Game design, Game Reviews

FourmsToday it’s time to review Fourms (not to be confused with Forums), a simple puzzle game from Genio Games.

Available on Google PlayAvailable on iTunesIt is designed for iPhone and Android-powered devices, and with its simple premise, good visuals and various difficulty stages, this one will stick around on your mobile device for quite some time.

The first thing I noticed when I began the game was the colour scheme: mild, soothing colours of the background are split in half by the bright, showy colour of the shape in the middle. This animated welcome screen offers six buttons: the No Ads button at the very top of the screen, the Play button in the centre (which is the bright, showy object), and four other buttons at the bottom (Info, Favourite, Music, and Highscore), resembling the Android OS.

Info will show credits, Favourite will send you away to rate the game (rate it five stars!), Music is a simple on/off toggle, and Highscore prompts the Leaderboards table.

The shape wars

Remember when you were in kindergarten and the teacher gave you different shapes, and a box with holes in them, where you had to match the shapes with the fitting holes? Remember how you never seemed to get it right, no matter how hard you tried?

Well, it’s payback time, because that’s exactly what you will be doing in Fourms. Under a lot more pressure, though.

jeff

Everybody meet Jeff. Jeff, meet everybody.

The game is a vertical scroller that requires fast thinking and even faster reflexes. You are presented with one of four different shapes: the cube, the sphere, the pyramid and a shape I have no clue what to name. We will call that one Jeff just because.

This shape stays fixed in the middle of the screen, while the rest of the stage moves upwards. Every second or so, a tile will appear, covering the entire screen. It has a hole in the middle with one of the four shapes I described earlier. If your shape doesn’t match the hole, you’re busted.

You can shuffle between the four shapes by tapping the left or right hand side of your phone. Tapping once brings up the next shape. The goal of the game is to make sure your shape always matches the hole in the tile.

The game is simple enough, but still entertaining to keep your attention for longer than what’s usual nowadays. For me, that makes the game a success. But where the real challenge lies is in the harder versions of the game.

Fourms has a total of three different modes: Classic, Master and Legend. Classic is the basic mode and it’s fairly simple. The previous (left side button) and the next (right side button) shapes are presented under the buttons, so you know where to press to get the required shape.

Colour-coding madness

The shapes are also presented in different colours, so for example the cube is red, while the sphere is green. The approaching tiles are also colour-coded in the same way, so when playing the Classic mode, all you need to do is match the colours and your shape is through.

However, going for the Master and the Legend modes is where the real challenge lies. Master mode shuffles the shapes and colours, meaning you can no longer rely on colour to pass the tile. But you still have the previous and next buttons with the appropriate shapes. In Legend mode, you lose even that. You only have a split second to see which shape you need, and tap a couple of times until you find it. This mode is truly the work of an evil mastermind.

The game itself is free to play and the developers earn their pay through in-game advertising. The game offers two ad placements, one in the bottom of the screen which is always present, and the other one takes over the entire screen, but only after you’ve busted. The ads are well placed and I don’t find them annoying as ads usually can be.

The game also offers the option to remove all ads for the price of $0.99, which is a fair bargain in my opinion, especially if you enjoyed the game long enough to keep it on your phone.

The leaderboard system pits you against other players worldwide, as well as your friends, to see who can last the longest in this simple, but nerve-wrecking game.

Well-built

In conclusion, I think the game is a complete, solid product. It’s simple, well-built for mobile devices, with good colour contrast, nice music and an entertaining game design.

It’s one of those ideal games while you’re waiting for the bus or in a line to pay your bills.

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Tips and Advice

For years now I’ve been in a position where I could employ people. At my current job (Soomla), as well as a few previous ones, I have had the honour (and the pleasure) of interviewing and employing people – and even though that means taking the time I’d usually spend coding, I have found great joy in talking to other engineers.interview featured image

Based on this first-hand experience I understand that many software engineers have close to zero clue how to write a CV and don’t even fully understand the purpose of one in the first place.

This obviously reflects my personal experience from the Israeli tech scene – your experience elsewhere in the world (Silicon Valley or London, for example) might differ completely.

I don’t know why this is so, but I’m guessing you either haven’t been taught how to write a CV, or you have poor soft skills and are generally incompetent in writing a stunning CV. You may have never seen other CVs, so it’s hard for you to distinguish a lousy one from a great one, or you can make a good CV, but you’re simply not good enough to make your CV stand out from the masses.

Worst case scenario (and tragically – a very frequent one) – you have no clue why you need a CV in the first place.

Why you need a CV

The whole point of the CV is for you to get invited for an interview – that’s it. If your CV lands you a phone call or an interview invitation, you did well. If you send a dozen of applications and don’t get a single call back, you need to up your CV game.

Getting invited for an interview is your chance to shine. First impressions don’t get second chances, and your CV is your first impression. That is something you must always keep in mind when writing your resume. Also, keep in mind that all of that must be done with words only.

After reading dozens of resumes, I find it odd how people simply can’t get it right. That’s why I decided to lay down a couple of tips on what to do and what to avoid when writing a CV.

What to do:

Cover letter / Letter of intent

You can either start your resume with a cover letter, or attach it as a separate document. In it you should write why you decided to apply to that particular company, and show the employer what kind of position you’re looking for. It’s important because it shows character, and as you will see below – basically everything revolves around character.

Describe your previous jobs in great detail and specifics

The only way for the reader of your CV to understand what experienced you truly have is if you are specific in your description. Don’t fear you’ll bore your potential employer by going into details on what you did before. Being too vague about it is what bores people, as it is hard for them to understand what you did and they can’t relate to it. Ditch the diplomatic language and hit the topic straight on the head.  Note that when I say details I don’t mean going into extreme length, but rather focusing on exactly what you did on the job.

"You listed 'honesty' as a skill in your resume. I don't think that's a skill. - "I don't care what you think".

“You listed ‘honesty’ as a skill in your resume. I don’t think that’s a skill. – “I don’t care what you think”.

For example: Developed a large scale project as part of a client-server platform while incorporating high load database interaction.  Participated in the lifecycle of the product from inception to launch. This is disastrous as it tells the employer nothing about you, the project you worked on and the company you worked for. Remember: Character.

Instead, go for something like this: Worked on the company’s advertising portal as a web application engineer in a team of 4.  Built several web-apps from scratch using a Ruby-on-Rails + MySQL + Redis + EC2 stack, while scaling one of them to 50MM users.

Give examples

Whatever you do, people like to see you do it. If you’re a coder, that makes your job that much easier, as you can show people your code in action. Whatever you did, programmed a website or an app – show it. Make sure you add your Github account, as well.

Don’t hide your social media

Any decent employer will Google you anyway, so you should make sure they have something to look at when they’re there. Beef up your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn profiles. Keep them updated, nice and clean.

Hobbies

Remember: Character. Nobody likes working with a bookworm who can’t take a joke or crack one in the office. You’re not drones and you’re not slaves. If you don’t show character you’re doomed, and what better way to show character than to present the things you do in your free time. That can be anything from playing an instrument to hiking, to whatever, it really doesn’t matter – as long as you do something besides work.

Compare CVs

Search for “software engineer resumes” and casually see what other people’s CVs look like. Also, have a friend look at your CV and give you some helpful feedback. If you have a CEO among friends, that’s even better.

CV Graphic Design

It’s very easy nowadays to get your CV designed properly.  All you need to do is give your CV to a freelance designer to give it some touch.  This can be done for as cheap as 5 dollars with the help of online marketplaces like Fiverr.  Consider throwing in a small thumbnail image of yourself.  Remember, you’re not designing a museum, just giving your CV a touch of color and novelty with a professional hand’s help.  Totally worth it.

What not to do:

TL;DR

War and Peace. Have you read it? Most likely not, it’s 1,456 pages long. Nobody likes a wall of text. Keep your CV within a single page. If the CV needs adjusting for a specific position, don’t be afraid to craft one especially for that application. Keep only the relevant info and ditch the rest.

Seven years in Tibet

Nobody cares what you did in primary school, or how you volunteered fifteen years ago in a local supermarket. You should only list activities that are directly linked to the position you’re applying for and in reversed chronological order. I want to know what you did three months ago, not ten years ago.

Keep it clean

Seeing Word Art makes me want to vomit. Seriously, if you’re applying makeup to your CV, you’re doing everything wrong. Keep it clean, minimalistic and concise. Don’t use tables, and for the love of God, don’t use a bordered table with rows per each work place.

Sometimes, employers go through tons of CVs every day, it gets tiring very fast. Before they even know it, they’re not reading CVs, they’re simply scanning through them. Put those eyes at comfort. The employer isn’t always aware of this, but I can definitely testify that when I get a nicely laid out CV, I give that candidate some extra points without even noticing.

Avoid mentioning general skills

Like I said earlier, keep it short and sweet. Use only relevant information. Show character. Writing that you know JSON and XML will only ring the bull*** alarm in my head. Everyone works with these formats today, and there’s absolutely nothing special about knowing them. It’s like saying you know how to use Gmail.

And that’s basically it. From what I’ve learned, people who have a good CV usually do well in interviews too. Also, make sure you stick to what you wrote in your CV. If you claim to know Java, you better know Java, otherwise you’ll be looking at the door fast.

Employers won’t ask you random questions – their questions will revolve around what you wrote in your resume and what they found on your online accounts.

And don’t forget – show character!

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Game design, Game Reviews

iconToday I will be reviewing Woodball, a competitive pseudo-sports game for Android devices designed by Simge Simulation.

In short, Woodball is a well built, high quality game that captures the essence of a mobiAvailable on Google Playle multiplayer game. With both local multiplayer and ranked online play, it gives a high replay value; all while evoking a heavy case of nostalgia with its high-school theme.

In the game, the player is presented with a wooden football field (hence the name) on which nails have been strategically placed to get in the way.

Instead of a ball, the player uses a coin (which is why it is reminiscent of high school) and the goal is obviously to place the coin behind the nails and into the net.

wood1

Woodball might remind you of your high school days and that is always a plus.

Various modes to keep you busy

At the start of the game, the player chooses if he will play a single-player game versus the AI, a local multiplayer against a living opponent, or an online multiplayer match.

He then chooses the score which determines the winner, and he’s set and ready to play.

There are two ways to play the game, you can either pull and release the coin to send it flying, or you can flick it forward. Both types of play are well built and the real-life physics are authentic.

The woodball field is fairly large, with a total of 42 nails hammered around, which is why the camera can be rotated to get a better view of the next shot.

There are also two ways to play the local multiplayer, either with both players looking at the screen from the same side, or both players have their own side. Each way works nicely and simply depends on your playstyle.

When it comes to online multiplayer, the game offers two ways – a classic multiplayer game or a World Cup competition. The classic multiplayer matches you up with other people all around the world in a single game of Woodball.

The World Cup is a yet unreleased mode, but I’m guessing it will be of similar format to the football world cup, pitting people from all around the world together, first in a group style, and then in a knock out phase, until only one player remains. However, in order to compete in the World cup, there are no qualifying rounds per se – you have to pay 5,000 coins to get in.

The virtual currency

wood2

Scoring is not as easy as it looks on this picture.

There are a number of ways players can earn coins in the game. Winning awards gives the player five coins, while watching video ads gives 10 coins. I really like the video ad idea, as it works for everyone – players will want to watch the ads as it gives them the much needed in-game currency to progress; advertisers will want to be there because in such an environment they are not considered annoying and people will actually pay attention to what they’re watching and lastly – the game developers, who will earn money for their troubles.

A win-win-win situation.

The game also spawns silver and gold coins which the player can earn if he’s skilled enough to pick them up with his own coin during the game. The gold one is worth three coins, while the silver one is worth one coin.

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that 5,000 coins is just too much to enter a competition you can be eliminated from in four to six games. Imagine, if you can watch a video ad before every game, win every single one and collect a couple of coins, you would still need 250 games just to enter the competition. And of course, you won’t be able to win 250 games in a row. You better make those rewards good!

Still, looking at the game as a whole, I think it’s an amazing product. Even though the emphasis is on the gameplay, it has solid 3D graphics. The game offers both single and multi-player modes, with both offering different playstyles and variants. The virtual economy system is solid, and offers the player an extra motive to play, collect and enter a big competition.

All of that comes on a wooden board which will bring back those high school memories (at least for the older bunch of us) when we played woodball on an old school desk between classes.

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Startup Tips, Tips and Advice

The first time you get on a marketing call with any prospect, competitor or potential business partner might be somewhat intimidating for some people.  I recently hBlog-Post-Meme-First-Marketing-Callad a first such call and found that it required certain preparations to increase my confidence.  I’m not referring to sales calls or to cold-calling, but to a pre-scheduled call with another party that you want to learn about.  If it’s your first call on the job, or your first encounter with a new party, here are some tips that will help you steer your way through the call successfully:

Plan Your Goals

Or, in other words, start from the end.  What do you want to accomplish from this call?  What, in your opinion, would be deemed a successful call, and what would be considered a mediocre result?  What assessments or learnings would you like to come out of the call with?  What key numbers or statistics would you like to know from the other side?  If you ask yourself these questions beforehand, you’ll have a better idea of what you want to talk about and where to lead the discussion.

Set a Discussion Framework

Usually when you get on a call with another marketing/biz-dev person and you’re past the hellos and intros, you want to take the lead and layout in several points the main things you’d like to discuss.  Imagine this as a short table of contents – just like you’d expect to have a TOC for long articles in Wikipedia.  This sets a framework for both sides, a mini agreement if you may, of the call’s agenda.  It clears the smoke and helps the other side get a clear idea of what to expect from the call, and it also puts the reigns in your hands for initiating the framework.  Another valuable effect of setting the discussion framework is that it nonverbally emphasizes that this call has a time boundary.  The person you’re talking to is just as busy as you, and neither of you want to get caught in an endless conversation.  Here’s a rather simple example –

“What I’d like us to do today is to discuss your company’s product – X.  I suggest you start by presenting yourself and <your company>, I’ll follow and tell about <our company>.  Then we can discuss what plans you guys have for X during 2015, and we can talk about some mutual opportunities there.  I’ll elaborate about our new initiative Y and how it’s relevant for your company, and we can wrap up by talking about some ideas for reciprocal content publishing.”

Present Yourself and Your Company

Since we’re in a first-time contact with the other party, it’s only curtious and fair to the other party’s satisfaction that you present yourself and your company.  This isn’t exactly an elevator pitch, you do have more than 30 seconds, but don’t make it too long.  I’ve learned that people (including myself) have an easier time digesting numbers and names rather than understanding exactly what your product does and what technologies you use.  So assuming that your company and the other party are operating in the same industry and share the same “lingua franca,” there’s no real need in to dive into details.  Here are some bullets I usually use for presenting:

  • SOOMLA was founded in 2012.
  • We’re an open source company – all of our code is freely available on Github.
  • We have 500 multi-game studios and more than 4000 live games using our open source framework.
  • We’ve raised $1.4M till date and are raising another round these days.
  • Some notable publishers using our technology are Disney, Sega, Gumi, Chillingo and Kabam.
  • We’re a team of 7 strong and growing.

Let The Other Side Talk

This is actually basics of human psychology more than it is marketing.  People like to talk.  People especially like to talk about themselves and their work.  You should be generous and give the other person significant time to talk about themselves in order to build trust and to let them feel comfortable in the discussion.  As the conversation develops, you can support this by asking more “door-opening” questions to new subjects the other side is eager to talk about.  An interesting thing that happens many times is that the person you’re talking to will disclose more information than what you thought would be accessible to. This is great because new learnings are being achieved serendipitously.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Consider that one of your goals from a marketing oriented call is information discovery.  If you’ve planned the call’s goals, then you should know which key learnings you’d like to uncover, and this should drive what questions you ask and how.  When you pose open ended questions, you’re empowering the other side to choose how they want to answer your question.  What this technique does is usually gets the person you’re talking with to answer with much more detailed responses than asked, which can open new “threads” to the conversation.  An open question also avoids falling into the selection bias trap.  What I mean is that you don’t offer the other side both the question and the possible answers.  What you really want to learn about is the answers you didn’t even think of.  An example of an open-ended question could be:

“So tell me, what are your goals for project X in 2015?”

Offer Shared Initiatives

Eventually, you’d like to take action with the other party in a way that creates value for both sides.  Many of these initiatives can be from content marketing.  Some things that come to mind are guest blog posts, shared articles and hosted webinars that show how to use both companies’ products together.

Keep Things Cool

People will remember you for the best if you were nice to them.  Make sure to be polite and friendly during the call.  Consider preparing some icebreakers before the call as well.  Check up on the person you’re calling in social media, learn where he or she is from and what they like to do.  It’s always useful to be able to spark up some small talk about any common interests when you first get on the call.  Having backpacked in a lot of countries, I personally find that praising peoples’ hometown or country and sharing my experience there a nice icebreaker.

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Announcement, Open Source

gamegear-logo-bigFor the past few months, I’ve found myself looking up companies from the mobile gaming space quite frequently. We also ask each new team member to study the competitive landscape and the leading companies of the mobile gaming industry. While this is a good exercise, it can be quite difficult to keep track of all the different vendors and providers that have SDKs for mobile game developers. That’s when we realized that there’s no simple directory that lists all of these companies, and if we’re continuously learning about the market, heck, why not quickly build something and put it up for the rest of the mobile game-dev community to enjoy as well.

Today I’m happy to announce that we’ve launched Gamegear.io: the first ever mobile SDK directory for mobile game developers. And, keeping with our core values, it is a collaborative website that is hosted on Github.  This means that anyone can contribute new or updated content to the website.  We encourage you all to have a look and help us keep Gamegear.io live and kicking.  Check out the repo and feel free to star or fork it.

We’d also appreciate your feedback on what other features you’d like to see added to Gamegear:

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Developer interviews

May Rockstar – Tom Jenkins

May is already upon us and that means we’re spotlighting a community member thSoomla_TJenkins_shadowat has shown commitment to helping the Soomla community. This month is Tom Jenkins, owner of After Insanity Studios. If you’re on the Answers forum you’ve probably seen him around and he’s actually probably helped you at some point. Tom’s an indie developer from Virginia making his dreams come true of developing games. We asked Tom a few questions about his path in the gaming world and here’s what he had to say:

What is your favorite game and why?

I grew up when computer gaming was in its infancy. So my first gaming love was Avalon Hill board games like Squad Leader and role playing games like D&D. Naturally, with computer gaming I gravitated toward strategic simulations. Today that genre has Creative Assembly’s Total War series, Paradox’s Crusader Kings 2, and Europa Universalis. But I don’t really have a favorite, it depends on what I’m feeling – one day I might want to play XCom and another X3 Albion Prelude.

What motivates you to participate in the SOOMLA forums? And in the Open Source community in general?

In my last game, I almost immediately saw discrepancies between the App Store reports on sales and my analytics on sales.  I took a chance in that game and didn’t set up purchase verification, but that was a mistake, so I knew thTJenkins_Store_shadowat my next game would need receipt verification. I also decided that my next game would need a virtual economy. I’ve used other libraries for wrapping the various App Stores in Unity, so I rated them on verification and virtual economy. My previous libraries didn’t measure up to what Soomla provided.

Soomla provides a verification server, so I don’t have to setup and monitor yet another server. They also provide a good virtual currency model and I therefore, don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Lastly, Soomla is open source, so if I want something that the framework doesn’t provide, I can add it myself. In fact, within a few days of using Soomla I realized I needed a feature for checking afDodgin Dragons_shadowfordability, so I added it and pushed it up to the master repository. Since then I’ve added some things and fixed others. With a structured open source project you lower your risk.

It’s that last point, lowering risk, that has always drawn me to open source projects. I’ve been involved with various open source projects since the 1990s, some good and some bad. In my opinion, the most successful projects are those that lower the risk of usage for the target audience.

How are you incorporating SOOMLA into your game?

In my latest game, Dodging Dragons, I’m using Store to model the virtual economy, Profile to handle social networking on Facebook and Twitter, and Soomla Vungle, which handles providing rewards for players that watch video ads. I also have rewards for AdColony videos even though there isn’t a module. It was relatively easy to add reward handling to my AdColony implementation; perhaps I’ll get a chance to turn it into an actual module one day.TJenkins_Ad_shadow

What do you hope will occur in the industry in the next three to five years?

I hope the mobile gaming market continues to get bigger and for the mobile gaming platforms to improve. The type of gaming experience you can provide someone changes when your draw calls, verts, and tris thresholds are raised. Just a few years back, if you were over 25 draw calls and some thousands of tris you were pushing the platform. Now, you can triple that without blinking.

I’m also looking forward to the growth of the virtual reality market. But that might be because as a kid I wanted to drive a TRON cycle.

In your opinion, what is the biggest issue the gaming industry is facing? How can it be minimized or resolved?

There are a number of interrelated things that do cause me some sleepless nights. It’s an age old issue that is going to be exacerbated by what has been happening with the game engine companies this year. There is such a low barrier to entry for developing a game; I mean it’s really low as the two largest and popular engines (Unity3d and Unreal) are now free. As we all know, there are hundreds of thousands of games produced every year. With an even lower cost of entry we may see an even larger explosion of games – arguably with not all of them being “ready for prime time.”

Also, the trend of game distribution is being concentrated into a handful of distribution places and there is a growing requirement of not just creating a good game, but also getting in front of consumers. It’s very easy to be swallowed up by the noise; your success now is not determined by how good your game is, but by how many eyes see it before it’s buried. As the cost of acquiring players increases, the probability for a small developer decreases. If distributers like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Steam ever decide on a tiered distribution model with slot fees, you’ll see a drastic change in the indie market.

Thanks Tom for taking the time to share your thoughts and insights! We truly appreciate your time and effort in the Soomla community. Make sure to check out After Insanity Studios and Tom’s Github account!

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Game design, Game Reviews

If his game development career fails, whoever made BoinQ has a job at the CIA, torturing terrorists for information, that is for sure. BoinQ is one of those annoying games that you can’t drop out of your hands – it possesses you with its extremely hard gameplay and leaves you waking up at night, sweating.

OK, tasteless jokes aside, let’s dive into the game.

iconBoinQ is a jumping game, similar to those Icy Tower games, created by Arconyx Games, for Android and Apple. The goal of the game is to go vertically up through a relatively narrow space, as far as possible. However, the main protagonist is not a flap-eared hip-hop dude, but a gooey ball which loses its mass each time you squeeze it up.

Available on Google PlayAvailable on iTunesLosing mass, the ball shrinks, which wouldn’t be such a big issue if the only way to keep the ball moving forward was to tap on it.

Tap on the central bottom part of the ball and it moves straight up, tap bottom left and it will move a bit to the right. Tap bottom right, it moves the opposite direction.

Don’t tap at all, the ball falls to its death.

And as if the game wasn’t already hard, the developers at Arconyx decided to also add obstacles in the form of swinging doors, spinning barriers, and moving platforms, just to make you pull your hair every once in a while.

The goo food

There are also boosts – poor ones, but interesting enough to keep you going much longer than you would naturally want to. You can pick up additional pieces of goo along the way which increase the size of your ball and keep you running for just a bit longer.

unnamed

Don’t be fooled by its friendly orange colour – this ball is EVIL!

There are also coins to be collected, and those can be used in the game’s virtual shop. The shop is well built, but could offer much more than it currently does. Currently, you can buy different shapes of the ball, like Spikey (the spiky ball) or Skull, which I’m guessing is a skull-shaped gooey ball (I haven’t unlocked that one).

One item in the shop costs 20 coins, and it approximately takes you somewhere between 5 and 50 games to collect them (that really depends on how clumsy you are), but you can also get your hands on some coins by liking the game’s Facebook page or posting a story on your Facebook wall.

I really like this add-on, as it increases the game’s virality and helps spread the word. However, I really feel the shop could offer much more. For example, power-ups to spice up the game would be nice. A temporary huge gooey ball, or maybe a power-up which freezes all the spinning barriers, the possibilities are endless.

Can’t stop playing

The game has also implemented a nice set of achievements which give you bonus experience and offer the possibility of competing with your friends. And considering that the game is fairly annoying in its basic premise (I am quite certain that was the intended purpose), having a couple of friends annoyed as well is a great feature.

BoinQ is a simple and effective mobile game that will most likely have you hooked for days, without your consent.

It is well designed, with good contrast of colour, simple controls and an easy goal. It’s easy to learn, but hard to master and with games like this one, every new start is a vastly different experience.

It is also rich in detail (every time you tap the ball, a certain sound is played. The smaller the ball – the higher the pitch, it’s simple, but a great add-on) and offers an in-game shop with a virtual currency to keep the game interesting for a longer period of time. However, I do feel that the shop could go a long way with a little extra effort.

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Hiring, Resource, Tech Resources, Tips and Advice

Over the last few months, we’ve been conducting interviews for various positions and it’s been difficult. Exceptional engineers are hard to come binterview handshake_shadey. So between mobile game reviews and other technical posts, I wanted to take a moment and point out some do’s and don’ts for all you smart candidates out there:

Don’t Over Sell Yourself!

Sell yourself. Of course. But be careful, over selling yourself will lead to people not assessing your character and expertise correctly, which isn’t good.  This is bad not only for the hiring company, but also for you, as the candidate. A wrong perception of who you are may cause you to:

  • … be assigned to a position that doesn’t fit your knowledge.
  • … work in a company that doesn’t fit your character.
  • … be assigned a position that you don’t want.
  • … not get the job by seeming arrogant or sometimes over qualified.

What does over selling yourself look like?

I’m not saying that candidates are lying. If I had a feeling a candidate was lying to me then, of course, I wouldn’t want to work with him. I’m talking about candidates that create an image of someone they aren’t just to get the position. When you create a wrong image, you:

  • … say you know how to do something that you actually don’t.
  • … say you know how to do something that you’re actually just 20% experienced in.
  • … will try to put on a show and act like somebody you’re not. (If you’re not a loving & caring person, don’t try to be)
  • … will try to answer questions you weren’t asked, thinking it will impress your interviewer.
  • … will try to correct your interviewer and be wrong about it. (Oh god that’s a turn off :) )

How To Not Over Sell Yourself

The evident result of over selling yourself is that you will very quickly be back on the market. And that’s if people in the company you joined really care about you. Smart managers know when a new candidate isn’t right and can recognize when they’ve hired the wrong person. Therefore, the best thing is for both sides to say goodbye nicely. It becomes even harder for managers to do this when they know they took the candidate from a previous workplace, but still the smart thing to do is part ways.

In order not to over sell yourself in an interview, think how you can help your interviewer. The guy sitting across from you asking questions and assessing your abilities is not there to fail you. He’s there to actually hire you. Give him the right reasons to hire you and not just reasons to hire you. Ask your interviewer: “What do you need?” and see if you fit that description. If the description is not clear enough, ask him to rephrase and make sure you have a clear understanding of the requirements and that they apply to you.

Another smart thing to do in an interview, is stay humble. Be patient, calm and answer what you’re asked. Don’t try to show how smart you are, if you’re smart it’ll be shown.

So stay focused, answer every question you’re asked and make sure you’re the right man for the job. The goal is not to win the interview, but to win the position that fits you most.

Good Luck!!!
:)

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Guest Post

Trapped Dots: Built in 17 Days

I turned 25 this month. I have been a full time front end developer since 2007 and for a long time I have felt that I needed to get out of my comfort zone. Trapped Dots LogoSo in late March, I decided to learn how to develop an iOS game by April 17th, my 25th birthday. I spent the rest of March mapping out my game plan. I’m not a software engineer just a front end developer, so I have no experience creating applications. Also, I have zero experience developing games of any sort, so I knew this was going to be a challenge. On top of everything else, I have a full time job that is fairly demanding. The job is with a team that is 100% remote with people all over the world, so hours are unpredictable. Needless to say, this was going to be very hard.

Learning the iOS Way

I bought two courses on Udemy. One on iOS development as a whole and another that focused solely on iOS game development. The goal was to have an app submitted to the app store by April 17th which gave me exactly 17 days. Most people told me this would be close to impossible given that I had no experience and a full time job. I might have no experience developing any iOS app, but I knew I was a quick learner and practiced some intense productivity hacks. Logo shadowI spent the first two days going through the courses. I explored the Xcode’s playground and I was able to pick up the basics pretty quickly. After the the first 2-3 days of intense course work I felt comfortable enough to move forward and begin developing my game. I constantly had my goal in my mind: to create a game in 17 days. When I was reading and going through the courses I was focused. When I wasn’t eating, resting, or exercising, I was developing my game. I was constantly thinking about the different aspects such as the art, monetization, gamification, framework, and name.  I had decided on all these things before I was even done with the crash course, which enabled me to hit the ground running when the real work started.

After about three days I felt I had enough to get started on my app. I wasn’t by any means fully prepared to develop the app, but I knew the basics and that was enough for me. To keep me on schedule I followed a rule of 3: never give yourself more then three options before you make a decision. This kept me from wasting time on decisions. I designed my game in Sketch 3 and all in one very long evening. For me the hardest step is always the first one, but once I get going I don’t stop until I physically have to.  In one afternoon, I designed the entire game from launch icon to ‘game over’ screen. Once I had the main character created the rest just designed itself.

When I finally had a prototype, I was ready to purchase my SDK license. This is where things got tough though because work picked up. I finished what I intended, but it wasn’t easy. I normally sleep about 5 hours a night, but that week I was lucky to get 4 hours. I tested the prototype on a few phones and felt ready to move forward and develop the production version. Creating the prototype was the hardest part for sure and that’s clearly where my inexperience showed.  The game is simple and I got a lot inspiration from brick breaker, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to design and how much trigonometry I needed to know.

The main goal of the game is to keep the dot trapped in the round platform. If it touches the purple outer ring you lose.  The only way to keep the dot trapped in the cirlce is by moving the red platform around the circle. Every time you touch the red platform you score a point. If you are able to aim the dot into a white diamond you get an extra point. However, if you cross a red diamond then the dot goes into frenzy mode and things get even harder.

Tapped Dots background_shaded After 17 very long days I finally finished! I submitted my app in the late afternoon and it was then approved about 7 days later. While it got approved quickly, I haven’t been able to pull the trigger and publish the game. I decided it wasn’t ready and in the 7 days it spent in limbo I revamped it and gained so much progress.  I’m currently working on implementing Soomla’s framework to add the social integration. After doing a lot of research, I found that it’s pointless to launch an app without social integration. I will be submitting my app again in early May, and I’ll hopefully be able to launch it around mid-May.

To learn more about my journey and keep up to date, subscribe to my blog. Lately, I’ve been writing posts on productivity hacks I utilized to get through this crazy journey. I’m very proud that I was able to accomplish my goal and it’s good to know that I’ll be faster next time. I have a new project brewing in the back of my head that I’ll hopefully begin in June, so be sure to stay tuned!

M. Antonio Jaimes

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Game design, Game Reviews

icon175x175For this time I’ll be reviewing iRacer, a bike stunt game for Apple devices and I’ll tell you straight away: it’s a great game with awesome visuals, simple controls and a solid progress curve to keep you hooked for days.

Available on iTunesThe iRacer is a game built by Syed Shariefi from InfernalSoft, exclusively for iTunes. In the genre classification, I’d place this game somewhere between a racing game and a survival one, as racing in this game means you will have to work extra hard to survive the tracks and not have your head flying around the screen (yes, that actually happens).

Stunt driving

In the game you take control of a bike racer that needs to complete a 2D platformer course, going from left to right. While completing the course, you will get a chance to jump from ramps and make various stunts, adding bonus points to your overall score.

You will also collect stars for bonus points and gas canisters to keep you going until the end.

There are also obstacles along the way, in the form of cart boxes, wheels, traffic signs and whatnot, slowing you down and testing your balance, and getting off balance right before you make a ramp jump will definitely see you land forehead first. You will see your body parts fly all over the place.

The game requires iOS 5.1.1 or later

The game requires iOS 5.1.1 or later

So how do you keep your balance? The bike drives itself, you don’t need to (and you can’t really) add more gas or break. You only have two buttons, located at the bottom left and right side of the screen, that push the bike’s weight on the front or the back wheel, accordingly.

Impressive performance

Not only will you use those buttons to keep your balance, but you will also use them for stunts (flips and turns) in the air, which will help achieve a better overall score.

Like I said in the introduction, I was really impressed by the graphics of this game. Looking at the game’s screenshots, you might wonder why I say that, as the game is not visually exquisite, but look at what the game’s developer, Syed Shariefi, had to say:

“It was my first iOS game. I developed this game in Unity from scratch and used Soomla for level ups. It took me almost a year to complete the whole project, and from wireframing to the app store submission, I did everything by myself, alone. I never saw that these kinds of 3D games were developed by any team less than 5-10 developers and designers.”

Yes, he did it all by himself, which makes this game 5-10 times more impressive, for every potential developer and designer that should have assisted this man.

iracer2

The game offers a huge customization garage.

OK, so he made the game by himself, implemented seriously stunning visuals, realistic physics and good controls. Is there anything else? Why, I’m glad you asked because, there is.

The game also features a HUGE customisation shop, in which you get 10 fully upgradeable stunt bikes, and they feature a total of 35 engine parts and boosters. For example, you can increase your bike’s top speed, acceleration, spin rotation or spin handling. You can also increase the petrol tank, nitro booster and the magnet force, which basically gives this cool looking game enormous replay value. Play this game for 20+ hours, and it will no longer be the same game you played when you first installed it.

The Upgrade status

There’s also the option of building your own garage and using it to collect all 10 riders and the different outfits.

However, there is one thing which is a bit confusing. It’s called The Upgrade status. In order to get your bike upgraded, you need to fill the upgrade status bar, which seems to be filling up after each ride. I say “seems to be” because I haven’t really deciphered the way the upgrade bar is filled and what affects its filling.

Is it just the number of games played? The number of successful backflips, or the number of stars collected? I’m not entirely sure because I haven’t found it written anywhere.

Well-polished

I’d love to see more clarification on how the upgrade system works. Truth be told, maybe it is written somewhere, but I wasn’t able to find it. Which also means other people won’t be able to find it, so I’d suggest placing the description in a more visible location.

For the impatient ones, the game allows users to purchase characters and other power-ups for real money. The shop was implemented with great care, it’s properly designed and straightforward – it’s virtually impossible to purchase things by mistake.

All things considered, I was very impressed by this game. It really looks as an entire team of young professionals worked hard on it. It is visually stunning, the physics are realistic, the controls are simple and intuitive, and the customization garage is insanely good.

The game has huge replay value, with good free-to play and in-app purchase balance. For what it offers for free, investing extra dollars to unlock the characters and help the developer surely sounds like a good deal.

Click here to download iRacer.

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