Collective Arts featured at HamOnt.js after party



You may have seen the articles about the HamOnt.js JavaScript Conference taking place on Saturday October 22nd at CoMotion on King. Ticket prices are just $20 regular / $10 student, and the event will feature a great line-up of speakers:

As if the speaker line-up wasn’t enough of a reason to attend, we’ve confirmed that Hamilton craft brewery Collective Arts (@CollectiveBrew) will be providing the beer at the after party immediately following the conference from 5pm – 7pm. Everybody knows that half of a good conference is socializing with the community that comes out, and with an after party featuring Collective Arts craft beers it’s sure to be awesome!


Christian Latour talks Badlands – Max Carnage



Check out the interview below with Christian Latour (@ChrisLatour), Production Manager at SHG Studios (@shgstudiosinc) about their new game Badlands – Max Carnage!


Why did you create a new social collectable RPG instead of continuing with something like Star Pirates? and have been very successful for SHG. Both have been million dollar games, but more importantly fun for a lot of people over a long period of time. But things change. I would say 95% plus of new casual social players expect their game to be a mobile app now. We have adapted.

The neat thing is we could bring over the core of the experience: RPG, with truly social interactions. Real social interactions is what we do better than anyone else. We achieved some of our goals there with Zombie Moon, but Badlands Max Carnage is at a whole new level.

We could have launched this game months ago. It would have made some people happy, and been commercially successful enough. But we wanted to get it RIGHT. We dedicated ourselves to making a fun and visually pleasing game, the kind our friends, and fans have been asking for which we’d like to play ourselves. Tweaks aside, we believe we did it. Initial numbers from testing back that up.



What are Heroes and how do they work in Badlands?

There are number of characters but they fall into one of three factions. The Heroes are the ones the player first enlists to try and survive in the Badlands. They are reincarnated champions of good from the planet’s past. The Villains each have their own plans that unfold throughout the story. The Outers are beings of strange genetic origins who get pulled into the drama unfolding on the planet.

Through game play you can unlock any and all of the Heroes, Villains and Outers to fight by your side. Each heroes starts with a basic attack and one burst ability. Some burst can heal, some do damage over time, others will silence foes for a time, preventing them from using their own bursts. The interactions between a player’s team and understanding the enemies you’ll face are the core strategic challenge of the game.


As a 90s RPG gamer I felt at home playing Badlands. New spins on 90s gaming seems to be a thing lately with Pokemon Go hitting it big this summer. Was there a deliberate attempt to make Badlands comfortable to millennials who grew up on SNES and 90s games?

It’s funny you say that, we think a lot of reviewers will say “Mad Max on SNES”. Or something like that. Playstyle wise, that was certainly a part of our design strategy. It’s much easier to get someone’s attention with something slightly familiar than with something entirely new. It’s also a lot easier for players to pick up a game that is intuitive to them. Intuition is different per person, but generally based upon what you’ve played before.

In mobile games these days, getting noticed is one of the biggest challenges. We hope a familiar art style and interesting characters will help more people decide to check out the game. That said, while Mad Max is an awesome post-apocalyptic story, there are others: Tank Girl, Judge Dredd, and lots more. Even and short stories written by our fans. Plus, we do have awesome internal artists and writers who respected the works of the past while creating something new and interesting. But Max is King and you do have to pay homage.




Community has always been a big part of SHG Studios games, going right back to Star Pirates. How will the community factor into Badlands?

Much of our plans are built around scaling the game as the community grows. While we build up our base of players, our focus is on having a fun PvP mode where players can challenge each other. We’ll soon be adding competitive leaderboards that will reset on a rotating schedule so that players who play more often can show off what a bit of effort can achieve.

As the community grows, we’ve already developed some of the required infrastructure for guilds and guild events. This will allow us to create more of a team sport atmosphere where players can help each other.


How long has Badlands Max Carnage been in development? How many people have been working on it?

Like many games these days, Badlands was an iterative process. This has made the development timeline a bit harder to track. I would estimate it around 18 months with a team that shifted between 5-15 people, not all of them full time. Some art work was also outsourced.




What was the most challenging part of making Badlands?

I think what we found most challenging was locking down the mood of the game. The guiding idea that we needed for a consistent look and feel in the various areas of the game.

Games start as wireframes and design documents and then become code with first pass UI. While the game experience was clear to us, the mood we wanted to convey was something where we had so many options and ideas, it slowed some of our progress as different parts of the game went in different directions. About six months ago, we realized this was impacting development and stopped long enough lock down the mood. Once we had that, we were able to bring all the aspects together and actually got extra features into the game thanks to the efficiencies it provided. This is a lesson we are bringing into future titles.


I’ve noticed that SHG Studios staff play Badlands and other games, and interact with the community. Why do you do this?

I think it comes from a desire to lead by example. If you create an open space and don’t take steps to define how it’s intended to be used, it’s easy for someone to set a much different tone than was intended for conversations and interactions. By being part of the early conversations in the game, we assure that we create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.

It’s also a great way to get direct feedback on how the game is being received. When players know that the dev team is listening, they’ll participate with more enthusiasm and are more likely to help grow the community organically.

Lastly, our games are fun and we like playing them. That’s why we got into the industry!




Given that Badlands is free to play, how will monetization work? Will in-game ads and/or in-game purchases be used?

Both, actually. We work very hard to make our games “pay to accelerate” and avoid the “pay to win” pitfalls of some of our competitors. Because we balance leaderboard status on more than just who’s bigger, it’s very possible to make frequency of participation a bigger factor in leaderboard ranking.

Video ads also allow players to play extra without investing real money but still support the game and allows for new and better features to be developed. We believe that the best approach to player investment is showing that we’ve created a game built for the long haul, a game that players will be able to enjoy for years to come. Instead of trying to get massive amounts of money from a player in the early days, we work at providing long term value to players. We learned this on — being moral makes for good business. Lucky for us.




How has Badlands been received so far?

For mobile game developers, we usually talk in terms of Key Performance Indicators (KPI). We developed the game with very specific goals in mind and currently our numbers are between conservative and optimistic estimates. That is very good for this stage. We’re getting positive feedback from players who are really enjoying the visuals and storyline of the game. But we’re still in the early days so we feel it’s too small a sample size to give a definitive thumbs up or down

Throughout the fall we’ll be spreading the word more broadly so we can confirm what’s working well and improve what doesn’t meet expectations. This feedback should improve our initial KPIs. Improvement or not, if the initial numbers hold up we have another hit on our hands.




How was testing?

Good. Testing is never truly fun as you want to show your creation to the world.

No matter how much you test internally, Android fragmentation means as you roll out, you will find devices it does not work correctly on, or phone networks, or something else. A slow rollout helps work through those. We feel bad for those first few unsuccessful ones, and try to work with them. Happily that period will be over mid-September.

Android however is still better to build on as the turn around for a fix is about an hour, versus a week for iOS. Our players deserve a LOT better than a week turn around for updates.


Will Badlands be released on iOS in the future?

Yes, but we’ve not set a date yet. Because the Android store has much faster response times for getting a build published, it’s the ideal platform for these early stage builds when it’s still somewhat iterative as we test larger and larger player groups. Once we’ve polished it up a bit more, we’ll be looking to cross over to the Apple store as well.




What are your future plans for Badlands?

Beyond the addition of guilds, we have a number of features we’ve designed for expanding the game through the next year at least. The Heroes Engine we developed for Badlands is also a flexible tool that we’re improving both to help Badlands’ success and to meet our future project needs. We’ve had great success on web by developing engines, not just games, and that remains our goal.


What’s been the most rewarding part of creating games at SHG Studios?

It’s certainly been the team culture that exists. We have some great people we enjoy both working together and playing together. On many occasions I’ve seen multiple people come together to tackle a barrier to the game development and share ideas openly and collaboratively until a solution is found. And as a team, we often stay after hours to play board games or D&D because these are passions we share.




SHG Studios is one of Ontario’s best indie gaming success stories! Do you have any advice for aspiring indie gamers?

Absolutely. Understand your audience — really understand them. Then provide an experience that’s simple to pick up, and hard to put down. Ideally one hooked into the happy memories of being a kid gamer.

We’ve found that as people become busy adults, their game play needs are different than when they were kids killing time on a weekday night. They don’t have a dozen hours to learn a new game. So tapping into the game styles and menu locations they are used to is really important. It needs to be intuitive. As the game unfolds, you can introduce new things, but make the onboarding easy. These are busy people who already have a lot on their mind.


What’s the biggest mistake you see upcoming game developers make?

Making the game for themselves. 99% of game devs start there, and that’s fine if this is a hobby. But if you expect to be able to pay your team, and eat yourself, you better provide fun to a lot more than a single person.


Thoughts on hiring – show me the money



Previous “Thoughts on hiring” articles


The first article in this series referenced Hamilton developers switching to working in Toronto, and one reader put why this happens succinctly in the comments: it’s the money.

And for the most part, that’s it right there. If you’ve got “infinite” money, and you’re looking for a common enough skill set (e.g. much of web development), solving the problem can be as simple as paying more money. If a Hamilton firm pays as much as a Toronto firm, they’ll generally speaking find someone who will be happy to leave the Go Train commute life behind them. Factor in that cost of living is still a lot lower, and it’s a slam dunk.

There’s not much to write about this though. It’s kind of a no brainer: sometimes throwing enough money at a problem can solve it.

The two situations that I find interesting to talk about are:

1) The firm doesn’t have money to throw at the problem.

2) Money isn’t solving the problem.

It may be surprising, but 2) does happen! I’ve seen Hamilton firms that are willing to pay very high salaries still have a lot of difficulty hiring when the skill set is “uncommon”. And by uncommon I don’t mean knowledge of a new-ish web framework like Angular 2 or full-stack expertise, though these hold as well to a lesser extent, I mean expertise like AI, optimization, parallel programming, and software architecture. Expertise that’s rare even in tech hotbeds is super rare in Hamilton, and seems harder to attract too.

I’ll stick to these two situations in this series… but definitely, the obvious point is true: if the skill set is common enough, then generally speaking a high enough wage will attract great talent from the GTA/Waterloo/elsewhere.


How to start a startup with the Forge@MAC



When: Wednesday October 5th 2016 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Where: TwelvEighty Bar and Grill (McMaster University) at 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON

Organizer: The Forge (@theforgehamont)



You’ve been in school for a month already! Take a break, hang out with other interesting people who are interested in entrepreneurship and get some food while you’re at it.

In our roundtable discussions, you’ll get some face time with seasoned entrepreneurs to ask them the ins and outs of starting up a startup…and how Forge @MAC can help you do it!


Nix Sensor wins Lion’s Lair 2016


Nix Sensor (@NixSensor) took home the $65,000 top prize in cash and services at Lion’s Lair this week! Nix also won the “people’s choice” award, marking the first time that the attendees agreed with the lion’s (i.e. judges). Nix created a real-life PhotoShop colour eyedropper tool – just tap it on a surface, and it returns the colour of that surface!

Startup competition Lion’s Liar entered its 6th year with a line-up of startup companies markedly stronger than earlier iterations, showcasing the growth of the community. The finalists were well beyond “the idea” stage and were citing traction in terms of number of users, revenue, employee counts and funding received.

The Nix team’s prizes include: $15,000 in cash from: Cogeco, Mohawk College, McMaster University, RBC, McMaster Innovation Park and Meridian Financial Credit Union; $10,000 from VA Partners for Sales/Lead Generation consulting; $10,000 from Marketing CoPilot for SEO/Content Marketing assistance; $10,000 from Fresh Insights for market research; $10,000 from Biz Clip for photography and video development and an additional $10,000 from Communica for business coaching.

Nix started up in 2014 with a successful $70k crowdfunding campaign and has been a leader in the local tech startup scene ever since. Nix Sensor founder Matthew Sheridan cites his experience with the McMaster solar car project as vital, “The textbook skills aren’t going to help you in the real world,” he says, “but managing people on a team, raising funds from donors, figuring out how to run marketing campaigns and working 24/7 in the basement of the engineering building are all good lessons on how entrepreneurship works.””

Other winners included Nuts for Cheese, Laifa Baby, and 180 Drums.


Government invests in Mohawk tech programs



HAMILTON, ON — Mohawk College will break ground on a new Centre for Partnership and Innovation next month as part of a record $54.25 million renewal of technology labs and classrooms at its Fennell campus.

The Government of Canada is contributing $20 million through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund. The fund was established to enhance, modernize and improve the environmental sustainability of college and university campuses across Canada. The largest federal infrastructure investment in Mohawk’s history was announced by Hamilton West – Ancaster – Dundas Member of Parliament Filomena Tassi at a groundbreaking ceremony this morning.




Construction and renovations to 120,000 square feet of labs and classrooms at the college’s Fennell campus represent Mohawk’s largest ever renewal of academic programs. Enrolment in high-demand technology programs will increase by 1,000 students and applied research activity with industry partners will grow by 50 per cent.

Designed by Hamilton-based McCallum-Sather Architects in partnership with B&H Architects, the 90,000 square foot Centre for Partnership and Innovation will be the region’s first net-zero energy institutional building. The five-level centre is expected to be substantially complete by Spring 2018 while renovations have already begun to existing labs and classrooms.




“This infrastructure investment will increase Mohawk’s capacity for applied research which will drive innovation and grow the economy in Hamilton. I am confident that the students and faculty who use this new infrastructure will launch startups and new businesses that will help to shape Hamilton’s community and future prosperity.”

– Hamilton West – Ancaster – Dundas Member of Parliament Filomena Tassi

“This renewal will allow Mohawk to educate more students than ever before in high-demand technology programs and put our students to work with even more industry partners on job-creating and prosperity-building applied research projects.”

– Mohawk College President Ron McKerlie





  • The Government of Canada’s targeted, short-term investments under the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund promote economic activity and help colleges and universities develop highly skilled workers, act as engines of discovery, and collaborate on innovations that help Canadian companies compete and grow internationally.
  • The Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund supports the Government of Canada’s climate change objectives by encouraging sustainable and green infrastructure projects.
  • More than 3,500 students are currently enrolled in 23 technology programs at Mohawk. Enrolment will grow to 4,500 students over five years following the renewal of the technology programs.
  • The renewal of Mohawk’s technology programs is endorsed by college partners, including ArcelorMittal Dofasco, Burlington Economic Development Corporation, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, BWXT Canada The City of Hamilton, FANUC, Hamilton Health Sciences, Horizon Utilities, IBM Canada Ltd, Innovation Factory, L-3 Wescam, St. Joseph’s Health System, Schneider Electric, Siemens Canada and Walters Inc.
  • Mohawk plans to add a FANUC Robotics Training Laboratory, a Non-Destructive Testing Centre, a Centre for Climate Sustainability Excellence and partner with Siemens on delivering Mechatronics certification.
  • Mohawk currently ranks among the top 20 colleges in Canada for applied research activity and is recognized as a leader in digital health, additive manufacturing and energy research.
  • More than $100 million has been invested in the renewal of Mohawk’s Fennell campus since 2009. Projects have included the 40,000 square foot Harold Cummings Library, the 23,400 square foot David Braley Athletic and Recreation Centre, the Mohawk Transit Terminal, consolidation of Student Services and repatriation of the college’s Justice, Health and Wellness programs.
  • A net-zero building generates as much energy as it consumes. The Centre for Partnership and Innovation will serve as a living lab by giving students access to its environmental technologies.


For more information, contact:

Jay Robb, Director of Communications, 905.979.8893,

Mohawk College educates and serves 30,000 students at three campuses and two City School locations in Hamilton, Ontario. Mohawk has ranked number one among all colleges in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area in student satisfaction for six consecutive years and number one for graduate satisfaction the past four years. Mohawk has also been named one of Canada’s greenest employers for three years in a row and is among the top 20 colleges in Canada for applied research activity.


Chipsetter kickstarter launches


Hamilton, ON, September 27, 2016 – After more than two years of development, Chipsetter is excited to announce the launch of the Chipsetter ONETM, the first industrial grade desktop pick and place machine designed for today’s innovators. Robotic pick and place machines automatically place surface mount devices (SMDs) onto printed circuit boards to make the modules that are used in nearly all electronic products. Offering features previously found only on factory floor pick and place machines costing tens of thousands of dollars, the Chipsetter ONE makes rapid hardware prototyping an affordable reality. Electronics developers will no longer be forced to choose between tedious manual assembly or costly contract service providers.




By enabling automated in­house assembly, the Chipsetter ONE desktop pick and place machine provides complete control over assembly cost, turnaround time and quality. The idea for Chipsetter ONE was born when Chipsetter founder Alan Sawula was an undergraduate Mechatronics Engineering student at McMaster University. As an active member of the maker community, Sawula was familiar with the challenges inherent in prototype circuit board assembly. Inspired by how desktop 3D printers were empowering designers by turning their ideas into objects quickly and inexpensively, he imagined a similar solution for electronics. After earning his Master’s degree, Sawula’s work on the project accelerated. By 2015, he had recruited a small team of engineers, incorporated the company, and been awarded a development grant by the Ontario Centres of Excellence. Having honed the design of Chipsetter ONE through three generations of prototypes, the team is now turning to the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to finance full production.




“The Chipsetter ONE is the tool we’ve always wanted.” says Sawula. “As makers ourselves, we know that great ideas come from everyone, but without access to the right tools those ideas will never exist. Fast and affordable assembly of small batches of electronics is the last remaining barrier to unlocking the next era of electronics development. We hope that those who share our excitement about this next stage in the desktop manufacturing revolution will support our Kickstarter campaign.”

Highlights of Chipsetter ONE:

● Placement speed: Up to 1250 component placements per hour.

● Minimal Setup time: Control software uses built­in cameras to automate system setup.

● Placement accuracy: 30 microns repeatability.

● Vision System: Board fiducial and Component alignment.

● Part sizes: Handles components down to 0402.

● Board sizes: Up to 13.5” x 10”.

● Pickup Heads: Two pickup heads for increased placement speed.

● Nozzle rack: 8­position auto tool changer eliminates operator intervention.

● Tape and Reel Feeders: Removable electronic feeders enable pickup of tape and reel packaged components in 8mm, 12mm and 16mm reel widths.

● Feeder capacity: Up to 40 8mm Tape and Reel Feeders.

● Trays: Accepts JEDEC and custom trays.

● Cut Tape Trays: Accepts components in sections of cut tape.

● Tube Feeder: Accepts components in tube packages.

● Machine size: 34” wide x 28” deep x 21 1⁄2” high.

● Assembly Data: Control software reads BOM and centroid data from CSV format files, and communicates with the machine via standard USB interface.

The Chipsetter ONE desktop pick and place system, including ten feeders and eight assorted vacuum nozzles, can be pre­ordered directly from Chipsetter for US$5999. Additional reel feeders are available for pre­order at US$99 each. Starting September 27, a limited number of units will be offered through Chipsetter’s Kickstarter campaign starting at US$3499.




About Chipsetter:

Chipsetter Inc., based in Hamilton Ontario Canada, designs and manufactures electronics assembly equipment. Its products help circuit designers and low volume manufacturers build high quality assemblies quickly and affordably. In September 2016, Chipsetter launched its first product, the Chipsetter ONE desktop pick and place machine. Learn more at



For more information about Chipsetter and Chipsetter ONE, please contact

David A. Gilmour
Business Development Manager, Chipsetter Inc
Office: +1(289)768­2270
Press kit:


Thoughts on hiring – effective job postings


Previous “Thoughts on hiring” articles


I’ve seen a lot of job postings on Software Hamilton over the years (about 800-900). The old job board plug-in I used would show me the number of applications per job. It was a neat way of getting to see what worked and what didn’t work. And though I never did any sort of formal analysis in terms of matching job posting attributes to number and quality of responses, I offer you my finest guesstimates below.


Tips for improving response rates to job postings:


  • Include an application closing date. A surprising number of people have told me that they didn’t bother to apply to a job because they assumed that since it had been posted 3 weeks ago that it was already filled.

  • Include a salary (or at least a range). The problem with just saying “pay commensurate to experience and ability” is that it’s too vague. People want to know specifically what they can expect in terms of compensation before they invest the time to apply and interview for a job. Giving a salary range with numbers can go a long way.

  • More detail is better. People invest a huge amount of time in their job search. It’s what that person will be doing 40+ hours a week, every week. So there’s no need to keep a job description to only a few sentences. People will easily read 2-4 pages about a job they’re really interested in. Perhaps summarize the job in 2-3 sentences at the top, and then include a longer description underneath. But don’t be shy about including details.

  • Focus on abilities, not years of experience. Years of experience is generally speaking a poor metric for hiring software developers. Great willing-to-learn developers with 2 years of experience can run circles around 10+ year developers that have the same year of experience 10 times over. Focus the job posting on what the developer will need to do as part of the job, rather than their years of experience.

  • Keep the hoop jumping to a minimum. If you’re Google, or even a hot unicorn startup like say Hootsuite, you can get away with having candidates jump through hoops pre-interview. For example, pre-application tests and programming challenges. If you’re a startup that’s not too noteworthy, probably not. I would recommend keeping the “hoop jumping” to “send me your GitHub” or some other way of seeing their work.

  • Be inclusive. Public sector job postings will typically include a sort of footnote specifying that inclusive hiring practices will be followed. I imagine there are regulations of some kind that require them to do so. Private sector companies might not be required to do this, but in my experience it’s a good practice to emphasize the inclusivity of the workplace for women, minority groups, LGBT community, and others, even in this day and age when we would ideally be past this sort of thing as a species (like they are on Star Trek!).

  • List the perks. It doesn’t need to be a gym membership, it can just be free coffee. Whatever perks you’ve got or can offer, list them – snacks, flex time, dental plan (<MargeSimpson>LISA NEEDS BRACES!<\MargeSimpson>). There’s a couple local companies I can think of that do a beautiful job of providing and listing benefits, and it’s no surpise they have high applicants-per-posting (and strong retention too).

  • Keep in mind: “go where you’ll grow”. One of the best pieces of career advice I ever got was, “go where you’ll grow”. Smarter people than me understand this intrinsically and will seek out opportunities where they are able to grow and develop professionally. How will your job opportunity enable professional growth? If you can include this, it’s worth it. Even the act of showing this is something you’re concerned about is a signal to great talent that you’ve got their interests in mind.

  • Post it everywhere. In addition to the Software Hamilton job board, I’d definitely post it on It’s $35 but the readership is huge so the value is there. You may also want to consider TechVibes, but they can be pricey. There’s also Indeed, Monster, Workopolis, Elute, Government of Canada’s Job Bank and a host of others. Every post-secondary institution in the region has a job board for their students and alumni as well, and though co-op position postings might be healthy, I’m always surprised more companies don’t post their junior / entry-level positions on these job boards as well (the recent grads will be checking them). In an hour’s driving distance of Hamilton you have Mohawk, McMaster, Western, Conestoga, Sheridan, Niagara, Brock, Ryerson, Guelph U, U of T, Waterloo, Laurier, Ryerson, Humber, York U, Seneca, George Brown, OCAD, and I’m probably forgetting a few.


Uber’s Chris Schafer talks The Future of Transportation

When: Tuesday October 4th from 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Where: CoMotion on King at 115 King Street East, Hamilton, Ontario



Chris Schafer (@chrisschafer) will speak about the future of transportation before opening the floor for ample question and discussion time!


Speaker Bio: Chris is Public Policy Manager for Uber Canada. Prior to joining Uber, Chris was an associate with Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, practicing regulatory law, in addition to having served as an executive director of a legal foundation and legal commentator for a news channel. With a background in politics, Chris is also a published writer, having authored numerous political and public policy articles and studies for think tanks, journals, and newspapers. Chris has an Hons. B.A. in political science from Wilfrid Laurier University, an M.A. in political science from the University of Western Ontario, and an L.L.B. from Osgoode Hall Law School.





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