Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Testing... Testing...

A week last Sunday, I was sitting in the Accident & Emergency room at Whiston Hospital. It was my first visit to an A&E but my sister was really unwell and we'd thought it important to have her checked out. Though that's not the reason I write this, I would like to say how amazed I was at the whole experience. We walked in to learn that waiting times were up to 5 hours. I was shocked but we sat down, feeling that we had no choice. My sister was feeling really unwell but in the waiting room, they were showing Formula One. We moved away and sat in a small room to the side. Soon after, some fool put X Factor on and the horrendous music was blaring out, making my sister feel worse. To be honest, I was feeling pretty shabby because there are few things I hate more than the X Factor. However, after about three and a half hours, we did see a young Scottish doctor who, without exaggerating, was simply amazing. My faith is the NHS was (partially) restored that day and my sympathy for A&E staff went up enormously after seeing people arrive with a wide variety of conditions. Most, I'd harbour to guess, could have been sorted by their local GP. There seems to be far too many people holding a thumb (no visible damage) or limping on mildly twisted ankles. However, I'm the wrong kind of doctor to diagnose such things but it didn't surprise me that A&E is struggling when there's such a disparity between those who looked really ill (and I notice most of those were admitted) and those that were given a painkiller and politely shown the door.

The reason I mention this: we'd been sat down for about half an hour when a young boy came and sat in the seat opposite. He was with his father and was busy playing on his iPad. I glanced casually at he game he was playing and felt my stomach sink as I realised he was playing a version of my game. A *much* better version of my game. Well, I say much better but only because it looked glitzy. It didn't seem to have good gameplay or much skill but it was definitely the product of a team of programmers/sound engineers/graphic artists. It put into context the mediocrity of my own achievement.

Yet when I look back on the past few months of constant distractions, I'm amazed that I've managed to finish a project. I'm now in the process of getting every small wrinkle worked out ahead of my publishing 'the game' on the Google Play store. It's miserable work. The beginning is always the enjoyable part of any project, whether it's writing a blog, a book, drawing a cartoon or comic, or writing an app or computer game. Writing new code is wonderfully exhilarating as you shape the hardware to do what you want. You face problems along the way but nothing beats that moment that all the problems fall away and you have a result that's pleasing to you.

At the other end of the project, life becomes a bit of a toil. You simply think that nothing you've done is worthwhile. You get hung up on small things which are often beyond your power to fix. For example, my game occasionally displays a glitch caused by the physics engine. I've done everything in my power to fix it but I know that there will be rare cases when the glitch will happen. I hate settling for 'the best I can do' but, really, I know this is the best I can do without actually writing a new physics engine to suit my purposes. Even if that were within my powers, it wouldn't be worth the months of work.

So, instead, I'm constantly playing my game. A friend asked me the other day what I was doing. I said I was debugging. Then they saw I was playing a game. 'Oh, is that what programmers mean whey they say they're mean by debugging? Are they actually playing games all day?'

In a way, I suppose they're right but it's not really 'play'. There's no fun in sitting here trying to break a game or making it glitch because I'm deliberately playing it the wrong way. And the more I do sit here testing it, the more I despise so many little things about it. They might be things I come back and fix if I release an update. I suppose it will depend on the number of people who play it and if anybody actually gives me any positive feedback. This is my second proper game I've finished but the first I'll actually publish. As I sit here writing this, I find myself wishing it out of the door and gone. I want to do something new and interesting. It's been two long hard months and I want to do something that will stretch me again.



Apropos of nothing: I recently launched a new blog. Not that I'm advertising it here. It was one of my stupid ideas to which I wouldn't want to attach my name. It was something to do whilst I was coding and since it took very little time to create it, I had fun. It amused me. Until, that is, I thought I should try to attract readers. The blog has been live three weeks and so far it has had zero visitors. The Googlebot has dropped by a few times and my pages are indexed on Google. But real visitors: none. I suppose I should be disappointed but I'm just resigned to the fact that Google is no longer really relevant. Unless my blog gets picked up and passed around via Facebook or Twitter (and I really cannot be arsed getting 'social'), it might as well not exist. Such is the way of the world which moves on towards the next big thing quickly and without compassion. Like Facebook was usurped by Twitter, and Youtube was suddenly the old folk's version of Vine, blogging is already a thing of the distant past. As relevant today as poetry, novels, and film in cameras.


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