By Yi Fei Boon, Field Engineer, Unity Technologies
Innovation is often used to describe the latest and greatest in technology. Less known is the inspired community behind this, that is intrinsically motivated to propel a cycle of solving problems, discovering new solutions, developing and commercialising products, which in turn, helps companies reinvest in the next generation of technology.
Unity is a case in point. Developers face new challenges as they push the limits of technology and platforms to bring their games to life, as more dynamic game engines are, in turn, being developed to empower developers. It is during this cycle that collaborative innovation is born. Developers turn to the engine developers for aid, leading to collaborative new and unique solutions to address issues faced during development, which is then later implemented into the engine.
At the recent Casual Connect Asia held at Resorts World Sentosa Singapore, from 16 to 18 May, I spoke about how this process of collaborative innovation solves some of these problems, as well as how this drives the growth and constant improvement of Unity’s game engine. Working as Unity’s technical consultant, I have been aiding clients in optimising their programme and helping address challenges encountered while using the game engine.
I’m a busy guy. I run a game studio that has made over 45 premium casual games in the last decade. I podcast and livestream. In the last year, I’ve traveled to about 20 different cities, spoke at a major game conference about every other month, and found time to climb Mt. Fuji, go trekking in Nepal for 2 weeks, and a bunch of other cool stuff. All of that while being a father, a husband, and having a quality sit-down dinner with my family almost every night. People ask how I find the time. It’s actually pretty simple. I’ll share.
I work from home. This alone saves me 10-20 hours a week. I am not wasting time commuting and all of my breaks are shorter and more meaningful. Lunch? The kitchen is just 20 feet away. I’m done eating in half an hour and most days I get to share lunch with my wife. Want to take a break and read? The couch is right there. And all of the little stuff that needs to be dealt with every week: dentist’s appointments, paying bills, PTA meetings, etc., I fit that in between work tasks and can build the most efficient schedule for it because I never run into the “but I have to go home to do this” problem – I am already there.
I have a really nice workspace. I spend most of my waking life sitting at a desk working so I made sure that the chair I sit in is a good one. My desk is large enough to let me spread out papers, have room to swing a mouse around, and have a couple of monitors to spread out the digital content I need to be putting together. My space has a door. When the world outside intrudes, the door closes, the headphones go on, and I get stuff done. This, of course, is based on your tolerance for distraction. Some people in our company can tolerate a lot more distraction, and smaller working spaces. Some even prefer to work in cafes. This is something you have to test and see. That being said, most people generally benefit from reducing distractions, ensuring they are comfortable, and minimizing the number of outside influences while they work. Incredibly, working at home, even in a very busy home with children, parents, etc. can’t touch an open-office floor plan for creating distractions and annoyances. When I consider how much of the world is forced to work in brutally open floor plans, surrounded by aggressively distracting coworkers breaking their chain of thought… the mind shudders.
Similarly, I minimize digital distractions. Nothing on my computer makes noise. No application has popup notifications turned on. I take regular short breaks between tasks to check internal company chat groups, Facebook, Reddit, etc., but I never let these programs notify me or pull me away from my current task unless someone specifically summons me by name. Any decent internal chat program will let you set up notifications this way, and it’s critical. Even my phone has the ringer turned off, and it’s in another room. When I am working, that time is mine, and short of some major emergency, I don’t allow interruptions.
I schedule ruthlessly. If you want a meeting with me, it gets scheduled. Want to exercise regularly? Schedule. Time with the family? Schedule. I do “date night” once a week with my wife. That’s on the schedule. I go to guitar lessons with my daughter. That’s on the schedule. Think of your schedule like armor protecting you from the people who want to take time from you. You want to talk to me for 2 hours? Sorry, I only have 30 minutes for you in my schedule. Talk faster. You’d be amazed at how much someone can cram into 10 minutes when you only give them 10 minutes.
I avoid “regular meetings” like the plague. If you schedule a regular meeting, you will likely have to make up things to fill it with. Screw that. Treat meetings as evil necromantic spells: every minute you give to them is sucked from your soul. When they are absolutely necessary, I bring a list of what I want to achieve and I only bring the people who need to be there. It’s rare you really need more than 3 people in a meeting – better to have smaller meetings, write notes, and disperse them to the people who just need the info and aren’t actively contributing to the content. Forget big collaboration meetings. The science is clear: collaboration breeds mediocrity. Divy up the work, let people go do, and save the meetings for figuring out how it all works together and what to do next. This is how creative people thrive.
Treat meetings as evil necromantic spells: every minute you give to them is sucked from your soul.
I hire competent people and let them do their jobs. Nothing is a bigger waste of time than hiring someone to do a thing, and then doing it for them. This is a critical management skill, and it takes an adjustment of the mind to do well. Specifically, you have to change your thinking from “Is this what I wanted?” to “Is this good?” The reason you hire experts is because they are better at things than you are. So assume that they will give you something different, and probably better, than your expectation. Back off, look at it objectively, and if it does the job, pull your ego out of the equation and let it be. If you find that you can’t do that because you don’t trust or believe in the work someone is doing, replace them.
Good enough is good enough. I’ve been called “relentlessly Pareto”. I take that as a compliment. I only polish when it matters. The rest I let be. If you see me chatting with the team, my text is full of typos. They know what I mean. This isn’t getting published. I let it be. Our design documents are loose, rough, and produced fast. Our prototypes are ugly. When I give feedback, I take screenshots and scribble on them with the pen in the Windows Snipping Tool. It’s ugly, but the team gets it. Better they get the info ugly now than pretty tomorrow. If it’s not going in front of a customer, it’s only as pretty as it needs to be to be understood.
I don’t do email. Email is where information goes to die. If you are writing emails that require more than a few sentences to notify someone of something, you’re doing it wrong. That information needs to be put in a living document somewhere and shared. If I need to talk, I set up a quick call, we talk, I make notes, post them where they can be easily referenced later (we use Basecamp) and that’s referenced on our chat system (we use HipChat). If you need to say something more than a few sentences, document it, text, or call.
I do one thing completely before I do the next. Half of any serious creative task is just figuring out what you need to do, unpacking the details, and then banging them all together into something. If you are constantly shifting from task to task, you’re constantly redoing all of that preparation work, over and over. Stop that. Pick a thing. Do it. Bang on it till it’s done. Then put it out of your mind and move on. Half-done tasks pull at your attention and energy and make everything else you do more irritating and stressful. Clear your mind of these distractions by doing, completing, and moving on.
Pick a thing. Do it. Bang on it till it’s done. Then put it out of your mind and move on.
Sometimes, all of this breaks down, and I am seriously unproductive. It happens. When it does, I get up and walk away. Take a walk. Go to the gym and swim. Take a bike ride. Read a book. There are no bonus points for the number of hours you spend at a desk. If you find that you’ve been at a desk for 30 minutes or more, and have achieved nothing, step away. Recombobulate. Come back fresh. If you don’t, you’re going to just screw around looking at Facebook or YouTube or doing easy busywork anyway. Once you start down that road, you’re gone for an hour or more. Own that time. Make it yours. Shove something else you want or need to do into it.
I have one last, super specific tip: Every night, my last task is to write down the three things I will do tomorrow. I do this on a piece of scrap paper, and lay it on my keyboard. When I wake up and start in the morning, it’s there. Waiting for me. I don’t check email. I don’t do Facebook. I start with item one on the list and start my day. Until that list is done, my day is not over. When it’s done and my scheduled meetings are complete, I can call the day a success, and move on to stuff that I want to do – be that work related or not. This creates a sense of purpose that starts me every day, completion that helps me feel good at the end of the day, and excitement for what I am going to do tomorrow.
That’s largely it. Of course, I don’t keep to these rules 100%. Some days I keep closer to my regimen than others. But I have found that the closer that I keep to this life plan, the happier I am, the more I get done, and the better I feel about myself. Hope it helps.
We are proud to introduce our best mobile game finalist Mushroom Wars 2 made by Zillion Whales! As a winner at the GTP Indie Cup event, Zillion Whales has been given the opportunity to compete at Indie Prize Singapore at Casual Connect Asia 2017. The winter season 2017 of GTP Indie Cup has received more submissions than ever. Our jury board was excited about growing professional level of games from CIS indie developers and Mushroom Wars just proved this growth.
This year at GTP, we continue gathering best talents at our event and the summer season will be more helpful for developers not only by a variety of nominations and prizes but also with new Critic’s Choice award from CIS game press critics and journalists. We hope this story about our finalist will encourage you to take a part in the next Cup.
By Ksenia Shneyveys, Marketing Communications Manager at Zillion Whales
Mushroom Wars 2 is the newest game of a popular RTS series with a rich history.
Back in 2009, inspired by good old Galcon, the original Mushroom Wars was released. We polished this gameplay mechanics to a luster, added signature fungal setting, introduced morale notion and different types of buildings for greater depth.
Mushroom Wars 2 preserved the features that made Mushroom Wars so enjoyable and supplemented them with MOBA elements such as hero characters with unique sets of skills and co-op 2 vs 2 mode. The game is out on iOS and Apple TV. It is coming to Android, Steam, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One next year.
Codemotion is one of the biggest tech conferences for software developers in Europe with an international network of 40,000 developers and 1,500 speakers. It offers a unique opportunity to all visitors to gather new inspirations, energy, and knowledge in combination with the chance to network and chat with fellow visitors passionate about coding. Last year, Codemotion launched new Game(), a new brand dedicated to Game Development, which aims to become a reference point in Italy and Europe, and to give to the GameDev movement all the importance it deserves.
Codemotion is partnered with Indie Prize. We would like to introduce the winner at Codemotion Rome 2017: Caracal for their game Downward. As the winner, Caracal has the opportunity to attend and compete at Indie Prize Singapore at Casual Connect Asia 2017. The following is a first-hand article written by Alex Angelini, one of the founders of Caracal, about this three man team and tips for indie development.
By Alex Angelini, One of the Founders of Caracal Games Studio
Today we are going to share with you some information about our team Caracal Games Studio and our video game Downward, a first-person open-world parkour adventure set in the medieval ruins of a post-apocalyptic world. In the game, you must seek out the mysterious artifacts that could have a role in explaining a cataclysmic environmental event that brought you to the “End of the Earth”, embarking on a daunting journey through beautiful but treacherous terrains of past civilizations.
By: Chris Murphy, Unreal Engine Evangelist and Director of Pub Games
Darkness surrounds you, black as night for what seems like light years away. You’ve seen 16 sunrises and sunsets in the past 24-hours. Suddenly, a lightning flash strikes through the quiet. Your head whips around, searching for more under the spotlight. The flash is reflecting off the shiny solar arrays of the space station, and back to the camera. The gravity (and the lack thereof) of the moment hits you: you’re in a 460-ton platform hurtling toward Earth at about 17,150 miles per hour, and you’re a long way from home….or are you?
To prepare and train their astronauts for the surreal experience of living on the International Space Station (ISS), NASA uses a perfect replica of ISS developed in Unreal Engine. The fabricated, three-dimensional environment incorporates many of the tasks and challenges that astronauts will face while in the $150-billion ISS, orbiting 240 miles above Earth. This training is critical to their success and ability to explore space.
Take it from me, starting a business can be hard. There are hundreds of things to think about and while you’re thinking about those hundreds of things, another thousand or so will come to mind. Being an entrepreneur is really a 24/7 job and it can be a total roller coaster ride. You’ve secured funding: yay! You’ve missed your target client acquisition number: **tears**.
At HeroPay, we’ve created a platform that gives business owners the ability to compare different credit card processors. We’ve experienced many of the ups and downs, the flips and dips of starting a business, so now is the time for a road map of the awesome tools available to all types of entrepreneurs!
I was dreaming of making games, 20 years back, and here I am today. It all started in early 2014 where my dream starts to shift into reality when the right time and the right people stumble together. Being an indie game developer is really fun. You hold the cards on every single bit of the game. You call the shots for the development, the visuals, and most of all, the gameplay. No Dracula! is one of the early games from Pariunos. The game focuses in Romania with the protagonist helping the townsfolk of a village to hunt down the infamous blood-sucker, Dracula. I can still remember the excitement of releasing No Dracula! in Google Play and the next thing is to wait. Waiting for people to download and play. It was not a hit and so the bumpy road sets in.
The game took us three months to completion encompassing the first brainstorm session to the release date. When I mentioned ‘us’, I meant a graphic artist, a freelance programmer and myself back then. It was definitely not a good start since we lacked experience on game development and marketing but giving up is not in the list. I started to gather information and comments on the game and I set my journey again but this time with a brand new team. We decided to revamp No Dracula!, thus the name, No Dracula! Revamp. The game was successfully released on 23rd December 2016 just before Christmas with a whole new gameplay, evolved visuals and with on-going updates of different mythical creatures and monsters to be defeated just by tapping.
Three games from India and Turkey, one game from Republic of Korea, two games from Tunisia and one game from Egypt at the international Indie Prize showcase in Berlin during Casual Connect Europe 2017. Among them three games were nominated by Game Nation Nomination Partners: NASSCOM Game Developers Conference in India, Run Double Jump in Egypt and Tunisian Game Awards in Tunisia.
One game represents Croatia, two games Greece and Portugal, four games Italy and seven games Spain at the international Indie Prize showcase in Berlin during Casual Connect Europe 2017! Among them, two games were nominated by Game Nation Nomination Partners in Italy: Milan Games Week and Codemotion.
GAME: Light&Dark DEVELOPER: Under the Stairs PLATFORM: Desktop Win COUNTRY: Croatia
Light&Dark is a 2D roguelike platformer with random level generation. Light is your primary resource which you spend to uncover levels, kill monsters and progress through the game. Every death is permanent and every run is different.
Awards: Best gameplay and Best artstyle at Reboot Infogamer.
Thirteen German based studios will showcase their games at the international Indie Prize Showcase during Casual Connect Europe 2017 in Berlin this February. One hundred-thirty of the best indie games were selected from 470 game submissions by honorable judges and provided with Indie Prize scholarship to attend the conference. This includes free all-access passes, a spot to showcase the game along with the world’s best indie developers and free accommodation in the indie hostel during three days of conference in Berlin.