2020 into 2021
2020 has been a year. Yep.
This has been a loooong year. Or a short one maybe? It's been hard especially with the Covid-19. But it didn't stop us to adapt with the tremendous changes.
For me, this year was full of growth. I learned so much. This article will serve as a retrospective look at how this year has gone for me.
I built my first PC
I just built my first PC this year and although it took a chunk from my savings, it was worth it. It opened up many opportunities, and it really is a QoL improvement.
At first, I wasn't really planning on building my PC but when our company announced early this year about working from home, I thought it will be an opportunity to build one, and I was right with my decision. It was a bit of a clutch though because I bought the parts the day before the lockdown started in our country, which was early March.
I don't plan to upgrade it soon, maybe in 3 to 5 years? It can run both Unity and Unreal Engine, and I can play Genshin Impact flawlessly. One thing I can't wait to upgrade though is my monitor. I want to experience higher frame rates than 60 😎.
I tried freelancing
It was late March when I felt comfortable working from home and realized I had too much vacant time.
My first gig was from Upwork through my friend. It was a high effort, low pay work which is okay for me at first but later on I realized that accepting it was a mistake.
I then created my Upwork account and after a week I landed on my 2nd gig. I was super nervous at first because it was my first direct communication with the client but after a while I got comfortable and realized that they themselves don't know what they're doing.
Freelancing is great. My income was higher than my full-time work. But doing both freelancing and full-time is tiresome. I got burnt out after 2 months and dropped my clients.
I created my personal website
Creating my personal website was one of my goals this year. I treated it as a legit project with actual project planning using ClickUp and time tracking using Toggl. I took inspirations from sites of other devs, but I tried to make it visually unique.
From July 1, 2020, to December 29, 2020, there were 4.8K sessions on this website. 51% of the traffic were direct while 28% came from organic search (Google). Also, this site's dark mode was toggled 6,368 times.
I received a few appreciation emails about my website and my tutorial article. I still remember the feeling when I received the first email, my happiness went through the roof. I never expected these, and I'm super happy that people appreciate my work. Thank you guys!
I also created my gamedev portfolio website a month after.
I started a blog ... kinda
I launched my website together with a blog, but I could only publish a single article this year.
I was excited about blogging at first. I was enthusiastic and my expectations were very high.
But then it hit me, whenever I write my draft for my next article, I just can't put my thoughts into words and I started to get frustrated at myself. I read and watched a lot of writing improvement articles and videos, but I really can't write and later on my mind was just not into it.
I stopped caring for a long while and hopefully, my enthusiasm for writing will come back soon.
I'm slowly shifting to backend development
I was a general game programmer before, doing a lot of client stuff (UI integration, audio integration, game systems, multiplayer programming, etc) in UE4 and Unity. I started my backend training on April but went back to client stuff.
I only started doing real backend work later this year. I started touching our backend code but was afraid to make some changes at first. Everything about Amazon Web Services (AWS) is kind of intimidating to me, but I got comfortable after weeks of fiddling with it.
I barely scratched the surface of backend programming and most of my work were maintaining and improving the current codebase. I haven't really done anything from scratch, but I'll get there soon.
Also, I got promoted to Senior Server Engineer this year so yay!
What I learned in 2020
Lately, I've been criticizing myself for taking a break, playing games, and not making any progress. This will serve as a reminder to me that I learned a lot and made big progress with my career.
Many people say that when learning front-end, start from vanilla HTML, CSS, and JS. But for me, I went straight to React and I fell in love with it. I got lucky with the timing because hooks and context were the main thing now, and they were easy to learn and use.
Don't get me started with Gatsby. I think it is perfect for building a website like this one. Its plugins ecosystem made it easy to create a personal blog website. I also experienced GraphQL doing this but not much.
I also studied Next.js, and it is what I used for my gamedev portfolio website.
From buying a domain, to setting it up, and publishing my website, it was all fun. I thought the process will be very technical with the cPanel and all the other stuff but doing it with Namecheap and Vercel is so easy.
I also learned how to set up my email addresses using my domain through ProtonMail.
I've known Figma for a while, but I started to go in-depth with it when I was designing my personal website and prototyping some of my ideas as well. I can't imagine why a tool like this is free.
This one. I never thought CSS can be simpler. This made me understand CSS more than studying vanilla CSS itself. I enjoyed styling my websites with Tailwind. It was confusing at first, and I was looking at their docs back and forth but after I get used to it, I was styling pages like a madman.
Firebase & WebSockets
I started learning these for an internal game jam that I intended to join but was unable to finish it.
My plan was to make a simple real-time multiplayer game in the browser. I only managed to get the authentication, data store, and simple real-time events working because my enthusiasm died eventually.
This was a great primer for Firebase and WebSockets, but I still have to learn more about it.
AWS Lambda & CloudFormation
I studied Lambda as part of my job. After reading many lambda scripts in our codebase, I finally understood how it works and how to write one. I also learned a lot of in-depth vanilla JS in the process.
This was the first time I learned about Infrastructure as code (IaC). We use CloudFormation in our project to spawn AWS GameLift resources.
What I want to learn in 2021
This has been the topic that I'm eager to learn, but I just can't get my head to wrap around it.
I followed many tutorials regarding this be it on React, Unity, or UE4 but most of them showed trivial examples that whenever I'm about to write a test in a real-world project, I get stuck.
If you are reading this and know of any real-world examples of software testing on React, Unity, or UE4, feel free to email me the links and resources 😬
Since, I'm going in-depth with backend programming, I want to learn the best practices of web security. I think it's important especially when you have real users using your product.
I've only used Jenkins at work when building games, but I want to explore more about CI/CD and DevOps skills. Things that come to my mind are GitHub Actions and GitLab Pipelines. I also want to study Unix commands and shell scripting.
Another thing I want to practice more is using Git via command line. I've been spoiled by Git GUI clients for the past years that I can't perform complex Git commands without looking the commands up on the internet.
It was indeed a year of growth and I can't wait for 2020 to end! I'm hopeful, really hopeful, that 2021 will be a better year for all of us.
Thank you for reading!