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HabitRPG: A new attempt to stay on track!

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My desire to stay more organized…

By default, I am a very organized person.  Typically I do well with staying on track with deadlines and completing the things that I set out to do.  But usually those tasks include things that I need to do for work or school.  I schedule ample studying time, and I divide my time up by subject/task to ensure that everything gets complete.  But what often happens is that the new habits that I want to create for myself tend to fall through the cracks.  Like, I have an express desire to complete a daily kata while I drink my coffee and prepare for my day.  Well, I created an account EIGHT months ago, and I only seem to remember that I want to complete a daily kata is retrospectively after I’ve already begun my other tasks.

It’s natural to desire technology that can save the day!

My phone is full of productivity applications that I’ve tried and they have all failed, why? Well, first I forget about them after the first day or so.  Another reason is that often times the app is missing one or more element that would make it useful for me individually.  I’ve also considered coding my own productivity application just for my own personal use.  Instinctively, I feel as though an app makes sense as a tool to organize my life, since I always have my phone within reach.  But for one reason or another, each app that I’ve downloaded in the past gets cast off onto the Island of Misfit Apps.

My current attempt to be productive…

Last week, a good friend of mine linked HabitRPG to social media.  I was initially interested because I love RPGs and I also still have the continued desire to stay organized and to start new habits.  So, I thought, why the heck not?  I created my character and set up a few tasks/habits and I was on my way.  The cool thing about this system is that there are built in elements that invoke my competitive and gamer tendencies of not wanting to fail.  For instance, there are daily tasks, fondly named “dailies” that you have to complete.  If you don’t, then you lose hit points (I thought this was awesome).  Your character can even die if you do not log your dailies each day.  There’s also a habit system that you can log both good and bad habits.  You lose exp/health for bad habits and gain for good ones.  There’s a gold system that allows players to buy gear to make their character more durable (and cool looking).  You can also form a party with people with like goals and join guilds as well.  So far, I have been having fun getting acclimated to this new system of being organized.

How is this app/site different from ALL of the many other’s I’ve tried?

Well, at first I thought it was the fact that it was a task app with a RPG game skin to make it more appealing to gamers.  BUT, then I realized that it was more than that.  It’s not just simply a task tracker w/ a notification system.  This is what all other organizational apps are, they give you a place to jot down your tasks and goals, offering you the ability to be notified that so that you don’t forget something.  But Habit RPG is different than simply taking a task and reminds you of it, it has a way of holding you accountable for completing tasks and creating habits.  The accountability lies in the fate of your adorable avatar.  But, it’s also more than this, accountability also lies in the social aspects of the community through the implementation of party tasks, guilds and the overall social aspect of the app.

Current gripes/dislikes…

The mobile app (at least for iOS) is clunky, at best and is plain ugly.  Although this is true, the website is designed really well and the mobile app could be seen as a way to access the site when you’re not able to get to your computer.  I’ve also found that visiting the site directly from my phone, rather than through the app, to yield a much better experience.

It’s only been a little over a week…

Despite my enthusiasm, I’ve only been using this app for a week (still longer than other apps!).  Although it hasn’t been that long, I have to admit that this is the most confidence I’ve had in continuing staying on track, than I’ve had in a long time.  I’m looking forward to seeing how cool I can make my character and getting to high enough level to start collecting pets! YAY 🙂

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Posted by on March 31, 2015 in Self Improvement

 

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Video Games & Math: A Survival Guide!

math, meme,

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It has been awhile!

Yes, I have to say that it has been a few months since I have posted.  I can truly say that it’s not due to inactivity.  A few injuries in my family caused my time to be completely redirected, but now that everything seems to be getting back on track, I am attempting to get back on schedule with my blog posts.

But first, an update!

So, math? lol.  In a previous post, Math and Game Design, I talked about my fears around not getting enough Math in my curriculum in school.  I found out the deficit was due to how my major was coded and if I wanted to get more Math, I would have to change my major.  I did so without hesitation.  My major originally was a double major in Computer Science and Graphic Design.  I thought this was a good route to follow considering my desired future in making video games.  But then I learned that my school cut out a lot of the math options in order to accommodate the double major status.  Now that I have that situated, Calculus I and II, Discrete Math, Linear Algebra, and Differential Equations are all part of my near future! Well, I actually completed Calculus I already and that was a challenge, but I did well!

Somehow, Math made me a cave dwelling loner…

The last Math class I took prior to Calculus I was Trig in 2001.  Yes, I’m old.  I’ve always excelled in Math without effort.  I took AP Calculus in high school and although I placed in Calculus II on my placement test, I still decided to only take Trig because it was the minimum requirement for my major at the time (I was a tad lazy back then).  I got a B in the class, even though I only came to class for quizzes and exams.  To further demonstrate my laziness, I had a friend sign me in for attendance and turn in my home assignments.  I mean, 8am classes are just evil.  Anyway, the true point is that not only had I not taken a Math class in 14 years (damn), I also did not put much effort into the class that I did take.  To say that I was a bit intimidated to take Calculus after such a gap in time, is a monumental understatement.  I spent HOURS reading, watching YouTube, doing practice problems, pulling my hair out, and having mini heart attacks while waiting for grades to be posted.  But in the end, I feel as though it was all worth it.  I mean, who cares if I growled at people who came within 10 feet of me, or that I locked myself in my room while I solved problems that took up both sides of the paper?  The point was that I was figuring it all out…

League of Legends… My saving grace…

I found that breaking up my studies with a wholesome (lol) game of LoL was really beneficial to me.  I could virtually shoot things, yell at my monitor, giggle when I killed things and then get back to my studies.  I also played my favorite streamers in the background while I studied and often the ambient noises of game play or hearing a funny joke would make me giggle and I would relax significantly.  On too many occasions to count, when I returned to my math problems, the answers that I couldn’t figure out were so obvious to me, all I needed was to step away for a bit.  What better way to step away than video games 🙂

What’s next?

This session, I’m taking Discrete Math, Computer Graphics, and Calculus II.  Three classes that are drenched in Math and I’m actually looking forward to it.  After taking Calculus I, I rediscovered what I had loved so much about Math so long before.  The primary concept being how many applications of Mathematics there are in the world.  Math is everywhere, and the more I study and appreciate it, the more I see it in my every day life.  Although my course load this session is likely to keep me a cave-dwelling loner, I promise to leave my cave to share more of my story!

TL;DR

Math is yummy.  If you’re into programming, don’t be afraid to take those extra math classes, so far I have seen just how every single math concept I’ve learned can be applied to Computer Science!  Also, play video games.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2015 in Programming

 

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My New Addiction: Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls

gear

Ah but first, a brief history of games I’ve played 🙂

One method that I have always used in the past to relax is playing games.  I love everything about them.  Even though I began years ago as a console gamer, playing systems like atari (yes, I’m old), nintendo, playstation one, game cube, and gameboy.  I was the one that was completely excited when Nintendo created a color version of their Gameboy system (insane)!  I eventually migrated to playing PC games, my first being Diablo II for the PC.

Years ago, I started playing World of Warcraft with my ex boyfriend and I had a ton of fun in cooperative gameplay in PVE.  As with any MMO, it is really difficult to be a casual player, usually the game content and social aspects pulls you in making you want to play more and more.  Well, I didn’t have much free time so I decided to quit playing.

Then enter League of Legends.  League is  a MOBA and is still one of my favorite games and I still play on a regular basis.  What I liked about League is the gameplay but also the ability to play a game or two without a ton of time commitment (for us casual players).  This fit lovely in my schedule because with school and work, I needed something to play that I didn’t feel like I needed to put a ton of time into.

Ok, so you were talking about Diablo 3

Right… When I quit World of Warcraft, this was my last interaction with Blizzard Games for years, but somehow I am now playing three yes three Blizzard Games.  Somehow they have pulled me back in, and with a vengeance.  I am currently playing Hearthstone, Diablo 3, and their game that is still in technical alpha status, Heroes of the Storm.

But yes, Diablo 3.  Blizzard has made some changes to the game play that has made me return to a game that I started playing when it was released.  Diablo is a “grind” game that has you constantly fighting demons in order to find gear upgrades so that you can graduate to the next tier in difficulty.  Often times I find myself running through the content which enables me to relax while I smack demons around with outrageous abilities, all in the hope of staying alive and obtaining the goodies that fall from them when they are defeated.

But what makes this game any different?  In between my World of Warcraft days through today, I’ve played other “grind” video games and the only other game that I’ve made a little time for has been League of Legends.  One other game that I enjoyed was Tera Online.  I loved this game because it was 100% skill shots, and monsters purposefully stepped from side to side while you aimed in an attempt to avoid being shot. So. Much. Fun!

Tera didn’t stick primarily because once it’s novelty wore off, it was just another MMO and my friends gravitated to other games that they were more comfortable with playing (WOW and League).  For me, I sort of meandered around playing games here and there and didn’t really have a game that I played seriously.  I even wiped the dust off of my XBox 360 guitar and played Guitar Hero and another rhythm game called Osu.

What made Diablo 3 stand out.. 

Well, in the defense of all of the other games I’ve played in the last year, Diablo has always held an important place in my little gamer heart.  I started playing Diablo with the first iteration that was released on Playstation back in 1998 and then Diablo II that was released in 2000.  So, when I returned to Diablo 3 for a second time, I loved how the game had the old feeling again without the people spamming  to buy/sell gear and people that were focused on making money in the Real Money Auction House (RMAH).  The game lost its appeal and became a cesspool for people only interested in making a quick dime, or people who had the money to spend to get an advantage over other players.  Gone were the days of people “grinding” to achieve the highest tiers of the game.  What happens when you remove the true “grinding” from a “grinding” game?  Yes, exactly.

Well, Blizzard decided to shut down the RMAH and did a complete overhaul of the game play.  I have to say that they did a fantastic job with the changes they made, bringing back my favorite game with some cool new features to boot.  This made me super happy panda.

Apart from the return of the nostalgic gameplay style there’s one more thing…

One thing that always stands out to me is female gear in games.  It’s never something that I could understand how a development company could justify the over-sexualization of their female characters.  Ok, the majority of gamers are males, I get that.  But come on, their has to be even a hint of believability here.  Take the main picture in this post as an example.  On the left is a decked out female character from Tera Online.  The gear is even worse with low level characters who run around in high heels and lingerie (yes, lingerie).  Then they go out to fight random monsters.  Um… yeah that “gear” won’t protect you, sunshine!

Now on the right is my Crusader in Diablo 3.  I dyed the gear (yes so many dyes to choose from) and transmogged my gear until I found the perfect bad ass configuration of gear.  I made the gear pink to make a point for this post, but I’ve done all white, all blue, and all purple so far.  Something as simple as Blizzard taking this opportunity to make female gear look flattering and not make their female characters look like porn stars really appeals to me.  This is not to say that I didn’t have fun playing Tera, because I did.  I would still be playing if my friends didn’t abandon me while playing it :).  But I feel innately comfortable and completely proud of my Crusader and her shiny gear (matching my bubbly personality)!  I also don’t feel trashy running around wearing something that most people would feel uncomfortable wearing to sleep at night.

One aspect of game play is the relationship between the actual player and the main character that they are playing.  It is up to the game developer to manage this relationship and the connect between the two entities.  Many control this connection with the story line.  Some facilitate this relationship through making robust character customization available to the player.  Making the character look like the player or something the player could relate to is one way to manage that relationship.  When a successful relationship is created, the player feels like they are actually in Act V in Diablo III, fighting Reapers in the hope of protecting the citizens of the town.

Home Sweet Home…

There will always be a new shiny thing to play with, but I really feel as though I will always have Diablo 3 to return to after checking out the new and shiny.  I’m really happy that Blizzard has created this updated version of a game that I love so much.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2014 in Gaming

 

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Math and Game Design

lovemath

 

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My epic quest to encounter more math…

Math, really?  Yes! I have come to the point in my studies that I feel the need to brush up on my math skills.  I have been reading many resources and on multiple occasions I have discovered that a pitfall some may succumb to is not taking enough math when pursuing a degree in Computer Science.  Apart from this research, many of the books I’ve been reading mention that although an extensive background in math is not necessarily a requirement, it helps.  Some of these resources even add that the better programmers have backgrounds in Mathematics as well.

Well, that’s fine and dandy but what now?

I am in the situation where I have fulfilled the Math requirement for my degree, but I took these classes over 10 years ago (oh boy I feel old).  In addition to this, my double major is already getting a bit pricey so I do not want to take any additional credits that won’t go directly to my degree requirement.  My solution? MIT Open Courseware…

What is MIT Open Courseware exactly? 

A few posts ago, I wrote about MOOCS, massive online open courses.  MIT makes a huge chunk of their courses available, and many of them have assessments, audio/video lectures, and final exams so that you can test yourself on concepts and retention.  Although you do not receive credit for taking the courses, who can put a price on gaining knowledge? For me, it is not about receiving credit, it is about brushing up on concepts and developing a mental muscle that will ultimately make me a better programmer in the long run.

What classes will you take?

Here’s the thing… lol.  I have this thing where I am a learning junky.  I am that girl that can not sleep because she has to read one more chapter of that coding book (like last night).  I am saying this because once I started researching which classes I want to take, my list grew from about 3 or 4 courses and now it’s at 23 lol.  Just to put that into perspective, the number of classes required to get a full 4 year MIT degree is about 35-36 courses.

Once I started browsing, I said to myself, “Self, why not learn a bit more while you are at it?”.  Why limit myself to just learning some Math, why not see what all of the hype is about?  What started as supplementing my learning with Math, turned into supplementing my learning in general.  The mentality behind my decisions were to choose courses that I:

1) know I will need some extra practice with.  In these situations, I am already taking the equivalent at my University, but I want to take the MIT OCW version to solidify my learning.

2) fit the requirements of MIT students.  I took a look at the Math requirements for a Software Engineering degree at MIT and found most of the equivalent classes. I also added a few courses that interest me in general and have nothing to do with any particular structure.

Yeah, but the courses?

Here are the courses that I came up with.  Remember this was catered to me specifically based on my interests, the classes that I’m taking at University, and the requirements of a MIT Software Engineering degree.

Ok here they are (in no particular order):

  • Intro to Computer Science and Programming
  • Computation Structures
  • Elements of Software Construction
  • Introduction to Algorithms
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Language Engineering
  • Probabilistic Systems Analysis
  • Mathematics for Computer Science
  • Design and Analysis of Algorithms
  • Practical Programming in C
  • Intro to C Memory Management & C++ OOP
  • Effective Programming in C and C++
  • Physics I
  • Physics II
  • Calculus I
  • Calculus II
  • Differential Equations
  • Linear Algebra
  • Computational Methods of Scientific Programming
  • Logic I
  • Modal Logic
  • Decisions, Games and Rational Choice

Um… that’s a lot…

Welp, it is, especially in addition to work, a full time school schedule, and a game dev internship.  From now until I get my masters, I have quite a few years, so I will use these resources to supplement my learning on a more structured bases.  Right now, I already use MOOCs to supplement my learning, but now I will approach it from a different angle.  Instead of looking for materials to help me with the classes I’m taking, I will use MOOCs to help me learn tangential topics that will help me in the long run.  I believe it’s a win-win in my opinion.

Mmmmm Yummy Math… 

All in all, I’m extremely excited about this new adventure.  I have always believed that knowledge is power and MIT OCW is just another tool to gain knowledge with a bit of a challenge added to it!

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2014 in Programming

 

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