Instead of giving up, how about fixing it?

Written by Zainab Al-Ansari on . Posted in Blog

When faced with a scary problem, most people seem to prefer to either pretend nothing is wrong, or wait it out and hope it’ll get better by itself..

And that’s understandable, after all standing still is a lot easier than walking through mud in the dark.

If you ever get such a problem, and you most likely will or have already, try to be honest with your self and what you can and can’t do, and just give yourself permission to fail.

Break down the problem to its core and work with a simple solution as a start.

So next time you have an argument with your spouse, or face unusual thoughts or feelings, or anything that you know won’t go away by itself but need it to go away, then think of what’s scaring you. Find the root of the problem without letting your ego get in the way, ask for advise from people you trust if you need to, and just take it step by step.

 

Be patient, the more complicated the problem the more time it’ll take to fix, so take it as an investment for a better future.

 

Till next time ☺ peace ✌🏻

 

 

E3 Logo

E3 Live Events Schedule in Bahrain Timing

Written by Zainab Al-Ansari on . Posted in Blog

 

It’s time for E3!

Tomorrow, 12th June 2016, marks the beginning of E3’s live press conferences and events (except for Deus Ex, that was on 8th..)

Timing can be a bit confusing for Bahrain residents, so I made this table showing event timings and dates based on Bahraini local time.

I’ve highlighted the big 3, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, as those might have big announcements affecting game development. Whether it’s a new piece of hardware or new services, waits to be seen…

You’ll be able to watch live coverage on YouTube Gaming, as well as various Twitch streams.

I’m especially excited and hoping to see some new HoloLens features and announcements for games and game development, what are you most excited about??

 

Time Sunday 12th June 2016 Monday 13th June 2016 Tuesday 14th June 2016 Wednesday 15th June 2016 Thursday 16th June 2016
04:00:00 AM Sony
05:00:00 AM Bethesda
06:30:00 AM Twitch
07:00:00 PM YouTube Live YouTube Live / Twitch Nintendo Treehouse Live
07:30:00 PM Microsoft
08:00:00 PM Nintendo Treehouse Live
08:30:00 PM Twitch Twitch Twitch
09:00:00 PM PC Gaming
11:00:00 PM EA Play Ubisoft

Based on timings as reported by Polygon

Back from 1 year absence

Written by Zainab Al-Ansari on . Posted in Blog

Peace everyone!

It’s been almost a year since my last post, and I’m very sorry about that.

I was traveling for almost 7 months of the previous 12, and when I returned went through 2 new jobs (a part-time and a full-time), and ended up neglecting my blog with all that was happening >.<!

But now I’m restarting my blogging, and at the moment going through the site and doing much needed maintenance.

You can expect new posts to come out within a couple of weeks, I hope you’ll stick around till then ^-^

Cheers!

Weekly Reflection #7 – New Changes

Written by Zainab Al-Ansari on . Posted in Blog, Reflections

Every Saturday I publish a report reflecting on the previous week. These reflections exist to demonstrate my progress, share my experiences and help transfer what I learn to others.

The Past Week

Character controller and mecanim scripting done! 😀 The programming for SHIFT is almost complete and the remaining work is mostly art and level design. Although my part is more or less finished, I’ll be helping out the other team members with their own work as needed. However, not the upcoming week as I’m preparing a mini game design workshop I’ll be holding for IGN’s convention next Saturday, as well as a showcase for BGD. If you’re in Bahrain next weekend, make sure to drop by and say hello!

Beside working on the game, I’ve been doing some maintenance on the website. Main change would be setting up my new Monthly Newsletter. I realize 1 or 2 emails per week for each post posted is a bit much, so I decided to create a monthly newsletter to be sent out the last day of every month, and perhaps give exclusive tips for subscribers. You can subscribe here:
[newsletter]

 

What’s Next

I’ll be preparing my workshop for IGN next week, and plan on redesigning the website a bit. Mainly the home page, to make it more attractive. I also have some posts coming up that would be especially helpful for beginner game developers, and plan on making such posts regular from now on, so stay tuned!
 
I hope you enjoyed my post! As always, comments are encouraged and welcomed. Cheers!

Weekly Reflection #6 – Eid Mubarak!

Written by Zainab Al-Ansari on . Posted in Blog, Reflections

Every Saturday I publish a report reflecting on the previous week. These reflections exist to demonstrate my progress, share my experiences and help transfer what I learn to others.

The Past Week

It was eid Al Adha this week, a time of celebration for Muslims around the world. We usually take time off, but I opted to complete some pressing tasks as to not waste the whole week. The main being character controls for our SHIFT game. I’ve also been learning digital painting on Ctrl+Paint, a website dedicated to teaching drawing and digital painting with a practical approach. I’ve been practicing drawing daily for the past 2 months or so, in an effort to build up my drawing skills. As I aspire to be a game designer, drawing is an incredibly useful skill to have. It can help you clearly communicate ideas and concepts to your team, as well as improve your design abilities when it comes to aesthetics and level design.

 

What’s Next

Now that am done with controls, it’s time for me to work on player animations.

This been a brief post. I hope you enjoyed it, and as always, comments are encouraged and welcomed. Eid Mubarak!

Weekly Reflection # 5 – Having a Backup Plan

Written by Zainab Al-Ansari on . Posted in Blog, Reflections

Every Saturday I publish a report reflecting on the previous week. These reflections exist to demonstrate my progress, share my experiences and help transfer what I learn to others.

The Past Week

This been a slow week. Last week’s connectivity problems extended till Monday, as a result I lost almost half my working time and ended up trying to make up for it later. Nonetheless, I managed to complete this week’s tasks, mainly learning Unity’s Animation system, creating code standards wiki for SHIFT team and reworking player controls. I also read A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster. Raph has quite an interesting take on games, and believes that games’ true potential lies in helping advance society. It’s a very short read, you can finish it in a day or two, but well worth the price. It opened up new possibilities for me, and I got quite a few concepts for games that am definitely interested in pursuing.

I’ve always wanted to share my knowledge with others, and decided to start a YouTube channel for it. I’ve made a poll asking for people’s feedback to help me choose my first subject, so if you haven’t voted yet please do! Click here to vote.

Analyzing Problems

I rely too much on the internet, I need to take more of my work offline so I wouldn’t be crippled by lack of a connection.

What’s Next

From now on I’ll prepare for the next week in advance, possibly during weekend, to eliminate my need of a connection or even a PC as much as possible. One way is to keep Unity’s and C#’s local documentation up to date as well as any other document, and another is to download any tutorial I might need. I like to use Keep Vid for this, which is an online tool that let’s you download from 50+ popular websites, including YouTube. Another thing I must do, is to confirm tasks and duties needed to be completed next week with my team members. A big reason why I was held back from working is because I needed to talk to our designer before commencing.

Weekly Reflection #4 – Studying and Working from Home

Written by Zainab Al-Ansari on . Posted in Blog, Reflections

 

Every Saturday I publish a report reflecting on the previous week. These reflections exist to demonstrate my progress, share my experiences and help transfer what I learn to others.

 

The Past Week

I began development with my new SHIFT team this week (last week was just setting up). It went fairly well, I completed my programming task easily which was to create the base for the game’s core mechanic. Although, I was forced to waste a bit too much time reading up the existing code base. Next week I’ll be helping Danijel (our leader and animator) to get the new Mecanim system working on the code side, but I don’t have any background on Mecanim so I started learning it with Unity’s tutorials. I also began practicing low polygon, stylized 3D art as am hoping to create game assets for both my own projects and others’ by selling them on the Unity Asset Store and the new GameDev Market. I tested the waters by making a simple barrel and a pine tree by following tutorials from PigArt YouTube channel, but plan on designing my own models in the future. I’ve dabbled into basic 3D modelling and animation before using Blender, here is some of my previous work for a university elective:

As you can see my skills are fairly basic, which is why I decided to go the low polygon route for starters, and as I level up I’ll make more detailed models. One major change this week was my new schedule. I finally managed to organize my time in a way that lets me actively enhance my skills, finish my work and have time for myself and loved ones. Here is the schedule (Friday & Saturday is weekend):

 

Time/Day Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
10AM Study/Practice Study/Practice Free Study/Practice Study/Practice Free Free
11AM Study/Practice Study/Practice Free Study/Practice Study/Practice Free Free
12PM Study/Practice Study/Practice Free Study/Practice Study/Practice Free Free
1PM Lunch Break Lunch Break Free Lunch Break Lunch Break Free Free
2PM Work Work Free Work Work Free Free
3PM Work Work Free Work Work Free Free
4PM Work Work Free Work Work Free Free
5PM Work Work Free Work Work Free Free
6PM Work Work Free Work Work Free Free
7PM Work Work Free Work Work Free Free
8PM Work Work Free Work Work Free Free
9PM Work Work Free Work Work Free Free

 

The new schedule worked really well for me, and it’s flexible enough that I study or work on whatever is most urgent at the moment. Among the subjects am studying right now is Electronic Engineering and Game Design. I study EE basics mainly off the text books available on All About Circuits. The reason why am studying EE is, first I’ve always been more enamored with hardware than software (I liked to open up broken equipment and look inside as a kid). Second, I joined Google’s new Little Box Challenge that’s calling for the next evolution in power inverters. When I stumbled upon it I thought this is a good excuse to start learning more about electronic devices and how they work, so I signed up. (P.S. Deadline to join is 30th of September, if you’re interested). As for game design, I’ve been building lots of prototypes while working with the book, Challenges for Game Designers. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in making games, the writer’s practical approach to explaining the various components of games and how they’re designed and built is really the best way to learn design. I mean, you’re not going to learn much by just reading about it, you need to do it!

 

The biggest problems I was having this past week were the constant interruptions from my family while I was trying to work. They often broke my concentration for minor things. Also, we’ve been having a lot of trouble with our broadband connection, which is why am late on releasing this particular reflection. Without internet I had no choice but to wait till today and go to a coffee shop to write (which is where am sitting now). This is quite troublesome, and internet problems aren’t exactly rare in Bahrain, but I can’t afford to waste so much time. My study time for today now went to writing this article.

 

Analyzing Problems

The problem with SHIFT’s current code base is lack of documentation and standardized conventions. Random naming of variables and functions, no comments what-so-ever and no guide lines to how the project is aught to be engineered led to wasted time for any new programmer joining the team. As for my family’s interruptions, they’re simply not aware of my work time.

My lack of a backup-plan in case of an internet-outage lead to this article’s delay, so I’ll need to create one.

 

What’s Next

I’ve mentioned the issue with lack of guidelines to the SHIFT team with an unanimous agreement, so this week I’ll be writing a wiki for it. I’ll also explain my work schedule to my family so they know when am working.

Batelco, Bahrain’s supreme-ruler of the Telecom companies, is offering a new cheap 4G data-plan for youth. I’ll try it out and see if I can work well with it. If so, I’ll use it as my main internet connection, and use our home broadband as backup instead.

 

This is my longest reflection yet, I hope you benefited from it. Please share with me your feedback and opinion by commenting below or sending me an email via the contact page.

Cheers 🙂

Weekly Reflection #3 – Listening to One’s Heart

Written by Zainab Al-Ansari on . Posted in Blog, Reflections

Every Saturday I publish a report reflecting on the previous week. These reflections exist to demonstrate my progress, share my experiences and help transfer what I learn to others.

The Past Week

I discovered something very surprising about myself this week…

I need a team.

No, I don’t mean in the sense of having more skills on hand or the sort, I mean I can’t bear to work alone. This astounds me because I’ve always been more of an introvert, so the idea that I hate working alone seems absurd. But that’s what it is. I tried to fight this awhile, explaining my unwillingness to open Unity to simple doubts or lack of motivation. But no, deep down I knew I just didn’t enjoy walking towards a goal without anyone by my side. So, I decided to join a team and made a post on the Unity forums offering free services as a programmer.

The response was overwhelming. At first I feared nobody would be interested and I’d be stuck waiting for weeks on end, but thankfully within just a day several people contacted me to join their teams. I talked to a few, and joined up with Danijel, a nice Croatian artist. I immediately felt this is someone I’d like to work with, although he can be a bit negative at times.

Work was slow this week as I was settling down with the new project, a 2.5D Platformer, and Git proved more of a hassle to setup than I anticipated. A full day was wasted trying get it working on my machine until I finally managed to do it.

 

Analyzing Problems

The most important thing I learned in the past 4 years of hacking my productivity, is to note what’s not working and getting rid of it immediately. If you’re forcing yourself to do something, then you’re not achieving your full potential. This is why I decided to make the jump and join a team so soon, the longer I waited the more time and potential I’d end up wasting.

 

What’s Next

Next week will be interesting, as I start tackling my new responsibilities. I’ve also planned a weekly schedule to keep ahead of all the stuff I need and want to do, so I’ll see how that will affect my weekly churn-out.

 

What I want you to take from this post, is to pay closer attention to what your heart is telling you. I’ve thought deeply and analyzed my own emotions to come to my “need a team” conclusion, and the benefits are already showing with my momentum suddenly on fire. So, next time you’re going through a whirlwind in your head, sit back, take a deep breath, and ask your heart What the heck do you want from me??

Weekly Reflection #2 – Prototyping

Written by Zainab Al-Ansari on . Posted in Blog, Reflections

Every Saturday I publish a report reflecting on the previous week. These reflections exist to demonstrate my progress, share my experiences and help transfer what I learn to others.

 

The Past Week

It’s been a productive week, and my wake-up trick helped immensely. After building a playable prototype, I ran a playtesting session with a couple of friends.

 

It’s very early in development as you can see, but prototyping early and often has lots of benefits, and I’ve already noted a major one. So far I’ve only been toying with a few ideas for mechanics, but the playtest helped me see the game inside. Now I know what game to build, and unless unforeseen obstacles come in my way, I’ll be releasing the game by the end of the month enshalla. (it’s small)

The biggest problem I had this week was with the playtest scheduling. When I’ve built a core mechanic, I didn’t want to make any assumptions on what sort of game would be good with it, and instead waited to watch actual players toy around with the pure version. I ended up wasting an entire day waiting without further development until I met my friends, and instead written an article to minimize lost time.

Analyzing Problems

The reason why I ended up wasting development time, was because:

1. I didn’t schedule a playtest early enough

2. I greatly overestimated the time I’ll need to build the core mechanic

 

What’s Next

Next time I need player testing, I’ll make sure to book players early. It will also be very helpful to find alternatives to in-person testing when not possible.

I hope you benefit from this reflection. I know playtesting so early can be scary if you fear judgement, but its benefits can’t be stressed enough. Unless you’re prototyping some kind of a patent, you don’t need to worry about people “stealing your idea”, and the benefits, from saved time to saved costs, far outweigh such risks.

 

God Bless, and please comment below with any thoughts 🙂

Users VS Competition, and the Golden Age of Platforms

Written by Zainab Al-Ansari on . Posted in Blog, Game Tips

As I mentioned in my first post, I’ll be reporting on what I learn so you can benefit too and this is the first such post.

 

Back in April 2014, I attended a technology forum called iTECH Gulf, a famous regional event for ICT professionals. One of the presenters was Borut Pfeifer, a designer and lead engineer in the team behind Skulls of the Shogun, a successful turn-based strategy game for beginners. He talked about the challenges faced in development of the game, and some surprises they learned along the way.

 

One such surprise has to do with their most successful platform.

 

Skulls of the Shogun is available on Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod, Steam, Xbox 360, Windows Store and Windows Phone. Out of all of those, you might be surprised to know the most-sold version is Windows Phone edition. If you’re keeping with industry stats, you should be aware that Android has the biggest chunk of the smartphone industry, with iOS closely behind while Windows Phone is barely competing with the dying BlackBerry.

 

Infographic: iOS and Android Grow at the Same Pace | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista

 

So, why is the game most successful on the platform with the least amount of users? To explain this, Mr. Pfeifer went on to give an analysis of the situation, and he described a general overview of a platform’s life-cycle:

 

  1. Early/Young: Platforms in this stage are only just sprouting, and generally don’t have many users or competition, proving development a risky bet. One such platform can be the Oculus Rift.
  2. Late/Old: Mature platforms are those with lots of users and competition. Although they have a much bigger potential user base than new platforms, the aggressive market requires luck and a good marketing strategy/budget to compete.
  3. Golden Age: These golden eggs are those who have already matured from their infant state, and have a big user base but the competition have yet to catch on.

 

According to Mr. Pfeifer, he believes Windows Phone is in its Golden Age. True enough, not many developers take Windows Phone seriously, and those who do tend to be beginners into the industry. Because of that, the Windows Phone Store is filled to the brim with low-quality apps and games, while Windows Phone users remain hungry for quality apps. Having a Lumia 520 myself, I can attest to that since I find it hard to get a quality app. So it’s no wonder that when a high grade game like Skulls of the Shogun came out, Windows Phone users gobbled it right up.

If you want to take advantage of that though, you should hurry up; because the number of quality games is increasing and soon there will be a fierce competition.

 

Bottom line is, to mitigate your risk as much as possible, you should try to target both old and new platforms, instead of putting all your effort into an already crowded market.

 

I hope you enjoyed this article, and if you have any further insight into the situation, please comment below 🙂

Thanks

 

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