What I Did With My Summer Holidays
So, I had a weeks holiday last week; just over a week if you count the previous Friday when I tramped off to Wales with a group of chums for a few days camping and clambering. But - somewhat typically - I'd arranged to spend the week working for a client of ours, Locomatrix, for whom I moonlight as CTO.
If you've not come across Loco before, it's really neat - and weird enough to fit snugly into the Future Platforms portfolio: a platform to enable location-based gaming: you can see a lovely video outlining the concept here. There's lots of action in this area at the moment, what with the commoditisation of GPS and the increased physicality and casuality of gaming that Miyamoto and chums are working hard on, and there are oodles of location-based games out there. But Loco's status as a platform makes it a bit different: sure, we've written a couple of games ourselves to demonstrate its versatility, but the aspiration is to hand this over to the public and let them do much cleverer and more imaginative stuff than we can dream of.
With FP being a mature 8 years old, I no longer get to kid myself that I'm working for a startup, so it was quite exciting to get back to that world again - even if briefly. Four days isn't a long time to achieve much, and I spent the first couple of them doing basic housekeeping: tidying up projects, slimming down applications, packaging things up properly, tidying up build scripts, automating installations... all those things you really mean to get around to doing, which save you oodles of time and hassle in the long run but you never quite get to. By the end of Tuesday Loco was in a clean, maintainable state and I was much more comfortable and familiar with it, ready for a Real Day Off.
Thursday was incredibly frustrating, as I worked on trying to improve one of our game formats, Treasure Hunt. One of those days where you crack on well, and achieve nothing. But my glass was half full: Loco being an outdoor gaming platform, most of my testing effort involved running down to the beach or a local park. Loco HQ is on Brighton seafront, not an unpleasant environment to be doing your testing in at this time of year :)
Friday morning: final tidying up, and a meeting with a potential Loco customer. We're actively targeting agencies and game developers with the platform right now - it feels far too early for LBS gaming to go mass market, we don't have spare cash to burn promoting the concept to the public, but for brands or game authors the platform is a cheap opportunity to do something really unusual today, without the infrastructure costs most LBS game developers usually end up paying.
And the afternoon? Running through the game developer APIs, which I wasn't personally too familiar with, and was pleased to see strike a balance between feature and simplicity. I reckon if I can explain them to someone fresh in less than an hour and they get it, there's something good there. And then working on a backlog of desired features for Loco with a view to sorting out some longer-term planning for the product. Having gone through the pain of introducing decent processes to a software company 5+ years in, I'm keen to start getting Loco into good habits early on :)
So... not exactly a holiday, but definitely a change of scene, a more relaxed atmosphere than the sometimes frenetic pace at FP, and a sense of leaving something better than I found it. I look forward to repeating the experience (perhaps after a real holiday)!