What do I do with my life?!?

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In an attempt to realize that I have in fact done something with my life thus far, I'm going to be using HTML to create a resume/portfolio/assortment of things I've done.  The placeholder I have up right now, is...well...pretty bland.  And dull.  And has nothing to do with a resume.  So I'm going to be massively updating this.  

Creatively, I want to better use my love of colors and designs to make a visually pleasing, but still professional, resume page.  

Technically, I want to use more advanced coding so that my page doesn't look like something straight out of 1995.  

Personally?  I just want to have something I can give to a potential employer and say, "It's all right here and I designed this myself."  


I want to have the basics done by Thursday with altering colors and designs.  As for Tuesday, I'm hoping to have a good chunk of updated materials up and ready to go.  

But what's holding me back right now?  I forgot my HTML book. *sigh*
This entire class has taught me one thing so far above all else: perseverance.  It seems like no matter how frustrated I am with my projects, that frustration only pushes me to keep going if for no other reason than I want to prove I can.  While I may not always have had the easiest time with a particular code, I've been able to let go of my pride and ask for help.  But more than that, I've finally realized that it's ok to read the directions.  (Thanks a lot, Dad.)  

Each project had its own ups and downs, but I feel like I've been able to do three pretty solid projects.  It feels like it's been an entire semester, but there's still a few weeks left!  That's promising because now I've got even more time to go back, revise, and have a solid, polished project in the end. 

Scratch (earlier entry)

Scratch, oh Scratch.  I had the easiest time with this program, but maybe that wasn't really the best thing.  I enjoyed the challenge of the other units (even if I found myself excessively frustrated.)  But to be honest, I feel like I learned more with the harder codes.  Scratch was easy for me to use, but I feel like that gave me a false sense of security.

I worked hard to make my game look as good as possible, but that may have cost me in the long run.  (I'll explain later.)  The hardest part of this project was remembering that it didn't have to be perfect and prioritizing.  Because I had an easy time with the coding, I kept wanting to add more and more.  That's not a bad thing, but I let it consume more class time than I should have.  

My favorite part of the coding was figuring out how to randomize the dot.  It's not a complex code, but I feel like it adds so much more to the game than I code have before.  There's more of a reason to play with that spot now because you have more options. 

I now have the updated version online and ready to play here

You can also view the screencast here

Inform 7 (earlier entry)

Inform 7  was probably my biggest headache all semester.  It just made me so angry!  I couldn't figure out the code, I had no idea what words I could and couldn't use and I just wanted to smash my computer.  But then, as I started to figure out the code, I saw my story starting to come to life.  That made me so excited, that I just kept pressing on.  I realized that I was asking less questions and doing more myself.  That made me so excited!  The code started to come together and I had a pretty solid game...or so I thought. 

Sometimes you have to find the most off the wall person to try your games.  I knew I had to have Aja play mine.  If there was a loophole, she would be the one to find it.  I cleaned up some of the loopholes already before I had her play, but Aja found the biggest one: being able to open the book before the trunk.  I guess I just trust people to stay inside my mind and play it the way I see it, but I had to realize that it will never happen.  

I added an alternate ending, some roadblocks, more descriptors, and more points.  The roadblocks help to keep the game in line (and, you know, playable.)  

I may have wanted to break my computer from all the error messages, but all in all, I'm really happy with my Inform project.  Not only did I get a pretty fun story, I also found a new way to think: not everyone shares my brainwaves.  (And I feel bad for the people who do.) 

Play the game here, or watch it here

HTML/CSS (earlier entry)

What can I say about HTML?  

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I feel like that sums it up.  But to be fair: it's hard.  I also really need to learn it.  So while my webpage isn't that amazing at the moment, I've decided to make it my term project.  I want to have an online resume and portfolio that I can show off and use in the real world.  Did I like my games?  Absolutely.  Am I happy with them?  Yes.  But they really aren't going to get me a job.  The thinking processes I learned from them will, but not the games themselves.  This portfolio is something I'm hoping will help me out in the long run.   

Watch the screencast here

Or you can visit it yourself here

HKSGBJKNDVLKJ -- Also known as "HTML"

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HTML and I did not originally get along.  In fact, we used to flat out hate each other.  But the more we got to know each other, the more we found that if we put aside our differences, we could have a working relationship. 

...Sadly, HTML is not a nickname for the cute guy in one of my classes. Hypertext Markup Language, that fun stuff that makes websites and apps work, really used to give me a headache.  But the more I worked with it, the more I realized that it mostly comes down to working on the same code, but applying it in different ways.  

I ended up with a pretty good (if basic) web site that I hope to eventually turn into a portfolio.  The pictures and stories tell a lot about me (as if anyone who has ever been in the room with me during a hockey game couldn't guess.)  But to be honest, that all is just a placeholder.  Soon enough, I want to make it a working portfolio that I could use to obtain a real internship or job.  The more I work with it, the more I like it. 

This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.  

My class mates have also been working on their own projects!  Check them out here.

Ghosties and Ghoulies -- My Adventure in Text Adventure

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I had played a very small amount of Interactive Fiction when I was younger.  It mostly involved book based games (Goosebumps may not have been the best choice for someone with an overactive imagination) and I loved it.  To set myself up for this project, I played two different IFs.  Both Blue Lacuna and Violet caught my attention.  I enjoyed the complexity of Lacuna.  Having to examine things and actually "look" brought observation levels to a new height.  With Violet, I loved the idea of being just as confused as one would be in that situation.  Violet actually may have been my favorite because of that. 

My own IF takes place in Rockport, Massachusetts in 1709 - 17 years after the Salem Witch Trials.  The tone is pretty mysterious and (I hope) spooky.  The ideas of ghosts and witchcraft in a time that was so against them both adds a level of mystique.  Who's behind the hauntings? 

My influences were my honestly my own imagination.  I love Colonial America as a time period and the witch hunts have always fascinated me.  I also have wanted to write a horror story for a while now and was hoping this could get me started.  

My opening screen sets the stage of the character hearing voices and experiencing things that could land her in a lot of trouble.  I hoped this would help to draw readers in.  

The code probably gave me the most trouble.  I finally caught on, but it took my a while to figure out exactly how to word things. Figuring out how to change objects from scenery into "takeable" objects was one accomplishment I was incredibly proud of.  I had some help with changing day to night, but it worked really well and helps to set the scene for the spooky stuff.

The more players examine, the more they learn.  Backstories and even a little history appear as the player progresses. I actually used a real item, the witch cake, from the trials.  While I warped the use just a little, it remained basically the same. 

I utilized two different endings.  The first comes if one doesn't think their inventory through.  Running into a church with a spell book in 1709 wasn't the best way to prove one's innocence.  Instead, head off to Goodie Howe's.  Eventually, the player will win.  Eventually I want to add another ending based on points to include a vision of Hannah's mother. 

I didn't borrow any code, but I did research the Trials on Wikipedia for a little backstory.  I already knew a sizable chunk about the Witch Trials, but I just wanted to be sure I had my facts straight.  

My usability testing went well overall.  I had three test subjects:  Kelly, 20;  Elyse, 23; and Sara, 28.  All three really enjoyed the game's storyline, but wanted more to interact with.  I definitely and wholeheartedly agree with their opinions.  When I expand the game, I would really like to add more to the final scenes in the forest and make it more of a maze.  It's too static right now for my (and my testers') taste.  

My classmates have also been doing some amazing work.  I can't wait to play their games!

You can now play my game here!

Lions and tigers and "bad verbs" -- Oh my!

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Before playing around with the People's Republic of Interactive Fiction, I had two prior experiences with the sometimes frustrating world of Interactive Fiction.  The first was back in elementary school with the "Give Yourself Goosebumps" series of Goosebumps books.  For an eight-year-old with an overactive imagination, the frequent gruesome endings probably weren't the best choice of reading material.  My next experience with IF came from Christopher Paolini's Inheritance cycle.  The website used to include an IF game geared towards the characters in the quartet.  I had gotten pretty good at it before it was taken down.  

Now it's my turn to write an IF.  As I started researching (it had been a while since I had played any IF), I found three games that really interested me.  Violet, by Jeremy Freese, intrigued me.  I still haven't been able to get very far, but I like the idea of really having to work around the desires of another.  That is one thing that will be extremely helpful as I begin my own dabbling into IF.  

The second game, Lost Pig, may not have helped in my own particular storyline, but Admiral Jota's game did make me smile.  The idea of simpler language might help eventually, I'm just not entirely sure yet. 

Finally, I downloaded Blue Lacuna.  I have yet to get very far in it, but I really like the structure.  The way hints are given in bold is something I would love to be able to do with my own IF.  It makes life just a little easier in deciding what to examine or take.  

My horror story takes place in Rockport, Massachusetts in 1735.  The story centers around a teenaged girl named Hannah Merriman who is being terrorized by the spirits left behind by her mother's exploits during the Witch Trials.  When "examine me" or "inventory" is typed, the player will receive the following: 

"Hannah Merriman, 17.  You are dressed in a simple brown gown carrying a basket.  Your cap is in the basket as you gave up on it once the wind started blowing.  The book you were delivering to your father is holding it inside."  The book will be covered in brown paper to keep the contents a mystery.  After all, this is a horror story.  

As the story progresses, Hannah will discover two very important things: 

1.  Her mother is not who she said she was. 
2. The voices she is hearing aren't just imaginary friends. 

The job of the player is to help Hannah put the clues together.  After delivering the book to Hannah's father, Jacob, the player will face a narrative regarding the voices and the trunk her father hid the book in.  The player must then find the key to open the trunk and produce the book.  The book will start to unlock answers.  Next, the player must speak to various townspeople to further understand the stories about Hannah's mother.  The entire point behind the adventure is to force the haunting to stop before the ghosts destroy Hannah.  

The player will be hinted through Hannah's inner monologue to what they must do next.  Things like "I wonder where father hid the key?" or "Maybe Goodie Howe knows something" will (hopefully) point the reader in the right direction.  As the game goes on, however, the villagers will need more probing to pry answers from them.  Favors will have to be done for information.  However, the further into the game the player gets, the more information they will learn from the villagers.  

The game will have two different endings.  If the player successfully ends the curse, Hannah's life will return to normal.  However, if the player mixes up ingredients or directions, the counter-curse will fail and Hannah will eventually die...or go insane.  One of the two.  

If I run short on time, I can cut some of the middle regarding the villagers and just shorten the steps.  But if I have time, I would love to try and add some more backstory or exploration "levels." 

I'm really excited about getting this game going.  Now just to figure out where to begin...

Scratch: A Portfolio

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Originally, I wanted to make a game of Mad Libs.  I had found a great game on Scratch simply titled "Mad-Libs" created by funnyman1120.  The game was fun and I had always been a big fan of Mad-Libs.  When I tried to use the code though, I couldn't figure it out.  No matter what I did, it wouldn't work.  I scrapped that idea and went to look at more games.  The next that I found was called "The One Level Maze."  Kamikozerk's maze was deceivingly simple.  The maze was easy.  Avoiding the walls...not so much.  The game also didn't have very clear instructions.  

That maze sparked an idea, though.  I wanted to make a maze with a silly little storyline.  I decided to play around with knights, ghosts and, of course, a princess in distress.  

You can now play my game right here!

Opening screen


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I wanted to try and draw players in with a little bit of mystery.

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The instructions are really pretty simple:  use the arrows to move and avoid the walls!  
My first tester didn't think much of the wall rule...until this screen popped up. 

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The ghoul is unamused by the intrusion to his domain.  This screen had a tester frustrated until she saw the next one. 

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This screen is a bit of a push to play again.  The challenge of "if you dare" has encouraged a couple players to start again.  

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The Knight is pretty curious.  I hoped he would make the player curious, too.  Level one is pretty easy.  Just navigate over to the door to clear the level.  

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This screen gives a little more information about the goal before heading onto the next level.  The player discovers that not only are they trying to save themselves, they have to save the king, too.  

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Level two is a little different.  Not only is the door there, the knight also notices a green orb.  If players want to try for it, the orb reveals a fairy who offers her help...if you can answer a riddle.  The payoff for the extra work is skipping level three and moving right on to the final level. However, if the player chooses the door, they will receive a new instruction screen.

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Level three forces the player to make a choice.  Two orbs are decoys, one moves on to the final level, the fourth alerts the ghouls and restarts the game.  The coolest thing for me as the creator was to watch during usability testing and see not one person choose the losing orb.  

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The blue orb whisks the knight away to the courtyard of the castle and the hedge mage outside.  The princess calls out for help and the first step is to save her.  Once the knight reaches the princess, the king appears and the princess begs for the knight to save her father.  This level takes longer to compete, but the upside is that clearing the dungeons helped.  Touching the walls outside only restarts the level, not the game.  Once the king is safe, the player finds out what happened to those ghouls.

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Winning the game triggers a cutscene revolving around the Wizard destroying the ghouls.  For once the player gets to just sit back and watch someone else do the work.  

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The reward for winning?  The kingdom is safe again all thanks to you!  

--

I've had a blast working with Scratch...when my coding worked.  But even the glitches made for an amazing experience because the feeling when I worked them all out was amazing.  I actually made a computer game.  Does it still have some bugs?  Definitely.  But I plan on working them all out. 

--

Usability Report for "Labyrinth":

In my testing of "Labyrinth", I realized that I needed to do a little work on the game just to tweak it.  The overall game was enjoyed by all testers, but some little things need to be fixed.  

With more time to work on this, I would add more options for the green orb in the second level.  I would also widen the hallways in order to make the maze just a little easier.  The fairy in level 2 will have an option to repeat the riddle as not everyone figures out riddles on the first try.  

First Tester: 
Kaitlin, 20, female 

User immediately understood the directions, but gave up when she hit the wall and had to restart.  Total playtime: 1 minute

Positives: 

Storyline 
Characters

Negatives: 

Difficult
"Don't play if you're stressed." 

What can be improved? 
Make the maze a little easier

I wanted to see if it was just Kaitlin who was having trouble before changing anything. I went on to the second test.

Second Tester: 
Mandy, 19, female

User loved the idea of the maze and named her character "Aragorn."  The user made it through the maze with no trouble and even realized that the discolored areas in the walls were shortcuts. Total playtime: 5 minutes  

Positives: 
It's adorable! 

Negative:
It's hard to tell how far I can hit the wall. 

What can be improved? 
I think the princess is annoying, but I don't like princesses.  The orbs were really cool.  Keep them. 

Because Mandy didn't have a problem, Kaitlin went back and tried again.  This time, she won. 

Third Tester:
Sean, 19, male

Really loved the idea of the game and the ability to make choices.  Was the only tester to pick the green orb on level 2.  Ran into the wall, but instantly tried again.  Total playtime:  7 minutes

Positives:  
Fun and old school

Negatives: 
Add a repeat option for the riddle.  I didn't get it. 

What can be improved?  
Add the repeat option.  It would be a little easier. 


Conclusion: 

I will definitely be taking my tester's suggestions for the hallways and repeat riddle options.  My tester's were great about playing the game and really did enjoy it once they got used to the walls.  That will be fixed at another point and hopefully will be more enjoyable.  


Just let them play!

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Keeping my mouth shut when I'm trying to test something might be my biggest problem here.  Trying not to help someone figure something out is just plain painful!  Watching in horror through my first batch of usability testing, I realized something: every glitch that had never shown up before decided that it was the perfect time to make their presence known.  The shortcuts didn't work, the timing was off and somehow things were moved around.  I didn't even hand my computer to a second tester.  There was no way I could.  

The article definitely caught me at something I'm bad at doing: keeping my mouth shut.  "By simply mentioning something in a question, you draw attention to it."  Forcing myself not to say anything about the green portal or the decoy portals helped me to learn that people are naturally curious...or afraid of the consequences.  

The one positive reaction my failed usability testing gave me (before all those annoying little glitches) was the idea to add a "repeat the riddle" option in the second level for those who didn't catch it the first time.  Hopefully I can add that without the entire program exploding.  


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