Redefining Education

udacityHello Everyone! For the rest of this month, I will be doing product showcases for great products out there. To start with Clay.io started a game development competition. You can find the details here. The deadline for the competition is on the 5th of April.

The face of education is really changing with the web. Today MOOCs are changing the perception of education from the traditional brick and mortar academies. In the past, if you wanted to learn something, you could ask people, do it yourself or go to university.

MOOCs one the other hand are designed for a world where information is everywhere. Its a new way of learning in a networked world.

MOOCs are courses that are open, participatory and distributed. They are like any other course with facilitators, course materials, starting and ending dates. However MOOCs aren’t just schools. Neither are they just online courses. They are a way to participate in a learning experience.

I have tried out a couple of MOOCs in my life. Personally, my favorite is Udacity. I love the way courses are handled. You can pace yourself and study at your own time. Currently, I am offering 3 courses on Udacity they are the How to Build a Startup, HTML5 Game Development and Interactive 3D Graphics. The beautiful thing is that because there is no rush, I can pace myself and eventually finish. Udacity’s competitors include CourseraCodeacademyedX and Venture Lab.

The competitors bring a different flavor to the mix and to each his own! I prefer Udacity because I enjoy learning at my own pace. Yes I crawled out of the the Department of Systems Engineering at the University of Lagos but I love learning.

Love them or hate them, MOOCs will redefine the debate around conventional education. Are they a fad, only time will tell. Let me have your thoughts in the comments area below.

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Why I use HTML5 for Game Development

Game Distribution Channels

Hello Everyone! Welcome to a new month! I will be talking about why I use HTML5 for game development this week. Don’t get me wrong I know all the trends say do Mobile but I love having a Web First approach for the following reasons

Freedom

For years XNA was used by developers in creating games for Microsoft. Then one day, support was discontinued. You can read the post here. Wisdom suggests that you do not plan a trip using another person’s car. HTML5 gives you the freedom to create without worrying about whether tools will be affected by the state of a company.

Expressiveness

The web is a truly expressive platform. Check out Tweepmap by Rob Hawkes. This is a live collation of tweets from all over the world. The tools used to build it are out there all for free! I build games using HTML5 because they allow me hack out my ideas and then get down to seeking for feedback from users. The users don’t have to physically meet me. All they have to do is find the blog and post their comments.

Distribution

The starting image represents the various platforms on which we play games. Now the image shows 5 platforms. Imagine having to write at least 5 versions of the same program to deliver for the platforms. So lets look at how we would do it.

  1. Consoles :- This is where games found a home first. Today, in order to build games, you would need to know C++.
  2. Desktop :- Here the range of choices is wide! If you were to try to design for a Mac, then you would need to know Objective C, for PCs, you would choose between C++, Java and C# at the minimum. While for Linux, Java would be your language of choice
  3. Web :- Here the choice would be Flash. Apart from being propeitary software, you would effectively lose the Mobile Market
  4. Mobile :- Here the choices are… Too many to mention. Everyone who is anyone in the Mobile space is building a walled garden.
  5. Facebook :- Like them or hate them, they are a plaform for the distribution of game content

Now imagine a tool that can get you into 4 out of the 5 platforms with minimum code alteration. That tool is HTML5. With it I can reach every distribution platform apart from the console.

So there you have it. My reasons for using HTML5. This post would not be complete without a linking to this article featuring the results of a survey on the global spread of HTML5.

With this post, I say welcome to a new month!

A Roundup of the Month of February

WheelsHello Everyone! Welcome to the last post for the month of February! It has really been a ride. At certain times we stumbled but somehow we made it to the end. Even this post is proof of that fact! I was trying to preview it but by accident I clicked on publish. Not funny! I sincerely apologise! As February comes to a close, this article is a rundown of upcoming events in the rest of the quarter.

First off, I read  this great post on Gamasutra about Adobe Flash. I think the insights provided are deep and worth a look. My choice of HTML5 for game development is something I will touch on next week.

Mozilla Gameon will be closing tomorrow. So if you have a game idea, do endeavour to submit it today! You need to first make a video of your game. This can be done using Screen-O-Matic. If you decide to go this route, do experiment with your first video. You require bandwidth to use the service but it is free.

Udacity is organising a game contest based on their course on HTML5 Game Development. It is meant to cover lessons from the course. If you are really serious about HTML5 Game Development, I suggest that you take the course and build a game for the competition. The deadline is March 31st.

Game Developers Conference will be holding from March 25th – March 29th in San Francisco. The oldest startup in the West African gaming space Leti Games will be at the event. They will be talking on Game Localization.

The month ends with gratitude to everyone reading this post. Your coming here makes it all worth it!

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!

A Business Model for a Game Studio

Facing the Giants

Success doesn’t mean the absence of failures; it means the attainment of ultimate objectives. It means winning the war, not every battle.
Edwin C. Bliss

Hello everyone and happy new month! I sincerely apologise for not posting last week. I had to do some serious soul searching. It has been a roller coaster so far but I am grateful to be able to pick up from where I left off! This week, I will be talking straight from the heart while looking at business models for games studios.

I developed my first game in 2010. At that point in time I had a trifecta of personal, academic and financial issues. I had reached a point in my life where I was tired of being pushed around. I had to make a stand somewhere. One thing led to another and it was in game development that a stand would be made.

You have met people who wander through life. They simply accept whatever fate brings them. A few may succeed by accident, but most suffer through a lifetime of frustration and unhappiness. They have neither the determination to succeed nor the willingness to devote the time and effort necessary to achieve success. Up until 2010, I was one of those people.

In the 2 years that would follow, I would try to impose my will on the world with disastrous results. I would search for a way to setup a game studio and be rejected at every turn. In the end, in frustration, I would leave everything behind. In my time away from my country, I have retrained myself. I have become a better programmer than I could ever become in Nigeria. This year, I am taking courses in entrepreneurship and learning how to build a business. In the course of learning about entrepreneurship, the concept of a business model came up.

A business model is a sustainable way of doing business. Here sustainability stresses the ambition to survive over time and create a successful, perhaps even profitable, entity in the long run. The reason for this apparent ambiguity around the concept of profitability is, of course, that business models apply to many different settings than the profit-oriented company. A business model is how a company creates value for itself while delivering products and services for its customers.

Last year ended on a mixed note. I tried to raise funding on Indiegogo with no success. When that failed, I had a choice. Give up and live the rest of your life defeated or go on in faith. I decided to go on and by the end of 2012 I had created my first HTML5 game. For that to happen, I had to review my entire technology stack. No longer could I look at the app stores as my first line of attack. This was not due to any technological deficiency on my part but an awareness of technology trends.

The Tablet Wars are starting! In March of this year, the Windows 8 Pro will be officially released. When that happens, Microsoft will have made a firm declaration of war in the tablet space. With the mobile wars over with Apple and Android taking the day, Microsoft knows that defeat here will signal an end to their empire.

So where do developers come in. Well in Nigeria, we have a saying “When the elephants fight, its the grass that suffers!”. From the browser wars of the 90s to the coming tablet war, developers have always felt the brunt of the clash between the technology giants.

For me that is the reason I made the shift to HTML5. I want my own plot of land to defend when the war starts. I don’t want to be tossed around by any of the app stores. On the business end, by shifting to HTML5, I also avail myself of opportunities to develop web applications for clients thus generating revenue. Any one who has seen the revenue forecast for a startup in an new market will have an idea of why this is important. In the first 5 years, revenue is a big issue.

New Markets Revenue Forecast
Currently on the African game space, there are no companies! All we have are startups looking for a way to generate their own funds from within and become viable companies. To this end venture funding becomes an important advantage. With the state of the industry, game development is no longer a street fight. It is now an arms race! The odds of survival favour the game studios that have the financial muscle to withstand the onslaught of the coming years.

But that isn’t the whole story! There are guys like me who have given up everything! Who can no longer go home! Who have only a hope and a dream. How do we give up? Well we don’t! On paper, the odds don’t favour us. What we lack are Money, Education and Influence. But what we do have are Initiative, Faith and Tenacity.

If I had understood the odds before I made a commitment, would I have done it? The answer is YES! The reason being that deep down in my heart I have a belief that this is what I am meant to be doing. Empty pockets have never held anyone back! Only empty hearts and heads! So I will continue learning and developing HTML5 games of increasing complexity. I am however grateful that going forward, I have an understanding of what I have signed up for!

HTML5 as the One Ring

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne

In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves – and each other. The have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlighted, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives and destroyed them.

One series of books that have had an impact on my life are the Lord of the Rings. For me its kind of cool to use it to illustrate the way I feel the technology industry is going. I love the characterization of the book and even its epic ending.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky

These for me would be the languages of Ruby, PHP and Python. Currently they seem to power the backend of websites today. They are all open source. Meaning that they are essentially managed by volunteers. The code base for these languages are collectively maintained. They do control the skies

Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone

These for me would be the languages of Objective C, C++, Java, C#, Visual Basic, Perl, Delphi. Why do I refer to them as dwarfs? For me they as languages tried to conquer the web but had limited success. Their halls of stones are the companies that backed them up. They are still in use by some organisations.

Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die

These are the languages of Assembly, B, BCPL, C, Basic, Fortran, Ada, Cobol, Pascal. If you have not heard of any of this languages, I don’t blame you. They represent the old guard. That set of programming languages that set the stage for the modern era.

One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne

Here we come to the crux of the matter HTML5. Who is the dark lord? For me the dark lord is the individual hacker out there writing code to put on the web. What is the dark throne? The dark throne is the collective servers that make all this possible. They are out of the views of “Mere Mortals”.

It is important to state why I feel HTML5 is the one ring. With a core of HTML, CSS and JavaScript we are looking at a way of programming without the use of plugins on a wide variety of platforms. HTML5 fulfills the promise of “Write Once Run Anywhere”.

Heard of Node? This is a JavaScript on the server side. With the frontend already covered, having JavaScript on the backend means that there is no need to change your code base. You can use HTML5 to totally develop an application.

These post covers the gamut on my opinions on HTML5. So where does the future lead to? Time will tell but you are welcome to give a forecast.

Interview with the team Behind GGJLagos

ggjlagos

The gaming scene in West Africa is gradually heating up! Come next week in the first of its kind, Lagos Nigeria will be hosting the first Global Game Jam. This one event will give the West African gaming scene the visibility it needs. At the event, the developers of Titi Tilapia are scheduled to make an appearance. I had a long distance interview with the team and this will be the post this week. So let’s get to it.

Describe what your event is about?

The Global Game Jam (GGJ) is the world’s largest game jam event occurring annually in late January. GGJ brings together thousands of game enthusiasts participating through many local jams around the world. GGJ is a project of the International Game Developers Association(IGDA).

The inaugural GGJ in 2009 had 53 sites in 23 countries participating and 370 games were made. The 2012 GGJ increased the numbers to about 10,684 participants at 242 sites in 45 countries with 2,209 games created at this event and gained recognition to the Guinness World Record.

What do you hope to achieve with this event?

By hosting this event, we want to
(a) Create a serious attention, consideration of game development as a profitable investment, resource, career and form of expression
(b) Seed the kernel of tomorrow’s critical mass of game development investors, entrepreneurs and consumers
(c) Enable the environment for IP commercial realization

What is your view of game development in Nigeria?

Our view of game development in Nigeria so far is that there is some growth in the industry locally but we are barely scratching this industry so far due to the global nature that we  know of. There is still a lot to be done in regards to the actual gameplay of our games we produce, most of the games developed so far have either being for mobile, browser based and pc. So we need to look into other platforms like console and handheld were you have major block busters. Also the type of games being produced need to move from Role Playing (RPG) to others like Real Time Strategy (RTS), Alternate Reality etc.

What factors do you feel limit the industry?

Well factors that limit the industry so far have been
(a) Lack of research done by local developers as to what product they want to develop, how they are going to retain players who have taken time to play their title(s), what sort of market are they going to sell their titles either locally or globally via  what channels or distributors, weak marketing strategy.
(b) Lack of funding channels for game developers especially on the  African continent.

How can the industry develop?

First of all more research needs to be done by local game developers, then many developers need to form partnerships and collaborate with other well known established developers, this can only be possible when you have a great product on those company standards. Another point is that there are a lot of non – profit groups out there were local indies can get real industry knowledge and form partnerships with other people around the industry, the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) is one of them, as they do have a recognised local chapter in Nigeria.

What activities will take place during the event?

The activities that will take place at the Global Game Jam are
(a) On the First Day we have a game launch – Titi Tilapia developed locally by Sonbim Games. They will talk about how the title was developed, their inspiration behind it and then for the of the first day will be a meetup with the participants who have registerd for the event, and then there keynote speeches via video from global speakers.
(b) On the Second day, we have 4 talks lined up – 2 local speakers will be at the venue in person, while the other two will be done via podcasts.
(c) On the Third day, will be team formation for all participants at the event. All the teams will then have a brainstorm session on the content for the titles they want to develop and what  game tools they would be using at the venue. Though we have  approved Game Maker 8.1 and Unity Engine as the official game engine for this event, any team is open to use any other engine they can so far they have an official license to this engine.
(d) On the Fourth and Fifth day, the actual 48 hours game jam holds.

Who are the speakers at the event?

Speakers for this event are
(a) Leonard Duro – Emanuel who will talk on incorporating  Artificial intelligence into gameplay. Factors for consideration
(b) Antonio Emanuel who will talk on incorporating Virtual Reality into Reality Games
(c) Thomas Marshall CEO/Animator/3D artist – Pucas Studios U.S.A who will talk on how to do an honest Start – up with little to start with
(d) Luke Dicken who made the Forbes 30 under 30 list  of Tech entrepreneurs in 2012, and the brains behind the Scottish Game Jam

What will happen to games developed at the event?

Due to the event being volunteer based with a global coordinating body, all games developed at this event will handed over to the global organising body via the local orgsaniser which will then be featured on a global web portal were       people can download each zip file for any title for free. Each team is allowed to market its title on their own terms to anyone as we won’t hold the rights to that title, but if any of the team wants us to help with the marketing, then we will consider this action.

Who are the sponsors of the event?

Sponsors for our event are IGDA Nigeria,  Computer Science Department of the Unversity of Lagos, Unity Technologies, The African Events Company, CYPHA Interactive, Tech 360, Biztech Africa.

Where do you see the Nigerian gaming industry in 2016?

Where we see the Nigerian Game Industry in 2016, more robust with great game release and great opportunity for skill acquisition via our future game jams.

So that’s all for this week. If you are in Lagos, do take out one day and join the event. Join us next week as we take a complete and honest look at another issue in the West African gaming space.