Monday, January 23, 2017

Visiting the Upside-Down

One of my non-game projects has led me into the Upside-Down - the world of full stack web development.

For many of you web development is the norm and the world of game development with Unity3D, Unreal, Xcode, etc. is an alternative reality, but for me the world of web development is both overwhelming and exhilarating.

My last venture into web development was with 3 Blokes Studios doing Facebook games. Back then we used Flash/ActionScript to write our front end and PHP for our backend. The games I worked on included Hospital Town, Virtual Villagers and Galactic Allies.

Virtual Villagers on Facebook
While I'm still getting my head around all of the front end and back end tools, I must say I am very impressed with the technology available. It's so easy to be stuck in the bubble of game development and work solely within the realms of Unity3D and C#, or focus one hundred percent on iOS development and Swift/Objective C. Sometimes the web raises its scary head but its usually (at least for me) in the shape of trying to set up a Wordpress page.

Galactic Allies on Facebook
But I've been lucky to dip my toe back into the web.

My experience so far has been limited to HTML, CSS and JavaScript with Bootstrap to make some truly sexy front ends. For those unaware, Bootstrap is a front-end only framework that was originally known as Twitter Blueprint. It provides a bunch of re-usabel components that make building a web front end super easy and helps maintain a consistent and professional look.

Hospital Town on Facebook

I'm still immersing myself into this world and am looking forward to learning more about jQuery, AngularJS, Node.js and React - which are just a few of the many, many other frameworks that help make web dev easier. In fact, the sheer number of options can be overwhelming and it seems like new stuff is appearing all the time.

Just when I thought I had a handle on JavaScript I learn about CoffeeScript (which was used to build Trello) and the new kid on the block, Elm. These are both languages that compile to JavaScript but let you write better code.

It's still early days for me and I have a lot to learn, but I'm having a lot of fun. For anyone interested in finding out more, here are just a few articles/links that friends have shared with me that I've found useful. These are by no means complete - merely scratching the surface - so please let me know ones that I have missed!

Microsoft Visual Studio Code -

I tried out a bunch of editors including Atom and Sublime Text but I've found Visual Studio Code to be simply amazing. It's free, has loads of extensions and works on Windows, Linux and MacOS.  Make sure your grab the Bootstrap 3 Snippets and vscode-icons extensions and do yourself a favour and learn the Emmet snippets shortcuts (which are built in). These makes writing HTML a breeze!

CoffeeScript -

AngularJS -

Learning - they have a bunch of great courses on all aspects of web development. My tip for Udemy is to log in, check out the courses, and wait. They usually send you an email with discounts for courses.


Now, I wonder if I can apply these new skills to making something fun on the web? I guess I better return to the Upside-Down to find out :-)

Click the photo to see more of Michael's cool art!


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Time To Switch

Sorry about the heading. I couldn't resist a pun.

So the Nintendo Switch is launching in just over a month and I'm very excited for this new console. Admittedly I am a huge Nintendo fanboy. I have most of their systems starting way back in 1982 with Game & Watch Parachute. I loved that game so much that I picked up a keychain version of it at Super Potato in Tokyo.

My Parachute keychain

Despite my love for Nintendo I actually skipped the Wii U. For the last generation I took solace in the New Nintendo 3DS XL instead. The Wii U looked okay, but there wasn't anything about it that compelled me to go out and buy one. The second screen concept didn't do it for me and I found the 3DS was scratching my Nintendo IP itch with Mario, Zelda and Animal Crossing. So, for the first time ever I skipped that generation. Okay, I also skipped the Virtual Boy but that was more a case of not having the cash at the time to buy it having put aside my pennies for a shiny imported Japanese PlayStation.
Virtual Boy - Nintendo was ahead of their time!

So why am I excited about the Switch?

Well, the 3DS is my current go to console. I spend more time playing around with it than I do with my PlayStation. A big factor is that the 3DS is a portable system. I can play anywhere, anytime - and I love how quick it is to start. Flip it open and I can be playing within seconds.

The Switch is promising me this same experience. I don't have to sit in front of the TV if I don't want to. I can take it with me if I want. And hopefully it will have the same fast boot up of the 3DS.

Another thing that excites me is that Nintendo has re-embraced their Wii style control system again - and this time they've packed two motion controllers in the box. This means new ways to do motion control but more importantly it means that 2 player game experiences are possible for 100% of the folks who buy a Switch. Everyone will have two controllers. And they can play 2 player games away from the TV as well. This has a lot of potential.

And of course there is the new Zelda game at launch and a new Mario coming at the end of the year. These look great. And I'm guessing we'll also get an Animal Crossing sometime (but probably not for a year or two) - and then it will be the perfect system.
I just love the dog faced controller!
Of course, naysayers have said that it's just a tablet with a hefty price tag.

Yes, it is technically a tablet. But it's a tablet that comes with 2 controllers, amazing games and the playfulness that only Nintendo can deliver.  You can't judge something just by the hardware - not every non Apple tablet is as slick as an iPad even if their tech specs are the same.

So, I'm excited. Nintendo has managed to sell me on the handheld/TV hybrid console model.

Now, to balance things out, I fully understand that this is a Nintendo product - so some things will probably suck. I'm expecting a poor to average online experience, a mediocre e-shop and higher than industry standard prices for downloadable games. But if it's as half as much fun as the 3DS then I'll be more than happy!

How about you? Are you excited for the Switch?