Great British Summer Game Jam

https://www.facebook.com/GBSGameJam/timeline

Ready… Steady… JAM!
Autodesk and Mind Candy are combining forces to host an epic GAME JAM at Mindcandy’s famous central London HQ.
Keep a very British stiff upper lip whilst you get to grips with the best Game Developer technology in the business, such as Autodesk MAYA LT and Scaleform for Unity, and be ready to get your next game discovered as you put your skills to the test in this year’s most exciting game jam!

Tell your friends, form your team, learn the tools- then compete to win!
The full agenda of speakers is still to be announced, but make sure you save the date and stay tuned to Twitter (@GBSGameJam) and right here on Facebook, as the #GBSGameJam is not something to be missed!

Mindcandy Hosts London Python Dojo

For those who don’t know, the London Python Dojo is a monthly meetup. While it doesn’t strictly adhere to the traditional code dojo formula, we do get together once a month to eat pizza, drink beer, and hack out a solution to an interesting problem in python.

Attendees of all backgrounds are welcome whether you’ve been coding in python for decades or you’re a complete coding newbie. Everyone is given the opportunity to write some code, but no one is forced.

The agenda is roughly as follows (although times are only approximate):

  • 6:30-7:30: People turn up, eat the food, drink the refreshments. Everyone has a chat, and people are free to suggest problems on the ideas board.
  • 7:30-8:00: Lightning talk(s), recruitment shout-outs, and the all important voting on which idea we will work on.
  • 8:00-9:30: People are arbitrarily split into teams, which set to work on the problem.
  • 9:30-10:00: Each team presents their work, so you get to see many varied solutions to the same problem.
  • 10:00-: Pub!
  • Tickets are free and are available on eventwax here

    Mindcandy Techcon 2014

    Mindcandy Techcon 2014

    On 11th February 2014 we held our own mini tech conference in London at the Rich Mix Cinema in Shoreditch.

    Today we streamlined our jelly beans, expanded our guilds, sprinkled DevOps everywhere, emphasised our polyglotism then un-cheated our backends !

    In 2011 & 2012 we held a company Techcon to get together all Tech Mindcandies to share our technical experiences and technologies. It gives us an opportunity to share knowledge & give insights into different teams and products we wouldn’t normally get time to do.

    Jeff Reynar

    As Jeff, our new CTO joined us in the new year, it was a good opportunity for him to talk to all of us about our Tech & strategy going forward; especially on how we can build a great Tech culture here, so we can all grow and learn great things.

    photo-1

    We had some great talks from all the teams & learn’t some new things. One talk even caused an outbreak of nose bleeds….too much data !

    A learning organisation

    Collaboration was the focus of the day, where we talked about how we better collaborate across cross functional teams & disciplines. And so the “Guilds” were born & there was much rejoicing.

    DevOps soon followed with a healthy smattering of dev and ops hugging. We have been practising DevOps methodologies here for a while, so we showed the fruits of our labour. From shared tools, infrastructure as code to automation & sharing the PagerDuty rota. We saw the future & it was continuous delivery…..& there was much rejoicing.

    Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 13.47.19

    Middleware team splashed us with more water themed services, with Plunger & Pipe Cleaner. We are safe in the knowledge our events can make it through the pipeline so quickly. We learn’t about how we use FluentD, AWS SQS & Redshift to get gazillions of events from our games into our data warehouse. And they showed improvements made to our identity & AB testing services.

    Tools team had a vision…..and it was “make things less crappy”. They talked about deployment tools & automation with the promise of making everyone productive & happy. We were happy…and less crappy. The future would be filled with tools that are whizz bang and swishy like Iron Man….I have raised a JIRA ticket for my flying suit, its in the backlog people !

    Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 14.30.19

    NetOps Team talked about our implementation of autoscaling using cloudformation stacks & how we manage dynamic disposable infrastructure. Also, we got introduced to the Moshling Army, who will tirelessly automate and keep tidy our AWS accounts. The Bean Counter app would also keep all the product teams updated on a daily basis with their Amazon AWS costs.

    We then had presentations by all the product teams, QA & IT OPS.

    The product teams deep dived into their front & back end architecture. We were shown how we load tested one of our game backends using Gattling. Blasting an AWS Autoscale group with 1.2 million req/min , breaking Cassanda & RDS Postgres along the way. The monster 244GB, 88 ECUs RDS instance took it in the end. ( err time to scale out before we need that me thinks )

    This was swiftly followed by the “Bastardisation of Unity” & how we mashed it , rung its neck & made awesome 3D on mobile devices. Apache Thrift made an appearance, & we learn’t how we use the binary communication protocol in one of our apps.

    Moshi Monsters web team talked about the lessons learn’t over the last 5-6 years in managing a complicated code base. They revealed the pain of deployments back in the day & how they have been streamlined with “The Birth Monster” deploy tool. Wisdom was imparted about tech debt, code reviews & knowledge sharing.

    Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 15.19.03

    Our Brighton studio dazzled us with their game architecture & visually jaw dropping in-game graphics. The front end tools they built to improve workflow was awesome. Using timelines to combine animation, audio, cameras, game logic, UI & VFX means they can build stuff super fast. They also talked about cheat detection & the best ways to tackle it.

    The QA Team told us to pull our socks up ! Together we should strive to always finish backlog stories, improve TDD & automation. Make sure we have plenty of time for regression testing. Fortunately, they are working like crazy with acceptance criteria on stories, testing & improving communication.

    Finally the IT OPS team joined the DevOps march by turning their Mac builds from manual to automated nirvana. Using Munki & Puppet to handle software / configuration of all our company Apple Macs. Amazed !

    Also we learn’t …never go on extended holiday

    Or this happens….

    IMG_20140102_094643

    Looking forward to the next Mindcandy Techcon !

    FOWD 2012: Future of Web Design

    The Future of Web Design is one of the biggest and well respected annual web conferences in the world and recently the Mind Candy web team (Davide, Leo, Jenny, James and David) had the pleasure of attending. What follows isn’t a full-on summary of the event as that wouldn’t do it justice. It’s very well documented over the internet already. Instead, in a Q & A interview style, we talk about what areas of the conference stood out most for each of us.

    FOWD 2012

    Q. What was your favourite talk and why?

    David: I particularly enjoyed Mark Boulton’s talk about “Failing and Doing It Well”, he highlighted the importance of embracing failure and maximising the learning process by taking risks and understanding that part of that, is not always succeeding. Putting the emphasis on learning creates for a better work environment and ultimately better work :).

    He also highlighted issues with what he perceives as an issue of being overly ambitious; in the sense that you can never achieve your goal and be satisfied. He advises “don’t be ambitious, be a dreamer” because dreamers try to change the world but are content if they don’t succeed.

    Jenny: I had a few, but the stand out ones tended to encapsulate my own current position in the industry, and my own future ambitions. I’d say a heady mix of Remy Sharp’s “Dr Weblove / How I learned to stop worrying about Photoshop and love designers”, Jonathan Berger’s “Code Literacy for Designers”, Sarah Parmenter’s “Future of Beautiful iOS Design”, and Jon Tan’s talk on Web Typography.

    James: Laura Kalbag gave a great talk, I found her approach to adaptive responsive design both practical and pragmatic. She gave some great advice, such as: design around your images, don’t design straight into the browser because you’ll end up with blocky designs and it’s OK to design the desktop version of a site first.

    I also really enjoyed Jon Tan’s talk on web typography, he made the point that badly set type isn’t harder to read, it just puts the user in a bad mood, which makes them much less likely to do what you want them to do.

    Davide: The talks given by Bill Buxton and The Standardistas: they were inspiring: the former because it was a clear push toward the future and gave me an insight on how and were new ideas are born; the latter, because in an overconnected society like ours, we easily run the risk of simply collecting superficial information (like the squirrel) without digesting anything and missing the true power of a learning experience: incubation.

    Q. Most exciting thing that you’re looking forward to?

    Davide: The BIG Innovations intruduced in The HTML5 JS API: Geolocation, WebWorkers, WebSockets, Canvas, Local Storage, Indexed DB; Pushing forward for bringing Javascript in the Backend with NodeJS (Railway, Express etc..); Moreover, the wide adoption of CoffeeScript as the official successor for Javascript and seeing it supported natively by browser implementors.

    Jenny: The final death throes of Internet Explorer 6.

    Leo: Martin Beeby is a Microsoft web evangelist/developer and his talk blew me away! He introduced one of Microsoft’s current HTML5 developments: ‘Soundwave – Using the Doppler effect to sense gestures’ and if it realises its promise then I think it’s going to revolutionise the way we interact with the web.

    In Microsoft’s words, SoundWave is a real-time sensing technique that leverages a device’s speaker and microphone to robustly sense in-air gestures and motion. So via clever use of existing device sensors, we can start to imagine and define new ways to touch, speak, move and interact with a web app as demonstrated in the link below.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFM59B3tYI4

    Muscle memory is quicker and more intuitive than keyboard/mouse alone so in future I fully expect faster and richer human interactions with HTML5 web apps. Add to this the cutting edge advances in utilising a computer’s webcam via getUserMedia(), and the possibility of all these sensors working together in future, we can really start to imagine more involved and immersive web experiences and interactions. It’s still early days, but very exciting!

    Q. What is the future of web design?

    Davide: Maybe to change and include one of the new trends, that see Web Applications becoming more and more full fledged ‘Desktop’ Applications simply running into a web container. Web Design, in this perspective, will become more of a ‘Web’ branch of ‘application’ design.

    Jenny: It’s everywhere we look and in everything we do. It’s a wealth of information made beautiful to look at. It’s the internet in our pocket and the world at our fingertips. It’s us, totally involved.

    James: That there is no set best process for designing flexible adaptive sites – this is something I find incredibly exciting.

    Q. Will this change the way you work/think in future?

    Jenny: It’d be difficult for it not to. The arena we throw ourselves around in is constantly in a state of update, and it’s really important to keep our eyes open for the game-changing stuff :)

    I personally came away with a whole bunch of practices and angles that I’d not thought about before, and that are already making a big difference. The speakers at FOWD know their onions, it’d be silly not to take notice!

    Davide: Yes; I’ll start looking around me for hints of the future (see Bill Buxton talk) and I’ll probably try to focus on one topic at a time instead of consuming most of my time wandering around and ammassing information (that I never consume).

    Q. Tweet or quote of the day?

    Leo: “Don’t think. FEEL. It’s like a finger pointing at the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory!” Bruce Lee

    Jon Tan talked about the emotive qualities of typography and how it is felt rather than just seen, so I think using a Bruce Lee quote to end a talk on Web Typography was awesome!

    Jenny: I have a few…! I’ll settle with these:
    “No matter what the tech is now, no matter what it is in the future, it will always be about communicating” – @blueleafchris

    “Ideas don’t form in a vacuum. Without constant input, the outputs will inevitably remain the same” – @standardistas

    David: “Now we can do anything, what should we do?” – Bill Buxton

    Bill Buxton’s talk was one of the most future driven and he highlighted that technology is rarely what holds back progress; the limiting factor is often our imaginations.

    Q. The one thing that you took away from the conference?

    Jenny: I’m really big on learning new skills and becoming better at ones I already have. I like to be an InfoSponge™.

    So I love how those in our industry (and especially the startup tech world) are excited to share information and fresh thinking – I believe we encourage that more than any other industry. It’s given me a lot of motivation to do the same, and rather wonderfully, learn a lot in the process.

    Q Are you a superstar, ninja or rockstar?

    Davide: Ninja, quickly moving in the shadows and sharpening my blades for the big battles to come.

    James: I like to think of myself as a tramp with a house and a job.

    Jenny: I’m just a massive nerd, and damn proud of it.

    All in all, it was a brain-cramming, eye-opening and inspirational 2 days that provided a lot of insight and food for thought. Here at Mind Candy, we’ve already started to modify our design/development processes as a result of what we learnt and the results so far have been massively positive! With so much going on and so much to look forward to, it also ignited a renewed sense of excitement and enthusiasm for the web. So for these reasons alone, it’s been a highly invaluable experience and we’re very much looking forward to the next one! Roll on, FOWD 2013!

    We now have access to all the videos so get in touch if you’d like to talk more! In the meantime, here are several interesting people to e-stalk:

    @standardistas
    @mrjoe
    @USA2DAY
    @rem
    @jontangerine
    @sazzy
    @markboulton
    @laurakalbag
    @boagworld
    @ryancarson
    @Dstroii
    @hellofisher

    Flash on the Beach 2011

    Last month I went to Flash on the Beach in Brighton. It was the first time I’ve to this particular event and I really enjoyed a lot. For the few of you that don’t know, FOTB is an annual conference full of code, design and inspiration.

    The three days in Brighton were full of inspiring stuff, like Carlos Ulloa new WebGL project, Lights, the Seb Lee-Delisle live experiment mixing OpenFrameworks, HTML5 and Phones, as well as lots of new people of the Elevator Pitches. Just check out the impressive main titles video created by Gmunk, creator of some of the FX for Tron Legacy.

    Adobe showed some of the new stuff like EDGE, a Flash-like productivity tool to create HTML 5 canvas animations, and talked about Molehill/Stage 3D. They also talked about a new hardware accelerated framework for 2D animation in Flash recently released under the name of Starling. But all that doesn’t mean that that the “Flash is over” controversy wasn’t in the air, just check out the slide of Adobe’s official position on the question “When must I use Flash and when not?”.

    Adobe posture on the Flash-HTML debate

    Adobe posture on the Flash-HTML debate

    Remy Sharp talked about this question too in “HTML5: Where Flash isn’t needed anymore”. He spoke about the fallback solutions when some features don’t work (usually using Flash), support of different parts of the specification in different browsers/platforms and the pitfalls that we will find on our path embracing this new standard.

    In the closing speech John Davey, the creator and main organiser of the event, revealed that this is going to be the last Flash on the Beach! But don’t panic yet! It’s just a change of title and (maybe) format, to allow the conference to not be related with a single technology (i.e. the Flash platform) and be more based on design and creative coding (maybe something like the move of Flash Belt to The Eyeo Festival?)

    Of course I’m leaving out a lot of things, like the interesting chat about kids games playability done by Jon Howard, or the demos of the new Away 3D using the new Stage 3D API, so don’t forget to check out the list of speakers and check out their individual sites.