The summer break is over and I have little to show for it.
I started a game project using Unity3D in May. I did, what I thought, was a quick and simple design and got to work. Progress was very slow at first, learning the Unity engine meant multiple complete start overs. It was very frustrating but thankfully Unity is well documented and has a huge community so with a little persistence I was able to get the hang of it.
Around the end of June I started to get somewhere. I had playable elements of the game and the starts of a menu system and then two things happened, I started testing and my son finished school.
Every test I ran revealed some kind of problem, be it a bug or a design flaw or just a little tweek needed. Most of them were minor, some were less so. I started to work through it but my development time quickly dwindled away. When I did get some time the list continued to grow instead of shrink.
I get asked a lot by prospective students if game development is hard and I’ve always just answered yes. It’s really hard, just about as hard as programming gets. One student took it a step further and asked me why. Well now I have a real answer. Even simple games quickly become big projects, there are that many systems, score keeping, artwork and animation, physics, levels, rules, etc… all working together, just keeping a track of it all is a challenge.
I’m a long time sufferer of RSI. From the age of nine I’ve spent my life playing video games, riding a bike, playing a guitar or working at a computer. The numbness and tingling started to appear around the age of 17 and has gradually become easier and easier to trigger. I consider myself lucky that I’ve got full use of both hands at the age of thirty, but I’ve always known that full blown carpel tunnel syndrome is probably in my future.
That’s not to say that I don’t try to keep it at bay. I do little stretches, exercises, take lots of breaks and ease up when symptoms appear. I have a powerball that I use as my primary method of rehabilitation, I find it’s by far the most effective treatment for RSI. I practice good typing and playing techniques and try to favour ergonomics where I can but my hands are degrading slowly.
Thursday I woke with a pain in my right hand. It couldn’t have come at a worse time, it’s the final week of the semester, I’ve got a lot of work to finish and exams coming up. I need to be able to type at full speed for the next few weeks. I have regular spells of RSI but its never been anywhere near this bad.
By Friday night the pain was crippling. I was struggling to hold my fork at dinner time. I can’t lift, grip, type or really do anything with that hand, it’s very frustrating. Saturday morning the pain had eased enough for me to be able to have quick session with my powerball. It helped immensely but normally the powerball takes a few days to restore my hands from mild RSI, I suspect that this time it may take quite a bit longer. One of the biggest problems with the condition is that if I just take pain killers and power through with the rest of my work then the damage accelerates.
So for the foreseeable future I’ve not much choice but to rest the right hand and favour the left thankfully I’ve got an abundance of dictation options. I trust that writing and coding left handed wont affect the quality too much.
Lets just hope my left hand doesn’t shut down as well.
For more information on RSI you can start here. http://www.rsi.org.uk/
I recently attended a group meet. The group is a pack of programmers from around the county that meet up every month and discuss issues and industry and so on. Each meet they decide on a small project together and work through it. This project can be anything from Programming Kata ideas to a full blown development project.
This appealed to me right from the start. It’s a chance to associate with people in the industry, do a little networking and maybe learn a little something. The meet isn’t that far from me a few of my lecturers attend and have been encouraging me to, so I decided to go.
I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so intellectually inferior in my life. Some of these guys are the people that the people I look up to, look up to. Every time I spoke up I regretted it almost instantly. My input was lagging and often needless, responded to with blank stares and patient slowly spoken sentences. I’m pretty sure that everyone in the room actually started dumbing down the language toward the end.
One of the highlights of the evening was when a team member from a company that had recently declined me for a placement came in. This team member then proceeded to talk about the poor quality of programmers they have had applying this year, my interview was even brought up as one such example.
By the end of the night I was drained and depressed. I felt like such an ameteur and well, like an idiot. Unworthy of referring to myself as a member of their industry.
I’m going to keep attending. I’m aware that I’m naturally very paranoid and have never been very good with those types of situations. I’d like to think that soon I’ll do better and that’s not going to happen if I run away screaming due to my own insecurities. I am just a student after all and all of these guys are seasoned veterans. They all seemed like genuine, nice, very smart people and I think in the long run it will be good for me on a number of levels. In fact, I learned a lot while I was there. I’m a big believer that if you truly want to get better at anything, spending as much time as possible with the masters is the best way. Coming away from the meeting feeling 2 inches tall is just an indication that I’ve still got a lot to learn. I’m going to be coming home from the meets with a lot of homework for quite a while.