Games Networking Event

Peter launches the event

Peter launches the event

We had our first ever Games Networking event today. We've had a number of developer focused events, but this was the first one we had run which focused solely on games. 

It was great.

We had six presenters, from triple A publishers like Sumo who have franchises like Forza and Little Big Planet under their belt to Betajester, a Hull based startup who are just finding their feet. Some very interesting points of view, but the general consensus is that if you have a good portfolio  there are some great opportunities out there. You can find out more about our conferences here

Hull at alt.ctrl.gdc

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Game Developers Conference, or GDC, is one of the largest gatherings of game developers in the world. One of the attractions of the conference is the side-exhibitions. One is called alt.ctrl.gdc and it is a showcase for wacky game controllers and games with novel gameplay.

Last year we entered a controller we had made as one of our Global Gamejam entries into the competition to exhibit a GDC. And we won a place.

We're note sure what it does, but it did win us tickets to GDC

We're note sure what it does, but it did win us tickets to GDC

In March 2016 John from the department will be taking the latest version of the “Disruption” game, along with the controller, to show off in San Francisco.

Space Cheese Mining Awards

A coveted award

A coveted award

As part of the first year programming course we set a piece of coursework for the students. This is a board game implementation to rules that change each year.  But the game always involves rockets, cheese and space. This year we did "Space Cheese Mining", with plucky captains steering their rockets around space picking up the valuable cheese pieces and stealing the cheese from hapless victims. 

At the end of the semester each student is personally assessed and given feedback on their code, which is a lot of work for the department. This year it took six staff members who worked over four days to get through the entire group. It's very important to us that this is done, and done well, so we this year we gave the staff involved "Space Cheese Mining Awards" for their dedication.  They are 3D printed rockets and cheese. We'll have the same routine (but different awards) for the second semester coursework.

Hull at Dev Day in Mons

Presenting in Belgium - thanks to Christophe for the picure

Presenting in Belgium - thanks to Christophe for the picure

If you've ever wondered if it is possible to travel to from Hull to Mons in Belgium, do a session at Dev Day 15 and then fly back on the same day then Rob Miles is able to tell you that it can be done. He was speaking about Windows 10 software development (a subject close to his heart) for a technical conference. He left his house at 4:00am and managed to travel via Amsterdam to Mons and back in a day, getting home at 10:pm. 

Biggest Ever Three Thing Game

Some of the teams an their "things"

Some of the teams an their "things"

We've just completed our biggest ever Three Thing Game today. We have over 200 students and 50 teams taking part.

Three Thing Game is a game development competition that we run each semester. On the Monday we give each team three "things" to build a game around. During the week the teams work on their game design and assets and then on Friday-Saturday we do a 24 hour hackathon, with judging on Saturday afternoon. It's awesome. 

This year we used the Edinburgh Associative Database to produce sets of three related things. We've written a little C# program that reads the network of words and produces enough sets of things for the competition.  And, for the first time we actually allowed "thing trading". 

Team "Just One Guy" managed to win first place, crafting a lovely platform puzzler from the things "hot, cold and bear". You can find a full report on the finalist presentations from Rob Miles here, and links to the game videos here

Jon Moss from C4DI at a Rather Useful Seminar

Jon Moss from C4DI came along today to give a Rather Useful Seminar. We had another great audience and it wast great to see so many First Year students turning up. Jon had been asked to come and give some tips for success, and to talk about the new C4DI and what it means to our undergraduates.

Jon gave a fantastic talk, drawing on his experience of life to set out a really good agenda for success. Rob Miles from the department took some careful notes of the key points that Jon made.  I hope you can read his handwriting.

The C4DI is entering a really exciting phase, with a new building and lots of local interest in startups and technology. It's going to provide a really great trajectory for students who want to stay in lovely Hull and build something great. The reason we can say that with confidence is that it has already done this. Thanks again Jon for an excellent talk.

Hull and East Yorkshire Digital Awards at the C4DI

Rory Cellan-Jones of the BBC gets things going

Rory Cellan-Jones of the BBC gets things going

Staff from the university, including a few from Computer Science  were invited along to the Hull and East Yorkshire Digital Awards tonight. It was a great evening, with Hull University staff and projects nominated in the various categories. 

Adam Boyne, from BetaJaster, was up for one of the awards

Adam Boyne, from BetaJaster, was up for one of the awards

Adam from Betajester was up for one of the awards which was nice. He didn't quite end up winning it, kudos to him for making it to the glittering final though. We're well proud of you sir as we are of the folks from Lab on a Chip,  Seed Software, Arc software, Vertual and a host of others from the campus. You can find out more about the Hull University success here.

 Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC Technical Correspondent ran the show, accompanied by his boss, the chairman of the BBC, which was kind of awesome. It was unfortunate that Martha Lane-Stewart was unable to get to the event because she was unwell, it would have been lovely to have heard from her. But we had some great technical chat (favourite fun fact - a third of the optical fibre in England is in Hull - providing high speed data links directly to homes and businesses) a question and answer session and a quiz which the "university table" very nearly won. If only we'd known that Linked-In was started before Myspace.....

Suicidal Robots at the Rather Useful Seminar

Rob Miles of the department  delivered the first Rather Useful Seminar of the semester today. He was talking about the joys of just "Making Stuff" and had various flavours of coloured lights, the ThingOMatic and a balancing robot. Which promptly leapt off the desk and smashed itself on the floor... Rob has promised that, thanks to the joys of 3D printing, he will soon have the robot back on its non-feet again. 

Update: 

After a bit of 3D design (using a Python program running inside CAD tool) Rob has managed to produce designs for the broken parts and his robot is now fully fit again. 

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Ready for more death-defying antics

Ready for more death-defying antics

Festival of Daring and Excitement 2015

Playing Masquerade - an awesome game

Playing Masquerade - an awesome game

We had our "Festival of Daring and Excitement" today in the department. We do this on the Saturday at the end of the first week so that folks have something to do on the first day of their weekend away from home. In fact we do this so early in the session that not all the electronic locks on the campus have been updated with new student cards so that getting into there building to take part was more than a chore that it should have been. But thanks to everyone who came along. Lots of fun was had.

We had some silly multi-player games, a Super Smash Brothers Tournament with proper prizes (thanks for organising that folks), an Xbox One network from the lovely people at Platform Expo and some crazy Japanese arcade games.

New Students Welcome Party

It was our First Year Welcome Party today. Video games, silly quizzes, free beer and food. What's not to like?

We all had RFID tags that we used to pay for drinks. Everyone got their drink and then Rob Miles got the best round of applause of the night for using my "magic tag" to reset the tags and allow everyone another turn at the bar. 

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We had a Super Smash Brothers tournament and a really silly game called "Gang Beasts". 

Hull Videos

Staff and students give insight into what it is like to study Computer Science at the University of Hull. Our degrees prepare you for the exciting new challenges within this continually evolving industry. We pride ourselves on ensuring that all our students are industry-ready when they graduate, able to make an immediate and valuable contribution to any role.

Rachael and crew have been going round taking videos of students, staff and graduates of the department. If you want to find out what we do at Hull, they are well worth a look.

Windows 10 Three Thing Game Event

Team "Betajester and Squid Physics" pick their things with the "Thingomatic"

Team "Betajester and Squid Physics" pick their things with the "Thingomatic"

We normally do a couple of Three Thing Game events each year, but Microsoft came along and asked if we'd like to do a Windows 10 based game development event at the very end of the semester. They offered to pay for the pizza, and so how could we refuse?

We installed Windows 10 on a large number of machines in our computer suite and sent out invites. The event was open to anyone, not just Hull students, and we got a pleasingly large number of unfamiliar faces turning up when the competition started.

The basis of the competition is that each team makes a game based on three "Things" which they are given at the start. Over the years we've used lots of different ways to select the things, from random draws to auctions. This time we used a device that was specially created for the competition. The "Thingomatic" is a magical device that contains a tiny associative dictionary. Press the button and it displays three four letter words. We let each team have three presses and pick the one they really wanted to do.

Once the things had been picked we had a talk from Microsoft about Windows 10 and presentations about Marmalade, Unity and Monogame. We encourage students to use the competition as a way of experimenting with game development frameworks and it was nice to have representatives for each of the platforms.

A great time was had by all and by the end of the 24 hour development we had 12 teams with games to judge. You can find out how the judging ended here

C# Yellow Book Around the World

Every new student is given a free copy of the "C# Yellow Book" when they arrive in Hull. The book is also available as a free download and you can get a copy via Amazon for your Kindle.

Each year the cover has something yellow on it. This is the "custard" edition (sometimes referred to as the "Pyrex" version.

There are a number of translations available, and this will soon include the Korean language.

Rob Miles of the department has just signed a contract for the production of a Korean version. You can pick up your digital copy, along with the entire First Year C# course that we teach, at www.csharpcourse.com

Three Thing Game March 2015

We had one of our auctions for the "Things" that the game

Three Thing Game has been running for quite a few years now. And every time we do it we are surprised by what folks come up with. The idea is simple enough, three things to base a game on and a few days to do it, but the quality of the work has been quite amazing.

We kicked off on Monday 9th March with a "Thing Auction" where students can bid using fake money to buy their things. This year we had the first use of the "Random Thing Auction Timer-Omatic" which we used to make sure that the auction ran at reasonable speed and people didn't wait until the last moment to snipe their bids. You can find out more about this amazing program here.

Once the teams had been allocated their things they have a few days to put together their games, with the culmination of the competition being a 24 hackathon in the department.  We had over 100 students at the start. By the end things had dwindled slightly, but we still had 17 teams going forward for the judging. The judges found the top six and they presented their games to the rest of us. You can read a full report on the judging here.

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This is Team "I hope my Friends don't bail on me", AKA Jason Powney, showing off the mayhem he had created from "chainsaw", "penguin" and "water".

"Penguin Chainsaw Massacre" had tons of bloodthirsty action, with underwater mine hazards and even a sunken wreck. A very polished production which won first place.

We have a Three Thing Game competition every semester and they are always popular. We strongly encourage all students to take part, not just the game developers in the cohort, as the experience is a very valuable one for any software developer.

Red Nose Day Recognition for Rob Miles

Rob at the World Famous door

Rob at the World Famous door

Rob Miles of our department has been giving lectures in rhyme as part of the Comic Relief charity appeal for a long time. So long in fact that he has come to the attention of Number 10 Downing Street. This week, following an invitation from Samantha Cameron, wife of the Prime Minister, Rob was invited down to London to take part in a Red Nose Day reception, right at the heart of government. 

Rob was alongside other fund raisers of long standing, along with Red Nose Day project managers. A great time was had by all with even guest appearances from David Walliams and David Tennant. 

Rob is doing his next lecture in rhyme on Friday 13th of March this year. He has promised/threatened to wear a tutu if he manages to make his sponsorship target. 

What do do if you are stuck - Rather Useful Seminar

The Final Slide of the presentation.....

The Final Slide of the presentation.....

Today Rob Miles and David Grey of the department gave a Rather Useful Seminar all about "what to do if you are stuck". I think everyone who was there got something out of it. You can find the slide deck here. If you want a quick summary, here goes:

  • Remember that everyone gets stuck on things every now and then. The important thing is what you do when you get stuck - it's all about coping strategies.
  • The first step is owning the problem. You need to attack it. It will not solve itself, it will just end up owning you.
  • One way to own problems is to write them down. Rather than sitting trying to count how many things you've got to do, write down a list and then you can start dealing with each in turn.
  • Once you've written down the problem, decide whether you need to seek help. It is surprising how many students are shy of asking staff for help because they are concerned that we might think less of them, judge them for being stupid, or whatnot. We simply don't have time for this. What we want is as many students as possible to do really well. This is not because we might get paid a bonus. It's because that way we feel like we are doing something useful with our lives.
  • When you ask for help, rather than saying "I've no idea what to do, help me!", as for help with a plan. This can be as simple as getting a copy of the assignment highlighting the terms you're having the most bother with and getting them explained. Or it can be identifying a couple of next steps and asking which is the best one.
  • Break a problem down into chunks. Nobody does anything all at once. So you should find out what the intermediate steps are and then work on each in turn.
  • Give yourself time to fail. Start on work as soon as you get it. That way you can afford to walk away from a problem for an afternoon and then go back and solve it. If you are under time pressure you can't do this.
  • If you hit a problem coding, try to explain it to somebody else (or even the cat). If that doesn't work, take a break for a while and go back to it.
  • And finally, do what it says on the slide at the top.

Careers and Internships Networking Event

We held a Careers and Internships event last year. It went really well so we thought we'd do it again. So we did.  And it went really well again. We had loads of companies show up and present, and then they manned stands and took business cards (that we had rather thoughtfully provided) from our students. 

Peter Robinson gets things going

One thing that surprised and pleased me was the number of companies in the area doing world beating stuff. And one company mentioned the awesome news that Hull was one of the top ten cities singled out in a recent Tech City UK report. You can find the report here.  Skip to pages 45 and 46 for the good stuff. 

Plenty of action at the exhibition again

It was great to see the students and employers engaging again. Many companies had brought Hull University graduates with them as part of their teams, and there was something of a reunion flavour to the event, which was really nice. And, of course, we'll run it again next year.

Oooh. Free pens.

Robert Hogg of Black Marble talks "Disruptive Development"

The basis of Rob's talk was tuServe, a system developed for a UK police force. He was talking about the way in which a brave developer can achieve a step change in the quality of an application, as long as they can convince the customer (who probably wants to stay with the stuff that they know and love) that what they are talking about is possible. 

The pictures on the right are from a case study that Intel have produced about this very successful project. Well worth a read. 

Rob Hogg  from Black Marble came to see us today. He was talking about "Disruptive Development", the idea that you can use new technology to make a huge difference to the experience of the users.  

Red Nose Day Lecture in Rhyme and Three Thing Game

On Friday 13th of March Rob Miles of the department will be doing one of his (in)famous Lectures in Rhyme in aid of Comic Relief. You can find out more (and sponsor him) here

After the fun and frivolity of the lecture we'll be embarking on a Red Nose Day themed Three Thing Game. We'll have "rent a thing" events and allow you to exchange your real money for extra "Bank of Thingland" pounds to get more auction winning powers. Microsoft and the MonoGame team will be coming along to take part in all the wizard japes that we have planned.

Rob's fundraising target is £1,500. If he reaches that before the event he says he will do the lecture wearing a pink tutu. Opinions differ as to whether or not this will encourage donations. 

Industrial Placements Rather Useful Seminar

Charlotte Godley, one of our students, spent last year at Airbus Industries on an industrial placement. Today she came along and gave a seminar about her experiences. 

It was excellent.

Charlotte started with reasons why you should take a placement for a year. (it just makes you all round more awesome) and reasons why not (it is hard work, and you might get out of step with chums in your cohort who will graduate just as you come back). Then she spoke about the best way to get a placement. Her approach really boils down to three words.

Have a plan.

Having a plan means things like finding out about a company and tailoring your CV and accompanying letter to chime with what they do. It means thinking about the kind of questions you might get asked at interview and coming up with some really good questions of your own for the company. It means preparing for careers events and making hit lists of companies to target. But most important, it means giving some thought to what you really want to do in your future.

A placement is a great way to find out if you really want to work in a large company, or write Python programs, or travel the world in a van solving mysteries (my favourite). It is also a great way to learn the ways of work, where suddenly everyone around you is not the same generation as you and everything stops at 5:30 leaving you exhausted but looking for things to occupy yourself with.  

Charlotte gave a very good description of these issues and the fact that there were so many detailed questions at the end of the session was a testament to how well the material had been delivered. She has put her slides up on her blog, and I've asked if she wouldn't mind doing a screencast of the deck, as I'm sure it would be useful to anyone thinking of working in industry at some point, whether on a placement or career.