May, 2014
Archive

  • My Experience At A Game Development Hackathon

    I took part in the Global Game Jam 2014 Lahore a game development hackathon which took place in early 2014 and was organized by two game development studios in Lahore, Pakistan Mindstorm Studios and Tintash.

    This was not my first ever competition, i had taken part in a coding competition when i was in my university, and also in the Softec 2012 Software Competition held at National University of Computer & Emerging Sciences where i displayed my final year project (a 3D fighter jet game built in OpenGL ES on Android), but this was my first ever hackathon.

    I am technically sound, and i love programming, and since my final year project was a game and i also had developed an advanced text based version of ludo in my computer programming class, and also having about 2 years of experience in the software industry(1 year in the manufacturing + 1 year working for a software startup) i thought that i was ready.

    I registered myself for the event after finding out about it when the registration was about to end. Another reason why i had decided to register for this was to make up for the time when i had not registered for the startup weekend held at Lahore, which i regret not doing so, mainly due to the hectic schedule at my former company, but this time i was determined, that if i was selected i would go and attend, at least i will meet new people and learn something about the industry.

    I have always wanted to make games, i know the maths, the programming, the logic. The only place where i lack is in the art. I have always told myself that i will learn the advanced form of 3d modelling, and then i will start to make games.

    I as a developer believe that i should have the understanding of the basics, so that i can build onto that. If i want to learn a new programming language, i will study what the language offers, me and then i will make what i want to. I have had a nack at drawing from an early age but i did not keep at it, and like all grew out of practice. There were spurts of energy where i would spend days drawing, and then just like that drop it all, and move onto the next thing.

    Receiving the call of being selected for the competition was really wonderful. The event duration was of 52 hours. Knowing that i had to reach by 6pm to the venue to register, i arrived early at my office at 8 am (my usual  time was 10 am and i would leave between 6pm -12 am, i have even spent longer hours, but that is another story) so i could leave by 5pm.

    Excited and feeling nervous, as i did not know what i would do. I believed in myself and got my self registered. When i reached there i found out that most of the contestants already had formed groups, and the group size was to be of 2 to 5 persons, which were to include,  an artist, a developer, a team lead, audio guy, and some other of whom i do not remember now.

    The orientation went well, where the CEO of Mind Storm Studios Babar Ahmed and the CEO of Tintash Murad Akhtar and explained to us what we were to do. I had once applied and given an interview at Tintash but was rejected due to poor performance ( i don’t like to give interviews, but i don’t mind taking them 🙂 ).

    I had heard of the wonderful work that Mind Storm Studios and Tintash was doing, and i was in the presence of legends, and i was dumb struck. Being an aspiring entrepreneur my self then(then i was working part time on my own projects) i was in heaven.

    At the end of the orientation i was to join a team and that is where a problem occurred. Since most of the teams had already been in formation before the competition, i had to talk to people to ask if they needed a team mate. I found one another developer who needed a team mate and i then contacted the organizers of our team. So now were two developer, but we needed a designer someone who knew art.

    The organizers paired me up with one individual (Faisal Shareef) who was not to keen on being teamed up. Another problem hit, the tools that we used were not compatible. He developed games using unity 3d, while i used opengl desktop and opengl es on android and had no experience with unity 3d. However, i was determined to team up with him, as i needed a team mate to compete in the competition, and also having seen that most of the devs used fast paced development tools such as game development frameworks, or game engines i needed to team up. I would have come up with something, but i knew the art would have been real bad if i would have been on my own.

    The organizers also tried to convince him to team up.  One of the organizers even said that “some times 1 and 1 make 11”. I having experienced that working alone is extremely difficult and not easy at all, i also encouraged him to team up, and we ended up teaming. We ended up naming the team “Two Men Army”, and our game’s name was “Saviour”.

    After the teams were formed we had the theme around which we were to build the game around. The theme was “Shadow”. We had to use the element of shadow some how.

    The clock was ticking and we started to brainstorm for ideas. We came up with a few ideas and narrowed down to two ideas. We ended up selecting the following idea, which further improved and matured as we worked on it and built a story around it.

    “Our game started around a guy who is dying as he has had a heart failure. The guy’s shadow rises and has to go through a maze of sorts and solve puzzles, and has to bring back the heart for his master in order to save him. The twist that we had added was that the shadow has to get the heart and come back with it before his master dies. If he dies then the game is over.”

    As we mentored by experienced professionals in their fields our story grew, and matured. I learned about game design, art, music. In a game the graphics and art are not the most important thing. They are important, but not as much as i thought they were. The game’s story, how it captivates the player, audio music, game play all have a major role.

    My team mate handled the art, while my role in all of this was in game design, helping design the obstacles, searching for the awesome music sequence, and also driving back and forth as we did most of the development at my home and used to go back to the venue at the appointed times.

    There were times when i was at a war with myself, as to what my role is, what is it that i am bringing to the table as i was not doing any development. Being a developer, and being part of a project where i let the others do the work is a bit difficult to handle, but since i am now an entrepreneur this is what i will have to do. Let others do what they do best, while i handle the business and production side of the things.

    The only way i kept my self sane was to realize that what i am doing is also very important. In the short time that we had, it was best to let my team mate do what he does best, and to support him in other tasks which were also very important, such as making sure that our game documents were submitted on time, preparing the video of the game, looking for audio (background music and sound effects),  because without them our game would not even be considered and be worthy enough. I understand that a team contains many different individuals who bring together different skills and talents to build a team.

    I like to think that my contributions and along with my team mate’s(Faisal Shareef is the ultimate combination that every computer programmer wants to be, he is also really good with art and also programming. I am glad that i met him. He is such a passionate fellow.)  and our understanding of the constraints that we were under, allowed us to gell well as a team, and not to break under the pressure. The end goal was to complete a game under 52 hours, and i think we did well. We found out that there was a team which broke up, and they could not develop a game.

    The time came for our presentation. Looking at what the other teams had come up with, caused some chills in my team. We did not know whether we were good enough, but we knew one thing, that our story was good. It was going to captivate the audience. We knew that we as a team had given our all and that what ever happens will happen.

    The presentation went well, and we gave the demo of our game. We even got a shout out from Babar Ahmed that we were the only team who actually met during the competition and had not known each other before. This was really nice to hear, and we were applauded.

    The demo went perfect, the que of the music was perfect, people were clapping when the the shadow got the heart and the music started bringing in an aura of fast paced urgent need to survive.

    In the end it all went well, me and my team mate came in third and we also won the award for “Visual Production”.  When we were told that we had won the award for “Visual Production”, i thought that was it. We were not going to win any position since we had won an award. What i did not know was that we were still eligible for a position, and when we were announced as the 3rd place winners, me and my team mate were stunned. We could not believe that we actually got a position.

    Me and my Faisal were not professional game developers. I was in the business apps industry, and Faisal worked at a small game development company part time and was also studying for his bachelors at that time.

    We actually beat professional game developers. When we were receiving our certificates, the organizers were also amazed at how we worked together as a group. This shows, that with passion and dedication, David can definitely beat Goliath.

    • My certificates
      My certificates

    Fixed the team’s name to “Two Men Army”.  Update made on May 29th, 2014  23:31

    Fixed grammatical mistake in 2nd paragraph. Update made on May 30th, 2014 02:59

    May 29, 2014 • Entrepreneurship, Technology • Views: 4316

  • My First Lesson As An Entrepreneur

    Be like a bamboo, firm yet flexible

    Know when to stay firm on a decision and when to be flexible. That is key in maintaining relationships.: Just today I had to take a decision on a client which is bad for my short term  but good for our long term relationship with the client.

    Just yesterday I had to take a decision on a client which is bad for my short term but good for our long term relationship with the client.

    This is what as businessmen we have to do. What happened was that there was miscommunication between my business partner and the client. Apparently my client thought that we would be building the android app as well in the same cost that my business partner had quoted to him which my partner thought was just for the website.

    Another complication in this was that my client was a former colleague with whom I have had a good relationship in the past and did not want to spoil it.

    I found out only day before yesterday that we were to build an android app. My partner’s  mistake was that he misinterpreted. The client’s mistake was that he forgot to mention the app in the emails which went back and forth between the partner and client. My mistake was to not be part of the communication between my client and my partner from the beginning.

    I had two options in front of me:

    1. Demand that the client pays
    2. Bend and be flexible and facilitate the client

    I wanted to take the first option and demand money. I wanted to be paid. I deserve to be paid for the work that i am going to do. What would have happened either the client would have agreed and paid up, but that would deteriorate our relation ship with him, and there is a chance that he might not give his next project to us, or he would have taken the project else where.

    In both the scenarios we would have been at the loosing end. The client would have gotten his work done from someone else, but we would not have any work.

    The relationship was deteriorating between us and the client and I knew the problem lay at both the ends and this needed to be resolved. So I decided to take the bullet. I told the client that we will do the android work for free. I know I needed the money but I needed the project and future projects from the client as well, which i believe is better for us in the long term.

    I am a beginner at this and I am learning along the way of what I should do and what I should not do.

    Lesson learnt: Always be at all the meetings and be in the loop. I trust my partner but after this I have to know what is happening, and most important of all bend, be flexible like a bamboo.

    I would like to hear from your experiences. How would have you handled this situation? Did i do well? Only time will tell if my decision was right.

    Source of the featured image is Shutter Stock

    May 22, 2014 • Entrepreneurship • Views: 3099

  • An idea to help solve a social problem

    We all have a single life to live, and what use is the life if we can not use it to help others. In line with this i am always thinking of new ideas of how i can help solve problems that others face.

    In Pakistan there are many issues which need to be addressed urgently and are as follows:

    1. terrorism
    2. education crisis
    3. energy crisis
    4. health related crisis
    5. corruption

    There are many other problems which also need to be addressed, but the ones listed above are the core problems which need urgent solutions

    There are efforts underway by different segments of the society to solve each of those problems. I myself am already engaged in helping solve an education crisis by being part of the The Citizens Foundation’s Rahbar Program, where i mentor children of class 9.

    I am also an entrepreneur and a software engineer, and i would like to solve a social problem by using technology. Having experience in developing geo location apps, i thought i could build something which also brought in contribution of the users using the service. Solving social issues is a combined effort, and one can get all the help he can get in solving the issue. The Rahbar program is totally run by volunteers of The Citizens Foundation. I know that there are people who are passionate enough to bring a better change in Pakistan.

    Please read the text below where i describe the problem at hand, and what solution i propose. I would then like to you fill out this form

     Safai Helping Raise Awareness About Cleanliness In Your Neigborhood

    Problem Statement

    I wish there was (a) better way of showing the government officials and also other individuals the poor state our neighbor hoods are in terms of their cleanliness and how they are not being cleaned regularly. We want to pinpoint those locations where rubbish is not removed which can further cause problems such as diseases, etc…

    Solution Answer

    My idea is a mobile application and an accompanying website which will be geo location based. Any one with the application can tag locations, and show those tags on the map which will be both on the application and also on the website. Our aim is to have as little tags as possible, and to keep it that way. The user will also be able to upload pictures of the location and will be able to upload them on to the system. Other users can also comment on the tags and hopefully do something to help solve the problem. My idea is a platform which will give a voice to a social problem which needs to be solved.

    Solution Statement

    Safai (cleanliness) is a(n) product that allows you to pinpoint locations which you think need to be cleaned and inform others about it

    Source of the featured image is: http://www.dawn.com/news/495992/as-economy-grows-so-do-chinaaes-garbage-woes

    May 19, 2014 • Entrepreneurship, General, Pakistan • Views: 3250

  • My Trip To Ramkot Fort

    In late 2013 i had decided to volunteer for the The Citizen’s Foundation Rahbar program, where i met wonderful people who like myself had taken out time from their busy schedules to volunteer in order to do something for our country.

    My co-mentors arranged a trip to Ramkot Fort, Azad Kashmir. Pakistan. We travelled by bus leaving Defence Housing Authority Lahore early in the morning so that we could beat the traffic. Do note that this fort is near the Mangla Dam in the north of Pakistan.

    I enjoyed the beautiful landscape which my country has been bestowed. The fort itself is on an island, and can only be reached by boat once you reach the location.

    I highly recommend one to go see the Ramkot Fort. I went on a one day trip, and i had reached my home by night time.

    I have uploaded some of the pictures of the amazing trip. I hope that you enjoy them.

    May 15, 2014 • Pakistan • Views: 2550

  • How Not To Treat Your Employees

    This post was originally posted on Medium.

    I worked in the industry as someone’s employee for 2 years before moving on to found my own startup.

    During those two years i have learned alot and have experienced pretty much everything, from being one of the best employee of the company to being at the lowest point of my career.

    I was a different kind of an employee. If you ask my former employers they will say that i was energetic, passionate about my work, and volunteered to do tasks that were not in my job description.

    But like most over worked employees i experienced a major break down, and made a major mistake after which i could not stay in the company.

    The performance of the employees is affected a great deal by internal and external pressures. The employer has a responsibility in keeping the morale of his employee to be at an all time high, and when it has become low, it is the employer’s responsibility to find out what the problem is since the employee spends most of his waking time at he office.

    Following are some points which i believe should be followed by the employer in order to keep his employees happy:

    Personal time of every employee is very important

    People expect to work a certain number of hours per week, and the remaining time is supposed to be their personal time where they can do anything they want.

    When the company starts to encroach into that personal time, then problems start to crop up. Employees need time to rest, relax, and do what they love.

    Do not make the employees work over time for no reason

    Lack of sleep and rest have a major effect on the performance and efficiency of a person. In jobs which require creative thinking, one has to be fresh and alert in order to be able to perform.

    A post on Fast Company discusses how working late at night affects our brains.

    Give praises publicly, but criticize privately

    Giving praises to employees increases their morale. It makes them feel that the company cares for them, that their efforts are being recognized. Praises should be given publicly. This will further give the other employees motivation to do good work.

    However, criticism should instead be given in a closed room where the other employees can not hear. Why ? This affects the way the other respect that employee. I have seen cases where the project manager openly blames an employee for a project which had failed. This is some thing which should not be done at any cost.

    Do not discuss the performance of one employee in front of the other

    There have been times where the project manager has discussed with me the performance of some other employee. If i would have been part of the management, it would have been fine, but i was a developer there and not in the management. If he talked about some other developer there with me, then he would definitely talk about me with other developers.

    Ask why 5 times to find the cause of the problem

    In the well written book, “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, the author tells us to ask why 5 times when a problem has occurred. This will allow us to find out the cause of the problem fairly quickly.

    Hire project managers (if needed) who have people skills and know how to manage people

    The job of the project manager is to manage employees, and to assign tasks. The project manager also has to know how to behave in public. He should know what to say, and what not to say. He should not blame the employees for something which should have been done by him, or the company.

    Always have the key employees in loop before making commitments

    Usually in development related projects companies give time lines for when the project will be completed. Many times the senior management makes commitments without keeping key employees in the loop. The result of this causes mismanagement, and causes employees to work over time.

    The above mentioned list is not exhaustive. There are many other points which an employer needs to consider. Since i have started my own startup, i will surely try to keep these and other points in mind in order to keep my employees happy.

    May 15, 2014 • Entrepreneurship • Views: 3266