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Mike's 2015 Update

On 12/19/2015 at 10:13 PM by Michael117

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Long time no see, Pixlbuddies! How are you? I hope you're warm and safe in these final weeks of 2015. If you live in the southern hemisphere, where it's summer, I hope you stay safe and cool. I assume things are going well for you down in Narnia.

The last time I updated you was in January right as the spring semester started. I originally planned on doing at least one blog per month this year so I could stay in touch with you guys. Oops.

Since it would take too long to catch you up in detail like I usually would, I'll have to skim most of the fat off the top so that this doesn't go on forever. I almost forgot, my birthday was yesterday, so let's party!


During the spring I didn't have time to play games, so when the summer break came I binged as much as I could and finished a pretty significant amount of games. I played through Metal Gear Solid 2 & 3 from the HD collection, the 2013 Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs, Metro Last Light, Saints Row 4, and the newest Devil May Cry.

Once the fall started I didn't have time, so I fit in a half hour of Spelunky whenever I could. In Spelunky I set a new personal best run by defeating the secret boss Yama and finishing the game with $770,000 in loot. My old record was like $500,000.

Now that we are on winter break I'm binging MGSV Phantom Pain, being sneaky, shooting bears in the wiener with tranquilizer darts, stuff like that. Even when games like Fallout and Metal Gear have come out, my most anticipated game of the year has been Rise of the Tomb Raider and my Dad caught onto that. During cyber week he bought the game when it was on sale and I think it might be my Christmas present. If so I'm excited, I need a new Tomb Raider in my life ^_^


Back in the spring I finished the term with A's except a B in chemistry. My C++ class was a lot of fun and we had a great instructor. We continued to build on our procedural programming skills, but the last few projects introduced us to object oriented design. Among a dozen or so programs I made over the term I built a player vs. CPU digital game of Battleship with some basic AI that turned out to be kind of fun.

The autumn term ended with all B's which seems all peachy but it was like a war of attrition. I had Calculus 1 and Calculus-based Physics for Engineers 1. Calculus is fun, it combines algebra and trigonometry then introduces some new concepts that are fascinating.

Physics was where I had more trouble. The math is easy. The hardest part is that it's incredibly overwhelming trying to set up problems in the first place. It's difficult to see situations, identify all the forces and principles at play, and then build equations to explain them. This class covered classical mechanics in two and three dimensions, momentum and impulse, rotational motion, and thermodynamics.

Math classes teach you how to do math techniques, but a physics class requires you to start learning to use the math. All the algebra, trig, and calc you've learned is like a big tool box and you have to root around through it and figure out how to use it in novel situations. And even then if your math is perfect you're only correct in a theoretical sense, there are a lot of weird little things you have to fudge in order to engineer things in the real world.

Between the massive amounts of homework that come with taking college level calculus and physics I always felt like there weren't enough hours in the day. By the time we got to rotational motion I was starting to burn out and the attrition was wearing me down. When we started thermodynamics, entropy, heat engines, and calorimetry I got a second wind and finished off the term strong, and did well on the final exam.

That gave me a much needed boost in morale. A boost I can take with me into next year.

What's next

In the spring I march forward to Calculus 2 and Physics 2. Waves, optics, electricity, magnetism, relativity, and quantum physics await.

I still plan on transferring colleges next fall to a 4 year bachelor of science program. My top two choices being DigiPen in Washington to do the engineering side of real-time simulations and software, including games, or Northeastern University in Boston to go for a combined major in computer science and physics.

They're both great schools and I'd be fortunate and highly challenged at either, but if I get accepted into both I'd prefer to go to DigiPen since it's cheaper and the winters are more mild there. After living all my life in Colorado I don't necessarily want to move to Boston where it snows even worse.

I also prefer DigiPen because we will get to build game engines from scratch, which I've always wanted to do. Graphics, physics, networks, artificial intelligence, gameplay, tools. All of that sounds fun.

Video games have always been a passion of mine so it'll be fun to build them, but ever since I started studying computer science, math, and physics I realized that I'd also love to work in proper artificial intelligence, machine learning, and scientific simulations. Especially computer models for astrophysics, or algorithms that could help sort through the massive amounts of data we collect after particle collision experiments.

Till next time,


P.S. We all know I actually want to use my skills to build a Metal Gear and take over the world Surprised

P.P.S. Just kidding

P.P.P.S. Or am I? Cool



Super Step Contributing Writer

12/19/2015 at 10:53 PM

Whoa, that's awesome you're learning about AI. I'd love to learn that stuff, but I'm not sure I'd so well with it. 

I'm excited for Rise of Tomb Raider to come to PS4, but it was not a good idea for them to release it alongside Fallout and CoD. Then again, having CoD content come out early for PS4 was also odd to me, and it looks like Xbone CoD outsold the PS4 copies anyway. 

I'm gonna be using my Winter Break to catch up on games, watch Jessica Jones and other Netflix, and hopefully watch Star Wars along with celebrating dad's birthday and Christmas. 


12/20/2015 at 12:12 AM

Happy holidays and happy birthday to your dad, Joe!

A couple days ago Microsoft released a statement saying Tomb Raider sold "good" I think their term was lol, but I highly doubt it. For all intents and purposes it seems like an incredible game and it did really well critically, but it was sent out to die in that packed fall lineup. It came out the same day as Fallout and was bookended by Halo a week or two earlier and Battlefront a week or two after. I doubt Tomb Raider sold well. I think they probably should have held onto the game and released it sometime early next year, but then again I don't know what their contracts look like or if they had flexibility to do that.


12/19/2015 at 11:11 PM

Well our still crazy so that means your doing good! LOL! I understand the busy thing, I havent blogged no where near what I wanted to. I havent been good about beating games, I really need to...the "I need to finish" pile is ridiclous in size you have got me beaten there for sure. Keep up the great work for school, your doing an awesome job!


12/20/2015 at 12:35 AM

Thanks, Nicole!

I was surprised with how many games I finished this summer. I really tried to turn my brain off and relieve some stress that had built up, and before I knew it I had knocked a lot of games off my backlog. It was unusual because most of the time when I look at my backlog and try to figure out how to tackle it I end up getting overwhelmed and I play none of them.


12/20/2015 at 07:27 AM

Best of the season to you. Always great to hear from you. You want snow, you come to Canada. Except this year where London still doesn't have any and it's going to rain on Christmas day.

I'd love to go to Boston. I had so much fun there in the few visits I've had.


12/20/2015 at 04:07 PM

Thank you, Peter, and best of the season to you as well!

Travis Hawks Senior Editor

12/20/2015 at 10:34 AM

Sounds like school is going really well. That's good to hear! I always wished that physics and calculus were just some sort of mooshed together beast instead of separate classes. You'll learn something in physics and not really "get it" until you hit that part in calculus. Seems like it could all be organized better. Glad you're getting it all, though!

Your plans sound really good. It was great to hear from you!


12/20/2015 at 04:17 PM

Thanks, Travis, and it was good to hear from you too!

That's actually the exact same thing our physics professor told us on day one of class in the introduction lecture. He was saying that it would be better if people were taught calculus and physics in a much more intertwined way. He thinks that students get educated in these subjects as if they're seperate, and it makes it tougher for their minds to be flexible and use the math in the critical thinking sort of way you need to when you eventually get into a physics class.


12/21/2015 at 02:36 AM

Speaking of AI, I listened to this Gameinformer Podcast the other day where Ken Levine was interviewed and talked about the systems he's using in his new game. I believe he wants to create a story that changes depending on the things you do in the game. He goes into great detail about how he breaks down NPC responses and how they might change depending on your actions in the game. 


12/22/2015 at 02:32 AM

Happy late birthday Mike.

I got my university start this year with two semesters (on each half of this year) doing anthropology, which I can only describe as a beginners year since I did well, but not overly so and I got rough times in both semesters (which i've detailed at times on blogs here). I do hope next year I do much better now that I got used to university life and i'm excited for the classes where I will finally see proper anthropology (both semesters had more social sciences classes and only one anthropology class each).

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