A game jam at Liip: Ludum Dare 39

Recently we hosted a game jam called Ludum Dare in the Arena of our Zürich office. It’s important to us to be a part of the tech community, and there’s a growing scene of indie game developers in Zürich.

What is a game jam? It’s a challenge to create a video game from scratch in a short amount of time. There are a lot of different ones being run; for Ludum Dare you and your team have 72 hours to make and submit your game. Although that may sound impossible, game jams are popular exactly because they force you to be creative instead of dithering about the details of what you want to make.

Ludum Dare

Ludum Dare has been running for fifteen years now, and this was the 39th edition. Thousands of people across the world participated, all creating games on the same theme—which was not announced until the start of the jam. You can always participate at home, but getting together with other jammers is much more fun. It also lets you meet new people and form new teams. That’s very necessary, because making a game requires so many different skills.

In Zürich, the local game developers’ group Gamespace organises meetups for Ludum Dare, and this was the second time Liip has hosted them. It’s much easier to jam if you have a big space where you’re not disturbing anyone by spreading out electronics and making weird sounds.

The Jam

We started on Saturday morning with croissants and orange juice and discussed the theme: Running out of power. A good jam theme should have lots of different possible interpretations, and our group discussed running out of computing or graphics power, the Spoon Theory, losing political power, losing magical powers, or having to constantly charge your mobile phone in the game. In the end we split into two groups. One decided to make a story game about coping with depression, and the other started on a platformer about a magical creature giving up their powers to become more human.

The groups got down to business and began writing code and using graphics tablets to make the artwork. Both games were programmed using the Unity engine, a popular choice because of its broad feature set and visual editor.

For the game Dryad, which I worked on with David Stark, we wanted to come up with all our sound effects from scratch. This meant repurposing whatever office supplies we could find in unexpected ways! The sound of sticky tape being pulled off the roll became the sound of a magical spell. Riffling a block of post-its, we got the sound of a crossbow firing a bolt. The noise of triumph when you reach the end of a level comes from a table football trophy being struck!

The Results

By the end of Sunday night, our games were mostly complete and only needed the finishing touches to be submitted on Monday. Both of them are available to play online: Dryad and 03:00 AM. We’ll discuss the creation process at a future Gamespace meetup. In the meantime, the games from the Ludum Dare 38 jam (also held at Liip Zürich) are available here:

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Hackathon on WebVR using A-Frame

What do you do with a HTC Vive and a few cardboards? Hack using A-Frame! We held a hackday to start creating virtual reality environment in Web browsers.

All participants from the hackaton

With the support of Michael Kohler, community organiser at Mozilla CH, we organised a hackathon in our Lausanne office. Food and beverage were provided with our great terrasse to enjoy.
Some devices were available. First Google Cardboard  to test our work and a HTC Vive to create an even better experience.
A Hololens was also available to test augmented reality. It was not the subject of the day, but it is always interesting to compare those two worlds.

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Career day with refugees

Today I represented Liip at the “Career Day” of powercoders.org, a Swiss association to teach refugees to code and to ultimately place them in Swiss IT companies.
Around twenty companies got five minutes to pitch for interns. Afterwards each company got a table, to provide a space for a short interview session for a potential three months internship with the powercoders.org students. The discussions at the table were stimulating and I was particularly pleased about the fact, that the first three people at our table were women. When I had decided to participate at this event to represent Liip on short notice, a colleague of mine said the refugees would all be men anyway. I was well pleased to see her proven wrong.

At Liip we get a fair amount of internship requests, often by people at the beginning of their work career. It was refreshing to discuss with experienced people at this events, people that are entrepreneurs, worked in education, worked at several companies, that have the ambition to make a mark with meaningful employment…, this was a common denominator among everyone that came to talk to me. I was equally impressed by the organisation and the commitment of the organisers, in particular Christian Hirsig. The passion he put into hosting this event and the project is infectious.

We are looking forward to working with one or more of the people we met at this extraordinary event.

www.powercoders.org

Swift Alps Conference – experimentation and collaboration

The Swift Alps Conference has a special format focused on experimentation and collaboration. This is my report of the conference and the workshop Kilian and I held. The slides are available below.

Last month my colleague Kilian and I were pleased to attend the Swift Alps Conference, an experimental conference about Swift taking place in the Swiss Alps. This conference had a different format from what one can expect from a typical software development conference. In this case the format was more focused in experimenting and collaborating with other attendees with the goal of learning something new.

Experimenting with strangers

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Swissquote: How to become a leader in banking in 26 years?

Swissmarketing Vaud invited Jan De Schepper, Head of Marketing at Swissquote. I expected a guide to be a leader in a few simple steps. Highly interesting, this conference actually felt like one of my masterclass.
Report of the conference

SWISSQUOTE, EN 26 ANS, DEVENIR LEADER PAR L’INNOVATION ET LE MARKETING DE CONTENU
Jan de Schepper

At this conference, what I wanted to know was how to become a leader. I expected De Schepper to hand me over the strategic marketing keys to success. The secret recipe for me to make Liip, my entreprise, an absolute leader in web development.
What kind of advice did I get?

Swissquote, a content brand

According to De Schepper, the foundation of a company leaves a significant mark. The founders, Marc Bürki et Paolo Buzzi owned Marvel Communication SA, a company specialized in financial information softwares. Once they figured out that they could provide the services they were talking about, Swissquote became a bank and IPO’d as such on the 29th of May 2000. The focus of Swissquote was on content creation right from the beginning.

A basic brand structure

At Swissquote, they believe that the brand defines who they are and how they act. Their brand structure is actually not original, as it involves a vision and six values.
In De Schepper’s words, a vision is like an Evening Star (Etoile du Berger in French). It is what leads your way.

To be the world’s most pioneering and intuitive online bank.

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Embracing the opposite – Andy Yen and Bertrand Piccard at #ICTimpuls16

I quickly rushed to Lucerne this afternoon for the ICTimpuls16-track about how to succeed with selling Swiss ICT services and products abroad. And for Bertrand Piccard’s keynote – it was worth the time.

Andy Yen of Geneva (and San Francisco) based ProtonMail gave a very encouraging speech about how to present one’s company and products in a different market like the U.S. – it’s basically all about being way more bold than we are used in Swiss culture, embracing risk, and seeking to fail as fast as possible. By investing in sales in the U.S., ProtonMail actually “got the rest of the world for free”. My question, if ProtonMail is also active in other domains of myData than e-mail, or considering to move into that direction, Andy answered in the affarmative. I am very much looking forward to what’s coming there in the future. Thanks, Andy, for your great insights!

(no picture)

I would have liked to post a picture of one of Andy’s slides here, but it’s written “confidential” on them – don’t know, how serious he is about that.

Bertrand Piccard – on the big stage – managed to catch the attention of the audience masterly. A psychiatrist by formation, and a leader by talent he inspired my thoughts throughout his speech. Betrand advocated for always changing one’s altitude to be able to find solutions. Surrounding oneself with less of the same, more divers people surely is supporting that. To be innovative and creative, one has to drop ballast – one’s beliefs, certitudes – and try the opposite. Erradicating emotions and applying a pragmatic attitude can help. Being innovative is not tied to achieving something spectacular, but allowing and fostering to think in other directions. “If one accepts a crisis, it becomes an adventure – if one does not, it stays a crisis”. Life is less about what I know, but more about my doubts and being able to ask questions.

Betrand ended with asking the audiance: “What story do you want to tell? What’s your dream?” I bet everyone in the room was thinking about what ballast one could drop to reach one’s dream. Listening to critical voices helps you in answering that decisive question. Thanks, Bertrand, for your continuous engagement in making our world more energy efficient!

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TEDxCERN: Don’t be afraid of technology

Technology is just a tool! In one of the most prestigious place for researches, brilliant scientists shared their inspiration during a whole afternoon. Ripples of curiosity was the theme. This is my report of the conference.

Some people travel to visit the CERN, whereas I had never been there. It is not an impressive building lost in the middle of a green field in the countryside of Geneva like I pictured it. It is lost in a suburban area and the building is not high. Rather, it has long, never-ending corridors filled with doors leading to little offices. It’s very quiet, people whispers there. It looks nothing like the big open space that I am used to. However the people I listened too, have the same conviction about their projects.

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A recap of PyCon UK 2016

PyCon UK has traditionally taken place in Coventry, but this September it was held in Cardiff, in the beautiful City Hall. We shared the space with several weddings — including one between a ladybird and a fireman, part of the City of the Unexpected celebrations of Roald Dahl!

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Data-Journalism and scraping skills – Report of a meet-up

Tuesday 27th September, at Liip Lausanne, we had the pleasure to welcome Barnaby Skinner from SonntagsZeitung and Tages-Anzeiger and Paul Ronga from Tribune de Genève for a meet-up about data-journalism. You’ll find the slides and further readings here.

During the summer I came across a news, written by Barnaby Skinner about a 3 months course at Columbia University in New York, that he was attending with Paul Ronga (from Tribune de Genève) and Mathias Born (from Berner Zeitung). The course was mainly intended for journalists, teaching them to gather data, improve their analytic skills (for example with Python, Panda libraries, SQL, combining the three, scraping with BeautifulSoup and using Selenium for automated scraping).

Finding the theme extremely interesting, I invited both Barnaby Skinner and Paul Ronga, at Liip Lausanne to tell us more on the subject.

Why are Scraping Skills Important, Especially For Swiss (and Other European) Journalists, Researchers or App Developers?

You can find the slides Datajournalism_Presentation.

The US government, data driven US companies, NGOs, Thinktanks make so much data available. At least when you compare it to Swiss and European governments or companies. That’s why scraping skills are all the more valuable for Swiss journalists, researchers, app developers: in so many cases the data is actually there. It’s just not structured in a way that is easily machine readable.
Starting with the basics, we will discuss more elaborate and sophisticated scraping techniques, using examples and, discussing and sharing some sample code.
By Paul Ronga and Barnaby Skinner

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Web Summercamp in Croatia – PHP track

David Buchmann introducing HTTPlug

HTTP client workshop in the PHP track of Web Summer Camp Rovinj

I was invited to do a workshop at Web Summer Camp in Rovinj (yes, last year it was called PHP Summer Camp – it got bigger this year). This year, I did a workshop on building HTTP clients in PHP. I did the workshop together with Márk Sági-Kazár, the lead author of HTTPlug, the HTTP client abstraction on top of PSR-7. We used PSR-7 and HTTPlug to build a client against an example API to manage TODO items. Then we showed how to do a Symfony integration for such a client, and how the HttplugBundle can be used to debug requests that are done in Symfony. The slides are online on slides.com – though note that this was a hands-on workshop, important parts of the workshop are not visible on these slides. The workshop was well received and I hope to teach it again in the future.

Web Summer Camp is unique in being a conference that only consists of 3 hour hands-on workshops and no only talks – aside from a lightning talks session. There are workshops in the morning and in the afternoon, so during the 3 days, you get to do 6 in depth-workshops. This year, there was the PHP track with 2 parallel workshops, and an eZ publish track as well as a UX / agile track. The Summer Camp is a community organized event with a great atmosphere, nice evening activities – and keeping the prices impressively low for what you get. The included boat trip on saturday is another unique and awesome thing. In short, you should strongly consider visiting the Summer Camp next year!