Fighting the Startup Battle

Startup Bugs

Let’s face it. A startup never begins without its bugs, hiccups, or caveats. Utilities.Games is no different. Our tool has come a long way, even through bugs, server troubles, and “life-first” events. The members of this team are helping create this tool as a hobby, and as such, often times must shift priorities a bit. Does this mean we are not yet successful, though? Our concept of success is simply that we keep working towards improving as we can. We ask that our small audience thus far is patient with us as we wage war on the Startup Routine.  

Startup Bugs.

We have already squashed many bugs. We’ve been fortunate to self-discover many of them as we test new or existing features. A particularly tricky one happened recently. Our hosting company sent a planned update to the underlying infrastructure our server uses. This caused a seemingly phantom process to absorb 80+ percent of our available CPU power. This was a drastic change, as the average 95 percentile load over the course of the development path thus far had been barely over 3.5% CPU utilization. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, it was pegged at a solid and consistent 80% or greater. 

As is usually the case, user-error was to blame. Due to a small degree of unpreparedness which lead to the server not being gracefully shut down before their planned upgrade (Yep. Our bad.), the bug surfaced. The core of our app somehow managed to spawn a twin of itself outside of the utility that typically controlled it. Long story short, this was three whole days spent racking our brains with it. We were assuming the worst, that either Malware, Rootkits, data corruption (thankfully this was not the case), or some other negative instance that could happen was to blame. Instead, simply re-synchronizing the server with our local data was all it took to get the site back up and running again. Thankfully, this, so far, has been our worst battle and we have begun taking measures to mitigate future concerns of this nature. 

Life Comes Before the Startup

To be very clear, this is a hobby for us, at least for the time being. We all have primary jobs and other areas of focus in which we invest the majority of our time and effort. That said, there may be lulls in which there seems to be little-to-no progress in regard to this tool. This should not be seen as an indicator of abandonment or hopelessness, but simply a side-affect of needing to continue to actually support ourselves out in the real world. This then allows us to continue our pursuit of our hobbies, in whatever shape they take. 

Everyone involved with this tool has become very passionate about it.  We continue to show incredible amounts of interest, even when the ability or effort is not able to be expressed explicitly. As the tool continues to evolve and become whatever it is destined to become, we again ask for your patience. We are all in this to create something we love and plan to continue doing so.

So until next time, keep the games running. Don’t forget to remember what matters most, whatever that may be.

Lighthouse Performance Snapshot and Site Comparison

Lighthouse Report

[EDIT 10/31/2018] An additional performance test was run on Utilities.Games after performance updates, still before ads. Previous results are crossed out.

We’re close to implementing Ads to the site. Again, sorry, but we’ve gotta pay the bills. Anyways, throughout initial development I’ve regularly used Google Chrome’s Auditing tools (powered by Lighthouse). This tool has been tremendous help in preparing our site for PWA. Additionally it’s been used to compare our site to our “competitors”. I use quotes because I respect these sites and look at them as healthy competition, a means to encourage the best quality and fastest website.

Test Conditions

For this comparison, I navigated to each site (except ours) directly from the first search page from Google using Google Chrome (
v70.0.3538.77). To clarify, each page was supposed to be the info page of the Pokemon Crobat. Then, from the Developer Console (F12), I ran an Audit with the following conditions:

  • Device: Mobile
  • Audits:
    • Performance
    • Progress Web App
    • Best Practices
    • Accessibility
    • SEO
  • Throttling: Simulated Fast 3G, 4x CPU Slowdown
  • Clear Storage (Enabled)

After running the audit, I saved the results of the report for future reference and took a snapshot of both the results and the mobile rendering simulation.

The Results

Here are the results with an additional “Score” which simply averages each score for the given site. The table is in order of the highest “Score”.

Site Performance PWA Accessibility Best Practices SEO Score
Utilities.Games 55 83 92 100 93 87 100 85.4 92.6
PokemonDB.net 94 58 67 87 100 81.2
Smogon.com 72 54 52 87 78 68.6
Serebii.net 80 46 42 80 67 63
Bulbapedia 25 31 74 53 91 54.8
GamePress.gg 31 27 58 67 82 53
Pokemon.com 3 31 25 73 100 46.4

I was pleased to see that our site scored the highest, however, it is also important to note that this is pre-Ads. All of the other sites had Ads enabled and they are of course “fuller” websites for the moment. I wanted to make sure I ran these tests before we implement Ads to see a difference, if any, it will have on performance.

Performance

Utilities.Games PokemonDB Smogon Serebii Bulbapedia GamePress Pokemon
55 83 94 72 80 25 31 3

The performance metric basically measures the speed and responsiveness of the site. “How quickly can the user do stuff on the page?”. In terms of performance, we have some room for improvement in comparison. Surprisingly we’re at least ahead of the repeatedly highest ranking site on Google. For us, we have a few things in the immediate future that we will be implementing such as bundling. Also, it can be difficult to truly compare each of these sites since they each utilize different web services, hosted in potentially different areas around the world, and process pages on the server differently. Overall though, this metric is supposed to highlight the impact on the end user. So, it could help determine whether our current web technology stack is still viable or if we should consider moving in another direction.

Progressive Web Apps (PWA)

Utilities.Games PokemonDB Smogon Serebii Bulbapedia GamePress Pokemon
92 100 58 54 46 31 27 31

The PWA metric essentially checks the boxes for whether the web application is PWA-compatible. I am personally excited for this technology and am very pleased that we scored so high. For those that have no idea what this is, basically you can install our web site on your phone like almost any other app. We have a download link in the navigation menu if your device is capable of installing PWAs. This works on newer Android and iPhones as well as Windows 10 devices (desktops, tablets, & phones). I’m not surprised that the rest of the sites didn’t score very high since this technology is really just now emerging into the market with the help of sites like Twitter and Pinterest exposing its capabilities.

Accessibility

Utilities.Games PokemonDB Smogon Serebii Bulbapedia GamePress Pokemon
93 67 52 42 74 58 25

The accessibility score highlights how well a site can accommodate users that are hard of seeing, hearing, etc. This is certainly a topic I’m not too familiar with, but developing this site gives me a great opportunity to learn how to best provide for this audience. I was certainly inspired by Microsoft’s development of the Adaptive Controller for the Xbox One. I personally think that video game culture is a great place to cultivate great culture and acceptance not to mention the importance of understanding and inclusion. Alright, I’ll get off my soap box, but ultimately even though accessibility scores are low across the web, a lot of browsers are picking up the slack. At a certain point there won’t be as much requirement on developers like myself to fully understand this realm in order to accommodate these users.

Best Practices

Utilities.Games PokemonDB Smogon Serebii Bulbapedia GamePress Pokemon
87 87 87 80 53 67 73

The best practices metric is kind of a moving target, but ultimately it boils down to staying on top of security and efficiency practices. As long as you adhere to the standards this value should improve. For the most part I treat this metric as a checklist. When I’m in a lull developing features, I try to visit this metric to make at least minor improvements.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Utilities.Games PokemonDB Smogon Serebii Bulbapedia GamePress Pokemon
100 100 78 67 91 82 100

The SEO metric is what everyone wants to be 100%! This highlights how easy it is for people to find your website. Which, if your means of paying the electricity bill is based on Ads, you need more traffic to your site in the hopes that the Ad placement will payoff. While revenue is certainly the most important influencer for improving SEO, I personally have a bit of pride whenever I see my site show up in a Google search. Searchability is something I design in my day job, so it’s especially helpful for me to practice those skills on this site. However, my day jobs websites aren’t open to the public, so it’s not directly applicable all the time. Regardless, the hope with this is site is to provide different approaches to playing video games and we’d like to share those (hopefully) cool ideas with as many people as we can because that’s what gets us excited to develop more features.

Summary

Utilities.Games PokemonDB Smogon Serebii Bulbapedia GamePress Pokemon
85.4 92.6 81.2 68.6 63 54.8 53 46.4

Our site’s overall score is great in comparison to “the competition”, right now… Like I said, this could all change as we implement Ads and other site-wide changes, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed and tackle each metric one at a time.

Let us know in the comments your thoughts on the comparison and/or what metrics mean the most to you. As with our features, we’re always ears-open to what is most important to our users. If you need more Accessibility options, or have poor internet connection and need a lighter website, these are important things to know so we can try our best to deliver.

One Last Thing…

Here’s a snapshot of the mobile renderings and scores from when I ran the audits:

Beyond PokeTools

Hi! My name is Kyle and I’m one of the folks on the team behind Utilities.Games (Always pronounced utilities dot games).

The project itself was the brainchild of Trais, but when he told me about it I knew I wanted to be a part of it. So I’m here to give you my vision of what else we are planning to offer, primarily based on our passions, together and separately.

Who I Am

Well, like I said, I’m Kyle, and I am passionate in MANY things: Pokemon, Technology, Mobile Gaming, System Administration, Music, and so much more. Being asked to help out with this project was an amazing opportunity as I had many times in the past thought things like “Hey, wouldn’t it be neat if..” followed by any number of things related to passions I pursue on a daily basis. Almost every single one of those things can be featured in a place like this!

Where that Takes Us

My passions, although many align with Trais’, sometimes travel a different direction, and that’s what I’m here, right now, writing to you about. so let’s get started.

Summoners War

An absurdly large amount of my free time currently get’s taken up by this game. Although had I had many of the tools I had thought about wanting with the whole “hey wouldn’t it be neat if,” concept, that time spent just might have been that much more efficiently spent. Needless to say, even though there are a plethora of tools out there, my goal with this is to help garner a set of tools that I, personally, wished I had during my progression through this game. So stay tuned, you never know where this could take us.

PUBG, Fortnite, Rings of Elysium, Et Al.

Yep. I went there. These games are absurdly popular, and more pop up daily (Looking at you, BLOPS4). The concept of all these battle arena style games is the same, and in many cases, they can take advantage of the same tools. In-game speed, distance calculations, time-to-travel, Ammo-weight calculations and so much more. I hope is to create a set of tools that may provide a degree of usefulness in a way that others fall short or fail to provide entirely. I don’t plan on leaving this genre behind just yet, so let’s look forward to this, as well.

Other Games

We are never close-minded here at Utilities(dot)Games (yep, just making sure it sinks in). We want your feedback, we want your criticism, and we may even want your Dank Memes. So on that note, please, leave comments below as to how YOU feel we can improve, where we can go, or if there is a super-sweet tool you think would be neat to see come to fruition.

Use Case for Comparison Chart

During one of my auto-play sessions on YouTube, I found an interesting use case for our Pokemon Comparison Chart. So, let’s respond to AlmightMandalsTop 10 Overpowered Generation 3 Pokemon!

I believe I was able to set this up in the same order of the video:

Hands down, Metagross deserved the upper-end (if not top) of the list! However, based on this view, Swampert seems to be the most all around versatile and a personal favorite.

One thing that we may consider for the site as a result of this breakdown is the (maybe optional) inclusion of type comparison.

Let us know in the comments how you think these Pokèmon stack up against one another. Are there any from Generation 3 that you would add?

Hello World!

Welcome to the inaugural post of the new Utilities.Games site! Today I’ll try to cover what I have envisioned for the Utilities.Games network and bit of how it came to be.

The Beginning

A bit of background about me, quite simply I’m a developer. My career has been in the realm of manufacturing where I picked up minor software development skills. Over the past few years I’ve been able to hone these skills within the manufacturing industry. There have been a few personal projects here and there, things like music players and to-do lists, but ultimately I noticed I had fallen into groove in terms of what and how I developed. For those who are curious, my development stack primarily consisted of .NET Framework (VB.NET, VBA, ASP.NET and C#). There are so many other languages and technologies these days, and I want to learn as much as I can. But, like many people, I struggle to truly learn and understand new things without having a project to allow myself to ‘get into the weeds’.

Throughout my career, so far, I’ve put an emphasis on developing tools for myself and others to try to make their work lives a little easier. From automating reports, getting industrial machines to “talk to each other”, to just straight up reducing button clicks in the day-to-day tasks, I love providing useful tools to make things easier and faster.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic and pulled out some of my old Pokemon games and spent a few long nights with auto-play on YouTube watching glitch videos and speed runs. It’s been a while since I really got into Pokemon, so most of my memory was fading of when/how Pokemon evolve, what/when moves they learn, and other important tidbits. Naturally, I took to the internet, remembering playing my Gameboy and DS in front of the computer with either Serebii.net or Bulbapedia open (free shout out to those guys!). But, the more I kept watching YouTube playthroughs and developing my own playthrough strategies, the more I noticed a gap in finding hands-on tools to improve your game. At this point, I knew how I wanted to knock out two Pidgey’s with one Safari Zone rock.

The Goals

The purpose for this site is, and hopefully always will be, to provide interactive content that can help the user play their game better or at least more informed. Ultimately, what content is going to be more or less up to you as the end-user. For me, I get a chance to practice development every time a new idea comes along and I love it! For users, hopefully they receive a tool that they can keep coming back to for help.

Technically, as I’m writing this, we have not officially “gone live”. However, we plan to release the site on social media soon and incorporating some cost-paying ads (sorry, gotta pay the bills). Once we’re live, we hope to receive input from our users on what tools to add next (and what to fix…). This includes different game series. Right now we only have Pokemon tools, but we’d love to add more. Who knows, maybe we’ll add a Summoner’s War site, or Elder Scrolls, or Zelda site? We’ll try to leave that ultimately up to suggestions.

As a developer, I look to update often, so please bear with us if the interface changes and know that your opinion matters. If you don’t like the way an interface looks or works, or a recent change, don’t hesitate to tell us. That isn’t to say that everything will be exactly how you personally like it, but we’ll certainly strive for that.

The End

Well, almost. I just wanted to say thank you for reading into what we’re doing and I hope that you at least appreciate what we’re trying to accomplish.