Playing games about making games

While Gamestar Mechanic isn’t really a fit as a development tool for my course, it’s an excellent example of a teaching game, and I would highly recommend it for anybody with a middle-school aged kid (I think that is the right age range for it). The game is structured as a quest to learn to be a game developer, but what surprised me was how much of the focus was on good design, not just how to place blocks and enemies and make things go. You start out by just playing the various types of games that might get built … Continue reading Playing games about making games

Tsk Tsk Speedometer

I really enjoyed this assessment of how a speedometer both breaks a ton of good-visualization rules, and yet is a great visualization given its purpose and context of use. I particularly liked its discussion of why you would want to change scale halfway through a visualization in this setting. Obviously, don’t break the rules until you understand them disclaimers apply, but it’s a really elegant example of how blindly following rules alone also doesn’t make good design.

Sourcecode access wanted

GameSalad is a graphical game-programming tool available for Windows now as well as the Mac (though I had to install something called the Microsoft XNA Framework which doesn’t sound horrible at all), and supports HTML5 for deploying games on the web but also iOS and Android for tablet/phone games (in the pay version). It seems like the pay version focuses on integrating tools for monetization, ads, in-game sales, and social gaming. The core of the free version is very full-featured though. The built-in behaviors and attributes are broad. It’s nicely object-oriented, which I liked about GameMaker when I used it … Continue reading Sourcecode access wanted

Blocky coding

One of my projects this month is looking into tools I might use in a very-introductory course organized around the theme of games. I’m still circling in on the exact set of capabilities I’m looking for, but since one goal of the course is to warm people up for a more intense Java programming course, exposing them to simple programming in a visual manner is appealing. One possibility is Blocky from Google. Web-based drag-and-drop programming where constructs are puzzle pieces. The maze demo gives a nice starting point for thinking about solving problems, using ifs and loops, debugging, etc. You … Continue reading Blocky coding

Machine Learning in Usability Testing

It’s an elegant idea I haven’t run into before: gather data on site preferences by selecting what version to present on the epsilon-greedy solution to the multi-armed bandit problem and just letting it run. You’re looking at a setting where effectiveness can be easily measured, such as by clickthrough, but the contrast is with A/B testing where the effect of a single change is being measured for a time and then a switch is being made, if desirable. Comments suggest tweaks/details like ensuring that a single visitor sees a consistent view of the site, at least for small windows of … Continue reading Machine Learning in Usability Testing

Amazing Stickman

Draw a Stickman is just delightful. Go to that page, select Episode 1, and I defy you not to say “Oh cool!” within 20 seconds. It is entirely charming. What else could you want on a Monday afternoon :)

Productivity, Travel and Passwords this week

Things my RSS feed wants me to do this week: Stay productive after work on my side projects because if work and your homelife are all you’re doing, you’re a bum. Go to NYC for Manhattanhenge or make plans to go back for it in July. Buy Travel Blog the Board Game – even though from the description it is unclear where the “Blog” part of the game comes in. Consider if I am suprised that those over 55 pick more secure passwords than those under 25.

Choosing an Analysis Tool

I’ve been learning some Octave recently and have refreshing my Python on my summer to-do list for a course I’ll be teaching in the fall, plus I’ve been running into a ton of articles about R (particularly for data visualization) that are making me think I ought to give it a look as well. So this comparison of the three from Slashdot was a nice overview from one person’s experience of which tool to turn to when: R, Octave, and Python: Which Suits Your Analysis Needs?. The comments (as always) offer some interesting input as well, including suggestions for other … Continue reading Choosing an Analysis Tool

To Code or Not To Code

There is an interesting pair of essays about how universal “learning to code” ought to be over at Coding Horror: Please Don’t Learn to Code and a follow-up So You Want to be a Programmer. The first essay questions whether we really need more programmers, and whether learning some basic programming is that valuable a skill as compared to learning how to understand a problem and its solutions. The followup clarifies that what is being criticized is learning to code for the sake of knowing how to code, as compared to learning to code in order to solve a problem … Continue reading To Code or Not To Code

Ninjas, Fire and Rockets this week

Things my RSS feed wants me to do this week: Buy a set of ninja throwing knives. Rate American English accents – helping researchers is good! You should do this too! Turn my sensitive documents into a fireplace log. Contribute to a project to produce a new letterpress-printed edition of Pride and Prejudice. Get excited about the start of commercial space transportation!