Life Lessons and Leadership Principles

The video below is of Lt. General Hal Moore discussing Leadership, recorded at the 2007 American Veterans Conference in Washington D.C. He highlights a number of principles that has guided his life and also guided him on the battlefield.

1 In baseball, three strikes and you’re out. In the game of life three strikes and you are not out, there is always one more thing you can do, to influence any situation in your favour. All you have to do is think, what else can I do, and after that there’s one more thing you can do. The more things you do the more opportunities that open up.

2 On the battlefield always try to be where the action is going on. A battlefield leader has to lead on the battlefield.

3 In any situation you’ve got to think what am I doing that I should not be doing and what am I not doing that I should be doing, to influence the situation in my favour. There’s always one more thing.

4 Trust your instincts. Your instincts are the product of your experience, your reading, your personality. Your instincts are your best resource. Your gut tells you one thing and your heart tells you another. Go with your gut.

5  Life is not a bed of roses. You are going to be hit with adversity, now and again. When hit by adversity, you’ve got to believe that you will prevail in the end.

The trailer below is of the 2002 film We Were Solders depicting the Vietnam War  battle of la Drang in 1965. The film stars Mel Gibson as the then Lt Colonel (imdb).

Another interesting example of a speech revolving life lessons was by Navy Admiral William H. McRaven during the University of Texas 2014 commencement. It can be summed in the following principles below.

1 If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

2 f you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

3  If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

4 If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

5 If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

6 If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

7  If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

8 If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

9  If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

10 If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

Many of these principles can be summed up as “Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up”.

Another key idea discussed is that by changing the lives of just a few people within a few generations this can impact the lives of everybody on the planet.

One can read the entire transcript of the speech (online) at the University of Texas website.

The video below is again of Admiral McRaven highlighting eight key leadership lessons.
1 Know your troops.
2 Communicate constantly.
3 Set the example.
4 Accountability matters.
5 Allow room to maneuver.
6 Own the problems.
7 Learn from failure and move on.
8 Be a servant leader.

Some other blog posts that may be worth reading:
Prof Randy Pausch Time Management & The Last Lecture (online)
Schwarzenegger Interview: Vision, Goals, Confidence and Time Management (online)

Do you know of any other interesting videos / articles discussing interesting life lessons or leadership principles?



University incoming Class Photos – (Examples in Video), an engaging Start?

It seems that quite a number of Universities start off the academic year by organising a class photo for all the new incoming students. A number of such examples can be seen in the videos below.

As can be seen in the video directly below, such group photographs aren’t just limited to the University arena but also spans across the Universe, in particular with this example of the 10 year anniversary group photo of the Marvel Universe.

Marvel Universe 10 year Class Photo

1. Is this a good method of building a sense of community, pride and belonging right from the very start of the University experience?

2. Do many other Universities create incoming class photos?

3. Is it nice to receive a hardcopy print of the photo, or is it better & more environmentally friendly for it to be available online through the likes of Facebook so participants can be tagged, given we are nearing the end of the second decade of the 21st century?

4. Have you seen any institutions outside of the US taking on this form of welcome activity?

5. Have you seen any other interesting forms of welcome activity that generates a sense of community and excitement?

6. What is the smallest & largest gathering you have seen for a University class group photo, 3000, 5000, more?

7. Are such incoming class photos generally taken at the University level for all incoming students, or have you seen any that are at College/Faculty or School/Department level?

8. What was the most fun / interesting incoming class group photo you’ve seen?

Butler University – Class of 2021

Butler University – Class of 2020

Butler University – Class of 2019

Butler University – Class of 2018

Butler University – Class of 2017

University of Chicago – Class of 2019

University of Chicago – Class of 2018

University of Chicago – Class of 2016

University of Connecticut– Class of 2016

Cornell – Class of 2016

Duke University – Class of 2020

Duke University – Class of 2019

Duke University – Class of 2018

Duke University – Class of 2016 (Over 40 minutes duration)

Duke University – Class of 2013

Emory University – Class of 2021

Emory University – Class of 2016

Emory University – Class of 2014 (First ever class photo)

University of Iowa – Class of 2019

University of Iowa – Class of 2015

University of Massachusetts – Class of 2020

Michigan Technological University – Class of 2013

Michigan Technological University – Class of 2012

University of Minnesota – Class of 2020

MSOE – Class of 2018

University of North Texas – Class of 2019

Northwestern University – Class of 2021

Northwestern University – Class of 2020

Northwestern University – Class of 2018

University of Pennsylvania – Class of 2016

University of Pittsburgh – Class of 2021

University of Pittsburgh – Class of 2020

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) – Class of 2018

University of Southern Indiana – Class of 2018

SMU – Class of 2021

SMU – Class of 2020

SMU – Class of 2016

SMU – Class of 2015

University of Texas at Austin – Class of 2021

University of Texas at Austin – Class of 2020

University of Texas at Austin – Class of 2019

University of Texas at Austin – Class of 2018

University of Texas at Austin – Class of 2017

Wesleyan University – Class of 2018

West Point – Class of 2012

BCU Global Game Jam 2018 – Tweet Summary

The 2018 Global Game Jam event took place over the weekend of Friday 26th Jan to Sun 28th Jan. In the case of BCU registrations commenced around 17:00 on the 25th, with the opening ceremony starting at 18:00. The theme for the 2018 event was “Transmission” the previous year was “Waves”.

The event started to finish up around 13:00 on Sunday 28th Jan with the teams uploading their games (online). At 14:00 presentations kicked off, with a number of companies and organisers present to judge and give prizes. The Vice Chancellor also attended for most of this final presentation session along with half a dozen academics from the School of Computing and Digital Technology. After the handing out of a number of prizes, one being to visit Fish in a Bottle (online), the two day event wrapped up around 15:30.

In all over 70 people took part, from universities across the country along with a number of graduates out in industry as well.

The following tweets below, may give you some idea of what the event was like. One can also see a collection of tweets from last years event (online).

I also made a further post during the weekend of the Game Jam – highlighting a good few tweets that depict the use of Tents at these events and Hackathons in general (online). Some large hackathon events have been in tents that would have taken days to construct. Some teams bring tents with them and have in-tent coding going on during the event, while others take more a campfire approach. In the case of one hackathon held in a sports hall, a large portion of same was taken over with tents.

Bring your Tent: Global Game Jam & Hackathon Examples

Over the past couple of years one can see that Tents have been deployed during Game Jam and Hackathon events. You can see in the tweet directly below that a whole section of a sports hall was taken over with tents during the 2017 Global Game Jam.

Another tweet from Global Game Jam 2017 shows a tent and “campfire” in operation. The theme for the 2017 event was “Waves”.

Looks like one group are undertaking “Tent Projection Mapping” for the 2018 Global Game Jam, therein incorporating the camping experience into their game idea. The theme for the 2018 event was “Transmission”.

Looks like a “Fort” was constructed for the events below.

Here we have an entire team doing some in-tent game development.

This event from Sydney suggests brining your own tent to the Hackathon

These Hackathon events from 2017 takes the idea of a Tent to a whole other scale.

Here’s one from 2016 with a major Hackathon Tent under construction.

Here is the “Peach Pod” Tent from a 2016 Hackathon event.

In Tent coding from 2016.

Looks like this 2015 Hackathon is at quite some scale, with quite a significant entrance way in place.

A Microsoft Hackathon from 2015.

A tent in place for a 2014 Hackathon Event

A slightly different style of “Tent” than many of the examples above.

Here’s just a few other examples of Hackathon Tents.

The following tweets below, highlight some nice examples of Post-it note art on the walls adding a good splash of colour and fun to the environment. Post-its can be useful for many things and not just for planning out your Game / Hackathon idea. Here’s a previous post (online) highlighting some post-it note art on campus.

Having some mascots at Game Jams and Hackathons are always fun too.

Data Structures – Working with Queues and Games

Queues are really quite a fundamental data structure that all in computing should know. Probably one of the most popular real world examples of a queue in operation is that of a checkout counter in a shop. This is a classical example of First In First Out in operation. The first person to join the queue will be the first to be served at the checkout. All further customers join the back of the queue. Hence is a nice example of enqueue() and dequeue() in operation.

The “Hot Potato” Queue Simulation
Another example that is often used is the “Hot Potato” (online), whereby a person has a “Hot Potato” that gets passed around by “people” in the queue. At each iteration a “person” from will become removed from the queue and placed at the back – therein enqueue(dequeue()). This will occur a certain number of times before the “person” with the “Hot Potato” will be finally removed from the queue. This process continues until just one person remains.

Print Queue
An example more tangibly related to computing is perhaps the “Print Queue”. When a new document is sent for printing it is placed at the end of the queue enqueue(). The process of actually printing off a document will remove it from the queue dequeue(). Under many circumstances this will removed the first print job. However many multi-function printers/photocopiers of today, will present a list of print jobs one screen once you log on, allowing you to select which job or jobs you wish to print. So the example of the “Print Queue” isn’t perhaps the best any more, although even with these multi-function one can often “Select All, Print & Delete” which will print off each job in the “Print Queue” following the standard FIFO ordering.

So what might be a good example of a queue system in operation that would be applicable to students studying Game Development? One nice example is perhaps that of Waypoints, the following (online) link is to an animation that moves an onscreen object towards a location the user has clicked (Waypoint), as the user clicks other locations, these are added to the “Waypoint” queue. When the onscreen object reaches a Waypoint location it is dequeued.

Message Queue
Another nice example is of how to implement a “Message Queue” in a game (online). In this case game avatars can pass messages to one another following a distinct packet/envelope structure, that of: sender, destination, type, data. Therefore instead of having Objects communicating in what could be almost considered as a fully interconnected mesh of messages (just consider what a system sequence diagram for this would be like). All Object / Avatar instances instead communicate with each other through a single queue based messaging system.

Production / Build Queues in Games
One example I considered quite applicable to Game Development students was that of the Production Queue. Many stratagy based games make use of “Production Queues” or “Build Queues” to creating anything from Tanks, and Ships to Aircraft and Experimental Weapons such as the AC1000 from Supreme Commander 2 (online) developed by Gas Powered Games.

The Noah Unit Cannon Experimental (online), is a fixed emplacement that can queue up the production of several types of land units, such as the Rock Head Tank, Titan Assault Bot and the Sharp Shooter Mobile Anti Missile Defense to name but a few.

Simcity Buildit
Simcity Buildit makes very extensive use of Production / Build Queues through the form of Factories that produce basic materials such as Metal, Wood, Plastic, Glass and Electrical Components. These items can take anything from 1 minute for Metal up to 7 hours for Electrical Components to be produced. When fully upgraded these factories have a production queue of 5 units. Materials produced in the Factories can then go on to be used in one or more of the nine Commercial Buildings. The Commercial Buildings take the form of Farmer’s Market, Furniture Store, Hardware Store and Donut Shop to give just a few examples. Details of all the items these factories and buildings can produce can be seen (online) (online). The following videos give some sense of what these building are like.

Given that one can wait almost an entire day to process a full production queue of Beef (11 units) it is very useful to have the opportunity of speeding up the process with “Speedup Tokens” in the form of: Turtle x2, Llama x4 and Cheetah x12. To create “Speedup Tokens” one must either earn them through the “Contest of Mayors” or create them from small pieces by creating “Epic Projects”. These are building that can create a fragment of a “Speedup Token” every 24 hours. The more “Epic Buildings” one has the more fragments are needed to create a “Speedup Token”, however as a starting point one needs 3 fragments for Turtle, 6 for Llama and 9 for Cheetah.

Perhaps tasking Games Development students with creating Production Queues that simulate the creation of Beef, Televisions, Popcorn or Pizza as is the case with Simcity, or Land, Air and Naval units in the case of Supreme Commander is a good way of demonstrating the use and need for queues – particularly in strategy games. Another interesting reason for focusing on Production / Build queues is that especially in the case of Simcity Buildit, many of the items produced are dependent on other items. Therefore quite long chains of production can be formed just to produce the necessary resources to create one “Expensive / Complex” final item.

Parallel Processing / Super-computing
Simcity Buildit provides a really good example of the costs associated with production / processing and relate very well to issues around Parallel Processing / High Performance Computing (HPC) / Super-computing and how jobs can impact one another in the determination of the overall execution time. The classical example of this is the process of making breakfast – many tasks can be done in parallel, though one will be constrained by the cost of the operation that takes the longest. Taking a parallel approach to making “breakfast” can however yield a good deal of cost / time savings over a step by step approach (online).

What other Games use Production Queues?
Do you know of any other games that make heavy use of “Production Queues” / “Build Queues”?

BCU Global Game Jam 20-22 Jan 2017 – Event Summary

Over the weekend of Friday 20th Jan to Sunday 22nd Jan 2017 the Global Game Jam 2017 (online) took place. Tens of thousands took part at locations all around the globe, with Hawaii being the last to kick off. An embargo was in place on the theme until Hawaii had begun, the idea being not to talk about the theme online until Hawaii had joined in the fun. The theme for this year was “waves” which provided quite a deal of scope and direction for idea generation.

One of the locations for the Global Game Jam in the UK was BCU in Birmingham which was organised by Liam Sorta @LiamSorta and Andrew Wilson – Programme Leader for the BSc in Computer Games Technology @BCUGAMESTECH. The event had a great turnout of over 100 people, many from Birmingham, but others from Warwick, Southampton, Newcastle & as far afield as Australia (though had been in the UK since the first semester). It wasn’t just University students either, but also a good few graduates whom work in the games industry. Once the theme for this years jam was announced everybody broke up into teams (a little over 20 in total) and headed to the labs to do a quick brainstorm of ideas and routes to take, before getting down to making those ideas a reality. A large number of the teams made use of the Unity Games Engine, though one or two teams developed their games in Python.

One can see all the games that were uploaded to the Global Game Jam site from Birmingham (online). One of the great things about this is that you can download both the source code and executable, hence can play the game yourself and also learn how it was developed.

The Game that won the BCU “Innovation” prize was produced by a group called “Signal” (online) which was based on one having to navigate around a 3D environment that was pitch dark. One could emit sound waves to help see the outline of the environment & thereby navigate around the environment. This was very much akin to how Daredevil (2003) (IMDB) perceives the world and also similar to how Batman used “sonar” to see his way around a building in the dead of night – The Dark Knight (2008) (IMDB). The winning team for this prize had been selected by myself (online) and Mak Shama (online) having viewed all the presentations on the Sunday afternoon.

Representatives from two companies were also present at the Sunday presentations @VERYGOODFRIEND and @fishinabottle whom also selected teams to win prizes. Zen(x) (online) was particularly creative in developing a unique idea in the form of using a combination of a dozen sine wave calculations to control an onscreen icon, requiring the user to interact when it reached the centre line & therein changing the trajectory of the sine wave. The graphics had very clean lines and very much mirrored the “Zen” concept whereby the user could just relax and enjoy the game. Ooodle Showdown (online) was also another unique game for two players. It featured some very nice graphics and required players to navigate through a sea of characters something akin to a cross between the Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters and the Michelin Man. Each player (blue or red) could send out a sort of sonar wave and would turn the character that colour for a short while. The best thing to probably do is to download and play the game yourself to see how it works.

I had spent a good few hours each day at the game jam. It was really great to see the initial ideas dreamed up on the Friday evening evolve into quite functional games by Saturday and then on to more refined games by the time they needed to be uploaded on the Sunday prior to the afternoons presentations. All in all it was really great to see such a variety of fantastic games grow from an initial idea into a working game in just a matter of 48 hours. The well know phrase “two heads are better than one” certainly holds true whereby the key strengths and talents of teach team member could be harnessed towards one definitive goal and deadline.

Key Web Links
Global Game Jam Site (online)
BCU 2017 Game Uploads (online)
Twitter Hashtag #BCUGGJ17 (online)

Social Media Selection
The following selection of embedded tweets and instagram images from a number of those present during the event should help to give a good sense of what occurred over the 48 hour period.

One of the most gorgeous #platformergames at #bcuggj17 #gamedev #skyfell

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

#bcuggj17 #afishysituation #gamedev

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

Great gothic, woodcut imagery and folk feel with #caniborrowalight #bcuggj17

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

#ahoythere definitely the most ambitious and exciting game from this years @bcuggj17

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

#bcuggj17 #seewaves

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

#bcuggj17 presentations

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

#bcuggj17 #allhandsondeck

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

Beautiful minimal sound and art style from #zen at #bcuggj17 bcuggj17 #indiegamedev

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

#kingbooty #bcuggj17 #gamedev

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

#bcuggj17 #oodleshowdown #gamedev

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

#bcuggj17 #teammiodsnowstorm #omni amazing game idea!

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

#necrodeulists #indiegamedev #gamedev #bcuggj17 #globalgamejam

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

#wanishingwaves #bcuggj17 #gamedev

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

Awesome ideas and beautifully executed in the game Spectrum @bcuggj177

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

#globalgamejam #bcuggj17 #indiegamedev #gamedev

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on


A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

Examples of Graphics, Animation and Fractals in Film

Vol Libre (1980) created by Loren Carpenter is an extremely well know example of early computer animation. It used fractal terrain generation of create a flythrough of a three dimensional landscape. This would in turn lead on to the development of the Genesis Sequence in Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan (1982) (IMDB).

Another good example of computer generated imagery is the Light Cycle battle from Tron (1982) (IMDB).

Tron Legacy (2010) (IMDB) features an updated Light Cycle battle.

Flight of the Navigator (1986) (IMDB) demonstrates the first use of image mapping the surrounding environment on to a surface. In this case it is mapped on to a Trimaxion Drone ship from Phaelon. It also features some nice scenes whereby the Drone ship morphs from “Class 3” mode to “Class 1” – thereby allowing it to efficiently cut through the Earths atmosphere.

Going back to Fractals – its interesting to see how Fractal Graphics seem to crop up in film’s from time to time such as the Mandelbrot Fractal paint job of a car featured in a desert scene from Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. This can be clearly scene at time index (0:35) in the following video clip.

Fractal techniques were again used to generate the lava spewing forth and landing upon a platform, on which Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker were engaged in a lightsaber battle, located on the volcanic planet Mustafar in Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith (2005) (IMDB).

Another nice example of fractals being mentioned in a film comes from Star Trek First Contact (1996) (IMDB), whereby the Sovereign Class USS Enterprise NCC1701-E is being taken over by the Borg. The Borg are trying to reroute main control to Engineering where they are based. Upon hearing this Captain Picard asks commander Data to “Lockout the main computer”, after some interaction with a console, Data responds by saying that “I have isolated the main computer with a fractal encryption code, it is highly unlikely the Borg will be able to break it”. Hence as you can see even in the 24th century, fractal techniques still prove to be very useful.

Wikipedia has a nice list of computer animation in film and television available (online). Do you know of any other interesting examples of computer graphics / animation featured in films.