By profession Ahmed Maawy is a Software Engineer and Engineering Manager currently residing in the UAE. He currently works at X-Team, being part of the team that does technical vetting for talented software engineers who join X-Team’s clients. X-team’s clients include the likes of FOX, Riot Games – who are most famous for the League of Legends game, Coinbase – a leading Crypto Exchange, Epic Games – famous for game titles like Fortnite, Twitch, among other clients.
Prior to X-Team, he was VP of Engineering for Streamlytics, and also CTO for LAMI. He had worked for the Al Jazeera Network for close to four years in Broadcast and Digital Media innovation – including being the pioneer tech team for AJ+.
Ahmed has also been a Social Innovator. He has helped set up technology hubs and makerspaces in Mombasa – including MakersHub – which was a makerspace, as well as SwahiliBox.
His current personal pursuits in software engineering are more focussed toward game development. He recently unveiled, Ji-Xpress, a collaborative tool for Godot.
Q: Can you describe the core features and functionalities of Ji-Xpress Game Builder?
A: Ji-Xpress is a 2D Custom Game Builder developed on Godot using GDScript and available as Open Source on GitHub. It will allow game developers to create game environments in which they can expose a game builder interface for their game players using the Godot Engine. This allows the game developer to collaboratively define the game play mechanics with its potential players using an intuitive game building experience.
Q: How does Ji-Xpress facilitate collaboration between game developers and players in the game development process?
A: What makes Ji-Xpress different is that you can embed the game builder into your Godot Game project and totally customize how you want the game building experience to work. So in essence Ji-Xpress allows you to define your own game building experience on top of your Godot Engine game. As a developer you define what game elements can be customized by the player of the game. It also employs an extremely intuitive visual coding interface, which means that you do not need to learn coding to customize the game experience.
We have a video demo of Ji-Xpress at work used to customize a simple platformer game here.
Q: What inspired you to create a tool like Ji-Xpress for the Godot Engine?
A: One of the frustrations I find game developers having most times is figuring out how the player of the game would like to play their game concept. It takes an insane amount of insight and experience to develop successful games. A majority of the games developed by indie studios and upcoming game developers never get to succeed. The reason for this is to a big extent due to the fact that there are too many games being developed and put out there. It therefore becomes extremely difficult to convince a game player to pay attention to your game concept considering how much choice and variety is out there.
Ji-Xpress therefore works like an “idea collaboration” platform, in that, the game developer develops the basic foundation of their game, and then can allow creative game players out there to collaborate on defining various different elements of the game play itself.
Q: How do you envision Ji-Xpress transforming the game development landscape in Africa?
A: The concept’s benefit goes beyond just Africa. But it does however play a major role in transforming the game development landscape inside of Africa.
First and foremost, since the game industry is still in its infancy in Africa. Game developers can gain great benefits on idea collaboration together with game players. Instead of placing all the pressure on game developers, the sector can develop by collaborations between the game developers and the idea developers – who are actually the target audience of the game.
It can also be used as a tool for education. Game players can customize the experience of the game and also make use of the visual coding interface to learn coding.
Q: In what ways does Ji-Xpress stand out from other game building tools like Game Builder Garage or Super Mario Maker 2?
A: Unlike Game Builder Garage or Super Mario Maker 2, Ji-Xpress can be embedded into any game that is developed on top of the Godot Engine. And it also allows you to define precisely how you want your game to be customized.
Q: Can you elaborate on how Ji-Xpress allows game players to engage in visual coding without prior coding knowledge?
A: Visual coding environments have always promoted accessibility to everyone without any coding knowledge. This is also the case with the Visual coding environment found in the older Godot 3 version. Other prominent examples of game engines that thrive on visual coding include Game Maker Studio and GDevelop.
Q: How does Ji-Xpress support customization and creativity in game mechanics and environments?
A: The project provides an in game SDK that allows the Game developer to specify what they need to allow the game player to customize. However, how that is achieved is entirely on the game developer to define. The SDK is however very flexible and provides the mechanisms you need for this.
Q: What challenges did you face while developing Ji-Xpress, and how did you overcome them?
A: I believe the major challenge is that it required a lot of technical knowhow to pull the Ji-Xpress concept through. However, once you stick to the vision of what gets done, and somewhat document it (even if on wireframes) – it helps quite a lot.
Fortunately also there are very many open source projects which can act as technical inspiration if you want to embark on a project. In the case of Ji-Xpress the Pixelorama and Whiskers projects provided a lot of inspiration on how GUI elements work on Godot Engine . I have always found a lot of inspiration from Open Source projects in the past for some of the concepts I have developed on the Godot Engine.
The documentation that Godot Engine has is also very thorough and helps quite a lot when you need to understand fundamental concepts.
Q: How accessible is Ji-Xpress to novice game developers or those new to the Godot Engine?
A: Ji-Xpress is available as Open Source on GitHub. There is also documentation on the repository to get you started which is accessible from the readme for the repository. The documentation is instrumental for game developers, contributors to Ji-Xpress and also those who want to play around with the standalone downloads. These standalone downloads can also be found on itch.io also.
Q: What feedback have you received from the gaming community about Ji-Xpress, and how has it influenced its development?
A: Ji-Xpress was only just released last week. Since then, there have been some members of the Godot Community – which I had setup within my game developer networks here in Africa – who have mentioned they will be willing to become contributors to the project. As of today, there have been 3 issues raised on the Github Repo, which means there has been some form of interest in the product – but it’s still too early to understand what impact the product will have.
Q: Can you share a success story or a notable project that has used Ji-Xpress?
A: None so far. It’s barely been a week since the project was made available.
Q: What future updates or features can we expect to see in Ji-Xpress?
A: Ji-Xpress does have a roadmap. I am also very willing to also see how open source contributors can add value to the product itself in the near and far future. Of course, any form of support to make Ji-Xpress much better will be highly appreciated.