GovHack 2016

Over the last weekend I took place in GovHack 2016 at the Hobart site. This was the 4th time that I’ve participated in GovHack, and – as usual – it was an excellent event! I formed (what is now becoming the usual) team with Jon, Tim, Josh, Rex, Seb, Matthew, and Arabella, and we built a game out of the data-sets.

The game we built involves players taking control of news readers on flying news desks, grabbing images and matching them to headlines. It’s called Beat the Press and you can learn more about it on the project website, and through the video we made:

Thanks to my awesome team members for working so hard on art, music, data-wrangling, copy editing, video production, programming, design, and game design over the weekend! Thanks also to Craig Clark for hosting a fabulous event, as well as the other volunteers in Hobart, and everywhere else!

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IA Summit 2016: How Do I Game Design?

At the beginning of May, Jon and I visited Atlanta, Georgia, for IA Summit 2016. This is the second time we’ve attended at the IA Summit: last time was in 2012, in New Orleans. This year, we presented the latest iteration of our game design talk, “How Do I Game Design?”. Games!

As promised during our talk, here’s links to a couple of the things we talked about:

A video of an earlier version of this talk was captured at OSCON 2015, and you can find it on YouTube. You can also find the slides from the IA Summit 2016 version on Speaker Deck.

Game Night at IA Summit 2016I really enjoyed our second visit to the IA Summit, and definitely hope to come back next year! A particular highlight of the conference was the games night, which is quite unique to the IA Summit –– I love it! Highlights from the talks include:

  • Léonie Watson’s keynote about accessibility and inclusion, which featured a slide deck composed of movie quotes.
  • Lisa Welshman’s keynote on how design can impact real human beings.
  • Jesse James Garrett’s 7-in-1 closing keynote on… well, everything the IA industry needs to know?
  • Dan Ramadan’s talk on “Taxonomies, Tags, and Trajectories at the BBC”
  • Jorge Arango’s talk on “Placemaking Lessons from the Magic Kingdom”
  • Stephen Anderson’s talk on “How To Design A Concept Model”

… but everything I attended was amazing. There’s lots of great photos of the event, not taken by me, online here. Thanks to the organisers, volunteers, speakers, and attendees for putting on an amazing event!

IA Summit 2016 was one of the most diverse-feeling, inclusive conferences I’ve ever been to, and the community –– while, as game designers, we only really sit on the intersection of it and many other communities –– is incredibly welcoming and friendly.

Atlanta was also an amazingly friendly city, with a lot of interesting attracting (oh my, go and visit the Georgia Aquarium!) I’m looking forward to getting an opportunity to revisit it in the future! I’m also really looking forward to venturing to Vancouver, for IA Summit 2017.

Unity Book

The first Early Release of our latest book is now available from O’Reilly: Mobile Game Development with Unity. We’re incredibly excited about this release; this is a book we’ve been dreaming of writing for many, many years, and we’ve finally had the chance to do so. Thanks to our amazingly patient editors, Rachel, who let us write this book, and Brian, who is making sure it’s as awesome as possible!Mobile Game Development with Unity

The new book covers game development with Unity, the increasingly-popular game development environment and game engine. We teach a little touch of game design, the fundamentals of Unity, and then we teach you how to build two full games: “Gnome’s Well”, a 2D game similar to Angry Birds, or Flappy Bird, and “Rock Fall”, a 3D space-asteroid shooting game.

The games built through the book are a lot of fun, and we’ve put a lot of thought into crafting games that are both representative of common, successful games in the mobile world, and contain enough interesting challenges for developers, artists, and the like, that they represent a valid real-world game development experience.

The first Early Release of the book contains early drafts of the chapters that explore the creation of both games, Gnome’s Well and Rock Fall, as well as a skeleton of the first chapter, which outlines the basics of Unity. The next Early Release, which we hope to have ready sometime in mid-December, will contain drafts of the Scripting chapter, and a completed draft of the first chapter.

We’re looking forward to seeing what people build after reading the book, and working through the games we teach in it. We’re really excited at the prospect of helping more people get into game development!

You can buy the Early Release over on the O’Reilly website. Buying it gets you all updates during the Early Release process, as well as the final copy of the book. If you have any questions, suggestions for things to add/cover, or find something unclear in the book, please don’t hesitate to email us: unitybook@secretlab.com.au. We’re so excited about this book, and can’t wait to improve it, finish it, and get more releases out for it!

TasJam Game Jam

Over the weekend we participated on the first TasJam Game Jam. TasJam is a statewide game jam event, held simultaneously in Hobart, Launceston, and Burnie, and was organised by the Tasmanian Game Development Society.

TasJam 2015

The weekend was absolutely fantastic, and the organisers did a brilliant job of running the jam, and the mentors/judges who came down from Melbourne –– Kamina (from Tin Man Games), Lauren, and Katie (both from Lumi Consulting) –– were all really insightful, and such a positive presence at the jam. It was a great environment to get things done in, and there was a lot of great feedback and ideas shared amongst participants.

Game from TasJam 2015 by Secret Lab

Jon and I spent our time repurposing assets from one of the games we’re building at Secret Lab –– Gnome’s Well –– and building a single-stick multiplayer shooter game. The game involves wizard hats waking up to prevent the the wizard’s treasure from being stolen by invading gnomes using drone-copters. We think it’s pretty fun, and it came out really well for such a short build.

It was a great opportunity for us to learn how to use game controllers, which are not something that we’ve ever used before! We were also super-impressed when we rebuilt the game (which we built using Unity) for iOS, and it ran flawlessly on an iPad Air 2 using MFi game controllers.

Game from TasJam 2015 by Secret Lab

You can find more pictures, as well as videos and photos on the Secret Lab Tumblr. I also took a lot of photos at the event, and you can find those on my Flickr. TasJam used itch.io for submissions, so don’t forget to check out all the awesome games there.

You can download our prototype if you have a Mac and some PS3/PS4 controllers to pair to it, as well! Thanks to Jason and Ducky for organising such an awesome event!

GovHack 2015 Wins!

Question Time from GovHack 2015 –– art by Rex SmealThe (Inter)national GovHack 2015 Red Carpet awards were held in Sydney last night! The game –– Question Time –– that I created together with Jon, Tim, Josh, Arabella, Rex, and Sebastian, won a few awards! They are:

  • 1st Place for Best Open Government Data Hack (sponsored by the Department of Finance and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)
  • 2nd Place for Best Entrepreneurial Hack (sponsored by Telstra and the Department of Industry)

Locally, in the Tasmanian prizes, we won:

  • the Design Excellence award, for the most usable, complete and appealing designed hack;
  • and the Most Disruptive award!

The hard work of everyone on the team really pulled off! Every year I participate in GovHack, the quality improves, and the team work really makes it come together beautifully.

The full list of winners, international, national, and local, is on the GovHack website. Thanks to everyone who organises, hosts, sponsors, and participates in GovHack. It’s a huge amount of fun! This was the third time I participated, and it definitely won’t be my last.

New books! Next conference!

Hello!

Following our return to Australia after OSCON, I have slept for a bit, and started work on what’s next! We’re hard at work in the lab, where we narrowly missed the snow, on the following…

Books

We’re working on a whole collection of books for O’Reilly Media:

  • updating Swift Development for the Apple Watch for watchOS 2.0/iOS 9
  • writing Mobile Game Development with Unity
  • finishing up The Kerbal Book on Kerbal Space Program
  • writing a brand new book about programming with Swift 2.0!

Conferences

We head to Melbourne in the next few weeks, to run and speak at the /dev/world/2015 –– tickets are still available! It’s a great iOS and OS X developer conference!

After that we speak at Museums and the Web in Melbourne, in early October, presenting our popular How Do I Game Design? workshop. Then, immediately after, we fly to Amsterdam, to attend OSCON in Amsterdam, where we’re talking about Swift (like we did at OSCON in Portland). We can’t wait!

Games

We’re hard at work on Button Squid and Gnome’s Well That Ends Well, and we’ll have a further update later in the year!

Qantas Hackathon

Over the weekend I competed in the inaugural Qantas “Codeshare” Hackathon in Sydney. It was hosted by Qantas, together with the Disruptors Handbook, and was held at the spectacular Qantas Centre of Service Excellence in Sydney.

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My team (“Team Tasmania“), which consisted of myself, Jon Manning, Jess Lethbridge, Tim Nugent, and Rex Smeal, built a suite of games for children that were designed around the Qantas brand. We built them with the objective of creating an engaging, educational, and playful experience for children on planes. We managed to come second, which – especially considering the competition – was awesome!

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I’ll post more about what we built in the coming weeks. But right now I just want to say that the hackathon was absolutely brilliant, and the judges, organisers, and the Qantas team members were incredibly friendly, switched on, and full of brilliant ideas and suggestions. CIO has a good article on the event (written by one of the judges!)