Stephen Fisher - Designer and Developer Stephen Fisher - Designer and Developer

Penalising over optimising: the importance of considerations

“The First Rule of Program Optimization: Don’t do it. The Second Rule of Program Optimization (for experts only!): Don’t do it yet.” — Michael A. Jackson


It is human nature to try to find the easiest solutions to tackle life’s problems however; this can have the negative effect of affecting others and in the long term not really solving the problem itself. Occam’s philosophy is not implicitly wrong rather does not account for taking into account all factors as time taken to consider can save time, money and effort further down the line.

As time passes, we often find the need to improve and make things better or rather the false sense of innovation without often considering the core demographic an example of this could be found within Windows 8 and its change in design. Whilst functional has for the time being alienated some of its core audience, games are a good example of this adding in features and innovating to compete whilst at times losing the core parts that made them fun, functional and fit for purpose.

To please the many it often seen as a necessary evil to upset the few whilst the companies / products meaning and feel can become lost and marred in this sense to innovate, penalising those who cannot adapt as quickly or are unwilling to. Optimising is not just about streamlining it is about consideration, asking what is needed, what is good not from a developer perspective rather a user viewpoint. However, it is imperative to not purely rely on a user centric approach rather prioritise and make reasonable assumptions based on feedback and research, what a user wants and what user needs do not always coincide. Reducing the impact on users is a balancing act and penalising a fan base or valued user is something any developer, writer or creator should try to avoid.

In regards to storytelling as an example under-estimating the power of fandom is risky and if poorly handled will alienate and create negative feedback as such asking those who know more is critical. This is true in all regards from computing to media as a whole, a poorly designed interface will annoy users and impact both sales and opinions and sometimes the use of pseudo design principles is most optimal, penalising users cause they do not know as much as the next person is a risk that needs to be negated.

In order to be able to explain this more clearly I will provide a case study and real world example:

A university library is proposing to introduce a find a PC system and talks regarding booking a system have been made, users should be able to access machines as needed and be informed of empty/ available machines. Now the problem is not all users require a PC for the same period of time for same reasons, some users may take a computer then leave the system logged in whilst effectively away from machine taking up a space that could be viewed as being more critical to someone else. However the user leaving said system logged in may have just reasons for ‘retaining’ the computer i.e. need to acquire books for referencing or need to go to the toilet whereby logging out and back in it would take added extra time not deemed appropriate. One suggestion was to impose a booking popup alert message to inform users that they have been on the machine for a deemed ‘long’ period of time and requires manual input else will auto logoff however if the user is away from the machine for said appropriate reasons this could log them off and risk their work progress. Penalising the current user so a new user can use the system is in essence harming the potentially hard-working user and distracting them from the tasks at hand however some users may be misusing the machines therefore taking up spaces others need more. To value one use over another, one person over another is a task that cannot be easily solved however penalising the user over optimising the framework creates a more negative feedback response and therefore reduces system overall use.

No right solution can exist however the least impacting / harmful has to be seen as the most optimal.

A condensed: Find me a PC version can be found at the link below:

Penalising over optimising: the importance of considerations – Find me PC Ponderings

Find me a PC – Ponderings

So the university are currently looking into an on-line tool to help students and lecturers find available PC’s and Mac’s within the university mainly the Library and such. My thoughts immediately go to where could this be expanded and what are issues the users themselves have, simply knowing if a PC is free is not always enough cause it needs to be free but do what is required as such a system of filtration maybe allowing users to select requirements such as does PC have Photoshop on, it then displays these systems with the software installed and then if they are available or not. Also knowing a PC is free does not mean that by the time you get there it still is so maybe a remote booking system could be used maybe for a max of 10 mins to give people time to get to the machine before it is taken. This made me think ALOT about my project last year and the one I am doing for Industry and also for a planned proposal in near future involving mobile notification tools you may know it as the Linc-ON project.

Identifying which PC’s are on and connected is also a great help in regards to my audience aware project and if a working filter can be produced fr find me a pc then in theory this can be adapted for the audience system.

As part of my developer role I have to post updates and findings to IT department and here is a post I made today:


Project Anarchy – Considerations and learning new stuff… Maybe

I have decided to take a bold new step and basically learn a new engine or rather mobile version of an engine and chosen to have ago at Havok’s Project Anarchy engine which is built with mobile development in mind. They are currently running a challenge which IF I can get a team together will be taking part in as have an idea and such.

It is essentially a cut-down version of a game I am working on for a project. IF I decide to use this I will write up a follow-up post.

Next Generation Gaming

Every-time a new generation of consoles comes out a little piece of my childhood dies and that saddening urge of “I cannot afford you” leaps to mind, If you didn’t know I make some YouTube videos and so far have being using my PS3, 360 and PC to do these videos but my computer is slowly dying, my wallet is bleak and prices seem to ever-sore as such as a sign of slight moodiness on the subject I am going to post some annoyances I have with this and next generation of gaming.

Games used to be a very isolating experience before multi player was introduced and even then it tended to have to be local and involve social interactions and human content, games were not as scared to push the boundaries as what worked and did not were not fully established at this point, games were luxury something I would delve into when I had a spare moment or too but over the last few years what with rising costs and buggy, rushed and DLC-centric games becoming more and more common I began to get more cynical, no longer would I risk £30+ on a game to see if I liked it instead I became reserved missing out on some of the games my peers boast about such as Final Fantasy and Silent Hill 2 etc, the PS4 and Xbox One (btw PS4 wins in my opinion will post why maybe another time) it marks the end of care free chance taking with games costing £50-60 +, big companies like EA rushing out games and content seeming short with heavy visual focus. Each console as with each generation focused more on its gimmicks and somewhere down the line I fear much of the game-play has suffered, yes it is true there are still gems and mainly this is due to the indie market where budgets are more restrained and game-play IS the core selling point. I would love to get a PS4 however my priorities must be uni, own development of games and getting a new PC.

As a designer / developer I focus on story and game-play as the figureheads from which a game must stand upon and hardware is simply the means to an end, a console is to play games and once this is forgotten problems arise. I will return to this matter maybe next week once a fully formed argument and evidence can be amassed until then I simply ask this: Are games still games or are they turning into interactive experiences…

Current games I am making / working on in free time: Declivity (A TF2 style FPS), Project Sense (An ethical moral puzzle / challenge game) and a slot in card game that is interesting to play say the least.

Blogging and the like

Personally I have never felt the NEED to blog or even tweet things occurring in my life with social communications becoming more of a pain than an enjoyable channel of networking. However it has occurred to me that at this stage in my life and career that maybe expressing my thoughts and progress / processes may be of benefit not only to myself but potentially others as such I decided to dust off this old blog space and freshen it up for use now. I do not know how long I will do this or how many of you will even be bothered but for this very time being it is something I want to have a go at and tap away on my much beaten up keyboard.