About Joël Hoekstra

Hello traveler, stay awhile and listen,

Let me tell you a story of an adventurer like you called Joël, he is a second year software engineering student studying at Hanze University, Groningen, the Netherlands. I will start with his backstory and work up towards where he is now so that you will know what drives him in a world filled with awesome quests.

A couple of years ago in the magnificent student capital of the north (of the Netherlands), called Groningen, he signed up for a creative education tailored for game design and development. Joël started out as a traditional artist who wanted to just draw and be creative. This soon changed when he followed the programming courses in ActionScript 3. He already had a little bit of experience as he had dabbled in web programming, but nothing really tangible like he was experiencing in these lessons. A world of creative thinking opened up to him that allowed him to build a few very fun games. Techniques involved were touch on mobile devices, 3D game environments using 3D studio Max and Unity3D or real hardware like an Arduino with a Wii Nunchuck for a platormer.

In the programming courses he was taught to think in object-oriented programming with the programming language Java by building a text-based adventure game like Zuul. The following year he was tasked with building a basic 2D game engine using SDL1.2 in C++. This is the point where he really knew what he wanted to do, to build tools like the Unity3D or Unreal game engines. At this time he was given a place, to go to GDC Europe in Cologne. Where he interviewed people and companies and followed keynotes from a small game developer called Vlambeer, Oculus and Blizzard to just name a few.

Then he started at his current education where he lost the red thread of the main quest. Without the end-goal in sight he wandered from assignment to assignment. But he still had this vigor inside him that had a passion to create something with which people could do something, so he started with a side quest. The Baby App, he called this side quest. The purpose of this project was to give parents a very easy place to store photos, videos and stories of their children. This will be shown in a beautiful timeline starting with the pregnancy to the moment the parents decide to share it with their children. I always imagined this would be around their eighteenth birthday as they turn from children into adults. Nevertheless, this project was loaded with features and brilliant ideas but unfortunately not enough experience to really lift it of its infant feet.

Dealing with this so called failed quest, he took some time to rethink and decide how to continue and in which direction. He decided to at least continue in a general direction of application developer. So he continued with the formal education that he had put on hold.

He and a few fellow adventurers teamed up for a quest in which they had to create a simplified AI game using the magical language Java and networking practices so they could battle other groups of adventurers that have teamed up for the same loot. The game was called Othello or Reversi, and it uses the minimax algorithm to make the best moves. Sadly his team did not win but has learned a great deal in group dynamics and programming algorithms.

The following term he worked with another group of very great programming adventurers to create a networked hangman game using Node.js and websockets. He worked primarily on the game itself while his group worked on the API backend in Python, and on a front end for achievements, match data and statistics. Even though these quests were very rudimentary in game mechanics and creativity, he had found his passion for games again.

Right, this will be the end of it all..

Or not. It’s just the beginning.

Joël still has much to learn and he is aware of  that. So the main quest has turned into a big story line with a lot of side quests. The first few quests that are needed to reach the next part of the story line have been accepted, and added to the questlog. He is actively working on it to get them completed. Some of these quests are to learning C++, OpenGL and the mathematics that are part of game development. He has had a little heads-up in the followup quests as he is going to be studying game engine architectures and building one with a rudimentary GUI to know how they work.

For the rest of the tale you should really come back.

You can follow my progression on Github or here on my blog.