Posts in Category "Flash Professional"

Q&A with SparkChess’ Armand Niculescu

We recently caught up with Media Division’s lead developer and co-owner Armand Niculescu about SparkChess. Check out the Q&A below to learn about SparkChess, Armand’s process and why he relies on Adobe to deliver games across platforms and the globe. Enjoy!

Why did you use Flash/AIR to develop this app?

I’ve been using Flash since 1998 and over the years I’ve learned its strengths and weaknesses. Things that won me over were its availability across platforms, the rich toolset from Adobe and third parties and the ease in combining great graphics and animation with programming.

When I started working on it there was no HTML5, and even today I would not be able to deliver the same experience with Canvas & Javascript without worrying about compatibility or making compromises.

How easy was it to deliver your app across multiple platforms/channels?

SparkChess is built with Flash Professional  for interface elements, and I’m using FDT5 and Flash Builder to manage the code base – about 25,000 lines of code spread in 80 classes. The code is the same but I have slightly different graphics and layout for each platform. The biggest challenge was that the game had to be tested on each device, not as much for functionality but for the user experience, especially on tablet devices. A 7” tablet needs bigger buttons than a 10” one, the aspect ratios are different, you need to take the onscreen keyboard into consideration and so on.

The packaging and signing process is different for each platform, and can be confusing at first, but once I had it worked out, I created some batch files to automate packaging and signing for all platforms. Submitting to the various stores requires some preparation and organization, but it’s nothing daunting.

The multiplayer functionality is built with Union Platform, providing a consistent experience across platforms.

Are you monetizing this app currently? If not, do you have plans to do so in the future?

Yes. There are some significant maintenance costs associated with the game – CDN, multiplayer servers and so on.

SparkChess is available for free with ads and as a paid version with no ads and some very nice additional features.

How many people are currently using the app?

In total, across platforms, there are about 420,000 weekly users (single player and multiplayer). 8,000 chess games are played in multiplayer every day.

What drives you to create these apps/games?

I wrote my first game when I was 11 on a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. It’s what got me started with graphics and programming. Games are some of the most challenging types of applications: they have to look great, run smoothly and above all, entertain. They are an excellent way for any programmer to push the envelope and learn new skills.

As part programmer – part designer (though I absolutely despise the term ‘devigner’), I was always interested in creating visually appealing apps. With SparkChess, my goal is to have a chess game that’s actually fun to play by casual players and that also helps them improve their skills. I’m also told by parents that kids love it, that it is a game for all ages.

Do you have anything else up your sleeve?

Yes! I’m listening to user feedback and I’m constantly tweaking SparkChess to make it an even more enjoyable experience and to take advantage of the upcoming features in Flash Player and AIR.

Based on this experience, I’m in the planning stage of a new multiplayer strategy game.

What do you want developers to know about creating apps with AIR/Flash?

Since the beginning, the beauty of Flash was its ability to deliver a consistent experience (graphics, fonts, animation and later program logic) across browsers and platforms. With AIR and native extensions, I can now deliver a native-like experience on all major operating systems and platforms. In a way, Flash is Java done right. Recent advancements in Javascript, CSS, the Canvas element and other HTML-related technologies can make HTML5 an alternative in some cases, especially for features that need to look integrated in a website. On the other hand, the browser quirks and lack of solid development environments make development of complex apps much harder, resulting in higher costs. An objective assessment should be done on a a per-project basis.

What I love about Flash, compared to any other platform, framework or environment, is the ease in combining programming with animation, graphics, sound and video in a seamless way, and with the new 3D support, the possibilities keep expanding.