Posted on

Learn Unity by making a game, livestreamed on Twitch

I have been interested in learning Unity for some time though never seem to get around to completing online courses. To finally tackle this personal mission, I have teamed up with two artists from Goat Planet so I can learn Unity by making a game and focus on the technical side of things.

Motivation and accountibility

Running my own business is demanding on my time. When I have to weigh up the decision of spending more time on business projects or online courses, I often go to the business. However, I still want to learn Unity.

As we all know from behavioural economics, humans really suck at making decisions. We must find ways to overcome our shortfalls in decision making. Luckily there are a bunch of tried and trusted approaches to trick yourself into the path you actually want to take. If you are interested, look up nudges, accountibility and get lost in a sea of interesting psychological studies.

One way to keep motivated is to increase accountability. The idea is that if you tell people you are working on something, there is now some social pressure on you to perform. In fact, there are services you can use just for this purpose alone! If you work on the same project as someone else, the accountibility goes up again, since they actually need your work to further the project to completion. This makes sense!

Since following an online course by myself only holds myself accountable, the accountability level is low. I believe the best way to learn is through doing, and I want to increase my accountability for the project, I decided to form a team.

With a team, you have team members and meetings, the levels accountablilty hits the ceiling!

Motivation goes way up too, since it’s actually fun to work with other people on a creative project, and the result will be better than anything you can make alone. But how can I increase accountability even more?

Livestream the development of the game, in the open, on Twitch. Share every mistake and learning moment with the world at large. Oh my god, the pressure! Suddenly I became completely excited about the whole project, and that excitment spread through the team.

Motivation is infectious!

When I started my first stream, a friend of mine tuned into the channel and got super motivated to work on their own game. They made pixel art, a sprite sheet, and a level. As it turns out, seeing your friends working on their passion projects has an infectious motivation aura! Surely there must be some studies out there that show this.

Hearing this news made the whole project a success in a way I didn’t even think could happen. If I can somehow motivate anyone else to work on their own game or to pick up a new skill, that’s an amazing bonus. Still, I remain super excited to continue development and can’t wait til my next stream!

You can can check out the live stream here:

https://twitch.tv/mindcauldrongames

Play the prototype builds here:

https://darrenkearney.itch.io/fungi-garden

You can also read devlog updates on our itch.io game page.

Posted on

Remote work setup package for your business

During early March, Mind Cauldron fully transitioned to work from home. As Ireland’s government began to address the issue of dealing with the pandemic, Mind Cauldron assisted it’s largest client to transition to remote work for their entire staff. Since then Mind Cauldron has been providing support for remote work and assisting existing clients during the transition.

With a year of experience managing the IT side of remote workers as a contracted System Administrator, Mind Cauldron has the skills and the tools to assist you make your business operate successfully during these strange times.

Mind Cauldron can design, install and manage:

  • A Virtual Private Network your employees can use to securely access to your office network from home.
  • A Firewall to protect internet-facing services from viruses and intruders.
  • An automated Intrusion Detection System to monitor network traffic for suspicious activity.
  • Anti-virus and security suite packages for employee devices.

Mind Cauldron can also offer recommendations for remote desktop software packages. We can offer our recommendations from real-life experience using and testing remote desktop applications in a production environment for demanding graphics applications.

Ask Mind Cauldron about our remote work setup packages for your business. Mind Cauldron offers remote working setup packages on a pro bono basis to businesses that directly supply or support front-line workers during these strange times.

Posted on

Exhibiting at Gamerfest 2020, Limerick

I exhibited an updated version of OBSTACLES with some new art and leaderboard functionality at GamerFest 2020 in Thomond Park, Limerick. Here’s a few words about the experience.

Measures to prevent spread of Coronavirus COVID-19

This was yet another big event taking place during the coronavirus outbreak. Gamerfest adapted well and there was a lot of attention to hand-washing, hand sanitisers and wipes. Fair play.

On the Saturday that I was exhibiting I wiped down the inputs and controllers for each station in the Minecraft Zone and Indie Zone, along with Gamerfest volunteers.

As an event that appeals mostly to children, I got to witness how silly some children can be about these things. Picking noses, coughing, putting controllers in their mouths – pretty gross! That being said, I expect children to behave like this – they have so much going on in their brains who can blame them. It’s adults that I’d be rightfully disgusted by if they aren’t hygenic in public spaces, they should know better!

Big gaming conventions are quite new to Ireland too, so there’s likely a bit of lag there in terms of learning how to behave. We are accustomed to playing games in a home setting, a comfortable setting. Unless someone in your home was suffering from an illness, people may never have thought about cleaning their game controllers and input devices regularly to prevent spread of infection or whatever.

Here we are now, amid the media madness surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, and I am delighted that hygeine is taken very seriously by event management, organisers, volunteers, exhibitors and visitors alike.

Exhibiting an improved version of the same game

This time around I no longer have to keep track of high-scores with pen and paper! A fun thing to see people enjoy the improvements. Or more accurately, not notice when some expected feature was missing!

It’s always a lot of fun for me to see people playing and enjoying my games. I often find myself resisting the urge to show people everything in them, but I know it is better for me to observe and take notes. I look out for how quickly people learn the mechanics and the options they have available, as well as how quickly they master the game, and what things they don’t yet understand or realise about the game.

It might sound a little complicated, but when you’ve made everything yourself it’s not that hard to see when others don’t get it. Luckily there is an entire language of conventional solutions to problems I encounter.

The main issues with OBSTACLES are based around UI, repetitive soundtrack, and overall lack of progression. OBSTACLES offers a very immediate experience, with replayability coming from local hotseat competitiveness for high-score on the leaderboards.

As a little back burner project I had planned some levels/zones and mroe music anyway. From Gamerfest feedback/notes I have now added certain UI improvements to the mix.

Posted on

Judging at Games Fleadh 2020

I attended Games Fleadh for the first time yesterday. The athmosphere was both competitive and celebratory. Students had worked hard to make their games. Each team has a different story, each college and course has a different emphasis. Hard work has been put into every game, and we must congradulate everyone who has managed to get through the myriad challenges and hurdles to turn up at the Games Fleadh with a playable game – no matter what state of polish it may have.

This event seeks to recognise those who achieved highly in their efforts. While certainly there are games made here that are of high quality, and worthy of praise, I find it a little odd that the “playing field” is so unbalanced. We judge each submission we can get our hands on for the qualities present in that submission – we don’t account for the fact that some games may have months of development time, whereas some might have as little as four weeks.

As someone working in the games industry with years of experience of judging game jams, I was happy to volunteer as a member of the judging team.

The effort on display was awe-inspiring, with over 20 games from student teams spanning seven different colleges and universities.

I was impressed at how the Games Fleadh organisers and volunteers handled everything with professionalism and grace.

We had limited time to play each game and judge each game. However, these challenges were overcome easily by the experienced Games Fleadh team. The judges were grouped into judging teams, each assigned a list of games to judge and given guides on how to award points for each category. Very efficiently done.

I also noted that the students were often using disposable gloves, and they regularly wiped down game controllers and input devices after being used. I guess this is a sight we will see more of at large gatherings, and honestly, I am relieved about this. Fair play to everyone involved.

Big thanks to Sam Redfern (Psychic Software) for the lift to Tipperary and the recommendation.

Posted on

Beginners Game Development with PICO-8, April 2020

Beginners Game Development with PICO-8

COURSE DESCRIPTION

In this three week evening course, you will make a tiny game using the PICO-8 “fantasy console” – a delightful game making tool for retro style games.

Over three weekly sessions, you will create your own retro arcade hi-score chaser. This course takes a hands-on approach – you will follow along the development of the game during the workshop.

This course presents a great opportunity to learn the basics of programming in a fun and friendly environment.

You will benefit from Darren’s experience running game making events over the past 5 years, and from his own game projects. Darren will highlight common pitfalls faced by beginners and provide useful strategies on how you can avoid them in your own games.

Details

  • When: 7pm-9pm on Wednesdays 1th, 8th & 15th April 2020.
  • Where: To Be Announced.
  • Price: €75 per person.
  • Register your interest: http://bit.ly/learntomakegames2020
  • Limited spaces available.
  • You will be provided with a copy of PICO-8.

The skills and knowledge gained in this course will help equip you to make your own PICO-8 games and share them with the world.

This course will touch on the following topics:

  • Game Design,
  • 2D Pixel Art,
  • Game Audio and Music,
  • Programming.

This course presents a great opportunity to learn the basics of programming. PICO-8 has a very short loop between writing code and testing it out, so is very well suited to giving you quick feedback on your first (or subsequent) attempts at programming. The skills you learn can potentially be used to develop games or give you confidence in your ability to pursue other projects.

Who is this course for?

This course is aimed at adults (18 years+) who are curious about games and how to make them.

You do not need to have any prior experience in any aspect of the game development to qualify for this course. If you are interested and willing to learn, then you are already prepared!

Outcomes

Here is what you will have achieved by the end of the course:

  • You will make your first game using PICO-8.
  • You will share your tiny creation with the world using PICO-8’s online platform.
  • You will also get to network with people who are interested in game development.

Requirements

Students are required to:

  • Bring their own laptop with cables.
  • Be familiar with using computers and browsing the internet.
  • Be willing to learn by making mistakes.
  • Supply a contact email address for course correspondence and registering their copy of PICO-8.
  • All participants are required to agree to the Code of Conduct.

A copy of PICO-8 is provided for this course. If you already own a copy of PICO-8 please contact us for a €15 discount.

What is PICO-8?

PICO-8 is a “fantasy console” created by Lexaloffle. A fantasy console is an application that emulates the restrictions of retro-era game consoles, mostly used by hobbyists.

PICO-8 also provides simple yet powerful tools to make and share your own retro style games. It is designed to make developing games a joy.

The artificial limitations built into PICO-8 serve as a walled sandbox that you can play with. It’s often easier for us humans to be creative within clear limitations. It is also very common that beginners over-scope their projects. PICO-8 solves some of the problems of over-scoping your project by virtue of these limitations. Many hobbyist game developers and educators use PICO-8 to make their first games and teach concepts of programming.

Regarding programming, PICO-8 uses it’s own subset of the Lua programming language. Lua is commonly used in the Game industry to allow people to develop their own custom game “mods” for their favourite games on Desktop platforms (Windows/Mac/Linux). If you are curious about the application of your programming skills after the course, your familiarity with PICO-8’s Lua can translate into Lua, which can be used to develope larger games. The approach to coding, testing and fixing your code will be applicable everywhere!

Link: https://www.lexaloffle.com/pico-8.php

Course Goals

Here are the goals we hope to achieve with our course.

Teach beginners that they can make games

Give anyone who is curious about games a taste of game development.

Focus on skills and approach

Empower and encourage course participants to continue making their own games after the course has finished by applying a practical approach to classwork.

Provide a friendly, safe learning environment

We (Mind Cauldron and Just Art It, Galway) believe that you deserve to be comfortable and safe, to enjoy learning, and simply in general! We have a Code of Conduct that helps us to keep everything in order which every student and tutor must read, understand and agree to before they can attend or participate in the course.

About the Tutor

Darren Kearney (Mind Cauldron) is a game developer and game development community leader based in Galway, Ireland. Darren has been running game jams (game making events), workshops, courses and other game development related events in Galway and around Ireland since 2014.

Darren organises a lot of local game development related events. He’s an organiser behind Galway Game Jam events, organiser of monthly local game developer meetup group 1GAM Galway, a board member of Global GameCraft CLtG., and the site organiser for Global Game Jam ‘19 and Global Game Jam ’20 in Galway.

Organising and participating in game making events for over 5 years has given Darren valuable insight into the common pitfalls faced by people making games. Darren will guide you through making your own tiny game, highlighting these pitfalls so you can avoid them.

Darren is also super friendly guy who wants to bring the joy of gamedev! Darren also sports an impressive beard, which some suspect is a source of his wizardly knowledge.

Teaching Style

Darren uses a practical, workshop style approach. Which means, rather than listening to a lecture, you will be following along with step-by-step instruction with some space for your own creative flair.

Key concepts will be highlighted along the way. Notes will be provided.

You are welcome to ask questions (which is why we keep the class size small!). When faced with something you don’t understand, that’s totally normal and okay. Darren will offer an explanation if asked and wants you to feel comfortable making mistakes, playing around with the possibilities, both during and after the course.

All participants are required to agree to our Code of Conduct.

Posted on

Global Game Jam 2020 Galway Roundup

Hi folks,

Thanks to everyone for helping to make Global Game Jam ’20 another success, and especially to our great team of organisers and shed full of jammers at the Galway jam-site.

A very important message about taking breaks and taking care of yourself was at the heart of this jam. This is something I generally focus on with our Galway Game Jams, so we were delighted that this message was at the heart of the Global Game Jam 2020 Keynote.

You can check out the games made this year on the official page here: https://globalgamejam.org/2020/jam-sites/galway-ireland/games

If you have any questions give me a shout. For now I will be taking a day off to rest, and play some of these games again!

Big thanks to Galway Film Centre for supporting us, without their help we would not have been able to provide free entry!

Thanks to GamerFest for supplying prizes for our People’s Choice award and sharing our event on social media!

Thanks to Andrew in Seattle for assisting with the cross-site collaboration experiment, as well as the awesome team that made it work!

I’ll remember this one for a long time – really positive athmosphere with a bunch of chilled out people all foccussed on their projects with a drive to get things done.

Posted on

Global Game Jam ’20 Seattle-Galway Collaboration Experiment!

As Galway’s Site Organiser, I’ve joined the first ever Global Game Jam cross-site collaboration experiment with a small bunch of participating Site Organisers across the world. Our Galway site will be teaming up with Seattle, and we will have at least one team with members in both sides of the planet, jamming together. How exciting!

Galway and Seattle are also sister cities! This is news to me, though the Seattle-Galway sister city status was established in the 1980’s. In fact there is a monument in both cities, two rocks, which point to each other in a straight line through the Earth. A great photo-op, and sure jammers on both sides will likely have to deal with the rain!

Hopefully this collaboration experiment will be an interesting challenge and will provide a more “global” experience for the jammers who take part.

Unlike the regular Global Game Jam team formation’s, we will need to get our cross-site teams established before the event in order for the teams to fully participate across time-zones.

If you are interested in joining our jam-site and participating in the cross-site collaboration with Seattle, please get in touch as soon as possible.

I am excited!

You can read more about sister cities here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_and_politics_of_Seattle#Sister_cities

https://www.seattle.gov/oir/sister-cities/seattles-21-sister-cities/galway

Posted on

Site Approved for Global Game Jam ’20

Hi everyone! Great news. Our Galway jam-site has been approved!

Jammer registration will open on November 8th. You can check it out here: https://globalgamejam.org/2020/jam-sites/galway-ireland

At this early stage if you have any feedback or requests please get in touch at darren.ggj@mindcauldron.com.

The upcoming GGJ20 will be the 6th Global Game Jam event to take place in Galway, and the second of such events that I have lead as an organiser. I am looking forward to it and hope we can continue to have a great time with our lovely jam.

Our venue will be the PorterShed, Galway. They are simply incredible. Our game development community in Galway has always been given an awesome space for our game jams ever since the PorterShed was established, and it has been the home for our monthly 1GAM Galway meetups since late 2017. The natural choice for us for the next Global Game Jam.

Posted on

Gamescom 2019

Well that was intense!

I’m super busy for the next while but will catch up on doing a follow up to my little adventure to Köln, Germany for one of the largest game conferences on the planet.

In short, I went over without a plan and a desire to meet people and learn about the event. It was my first game convention outside of Ireland and I don’t really have any demo worth showing at the moment. I met a bunch of awesome people and have a much better idea about what I will do next year.

I’d recommend it, even though the whole thing is madness. Laters!

Posted on

Recently started streaming! Learn with me.

Mind Cauldron's Stream Starting scene on Twitch

I’ve recently started experimenting with streaming.

People have streamed for years, why now?

Streaming is still kind of a strange (and scary) new world for me. For the longest time I have generally been disinterested in streaming, choosing instead to view pre-recorded videos of my favourite game developers and interesting people doing their thing. I always felt streaming was kind of disingenuous and relied on cheap psychological tricks, sensationalism and controversy to get peoples attention. Much like modern advertising and sensationalist news headlines. However, I have slowly been discovering a more wholesome side of streaming on my personal side-quest to learn of wholesome things.

Wholesome streaming…

Have you ever watched the Joy of Painting with Bob Ross on twitch? I have, and I absolutely adore it. Ross delivers a tutorial, but he does so with an effortless skill, creating a calm and safe space simply bustling with creativity.

Clearly Bob Ross was very professional about the whole set up and he managed to create a wonderful atmosphere, where he put his viewers – who he would address as his students – at ease, and encourage them to make the best of their mistakes while they followed along at home.

One day, watching the stream, it sort of occurred to me that I wanted to do something like that, and that I could do that. I was already planning to get a computer for making games – now I wanted one to also stream!

Computer – check! Mic – not yet… (please wait, researching!)

Now I that I have my computer and I am working away at gamedev, I have finally put some time aside to learn more about streaming and find channels and streamers of people who are doing things I find interesting.

You can come across some lovely gems out there. There are quite a few streamers that have a great connection with their viewers and have a great time sharing what they love with everyone. Streamers such as the talented Johnathan Ong – who even inspired me to make art one day with his creative expression of a composition that I love.

It makes me think about the passion that is shown by the streamers I like. I wonder is that a key element? I guess we will find out!

I am interested in streaming to for a few reasons. Let’s be a little reductive and write them into a list:

  • I stream to share what I love doing.
  • I stream to reach more people with my projects who might actually want to support either me or the project.
  • I stream for the fun of it, because why not?

Building a community is probably the most difficult thing there. It takes time, and there needs to be a project to gather around. Currently there is not even much project to share, so my work is cut out for me!

Stream experiments and plans for future streams.

I am currently focusing on creating things and playing indie video games that I enjoy.

So far I have streamed:

  • experiments in game development with PICO-8
  • digital painting (fan art)
  • playing Risk of Rain2
  • playing Heat Signature

.This weekend I will be streaming my desktop for Game Jam +, because I love gamejams – and why not?

If you have any suggestions or feedback please let me know! You can scroll down on the twitch channel and fill out the suggestion box. I suppose I should probably link you to the stream after all of this!

Now I can finally add to the chorus of the internet: please follow and subscribe!

You can check out my experimental stream here: https://twitch.tv/mindcauldrongames