Worth The Wait

Planetary Alignment

Hello everyone. Happy new month! Its good to be on the home stretch. 3 more posts and I will be done for the year. On Monday the 3rd, we will be witnessing the Planetary Alignment over the Pyramids of Egypt. This event occurs once in 2,737 years. I shudder to think where technology would be now if the civilization of Egypt was allowed to continue on it march. This week, the classic game Pong turned 40! This is one game that has been made on almost every platform out there and it is still fun to play!

This week I will be looking at famo.us which is a great product that has great promise. I feel this might be the product that makes the browser the “One screen to rule them all”. It was launched at TechCrunch Disrupt this year and is currently in private beta. Public release will be sometime in first quarter of next year. For now, as a developer, this is one product you should file under research. Bookmark the website and signup for the private beta.

famo.us works by accessing the GPU of any machine it runs on! The true beauty lies in the fact that the engine allows developers this much power using JavaScript! Any device with a GPU can run  I am talking phones, tablets, gaming consoles and laptops.

What can famo.us be used for? The framework is a rendering engine that can be used to create anything developers can think of. When I first saw the demo, I thought it could be used to create presentations and then I got to know that it would be like connecting a Ferrari to a team of horses. To work with famo.us  you must use  the engine to create 3D Templates. The only condition being that you make it open-source so that others can use what you have done.

As the year comes to a close, it is really exciting to see a new product emerge in the quest for making the browser more capable of native performance. Any reader of this blog knows my current stance on HTML5 and this is one product that is proof on the growing powers of the browser.

With the launch of Windows 8, next year promises to be an interesting time for developers. For a lot of developers, retooling is ongoing and will probably stretch into the first quarter of next year. Personally, famo.us is one tool worth adding to the toolbox when it is finally made available.

Windows 8 and PC Gaming

With the launch of Windows 8 on October 26, the stage is set for the PC to have resurgence in the gaming space. For years, developers have been inundated with news about the need to embrace the mobile space. With Windows 8, all the lines have been effaced as Windows 8 represents a convergence of the tablet, mobile and traditional desktop spaces. In the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 8, Microsoft has improved the operating system’s performance and responsiveness.

Windows 8 Applications

The default UI for Windows 8 is Metro. However, Windows 8 comes with a mix of desktop and metro apps. Our favourites Paint and Notepad are desktop applications. The Metro UI is great for tablets but for desktop users, it tends to require a paradigm shift.

In this new world, the only way to get applications and games is through the Windows Store. Don’t get me wrong this is for apps and games that use the Metro UI. For traditional desktop applications, they can be installed the same way we have always done.

For developers, this means they have to get a Windows Store Developer Account. Once they have this, developers can then submit applications to the Windows Store for certification. The idea behind certification is to protect Windows 8 users.

Development Frameworks

The reason for using a framework is to speed up the development process. The above represent 5 framework companies that are in partnership with Microsoft. appMobi is an HTML5 framework for applications while the other 4 are for game development.

Over the course of the week, I did my research on the above 4 game frameworks and I strongly recommend GameMaker. GameMaker was developed in 1999 and has gone on to be a teaching tool for game development. For anyone interested in game development, I would recommend a look at GameMaker.

The business model for the company is freemium. You can download the free version and when you are ready to go commercial buy a relevant version that meets your needs. The beauty of GameMaker is that using the same program, you can export it to the Mac, Android, HTML5 and Windows 8.

Microsoft Surface

In a move that was out of character for the software giant, the announcement of the Surface Pro tablet came as a surprise not just to consumers but to PC manufacturers. With this move, Microsoft is now setting the precedent that they are willing to compete with their hardware partners by building their own devices.

This reminds me of when Google announced the Chrome browser. The idea was to encourage quicker adoption of web standards by browser manufacturers. It would interest you to know that the Chrome browser is currently the best in the business.

I see a similar trend emerging here with the Surface Pro tablet. I expect the Surface team to work tightly with Windows 8 developers to optimize and improve their hardware. I also expect the Surface to be better than anything their competitors produce.

Closing Doors

As far as openness is concerned, the end is near. With Microsoft taking control of its distribution; more platforms are going to close their doors. The tech world is gradually becoming reminiscent of the cold war era with iron curtains being put in place by the giants.

It’s like every giant out there wants to lock you in. Google has the Chrome browser which asks you to sign on with an email account (Gmail). From this one browser the advert sellers can get a glimpse into your online activities. Did I mention they have a social network that they signed you up for when you get Gmail?

Facebook is trying to do the same and become an all embracing platform but is yet to succeed. Amazon has its own devices that ensure you only buy your books from it. Apple well (I am too scared to even try talking about them)

Conclusion

With the launch of Windows 8, it is clear that there is a big market for game developers. Given the current state of the gaming space in West Africa, I would recommend that start-ups look at how to take advantage of the Windows 8 opportunity.

The next 3 years promise to be an exciting time. In the next 3 years we can expect Windows 9 to be in the market. I cite 3 years here because that is usually how long it takes Microsoft to release a new operating system.

It is hoped that in that time the West Africa gaming space would produce serious contenders on the global gaming scene. The news reports concerning the industry are good. What remains to be seen is if there is any substance to the hype. In the years to come, the story of how we used this opportunity to leverage the industry is really how history would be made.

The State of the West African Gaming Space

Africa

Hi everyone and thanks for joining in this week! I can’t believe that we are on the home stretch! 20 posts and 5 to go! In this post I will be looking at the West African Gaming Space. This post is my personal opinion on the current state of the industry and where I feel it needs to go.

Before we start, I will state something about myself: I am a dreamer! I dream more than I work! For me, it leads to an idealism that may not be realistic. So without much ado …

The Players

In the gaming space today, we have two sets of players: startups and bootstraps. As at now there are no companies. A startup is a temporary organization  setup with the aim of finding a scalable and repeatable business model. A bootstrap is an individual, flaunting an organization that is not even registered!

It may sound funny when you hear a bootstrap being defined. But truth is in the last 3 years, I ran a bootstrap. There was little money but I learnt. Strange when I started out in 2010, I didn’t know that you needed money to start a business. THAT BAD!

In this posts, I will not focus on bootstraps, I will focus on startups. In the West African Gaming Space, there are four that have come into the fore. They are:

  1. Leti Games
  2. Maliyo Games
  3. Plegde51
  4. Kuluya

I will look at each of this four because the gaming community is a tribe and in a tribe, the elders eat first.

Leti Games

Started in 2009, Leti Games is a Ghanaian Game Development Company. Notable games from them are Street Soccer and iWarrior. Personally I loved the game story behind iWarrior. It is the story of a warrior protecting his village from attack from wild animals. What I really love about this game is the jazz.

Maliyo Games

Started this year, this startup has gone on to show what is possible when a financial analyst runs a tech firm. Talk about achievements in such a short time and you would not be wrong. From a partnership with a leading bank in Nigeria to appearing on CNN, they seem to have it made!

Pledge51

One game that makes this company make this list is Danfo Reloaded. Its one game but enough respect to the developer. This game was first developed in 2007 but gained critical mass in 2012 when Nokia took up the game.

Kuluya

Apart from having a lot of titles, Kuluya didn’t really hit this year. But I sincerely comment the number of games they have successfully developed. While all their games are browser-based, I know it is a matter of time before they breakthrough! For me what is truly important is that they are out there!

Conclusion

This post has looked at the main players in the gaming space. Don’t get me wrong, there are others out there that I have probably not heard of! That said, we must not stay where we started from! In the years to come, I will love to see game companies go on to play on the global market competing and winning!

Fund Raising

In recent times, I started a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo. Straight off I will say what the limitations are

  1. Nationality
  2. Absence of a Paypal account

Given that I don’t have a Paypal account, getting donations will involve people using their credit cards and trust me on this, NOBODY likes to use a credit card to make donations.

So someone would ask knowing all this, why did I go ahead. Simple I can accept failure but I cannot accept not trying. If I failed to clarify my thoughts then I would be failing myself.

Programmers as Stay at Home Dads

Home Developer Workstation

This week I will be writing from the heart. As a programmer, in recent years, I have started thinking about the future: strange but true! And part of that future somehow involves getting married and having children. And looking over my schedule in the last couple of weeks, I have come to realise that programmers would make great stay at home dads.

This week was a really busy week. The election held in America and Obama was re-elected. Windows 8 officially launched on November 8 in Ghana so that is something to look forward to and today the WBA International Lightweight Championship will be holding. Angry Birds Star Wars launched this week. You can get the gist here. Did I mention that they added a lightsaber to the birds? This link talks about that.

So where was I… O I was talking about programmers as stay at home dads. To start with, I would have to setup the home office. That is easily done! Give me electricity and bandwidth and I have an office. So with that setup, I would choose a time to wake up.

With kids around, this would have to be 5 am. So once I got up, wife and kids would awaken to also start the day. I would then take my kids to school to be in before 8 am and I would dash back home by 9 am. From 9 am to 12 noon, I would work on a pressing project, read up on a programming language or a new skill I wanted to learn.

Once its 12 noon, I would take a break and go for lunch. I while back I stopped eating breakfast so 12 noon is a good time to eat for me. In this future, I am married so I would have to cook proper food and not eat Indomie or Bread. Would be back at 2 pm and work for 2 hours. 4 pm would be time to pick the children up from school.

Once the kids are back home, I would make sure they had their baths first and then ate lunch. Let give them 2 hours. So at 6 pm I would be done with the kids. Once done, I would ensure that they did their homework and read till 8 pm while I got busy preparing dinner.

8 pm dinner would be ready so I would ensure that kids got to eat a good dinner. After dinner, I would prepare the kids for bed. Somewhere around that time, madam would be back and I would spend time discussing her day. Soon, it would be 10 pm and kids would be in bed. 10 pm to 11 pm I would spend time getting to review the most critical project at hand. It helps because the subconscious mind has a way of solving problems.

I tap myself to reality! I haven’t written a line of code! I have been fully domesticated! I don’t think a programmer can live like this! Give me an office anyday. But for a while, it was good to dream about a life other than codes. Maybe someday… maybe.

Developing Your First Game

Freedom of choice

Happy new month everyone! Since I started game development I have gotten asked by people on how to build games. Normally my response would be “Do it and get it wrong!” however, in recent times, I have gotten a hang of the process of game development. I am still evolving as I continue to learn but I can confidently give advice on how aspiring game developers can break past barriers and finish their first game. For me it would be great if someone out there used the tips from this post and developed a game before Christmas! Enough talk on with the reading…

Begin With An Idea

inspiration

We all know what they are. Those gems that come to us and must be put down. Art above all is honesty! Ideas are the start of the process of creation. That said people seem to think that they are all that matter. Seeing an idea come to life is a gift few will ever possess.

People generally have a problem with commitment. And commitment is what it takes to bring ideas to life. So when the idea for the game hits, the best thing anyone can do is write it down! Writing it down gives meaning to an idea. From then on, the idea can be refined to make it better. Without this first step there is no breakthrough!

It is important to accept the fact that very few individuals can get truly original ideas. Ideas seem to build on top of each other. So it is important to copy ideas if you feel that would help.

Keep It Simple

This is critical! Every once in a while someone gets a good idea only to discard it because the idea is too complex. That is the reason for this advice. Simplify the idea to only one critical point! Execute on that one point and move on from there! Focus or fail!

Decide If You Should Use A Game Framework

In this post  I discuss the value of using a game framework in development. However, for beginner game developers, I do recommend learning Blender  because it is FOSS. I recommend this because I sort of stumbled into game development. Starting from scratch, I would not take the programmer route. I would learn how to create models and then when I was ready, I would learn how to program using Python which powers Blender. I say this because the programming method reveals only one side of the picture. Games are never about programming! To be exact anywhere there is an imagination, a game can be found!

Mechanics Before Aesthetics

Vision

Getting a basic picture of the game you intend to develop is more important than beautification. Game mechanics refers to the element of gameplay; how the user interacts with the game and the experience the game creates. Once the user enjoys the game irrespective of aesthetics, then it is easy to integrate aesthetics into the game. Aesthetics attracts users to a game but it takes sound mechanics to keep them interested in playing the game!

Done Is Better Than Perfect

At the end of everything, it is more important to execute than to discuss! I have met programmers who write better code that myself without a game to there name. I have also met people who cannot write code as well as myself that are doing great stuff. The key is to shine where you are and do your best everyday. It is better to be an honest fool than a lying scholar!

Conclusion

The quality that defines a successful game developer is not the number of ideas they have. A game developer develops games! It is important to remember that repetition is important when learning a skill. So be patient with yourself! Play, learn and have fun!