Don’t Panic

Hello there! Welcome back.

Today marks a significant milestone for me as I have just renewed my Xamarin and Apple subscriptions for another year. When I started this journey I knew it would take time to turn this into a business yet somehow I still thought I might make it within a year. This has not happened and as a result I can’t help but think that this is both expected and unexpected. It’s an indifferent feeling that I can’t quite explain as well as I would like.

The Year At a Glance

The year hasn’t been fruitless however, as I’ve learnt a lot about the process and the people. I’ve made a significant change in my life in that I shelved atStumps, a project I had been working for years and years but never quite finished. I’ve also reached out to the greater community and became involved in MakeGamesSA, a South African game development community. I seem to have also inspired two colleagues, who have also released a game each, Save a Fire Fly and AoM.

AOM

AoM

Save a Firefly

Save a FireFly

I also delved into Twitter. Now I’m not really the social media kind of guy so getting up and running wasn’t a natural thing for me.

Most importantly though, I’ve learnt some new respect for time. I’ve learnt that I really haven’t got as much time as I thought and that I need to choose carefully the things that I do with my time.

Dont Panic, It’s The Mensa Experience

The real “achievement” came totally unexpected and it took other people congratulating me before I realized it. Last week Thursday I was invited to attend a Mensa meeting with my cousin to hear a talk by Hanli Geyser about game development.

Mensa

Mensa is the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world. It is a non-profit organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test

So I was excited to hear someone who clearly knows more about stuff than I do talk about game development. At midday, I received a call informing me that the speaker had cancelled at the last minute and they wanted me to replace her. In an instant my stomach turned, my heart skipped a few beats and my emotions were shouting “DONT DO IT“. “Just say no“. I was the opposite of Nike.

It took a moment for me to stop, think and breathe. I had a “DONT PANIC” moment that would have made Douglas Adams proud. I saw it written in bold red letters on a black background. Like this:

dont panic

Don’t Panic

I reminded myself that I’m on this journey to make it a success and that I won’t ever know where the road leads unless I take it. I said yes. It was one of those “yes” then fall down to the ground moaning “what did you think saying yes” moments.

I had very little time to prepare. Less than an hour in fact, which included feeding the dogs, eating something, taking a shower and oh yeah, preparing a speech! I was rushed, so I pulled out my block of sticky’s and scribbled notes on the first one, building up the story from who I am to why I chose games and then finally ending up with some of my journey. In total I had 30 sticky’s, each with just a few hints at topics on them.

At the venue, I started my evening with a Heineken. You know, because I could. I was relaxed and I had fun with it. This was “winging it” at the next level. I only made it to the 9th sticky before my time ran out and question time began. The audience was captivated and thoroughly enjoyed the topic and I ended up saying a whole lot more about a whole lot more than I thought I would. In the questions that followed I seemed to have covered most of the other sticky’s so I supposed I still ended up using most of them. It was a wonderful experience and I am ever grateful for Mensa for inviting me in the first place.

Since then, the fact that I spoke at Mensa seems to have spread like wild fire. I have people congratulating me at work, on Facebook, on Twitter and most certainly in person. I didn’t quite realize that people view it as an exclusive club at that level. Whether that is warranted or not is not for me to say, I can merely observe the reactions of those around me and be proud that I did it…

When I Come Around

Why is it so quiet in here?

Welcome back, I’d forgive you for thinking I’ve been away but looks can be deceiving. Ok, stop staring at me-you’re right; I’ve been away but it’s not what you think. I hit a roadblock, a big one.

If you build it, he will own it

I’ve not hidden the fact that I make games or that I intend to make games in my part time from my employer and they have never had a problem with it. The problem is, whatever I do belongs to them! It turns out that while you’re under the employ of someone, everything you do belongs to them if it relates in any way to what they employ you for (unless you have some sort of moonlighting clause in your contract of employment).

I’ve always thought that so long as there isn’t a conflict of interest and you do it in your own time it would be yours. Sadly this is not true. It gets worse, they own the intellectual property rights and if you job hop, there can even be legal disputes between your old and new employers! This can just get nasty…

As a result I had to make an emergency stop, dead in my tracks. I needed written permission from my employer. The verbal agreement I had with them apparently isn’t good enough.

This took time, lots of time, but that’s behind me now and the less I say about it the better.

What did we miss?

In the few months that it took to sort out, Apple has opened the games category in the South African App store!! That has to be the single biggest iOS event in South Africa since the launch of iOS! I joined a local indie development group, MakeGamesSA and I realized that I am not as unique and alone in this as I thought. There’s a bunch of really fun people doing exactly what I’m doing and the are guys out there making a living off it! This is possible! Can you see me doing the dance of good omens? Maybe it’s good that you can’t as it’s pretty embarrassing actually.

I took Zombie Apocalypse to them and the reviews were mixed but good. Some people played it for quite some time which was really positive!! In the end I was fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of some very hard, but constructive feedback. I pulled my launch, there was more work needed. I’m not trying to be perfect, but sometimes it takes someone else to tell you what you are thinking in any case before you believe it.

The hard truth

I also took the few months I couldn’t work on Zombie Apocalypse to reflect on what I had done. I spent a lot of time playing it and messing around with new ideas. I spent hours and hours looking at my code and apart from wondering if I would be able to continue I realized that I was much too focused before. Let me explain before you throw back your shoulders and go pfft. I was too close to my code, it’s as simple as that.

The best comparison I have is that it’s like a child drawing, seeing this marvelous world unfolding on the piece of paper and the parent, well the parent can only see two parallel grey lines . So Zombie Apocalypse works and it’s not bad but it’s not a game yet. It’s an engine, there are some graphics and some things to do but the fun aspect needed a lot more attention. I needed more “production” graphics. I needed more transition effects and I need to test on a Retina iPad to be sure my graphics aren’t too small.

The future is now!

That’s all folks” I covered a lot of ground and a lot of events in a very short post, please excuse me for that, I want to look forward and not spend my time looking back.

Watch this space, it’s happening!