Last week I was invited to take part in two Young Enterprise Digital Industry Masterclasses in Lumem Christi School. Following a talk from a local entrepreneur, the kids had to then design an app or game and work out how they would finance, develop and market it. Each group had to complete a business plan and do a two minute pitch to myself and the other app buddies. It was really fun, both days were full of creative kids, brilliant app ideas and some great pitches!
Day 1 saw Padraig Canavan from Kofax giving a great talk on how and why he started his software development company. As well as being insightful, his brief history of computers (from taking up half a room to fitting in your pocket) was brilliant. His story about how 5 double glazers showed up for interview after he placed a Windows Developer advertisement was also brilliant.
Day 2 had Paul Brown, a former Lumen Christi pupil who now runs a media company as well as managing music acts, talk about how important it is to follow your dreams and enjoy what you do for a living, telling students, "You're not too young to do it!"
Here's a list of the app ideas presented as well as a note of the winners from each day!
Study Buddy - An app for students and teachers to exchange notes and start discussions about school work. Integrates with cloud storage for easy file management. Looking to partner with universities to help fund and promote the app.
Skinternational - An innovative beauty app, personalise with your own skin, eye and hair colour and get recommendations on what products and make up are best for you. Integrates with YouTube to offer tutorials on how to use the products. Looking to take advantage of a growing male grooming market, and planned 3 launch events at spas and beauty shops to reach target audience.
Shuffle - A handy management app for all your social networks, allowing you to quickly check all your updates in the one place. Especially handy for the limited time a student might get to check their mobile phone during the day. They worked hard to justify all development and marketing decisions by conducting their own market research within their group.
Snap & Compare - A quick and easy way to find products online and compare prices. Planning to integrate with eBay's search by image function to allow users to snap pics of any products and quickly find matches across the web. Planned to get sponsorship from big brands to get their products featured in selected searches.
V-Lapse - Another innovative way to use your phone to record special memories and automatically make videos to share to YouTube and social media sites. Users can set a reminder to take a picture at a certain time the create a video from all pictures taken. The group identified a few different target markets, new parents, gardeners, health and fitness gurus, and developed different marketing strategies for each group.
Bingo Wings - A just for fun app developed for older fans of bingo and puzzle games. A great way to open up technology to a market not traditionally targets by games, with a really fun presentation. Also focused on in-app purchases to increase revenue streams for the app.
I Can Calm - Want to ensure you don't send angry messages in the heat of the moment? This app will block you from texting or posting online for 5 minutes, and provide fun and distracting games such as darts, to give you time to calm down and avoid you doing something you regret. Designed to help prevent spur of the moment messages that could lead to cyber bullying, it was great to see students willing to tackle issues like this,
The Drop - A game were users can selfie to create a character which they then have to control as they dropped through a series of obstacles. Taking inspiration from popular game Flappy Bird, this game features simple controls but tough challenges to ensure that 'one more go' feeling keep users playing longer.
It was tough to pick only 2 winners from this selection so the app buddies and I asked if we could pick 3, and even that was tough. We eventually settled on:
Best Pitch - Skinternational
Best App - V-Lapse
Best All Rounder - Study Buddy
On day 2 we had:
Banter Bus - A racing game where the driver of a bus has to negotiate 3 lanes of traffic while collecting students. With a few objectives to complete along the way the game is all about getting the highest score. Integration with social media sites allows for sharing of scores, you can also challenge your friends to increase competition.
Moviemood - A cool app to help you decide what to watch based on your mood. With a few input choices you can easily filter content to avoid having to browse for ages and still not finding something you want to watch. They talked about how they would sell the app then drop the price after a time to help increase profits in year 2 and 3 of the business.
Gigglegram - A handy video editing tool for you phone that allows you use content already available to make jokes and funny videos. Integrating with Vine and other social media sites, this app allows videos of different lengths to be quickly uploaded to your own social media sites.
Demo Sound - This app allows bands and artists to manage all their own music for sharing on social media and with record companies. Additional revenue comes from charging record companies to access the content available allowing them to keep costs down for the musicians. This app was very well designed with loads of user friendly features. This was the most inventive pitch of the day with one student tearing up his speech and speaking to us from the heart about his brilliant app!
Instaworkout - A fun app to keep track of progress as you get fit, users can take pics of their progress, select from loads of workout videos and add content from personal trainers to keep track of all their health and fitness stuff in one place. Integrating with YouTube to offer additional workout videos, this would be a handy tool for anyone starting or already in the middle of a workout program.
Turn It Off - This app comes with a filter for sockets in your home to allow you to control plugs and power from your mobile phone. This stops the worry of wondering if you remembered to turn off the oven, or worse still, your hair straighteners, and saves you from burning your house down! As it was sold with the filter, this team was really conscious of price, coming up with ways of keeping it low to attract the most customers.
Buff Buddy - This app is for people who prefer to work out alone rather than at a gym, but still want some help and support on their get fit journey. Featuring an animated avatar that is customised to match the users appearance, and that changes as the user changes. There was also some great ideas to integrate with sports clothing brands to allow users to get digital versions of clothes they buy for themselves, further customising the avatar to look like themselves.
Again, the competition was tough and again we picked 3 winners instead of 2. Day 2 winners were:
Best Pitch - DemoSound
Best App - Turn It Off
Best All Rounder - Buff Buddy
Both days ended with Vincent from Invest NI telling the students how they can make their ideas into business. His inspiring talk of teenage entrepreneurs further enhanced the message that you're never too young to do something you are passionate about. And Invest NI can help - get in touch with them here - http://www.investni.com/
I would highly recommend taking part in the Young Enterprise Industry Masterclass, whether as a student who wants a chance to do something fun and creative in school, or as someone in the creative digital industries who wants to see how inventive students can be in such a short time. Both days were fun and full of creativity, I'm looking forward to the next one already!
For more information visit http://www.yeni.co.uk/
Horror is back, with a vengeance. Yep, after 9 years of Shinji-less Resident Evil, we finally get a game that remembers what horror is all about. Take Resident Evil 4’s strengths, mash in Silent Hill and add a sprinkle of Dead Space gore. That’s The Evil Within.
The game basically plays as a 3rd person shooter. The shooting controls are tight and well done and the enemy AIs act smart and unpredictable. Tension is also built up through random monster encounters that help to keep the player on their toes.
Sound plays a vital role in The Evil Within in order to create anxiety, paranoia and tension. The character dialogue is also excellent, with talented actors such as Jennifer Carpenter from Dexter and Jackie Earle Haley from Watchmen.
Although the story is very well done, often it can be confusing. Without giving anything away, the game hiccups a few times, not enough to ruin the story, but just enough to invoke multiple head scratches.
So in the end, the game excels at what it was created for: Survival Horror. No hand holding and no safety in infinite ammo capacities. This is what horror is supposed to be.
Looking to add to existing Unity3D skills? Troll Inc are delivering Advanced Unity workshops as part of Honeycomb Creative Works.
First up is Advanced Programming and Animation - a 2 day workshop with day 1 taking place on Saturday 18th October, day 2 is Saturday 25th October.
Both days take place in Coleraine campus of University of Ulster.
Also running is Advanced Animation and Visual Effects, a 1 day workshops on Saturday 8th November, taking place in Magee campus of University of Ulster.
Sign up at the links above and check #HCSkills on Twitter for any updates or news!
We look forward to seeing you there.
Feedback from previous workshops:
"Gavin's experience was evident."
"I liked ... step-by-step guidance."
"Course was ... very well times and prepared."
"The most valuable part of this course was ... talking to experienced instructors."
It's the most wonderful time of the year! Halloween is more magical than Christmas, with way better decorations! As the grim grinning ghosts come out to socialise, so to do creepy costumes, spooky stories and very scary videogames. This year we even have a new one from Resident Evil mastermind, Shinji Mikami as The Evil Within is released tomorrow!
As well as The Evil Within, here's my list of games to play this Halloween rated out of 5 Scream masks. Turn off the lights, crank the volume up and whatever you do, don't fall asleep!
1. Resident Evil 4
It's hard to pick a favourite game ever but if I was forced to it'd most likely be RE4. Terror comes in many forms, from the blind Garrador to the chainsaw revving villager, the mini bosses are almost more terrifying that the main ones. The scariest part is Ashley's horrifying habit of getting in the way of my knife as I slash crates open, but that's probably more my fault that hers! All in, I dropped my controller about 84 times on my first playthrough. I still go back at least once a year though, this is a masterpiece of a game.
2. Alien Isolation
While maybe not strictly a horror game, this is pretty horrific. Heart racing, palms sweating, hit myself in the face with my controller as I try to hide my face kind of horrific. I tried survival mode and didn't manage to achieve a single objective as my nerve failed me every time I left the locker. I am determined to keep going, mostly to try the DLC and play as Ripley, but I'm not hopeful of getting any further than that locker.
3. Dead Space
I got as far as a bit in some sort of containment unit where I got locked in with 2 or 3 Necromorphs. This was enough to leave me shaking that much that my attempts to strategically dismember any baddies were laughable. It's the one scary game I've never went back to, I lost my save soon after this incident and there isn't a hope you'll get me back in that containment unit!
Scare rating (for that one bit):
I don't think I can even talk about this one. The scares are intense, the music goes on far too long after them so your brain never gets to come down from the scare and you're left (well I'm left) unable to move 'cause I'm convinced something awful can and will jump from every single door I encounter for the rest of my life.
5. Silent Hills P.T
This playable teaser is nasty! It's a different sort of scare to Resident Evil 4 and Alien Isolation. This is sick to your stomach, sweat running down your back, seeing strange things out of the corner of your eye for a week after playing fear. With the other games the fear starts as a pounding in your heart, P.T starts right in your gut, you just know this isn't right at all. I am looking forward to playing Silent Hills but I don't know that I'll be the same after.
I've already done a bit of a Let's Play of Silent Hills P.T and Alien Isolation but I'm still waiting on the edited versions of the videos to export (I wasn't aware I knew so many swear words!). I'll also be trying Five Nights at Freddy's and Among the Sleep, as well as recording Outlast and Evil Within, expect videos soon!
We are delivering a number of Unity workshops as part of the Honeycomb Creative Works program.
Check out the different training sessions, dates and locations below. Courses are free, you must register for any you would like to attend, just click on the course name for the sign up page!
If you have any questions let me know. We look forward to seeing you there!
Troll Inc are pleased to announce the launch of their School App for St. Mary’s College, Derry. Designed in collaboration with students and teachers, the St. Mary’s College app is aimed at improving school life, keeping parents informed, and allowing teachers an easy way to quickly reach all pupils.
Troll Inc were responsible for creating something that could be used by over 1000 concurrent users and maintained by staff within the school. We were able to deliver:
This has resulted in an intuitive and informative app that will be invaluable to St. Mary’s College students and staff now and in the future.
For ease of access to all students and parents, the St. Mary’s College app is available free on iTunes, Google Play Store and Windows Store. Launched on 29 August 2014 as the pupils return from their summer break, the St. Mary’s College app will be a useful tool in particular for students making the transition from primary to secondary education with a wealth of support information available.
Read more about the St. Mary's College School App
App Download links
About Troll Inc
Troll Inc is an Irish indie development studio focusing on fun games and apps for tablets & mobile devices as well as consoles & PC. Founded in 2010 by a group of game development graduates, they have released products on multiple markets including iOS, Android, Windows Store, Samsung Apps, Amazon and Facebook, and received numerous awards including Best Overall Business in the Fast Forward Business Awards. Recent projects have included collaborations with industry leaders such as Bosch and WHSCT as well as various local businesses. Learn more at www.troll-inc.com
Troll Inc deliver workshops in a range of disciplines relevant to today’s digital age, relevant to STEM subjects and focused on offering new skills in programming and graphic design.
Allow your students to experience a taste of exciting new skills such as game development, game art and design and graphic design using the latest technology, delivered with our expertise from our many years of experience.
Alternatively, let us train you to deliver the skills yourself, using our expertise to help you learn the systems and tailor an educational program to suit your students. Get access to our library of assets and tutorials and develop your own game design workshops, with follow up support from our team if required.
"Troll Inc have worked with School Employer Connections devising curriculum linked workshops for 11 to 18 year olds. They have demonstrated the ability to adapt work to specific age groups in both content and delivery. Troll Inc show expertise and dedication to their own work which they use to support the school community. I am delighted to support them."
Vivienne Kerr, School Employer Connections
With reveals of certain horror-esque games such as BloodBorne, The Evil Within and Alien: Isolation, I thought it necessary to dwell on the impact that horror games have on the current generation. And the truth is, not a lot. Developers tend to stray into the path of action-based games with spectacular set pieces than slow paced, story driven cores of what make horror games such a thrill to play. In truth, it seems that survival horror’s taken the back-seat.
So let's compare the first and current title of each series.
This series started off great in 1996, creating a claustrophobic setting and scares that were genuinely disturbing at the time.
Skip to 2012, when its successor, Resident Evil 6 is released, gone are tightly packed corridors, smart environments and scream inducing frights, in are steroid pumped soldiers firing at monsters like... well... any game with monsters. This series was a prime example of losing the plot. BUT, with a pledge to bring the series back to its horror roots, maybe there is some hope for this series yet
Released in 2008 as a new take on survival horror. Dead space became the game that fans of the genre always wanted, a dark, scary, violent throwback to the old games of lore. Taking hints from Resident Evil and even Half Life, creating a tense atmosphere through the exclamations and movements of its main character.
However, this game proved to be a one off with both its sequels straying too far into action territory. Dead Space 2, although the best of the series, lost a lot of the magic that the original offered. We’re not even going to talk about the third. BUT, none of the games suffer from a lack of story or good controls, so that’s always a plus.
Released in 1999 Silent Hill, much like Resident Evil, was born from the concept of making a character feel alone. Misty surroundings coupled with the fact that most of the encounters you face are monsters help to intensify this feeling. The design of the monsters helped too, being twisted representations of the main character’s psyche.
Switch to the modern take Silent Hill: Downpour. While not going down the action root of its predecessor Homecoming, the game lacked polish. Numerous bugs and glitches contributed to a rather uneventful take on survival horror. BUT, I admire the developers for staying as horror when it could have been so easy to make an action game.
Misinterpretations of horror games become increasingly apparent with the rise of the zombie genre of games. While games such as Dead Island, Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising are fun to play at times, they can’t really be considered horror. Whether any zombie games can be salvaged for future endeavours remains to be seen.
Hopefully with developers straying once again into horror territory, we may just be able to resurrect this dusty genre once again.
In my memory there have never been many arcades in Northern Ireland and they are becoming increasingly rarer in favour of machines that pump out tickets to be exchanged for prizes. It's unfortunate but I figured there must be some hope, some arcades still hidden away and worth visiting in Ireland.
My hunt began in Portrush, Northern Ireland. I was severely disappointed again and again. I did manage to find a few cool machines I'd happily have spent the day filling with my £1 coins but unfortunately there seemed to be something wrong with all of them.
First up, The House of the Dead 4, should have been loads of fun with the cute uzis and gross zombies. Nope, the trigger on one of the uzis didn't work leaving me only able to throw grenades and shake off zombies, no fun at all.
Then I found Time Crisis 3, another one I was really looking forward to playing for hours but alas, sticky triggers on both guns ended that fun early too.
Both these machines were in arcades along the main street in Portrush, I doubt I'll ever visit either again. They were both filled with games that are all luck and chance rather than skill, and of course big shop areas where you can buy all sorts of 'prizes' with your randomly acquired tickets. I suppose some people find this fun but it's not my idea of a good arcade.
One of the arcades did have 2 Sega Rally 2 machines, allowing up to 4 people to race together and apart from a loose steering wheel this worked well. I got my ass handed to me in the first race but managed to pull it back for the 2nd, pipping my opponent to the post just in time to induce the fun-to-watch loser rage!
There were a few other arcade machines in Barry's Amusements, these seemed to be in better condition than the main street arcades but unfortunately there wasn't much choice, with Ghost Squad being the only one worth playing. Both guns had very wobbly cursors but this didn't affect gameplay too much and I actually managed to enjoy the game. This is the only machine I'd consider revisiting in Portrush but I'd still rather have a better arcade someone else.
If you know of any good arcades anywhere in Ireland PLEASE let me know. I'm gonna have to spend my weekends hunting down some good machines that actually work and would love some recommendations. I've heard Bundoran is good, have you been there recently? Have they replaced everything with ticket machines or is it still a place worth visiting? Let me know!