One of my hobbies is game development. I have been tinkering with Unity for several years now; and I’ve also experimented with Java, Android, C++, and a few other platforms. Unity is, without a doubt, my favorite. The ease of developing 3D games coupled with their outstanding framework makes it an easy platform for developing games. So, when I was asked to help teach a Unity game development class at the high school a few years back, I was excited and gladly took the opportunity. I teach C# scripting to the students every Friday, and it’s great fun.
This last week, I was going over some simple code on creating projectiles and applying the scripts for their movement and destruction. I had started a project a few weeks before, and most of my code was there. However, when I went to continue the project I found that my code was no longer on the computer. Given that the class is only 50 minutes long, this was a real showstopper. I frantically tried to recreate the project I had before and get it to a point where I could continue with my lesson. Unfortunately, circumstances worked against me and my presentation was less than stellar. This experience reinforced two important lessons from computer programming that I will be sharing with the class next week.
First, I have been busy the last few months with my own business and have not been doing as much game development as I would like. This kept me from being on top of my game at class. I made some noob mistakes, and was unable to perform at my peak since my skills were a little rusty from months of under usage. In the tech world today, this is easy to have happen. The world of software development has so many tools, frameworks, languages, and platforms. Developers are increasingly expected to know countless technologies, and it’s almost impossible to be an expert in them all. For example, I have written plenty of Python code over the years, but I still have to pull up my sample code when I need a new script. Why? Because I don’t use python on a daily basis and I quickly get rusty. To stay up-to-date on skills requires constant effort.
Second, rushing to complete something will cause errors. This is as true in software as it is in any other endeavor in life. As I rushed to complete my code by the end of class, I caused more errors. And, in the end, nothing worked the way I wanted. Had I slowed down, I would have been better able to ensure that what I was doing worked the way I wanted. However, the imposed deadline made me work without paying attention to the details. This happens in real world projects too. Unrealistic deadlines force programmers to pound out code without paying attention to the details. Errors are made, code is left undocumented, test cases are not written. Then, when the code is released, it doesn’t work as desired. Of course, deadlines are a part of the real world. But if we are rushed to meet unrealistic deadlines, we can be certain that the result will be less than desirable.
In the end, this experience shows some very real truths about software development. Much like the story of the tortoise and the hare, we see that slow and steady wins the race. We have to constantly reinforce the skills we want to use, we can’t let them get rusty. And, we need to take our time to ensure that the code we produce meets more than just timelines – it must be developed so that it is solid and stable.