Category Archives: iOS

The Science Behind Mobile Gaming Addiction

Everyone who loves playing games, is at some point at risk of being converted to a full fledged video game addict (although this may not be a very bad thing :)).

And those in the business of making games, always aim at owning atleast one title that can lead to such addiction.

Mobile games today is a multi-billion dollar industry where just 0.15% of the mobile gamers bring in 50% of the revenue. The paying customers are small but they can be attributed as video game addicts. But they are not the only ones. There are some persistent players who keep grinding through levels without making any purchases, and they can be just as guilty of being addicts.

What makes games so enticing? Well, the science of mobile game addiction has been explained with an infographic below. Read it to find more –

AddictiveGamingSource: Online-Psychology-Degrees.org

At the NASSCOM Game Developers Conference

ngdc stage

Another year of the NASSCOM Game Developer’s Conference, India has ended. Another year with a better turnout than the last! What a way to celebrate the gaming community of India.

The NASSCOM Game Developer’s Conference (NGDC as we call it) took place on the 15th and 16th of November 2013 at the JW Marriott at Pune. Located right in the hub of the Pune university area, the location is better connected than the earlier one in Pune city and probably encouraged more to attend the event.

The conference had 3 simultaneous tracks focused on Indies, Business and Technology. There were also workshops on Unity development, Game Design, Mentorship by industry experts, BYOG (Build Your Own Game) and Nasscom Gaming Awards.

I went to the event not just as a delegate but also as a speaker. As delegate I attended a lot of the indie talks. My favorite was the talk by one of the founders of Simogo. With just two people in their company, they have done some amazing games. Their postmortems were precise to each game but it was great to see their unique game mechanics.

A workshop for Unity got me introduced to working with 2D on the new Unity 4.3 platform.

Another good talk was by Martine Spaans from Gramble.com on Best Practices for Publishing Mobile Games in the Western Market. While some of the points were known from the best practices materials available online, the presentation was good with points from personal experience.

Interesting it was to attend the Crowdfunding and Kickstarter session by Pyrodactyl Games because they are a success story on Kickstarter from India for their game Unrest.

I spoke about Adobe AIR games on Multiple platforms. The presentation was basics of Adobe AIR but there was so much to share when talking it – Tools, Scout, Stage 3D, Starling, Native Extensions, Feathers UI, Away3D and it just goes on. I hope the audience (a lot of them non AIR developers) could understand it well.

The best the conference had to offer was meeting old friends, colleagues, twitter friends and networking with new people. Waiting for the event to repeat the success next year!

Mariam

Box2D for Flash Games – Book Review

Box2D For Flash Games

Box2D is a highly popular physics engine. Its popularity lies not only in it being a free open source engine, but also because it has many features to produce realistic physics effects in games. It has also been used by many popular games across the mobile and web.

Flash is one of the supported platforms, therefore this port of Box2D has become almost a priority for many game developers wanting to use realistic physics with AS3. The book “Box2D for Flash Games” written by Emanuele Feronato is therefore a great resource for understanding of the Box2D physics concepts and getting your hands dirty with actual game development.

The book dive starts with basic examples without going too deep into the engine theory. Every new line of code added to the examples thereafter is further explained in detail. Concepts such as friction, density, primitive and complex body types, shapes and collisons are all covered . The chapters then take a step by step approach towards developing actual game levels from popular games such as Totem Destroyer and Angry Birds.

I personally follow Emanuele Feronato blog and know that he comes with tremendous experience in gaming. He contributes to the community with his gaming articles and this book only lets him share more refined and in depth information with his readers.

 

Stop That Silly Chicken game for iPad

Stop That Silly Chicken

With the successful release of “Stop That Silly Chicken”, it is heartening to say that the game was developed using Adobe AIR for the iOS platform.

Stop That Silly Chicken is currently available on the iPad and iPhones. The game uses Milkman Games native extensions for social media and advertising. It also uses a native extension for in-app alerts.

Silly Chicken is a character owned by 9X Media, a brand providing entertainment on television through their various music and cartoon channels.

The game concept revolves around Silly Chicken who runs around a kitchen table in a quest to steal and break the eggs kept safely in a bowl. The player has to tap Silly Chicken before he reaches the table. The player can collect game coins from piggy banks and use them to make purchases from the game store that will make it easier to trap Silly Chicken. The game has 2 modes – Survival and Time mode and both are easy to understand and play. The game is completely free using an advertising model with Admob.

I’ve been reading the comments of the players since its release and glad to see it being liked. It seem that the idea of tapping Silly Chicken and seeing its reactions through different animations is funny for many.

Please download the game if you haven’t already and spread the word about it!

Mariam

Adobe ships Flash Player 11.4 and AIR 3.4

Adobe has released the new version of the Flash Player 11.4 and Adobe AIR 3.4. The runtimes have a list of new features, enhancements and bug fixes. Adobe has also upgraded the technology behind the AS3 Reference for the Adobe Flash Platform (ASDoc).

The updates to the runtimes are very critical, especially for mobile development. I had filed a bug about using the Adobe Native Extension (ANE) with Adobe AIR 3.3 on iOS some weeks back. Hoping the new release would be easier to work with ANE.

Flash Player and Adobe AIR Feature List

ActionScript 3.0 Reference for the Adobe Flash Platform

Mariam

The Act Game review

Playing the Act Game is like a watching a beautiful movie. It took me back to the times when I used to watch the classic Disney cartoons on TV, with the only difference being The Act on iOS has some interactivity to keep the user engaged as any game ideally should. I thought of reviewing this game simply because it has a very different gaming experience seen after a long time.

The story begins with Edgar a window washer with the City Medical Hospital spotting Sylvia the nurse through the hospital window and instantly falling in love with her. He dreams of romancing her, but is interuppted by his boss. He is forced to continue cleaning the windows with his sleepy brother Wally when all of a sudden, his brother enters the hospital room through the window and gets into an empty bed. The story then takes Edgar inside the hospital and through various situations involving Sylvia and other characters to rescue his brother from being mistaken to be a patient requiring a brain transplant.

The game animations play very smoothly. The artists have used the classical hand drawn animation style, so the quality of animations are very high. The characters are superbly designed and one can understand their emotions through their expressions.

The controls are very simple involving sliding the finger on the left or right side of the screen. All game interactivity have Edgar responding to the player swipes.  The music too is beautifully rendered and suits the game perfectly. The only issue with the game is that is has a very small game length. One can easily finish it in 30-45 mins.

I remember reading somewhere that the team working on this concept had been test marketing it since 2007 but cancelled launching it then. It has finally released in 2012 on the iOS platform published by Chillingo and is worth a play just for its uniqueness.

Book Review – Introducing HTML5 Game Development by Jesse Freeman

HTML5 Game Development

The Introduction to HTML5 Game Development has been one of the most easygoing readings I’ve had in the recent times. Written by Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman), the book has language which is simple and crisp, without being over-the-top technical. It comes with well written examples and steps to take you through the process of game development.

When I first read the introduction, I was curious to know more about the contents. The book was small with just over a 100 pages, so I was sure that reading it would not take me more than a day or two to complete it.

The book takes you through all the steps that are typically followed in a game development cycle. The good part is that it covers the entire cycle with a single game giving more emphasis on learning techniques rather than writing game logic. Infact I was very glad to learn about the process of creating sprite sheets in Adobe Photoshop using scripts (something I had never attempted before).

The book speaks extensively about the Impact JavaScript Engine for HTML5. The Impact engine has many pluses including running on almost all HTML5 capable desktop and mobile browsers. The only minus is, the engine is not open source and there is no trial version available. The engine is priced at $99.

Personally, I have never been a fan of any engine or framework that is not community driven, but some of the games created by Impact are very impressive. Developers who want to invest in writing high quality games across browsers should consider it. There is information in the book on setting up the development environment to get you started.

Overall, the book is well written but more suitable for developers who have some knowledge of writing games. The book can be downloaded from the link below –

Introduction to HTML5 Game Development published by O’Reilly

Some other useful links –
appMobi Game XDX
Point of Impact – Resources relating to the Impact Game Engine

Mariam

Reasons not to play a game on mobiles

I was looking at my devices today and tried understanding my game playing behaviour.

Out of the devices I use, my iOS device has more games than any other device. Next comes the Android and Symbian devices where I have some games installed, but have never played them (don’t know why!!). Out of all the current 100 iOS games, I only play around 4-5 very regularly and another 4-5 occasianally.

So what is it that gets me to download a game but not play it? I thought through some of the points and this is what I think.

1. Creative Inspiration – So we’ve played Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds and Cut the Rope on the iOS platform. Now, do we really need a game with the mechanics of Fruit Ninja, bird characters from Angry Birds and a name inspired by Cut the Rope?.
If you’ve played “Cut the Birds” and you’ll know what I am talking about (the game is now taken off the App store and has another version Cut the Birds 2). One of the primary resons why games fail to connect with users is that they lack originality and just end up being poor imitations of successful IPs.

2. Herd Mentality – Farmville created history with online social gaming, but then more games decided to follow suit with farm themes or similar “Click and Collect” mechanics. And were they successful? Probably yes, but for how long is the real question! I don’t remember the last time I played a Facebook connected game because of the “Follow the Herd” mentality used while writing concepts.

3. Game Tutor – As a casual game player, I really don’t like a casual game constantly throwing pop ups at me to teach me how to play the game. It breaks the flow and can be very obtrusive. I think a casual game should be self explanatory or atleast with minimum non-obtrusive teaching.
Help pop-ups may sometimes be necessary for games, especially strategy and time management games, which are competitive and require a learning curve to progress, so I’m not completely averse to them.

4. Forgotten Icon – Many times when I reach out for my device to play a game, I notice installed forgotten apps. And then when I recall them after looking at them, I wonder if it makes sense to ever play them again.
Forgetting to play an installed app is nothing but a result of an average game-play, designed to be non intuitive, and not great enough to get us engaged after the first couple of minutes initial play.
Prototyping and testing an idea with people trusted for feedback is the best way forward. Being open to criticisms is only getting better at designing and developing a better game.

5. User Experience – I was playing a turn based game against the computer AI recently. I won’t name the game, but the mechanics were as simple as Tic Tac Toe. However, everytime I was to play a turn or the AI was to play a turn, I would have a big popup message thrown in front of me informing me that it was my turn or the computer’s turn to play.
This is an example of a terrible User Experience design because it ends up irritating me/the player with constant reminders during every turn. A definate reason for me not to replay the game.

6. Buggy Pop-ups – What happens when I am playing a game (Chess for example), and I play my turn before the game can alert me of my turn. Now the game logic gets stuck at this point where it has my turn pop-up to display on screen but knows in the background that it is the AI who will play next. My game hangs at this point and I’m stuck staring at a game screen where I can’t progress. I have to shut down the game and restart it.
Will i play this game again? Only if it has an addictive game-play and value for time.

7. Noisy Screechy SFX – One usually plays a game when they want to take a short break in-between or after work or sometimes as a part of their learning process. Poor sound effects or background music really make me shut down the game even if I really need to play it.

8. Where’s the Entertainment – Some games just lack entertainment. And I can’t define this any further. Game development is a coordinated process and going wrong in any of the phases can lead to a non entertaining game.

9. Non accessibility of content – Today most games are sold through mobile app markets. iTunes gives the easiest access to download games irrespective of the iTunes version or the device OS. Similarly Android too offers ease of use of the Android Marketplace. For the others, it’s not been very easy at all times.

Mariam

PhoneGap Framework for Mobiles

I recently spent some time studying the PhoneGap framework with the purpose of creating content for Android devices. PhoneGap is an Open Source Mobile Framework that allows developers to author native applications with web technologies such as HTML, JavaScript and CSS. PhoneGap currently supports 6 platforms including Android, iOS, Blackberry, Palm WebOS and Symbian WRT (including QT).

Working with the framework made me realize how easy it is for any web developer to target multiple mobile platforms without having to write the native code, and yet achieve cross platform compatibility with the same content.

In other words, the content layouting is flexible and can run across different screen sizes and platforms without having to change the any part of the core code.

The framework usage is very simple and well explained on the website. Once you are setup with the framework within your preferred development environment, the only effort goes in writing your HTML files and compiling the builds with the HTML assets to test on the actual device. PhoneGap also has its own API functions which makes use of features such as Network, Accelerometer, use of Camera, Events, Data Storage etc.

Performance wise, it is good, but animating too many objects around the screen drops the framerate. I tried running a game and got a FPS of around 7-8 on older Android devices and around 12 on the newer ones such as the Nexus One.

Perhaps the biggest challenge was integrating jquery for database interaction, where network calls constantly failed. It was later understood that PhoneGap takes a little time to load, so if the device is not ready and the API calls to the network are made, then the network calls fail.

 

From the code above it is noticed that in order to use PhoneGap we have to load the phonegap.js script into the HTML file. This is one of the 2 code bases required for calling any PhoneGap functions (the other code base is native and is compiled when building the device build).

When the HTML loads, the first function called is the onLoad() function which checks whether PhoneGap is fully loaded. This check is done using the onDeviceReady event.

When the device is ready, an onDeviceReady event is fired. The next step is to check for network. This too is done using the PhoneGap functions – NetworkStatus. If the network exists, then the network related calls using jquery are used, otherwise an alert is sent to the user informing of no network.

I’ll soon be uploading a PhoneGap Android app, and will share the link for downloading when ready.

Mariam

 

A few hours to go…and iPhone launches in India

iPhone seems to be everywhere with news channels, newspapers and almost all Indian mobile blogs talking about it with anticipated breath. Yes, August 22 2008 is THE day when the iPhone will officially be available in India through 2 major network operators Airtel and Vodaphone.

Apparently the 8GB 3G version has been steeply priced at Rs. 31,000 (approx $700) and the 16GB model at Rs. 36,000 (approx. $820).

The pricing is completely not convincing because if I compare it to it’s availability in other countries, it is far more cheaper outside India with better tariff plans. For instance (via Macworld), O2 in UK introduced the 8GB model for £99, and the 16GB model for just £159 with regular tariffs of £35. In US too the 8GB is available for $199 plus $99 for a one year contract with the network operator and the 16GB is available for $299.

In India, the grey market already has the iPhone selling at Rs. 20,000 (approx $450), and there have been many buyers at this price, but do we really see it taking off through the operator pricing? We also need to consider that 3G is yet to make it’s entry into India.

Well, it is best to wait and watch what happens with the launch tomorrow. Will we see queues of people waiting to grab their piece? Will people really be satisfied with the phone after the price they pay for it? Will there be comparisons with other handheld devices like the Blackberry and the HTC which are extremely popular with the executives/corporates/business people here? Will I be buying the iPhone? I can answer this one…it’s no for now, but I might go for it in the coming weeks.

Mariam