Game Developer & Technology Aficionado

Author: kinshuk Page 1 of 2

Let’s Write a Post Together

Time Management is a complicated problem. You spend the day working on projects; balancing many acts together. Thus, you hardly seem to make any sense of the day flying by. Consequence: by the time I get ready to shut down work mode and switch into the personal mode, I am already drained.

This has had a huge toll for me. I love reading books and listening to music. I also harbour ambitions of writing books and composing music. But owing to my time management constraints, all this has come to a standstill in my life. Besides, I end up spending a major chunk of my day either sitting or sleeping – that has huge health implications.

“I hardly get time to read anymore” is a constant complaint from me. Nowhere is it more evident than on my blog here. I have kept restarting this blog for I don’t know how many years now, each time promising to be more regular. There was a time when the only posts on my blog were about restarting and promises to write more regularly.

Then in April this year, I started playing a little “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” with some of my friends. I am not a big fan of the shooter genre, which is why I didn’t play much of CSGO earlier but with this set of friends, I started playing almost every day. At least 2 hours of CSGO every night – with only exceptions when work would encroach on my time. And yes, I don’t write that lightly.

Because, from not having the time for anything due to work, I started making time for CSGO – about 2-3 hours a night. At least 10-12 hours a week. While I understand how social dynamics work – how any activity is more fun with friends, and how peer pressure makes you more disciplined; amidst all the things that are happening in life at the moment, it was a very curious respite.

Soon the respite gave way to immense guilt. I was still not reading anything. Still not listening to music. Still not writing. But I was playing 2 hours of a game that is not really soul food for me. That is when I have a library full of games I want to play but can’t find the time. Well, long story short, I kept dealing with the guilt, kept denying myself, kept playing CSGO.

Fast forward to the present day. I finally decided to cut short on CSGO and spend more time writing blog posts here. And to do this, I applied the same CSGO with friends logic – I teamed up with my friend, Shayon Pal, to write blog posts together. From now on, every Wednesday night (today being the first one), we will sit together for 2 hours and write a blog post each.

It’s a small exercise in discipline, let’s see how it works out. If it works out, then you already know what I am going to do next. I have been tinkering with the idea of game streaming for some time now, and that’s the next frontier.

So far the experiment seems to be working, this post is an outcome. But before I jinx it for myself, allow me to sign off. Until next Wednesday, that is.

Gamification in Education at EduTech 2020

I am speaking at IAMAI’s EduTech 2020 tomorrow in a panel discussion on “Gamification in Education“. My fellow panelists are Sebastian Gutmann (Co-Founder & CEO, Playvolution), Lalit Singh (MD, McGraw Hill India & South Asia), Prof. (Dr) Tabrez Ahmed (Pro Vice Chancellor & Dean – GD Goenka University), and Kunal Gandhi (Co-Founder & CEO, Logic Roots).

I would be talking about my experiences with building gamified experiences for our different non-profit partners at Hashstash, including our latest project on Human Rights and Freedom of Expression. I would also talk about our recently announced partnership with KPMG, where we will be juicing up sustainability reports and social impact communications for brands and corporates.

I will share a video of the session, when they put one out.

Experimenting with Streams

Recently, while working on the MyyIndia show, I had to quickly experiment with a number of live-streaming and online video recording tools for producing the show. The emphasis, then, was on finding live production studio to handle all supers and astons. I discovered some really nifty software that I will talk about someday.

But the experience got me inquisitive about live streaming. I have never streamed before, nor have I actively followed the scene ever. So I thought, why not give it a try, not to become a professional streamer but to be academically curious. Let’s see how that works out.

So now I am live streaming on Youtube. Subscribe to my channel and give me feedback on my stream 🙂

What will I stream? Right now, I, Yadu, Sanchit and Mayank routinely play CSGO every night. I am starting with streaming this. No points guessing: I am not good at it.

I plan to play a lot of early access and under development games. That will be the main content I plan to stream.

So, I will see you the next time I stream!

Reanimation

A bridge of silver wings stretches from the dead ashes of an unforgiving nightmare to the jeweled vision of a life started anew.

Aberjhani, Journey through the Power of the Rainbow: Quotations from a Life Made Out of Poetry

Banglore Trip: June 7-11

I am traveling to Bangalore from June 7th to 11th. While, the specific days, 7th and 11th, will be wasted in traveling; I hope to finish a lot of work on 9th and meet the family on the 10th.

On 8th, I will be participating at the Let the Games Begin event organized by kstart (Kalaari Capital), where I will be a design mentor helping out participating teams with designing their games better.

If you are in and around Bangalore during that time, let’s catch up!

I won’t participate in a Jam, What if someone stole my game?

Should you not participate in game jams because someone might clone/steal your game? Of course you should! Not practicing what is so dear to our hearts – making games, is a sad and unacceptable response.

I have been a part of such debates countless of times. Not just for jams, even for finished games. Not just for games, for any kind of software projects. And somehow, more often than not open source also gets thrown into the debate.

I feel very strongly about this, since I do all of the above: I organise and participate in game jams, I make games for a living, I volunteer to open source projects and over the past decade have extensively worked with open source organizations, communities, projects and contributors.

So I thought maybe it is a good idea to put my thoughts about all of this into a single (huge) post (read: rant) out here. In future, when I run into a similar argument, giving a link to this post is going to be much more simple than having a long-winded unnecessary debate.

Forewarning: this is going to be a long rant. Also, remember, I am not a lawyer. It is easy for me to throw out legal advice, but it is also very easy for me to be wrong about these things. I speak from my experiences and my understanding of things, which is not all exhaustive. To understand the legal consequences of anything being discussed here, always speak to your lawyer, and be on the right side of things.

Because TLDR

This post is pretty huge and you may not stay awake by the end of it; so let me save you some time if I can. Here are some of the things you should take away from this post:

  • Participate in Jams/Sprints/Hackathons as much as you can
  • Release as much content as you can
  • Never live in fear of your good work being stolen away; this fear is counterproductive – it keeps you away from doing your best work
  • Explore licensing and open source models; use what benefits you
  • Evaluate and understand the challenges and complexities of putting stuff out there and the remedies available to you
  • In unhealthy situations: always evaluate your options, speak to a lawyer. The law exists to protect you and your interests when used properly
  • Similarly, never infringe on other people’s rights and interests; be the good guy

Why do Jams?

This would apply to pretty much any jam, in a very generic way. More often than not Jams/Hackathons/Sprints (let’s just call them all Jams) are supposed to be academic exercises. The intention is to exercise your creative muscles within a set of severe constraints. Most common of these constraints are time and topic. A jam would ask you to build a proof of concept within a limited time window (usually 48-72 hours), usually around some topics. Eg: Build a game about a poor business tycoon in 48 hours.

The jam can be an open event for everybody, or it could be just between a few select people. So many organisations do internal jams – for fun, to find the next thing, to solve existing problems, to find a new perspective.

The purpose of the Jam is to work within your peers (participants of the Jam) and see what they came up with. How they interpreted things and how they built it. It is not a contest of who was best (though some are, but that’s not a generic rule applicable on all). It is an exercise about interpretation and execution and is done to help you get more exposure and practice.

The jam puts you in a situation, where on top of all the constraints of the jam, you will have to work with different people, ideas, technologies, approaches; collaborate and build together – it can be very daunting, challenging and yet a very refreshing exercise of taking an idea to a form of existence within a brief window of time. Jams can be wonderful opportunities to work with talented individuals you might have not encountered yet.

Here is a delicious example of the kind of things achievable in a jam:

But what about Quality of Life?

This is one of the most common counters I get to the above. What Quality of Life? You mean working non-stop for 48 hours in a Jam is conflicting with your work-life balance? How? A jam is a voluntary exercise. It is quite similar to a Star Wars movie (or your favorite series) marathon. It is not your job; your boss is not forcing you to do it.

In some rare cases, your boss might actually ask you to participate in a Jam (I do), but even then it is not a part of your job and it definitely doesn’t mean you have to work for 48 hours straight. The time constraint is there to help you focus and practice your time management skills. So, IMHO, Work-Life Balance has nothing to do with a game jam, really. It’s an exercise of passion, if you feel being forced into it – you aren’t the right person to be doing it in the first place. Save yourself some time and energy, and don’t drop the game for others.

Whatever. But if I put my game out there, someone might clone it!

Frankly, if your game has value, if you put it out there in any form someone can always clone it. In any case, people will always be inspired by good games. Have you managed to do any technical/design/art innovation in your game jam game? Have you executed something so amazingly well that it is kickass? Well, that’s wonderful and another reason why you should jam in the first place.

But let’s focus on the avoiding your game getting cloned or stolen. Frankly, there is no simple answer to it. Your game can always get cloned. Your code and assets can always get stolen. In the border-less world we live in right now, where you make your game in one country, publish it in another (many others) – there is no simple mechanism to protect your work. There are no simple remedies available.

Yet, everyone agrees on Intellectual Property and Copyrights. The basic act of you posting your binaries/assets/code online is an act of publishing it – whether you publish it in a jam or do a commercial release on some platform. There are copyright laws applicable on it right-away, and you can help your case more by explicitly applying a license on it (during an argument, this is usually where Open Source gets thrown into the ring, but I will come to that in a while).

Usually, applying a license is as simple as including a license text in your package, which, as clearly and as objectively as possible, spells out what people can do and cannot do with the contents you are distributing. You can research about a lot of popular licenses (mostly open source) and find something that is very relevant to your situation.

Remember, whether a jam game or a published game, it is not impossible to get cloned or stolen. Just look at how many Clash of Clan clones or Temple Run clones exist on the mobile app stores – curated or not. It boils down to what preemptive measures you have taken as the original author and how well can you afford to fight it, if it happens.

Also, honestly, do you even care if your game gets cloned. I know, I don’t. It is one thing to copy your idea, it is another to execute it as well as you do. But I understand this is not necessarily sane logic and is very debatable as well.

It is never easy

At Hashstash, we have been on the other side of the cloning debate. When we released Circulets, we were wrongly accused of cloning a game. It resulted in some very lucrative visibility being denied to the game and a lot of community backlash in the early days. We reached out to the original author, involved him in our game’s beta and thankfully he agreed that we haven’t cloned his game. I still wonder what could we have done, had the original author felt that our game is a clone or at least very similar to his, even when we knew it was not. Thankfully, sanity prevailed.

When I was working with Mudit on Huerons, we found another developer on game development forums making something very similar. Think about it: two independent developers came up with very similar concepts in the same time window, while in complete isolation of each other. We reached out to the other developer, discussed the whole situation, got their blessings and moved forward with the game.

There are scenarios, you cannot completely prepare for. Look at how Vlambeer dealt with Radical Fishing getting cloned. You will find quite a lot of clones out there, but few stories about games getting vindicated.
So release often and under suitable licenses

In our age of bleeding edge technology, these things can happen. And if it happens, you have to deal with it head on. Each situation is unique and there are no simple answers. And that is why releasing your work under suitable licenses is important.

In my personal opinion, I see immense value with Open Source models here. Especially for students, I very strongly believe that they should work on as many creative ideas that they can, and more often than not keep releasing their work in the open source domain. Not only does it make for a very good skill portfolio, it also creates opportunities for collaboration and build dedicated teams committed to reaching certain objectives.

I said especially for students, because most of the work they are engaged in is either passion projects or academic exercises. And just because you made it open, does not mean you are done with it. By making it open, you are encouraging people interested in the idea to come and contribute. These can be experienced devs, or interested people from completely different domains wanting to build an accessible solution.

While the whole model works similarly well with the whole job/employment/professional/career domain, there are many more aspects to consider, which complicates the situation. I hate saying it so many times, but there are no simple answers.

Open source, you have to understand, does not mean giving away your source code for free. Open source deals with publishing your code in such a manner that the source code is accessible to anyone who wants to access it. That does not mean they can do whatever they want to do with it. OpenSource.com explains this way better and exhaustively here.

Your work will be made open source by applying a suitable license on it. These licenses very clearly specify terms for what people can do and cannot do with your work. Whether they can pass it around or not, even whether they can make money with it or not. Read this excellent post by Jeff Atwood about how important it is to license your work (possibly, also, how easy).

Open Source is a very practical model of writing good software between a huge number of contributors. At no point of time, does it mean that you have killed any business/commercial value for your work. I have had the opportunity of working with so many talented developers who have put their stuff out there in the open, and who are doing thriving business with the same. Remember, knowledge breeds knowledge, and it is never wrong to share more knowledge. If we weren’t doing that, we would probably be still living in the dark ages.

So, full circle, why do Jams?

Jams encourage you to think within constraints, think fast, execute faster and collaborate. They are a very useful exercise in becoming better at finishing and delivering stuff. They are very useful to quickly prototype a concept and get constructive feedback on it. They are a very handy platform to showcase your work, skills and concepts. They are also useful in helping you prioritize between your concepts. If nothing, it is very healthy and encouraging to see people actually consume what you have made and their reactions to it.

Fear of your work getting stolen or cloned is not healthy. It can be risky, and you can take precautions, but nothing guarantees that your game won’t get cloned. If it does get cloned, fight it. But withdrawing into a shell and not practice what is so dear to our hearts – making games, is a sad and unacceptable response. And if that happens, then the cloners have already won. They stopped you from making your next awesome game.

Note: With edits and notes from Yadu Rajiv; nothing I do is perfect without him.

Games and Concepts.. Up Next

Our upcoming game at Hashstash, is shaping up pretty well and will soon be at the point, where I will start sharing details with you. With the game reaching maturity, I have started experimenting with some new ideas.

The first one is a real-time multiplayer galcon-styled strategy game. The idea is to keep it simple and casual, yet have layers of strategy with supply lines and logistics. It is an exciting concept, where we are also experimenting with how we can involve tech trees, and include eras of human evolution in the gameplay. The real challenge here is to keep it simple and casual.

The second idea we are experimenting with is a match three game meets the tycoon genre. A bit like Puzzle Forge, but way more generic and social in gameplay. I have been a big fan of Kairosoft’s Story franchise and would love building something like that. Just for this concept, the idea is to keep the meta game tycoon, while the repetitive mechanic as match three. Again, something that sounds both promising and weird as an idea. Let’s see if this pans out.

The third idea is a space exploration and trading game, inspired by the likes of Sid Meier’s Pirates, Tradewinds series and the recent Starship Captains. The idea is to have a huge and expansive universe with lots of races and cultures, and you as a trader between it all embroiled in the mysteries and politics of the universe. It would be very interesting to have something like the Asimov universe with distinct races and cultures going about in the game. Another interesting layer could be something like Hero Generations.

As always, one always running idea is a cricket simulation game. Sadly, I have stopped doing much about it. In late 2014, I came pretty close, but still not done yet.

I will keep posting here, the progress that I make with the ideas.

Taking back the web, one student at a time

Hello. I am Kinshuk Sunil, a Mozilla Representative from India, and a game designer by profession. I was also involved with setting up the Indian Mozilla community initiative: Mozilla India. This January, I was nominated to advise the Mozilla Student Reps as a Regional Student Coordinator (RSC). One of the first things that I volunteered to do was to write this first post for the Student Reps Planet blog, in which I will introduce the Student Reps program and become an active contributor with us.

The Student Reps program is a Mozilla Contributor Engagement program designed to involve and integrate students in promoting Firefox and Mozilla’s mission. Student Reps are passionate, creative, and resourceful people, who are studying in college or university and want to contribute to promoting the open web in their institutions and local communities. For full details on the Student Reps program, you should check out this site: https://studentreps.mozilla.org.

The Student Reps program is an extremely rewarding program that helps students make an impact, advance their skills and become leaders in the Mozilla community and beyond. An active Student Rep takes advantage of the tools and resources provided to get the most out of his or her experience in the program. For example, all Student Reps should particiapte in the Student Reps 101 training or watch the video. Please visit this link and sign-up for the next training.

Amongst many awesome rewards and recognition items, active Student Reps can get invited to regional and international Mozilla events, receive special Firefox gear, and may even have the opportunity to join the Mozilla Interns program. The key to demonstrating your activity as a Student is Project Reporting. While Student Reps are required to regularly submit Project Reports on their progress and learnings within the program and get feedback from the RSC and the Community Manager on initiatives, the crown belongs to the project Case Studies.

Student Reps are encouraged to analyse their projects and to present them as a Case Study (in the form of a blog post or a forum post). Case Studies become an insightful showcase of what it takes to organize a project or event, and it encourages other Student Reps to stay active.

Here’s a list of things that Student Reps should mention in their Case Studies:

  • Name, date/duration, location and type of event or project
  • About how many people took part in the event or project?
  • What planning did you and others put in to the event or project?
  • Did you set and accomplish any goals? If not, why?
  • Did you face any challenges? If so, what did you learn from them?
  • Any other feedback you would like to offer other Student Reps about this event or project?
  • For an example, check out Rishab Arora’s exciting work at gCon 2012.

Many Student Reps are doing a lot of activities in their region and this Planet blog will soon become a hub of all that activity.

Wishing them all best!

Recent Tidings

January 2012 was pretty uneventful. The only highlight being a small workshop on animation that Arjun and Ravish gave at Rukmini Devi Institute of Advanced Studies (Rohini) from Hashstash. And I got accepted into the Mozilla Students Rep program (that calls for a seperate post). And the WebFWD program as a Scout too!

Followed February, with a lot of hyper activity. First there was a random trip to Bangalore (Hashstash South XD). Just after returning from it was the GTUG Delhi’s DevFestX. I participated at the event as a Mozilla Rep and a WebFWD Scout, spent some time introducing the WebFWD program to the assembly and continuing over to a general primer to FOSS and its relevance for students.

February ended on a good note, as I started writing regularly for Hindustan Times’ online Technology section. Its tiresome, but engaging and very fun. I am totally loving it.

I promise, I need to get more active with updating my blog. And I am already working on it.

“RA.One is bad for gaming in India” OR “What have you done, Shahrukh?”

I am writing this just after returning home from a show of the “science-fiction”, “super-hero” movie by India’s “greatest” actor, Shahrukh Khan. If the quotes bother you, here’s why they exist:

“science-fiction”: is a composite word made out of two words – science and fiction. While the fiction part is a critical part of any sci-fi, the science is equally so. If we look at what makes good science fiction, we will see that fiction gives you the base premise of the idea (eg: a man bitten by a super spider starts showing spider-like capabilities) and then the science takes over (the psychology of the characters involved, how they grow and act, how their strengths and weaknesses play out, etc). So science-fiction is not random, its extremely logical and completely makes sense. For more details read Isaac Asimov.

“super-hero”: is a hero beyond the obvious. A superhero is a person of extreme grit and honor, who stands up for what they believe in. No Arnie in T2 was not a superhero because he was awesome, but because he’d do anything to stand up for little John. Batman is a superhero because of his courage, his commitment and his self sacrifice. The unlimited cash pool only helps along the way.

“greatest”: I dont understand how you can be a better actor than someone. You can be a better character, specifically. But ‘greatest’ actor ever? SRK remember Baazigar, Yes Boss, Raju ban gaya Gentleman? Those were your fine days. Not the lovey dovey crap ever since.

Mark my words, RA.one is a pathetic movie. It has no masala nor makes any sense. The blind support of the sold out media is a plus. But thats not why I despair. I am hurt, because as I exited the theatre, I overheard a father poking fun on his son for games. Ouch, that stings. Is that what you wanted, SRK? You burned INR 175,00,00,000 for that?

Next time Shahrukh take out some money from your VFX budget and invest in story and sound. Seriously, you need to get yourself a superhero theme, not the garbage you are playing right now (remember the sound of heavy breathing every time Shahanshah made an appearance? that was iconic). Also, stealing sequences from international hits does not make a movie hit. You have to execute them right as well. This is where you have failed. And since this is a movie about games, why not play some games as well? Do the homework? Learn what makes good games, good.

The movie was full of Final Fantasy, Robot, Matrix, Superman, Iron Man, Devil May Cry, Spiderman references and there were quite a lot more. That is not a bad thing nor is it really good. I am divided over it, for now.

And about the VFX: you surprised me. I expected them to be crappier but the team has done a decent job. Kudos! No I mean it. Seriously. Though I cant help but leave a word. Good VFX is of two categories: One that deliberately reminds you that it is a VFX (maybe to remind you that the producers spent helluva money to put it there), the other is so subtle and integrated that you feel the thunder but never notice it. That was the difference in Matrix 3’s punching-in-the-rain sequence versus your punching-in-the-random-droplets-of-water sequence, and everywhere else.

Why do I hate you? I am a game developer and love the art of making games. It is my passion, my ambition and my pursuit to make games people will enjoy playing and level up my art. While, I initially thought that Ra.One will help make video games mainstream amongst Indian parents, you just ended up mocking it.

Game development is a hard job, quite like making movies. You may think that making movies is a joke but making games is not. So back off. You may think that the Indian audience has the intellectual limitation of only understanding crotch-grabbing and male-centric abuses and illogical technologies and unexplained behaviors. But thats not true. Someday it will be proved, just wait and watch. You created a whole new technology to support the premise of your ingame characters coming out in real world but never really used it.

  • Why the heck was your villian called “Random Access Version One” ? Were you like prototyping new RAM (Random Access Memory)?
  • What is this whole stuff about a super-villian, when all you have to do is grab his “Main Part” to pass the time, get into level 3 and shoot him and he dies, with just one bullet?
  • When neither the hero nor the villian cant die unless they are shot with the bullet in level 3, why will any player loose by the “super villian” in between. How do the only-best players reach the third level (I remember a dialogue about no one making it to level 2, before the kid got there).
  • What was the whole idea behind the level design? Level 1 and 2 played out in real world, but level 3 suddenly pops up with some weird gladiatorial amphitheatre?
  • Do I have to compromise with such a half hearted attempt at something so obtuse that it insults my intelligence, simply because I live in the world of Bollywood?

Now that the rant is done. Here’s why RA.one is not that bad for gaming as well (only to be fair to the efforts): Brand SRK giving a thumbs up to brand Game Industry will help make it more mainstream. It is upto developers like me, to take that and satiate the general curiosity with what games really are.

But next time you want to make a movie about games, I’ll lodge a PIL and get a cease-and-desist issued. ‘Nuff said.

Update: For reasons why the movie sucks read The Vigil Idiots awesome analysis of the movie.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén