December 10, 2014

Tesla Motors Simulator Update - Roadster

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The car company Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 with the vision to build hundreds of thousands of electric cars. But the problem with that vision was that it is super-expensive to build so many cars, so they couldn't afford and neither had they the experience they would need. To solve this problem they decided to begin with a few (but expensive) electric cars. The result was the Roadster, which I've now added to my Tesla Motors Simulator. (The model is not 100 percent complete yet so I will improve it in the future).




I've also noticed that it's easy to get stuck when you are driving either the Roadster or the Model S, so I added a hovering function. I believe the co-founder of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, believes that we in the future will have flying cars.


While experimenting I also tested to make a monster truck version:


December 8, 2014

Kill Your Thoughts - or how to make a game in 48 hours

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The goal of the Ludum Dare competition is to make a simple game in 48 (or 72) hours. I believe the organizers run the competition about three times per year - and the prize money is nothing more than the honor. This was the third time I participated in the competition, you can read about the other times here: Max Manus, and Battle of Khe Sanh.

As you don't make any money from the competition, the idea is that you should learn something and/or maybe test an idea you have that you may sell as a complete game in the future. You will also get feedback on the game from other participants in the competition. What I learned this time was to not update any software before the competition. I updated Unity to a new version and realized that some of the old features had been replaced with new, so it took a while from the actual game design to learn these new features. While making the game, I also found a few other ideas I will try to test in a near future.

One of the things I learned from the last competition was that a theme from a real war is not a good idea, especially not the Vietnam war if you are going to market your game in the US. So in this competition I decided to make a game where you kill, but you are killing your "bad thoughts," thus the name "Kill your thoughts." This is the description:
You are participating in a competition where you are making a game in 48 hours. If you are participating in such a competition you have to be able to fight thoughts like visiting Twitter, or drink beer, and feelings like "My cat makes better games than me!" To help you fight these feelings, your mind is actually using an armored Saab on the top of your screen.

...and this was the result (You can test it here):




December 4, 2014

Breaking down the seven-year development of Antichamber by Alexander Bruce

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Antichamber is a successful computer game developed by an Australian guy named Alexander Bruce (His Twitter: @Demruth). It has sold more than 750 000 copies. Less than a million copies might not sound impressing, but the game is a so-called indie game, which is defined as:
Independent video games (commonly referred to as indie games) are video games created by individuals or small teams generally without video game publisher financial support. Indie games often focus on innovation and rely on digital distribution. Indie gaming has seen a rise in the latter half of the 2000s decade, primarily due to new online distribution methods and development tools.

Another successful indie game is Minecraft (sold for more than $2 billion to Microsoft). While some modern games need $500 million and an army of developers to complete their games, many of these indie games are far from that expensive. Minecraft began as a game developed at home in the evenings and with a marketing budget of nothing else than a website on the Internet. 


But back to Antichamber. We know much about Minecraft (there are books, articles, documentaries, etc), but we know less about Antichamber. But the developer of Antichamber gave a good talk this year with the topic "Breaking down the seven-year development of Antichamber." You can find it here and part 2 is here.

Here are some key points from the talk:
  • As the topic of the talk suggests, it took 7 years to develop the game. So much for easy money and overnight success. Making games is hard.
  • "Luck is what happens when preparations meets opportunity." We often use luck to describe things we don't understand. You might first say that Alexander Bruce succeed just because he was lucky, but then you don't know what he did during the 7 years it took to develop the game. Luck is just a multiplier of your efforts. If luck is in everything, then factor it out of everything. So if you ignore luck, you have to take everything else more seriously. In the end, you can succeed without luck, but luck will make you succeed more.
  • His first idea of a game he wanted to make wasn't Antichamber as we know it today - he began with smaller experiments. "How would Asteroids looks like in 3D?" 
  • Do something radically different. You have to make something that is different than what everyone else is making. Antichamber is the first game of its kind. Ask yourself: "What makes me different?" This is related to an earlier article where the entrepreneur Peter Thiel said that you should always own your market.
  • Festivals are a great way to get noticed, so visit them all - and hand out cards to a lot of people.
  • Learn from other people's mistakes.
  • Fake it till you make it! Stop doubting yourself by saying, "I'm not a programmer," or, "I'm not a designer." If you want to be someone - start being someone right now!
  • You have to be able to explain your game in ways that someone who has never played it before understands it.
  • You need to be able to watch how people are playing your game, so you can understand your users. Remember that data without any physical observations can give you wrong information. "The moment I start tracking the data, then I'm going to track the wrong thing. People track what's easy to track." What you need to see is the player's face.
  • Calm down! If you rush too fast, you will not make it till the end.
  • If you just look at the successful people, you can miss 90 percent of the story! (If 90 percent fail) 
  • The name of the game is important.
  • Make the best game for the best platform (like PC). If you from the beginning want to add the game to Xbox, PlayStation, etc, it will use time you could have used to improve the game.
  • But when you have a good game, the high expectations of the game might lead you to depression. Alexander Bruce actually had a small mental breakdown. But so did other successful indie game developers (as seen in the documentary Indie Game: The Movie)
  • It's common to feel jealous of other successful games.
  • A good way to market you game is to let someone who is popular on YouTube play it.

November 29, 2014

Give up or learn how to live in the jungle for 30 years

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The map above shows the Lubang Island, which is a small island (25 km by 10 km) in the Philippines. Maybe the most famous citizen of the island is Hiroo Onoda. He lived there for about 30 years. 

You might have heard of the Japanese soldiers who never wanted to surrender. The Japanese soldier who held out the longest was Hiroo Onoda, who surrendered in 1974. He came to the Lubang Island in 1944 with the goal to blow up the airfield and the harbor. The Japanese had about 200 soldiers on the island when he arrived, but most of them would die or surrender when the US Marines invaded the island in 1945. But Hiroo Onoda and 3 other soldiers escaped into the jungle and became guerrilla fighters.

The war in the pacific ended in September 1945. Hiroo Onoda, who was an officer, trusted nobody except his superior office who never gave him the order to surrender, so he and his 3 fellow soldiers continued to live in the jungle. They were not fighting anyone - they thought they were too few to do that - so they decided to hide and wait for reinforcements.

The first of the four surrendered in 1950, but the rest of the soldiers never trusted him when he came back and told them the war was over. The second of the four was killed by gunfire in 1954. The two other would held out the longest. This is how and why they did it.

How:
  • People lived on the island so they could steal food and kill the villagers cows. They killed about 6 cows per year.
  • They moved around the jungle and no matter what they did they were very careful. For example, they washed the upper body in the morning, and the lower body in the evening, to minimize the risk of being discovered.
  • Fortunately, the were living on an island that was warm (except during the rain season) and they could find both bananas and coconuts.
  • They took care of themselves. Hiroo Onoda was sick in bed with fever only twice during 30 years.

Why:
  • The Philippine Air Force used a part of the island for target practice, so they thought the war was still going on and the planes were bombing them.
  • They got photographs of their families, but they thought the photographs were fake. Remember that all Japanese citizens had orders to die for the country. If the war had really ended, the photographs were fake because then all Japanese would have been dead.
  • Both the US Air Force and the Philippine Air Force dropped letters. But they analyzed the text and came to the conclusion that everything was made-up. This is a common psychological trait and is called confirmation bias.
  • They made up their own world-story by reading the newspapers they stole from the villagers on the island which suited their world-story. For example, they came to the conclusion that the Vietnam War was a part of World War II.
  • When they found a radio and heard about the Tokyo Olympic Games, they thought "After all, people were always saying there were no national boundaries in the world of sports." 

Sounds interesting? Then you should read the great book No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War. But what the book will not tell you, but Wikipedia will, is that Hiroo Onoda had killed several of the villagers on the island. 

November 26, 2014

Random Show Episode 26

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A new episode of the Random Show with Kevin Rose (founder of Digg) and Tim Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek) is out! This is episode 26.


Lessons learned
  • According to Tim Ferriss, a lot of would be entrepreneurs follow this quote: "Everything has been done and there's nothing left." But that's not true, because there's so much left to invent. 
  • Tim Ferriss's favorite market that you should target if you are building a company is very precisely defined, relatively easy to target, and price-insensitive high-end.
  • You don't have to be a large public company and follow the traditional "Silicon Valley way" of building a company. The Swedish furniture company IKEA could do it on their own
  • Both Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss seems to be burned out from the current "tech" hysteria in Silicon Valley. Tim Ferriss argues that we have a tech-bubble and the companies that will survive are the lean companies that are not in a rush.
  • Take some time to be thankful and make a list of those things!

Recommendations

If you want to watch the rest of the episodes, you can find them here: The Random Show with Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss