Thursday, 20 December 2012

Teaching satisfaction

When I quit teaching in class I was frustrated with pretty much every aspect of the job. I was fed up with the system of education, I was fed up with parents, I was fed up with pretty much everything. I quit and it was awesome. It was like a huge stone was lifted from my chest. I felt like it was the best decision of my life.

I flew into my hometown the other day to visit some family and friends. One of my friends is in a band and I attended. To my surprise one of my former students which I had taught many years ago was also playing in the band afterward. It was nice to see him get to a new level and to produce something awesome.

Since it has been so long since I have been teaching in class I forgot what it feels like when a student actually does something awesome. I only teach online now because it takes away pretty much every headache a teacher can have. If there was a problem with teaching in person, teaching online solves any problem. I even get the satisfaction of people making apps.

The best part about teaching is showing somebody they could do something when they thought they couldn't. Getting somebody from A to B is really the only thing that matters. I can't imagine ever going back to teaching in a classroom, the benefits are simply not there.

It's good to see people succeed.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Why self directed learning should be more ubiquitous

It seems that a few schools in the great white north aslo known as Canada have it bang on when it comes to education.

I think most of us know that high school and school is essentially daycare for older kids. However, a few kids actually want to do something more than just sit in class. Thanks to the Canadian council of self directed learning there is this wonderful program where kids can learn at their own pace. There are only 5 in the country and if some of you don't know the population of Canada is roughly the population of California. But 5 in the country is still pretty small.

Here you can read the wikipedia article on both of them

It isn't a new idea but it is one of the best. Frankly 30% of high schools should be like this. This is one of those times where the solution already exists but change won't happen. 

Imagine a world where kids go to a self directed school in their electric cars powered by wind turbines while they eat no processed food and have tons of safe sex, get good grades, start their own businesses, stimulate the economy and are generally happy.

One can only dream. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The real joy of teaching

I have taught for many years and in those years I have learned many things such as.
  1. My teaching style is different
  2. Most people don't want to do something new and exciting
  3. Most people don't want to do anything if it isn't for credit
Since I started teaching at a younger age and without getting a masters in education, I found these points a little hard to take in. Before I quit teaching in the classroom I tried very hard to get people to do amazing things that only a percentage of the population can do. A lot of times it isn't that hard as it sounds. 

But as usual, it fell on def ears and only a few people kind of produced something. Today I try and get people who have never coded or designed anything to go and do something amazing. The only barrier I have is people's own mental blocks. Most people think they can't do anything and therefore they won't.

It's kinda like Bilbo Baggins in the hobbit. Basically somebody forces him to do something few hobbits have ever done. And what happens at the end? Well Bilbo has this wonderful adventure few hobbits will ever have.

You should really do something that scares you. Eventually you will find yourself in a better place.

But back to the joy of teaching. Last year I made this course on how to make HTML 5 games. The best part of this course is that I show everybody everything. The goal of this was to get people who always liked games but didn't know how to make them actually make a game. Well somebody actually did. They put it up on the chrome store. You can see the link here.


This is the best part of my day when I actually get somebody to do something amazing!

One of the biggest problems I had as a teacher is trying to convince people to do stuff like this. I would say:

"Hey, you're pretty awesome how about you try and release ____. You can totally do it and it looks great on your resume."

The answer I usually got was (especially from parents):

"[Id rather have my kid get 95% in math]"

Of course Im paraphrasing it. But essentially convincing people was the hardest part. The best part about Udemy is that the convincing doesn't happen people who love online education go there and they know what they are going to get. Im sure people see Udemy and say: 

"[No credit? No thank you]"

The best part is that I don't have that conversation, I don't waste my time on that conversation and I can just go back to working on something new. 

The funny thing is that the "Udemy" way of education is slowly getting more and more traction and it's about time. From a teaching point of view this is the best way to give your lectures. From the students point of view, it is the best way to learn something as fast as possible.

Really isn't that was teaching and education is about? You know, results. When did teaching become this war of attrition for marks and credit? This brings me to my final point. As a person who loves learning marks were never a priority. Activities and learning were always paramount. Maybe we can call it academic hedonism. But the real shock is that mostly everybody is not like this. Most people would rather get an 'A' and do nothing than get a 'C' and learn something. 

The 19th century education system in the 21st century

Sometimes it takes me a long time to figure out something and when I do I feel like an idiot because the answer is so simple.

I realized the other day that the 19th century education system was set up before major time saving devices such as the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer were built. These devices basically saved people time and people used this time to progress. There is a wonderful ted talk about this.

This is where the "a ha" moment came in: this is why the education system is "stuck in it's ways", resistent to change and out of phase with concepts of progress.

If we were to compare the way most schools work to how people wash clothes, then most of us would still be washing clothes by hand just because of a philosophical ideology. This is the major problem, education is more about a teaching manifesto than results because it was set up in a time where philosophical manifiestos were the best way to achieve anything. 

If the school system was about learning they would ditch the manifesto and start to do things differently. I always pose a simple question: what if I could teach people better and faster but the only catch is that it is completely different than your current system? The answer is always a no because it breaks the manifesto. Most schoolboards won't even try something new. Why not take a portion of the population and try something new?

Im sure if schoolboards offered this there would not only be volunteers but there will be progress. 

The sad reality of the situation is that if I had a child today by the time they enter elementary school the school system will be exactly the same. There will be nothing new and no progress. It's time for schools to devote a portion of their time to research and development. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The easiest way for a tech company to be tripple bottom line is...

We have all heard of tripple bottom line companies. These company put people, planet and profit all on the same page. To some people it is a refreshing to see companies really make a difference with what they do.

Traditionally you hear of tripple bottom line companies in the retail space. A coffee shop get's all of it's ingredients from locally grown farmers it pays its baristas 15 dollars an hour and the baristas get an awesome health plan. The shop advertises how progressive and awesome it is and people buy from the shop knowing that they are apart of the solution to a better world.

Tripple bottom line companies sprout up everywhere and the philosophy drives business. But what about tech companies how can they be tripple bottom line?

Well the company could be in an eco friendly building that only uses solar and wind power to power it's devices. The company can also give to charities and donate expertise and equipment to the community. But there is one thing that can easily be the number 1 item to make a tech company tripple bottom line. 
Pay your employees and treat them like people.

Most people would never shop at Wal-Mart for political reasons. These reasons include harsh work conditions and low wages. However, they will turn around and buy some software with hard working conditions and low wages. Personally, there needs to be some sort of qualifier stamp to make sure that the software you buy is "fair trade".

I have talked about unpaid internships before but I haven't talked about working conditions. Lot's of times software companies will get gullible people to work on their project for free and for nothing. As if the experience of working on this project outweighs the money and the time. Of course this is only if the project gets released. Lot's of projects fail, lose funding or have a multitude of other problems that cause it to fail. So if you project that you are working for free and for nothing fails then you have nothing, you have wasted your time.

I personally get really annoyed when I hear that people are taking up unpaid internships. It's so risky. In some ways you are better off getting a part time job and starting your own business. At least that way you can make more money.

Perhaps, I am too driven by money. I have bills I have to pay just like everybody else at the end of the month. Going into debt is the worst thing you can do. Im not about to go into debt to work on a project. Personally you can release your own project with your own company. It may not be as glamorous but at least you won't go into debt.

Getting back to the tripple bottom line, I see unpaid internships all over resumes submitted to MI. I really do feel bad for them. If I was a bigger company I would hire more people. 

People should be more aware of the fact that some software companies just abuse their employees as bad as Wal Mart does. We need a workplace standard to make sure this doesn't happen.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Asymmetrical business plans.

In 2006 everybody was saying that free is the future. If you can still find them, lots of articles said that free would be the new price point. I said that was bull and I often became unpopular and labeled an idiot in talks about the matter. 

Well, it's still bull for one simple reason: in order to make money you need to charge something. I understand the allure. Companies need a way to differentiate themselves and if somebody gives something away for free when others are charging they can find a unique business model that works for them. They get a lot of traction and other people hop on the bandwagon. Then for some reason this new business model is "the future" and it will always be like that.

What ever happened to just charging somebody money for a product. Let's look at the oil industry or the fashion industry.

Get the oil out of the ground -> sell it -> profit -> repeat
Design and produce the clothes -> sell it -> profit -> repeat

Let's look at an app model

Produce the app -> give it away for free -> hope to make money on ads -> get users to sign up and build a list -> sell another product on your website -> ??? -> profit? -> sell your company and retire to cancun.

Perhaps I have embellished the plan a little and yes there are ways to make money with ads, and selling lists and raising notoriety. However, as a business it's nice to have a steady cash flow at the end of the month and all of this other motion is unnecessary and frankly a waste of time.

On top of this is kickstarter. Why do you need money upfront. A lot of people on kickstarter just have an idea. Wouldn't it be better to produce a product on your own and make money from that? It makes sense that if you have a game idea then you should just make it and profit from it. But the problem with that is that everybody is giving games away for free and when you charge one measly dollar you are suddenly the worst person to exist on the face of the earth. 

I think there needs to be some awareness when it comes to software and symmetrical business models. How about something like this

Make the software -> sell it -> profit -> repeat

This way more small business can exist. With asymmetrical business models the money tends to concentrate. There are other factors such as saturation and piracy but in the end what you need to do is make money and the best way to do that is to charge it upfront.

Friday, 16 November 2012

The value of a game

There is always so much chatter about how much a game is worth. Gamers seem to like to debate to the dollar how much a game is worth. If it is overpriced or underpriced. This is one thing that I would like to see go away. You have a range from free to about 60 dollars as a developer setting a price. Frankly the price of the game is really up to the developer.

Really for most indie developers you need a price point of about 10 - 20 dollars. Now instantly people are going to hate that but from a business standpoint, you really need to charge more rather than less. I know that people will say well if you sell 1 million units....

First of all as a small business you need to be profitable with less customers. Even getting 50k people to buy your product is challenging. For whatever reason if you market and advertise your product geting a person to pay 1 dollar, 10 dollars or 30 dollars isn't that hard to do. It's getting the person's wallet out which is the most important part. So if somebody is going to pay 1 dollar they might as well pay.

In other industries it is common place for boutique businesses to charge more money for their niche product. Why can't this work in games. Let's say I am a developer who produces a very unique platformer game. As a consumer, sure you can find a free platformer to play. There are tons out there but my platformer is unique. It is not like the free ones. It's different. There is a reason why you pay money for mario games versus just going to find a free platformer.

This isn't my idea. I stole it from the fashion industry. By the way the fashion industry is worth 1.25 trillion while the game industry is only worth 74 billion. The game industry could take a page from this. Boutique studios could make better games and be more profitable if we did this.

The hard part is changing people's attitudes on the subject. Next time you see an indie studio charging more money for their game. Perhaps it is not because they are evil and money hungry. Perhaps they are just wanting to pay the bills because they know they are only going to get 30k sales from the game. If anything the indie studio people are less money hungry than the big studios. The few extra dollars goes a long way to support somebody with passion. Think of the few extra dollars as a tip. Next time you go out for dinner look what you spend on your meal and tip. Perhaps you could tip the indie studio as well. After all in order to make a game you have to be intelligent and productive. Don't you want to support this kind of behavior?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Why 4 years is really enough education

It seems like everybody in their 20s has 2, 3 even 4 degrees. That's a lot of education. While I love learning I'm such a stereotypical entrepreneur and hate school. And as a full disclaimer school is awesome and everybody should go if you haven't gone then what the hell are you doing?

But now you can learn more efficiently. So you can get a 4 year degree in less time. Especially since most college institutions only have 13-16 week semesters. That gives the student a lot of down time. In the past I suppose you could have got a low end job in your industry or internship. But now students fight to be slaves at un paid internships instead of paying jobs. 

Unpaid internships are the worst. I have never done this and I will never do this at my company. 

So there are several possibilities. Perhaps you can get two degrees at once. That is a 2 year college degree and a 4 year university degree. That way at the end of your 4 years you have your two degrees. Or you could even get 2 college degrees and a 4 year university degree. Then you have 3 degrees huzzah! But some institutions won't let you study with another institution. Im sure there is an academically bad reason for this but whatever. 

Anyway, education methods evolve and improve just like everything else. Maybe not as fast as computers but education can be done faster and cheaper so why aren't we doing this? 

Not having a good job for some people is really devastating. It used tob e that universities guaranteed you a better life, now it just generally gives you a better life. When will educational institutions learn that just because you spend more time in their walls doesn't mean you will actually be a better person. So let's just focus on people learning instead of all the other hot air associated with universities. 

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Why are schools against self publishing?

When I was growing up publishing anything was an ordeal. You had to go to a publisher and wait. It was really long process and you got screwed in the end. The publisher took too much and it took 6 months to close a deal.

Now you can self publish pretty much anything. So why don't schools promote this? What if it was mandatory that you release a book on amazon in order to graduate highschool. If you don't want to publish a book, what about an app or a game. The bottom line is that you have to self publish something before you leave highschool. Some people think highschool might be a little young. But what about college or university? What if in order to graduate you had to publish a book. It could be a fictional book.

Whenever I talk to educators on the subject they always look at me and say it's a horrible idea. Perhaps it is  a horrible idea. We wouldn't want the students to outshine the teachers now would we.

When I was 17, I felt this too, some students were amazing and they progressed quickly. To be honest I felt a little defensive. How could this student who was with me for 6 months be this good? That was when I was 17, when I was 22, I just said screw it. I want you to become the best person possible.

So why is self publishing such a bad thing? If anything it gets the students motivated. What would be wrong about saying to a bunch of grade 10s that by the end of high school you should have published a book. What would be even better is if they published an educational book such as how to teach math. 

We should teach kids at an early age to produce and release. It should be a habit for them. It wasn't always a habit for me. I had to unlearn so many years of school and not listen to people in order to get to where I am today. Ask any successful person who has released a project that the most important thing about releasing a project is releasing it. You don't fully learn from the project until you push the release button.

Perhaps one day schools will be a beacon for productivity. That day is certainly not today. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Looking on the bright side

The last blog article was a little bit negative. I don't like to be negative so let's talk about something positive. Your career is completely in your control. If you want to work at something you have the power to change something. If you want to change something in your life you can just go out and do it. The only ingredient you need is time. It can be hard especially if you have a full time job and possibly other people to support.

This article sums up how you can change your life. It is a little outdated and for musicians but the theme is still true.

So what do you need to do in order to change your life. First of all asses what needs changing. Then assess and action plan. Stick to that action plan. Eventually your new life will slowly come to be.

The keyword is slowly. There is a saying in business: "Over night successes take 10 years to happen". If you quit your job on Friday don't expect money on Monday. For me part time work was always the answer you could work two jobs. One is your dream job and the other is your day job. Always make sure that your commute time is as short as possible. Walking distance is best but you want your commute to be no more than 30 minutes. Preferably 15 minutes is the best. Even if you have to pay more it's worth it. When you want to change your life you need time more than anything. Remember when you start a business you want to spend a little money as possible. For me it was roughly 3k a year and most of that was going to computer equipment and licenses.

If you want to change you life start today. It's as simple as that.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The real consequences about not having a job

If you are a 20 something you are probably having a hard time finding a job. If you are a 30 something and have lost your job you are probably having a hard time finding a job. Bottom line: it's really hard to find a job especially if you turned 18 before 2008. Life is harder, jobs are harder to find and it doesn't seem to be getting better. But what are the real consequences about not having a job.

Disclaimer: I know how hard it is to find a job and I sympathize with everybody who wants to work and cannot find work.

If you do not have a job in your field you are potentially missing out on 2 things.
  1. Money
  2. Experience
The average college graduate makes 40k a year. That's 110 dollars a day or 770 a week. You can make this amount in another job such as a retail manager but I suspect if you went to school you don't want a retail management job. Perhaps you want to make more money. Well the more money you don't make you lose out on.

The second thing you are missing out on is experience. It's roughly 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week or 2000 hours a year (50 weeks a year). On top of this you are missing out meeting successful people in the field. 

These are two big items you are missing out on if you have a job. It gets compounded if you are in debt. So essentially you are losing 8 hours of experience, 110 dollars of income and most importantly the chance to be around competitive successful people. 

You really have to treat this as a loss. I sure did. 

Now what do you do about this. Well most people just go to school but you if you go to school you are losing more money and you are for sure not getting any experience. If you haven't noticed school is all about attending lectures and not gaining experience (for the most part). As I have said before, in a CS degree you do not make any products you just sit in class and do assignments.

The average cost of education in the states is 20k a year plus expenses so let's just say that every year you are in school you are losing out on 60k a year + 2000 hours of experience. School would be better if you could get real world experience instead of lectures. If I were in the position of employment I would almost pay 20k to go and get real world experience.

Another option is to start is to start your own business. This way you do get real world experience and you have the possibility of making money. It may not happen right away but if you work a 40 hour work week, you release good products and you learn from your mistakes you will not only get the experience but the money as well. 

But there is one big problem with this route and that is you cannot get credit for your work as an entrepreneur. This will change eventually and the sooner the better. So if we mix all of these elements together...
  • Super ambitious person
  • Intelligent and adaptable
  • Has a college degree
  • Cannot find a job
  • Starts own business to make up the financial and experience loss
... all of these elements equal something but currently equal nothing. Public perception on this issue needs to change. In fact in 1st year college this should be presented on day one: be prepared to be an entrepreneur because most of you won't be able to find jobs. 

And really the true litmus test to see if somebody want a career is that they will work on their craft in their spare time. If you don't want to spend your spare time working at your career then perhaps it isn't the career for you. 

Friday, 2 November 2012

Technical skills.

I often read resumes from people and I also get questions from people looking to get into software. Something that people tend to highlight are their technical skills (and to be honest I would probably highlight them too if I was a applying to a job).

But let me ask you a question: would you highlight your math skills? Of course not. Programming is the new math.

Being able to program and other technical skills are a must. Even if you are an artist, graphic designer or musician, you need to know how to program. Seriously.

So if you don't know how to program start with HTML, CSS then move to javascript. Learn these and you will get hired next time you apply for a job.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Private school versus public school a new devide

We all know that private schools and public schools operate a little differently. But now with the rise of online education will there be a fundamental difference between the way private and public school teach?

Public schools are very much by the book and they want teachers to fall in line with their philosophy of teaching. That means you have to go through the education path they set out. So you have to get an undergraduate and get a teaching degree afterward. Private schools however, judge you more on experience and teaching ability. So this means if you are an awesome teacher without certification you have to teach at a private school because the public sector wants nothing to do with you unless you jump through their hoops.

Private schools are more about education versus the teaching philosophy. With the rise of computer education what a private school could do is fire half of their staff and buy software that will teach children. A public schoolboard would never do that especially in most schoolboards once you have been teaching there for a certain amount of time you can't get fired. The only way you can get fired is if you beat a kid down with a 2x4.

So private education is all about the student learning and the public system is about a teaching philosophy. If the public system was about student learning they would evolve much quicker than they do.

What happens if your kid goes through the Khan academy and then goes to a public school. Basically, the kid will go from a hyper learning environment to slow classical lectures. If you put your kid through online training then you might have to fork over the money to go to private school because that's where the kid will experience the same learning style.

The public system will not adopt the style of the khan academy and it's a shame that they won't. They could teach kids faster and better. But it goes against philosophy which is more important to them than students learning. It's odd that in that in every other business if you find a better faster way to do a task you are rewarded but in the public system you are shackled by their philosophy of teaching.

The new teacher gives a lecture once and teaches thousands. The traditional teacher will become obsolete. I know the debate between private versus public for kids has always been a matter of preference  But now with online education private versus public can be a matter of quality and style. If a kid learns with his iPad since age 3 there will be friction when you force the kid to sit, shut up and listen to a teacher. All schools have to do is put their lectures online.

The pipe dream would be that as soon as you enter kindergarten you have all of the video lectures and assignments from k12 to complete at your own pace and the major point to go to school is to learn social interactions and to collaborate.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Students writing something other than essays

We have all written a ton of essays in our school. But how many of us have ever written an essay outside of school. We all write and we write a lot so is the essay out of date? Essays are the preferred medium because they focus on writing skills and argument skills at the same time. But what if you want to do something more practical?

It seems like the word practical and school don't mix. I agree that essays are important but should not be focused on for more than 50% of their writing. Here are some other things students can write:

  • Instructional lessons
  • Short stories
  • Anything creative writing
  • Journalism
The first one is actually the best one. I always feel that students should teach people 2 or 3 grade levels below. You learn by teaching and it would be a great way for the student teachers to learn more about teaching. But it seems like most schools would rather have a teacher with 6 years of education and hundreds hours of volunteer work.

There are plenty of other and more exciting mediums to write about other than essays. Perhaps students would write more if they were more interested in the topics they were writing about. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Windows 8 is pretty good. But I suspect people will dislike it because it is different

People can't really get used to change. If something is better for whatever reason but people aren't used to it, people will hate it.

Windows 8 is actually really awesome. Despite what bad reviews you read it is good. Microsoft has actually made something very competitive and it shows. The only problem is that it is different. There is no start button and it functions more like a tablet than a computer. There was a bit of a learning curve to using it but for the most part Windows 8 is awesome.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Practice and performance and tech

My last article was about how liberal art degrees have something really valuable for tech degrees. Software production could be more like music performance: practice and perform.

One of the best summer jobs I had in college was landscaping. In a summer I put up an entire suburban park. I learned how to scale big projects that cost a lot of money. Most of the time we spent preparing and most of the visual work was done in a few days. I feel that tech production can be done the same way.

Employees would practice their skills doing drills and exercises and when they get together in a team they would perform. This makes a lot of sense because the employees would be working smarter and not harder.

France used to have a 35 hour work week and 35 hours of performance is enough. Why push the extra grueling hours of little productivity? I always find that Friday afternoons are a wash anyway.

So if are an artist or a programmer, practice your craft and get ready to perform it. Performance is timed, exiting, and fast.

Don't bog down your production with apathy. Make it exciting, it's a performance after all.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

What tech degrees can learn from liberal art degrees

Liberal art degrees were much more respected in the past. Unfortunately, most of the professors in liberal art degrees continue to teach their courses like it's the 20th century. However, the theme and execution of the degree has tremendous value and if certain elements of the degree were ported over to tech degrees, tech degrees would be better.

First of all, there are education businesses that basically help people acclimatize  to the business world in tech. These companies exist because university tech degrees don't do this. This is fine by me because I make a lot of money doing this. 

Second, if you can believe this, most tech degrees do not:
  • Put the course notes online
  • Have students make B to C products 
  • Have students work as an internship as apart of their degree.
Yep, a comp sci degree is a theoretical course. There are alternatives but people place 4 year university degrees above 2 year college degrees. So if you want to make stuff you are stuck in a theoretical course. Anybody who has ever released a product will tell you that releasing is the most important part. 

Unless you want to go into academia, which is probably 20%, this model of theory and assignments is outdated. You might as well have your students take a horse carriage to class. Seriously, if you cannot view the entire degree's lectures at the time of enrollment, assignments and notes the institution is already behind. Basically universities don't help 80% of the people going through them.

If I were to make one suggestion to institutions that offer tech degrees it would be to have the final year of a 4 year program be nothing but building and releasing B to C software. In addition having a masters program where you don't sit around for lectures you just build, release software and try to profit from it. 

So where do liberal arts degree shine where tech degrees fail. They practice and they release. Music degrees are probably the best example of this. Most people think of a music degree as a "pish posh that's useless degree" but there are a few elements that make a music degree awesome. 

The first major difference is in order to be a good composer or player you have to practice and write a lot. And when I mean a lot I mean a lot! You are constantly playing and practicing and working with other people. Most people don't know this but the top musicians at their schools stay there for 12 hours a day immersed in music. So usually, the player plays an instrument and has 1 on 1 studio time with a teacher, they play in an ensemble such as an orchestra and they usually play in smaller chamber groups. Not only do they get credit for each of these activities they are required to. Of course they perform several times a semester (which I think of as releasing). On top of that orchestras and larger ensembles record and release CDs.

On top of this often times professionals need extra help and where do they go? The local college. So music students get real world experience before they exit the degree. 

Of course music is no longer profitable and not as culturally significant as it was in the past. So it is very easy for people who do not know what they are talking about to easily dismiss a music degree as a worthwhile source of academic inspiration.

Could you imagine if comp sci and computer engineering degrees:
  • Made it mandatory for you to release software
  • Made it mandatory for you to work by yourself, with small groups and larger groups
  • Emphasized and gave you credit for doing this
On top of releasing software in this fashion you can add all of these projects to your resume. From experience, I like hiring practical, efficient people who release items versus people who get A's. There is a saying that A students work for C students and as I get older I find out how true that saying can be. 

Of course none of these change will happen. Even if you are cheering behind the computer screen agreeing with everything that Im saying, nothing will change. The 19th century academic institution won't change even though reality and the public demand it. I was recently looking at a comp sci masters program but it is the same old format when I went to university. Right now I can release products and make money versus go learn some more theory. The only problem is at this time portfolio doesn't trump education. Especially from a legal standpoint. 

Students are stuck paying a huge amount of money for their degree with no experience to show for it. Experience is the new college degree so why don't we include that in college?

Lastly if you are a student it is well within your right to demand
  • That the entire degree be online for you to watch
  • Have most of the assignments and test be online
  • Have the opportunity to gain real world commercial experience through your program
  • Have a rich portfolio of software and experience before you leave.
If your professors deny this, they are wrong. Most of them will probably agree but cannot do anything about it. 

Right now there is a huge gap in the market of what people want in education versus what is offered. Im happy here making money. But it would be better for everybody if higher education just evolved. 

Friday, 3 August 2012

Revolutionary app store idea

It would be so awesome if the app store had the option to bill per month instead of just a one time transaction. This way the developer would get a transaction from the user once a month. This would include app purchases and in app purchases. Opting out would be really simple: just delete the app or delete the in app purchase from the settings menu. Apple would be more profitable as a result.

Monday, 16 July 2012

iStack Mac Bundle talked about on MacLife

You love a deal, right? Perfect, because see that little "Deals" button up there in the top-right corner of Right under the title image? That'll take you to a brand spankin' new web store that'll give you software and gear at a discounted rate. We've teamed up with Stack Social to bring you big savings on cool stuff for your Mac and iOS devices.

The first deal? Get $940 worth of Mac apps for only $50 with the iStack Mac Bundle, including:

 - Parallels 7 (reviewed here)
 - SnagIt
 - Disk Drill Pro
 - Hands Off
 - Clarify
 - Elasty
 - PaintSupreme
 - TextSoap
 - iGlasses 3

Plus, if you're one of the first 5,000 customers, you'll get over ten hours of iOS app development course videos that'll teach you how to build iPhone and iPad apps from scratch, and one lucky customer will win a MacBook Pro with Retina display.  
It's a pretty sweet deal. So if you're aching for some new software, or just want to finally fill up your Mac's Applications folder with the essentials, click on the Deals tab. And don't forget to bookmark it for even more great deals, as the bundles change every few weeks! 

iStack Mac Bundle talked about on The Verge

If you picked up a new Mac following Apple's refreshes at WWDC, you may be looking to fill it up with software — and the iStack bundle over at StackSocial this week could be a pretty good way to do just that. It features nine Mac apps along with an iOS development video tutorial for the first 5000 customers, which would normally go for a combined cost of $953 but is being offered for $49.99 right now.
Headlining the deal is Parallels Desktop 7, the popular virtual machine software that allows you to install Windows and run it right from your OS X environment. This normally sells for $79.99 by itself, so the $49.99 price would represent a pretty good deal even if it weren't packaged with eight other apps. It is, though, and these include Snagit, Disk Drill Pro, Clarify, iGlasses 3, PaintSupreme, TextSoap, Hands Off!, and Elasty, which together offer a wide range of functionality from screenshot capture to data recovery. Sound enticing? At the time of writing, you have 16 days left to make up your mind.

iStack Mac Bundle talked about on CNET

Good news, Mac users: You're about to get a bundle of love. By which I mean software.
The iStack Mac Bundle comes with 10 apps that would normally cost $926. (And people say Mac software is overpriced.) Your cost: $49.99.
Let's start with the crown jewel of the bundle, the program that's most likely to make your wallet spring open: Parallels Desktop 7. A $79 program all by itself, Parallels lets you run Windows 7and Windows programs on your Mac, no rebooting required. It's a top-rated utility, and with good reason.
Even if you buy Parallels from, say, Newegg, you'll pay around $60, which is $10 more than the bundle costs. And, let's not forget, iStack comes with nine other items.
Among the highlights: Snagit, a popular screen-capture utility; PaintSupreme, an image-creation and image-editing tool; Disk Drill Pro, which helps you recover lost data; and iGlasses 3 for fine-tuning Webcam images.
Of particular interest is Udemy's iOS App Development Video Course, which teaches you everything you need to know about designing and launching iOS apps. It typically costs $499 all by itself.
Whether or not you buy the bundle, you can also get Breeze, an $8 window-management tool, for free.
I'm not a Mac user myself, so I can't judge the overall appeal of the bundle. That said, there's no question that it's a bargain for anyone interested in Parallels Desktop or iOS app development.
StackSocial will offer the iStack Mac Bundle for the next 13 days, so you've got time to decide if it's a worthwhile buy.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

My course is featured on stack social again.

Hi everybody,

I am pleased to announce that my course is yet again featured on stack social. It is part of their iStack mac bundle for the summer. You can go check it out here

It also feels so good to be on the front page of udemy as well.
This deal wont last forever so please go ahead and get this deal while it lasts.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 8 - The plot and the story part 1

As I have said before when you are thrust into this world you are instantly hooked. The first level on Eden Prime really sets the tone. But even before that you the first scene really sets the mood. It makes mention of the specters it shows the somewhat distrust between alien species and most importantly it shows a reaper. All of these plot points are put out in the fist 5 minutes of play. It also shows the main antagonist in the first game the Geth.

I should also point out that finding names for species and characters is actually harder than it looks. All of the names of every race and every character are very well thought out. I guess this is what happens if you hire a team of writers to think about this problem all day.

After the first mission you see everything you need to know about the plot. The mood is also set in this first mission. The time of day is dusk which is a metaphor for the entire series. It's not at night, it's not at sunrise, it's not at noon, the sun is setting. This is a brilliant nuance and it is so powerful.

In games these subtle additions really make a difference to the game. I love finding metaphors in games. All of the writers and designers put them in because they were probably trained in classical arts and I love when I spot them. Not to mention dusk gives a very erie sensation. It has to do with the low and slightly colored light.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 7 - Paragon versus Renegade part 2

The best part about these option choices is that you have control over the story. Do you want to make the noble choice or do you want to make bad-ass choice. To each his own and Mass Effect delivers this.

Let's talk about the conception and design of this mechanic. Have you ever wanted to play a game and you wanted to just kill a character right there? Or have you ever played a game and a character died and you wanted to save him? That is the main motivation behind this game mechanic.

It's a really neat idea and Bioware implemented it. It's really easy to think of this feature in your basement and say how cool it would be. It's a completely different thing to actually do it.

For all of you game designers I will tell you how the mechanics work. Basically what happens is when you make a choice in the game it adds points to the Paragon or Renegade variable. So if you make a Paragon choice and you receive a +5 for that choice, it just simply adds 5 to the Paragon variable. The code probably looks something like this.

int paragonNumber = 0

if helpHannar == true
     paragonNumber = paragonNumber + 5;

Of course that is a gross over simplification of the entire process but the basics of it are there. The cool part is unlocking menu choices. All that is happening here is that when the paragonNumber is above a certain value it will unlock a choice.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 6 - Paragon versus Renegade part 1

I love this game mechanic. You can either play as a complete bad-ass or you can play as well mannered savior. I like to think Im a good person so I play the paragon route. However, throughout the game you want to just be a jerk and play some renegade options. In Mass Effect 1 you don't really have to play one specifically like you do in Mass Effect 2 but I found that most of the options I wanted to do were actually the paragon options. 

What was really neat is that you actually got points for certain things you said to other characters. This gives the gamers an incentive to actually play one way or another. What giving points for actions really does is modify behavior. So I feel that the reason why points are awarded at all is to keep the hardcore gamers from complaining. I just want to see the story unfold in a way I want to but I know that other people might not see it that way. I think that a lot of gamers would actually complain about the "lack of experience" if no incentive was given. 

Either way, the more paragon and renegade points you have the more options it unlocks. Which is really cool because it makes you go and talk to everybody to see if you can get more points. It makes you more invested in the story and the characters. Mass Effect is a character driven game which is really awesome. This is really hard to do from a design standpoint. Character driven stories are generally harder to write than plot driven stories. Character development is hard to do in a static environment. What bioware does is actually make this in a dynamic environment which is even more impressive. 

I really want to emphasize the point that the Mass Effect series is indeed a character driven story and it is why most people actually play the game. It's really hard to do and they did an amazing job. Remember this point when we talk about the ending of Mass Effect 3. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 5 - The dialoge wheel.

One of the most iconic parts of Mass Effect is the dialogue choices. The first time it came up I was a little confused. Wait, what is this? I have a choice? I did have a choice and it was awesome. What was even more interesting is how commander Sheppard would actually say different dialogue when you selected each dialoge choice. This was awesome. I couldn't believe that this was the game. I actually had choices as to what the character says.

Little did I know that these choices affect the game in a big way and as the series progressed. It also affects the series in a way that I could never imagine. This was really cool and I couldn't believe it. I kinda just hopped in the game and started playing around with it. Personally, that is how I learn I love just playing around with things. So after just messing around with it. I restarted the game and went for the full paragon options. I found that playing the game one way or another was a good choice.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 4 - the classes

Im used to RPGs. But when I first looked at Mass Effect I didn't know it was going to be an RPG. So I looked at all of the classes and I was actually kind of overwhelmed with choice. I was just honestly expecting to just hop in the action.

In Mass Effect 1 the classes are not as well defined as the other ones. When I went back to play it. I found that there were some differences but there was nothing major about the classes. There was weapon specialization and biotic powers but for the most part you could use the same weapons and the game play wasn't as different.

Im glad they made the classes more distinct in the later games it really added a whole other experience to the combat in the games. Now since this is Mass Effect 1, the creators can only predict so much of what will actually make the game good. So having all of the different classes and the variety was actually pretty good for a first try. It's only if you look at the game through a lens of the other games that you really start to see the difference. It makes sense that they improved the game and when you go back you are playing an inferior version of the game. It's a lot better than saying "Mass Effect 1's character classes are better than Mass Effect 2's".

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 3 - Why I chose the standard face

The first time I played the game I made my own face, I thought it was so cool that I was able to do this. I played through the game and it was a lot of fun with my own character. But on my second play through I decided to use the standard face and there were several reasons why I did this.

The first reason is that I was watching a youtube video and a trailer for the game. They both had the standard face in them. In addition the box art had the standard face. I felt that it was a better idea to use the standard face for continuity reasons not to mention the face I used was really different from the standard face. I felt that when I watched the fan made videos and the official trailers for upcoming games I want to feel that it is my Sheppard apart of that action.

Now of course this is just an opinion but I really want to feel that the upcoming content is personal. I know that this is a little contradictory to the game but it is how I feel about the face and how I want to relate to it.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 2 - The look of the character

One of the coolest features that really enjoyed is the fact that I could change the look of commander Sheppard. I was actually blown away that this could be done at all. It's actually quite difficult to do this. Not only is it hard from a technical standpoint, but from  a quality standpoint as well. First of all you have to make sure that the user can actually make their own face within the game or they can make any face they want. Changing 3D elements on the fly is actually pretty hard to do and this game does it quite well.

For those of you who are game designers and want to know how to do this I will tell you how. Basically everything is rendered within the engine and the polygons are then manipulated according to the user's input. All of the dimensions that the user inputs as well as all of the features like skin color and eye color are then stored within a variable. These variables are saved and then when the character is being played and rendered within the engine the game the face is then rendered according to the variables.

It's a really cool feature especially when the face carries over 3 games. I had no idea that this was going to happen but when I imported my character's face into Mass Effect 2 I was thrilled that they did this. Again, all they did was just import the variables. Now when I say "just import" I know that some people are going to think that this can be done in somebody's basement on a Saturday afternoon. In reality it's probably at least 100 variables that have to be checked. The QA is the hardest part of the process.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Mass Effect 1 review part 1

When Mass Effect 1 came out, I honestly didn't play as many games as I do today. I was just finishing up college and I had a construction job to help pay for a move across the country. One of my friends on that job picked up the game because he needed something to do because his girlfriend had moved to back to their college town a couple weeks before he went.

Suffice to say I heard a lot of about this game and I picked it up later. I was actually quite amazed on how I instantly liked the game within 20 minutes of playing it. I think it was the first mission on Eden Prime that sucked me in. Everything was set up so perfectly for me to be enticed into the world. Everything was just so well done in the first level that I wanted to play it more.

What was even cooler is that I could pick which kind of class I wanted to be. Now I liked RPGs growing up and I especially liked action RPGs so playing a modern action RPG like Mass Effect was really awesome. I usually pick the class with the sniper rifle. I enjoy the mechanics of lining up a shot and firing.   After playing the first level I was hooked!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Mass effect series extended review

One of my favorite games is Mass Effect 2 and the Mass Effect franchise is my favorite franchise. I was eagerly awaiting Mass Effect 3 and thoroughly enjoyed the game. In the last few weeks I have played all 3 games from start to finish again just to see how the whole game works and to comment on it as a whole.

The game series is very well done and I enjoyed playing the games. I want to review all 3 games as if they were one game kinda like reviewing the Lord of the Rings trilogy as work in its entirety. Of course I will talk about the technical challenges, the great design moments in the game and everything else that comes to my mind. I will also adress the ending, my opinion on it and an analysis of the backlash. So over the next few days wait for a blog post on a specific part of the Mass Effect franchise.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Why Non Disclosure Acts are somewhat pointless

I often get people coming to me to help them make an app or game. They send me these NDAs for me to sign. I often feel like this is an unnecessary step. The reason is that the idea is rather pointless it is the execution that is way more important.

I have a lot of ideas and I never make anybody sign an NDA when I tell them my ideas. Chances are my ideas aren't really that original anyway. The problem with ideas is that there is little barrier of entry to actually posses them. You simply have to exist and have an opinion. Executing an idea has many barriers to success. These barriers include: funding, personelle, marketing and a myriad of other reasons.

I find that most people like the idea of just brainstorming and coming up with cool ideas. I love that too. But for whatever reasons in the last couple years, I don't sit down with people to brainstorm unless we have a plan to actually release. To me an idea is nothing without execution.

I have been apart of so many projects that have failed for one reason or another and when that number gets really high you start to feel a certain way about ideas. I know that it is somewhat whimsical to hold your ideas close. But really you shouldn't care that much about your ideas. You should care more about the execution and even then you should care even more about attracting people to your idea.

In the end the only thing that matters is that lots of people are using your product. All of the other factors are irrelevant.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

If you haven't heard of playMobi yet please go check it out

This is simply awesome. This illustrates one of the biggest advantages of developing with HTML 5. You can get modularity over different devices. If you haven't heard of what playMobi is please go check it out it is a really awesome new service.

For those of you that want the gist of it basically if you make a game with playMobi, you can deploy it to multiple locations such as facebook, iOS devices and android devices. That alone is cool but there is more to it. The best part is that a player can play one game on their mobile device and then have their stats update on their facebook game. Basically, you have one game across many devices! For me the best part is the in game purchases across multiple platforms. That is my favorite part of the service. 

Right now it is in beta and I cannot wait for it to be released so I can start making games on it. 

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Mass effect 3 review: The ending and why BioWare shot themselves in the foot

Spoiler alert! If you haven't played through mass effect 3 do NOT read this article.

Alright, there is a full review of mass effect 3 coming later but I have to review the ending first. It has caused quite a stir and I feel that most of the reaction is fairly gut oriented and visceral.

Sidebar: Im going teach you the easiest way to promote your game / project. The more people talk about your game the better, the more tweets, blogs etc. How do you do that? Make something controversial. If you get people upset you get people talking.

The design of the ending in Mass Effect 3 was out of sync with the rest of series. When people say that the last 10 minutes have ruined the series its because the ending did not flow with the rest of the game. It makes no sense and personally they shot the series in the foot. I dare say that this ending was "Lucassian"

Designers: This is why you make your game smooth and flowing, otherwise it will make the player feel unsatisfied.

Having people say "10 minutes ruined the entire series" is a big problem. Mass effect did something that few games can achieve. After several hours you feel invested in the characters and you feel attached to it. Since you feel so attached to everything that is why the ending is so bad. It doesn't give the players any justice to the time they put in. I personally played the Mass effect series for the story not for the action. The story is what really set this game apart from all of the other hack shooters out there. The game mechanics were great too but it was the story that drove me forward. To see it all unraveled has left me unfulfilled. Had they changed the ending they could have achieved the same fulfillment that films and music do. Here is the ending I experienced:

  • Find out the catalyst was something else
  • Choose the paragon ending option
  • Die
  • Have the mass effect relay system destroyed
  • Have the Normandy end up on some far planet
  • Find that they repopulated the plannet
I could go into detail on why these are horrible choices but I feel that it is pretty obvious. The choice that makes the least sense is how the Normandy is stranded on an off world planet. It's pretty random. Here is how I wanted the game to end. Not only is this a better ending it leaves the door open to make more money. When you have a franchise you don't just kill it for no reason. Here is my list
  • Get the catalyst working
  • Destroy the reapers
  • Sheppard lives
This would have been way more successful and it leaves the option open for mass effect 4! Here is what the plot should be for mass effect 4.
  • Find out that the reapers are building new ships in their home galaxy.
  • Travel to another galaxy where all of the previous species that were collected had fled to
    • This could be so awesome. We could meet protheans and other species
    • This could be another 3 series if they wanted it to be
    • This keeps the franchise open!
Im pretty sure there are employees at BioWare that are not happy with the ending. I invested 80 hours of my time into the game. What if you spent 5 years. Designers can't be happy with it unless this is a ploy for us to buy more content.

What if we have to buy a better ending? I certainly think that this might be the case. Either way, the ending is horrible and they shouldn't have done it.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Circa is getting a reboot

I am pleased to announce that one of MI's game is getting a reboot. Im pretty excited about it actually. You can read the entire article here.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Game Virtuosos

We have all heard of musicians who are virtuosos. Their playing is amazing and impressive. Check out the 5th Caprice by Paganini.

So why can't there be game virtuosos? What do I mean by that? I mean why can't somebody be so good at art, programming and every aspect of game development. Personally, it is just a mental barrier and metal barriers are easily broken if you are open minded enough. For whatever reason, people view the disciplines of game development to be very different from one another. In reality they can all be achieved by one person. The biggest obstacle isn't expertise it's time. It takes time to make any discipline great but when technology gets better the time it takes a task to do becomes less.

We have all heard of the 24 hour game jam. I would like to see 24 hour game jams with only one person at the helm

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Tech people forget about the creative when it comes to learning

I run a course on how to make games. About once a week somebody emails me and says something like this "Why can't I just go to Scirra's website and learn how to C2 for free". I have always had trouble with this kind of question. Sure you can go learn how to use it for free but most manuals tell you how to do things and not why.

The "why" is something you learn more in college. So I usually respond with something similar to that effect: "Sure you can learn the technicals of C2 but you won't learn the creative side. You can learn what to do but not why you should do it". Im sure the person on the other end thinks: "Im not paying for why my ideas are amazing and all I need to know is how to do it".

It seems there is a mismatch in ideals here. Most of the courses that revolve around technical subjects just focus on the technical and not the creative. After consuming tons of these tutorials, the tutorials seem to always be lacking in finess or general design knowledge. Luckily, I have a creative degree and I can fill in the gaps. 

But what if somebody doesn't have that knowledge? Where else are they going to learn the concepts of design. The creative part is arguably more important than the technical part. If anything it's the relationship between the two that makes a project shine. People should talk more about the creative side in tech. That's what I am doing with my courses. They aren't just simple "how to" courses they show you the ins and outs of an entire project.

Design is the number one item that makes an indie game bad. Sure the technical stuff is there but it doesn't look or feel good. I can have a platformer with jumping, projectiles, particle effects, animation, in game purchases and more. The game can work but it won't be 'good'. I think that the arrogance to think that your ideas are amazing needs to get shut down as soon as possible. Every time I pitch an idea it changes dramatically with a couple sentences when I test it. 

"Learn the ins and outs of the creative side of tech and you will be way farther ahead than the narrow minded competition"

Friday, 10 February 2012

Im featured on Scirra's website

I am pleased to announce that my testimonial on Scirra's website. I really do like C2 as an engine. Personally, it has the potential to be the best 2D game engine. It's already my favorite and I can't wait to see what will be coming out next.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Indie developers and starving artists of the past

Indie developers are like the starving artists of the past. There are lots of commonalities
  • The cards are stacked against you
  • You have to sacrifice a lot of time
  • Money can be tight
  • You may live in your mom's basement or attic
However, as sad as people think being a starving artist is/was in some ways it was better than being an indie game developer. As an artist you could charge a lot of money for a painting. Prices could go from thousands of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Of course it was hard to sell it but often times you had to sell just a few paintings a year to pay your bills. On top of selling your product you could teach classes and usually charge a lot of money. I remember that the top musicians in a big city could charge outrageous prices for their lessons. 

For whatever reason in the past people seemed to understand why these price points were high. Patrons would pay a lot of money for paintings for prestige and status and take music lessons for the same reason. 

Let's flash forward to the present and look at indie game developers. You get to sell your creation for a dollar on the app store and if you charge two dollars the community is up in arms saying the game is too expensive and not worth it. You cannot teach people at a premium the same way music lessons were taught in the past and finding 'patrons' or advertisers that will pay a lot of money is very hard.

In summary, art in the past was perceived as a high society wonder and indie developers today are perceived as "just people in somebody's basement". 

I always tell indie developers to charge more money for their product. I did this and noticed an increase of money in my bank account. Personally, there should be a marketing/PR campaign to slightly raise the price of indie games. If people know the struggles and what they are buying into (passionate indie developers) perhaps we will see more innovative and better indie games. 

I can tell you as an indie developer it has to be a full time gig or else the quality suffers. My games have improved tremendously ever since I left my day job.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Doing what you have to do to save money

As you know I run a course on how to make games. Making one of these courses is actually really time consuming. Rendering and uploading the video takes a weekend. When I released my first course I didn't go out on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. I spend the entire time rendering and uploading.

Sidebar: I don't know what it is about teaching but it seems like in every case the teaching is awesome but there is something that makes it not fun. It could be admin, marking, or rendering videos. 

So I could hire somebody to do it, but that would eat into my profits so I just do it myself. So I do what I have to do in order get the project out there. It doesn't matter what the project is, there is always something you have to do in order to release the project. A lot of people just pass this process off and it kills the project. Until you are extremely rich get ready to do some grunt work to release. After all, your project is worthless unless you release it.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Sometimes the frontman isn't the genius

I watched Anonymous last night and if you are not familiar with the story it is the story that suggests that Shakespeare didn't write most of the plays. If you are not familiar with the authorship debate on shakespeare I suggest going to wikipedia and reading it, it is a very good read.

For those of you who do not want to go to wikipedia I am going to sum up the debate. Basically, there is a person who allegedly wrote most of the plays. This person is Edward de Vere or the 17th Earl of Oxford. There are many parallels to de Vere's life in the plays as well as very sensitive information only people in the nobility could poses. On top of that it is suggested that somebody in the nobility would have the time and the education to actually write the masterpieces. On a personal note, I do think de Vere wrote some of the plays it makes sense for so many reasons. Im not writing this to debate the authorship debate I am writing this to talk about production

If you haven't seen this article on you should take a chance to read it.

To sum it up it says that most of the people that are in the frontman roll don't necessarily deserve all of the credit.

Often times I come with an idea and when I tell somebody and the next words out of their mouth make the idea way better. So the creator has the initial idea spark and the next people add the magic to the idea. I guess you should find out which kind of person you are the creator of the facilitator. These people are symbiotic and equally important.

Now, de Vere had other issues such as reputation and politics that he had to be concerned about. But when you think about it Shakespeare is the perfect frontman for the plays. He is a commoner and he can relate to them much better than nobility can. One of the biggest arguments against de Vere is that plays kept resurfacing after his death. Naturally, he could have written more plays and just gave them to Shakespeare to set to stage.

My favorite part of this story is that at the end of Shakespeare's life he became a grain merchant. Any creative person will tell you that if you have time or money you would be writing and producing. The last thing you would be doing is selling grain.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Why apple could directly compete with XBOX in the next console generation

I own an XBOX and I love it. I made an XBOX 360 game and I had fun making it. The XBOX 360 is a great console and with the news of a newer better console it has people like me very excited about the release. While I love the console as a developer there are a few things that I really dislike and if these don't change Apple could come in and sweep the console market away from Microsoft.

You are probably thinking that Apple would never produce a console to directly compete with the XBOX  or Sony and you are correct. Apple did produce a console in the 90s and it bombed. However, they could produce a product that interacts more with TVs and has the ability to play games on it. This could be devastating for Microsoft.

As a developer the costs of producing an XBOX game are simply way too high. There are 3 tiers in which you could develop for: XBOX 360, XBLA, XBLIG. XBOX 360 costs the most money(millions of dollars), XBLA is the next expensive(~750k), and XBLIG (~$100 and a whole lot of heart).

This setup is more the old style of producing games. The style where you had to ask for a whole bunch of money and then produce your game. However, times have changed. People now want to be able to make games for less than 100k. You think you could do this on XBLIG but you can't use good engines like Unreal or Unity. So essentially you have to code a game from scratch which takes way too long and the quality is nowhere near as good. This is my biggest gripe with developing for XBOX. Please let us use Unity or unreal to make games for XBOX 360.

Now where does Apple fit in. If I were to make a guess I would say that Apple might make something similar to Apple TV but have an app store on it. The app store would be tailored so you could play games on your TV and use your iPhone or iPad as a controller. If Apple does this they will seriously give a blow to the console market. On the app store you can create games with unity or unreal and a myriad of other great engines. So instantly there will be more games on the TV app store and then more people will play that versus the XBOX. As a developer I have to go to the places that have the best engine support. You can't compete by coding game from scratch in native code. It is just too much work.

News of the 720 has sparked the next console cycle. If Apple decides to enter it could be problematic for Sony and Microsoft.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

XBOX 720 to reject used games

It seems like XBOX might reject used games. This means once you buy a game you have to keep it and you can't get it for a cheaper price. We all know that used games cuts into developer's pockets and now there seems to be a solution. Microsoft better watch what they do for the XBOX 720. It could be this amazing system but I have a feeling Apple might be cooking up their competition.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

I wish apple would implement timed demos for their games

Apple is amazing, the app store is amazing but I really wish they would allow timed demos for their games. This is one thing that I really think would help sales. Giving people a free sample is a old and effective business practice. Simply you give the person a chance to try what you are offering and they can choose to buy it or not.

On the app store developer's usually release a lite version and then offer a chance to buy the real one. This does work but you have to release two apps and it's a littler more hassle than it is worth. It can be problematic to just re-release a demo app. You have to test it and it takes time. Personally, the way Microsoft runs XBLIG is the best. You get 8 minutes to see if you like and then you can buy it. You also submit only one package. I know that XBLA has demos but in the app store's case it might be easier if there was just one app.

Well the solution is already here and the answer is to design your game so that it is unplayable after a certain amount of time. So here a few tricks that you can do to sell a free game

1. After 8 minutes make the points and the game play less fun. For example you can make the speed of the player and the weapons less effective. If the player then wants those abilities back then they have to pay for the game.

2. Make the points and currency scarce. You can make your game less rewarding if you haven't bought the modifier. This way the player can actually get all of the upgrades in the store.

3. This is kind of a cheap move but you can make a necessary object only purchasable. This way the person has to buy your game if they want to move on.

There are many more ways to get around the time demo. These are just a few ways that you can do it.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Stencyl and Game Salad both have in game purchases

I know this post is a little late but both stencyl and game salad have in game purchases. This is simply amazing. Technically stencyl had them first so I am giving them the gold medal and game salad the silver medal. Either way this is a big change for non programming languages. 

Stencyl not only has in game purchases for their flash export but for iOS as well. The the tutorial on the subject is very nice and I am glad that they have done this. So if you are looking to make flash games and iOS games then head over to stencyl's website and start making your game. 

Game salad had their first pro user web seminar and it was awesome. I understand how hard it is to make something like these engines and last year game salad got a lot of flack from the community for not delivering. But it looks like they listened and they have made the outreach to their customers a priority and it shows. So I am going to renew my membership and if you are not a pro user then you should become one if you want to make games for iOS. It is a very well built engine. Later game salad is going to native code which should make the performance 10 times better according to game salad.

Either way I am very happy with both of these two engines implementing in game purchases. Personally, adding in game purchases is essential as adding a boolean function to your game. You have to have it to experiment and use it and the process has to be easy. 

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Families added to construct 2

Today families were added to construct 2. This will save lots of time with developing a game. Go and read the article it is a good read.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

How to publish your construct 2 game

Scirra has just put out a very comprehensive tutorial on how to publish your construct 2 game. Read the article and visit the links.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Udemy featured on Fox News

I am happy to announce that Udemy is featured on Fox News. I started teaching when I was 17 and I always tried to be on the cutting edge of education. Udemy is amazing. The cost is low and it's convenient. I am glad to have my course on Udemy and I can't wait to make more.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Construct 2 to end early adopter price: price will double

If you haven't bout Construct 2 yet you better hurry. The price will double on January 17th.

Why mountains are the best background objects for games

I grew up near mountains and when I saw mountains in games I just assumed that it was normal. But not everybody lives near mountains so why are they usually in games? Well one answer is that most of the NES games I played are set in Japan or possibly Los Angeles. But when you think about it mountains are actually really good background objects. Mountains soar high in the skyline, are usually detailed and are not everywhere on the planet. They make the perfect background object.