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What I'm Doing For My Fall '13 Vacation

I'm about to have a good deal of time off to myself that is not shirking my professional obligations.  That being the case, powers that be willing, I've a few select activities lined up for the upcoming week:

Animal Crossing: New Leaf:
Well, hello ladies.
I'm still logging the occasional hour or so a day in this game, but the "new game charm" is not really there anymore.  It's just a habit, like brushing one's teeth.  Maybe gambling, considering every new day brings with it another chance to find some new furniture.  I still have quite a bit of house expanding to do...

I should probably put some serious consideration towards canceling my GameFly subscription, as the only reason I have it is for my Nintendo 3DS, and this platform is practically only an Animal Crossing machine in terms of what I ever make the time to do on it.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn:

I've now reached the point where I'm starting to get into the crafting system of this game, and it's more ingenious than I previously realized.

Other MMORPGs might have a "wear and tear" mechanic where you must spend your game money on repairing equipment, primarily to create a money sink.  Any given game from the genre will probably have a "soulbound" mechanic on items that prevent players from handing down their equipment.  FFXIV:RR does both.  However, no other MMORPG I know of actually convinces their players to willfully destroy perfectly working equipment and replace it with the exact same gear, and this game does that with its materia mechanic.
It's simple enough in execution.  When you use a piece of equipment, its "spiritbond" rating goes up.  When it reaches 100%, you can "convert" it into a gem that you can slot into equipment.  Consequently, when you get a piece of equipment's spiritbound at 100%, the most efficient thing to do is to immediately convert that piece of equipment and replace it with another copy.

The whole point of this?  To create a perpetual demand for more equipment.  You can purchase this equipment freely from NPCs now, where it was previously only player-supplied, but why would you do that when you can purchase it for cheaper from the player market?  And if it so happens you come into contact with a tradesman who has the necessary skills to bond your materia with your equipment, so much the better.

It's essentially planned obsolescence with a game mechanic tacked on to make it completely legitimate, environmentally friendly, and actually appreciated by the consumers; an economist's wet dream made real in pixel form.

I wonder if I'm hooked enough to actually pay the subscription price once the free period is over?  If not, I suppose there's that Skyrim game I've been meaning to finish...

The other protagonist whose name doesn't go
on the cover of the book.
Source: Damage-Ko on DeviantArt.
Artemis Fowl:

I'm on the last three books from this series involving a boy genius getting involved in a secret underground race of faeries who have been hiding from mankind despite having ridiculously advanced technology.   I hear Disney is making a movie on this IP.  I hope that turns out okay.

As the series approaches its later half, I have to say that the author does not seem content to leave his characters in a working formula.  Instead, it seems a major change is undergone in every book.   In the first couple books, not so much.  But in books three, four, and five, very much so.

I suppose I should be glad the author's not just milking it for all its worth, but I rather liked those earlier books... there's really nothing left to do but read this series to the end and see if I like what's waiting there.

GameMaker:

An hour a day is all I ask myself to spend in GameMaker: Studio.  Of course, if I end up spending more time in it than that, I won't complain, and so it is that Steam now shows me clocked at 21 hours of use in Game Maker:Studio for what made up about 3-4 days.

Another 79 hours, and I can claim my investment of time vindicated my investment of money.  Of course, this is irrelevant if I never actually complete a game.  Nevertheless, speaking as a would-be creator, this is the most productive use of my free time I have going on right now... even if I'm not making headway in my game.

I don't have the typical problem you'd expect of a neophyte game creator because, in many ways, I'm quite the intermediary:
  • The fundamentals of how to make any kind of game I've played does not evade me.  I've been playing games so long that observing them to see how they tick largely resounds with things I already figured out implicitly. 
  • Given my months of dabbling in BYOND, I'm quite familiar with the idea of an event-driven engine, which GameMaker certainly is.  
  • I've taken programming classes in college that introduced me to the basics, such as methods to sort arrays.
  • I've created a working weighted A* routine in BYOND. 
  • I've created AI routines that seem to be smarter than those that I see in most games I play.
  • I've even created randomly generated, somewhat realistic-looking tile-based maps in BYOND.  
Given my level of experience, programming does not intimidate me anymore, even if I would be foolish to claim I know how to do everything.

So what's stopping me?  To be completely honest with myself, it's because I may be a good enough programmer, but I'm lousy at everything else:
  • Art - I've an understanding of the basic concepts of animation, but I never bothered to learn how to draw.  Any games I make are likely going to use either re-purposed assets somebody else made (which requires finding legally-acceptable sources), or crude pixel graphics reminiscent of Ultima IV.
  • Design - I really wish I could just start creating and ramble on until the thing is complete.  This is how kids make their games, and it works fine for them... but it only works if the game you're making is simple enough to completely grok at a glance.  My plans are a bit more grandiose than that and, in any work of adequate sophistication, winging it will inevitably just paint yourself into a corner.
  • Follow-Through - Here, most of all, is my greatest weakness.  I have a mental block that causes me to refuse to finish a game, it seems.  I'm probably just incredibly insecure.  I've got a book on that now, and its acquisition has sparked the greatest amount of progress of any of the books I own wholly because this is my lead problem.
The solution is brutal: practice.  Practice like a person taking up a new instrument for whom their finest efforts produce all the wrong notes.  If that person is me, I'd be doing so with an aspiration to immediately conduct a symphony without ever having bothered to read the scales, write sheet music, or accept the consequences of creative expression.  So I must practice, learning to read the scales (get over the art hurdle), write sheet music (design my games), and accept the consequence of creative expression (learn how to follow-through).  This, and any other hurdle can be overcome with practice.  Were I to do that, what's stopping me, really?

The most important step is the first, and it's a step I will take over and over again.  I must keep at it; I must start.  This is the point of pledging an hour a day to spend in Game Maker: it's a modest beginning intended to instil a habit.  After all, I have precious little time left on this world, and no guarantee that's only speaking relatively.  Should I ever fall off the game development wagon again, it may be too late for me to do anything but despair.

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