The Q&A / cleanup video for the Top Down Shooter series has been rescheduled to Friday, Sept 3, as Unreal Engine 4.9 was officially released today and I want to upgrade the project series to that platform if there are no hiccups. I will be spending time over the next couple of days ensuring that the project as built to date has no issues with UE4.9, and then will be updating the Q&A tutorial to accommodate changes based upon upgrading (if changes are necessary). I am not a fan of waiting until the end of the series to upgrade to 4.9, given that the series is of indeterminate length but will be running at least two more months. So we’re going to take the upgrade path unless I find a compelling reason not to. The Q&A / cleanup tutorial video will be released this coming Friday, Sept 3rd instead, along with the already-scheduled Friday video! Thank you for your understanding.
Archive for August, 2015
Things are a-changin’ in the Mindless Pursuits world. More specifically, I’m changing how I handle tutorials. There are a few reasons for this, but they all ultimately come down to being more efficient with my time. As I head into teaching a new school year, I need that extra efficiency to be able to continue offering tutorials on a consistent schedule. While it has some short-term pain, it will make for an all-around better set of lessons in the long run. So what is changing?
First off – the Zombie Shooter series is ending this week. The reason is very simple: Generic Shooter is deeply a deathmatch and team deathmatch project that is tailored very tightly to a given inspiration for a game. It’s a good system, and I am glad I bought it and was able to make some useful videos for it, but it’s not heading in the same direction my own projects are. That causes me to spend time away from my own projects looking for how to modify GS code, and that’s just not conducive to my overall goals and it really slows down how quickly I can produce tutorials. I definitely think developers should take a look at GS, but again – it’s just not for me, and I’ve been developing my own underlying toolkit for the last couple of months so I won’t be using GS for anything myself. If I revisit GS in the future for tutorials, it will likely be to provide a dedicated series to how GS gets configured to make it easier for new users, but not anything that alters code significantly.
Next up – I will be starting a new series on creating a First Person game from scratch, similar to the Top Down Shooter series. This series will use the new consistent format that I will be using for all future series. One of the benefits of the series is that learners won’t need anything but Unreal Engine and Epic learning projects to get started. This means they can dive right in without any further financial dependencies. Another benefit is that the series will offer tutorials in two versions, as appropriate: one using just free Epic assets (or assets I make and provide), and a version using Marketplace assets that I might integrate. This way, the learner doesn’t need a Marketplace asset to learn, but if they want, they will have instruction for some Marketplace items as well. A third benefit is that all non-3rd party content for each video will be posted on the same day as the video, so that learners have access to the files right away.
Lastly, there will be a monthly ‘full series release’ that is similar to how many tutorials work now with larger groups, in that an entire series from beginning to end will be posted the same day, along with the associated content files. This will allow a learner to work their way through the tutorial series as quickly as they want, without waiting between individual tutorial parts. As these take a lot of additional work up-front, they will only happen on a monthly basis. The first series will be released in either mid-September or early October.
A calendar that shows when tutorials will be posted to YouTube is forthcoming and will be posted in the next couple of days. I am also taking the rest of this week off from posting videos (save for the last ZS vid) in order to build up my read-to-post content and deliver content on a consistent schedule going forward. There are other non-tutorial things happening as well, but I’ll cover those in future posts. For those who are disappointed that the Zombie Shooter series is ending, I do apologize, but as discussed above, it’s the best course for me to take the channel overall. I am, as always, open to constructive feedback, and appreciate your support. See you in the next post!
There’s a war in the realm of education, and it’s a war we see waged constantly in commentary on blogs, news articles, and almost anyplace where education becomes a topic. I’m not talking about those who fight about public vs charter vs private vs home schooling. I’m not talking about specific curriculum approaches, be they Common Core, AP History, or anything in a similar vein. I’m not even talking tuition costs and student loans, though the cost of access to education does have an impact in this war. No – I’m referring to the ‘unknown war’ between those who have pursued a college degree and those who are self-taught. It’s a ‘war’ that does not good and only serves to create division and to belittle those that fall on either side.
There are a couple of logical fallacies at play on both sides. Let’s start with the college degree. I see a great number of individuals with degrees argue that, as a result of that degree, they have greater knowledge and / or more discipline in their fields (and sometimes outside of their fields) than those who do not have degrees. They feel superior to those that don’t have degrees or who didn’t pursue college (for whatever reason) and seem to equate spending money on college credits to be a sign that they worked harder.
Conversely, I have been witness to more than one discussion where a ‘self taught’ individual feels superior to someone who obtained a college degree because they were able to ‘do it on their own’ and not ‘waste’ the time or money. Often, I see these individuals belittling college graduates for spending the money, especially if those college grads are either not working in the fields of their degrees or are having to work a job that society calls ‘unskilled.’ (That’s another completely different discussion, and I’m going to try to avoid politics!)
Let me clue both sides in to the most important factor at play whether you possess a degree or are ‘self-taught’: your willingness to work hard, apply yourself, and to try to do something with the knowledge you gain. Paying for college is no guarantee of hard work. Even getting that degree doesn’t mean you worked hard. All the degree demonstrates is that you were both willing to pay, and to put in at least the minimum effort required to graduate — and that could be as little as showing up occasionally and barely passing tests or papers. On the other side of the coin, being ‘self taught’ doesn’t mean you’ve mastered your topic or field either. Maybe all you’ve done is read one paper and think you now know all you need to claim mastery. There’s no objective criteria at play.
Here’s the reality for both sides: given access to resources of similar scope, breadth and relative understanding, anyone willing to apply themselves can learn and master almost any topic given time. Education and learning come from two sources: your own experiences and what knowledge others have been willing to share. Here’s where the financial aspect DOES come into play: it is easier to access shared knowledge and build experiences when one has the finances to do so. That said, it isn’t necessarily impossible to do so without financial means. It just means more time and effort. I am a big fan of libraries and the Internet for opening up more information to everyone who seeks it. It’s become a good leveling influence, though it still suffers from growing pains and financial access limitations as well.
So here’s my thought: stop waging war over which way is better, or more valid, or more appropriate for your job setting. Start focusing on what makes education the important factor that it is. Those pursuing, or who have degrees: stop belittling those who are ‘self-taught’ for following that path – financial access isn’t available for everyone, and not everyone who could get loans wants to take on the burden of debt purely on the hope of meeting some arbitrary external expectation. While you may have worked hard, studied a lot, and come in at the top or near the top of your class, many who have degrees didn’t work so hard, so don’t look at the degree as the measure of your ability: look at what you actually did yourself to achieve it, and what you are doing now with it what you learned, even if it’s not in your career field.
Those who are ‘self-taught’: stop attempting to use being ‘self taught’ as some sort of superiority measure. Unless you have learned everything solely through experience with no assistance from others, you are not ‘self taught’. I say this as someone who falls under the category of ‘self taught,’ and it’s the reason I put it in quotes. I had the financial access and the opportunity to pursue a degree. I determined after a year that it didn’t suit my learning style, and I wasn’t getting as much from it as I did from self-study, but that was a personal choice. Even if I hadn’t had a choice due to access issues, financial or otherwise, I still wouldn’t be ‘self-taught’ because I took advantage of the knowledge others shared with me – be it through public education, books from the library, television shows, documentaries, and eventually, the Internet. I prefer the term ‘self-directed education’ to ‘self-taught’ for just that reason. My knowledge wasn’t formed in a vacuum where nothing existed but my experiences. I didn’t learn to read by finding books and puzzling them out entirely on my own. I didn’t learn to paint by first discovering how to create pigment and brushes and supports — I learned about them from others, and sought out as many different ways to keep learning and expanding my knowledge as I could. Those who took the college path directed that path for themselves. They still learned through a fundamentally similar process.
So again – let’s stop the ‘unknown war’ that only creates further division, and focus on what makes for similarities: that desire to learn, to expand our limits, and to make use of what we learn. That’s how we move forward and create a better society for all of us. That’s how we begin to tear down some of the walls that separate us from understanding one another. That’s how we take the next step in building a world that supports the needs of our children and their children. That’s why I am a teacher – to pass along what I learned to try to enable others to continue their educations and pursue their dreams. I’ll never judge anyone on their approach to learning, as long as they have one and actively pursue it. If you are reading this blog, or following my YouTube channel, I hope you can look at things the same way, but if not, I ask that you at least give it some thought before belittling another for their education path.
Thank you for reading.
I’ve fielded some earnest and justified comments about the delays in my videos over the last week, and I want to take a moment to address them. Those who haven’t been familiar with Mindless Pursuits in the past (which are most of my subscribers on YouTube since they are all new) can be understandably frustrated at the delays in a schedule I had hoped would be more tight and consistent. There is a reason for it, and it’s very straightforward: I’m a survivor of multiple battles with cancer who also deals with other chronic health problems, and as a result, when I get ill, I tend to get very ill. Without going into all of the TMI around my medical stuff, I’ve been dealing with a bad ongoing cold / bronchial infection that led to inflammation of scar tissue in my throat that caused my voice to go away for a bit. To try and heal that, I was given anti-inflammatory medications, and if you have ever had those, you will know that they are often steroid-based, and steroids damage the immune system. Having had a battle with cancer as recently as this year, my immune system hasn’t rebuilt much, and so the steroid-based meds tore down what little immunity I had rebuilt, opening the door to another cold. Thus, delays that I couldn’t anticipate but that are necessary as I need to get my health back. With all of that said, I will be continuing to create tutorials, and so let’s review what I have planned.
First, the Top Down Shooter series will continue with completing the Instant Hit and Projectile Weapon implementations before continuing into building a HUD and aiming mechanism. The Zombie Shooter / Generic Shooter Sample Project vids will be continuing with a series of shorts and one-off videos, the first of which will center on jumping and sprinting with stamina. There will be a series of ‘How Do I?’ one-off videos that apply to 3D games in general such as ‘How Do I create A Gibbing Effect?’ or ‘How Do I implement Rocket Jump?’ Most of these videos will be based off of subscriber requests. Finally, I’ve been scripting a series on game development practices and how they align with standard software practices so that you can ensure the best quality in your game endeavors.
One other series that will be forthcoming over the next month or two will simply follow my own development methodology. When I make tutorials, I tend to do it off the top of my head, which is admittedly NOT how I do things when I’m doing them just for myself. That’s why, in some of my tutorials, you’ll see me jump around a bit as I remember things, or try something different. I use the tutorials to demonstrate how a developer might work through things as they learn, as I find that often makes it easier for others to learn as well – they don’t feel so alone in trying things and refining their efforts. There is value in an authoritative approach to videos where everything is done smoothly and perfectly on the first try, but when I am learning things, I find that less valuable as it doesn’t make me thing through the ‘why.’ However, I think it will be a good series to show how I approach things for myself, where I document program flows, write pseudo code, use programs like Articy Draft and more to nail down what I want and need to do before I touch code or blueprints in the editor. I guess we’ll see if others find that valuable as well!
Finally, even while ill, I’ve been able to make some progress on the interactive training site. The interactive training site will allow a learner to approach a topic in a manner that ebbs and flows with their learning speed and technique. So for instance, a learner who does better by being quizzed about their knowledge as they go along, in order to reinforce that knowledge, the system will handle that… whereas the learner who like to be presented with concepts and then just work on their own until they master them will be accommodated as well. It’s a lot of work to set up, but I think it adds a lot of value for those wanting to learn new skills. Assuming I can get my health back on track this week, I hope to have the first interactive lesson available by the end of the month so I can begin getting feedback from my ‘students.’
So that’s what is happening! Hopefully I’ll be back into good physical health soon so things move more quickly, but they will definitely keep flowing over time regardless. Take care, and I’ll see you in the next tutorial!
If you’ve been out to the Trello board where I maintain the lists related to the tutorials on YouTube, you may find yourself wondering what everything means. There are a lot of cards there, spread out over many lists, and with many different markings. It can get a bit confusing! Let me break it all down with you, starting with the list names. As most people read right to left, and want to see what’s new and what’s about to be posted, I actually have the lists ordered from last step to first step. For our discussion, let’s walk through the list names from left to right, though.
- Requested. This list holds all of those tutorial requests I’ve received that I’m still considering and haven’t yet committed myself to, even if the commitment is only in my head!
- Planned Series. These are not individual episodes, but series that I have committed to making, but I haven’t planned them out on an episode basis yet.
- Planned Episodes. These are individual episodes that I have a plan for, and a documented focus. They still need to be plotted (and in some cases, scripted), but they will definitely be made in the future.
- In-Progress – Episodes Plotted / Scripted. These are episodes I have started production on, and have completed creating outlines for. Most episodes I can create ‘off the cuff’ and I prefer that, but in some cases, I need to plan things out a lot more. For instance, once I discovered how much work will need to be done for implementing True First Person with the Generic Shooter, I needed to work on a detailed outline to ensure I wouldn’t forget to explain anything.
- In Progress – Episodes Recorded. These episodes have been recorded but are awaiting editing. They may consist of multiple separate video files and images, and are not ready to be viewed.
- In Progress – Episodes Being Edited. The next step in the process is to put all of the different elements of a tutorial together, and remove gaps, cut bloopers, limit ‘uhhhs’ and so on. The reason why this heading is not in the past tense is because sometimes, I will need to re-record or record new supplemental material, and don’t know it until I am in editing.
- Completed. The tutorial is fully edited, and is ready to be encoded and scheduled for upload to YouTube.
- Posted. The final step – a video has been uploaded to YouTube. As this point, the video may not be set as ‘Public’ and be viewable. The reason for this is that I am starting to upload videos in advance so that I can reduce delays when other areas of production go awry.
With all of that noted, here are some details on what the various stickers mean!
This clock sticker means that I have the episode scheduled but haven’t uploaded it yet. I plan my schedules based upon a number of different influences, so some completed tutorials may be scheduled for a ways out in order to tie in with other activities.
The check mark sticker notes that an episode has not only been uploaded to YouTube, but it has been viewed in full to ensure there are no issues, and the description and settings have been updated to make it viewable to its audience.
The interrobang is one that I had hoped not to have to use, but if you look at Trello right now you’ll see a lot of Zombie Shooter tutorials with it. This sticker means that a video in Completed status needs to be re-worked, either from the ground up, or from one of the In-Progress stages. In the example of the Zombie Shooter, the decision to move to True First Person view sooner as a result of the issues discovered with first person crouching, means that all of those videos need to have some re-work done – most likely in editing. If you see this symbol, expect delays in those episodes being online.
The star denotes an episode or series that will only be available to patrons on Patreon. It is a perk for pledging support for the development of tutorials, and are available to patrons of $5 or more per month.
The rocket sticker means that this video or series is only for patrons of $25 or more per month. These are longer, more in-depth tutorials.
Finally, these are the labels that are used for noting what the basic content of an episode or series is targeted to. Once you get used to the colors, you’ll be able to tell at a glance if the tutorials may relate to your interests or not! So there you have it – an explanation of the Trello board. If you have more questions, please feel free to ask!