Game Prototype development quote needed

I’m looking for a prototype of a RTS game on iOS developed. Just a single level, basic graphics. 2D sprites on 3D isometric plane.

Happy for it to be done in Unity and/or another rapid development environment. Would be nice for combat (ranged and melee) and some pathfinding for units.

Can be SP, MP or 0P. For the prototype, I’m not fussy. It’s not necessary to have full functions.

Email would be lovely but you can also tweet me.

Burn rate of software startups?

I’d be interested in comments here as some conversation around the office was regarding how much it takes to start a product-based software startup. This is interesting to me because I’ve hired three software developers during my time in Mac-Sys and Infurious had at least one software developer in-house.

Our estimate was a development team of 3-4 people for a minimum of two years would mean probably half a million pounds when you add travel, marketing, overheads.

This assumption was based on 4 people (presumably 3 developers, 1 designer), earning mid-range to low-end salaries (£25,000 per annum) probably because they have some sort of equity stake.

This is assuming you’re not a service company – you’re not paying salaries by doing development for other people.

And then there’s the assumption that it’ll take you a year to build it and the second year you’re building product #2 and supporting product #1 with bug fixes and updates.

Public Funding: a pitfall?

I have the privilege of getting to meet a lot of very smart people in my job. One of those is Andrew Ferris of Small Town America and we had a brief conversation of the benefits and pitfalls of filling in forms for public funding.

His point of view:

Filling in forms is like every other activity for your business. If the time it takes is worth the money then you will do it.

Three years ago, there wasn’t much in the way of funding for technology startups. Now we have just started the second round of CIIF and the NISPO Fund is just entering its third year. We have new programmes starting, new funds everywhere.

And still people complain.

The issue has moved from “There is no funding” to “I’m much too clever to be filling in these forms“. And frankly, I have no time for that level of misplaced arrogance.

The Present of Technology in Education

Fraser Speirs wrote about the state of computing in schools.

We are already at a point where the ratio of professionals to computers is 1:2. A laptop and a smartphone are standard equipment in our society. With the advent of the tablet, we may be moving towards or beyond three computers per person.

Thinking back through my own history of computing, I asked myself a question: what was the last year in which I did not have exclusive use of at least one computer? The answer: 1995.

What is the current state of computing in education?

We have allowed a 16-year gap to develop between society and schools in terms of our children’s access to computers.

The hour is already late. We have allowed a 16-year gap to develop between society and schools in terms of our children’s access to computers. Can we properly prepare Beth and her cohort for the year 2029 with the same level of access to computers that I had 35 years before?

I want to tell them that the iPad is not the future of education, it’s the present of education. If we consign the iPad to the realms of the future, then we are implicitly saying that it’s not for right here, right now, today.

In another 14 years, if GSMA are right, society as a whole will have 7 connected devices each – will we be delivering relevant education in that world if each pupil only has a third of a computer to themselves?

Cedars is not a school of the future. I think we’re a decade late.

I’m the one in the yellow lifejacket…

Last weekend I went out sailing with Ballyholme Yacht Club for their RYA Adult Sailing Beginner Course.

Am I tacking or gybing...
It's not a race, so why are we trying to get ahead
Takes some effort to get balanced and comfortable on a Pico

Best. Fun. Ever.

I’m going again on the 24th-25th September for the Level 2 sailing which will cover more about: rigging, ropework, sailing techniques and manoeuvres, launching, recovery, capsizing and an introduction to racing.

Passively Multiplayer – Massively Single Player

From Gamasutra:

While Nintendo has historically hesitated to fully embrace online connectivity with its games and hardware, the company recently filed a patent for the concept of a “Massively Single-Playing Online Game.”

The patent says that in this type of game, users playing a single player title could influence the characters and world of another user playing the same single player title, reports Gamespot.

Based on the patent’s description, this concept hopes to capture the positive elements of online play without the need for human-to-human interaction: “Those who want to play games that are more dynamic, not-based on Al and not-pre-scripted like multiplayer games, however, don’t want to ‘deal’ with other people, appreciate the privacy it provides,” the patent says.

For some discussion of this, see this blog post and the comments. The idea of having connections between people playing the same game but not actively interacting is not a new one. (And as there’s heaps of discussion about it and a few examples of prior art, then it stands to reason that the USPTO will grant a frivolous patent.)

In truth, Nintendo are really describing the anonymity of friend codes and the ease of matching competitors in online games – where you can not only find it difficult to see who it is (through the use of Miis) but also have difficulty communicating because you have to use a set of pre-made scripted responses. And the result is genius because the last thing you want, when playing Mario Kart Wii, is some 14 year old screaming obscenities through a text chat interface while you’re trying to win an important race.

Because the best part of online gaming is, of course, everyone else. Yes, you have to put up with the noobs (people who have been playing for ages but who remain hopeless), the outraged (how dare you!) and worst of all, the TK (team killer, someone who things it’s fun to attack allies). Having one of these on your team can ruin a game. Having them on the opposing team can be hilarious but also ruin a game. The basic premise is: online people suck.

But we still want the experience of playing against humans. Where we know our win was because of luck and skill as opposed to exploiting an AI glitch which hilariously causes the boss monster to bounce like a Chinese Vampire rather than rampage through your team.

So in designing games which are ostensibly single-player – but which are online, it can be serendipitous to base some of the game events on the actions of other players. The simplest example of this? No, you can’t loot that treasure item because someone was here first. A simple idea, seldom executed.

For location-based alternate reality games, this is like a magic ingredient; being able to interact with other players in your story where a player can be in the same city, a different city or even a virtual city yet without having the hassle of finding players, timing them or even speaking to them.

Where does he get those wonderful toys….

Further to my earlier post about CIIF, I think it’s important to point out what an amazing opportunity this is for web and mobile companies in Northern Ireland. I remember the first time I saw a CSS-based parallax scrolling background (Example) and I marvelled. And then I saw the Safari tech demo pages (Example) and I marvelled again. I just loved the falling leaves demo and I absolutely love what Paul Hayes did here.

It cannot be underestimated what the creation of toys can bring in terms of eyeballs. For a talented web developer team, they might get 100,000 hits from Hacker News but it only takes one new client (resulting from the coverage) to pay for the investment in the tech demo. The Creative Industries Innovation Fund can help a smart development team make great amazing toys.

For instance: look at this Kickstarter for A Canvas and WebGL Programmer’s Text Editor by Robey Holderith. He’s seeking $4,096 in order to “pay” him to build this. CIIF is offering up to four times that amount of money to get people to build amazing stuff.

I also look at the recent release of Kindle Cloud Reader which, although not perfect, really shows how good a web app can be (especially on iOS if you pin it to your home screen and therefore lose most of the Safari borders).

CIIF is looking for 50 great projects. Some of them will be tour guides, some of them web apps, some of them promotional videos but I’d love to see some really REALLY inspiring HTML/CSS stuff. I want developers and designers to thin hard about breaking the laws of (web) physics with this stuff. Do something that makes your peers go “wow”. Make it kick ass with WebKit and use your network to test and refine it.

And if you’ve already made some wonderful toys then please send me the link for it. We need to showcase talent when we see it. I want to rave about my colleagues and countrymen and tell everyone about their talent because while there may be appsterdam, we were doing it first with XCake.

Now, I know this isn’t always going to be possible but I am reminded of when the XCake folk have been able to stand up in front of their peers and tell them all about their latest view controllers. It’s gobbledygook for the rest of us but it shows the talent of the teams involved.

What I’m saying is: Make something awesome. Make a wonderful toy. And tell everyone.

Contemporal, Cospatial and Connected

Tadhg Kelly writes:

Asynchronous gameplay is a popular phrase for describing various forms of online games that connect players but don’t require simultaneous play. Many eminent commentators have talked about the possibilities for this kind of gameplay, and how it might be the future for games.

In the debate on Gamasutra, I suggested that the casual definition of synchronous or asynchronous is actually describing a different property to synchrony. I labelled it temporany. The definition of temporany is:

If the play of the game contains the simultaneous presence of two or more players, it is contemporal. If not, it is atemporal.

Synchrony and temporany form a grid. There is contemporal synchrony, contemporal asynchrony, atemporal synchrony and atemporal asynchrony. More conventionally, although less accurately, you might call them: multi-play, parallel-play, turn-based-play and single-play. Quake, World of Warcraft, WeeWar, Portal 2.

There’s too much tongue play going on here.

Synchronous definition, occurring at the same time; coinciding in time; contemporaneous; simultaneous.

There’s too much similarity in the terms so discussion becomes meaningless. Also, games which are single-player only are somewhat removed from the scope. I would claim there is:

  • contemporal – at the same time, simultaneously. Like players who are in a FPS or strategy game. Even if playing a turn-based game.
  • cospatial – in the same space (real or virtual). I don’t think it matters which.
  • connected – linked through event protocols with a reciprocity and a reason for the connection.

Games can be contemporal, cospatial and connected all at the same time or they can have components of each. e.g

Left4Dead is contemporal (the 4-8 players are there at the same time), cospatial (are in the same virtual arena) an connected (the actions of players directly affect the actions of others). Games like Dogfighter and Galcon, though they have different gameplay, have the same qualities. You might also point at Monopoly or Connect4.

While this is fun for discussion, the impact on game design is to think of interpretations of games which are not commonly found by excluding components from this description.

How about a Location-based game which is cospatial and connected? I’d say this is FourSquare. The timing is irrelevant but the physical locations are important and the passing of events between players (I’m the Mayor!) is also important.

What about contemporal and connected? These are the components of leaderboard games. You’re passing events and playing at the same time but you’re not necessarily occupying the same place, playing the same game.

Cotemporal and cospatial but not connected? I would look at many MMO open world games. In the same (virtual) space and time but not necessarily interacting. But you can interact – making the gameplay connected as well. The point being you don’t have to.

This isn’t meant to be canonical – just a way of thinking about games.

Translink: just close the doors and turn off the lights

From the BBC:

Fewer bus services and reducing the number of full-time drivers are among cost cutting measures being introduced by Translink, it has emerged.

Although frequency is being reduced, Translink said no routes will be cancelled.

So, in essence, rather than three buses coming all at once, there will just be two…


I have absolutely had it with Translink. For the last two+ years, I have attempted to talk to them, to reason with them regarding opening up their data. I firmly believed that if they opened their data and made it easier to get access to their timetables and routes then more people would take buses and trains.

We have worked through DETI, DRD and other organisations. We have attempted to deal with their arcane IT infrastructure and their obfuscatory marketing department. We have spoken to their management, to their mid-level managers. We have even been vaguely complimentary about their awful web site.

But at every turn, Translink have blocked our access to the data. They gave an instance of the data to OpenDataNI, a project within the DFP (which has since fallen by the wayside with the cuts) and have flatly refused to give the local community access to use the (now outdated) timetable and route data for anything other than developer demos. The local developer and designer community invested hundreds of man hours of work into decoding the archaic file formats, into developing an API and a database, in writing code to make the data accessible and developing designs for user interfaces for the web and mobile. All of that effort has been wasted, all of that effort has been blocked.

Translink, an active go-co (government-owned corporation) have systematically blocked local industry from using the innovation they were giving freely to create opportunity and enterprise.

So, in light of todays news, I am sickened. I give up.

CIIF: My views.

The Creative Industries Innovation Fund (CIIF) is a grant-based fund operated by the Arts Council in Northern Ireland and supported by the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure. There will be four calls – but the dates below are approximations.

  1. Digital Only
    – closing dates 25th Auguest & 29th September 2011,
    – administrated between 1st Nov 2011 – 31st March 2012
  2. All Creative Sector
    – planned closing date December 2011,
    – administrated between 1st April 2012 – 31st March 2013
  3. All Creative Sector
    – planned closing date December 2012,
    – administrated between 1st April 2013 – 31st March 2014
  4. All Creative Sector
    – planned closing date December 2013,
    – administrated between 1st April 2014 – 31st March 2015

CIIF provides local businesses with project seed funding. The grant is 100% funded for amounts less than £10,000 and for amounts larger than that (in calls 2, 3 and 4), it will be based on a match funding basis. The concept is to allow creative people to create – to allow folk who are currently busy with service based work to create original and unique intellectual property.

What are you looking for?
I don’t speak for the Arts Council.

I’m looking for smart ideas, creativity shaped into a way to make money. I want to see ideas which will make £4 for every £1 of grant money invested. I’m especially looking for collaborations: I want to see a 3D artist with a heap of assets apply for the cash to turn some of those assets into a game. I want to see a writer or musician use this to turn their creations into digital experiences. The amounts of money are small but this is deliberate as it’s to seed the start of something – something that may turn into a proper business at some point.

But it’s not up to me – every decision will be put to a panel of judges whose integrity would be beyond question. They’ll argue for or against projects without prejudice.

What I’m looking for are:

  • Founder-Builders with spirit who need a break
  • Ideas that can change the world.
  • Partners for CIIF projects (the yin to the yang)
  • Projects that build upon our local assets – tourism, culture, arts – even the Titanic
  • Projects that highlight talent in the individual (as opposed to the collective)
  • Projects that are executed 100% within the borders of Northern Ireland (i.e. where the money is spent)

but most importantly

  • Projects that can be delivered within the budgets and timescales. No excuses.

What I’m not looking for:

  • Applications for web sites (web apps are another thing entirely). You should be doing that anyway.
  • Any sort of hardware. You don’t need a new laptop or camera.
  • Ways to undercut your local competition. It’s not about doing it cheaper.
  • Any projects where the primary beneficiaries will be the applicants
  • Any projects where the grant money goes outside of Northern Ireland.
  • Any sort of ‘maintenance’ just to keep the doors open. If it doesn’t make money, it’s a hobby.