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.


Working with Debug Mode in Starling with Box2D – AS3

I recently started work on a Box2D game project using Starling, and one of my concerns was getting the debug mode to display correctly.

Box2D is a very popular physics engine. It has a debug mode which draws shape outlines, defines center of mass and shows joint connectivity, all very useful while debugging shapes behavior in a physics world. Debug mode is also very useful during prototyping when artistic graphics are not ready. Box2D has its own API but still uses native Flash objects and events.

Starling on the other hand is a game framework developed on top of the Stage3D APIs which helps write fast GPU accelerated games without having to access the Stage3D APIs. The Starling API is very similar to native Flash AS3.

Once a Starling stage instance is created, all display objects subsequently become part of this core Starling instance.
Since Box2D uses native Flash Sprite, the best way to work with Starling is to add a native Flash sprite on top of the Starling stage instance. I’ve given a quick example of how this will work in the example below –

The PlayGame Class is where the Starling framework is initialized. Within the PlayGame class, the Box2D debug sprite instance is defined. The Box2D debug Sprite instance is a native Flash and not a Starling class.

The Box2D class

Packt Publishing completes 1000 titles

Packt Publishing is celebrating the publication of its 1000th title. I’ve been reviewing their books so it’s great to see them grow to this milestone.

Packt also supports many Open Source projects covered by its books through Project Royalty Donation, which has contributed over £300,000 to Open Source projects up to now.

As part of the celebration, Packt is allocating $30,000 to share between projects and authors in a genuinely unique way, soon to be disclosed on their website.

Packt is also offering their existing registered members or those who register before the 30th of September, 2012, a surprise gift. This initiates their celebratory occasion as they support their authors and readers both in a productive way.

For more information about Packt, the kind of books they publish, and to sign-up for a free account, you can visit their website:


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.



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.


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.


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


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.


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


Games, Mobiles, Technology