Category Archives: Mobile

The GDC week and all that’s new in technology

While thinking about the week spent at the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC), I can’t help but recall the immense learnings I had there. And learning was not all, there was a lot of inspiration to bring back home and start the new year building games using that inspiration.

Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) was one of the biggest draws this year. No one can say for certain whether this technology will thrive or cease to exist in the future. But at the moment, the VR experience is realistic and engaging, similar to living the game world created by the developer.

Some of the VR devices that I tested included the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Sony Playstation VR, the Samsung Gear VR and even the good old Google Cardboard. I found the Vive and Playstation VR to be outstanding, but thought that Samsung Gear VR had an edge as well.

The great part of VR is that when it is combined with other hardware simulators, it gives VR a whole new dimension.
For example, the motion simulator along with the VR device from Nexperience brought about an awesome 6D experience.

Nexperience

And then there was Birdly that used VR with a mountable stand to explore sensory-motor, wind generator along with strong visual impact to create a fantastic flight simulation experience.

BirdlyUnlimited Hands was another interesting technology that used VR along with a haptic game controller to help the player feel the objects in the gaming world. This controller used muscle sensor, 3D motion sensor and multi-channel electronic muscle stimulator to detect the users hand movements for responsive feedback.

Virtual Reality Games

The Virtual Reality devices were incomplete without the games. Some of my favorite games included –

The Climb powered by the CRYENGINE gave a thrilling experience of climbing a rock mountain. There were times where I missed on catching a grip on the rock, the experience of falling down the rock thereafter was terrifying.

Paranormal Activity, the game is built on the popular horror film franchise. As a player, you will see yourself inside a house at night time interacting with objects only to realize you are not alone. The game does a fabulous job of making you feel uneasy!

The Everest is a must try, especially if you love the Himalayas. The virtual experience of of climbing one of the highest and riskiest peaks of the world is just as terrifying!!

Alt. Ctrl
In today’s age of technological advancement and gaming gadgets, the alt.ctrl at GDC was quite a pleasant surprise. Alt.ctrl stands for alternative controllers and almost all the participants were entertaining with their ideas. Some of the ones I played and liked included –

Crank Tank powered by Aurdino used crank controllers to play a multiplayer arcade game.

CrankTanks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Threadsteading is a two player strategy game using a modified quilting machine.

Threadsteading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palimpseste is a first person exploration game that makes use of Filtered Reality i.e. Using a mounted device to view the game through the independent RGB filters. When a color filter is changed, it can show the player areas of the game unseen through the earlier filter.

Augmented Reality

Image Metrics is a face and expression recognition technology. It can capture head movements and rotations, as well as extract face textures. It then uses this facial data to overlay it with graphics. I played around a little with their IOS app Turned which used this technology brilliantly to create zombies out of our faces.

On the subject of Augmented Reality, I must mention another AR technology – Magic Leap. Although I did not see this at GDC, there is so much I’ve heard and read about it.

It is said to be the most exciting thing in Augmented Reality right now. It’s basically a startup which is working on an augmented reality technology. It overlays digital 3D graphics onto your view of the real world via a headset with transparent lenses or smartglasses.

I’m looking forward to Magic Leap opening up to developers soon.

Development Engines

Unity is one of the most popular engines that developers use to make games. CRYENGINE, UNREAL, and Amazon Lumberyard are other interesting game development platforms.

Google had a large space of their booth dedicated to PROJECT TANGO. Project Tango is a technology from Google where it uses vision sensors on devices to move through the world just as humans do. It uses 3D motion tracking and depth sensing to understand position, orientation and depth of objects in the real world. For example you can measure your floor using the phone before you go carpet shopping. Or walk into a maze and use Tango to quickly give you its plan in 3D for you to escape out of it.

Overall GDC was a massive event. There was so much to do that the week was not enough. But the good part is, the inspiration that I drew from it, will be enough to make me keep reading, learning and experimenting more till the next GDC!

I would personally like to thank Blake Merriam and the GameDesignersNetwork to enable the scholarship and provide networking opportunities with game developers within India and outside.

If you too are interested in attending GDC 2017 next year with a scholarship from GDN, make sure you fill out the form and stay in the loop for the announcement.

Mariam

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

Mobile Game Fetch gets featured in Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)

Big Fish Studios’ “Fetch”, a Soon-To-Be-Released Mobile Game recently got featured at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI)

Fetch is a one-of-a-kind old school art adventure meets arcade game currently in development at Big Fish Studios. The game before its release has became a featured exhibit at the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) in Seattle. The reason is simple “To put history in the present! What’s more contemporary than an unreleased mobile game”

Fetch is an imaginative adventure game about a boy who goes to great lengths to save his best friend, a dog named Bear, after he’s been captured by a mysterious fire hydrant.   MOHAI’s interactive installation invites visitors to participate in a number of development activities around Fetch; from testing the game in-progress to contributing their own unique game ideas. The exhibit documents the entire game development process – from the sketch of the original idea through to the final creation of the game.

BF_Collage

Developed in-house at Big Fish Studios, Fetch redefines the adventure game genre by incorporating fun, quick-play arcade games along with brain-teasing puzzles and interactive storytelling. Set to release in the first half of 2013 on mobile platforms, Fetch was designed from ground-up to take advantage of the unique gameplay attributes of touch screen devices. The mobile platforms which will support Fetch have not been released but I’m sure it would include the widely popular platforms.

MOHAI recently reopened on December 29th in the newly refurbished Naval Reserve Armory. The interactive Fetch exhibit was spearheaded by Creative Director Ann Farrington and Executive Director Leonard Garfield, with significant contributions from the Big Fish Studios team.

BigFish_InGame

“An interactive game like Fetch is the perfect subject for a game development exhibit,” said Leonard Garfield, MOHAI Executive Director. “There are millions of people who play games but most aren’t privy to the process and details that go into actually creating a game. Along with the Pixar-like storytelling and production values in the game,  the Fetch exhibit is both inspiring and  educational. ”

The “Building a Video Game” exhibit at MOHAI will be on display through September 2013.

 

 

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

The story of Adobe AIR and game development

Will Flash ever be able to get rid of it’s tag of being a quick prototype and animation tool? In India where we have a large developer base working on small games and animations for the web, the stereotype that a lot of people hold about Flash will probably always stay true.

Whenever the word Flash appears, people expect magic and quick turnaround times with development. At such times, the fact that “Flash” is going to be used for a more a sophisticated development on limited memory devices is completely ignored.

Whenever we begin work on a game on iOS or Android, my first suggestion is that if technology is not a restriction, we can provide game development services using the Adobe AIR platform. Most of the times there is never an argument on that because we are trusted to know our work well and deliver projects according to the brief given to us irrespective of the framework or tools.

The trouble comes when I explain what Adobe AIR really is. The fact is that Adobe AIR is a cross platform runtime using Flash and AS3 to write applications across platforms. But on hearing the word “Flash”, there is an instant expectation of quick results even for complex games.

So I’m sharing a list of of points that I felt kept coming up during AIR development on mobile/tablet game.

  • Development with AIR may be familiar ground because of AS3, but the development workflow is the same as with other technologies, especially with good OOPs practices.
  • There are plenty of frameworks available which provide support to Adobe AIR to enhance game development. A developer who wants to give the best to the project considers the time he/she will be spending on including those frameworks in the game.
  • Development of game logic or controls is not about copy pasting code from different places. Each game logic has its flow and limitations which cannot be solved by existing code (unless if it is a port of a game owned by the developer).
  • Mobiles have limited memory. There is a possibility of the game taking up too much runtime memory thus leading to crashes and low frame rate. Optimization of code and graphics is top priority when developing for non-web platforms.
  • Sprite sheets, no matter how much fun they may be to work with, are not easy for replacing the graphics in a game.
  • Compilation of game for devices take time. The workflow of deploying and debugging a game on devices is a time consuming process.
  • Comparison to an existing game is fine, but assuming that the game could have been developed in 2 days and wanting the same time frame for a new game development is an unheard story.
  • Any existing game code of a web game cannot be picked and pushed on Adobe AIR. If the game was developed using AS2, the process of converting the code to AS3 is tedious. What’s even more tedious is optimizing badly written code.

I’m ranting about the way game development with AIR is thought of by some people in India and it really saddens me to think they take it for granted. I know this will change over time, but till then we have to bear the brunt and keep educating people about it.

Mariam

Nokia unveils Lumia 920 and Lumia 820

Nokia unveiled their new phones today in one of the awaited Nokia announcements of the year. These were the Nokia Lumia 920 and the Nokia Lumia 820 based on the Windows Phone 8 OS.

Nokia defines the Lumia 920 to be the “World’s Most Innovative Smartphone” with it’s 4.5 inch screen with an LCD display, Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.5 Ghz processor, 2000 mAh battery, integrated NFC, Puremotion HD+, and the PureView camera with a Carl Zeiss lens. What also seemed attractive was a demonstration of their super sensitive touch technology that made a touch on the phone screen in any form be it with gloves or with bare hands very easy and intuitive.

A big thumbs up to the built-in Wireless Charging in the Lumia 920 which makes it easy to charge the phone using the Nokia Wireless Charging Plates, the Fatboy Pillow and even the JBL Power Up Speaker. They announced partnerships with Virgin Atlantic and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf outlets to implement these wireless charging plates.

Another technology that powers the Nokia Lumia 920 is the PureView imaging technology that uses the optical image stabilization system which holds the camera still even if the hands are a little shaky giving more stable and less blurry videos and photos.

Speaking about the app market, the event had demos of apps including the City Lens demonstration of the Location Suite, Nokia Music, Angry Birds Roost and the Cinemagraph. It was said that the Windows Phone marketplace has grown from 7K apps to 100K and most of the demoed apps would be made available with the existing devices.

Nokia has a lot riding with this launch. It was an anticipated announcement because Nokia has been in the news for all the wrong reasons and they really needed something impactful in their announcement to get back into the game with their competitors. With the announcement today, the strongest has been their imaging technology with PureView and their wireless charging. The release dates for these devices are not out yet so we have to wait to try the devices and everything shown today.

Mariam

 

Apps Vs Apps – Nokia Connects yet again!

When Nokia must have decided to recreate the successful Nokia AppTasting magic in Mumbai, they must not have anticipated the tremendous response they got from bloggers all over the city. A roomfull of 250 bloggers managed to get #NokiaAppTasting trending in a country which has 15 million Twitter users.

It sure shows that an “Indi-Blogger” power is strong enough to stir buzz when they get together. Sponsored by Nokia India, organised by the awesome Indiblogger team (completing 5 years) and hosted by the charming Vikas Khanna and the witty Rajiv Makhni, the event was great.

Going to a Nokia event always brings back great memories of the Nokia Developer events I’ve attended in the past. Although this one was not for developers, the passion of all the bloggers, tech and non-tech, was amazing. The Nokia AppTasting event was different and unique in it’s own way.

A lot of people I interacted with were not sure what to expect from the event.

“Technology and Food, Mobile Apps and Food App-etizers, Rajiv Makhni and Vikas Khanna, Tech Guru and Celebrity Chef?”

It was not long before the questions were answered. First by cheering with clenched fists in the air and then celebrating the evening by hugging another blogger sitting besides us. India’s tech guru Rajiv Makhni ensured the love continued by asking us bloggers to stare into our phones and then kiss it. I think it was a good way to break the ice and get started with the event.

As the evening unfolded, we were introduced to many useful apps on the Nokia Lumia and Nokia PureView phones.

The Nokia City Lens app showed a great use of compass caliberation and augemented reality. Depending on the direction the phone is held, the app locates the point of interest and visually shows them on the mobile screen. And because it uses GPS data, network connection is not always needed.

Nokia City Lens

Another app was the Mobile Sommelier by VinoMatch. The app has a complete menu of wine pairing features that helps improve the taste of a meal. Every menu selection is accompanied by a photograph of a generic wine group. This also seemed like a useful app when eating out or when having guests at home.

VinoMatch


Foodspotting was demoed on a Windows Phone. Foodspotting for those who haven’t used it is a food photo sharing app that has a community built around the sharing of food dishes. Vikas Khanna shared thoughts on how many chefs don’t approve their guests taking pictures of their dishes and then sharing them on social networking sites. But for him such apps are a good way to get critiqued.

I personally use FoodSpotting and find it very useful when I eat at a new place. Especially the reviews and rating others give to the food minimizes the trouble I face in deciding what to choose from a menu.

The app showcase was interspersed with some fun interactive sessions, witty comments, funny anectodes and informative quotes from the hosts.

I came back home wiser! I now know that Onion Halwa (a dense sweet desert made from onions) is a heritage of the Chadela Dynasty in Khajurao and there is a city called “Halwa City” in Tamil Nadu.

Nokia definitely scores with the Nokia PureView photography technology which is a strong reason why I will buy the phone.

Some pics from the event –

Nokia Apps take Centerstage
Moviemaking is no longer a painstaking business - Nokia Movie Maker App
An Adobe Photoshop like app for merging the best of multiple pictures into one
The Indibloggers that got Twitter trending

Indiblogger is a platform that brings together bloggers from all over India to share and communicate their thoughts. There are no specific categories that require bloggers to join the group. All that is needed is a passion for writing.

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.