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Game Development In the Heart of Africa 72

Posted by kdawson
from the feed-'em-up dept.
Peace Corps Online writes "The Internet has been credited with 'flattening' the world economy, giving anyone anywhere with the requisite skills the opportunity to build a game or create an app on Facebook. Now the Mercury News reports on a new game for the iPhone called iWarrior. It was produced by two 26-year-old developers in Africa, Eyram Tawiah (a Ghanaian) and Wesley Kirinya (a Kenyan), who created every element of their game — the mechanics, the graphics, the music — overcoming considerable obstacles to develop their first product. The game is 'a feed 'em up game, not a shoot 'em up,' says Tawiah, where you 'defend your village by feeding and driving away the animals before they crash it and feed on your livestock and garden!' with threats including thundering elephants, mighty rhinos, swift cheetahs, and crafty hyenas. The developers' company, Leti, which means 'star' in the Ewe language, was nurtured by the philanthropic arm of San Francisco-based Meltwater Group, an Internet business services company, which in 2008 founded the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Accra, Ghana. 'We believe talent is everywhere,' says the Meltwater founder and CEO."
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Game Development In the Heart of Africa

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  • The US is no longer the only place that is a land flowing with opportunity and people willing to take a risk to make something new. This is very good news and probably would not have happened without the advent of the Internet in those countries (or anywhere else that such collaboration takes place). I wish the developers the best of luck (I have no plans on buying an iPhone or purchasing anything from Apple, sorry guys).

    • by Jurily (900488)

      The US is no longer the only place that is a land flowing with opportunity and people willing to take a risk to make something new.

      Yeah, Microsoft stopped buying out their competitors in bulk.

      • Oh, wasn't there also open source in Sub-Saharan Africa? There is this Open Source guy Guido Sohne who worked for Microsoft.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sopssa (1498795) *

      Another great indie game from countries with a lot less standard living costs is Mount&Blade [wikipedia.org] from a Turkish developer and his wife. I love open sandbox games and had a lot of fun playing it back in 2008, and it seems like they have now published a multiplayer expansion pack. The great thing for the developers in these countries is that they can make significantly more than with an usual job in the country, and it's easier to fund their life as an independent game developer. It doesn't work the same way

      • Honestly, the rise in micro-priced apps (and ad-supported stuff) has got to be a boon for developers in lower cost of living countries.

        If you can code and operate with rather clear english (or get someone to help you with translation), even a moderately successful iphone app or facebook game could generate pretty significant revenues. IIRC, Scrabulous was made by a pair of coders in India--while it was a dubious rip of scrabble, I would imagine that the ad commissions translated into a fortune by Indian

    • The US is no longer the only place that is a land flowing with opportunity and people willing to take a risk to make something new.

      Uhm, the US was never the only place of opportunity! There's most of Europe, much of South America, much of eastern Asia, Australia, etc.

      • by puto (533470)
        Please define much of South America. As someone who is a citizen of Colombia and Panama, who lives in Colombia I would like to know that other places other than Chile or Peru that can be defined as the lands of oppurtunity. There is such a seperation of the poor in the rich in these countries that unless you have money, a family name, etc there is nothing. Which is a shame for countries so full of natural resources.
    • by carlzum (832868) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:40AM (#31721516)
      The US may no longer be the land of opportunity, but it has been the source of a lot of opportunity. Don't get me wrong, the US has not been the lone source of innovation in the world. But for everything bad associated with "free market" ideology, off-shoring, tax shelters, etc., there is an American notion of freedom underlying internationalization. There have been moments of backlash, greed, and economic setbacks, but in general, the US has championed economic development and cooperation.

      It's not always pretty or altruistic, but give people a foothold in the global economy and their quality of life, rights, and social mobility improve. Improvement has been slow in China and Russia, but there has been positive change. Africa doesn't need military intervention, charities, documentaries, whatever... they need sustainable industries. Foreign companies strip mining or pumping oil will never foster a middle class, technology, manufacturing, or research will.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sirlatrom (1162081)
        Please read Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine" before continuing your praise of the US championing 'economic development and cooperation.'
        • by carlzum (832868)
          "Shock Doctrine" is proof that US economic policy is neither pretty or altruistic, assuming you buy into it. To me, her argument is borderline conspiracy theory at worst and a collection of philosophical musings at best.
    • by LingNoi (1066278)

      Except it was an american foundation that funded the whole thing. There's no way anyone in africa could do this alone with iPhone development's huge barrier to entry.

      • True, but with more and more of this sort of entrepreneurship going on in Africa, sooner or later African companies will start to rise up to take the lead in funding African businesses. I firmly believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. It may not happen overnight (and that's a good, 90% possibility) but it will happen.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sznupi (719324)

      The US as a shining beacon of opportunity seems to be, for some time, a convenient lie that's fed to you...

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_mobility#Social_system [wikipedia.org]
      Despite this formal opportunity for social mobility, recent research suggests that Britain and particularly the United States have less social mobility than the Nordic countries and Canada.[6][7] These authors state that "the idea of the US as the land of opportunity persists; and clearly seems misplaced."
      [6] http://www.suttontrust.com/reports/I [suttontrust.com]

      • I'll have to read those citations later on today. Thanks for the links. (:

        • by sznupi (719324)

          No problem; but, funny thing, look at the moderation of that post of mine above - seems somebody indeed likes to cling to old myths and doesn't like what was pretty much, well...a citation ;p

          • the moderators are fickle. I had one comment go from +5 interesting all the way to -1 flamebait in the span of a week.

  • Promo BS (Score:5, Informative)

    by dcollins (135727) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @11:47PM (#31721262) Homepage

    "The game is 'a feed 'em up game, not a shoot 'em up' says Tawiah where you 'defend your village by feeding and driving away the animals before they crash it and feed on your livestock and garden!'"

    Gotta call BS on this one. The gameplay is fundamentally the same as Galaga or Centipede; hostile stuff comes down the screen and you shoot it. On some levels here the backstory is "throw stones to frighten", on others it's "throw hay to distract", but the mechanics are identical. It's a shoot-em-up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BearRanger (945122)
      Perhaps, but without the blood and severed limbs I'm more likely to allow my kids to play it. I say good for them for transforming their arms into ploughshares.
  • I don't even have an iPhone and I'm tempted to buy it just to support their effort!

  • This is a refreshingly positive piece of news for me. It leads me to believe that yes, truly anything is possible. If we all just go ahead and do our best, eventually our world will recover from the imminent destruction it is currently facing.
  • Ignorance. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_raptor (652941) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:22AM (#31721440)

    Do people really think Africa is only peopled by savage tribesmen running around with grass skirts and spears? They have cities with computers and nearly everyone has a cell phone (copper landlines tend to get stolen).

    Africa's problem over the last several decades has been loss of intellectual and managerial power in the transition from white colonial rule to self-rule. The continent had a fair bit of light industry and a decent agricultural industry but those have largely failed due to the previous white owners either fleeing or being thrown out*. As the Soviets showed in the 20's and 30's you can't just kick out upper management and expect the shop floor worker to do as good a job. African countries needs non-corrupt leadership and properly trained upper and middle managers to create self-sustaining economies based on agriculture and light and heavy industry. Not fickle industries like tourism or app development. The latter produces money but the former produces wealth.

    Training thousands of Africans in western management styles would help them more than all the food and monetary aid we currently give them.

    It is a a travesty that African countries are leasing huge swathes of land for foreign countries to farm, and sells mineral rights to foreign corporations to plunder and pollute.

    * Which is why Zimbabwe is a joke and South Africa is teetering on the precipice.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AHuxley (892839)
      The problem with 'properly trained upper and middle managers' is that they will charge their white colonial importers market prices for rare, expensive raw materials.
      They will then seek and buy "heavy industry" on the open market and not from " white colonial" powers.
      If your a " white colonial" power, much of Africa is just fine as it is now, divided, at war, exporting low cost pure raw wealth and importing generational debt.
    • If anything the 20s and 30s showed that forced industrialization can work, at least for a short time. Under Stalin Russia went from an agrarian country that did not produce it's own artillery shells during WWI to an industrial powerhouse that was beginning to outproduce Germany by the the late 30s. If you consider forced labour and starvation of the countryside acceptable of course.
      • The starvation wouldn't have happened if Stalin's cronies hadn't killed off the guys who are capable of running large organisations and trying to make reality match their dogma instead of allowing it to guide their dogma. If it hadn't been for the Nazi invasion which forced the Soviets to pull their heads out of their asses (and start being pragmatic) they would probably have collapsed in a few decades.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Do people really think Africa is only peopled by savage tribesmen running around with grass skirts and spears? They have cities with computers and nearly everyone has a cell phone (copper landlines tend to get stolen).

      That's funny....you start out stating they aren't savages but then proceed to explain why they are exactly that (in a sense) even suggesting a civilized Western approach to surviving.......I am not saying you are wrong, just found it hilarious your entire post contradicts the point you are trying to make ;-)

      Carry on!

      • Culture. It is very important and you can see it very clearly in game.

        Try this for an exercise: Compare a Japanese, eastern European, American or British game with each other.

        • Japanese games, typical Japanese games tend to be rather unforgiving. Hard to the point of impossible with no such concept as levels.
        • Eastern European games tend to push the edge in some areas, but fail horribly as well rounded games. Tend to have their difficulty all over the place. Take the old Nival Interactive game Silent Storm.
        • by jonadab (583620)
          > It is as simple as going from the EU to the US. There may
          > be areas that look the same, and then you see someone
          > walking with a gun and you know it is not.

          Umm, yeah. Gullible foreigners who have never been here think Americans carry guns everywhere all the time. As best I can tell, this idea comes from the movies. Here's a free tip: the movies are fiction.

          I've lived in the US for more than three decades, in five towns in three different states, and in all that time I saw a firearm in person
      • There is no contradiction. Large swathes of Africa is populated by dirt farmers who have less technology than the Amish. But Africa still has cities and modern technology so some Africans writing a game is hardly surprising (Nigerian spammers don't use carry pigeon). The problem is that due to incompetent leaders and continuing western exploitation the continent isn't really progressing like China or India is. Africa has too many people for them to survive without western agricultural technology, which is w

    • > Do people really think Africa is only peopled by savage tribesmen running around with grass skirts and spears?

      No, but I have read the Ubuntu Cola blog, from rural Malawi. I recommend it, it's plenty exotic enough!

    • African countries needs non-corrupt leadership

      Exactly! We have that for ages, so we know what it is like!
    • by Thing 1 (178996)

      (copper landlines tend to get stolen)

      I think your parenthetical quote explains a lot about the actual environment there -- and is also likely why people hold those views.

    • by Retiefdv (1331205)

      Africa's problem over the last several decades has been loss of intellectual and managerial power in the transition from white colonial rule to self-rule. The continent had a fair bit of light industry and a decent agricultural industry but those have largely failed due to the previous white owners either fleeing or being thrown out*.

      * Which is why Zimbabwe is a joke and South Africa is teetering on the precipice.

      As a born and bred ZImbabwean and now resident and citizen of South Africa, I think I am qualified to comment on these statements.

      In Zimbabwe, the failure and collapse of that country was caused by abuse of power and corruption. No amount of transfer of

      intellectual and managerial power

      would have prevented that from happening against the background of a despotic government desparately clinging to power and using whatever means (election fraud, destruction of the independence of the judiciary, abolishment of free press, etc.) to achieve th

  • People from Ghana are Ghanaian though
  • The developers' company, Leti, which means 'star' in the Ewe language, was nurtured by the philanthropic arm of San Francisco-based Meltwater Group, an Internet business services company, which in 2008 founded the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Accra, Ghana. 'We believe talent is everywhere,' says the Meltwater founder and CEO."

    I just wonder if Meltwater has more than philanthropic motives here. Will we seen a Meltwater Ghanaian Computer Services Center, real soon?

    Anyone know how wages in Africa compare to China and India . . . ?

    Maybe a group of Nigerian programmers could finally finish Duke Nukem Forever . . . if they get a small fee in advance to cover some start up costs . . . ?

    • by crossmr (957846) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:35AM (#31722774) Journal

      Maybe a group of Nigerian programmers could finally finish Duke Nukem Forever . . . if they get a small fee in advance to cover some start up costs . . . ?

      I represent CEO John Mundabi. Our software firm was just taken over by rebels. We had were preparing the gold master of Duke Nukem Forever to be shipped only moments before half of our team was brutally slaughtered. The rebels are holding our building and assets hostage, however for a small fee of just $5000 (five thousand) US dollars, they've agreed to allow us access to some of the equipment for a short period of time. If we secure access to this disc we would be able to release it. We expect revenues in excess of $40,000,000 (forty million) and would be willing to offer you $2,000,000 (two million) for your help. I think the color of one's skin and the distance do not matter, we can all help one another.
      with god
      Celia Rundabar

  • amazing news, guys: two of the most developed countries in Africa can also do software! I bet that soon they will find out that not only Ghanians and Kenyans can do software, they also

      - do not live on trees
      - do not believe the Earth is flat
      - occasionally have PhDs!

    • by mjwx (966435)

      amazing news, guys: two of the most developed countries in Africa can also do software! I bet that soon they will find out that not only Ghanians and Kenyans can do software, they also

      - do not live on trees
      - do not believe the Earth is flat
      - occasionally have PhDs!
      - kick arse in track and feild events

      You missed one.

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