Its officially 2021 and I know many of us are excited about the possibilities this new year is going to bring. The past few weeks I have been writing about my experience with the Aloha Connects Initiative more specifically GameDevHQ and learning how to be a programmer by creating video games. I thought it would be nice to start of the new year with a little bit about how I got here and finish off with my challenge for the month of January.
2020 to say the least was challenging for most of us if not completely life changing in one way or another. Last year so many things happened in our world and like many of you I was faced with changes that either needed to be made or adapted to. For me last year ended on a super high note and pushed me out of a box I have been living and working in for decades. For those of you who know me you would know I have been living and breathing all things restaurants since around 14 years old when I got my first job at Marie Calender's. Since then I have been a part of the restaurant industry in one way or another for the better part of the last 20 years. I started out as a “FOH”(Front of House, basically anyone who does not work in the kitchen) host when I worked at Marie Calender’s and learning the delicate balance of seating servers in turn, not overfilling the restaurant too fast, and keeping customers happy while they waited was a daunting task to say the least. Then after deciding that cooking was a dream I wanted to pursue I chased that dream, working at many restaurants under some very talented chef’s all across the west coast. By the time I turned 25 I had lived in and or worked in almost every major city from Sacramento to Petersburg Alaska.
In the end I would ultimately go back to FOH and become a server and a Certified Sommelier, or someone who study's the world of beverage, primarily wine. As fascinating as I thought that was I ended up finishing off my restaurant career by working for a distributor in Hawaii that sold wine and spirits to all of the wonderful restaurants, bars and hotels here on Oahu. This job was incredibly hard and filled with challenges that I enjoyed overcoming, but as our world headed full force into the pandemic everything changed. I like many others in the world was suddenly without a job, as my company made a very difficult decision to furlough all of its sales teams nationwide that handled restaurant accounts. An industry I had thought was solid and could not be impacted by most things in the world had suddenly crumbled. Faced with the “this is only temporary” mindset I set off studying full force as much as I could in preparation for my Advanced Sommelier entrance exam. But as the weeks turned into months and the uncertainty grew, I like many others, lost focus. The question quickly became “What should I do?” and as I racked my brain for weeks trying to keep busy I decided there was only one thing to do. If there was no guarantee of going back to my old job, I would jump out of my comfortable little box and explore some new possibilities, one of which would be planting sugar cane for a local distillery and let me tell you, that’s some hard work!
And this leads us to my time with GameDevHQ, and the amazing opportunity it has been to be a part of this program. This program was put together by some great minds that are teaching people how to use Unity Engine, which is a multi-functional digital design platform used in the making of everything from video games to animation. This type of thing has always fascinated me and I even took a computer building class in High School, but that mainly consisted of the physical hardware components and used very little coding. And since I was already working in restaurants, that passion for building and technical problem solving was mostly forgotten as I pursued a life in the fast lane of hospitality. I say mostly forgotten because there have been many times throughout my restaurant career I had to draw upon that passion, and use technical skills, such as programming a “POS” or point of sales machine for the place of business, or even learning how to use Adobe programs like InDesign and Photoshop to make menus. Each of these tasks always excited me as I loved using these powerful editing tools, and creating things with them. I even had the opportunity to build a website of two for some of the places I worked at. All of these experiences came to light when I joined this program and truly realized what it was I would be doing.
Within the first few hours of the online tutorials I was writing code, utilizing a language called C# in Visual Studio. I was amazed at how something I had always wondered about could be so easy to learn without a formal education. Now when I say easy I am not necessarily talking about coding being easy or it being an easy field to find work in, but I am talking about that it is easy enough to learn this at home on your own, without paying for or going to an expensive college. Something I never thought was possible was suddenly a reality and a valid possibility, and that was to become a computer programmer, or game developer, or even get into the field of animation working for companies like Disney, Pixar, or several others. That being said I do know how incredibly difficult it is to get a job with, and not to mention incredibly demanding it would be to work for either of those aforementioned companies, but hey I can dream right! In all seriousness though, this program and what I learned in just a matter of a few weeks, I not only learned how to write code in C# using logical thinking, but I also ended up with a working video game.
Those last two pictures are from the project I was working on in December, the first was a bit of code that I wrote to make my shield work for the player. In order to do this I attached a game object of “Shield” to the player, and then set its graphic display to off for start-up. Then when the power up is collected it notifies the player via a setting called “box collider” that “hey player, you have just been hit by a shield power up”. Now the player knows it has been hit, and what it has been hit by. All of that is made possible by labeling the individual game objects by whatever name you want them to be, but most importantly by names that make sense. I can then write what is called a “coroutine” which is a method that will do something like “turn on the shields” for instance, and it will keep doing that until it is told to stop. For this method to work though it requires some logic, and making sure you do not create a “forever loop”. I will admit and posted about this in a previous post that during the writing of a few coroutines I made a “forever loop” which ended up crashing my game. This is caused by writing a coroutine and not giving it an end or telling it when to stop. Looking back at the above picture I elected to go with what is called a “while” statement for my coroutine, and this works as such… While (something is true, ≤ or ≥ a certain number) I want you to do this. So the computer will read that code and so long as the parameters are met it will do the thing I have instructed it to do. The danger with the forever loop is that if you specify for an action to be taken while something is true, then unless that specification becomes false the computer will never stop running that instruction creating a forever loop.
The second picture is a screen shot within the Unity Engine while I was working on a few things. This was a particular day in which I was testing to see if my power ups and enemy craft was spawning the way it should. Looking at the screen you may think yes it is, everything looks great, but the reality of that day was a challenge to say the least of making sure my power ups didn’t spawn all at the same time, and my enemy craft wasn't spawning at a rate that was too fast. To put this all into perspective in a matter of a few weeks, 3 to be exact I had learned not only how to write some code, but also had created a working video game as seen below.
So far I have learned a slew of other things as well, including how to create GIF videos and also the importance of networking via social media. Now this is something I had not really put a lot of thought into in the past due to the destructive nature social media can have, but with this course I have learned that sometimes do you not only have to take risks, but also that some of the risks will require adjustment. When you view social media as a tool it becomes a very powerful platform in which to make connections, but also to learn. Over the last few weeks I discovered that I have a huge passion for being a developer or “dev” for short, and that this is something I want to do as a career.
This has led me to publishing my own website (www.joekuka.com) in which I will continue to add projects I work on and create my much needed online profile. I also decided in order to pursue this I needed to invest in my future with the purchasing of a new computer that will be able to keep up with the demanding programs I will be using. Starting out 2021 I am excited and determined to keep being the sponge for all things programing and have even enrolled in another online course Packt, which is an e-learning platform for programing, web development, and many other digital tools. My goal for this month is to work on my coding skills and to do so every day for 30 straight days, with the hope that by the end of day 30 my knowledge will be sufficient enough to enter the job field as an officially paid dev. Sounds crazy I know, but I believe that with a lot of hard work, and perseverance this can be possible. I will be blogging my daily progress and all the things I am learning or doing to become gainfully employed in this field.
I know lately it seems there has been a lot of negative in our lives and the world, but hopefully reading about the things I have learned and the dream I am chasing has been a little bit of positive to start out the new year. And if you enjoyed reading this I would greatly appreciate if you shared with someone else who you might like this. Together we can all help to brighten the day, and keep building the positive futures that we all want. Mahalo for reading and if you happen to check out my website please keep in mind, I am just starting out so it will seem like there is not much on there, but also feel free to contact me if there is anything you feel it needs or is missing.
Happy New Year everyone!