Ph.D. Adventures!

Lest I forget again… (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Weeks 7-9)

TLDR:

Most importantly I got one step closer for my research paper by writing up an abstract and locating appropriate references to use in the paper. I also read the comments made by Rogelio who reviewed it. The rest of the time was filled with lots of TM/TA responsibilities, dealing with more fun home ownership issues, and an impromptu fall break. And lest I forget again, several weeks back, I made some of my own very simple game art which also resolved a programming issue! Hooray!

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

Dang, three weeks went by quick!

Lest I forget again… again, nearly a month ago I made my own game art, a rounded corners square, to not only make a highly casual game I’ve been making look more polished, but it also had the wonderful side effect (after a few iterations) of solving a programming problem. I have never made my own 2D art to put in a game, so yeah me! Second, I did it using GIMP, so it’s all free to use. Third, I don’t know what I’m doing! Fourth, the first iteration of the rounded square improved the look of not only the gameplay quadrants, but the buttons as well. When I played the game I was thinking I might have to replace rounded squares in the middle of the game with regular squares except on “corners” (of which I would need to each iteration of gameplay discover whether or not a square was a “corner”), but I conjectured that if I made the art just right, when I scaled to just above 1.0, to say 1.1, then I wouldn’t need to swap or turn off any images. It took me a few iterations but it did work. I was not only correct, but I also didn’t have to spend a lot of extra time on programming. (I realize that this description may not make sense, but this is for a game I plan on publishing, my goal is by end of year, so no screenshots… yet!)

Lesson: if you can solve a programming issue with some intelligent art decisions, do it! I’d already learned this lesson at Waterford Institute when the technical artists beautiful artwork caused a load time of mere seconds to expand to 45! By making an intelligent switch, without actually changing the look of the scene, I got it to load faster than the original scene! So, smart art choices => faster load times.

For my research I looked into a potential publishing venue my advisor sent my way, we were originally targeting ACM’s CHI conference, but this new journal, which we hadn’t even been on our radar, is doing a special issue on educational games. It looks very promising but has a much sooner deadline (Feb 2021, instead of Sep 2021 for CHI), so I’m going to need to get writing!

Rogelio directed me to write up an abstract as 1) A guide to where we want to take the paper, and 2), and more importantly, to use as a potential submission to feel out the waters for a journal we are aiming to submit to. It was really useful to think through what it is we are trying to create with this new theory and where we believe it will go.

I did a lot for my TA/TM responsibilities: grading, setting up the lab computer with a new account (for me) and the Oculus for VR grading, more grading, etc. I let the professors guide when I would complete the grading as one professor got ill and fell a little behind, but that led to having to grade five assignments within a week of which I haven’t quite completed yet.

My house heater broke. So I got to deal with the fun-ness of home ownership and meeting with HVAC technicians in the middle of class! LOL!

Finally, let’s talk about fall break: I know, I know, the University of Utah didn’t have an official Fall Break this year, but my advisor gave me a week off and I took full advantage and went to one of my favorite places with my family: California. We visited my in-laws, who are wonderful people, and my brother (whom I lived with when I worked at EA). So lots of good old memories and new memories. My brother and sister-in-law have eight wonderful kids and all the cousins were excited to go swimming together on what my brother said was probably the last feasible day of the year to do so as their pool is not heated. So a years worth of telling my kids to pack their swimsuits “just in case” finally paid off!

What’s next

  • Theory paper:
    • Read up in VR for vernacular
    • Read game design theory paper my advisor sent me
    • Draw up a preliminary model for the current theory I’ve written up
    • Read through a school “research” paper I wrote last semester to gleen the theory I want to create from and to also highlight the papers I want to cite in my new paper.
    • Write, write, WRITE!
  • Do grading for TA
  • Continue dailies

Roadblocks

Make sure I’m honoring the time I’ve set aside for research. I’ve had a lot of “emergencies” happen, that were legit from my or my kids perspective, but hopefully those things have subsided now so I can focus on completing my paper. However, I think if I miss my designated research times that I need to make sure I am pushing them to other days and not just skipping them entirely.