Archive for November, 2013

So I got my XBox One home and whilst there is still a load more things to do I have been experimenting with some of it’s integration features (as well as playing games, obviously). I can now issue some voice commands to Kinect 2 that get passed to my TV, and I’m getting used to snapping things in and out. I’m currently missing any really useful stuff, like controlling my sky box. Hopefully that’s coming though.

Today I also experimented with the features that allow you to record, edit and upload gameplay footage. I was pretty impressed that I was able to upload directly to my sky drive, and that’s why I’ve been able to cut together the 7 touchdowns I put past Denver in the first preseason game of my new Madden 25 franchise. The tools are pretty intuitive, although editing 7 clips was a little tricky. I could only string three video clips together at a time, but I was able to string two sets of three clips together, and then add those two to a final, 7th clip to get all of the scores (next time I guess I’ll just have to score less 😉 ).

The video is below. If you are interested in what happened on each score there is a summary below. The difficulty is set to all-pro 🙂

1. In the first clip I want to go to the left to Crabtree (15), but the Broncos are blitzing, so I went to my safety value and got the ball to Frank Gore (21) out of the backfield. As all the other routes are concentrated on the left hand side of the field there is only one safety to beat, and he takes an outside angle so I was lucky to be able to cut inside of him, and run 49 yards to the endzone!

2. Even though it’s only the 3rd quarter, because this is a preseason game it’s more about testing the backup and getting them some experience, so my starters have been benched. In a short yardage situation on 3rd down I can still get a first down without scoring, so I’m only looking for a couple of yards. Tight end Vance McDonald (89) finds a bit of space on the hitch and makes the catch even though the ball is a little late.

3. I’m probably not as comfortable stretching the field vertically as I would like to be. I tend to prefer posts and ins that cross across the middle of the formation. The routes on this play are pretty standard. We have a receiver on each side working inside out, and the outside receiver is slanting in. Before the snap I try to figure out which side of the field looks more open. Initially it seems that the right side is the better option, but immediately after the snap a player from the right side rushes, and all the coverage shifts to the right which means the favourable gap in the coverage is now on the left. Again, the ball is a little late, but I hit Patton on the slanting route and he fights his way to the end zone.

4. Now because I’m in the lead I’m going to the run a bit more to keep the clock moving. Anthony Dixon is in at running back. He’s a big, heavy bruiser, so handing it off on the one yard line is a pretty good bet. Not much to say on this one.

5.This is a similar situation as before. I only have a yard to go to get a first and goal. I like this play because there is some really nice blocking going on. There is a double team at the point of attack, and the back side guard (78) pulls to the play side to add a little extra muscle on the play side. The O-Line seal everyone off to the right and we’re left with a guard, full back and tight end blocking for big Anthony Dixon on his way to the endzone.

6. This one was a bit of a surprise. It’s the same play as the previous score, but this time I’m nearly 70 yards out. The defence is a little less compressed, and the play is almost stopped for just a few yards. Then a Bronco player barges into the pile allowing Anthony Dixon to bounce out of the tackle. There are also two great blocks on the safeties which give Dixon room to run into. I thought he was going to run out of steam before he got to the goal line, but he made it. Normally I think it’s a bit out of order to pile on the scores, but what the hell 🙂

7. Yes, I should have been taking a knee, but I love practising the screen. A screen is where you try to catch an aggressive defence out by allowing them to rush upfield towards the quarterback, who then lofts the ball over their heads to another player, who has a wall of blockers in front of him. I probably shouldn’t have thrown this pass because one of the D line reads the screen and chases Kendall Hunter, the intended receiver, but there’s a great block on the outside and I’m lucky hit the running back in stride so he can accelerate away towards the end zone, behind his convoy of linemen.

So, overall I’m pretty impressed with this new ability to capture game and share game footage. Although it was still a bit of an effort cutting the different pieces together, it’s definitely steps in the right direction!

XBox One is here!

Today marks the beginning of the next generation of Console Wars in the UK. Well, it does if we ignore the WiiU. I took delivery of my XBox One at about 2 O’clock in the afternoon. After connecting it to the network and downloaded an update for the OS and an update for Battlefield 4 totalling nearly 2 gigabytes, and getting a hand with some cabling from Adam we were in a position to give the small selection of students hanging around the communal area a chance to have a go.

Next Gen Battlefield 4 on the Xbox One

Next Gen Battlefield 4 on the Xbox One

The students seemed to enjoy it, and it was interesting to hear them discussing the pros and cons of game mechanics and graphical techniques, as well as the ever present console vs. PC argument. Even if the odd description was technically a little dubious for the most part what they were saying was spot on, and they seem to have a great foundation for us to teach on. Perhaps more importantly, the showed a passion for the content and a desire to understand it. When students have that then our job becomes incredibly easy!

In University Wednesday afternoons are dedicated to sports, as this is when most BUSA sports teams play. However, if they’re not interested in sports the students get the afternoon off, and this leaves a gap in the timetable that we couldn’t help but fill.

“Rather Useful Seminars” are dedicated to things that we think the students might find rather useful, but that are not appropriate to put into the main curriculum. I did a couple recently, and sandwiched between them, like the glorious filling between two past their best crusts of bread was a great talk from games industry veteran David Clark. Now I’m cramming all three into one blog post!

My first crust was immediately after the three thing game, and was about getting your game into the market place. It was more about the “Why” than the “How”, and the aim was to convince students that even though it’s unlikely that they will make a lot of money, getting a game (or games) out there is a great way to bolster your portfolio, and a way to get networking. Maybe “publishing games for employability” would have been a better title. Still, I cited some success stories from the games industry, and looked at what that success took, and I talked about the non-monetary goodness you get from publishing.

The following week Dave Clark did his thing again. He gave a great deal of insight into the business side of the industry. What publishers are for, how their role has changed etc. It was a fascinating talk and I know I won’t be able to do it justice here. I would like to extend my thanks for the talk though. A highlight was that Dave also mentioned the importance of networking. It’s something that typical computer scientists don’t enjoy very much, but it opens doors to where you want to go – so it’s got to be done. Thanks again Dave!

Last week I did a seminar on how to comment code. I talked about how commenting is hard, because comments aren’t compiled, they aren’t tested, and there is little feedback as to what makes a good comment. Then I gave some examples of code that I had commented and asked the students which pieces of code were commented well, and which were commented badly. We face a bit of a problem when we’re teaching students code, because often we use comments to tell the students (as people who don’t understand code) exactly what the code does. In the industry (where everyone can read code) this would likely be regarded as over-commenting and cluttering up the code base. A better approach is to consider Why you are doing something a particular way, instead of How.

I also covered using comments to document your code, both through intellisense and using tools like Doxygen, and the worst comment of all – the comment that is incorrect!

The students responded really well to the examples, and seemed to understand what I was saying. Whether they can put it into practice is another matter though. I knew exactly what I was saying, yet I still find commenting my own code well and extremely difficult thing to do!