While this might just sound like I’m being my normal evil self by setting you work over Christmas – in the long run it will put you in a much stronger position and actually make your life a lot easier.
It does appear that there are 5 weeks before teaching recommences on 21st January. However, just 2 weeks of this are your Christmas vacation. The remaining 3 weeks are self-study time and the exam period. Do not allow yourself to become complacent – you should put in 120 hours of work over these 3 weeks.
If you are one of the students in the group that have been coasting or avoided work that you have been unsure of then it is absolutely vital you complete everything suggested. This is your last opportunity to catch up and really make sure you have a complete understanding of everything. If you chose not to – then I do not expect you to last the degree, let alone ever work in the industry.
A piece of advice – every useful hour of work you put in over Christmas will be worth 2 hours of term time work It will really make your life that much easier next term.
There are a number of areas where you can focus your time. It’s really up to you how you best feel it would be spent.
If you look at the modules you have just completed and the ones that are coming up – you want to put yourself in an excellent position for the next semester. A number of modules are built on previous knowledge, Software Development 2 is clearly an extension of Software Development 1 and likewise Game Design follows on from Ludology. Due to this – you need to make sure you are completely clear on all the concepts and ideas from these early modules as you are required to know this for the future work. This applies to Maths, Ludology, Games Design and Software Development.
The non-course related items are the things that will help towards the course and your career, but not might have obvious benefit to modules that you will study in the immediate future. These will help you expand your gaming knowledge and practice your skills in game-related areas. While it may not be obvious now, this will definitely have an impact on your work later in the degree and in your future career. This includes: creating tutorials, producing content for the website and even playing games.
Remember, the bits of this list that you want to do last – are the bits you are least comfortable with. So you should definitely address those first :P
You know from the Maths earlier in the year how well you coped. This is a chance to revisit any areas that you struggled on.
You’ll be implementing some of your game ideas using XNA in Game Design. However, I’m not going to be teaching you XNA, you’ll need to return next semester with this knowledge. Using XNA is just an extension of Software Development 1. The only major difference is that you’ll be exposed more to the C# Object Oriented environment (classes and objects). See separate exercises on this. xna-tutorial xna-pool
Sign up for SecondLife
We will be using SecondLife as a development tool for the Game Design module. This will allow you to work in a 3D massively multiplayer environment. There is a lot to cover here – so make sure you have created an account, logged on and played around in the world. It is completely free.
You will be implementing your final assignment for GameDesign in Second Life and you’ll need a good understanding of creating games within it. Focus on creating small programs using its programming language: Linden Scripting Language (LSL). If you get the hang of this then you could earn yourself some extra cash by charging Second Life users to play your game
There are a lot of distractions in SL and there will not be time to enjoy these during term-time. Make sure you get this out of your system before you arrive.
Start up-to-date with the Industry
Christmas is a busy time for the industry – it’s when the vast majority of hardware and software is sold. You will already be keeping up-to-date will what has been going on, but don’t let that slip over Christmas. In earlier tutorials, I have suggested reading game / computer related websites on a daily basis – but the absolute minimum I suggest is to keep up-to-date with Slashdot (games section), gamesindustry.biz and to read the excellent free online games magazine, ‘The Escapist’.
Play some games
Yes, really! Play some games, but play lots of different types of games. Console, PC, Online, Serious, Indie etc… all the areas we’ve looked at expanding our knowledge in. These fields are not static and there will be many new games to investigate.
While you’re playing these many, many games, think about what is making them fun and which bits are awful. It is important to start to critically evaluate games as you play them. These notes may even form the basis for reviews for your website.
“The only way to become a good programmer is to program”
You need to get as much practice as possible. I would recommend that you revisit all your earlier work and see how you would improve your code now that you are more experienced. For example, consider the code layout, improving readability and whether you can develop re-useable code elements.
As some advanced practice, I have supplied two additional projects to test you. The first a slight variation on the game Mastermind and the second is to write a solver for Sudoku.
If you’re serious about entering the Imagine Cup (and you definitely should be!), then Christmas is your main opportunity to make some progress on your entry. If you’ve not done so already sign up at ImagineCup.co.uk. Remember there are plenty of good game design ideas in our Ludology forums. Once you’ve worked through the XNA tutorials you’ll have the expertise. Is there really anything stopping you being on that plane to Paris?
BTW - if you’ve not found a group to work with then take the opportunity to advertise on our forums.
Our Wiki will remain open all Christmas, so make sure you stay in touch. No prizes for posting on Christmas or New Years day though!
…but mostly have a brilliant Christmas!
and we’ll see you in a few weeks :)