Monthly Reflection #2 – Starting Small

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

Every last working day of the current month I publish a report reflecting on the previous month. These reflections exist to demonstrate my progress, share my experiences and help transfer what I learn to others.

The Past Month

During April I focused on learning the basics of Unreal Engine 4, mainly the editor and Blueprints. If you read my previous reflection, you’d note I had planned to make a small mobile game that helps players de-stress.

However, after researching stress, its causes and ways to combat it and designing as small of a game as I could manage that would fulfill that purpose, I quickly realized my technical skills (especially in UE4), are not up to the task.

So, I switched strategies and focused completely on developing my technical skills by making a series of small projects, and have no intention of commercializing them.

My First UE4 Project: A Basic Room Visualization

No code, no Blueprints, no gameplay or asset making, focusing completely on learning the very basics of Unreal Engine 4, which is the level editor.

A 2-week project where I made a basic room using pre-made assets.

Things I learned from this:

My Second UE4 Project: A Pinball Machine Simulation

After achieving level 1 on my previous project, level 2 would be to learn to develop actual gameplay using Blueprints as well as creating custom materials.

For that purpose I’m making a Pinball machine simulation. This project is still ongoing, you can see my current progress below:

Note: I mistakenly wrote Day 4 in the tweet, but it's actually Day 5

Writing Better Blog Posts

Beside game development, I’ve been going through the 30 Day Blog Transformation Challenge course on Udemy.

My wish is to write better, more engaging blog posts that are more useful to you.

I would greatly appreciate any feedback in this regard, and if you have any requests for content you wish to see from me, please do ask.

What’s Next

The plan for next month is to finish the Pinball Simulation project.

I haven’t decided what to do after finishing the Pinball game yet, depending on my skill level at that point, I will either get started on my first commercial game or do another learning project.

This ends this month’s report. Your comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated, so do comment below. ๐Ÿ™‚

Monthly Reflection #1 – Starting Anew

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

Every last Thursday of the current month I publish a report reflecting on the previous month. These reflections exist to demonstrate my progress, share my experiences and help transfer what I learn to others.

The Past Month

Woah, where to start.. This has been a very crazy and hectic month. Well, I guess I’ll begin by explaining why I’m restarting Z’s Laboratories.

On 8th March, 2018 I resigned from my job, and despite how much I liked my colleagues and working there my health was deteriorating rapidly due to stress and my already battered body couldn’t take the hit. But since IT jobs in Bahrain (I worked as a web developer) are generally very stressful, and I had enough cash to last a year + was confident in my small project and business management skills, I decided it’s time to give Z’s Laboratories another shot.

11th March was my last day at work, and on 12th March I started working on setting up a business.

My main focus for the month was to write a simple and feasible business plan for my first year of operations, setup my work processes, establish a new routine and get started!.

Throughout March, I accomplished the following:

  • Planning my work/life routine and applying the new habit.
  • Planning the gaming and game dev events I will participate in.
  • Writing my 1st year plan using the Clean Canvas business pattern, and setting a clear vision for Z’s Laboratories.
  • Building a small HTML5 game called Hooman is Yum!, and publishing it on Kongregate, essentially establishing my 1st income stream.
  • Putting Hooman is Yum!’s source code up for sale on Scirra store, which became my 2nd income stream.
  • Participating in Unreal Bahrain’s Bahrain Comic Con booth and showcasing 4 of my games.
  • Setting up an accounting system for Z’s Laboratories.
  • Signing a contract with myself to better manage the business and finances while holding myself accountable.
  • Preparing an excel sheet to track my work hours, tasks and leaves.
  • Setting up a YouTube channel for Z’s Laboratories and uploading the 1st video.
  • Updating my portfolio, website’s content and layout to match my vision for Z’s Laboratories.

I’ve set my work hours to be from 8AM to 2PM, Sunday to Thursday while having 45 paid leave days that I can take anytime of the year. This is both to maintain a steady productive workflow while having a stress-free and balanced life style. I go to bed around 9PM and eat my meals at the same times everyday to keep my biological clock ticking like a real clock.

My current routine looks roughly like this:

Time/Day Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
6AM-8AM Morning Ritual* Morning Ritual Morning Ritual Morning Ritual Morning Ritual Morning Ritual Morning Ritual
8AM-2PM Work Work Work Work Work Free Free
2PM-4PM Family Time & Lunch Family Time & Lunch Family Time & Lunch Family Time & Lunch Family Time & Lunch Lunch Lunch
4PM-5PM Study/Practice*** Study/Practice Study/Practice Study/Practice Study/Practice Free Free
5PM-6.30PM Free Free Free Free Free Free Free
6.30PM-7.30PM Preparing & Having Dinner Preparing & Having Dinner Preparing & Having Dinner Preparing & Having Dinner Preparing & Having Dinner Preparing & Having Dinner Preparing & Having Dinner
7.30PM-9PM Night Ritual** Night Ritual Night Ritual Night Ritual Night Ritual Night Ritual Night Ritual

You may have noticed that I’m treating myself as my own employee. This may sound strange, but I did this for 2 main reasons:

  1. I have a very real tendency to overwork myself to death and self destruct while neglecting everything and everyone around me, so by setting strict boundaries I make sure to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
  2. It makes managing and planning the business easier, while giving me stability in my personal life.

This setup isn’t for everyone, but it’s working extremely well for me and I look forward to each new day.

* My morning ritual consists of exercise, shower, breakfast and dressing for work
** In my night ritual I turn off all electronics, dim all lights, meditate, reflect and get ready for bed
*** For this year I'm studying Japanese

What’s Next

The type of games I decided to specialize in as Z’s Laboratories is 3D stylized Open-World games for Nintendo Switch, that have a positive effect on the players’ real lives, either by teaching them a real world skill, exposing them to different view points and getting them to reflect or by making their day a bit better.

To prepare myself for this path, next month’s main focus will be to build-up my game dev skills by making a small game that helps players de-stress after work. I will aim to publish it on both Steam and mobile app stores for iPads and Android tablets, since that combination roughly matches the Switch’s hardware.

I plan on making all assets for my games by myself as part of my business model and put them for sale on asset stores, hence establishing small passive income streams while building games.

This is going to be a very exciting year for me and hopefully I’ll be able to at least break even, that will let me continue for another year without getting a “real” job.

 

This ends this month’s report. Your comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated, so do comment below. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hooman is Yum!

Written by Zainab Al-Ansari on . Posted in Game

Hooman is Yum! is a simple game I made in two days for showcase at Bahrain Comic Con 2018.

You can play below, I recommend playing in full-screen mode by clicking the full-screen button in bottom right corner.

 

Controls:

Move with the WASD or arrow keys

Aim with the mouse and shoot with the left mouse button

Tools Used:

Construct 2 game engine

Audacity

Project Source:

The project source code is available for purchase on the Scirra store.

 

P.S: It’d be great if you could post some feedback on the game ๐Ÿ™‚

UE4 BatteryCollector C++ Tutorial Upgrade from 4.9 to 4.18

Written by Zainab Al-Ansari on . Posted in Blog

If you’re like me and is new to both C++ and Unreal Engine 4, but is an experienced programmer and decide to dive right in to developing UE4 games with C++, you will see your only official option for a full-game tutorial series is the BatteryCollector.

But these tutorials were made in UE4 version 4.9, and a lot of breaking changes have happened since then.

I’ve gone through quite a bit of a headache following the tutorials, and so you don’t have to I’m listing the differences needed on your part to make it work with 4.18.

Download source files on GitHub.

In SpawnVolume.h:
#include "Components/BoxComponent.h"

In SpawnVolume.cpp:
#include "Runtime/Engine/Classes/Engine/World.h"
#include "Runtime/Engine/Public/TimerManager.h"

In BatteryPickup.cpp:
#include "Components/StaticMeshComponent.h" (we don’t need it in the header)

In BatteryCollectorCharacter.cpp:
CollectionSphere = AttachTo(RootComponent); should be CollectionSphere->AttachTo(RootComponent); this was fixed in tut10
#include "Runtime/Engine/Classes/Components/SphereComponent.h"

In BatteryCollectorCharacter.h:
The UPROPERTY macro category for CollectionSphere should be something other than “Camera”, as it is not a camera. I used “Collection”

In BatteryCollectorGameMode.cpp:
1. Add PrimaryActorTick.bCanEverTick = true; to the constructor, as Ticking is now false by default.

2. #include "Runtime/Engine/Classes/GameFramework/PawnMovementComponent.h"

In BatteryCollectorGameMode.h:
1. Make enum class derive from uint8 as such: enum class EBatteryPlayState : uint8 {};
2. Make sure to use MyCharacter->GetCurrentPower(), NOT MyCharacter->GetCurrentPower in game mode tick function for changing play state.

In ThirdPersonCharacter Blueprint Event Graph:

Download source files on GitHub.

Blue Door Red Door

Written by Zainab Al-Ansari on . Posted in Game

Blue Door Red Door is my 7th Game Zanga game jam submission, with the theme of You Always Have a Choice.

I worked on the game by myself for a few hours.

You can play below, I recommend playing in full-screen mode by clicking the full-screen button in bottom right corner.

Xbox 360 Controls:

Movement: Dpad/joystick

Xbox controller support was not tested, but should work.

Keyboard Controls:

Movement: WASD or arrow keys

Tools Used:

Unity 3D game engine

Project Source:

Download the project source files by clicking here. You’re free to use it for anything without attribution.

Please note that this is a throwaway prototype project and not suitable to build a full game on.

 

P.S: It’d be great if you could post some feedback on the game ๐Ÿ™‚

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