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Mindless Pursuits

Education Is The Most Important Thing 1

Posted on March 30, 2016 by Keith

Steam and Lan BluePrint Integration in Unreal Engine Part 2 - Game State Transitions

As the title says, education is the most important thing, and the subtitle on this post was almost ‘(and how I learned to stop worrying and love deletion).’ To understand why, let’s roll back to last week and the blog post I cancelled that otherwise would have been up on Thursday. It was a very simple blog post to provide a behind-the-scenes look at my operation and how I go about making a tutorial, from conception to publishing. It seemed a good time to do it because I was already taking some offline video of how I draw out level designs manually, and getting more pics and videos of my setup would just fit in with the workflow, but as I started taking pics, I also started getting very frustrated. My working space tends to be cluttered, pics alone didn’t help to explain my process, and I was having trouble putting it into words. In the end, because I didn’t feel I was explaining things well enough to make it educational, I trashed it and decided to do something else.

A parallel experience happened over the weekend. I had spent 17 hours recording a new series on network multiplayer with Steam in blueprints on Unreal Engine 4. After editing the first three sessions, I ran into something that I had to backtrack on in the current session. I wanted to go back and tie the change I was discussing back with where I originally set it up in the second session, and that’s when I realized: I had stopped explaining things in the second episode. Completely. I was commenting on things, but I wasn’t explaining anything. I might as well have been talking about the weather. There was no context as to why I was adding the nodes I was adding, or choosing one node over another. Without that, there was nothing for a viewer to latch onto to understand and learn from what I was doing. I had just gotten so caught up in doing it that I got lost in my own thoughts. It was not a positive education experience for the student.

So despite over 17 hours of invested time, I deleted the series, including the episodes I had already uploaded but not yet made public. It was a painful decision, but it had to be done. I started posting videos to teach, not simply to show that I can do something. I already have a plan to re-record the series, as I want to get it posted before mid-April, but there are changes I’m making to ensure I keep the education content as high-quality as I have always wanted it to be. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it once I get it posted.

I just have one request – if you ever feel I’m lapsing into rote ‘just do this, then do that’ without explaining why, please call me on it. I want to ensure that what I deliver to you for tutorials are able to give you the education that you are looking for!

Marketplace Reviews To Save Frustration! 1

Posted on March 14, 2016 by Keith

Race Course Pack MarketPlace Reviews Title Screen

I have started posting Unreal Engine marketplace reviews on the channel over the last few days and I plan to keep them going regularly. Why, you ask? Because I want to be a ‘go to’ resource for game developers. This includes providing insight into purchases so that you can make more informed choices about where you spend your money. Many if not most of us considering marketplace purchases do so because we lack either the time or the experience to do everything we want to make our games great. For that same reason, we can’t afford to gamble our financial resources or time on items that may sound or look great on a web page, but are lacking when attempting to use them.

In my marketplace reviews, I try to look at the items from a developers viewpoint. Not just ‘are they worth the money?’ Much more needs to be understood when choosing, such as how difficult will they be to implement. Is there sufficient documentation for a game developer to fully understand the package? Will a developer have to deal with a lot of excess ‘baggage’ in the organization or contents of the package? I want to answer these questions for you. An excellent package may still be a bad choice if it lacks something important to you! My ratings system will likely evolve a bit over time as I’m trying to sort out the best system for each category of item, but the underlying approach and what I hope the viewer will be able to use in making decisions will remain constant.

At the time of writing this blog post, I have slightly less than 140 packages in my vault. This means I can post marketplace reviews 2 – 3 times per week for almost a year before I need more. Even then, I’m still buying regularly, so I see no end in sight to reviews. That said, I have a request – let me know what you want to see in reviews. As you would expect, there are certain things I’ll avoid such as exposing blueprint code in a blueprint package or playing audio files from a sound package, as that wouldn’t be respectfully appropriate to the creators of that content. There may still be other things you would want to know though. I’d like to know what detail would help you to make your decisions effectively, so please comment here, or on a review video. I’m happy to have your suggestions!

What To Expect Between Now and Jan 4, 2016! 1

Posted on October 12, 2015 by Keith
Training at MP Pre-work 2

Training at Mindless Pursuits – Coming later this year!

There’s a lot on the horizon for Mindless Pursuits. Tomorrow will mark three months since I posted the first tutorial video, which was focused on the Generic Shooter Sample Project by Michael Allar in the Unreal Marketplace. At the time, I didn’t expect much. I was making the tutorial just to ‘warm up’ for teaching video game concepts in my daytime teaching job, and with so many tutorials and tutorial channels already available, thought no one but my students at school would ever see them. It was something of an impulse decision to post a thread about them on the Unreal Engine forums. Now – three months and over 400 users later, I’m getting a better handle on what I’m doing, both right and wrong, and have been thinking about what comes next.

Before we dive into what I’ve got planned, let me take a quick step back to explain my philosophy. After 35+ years of software development, coupled with tutoring and training others prior to becoming a licensed teacher, I learned an important lesson: you can be an expert and show people what to do, allowing them to learn by replicating your action and through rote memorization, or you can make them a part of a larger learning experience shared with you, where perfection isn’t the goal, but being willing to experiment, make mistakes, and learn through doing so leaves a more lasting impression. The latter is the core of my teaching approach:

Put the student in a position to learn by sharing the process of learning with them, warts and all, because in so doing, they are stimulated to think about the elements of the lesson as much as the end result, which teaches them even more than they expect. 

I’ve been asked more than once why I don’t edit out or re-record parts of my videos where I end up back-tracking because I’ve made a mistake, or why I would post a video such as the latest installment of the Top Down Shooter series, where I knew the solution wasn’t quite right. It’s simple: people will puzzle through these same issues themselves as part of the learning process, and by seeing the instructor do it, it helps them to know that it’s okay to make mistakes. It also help because then I can try to explain why I had to change things, or backtrack, so the reasoning becomes more clear for them as well. I myself only began using Unreal Engine just over 4 months ago. I’m a very fast learner, but I’m still just a learner myself. I certainly see no value in pretending to be otherwise to students that I hope to inspire!

So what does that mean for the plans going forward? Well, it means I don’t want to keep repeating those elements of lessons I know well enough and use often enough in various series that I become bored with them. A prime example of this is the hierarchy (tree) of weapons. If you’ve watched my videos, you’ve now see it a couple of times: a base weapon, a child weapon blueprint for projectiles, a child weapon blueprint for instant-hit weapons, a child blueprint for melee weapons, and then children of those for specific weapon implementations. It’s something I would implement for almost any game I would create, and so it becomes a repeating element of any series I record. I would much rather record a set of tutorials on how to create various weapons in a hierarchy once and revise it as needed for Unreal Engine changes, than to have to recreate it for each series. I also believe that my students online would rather not have to repeat it every time as well. So instead, I’ll create a standalone series on building a robust weapon tree, and then reference it from within future series. Not only does this mean I don’t need to continually re-record the same type of content, but it opens more time for me to provide unique tutorials on more game-specific items.

Training @ MP Pre-Work

Another look at Training at Mindless Pursuits – Coming Later This Year

Because I am going to make this change to my approach, I am going to be implementing it in the remaining parts of the Top Down Shooter and First/Third Person series. Once the weapons piece of the First/Third Person series is done, I’ll make a ‘master’ weapons series to be referenced in the future. After that, if I have a tutorial I know will be referenced in multiple series, I’ll create it as a standalone and then reference it. Examples of this that are coming up are (in no particular order):

  • Building a character class tree for easier character class creation
  • Implementing ambient music
  • Creating a reusable blueprint template for sounds based upon physical material type
  • Creating a basic attacking and hiding AI
  • Basic connectivity to a listen server for multiplayer games
  • and more….

Meanwhile, there is still a fair amount left to cover in both the Top Down Shooter and First/Third Person series. Between now and January first I hope to finish not only the standalone series listed above, but the two current series as well. That doesn’t mean ending them early, but once all of the items that need to be covered are completed through in-series and standalone tutorials. Additionally, I plan to begin the Non-Massive Multiplayer RPG tutorial series in December, and that will mark a new approach for me, where the online students get to weight in on what will be covered. More details on that next month. Please note that I am not promising to finish every topic I have in mind before January 4th – that would be a LOT to accomplish considering my other commitments to work and family, but I’m going to do as many as I can do well!

Finally, I’ve been working on the education site I’ve been wanting to provide: Training at Mindless Pursuits. You can see a couple of brief glimpses in the screenshots in this post. The goal of the site is to provide tutorials and learning opportunities for a number of game systems. Obviously, my initial focus is on Unreal Engine… and it may turn out that I never expand much beyond Unreal Engine because I enjoy it so much! This will be a full-fledged eLearning site built upon a combination of the Open Source Moodle learning management system, original content created by myself in video and interactive formats, and group discussions through course-aligned forums. I’ve been working on the build for a month now, and have the first two courses built. I want to have at least three more completed before I launch. If all goes well, I will be launching sometime around January 1st. I want this to be an in-depth training site for those who have an interest in-game development. Hopefully I can get it there. The biggest impediment is time and expense, but I’m trying to address those!

So that’s it – what I have planned between now and January 4th (which is when the December holiday break ends for school). I hope it’s of interest to you, and feel free to give me your feedback and requests. I have set up a page that lists the topics I currently have in mind, and will add to it as I get requests that I feel I can do a good tutorial on.

See you in the next tutorial!

Top Down Shooter Q&A With Cleanup Video Rescheduled Due To Unreal Engine 4.9 Release 0

Posted on August 31, 2015 by Keith

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.

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.


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