Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Games Research, Retrospectives and Great Programmers

A few great links from Blue's News:
  • Why scientists should stop researching video games by Chris Matyszczyk

    Yes, my friend Cristiano is very pale because he starts gaming at midnight and doesn't finish till 6 in the morning. He is still a nice man. And he doesn't appear to smoke pot. But his girlfriend is getting a little annoyed. Less because he sleeps at the wrong time of day and more because he is so pale and putting on weight. There's is also the fact that he has started to speak in a strange Martian-like language.

  • The Making of The Gabriel Knight Trilogy by Edge Staff

    Jane Jensen’s Gabriel Knight mysteries saw the light of day between 1993 and 1999, a volatile period in publisher Sierra’s chequered history. Among the best graphic adventures ever written, the mysteries melded classic detective noir with supernatural overtones.

  • The Game Developer Archives: 'Monsters From the Id: The Making of Doom' by Alexander Antoniades

    In an era of where it often takes 20MB to put in all the advertised features, they did it in less than four.

    At a time where soundcard compatibility was a big problem, they added on Disney Sound Source as an afterthought for demonstrations. As many larger game companies are coming to terms with cross-platform development, to them it comes naturally.

    They write games that would take larger companies 30 people or more, and the whole company comprises seven people. They are the programmers at Id Software, and what they are doing could change the PC game industry forever.

I have been looking at articles on great programmers and found the following great posts:
  • Great Programmers by Bram Cohen

    But what if you're emotionally well-adjusted, and want to get better at software architecture? Logging more hours at work will get you nowhere. When I wrote BitTorrent multiple other people were working on the exact same problem, most of them with a big head start and a lot more resources, and yet I still won easily. The problem was that most of them simply could not have come up with BitTorrent's architecture. Not with 20 code monkeys working under them. Not with a decade to work on it. Not after reading every available book on networking protocols. Not ever.

  • Great Hackers by Paul Graham

    To do something well you have to love it. So to the extent you can preserve hacking as something you love, you're likely to do it well. Try to keep the sense of wonder you had about programming at age 14. If you're worried that your current job is rotting your brain, it probably is.

  • Why Microsoft Can’t Hire Great Programmers by Zef Hemel

    Yet, when you look at Apple and Microsoft, I can’t help but to get the idea that Apple works more efficient and delivers more innovative products. This is kind of a blunt statement, so I’ll give a little example. Windows XP was released in 2001. I assume that’s when they started working at the next Windows version, dubbed Longhorn. At some point they decided to include a new layer on top of the current file system, called WinFS. Which basically is a RDBMS on top of a filesystem. Most important property: make finding files as quick as finding websites on Google. They had many years and many people to work on this. Asuming they’d deliver Longhorn in 2006, they’d have had up to 5 years to work on it. Yet, they dropped the feature because they’re not able to implement it on time. Apple released a new version of Mac OS X (10.3) a year ago or so. In the first half of 2005 they’ll release Mac OS X 10.4 which will include this feature called Spotlight. To the user this feature does exactly the same thing as WinFS will. It might be slightly simpler, but to the user it’s exactly the same.

  • How to recognise a good programmer by Daniel

    In his article The 18 mistakes that kill startups, Paul Graham makes the following point:

    “… what killed most of the startups in the e-commerce business back in the 90s, it was bad programmers. A lot of those companies were started by business guys who thought the way startups worked was that you had some clever idea and then hired programmers to implement it. That’s actually much harder than it sounds—almost impossibly hard in fact—because business guys can’t tell which are the good programmers. They don’t even get a shot at the best ones, because no one really good wants a job implementing the vision of a business guy.

  • Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years by Peter Norvig

    Researchers (Bloom (1985), Bryan & Harter (1899), Hayes (1989), Simmon & Chase (1973)) have shown it takes about ten years to develop expertise in any of a wide variety of areas, including chess playing, music composition, telegraph operation, painting, piano playing, swimming, tennis, and research in neuropsychology and topology. The key is deliberative practice: not just doing it again and again, but challenging yourself with a task that is just beyond your current ability, trying it, analyzing your performance while and after doing it, and correcting any mistakes. Then repeat. And repeat again. There appear to be no real shortcuts: even Mozart, who was a musical prodigy at age 4, took 13 more years before he began to produce world-class music. In another genre, the Beatles seemed to burst onto the scene with a string of #1 hits and an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. But they had been playing small clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg since 1957, and while they had mass appeal early on, their first great critical success, Sgt. Peppers, was released in 1967. Malcolm Gladwell reports that a study of students at the Berlin Academy of Music compared the top, middle, and bottom third of the class and asked them how much they had practiced:
    Everyone, from all three groups, started playing at roughly the same time - around the age of five. In those first few years, everyone practised roughly the same amount - about two or three hours a week. But around the age of eight real differences started to emerge. The students who would end up as the best in their class began to practise more than everyone else: six hours a week by age nine, eight by age 12, 16 a week by age 14, and up and up, until by the age of 20 they were practising well over 30 hours a week. By the age of 20, the elite performers had all totalled 10,000 hours of practice over the course of their lives. The merely good students had totalled, by contrast, 8,000 hours, and the future music teachers just over 4,000 hours.
  • So what is a Great Programmer these days? by Eric Johnson

    So after watching, reading, and listening to all this I was inspired to blog about it. My final synopsis is that I'm REALLY tired of people stereotyping the “Great Programmer“, “Hacker“, whatever... as some long hired, unsocialable, unpresentable guy. Let's face it people, the reign of those guys died with the start-ups. In today's world it's not just good enough to have great ideas or be a great coder. You have to be able to present and communicate your idea to your peers and management. This requires us to dig ourselves out of our holes, step into the light, and speak intelligently/respectfully to others.

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