Flax Project San Francisco trip to Game Closure

So here’s the story about how Carl and I, ended up in Silicon Valley for 3 weeks last month, at a start-up games company in the valley.Game Closure is a start up HTML5 games company based in Palo Alto, San Francisco. They are developing a JavaScript game SDK which runs on mobile, tablet, and browser devices, and which  allows client/server code-sharing. Using only Javascript on the client and server, customers can build games to enable Android, iPhone, and Facebook users to compete and collaborate in real-time.  Not only that, but their SDK allows games made with it to be compiled into native apps for Android and iOS, allowing for better performance on mobile devices.

Heading up Game Closure is Michael Carter, along with three other co-founders: Martin HuntTom Fairfield and  Jacob Lyles. Behind all this is an extremely talented team of engineers, who are experts in their individual fields; it was a great pleasure to work with them during our trip to Game Closure. Michael, the CEO, believes in investing in people, and has gone to great length to make sure Game Closure is built on a solid engineering team, with the newest member of the team Arno van der Vegt, the creator of the HTML5 game TankWorld, moving from the Netherlands to San Francisco.

What did the Flax guys get up to at Game Closure?

Well after recovering from the jet lag of flying half way around the globe, Carl and I got down to familiarising ourselves with Game Closures SDK, and general development environment. Now do forgive me, but I’m going to be some what vague about all this; NDA’s and all. Though rightly so, some extremely ground breaking developments happening at Game Closure, that make their dev toolchain very unique. As the lead programmer of the Flax Engine, I found it quite interesting to study their SDK’s architecture. Its always nice to find almost identical algorithms or structures in some sections of the code. For me it helps validate my logical thought pattern about a problem when someone else writes very similar code to solve said problem. Even more interesting are the different approaches and structures people use to develop a game SDK.

 

So Carl and I went about almost stress testing the SDK (we didn’t know the SDK at all, we picked a random game and said, ok, lets do this in two days).  Within two days we had put together a basic top down scrolling map shooter. It was about the third day when Michael came over to us, asking how the game was going and had we tried it on a device yet? I responded no, knowing all too well the pain it normally takes to get a HTML5 game working and performing well in a mobile device web-view. Michael pulled out his android phone, opened their Game Closure dev app and there on a list was the name of our game, one tap and bang, there was our game running! Not only that, but the performance was amazing; particularly for such a low end android mobile device. To be honest, I was quite puzzled by this black magic. Michael explained how their SDK and server development works in-conjunction, to compile HTML5 apps into native apps for all mobile platforms. So what we were seeing was our game as an almost native .apk installed game. I quickly changed some of the source code and asked him to refresh the app, and bang, there was the altered game.

These days the whole focus of game development, seems to be write it once, deploy on all platforms. Many frameworks and SDKs try to achieve this, and coming from a GWT background I’m very  fimialar with this idea, of writing all the code in one language, both server and client, and then deploying to all platforms without the need to rewrite. I have experienced the problems that can come with it, and the general pot holes that slow developers down. Never before had I come across a solution that “just works”, and that was so natural to general HTML5 development. There is so much more that really blew me away; but I best stop there as I have signed an NDA.


For the remainder of our trip, we tried out various game genres and developed prototypes to further help us evaluate their game development stack. I’m quite pleased with how our trip worked out, it was a great success for both parties involved, Game Closure got an outsider’s view and evaluation of their development stack and we got a free plane ticket and Holiday to Silicon Valley, ha :) . Ah no, but on a more serious note, we got to be in an extremely motivated and passionate games development environment, which was a first for Carl and I previously working in more standard software development environments. Not only that, but working with such talented engineers was an great experience, I feel I was barely worthy to be among them.

 

Oh and of course, it wasn’t all work and no play. We visted San Francisco city, walked arcoss the Golden Gate bridge etc, and of course we wouldn’t be Irishmen if we didn’t go to a few páirtithe (parties); which of course was great craic. It’s funny, I spoke to many people at the various parties we went to and I would say almost 99.9% of the people were programmers, start-up founders, or worked at Reddit, Facebook, Google etc. Thus is the culture of the valley I suppose. We will have to get our own Silicon Valley culture going here in Ireland!

Special Thanks

So that was our trip to Silicon Valley, and we are now back  in college catching up on what we missed. Though I must say a special thanks, for the support of our lecturers, who facilitated our absence and allowed academic value to be derived from our trip. Special thanks to Michael Carter for inviting us out, and to all the Game Closure crew for having us. Of course a big thanks to Tom, Marcus, Bridget and Jacob for their hospitality. We would also like to say a big thank Michael and Game Closure for offering to sponsor the Flax Project, which we kindly accepted. Most importantly, I must mention Teddy Cross, Game Closures current intern, an amazing young game developer at only fifteen.

 

Closing remarks and vision for future

What can I say, Game Closure’s future is looking bright. There is such a buzz about the company; heck, I don’t think Michael even sleeps. He’s always in the office or at meetings. Even as they add more and more people to their development team, the passion doesn’t seem to fade (they are even scaling out into a new office to house their growing operation). All I can say is Zynga better watch out, Game Closure has the drive and the talented people behind it to make it a billion dollar company. Going forward, the Flax Project and Game Closure will be solidifying our close relationship; both Carl and I have been invited to return to Game Closure next year as part of our work program, and when the time is right for us, maybe joining the ranks of Game Closure development team permanently.

 

Thanks for reading and for following the project. If you’re a regular reader, you should follow us on Twitter @FlaxProject and Facebook Flax Project Facebook

About the Author

Ciarán McCann

Flax Project Founder - Ciarán McCann is an extremely passionate and motivated programmer who has been programming for about 4 years now. Currently attending Carlow I.T studying computer games development. He has experience in many different programming languages, markup languages and general technologies. His role in the Flax Project is as a blogger/Web Designer and Flax Engine programmer. Please excuse any bad grammar/spelling, I am a bit on the Dyslexic side. Follow me on Twitter for info on what I am working on.

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