From Guitar Teacher to Game Developer and Online Instructor

From guitar teacher to game developer and online instructor. Ben Kane Johns believes the journey of the learner is to be enjoyed. While you are making progress with programming and making your first game, it’s important to keep an open mind and never stop learning.

Ben is currently looking for testers for his new game Tumbly Weed, you can join and play the game before all 7 billion humans by signing up here.

If your goal is to create your own iOS games, feel free to to check out Ben’s online course on mobile game development with Swift in our e-learning platform Zenva Academy.

Hi there Ben! Can you tell us a bit about your technological background?

I have been working in IT for most of my working life. I started out in IT support, but in more recent years I have branched out into web development and now game development. However, my very first job straight out of high school was teaching guitar for 4 years.

What inspired you to start creating your own games?

I have been a gaming geek since I was a little boy. My interest in playing games and my highly creative nature has lead me to want to create games of my own. It has felt like a very natural progression to go from being a gaming geek and working in IT support to then actually trying to build a game by myself.

TumblyWeed5iPhone6        TumblyWeed2iPhone6

What is your game about and how can people become testers?

My game is called Tumbly Weed, it’s roughly based around the game Flappy Bird. The main character of the game “tumbleweed” has to float over the cactus and under the cloud which is similar to the pipes in Flappy Birds. People can get involved with beta testing my iOS game by submitting their details on my signup form this link

Did you come across any major difficulties whilst developing the game? Yes there were always difficulties at every turn. The more notable ones were…

Making the game levels completely random and never ending. My game has some similarities to Flappy Bird. I have cactus and the clouds spawning to the scene like the pipes in Flappy Birds. With random size gaps between the cactus and the cloud, also a random starting height for the cactus and random gaps between the sets of pipes (cactus and cloud).

Dealing with multiple image sizes to serve to all iPhone and iPad screen sizes was a challenge as I don’t use storyboards. The game is created entirely with GameKit. So I was not able to use the adaptive layouts in storyboards. It all had to be done on code, detecting screen width and serve different images size depending on the width of the screen.

Implementing screen and facecam recording using Unity’s Everyplay social network was a challenge. The SDK and all the coding examples were written in Objective-c. I am Swift boy so Objective-c was quite foreign to me. It had to feel my way through it.

I use reward video ads from Chartboost in my game and the challenge here was to work out how to reward the user for watching a video ad. Another difficulty is knowing when and how often I should present the ads. Everyone has there own opinion on ads, this is something that I am still testing and I see this as real success factor for my game. My opinion is less is more. Meaning less ads and the user will more than likely play the game more often. This is better for me and better for the user, win win.

Do you think having a background in teaching helped craft your online course?

Most definitely, part of being a great teacher is being a great student. Meaning a teacher needs to have respect and understanding for their students and know first hand how difficult it is to learn something new especially coding or learning a musical instrument.

What advice would you give to those who want to create games of their own?

My advice would be to enjoy the journey of learner. Starting out learning any type of object orientated language. Then look for courses or tutorials that are project based so you actually have something to show for your hard work. The last thing I would have to say is to take it one step a time. As it can get overwhelming at times and while you think you might be going nowhere, that is the time to knuckle down and study harder. In the back of my mind, I always tell myself the pressure of learning is a privilege and I am very grateful.

Can people interact with you whilst they’re taking the course?

Most definitely, I am always responding to my students and encouraging to ask more questions. I think this is where my students get more out of my courses.

What attracted you about teaching online?

The reason why I decided to create online courses is because I see the value it gives back to the student. Having taught the guitar face to face for four years, I got a sense that my students found it very restrictive. As lessons were once a week at a designated time and were quite expensive. Whereas online learning is self paced, you can take the course whenever it suits you and it’s a lot cheaper and you still have the ability to communicate with your teacher.

What do you think users will get from this course?

Users that take my course will gain an understanding of how to code an iOS iPhone game. They will come away with something tangible. My course is not filled with 14 tiny little games that were quickly put together. The one game they will learn to code in my course is very close to being and end product that could be release on the App Store.

Access How to Create a Flappy Bird Inspired Game with Swift on Zenva Academy