An Evening At Spartasoft

Focusing further on my Disciplinary Literacies project, I had found a computer science related club named Spartasoft – a student organization that focuses on video game design. I didn’t directly interact very much with the members, but I was very glad I went to the meeting. Basically, the session looked a lot like a laid back and interactive lecture where you could ask questions and just learn more about what goes into creating video-games. Last week, the subject was optimizing your game, or making a game run more smoothly so that your screen wouldn’t completely freeze up ever time you tried to move. The president would crack jokes every once in awhile regarding the programmers blaming the artists for a game running slow and vice versa, as well as illustrating what to do and what to avoid via the use of Batman and Robin image macros. For those that don’t know, an image macro is a background image with a layer of text over it often intended to be humorous. In this case, the example would be Batman slapping Robin for making poor coding/art decisions and causing the game to run slowly. Given the scenario, it was pretty clear to me that they’re here to develop a useful and entertaining job skill while enjoying themselves at the same time. The president told me that once or twice a semester they’d split into teams and design a video-game with the Unity Engine over the course of 48 hours, then proceed to actually sell that game afterward. By the end of the meeting, I had learned about the dangers of making game objects too detailed for an audience with mediocre or low performance computers as well as the consequences of not destroying objects the game isn’t using. I honestly cannot remember the last time I have been so engaged and fascinated by the material I was learning. This probably has been my favorite part of the project purely by virtue of the fact that it has given me a greater passion for video-game design. I also know for sure now that I will be pursuing computer science next semester, with an emphasis on creating video games if possible.

While being instilled with a newfound sense of passion for a subject is always a great experience, I also learned a lot of language pertaining to that subfield in particular. A couple terms that immediately come to mind are the words “Polygons”, “Assets”, and “Collision Issues”. From what I understood listening in to the lecture, an Asset basically is some form of an object or particle effect being used by the game engine. A bed sitting in a room would be one example of an asset. Polygons are basically the subatomic particles that make up an asset’s graphics. The previous asset I mentioned, a bed, would need polygons to have an appearance. The more polygons used for that bed, the more realistic that bed looks. However, more polygons will slow down a program; therefore it is imperative to know your limits and design assets accordingly. Finally Collision Issues are a major culprit when it comes to games running slow. One example of this would be an asset such as a train programmed to move right on course to hitting a wall. If this train wasn’t intended to hit the wall and stop moving, it would keep trying to move in place, while nothing would happen to the stationary wall. Presumably this would tax the machine trying to run the game, often resulting in reduced performance or perhaps even a potential crash of the game.

Overall I was very glad that I intended, and I definitely plan on attending their next meeting. There’s still a lot to learn about what goes into the design process, and it may be awhile before I have the opportunity to take an actual course involving game design.

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One comment on “An Evening At Spartasoft

  1. Great work, Karl! This is an excellent write-up; wonderful definitions of the terminology. I’m glad you went to visit this group!

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