Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bahrain Game Developers Meeting 2: playing vs making them, level design and E3, Demos, and the benefits of gaming

Bahrain game developers have finally kicked off their second meeting in Viva headquarters near City Center, Bahrain. Ameen, Baraa, and the usual suspects (as well as some fresh faces) were ready to get game dev hats on, so to speak. The goal this time was to educate gamers on how they can get into game development, talk about level design and my E3 2013 experience, show off some game demos, and finally a segment on how gaming can educate more than stimulate.

Ameen started the first topic by talking about the transition from being a hardcore gamer to a game developer. Naturally it isn’t easy as it involves switching to a completely different mindset—one requiring more thinking and mental strain than the other.

"Every gamer is a potential game developer"

He then began talking about the struggle to identify game development as an art form or as a skill. In the end though we agreed that both elements need to work in harmony and game development can’t be what it is today without having both.

Another key element Ameen touched on was the fact the region wasn’t ready to embrace game development. He stressed that there was a lot of focus on banking, financing, distribution, telecom, but game development presents a curveball to investors. He wanted them to be more educated on the potential of video games and how they can open a new market for many. But the reality is numbers will always speak louder than words so if anyone is willing to invest they would need to see a game from the region which has gained a significant profit. It’s a sad reality but it’s something we gotta deal with when approaching investors.
Education or a lack of thereof, is another problem we are facing in the Arab world. Children today are mostly being educated on how to handle jobs which are not in high demand. Algorithms, music, programming, art, writing, and entrepreneurship are necessary in today’s age even if it’s just for developing apps. They make money and create jobs hence the need to have them in our schools and Universities.

Lastly, the main key point Ameen wanted to talk about was time management. “Time is the nastiest villain” said Ameen. "If you can't manage your time efficiently you'll run into a lot of head aches".

Ameen believes that by knowing you’re team better you’ll be able to manage your tasks more efficiently—saving up on both time and money. As a person who has worked on multiple projects before, I totally agree with Ameen’s statement. It’s sort of hard, nearly impossible, to work on a project properly without knowing your team’s skills/limitations. It becomes even more demanding with bigger projects and bigger teams so picking the right person for the right job is mandatory if you want to make it in the industry.

After Ameen came yours truly talking about level design. It’s an aspect of game development that I’ve always appreciated as it takes cues from real life situations/locations and turns them into, well, games. My prime example was comparing level designing to watching an Iron Maiden concert—where different songs expressed different scenarios and stage props.

I also touched upon my E3 2013 experience. There was a lot to talk about ranging from the flight experience to actually playing next gen systems months before they’re out. The best part of my experience, however, had to be meeting the people and letting them know I come from the Arab world.

Khalid Abdul Majeed then took the stage to show off screen shots of his game Dilmun: the land of eternity.  The journey talked about a man who in search of a mysterious power that can possibly cure his brother’s illness. Venturing deep into Bahrain’s ruins, the protagonist ends up going back in time taking place during the Dilmun Era.

Kahlid showed off some pre-rendered level shots of Dilmun saying that these were based off real life architecture. He really wanted to capture the right setting so he visited the Museum of Bahrain and took some shots of relics. Researching on Google also played a big part. Unfortunately he couldn’t show off any game footage as it was still in the very early stages of development.

Dilmun: The Land of Eternity screenshots: 

Following Khalid was Ameen’s own brother, Hussain Altajer, showing a work in progress zombie side scrolling shooter called The Survivalist. The kick? It takes place in Bahrain.

Hussain lacked the proper art skills to create characters so instead he reverted to using green screen and Photoshop to create sprites. The result is similar to what you see in games like the classic Mortal Kombat where real life actors are digitized as game sprites.

The Survivalist screenshots

While it was rough around the edges, the game looked surprisingly fun. Hussain said that he loves games like Metal Slug and Zombie apocalypse so he wanted to see both come to life in a Bahrain setting. He built it using Unity which means it can be ported to almost any device. There was no official release date but he wished to see it come out sometime next year. It will be episodic with the first one free,  and the rest sold for some cash. A CO-OP mode is also planned somewhere down the line.

The next and final game shown was from a mysterious group of students from the University of Bahrain. Abdulla, Hashem, and Hussain showed of their game which was an FPS Zombie shooter using the source engine. You can check their interview in the video below.

The last presenter was Baraa Abdulla talking how gaming can be beneficial to people. Memory games, surgeon simulators, and many more have all helped mankind one way or the other. He believes that gaming, with or without Bahrain Game Developers, will continue and dominate the Arab world. “It’s the future” he expressed. “It’s coming and it will change the way we think, learn, and develop as human beings.”

Ameen also added an extra point about the benefits of game engines. He recalled that during his time working in Aramco he witnessed business men using the Unity engine (yes, the free engine) for oil simulation. Wow!

This meeting was certainly seen as the next stage in Bahrain Game Developers. The audience was twice as big (barely fitting the room) and even had Alter Ego productions, who are known for that epic Torkaizer trailer and Grim Hearts, show up as well. They felt incredibly pleased with what they’ve seen and are willing to help us any way possible. As mentioned earlier this meeting was held at the Viva headquarters who they themselves invited us to see what the deal is all about. They were pleased.

So what’s next? Game development, of course. Ameen, I, and the group are now slowly beginning planning our next stage and finally start developing an actual game to put it under the Bahrain Game Dev flag. It may take a while but one thing’s for sure though: we’re moving forward and there’s no going back. The future, here we come.

Make sure to visit my Facebook album for all the latest pictures. 


Soo interesting, will make sure to attend the next meet-up ! Can we have like these weekly/monthly newsletters !

That's a good idea. I'll pass it on to the group.

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