My First Game Jam

I have been getting active with a local video game development community called PIGSquad.

This latest (slow summer jam) went from July 12 to the presentations last night (July 20). This particular jam’s theme used a programming learning environment called Scratch and is meant to provide material to the Pixel Arts non-profit that sponsors learn-to-code camps in the Portland area.

So without further ado, I present Feed AL Math.

Business cards are still a thing

After years in a career where I had no use for business cards, I now find that they are rather important. I had assumed some sort of electronic contact exchange would be more widely employed by now but paper tech still prevails.

I wanted to do something cheap and creative so I wrote a java app that generates a sheet of business cards that are styled like an old computer punch card.

You can get the source here:  GitHub businesscard

It’s pretty simple, the text you type on the top text field (such as your email address) will generate punches under each character corresponding to the ASCII encoding of that character, least significant bit at the top.  Only 7 bit characters are supported.

A business card is only 3.5″ by 2″ so you can only have 20 or so chars max before the font is too small to be readable.

At the bottom is another text string that can be anything you wish but you won’t want it to be much larger that the top line because of the space constraints.

2D, I think

A popular question I have been asked over these first few weeks is what hardware/OS platform my game is going to be on.  My answer then and probably for the next several months is “I don’t know”.  But I will tell you a game in Apple’s App Store is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to go.  Steam is probably pretty close behind but that is still predominately Windows based and that’s not my bag.  You can argue for easy and cheap access, and you can also argue to make the barrier to entry a little higher for your platform in an attempt to keep quality at a certain level.

But the title of this post is about 2D.  As I wade through my Unity 3D book, I am pretty sure that at least my first game will be 2D, not 3D.  There are at least a couple of reasons for this.  First is the obvious complexity involved with making a 3D game.  But perhaps a better reason is that the kind of games I am starting to think about are clearly 2D games.  It’s a matter of what you are trying to express and my ideas are best represented in 2D.

Reading list

I frankly have very little idea what is involved in making a video game, so I am resorting to a few books to give me a high level overview.

General Game Development Books

A Theory of Fun by Raph Koster is a widely cited and respected treatise on the philosophy and psychology behind good games.  Raph is not a typo, in case you are wanting to insert an L.

Game Development Principles by Alan Thorn looks like a really good book about the details and mechanics of game development.  A high level summary of the methods, technologies and skills commonly used from the beginning of the process to the end.


Beginning 3D Game Development with Unity 4 by Sue Blackman.  I need to get up to speed quickly and this is a walkthrough of Unity by creating a adventure game step by step.  I have no idea if I would actually use Unity for a game, but it seems like at least a good way to prototype.

SETI Game Jam

The SETI game jam (which is less than two weeks away) is intended to use actual SETI data and science in the game.  I believe the main technology at use for SETI research is Digital Signal Processing.

I bought a couple of books on this topic.  The first is a sort of DSP for dummies to quickly communicate the key concepts without diving too deep into the math.  The Essential Guide to Digital Signal Processing by Richard G. Lyons and D. Lee Fugal is an easily read introduction intended for non-technical audiences.

The second book is recommended by SETI and is a popular textbook on the subject.  Discrete-Time Signal Processing by Alan V. Oppenheim and Ronald W. Schafer looks VERY similar to one of my textbooks from my electrical engineering days.  Days in short number as I quickly switched majors to computer science.

Finally I am picking back up a book I have had for a while on information theory as it seems very relevant.  An Introduction to Information Theory – Symbols, Signals and Noise by John R. Pierce.  This topic of study originates from my days at the Systems Science department with Portland State University.


Will I get through all of these in less than two weeks?  Of course not, but hopefully it will be enough of a kickstart to allow me to be at least somewhat useful and productive at the game jam.