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Design Game Development Games Podcast Productivity

How Players Learn and How to Teach Them

It’s time for a mini-show full of things to know! I’ve sort of been bouncing catchphrases like that in my head for the better part of a day, and I’ve determined there are no good ones–but that may be the fever talking. I was in the throes of a full Man Cold for this episode, but I landed on a topic I liked a few days ago and I decided not to rest until I could be sure the show went out on time. 

Teaching players how to play your game is one of the most crucial challenges you face as a designer, and while it may not get fully overlooked (you DO know you have to do it), it does not always get the care that it deserves, and this will absolutely cost you players. In hopes of offering up some solutions and solid guidelines for your planning pleasure, I set out to look at the actual processes of teaching and learning, to see how I might apply it to our jobs as developers and designers.

It was during this time that I stumbled across the writing of Scott H. Young for the first time. Scott has devoted his life and his writing to some fascinating pursuits, including his “MIT Challenge,” in which he completed the institute’s full Computer Science program in less than one year, all through self-guided study. When I went through his Step-by-Step Process to Teach Yourself Anything (in a Fraction of the Time), I was immediately able to recognize tangible ways that these methods applied to teaching players the skills they need to be successful playing your game. This episode contains my findings. 

As always, please subscribe to keep up with the show. We appreciate your kind ratings and reviews and we invite you to help us get the word out! Always feel free to reach out to us here or on social media. We’re always listening!

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Code Design Game Development Games Podcast Productivity Web

The World of Pico-8

At last! We’ve certainly discussed Pico-8 enough on the podcast to warrant this top-to-bottom look at Pico-8 in general, which includes a walkthrough of my latest Pico-8 project, Letterworks, from design to submission. If you’re an audio show listener, you may want to set aside a few minutes to check this one out on our YouTube page, as this episode’s video shows the Pico-8 system, the code, the sprites, and even the forum where projects are shared and discussed. I tried my best to ensure the audio track alone made sense as well, so don’t YouTube it behind the wheel or anything. 

You can get your hands on your own very affordable Pico-8 license at Lexaloffle.com. Search Pico-8 on Twitter to see even more wild and fantastic demos created by the community at large. 

As always, you can help get the word out about the podcast by telling a friend, leaving a review, or by subscribing any of the places below. We’ll be back with more soon!

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Code Design Game Development Humor Podcast Productivity Web Writing

To Those About to Jam: Part 1

Unconventional Advice for Your Game Dev Journey

In this series, I will pass on odd lessons from over a decade in development that I’m fairly certain you won’t hear anywhere else. 

Side Note: We do a game dev podcast that might be perfect for your jam weekend.

Part 1: Don’t Get Weird with the Food

My first team jam was Ludum Dare 19 in December of 2010. I’d already been studying game development about ten years, and had finished my first “game” around 2002 at 17 years old. I made plans to have a friend from college come over and stay at my townhouse in Southern Illinois for the weekend, and we’d create a genius RPG that would surely launch us to global superstardom. 

I guess that joke doesn’t work as well these days, now that a certain member of the Ludum community just bought the most expensive house on Jay-Z’s street. 

Both of our girlfriends at the time planned to hang out at least some of the time, so my partner decided we needed to class things up when it came to sustenance. I did want to be a gracious host, but when I asked if there was some special kind of Mountain Dew or Doritos his lady friend preferred, he declared he’d be taking over the food preparation completely. I didn’t get it, but my girlfriend ate worse than I do. Wherever she is now, her sinks probably only dispense orange Gatorade. Anyway. 

When Friday evening arrived, my buddy showed up with a carload full of groceries. He said he’d mostly be preparing one big fancy meal on the first night, and there would be enough to last us all weekend. 

“Great!” I thought. “He must be making spaghetti!” 

Francis comes from a long line of McTreasureMans. Finally, destiny called.

What he set about preparing was some kind of slow-cooked, red wine roast beef. I ended up letting him use my desk to code some XNA Framework magic, while I spread out my laptop, tablet, keyboard, and peripherals on the kitchen table next to the oven. The smell was pleasant, but very noticeable immediately. No problem! A nice little reminder that our hard work on Friday night would be rewarded with an amazing dinner. In like five hours. 

As the hours started to pass, I noticed the smell getting stronger. 

“It’s cooking,” I thought. “That’s what cooking food does.” But I’d be lying if I said the smell wasn’t becoming a distraction. It still wasn’t unpleasant, but it wafted my direction and my thoughts increasingly drifted back toward it. 

When dinner time finally arrived, hours and hours later, we had a fancy group dinner, just as promised. It was a break uncommon for a weekend code-athon and everyone seemed to enjoy their smelly wine meat. After food and brief relaxation, we packed up the leftovers in the fridge and headed back to our battle stations. This was when I first realized we might be in trouble. 

It would be worth digging into the files to show off all the dialogue we wrote

With everyone else either coding, leaving, or thinking about their next orange Gatorade, I sat alone in the kitchen, wondering how the smell had not dissipated at all. We were no longer cooking. We had either consumed or sealed every part of the meat in the refrigerator. Was it the dishes in the sink? I closed them up in a dishwasher that I seem to recall didn’t even work, and decided to get some rest to clear my head. 

When I woke up and came downstairs, my partner was awake and coding. If the smell had changed at all, it had gotten worse. Had he abandoned all goddamn respect for himself and heated up more of this shit for breakfast? He said he had not. Didn’t he smell it, too? If he did, he pretended otherwise. I cooked scrambled eggs; the smell cared none at all. 

By early afternoon on Saturday, I started to worry the smell had picked up a psychological component. I asked my girlfriend, but she was busy scouring the garbage for partial Gatorades and couldn’t be bothered. Somehow, I was cranking out graphics and audio like a mad man. My partner and I teamed up on the writing, and something I love about the game is what an opportunity it was to cram just unlimited weird humor into this humble little Windows 95-looking package. It was my first group game project and the good memories attached to it should not still be saturated with booze beef odor in my brain. But that’s my reality. 

Looking back, I think the wine eventually saturated even his armor…

Saturday evening we grinded away at our tasks, discussed issues, content, and design, and ate more juice jerky. What did it matter now? We were all irrevocably tainted. 

Sunday morning, we landed on a playable game loop. We had most of a day left to test, discuss, and enhance as desired. But I seem to recall we didn’t. It was not long after that time that my partner left, perhaps tacitly admitting “We have given a game, but we have ruined your home. You will have to destroy this place.” He took the leftovers from the fridge, but they don’t make bleach wipes for what was left over in my soul. 

The clothing I wore was never the same. I’ve washed garments from that weekend and had people confirm that it smells like wet mystery meat. The game was well-received (though ratings that old on the site aren’t really legible anymore) and we were truly proud of what we’d done. Still, I can’t help wonder what we could have accomplished if I hadn’t spend so much time weighing the pros and cons of standing up and yelling “DON’T ANY OF YOU ASSHOLES SMELL THAT?” 

Unlike my ex, who thinks bottled water is fine, now that Gatorade also makes a powder, I do value smart, responsible nutrition. This cautionary tale is not a Pizza Hut and Taco Bell endorsement. My most successful code weekends were probably the couple that happened to coincide with meticulous eating plans I’ve adhered to in the past, particularly low-carb strategies that were heavy on food prep. By all means, keep a little cheat candy or soda on hand, but grab a 2-liter. Walk to the fridge and take a gulp, not a can. Grab a tiny, individually-wrapped Reece’s cup. You’ll get bored and walk away. I think it’s when you are able to sort of focus past eating entirely that the magic really happens in your other endeavors. 

Just please, don’t soak meat in wine and cook it for five hours in the middle of your jam space. 

Todd Mitchell is an indie software developer with games journalism experience who still smells like roast beef and regret. Follow him @mechatodzilla

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Business Code Design Game Development Game Industry Games Humor Podcast Productivity Writing

Who Is Video James?

We’re back for the last recording from this God-forsaken apartment. 

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Code Game Development Game Industry Games Podcast Productivity Writing

Organization and Productivity

Since the start of the new year I’ve focused on coordinating content for our listeners that would improve their craft in a more direct and measurable way. We’ve hit on some popular topics since that time. Thinking like an entrepreneur, promoting your indie game, and accessibility all seemed to resonate with listeners in a much more real way than our previous reactionary gaming news talk and our other AM radio douchebaggery. And that feels good

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Business Game Development Game Industry Games Podcast Productivity

How You Could Work in Games Next Week

We dive deeper into a topic listeners are asking about: freelancing and remote work for game development. You’ll hear how Todd left full-time professional software development, and started over in games from scratch with his own freelancing business. Congrats to John on the new baby!

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Business Code Design Game Development Game Industry Games Humor Live Events Podcast Productivity

Wrapping Up GDC with Microsoft Gaming Cloud GM, Kevin Gammill

Kevin Gammill of Microsoft Cloud Gaming Services joins us to close out GDC 2018. We discuss his contributions to the successful launch of the Xbox One X, the state and future of game development using cloud technology, and what game devs stand to gain from embracing cloud-based tech.

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Business Code Design Game Development Game Industry Live Events Podcast Productivity

Rogan Ferguson and Dmitry Lyalin of Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services

We caught up with Dmitry Lyalin and Rogan Ferguson live at GDC to talk about game development’s interesting part in Microsoft’s direction for VSTS and its cloud development product family, the group’s focus on meeting devs where they are, and Mickey Mouse impressions for fun and profit.

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Business Code Design Game Development Game Industry Live Events Podcast Productivity

Microsoft Cloud Developer Advocates Jessica Deen and Abel Wang

Jessica Deen and Abel Wang stop by at #GDC18 on their quest to bring DevOps goodness to the game dev community. We talk about the importance of consistency and reaching the next level of intuitive, repeatable processes in your software development.

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Business Code Design Game Development Game Industry Games Live Events Podcast Productivity

Edward Thomson and Kayla Ngan of Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services

We discuss leveraging some of Microsoft’s most powerful planning and development tools for game development with version control experts Edward Thomson and Kayla Ngan, live at #GDC18.