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Hacking Away
On Saturday I participated in my first hackathon – the Vancouver Cleanweb Hackathon. It was a 12-hour coding marathon, or at least it was for our team from Pulse Energy. While most participants spent the first 2 hours brainstorming, pitching ideas, and recruiting team members, we locked ourselves in a board room and started coding with barely any breaks for eating or peeing. We weren’t necessarily serious or competitive. We just had an ambitious plan and only 12 hours to make it work, so there was no time for socializing.

Earlier in the week, we spent two lunches brainstorming about ideas and planning how we would build our favourite idea, a building manager sim game. We knew we were in over our heads, but we hoped the extra prep work would make up for our lack of game development experience.

Below you can see the evolution of our game as we slowly added functionality, content, and graphics. I’m impressed with how polished it looked after only 12 hours. A lot of the credit goes to our graphic designer, Tyler.

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Our biggest challenges were making the game realistic (we used real data as much as possible), fitting in all the functionality we wanted (sadly, a lot of cool features got cut), and hardest of all, keeping it fun. At 6 pm, with 2 hours left, we stopped coding and did a play-through of our game and realized it was horribly boring. At that point, we stopped adding new features and prioritized fun. We added quirky comments from grumpy tenants, a scoring system, a tweet button, and animations to make it seem more like a game and less like a budgeting exercise.

I encourage everyone to check out and play Epic Energy III, and tweet your high score. The goal is to save as much energy as possible while keeping your tenants happy (which should be explained on an intro screen, but that feature got cut). So far, my best score is 20,308. If you’re interested in the code, you can see all the commits on GitHub. Don’t worry, even if you can read the code, it’s not obvious what the best strategy is to get a high score.

We’re still planning on making some improvements to the game in the coming weeks even though the Hackathon is over. It’s good marketing for Pulse Energy and fun to work on.