What Went Down at GGJLagos

ggjlagos

Hello Everyone! Today on this blog I make my 30th post. It has been a ride! I came, I saw, I blogged. Going into the future we are 10 post from our 1 year anniversary. This week, I will be covering what went down at Global Game Jam Lagos. This report is in the words of the representative of the organising commitee. So without much ado..

Day 1
We had some challenges on the 1st day of this event with regards to the venue that was provided by the Department of Computer Science, University of Lagos. We found that there were some other groups that were scheduled to use the hall that same day which greatly affected the start of this program. However we eventually kicked off by 2pm with little participation from our participants and the students at the University which was our major target audience for this event. We quickly resolved this by notifying all our registered participants and guests that the event has kicked off and most of them responded by the 2nd day.

Day 2
We kicked off on the 2nd day with our guests and participants present. We started the day by presenting the videos given to us by the Casual Connect organisation which was followed by questions and answers on the videos shown. Our guest speakers Leonard Duro Emmanuel and Luke Dicken then took the stage. Two of our speakers were unable to make the event due to some unforseen circumstances out of the 4 talks initially planned. Credit must be given to Leonard Duro Emmanuel who proceeded by breaking down the game industry as a whole in relation to such fields like Accounting, Mathematics, PR and Marketing, Fashion etc. The participants expressed a serious “A-ha” and “I didnt’t know that” moment on this professional breakdown on the fields that could benefit from the Game Industry. At about 3pm, Idamiebi Illamina Eremie and Folarin Pearce from Sonbim Games with their title “Titi Tilapia” took the centre stage of this event, explaining how the title evolved, with walk through scenarios and demos from the game. Some interesting comments were made as to the final colours used to for Titi Tilapia the fish, and her expression when she found out her eggs were stolen. This showed us that the participants actually paid attention to introductory concepts of behavioural science and Artificial Intelligence which was explained to them by Luke Dicken and the Head of the Local Organising Committee – Benedict Olumhense, who answered some of the questions too.

Day 3
Some stroke of luck met us on the 3rd day as one of the Lecturers at the Department of Computer Science decided to pay a visit at this event. He then noticed that his students were missing and expressed shock at this scenario. He then proceeded to informing the class representative of the final year class that they should partake at this event, which they eventually did. This also coincided with when most sites would commence their activities with the game jam. Nigeria was the 1st to start due to our activity schedule. We still had some time to do some orientation for the new participants in regards to this event and the game industry at large. Some of the students expressed fear that creating a game title in 48 hours would be a huge task and they wanted to know what was the process to achieving this task. We introduced the Game Maker 8.1 engine to the students and particpants and  advised on reading up the first 2 chapters of that book. This enabled them to understand how the game engine works which was best suited for a game jam. By now we hadn’t received the theme and keynote speech for the event from the Global Game Jam organising committee, this was to be played before all sites begin creating games in line with the theme of the event. Upon the close of the event site, to our surprise a Female Lecturer from the  Department of Computer Science, University of Lagos met us and congratulated us for our efforts in organising this event. She wanted to particpate at this event and was duly informed on the requirements and activities on the next day.

Day 4
At about 4am on the 4th day, we recieved permission from the Global Game Jam organising committee to play the keynote and theme video for our participants, we proceeded to download the videos but we could’nt play them due to the time our local site will commence activities for the day which was initailly 9am but adjusted to 10am. When we finally commenced the day activities, the theme video was played which was “Heartbeat“, all the participants expressed surprises as to how a theme like that can evolve into a game.  We initially left the participants till about 12pm to brainstorm on the theme video and concept for the game title. At about that same time, the Head of the Local Organising Committee Benedict Olumhense, inquired from the participants as to the progress made on the game development. He discovered that the participants were challenged with this, he then helped out by having a discussion with them on creating a game using the theme by delving into biology and illustrating how the heart is the center for living things especially humans and explain how it processes new blood cells from bad blood cells, what kind of ailments could affect the blood – Malaria, Diabetes, HIV, AIDS etc with medical services in form of normal drugs and retroviral drugs as a consideration to sustaining human life. All these concepts now fromed the Art resources for the game. The team were happy at this discovery and continued developing the title. We noticed how a few members of the team became leaders in expressing the rudiments of the Game Maker Engine in relation to creating this title which was by the way named “Blood City” by the participants. We ended our activities for the day with the team still in the creation stage and creating a Google Hangout forum with all the participants involved to enable the team continue the title development while at their respective homes.

Day 5
We commenced our final day by 12 noon due to the day being a Sunday, not many of the participants showed up with only 3 at the venue. Towards the final hours of our site closing down for the event. Only one other person joined in. By then we concluded that “Blood City” our supposed game title was not going to be developed. But the Local Organising Committee for the Global Game Jam Lagos event expressed satisfaction even though no title was developed which was actually our expectation due to this being the first of its kind held in Lagos.

Lessons Learnt
There was a couple of lessons we learnt executing this event, which was we relied much on the Department of Computer Science, University of Lagos to inform their students about this event as well as helping us to secure a venue for this, with only the latter being fulfilled. Again steady power supply to the venue affected the execution of this event as the University doesn’t allow generator sets from other sources to be brought into the campus.

What worked for us
We had provided a different registration site for this event which allowed us to contact our participants other than that provided by the Global Game Jam organising committee. This proved to be effective as it allowed us to contact our participants via their personal phone lines about the commencement of this event. The provision of content by working with foreign organisations like Casual Connect, Sonbim Games and local speakers proved worthwhile as this was
used in our orientation period to inform our participants about this industry.

So there you have it. The 1st Global Game Jam has held in West Africa. Mistakes were made and lessons were learnt but at the end, the event was done! My point is this done is better than perfect and by starting, we give ourselves the opportunity to grow. This is Truston Ailende I am an HTML5 Game Developer signing out on my 30th post. I remain loyal!

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Software Freedom Day

Last week was Software Freedom Day being a saturday, I decided to spend the day at the event. In Ghana, it held at the Ghana India Koffi Annan Center of Excellence in ICT. It was my first technology event in Ghana. I hope to give my take on what went down.

The program started with a documentary on the open source movement. Presentations where done on some open source projects like Koha which is an open source integrated library management system and jquery cipher which is a front-end encryption tool.
Of course there where presentations on other products but the above represent the two I find most impressive. Koha is international while jquery cipher was developed by Samuel Asirifi a Ghanian. Beyond those two products, I was not really impressed by the rest of the event.

Business Models

The above diagram is called the IT Value Chain. Like I talked about in my post on Bringing Ideas to Life, the first option is to awaken a dragon while the second is to carve one yourself. Being away from a Graphic Designer, I had to open Microsoft Paint and do the work myself! The above image is Programmer Art. So if you like the above image, please feel free to use it for whatever purposes you like. I will not mind 🙂 I was given the information free! If you decide you want to beautify the image, please do so and send me a copy.

When you look at the above image, it explains the different players in the Information Technology sector. At the top of the pyramid are the programmers and graphics designers. These are the guys with “The Skill”. The only problem being that having power and knowing how to use it are not the same thing. Below content producers are the bloggers who bring all the players together. For content producers, apart from blogging, you can also get to this stage by having a product that make people talk about you. Blogging by itself requires no skill to start. It simply requires the ability to write the way you talk 🙂 anyway that’s how I do it.

After aggregators/hosts, the next two levels are not for mere mortals! Collaboration is then a must. In West Africa the most visible access providers are Microsoft and Google. Microsoft brought us the computer and Google brought us the internet. Therein lies the problem. Microsoft is seen as the enemy by open source movement which is strongly supported by Google. In the realm of advertising, Google and Inmobi are visible players.

Straight Talk

Someone once said “A belief if something we would argue about, a conviction is something we will die for”. The views that come next are my sincere opinion on the true state of the open source movement. Reader discretion is advised!

The first tech event I attended in my life was Google Nigeria. It was held at the University of Lagos in 2010. I don’t remember the dates but it held from Thursday to Saturday. I remember snubbing the event up till Saturday which was the program for students. It was nice attending. Subsequent events showed the Google was serious about Africa as a whole and were not Microsoft.

Bear in mind that this is 2010 when Microsoft was seen as ‘evil”. Google preached and we believed. Some of my friends even got baptized. I wonder why they could not convert me…. Anyway that was before GNBO. If there was anything that proved to me once and for all that it is all business, it was GNBO. I remember being one of the earliest adopters it was cool to be able to create a website in just 2 hours!

In the weeks to come the outburst would start from my web designer friends. Many would lose what small businesses they had. Truthfully Google opened the web space in Nigeria but at the cost of the guys on the ground. 2011 was the year I decided that it was “Every man for himself and God for us all!”. In the days following, I have not seen anything to change my mind on the matter.

How does this connect with Software Freedom Day? Easy! we have a bunch of guys selling their own agenda to the detriment of people on the ground. While I sincerely believe in the open source doctrine, it must be tempered by wisdom. FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) is the only way that Africans have a chance in technology.

However, there is The Danger of the Single Story that sorry state where we take the trees to be the forest. Any technology business needs to consider its technical as well as it financial sides. In technology today, a common business model is freemium. It gives a business a chance to try a product free while it evolves a business model.

Today, I am firmly in the Microsoft camp. My survival is at stake! The Windows 1 operating system has evolved up to the point where it now on Windows 8 that is 27 years of work! Open source has nothing to meet this challenge! No open source project has such a record. Any that for me is what is scary about Software Freedom Day. Rather than talk about what the future holds once Microsoft closes ranks with Windows 8 on October 26th, they seem to be this continuous rant on the virtues of free software.

As a programmer who has had to look through lines of code I did not write in the name of free software, I will pass! The first rule of civil engineering is that you cannot build on sand! I would rather build a company on Windows 8 as a foundation and have FOSS as an extension of that company than build the entire stack on FOSS.

Conclusion

In today’s fast-paced business environment, there is the need to focus on rapid delivery of products. FOSS is accompanied by a lot of noise that most programmers tend to think that it is the way to go. It is truly amazing that the people making the noise are not programmers!

Mythology recalls that Odysseus ties himself to the mast of the ship in order to listen to the voices of Sirens while the rest of his men have their ears filled with wax. As a programmer, that is my current stance! I will do my due diligence on FOSS tools out there because once in a while the open source movement produces great tools. But in the end in a choice between Microsoft and FOSS tools for any project I am working on Microsoft will win!