Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hackathon: in the Spirit of Giving

Given that its nearly Thanksgiving and all, I am hoping I can guilt some people into registering for a Hackathon in February (12th-13th). Basically, you code/design for 24hrs on projects for non-profits.  Its a nice boost to the porfolio/resume, an opportunity to network, and a great way to give something back to the community.

This particular Hackathon is being organized by Stanford University.  Although it is coupled with their Dance Marathon event, you do not need to be affiliated with Stanford to participate.  I joined in the fun last year as a remote hacker (I participated from Indiana) and helped work on some interesting projects w/ very talented individuals.

If you have any interest, you can learn more about the organization and who they help here.  And if this sounds like something you would enjoy, then please register here.  Ignore any questions that do no pertain to you (residence/room number/etc)... this form is used by students as well as remote hackers.  Make sure you answer the last two questions.  By existing team, they mean do you have an organization or group of friends you are registering... Lets say your user group is interested, not everyone in the group needs to register, just register the group itself.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments.  If I can't answer your question, I'll direct you to someone who can.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Scrum (Part 3: Pros/Cons)

With the upcoming release of our game (any day now), I can't think of a better time to finish up my sequence of posts on Scrums.  If you haven't already, please check out Part 1 and Part 2.

In this section I'll cover my opinions of the pros and cons of using Scrum.  Back in August when I initially wrote Part 1, I had entended this piece being somewhat more balanced... however, having gone through an entire project I must admit my opinions of using Scrum is more biased.

The Cons:
1. It takes time away from production.  We spend an entire day of planning every two weeks.  On top of that, we spend another 15-30min each morning for our daily Scrum.  Additionally, we also meet every Monday for an hour for code review (however, this doesn't particularly pertain to scrum... but it is part of SOE Tucson's process).  Each of these meetings involve everyone from the development team and even some people from Art, Design, Production, and Management.  This can quickly add up, and may be hard to justify if you are charging by the hour.

2.  The setup and management of a Scrum board, cards, and the meetings can be burdensome.  This is similar to #1 in that sometimes the process can get in the way of getting things done.  As we neared the end of development cycle we switched over from Scrum stories and cards to filing dev track tickets and reporting on those.  With hundreds of dev tickets going through the system it would have been counter productive to make a card for each of them and track them on the board.

The Pros:
1. As an individual you know what you need to get done each day.  You can focus on your tasks at hand without getting overwhelmed by the remaining items to do.  By focusing on small tasks you can easily see if you are behind or ahead for the day/week and know if you should be staying late.

2. You have a good picture of where the project stands and who is working on what.  If something breaks with the 'inventory' mechanic, you usually know if someone was going to be working on that today... and if no one was, you usually have an idea of who has spent time in there before so you know immediately where to go for help.

3. You pick your own fate.  By playing planning poker you are defining your own tasks and your own deadlines.  Granted, come crunch time some of this goes out the window; however, you still have a voice to some extent.

4. All of that planning leaves less surprises.  As a team you have a good understanding of whether or not you will hit your deadline well before crunch time hits.  Without a Scrum, sometimes you can get hosed by the amount of work that always seems to 'appear' towards the end of a project.  With a Scrum, you should hopefully have these items listed and accounted for.

Bottom Line
I think it comes down to the project and team as to whether a Scrum should be used or not.  If the timeline is vaste or the team is large, I would not want to work without Scrum... or at least something equivalent.  On a small team or project that is just a couple weeks or a month... all of that planning and daily meetings could be a waste.  Instead, you may be better suited using some well defined milestones, a beta launch, time to test, and a hard deadline.  Those milestones combined with close communication with your small team basically covers the same objectives as a Scrum without the formalities.

Coming from a freelance background and small studio background, I am usually fairly anti process.  I had viewed them as good in theory but bad in practice as they were usually counter productive in my experience.  Cover sheet on my TPS report? Yeah sure, I'll be right on it...   However, I had not experienced a large enough project or been involved with a large enough team.  I was too green in those areas to realize the importance of process.  Now I can not imagine trying to pull together the game we just created without a scrum (or code review for that matter).  It would be a nightmare.  Therefore, I have come to love Scrum and would recommend using it or a version of it in all future projects of any significant size.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Scrum (Part 2: Daily Scrum)

The much-anticipated Part 2 has arrived!    Ok, so maybe not much anticipated, but you are here aren't you?

If haven't already, start with Part 1: Planning & Poker.

In our planning session we figured out all of the stories and tasks we need to complete in the next two weeks.  The project manager will create an index card for each task which include the task title, hours remaining, and hours spent.  He will place these tasks on a scrum board.  There are a variety of ways to setup a board, we typically use a row for each story and populate the columns with "TODO", "IN PROGRESS", "TO VERIFY", "COMPLETED".  On the first day of the sprint, all of the tasks will be in the TODO column.

Every day, at the crack of 9:15 we meet in front of the scrum board to have our Daily Scrum.  If you are late, you either pay a dollar or get to sing 'I am a little tea-pot'.  On the first scrum meeting we won't have much to report.  Instead we will pick a couple tasks and move their index cards from the TODO column and place them into the IN PROGRESS column.  On the remaining meetings each person will start by reporting what they did on the previous day.  They will mark off the hours they spent on the task and update the estimated hours remaining.   If a task has 6 hours on it and you spend 4, that does not necessarily mean you will write 2 hours remaining.  Instead you write whatever you think it will take... Maybe you are rocking it and it will just take 1?  Or maybe you have the lovely experience of uncovering a bug and decide it will take more time than you initially estimated... who knows.  But it is important to keep the estimates up to date in order to measure our progress.  Plus, if something is taking too long, it will be immediately obvious that something needs addressed.  

If you finish a task you will mark the remaining hours down to 0 and place the card in the "TO VERIFY" column.  Tasks are not verified until someone else has either read your code review and/or tested the feature (if it is something you can test).  If someone can vouch that it is verified, then you can move it to the COMPLETED column (and there is much rejoice).  On the flip side, someone may point out something is borked and you will need to move the task back to IN PROGRESS and update the estimated hours.

This meeting should not take more than 15 minutes.  Afterwards, the project manager will calculate the total hours remaining and will print out a scrum burn down.  A scrum burn down is a line graph showing two values.  One is the budgeted hours remaining which is represented by a straight line going from the top left to the bottom right.  If you had 40 hours on a 5 day sprint, it would have 40 on day one, 32 on day two, 24 on day 3... etc.  The second line on the chart is the estimated hours remaining.  Lets say on day one you completed a 10 hour task in 8 hours.  Therefore you would have an estimated 30 hours remaining on day two.  This means your estimated hours remaining would dip below your budgeted  hours remaining (32).  On the flip side, lets say you spent 8 hours on your 10 hour task and think there is still 4 hours remaining.  This means you estimate there are still 34 hours remaining instead of the alloted 32 and your estimated line will jump above your budgeted line.  A picture is worth a thousand words, so please take a break from reading my rambling about numbers and lines and check out the example images on google for a scrum burn down.

So what does this mean?  Well, its easier to figure out than a double rainbow, if the line starts to dip well below the budgeted hours, then we will grab some backlog stories (stories that we were going to tackle next sprint) and add them to the board.  On the flip side, if we see the line slowly going up away from our budget, we know we need to put in some extra hours.  If things get bad, we can make arrangements to work over the weekend in order to get our estimated line back on track with the budgeted line.

At the end of the two week sprint our estimated hours remaining should be 0 and all stories complete.  However, if something didn't quite make it, it will have to be addressed in our planning session and carried over to the next sprint.

That wraps up the daily scrum.  I'll post my thoughts on the pro's/con's in the near future.  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scrum (Part 1: Planning & Poker)

One of the things I have really enjoyed here at Sony is working within a Scrum.  I plan on covering this topic in three separate posts.

1. Sprint Planning Meeting
2. Daily Scrum
3. Pros/Cons

Lets start with the basics... What is a Scrum? As Wikipedia says:

Scrum is an iterative, incremental framework for project management and agile software development.
That seems a bit wordy.  I typically read at a 5th grader's reading level, so from my perspective: its a process for breaking up a large project into manageable bites.  In Sony's case, 2 week 'sprints'.

At the beginning of each sprint we hold a Sprint Planning Meeting, which is the official title for figuring out what the hell we need to do in the next two weeks to meet our deadline.  This meeting usually starts by prioritizing the list of 'stories' we need to complete and estimate how long each one should take.  A story could be 'I would like to able to log in and out of the game.'

We (anyone involved in this story) then estimate how long this story will take to complete by using Planning Poker.  Planning Poker involves giving each person a deck of cards with numbers on them representing days of work.  Each deck has cards with numbers (1,2,3,5,8,13,20,40,100,?).  Each person decides how many days he/she thinks the task will take, finds the appropriate card (rounding up), and then at the same time everyone flips over their cards.  So if you think a task will take 6 days, then you will find the 8 card and flip it over.  If everyone agrees, great, move on to the next story.  Otherwise, the people with the highest and lowest estimates plead their cases on why they think it should take as long as they estimated and then everyone gets a chance to pick a new card and flip again... this process continues until there is a compromise/majority.  Once a good chunk of stories have been estimated we look at how many days of production we have available for this sprint and figure out how many stories we can tackle.  This entire process of choosing and estimating stories usually takes most of our morning.

In the afternoon we meet with our teams (in my case, the client team or Flash team) and we break down each story into tasks.  A task might be 'Create a modal for when you get disconnected from the server."  For each task we then estimate how many hours we think it will take, using a similar process as above although we are usually less formal at this point.  We give ourselves 6 hours of work each day to buffer for everything that comes up during a normal day as well as to help counter underestimating on tasks.  Tasking out all of the stories for the two weeks usually takes the remainder of the day.

Thus, we just spent 10% of our two week sprint in initial planning alone.  From here, we jump into our work while monitoring our daily progress.  I will explain in more detail in a future post.

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Sister is a Badass (Stippling, Pointillism, Portfolio)

Besides being a 5'2 buck nothing powerlifter, she is also incredibly talented artist.

Last year I helped her get her portfolio together by tooling around with a simple Flash site that takes one of her pointillism drawings and makes it somewhat interactive by using a custom particle engine, which you should check out here.

The pointillism/stippling pieces are incredible. They take her months of concentration and patiences to complete. But once done, they are truly impressive. If you have any beer drinkers & Yeungling fans in your family, check this canvas out on etsy. The detail on it is crazy... the pictures do not do it full justice.

If you get a kick out of her work, be sure to add her on flickr and follow her blog. She is working on a 45 North Wine stipple that I am sure she will be posting more about in the near future.

Alright, enough pimping. Back to work everyone!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Powers of the Subconscious (ref: Malcolm Gladwell, Jesse Schell)

I discovered my subconscious's persona. Its true. He was swimming around in my head this whole time. He is an old man with a short white beard and disheveled white hair. He has thick black rimmed glasses with a round frame. He tends to wear a purple robe and has a cartoon appearance that falls somewhere between wizard and mad scientist. He is very agile for an old man and is a mischievous prankster. I'd say he is roughly half a foot tall, lives underwater, and keeps within a turtle shell for protection.

Still with me?

I've been doing some reading lately and have been very much inspired by Malcolm Gladwell's Blink as well as Jesse Schell's Art of Game Design. I highly recommend both.

Each book touches on a similar topic: the power of your subconscious.

Gladwell focuses more on how it solves complex problems in the blink of an eye as well as impacts your daily actions without you even realizing it. Would you believe me if I told you that you would score 10% lower on a Trivia game if you spent 15 minutes before the game thinking about being a Football Hooligan? I don't have the reference in front of me, but read Blink and it has hundreds of examples like this that will make you ponder what is really going on in your head.

Schell mentions the subconscious in a chapter on brainstorming. He explains how powerful it can be at solving problems and coming up with ideas, especially while you are focusing on other things. Ever wake up and suddenly have the answer to a problem you had been working on for weeks? That is the subconscious at work.

Personally, I had always been under the impression that the subconscious does what it wants and if it speaks up, hopefully you are listening. However, both authors disagree with my assumption and they describe how you can practice, train, and hone in on your subconscious. Gladwell makes an effort to teach you how to be aware of its impact and to try to pick and choose when to let it affect your actions. Schell describes ways of keeping in touch with it, focusing it on a direct problem, and listening for the answer to pop-up down the road.

One way Schell suggests using to get in touch with your subconscious is by giving it a persona. Try to understand how it acts and picture in your mind what that person/thing may look like so that every time you want to 'use' it you can think of that image.

I tried this the other night as finished reading the chapter and was about to fall asleep. The first thing that popped in my mind was the tiny old wizard in the turtle shell I described above. Completely random, I know. Somewhat crazy, sure I admit it. But it could have been worse, it could have been...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Which Developer Tool to use for Flash AS3?

Sony has an interesting Flash Dev setup here in Tucson in that each developer can use whatever tool they want. Typically, I have always worked on teams where everyone used the same tool. But here, they want you to use whatever you code best with and the projects are setup in such a way that it really doesn't matter. There is an ant build template that everyone copies & customizes for compiling. As long as you exclude your customized ant build and your personal development files (such as a flex project file) then everyone is good to go and work environments are compatible with whatever tool you want.

Soooo, the question then is what tool do you want? I began my action script endeavors back in college in the Flash IDE. When I was at Simulex I upgraded to the FDT plugin for Eclipse in AS2. When AS3 came out, we switched to the Flex Plugin for Eclipse mainly due to the profiler. I stayed with the Flex Plugin when I moved to the Basement as it was and is a very solid development tool. When I arrived here at Sony and was given the choice of anything... I took some time and tried out three main options:

1. Some form of Eclipse (FlashBuilder, FDT, Flex Plugin)
2. FlashDevelop
3. JEdit (or a similar text edit)

I am not listing the Flash IDE as a coding tool. Its not. If you are using it, promise me you will spend 1 week and learn one of these other tools... you will not regret it.

The first option was my top choice coming in since I had been using one form of Eclipse or another for the past 4 years. Its a solid tool with the standard bells and whistles of autocomplete, jump to method/class, code highlighting, etc. Adobe is backing it. It integrates into SVN, CVS or whatever check in/out system you are using. You can get errors on save which is a nice little feature. And it manages multiple projects and libraries very easily (this is the main reason I have stayed away from FlashDevelop in the past). On the flip side, it can be a bit cumbersome, seemingly overly complicated, and sluggish. Its almost as if it is trying to do too much.

I was very curious about the 3rd option which is JEdit since I had never customized a text editor for actionscript coding before... it seemed very l33t ;). Chris Hill, the technical director here at Sony, made and excellent plugin called flexulous which allows you compile ActionScript or Flex projects in JEdit. The beauty of JEdit is that you can customize it in a million ways with all sorts of plug-ins as well as short-cuts to increase your development time drastically once you have been working in it for a long time. The downfall of JEdit is that it does not have any suitable jump to method/function plugins, auto-complete, or instance highlighting (tho it does have syntax highlighting). I really tried to give JEdit a chance because I feel it could fit very well with time. And who doesn't want to be l33t??? but I rely too heavily on jump to and auto complete to dive in completely.

Finally, I tried FlashDevelop. I have spent some time with it in the past but always left because it can't handle multiple projects without opening multiple instances of FlashDevelop, which I still find somewhat ridiculous. However, now I will be working on a single project for months at a time instead of jumping between 5 projects in a single day so multiple projects are no longer a deal breaker for me. With that hurdle out of the way, FlashDevelop is a happy medium between Eclipse and JEdit. It is a focused AS tool and therefore not as bloated or slow as Eclipse. It does has the main bells and whistles such as auto complete and jump to, but it is lacking the highlight occurrences that Eclipse plugins offer. I found an OK plugin that allows for highlighting all occurrences of whatever word you have selected... its not as good as Eclipse's highlighting since it doesn't take syntax into account and it doesn't give you hot-spots to jump to on your scrollbar, but its better than nothing. It has some very nice snippets and macros which are fairly customizable, not quite to JEdit's level but seem to be an improvement over Eclipse snippet tools.

Overall, each tool has its pluses and minuses and all of the options can be solid choices, it just depends on your personal needs. For me, FlashDevelop seems to be the happy medium and it is now my editor of choice. If I wind up jumping between multiple projects throughout the day then I would most likely switch to FDT or FlashBuilder. And if anyone created plugins for jump-to method/function, auto-complete, and instance highlighting in JEdit then I would jump ships as well since JEdit is amazingly customizable. In the meantime, I'll be happily chugging away on FlashDevelop.

Now I wonder if anyone is going to make me eat my words from a year ago? Iain? ;)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Facebook Throttling: A Bird's Eye View for Game Developers

Facebook Throttling... What does that even mean? To the average Facebook user, not much. To a Facebook game developer, quite a bit.

Basically, Facebook Throttling has to due with the number of invites Facebook allows each user of an application to send out per day. The more invites Facebook allows, the more viral potential the game has. A game whose users can invite 20 friends a day is going to have a chance of spreading exponentially while a game whose users can only invite 3 friends a day is going to struggle.

So how does Facebook decide how many invites each game gets? Its science. Facebook keeps track of all of your game's social interactions. These interactions include invites, but they also include gift acceptance/request, sharing, etc. Facebook is interested in knowing the ratio of accepted interactions versus denied interactions. Therefore, if 1 out of 10 people accept an invite to your game you will have a low acceptance rate and then Facebook will "Throttle" your game and lower the number of invites players can send a day. However, there is a trick. Gifts sent to people already playing the game (such as your neighbors in 'whatever'-ville) also count towards your ratio. Players are much more likely to send gifts more often than invites AND they have a much greater chance of being accepted than invites. By integrated gifts heavily into a game, the developer is helping to insure their game has a positive ratio and therefore Facebook will increase the number of invites one can send out a day... or at least not Throttle it back.

I am not sure how I feel about Facebook's logic on this. On one hand they are promoting games that people are accepting and promoting. On the other hand, they are promoting games that spam people with gifts. Hmmm. There is an argument that its not spam since they are accepting it... but sometimes it can feel that way. The only compromise I can think of is to only use invites in determining their ratio. Ignore Gifts. Ignore Add requests. Ignore wall shares... etc.

We'll see if my opinions change once a get a few games under my belt.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New Job. New State. Still Ugly.

Besides a study abroad stint in London, I've never lived outside of Indiana. Right now I am typing while sitting on the floor (I have no chairs... or table for that matter) in Tucson Arizona. I accepted a job with Sony Online Entertainment and begin working full time tomorrow.

What does Sony want with a Flash Developer? Well, there is a huge gold rush for Flash based games in Facebook/social media. Google Flash Game jobs and you will get hits from Zynga/Playdom still growing, EA/Sony making the transition, and a plethora of startups trying to make their mark. And let me stop you right there before you mention farmville or mafia wars. I am sure some projects I work on will have similar features that many indie develops scuff at; however, it is my belief that the projects I will work on will have a bit more meat and strategy involved. At this point I should be very clear that this post and every post here-after are just my thoughts/opinions/etc. They in no way represent Sony. Just me rambling and spouting off.

I think that covers my bases. If you are in the Phoenix/Tucson area, hit me up. I am still trying to get a feel for the Flash & Gaming networks out here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

User Group Recap, Links, and Parting Shots

Thanks everyone for coming out this month to Flash Indianapolis. Great turnout!

Building Flash Indianapolis with you guys has been a blast this past year an a half. I am going to miss the meeting of the minds followed by the great conversations and nachos each month. However, I do plan on staying a member so I can keep in touch via e-mail, forums, and the like. So please keep in touch and stay active on the boards. I look forward to seeing where everyone takes Flash Indianapolis under Todd's guidance. Best of luck to you all. Keep in touch by following me here!

As promised, I have a bunch of links to post from the presentation:

First off, we have the amazing Third and Seventh video:

Eric Romer's networking and social media hustle lands him a job at Headblade:

Vizibility - a way to tailor how people search for you:

Template Portfolio Creators:
Free: www.weebly.com
Monthly for your own domain: www.wix.com

Untested Template Creatorss:

Great custom portfolio example:

Crazy Resume Examples (I think I got this from Josh Corken)

Standard Templates:

Feel Free to build off of my resume. Take what your like and improve on what you dont:

Want to get into Blogging? Check out Goggle Blogger or WordPress.

Want to find Industry Professional Blogs to Follow? Check out Adobe Feeds or find employees of companies you look up to.

LinkedIn - Use it! Join groups, search for jobs, and find employees and HR reps of companies you want to work for and reach out to them.

Monster/Indeed/CareerBuilder/Krop - all great job searches. Refresh your resume occasionally to stay on the top of the list.

Last but not least... check out the cartoon: http://impoop.in/ (classy humor, thanks Eric!)

I think that is it for my brain dump. Feel free to reach out with questions.

Best of luck to everyone!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Flash Indy: Online Portfolio & Self Promotion (May Meeting)

Our next Flash Indianapolis meeting will be: May 27th

I will be the lucky presenter this month. I just finished teaching my first semester at Butler University. The course was called 'Online Portfolio' and it focused on how to present yourself online, make connections, promote yourself, and ultimately find a job & further your career.

I plan on gathering the key topics from this course and presenting them over an hour's span. Depending on time and interest, we will be covering a selection from the following list of topics: portfolio, resume, networking, social media, job search, and interview tips.

This is not Flash specific. It definitely is geared towards the Multimedia industry and it may have a Flash slant; however, I had students from all disciplines including Education/Biology/Business and the general concepts that will be discussed will be relevant to anyone who is looking to further their career.

6:00pm: Doors open. Everyone can meet and greet.
6:30pm: Presentation Begins.
7:30pm: Open Floor
8:00pm: McNivens?

We will be in the conference room of Noodles & Co.
903 Indiana Ave
Indianapolis, IN

RSVP at Flash Indianapolis.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Basement is hiring! (Flash Developer)

The Job description on krop asks for a Lead Flash Developer, but don't count yourself out if you are a very talented Junior Dev with an eagerness to learn.

Check out the job description and how to apply here.

Check out our homepage to learn more about The Basement.

Best of luck!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Flash Gaming - April 29th Meeting (Flash Indianapolis)

Date: April 29th

Professors Powers, Ludwick, Stewart, Laranja, and many of the student team members will be presenting Vectren, a game that was created at IUPUI. You can test out Vectren here.

- Credit Roll -
Mathew A. Powers > Game Mechanics and Head of the Programming Team
John Brian Ludwick > Head of Animation & Art team
Jennifer Stewart > PI on project and Head of website and database team
Ricardo Laranja > Head of music and sound effects

Programming > Corey Callahan, Zach Carr, Kyle McKnight
Animation & Art > Jackie Crofts, Trever Barger, Sean Winburn
Website > Chris Basham
Sound > ?

6:00pm: Doors open. Everyone can meet and greet.
6:30pm: Presentation Begins.
7:30pm: Open Floor
8:00pm: McNivens?

We will be in the conference room of Noodles & Co.
903 Indiana Ave
Indianapolis, IN

RSVP at Flash Indianapolis.

Monday, April 12, 2010

KFC - Komen Promotion Goes Live (Flash, Papervision3D)

We here at the Basement have been hustling to get this one out the door. Its a joint promotion between KFC (the Colonel with his weeeee bitty eyes!) and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. KFC will be selling pink buckets of chicken and some of the proceeds will go towards fighting the cure for cancer.

Learn more (and see our work) here: http://www.bucketsforthecure.com/. Or if you prefer Espanol: http://www.cubetasparalacura.com/


Thursday, March 11, 2010

March Meeting: Animation Competition (Indiana Uploaded)

Flash Indianapolis Meeting: March 25th

The organizers behind Indiana Uploaded (Christian, Josh, Zeb, & Terry) will be giving us a behind the scenes look at IndianaUploaded.com as well as free beta sign-ups for anyone who attends the meeting. They have an Animation competition starting on March 22nd which they will discuss in more detail (although I will say there is a 100 dollar cash prize for the winner). Students are highly encouraged to participate. If you have any interest at all in joining this competition or hearing about future competitions (which will use a variety of artistic mediums and media), this will be a must attend event for you!

The actual presentation will be shorter than most of our events. We will then open the floor to any Flash related questions and mosey our way over to McNivens (to celebrate Josh's first beer ever, happy 21st!)

6:00pm: Doors open. Everyone can meet and greet.
6:30pm: Presentation Begins.
7:00pm: Open Floor
7:30pm: McNivens?

We will be in the conference room of Noodles & Co.
903 Indiana Ave
Indianapolis, IN

RSVP at Flash Indianapolis.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Smogout - Flash Game Post Mortem

A few weeks back The Basement released Smogout for Knozone.com.

It is hard to make an educational environmental game sexy... With the help of Squize we took a crack at it last year for Zoneout with mixed results.

The results of our second attempt is not much different thus far. The kids on Kongregate ripped us a new one w/ insightful comments including my favorite: "fking retarted". Newsground reviews seemed high but ratings were mediocre. Similar to Zoneout, it seems we get a few quick bursts of hits from the main portals and then longer lasting tail of hits from sites I have never heard of spread across the globe (Thank you Flash Game Distribution!).

The client asked for a game that was casual, simple, included bad air particles and 8 clean air tips. We took some inspiration from Filler with the idea of instead of avoiding the particles we want to capture them and remove them from the screen.

Our scope only allowed for 6 levels, yet we wanted replay value to be high. Therefore, we made a few of the levels very difficult. This topic seemed to be the most polarizing during testing. Either people loved it, were addicted to it OR they hated it and didn't want to play again because level ? pissed them off. We debated picking a middle ground, but I was afraid it would make those addicted to it, feel less challenged and inclined to replay AND it would be too easy so those who were challenged before could breeze through it and not have a reason to come back.

After some serious debate (mostly internal), we tweaked the levels somewhat, but not drastically. We knew we had found a niche of people who truly enjoyed the game and we did not want to ruin it for the sake of trying to please everyone. Right or wrong, that is the path we chose.

As with the previous game, I think one of the strongest areas the Basement has to offer is its design team. Great work by Brian, Amy, and Dan. Even though Dan would not put in the forest fire I requested that would wipe out the entire city... I still love the illustrations he did for the main menu.

The game came a long way from beta to completion... we had a great amount of excellent feedback from a variety of sources: Michael James Williams, Ryan Creighton, Richard Davey, Joseph Cross, and Eric Grossnickle... to name a few. We didn't listen to all of it... maybe I should have ;)... but regardless I greatly appreciate your help. I also appreciated "Deebs" spending countless hours ensuring his name was on top of the leaderboards in both the beta and the final. However, it seems someone found a glitch in the game because there is now a ridiculous score on there... trying to figure out how that was possible.

Anyways, the game is out there. It is in the wild. Check it out here.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Brief Introduction to HTML5, And What It Means for the Flash Developer

We have a great lineup for Flash Indianapolis's February meeting. Tony Dewan will be speaking about HTML5 and what it means for the Flash Developer. You can learn more about Tony by visiting his homepage: http://tonydewan.com/
And be sure to follow him on Twitter: @tonydewan

Topics Covered:
- What is HTML5?
- What's it mean? What's included? Who? When? Why?
- HTML5 compared to Flash
- Flash solution/tech compared to HTML5/Open Web solution/tech
- Usage
- What can I do and how?
- Demos!

6:00pm: Doors open. Everyone can meet and greet.
6:30pm: Presentation Begins.
7:30pm: Open Floor Discussion
8:00pm: McNivens?

We will be in the conference room of Noodles & Co.
903 Indiana Ave
Indianapolis, IN

RVSP Here. <- Please RSVP as RefreshIndy may get involved as well and we need to make sure we have enough room.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Quit Shouting & Listen (not to me)

I am tired of all the technical preaching and predictions going on right now. Especially tired of the finger pointing and name calling that a few have resorted to. You can keep the funny images coming... those are worth a chuckle. But for the rest, put down the pitch fork, step off the soap box, and listen. And when I say listen... I'm not saying listen to me.

Listen to your clients. Listen to your clients' consumers. What do they want?

Do the consumers want to sit back and watch/read or do they want to jump in and interact? Do they want to be able to access sites from any device or are they happy accessing some from home and others on the go? Do they expect them to run the same on all devices or are they understanding if performance or features are cut? Are they willing to seek out and download a version of the site to get it to work? Are they willing to pay for a version of the site to get it to work?

Are your clients willing to pay extra to have multiple versions of their site? If not, will they be sacrificing experience or market penetration? Ex: Should the client resort to text so it can reach everyone or should they keep their immersive experience and ignore a percentage of the market?

The consumers have the power. It does not matter how Flash Devs feel about Apple's dictatorship. It does not matter how Apple-fans feel about plug-in performance. Even though these two groups are very vocal, especially of late, the only thing that really matters is what is important to the consumers.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Reminder - Flash Hackerspace Tomorrow! (Indy)

Flash Indianapolis's January meeting is tomorrow from 1-5pm. The best way to describe it is that it is a 'Hackerspace'.

There will be computers available, but feel free to take a laptop.

ITT Technical Institute has graciously offered Theory room 13 and Lab 12 for us to meet in. Their building is located here:
9511 Angola Court
Indianapolis, IN 46268-3160

There will be signs posted to the Theory room.

See everyone tomorrow!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Catching Up, Yet Looking Forward

As the title suggests, I am still catching up from the holidays.

1. I have a backlog of Freelance portfolios to sift through. I completely plan on e-mailing everyone back, if you haven't heard from me then I just have not gotten to you on the list. Again though, there is no specific project in mind yet, this is just preparing for a potential upcoming rush.

2. I need to respond to the feedback I got from the beta testers on SmogOut. Great feedback... hoping to implement as much as I can before it goes final this week.

As for the future...

1. I am sure I will be posting and tweeting about SmogOut soon. From the test its either love or hate right now, I think mainly due to difficulty and learning curve. I am wondering if I can ease it without making the game less addicting to those who love the challenge... we shall see.

2. I just taught my first class at Butler tonight for Online Portfolio. I think we have a great group. Well rounded: Electronic Journalism, Broadcast News, Audio Production, Elementary Ed/French, Biology, Web Design, TV Production, and my personal college choice: Undecided. It should make for some interesting discussions and diverse portfolios.

For a first post of 2010... that is admittedly weak. Hope to follow it up with a strong series from the SmogOut game. Thanks for the read.