranting on about the game Edge magazine called the greatest console game of all time? Well it was after reading these two articles at IGN here and here and I realised the creative process that went behind the game’s inception. Do yourself a favour and read those articles if your a fan of the game.

Being grown up, and reading the raw creative process behind it makes me appreciate more just how good this game was. The Z-targeting system arose due to the limitation of how to battle multiple foes at once as a lone swordsman, and the inspiration from scripted choreographed sword battles. Not only was this a neat and intuitive solution (that was fun to play), it was also so good that others copied it. Tell me a 3rd person action game that isn’t a shooter that doesn’t have some form z-targetting system (except a platformer), that’s fun and not frustrating to play.

However that is just one of many examples. The fact that Link’s design was so cool stopped Miyamoto’s idea of making the game a first person adventure. Additionally even why Link’s design is that of a cool elf-like creature has its own story.

Yet Zelda isn’t all I want to talk about. This influences the idea of that web app. I think there’s something to be had in having the raw creative process of a project be showcased, heck even be part of the finished product in some way for those who are curious enough to explore it. It is in this way that the user can perhaps touch the magic of the project.

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The PC Master Race is hard to join

I decided, after 4 long years of waiting, to join the PC master race. My treat to myself after exams was to shop around to buy some components, the list of which can be found here. I trawled through forums; read articles from prominent pc hardware websites; asked my PC gaming flatmates for advice; and finally when content with my choice took the plunge.

Day by day the components arrived leaving me giddy like a child during christmas. However the first hurdle occured. The solid state drive didn’t arrive (and still hasn’t arrived, foolish frugal me choosing 2nd class post instead of courier). My plan had been to install windows on that drive in order to increase the speed the OS runs at, hence it was slightly vital to my build.

However I decided to go ahead with the build, I would add the SSD later when it finally decided it was worthy to grace my doorstep. I started to meticulously unpackage everything out of its box thoroughly analysing the manuals as I went. Then started the slow but rewarding process of building it.

Only to after a few hours of building (its my first time!) have it not switch on. Okay, that’s not too bad. I’d read that this is quite common. Just need to open it and check that the power cables are in the right place, and pushed in properly. Did this. Still didn’t work.

During this time I was still working inefficiently by opening the box, unscrewing everything, checking the cables, then reassembling it. I learned my lesson after the 4th time of it not switching on.

After hiding my frustration deep down so I didn’t break something, started to remove things one by one to try and isolate what was wrong. When I realised that the time was 8am, and the fact I had to do some heavy lifting for my mother (a property developer) later on in the day, I decided some sleep was necessary. Deep frustrating sleep. Nothing is as frustrating as leaving a problem unsolved after spending so much time trying to solve it.

That was 3 days ago. I now have this monolith on my desk still not working. Been able to isolate the problem to one of two parts, the PSU or the motherboard, with my suspicion highly leaning towards the motherboard. I unfortunately cannot do the whole returning thing at the moment as I’m moving out on friday, so not exactly great timing to do that.

It seems that the PC Master Race is a tough bitch in deciding who can join her. A dead on arrival motherboard I’m sure is not a common occurence. More rare must be a dead on arrival motherboard to a newbie.

(There is of course the possibility that I did something wrong, and broke something but this is unlikely because a.) I’m too arrogant to admit that b.) I’m a physicist, I don’t break electronic things c.) The care I took was to some extreme level)

Unfortunately this build has been taking up my time, hence not much coding and writing experience has occured. However next week I intend to get back on it with a vengeance.VENGEANCE!!!

Update
After sending the motherboard back to Scan it seems the source of the problem was the CMOS clear jumper, something that is now making me bang my head at my idiocy.

I have learned my lesson. Here’s to hoping it works fully functionally when it gets back.

Cool web design is cool

I decided to include a draft of the original post here in order to hopefully demonstrate an improvement in writing skill. Maybe I might do this for all future posts…

As I journey through the trials of teaching myself ruby, I procrastinate and daydream by thinking of that web app.

That web app is the app that will have my soul infused into it. It will be the culmination of blood, sweat, tears and black magic. It will shake the very foundations of the Interwebz, and my name will be etched into the immortal pillars of cyberspace.

(It should be noted that these “trials” involve going through a beginner’s book, browsing reddit and listening to Daft Punk :p ).

That web app means that I seek inspiration in web design wherever I look. Hence when I came across Instapaper I fell in love. A clean theme that also oozes the sophistication associated with newspapers are not its only benefits. It’s also dead drop simple to use.

My Arts and Design & Tech teachers can testify that I am not a designer in any skill or form. However I can recognise beauty as much as any other human being. A fact that I am proud of as it will allow me to draw influence in other people’s design for that web app.

(I’m telling you that web app is going to blow your mind when you eventually lay eyes on it. You will never ever look at your screen in the same way again. All because of that web app)

Reading signals vs noise has led me to deeper appreciate the role of design for everything. I must master design at any cost.

Yet I’m happy I still didn’t study an arts degree…

Boy do I have things to say

A new season, a new set of goals. A Physics student set free from the burden of exams for the long summer holidays. Whatever shall he do?

Deeply does this student search himself, and he finds something startling. Something amazing. He wants to develop himself.

I’m starting this blog (even though I have another one) in order to record my progress over this summer, plus to vent all those things I have to say. But before I share these goals, I need to share something. I want to own my own business. When I graduate I don’t want to work for someone else (unless it’s a really cool job), I want to work for me. There are many reasons for this, ranging from not wanting to be in a position where I suffer constructive dismissal like a member of family had recently suffered, to it being the only way to field my dreams. I want to change the world. I want to make a dent in the universe. Heck I want to own the damn universe.

However small steps need to be taken.

Firstly I have discovered two deep flaws in myself. The easiest route these days to start a business is in the form of web applications. However being a self-confessed (cool) computer geek who studies physics, I barely know any code. Hence this is something that needs to be addressed.

Additionally after reading some of the stuff from 37signals, I’ve realised clear writing is important. I used to be a clear writer back in my secondary school days, but alas the toll of math and physics equations has made a dent in my writing ability. Therefore this shall also be something I address over these holidays.

After doing some really cooool web surfing, I came across this language api called ruby on rails. Boy is it cool. I’m gonna learn this, by first learning ruby. As I write this I have Chris Pine’s “Learn to Program” on my desk, itching me to continue turning its pages. The plan after that is to learn ruby on rails afterwards, and then write some simple web apps. (I have some ideas of the big ones I want to write later…probably with the help of some other more intelligent people)

In regards to my writing, I shall also be studying Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams. Found out about this book after doing a Quora search.

I hope I continue to write in this blog. It would suck if I didn’t. I also hope my writing style improves, it would suck more if it didn’t.

(also sorry about all the hyperlinks)