Tribute to Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong

Happy weekend everyone! By the time you read this, it would be a new month! Its been a rush perhaps August would be called August Rush. On the 25th of August, Neil Armstrong the first man to walk on the moon died. I was really sad when I heard the news. For me it meant that one of those people who pushed the frontiers of dreams and possibilities had exited the world. This post is meant as a tribute to the man. For his full biography, you can check here.

Before the tribute is paid, I think it is only fair not to keep some news to myself. The Create UNAOC Challenge is counting down and 90 days are left! I am not privileged in anyway. This information is freely available on Wetin Dey Shele developed by one of the few developers I personally admire Oge Nnadi. In the course of the new month, I will (threaten) ask him to discuss his use of Open Source tools in the development of the application.

In other developments, after the loss of Samsung to Apple, Samsung bounced back by making sure they are the first vendor to announce the launch of Windows 8 devices. I my opinion, this is the best way to make their stock prices withstand the shock of the lawsuit. The future of game development might be settled on the Windows 8 platform, so it is worth keeping an eye on.

So now the announcements are over, its time to pay tribute. When he landed on the Moon, he inadvertently created a world of dreams. Some of the ideas behind landing on the moon inspired games like Lunar Lander and cartoons like Voltron which for most of us growing up was kind of something to look forward to at 4pm….

While he was the first man on the moon, he did not do it alone. Behind Neil Armstrong is a long history of teachers, trainers and teammates. That’s the reality. No worthwhile dream can be achieved by one individual working alone!

Mission Crew

Apollo 11 Crew
The Apollo 11 lunar landing mission crew, pictured from left to right, Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot.

Above is a picture of the “Front Men” behind them are engineers, scientists, government contractors and even cleaners! I think too many people are brainwashed into thinking like the “Man on the Hill” that epitome of the self made man that they never realize that it does not exist.

Even on the moon, one person had to be first. Could it have been any of them? I think so. At the end, it had to be about the team. And that is what this post is really about Synergy! That by working together, a team of ordinary people can get to do extraordinary stuff. In the words of Neil Armstrong “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

First landing on the moon

My First Game

Ise

This week was particularly interesting. I found the words to complete the About section of this blog. I know people don’t usually read the About section of a blog but do check it out! The Samsung Mobile Ideation Challenge is around the corner and with all the buzz, I feel I should lend my voice to the debate. The first time I developed a game was for the Samsung Application Developer Challenge.

I remember it like yesterday. It was in September of 2010 that I saw the flyers for the Samsung Application Developer Challenge. Having finished at the University of Lagos in 2009 I was sort of drifting. The cash prize for the competition was fixed at N1,000,000 with prizes promised for category winners. When I saw the flyer, it was September 27th. I was working on 3 final year projects for some students. Seeing the opportunity before me, I rounded up their projects by October 4th.

Me at the Samsung Application Developers Challenge

The decision on the entry was made in that week. I decided on a game because I knew that was where I had the best chance of winning. I decided to build my native game ISE which is similar to BANTUMI and AYO. I headed home that weekend to see my parents because I hadn’t played the game since I was a child. My Dad taught me how to play the game again.

Around that time a friend of mine in the University of Lagos was working on AYO in a language I hated then C#. Using his board class as a template, I built the board class in Java. I remember feeling like a bad guy because I had to build my own custom data structure: a Circular Linked List.

The competition was due to close on October 30th but an extension period of one week was given. In the end, I submitted ISE for the competition. By November 6th, submission of entries ended. After the applications where screened and cut to 18 finalists, like this time too voting was how the winners were chosen.

Samsung Application Developer Contest Extension

Christmas came early that day for me that year because on November 25 winners were announced at the final touchdown held at Sheraton Hotel. Even though I came second in my category Games: Casual/Puzzles, I got my tithe on the star prize. The star prize for the competition was won by the Fanconnect Online team developers of Afrinolly

Fansconnect Online Team

Members of the Fansconnect Online Team

That for me was when I knew that I should actively look at Gaming. I had hacked my first game in 6 weeks. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it! One lesson I gained from the competition was the need for me to seek competitions where merit is used to declare winners not quota.

Concerning the competition organised by Samsung. What is my recommendation? I recommend that people submitting ideas take a long look at their lives and ask themselves what they want most. This question is important because participation in this competition will help Samsung achieve their own goals so what are yours?

For me participation in the competition in 2010 was the first step of getting what I wanted: a way out of Nigeria! The trail is like this: Samsung Application Developer Contest -> Tech in Education -> British Council Game Developer Contest -> Catalyst for Change Game Guide.

So did I make it? Yes I did! I write this blog from Ghana! For 3 years I wanted only one thing and I finally got it! I promised I will not hold back on this 8th post so I won’t. Meeting the guys from Co-Creation Hub was a good thing for me. I wish I had met them in 2009. By the time I met them in 2011 my mind was made up.

Trust me on this you don’t become a Software Architect without the ability to decide and commit yourself to your decisions. That said for me the 9 months I spent at Co-Creation Hub were some of the best in my life. They were also the last in my country Nigeria. When the 9 months were up like a baby in its mother’s womb, I had to see the world.

Co-Creation Hub was setup to keep guys like me in Nigeria. I remember some slight brushes with the management of the Hub during my stay in Nigeria. Now that I am in Ghana, I realize that because on a subconscious level our goal clashed, there could be no true harmony. Did I meet potential investors? Yes. I remember the April of this year at Mobile West Africa when I made a presentation for a game, I met a potential investor. The money was on the table. All I had to do was say yes. But I walked away empty-handed. I walked because the investor could not define my life. Only I could. I needed to be free! So I walked away from everything and everyone empty-handed. I learnt a long time ago that the only thing that could be used against me was my desire to survive. But I had lived through a lot in my life. I knew I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees.

That’s all for this week. The next post will be on September 1st. I will close this post with an image on my desktop that I kept as a wallpaper when I was in Nigeria. It is a clip from the story Eulogy for Lisa which was an entry in the L.Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest enough said!

Eulogy for LISA

Danfo Reloaded

Danfo Reloaded

When I posted the interview with Bayo Puddicombe of Pledge51 I remember stating that Nokia would have to form an alliance with the local company in order to strengthen its hold on the Nigerian market. The predictions made were based on the trends of Nokia in the global market. Recently, Nokia announced its partnership with the gaming company Zynga. You can check out more details here.

Boy was I right! I am not a Prophet just a good Project Manager who knows how to follow the money. The trail began like this: Nokia Create 4 Millions -> Nokia Growth Academy -> Danfo Reloaded -> ???

At the end, it was inevitable! My prediction came TRUE. Now I know you want me to predict what I feel could be next and I will. I think Pledge51 will win The Future Awards in their category this year. It will be exciting cheering this team in the months to come.

Social Gaming Giant Zynga has two great games in its stable Draw Something and Zynga Poker. I played Draw Something and I liked it. Basically you search for a player on a social network and wait for a response. When you find someone willing to play, you “Draw Something and ” and the other player tries to guess what you have drawn. This is one game that is simple, fun and engaging.

From all indications Nokia is willing to roll out its arsenal for the Nokia Asha. This is one phone they still have a hold on. My personal opinion of the Nokia Asha is that if not for Nokia committing themselves to Microsoft, they could leverage on the Nokia Asha going into the future. The Nokia Asha is as good as any smartphone out there. Did I mention that it is also touch screen? Find out details here

While I want to cheer Pledge51, for me there are lessons in the success of the team. Overnight success took 5 years to come. The more I live, the more I am convinced that you cannot separate success from steadfast consistency. The conviction, discipline and commitment required to succeed can only be tested by consistency. Maybe if I blog every weekend without fail up until 2016, this blog will….

That’s all for this week. Since success has many fathers… no wait! Bayo seniors me. So since success has many brothers Oga B! If Nokia wan carry you comot, abeg make I join for traveling bag. I never dey too big to enter 🙂

Beginning Game Development

Usain Bolt showing his world record

This week was one of the most interesting weeks in the entire Olympic Games. Usain Bolt showed us once again that injury or not he had what it took to deliver when it mattered most. Losing almost every tournament and having incessant complains of injuries led critics to believe that the bolt was gone. Proving once and for all that he is the manifestation of greatness, he won his event in the Olympics becoming the fastest man in history again in the process. The above picture is from Bejing 2008 when he won the 200m. It is the picture I will always cherish when I think of Usain Bolt.

In the world of today, there has never been a better time to be a developer. Web standards currently rule the marketing airways chief of which is HTML5. Sometimes I get asked by people how to go about starting game development. The standard answer has always been “Do it and get it wrong”. In this weeks post, I will be looking at how a developer can get started with game development.

Recent Trends

At this point in time, the trend is towards HTML5. Marketing and sales departments of technology firms seem to roll over themselves in professing love for HTML5. But this is the manifestation of the phenomenon that is HTML5. Apple has the distinction of being the first company to actively side with HTML5. The late Steve Jobs purposely ignored Flash on the iPad betting his entire company on the future of HTML5.

HTML5 Logo

On the 7th of this month, Google launched a nice doodle on their search engine. It features a runner doing hurdles. It generated some buzz on the internet. I played it so many times until my score got low enough. For me what was really exciting was when people took the conversation on to social media. I do not have access to actual statistics, but I can be sure that Google servers witnessed a spike on that day. As at the time of this writing, the doodle can be found here: http://www.google.com/doodles/hurdles-2012

Hurdles from Google

Microsoft has invested tons of money in ensuring that developers can have access to native APIs in order to develop applications for their Windows 8 release. HTML5 applications on the Windows 8 Platform will be no different from those developed using traditional languages like C++ and C#.

All these point to one thing. It is no longer safe to ignore web standards. The best move is to dive in and start work rather than complain and do nothing. The amount of JavaScript frameworks developed in recent times show that the HTML5 community is vibrant, active and is not going anywhere!

Starting

The first thing in the process of game development is the idea for the game to be created. Game ideas are abundant but it is important to note that ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is king! A poor game finished and released is better than a great idea still being polished.

For beginners, a language port using someone else’s existing code is the best option. This is the lure of the Java programming language. The popularity of Java in the last decade means that a lot of source code is available on the internet. The only barrier is probably the need to understand the language. While I would love to say Java is the best language for starting game development, the reality is that it is no longer readily accepted on certain platforms. Windows 8 has totally barred the Java programming language.

This is where HTML5 shines. It has been accepted as the future direction for the industry. JavaScript which is the programming language of HTML5 is similar to Java in syntax. A favourite book to start with for Java Developers is Foundation HTML5 Canvas. It was one of the first books I ever read on the topic of HTML5 and I still constantly refer to it.

Rather than belabour the user with pure JavaScript, it teaches the user how to use the most popular JavaScript framework in the world: jQuery. This mode of treatment is the first and most important detail in game development.

Development not programming is the issue at stake here. If the goal is to show technology wizardry to programming peers, then using jQuery is a waste of time. However, when the goal is to design a simple, playable game for the purpose of learning, then tools like jQuery which allow you focus on what you want to do instead of how to get things done become important.

HTML5 Canvas

Learning

Learning HTML5 is not difficult. The really hard part of learning anything is starting and sticking. The amount of tutorials available on the internet makes entry easy. A good starting point is this tutorial from Channel9: http://channel9.msdn.com/Series/HTML5-CSS3-Fundamentals-Development-for-Absolute-Beginners

After you prove to yourself that you can take the rigours of HTML5 and CSS you can then move on to the rigours of JavaScript also available from Channel9: http://channel9.msdn.com/Series/Javascript-Fundamentals-Development-for-Absolute-Beginners

All the above mentioned videos are 42 in all. If anyone studied one video a day without missing a single day, at the end of 6 weeks, that person would have learned web programming. 6 week! The painful part is while the above videos are free; the amount of bandwidth required is huge. And we all know how bandwidth and Africa.

Why I recommend videos over books is that I have found out that learning is fastest when it involves all the senses. By creating an experience whereby you involve every one of your senses you increase the chance of learning quickly.

In the absence of videos, books are the best alternative. In the word of Martin Luther King “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

A copy of this presentation can be found here.

So now back to running. While Bolt left London’s Olympic Stadium with his fourth gold medal, Tyson Gay still has none to his name. On Sunday, Gay finished fourth in a time, 9.80, that would have won every Olympic final that didn’t feature Usain Bolt. The American sprinter broke down in tears afterwards. “I gave it my best,” he said. But when you’re going up against greatness, your best will never be good enough.

Usain Bolt 100m Olympic win

Pledge51

Bootstrapper's Bible

This week was really exciting on the first day of the month I got in touch with a dear friend from Nigeria Victor Dibia who runs a startup called Denvycom. In the course of chatting with him I found out that he was participating in a training program organised by MIT AITI in collaboration with the University of Lagos and since curiosity kill the cat I decided to look up the site.

In the end, I found out about The Bootstrapper’s Bible on the website and finished reading it that same day. Its 103 pages in total and a great read. Its a story of how small platoons can take on big battalions and win! By building a business with financial probity at it core, it is possible to survive and thrive. Enough said!

This week the company in focus is one of the guest lecturers at the MIT AITI programme. It is made up of two renowned programmers Zubair Abubakar and Bayo Puddicombe. Before leaving Nigeria I sat down with Bayo to talk about his award-winning game Danfo.

Danfo

When did you first build Danfo?
2007 Not too long after youth service.

Why?
Opportunity in between

What platforms is Danfo available on?
Currently available for download on Series 40 Devices

Why?
Based on market trends and demand. Nokia is the largest supplier of feature phones in this market. Device fragmentation led to focus on Nokia

Is all the development done locally?
Yes

Can we expect more games later in the year?
Yes

What awards has Danfo won?
3rd place in the Nokia West Africa Create 4 Millions

Why?
Maybe the judges were looking for business. UI was not too standard

So there you have it. Danfo is available from the Nokia Store if you have a Nokia Phone do check it out! Globally, Nokia is losing marketshare thus forcing them to consolidate on the Nigerian market where they have a hold in the feature phone market.

If I am right, some time in the future, Nokia is going to have to do a deal with Pledge51 for their game to be on their platform as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer). Given losses in the rest of the world, it makes sense to focus on the largest market in Nigeria where they already have a hold. As at today, Pledge51 is one of 10 startups in the Nokia Growth Academy

 

On a personal note  Bayo Puddicombe and myself both went to the University of Lagos. He was my 4 years ahead of me. I remember him as quiet and confident. In between the time he left the University of Lagos and when our paths crossed again in 2011, he attended IVD where he met Zubair Abubakar. In that time the formidable partnership has gone on to do great things.

Bayo Puddicombe at Cocreation Hub

Bayo Puddicombe at Cocreation Hub