Be the developer you want to be.

Up until quite recently , I’ve mainly only developed websites and desktop applications. These were great projects to work on and discover some new technologies, especially this year. I got my first taste of Android development, which was a huge jump from regular Java programs. I think this jump was made even higher by ourselves due to our cloud-hosted data. For a first app, it was a big one. There was no “Hello World!” app, we dove right into network latency and UI design. When we encountered a problem, we figured it out pretty quickly. Looking back at it now, I’m surprised we got it finished.

I started working solely on a .NET website to act as a management console for restaurants where they could create and modify floorplans, manage reservations and edit their details. The only experience with an MVC web application that I had was roughly 2 months with the Play! Framework in a web development module. 2 long months of application errors and trawling the internet for solutions. I found ASP.NET to be much easier to use with Visual Studio providing a solid IDE for the project. I used a lot of JavaScript, JQuery and CSS (mostly Bootstrap) to create a working prototype, which we built on further by improving the UI etc. While I was doing this, my project partner Robbie was working on the Android app. The website and the Android app were like two separate projects, linked together via Azure. We couldn’t figure out how to do that though, we had a lot of issues with the Entity Framework just not working with migrations, but we struggled ahead with other features until we figured it out. It was now March, we had about 6 weeks left and nothing was working together.

I think it was mid-March when I realised how to link them, a way that was right in front of me for months. A simple fix of changing the database schema (this needs to be emphasised more!) allowed the app to see the .NET tables, after which we kicked into overdrive. We got all of the features working and we actually finished the project a week early. We improved the performance of the app a lot by using custom Node.js APIs to do the difficult processing server-side rather than on the device, and stored procedures from the APIs allowed the client to do a single JSON GET / POST. We’re now waiting for our results.

We wanted to do a game originally but were talked out of it with people saying things like “a company doesn’t care about games” , “you won’t finish it” , “a business project would be more impressive”. Bullshit, mostly anyway. Yes, ‘some’ companies would have no interest or need for a game, and there would be a very high chance of us not finishing it. But the thing is, I care about games, I think they’re interesting and very, very impressive. I don’t want to work in a company on a completely internal management system or some other boring project, I want to work without feeling that it’s actually work. Loving what you work at is something that I would follow, and I did love our 3rd year project. Developing something that anyone can use anywhere from their smartphone was such a cool feeling. Game development feels like something I would love even more.

I’ve been playing games since I was 5, starting off on Pong in my grandparents house. I thought it was the greatest invention ever, the way it could transform a TV into a game was unbelievable. I convinced my parents to buy a Playstation when it was announced, which was like a futuristic magical machine. I had so many classic games for it, but the majority of my time was spent trying to cross that damn bridge in Crash Bandicoot. Fast forward to now, and I’m an admitted Trophy Hunter/Addict. There’s no real reward to trophies, but I feel like you get the most amount of possible enjoyment trying to get them all. I guess I may have picked up that trait from Pokémon which was another big piece of my childhood. In recent years I’ve moved away from the traditional “run and gun” games like Call of Duty and I’ve picked up a lot of indie games which are 100 times more enjoyable. The storyline, the design and the gameplay is always better than the last I play. I love watching game development documentaries about some of the games I’ve played, they always give me a lot of inspiration. The biggest message that they all give is “If you want to be a game developer, go make something! Now!”

Which is exactly what I’m doing. I got the latest version of Unity to dip into the process behind making a game and I can tell I’m gonna enjoy it a lot. I followed a few tutorials to make (very) basic games but it’s such rewarding work. I’ve got a notebook slowly filling up of ideas for projects, many of which are games. Even the thought of making one of them a reality is so exciting for me, but it might take some time. My latest and greatest gamedev achievement has been rolling around as a ball collecting diamonds. But you have to start somewhere, and you can only improve.