Category Archives: Phazero blog

June wk 2 Progress

Im chunked my learning a bit to make sure everything sticks with me looking term so rn its C++ in Unreal and reviewing trignometry, and game specific calc + linear algebra (linear algebra is by far the most important math to learn rn and There’s a 82% chance Ill need to study probability as well.) My resources are C++ through Game Programming (Dawson), 3D Primer for Graphics and Game Development (Dunn), Udemy course: C++ in Unreal, and a UC Irvine STEM trig course on coursera (terrible course but best math textbook Ive ever read). I finished the lynda programming basics bit didn’t learn much, I took a really intense python course and have yet to find anything as good as it but the search continues. Because of that course and with a sprinkling of natural ability Im fortunately able to pick up languages pretty quickly so learning C++ and C# at the same time is ez pz (lies…LIES..hehe no really its not as challenging as I thought it would be ^.^).

Bonus: my desk has become a weird little eye spy page.

Can you find:

An old dog, a coffee mug, steak knife, “study” beer, c++ book, code for a weird game, lack of sleep, club crackers

Das Killerin and the AI


13 weeks left 2 LA—

I was writing out my ESA petition for Killa (my ancient min pin) and found myself crying. The letter made me really reflect on what we’ve been through and its been a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Killa has been pretty much the only consistent thing/person in my life for the past 11 years- My entire adult life + 1. Killa has met everyone I have ever dated, lived in every apartment I have ever rented, moved 2 cities with me, outlasted all of my friendships, you know- just been there, every step of the way. She’s family and that means a lot to me because my family is a loosely connected series of genetic linkages…on a good day.


Anyway thought I share that. I love my little old dog, she might have actually been the one to teach me what love is. Unconditional. Oh also, I’m going to live on campus (well near campus). I have seen the nonsense that is the LA rental market and I’d like to delay that for a year- besides my stipend will cover my campus living completely.

In other news…

As I disclosed on my tumblr page, I’m narrowing my focus from the wide scope of game generalist/environment artist to more game play programming and artificial intelligence and programming. Why? #1 Because I f-ing love programming #2 risk analysis: let us review some facts, I’m going to graduate school 1,500 miles away in one of the hardest cities to survive in, in the country. I fought tooth and nail to get into said school(s) and receive fellowship which is practically unheard of for an MFA. I have two years and then I will be released into the world (or into a PhD program, we’ll see though- I’m on the fence about this) and I need to make those two years really count. So I could improve my 3D modeling skills and be a practicing artist or professor with that. Average salary for a 3D modeler around 49k, about the same for an assistant professor at a name brand school. Ok so branching paths for a 3d modeler, art director, animator, something like that but not really much. Also the position is being increasingly outsourced to Mexico and India. So like I said Risk analysis, money is actually only a small component here, my real concern is time. I have 2 years at one of the top universities in the world (whatever that means, aren’t arbitrary comparisons grand?) so should I focus my time learning to do something I could learn at home, doesn’t pay well, and doesn’t really use my faculties. I like design and problem solving, and do best in environments with high stress with high rewards. I have always wanted to learn ai specifically as well as programming for simulation-type games and interactive media. I feel like, now is my chance. Time and options have finally opened up to me and I’m going to be in an MFA program that has a strong emphasis in programming courses- and then I have a huge chunk of my course load dedicated to electives which can be anything I choose- and I choose you hard af computer science and math classes that are going to make me cry and rethink my life but ultimately be for the best…I. choose. you. XD [I will still continue to do 3D as well, just not aaaaalll the time and will probably instead work with 3D artists while I do more programming and environment junk]

So yes, this is my plan. This Spring I’ve been self teaching linear algebra (as I mentioned in a former post), discrete math, and c#. I had to go to square 1 with calculus because my algebra II skills are still embarrassing (7th grade was a rough time) but I’m making major progress (mostly by using the punishment that is ALEKS) and will try to audit a real calc class at ookla. Discrete math is the sh*t, not sure why I wasn’t introduced to this earlier ::shakes fist at world::, and I’m still just getting my toes wet with Linear but I’ll report back when I make significant progress. In addition to this, at work I’ve been listening to audible. I finished like 3 books in the past week mostly Dawkins and the book, ‘The Moral Animal’. Now I’m listening to the Feynman lectures and “The Great Courses: Physics lectures”. I’m trying to make Calculus much more intuitive so these Physics lectures really help eeeease it in…wait…they make it more palatable. Also 3D graphics and movement require well…classical physics. I want to go back to baby me and scream “LEARN MATH HARDER!!” but you know gotta work with what I got, its the journey, not the destination, 2 birds in the bush, sticks and stones, a wise man…you know what I mean.

OH forgot , reading this too. I’m going to stick a photo of it here to remember to finish it!

Image result for Artificial Intelligence for Games 2nd Edition

okie okie, time to sleep—–

Current courses:
Linear Algebra:

Pre-Cal refresher:

Programmer intermediate:


Artificial Intelligence for Games

Unity in Action

Beginning C++ through game programming

3D Math Primer for Graphics

Unity and zzz

Im learning Unity Scripting and Vector math. C# is very straight forward, learning the basics is mundane- I look forward to the intermediate work but like with any language I need to babble before I can speak poetically. The new job is going well (though working full time again is a rude/tiring awakening lol…I haven’t worked full time in probably 3 years so its def taking some getting used to) I still have this weird post-grad excitement lull- I don’t think its going to go away until I have my own place again. Call me a typical american consumer but it feels very off to not have my own bed, my own rug, surrounded by my things, my smell, my space. Its like Im not recharging because of that. UCLA is probably going to offer my housing a couple of months before school starts, it may be nice to move and work in LA for a little instead of twiddling my fingers in Dallas but we’ll see, we’ll see. There should really be a support group for post-admissions purgatory depression…anxiety lolz

Off to Graduate School

Its been about 2 years now since I made my commitment to Artgames. Story Time: Spring of 2015, I was highly frustrated with my arts education. I felt like I wasn’t learning nor being challenged. I craved the direction and guidance. Art was an open field of shamrocks and the professors just told you to run free and explore, exploooore! But the freedom made me feel lost and aimless. I knew I had a love for installation art and technology and I excelled at my transmedia class. The semester before I had just purchased the love of my life, my laptop Lucef Machavelli. I thought about being a 3D modeler in the past- but after playing with Lucef and researching, I knew my real passion lie in game design. The previous Winter I decided I was going to try my hardest to try to get into the Computer Science program at UT and though I have a serious hole in my algebra skills (thanks to a hateful 6th grade math teacher) I worked my ass off to get into Calculus. I studied every single day during winter break and ended up making a 90 on my entrance exam (you don’t understand how huge an accomplishment this was for me, I had serious math phobia). After a couple of years without a formal math or science class, I was in Chemistry for science majors and Calculus. I made it through 3/4 of the semester until I found out that transferring into Computer Science was flipping impossible and would extend my time by at least 2 years. And Although I was doing fairly well in my classes, I was dive bombing in chemistry. I suck at chemistry. I studied so damn hard and was hovering above a C while my other courses were A’s and Calc a B. I went to drop Chemistry to save my gpa and due to some dumb as sh** hardship rule, I had to drop 2 classes to go to half time, I couldn’t drop just 1. Long story short, I kept my Art and tech course and a really great American history course (I know said no one, but this prof was actually an awesome lecturer- and looked/sounded like Allen Ginsberg). In that Art and Tech course, I made my first game. I used Unreal and built a little scene about a post-apocalyptic world run by an evil technocratic cult science thing. Around this time, I had playtested a game for the Denius Game Academy and met Warren Spector who was very kind and invited me to apply (I of course, was the only one in the world that had no idea who he was). I had been researching where I could pursue video games as a fine artist and out of all the schools, UCLA’s Design Media Arts program looked perfect, just absolutely perfect. I remember excitedly telling my boyfriend at the time about the program and how I was going to build a portfolio with my final years at UT and well, long story short[….actually not this was pretty long] that’s where I’m going. April 15th has finally passed and I’m committed to UCLA Fall ’17. I’m excited and scared, and in a way kind of depressed actually. Not in the sad, oh no sort of way but more in the, oh my god there is so much change coming. I am basically being reincarnated! I have to uproot my life, change cities, change friends, live on my own, make it in LA, its so over-whelming to think about it and I shut down a little. I just started a really nice job though, and so I’m going to save up- try to treat myself well, and hopefully by July- I’ll be excited and ready. I get to see my family next month for my brother’s graduation, that’s really exciting. I miss my family and they’ll also help me get more excited for the move. So much is changing. As long as Los Angeles isn’t wiped off the map by a nuclear bomb, all should be well by September but eh, you know what can you do? Just live really. Such is life.

Art Game: Symposium

Symposium is an art game based off of Plato’s symposium and Diotima’s account of Love as a demon and intermediary between humans and the gods. Symposium in its natural environment is a 4 channel interactive piece composed of 3 videos and a game-like interactive component. The 3 videos are respectively representative of the ID, Ego, and Superego. This move is a homologizing of the far past, plato’s era, the near effects of Freudian theory on current critical theory, and the language of video games namely the “game map”. The videos are as maps are in a video game, but instead of telling you where to go they instead explain where you are in terms of being.

CALME: a proposal

I wanted to put this here in case anyone’s interested. Its a research proposal for a VR related depression treatment module that I formulated with a team at the University of Texas. This is definitely something I will be picking back up upon entering grad school.

I wrote this last summer 2015 and lookie here at this month’s article on huffingtonpost 🙂

I only hope even more teams pick up on this, the possibilities are so exciting. Also imagine what a team of game developers working together with scientists, could do with this, much more engrossing than rudimentary 3D figures and voices. We [developers] have the technical skill and knowledge of how to affect people to really make a project like this beautiful and transformative, and backed by research could really take things to levels never seen before.

Artist and designer breakdown: “Maslow” project

A look behind the curtain on the art piece and game that I made entitled “Maslow”. I want to speak a little bit about my design choices on certain elements in the first “draft” of my game, Maslow. I however choose not to go into explicit detail because the thing about video games is the author is most definitely dead. The author is dead, gone, buried and moved on to another project (Barthes called it). Once I have put a game into the world, it belongs to the world. It is still my child but its living its own life and free to your interpretation. No matter how many carefully crafted decisions and ideas I have about it, my signifiers will mean something different to you and that is wonderful. I welcome you to add your own meanings to anything I do.

Maslow’s elements

The music:

Erik Satie’s Gnossienne 1

I chose this piece due to its open form and sweet brand of melancholy. It switches time signature without skipping a beat (literally). It’s structure moves like a branch drifting down a turbulent river. Satie takes the waltz and seasons it with firey rattling upbeats and gorgeous dissonance. Like Stravinsky, this composer made no concessions to the lovers of upbeat classical feel good music (gtfo Vivaldi), he made music that feels much more like the inner world; music that makes the fickle ego dance.

Consequently, my art piece is about psychology, existentialism, our needs, and their futility so Gnossienne meshed nicely with this. In my other video pieces, you will notice I use waltzes often, I am in love with ¾ and 6/8 time signature. To me they are the sound of the human experience.


You run around without much instruction, sandbox style. There are gameplay elements: you can open all the doors and explore, you can collect water bottles, food items, and other resources or try to reach as far as you can to the outskirts of the level before your time runs out; you can even set a car on fire if you make it to the second floor (it’s a fiat…so you know you want to), or go worship the burning man figures if you so please; or you could even just sit in the first room and stare at the ceiling and listen to the music and poetry. I, the designer, will not tell you what to do. I just put the elements there for you, the choice is yours. This is a nod to life, being, and creator myths. When it comes to tight game play mechanics, in “Maslow” I like to play the role of an apathetic god.


The give up cheat is a commentary on our relationship with money and how with it you can propel yourself through many hardships in life yet at the same time you’re not “playing the game”. Yes you get to the awards more quickly, you may get to see more, but at what cost? Maybe you enjoy that though, maybe you didn’t want to search desperately for ways to open doors to upper echelons. Maybe that’s just not your thing so go ahead G.I.V.E. up and ride your way up the pyramid 🙂

(and for people familiar with “pay to play” gaming, this will have a double meaning to you)

The poetry (opening room):

This choice is related to our relationship with the need for gods, leaders, and the strange relationship we humans have with our fathers.

Sylvia Plath’s Daddy



You do not do, you do not do

Any more, black shoe

In which I have lived like a foot

For thirty years, poor and white,

Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.


Daddy, I have had to kill you.

You died before I had time——

Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,

Ghastly statue with one gray toe

Big as a Frisco seal


And a head in the freakish Atlantic

Where it pours bean green over blue

In the waters off beautiful Nauset.

I used to pray to recover you.

Ach, du.


In the German tongue, in the Polish town

Scraped flat by the roller

Of wars, wars, wars.

But the name of the town is common.

My Polack friend


Says there are a dozen or two.

So I never could tell where you

Put your foot, your root,

I never could talk to you.

The tongue stuck in my jaw.


It stuck in a barb wire snare.

Ich, ich, ich, ich,

I could hardly speak.

I thought every German was you.

And the language obscene


An engine, an engine

Chuffing me off like a Jew.

A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.

I began to talk like a Jew.

I think I may well be a Jew.


The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna

Are not very pure or true.

With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck

And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack

I may be a bit of a Jew.


I have always been scared of you,

With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.

And your neat mustache

And your Aryan eye, bright blue.

Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You——


Not God but a swastika

So black no sky could squeak through.

Every woman adores a Fascist,

The boot in the face, the brute

Brute heart of a brute like you.


You stand at the blackboard, daddy,

In the picture I have of you,

A cleft in your chin instead of your foot

But no less a devil for that, no not

Any less the black man who


Bit my pretty red heart in two.

I was ten when they buried you.

At twenty I tried to die

And get back, back, back to you.

I thought even the bones would do.


But they pulled me out of the sack,

And they stuck me together with glue.

And then I knew what to do.

I made a model of you,

A man in black with a Meinkampf look


And a love of the rack and the screw.

And I said I do, I do.

So daddy, I’m finally through.

The black telephone’s off at the root,

The voices just can’t worm through.


If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——

The vampire who said he was you

And drank my blood for a year,

Seven years, if you want to know.

Daddy, you can lie back now.


There’s a stake in your fat black heart

And the villagers never liked you.

They are dancing and stamping on you.

They always knew it was you.

Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

Oh right now that you know all this here’s the playthrough again. If the first iteration of the game magically packages (refer to my previous post on this), I will post it here:


I give up.

lolol No, I’m kidding (but this is a cheat code in my game shhh lol)

So I had my game up for distribution as a proof of concept buuut there’s a serious bug in the lighting and my cloud storage severely failed me- it stopped syncing and then reconnected and started wreaking havoc on my files which broke my game completely. I can still play it but no one else can. But fortunately, this was just a sprint 0/test run so I’m going to toss this file and use everything I learned here to build up a new iteration of the level.

I gained so much ground in learning media textures, how to construct triggers and timed events, HUD UI, unreal umg,  movement coding, and sooooo much more. And of course using what I learned from having people playtest I will be able to refine my new design (which I need to do throughout every stage of the project I now fully understand!)

It’s incredible the amount you learn from just building a game, any game. Something all industry people say is if you want to get better “Make. A. Game!” and they’re soooo right. It’s fun, rewarding and so terribly frustrating as well. This iteration of Maslow was built in under two weeks (as I was also building levels on Last Flight and balancing my 16 hours of courses this semester!) and there were sleepless nights and hair pulling and crash crash crash oh look it works…CRASH, but(!) it was so worth it and I would do it again a thousand times over especially to watch people play and enjoy it again.

So the next step is to completely rebuild from scratch and I’m going to use perforce for now on so that one drive doesn’t attack my project again o.o ^.^ Perforce is a bit complicated for someone without a computer science background but it is an amazing tool for protecting your game and working on different devices seamlessly. Also the visual client is a god send!

Ok overview as I’m putting this level to bed-On this project in a span of 2 weeks I:

-designed the game play and level
-constructed static meshes with blueprints
-built static meshes in 3ds max
-built blueprints for materials, HUD timer, buttons, triggers, media textures, timer on game, pick ups, lights, and other scripted events
-performed debugging on Visual studio community 2015