Note to self: Mystery Story

This is a note of things I learnt working on the Mystery Story.

The journey

At the onset I did not really buy the idea of raising awareness through games -- that means it's education through games, an idea that has been abused to oblivion similar to "gamification". (I was the last one to join the team because my group got disbanded due to lack of project idea. Come to think of it, that group was not so bad at all...) However after some more elaboration of the idea... I came to think that hey, maybe this wasn't a very bad idea after all. At least it's worth trying, and we had backing from a medical doctor.

The first few weeks was actually rather terrible and all departments kind of wandered around and tried to figure out what to do. After a knack by our dear professor, apparently we figured out that the script department had lagged behind compared to the others. Then we had some restructuring and yeah, it came out well. :) (If that sounds mysterious, it's because I lacked words to describe the team dynamics in an appropriately diplomatic manner.)

Making games is easy. Making good and fun games is damn excruciatingly difficult. Ours were obviously not the quality of big-shot games we took inspiration from like LA Noire and Cause of Death, but I could say that it was a nice work for 6 weeks part-time (biased opinion haha). Our team composition was almost perfect for this kind of game: 2 programmers, 1 artist and 1 scriptwriter (I'd add up more artists and scriptwriters if I were able to). I could not imagine what would happen if the composition was changed to e.g. 3 programmers and 1 artist; probably one programmer really would need to change class and become the scriptwriter.

Working with non-programmers has been an enriching experience as well. I think we all always learn a lot by working with people that have radically different skillsets and/or mindsets. Not just a discussion but really working towards a definite goal. This is a different experience from working with someone with similar or superior skillsets and/or mindsets.

We have not decided yet on what to do with this project after CS3216 is done, but seeing the cards on hand now it could possibly blow up to a much bigger proportion (oh my goodness one of the card says "be featured in a U.S. newspaper"). The problem lies now in how to deal the cards and whether we have the motivation to keep playing until the end.

The technical part

We ran to a small problem using HTML5, which is the audio support for iPad (I think iOS in general). Basically due to concerns of excessive bandwidth usage and annnoying users, Apple with its One True Way passed down a decree which forbids audio files from being played without user interaction (clicks/taps) nor being cached by regular browser cache or HTML5 cache manifest method. Because of this, we couldn't really have solid sound effects on iOS -- it just won't play some of the time. I hope that PhoneGap can somewhat alleviate this problem.

The second assignment and especially the final project were the most Javascript-heavy applications I ever wrote. Although I've been reading and writing a bit of Javascript here and there, it's only after the projects that I begin to appreciate the language: it is riddled with all sorts of wacky weirdness, but highly functional (in both senses of "functional language" and "actually useful"). First-class functions plus anonymous function declarations plus closures are just mind-numbingly powerful!

I would recommend everyone that wants to appreciate the quirkiness and power of Javascript to read this collection of the weirdest parts of the language (warning: prior experience with Javascript is required, else it will be too mind-boggling).

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