Appicious

A project I completed as a part of my course in college involved coming up with a sustainable business idea and creating a business plan for that idea. This was a group project and my group and I came up with the idea of a company called Appicious. Appicious will provide customers with a choice of three core packages; the Social Package, Beginner Package and Enterprise Package, each delivering various levels of development while providing the customer with the best possible value for money.

The concept of Appicious was created during our first meeting, which we used to discuss several business ideas along with their strengths and weaknesses. We also used this meeting to determine the opportunities and threats that each of these ideas presented. By the end of the meeting we settled on the idea of Appicious, a mobile application development company which would develop applications across a number of mobile platforms such as Android, iOS and Windows. A big factor in selecting Appicious as a business idea was that we believed that it is capable of generating significant income.

Next as a group we created a business plan for our idea which included a description of the service the company will provide, the size of the market we’re targeting and the risks and opportunities that the business will or may encounter. We then added to the business plan by researching our potential competition. By doing this we were able to develop a competitive approach towards our own business.  A detailed market analysis was then added during our regular group meetings in order to flush our the final details of our business plan. Individual group members would come up with various aspects of the business plan and these aspects would be heavily discussed during our weekly meetings before committing it to the business plan.

To view the final version of the business plan for Appicious click here.

In order to illustrate our potential income and expenditure we decided to create a spreadsheet which would outline our financial projection.  This involved a great deal of research into the expenses we could encounter and the technological items required for our business to operate successfully.

To view the final version of the financial projection for Appicious click here.

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Grace’s Diary 2

During my time as a student at the University of Limerick I completed an assignment which involved being paired up with a company that are located in the Nexus Innovation Center, which is situated on campus. This was a group assignment and my colleague and I ended up being paired with a company known as Footbridge Interactive. They create highly interactive and fun literacy and reading games as a learning support for children who experience difficulties with reading.

The game my colleague and I completed for the assignment involved creating a version of the game “Grace’s Diary 2″ for the Windows Phone 7 platform. Grace’s Diary 2 needed to be identical to the Flash internet version of the original game. Footbridge supplied us with all the graphical and audio resources we needed to create the game plus the specification document for the original, the Flash version.

Our initial task consisted of re-sizing all of the images we were supplied with, to comply with the limited resolutions of the mobile devices that operate on the Windows Phone 7 platform. However some did not fit the scale ratio so they needed to be re-worked. Also in order to make the most efficient use of our time we used Microsoft’s Game State Management example as a template with which to build “Grace’s Diary 2″ on. Using the specification provided to use, as well as using the Flash internet version as a reference, my colleague and I began development of “Grace’s Diary 2”.

My colleague had developed the first version of Grace’s Diary for the Windows Phone 7 for Footbridge, so in order to make the most efficient use of our time, we decided to use this along with Microsoft’s Game State Management as a template with which to build “Grace’s Diary 2″ on. By working closely together with my colleague, we briskly developed a routine which resulted in the game being fully developed and tested.

Overall, I really enjoyed working on this project. It allowed me to significantly increase my knowledge of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 as well as the C# programming language and the XNA framework. Also by working closely with another person during this assignment, I was able to improve my communication and teamwork skills.

Video Games :: Are They Art?

In order to answer this question, first we must try to define art. However this can be very difficult as there are so many different factors that make up the concept of art. But for the purposes of this post we will define art as the combination of form and content. Form means the elements of art such as colour, texture etc. It also means the physical materials the artist uses such as brushes, palettes etc. Content refers to what the artist meant to portray, however it also refers to what the artist actually did portray. Content also means the reaction of people to what the artist has portrayed.

Now that we have defined art, we can begin to take a close look at video games and see if there is any connection between them and art. Art has a design and a story and evokes a reaction. Many of these traits can be seen in video games such as Mass Effect 3 and Assassins Creed 2. Art stimulates different parts of our brain, to make us laugh, to make us angry, as do video games when we play them. From the points just outlined, we can see that there are links between video games and art.

However even though we can see these links, the concept of video games as art is a controversial topic within the entertainment industry. Even art games, game specifically designed to be a work of creative expression, have been challenged as works of art by some critics[1].

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum an exhibition known as “The Art of Video Games” created a debate amongst people who questioned whether or not video games can be viewed as art. Some believe video games belong in museums, others believe that while video games are highly interactive, they are not art[2].

In my opinion video games are art. Art gives us a way to be creative and express ourselves, the same can be said for video games. Take Assassins Creed 2 for example, the design and style of that game is precisely what the creators of the game intended. Also the gameplay combined with your character’s purpose was something new to the games industry, it was creative. Overall you could argue that Assassins Creed 2 is a masterpiece of art.

 

Gaut’s kind of conditions that make up the successful cluster account of art Agree / Disagree
1. Possessing positive aesthetic properties Agree
2. Being expressive of emotion Disagree
3. Being intellectually challenging Agree
4. Being formally complex and coherent Disagree
5. Having a capacity to convey complex meanings Agree
6. Exhibiting an individual point of view Agree
7. Being an exercise of creative imagination Agree
8. Being the product of a high degree of skill Agree
9. Belonging to an established artistic form Disagree
10. Being the product of an intention to make a work of art Disagree

 

[1] Wikipedia (2012) Video games as art [online], available:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_games_as_art [03/11/2012]

[2] The Washington Post (2012) Are video games art? Kids speak out [online], available:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidspost/are-video-games-art-kids-speak-out/2012/05/28/gJQAPNtjyU_story.html [03/11/2012]

My FYP :: Mobile Meets Web

For my Final Year Project (FYP) I am designing and developing a mobile game that will communicate with a website. The game will be made for mobile and tablet devices that run the new Windows 8 OS. At the moment the title of the game is The Adventures of Deajah. It will be a high-level combination of the popular mobile game Doodle Jump and the beloved retro arcade game, Megaman. With regards to the website, it will contain some information about the game and how it was developed and the inspiration around it. A playable version of the game will also be on the website. Finally the reason game will communicate with the website is so a global score system can be put into place as well as a database of users. Users being people who play the game and want to submit their score to the global score system.

For designing both the game and the website, I plan on using Adobe Photoshop. If the design of either the game of the website ends up being rather basic, I may use Adobe Fireworks in order to enhance my expertise with it. With respect to the tools I will be using to develop the game and website for my FYP, for the game I intend on using Microsoft Visual Studio Professional 2012. In relation to the website, Notepad++ will be my tool of choice.

I am really excited about my doing my FYP. It’ll be interesting to see how my game will look on a phone or tablet running Windows 8. Not only will it be my first time developing a game that will be playable on both mobile and tablet devices as well as on the web, but it will also be my first time creating a game that will communicate with a website.

My First Real Website :: Soldiers Can’t Dance

Whilst I was on CoOp during third year, I did a lot of work for my friends’ band called Soldiers Can’t Dance. This work included some social media and design tasks. I was also responsible for the design and development of the band’s new website.

After discussing what the website should contain and look like with the guys in the band as well as their manager, I began to get a very clear picture of what they wanted. It was to be a simple single page website that contained links to the band’s various social networking sites as well as a sign-up form to their newsletter. They also wanted a list of their upcoming gigs to be on the website.

I used Adobe Photoshop to come up with a mock-design of what the website would look like. I used a fairly simple colour scheme when designing the website and also used one or two patterns for the overall background. I then showed the design to the band and their manager and they approved so I began developing the website. In order to create what I had designed, I needed to use languages like HTML & CSS, JavaScript and PHP. The tool I used to write in all these languages was Notepad++.

When I finished developing the website I showed what I developed to the band and their manager. They were all thrilled with what I had done which delighted me. However due to other commitments and college work the website has still to be fully tested and I believe the layout of the site is incorrect in IE 8. But still, designing and developing a website for Soldiers Can’t Dance was a great experience for me. It was a tremendous accomplishment for me also as it was my first live website.

Snake :: The XNA Version

When I was in second year I took a module called Games Modelling Design. One of the projects I completed as part of this module was to create a game for Windows using the XNA library. This was a group project and included a number of minimum requirements such as the game should contain movement, collision detection, event handling, animation, a score counter, a game manual and non-player characters that are relatively intelligent. For this project myself and two other classmates decided to re-make the game Snake.

When we started the project the very first thing we did was divide up all of the work among the three of us equally. My tasks for the project were to design and create the menu system for the game. I used Microsoft Visual Studio Professional 2010 to write my code whilst doing the project. By using this tool I was able to easily structure and organise the files I had created as well as import any multimedia resources that I needed. It also provided me with an emulator so I could see if the code I wrote was correct, both syntactically and semantically.

Overall I really enjoyed doing this project. One particular reason was because it was my first time creating a game using XNA which was a great achievement for me personally. Another reason is that it furthered my programming skills as well as my design skills. I learned how to design and create a full functioning menu system which I have now used in other games with great success. Working in a team with my two colleagues was good because I had never worked with them on a project before, and because of this communicating information clearly and concisely to one another was all the more important.

War Games :: Are They As Bad As The Real Thing?

The overall public perception of war is, not surprisingly  a bad one. The characteristics it embodies such as violence, conflict causes the majority of people to resent it. However do not think that there is just a single type of war, the type that you see on the news every week, the type that has made individuals like Adolf Hitler infamous. In the modern era, there are indeed many types of war, some of these include drugs wars, gang wars and political wars. Even though factors such as social and cultural differences, as well as religious beliefs possibly influence these wars, all of them come about due to one single factor, ideology.

Ideology is the set of belief characteristics of a social group or individual[1]. It is found at the heart of every war to date. Ideology is key as it can produce propaganda which sparks conflict and opposition, and these are essential in the creation of a war. Ideology can also lead to dehumanizing the opposition in an attempt to portray them as some form of villain. Also, as a result of certain ideologies, technology can become a factor. People with certain ideologies use technology in an attempt to spread their ideology, this is done by using social networking sites, apps, newspapers, online articles etc.

Lately an attempt has been made by the media and individuals who are politically motivated to tarnish the reputation of particular video games. The reason for their actions is that they feel that video games have become too violent, and believe that the violent people are exposed to in video games will carry over to the real world[2]. Unfortunately there are examples of this, like the 14 year old student in Japan who punched and kicked a fellow student and said they were not fighting, in fact they were copying a video game[3]. The most known case of violence in video games carrying over to the real world is the incident in Norway, where Anders Breivik killed several people. Anders claimed to use the massively popular online-game World of Warcraft to relax and he also claimed to use Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as a training simulator.

In my opinion, games and their narratives are a representation of the real world, therefore as long as their is violence and conflict in the real world, there will be video games that contain violence. I will agree that some recent video games have contained very graphic amounts of violence, however games such as these come with the appropriate age rating. I believe when it comes to kids playing these games, that parents need to take some responsibility. If the parents of the child believe that he or she are not the appropriate age to play this game, they need to take actions to stop the child from playing said game. With regards to adults and violent video games, I am of the opinion that adults of sound mind and body should be capable of distinguishing the violence in the real world, and the violence in video games. Therefore it should not impact them as much as it would a youngster. For example I myself have been playing video games which contain violence yet I am far from a violent person.

[1] Oxford Dictionaries (2012) Definition of Ideology [online], available
http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/ideology [09/10/2012]

[2] The Herald Newspaper (2011) Top-selling new video game is too violent [online], available
http://www.herald.ie/news/topselling-new-video-game-is-too-violent-2968112.html [10/10/2012]

[3] Kotaku (2012) We Weren’t Fighting Claims Kid, We Were Copying a Video Game [online], available
http://kotaku.com/5928180/we-werent-fighting-claims-kid-we-were-copying-a-video-game [10/10/2012]

Games and Learning

One question that is circulating the games industry at the moment is how to successfully incorporate learning into games without disrupting the player’s interaction with the game. To most, learning is any person’s ability to acquire and understand information from the external world in order to create and/or improve a set of skills[1]. Human skills fall into 3 domains, these are Cognitive, Physcomotor and Affective. With regards to the Cognitive domain, there are six different levels of learning. These are knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Together these levels make up the various behaviors that occur when the knowledge and development of intellectual skills takes place[2].

A more detailed look into the evaluation level reveals that there are numerous types of evaluation such as formative, summative, integrative, impact and educational technology audit. One of the key types of evaluation is impact, this aims to determine whether students’ learning outcomes have been successful and whether or not those outcomes have been applied correctly to the context of use, or to other similar tasks. The impact type also aims to see if the student can retain any of the knowledge they learned long term.

One key aspect that has hindered the impact of learning in games and the inclusion of learning in games successfully, is the lack of research being done into why people play games. Few researches have studied just why do people games as well as what the environments are like around those who play games. It is because of this lack of in-depth research that we still fail to know what people are learning when they play games, or if they learn anything at all.

One of several theories that could provide a valuable insight into learning and game playing is known as Activity Theory. There are three components to this theory, the subject, the object and a tool. The subject component refers to the person acting and the object component refers to that person’s intention, whilst a tool is a mediating item. In a sense, the Activity Theory implies that learning is an active and creative process which is motivated by problems.

In my opinion one of the core reasons learning games have not been mastered is due to the lack of interaction between student and game. For me what is needed are games which encourage and push students to actively carry out activities within the game, rather than confining and limiting the student to just navigating the content. Another issue with learning games is the presentation of the content. In order to keep the learner engaged there must be animation or provided interaction. Learning games that are just screens of static text will end up failing as they are providing no meaningful interaction to the learners, thus preventing them from immersing themselves in the learning process. Also when it comes to seeing if the learner has gained anything from the game, I agree with the method of evaluation, however in my opinion if a learning game is going to implement this method, it must not disturb the learning experience. By this I mean that throughout the game the learner should not be faced with numerous tests after every level, mission or activity, if they are, the learner will ultimately become uninterested in the game and will therefore fail to take the maximum out of the learning aspect of the game.

 

 

[1] Wikipedia (2012) Definition of Learning [online], available:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning [03/10/2012]

[2] The Performance Juxtapoisition Website (2012) Bloom’s Taxonomy [online], available:
http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/bloom.html [03/10/2012]

Ludology vs Narratology :: The Never Ending Argument

It’s the age old question that still has no concrete answer. Over the years, a scarce number of researches have looking into why people play games and how we should view games. Currently there are two theories as to how we should view games, those are ludology and narratology.

Ludology is the study of games and is concerned with the actions and events that take place in those games. Ludologists have proposed that the study of games, video games in particular, should concern the analysis of the abstract and formal systems they describe[1]. In other words, the focus of game studies should be on the actions and events that take place in games as stated above.

Narratology deals with the study of narrative and narrative structure. In contrast to ludologists, narratologists believe that games should be understood as novel forms of narrative, dealing with the structure and function of the narrative within the game and can thus be studied using certain narrative theories[2]. These narrative theories are used to study all other media such as books and film.

Today people from every circle of society play games which poses the question, can someone really be just a ludologist or a narratologist? Or are people a mixture of both? After discussing the topic in class, there are several theories as to why people play games. For instance, do people play games to validate themselves? Maybe they play games so that they can reinforce themselves on a psychological level, to show themselves that they can overcome the challenge that is put forth by a particular game. Or do people play games for the enjoyment of it? Do they simply play the game until they find it enjoyable regardless of where they are in the game? Or maybe perhaps people play games to be socially accepted on some level. Perhaps people play games so they can fit in with a certain group or interact with a certain individual.

Personally, I find that games with a narrative can entice the player into the game more. They add to the overall experience when playing the game and allow me to become immersed in the game in a sense. However for others this is not the case, for example series like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row allow players to detach from the main story and explore the game world. Thus rendering the storyline insignificant and forces the game to revolve around its gameplay only. Then there are games such as draughts and backgammon which have no storyline, they are purely action and event based games. This can also be seen in certain video games like Tetris and Snake for example. Both of these games, like draughts and backgammon, are without a structured narrative and again are purely action and event based games. One could argue that you could make a very successful game without any significant and apparent storyline. But a detailed storyline could still be present as it could be created by the individual playing the game due to them being so immersed in the game. Thus making the game made up of both ludological and narratological theories.

 

 

[1] Ludology Website (2012) What is Ludology [online], available:
http://www.ludology.org/2001/07/what-is-ludolog.htm [25/09/2012]

[2] Oxford Dictionaries (2012) Definition of Narratology [online], available:
http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/narratology [25/09/2012]

My Dream Job

For as long as I can possibly remember, I’ve always loved playing video games. When I was four, I got my very first console which was the Nintento Entertainment System (NES). Everyday after school my friend and I would spend all evening playing Super Mario World. Since then I knew that when I grew up I wanted to work in the computer games industry.

Then when the time came in Secondary School school to chose what I wanted to do in college I decided to take a course in computer games development. At the end of the day it wasn’t really that much of a difficult decision for me. I was good at maths and physics and was very competent when it came to computers in general and absolutely mad about computer games.

After I successfully completed second year of college, I managed to get a job for the summer working in a start-up games company located in an incubator beside Blanchardstown IT. The company was called Seoige Technology and at the time they were developing an online social networking and learning game for children called SavvyBear. Working on this game was helpful to me as it improved my design skills as well as my software engineering skills.

My experience at Seoige was tremendous because it allowed me see for myself what it is like working in a computer games company. Whilst working at Seoige I was able to add multiple aspects of the games industry such as marketing, customer support and competitor research to my skill-set. Although I did not learn any of these in great detail, I feel they’re still essential to be aware of and have some knowledge of. And yes that is me in a bear costume in the picture above.

Then when I was in third year, I was required to go out on placement with a company for roughly seven months in order to get some real-world experience of what it is like working in your respective sector. One advantage I had was that I already had experience working in the computer games sector in Ireland. However I did not know what it was like working for a multinational organisation. So for my placement I worked in an e-learning company called MindLeaders.

Whilst there I primary worked on developing web applications to help improve office workflow. I also did some setup and maintenance work for the back-end of some of their products. Working at MindLeaders allowed me to improve my organisational skills by a staggering amount. I also noticed that my interpersonal and teamwork skills improved vastly. Having to work in teams with individuals from different backgrounds and having to work within the multiple policies the company had in place was an invaluable experience for me. Having my placement at a company like MindLeaders showed me that I would like working at a large corporation. However the early starts didn’t appeal to me much, thankfully I had goodies like the ones above to help me pull through.

I am now a fourth year student in my chosen course. I have had numerous experiences throughout my time in college in relation to computer games development, some were good and some were bad, but overall those experiences have had a positive impact on me and my dreams. I now know what my dream job is, a computer games developer. I know big shock right. More specifically I would love to design and develop mobile games in either a small or large sized company.

Companies like PopCap Games appeal to me as they develop games across a multitude of platforms, whether it be for Facebook, iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7, Xbox Live Arcade etc. I’d love to work with a large team of programmers and designers to make mobile games. That being said I wouldn’t mind one bit working with a small team of people in order to create mobile games. As long as there is good comradely between me and the people I am working with, I don’t really care how many people I am interacting with. Currently I have the majority of languages and tools used to create mobile based games in my skill-set. For instance languages I am very competent with like HTML5, JavaScript, Java and C# XNA, are all used in the computer games industry to create mobile games.

In terms of role models, there are certain individuals that work in the mobile sector that I admire and aspire to be like such as Michael Smith and Brian Wong. Brian is the Founder and CEO of a company called Kiip, which is a mobile in-game advertising platform. He is a twenty first century entrepreneur  . I admire him because at a young age he made the decision to start a business and follow an idea he believed in, even though many though his business plan was flawed. Brian’s grasp of the mobile sector and how people think when it comes to advertising combined with his passion for what he does is what inspired me to focus my work on the mobile platform.

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