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A Tale of Two Projects (pt. 2)

Timmmmmmmmmm.. T


Pt. 1:  



I get involved in a lot of events and organizations.  Thanksgiving break and onward presented my only opportunity to catch up, so the final rush began.

A ten-hour train ride brought me back to my dorm early, before Thanksgiving break was over.  Out of my two big projects, the VR project didn’t need as much polish, and had an end nearer in sight.  I resolved to complete the prototype of the VR project, then put every spare minute I had into the AR project.
Three days of hard work, and then a hard deadline brought the VR prototype to a conclusion.  Until the final day, I was doing all my testing with keyboard and mouse controls.  There was no way I could adapt my non-VR test environment into an intuitive VR experience in one night, so I kneeled and prayed long and hard.  God has a tendency to make impossible things happen, and in one miraculous night the VR map had more charm and intuitiveness than the non-VR test environment ever did.  It was a full conversion from third-person testing to VR in one long night of hard work and prayer.

The VR prototype was complete, and the AR prototype had to become a product.  Due to numerous issues with Google Play,* it didn’t get published until after Christmas.  Adding features would consistently break old features.  The VR project had a beautiful well-planned and documented code base.  The code base on this AR project was a mess of duct tape and workarounds, with some issues taking hours of focused troubleshooting to hunt down and exterminate.  Yet every new feature would be such an improvement to the app that the idea of adding more features was irresistible.

Presentation day was Wednesday, six days away.  Two days to make presentations, one day to rest, and three to finish it all.  I decided to try and publish a working build of the app, at the expense of adding more features.  Building should be easy, and adding Google Play store information would be a breeze, right?

Thursday: Unable to build apk file, Unknown error.
Friday: Meet with faculty advisor on project, spend three hours together fixing build issues.
Saturday Plan: More polishing, upload to Google Play, then get back to adding features.

In reality, Saturday turned into Sunday as I went through the process of publishing on the Play Store.  If I hadn’t decided to get a working build out the previous week, there wouldn’t have been a working build for the presentation, period.
Finally, it was good enough for the presentation, but I would have loved to add one more feature,  even though the sun was bright and shining on my planned day off.  After going out for lunch, I was more alert, and able to see how flawed my methods were before taking the lunch break.  I modified my approach, gave myself the illusion of progress, but was soon overcome by stress and exhaustion.

Four hours later, I was stuck.  I was standing and saw other people walking around, but felt unable to move my arms or legs.  I struggled to escape, to at least make myself move, and woke up flailing my arms in bed.  I got up, half-dazed, checked the time, and sprinted to the last church service of the day.  Funny how that timing worked out.

The next day came, and my brain felt as if it was sprained, my drive to accomplish was absent.  That’s not a state I enjoy living in.  Sleep, exercise, recreation, it all helped and I got better.  Even so, I didn’t resume work until Tuesday.  Day off: check.

Two big projects, one day to prep.  Outlining, simple slide shows, and by the time the sun set I was practicing both presentations.  I was in a panicked rush, so I listened to Mega Man 2 Dr Wily Stage 1 Music on repeat for over an hour while practicing, and that brought back my confidence.

Post-midnight final builds, a bit of sleep, and a journey across campus weighed down by VR equipment brought me to the presentations.  They weren’t perfect, but the department head was impressed, my faculty advisors were happy with both projects, and I can say with confidence that my presentations of an AR Campus Map and a VR DAW were some of the most polished and innovative projects of the day.

*Actual quote from Play Store support: “As much as I'd like to help, I’m not able to provide any more information or a better answer to your question.”  To their credit, it was a tricky issue, and eventually finding the right piece of documentation did get things resolved.

AR App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sonictimm.HelloARUnreal

VR App: still pre-alpha


Experience Points:

  • Planning your schedule is as important as planning your architecture

    • Don’t neglect days off, you need them

    • Don’t neglect your own morale, you’re as important as your people (boss, coworkers, customers, etc).

  • Hard work and prayer can solve pretty much any problem, but both require time

    • Plan your schedule accordingly

  • Prioritize your most important features, and get them out first.

    • Don’t over-stress while trying to over-deliver, calm down and stress about delivering at all.

    • It’s never too late to rewrite a schedule. 

    • Polish and prepare to publish long before the deadline, then come back and improve the project.

  • If you should be sleeping right now, stop reading this blog and please go to sleep. ❤️

  • It's not about getting the most done fastest, it's about finding the right balance.


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