Well this is not a shameless plug because it is not for me, but actually for a friend of mine. For the past month he has been working very hard on his iPhone application and for having seen the progress along the way, I can say that it is awesome work. The application is called Cinemagram and it is made to easily build cinemagraph with your mobile phone. Cinemagraph are still pictures where only a small part of it is moving. To do them it would usually require an image editing software and a lot of manipulations, but the app makes it really easy to do right with your phone. Anyway, I think that for 2$ you can have a lot of fun building cinemagraphs, so go buy the app and help some indie devs!
Here are some example of cinemagraphs done with the app:
If you want to see more you can go to the Cinemagr.am website.
Hell yeah! Crazy day. Spent all day figuring stuff out, now I’m pretty tired but I have to share my findings.
NME, a cross-platform solution
So, I am looking for a true cross platform development solution that will give me output for iOs, Android and Web (Flash). Using Flash and Air is too slow for me, but I do like ActionScript 3 a lot so NME seems like the logical solution. What is exactly NME? You know what? I don’t really know. It uses haXe and I think haXe is a programming language based on ActionScript. NME can compile both to Flash and C++ (and many more). That is as much as I could figure out, but I’ll keep digging.
Installing haXe and NME seemed pretty straight forward and it seemed to have worked, the only trouble I had was with FlashDevelop. Syntax high lighting is all off and it doesn’t seem to find where the classes are. But it compiles so I could at least get some stuff done.
From ActionScript to haXe
Actually that part isn’t that bad, there are little differences which you can find on this cheat sheet, but there are also concepts that are totally oblivious to me like the Dynamic type. But I just rolled with it and everything kept working, so this is something I’ll figure out later too. Little annoying thing every class needs a constructor (but at least the function name is only “new”) and if you extends something, you have to call super. Also, I noticed that on the NME Sprite (nme.display.Sprite), there is no rotationY property (well this is particular to NME, and I have never used rotationY before until 2 days ago, so I find this very funny).
On to RobotHaxe
Well I can’t really do anything without Robotlegs. I like how simple things are with it and well organized, so if I was going to move to another language, it needed to have Robotlegs. Period. Well I also need to be able to embed Fonts, have a Tweening engine and something to replace timeline animations, Robotlegs is the most important. Turns out there is a port to haXe called RobotHaxe made by David Peek. The only problem, there is no documentation, no examples, no tutorials… I decided to give it a shot anyway, how hard could it be? Kinda hard… haha. Anyway I got it to work, not sure it is the best way to do it, but it works (for what I have tested). I made this test RobotHaxe project using FlashDevelop and NME, not sure what it implies but I think it can be useful to people so I am giving it to you.
Git and GitHub
You might know that I am making a game for the iPad and it’s nearly done. The thing is, I also want to publish it on the web, you know, make money from sponsorship too. Actually, I think it might be the only way I make money with the game as the iPad app market seems really hard. Plus it will also cost me money to publish in the Apple app store (developer account), so I think I might be loosing money going that way. Anyway, I was testing my game for the web first and everything was working fine. I tested on the iPad after and that is when things started to get hairy.
Yeah, an iPad (iPad 2) is not a full fledged computer (funny to say this considering my first computer was a 486), so it is not as fast. Well I have seen some pretty crazy shit on the iPad, like the Dead Space game so I guess it can be pretty strong. This only means that the Flash player isn’t that great on it, probably because it doesn’t use the GPU. So as I was testing my game on the iPad, it started out working really great, but as the game went on, more and more objects got drawn onto the screen and that is when the performance started to go down. So I set out to optimize my code.
Object creation in Flash is an operation that is costly and since I hadn’t optimized anything yet, I was recreating every object on the screen every frame. There is a possibility of having 240 objects on the screen at the same time, so that’s a lot of object creating every frame. To minimize this, you can do object pooling, which is having a pool of already created objects and change their properties instead of creating new ones. I did just that and it went really fast to implement. The thing is, when I tested it on the iPad, it made no difference at all.
Another thing that is heavy on the CPU in Flash is updating graphics, so I tried to optimize that part. Blitting is a technique by which you compress all your visual into only one Bitmap that you draw on the screen. So instead of having multiple display objects being redrawn (in my case 240), you only have one. Read more about blitting here. Blitting doesn’t fit well with every project (like those relying on vector graphics) , but mine was based on Bitmaps and didn’t have a lot of rotations (it did, but only 90 degrees one) so I could easily do it. I was pretty sure that this would help a lot, but it actually did nothing noticeable. I was a bit baffled here, maybe my redrawn zone is too big… It is a game for iPad so I have a full resolution of 1024 x 768, maybe that is too heavy for the Flash Player.
So if it wasn’t the creation of objects or the graphics, than maybe it was the code. I had used Arrays everywhere cause it is just simpler to use than Vectors, so I changed them all. I also did some loop optimization and replaced some divisions by multiplications ( like /2 to *0.5). Also didn’t change anything…
My last resort was to change the game dynamics so that the game is less intensive on the CPU and that is the only thing that made any impact on performance. My game is a puzzle, so I removed 3 rows and 1 column from it thus reducing the possible maximum number of object on the screen (and also the redrawn region size, and probably also the number of computations) by 20%.
I’m pretty sad at this point, changing the game dynamics to optimize is not a really good decision, it’s kinda like saying let’s make the game less fun to make it run faster. What I liked about Flash is that I could compile for the web, iOs and Android with limited changes (in this case all I changed was different layouts based on size (height and width) of the game). Turns out it is not fast enough on iOs (iPad). Maybe when they put Stage3D on iOs that will do it, but till than there is no true cross development platform. I meant to look into Corona, but it does only mobile. And I really don’t want to fall into the HTML5 mess. I would really like to hear about a dev story about HTML5 and a game built for web and mobile and most importantly how much time it took to do.
4 years I have been writing on this blog. I am kinda proud, but I do have to ramp up the pace. It’s been 4 months since I left B-Reel and let’s say that I have been semi-productive. I have not been doing nothing but I have not worked 7 hours everyday, not even 5 like I wanted. Kinda hard to wake up early when you are your own boss. Also, I only wrote 4 posts in 4 months so the traffic to the site diminished a bit but nothing too serious.
So here we go for 2012, I am about to finish a personal game and a contracted game, so that is good. I have another game that is about 45% completed, so I will be working on that next. My goal is to complete 3 personal games this year, not including the one that is almost finished. Don’t know if I’ll be able to make it, but it sure would be good. I would also like to post 2 times a month, to be realistic, more would be better but I am not sure I will have the material to write as much. I will probably also try to look into HaXe, I am very curious about this tech, what it can do and how to use it so we will see.
So happy 2012 for everyone!
YEAHH! Pretty nice is the feeling you get when you see your game for the first time on the medium it is supposed to be. Yesterday I dwelled in the mysteriously complicated world of signing applications for the Apple App Store. 6 hours it took me to finally get my game on my tablet ( by the way I didn’t buy the iPad, I won it ). I would say that 2/3 of that I was stuck in Apple developer center where you have to do numerous steps and get many files in order to sign your app / game. The last third came from converting one certificate to something Flash can use to compile a .ipa file.
For that step you can either do it on OSX or on Windows differently and since I have both installed on my machine, I thought I would do it the easy way ( what I thought would be) on OSX, but for some reasons Keychain access didn’t seem to export me the right things. So I had to do everything using OpenSSL on Windows, which after a little tweak, worked like a charm. Follow these instructions from Adobe to do so: generate signing request, convert certificate to .p12.
So with that done, I was set to compile my Flash game into an iOs app. This proved also more complicated than what I thought. My game was built using FlashDevelop, but I have Flash CS5.5 so I thought it was just a matter of setting my main class as the document class of a new fla. Turns out the Flash compiler is different from the Flex compiler and it started throwing me a lot of weird errors. I have to admit my project is a bit weird too (I lost one fla, so I had to decompile one file but I couldn’t get the font out of it, so I have 2 swc that have symbols in common), but it should have worked. Anyway, you don’t need Flash to compile to iOs. I downloaded the new Flex SDK and the latest AIR SDK (4.6 and 3.1) and used those templates for FlashDevelop and it worked mighty fine. Funny thing, my game was already compiled using the Flex 4.5.1 SDK; not AIR (I am not using anything special) and not the latest SDK, but I didn’t have to recompile it, I just packaged it and it worked fine. I wonder if I use the AIR compiler instead if it would run faster???
Haha, yeah, haven’t wrote much lately, not that I don’t want to, I just don’t have anything to write about, but now Adobe did give me something. So, they will stop working on the mobile version of the Flash player. A lot of people talked to me about it this morning, with big grins in their faces, like saying: “See, see, it’s dead already”. Damn people are clueless sometimes, haha. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal right now, right now I mean, but I think it could mean way more in the future.
Ya, right now, on a phone, with its screen size, it is not the best way to consume Flash rich experiences like Aldo Shoes for Life. The screen is too small, you don’t get as much as what you get on the desktop. But the same goes for HTML rich experiences; would you interact with the Wilderness Downtown on a mobile phone? I don’t think so. Where I think it is more problematic, is on tablets, where the screen has more real estate. Most rich experiences would work pretty well on that. The problem is that the only tablet worth the name is the iPad (well that will change in time) so no one could see rich flash experiences on them and realize that it is working quite well.
So short term, no biggie, doesn’t really change much, nobody was doing Flash sites for mobile anyway. Long term, it’s hard to say. Phones are gonna get bigger screens that I am sure off, be it foldable screens or some other innovation, screens will get bigger. Also, there will be more tablets out there and their uses will be more defined. For that alone, it would be nice to have Flash on mobile. Then, there is the new mobile application paradigm, where instead of building web experiences and apps, you build native apps. I don’t know if this is a trend that will last forever. I mean the desktop is slowly moving toward web and cloud, shouldn’t mobile do the same too? So I think it might be a mistake to stop mobile development.
But I also understand a bit, I mean Adobe was already developing 3 Flash players : PC, MAC, Linux. Now with mobile, it would have to develop one for every mobile operating. So here it is, my views on the topic, one more in the sea of web.
I have been working, on my projects and on paid work, and it’s been good. My own project is moving along fine and I should have something new to show pretty soon. As for work, well it’s going. I haven’t got much to write about, what about is mostly some little quirks inside of Flash Professional itself.
But I want to write about this little game I found: The binding of Isaac. I am pretty sure it was made in Flash and a demo of it can be found on Newgrounds. It’s a pretty well done game and it reminds me of the dungeons in Zelda and Kid Icarus. It’s got that same feeling, with upgraded graphics. The lore is also pretty funny, it’s got a really skewed sense of humor but everything fits and I find it very funny. Now the concept is really simple, but because they created so many power ups (each with their own hilarious visual) it makes it so that every run of the dungeon is different and it adds a lot of replayability. Anyway, that is the kinda game I aspire to make. I advise you to go buy it on Steam, it’s only 5$.
So from my last post you know that I left B-Reel and that I am back in Montreal. I haven’t posted much because I haven’t been working much. It’s been really good times, but not that good work wise. There are a lot of reasons for that, but mostly because I am in what I would call a transition state. I am not living in my apartment yet (September 1st) and that causes my lifestyle to be quite different (lots of travel time, no desk, no office, no gym, lots of food). But I did get some work done just not that much as I could have.
Building games is not building websites
It is quite different to be franc, mostly because the challenges are different and because of that I haven’t found much topics to write for this blog. I think it is my fault a bit, I chose to do a game that is very close to an application and doesn’t rely so much on the graphics. I thought this would be a better idea, because I could save a lot of time by doing so. The good thing also is that it is based on a lot of interfaces (visual, not code) and I website building made me very good at making interfaces. The challenge that I face is more about where to put the logic and how to organise my code.
Finding how to make it work (or make me work)
My trick right now is to go to a coffee place and work from there. That has been working quite well for now, but starting Tuesday I will have an office space and I really look forward to it. Working from home is just not doing it for me, I watch TV or do some other random stuff that I won’t do if I am in a working place. Now all I have to figure out is how to wake up earlier in the morning.
Yeah, big news, I will be leaving B-Reel and New York and going back to Montreal mid-August.
But why o why?
Well, really nothing against B-Reel, these guys are awesome, but it has more to do with the realization that I might not be at the right place. I mean B-Reel is the best production company in the world and they paid me a trip to London and the Alps, so if I’m not happy there, maybe the problem is not them. But I do have a lot of gripes with the Advertising Industry in general, a lot.
First, the more I do it (build marketing experiences) the more it grows futile. Secondly, it’s a pretty savage industry if you consider how it handles it’s people. Yes it pays well, but the hours and the pressure are pretty high, which is very alienating. I don’t think I have any power to change this and I don’t feel the urge to participate in this system. Thirdly, I’m pretty tired of being told what to do, part of that comes from the fact that this industry is stuck in a old model where the creative director is the rockstar and tech people are tools (it is getting better), but also as long as there will be a client there will be someone to tell you what to do.
So what is next?
Nothing really, or everything I guess. Haha, if I wanted to be more vague I wouldn’t know how to write it. I won’t be getting a job, that I know for sure. It’s a funny thing to tell people, they don’t really get it. The thing is, I have a plan, now I just have to do it. I want to make games. It’s been something I have been wanting to do for a long time, I even started multiple ones (mutant farm, doodle destroy, a nameless rpg) but never got to finish any of them because of time and life constraints. Well now I am giving myseld the time to finish them properly. While in New York, I was able to put some money on the side, so it only make sense that I return to Montreal, where life is cheaper, and spend some time doing personal projects. I am at a good place in my life to do so.
The plan in detail
Basically rent a desk somewhere not to expensive and get things done 7 hours a day, go to the gym, take some mix martial art class, pass my driving licence test (cause the joke as gone on long enough, I’m 30 and I don’t know how to drive), write more on the blog and finally maybe do some freelance if I really need to put bread on the table ( I think I should be ok on that side, at least for 6 months). If I can do that and get a game or two out, than I don’t care about the outcome, the worst that could happen is that I find another job, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to this haha!