Learning To Learn

It’s coming to the end of my 3rd month doing games development. In that time I’ve made Pong, I’ve made Snake, and in this latest month I’ve taken on a friend to help and we’re about to release our version of Brick Breaker.

Each of these games has had a fair bit of work that could be done to them, even now I’ve still ideas on how to go back to each one and polish it just a little bit more, or try to find a way to get the WebGL builds to finally start working well on Itch.IO (seriously it’s the most frustrating issue, I just want to let people play the game with ease).

Part of what I want to do on the old games comes from what I’ve learnt. How to do a menu system in a passable manner, how to design it well, keep it simple, fit with the aesthetic. I’ve also thought on how to write code in a more optimal manner, reducing conditional checks to functions to be called at specific points, not every Update() call.

What I find funny though is that I feel ready to take on a slightly bigger challenge, maybe some enemy AI, maybe transition states, include more animation that just in the menu system for buttons etc. In short, I know what steps I want to take to go a little further in terms of my design and development skills, I feel a 2D Mario would be an adequate challenge for me now, but I realise there’s still a difference between what I know, what I know I need to learn and being a professional.

I’m a huge lover of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which states that people believe they know a great deal about a subject as they increase their skill, then at a certain point they realise how far there is left to go and they drop back down to believing they know only a fraction of whats out there. To put it simply – a stupid person doesn’t know how stupid they are, because they don’t have the knowledge to know what they don’t know. It’s often why people say the ill-informed have the loudest voice whilst intellectuals are more reserved.

I bring this up because I don’t know how much I don’t know, I’m excited that I learnt to animate buttons for christ sake. I know full well I’d be lost trying to make a 3D game right now, but a 2D one I could have a reasonable crack at if it were simple in nature. And it’s this that brings me to my issue and point of this post – how does one begin to gap that knowledge if they don’t know what they don’t have? I know what I can start to do, like I said above animation in characters and objects, enemy AI. I also know what I don’t know how to implement – 3D worlds & maths, neural networks, online capabilities, multiplayer in any fashion in fact.

I’ve only learnt what little I know from making 2 games solo, and teaching someone else how to make a 3rd game. We plan on making a 4th simple game once again to cement my knowledge and hopefully help Dave feel more confident going forward, after that we’re looking at pushing and learning. After that? We don’t know.

Successful people have often said how hard you need to work, or how many hours you need to dedicate, and I believe that’s true when you know what you’re doing. As for what to do if you’re a brand new dev like me? Learn to be uncomfortable, learn to be happy with realising how little you know, embrace that stupidity and turn it around bit by bit, and actually find out how and why things work the way they do. Otherwise you won’t get to where you want to be.

If you’ve read this far, thank you very much, please do share this around, you can catch me on Twitter if you like, and until next time – have an awesome day and keep on designing.

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