London Calling


Nektan logo

After my short stint at AllYearBooks, I had the JavaScript bug - I'd learned a lot about servers, Canvas, HTML5 and CSS3, so I started looking for web developer jobs (as I was now obviously an expert...)

I got a job pretty quickly at Nektan, a company that ran a few online gaming sites (slots, roulette, etc).  They also created promotional games for The Sun newspaper, and various other bits & bobs.  They had a very impressive office in a skyscraper in the heart of Victoria, London.  I did think it was a little strange that there was just a huddle of people in the middle of this huge office, but I kept that to myself.

Immediately upon joining, I discovered that the other two programmers that worked there were leaving - in two weeks!  After they left, I would have to maintain all the existing games, finish off the games currently in development, and write new games for their platform...

I didn't feel like such an expert any more!

It transpired that Nektan had bought another failing casino company, and sacked most of their development staff.  The (very expensive) office lease had come with the acquisition.  So that cleared up the mystery of the extravagantly empty workspace.

Once the two existing developers had gone, I was faced with a number of challenges:

  • 1
    The server infrastructure had been created by the failed company, and no one really knew how it worked.
  • 2
    The collection of ageing games I had to support were beginning to fail on modern browsers and mobile devices.
  • 3
    My 'mentors' had left the company without telling me how anything worked.
  • 4
    They had left two games unfinished, which were due for release imminently.
  • 5
    One of these games was for The Sun, to support a competition they were running.  A real print deadline, and you certainly did NOT want to get on the wrong side of Rebecca Wade!

After a few weeks of frantic panic, I managed to work most of it out.  It turned out to be a massive learning process, and a real baptism of fire.

Once everything had settled down, bugs were fixed, and my blood pressure was back to normal, I had a chance to work on my own games...eventually. First, I had to help bring the 'game lobby' up to scratch. Lots of JQuery and fancy animations involved there. 

The bosses wanted all the current full-screen games to work in a frame on the lobby, just so they could display adverts, recommendations, etc.  This was straightforward for the games I had source code for.  However, getting third-party games to work in an IFrame was fraught with difficulties.  To compound the issue, new rules meant that we had to incorporate a 'reality check' on all games, warning the player if they had been playing for a long time.  As most of the games we hosted were written by other developers - in countries that didn't have this rule - it was impossible to get everybody to play ball.  So all manner of cheating and hacking had to be employed in order for the company to stay legal.

Once all that was done, I finally had a chance to show off the JavaScript Canvas engine I'd been secretly working on.  I wrote a quick demo of Cat Hotel using the system, and management decided that all future games would use the engine.

I finished Cat Hotel in a couple of months.  Development went very smoothly, and the game was ready for release.  While waiting for some server issues to be resolved, I started work on a couple more games - BoogieMan and Dwarven Gold.  After just a few days working on these, it was announced that all UK development would be halted, and moved to India. This was a huge disappointment, but I guessed by now, par for the course.

So...back on the dole.

A couple of months later, I had a phone call out of the blue, with a very interesting proposition ...


These are the games I created during my time at Nektan. They are 100% JavaScript, utilising the Canvas tag. 

Cat Hotel is more-or-less complete, but the other two represent two weeks' work between them, and are obviously unfinished; Dwarven Gold still has a lot of Cat Hotel in it, for example.