Sunday, May 31, 2009

Quest Log: Beginning Design and Implementation

Design Design Design! This has to be the most important step. Planning everything out before implementation is vital - I wish I knew this before. The first thing I had to keep in mind is that the new interface needed to be "brain-dead idiot-proof." The FITS NPCs reiterated this several times. ...Well, there goes my plans to have the UI (User Interface) look like a cockpit.

At first, the UI and UX (User Experience) was planned to be relatively the same as the predecessor (link has a screenshot). If you look at the screenshot you will see that all of the content is displayed in one window with tabs. The user can only work on one quiz at a time. If multiple question banks are desired to be used, then the user must open up another question bank which will appears in a separate window. All windows have the same functionality, they are just a different question bank. You can even look at the current quiz in multiple locations which can be confusing at first. Overall, the predecessor is a good program and has done well over the years; however, as you can see, it shows its age.

It was at this point that I realized I could design the application however I wanted, as long as it fit the requirements. Consequently, I became consumed with coming up with a more intuitive UX. I immediately got to brainstorming and before too long I had something. I would have the layout of the entire application would be split up into 3 parts.
  1. Browser - At startup, all of the question banks the user has will be loaded and be explorable much like folders in windows explorer.
  2. Question View - If a question was selected in the browser, then the full details of the question would be displayed.
  3. Quizzes - Multiple quizzes could be open at a time and displayed in tabs.
After working on it for a few days I came up with this.

I submitted it to the FITS NPCs for some feedback on the new UX and overall received positive feedback. I was glad that they liked it, but I was not exactly enthralled by it myself. It was too bland and was not exactly professional looking. Something was going to have to change...

*saved game*

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Quest Log: First Glance

Before accepting the quest, I had a rough idea of how I would go about completing it. With a little bit of application development under my belt, I figured I could take the quest on as I was without any level grinding or obtaining new equipment required. My plan was simple. Take up WinForms (Window Forms) as my sword with C# as my shield. The .NET Framework would be my magic and Visual Studio 2008 as one of my skills.

Before I set out on my journey with sword in hand, my quest giver included some requirements. I wont bore you by going over these in detail right now but I will mention them as I come across them in development. With these requirements in mind, I made an experienced estimate that, from start to finish, development would be about two weeks. Now I was ready to start some designing!

*saved game*

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Obtained Quest: Application Development

My first real quest! I have had several mini quests before this one, but they were just that - mini. And this is why I start off in this story/blog as a level 7 programmer and not level 1. This may also be a clue to why in some games your characters do not start at level 1. I know I once wondered this but lets avoid from getting completely distracted from what's really important - The Quest!

So this quest was presented to me by the NPC, Matthew Muldoon, the CEO of FITS (Fire Instructor Testing Software) aka my father in law. Once thing I would like to clear up is that I was not presented this quest because I married his wonderful/beautiful/lots of other good things daughter but because, like in all games, only the hero can receive quests. Moving along, Here is an overview of the FITS products.

"With the FITS Quiz Generator and Question Files, you can assemble, customize and print a multiple choice test in minutes instead of hours. Sold only to Fire Service instructors and trainers- not to your trainees.
" - FITS Website

The mentioned Quiz Generator is the software FITS and their clients use. Basically, it allows users to both create questions and store them in a question bank as well as make quizzes using the questions from a question bank. The developer of the Quiz Generator became too busy to continue supporting it and this is where I come in.

I was presented this quest to develop a new Quiz Generator that would shake the very foundation of this world...or at least provide the user with a fresh and simple interface to carry out more or less the same task as the predecessor.

I actually received this quest in about November of 2008; however, development did not really start until sometime in February 2009. I have been working on this quest while I finished up my final semester at San Jose State University and just last week I received the key item "diploma" (BSCS). With lots of hard work and many hours of playtime put into this quest I am finally nearing the completion of it.

The next number of posts will focus on the development of this project and what really went into both designing and developing this application from the ground up. Stay tuned!

*saved game*

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Game!

Welcome! This is a new blog! A new game!

My plans for this blog is pretty simple - to tell my exciting adventures of programming to all of the NPCs out there (yes, that is you). While the focus is on programming in general, I am sure that over the long run the majority of posts will be, hopefully, on the topic of game development because that is after all my true passion.

If you do decide to read this blog or even any of the posts, I hope you will find it insightful and utterly life changing - with this being the exception. So follow this blog and enjoy!

*saved game*