Part Two - Making Giga-Ball A Reality
This is the second instalment of the story, click here to read part one.
By James Harding, Developer of Giga-Ball
Between my day job as a Product Design Engineer, my other hobbies and other day to day activities, I struggled to find the time to commit to Giga-Ball. I found that if I took too long between sessions working on it, I would lose my flow and forget what I was trying to achieve. Also the longer left between sessions, the higher the barrier was to getting started and it would feel like such a huge amount of effort to get going again. This can quickly get out of control, especially when motivation dips, and before you know it, weeks have gone by and no progress has been made.
Despite making what felt like huge amounts of progress in August, September was a busy month for me. Between three business trips, long hours at work, and preparing for a holiday at the beginning of October, I made little progress. Even though my motivation was high, by the end of September I was scared to even open Xcode.
Little did I know it, but my life was about to take major turn. Taking a week off in early October to relax in Tuscany with my wife, after a few days back in the office, I was made redundant from my job of seven years along with 500 others. Due to my company's strict confidentiality policy I was offered three months' full pay on garden leave, effective immediately.
This was an extremely difficult time, but I tried to find the positives. This could be a great opportunity to focus on Giga-Ball more, working from home whilst my wife went to work, at least for the next three months. My expectations were initially set pretty low, just to create an app and launch it on the App Store, but perhaps now I would be able to invest more time into the game, enough that it would stand a chance of success. This was quite an exciting prospect. I could take Giga-Ball from a hobby to something more.
Things didn’t quite pan out like that. Although I was able to spend lots of time on the app, those three months got eaten up very quickly. From supporting the business for several weeks post-redundancy to help tie up loose ends on the now-defunct project, to preparing CVs, portfolios and attending job interviews. Although I could in theory have taken more time off, I generally enjoy my day job, so felt it would be good to get back into work once the three months of garden leave were up. I applied for a number of jobs in the UK and got a couple of interesting offers, but during this time my wife and I had decided to set our sights a bit further afield. We’d always been interested in living and working abroad and we’d narrowed it down to two options; Singapore or Australia.
My previous employer had offered me a role in Singapore, with a one month trial in the UK. In January 2020 I completed the trial. I had also applied for a new job in Australia a few weeks earlier and, after several stages of interviews and competency testing, I had been offered that job, pending a successful visa application. We found yourselves in a fruitful position, with the choice between the UK, Singapore and Australia.
After much deliberation, in late January, I accepted the job in Australia, left the trial in the UK and my wife handed her notice in, all before our Australian visa had been approved. It felt quite risky, as if the visa had been declined, we would both be left in the UK jobless. Thankfully it paid off. It was mid-February when we received the news that our visas had been approved and that I would be starting work in Sydney at the start of April. How exciting, let the packing commence.
That six weeks was a crazy period. We decided to travel light as it was a good excuse to offload years of belongings that we'd accumulated. My time was mostly spent selling everything we owned online whilst my wife continued her day job until the week we were due to depart.
By this time, Coronavirus was starting to make headlines. Although initially I didn’t think much of it based on previous similar outbreaks, so I expected it would have little effect. We were due to fly on Saturday 21st March, so that I would have two weeks in Australia before starting at my new job. On the 11th March, Covid was declared a pandemic and cases were popping up closer to home. We were starting to get worried. What if we catch it and can’t fly? What if they cancel our flights? What if they stop travel through Dubai, where we will make our transfer? What if we have a fever for any other reason and they don't let us board the plane?
It was the evening of Saturday 14th March, one week before we were due to fly, when we made the decision to re-book our flights for Monday 16th March. This turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made as the original booking for 21st March never happened. The borders to Australia closed to international arrivals on Thursday 19th March. We then had to complete our final week of packing and moving out of our house in one day. My dad was able to lend a hand and we worked non-stop all day. By 10pm we were done and on the two-hour drive to my parents' house.
We had to go via my wife’s workplace as she was due to have her final day on Friday 20th March. Her manager was fantastic, understood the situation and allowed her to leave a week early. She had spent much of that weekend writing unexpectedly early handover notes for her team. We had to just drop off her laptop at the office without getting the chance to say goodbye.
All the effort was worth it, by the evening of Tuesday 17th March we were in our hotel room in Sydney. We'd made it! Due to the pandemic, we were now required to quarantine for 14 days, restricted to our hotel room. Not the first two weeks we had imagined in Australia, but we were elated just to be there. Those two weeks proved to be extremely productive for Giga-Ball. Having been neglecting it for sometime between the chaos of the past three months, I was now able to focus with little distraction, I mean, what else was there to do?
I started my new job in Sydney on schedule at the start of April and quickly got back into the routine from the previous August. Working from home made this even easier, with no commuting time and little distractions, I was able to spend upwards of five days a week putting at least a couple of hours into Giga-Ball.
By now the app’s scope had grown. My goal in January was to finish it by April. My goal in April was July, and by July my goal was September. I wasn't working slowly or falling behind schedule, it was just my first time developing an app and I wanted to be proud of it. I wanted it to be fully featured, and I wanted to give it the best possible chance to be successful. I’d come this far, it would feel like a waste to rush it out now.
Writing this in mid-August 2020, I now have a release date in early September and the app is all but complete. Looking back at the last year of development, I can’t believe the journey we’ve been on. The only constants though that time have been my wife and Giga-Ball. I’m honestly not sure how I would have filled the time otherwise. From the weeks of garden leave, to the time in quarantine its been great to have something like Giga-Ball where I can be creative, feel productive and have something to feel proud of. Although, I’m looking forward to the release in September and I will continue to work on updates and marketing the app, it feels like a large transitional chapter of my life will come to a close.
For more information:
Read more about James' motivation for creating Giga-Ball and the birth of the app in part one of the story.
Go behind the scenes of the evolution of Giga-Ball through each stage of its development.
Find out more about James' setup and the resources he used to develop Giga-Ball here.
Meet Brendan Lawton, the man behind the music, here (coming soon).