Studies and Web development

My Train2Game Portfolio Projects 03, 04 and 05 have been submitted for marking. While I find out how long it’s going to be before they are marked I’m working on multiple projects.

Portfolio examples are something I’m going to need to put together so future employers can see my work. I’ve got a few ideas that are quick and easy and will give good impressions on my code along with enjoyable visuals.
I therefore need somewhere to host my files for these employers to view them. With my current and latest web coding skills I am putting together a personal profile website to collate my work together.

My other web projects include a new booking website for a rabbit kenneling company based in Farnborough. The Little Warrens basic information website is being updated to give information, allow online bookings, and account management.

With the Develop 2013 Conference in Brighton coming upon us soon (which I will be attending) then speed is of the essence at the moment to get a lot of this finished, or at least to a polished state.

MySQL 4.0 upgraded to 5.0

The 1&1 hosting company have served me well over the many years of my web development. I’ve had the MySQL version 4 database for many years and it has now come to an end of support and 1&1 have made everyone upgrade to version 5. I thought it would be easy until it came to do it. The PHPBB forums were a little tricky due to the amount of rows required to be exported/imported. Luckily the WordPress blogs were already in a version 5 database so no updates there. But all my personal sites needed a database connection update.
A few hours later all the sites have been updated to use the new database. Hopefully there are no follow up issues!

Tombs, Crysis and Creed

I’ve played my fair share of games over the past few weeks since all the latest ones have come out recently.

  • Tomb Raider (the new revamped version from Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix)
  • Crysis 3
  • Assassins Creed 3
  • Baldur’s Gate – Enhanced
  • TERA
  • DMC – Devil May Cry

Out of all of them I have completed just one from start to finish (admittedly you can’t finish some of the online games!) :: Tomb Raider!
The new Lara Croft is excellent. I love the contrast and amount of exploring and action. The skill level up’s have been done in a way it’s easy to understand yet complicated enough to make you think about what you level up. Love the bow and arrow feel. It was the first weapon to get and first to be upgraded to maximum.
The overall story is quite short and pretty linier, but I found myself playing just to find out which of my travel companions I would find in trouble next!

I’ve only briefly played the other games, but Crysis 3 and Assassins Creed 3 are both worth a look. Graphically they are amazing. Gameplay seems to follow on from previous versions of the games.
DMC – Devil May Cry I found myself not really wanting to progress much in it, rather just swing my big sword and blast things with the guns. A bit of a mindless game that appears easy. The intro was pretty cool though.
I have played TERA before, and picked it up again since it went Free2Play. Same old stuff. It has a nice anime feel to it, but Guild Wars 2 is still my preferred MMORPG around at the moment.
The Baldur’s Gate revamp is pretty much that. I loved the original and have played it many times. This didn’t seem to offer anything other than improved graphics.

And whilst attempting to play all these I still have my studies to do which is becoming really tricky at the moment. The final Portfolio Project before the final exam! And then there are all the other games I have on PS3 that I’ve yet to complete! I do love games, but it’s just the time to play them that seems to elude me.

Upload vs Download

I’m not sure if Virgin Media are the same as the rest of the companies that supply broadband, but what is up with the constant upload speed remaining at around 5MB when the download speed has increased over the years from 20MB to 50MB and now 100MB! I still can’t upload anything quicker than 5Mb (as seen by speedtest.net).
This is something I’ll be looking into and attempt to find out if there is anything I can do my end to improve the upload speed. It’s not that important (hence why I’ve only just noticed it now!) but I like to know what is going on with my network!

Edit: Turns out there is a project rollout from Virgin Media to improve Upstream from 5MB to 10MB. But that was back in 2011. And based on an official VM PDF my area has had the work completed. The investigation continues!

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 Cashback

How hard could it be to claim a cashback offer online? Very hard apparently!
Back in November we purchased a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1″ as our first Tablet. A joint gift for myself and the wife so we didn’t have to use laptops all around the house. The tablet could be placed where laptops could not. And since we’ve been accumulating Samsung products (not on purpose, but because they seem to be good quality for the prices we pay) the tablet went well to fit in and communicate well and sync up with these products nicely.
A bit of research went in to buying the product and we eventually agreed a price and a place to purchase. We had vouchers as well for money off, and the cashback offer seemed very attractive.

The purchase was made.

Now to claim the cashback you need to make the claim 15 days after the purchase. So we put the necessary paperwork and boxes to one side ready to use them when the time came. Naturally when you have busy lives it got forgotten about and now, a month later, we are still within the time span of making the claim.
So I went to the Samsung website. 10 steps to fill in! 10! I started with step 1, got to about step 3 or 4 and got stuck. It was asking for serial number and product details. This information was on a clear plastic protective covering on the back of the tablet when it arrived. This had since been removed and binned! Good job the serial number was also on the box! But the product details! All I had to go on was GT-P5110. The rest of the numbers meant nothing to me. So after a look around on websites, I finally found the right code to select off Amazon that detailed it was a white 16Gb WiFi only version.
Ok, so now on to the next steps. Equally difficult. They wanted a scan of teh receipt, simply having the receipt number (already entered in an ealier step) wasn’t enough. Since I was being hurried along for lunch it had to wait.

Lunch came and went and I eventually got round to scanning the receipt in and making it available for upload. This time the file size was too big! 2Mb maximum. Typically mine was 4Mb. So reopen the image, resize and save. It was eventually uploaded! Yay.
Next was the bank details so the cashback payment could be paid straight in to the account. Simple enough, 3 fields to fill in, step 8 here we come! *tap* *tap* *tap* and then … waiting for connection… waiting … waiting …
The connection never got made. So I closed the browser, tried again. Same thing!
It’s as if Samsung don’t want to give their money away!!!
At the bottom of teh bank payment details screen was a paragraph that stated if you didn’t want to enter your bank details online then you can call a business number and speak to someone. I don’t really want to spend any further money so I have decided to wait a while and try again!

The bad thing about all this is, I’m spending so much time entering the details for the cashback, yet there is going to be a huge period after the details are submitted for Samsung to process the claim and actually get the money back to me. Is this all worth it? If it goes smoothly next time and I get my cashback completed then yes, but if there is further problems then I will be rethinking buying and cashback offers in the future!

GameHack 2012

This weekend I am at the GameHack 2012 event. This is my first time experiencing something like this, a day to come up with a game solution that meets one or some of the criteria set out at the beginning. The judges get to decide which team gets the prizes!

The day started off with me travelling to Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, a 40 minute journey for me by car along the motorways. I parked the car and walked to the studio where the Game Hack was taking place. I registered my name and went and found a seat. Since I was on my own and required a team I did a bit of mingling. There were of course way too many programmers/developers to go around, but I was lucky to get in a team that knew what they were doing and required my skills.

The first thing of the day was to go to a different studio within Pinewood and listen to guest speakers from each of the sponsoring companies of the event including the likes of facebook, Sony Entertainment, Papaya, Marmalade, Mozilla, BlueVia, and more. There was also a quick motion picture on Pinewood itself and the history of it and why it is so popular with some of the biggest Hollywood directors. It was all very interesting to listen to.

Afterwards everyone went back and got straight to work on their games!

During the event there has been food and drink, lunch, dinner, snacks, all served at no cost whatsoever. There has even been Beer!

Ever so often during the day I would take a break and speak with my family. The children got on the phone to tell me about their day swimming, what they ate, and said goodnight at their bedtime.

It’s now early hours of the morning and I have learnt loads about facebook and how to implement a game within it’s pages using API’s. The other members of the team have been creating the game itself, a simple idea of the player hoping from island to island vertically attempting to escape the rising water, collecting fruit as they go. The longer the player hangs around for fruit, the more risk they are at becoming drowned!

Well, I’m going to have a quick lay down before I begin coding again getting ready for the pitch to the judges.

T2G Update : Section 2 Examination Result

I PASSED!

I’m really happy that I got good marks because there were sections that I thought I needed to brush up on more.
A result of 87% is great. That’s 52 out of 60 questions correct with all questions answered.

I’m still waiting for the feedback from my Portfolio Projects 01 and 02 that I submitted.

Now on to Section 3 and all about 3D!

Gaming Update

I got a Beta key through on email the other day and decided to install it. I have read about it previously and it certainly looked like a game I would like to play so here’s a mini review of the Beta version I played for an hour.

The looks and feel of the game remind me very much of Aion. The artwork during loads and intro sequences looks very similar, mainly concept arts! But they are attractive and add to setting the feel of the game, background history and such like.
The graphics in game are also a lot similar to other games and don’t appear anything new, just a bit more polished to some of the other Free2Play games.
The character designs are great. A lot of customisation at character creation. Classes are pretty standard but do focus on the melee class type and mages/priest seem to be a secondary thought.
The game play is probably the main interest in this game since it is something very unique to this type of game. It has the usual keyboard input but you can also control your character via xbox or ps3 controller connected to your PC. This gives you a bit of a better feeling of action control during play. You can move your character around with the analogue stick, rotate the view with the other analogue stick, and the buttons give you access to learnt skills/abilities. And then by pressing the shoulder buttons on the controller (LT / L2) you get to interact with items and NPCs.

I think I’ll continue to play during Beta, but since it is on a subscription base I will not be continuing after the official release. There just doesn’t seem to be enough new and exciting things to keep me interested.

Rift : Subscription problems

I picked Rift up again a while ago, but there just doesn’t seem to be anything there that keeps me going. I got bored most of the time and logged out. Recently I had to change my credit card (renewal) and forgot to update the details against my Rift account so it looks like the payments did not renew. I updated the account with the new card details and managed to get logged in again, but then it never asked me to select a payment period / subscription type so it lapsed again. I’ve decided to leave it like this for now and concentrate on studies, web coding, getting my portfolio updated ready for job seeking next year. If things change then I may pick up Rift again since it was such a great pleasure to view, lovely colours and character designs, but the gameplay drifted away for me.