PhD Log 16/11/2016

General musing

One of the most crucial phases in a thesis is arguably settling on a structure and the chapters within that structure. Put simply, it’s the stage when you know what the hell you are doing. I seem to be at that stage now, meaning that there is a marriage now between project plan and thesis, and thus more focus. And a focal point: getting done in 18 months.

I spent so long settling on a topic … 2.5 years, to be precise: an initial 6 months settling into the PhD, then 2 years working towards a thesis on how publicly-available (released into the wild) cultural heritage metadata was being used in a myriad of ways from the analytical to the artistic. I was going to build a case study around how the Tate Britain metadata had been used. I had the Serious Leisure theoretic framework ready to roll by way of methodological development. The topic is actually a really good, viable one for a PhD, and if anyone ever wants to pursue it, I’ll gladly hand over what I have. Maybe strike that … let me get my PhD finished and then I’ll supervise whoever wants to do it 🙂

The bottom line was that my heart just wasn’t in that topic and I feel I would have drifted for several years before maybe giving up. Sometimes the best course of action is to go back to square zero and start again – be dispassionate about it by answering one question: will whatever I do get me to the end of the PhD faster, even if it means starting all over again?

Now I have confidence in being done in 18 months (but I won’t panic if it takes 6 months longer than that).

Work done since the last post?

Not much that’s functioning in the game – my next focus is on getting a clues / deductions interface working. I think once I have that interface working that I’ll be ready to implement a story containing little lesson plans, e.g. talk to an athlete, look around his/her home as a little case study in choices and their consequences – oh, there’s a newspaper with the guy in the headline winning a gold medal… oh, there another one with the guy in the headline being called a drug cheat… oh, there’s a leaflet about a kids/drugs outreach programme… deduction: successful guy gets caught and is trying to make amends (I’ll actually have more fine-grained clues and deductions than that). Now a line of conversation opens up about the consequences of being caught, or ways that amends can be made, what it’s like trying to make ends meet while banned, etc.

There isn’t much choice in terms of Unreal Engine 4 tutorials on the subject. The main one, which is a series of 3 recorded live streams by an Epic Games employee, are quite detailed and easy to follow, but what is being developed is a rather more complicated inventory systems with two floating widgets, with icons being dragged and dropped between them. What I need is there, but in the midst of dragging and dropping entire widgets, which make s it more difficult to pick out what is relevant. What I have right now merely does the following: displays available clues slots and deduction slots to drag them into; you can drag a clue image over a deduction slot, but it won’t drop in there yet. Very rough and not dynamic, but I’m only half way through the tutorials. I’ll need to add a lot more to the GUI, like clue descriptions, deduction text, make it all dynamic based on what is discovered in the game, etc. The following image doesn’t say much:

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On the writing side, did a bit more on serious games, MDA framework. Next step is to try and complete the Lit Review (at least the first full draft of it). This will include some fundamentals on education / pedagogy – the kind of stuff that is foundational to any thesis featuring education of some kind; also some foundational stuff on games and game design. That’ll lay the groundwork for when I get more specific in later chapters.

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