AJ Dyrbye

Web Developer and Digital Humanist

Tag: hackathon

Hackathon, Day 2

As I write this, it is the morning of the second day of the Hackathon. I’ve been able to pursue my idea, but, as these things tend to go, it hasn’t played out at all how I’d planned. I spent last night turning over the first day in my mind, and now I find myself reassessing.

Here were the goals I had set for myself before the Hackathon:

1) Nail down the character, items, NPCs, areas and basic mechanics such as accessing inventory, exploring a room, combat, conversation, levelling up and so forth. Mechanics will be governed by functions and may be simplified further if required.

2) Build a simple, linear game using each major element and mechanic at least once.

3) Build a web interface over the game.

4) Playtest.

5) Expand game, if enough time remains

As of this morning, I’m still on point one, with no realistic way to move past it in the time remaining. The first room is in place, as is the player-character, some plot items and a sample creature. I’ve also roughed out the combat function and the examine item function, and identified where I need to write other functions to ensure those two behave as I need them to.

To be honest, I’m not terribly surprised. The game mechanics I was hoping to implement prove more complex to build than is realistic for the timeframe, even with additional simplifications. I’m thinking I’ll have to go back to the drawing board at the end of this and decide what, specifically, I hope to accomplish, and how I might more realistically carry that out.

I’m not particularly upset about all this. I ended up working with only one other person, Jacqui. Her strength is in project planning and documentation, and she ended up putting together an impressively through document mapping out all the object relationships a game like this needs. It’s given me some serious food for thought. While it would have been nice to have an experienced coder working with me, planning of this kind is so important, and I’m no doubt better off for it. I’m still happy with how much the two of us accomplished, given our respective skill sets.

Today, I’m going to keep plugging away at functions. If I’m really productive, I might be able to start testing one or two. Jacqui, alas, is down with a back injury, so I’m flying solo.

While it’s clear that the task is much bigger than I expected, I’d like to keep going for a bit longer before I decide whether it’s worth continuing this development path. I’ll have to decide once the even wraps up. I want to continue with the idea, and I still think it’s going to be a great way to learn more about how JavaScript works.

Hackathon Preparation

With the Hackathon less than a day away, I’ve been gathering my thoughts for my project. I’ve set the following goals for the weekend:

1) Nail down the character, items, NPCs, areas and basic mechanics such as accessing inventory, exploring a room, combat, conversation, levelling up and so forth. Mechanics will be governed by functions and may be simplified further if required.
2) Build a simple, linear game using each major element and mechanic at least once.
3) Build a web interface over the game.
4) Playtest.
5) Expand game, if enough time remains.

I think this is realistic, but I’ll have to see how well it works out. I have no way of knowing who I’ll be working with, or if my project is even going to attract the interest of potential team members.

For posterity’s sake, here’s the rough outline of how I want the game to work (fair warning, this is a bit of an infodump):
Continue reading

The Learning Process in Fits and Starts

As the Hackathon approaches, I’ve been reminded of a few things important to my learning process:

  1. Having something concrete to work on is important to my learning process. Picking up a skill without a clear application or need is lousy way to develop a true understanding of it, at least for me.
  2. It’s okay to walk away for a while, as long as I prioritize coming back. I lost momentum for a week due to Thanksgiving and other demands on my time, and picked my JavaScript lessons back up over this last weekend.
  3. Sometimes it’s best to come back to a problem. This week, I’ve had a string of days where I’ve been stuck on one concept, and instead of beating my head against it, I stopped for the day once it was clear the concept wasn’t gelling. When I came back the next day, I would usually be able to see where I was hung up right away and then move on.
  4. It helps to talk to people already using what I’m trying to learn. A programmer friend was in town last week, and at dinner, he asked me to describe how I was planning to construct my text adventure at the Hackathon. The resulting conversation pointed me toward concepts I wasn’t yet familiar with. When I got to that point in my instruction a few days ago, remembering that conversation really helped me understand the purpose, value and applications of those concepts

It remains to be seen how the Hackathon itself will go. I suspect I understand more than I think I do, but at the same time I’m certain there are still huge gaps in my knowledge. The experience will educate me in both, and likely point me toward a few more things beside.

Meetups and Hackathons

I’m still plodding along in Codecademy; it’s been busy enough that while I’ve been able to set aside a bit of time daily for it, I’m still approaching the midpoint of the JavaScript modules and have yet to delve as deeply as I’d like in the book I picked up.

However, I found a local JavaScript community meeting this week, Exchange.js, and attended one of their meetings yesterday. I’ve got a way to go before I can follow much of what they’re discussing, but the group turned out to be friendly to both newbies and questions. It was soon clear that part of the point of the group is to discuss concepts and implementations that not everyone can expect to be familiar with, so they can find out more about them. I was able to have a number of good conversations once the presentations wrapped, and will be attending again next month.

The meeting drove home just how few and far between women are in programming language-based communities, though – I was one of only three attending, and one of the others was a business owner trying to get a conceptual handle on what her employees are developing. It’s stranger than I expected. I’m curious to see how the web developer community compares, once I’ve seen more corners of it; my initial impression is that women are still outnumbered, but not nearly as badly. Regardless, I’ve yet to feel out of place or unwelcome.

One immediate side-effect of the meeting is that I’ve been persuaded to sign up for an upcoming hackathon, and will be prepping a pitch for it. I’m sticking with a game concept, as I still think it’s a great, scalable, learning exercise. The concept is still rooted in the text adventure, but I’m now wanting to integrate a simplified version of the D&D 4E ruleset, pare down the party to a single-character adventure and perhaps adapt a game module for the gameplay. I’ll lay out the rough design here in a future post.

© 2014 - 2016 AJ Dyrbye

Up ↑