Category Archives: Apple

A Round-Up of the NASSCOM Game Developer’s Conference 2015

Usually November is the time when Indian game developers start prepping themselves to attend the annual gaming event in Pune, India – The NASSCOM Game Developers Conference.

NASSCOM GDC has carved a niche for itself for being the premier gaming event in India. Since its inception in 2009, it has become almost ritualistic for game developers to attend the event every year. Some attend it to network, some to learn the new trends of the industry and some to show their games and get feedback.

The game development community is no longer naive. There are stories of acquisitions, funding, publishing deals, startups and new indie studios. And making these stories are the talented bunch of game designers, artists, programmers, producers, analysts and students with a curiosity of what beholds them. It is always great to meet and hear the personal triumphs and challenges of the game developers. Most of them don’t shy from talking about their games and are always open for feedback. This is how the community thrives.

Students demoing their games
Students demoing their games

According to The NASSCOM Developer Survey, nearly 65% of developers are employed with Indie Studios. 40% of developers have no prior gaming experience while the number of women in the industry is 15%. These numbers are good considering how fragile it is to survive in the industry. Those who are there, are because of their passion for games and motivation to build something beautiful.

This year the event started with a day full of workshops followed by 2 days of the conference. There were 5 tracks running simultaneously –Indie Development, Game Design, Game Art, Technology, Marketing and PR, with a mix of Indian and international speakers.

Women in Game Dev Meet-Up at ABC Farms
Women in Game Dev Meet-Up

Apart from the workshops and sessions there was an Investor Meetup, Games Pitch and Women in Game Dev Lunch meetup.

The tracks had informative content that was catered for the casual mobile gaming industry.This was one particular session conducted on serious gaming where the speakers shared ideas on Gamifying Maths and Geography for school students. It was interesting to see how they converted the concepts of Fraction into visuals for learning. The same visual learning could be applied to any subject be, it School Maths or other domains.

The postmortem on the game UNWYND, took us through the journey of a game where the developer explained how they uplifted a failed game on Android to Editor’s Choice on iOS. The developer emphasized on showing games to as many people as possible and implementing feedback early. Attending conferences and using social media to know people and maintaining friendships is definitely a catalyst to getting visibility.

The track on Game Design about making your players love your game in the first session explained how using minimum steps to reach the core game loop was critical. Only 20% of games make it past the first session therefore it was recommended to never dump the player with too many layers at start of the game, stimulate the player’s senses with animations and use notifications wisely to get your players back to the game.

The panel discussion on Indian Publishing deals had contradicting views. While some on the panel felt that Publishers help get a new game gain visibility, others felt that the presence of publishers could invalidate the original vision of the game. All agreed that it is possible for both the developers and publishers to have a win.

The Secret Sauce of App Stores Talk
The Secret Sauce of App Stores Talk

India may start seeing more gaming events in the future. At least that’s what the developers hope for. PocketGamer Connect already happened last year in Bangalore. But NASSCOM GDC will continue to drive developers. Looking forward to the event next year!

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

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

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.

Store Wars for the Game of Phones

Apple iTunes and Google Play together dominate consumer attention for application downloads. But when pitted against each other, they can get quite competitive!

App Store Stats

Stats say, Japan is amongst the top 3 countries for app download and revenue on both the stores. It is also amongst the Top 3 for the fastest growing markets for revenue. US and UK are also amongst the top 3 countries.

Google Play considers Brazil to be amongst the topmost countries to tap in terms of revenues expecting 88% growth.

India even with its large population would take some time to build a profitable market for smartphone apps because we still have a majority of our people using feature phones/low end phones.

Mariam

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

Flash vs Unity vs HTML5 at Nasscom GDC

The Nasscom GDC 2011 ended in Pune yesterday making it one of the well attended events in India. Since we don’t have many conferences like these happening here, it was great seeing this one unfold connecting the Indian gaming community on a single platform. It was also encouraging to see gaming now being accepted as an industry with students taking it up as a career option – something which did not exist some years back.

The 2 days of the event had back-to-back sessions covering various aspects of the state of the gaming industry, gaming platforms and technologies and sessions for budding entrepreneurs.

I was invited as a part of a panel discussion covering Flash vs Unity vs HTML5 and it was a fairly well attended session (we had 2 very competitive sessions running parallelly so a well attended session is a compliment!). It was great to see that most of the audience were into Flash development at some level and keen to know what the panel had to say about the three most spoken about technologies in the recent times. The panel came with their expertise and spoke about the strengths of the platform they specialized in.

HTML5 is a platform that Zynga believes will be the future with social games. They are already looking into it; their Words with Friends being a classic example of a successful HTML5 social game going cross platform.

Cha Yo Wo on the other hand felt that HTML5 has it’s disadvantages and is better suited for enterprise applications rather than game development, especially when getting it across multiple platforms. They had some good talk to share about their engine allowing easy porting of code across different mobile platforms.

Glu Mobile belives in Unity and had some good points to share about using the platform to develop freemium games.

I spoke about my experience of working with Flash on different platforms, specifically devices. My thoughts were that Flash developers have the advantage of taking their ideas to multiple mobile platforms through the Adobe AIR runtime, but that can come with some limitations. The native platform for devices offer more polished APIs than AIR thus giving it an edge over Adobe AIR. With the introduction of native extensions, Adobe AIR can open up better development options but that will only be known in time.

However having said that, HTML5 is an new standard for the web that developers can be excited about, especially since Apple has been talking about it for a very long time, Adobe is investing heavily in the tools, and companies like Zynga believe that they can push the envelope of online social gaming with it.

The consensus was that a developer should never be limited with an idea because a technology is known and comfortable to work with, instead choose tools and platforms that best help bring the idea to life.

Flash vs Unity vs HTML5 Panel at Nasscom GDC

Mariam