Kinshuk Sunil

Game Developer. Product Architect. Technology Enthusiast

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.

Doing effective research over the Internet at Center for Civil Society, June 10, 2011

I am talking a small session for Researchers at Center for Civil Society (New Delhi), on June 10th 2011. The agenda of the session is to how these researchers can use web based tools for effective and efficient data collection over the internet. What are some of the specialised tools for researchers on the internet and how can general websites be convertned into weapons of mass destructions.

In my talk ‘Data – Internet – > Informaton: Doing Effective Research over the Internet’, I will focus on how the Internet collects data and how we can find suitable data for our researches; what are the various tools that can help us do it; some tricks that can be helpful; and how to use the Internet to process this raw data into meaningful information.

The Centre for Civil Society is an independent, non-profit, research and educational organisation devoted to improving the quality of life for all citizens of India by reviving and reinvigorating civil society. More on: http://www.ccsindia.org/

You can see the presentation embedded below. I will try and get video/pictures from the presentation up here too.

Measuring Personality: A Johari Exercise

During my graduation days, we used to conduct a small exercise in the classroom. On any given day, we would select a single student and for the next ten minutes, the class would contemplate about them and then write some positive and negative traits of the individual. This is a primitive implementation of the Johari Window.

What is the Johari Window?

Johari window is a management concept which describes a person’s personality in terms of two factors: “Knowledge of Attributes to Self” and “Knowledge of Attributes to Self Others“. On the basis of these two, the personality of any individual is defined in terms of four specific windows:

  • Hidden: Attributes known to self, not known to anyone else
  • Open: Attributes known to self, also known to others
  • Blind Spot: Attributes not known to self, but known to others
  • Unknown: Attributes known to no one.
See 2020 through Johari's Window | Daily FT

It makes an excellent exercise to build one’s own Johari Window; it is also a useful tool for self-discovery and self-improvement. Read more about Johari Window here.

The Classroom Exercise

On a particular day, I was made the subject of this exercise. Out of a class of 60 students, I got a total of 43 replies of which I was been able to preserve about 9 (it has been over 4 years since this exercise was conducted). It was quite true to what I was then, to an extent it is true for what I am today too. I share these 9 chits with you today (I have added my own remarks in parentheses with every chit):

The first chit lists my positive attributes as: “Very helpful during exams, down to earth, and helpful”; while my negative traits are: “shakl achchi nahi hai (does not have a pretty face), chashma bahut bada hai (wears glasses of a big frame), shave nahi karta (does not shave)”… Okay, a bad chit to start with…

The second chit does not see any negative in me, it says Kinshuk is “good in studies and hard working”.

The next chit also doesn’t see any negative traits in me, strangely it doesn’t see anything positive either. it simply states some of my behaviours. “Kinshuk is”, it says, a “man of principles and values, always talks of philosophy, and has a different perspective to life”. Hmm….

The next chit is a wise one. According to it, I am a “typical bihari, our own joker, and very intelligent”. That means either I have a good sense of humour, or an extremely pathetic sense of humour so as my follies make others laugh; silly me.

The next one stays true to the exercise, a bit. It says, my positive traits are: “punctual, intelligent, and helpful” and my negative traits are: “hairless (??), too outspoken, and always raising questions”. Now, outspoken-ness has always been a big problem of mine.

The next one again skips my negative traits (I love all my classmates). My positive traits, according to it are: “computer mechanic (must mean skilled in computers), “always lives in technical world” (trying to be geek), “sentimental towards Bihar and motivator (a-ha!)”.

The seventh chit is critical of me and also tries to state facts about me. It says: Kinshuk is “argumentative, changes words very oftenly (I am quoting the exact wordings from the chits), is mad for something he himself doesn’t know, is very rational and logical, and wants to be a very true human being”.

The next one finds me praiseworthy: Kinshuk is “decent, helpful, soft spoken, good in studies, jolly, and small in size (err…)”.

The next one looks like a person who didn’t know me well, for they attempted to copy what the person writing the 8th chit had to say: Kinshuk is “decent, helpful, soft spoken, good in studies, and [some scribbling]“. Perhaps, they ran out of time.

I would recommend such activity to you but with some alterations.

Conductive Effective Johari Window Exercise

An effective Johari Window exercise should be conducted in small groups. Don’t go for a huge sample of 60 students. Do it with a group of 4-7 friends. Repeat it with a number of such groups.

Prefer people who know you well, but do not exclude people who have just got to know you. The first impression, after all, is the last impression. Be honest and sincere. Take all criticism positively.

Don’t try to suck up to people; Don’t try to impress them or be in their good books; Don’t try to be too harsh or over-critical. You are ruining the exercise.
Document all results.

I found an online solution that simplifies this process to an extent. There is a web application developed by Kevan Davies that provides you with your own Johari Window. In fact, Kevan went a step further and created another application of Johari Window, which he calls the Nohari Window. The first application is your Johari Window for your positive traits or Virtues. The Nohari Window is your Johari Window for Negative Traits.

You can find my Johari Window and Nohari Window at these individual locations.

Feel free to share your experiences with Johari Windows, suggested exercise, or anything else for that matter.

Congrats, Team GBO!

From left-to-right, back-to-front: Karan Gupta (White Overalls), Lalit Gupta, Varun Jaisia (Black Jersey), Sandeep Kharab, Kinshuk Sunil (Myself with Stump in hand), Nitin Gautam (White/Blue T Shirt), Raghunandan Saraf (Orange Tee), Abhish Negi (Green Tee), Manish Kumar (White Overalls), Mohnish (Sprawled), Karan Sharma (Team India Tee)

What was a very exciting match (though turned, sorta, one-sided midway the second innings) Team GBO showed a dedicated and professional behaviour on the field. Let me capture the moments for the people who missed the match.

After the toss, Team GBO’s captain Lalit Gupta chose to bat first. The right tone for the whole match was set by the GBO openers – Lalit Gupta and Karan Sharma, who played a brilliant knock and built a strong opening partnership of about 124 runs in 13 overs. Lalit was the first wicket to fall with an individual score of 49 (rather unfortunate to miss out a half-century) including 2 sixes and about 7-8 boundaries. The opening partnership was filled with a barrage of boundaries and sixes by both Lalit and Karan who were joyfully hugged by our dear Gupta after every shot (somehow the security guards were amiss).

The next to follow was Karan Sharma who hit a brilliant knock of 70 runs (1×6s, abt 11×4s). With only three overs to go the following batsmen went for pinch-hitting with Varun, Nitin, Gupta and our best bowler Sandeep.

With a total of 154 in 16 overs, Team GBO set a formidable score for their opponents. The target was high but not unattainable.

With the beginning of the second innings, two of the opposition’s good batsmen came to bat one of which was a famous Kushal, famous for hitting centuries in such intra – college matches. The first over by Sandeep (famous as GBO’s Goli Bowler throughout SRCC, for his fast-paced, tight bowling) conceded only 4 runs and brought the opposition to the reality of what Team GBO really is. The next over by our dearest Negi destroyed the very foundations of our opponents by his tight bowling. The famous Kushal was caught out by Sandeep on one of Negi’s beautiful delivery for a lowly single-digit score. Sandeep continued to pound the opposition batsmen with the bowling he is famous for. It was Negi who struck again, bowling out the next batsmen, again on a single-digit score. Fear was only one emotion the opposition felt.

The new batsmen Karthik was again a famed SRCC cricket player, who held the reins of the opposition batting. Together for the third wicket they scored a partnership of about 50 runs and the total score was about 80 when our Gupta struck with a vengeance and our dear Doga Paaji (aka Varun) caught a splendid catch on the mid-wicket with sharp reflexes. In between, we saw some really nice fielding from our youthful and agile Negi and Raghu.. (Come on, Raghu!)

After that, the opposition innings crumbled. The next batsman was run out by Lalit through a timely pass by Karan Gupta in an Abhish Negi over. All in all the opposition needed to score 54 runs from 3 overs to win all due to some dedicated bowling by Sandeep, Abhish, Karan Sharma, Gupta, Manish and Nitin. Then our Nitin and Doga Paaji bowled two good overs and the opposition needed to score another 38 overs from a single over.

Already having won the match the over was shared by two budding, talented bowlers – Monish and Myself. After scoring a boundary of my ball, the match ended on cue with Team GBO registering a thrilling win over their rivals with them falling short by 34 runs.

What followed was a scene of euphoric celebration where Team GBO huddled and bounced, pranced around, screamed and yelled, showered Coca Cola (desi champagne) on each other.

All Hail The Champs!

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