Friday, December 27, 2013

Shadow Blade Gameplay

We have a new video up for Shadow Blade to show a full play-though for one of its levels. Our current target is to release Shadow Blade early February on AppStore and the Android markets.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Time

This post is going to be about books, great books that have been highly valuable for me in the past months, some informative, some influential, some breath taking and some wonderfully amusing. Here goes the list with no particular order, just like how I usually get involved with books and read them.

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki

 Guy Kawasaki is a very interesting person with numerous amount of books and presentations mostly related to entrepreneurship. A very amazing pattern is repeated quite often where a team forms and does something exceptional in a specific period of time and synergy proves once again that it can change the world significantly by showing how the value of the team is much more than the sum of its parts. Time goes, the team is disbanded and each and every one of these people continue glowing in different areas and at different places, they might not experience the same level of excellency again but still they provide value in a different scale. Guy Kawasaki is one of the people from the original Mac days at Apple. Well I just wrote about this pattern because I thought it is related to Kawasaki himself and this is not related to the contents of the book, the book is in general about how you can interact with people and teams in a professional environment in order to be enchanting and charismatic. A very smooth and interesting read.

Co-Opetition by Adam M. Brandenburger and Barry J. Nalebuff

A word created by mixing Cooperation and Competition. A form of Yin and Yang which can be witnessed in the industry today between major corporations and this book delves into the subject and proves how competition and cooperation are crucial and necessary in today's business interaction and shows many examples of how it is happening around us and how it can prove to be a win-win situation for the organizations. This book touches upon some of the fundamentals of game theory and is a very easy read. An inspiring book.

Miyamoto Musashi was one of the best Samurai sword-masters. He has left a very important book known as the Book of Five Rings where he talks about the soul of being a samurai and bushido. This book however contains 42 tips that have been extracted from the Book of Five Rings that although belong to the way of the Samurai, they can be used in daily life, work and business. Very concise and excellent. Can be read in a day but needs to be around to refer back to every once in a while to see what these legendary masters can teach us still that we can use daily in a different world.

I had heard about Steve Jobs and read about him a bit before his death and probably had some information from him and what he did in his life like all other people and small bits that could be extracted from news sites and magazine articles. However, I was totally blown away when I started reading this book and I read the whole 630 pages of it with the background music of my heart doing the drums. It is one of the best books written about one of the most important people in recent history. I always thought that there is a certain amount of hype around Apple company, its products and its leaders but I was totally changed after reading this book, oh and changed as a consumer too and converted to Apple products! Walter Isaacson is a marvelous writer and the whole biography is nothing short of fascinating. I highly recommend this book. There have been quite a few books written about Steve Jobs recently but this is the one that should be read. This book can change you and the way you look at things forever. This book was also a source of introducing a few more great books and topics for me, some should be in this list.

The Game of Thrones TV series is great. Like many other movies and series, the book is much much more great. I have wondered and become quite mesmerized a few times after reading this book about the magical fact that how is it that one person can create such deep and detailed fantasy universes. Seems like there is absolutely no limits to the human imaginations (some humans of course) and this is just fascinating. Game of Thrones is a very special type of Fantasy novel, it walks along the fine line between realistic historical events and a fantasy world. 

Rick Pitino is a great Basketball Coach. We used to talk about Basketball all day with friends during high school and University days and a lot of times the discussions diverged from technical talks and turned into how Basketball is life and life is Basketball. Well, this book is exactly an essay about how to being successful in life with lessons from Basketball. 

This is a book about a central concept, the concept of disruptive technologies. Technologies that emerge from nowhere and overthrow huge and stable companies and older technologies. Something that has happened numerous times in the past decades. Clayton Christensen analyses this fact very well. I was able to related these ideas to the game industry and it all made great sense. The mobile games industry is an exact example of a disruptive technology. The book contains many examples. By the way, this is one of the books that was Steve Job's favorite. Apple itself has been a disruptive technology many and overthrown the giants many times.

Malcolm Gladwell is another very interesting author with many interesting books. This book delves into the unknown magic that happens in people's mind with the blink of an eye. The instant you know something, that very instant. As usual Malcolm Gladwell evaluates many real world scenarios and they are very interesting. One part of the book which I enjoyed very much is about how experts can find out something instantly like art experts that can know whether a painting is fake or original by a sub second look. This is something I have witnessed in many talented people that I have worked with. Like Outliers from the same author, this is a smooth and fun to read book which gives you a few angles to look at a few real world matters. 

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner

Well, I read this book for the fourth time recently! Probably the most influential book that I have ever read. This is probably the book that caused a change of track in my professional life by giving me the proper courage to break out of the conventional path that was ahead of me. The fabulous story of id software and how they started and how they changed the game industry. David Kushner is an excellent author also and he has done great research for this book. This book is very high on my leader-board.

Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo and William Scott Wilson

Hagakure is Hagakureh. Another gem from the past that must be re-read every few months. "A unique guide to living - and dying: a focused life, a willing death ... ". What topic can be better than this?

I always liked Pat Riley and enjoyed watching him on the sideline coaching the Los Angeles Lakers and then the New York Knicks and finally with Miami Heat. The 87-88 Lakers were the team from outer space for me to watch and get blown away by when I was starting the Basketball years. This is another inspiring book about life and leadership from one of the best Basketball coaches. He refers to specific events during his coaching, which are very interesting to hear from the team's coach, knowing that you always witnessed the events from the other side and as a fan. Weaved in between all the basketball events are great tips and advice to be used for daily life activities or work. Alas, there is only one true way!

I was thinking about checking out some new Science Fiction stories for a game project that we are working on when I found out about John Scalzi and his Science Fiction novels. So far I have read The Ghost Brigades and it was quite fantastic. A very good author with interesting stories and a lot of novel Sci-Fi ideas. It is very much interesting how different modern Sci-Fi books are compared to the ones from 20 or more years ago. Technology has changed tremendously in these years so no wonder Sci-Fi needed an overhaul. The next book from the author that is queued for me to read is Red Shirts.

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe... by S. C. Gwynne

Native Indians have always been interesting from me. I like their integrity and simplicity and pure connection to nature. Unlike the way they have always been portrayed in the modern media, there seems to be a lot of depth in their culture. This book is based on a true story about one of the strongest Indian tribes, the Comanche. A great book to read that takes you to the beautiful lands owned by Indians in early 18th century.

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (3rd Edition) by Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister

This book was in my "To Read" list for quite some time until I heard in a talk from Gabe Newell that this is his bible! What I did after viewing that talk was to read this book from cover to cover and for sure this is one of the best book written about management and working with teams. Absolute beauty! Valve is one of the best companies in the world regarding its business and products and most importantly and quite related to the previous point, regarding its work environment and its organization structure (a flat organization). This book will help you understand companies like Valve very well.

Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Keep, and Nurture Talent by Nolan Bushnell and Gene Stone

Nolan Bushnell is the founder of Atari. He was the leader of an exceptional team that did exceptional things back in the days that the Atari machines defined the video game industry. Steve Jobs was one of their employees for some time before Apple and Nolan Bushnell has been among the few people who saw Steve Jobs for what he could be and became one of his mentors for many years to come. This book with its fancy title is quite fun to read and focuses on the dark art of dealing with talented people and how different management and leadership skills are required if you are going to work with great talents and the usual business management skills and standards are just going to make you lose people and go down the drain, well, unless you handle mediocre people of course.

This is a very interesting Sci-Fi or rather Cyberpunk story. Although this is the first serious work by the young author, its quality is quite good. A near future story where people mostly live in a big massively multiplayer game with a lot of references to the 80s and 90s pop culture. I have not finished this book yet but so far it has been quite fun to read.

Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty

This is not the first book I've read by the best coach of all time, Phil Jackson. Phil talks about the details of events and his ideas and journey during his coaching years with the Bulls and the Lakers. Philosophical at times with many references as how he used his eastern philosophical knowledge and zen to handle the chaos.

Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto by David Kushner

Another very good book by the author of Masters of Doom, David Kushner. This is the story of Grand Theft Auto. Although not as inspirational as Masters of Doom but still an interesting read about one of the most successful video game IPs.

The Art of UNIX Programming (The Addison-Wesley Professional Computng Series) by Eric S. Raymond

Eric Raymond has many good books and articles, The Cathedral and the Bazaar being one of them. This book describes the philosophy behind the design of Unix and the people that worked on it. The hacker culture in general. A fascinating book. Simple, true, beautiful with much love.

The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses by Jesse Schell

This is one of the best books written about game design. Very complete and it follows a well thought process and unlike many other books written on the topic, this one analyses the game design related issues very well both from a low level and implementation stand point and also from a high level and philosophical view. A must read for game designers.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki and David Chadwick

One of the most important attitudes that anyone can have in order to succeed is to always maintain your beginner's mind, the way you saw the world when you were a beginner in a field. Losing the beginner's mind can be a starting point to lose it all. This is a great book on Zen.

The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vo-Dihn Mai and Mobi Ho

Another fabulous book about Zen. The very interesting view that this book has is that you do not need to hide yourself away from the world and sit in solitude to be mindful and meditate, you can do all that while you are engaged in your daily life. This book adjusts your view towards life, a positive adjustment.

Derrida For Beginners by Jim Powell and Van Howell 

Derrida is a very mysterious philosopher with an out of the box way of looking at the world. His deconstruction theory is one that made me curious to learn more about this great thinker. This book is a graphical introduction to his ideas, easy to read but not very easy to understand.

Team Leadership in the Game Industry by Seth Spaulding 

I have recently started reading this one but so far it seems to be a good one. Leadership is not trivial, especially in the game industry where you have to deal with all kinds of people coming from all kinds of backgrounds and with quite different behaviors and ways of looking at their lives and careers. The author has had good experiences in this field and as it seems, leadership in game industry has been a main curiosity for him for quite some time.

Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play by Morgan Ramsay and Peter Molyneux

Reading the stories of successful people in a field is always fun. This book is a series of interviews with some major figures in the game industry. Very inspirational.

Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society by Karl Ulrich

Design, Design, Design. It is all about design. Problem solving and coming up with solutions. This is what needs to be done in life in order to create and perceive meaning. This is the essence of engineering. This book is a general book on Design. Interesting to read, although this is not directly about game design, all the principles map to game design very well. Although I have to say that you will not find much ideas that you did not know about if you have been involved with some serious design work, however, reading things that you feel you know unconsciously can always help in refining and solidifying your knowledge.

The Making of Karateka: Journals 1982-1985 by Jordan Mechner

These are Jordan Mechner's personal logs from the days he was working on the original Karateka game and Prince of Persia. It takes you to those years and the challenges that developers had back in the 80's to make games. Fun to read.

The Macintosh Way by Guy Kawasaki 

A classic from Guy Kawasaki, a story of the people behind the original Macintosh. What they believed in, how they worked and their way of life and work. Highly recommended book.

Artificial Intelligence for Games (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive 3D Technology) by Ian Millington

There are quite a few books around regarding video game AI but this one seems to be more complete, detailed and well written. The Morgan Kaufmann series in game development are usually good books, this one is not an exception. 

Aikido: The Peaceful Martial Art by Stefan Stenudd 

Aikido is beautiful. Martial arts in general are beautiful and the way the balance the physical and mental aspects is probably their significant point. Aikido is very special among them. A technique concerned mostly with harmony, the life energy and the truth. Stefan Stenudd has written a beautiful book where he talks about the techniques, the philosophy and the beauty of the art. 

Fight Club: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

I loved the movie, I loved this book. I really like this story and the narrative is amazing in the book, well it was quite good in the movie too.

Revolution in The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made by Andy Hertzfeld

The title says it all! I have to stress one thing though: It is in fact an insanely great story!

It is quite nice to be able to read such wonderful writings, my joy is that there seems to be a lot more interesting books in the queued "To-Read" list.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Our optimization journey!

Here is a recent article I wrote for the Gamasutra blogs about our challenges increasing the performance of Shadow Blade on mobile devices.

We are aiming for shadow blade to be released this fall:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Let's Play Together!

I've been involved in the fascinating challenge of multiplayer game programming during the past year and it has proved itself to be quite challenging and exciting. I tried to gather part of the stuff that I studied and researched with the help of my friends during this time as a one hour talk I had yesterday.

Here is a link to the presentation slides:

Let's Play Together: Networked Multiplayer Games

The amount of information shared by the experts who have worked in this field already is wonderful, I have included them in the references section of the slides.

We have a long journey to go in this area for our current project.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Book on Creativity

Creativity is the foundation for any kind of creative work, especially for aspiring game designers. A lot of study has been done on the subject related to the nature of creativity and its definitions and also ways to stimulate it.

Dr. Shervin Vakili has a great book on the topic which covers the different aspects of creativity, its definitions and classifications and exercises to increase and enhance creative thinking for everyone. The book is a great read and he has graciously released the digital version free recently on his website here:

You can find out about the numerous other books he has written over there which cover topics ranging from social sciences and psychology to novels, philosophical titles and historical books. Make sure to check out "The Way of the Warrior" poems in the above link.

His great work and ideas has been a big source of inspiration for me during the past years. By the way, he is the author of the great Soshians Novel which was the narrative source for the first video game we were working on.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

7 Supernatural

It is supernatural how being engaged in a highly challenging technical and artistic journey like developing a video game is constructed upon the foundations of a great team. It is supernatural how it seems that technical and artistic prowess is the number one necessity for the heroes in the team, but in reality it all boils down to the individual attitudes and chemistry between the great players in the team.

I have been part of a supernatural team working on video games for the past 7 years. I have clearly witnessed magic happening when we have had the opportunity to be a team. I have shamefully witnessed much technical mastery go down the drain in team dysfunction.

How it is all so supernatural, the magic that builds up around a few connected individuals, the brotherhood, the unity, the everlasting moments that spread much meaning from the internal desires aligned by the same vision and strengthened by a feeling to belong. Belong to the same team. A supernatural concept called a team.

Studying in Engineering and following science and being curious about the interactions of the subjects with the world will help make you blind from seeing what needs to be seen in order to proceed in the rough paths of novelty and creativity. Blind from seeing the supernatural power of the individuals in sync.

It is all about the people. It is all about the emotions rising on top of their mastery. It is all about a journey full of life.

7 years have let me experience working with many great individuals, many of whom I've learned a lot from, laughed with, cried with and felt the supernatural feelings. Many of whom I might travel far with in the future and many whom I won't ever see again. Many who present or absent, are part of what becomes of me. Memories remaining.

7 years have taught engineering, science and art how trust, love and brotherhood bring light to the darkest and coldest nights. Teaching the unteachable. The alchemy of the real people. The tango of the hemispheres over the solo of the left.

The 7 supernatural years.   

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Storm Scars

Gustav is staring ... staring at the only thing stable in his life ... the infinite ocean ... the witness of his whole life ... Gustav is not here ... not now ... never drowned in the blue ocean but drowned now in his unconscious chaos of emotions ... emotions that were never witnessed by his crew ... secrets known only by the most chaotic companion of his life ... the one he spent most of his time in ... sailing with his ship ... the birds fear Gustav in this state ... anyone fears Gustav in this state ... the sound of the ice in his glass makes him wonder for a second if there has been any waves in the calm ocean ... no ... nothing to make the old and courage ship move ... his conscious mind was here many times before ... felt the feelings so much that it can easily pursue the subconscious mind into the dark lands ... lands darker than the darkest storms in the blackened waters of the north ... he feels the warmth of the unknown source in the dark caves of his unconscious mind ... a re-assuring energy ... an unknown so beautiful and full that push away the cold and uncertain memories of the stormy nights like ashes in a strong wind ... Gustav is not here ... his bruised body is ... his soul ... deep in the caves in search ... caves that breed the seeds that are the sources for him continuing on his journey ... can he ever see inside the caves ... never is the answer ... he knows it and he does not care ... he is born to live the life in the ocean ... oceans he travelled with his crew ... many gone and many with him ... Gustav is the crew gone ... living the experience forever ... forever in the waters that spiral forever ... up and down ... through the dark and into the cold ... with the joy and the ever lasting sorrows ... Gustav feels alive right on the border of death ... do they see the shores when he sees them ... is it the shores everyone is waiting for ... shores never delivered happiness ... deflecting the spear of Poseidon always did ... hearing the heart beat sound of the sailors did ... cracking the thick ice on the surface of the freezing oceans always did ... breaking his sword when stuck in the neck of the monsters always did ... this meaning was the souvenir for him from the caves ... souvenir from life ... Gustav will do what needs to be done ... will gather his will back on the ship while exhaling the final dancing naive smoke of his cigar ... will cover one eye to remind himself that it is not the distracting shallow vision he needs ... not the view that the deserters see every second ... the truth is in the un-tellable ... Gustav will only look ahead ... eye to an eye with the gods ... eye to an eye with the demons ... eye to an eye with life ... sets sail one more time with no concern for the ones in or out ... sets sail towards the sailable ... to feel alive ... towards the meaning which has only been a guest of the dark caves deep inside ... off he goes ... no sorrow in his mind ... reborn with one thing in his mind ... slaying demons and gods!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

AI for Video Games

I recently ran a course on Artificial Intelligence for Video Games. The slides can be found here:

The course was an introduction to the applications of AI in video games and diverse topics were covered.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Dee Hock has a lot of great theories about Chaordic organizations. Some of his quotes need to be carved in some stones that would live forever:

"It is essential to employ, trust, and reward those whose perspective, ability, and judgment are radically different from yours. It is also rare, for it requires uncommon humility, tolerance, and wisdom. "

"If you don't understand that you work for your mislabeled 'subordinates,' then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny."

"An organization, no matter how well designed, is only as good as the people who live and work in it."

"If you look to lead, invest at least 40% of your time managing yourself - your ethics, character, principles, purpose, motivation, and conduct. Invest at least 30% managing those with authority over you, and 15% managing your peers. "

"Money motivates neither the best people, nor the best in people. It can move the body and influence the mind, but it cannot touch the heart or move the spirit; that is reserved for belief, principle, and morality."

"The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out."

Highly highly valuable!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Disruptive Tech or Deceptive Myth!?

This year is going to be the year of new gaming platforms and devices. Ouya was a major surprise very recently followed by GameStick and the Shield by nVidia and the news and gossip about Steam box. This is just going to be the beginning and we will probably experience waves of new devices which are mostly open systems.

Whether these new platforms succeed or not, there seems to be lots of new opportunities for independent developers to make video games and have opportunities to self publish their work. Unlike the MS, Sony or Nintendo owned consoles which have strict developer and game selection policies, these new platforms are open for anyone to use and create games.

There is a lot of excitement in the air for the independent creative people but how important will these new opportunities be really? I am skeptical about the success of most of these platforms.

Android based consoles and handhelds will provide the opportunity for all to easily make games and their digital distribution channels will enable most to ave their games available to gamers all over the world. Is this really a new opportunity? PC gaming has been like this for a long time now and most recently, android based mobile games have shared the same level of open ness and ease of distribution. PC games suffered a huge decline in their sales, to a level that many big publishers stopped porting their games for the PC, indicating that it is not worth the effort. Android markets are a joke compared to the closed iOS store. Making money off of Android mobile games seems to be a myth more than anything. There are many reasons for these digital failures, piracy being a major one. Lower piracy rates for the closed console devices and the Apple products is one reason games made for them have been able to survive and enjoy a solid paying user base.

A big exception exists for PC gaming and that is the Steam digital distribution portal. The magic of Valve has been to create a software platform that will enhance the user experience and provide added value for the games to a level that it makes sense for the gamers to want to purchase their games from steam and live inside this highly maintained walled garden. Steam seems to be the reason PC games did not die and to seme extent have flourished during the recent years.

A quick review of the current situation in the game market reveals that Xbox, PS3, Wii, Steam and the Apple Store have been highly successful and developers selling their products for these hardware and software platforms have been doing quite good. PC sales other than steam, android and all other mobile platforms have been huge failures compared to the theoretical potential that they should have (considering their open nature and the penetration factor of the platforms in society).

Open systems, open markets and free opportunities for all has not proved to be the best financial solution for sustainable growth in the digital age. Similar conclusions can be made by reviewing the state of the music and film industries too.

I think that the new Android based consoles will experience a future very much similar to the non-steam pc market and the Android mobile market. It will get quite fragmented too and there will be lots of content made for lots of distribution channels and many devices. Not to mention tons of piracy. Epic failures will scare away the developers and the new kids on the block will be forgotten before anything major.

Other than tough marketing opportunities for these new consoles because of fragmentation, visibility and piracy, much lower capabilities compared to PCs and consoles takes away any competition possibility for them in wow factors and considering the fact that many mobile games showed flashes of brilliancy by employing new touch controls for otherwise mediocre games, reverting back to the standard console controls will toughen the challenge to come up with creative game ideas.

All in all, while we should be ready for quite some hype in the coming months around these platforms, I really don't think that we are going to witness a disruptive technology and a paradigm shift.

Having said all this, I do believe that a huge change will happen with the birth of the Steam Box or Steam Boxes! Adding the pleasure of relaxing on the living room sofa with console game pads to the PC games with big screens and the new small PCs that are configured to work with the monster gaming system called Steam seems to be a wonderful idea. This will further strengthen an already strong gaming system. With the new initiatives like the Green Light on Steam, there should be little worries about those complaining that the system is closed and not democratized well.

I think we should be ready for great news about it soon and it sure will be exciting for all developers, especially the ones that are independent.