Learning from my mistakes L2: Get over it! “it” being your regrets.

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When I was in high school I loved computers, I built my own Pentium 133mHz processor computer from scrap parts so I could tool around in Klik and Play, watch Initial D write school reports (oddly enough never looked for porn on the internet while I was using it) and hell eventually built a box mod for it for under $20 calling it the shit box (it even got featured in AtomicMPC, I was such a tool).  My point being is that I loved my computer and what’s more, I loved making video games.  I built a couple in basic following old computer books, built pokemon clones in Klik and Play and this continued through to my high school classes where I would teach myself pascal faster than the rest of the class to be able to tool around with video game logic.  Man I loved programming back then, I could run rings around all the other students, hell one of the tasks was to use a turtle drawing program to make a simple house or rocket, I made a full isometric model of a space ship I designed in technical drawing, but I digress.  Hell I dilligently studied physics as I thought it would help me get into games programming.  My plan was simple and relied on speed.

  • Complete CompSci degree with units to help focus on games programming in three years.
  • Goto England.
  • Work for Rare.

Yes I was a naive moron (hell I helped found a lanning group >.<).  But then something happened.  I graduated and went to university and suddenly I wasn’t the best of my peers.  It actually took me three years to realise that University wasn’t about slacking and that I should pass some fucking units.  I don’t know why but I seemed to wake up from some terrible fugue and realise that uni wasn’t going anywhere sumo suit buy, I had a whole pile of units completed, but still had a couple of first year units done.  And what skills did I have?  I sure as hell couldn’t program like some kind of speedy animal, fuck me, in a race to write hello world in JS I would probably come last.

I think what woke me up was the start of a Computer Science and Games Programming double degree, I shucked all my old failed units and suddenly had excellent standing, a plan and a focus I liked.  Skipping ahead some units in order to fit the timeframe I would complete uni in less than two years.  But then my old friend popped up, programming.

I kind of blame the uni for this, my starter language was Ada, I never did Java and C++ and I only connected SO much, as in I could read basic files, follow a path but couldn’t get my head around OO (three times I did that unit >.<) so when games programming came around I was in a whole world of hurt.  All I really needed was a better progression into languages, but it didn’t happen and I failed, failed and failed again.  Somewhere along the way I started to focus on the other stuff (and made a whole pile of other mistakes along the way, but that’s a story for another time) and gradually moved away from programming, becoming the guy you went to for all the other shit, the ideas, direction, random filler crap, who knew a bit of everything and could clean up after you.

I became a jack of all trades, and it wasn’t until later when I met a lead from a startup beginning in perth that I connected that there was a role for me, Producer.  Yes, I had become the very thing I hated, management (and wow, what has come out of that is interesting, and painful).

This worked out in sorts, there’s a whole pile more things in there that I could tell you but I don’t want to go into everything right now.  But still to this day I wish I had paid attention more in programming class.  I want to be the guy who can sit down and ram out a idea, prototype something, look at a language or script and modify it easily.  I continue to try and learn languages and be able to write them fluently (I can read em tho) because I want to sit down, by myself and just rap something out to show to people.  I’ve learnt a variety of scripting languages, C#, JS, C++, Lua and I know many engines in which to use them.  But I envy guys like Farbs, Cactus and Messhof for just being able to bang out any old idea and see if it works.

So in short, my biggest regret is not paying enough attention in programming class.

Earlier this year I sunk into a bit of depression, regretting that I felt I had not accomplished much in the past year.  Oddly enough I needed that, I realised that looking back and regretting what you have done misses the point.  You need to learn from your mistakes (gah, corny much?) and figure out a path to success.

So what did I do? Organise to meet with the gang, get things moving, thinking about more ideas and hell, even this blogging is part of it.  I need to move forward with no regrets but also my regrets point out my mistakes even more, so they’re valuable as long as I don’t spend too much time on them.

And finally, I did something.  Greg said I should spend less time blogging and more time making games.  So that night I sat down and made a simple game in Construct (Klik and Play but not shit) about blogging.  It isn’t much, but it’s a step forward, the first of many I hope.

TheBloggingGame : The rules of this game is quite simple, click on the door to goto work, fridge to eat, computer to blog.  Click on yourself to refill the fridge (but that doesn’t quite work well).  There’s a win / lose condition and as you can see it’s very basic.  But it works.

And returning to where I started is something I now don’t regret 😉


Learning from my mistakes L1 – Don’t Panic

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Hi, for those that don’t know, I’m Jon Hayward and I have made a LOT of mistakes. In fact the earliest blog post on this site (March of 2006) is not the earliest mistake I have made, no, that was far earlier. You see making mistakes is rather important, you learn from mistakes and if you’re smart, you don’t repeat the same mistake and you move on quite quickly. What my aim is to remark on some of the situations I have been in as a series of lessons, more for my own benefit but it may amuse you, the reader (yes you, that one guy, I know what you’re doing there).   And it’s also to assist with my own writing, I need to do it daily and often, but I promise no frequency. So with that said let us begin.

Lesson 1: Don’t Panic

Several years ago I met a guy on a forum who wanted to run a lan group south of the river here in Perth, he was pretty awesome, I started talking to him when I was in year 11 and in year 12 (2000) we started to run the event called Redflag Lanfest.  Now those were amusing years and I learnt a lot, but not as much as our very first lan.  Gareth, Fadi and I had spent quite some time colllecting the equipment, sorting out the hire of venue, tables, power and more and finally after a evening of sorting everything out we were about a hour until we were to open the doors Customized Inflatables.  Then my parents rocked up…

Now keep in mind that I was still in High School (and may be a unreliable narrator) but I was running around like a idiot from task to task, barely taking a breath.  Everything had to be done then and there and right that moment and right in the middle of it all my parents rock up to see how i’m going.  And suddenly I drop my brick of a mobile phone and kick it across the floor, it spins several times, hits a couple of trestle legs in the admin area and comes to a halt.  I pull myself back up and my father pointed out to me that I shouldn’t be rushing, what needs to be done will be done in due time and running around like a maniac doesn’t change that.

I now look back at that memory and identify it as having significance, it was when I learned the appropriate time to panic.  And you want to know the big secret about that?  I have not found a moment when panicking helped.  What happens will happen and as long as you do everything within your power to make ‘it’ happen everything will be ok (learning to let things go will be covered in a future post).  Since that moment I have found my capacity to handle multiple concurrent tasks has increased, I can’t do anymore than one task at a time but I can handle tasks from several projects and keep em in my head, or better yet in project tracking software.  Keeping a cool level head is important in everything you do.

How does this all relate back to Games Development?  It’s more of a life lesson but one that does pertain to my projects quite well, plus I wanted to start with my first mistake in indie game development -_^

p.s: apologies to Douglas Adams