DIALECT: A Game about Language and How it Dies

I love languages, and I love constructed languages.

Years ago, I heard about a Kickstarter for this game: Dialect. I was excited, and so were other Esperantists.

I finally received my physical copy of the game and I was so excited to play it with friends, and seeing the variety of Backdrops provided with the game (four core ones, and several additional ones contributed by others) inspired me to start thinking about how an “Isolation” is formed, and what counts as an “Isolation”.

I can’t find a lot of information about the game elseware online, but I hope popularity for it blows up. I would really like to read about other peoples’ stories and languages they develop through the game.

In the meantime, I’ve created a BitBucket repository with a template “Backdrop” page, and some custom backdrops I made, inspired by stories that I like, or games my friends and I used to play as kids. Feel free to print and use them however.

https://bitbucket.org/rejcx/dialect-extra-backdrops/src/master/

Right to religion

People have a right to practice their religion.

I generally see religion as a good thing, and I feel like any accusations that “this religion causes this!” or “that religion causes that!” is just scapegoating something that does bring happiness, value, community, and support to peoples’ lives.

Religion isn’t what causes Bad Things. Humans, abuse of power, greed, etc. cause Bad Things. You can abuse power in the name of anything.

Investigate your personal biases, especially now this day in age. Do you find yourself feeling negative toward certain people or groups? Why? Investigate that part of yourself.

Are you afraid of Islam? Why? How much do you know about that religion? How many Muslims do you know? You can’t rely on what YouTube atheist bros say about peoples’ religions, you need to learn about what the religion means to the people who practice it.

Most of your everyday regular people just want to thrive, have friends and family nearby, and take care of each other – regardless of their religion or lack of religion.

And there are plenty of free resources for learning about all religions online. Maybe learn a bit about each religion so they become less “unknown”, less “scary”, less “weird”.

I’m not religious, but I respect other peoples’ beliefs. I compare it to… I’m not married to you spouse, but I BELIEVE in the love you have for your spouse. I don’t have to marry your spouse to respect that. ;P

Right to choose, right to family planning

People have a right to birth control – you may not use it, but other people have a right to use it.

People have a right to choose to have an abortion – you may not have one, but you don’t know every scenario that happens and you cannot make that choice for somebody else.

People have a right to fall in love with and marry whomever they want in a consensual adult relationship – you may not want to marry someone of the same sex but other people have a right to.

In the near future the supreme court will be able to overturn rulings that have given people rights. They’re going to try to control peoples’ reproductive rights more and more. Women aren’t just here to be incubators for seeds, women are full human beings and have a right to make their own choices. We need to protect everybody. Stay on your toes.

I miss Fin ‘N’ Kit

Where I was, job-wise

Back in 2012 I quit my job as a software developer and decided to go back to school and use this chance to try to make and publish games. I was so sick of working in the basement in a 6’x6’x6′ cubicle (in retrospect, I was lucky to have a cubicle!) and I was incredibly depressed. All things considered, it was a good job – I look back on it as the best place I’ve worked as a programmer, but back then I was waking up and panicking because I did not want to go into work.

I did go back to school – one semester at one place, and one semester at another place, different degrees each time, neither of them a good fit, but I still had to pay for those classes so I had racked up more student loans.

I’m trying to look at my LinkedIn to put the pieces in place, because I don’t remember exactly when I ended up being unemployed for an extended period of time. I had part-time jobs at an office store and at a music store, but those paid nothing. Anyway, it looks like the original Fin ‘N’ Kit was published in 2014, so around then – I finally went back to work as a software developer around May 2014 because school is expensive and I needed money.

So somewhere in 2014, I had no job on purpose, because I wanted to try to start making and publishing games. While at my previous job, I had always been day-dreaming ideas for all these great things I could make if I just had the time and the energy. Was depressed, quit job.

Taking the plunge, unsuccessfully.

At the time, I was fortunate enough to have a boyfriend that I lived with and seemed relatively okay with me only working part-time retail jobs while trying to work on games. There were two projects I worked on during this time – one was a contract game for a client to advertise their brand, but Fin ‘N’ Kit was what I did first.

The old title screen of Fin ‘N’ Kit, back when it was Delfino & Katyuno

It was originally named “Delfino & Katyuno”, which is an Ido language title, but nobody is going to remember how to spell that. Anyway, I was working on Delfino & Katyuno for a while. The gameplay and having a cat/dolphin I thought up in a dream, and it seemed really cute.

Gameplay of Fin ‘N’ Kit for Android

I also wanted to include a level editor so people playing the game could also make their own levels.

The old level editor

(The level editor ended up taking me a majority of the time to make.)

I built the original Fin ‘N’ Kit with Gideros & Lua, as well as that contract game that became Gift Grab. Gideros made it easy to test on mobile and publish on mobile, though trying to figure out how to do certain things with the filesystem was a little difficult. I published a Fin ‘N’ Kit demo for free here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Moosader.DelfinoKatyuno

After the demo was released I began working on the contract project. However, now I was unemployed and stopped seeing my therapist because of the cost. I was depressed at work, I was depressed off work. I did get the project to a complete state, despite feeling useless and lethargic and often crying on the floor, immobilized. But it had been like this for years – it was always a struggle to get myself to move forward. It felt like there was one me, who wanted to get stuff done and felt terrible if they didn’t (the Anxiety-Rach), and the other me, who felt like I was a failure and useless (the Depression-Rach).

So the whole “quit your day job and make games” experiment failed.

And of course I felt bad about that.

Back to work

I went back to work as a software developer for two more companies, from 2014 to 2015, and again, I was so fed up with that world. Every subsequent job I took was worse, and I kept looking back at the job I had before I quit with nostalgia. Sure, I broke down and cried a lot, but at least that place was decent. Oh well.

I had quit my last software development job, and had an interview with a new place. They were going to offer me a salary of $100,000, which would have been my highest salary I had made, but after I informally verbally accepted, I kept breaking down. Again, I was on the floor crying, and I couldn’t quite explain why, but staying in the field felt wrong.

After a few days of this, I told myself: Look, this is my body telling me that this isn’t the right decision. I can’t keep doing this.

So I rejected the job. What else could I do? Working part-time in retail was beans, and I can’t support myself with that (I was with a different boyfriend at this time). Back in 2013, when I was going back to school at UMKC, they had given me the opportunity to be an adjunct there for a couple of semesters. I really enjoyed teaching there, even though it really challenged my shyness and difficulty speaking in public. I had always really enjoyed teaching – my first job was tutoring math at my community college’s math lab. And, being an adjunct, while the cheaper alternative for schools to go with for hiring, was still a better paying job than working part-time at an office supply store.

The CS department at UMKC has always been pretty good to me. I was able to email the chair and ask if I could teach there again, and I got one class. I also ended up meeting another instructor at JCCC through a friend of mine (who was a classmate of mine back at UMKC), and that got my foot in the door for teaching there as well.

In Spring 2016, I was teaching two classes: CS 201R at UMKC, and CS 200 at JCCC.

I also had asked my doctor for antidepressants.

I had also met this cute boy on Tinder…

Rai and Rachel!

Rai and Rachel!

Teaching and gamedev

2016 was the best year of my life in a very long time. I was excited to teach – I loved teaching and making programming assignments and lectures and recording videos. I had also began my relationship with Rai and we hit it off so well, unlike anyone I’ve ever met. I was also on antidepressants, so that probably kept my mind more focused as well.

I was committed to continue working on games while working part-time as an adjunct, and I did manage to do that, even though this was my first semester teaching in a while and I had to prep basically everything. (I’m picky, I think textbook resources are really boring.)

I decided to work on Fin ‘N’ Kit but I didn’t want to use Gideros – I was having a hard time working with the filesystem, and now I had teammates to help me work on levels but the problems with Gideros made it hard to work online and send each other levels. I decided to rewrite the game.

In C++, SDL, and Lua.

Actually I had a lot of fun writing it – though of course I would also get worn out by having to implement everything as well. I split the game into two parts: I worked on the Kuko engine, all the reusable bits common to any game, while simultaneously working on Fin ‘N’ Kit itself. I also used the Lua scripting language, and that’s how levels, language files, menus, and other things are stored. I was so proud of that code. I would go back and refactor as I saw fit because, unlike writing software for someone else, you can freaking choose to take the time to make things better!

The beautiful map editor

Like the first version of the game, I also spent an ungodly amount of time on the map editor itself. My excuse this time was because I needed other people to build levels, too. I kept tweaking the UI and adding features to make it better and better.

A cutscene – Fin says “Hello!” and Kit says “Hi!”

I went with a totally hand-drawn look, and wanted to make it super cute. The main game had still cutscenes you could watch before playing the story-based levels…

The level select screen

I had intended to add several map types – Beach, Swamp, Lava, or something I don’t remember what they were!

“Balmy Beach”, the first world

And I kept polishing it up and updating it to look really nice.

Fin ‘N’ Kit looking really nice

I worked all through the spring semester on this, but I was also feeling weary – my teammates couldn’t work on anything while I was the bottleneck, programming this entire game solo.

And, there was a texture glitch – probably because I used vanilla pointers in the Kuko engine and was manually managing the memory, instead of using smart pointers.

Where did Kit go??

Textures would disappear or be replaced with other items’ textures, and I knew it would take a while to figure out what was going wrong. In the meantime, my teammates didn’t have anything to do. So, for the time being, we put Fin ‘N’ Kit aside.

The client who contracted that game I worked on back with the original Fin ‘N’ Kit had, years before, decided to not publish that game. I was really proud of my work on it, and I thought it would be a waste to just let that code die, so I had ended up paying back the money they paid me so that I could keep the code and republish with new assets, but it had always been sitting around – no time to work on it.

So in autumn of 2016, I was working on new graphics for the game, Tea worked on translations, Jessica worked on marketing and the trailer, and Rebekah helped with testing. We put out Gift Grab: Christmas Quandary together by Thanksgiving.

Depression, revisited

Two weeks from November 1st, 2016, Rai’s employer’s client decided they didn’t need him on-site anymore since they were going through budget cuts. They let him know he would have to return to India in two weeks. We were already living together, but had only been dating for eight months. Those two weeks were so tough, and we weren’t sure what was going to happen to our relationship. He went back on November 1st, and leaving my night class, walking to my car, knowing that he wasn’t there waiting for me was crushing.

Soon after, the election happened. Antidepressants can only combat so much.

For the rest of 2016 and most of 2017 I just got through each week like a zombie. Each workday like the last, just class prep, teaching, grading, repeat. Kabe the cat was there for me in the evenings, and most nights I just laid on the sofa and watched TV after work.

Kabe and me

I did go to protests, I did some volunteering for refugees, I donated money monthly to multiple causes. But I can’t remember much of anything from 2017, except my trip to India to see Rai, meet his parents, and officially get engaged.

Rachel and Rai at his parents’ house after engagement

OK, but what about Fin ‘N’ Kit?

I’m still really proud of that code. I’m also proud of the game and the polishing I did on it. Sometimes, when my students ask about using graphics in C++, I pull down the code and run the game and step through how it all works together (from a high-level overview). Every time I open it up for my students, I remember how much I love that game.

Through 2017 I was working full-time and more-than-full-time, so I didn’t have the energy or the time to work on much in the way of game development. This year, I’m working on focusing! I’m so bad at focusing on one project. But after these visual novels, maybe I’ll work on Fin ‘N’ Kit on the side while everyone else works on their own games. I know writing a game from scratch… IN C++… seems like a weird thing to do, but I really enjoy it. I love so many aspects of game development: The UI design, the art, the animation, the programming, the code design, just putting all of it together!…

…Awwman I want to work on Fin ‘N’ Kit so much!!

About Visual Novel Art

This is just a quick post to highlight some features of Visual Novel art, as I’m currently looking to commission some art for a different game.


A scene in a visual novel that allows the user to make a choice.

A Visual Novel is essentially a “choose-your-own-adventure” style game for computers. Often heavy on story with a few choices that might branch off the story, or alter dialog, or twiddle some variables.

The graphics in Visual Novels mostly consist of static backgrounds, and static character images, but usually with different poses. The character poses change as they speak. I’ll put a video below to my work-in-progress game. I’m going to show some examples of art I’ve done just to illustrate different features.


Character art

In a visual novel, characters mostly need different facial expressions. This can usually use the same base body with slight changes to the face:

Sometimes, making more expressions can be simply a change in the arms layer of the art. Or also in my case, the wings of this fairy character.

And sometimes, to get the right expression, a whole new body needs to be drawn.

For this character, I have separate layers for the following:

  • torso/legs
  • arms
  • wings
  • head
  • eyes
  • mouth
  • eyebrows

which gives me some freedom in making slight changes to get different expressions:


A Visual Novel in action…

Canvas is bad and it should feel bad – March 19 – Quizzes are terrible.

View: Canvas LMS is bad and it should feel bad >>

Quizzes aren’t exactly the most fun thing for students to do, but if they’re done well they can offer the student a way to practice and review topics and see what they’re getting wrong. Generally, I like to give my students multiple tries at a quiz, so that they can get certain ideas down.

Here’s the first problem: The user interface.

Here, I’ve made one quiz question. Notice how terrible the user interface is. How is it this bad? This one quiz question takes up such a large part of my screen. Why is vertical space hogged so much by each element? Why is there so much wasted horizontal space?

Next, I want to add a similar question. However, Canvas does not support duplicating questions. I’m going to have to create a new question, set up the question text and the answers all over again. In this case, the question is brief, so not a big deal. There are only three answers, so not a big deal. It is wasted time, however. It aggregates. It’s annoying. It breaks workflow.

So here, let’s create another problem with the same style. I’ll keep the original question open to reference it (even though it takes up SO MUCH DAMN SPACE), while I work on the new question. But the little widget that lets me upload images and files is gone!

It’s actually just stuck to the top of the page, which is stupid as hell when I get more than a few questions in my quiz. It just sits up there. I have to scroll up to even use it.

Scrolling up to use the damn widget.

Everything about Canvas is terrible. WHY IS IT SO BAD?

Here’s a video of me trying to make a set of randomly-selected questions that are similar:

Done with KU

My time at KU so far has been largely unproductive. I’ve completed a seminar course and an Intro to Operating Systems course (which I had at UMKC as well when I was an undergrad), and for the two grad courses I’ve attempted so far (this and last semester), I’ve had to drop each one. Just due to my schedule of having 20 credit hours to teach last semester and 17 credit hours this semester, it just is not doable – and that’s clear after this first homework assignment that I bombed.

Now, this semester is also my last full-time semester teaching, because the grant paying for my position ends, so I will be going back to part-time adjuncting. I will have more time then. But, KU doesn’t feel like a good fit. I hate the 40 minute commute out into the middle of nowhere (There is NOTHING between Overland Park, KS and Lawnrence, KS). I don’t have the time to thoroughly work on my homework, and while at first I felt like this was a personal failing, now I feel like this is more to do with my schedule than anything. I was envious of students who did better at the project than me, but then I also have to realize that if you’re not working 12 hours a day twice a week, and you live on campus, and you can walk to go see the instructor during their office hours, you just have more resources available to you than I do.

This has been my third attempt at Grad School. And yeah, that kind of stings. I’ve failed three times:

  1. I enrolled at UMKC for a Masters in Curriculum & Instruction, 2013
    I completed the semester, getting A’s in three classes, including Linear Algebra. However, for one class I had to shadow a high school teacher and, having been homeschooled, the concept of public school is so foreign to me. The dynamic is so foreign to me. I also sub taught this semester, once at an elementary and once at a jr high, and that solidified my fear of school even more. I love teaching at the college level, but I’m afraid I don’t understand the school system before that.
  2. I enrolled at MS&T for a Graduate Certificate in Computer Science, 2013
    With the intention of completing a certificate and then transferring to their grad program, I enrolled in the certificate for Computer Security – which I found out that I’m really just not that interested in. And this expensive lesson taught me that I need to work on topics I’m passionate about in grad school, because it’s hard to get through on mere lukewarmness.
  3. I enrolled at KU for a Masters in Computer Science, 2016
    I completed my first semester of taking an undergrad class and the graduate seminar, and the following semester I attempted to take Data Mining. However, the volume of work required was too much for me, when I was barely surviving my work schedule. I dropped out. This semester, I registered for Visualization. Both of these topics are interesting to me, but the amount of time you need to put into them is just time I do not have. This includes the time required to commute to school for special reasons (e.g., professor office hours).

Looking back, I actually enjoyed my work towards the Masters in Curriculum & Instruction. I miss it. I feel like the classes I took – about diversity in the classroom, and about students with special needs – taught me a lot. Computer Science is too focused on just computers, but I need some more of that knowledge around people, too.

So now what I’m thinking about is going back to UMKC, where I went for my undergrad. In my time at different colleges, I’ve learned that I’m really just not a fan of the university format. My experience at Longview, when working on my Associates Degree, was so enjoyable. I think the teachers at JCCC are wonderful and we all put a lot of work into the education aspect of what we do. But at university, it’s a different dynamic, a different feel. The teachers don’t feel invested in me, personally, the way I feel invested in my own students. I feel like the attitude towards me is “sink or swim”, while for my students I want them to do the best they can, and if they do poorly on a specific topic, I want them to learn from what they did wrong, and not have it doom their grade in my class. A second chance.

So if I’m unhappy with the university format everywhere, and if I haven’t found a fit at these other schools, why not just go back to UMKC instead? I know the faculty there and they know me, they like me. I’ve worked beside them as an adjunct as well as learning from them as a student for my undergrad. I feel like the faculty at UMKC want to see me succeed.

UMKC is also in the middle of Kansas City. Even if I have to commute 40 minutes to UMKC (which I wouldn’t have to), there’s at least stuff on the way. I can do errands on the way to/from school. I can visit my sister in Westport after class. It’s a central location close to a lot in Kansas City. And Kansas City is much more interesting than Lawnrence, Kansas.

And, I’m pretty sure I could get a Teaching Assistantship at UMKC. I’ve taught there before, I’m going to teach there this fall as an adjunct. For KU, I’ve been paying out of pocket, $1600 per one class per semester. They may have TA positions, too, but I don’t want to make that commute.

I think in the long run, I might try to get two masters degrees at UMKC – the Computer Science, and the Curriculum & Instruction.

UMKC is home, and after exploring other environments here and there, I think this is where I will be most likely to succeed.

Flarsheim Hall / Haag Hall at UMKC

Canvas is bad and it should feel bad – Feb 22nd – Keyboard shortcuts??

View: Canvas LMS is bad and it should feel bad >>

Um, just curious, Canvas, but…

j : Next Student
k : Previous Student
c : Leave Comment
g : Change Grade
r : Use Rubric

… Why is “next” assigned to “J” and “previous” assigned to “K”?

It’s not even vim keys, which I thought it might be at first; that would be

This makes no sense.

Canvas is bad and it should feel bad – Feb 22nd – Grading programming assignments

Every time I use Canvas, I find that it makes me less productive and more frustrated. There’s too much to catalog all at once, so I’m just going to update this blog post as I become annoyed.

View: Canvas LMS is bad and it should feel bad >>


February 22nd: Grading programming assignments

Let’s go to SpeedGradertm and do some speedy grading of some programming assignments.

Yes, it lets me view the source code from the web browser, albeit without any syntax highlighting. This can be good for small programming assignments, I suppose.

However, I certainly do not see a “Download all student’s files in a zip” link.

I guess that I’m supposed to just download each file manually?

OK, well, maybe I’ll just download all the student files at once with the link on the assignment page.

Clicking the link to download all submissions.

And unzip, and…

A screenshot of the unzipped directory, where all files are lose and have been renamed with the student name and some rumbers.

… Oh.

That’s…

… That’s not useful at all!

I can’t open up a .cpp file and build it because all the headers have been renamed. I can’t use the Makefiles that I made them attach with their assignment because all source files have been renamed.

WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?


From my experiences with Canvas this semester, it is quite clear that:

  • The makers of Canvas don’t eat their own dog food.
  • Canvas doesn’t hire UX people. I’ve worked at startups with better UX than this service.

University and “Non-traditional Students”

My bilinear interpolation isn’t right. I’ve spent hours and hours on the project, sent emails to the teacher, but I still feel confused and like I lack the resources I need to do well.

I’m a non-traditional student, I guess. I would be a traditional grad student if I had started working on my masters right after my bachelors degree, but I was ready to get out of university. I worked in the industry, and then found I enjoy teaching computer science at the college level, and have returned to university at several places at several times pursuing several different types of degrees.

I will be 30 next month, I live 30 miles away from the university I’m currently attending, I’m teaching 17 credit hours this semester (and 20 last semester). I don’t spend time on campus for funsies; I park, attend my class, pay the $1.75 for an hour of parking, and head home. I have more focuses in my life than just my education – my husband, my day job, and my startup. I really only have the weekends to work on homework and studying.

I remember my pain-points while I was an undergrad, and that makes me the teacher that I am. I understand that my students have a life, I understand that students learn in different ways. Sure, access services will provide you a note taker, but I’ve always wondered how you can rely on the quality of a peer note-taker? When you’re new to a topic, how do you know what is important to highlight, and what’s ok to miss? How do you even take notes fast enough to keep up with a teacher lecturing? (That’s always something I’ve had trouble with.)

Honestly, I’m sitting in class right now and I cannot read all of the teacher’s hand-writing. There is glare on the board coming from the cracked windows, his scrawl is sometimes messy and hard to make out.

I’m frustrated, and I’m unengaged, and while a few days ago I was questioning my own intelligence and self-discipline and abilities, I’m now feeling that university just isn’t accessible to a student like me.

Part of it is the schedule – all of these classes, even grad classes, are mid-day. I’m not working a traditional 8-to-5 job, but if I were it would be impossible for me to attend this college.

Part of it is distance – all classes are in-person, and it’s a 40 minute drive each way. I’m not on campus enough to justify a parking permit, and by paying-per-hour, there is a financial penalty if I need to come on campus more often than I need, such as for office hours.

Another thing is the traditional teaching style – teacher lectures, scribbles on the board, and generally doesn’t refer back to the book or any external data. You’d better show up to class, and you’d better be good at taking notes because there sure as hell aren’t any recorded lectures to refer back to, no slides to look at (and if it is, it’s full of pictures and header text but none of the content.)

And it’s so striking how much different I try to make the experience in my classes, and how shitty I feel in other peoples’ classes.

And part of me wonders if this is part of the whole “toughen up” culture around college and tech – stop whining and “get gud”; if I can’t take it, then I’m just not good enough.

Or if the teachers don’t think about the inaccessible nature of their classes? Or think it isn’t their problem; “There’s an access services! Students can get a note taker and extra time on exams, what more is needed?”

Or maybe they’re more interested in their research than their teaching?

I remember the pain-points of when I was an undergrad, and the same pain-points crop up when I’m a grad. In my classes I make sure that anything I go over in class is also accessible outside of class: My slides or notes are very detailed with all the steps needed. I have video lectures for some of my classes (when I’ve had time). I write exercises that focus on building up the students’ understanding of new topics, starting easy and working their way up. In class we work on things together, because I know that something can seem understandable in lecture, but once you begin trying it yourself that’s where the confusion crops up. I want to make sure students recognize what they’re not understanding, so that we can get through it together and build their foundations and understandings.

And while some students have reviewed me as “worst teacher ever” (Maybe 4 in total have given me that distinction), I feel that so many more honestly find my classes engaging, fun, and instructive. And hopefully they feel secure – they know I’m not trying to write tricky reverse-psychology questions, or throw them in the deep end to sink or swim. They’re here to learn, I’m here to give them resources and help them explore and practice and learn.

And then it’s frustrating when I’ve had so many classes that are all the same “lecture-lecture-lecture, now 3 2 1 go do it hope you’re good at taking notes”. And for the most part, that’s how I’ve taught myself to teach myself. But now in gradschool I’m running into scenarios where there is less information out there, and sometimes (often) the teachers use only themselves as the only resource in the class, which leaves me feeling dumb – at first – and then frustrated because I know I could do better if things were just a little different.