A Programmer’s Greatest Enemy

A programmer’s greatest enemy is getting stuck. A crucial skill in programming—and one that many of my beginning game programming students lack—is the ability to recognize when they’re stuck, to get out of being stuck, and to avoid getting stuck in the first place.

Indeed, it’s a skill I’m still learning myself, although the contexts in which I still get stuck are shrinking with time, study, and experience.

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How Siri Works

Once again someone has offered us incredible artificial intelligence, and once again we are bracing for disappointment. It happened with handwriting recognition on the Newton, which proved to be slow and clumsy. It happened with the not-as-smart-as-they-first-appeared creatures of Lionhead’s Black and White. And remember the Kinect debut video showing a kid interacting with an on-screen villain effortlessly, the AI character perfectly intoning the kid’s name? Kinect brought some of the innovations promised in that early teaser, but clearly the video implied a level of sophistication and polish that turned to vapor in the end.

But it’s Apple this time, with Siri on the iPhone 4S. And although Apple has screwed up before—witness the aforementioned Newton—if anyone has the motivation, the resources, and the smarts to get AI right, the iPhone dev team is it.

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Hymns to the Kite God

When I was eleven I saw the film The Dark Crystal. My mother took me on a Friday during the Christmas holidays. I had looked forward to it for months. I saw it and loved it.

The Sleep of Reason by GoyaThe movie haunted my thoughts all the next day—the long-legged striders, the magic, the music. I went back two days later with a friend.

When I came out the second time something had changed inside me. As we rode home in the car my friend chattered away, but I barked at him and leaned my head on the window and felt something dying in my heart. We didn’t play anymore after that.

I lay on my bed until nightfall, gritting my teeth against a pain I couldn’t describe. One by one, my sisters, mother, and father came in and asked me what was wrong. I tried to put words to feelings deeper than words.

The world disappointed me. I wanted a new world, full of excitement and power and possibility. My father pointed out that our world had wonder and adventure of its own—knights and Indians and canyons and caves. I felt sick as he said it. These wonders were too small, too mundane. Is this all the world had to offer? My family left me alone. I writhed away the night.

Something new moved in that day. I didn’t know what to call it; I still don’t. Was it depression? Depression is too gentle a word. The other day I heard a girl say she felt depressed about her shoes. No, this thing wasn’t depression. This was a dark and ancient god moving into my ribcage, playing with me like a cat plays with a mouse, making a kite from my skin and tendons and bones and flying me from the bottom of the sea.

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Glahn’s Law

Some years ago I took a course in journalism from Kindred Spirit editor Sandi Glahn. On the first day of class she established, to the shock and horror of the students, a rule I’ll refer to as Glahn’s Law. It’s simple.

Glahn’s Law: No Be Verbs

In all our writing for class we were permitted two “be” verbs per page. Any more than that and we lost—oh, I don’t remember—a finger or something.

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How to Get Your Game Idea Made into a Game

Joystick Schematic

NEWS FLASH: Check out House of Shadows, my latest game for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

I get dozens of emails each week from people wanting me to consider their game ideas. I hate to ignore any email, but I ignore this kind. If someone sends me an idea, it tells me that they got excited about the title of this page but didn’t read the post itself. If they had, they would know that there is really no point in sending me game ideas.

The only way you will ever see your game on a screen is if you make it yourself.

For a more complete explanation of why this is so, see my article on Why Won’t Developers Listen to Your Game Idea?

Now on to the main post….

You have a brilliant idea for a video game. It’s creative, original, intriguing, and fun. You can picture it vividly—the breathtaking visuals, the jaw-dropping action scenes. You can’t wait to play it, and when you tell your friends about it they can’t wait to play it either. Your only problem is, you don’t own a game development studio. How do you get your game idea made?

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