Meet the Team: Hibah Abid

Jon Williams

In this post we interview Hibah, one of our software developers who is passionate about gaming. Hibah is currently working on important client work and helping to build out our flagship data platform product.

You did a computing degree with games development. That sounds like one of the coolest degrees you can do! Did you write lots of games as part of it?

Yes, we did write a lot of games; we wrote as a group and also as individuals. One of the cool games that we wrote was for my final project, where we tried to create a board/card game which used AR and also had local multiplayer. It was really cool, you could see the characters playing and they did little magic animations, like when you picked up a card it showed little animations for the spells. During the degree there was also a lot of interesting theory, so we understood things like how games emotionally affect people and how different controllers have different influences on players and types of games. Essentially it was complete gaming theory.

Where did this passion for gaming come from?

My parents bought me my first PlayStation when it first came out, and ever since we always bought the latest one every time a new console came out. I’ve been playing games throughout, and all my cousins and family are keen gamers as well. I got influenced into gaming via that and thought, “oh this is so cool!” – I wanted to understand how these cartoons I see move about and how do they react with the controllers and so on. And I just love playing games a lot!

Do you still play lots of games now?

I still do, but not as much as I used to and because I have much less free time. But I try to jump on mainly story-based games or role-playing games or a JRPG (Ed: Japanese Role-Playing Game). I’m more into the story rather than just a quick fast action game; for example Professor Layton’s a good one, or the Ni No Kuni (Studio Gibley) is another good one as well. And it’s not only video games I’m interested in, I’ve also really got back into that board games and card games and every Friday me and my friends would get together to play and socialise. We have this fantastic card game called Exploding Kittens which can get pretty intense, and there is also a brilliant online version you can play if you can’t meet up.

What was your favourite lockdown game online that you played with your family?

Aah, well everyone was on the trend for Among Us, so that was pretty good and it was one way of keeping in contact with all my friends. It was also really funny and we used it to play lots of jokes on each other. We also downloaded house party which was quite good as it had a bunch of games on it and you could video at the same time. There was Uno, word games, Pictionary, loads of cool stuff.

It’s clear you’re a lover of games and Unity helped you to get the job at Xerini, can you tell me more about that?

During my university years we used one of the game development platforms, called Unity. It’s one of these platforms where you can actually create games and create modules to program models and actually move players or characters around the screen. It’s like the Unreal Engine if you know about that, but I feel Unity is better for rendering textures. And Xerini at the time was looking for a Unity developer and I wanted to move away from Fintech and get back into using Unity, so it was a good opportunity. And Xerini is using it for some of their projects which is quite fun, and it’s been great working on those.

If you could code your own game, what genre would it be in?

If it’s just me working on it, I would say a mobile game, but if I was working as part of a team, it would be a story game. But I do have a game in mind. I will tell you – it is meant to be secret but I will let you know! So initially I was making a mobile game in which you are a noodle who falls into a ramen bowl and you have to get to the other side of bowl avoiding chopsticks and getting eaten. Other obstacles would have been the ramen toppings in there, like the mitsuba, aonegi, the seaweed and you have to go up and down the soup. I’m still working on it but I’m really horrible at modelling so I need to take some courses on 3D modelling. It’s like an endless runner type of game, kind of a like Temple Run, where you keep on running and avoiding stuff and it gets more increasingly difficult as you go up levels. There are ideas, but I just need time to develop it!

Are there any aspects of game design that you find useful when your general day to day programming?

Yeah, especially in the UI/UX of game design because you have to think more how the user will interact. Especially with accessibility, as this is not widely appreciated and understood in the gaming world. Well, it wasn’t initially, but now with time they realised that there isn’t one specific type of genre of users, we have multiple. So with the focus on accessibility you can actually cater to those people, for example if they colour blind or if they have dyslexia. You can change the font and other front-end elements to make it easier for those people to engage with your product.

I know you’re confident programming in lots of languages, from C# to Kotlin to Java, which is your favourite one and why?

I do like Kotlin more, I just feel like that when you’re writing it out the format is a lot nicer and neater and there’s less complicated code, whereas I feel it’s the opposite in Java. For example, in Java you have to use the Optional parameter, but in Kotlin it’s built in. Everything seems so long to write out in Java, whereas in Kotlin it’s a just a simple question mark, called the Elvis operator. Even though Java is the “base” of Kotlin, it just feels just way faster and is a lot nicer and much easier to understand, for me.

What is your favourite development tool that you use everyday and why?

I love the Pomodoro technique, or app. It’s that one where it helps you to make use of your time much more efficiently so you can actually have regular five-minute breaks. I think that a one-hour break isn’t enough so sometimes I go for five minutes but I always make sure I go away from my laptop. Thank god my colleague Golshid told me about this because it’s now helping me to work much more productively.

You are the unofficial team social organiser and regularly bring the team together for lots of fun games and demos, and this is a great role to play. What drives you personally to do this?

With the lockdown we had one year where we had so many new joiners, like myself, and I didn’t really get to talk to the team or meet the team because the office was closed and there were lots of times where we were not really talking, unless it was work related. So, I thought of doing the virtual social events as they were a social space that we can actually talk get to know people and just have fun. We could forget Covid for a bit (because that had taken over all of our lives) and it seemed like a nice thing to do so people could relax. And with my gaming love (and I was pretty sure others loved games too) it was a fun way just to get to know each other and relax a bit.

I understand that you love to travel. Do you like to travel with simplicity or travel with style? And where are some of your best travelling memories from?

I’m more of a simplicity person because I like to explore lot more. If I want to travel in style, it would be a special one-off relaxing holiday where I just need to get everything off my mind and just want to stay in one resort or hotel to chill, like an all-inclusive resort. I’ve never done it but that sounds like a nice way to have a holiday in style!

An example of travelling with simplicity is where I travelled to Japan, which was the best experience I’ve had. I went on holiday with my partner and another couple and we just got to explore all of Tokyo. We’d stay up until the middle of the night and we constantly moved hotels so we never stayed in one for more than one night, and got to stay in loads of different hotels.

The best time I had was when we actually missed our last train at 2:00am and the next train wasn’t due until 6:00am. So we had some time to kill and we saw a karaoke place that was open for 24 hours. So we said, OK let’s go to do some karaoke! We stayed for the whole four hours and did karaoke until the next train. We were sooo sleepy and my partner found an unlimited slushy machine and we were having slushies all night and we had McDonald’s breakfast right before the train. That was one night I will never forget!