Brian R. Smith

Writing stories about færies and demons 

Brian R. Smith

Mastery Journal

 

Full Sail University mobile gaming master's

Storyboarding Reflections for Mastery Journal

Brian R. Smith

Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida

2021 May

 

This paper shall reflect on the storyboarding and game design offering in Full Sail Uni’s Mobile Game Design Master’s.

 

Flowchart

 

Having “grown up” with programing in the 1970s I have created my fair share of flow charts over the decades. Adapting the flow chart, and process flows, to swim lines became an increasingly popular way of communicating complex IT designs in the 1980s.

In particular, as I worked for a Large Multinational Corporation (LMC), we were designing the networking and communication features for a system that used native-messaging to communicate between components.  We coded in a Programming Language One (Pl/1) derivative called PL/MP (Machine Processor) that was nothing more than a fancy construct to mix a High Level Language (HLL) and machine assembler. We were Vertical Microcode Code (VMC) coders. For us, we lived and breathed in hexadecimal (hex), as this was the easiest way to read the MP instructions.

 

All our design documents used swim lane-based message flow diagrams and flowcharts to convey the orderly exchange of information from my component and the other components up and downstream from me.

 

One of our tools for debugging was the VMC trace. This was nothing more than a series of checkpoints that, when executed, would dump the raw hex of the registers and associated data structures. If we had a nasty bug, sometimes all we could do was turn on the VMC trace, let the system run for a bit, then shut it off. Next, we had to examine thousands of pages of hex codes… looking for the smoking gun.

 

Famously, at 3:00 AM as I cupped a hot cup of joe in both hands, I was reviewing the hex output of a 30,000 page VMC trace. The only way to do this was to search, from the top, looking for a pattern of hex codes that would indicate a message being sent to my code. I did not know if this search would take three seconds, or three minutes. When the system found something, I would fill in bits of a swim lane diagram with arrows, pertinent hex data, adding one small bit to a bigger flow chart. Then, search again. This process could take all night. There it was, 3:00 AM, when I thought, “You know, I could write a program to do this.”

 

History looks back upon this moment when the VParser was born: A Pascal program that read VMC traces, identified patterns of hexadecimal data, and automatically generated message flow diagrams in large swimlanes. The VParser could turn a 30,000 page VMC trace into 300 pages of human-readable English, arrows, and flowchart boxes. Sure, it took eight hours to run. But, at least I could be sleeping while the VParser was grinding away.

 

Yes, I have created my fair share of flow charts over the decades.

 

Unified Modeling Language (UML)

 

One of the things I have done very infrequently over the years is to define IT systems or Object Orientated (OO) programs in UML. UML is “new-fangled” having been invented by “Grady Booch, Ivar Jacobson, and James Rumbaugh in 1995” (What is UML? Everything You Need to Know About Unified Modeling Language, 2020). In the 1990s, I had already retired my coding pencil (yes, I used to write all my programs on paper, in pencil, before handing them off to a pool of humans who punched the cards) for writing technical books on IT.

 

While I had a soft and squishy understanding of UML before this assignment – I enjoyed sitting down, reading, and creating probably my first real UML class diagram. Thank you, Full Sail Uni.

 

Fun fact: I hung out one time with Grady Booch at his oceanfront villa – in Second Life. The one he modeled upon his real-life oceanfront villa in Maui, Hawaii.

 

Use Case diagrams

 

I have created a number of Use Case diagrams over the years. But, I must admit, I have never thought they conveyed that much useful information. I have, in the past, usually used them to define what is in, and more importantly, not in the system being built.

 

Sorry, no interesting anecdote about the Use Case.

 

Technical Design Document (TDD)

 

For the TDD assignment I found most everything it called for, I had already created as part of previous classes at Full Sail. If this was by design, then great. This exercise did force me to organize and update the information (online, via Google document) which I found useful.

 

Prototypes 1 and 2

 

Thank you for the extra time for Prototype 1. I was doing some serious refactoring to divorce my WWIFC C# code from the biplane objects. This is to support the pipeline of 3D models, to animation, to integration into WWIFC.

 

I also spent two days adding the two-level maneuver selection to WWIFC as I had originally designed in my head and on paper. I think it looks and works great. But, I am always interested in constructive criticism.

 

For Prototype 2, I finally tore out the Unity built-in Localization system. It was a little buggy – sometimes it would simply not work. And, most frustrating, I could not figure out how to import/export from an internal table format to external CSVs where I wanted to keep the master copy. Now, happily, my English text lives alongside other languages in a Localization Google Sheet that automatically translates and formats into plain-text that is one copy-and-paste away from WWIFC.

 

Most damning, however, is that I do not yet have joy in the pipeline from the 3D model creator, through animation, to me in WWIFC. My bottleneck is the creator of the 3D models – who is slow to make the necessary stepwise updates for the animator. You were spot on when you called out this pipeline as a major risk – back in the Greenlight presentation.

 

Works Cited

 

What is UML? Everything You Need to Know About Unified Modeling Language. (2020, October 20). Retrieved from Giffy: https://www.gliffy.com/blog/what-is-uml-everything-you-need-to-know-about-unified-modeling-language