Wednesday, October 18, 2017

QUT - Evolving one's Pedagogy

Since coming back to work at QUT, I have worked hard to evolve my teaching pedagogy further to make the learning processes I employ as efficient and worthwhile for my students as possible. Perhaps inspired by events at my previous employment, a place that emphasized the concept somewhat ridiculously (to it's own detriment), I have noticed gaps in the current curriculum offered at QUT that I feel I am capable of addressing in my own way.

Over the course of 2017, this evolution has come in several forms. First and foremost, I have returned to developing Unity game/genre specific tutorials for preliminary Unity units (e.g. IGB100 - Game Studio 1) taught at QUT. These units line up with other units running alongside the curriculum that I do not directly teach into, with the idea being that students can comfortably walk into these video tutorials with some prior knowledge of the software. The videos are similar to work I undertook several years ago (2013), from which I won a Vice Chancellor's Performance Award for significant contribution to University teaching. Developing them requires careful pre-planning and actual game production, often following a script and scheduling of tasks. One cannot simply wing it and hope that what is recorded is a timely and efficient production.

In addition to this, I have also put considerable effort into the assignment bases I use for more advanced scripting units. In particular, IGB383 - AI for Games is a unit I spent a great deal of time reworking the workshops and assignments for. The assignments themselves originate from semi-complete mini-games that I developed from scratch, complete with working mechanics, artificial intelligence and dynamic environments. I believe putting the effort into these works gives students the opportunity to focus on what is important (in this case, implementation of game AI) but also a platform for emulating game play elements in other subjects. Sometimes learning via example is the only way you can approach a topic, and giving students a smorgasbord of mechanics to harvest and evaluate is often beneficial.

Finally, I have undertaken an additional development task, producing globally applicable, degree wide videos regarding game design and implementation. These videos tackle not just technical Unity/C# topics, but project management and development life-cycle skills as well. It also affords me the opportunity to discuss certain topics which I consider to be very important game design skills and knowledge that are either taught degree wide or not necessarily covered at all during study at QUT. Some of these videos have been an absolute pleasure to make, especially ones where I can communicate some of the more nuanced aspects of game design. I hope to expand on this library, discussing source control, advanced game mechanics and scripting as well as more exploratory topics regarding modern day games.

Overall I have been rather enjoying my teaching run at QUT and hope I am kept on board to continue my work. I still have so much to do and many improvements to make regarding the evolution of my pedagogy.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

None Shall Pass!

Season 11 in Diablo 3 has been an interesting one, bringing back many friends far and wide to witness the debut season for the 'new' Necromancer class. Having briefly tried the Necromancer pre-season and getting to GR80, I realised that, while the class is certainly enjoyable, the lack of gearing options severely dampens my interest in the class at endgame. Hopefully it is something that is addressed in the future.

Besides this, I have been rocking a Crusader this season, jumping back on the horse to figure out a comfortable playstyle, something I never did in the past. While I originally intended to gear towards running a thorns (i.e. damage reflect) build, I found that gearing for Roland's was quite akin to the old Hammer of the Ancients playstyle I became fond of playing as a Barbarian. As Barbarians have truly been left by the wayside for the last 4-5 seasons in favour of classes that, quite literally, are 10x more effective, jumping ship to a slightly better class employing a similar play philosophy has been advantageous. A lot of the 'tech' and realizations I made playing a Barbarian still work relatively well for a Crusader.

While a Crusader is certainly more cooldown/active defense dependant, similar passives and skills exist that give you strong defensive and, more importantly, sustain options, much like the Barbarian. I have started dubbing this playstyle "fish-tanking", simply because it attempts to maintain an adequate balance between the dimensions of your damage x mitigation x sustain fish-tank. If the dimensions of said fish-tank are inversely proportioned to the scaling of the other dimensions, then the sensible route is to maintain a balance between them to optimize your fish tank's volume. This concept certainly exists in a game like Diablo 3: stacking one type of stat reduces the capacity to stack another.

If your fish-tank's dimensions are 10 x 1 x 1, you will do some extraordinary damage, but you will die as soon as a mob touches you and won't even have the chance to sustain yourself. Your volume (or effectiveness) for handling content is 10. However, if you dial that damage back somewhat, take some time to consider your options in contrast to mindlessly stacking "MOAR DOMAGE!!", you might end up with a more balanced fish-tank of dimensions 5 x 5 x 5. Your volume (effectiveness) jumps all the way to 125. As you can see, that is a huge difference from 10.

Of course, the game's mechanics are not as simple as maximizing a fish-tank's volume. There are things that still kill me in 2-3 hits and bosses that are an absolute nightmare to fight. Additionally, the classes have varying degrees of sustain options, some more than others. The recent Necromancer addition probably having the strongest and most interesting. This philosophy does not work for everyone. However, it has allowed me to climb up to the relative power level of my much better geared Barbarian on live, clearing a GR85 in about as much time as my Barb would. I imagine that by the end of the season I will have eclipsed my Barbarian's power level and may have a new class/build to enjoy as much as HotA, LeapQuake and Whirlwind.

Fun times.

Friday, April 28, 2017


I havn't posted in awhile, so I thought it was about time to shitpost about some random epeen nonsense.

In Season 10 of Diablo III, Blizzard decided not to listen to the enormous library of constructive posts regarding class balance changes and instead decided to do their own thing yet again. This included buffing the highest performing classes even further and introducing Primal Ancient Legendaries.

Primal Ancient Legendaries (or PALs) are basically ancient legendaries that have rolled perfectly. They drop at an extremely low drop rate and are usually pretty crap. This is mainly because a) legendaries usually roll with terrible affixes, and b) terrible legendaries drop most of the time. Getting a well rolled PAL Furnace is extremely unlikely.

They also introduced a requirement prior to them dropping on normal/seasons. You need to clear a GR70 first.

This aspect of PALs has created enormous controversy within the Diablo III community, revealing some interesting aspects about the majority of people who play it. For most players, this 'gateway' is ridiculously unfair, requiring insane amounts of playtime to get thousands of paragon levels, perfectly rolled Ancient gear and leveling your gems as high as possible, not to mention a build that is different from what they are playing. This dismay has been expressed adamantly on the forums, with many people complaining that GR70 is far too high. For example, this post containing the following:

"... I can hardly do T13 let alone GR 70 with my DH. Now I know some will say, ''change this skill'', ''add this item'', blah, blah, blah. But the point I shouldn't have to min max that much! I have level 60 gems, 6 pc set, Ancient items, even Augments. I'm not an idiot or new to the DH either. It's just that GR 70 is a insane Gateway. Make the gateway 50 or 60 or take it away completely."

I had not realized this would even be a concern and initially interpreted the complaints as people joking/trolling. Admittedly my best geared D3 character farted at and completed a GR70 while I pushed to GR90 and beyond. Reading through the comments, it seems the community is very much split on just how easy a GR70 actually is. While I would calmly place my token on the 'is' side of the argument, it seems many, many players would disagree.

So I decided to conduct an experiment: How long would it take me to get to GR70 in Season 10 from scratch?

I decided to play a Demon Hunter, a class I had not invested time in since Season 1 and therefore have no understanding of their current meta. To be fair, I have played every other class in a season prior to this one at some point. Additionally, the Demon Hunter still appears to be the squishiest class in the game (at least on paper), so it would provide an additional challenge.

The end result is as follows...

I attempted a so-so GR70 about 15 hours in after completely solo leveling to paragon 463. I had no ancients, no augments, non-ideal gear rolls, level 50 gems and no prior attempts. I had 4 minutes to spare. What is annoying is that I know I could have done it much sooner if I had not screwed around trying to get Elemental Arrow to work better with the Marauder's set. Probably around the 13 hour mark.

So, in conclusion, people complaining on Diablo forums is nothing new and the GR70 gateway controversy is just further proof that some people don't know how to play the game. Which, for a game going on 5 years old is pretty sad.

I shall patiently await the Necromancer.