Colombia 4.0 2018

October 23 to 26 2018. Colombia’s biggest technology-related conference (Official Website). Organized in Corferias in Bogotá, by the Colombian Ministry of ICTs (MINTIC), and sponsored by many organizations including SENA (National Learning Service) and Procolombia (Government Agency for the promotion of tourism, foreign investment, and exports).

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The event served as an umbrella for different sub-events, including Bogotá ACM SIGGRAPH 2018 which was probably the biggest and could well be a stand-alone event. Besides the opening talk by Adrian Molina (co-director and writer for Pixar’s Coco), I didn’t participate in any of its other many talks. However, their guests were top-notch, I’m sure all of their talks and masterclasses were good.

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More to my interest, there was also a “Business Showroom” organized by Procolombia / Colombia BringITOn. The format was a standard buyers/sellers match-making, categorizing the interests in two broad areas: “Animation” (including 3D Modeling, 2D/3D Animation, Visual Effects, Sound Engineering, as well as different types of coproduction / distribution / publishing deals) and “Video games” (with some overlapping categories but including development on specific platforms such as HTML5, Unity and Unreal, as well as publishing for PC, Console, Mobile and VR).

It ran for 2 days, with each participant having 14 slots for meetings, as well as a space for quick “speed dating” meetings. Overall the quality of the participants was very good, and the organization was great. Some of the companies that sent representatives were Turner International, 2K, Electronic Arts, Apple, Bungie, and Epic Games.

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Right by the business room, there was a space to display the video games and animation products made by Colombian companies. The overall opinion of the international visitors I could talk with was that the level was very high, and the evolution of what Colombian studios are producing is amazing.

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Another big part of the event was the conferences; there were tracks on animation, video games, music, entrepreneurship, media, digital advertising, cybersecurity, and fintech. Each track included conferences, workshops, and panels on the specific subjects.

The track of conferences I was more interested in was, of course, the video game development one, which covered topics such as UX, marketing, legal and workplace culture, and had several panels where developers of own Intellectual Properties, service providers and publishers shared their experiences and tips for success. I wrote a bit more in deep about one of these panels here.

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A final part was the expo floor, of which I could only take a quick tour through. In there, there were local universities displaying the innovations on their IT programs, a showcase of apps made in Colombia (including a section for Agriculture focused ones), a bunch of local companies showing their products and services, and probably a lot more that I missed.

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As with all good conferences, it was also a great chance to meet with game dev friends and make new friendships too; the IGDA Colombia Meet and Greet gathered a lot of the game development scene from Colombia as well as our visitors, stories were shared and new friendships were formed.

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All in all, Colombia 4.0 is a great event for IT enthusiasts, containing a lot more than you can probably check in three days. Fortunately, most of the talks are recorded so you can check them out in their channel. Unfortunately, for the ones I was able to check the audio was dubbed to Spanish so that may be an issue if your Español isn’t very good, and no English translation seems to be available for the Spanish ones.

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GameDev service providers panel at Colombia 4.0

One of the things I was looking forward the most for this year’s Colombia 4.0 was the panel with founders and CEOs of Colombian game development service providers.

The panel featured Enrique Fuentes of Teravision Games, Carlos Rocha of Below the Game, Eivar Rojas of Efecto Studios and Ivan Álvarez of Timba Games.

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Here are some takeaways of the panel, moderated by Chris Wren (ExDev Producer at EA):

  • Providing development services is a great way for a new or growing company to get funding and learn a lot in the process, this doesn’t have to be a pain even if your dream is to create your own games… there are fun projects to be made for clients.
  • You have to make a game first. There’s absolutely no way someone is going to hire you otherwise. You also need the ability to build a relationship with the client, communicate using their language, and learn and assimilate their business culture.
  • Creativity is at the core of video game development, but in order to build a successful business around it, you need to establish processes that can be reliably replicated through different projects.
  • You are going to face a lot of challenges, every time you face a situation try to figure out why it happened to prevent it from happening again (again, use the newly acquired knowledge as an asset to enhance your processes).
  • To get your first contract you need luck in order to find a good opportunity, but you also need to be ready with a game to show and push forward against adverse factors without giving up.
  • Go to events and talks, introduce your work to industry figures and speakers, that will help you get connected with companies if they like you.
  • We started working in an existing engine and build upon it; the creators of the engine were impressed by our work and hired us. This first client has evolved into our current development partner. Building long time relationships often help.
  • Initial cash flow issues and technical challenges were common when we started. Some things that helped were having people specialize in specific project roles creating a pipeline to be more efficient.
  • One thing is planning to make a pipeline and another one is implementing it with local talent. We learned it takes time to build a working team. You need to provide the team with challenges and tools.
  • We doubled team size too quickly in order to have the capacity to handle incoming projects, just to lose some of them afterward while keeping the additional fixed costs we acquired. We fell into irresponsible growth, we recovered but was painful. To prevent this it helps to grow in small “cells”.
  • We are building industry so that newly formed developers can have a place to work. Look for companies at IGDA Colombia website, send your portfolios, companies are always looking for good talent and people that understand core concepts of development.
  • Not all developers are motivated by the same kind of projects. For some developers, it might be more motivating and fun to work in “work for hire” projects, which may be more straightforward than own IPs for indie games.
  • Stay true to what your company wants to be good at making, know when to say no to a project. We have less diversity of clients every time, but we feel being focused has great advantages.
  • Find the genre of games you like, work on it every day and show your work to the world.
  • If you want to work developing video games, take advantage of the current moment of the industry, there ARE places to work in Colombia. It is challenging to get a job but be up to the challenge, even if your plan is to have your own company in the future, you can learn a lot.
  • Don’t approach game development as someone eating in a restaurant, but rather as the passionate chef in the kitchen, working constantly and focused into making better food experiences every time.

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After the panel, the participants were approached by students and developers eager to show their work.

Winners of Ananias RoguelikeCel 18 Tournament

Congrats to the winners of The Tournament!

  • #1 – Jebidiah, with Sheena the Barbarian. Killed by a Porpworm on level 29 after 81:36. Downed 555 monsters
  • #2 – Geist, with MarMi the Alchemist. Killed by a Drogon on level 28 after 308:37. Downed 462 monsters
  • #3 – @burdfishdemon, with Red Warrior the Barbarian. Killed by a Guardian on level 17 after 75:57. Downed 270 monsters
  • #4 – @moemustaine, with Scalebearer the Barbarian. Killed by a Demonspawn on level 16 after 43:41. Downed 259 monsters
  • #5 – Adam Boyd, with Rodney the Monster Slayer. Killed by a Sireen on level 14 after 75:06. Downed 200 monsters
Adam Boyd receiving his prizes at roguelikecel
Adam Boyd receiving his prizes at roguelikecel
Burdfishdemon's loot
Burdfishdemon’s loot
Tombstone of Sheena the Barbarian
Tombstone of Sheena the Barbarian

Postmortem: ArcherFire Duet of Aces – js13k 2018

ArcherFire: Duet of Aces is a game I made for the js13k 2018 contest, you can check it out here! (and the source code is here)

I decided to write one final piece of text about my second participation on the contest. I already described my journey in detail here and here, and also did a dissection of the source code, but I wanted to record some lessons learned which may come in handy for other people or myself in the future.

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The story

Whenever I participate in a game jam or contest, I ask myself what is my motivation:

  • Learn a new language or tool
  • Create something cool
  • Win the contest prize

This was the second time I participated in the contest; results from last year had been a bit disappointing (regarding the ranking given by the jurors), and I knew my development time this year was going to be very limited. Still, I aimed to rank high into the lists.

The theme for this year was OFFLINE, as mentioned in my first blog post, I started off with a vague idea of a space… thing… where you could collaborate with other players offline to advance through the game.

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On the first day of dev, I created some foundations work looking forward to having some kind of space sandbox thing with arcade elements (Similar to this entry, which ended up being one of the contest winners). However, given the constraints I had, I decided to follow my own advice from last year’s postmortem and create:

  • An arcade game bringing full action from the first second of gameplay
  • Complete music track

And that’s precisely what I ended up doing! Interestingly, and maybe because of what I set to do and my experience from last year, I didn’t have any issues with the 13KB limit so I didn’t have to cut around any corners. I incorporated the OFFLINE theme by allowing 2 players hot-seat offline play.

However, the results were even less encouraging this year. Despite receiving good feedback from the jurors, the game didn’t even end up in the top 100. (Last year it ended up #40 overall and ranked well in the Community and Social lists). Since this was the first year where some constraints were put on the prizes model (only top 100 entries would get prizes) that meant that effectively I lost the contest. There was a total of 270 entries, and mine ended up ranked #105.

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Unlike last year, this time I don’t really have some big factors I think led to this result. I contented myself in thinking that the jurying process is not perfect, and there may have been very good entries this year. Still, here’s what I think worked and didn’t work.

What went right

  • Seeded Procedural Generation: Managed to create an infinite, increasingly harder, top-down shooter level which was the same every time you played (So, in theory, the more you play the game the more likely you are to memorize the hazards and get farther)
  • Pseudo 3D Effect: Everyone loved how cool the ships looked when soaring around.
  • Straightforward action-packed: The game is pretty responsive and quick, with lots of action on screen. No need to explain anyone how to play because it’s obvious!
  • 2 players hot-seat mode: I couldn’t test this much because I have no friends, but I saw some people have fun and yell at each other afterward.
  • A solid, finished entry: No bugs, no feeling of being an “incomplete game”, it is what it is and it doesn’t break.
  • Music: One of the game highlights, and I didn’t do it myself 😀 it was all thanks to Ryan Malm. I just gave him a reference and some ideas, and he came up with the track. Thanks again!

What went wrong

  • Floaty Controls: Since my foundational work on a simple physics engine had support for acceleration, I stuck to the end with the idea of the ships being “hard to control” as a “challenging aspect” for the player. I knew it was frustrating, but I waged on the players trying harder to learn how to control it. In the end, it ended up being too hard and too different to the standard. A model where the ships had less inertia would have been much more playable and enjoyable. Maybe I need to start making easier games!
  • Balancing: Some people reported the game was a bit too hard. In part, this may be closely related to the controls, but also could have lessened the hit points of the enemies or made the difficulty curve less step.
  • Lack of theme: Yet another space shooter, no plot, maybe went too much into the arcade direction? So that aspect was pretty uninteresting. There were also too few types of enemies, mainly because of the time constraints I had.
  • Graphics too simple: I am not an artist, and the game had high-resolution vector art. Unlike last year where I could go around that by using shadows in the darkness, this year I went for colors and maybe it didn’t look too nice. One thing that could have worked would have been using WebGL filters to post-process the bare graphics, which has worked great for other games in the past.

The Future

This is not the end of the story for Duet of Aces… I plan to make it evolve into a more complete game, keeping the core design but adding better art, sound effects, more music, a complete plot and more importantly, adapting it to social media mobile platforms. More info soon!

Also, some things I want to do next year:

  • An easy game, rewarding players without requiring lots of skill.
  • Gorgeous visuals.