What Began With an Hour of Code - William Farhat ‘17

We caught up with William Farhat ‘17, a current junior at Harvard-Westlake. While he is preparing for what will be an eventful senior year, he is also celebrating an award from a national video game competition, and it all began with an hour of code at Chandler. 
In 4th grade, William remembers the hour of code and learning a basic introduction to coding. At that time, he remembers using interactive games and puzzles and learning so much. Continuing through Middle School, he would play more advanced games and code with Scratch. It established a solid foundation of the fundamentals of coding.  

The preparation William had at Chandler went beyond just learning to code. He says, “Overall, Chandler prepared me well in managing my time, being mindful of my course load, and being able to take on the challenging curriculum at Harvard-Westlake.” The groundwork he laid served him well as he made plans to use his coding skills to create his own video game. 

The vision to create a game from scratch came in the fall of 2017, not long after graduation. Initially, there was no coding, just sketching out ideas. He created the character, the Explorer, equipped with a grappling hook in the village of NOTDON, battling robots and finding his place in the world around him. And as the Explorer forged his own path, William set out too, fleshing out other characters and creating the video game structure. 

While creativity was hot, he knew he had to strike. Within a couple months, he started learning to program in an all-new coding language. He needed a game engine that was able to support special effects, so he learned GameMaker Studio 2. Readily available online tutorials served as his formal training, then he took his sketches and started to create the art for the game and program movement of the characters.  

The process was a lengthy one for William. When elements of the game were not up to his standard, he would continue to improve upon it or scrap it altogether and start working on it again. William says it was imperative to be in constant growth until the game got to the level of quality that was suitable for public view. “I wanted to feel good aboutpeople playing it,” he says.  

The summer of 2019 was a lot of work getting the game ready to have the demo go live. Summers are usually time for family vacations or summer jobs, but William had his full-time job - reworking content, making the gameplay better, and bouncing ideas off people. He was set to release the demo toward the end of September 2019. But the hard work was not over; in three days, he worked 30 hours on the final touches, released the game on GameJolt, and people all over the world had access to play it. 

Upon its release, William remembers he was nervous. “Initially, my friends helping me would give me constructive criticism. Strangers downloading it were actual people and I wasn’t too sure they were going to be kind”, William says. However, he ended up receiving some great feedback from some pros – people liked the movement, set-up, and the gameplay. Some of the gameplay videos that he posted online had gone viral, and he gained new followers - including some who are notable in the gaming industry.

Since Outset’s release, William has released 15 updates to fix bugs, and it has been downloaded 250 times! The next part of Will’s path is to finish the game, add levels, and keep going. He encourages the Chandler gaming community to visit the GameJolt website to test the game and provide feedback. 

And while the journey for William was not easy, he encourages Chandler alumni and students to create something, anything that makes them happy. He says, “Whatever you want to do, go for it. You can create great things if you’re just willing to try.” Through hard work and hour upon hour, William self-taught himself skills, but there were also other lessons along the way; he never considered himself an artist, but indeed saw that video game designing is an artistic outlet. The path he forged was also a path to self-discovery, and it all started with an hour.  

Just recently, William Farhat won the only Gold Key awarded for video game design in the 2020 Scholastic Arts’ West Coast region at-large and is advancing to the national competition. You can play the demo of his game, Outset, on GameJoltand it is now also available on Steam