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Mindless Pursuits


The ‘Unknown War’ in Education and Why We Need to Stop Fighting It 1

Posted on August 16, 2015 by Keith

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.

Why I Have Delays And The Upcoming Tutorials Planned 0

Posted on August 11, 2015 by Keith

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!

Understanding the Trello YouTube Tutorial Board 0

Posted on August 01, 2015 by Keith
The Trello Board for Tutorials on YouTube

The Trello Board for Tutorials on YouTube

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!

Trello

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.

TrelloCheckMark

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.

TrelloInterrobang

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.

TrelloStar

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.

TrelloRocket

 

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.

TrelloLabels

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!

Another Quick (Text) Update on Videos! 0

Posted on July 29, 2015 by Keith

Part 2 of the Top Down Shooter Series will be posted Friday, two one-off special vids I had worked on prior to getting this cold will be posted over the next couple days, and I’m going to try to record the Zombie Shooter – How to Apply Generic Shooter Sample Project Updates tomorrow to post during the day tomorrow. I cannot promise the last will be completed.

For those new to Mindless Pursuits, I am a survivor of multiple battles with cancer. As a result of a lot of chemo-induced nausea, I have a lot of scar tissue in my throat and some in my larynx. The cold inflamed this scar tissue, and having to run the A/C here in Minnesota has made the air so dry that it is irritating the tissue even more. I was prescribed a couple of anti-inflammatories today, but they may take a couple of days to work and I was told not to stress my voice, so I’m trying to take it easy.

Regardless, things will go back onto the regular schedule beginning Monday, as this medicine should allow me to get back to recording by the weekend (I hope), and if not – I’ll use the robot voice temporarily and redub the videos as soon as I can.

I apologize for the issues!

The Mindless Pursuits Forum is Now Live! 0

Posted on July 27, 2015 by Keith

For those who want to discuss Mindless Pursuits tutorials or other game development talks, the forum is now live (see link at top)! It’s a simple, no-frills forum, but if learners start using it, I’ll spruce it up a bit more. Right now, it’s just getting started. Feel free to talk about existing tutorials there, ask questions, offer suggestions for future tutorials and whatever else you feel applies to Mindless Pursuits. Share your experiences with other game development items such as tools, engines, project planning and more!

I’m not one to do a lot of real-time discussion for things like ICQ, Slack, Twitter or the like, so the forum is the best place to get a response from me. See you there!

 

We’re Working On Game Jam! 0

Posted on July 23, 2015 by Alex

Hey everybody, I’m here to give you some exciting news. Mindless Pursuits is going to be participating in the Unreal Engines latest “Game Jam”. This is a weekend long event to create a game that corresponds with a specific theme. However, the theme is fairly vague and allows plenty of room to be unique, so we can go about it how we see fit. The theme for this weekend is “Rocket and Roll”, and we can go about this in anyway we want. There are multiple rules and information concerning the Game Jam, this information is right here: Game Jam 7/23-7/26. This is a major project that will be a whole lot of fun for us. We are hoping to start livestreaming our work later tonight, that way you can see through the game development with us!

That’s all for now! Wish us luck and we’ll be posting more information about the livestream later.

Alex

I’m Alex, the Social Media Manager 0

Posted on July 15, 2015 by Alex

Hey everybody,

I’m Alex and I’m the Social Media Manager for Mindless Pursuits. I’m the daughter of Keith, the head of Mindless Pursuits. While I’m not a programmer, nor am I an artist, I am a writer and a user of multiple social media websites. I’ll be posting weekly updates on both the Mindless Pursuits website, Facebook, and Twitter.  I’m a gaming YouTuber known as Crlexi, and help my father in game testing and other activities. I enjoy gaming, anime, writing, music, and figure skater. Unlike my father and my sister I tend to lean away from painting and drawing,  I prefer to play my violin and skate.

Until next time!

Alex

Crlexi YouTube Channel

Lots of Tutorials and More Updates Coming! 0

Posted on July 08, 2015 by Keith

As of this week, I have drafted a social media manager to help me keep this site and my YouTube channel updated! I tend to get so involved in what I am doing, that I never slow down to take the time and update like I always plan to, and my daughter Alex is a social media wiz compared to me, so she is going to handle updates for me so I can continue to focus on what I do best. 🙂

Additionally, I am broadening the scope of my tutorials. I was originally just going to focus on ‘The Embrace’ as a development log, but instead, I want to provide tutorials that are specific to a given game creation topic and/or engine. Rather than post development logs showing the specifics of developing ‘The Embrace,’ I am instead going to begin a series on making a general three-act horror game. Additionally, I am going to provide some reviews of third-party add-ons, videos on how to integrate add-ons, and more as I am able. The first tutorial video (or two) will be going up this weekend and will be the first in the horror game series plus a tutorial on using the ‘Realistic Weapons’ add-on with the awesome ‘Generic Shooter Game’.

Look for more soon, as Alex takes over the reigns!

‘The Embrace’ Development Log #1 – Development Tools 0

Posted on June 20, 2015 by Keith


I have started the true development on my game project, ‘The Embrace’! In this first video, I walk through what development tools and third-party additions I am starting with. I will be trying to document as much of the process as I can without giving away spoilers, and if you see something you would like more information on for making your own games, please feel free to ask!

The development tools mentioned are:

The Epic and 3rd Party add-ons I am starting off with are all found in the Unreal Marketplace:

  • Adaptive Binaural Wind
  • Animated Blood Spray Decals
  • Color Grading – Social Filters
  • Crazy Insane Door Pack
  • Easy Save & Load
  • Horror Pack
  • Landscape Material Pack
  • Monster Screams
  • Movement Animset Pro
  • Open World Demo Collection
  • Post Process Shader Pack Vol 1
  • Quality Game Settings
  • Realistic Grass
  • Simple Checkpoint System
  • SuperGenius Weather FX
  • Ultimate Greyboxing Kit
  • Water Planes

As you might guess, I’ll be adding more assets over time, but this is what I have as I start. Let me know what you would like to see, and I’ll try to cover it int he future. Until next time, have a great week!

‘The Embrace’ – Creating My First Horror Game 0

Posted on June 09, 2015 by Keith
Screenshot from a test level for 'The Embrace'

Screenshot from a test level for ‘The Embrace’

It’s time to finally create my first horror game. After months of playing with game engines, and one could say a lifetime of story plotting, it’s time to produce something. That something is ‘The Embrace,’ a first person psychological horror exploration. In order not to give too much away, I’ll use this generic and cliched description: You are an individual whose significant other has had something happen to them, and as you try to help them, you find that reality isn’t all you might have thought it was… or is it? The Embrace is based off of a story concept that is part of the larger story universe I’ve been developing since I was a younger teenager. For me, it represents a big step forward in many ways: in getting the story told at last, in exploring some themes that have always been of interest to me, in mastering a game engine, in creating art, and much more. Because of this, I am going to be documenting the process from beginning to end.

To be fair to myself and to anyone following this, I will say that I will not cover every step in fine detail. I want to be very careful not to give away spoilers for the game itself. Having said that, I’ll document as best as I can, knowing that production of the game (and other life stuff) comes before the posting about it! I’m also going to look at creating videos where it makes sense.

While I will be creating a fair amount of game assets, I am also leveraging content created and sold by the larger gaming community for royalty-free usage. Without doing so, I’d have no hope of pulling all of the art together in a timely fashion and it would be too overwhelming! An additional note is that I am working on a couple of other projects as well, one for my teaching curriculum, and another for smaller game development. The Embrace will receive the bulk of creative time, but those other projects are very important to me as well, especially the teaching curriculum, and so I may take a week here and there just to ensure I keep to my schedule for those as well.

Finally, feel free to ask me any questions as we go. I’m still a newcomer to all of this, so I may not be able to answer, but I’ll do my best! See you int he next post! 😉

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