Researcher suggests video games may not boost cognition

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An FSU researcher came to the conclusion of “Play games because you enjoy them, not because they could boost your brain power.” I’ll let you read the rest of the article

http://www.fsu.edu/news/2011/09/15/video.games/

I feel that for most games, it’s true. The trickiest part, I feel, is that a Video Game, for some reason, has a tendency to take on the form of a game. You do get challenged and you can develop skills from a lot of games. However, the skills you get from a lot of games won’t help you in the real world. There are definite exceptions, and they should be studied.

There are two games where I feel that they can teach you something. The first case is the game of Civilization. Ask a hardcore Civ player about technology and military units, and that player will have a good overview. Now, the Civ games don’t go too in-depth about the unit, but on average, the person will know more. Also, if you base history just on the Civ series, you’ll get the wrong idea about Ghandi.

I feel that the Civilization case can be used to spark an interest in history, like the Indiana Jones movies sparked interest in archaeology. Civilization is a strategy game, and while you can’t be a military strategical master from playing the game, it can plant the seed.

The second one is definitely Flight Simulator. This isn’t about Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, since I haven’t played that in a long time and can’t comment on whether or not I can fly an airplane from that game,  but flight simulators. They are definitely used to train pilots before they get into the cockpit of an airplane, and airplanes are expensive.

Now, those flight simulators probably won’t 100% teach you about airplanes, but it’s my 40-95% complete rule. If you can get something to the 40-95% level at something and there’s an overall benefit to it, then it’s worth doing. In an airplane’s case, while it may take more time to train a pilot using a flight simulator, you take a lot less of a risk crashing into the ground the first time you get into a real airplane.

What I feel that it comes down to is not making video games as educational tools, but games as educational tools. That’s tricky.

Posted on September 17th 2011 in Ramblings

Job interview story / thoughts on mobile platforms

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Man oh man was today a day I went into “airhead mode”. For those that know me, it’s where my voice sounds like one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all of my brain functions slow down. A side-effect though is that I tend to become more creative in this mode.

One thing I said that I didn’t intend to: “A friend class is a class that can look into the befriended class’s privates.”  The recruiter asked if I could rephrase that. Correct answer: “A friend class can look into the private and protected section of the befriended class”. A good guy told me that my first answer was correct.

Oh man, what a week for a Skype interview. They also asked for a LOC (lines of code) count. I said “tens of thousands” because I do have a few projects that have 1,000 LOC or higher. The map editor I’m working for the Princess Blade is at 2,914 lines.

The amount estimated to be 41,684 lines of C++ code. I said 30,000 would be a conservative estimate. Note that this doesn’t count a few other languages. However, my C++ LOC is at least an order of magnitude higher than all other languages combined, so they wouldn’t add up. Note that the following image has been adjusted so that it fit in WordPress.

Lines of Code count

Lines of Code count

I still have to talk to them, but I might be able to work on the map editor more now that the interview is over. I do wish they did test my coding skills. I even got the Android SDK and tried to make Pong. Let me say this: because of the tutorials, I am actually better at using OpenGL on Android than the canvas functions! This is the first time I ever used the 3D API before I did the 2D one on a platform like that.

Oh yeah, I see a huge advantage for the Windows Phone 7. The good tutorials on Android and iPhone are hard to locate. As far as gaming goes, Microsoft is head on this front. The XNA community is very impressive, and there’s a lot of well-written XNA tutorials out there.

As far as Android goes, the APIs are wonderful. It’s just that good, free tutorials are tricky to locate. Once I got a good Android tutorial, I was rocking along.

Posted on October 27th 2010 in Ramblings

Getting close to game creation / motherboard bricked

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Man, tool creation is taking more time than I expected. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start on the game itself soon. Basically, I need a map editor and then, I’ll start on the game itself. I still need a few more tools, but luckily, those will be far easier to make.

On other news, those that know me know that my motherboard got bricked from a botched BIOS update. I learned an important rule: update from DOS or from the menu in the BIOS itself. I got myself a new board to get my PC up as soon as I could. I calculated that it could take up to a month for the RMA process to complete. My PC is back up, but the new motherboard was a pain. I had to buy an extension cable for the P4 connector, and the SATA cables are wrapped tightly around the video card.

It’s running fine now, and I found out how much I missed this system when I got it back up and running.

Posted on September 24th 2010 in Ramblings

Rant: fix your freaking website and stop making me use my SSN!

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I’m applying to jobs and I’ll bet that some of those recruiters come across this blog. I simply have to say is that please update your websites.

The NAVY’s job website (aka CHART) is one of the worst. First of all, when you log in, browsers report that there’s an invalid security certificate. After you say “I understand the risks”, you find out that your SSN is related to your login! Absolutely terrible! I hate using my SSN online. The SSN is one of the key ways your identity gets stolen! So, I’m asked to give my SSN to a website that doesn’t take the time to update its security cert.

On top of that, the website doesn’t work in ANY browser I have. I’ll first try applying using Mozilla Firefox, and it doesn’t work. I then try Internet Explorer 8. That didn’t work. So, for a while, I used Internet Explorer 5 (horray for old copies of Win2k and VirtualPC!). Now that doesn’t work anymore. I tried Microsoft’s XP + IE6 virtual hard drive. Didn’t work. FIX YOUR BLOODY WEBSITE!

The following doesn’t apply just to CHART. I don’t give a crap that it’s on a secure server. I don’t want to give you my SSN online! Call me on the phone to get it if you need it that bad. I understand that you need to conduct a background search.

The best way things get stolen is physically, where the thief gets a copy of the server’s hard drive. You don’t need the combination to the safe if you can steal the safe!  Also, “secure server” amounts to crap if one of the top admins has a sucky password. I am astounded how often I find an administrative password that was given to me, and it ends up something from the top list of awful passwords. I’m talking passwords like “opensesame”, not that the particular password was given to me, but you get the idea.

Internet Explorer 9 is about to come out. It’s getting a hassle to get my hands on Internet Explorer 6 for the handful of websites that don’t want to or can’t upgrade. I’m using Windows 7, and it’s not even available for that OS. It’s one thing for me too fire up IE8, it’s another that I have to boot up VirtualPC to use a website. If it were any other kind of website, I would say “forget it!”, especially if it’s an online retailer.

I can’t apply to a lot of web jobs because my specialty tends to be application programming and I’m missing things in my resume like ASP.NET. I do know how to build webpages and upload them, because that’s how I got WordPress on the princessblade.net domain. However, even I know to test a website on more than 1 browser.

If you are running an IE6 job website, start testing on new browsers and come up with a backup plan, even if it’s an email system. There’s 2 Microsoft OSes that don’t come with it, Windows Vista and Windows 7. There’s also nothing wrong about accepting resumes via email. You can do brilliant things with email systems, like take in resumes and parse them.

Posted on September 12th 2010 in Ramblings, Uncategorized

AMD’s reverse expectation

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AMD is doing something really amusing. Before 2010, most CPU makers were pumping performance into floating-point and SIMD instructions. Part of it might be to help get higher in the supercomputer charts, which doesn’t really look at integer performance as much. AMD’s Bulldozer seems to be pushing integer performance. In fact, AMD tended to be stronger at integer performance than Intel (not sure about the Core line), but Intel’s SIMD units have been what beat AMD. So, this is surprising for me.

The cores each have two integer units and a single floating point unit. I have no idea if it will be hyperthreaded or transparent. See update. Now integer is good because a lot of PC computing is integer-based, like I/O. However, it’s a sign that AMD will be banking on the emerging usage of GPU computing. It might not be bad if the CPU has 3-4 or more individual cores since a lot of PC games don’t typically use more than 4 cores.

Just look at the Cell Processor. The Cell CPU actually used a weaker SIMD unit on the PPE compared to the Xbox 360’s CPU, but didn’t really needed a stronger one, since it had 7-8 SPEs. Those SPEs are incredibly heavy with SIMD, so you really didn’t need it as much. Since AMD owns ATI, they could be able to leverage an ATI GPU for floating point performance in a similar fashion. In fact, Chekib Akrout, one of the leaders of the Cell project, now works at AMD.

Link for some background: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/bulldozer-bobcat-hot-chips,2724.html

Update, Sept 13, 2010: The server guy at AMD told me that each Bulldozer unit is considered to have 2 physical cores for int processing. They haven’t commented on floating-point, yet. The AMD Bulldozer Blog is simply fantastic if you are into CPU technology, and John Fruehe has been answering a lot of questions from end users.

Posted on August 24th 2010 in Ramblings, Uncategorized

ATI drivers 10.6 went splat, but no worries

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I’m glad ATI includes older drivers on their website I just installed ATI drivers 10.6 and they caused system crashes on Windows 7 x64. Some people may say that I should have gone with nVidia, but I have had the same problems with nVidia drivers as well.

The problem gets fixed with the older drivers (10.5 in my case), so I’m not complaining much, and in fact am thankful that I can rollback. There’s been times where I have installed a bad driver, and the company either hasn’t ever released a new driver in 2 or more years, and/or won’t host older drivers. I wish more companies followed the nVidia/ATI lead for drivers.

So component makers out there, please release more often. It doesn’t have to be every 1-2 months, maybe every 3-6 months.

Posted on July 19th 2010 in Ramblings, Uncategorized

Watch out for iHireProgrammers unless you have $30

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I just signed up to iHireProgrammers to look for work and I felt like I was trapped. Basically you get results, but in order to view them, you need a pro account. You can do social engineering to find the source of the job, but yeah, I don’t like being tricked like that.

I’ll admit that the search results were great, but not $30/month great.

Posted on July 11th 2010 in Ramblings, Uncategorized

HDD upgrade story: easy backup!

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I never backed up my music to DVDs because it would be an incredible chore of burning and cataloging. My last PC upgrade forced me to use EIDE to SATA adapters on a few hard drives. They worked, most of the time, but occasionally went out on me randomly. So, I decided to upgrade my 250 gig hard drive, which had all of my music on it, to a 1 TB gig one for the extra space, increased speed, and increased reliability.

So, after upgrading and then using image files to transfer the partitions over, I went to wipe out the old hard drive out of habit. I was about to, but then I realized that I had a really nice backup of every music file. So, why delete it? I put a EIDE to USB adapter, and now I make occasional backups of the new music to it.

Having a music backup is something I meant to do for so long, especially because my hard drives tend to die on me after 5-7 years. That drive was getting close to that age. I don’t back up everything I do, but I do backup important documents like my game designs and old source code. Really most of my data is replaceable, plus reinstalling Windows gets rid of artifacts of old drivers. BTW, Windows lasts about 2.5 years per installation for me.

Posted on June 11th 2010 in Ramblings, Uncategorized

Through the Fire and Flames thoughts

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I sometimes wonder if playing “Through the Fire and Flames” by Dragon Force on a real guitar is easier than it is on Guitar Hero 3 on expert. I’m saying this because they didn’t just make you play the lead guitarist part, but also the synth and parts of the other guitar. It also would take quite a bit of time to master it on Guitar Hero 3.

I especially came to the conclusion that the GH3 part isn’t the real part by seeing the official video. The intro part sounds too much like a piano, and you don’t see the guitarists playing. Also, you should see the guitarists’ hands in the official video, and it’s clear they are using 2 guitarists on one part of the song. It’s amazing, especially when they play together.

The lyrics themselves are right out of the 1980s but the guitar playing is a wild mix of styles of different eras. It’s cheesy, but to me, I kinda like cheesiness, especially because of how serious music has gotten.

Dragon Force: Through the Fire and Flames Guitar Hero 3

Dragon Force: Through the Fire and Flames Official Music Video

As someone that did learn how to play the trumpet and eventually got decently good at it, I pause at a point when playing either Guitar Hero or Rock Band, and just say, okay, this is as far as I go because I feel after a point, I might as well learn to play a real guitar. That’s right my old friends from Panama City, Florida. I got out of being one of the last chair players and at times took lead position.

I have nothing against music games, and in fact feel it’s a good way to get more people interested in music. At times, you get some of the feel of performing on stage, but it definitely is not the same. As someone put it, you are playing that game to feel like you are Dragon Force’s lead guitarist.

Posted on April 17th 2010 in Ramblings, Uncategorized

Random Thoughts: 60s Star Trek and Mario

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The Star Trek in the 60s did a few things that could apply to game design. I remember hearing how the transporter was invented. Basically, they needed to transport the away team to the surface, but couldn’t afford shuttle craft shots. So, they created a device to materialize the team on the planet surface, the transporter.

Then, there’s Mario. Shigeru Miyamoto’s creation of Mario shows off his industrial design abilities. Everything about Mario has a purpose. Two of his features are to compensate Miyamoto having a hard time drawing and animating hair and a mouth, and they are Mario’s hat and Mario’s mustache.

I feel that these are brilliant examples of design, and are an inspiration for me, especially when I think of how to make a game.

Posted on February 10th 2010 in Ramblings