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.

 

 

Reach the Final Frontier with Circ and Flash Builder

Circ, available for Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS and iOS, is so simple in its gameplay but challenging at the same time—players navigate their spaceships collecting stars and points, while escaping from planets and stars trying to pull the ship away from its course. It’s the kind of game that’s perfect for passing the time between train stops or even just for a quiet few minutes at home.

Similarly, the challenge for Scrape Apps, the brains behind Circ, is navigating the hurdles related to releasing the game across platforms in spite of a limited budget and limited team resources. That’s why they turned to the Adobe Flash Platform, specifically Flash Builder.

The team leveraged features in Flash Builder such as reusable coding, automatic debugging and streamlined optimization to make the game available on as many platforms as possible in the least amount of time using the least amount of resources. Now the Circ team is looking forward to building new enhancements into the game, while taking advantage of Flash Builder’s flexibility and extensibility.

To learn more about how the Circ development team worked with the Flash Platform, visit here. Also be sure to check out www.adobe.com/gaming for more about our gaming solutions.

Machiniarum Machinations with the Adobe Flash Platform

Becoming a number 1 iPad 2 game is probably as challenging as building a futuristic robot and navigating him through scrap yards. Not coincidentally, Czech game developer Amanita Design accomplished both with its critically acclaimed online adventure game, Machinarium, built with the Adobe Flash Platform.

The game tests players’ puzzle-solving skills, as they guide their robot through puzzles and obstacles to reach the city of Machinarium and save his girlfriend from the bad guys. Gamers praise the gameplay, but were particularly impressed with the game’s textured and animated graphics. Since it began in 2003, Amanita Design has used the Flash Platform to not only deliver great visuals, but also easily bring Machinarium to virtually any desktop or mobile platform.

The team leveraged Adobe Flash Builder to reuse original code from the web version of the game to bring it to other platforms like Android, with BlackBerry Tablet OS coming soon. The best part is that it only took two months! To create the game’s rich graphics, Amanita used a combination of Photoshop and Flash Professional, as well as Adobe AIR to deliver the game across mobile devices.

To learn more about how Amanita delivered this top game so quickly across different devices and platforms, visit here.

 

 

Tanki 2 and Stage 3D Streamroll Over the Competition

Video games provide you with the chance to be a fighter pilot, sharp shooter or warrior. With Tanki Online, the first, online multiplayer 3D action desktop game using Flash Player, you can be a pro on the battlefield and work with your team to destroy enemy tanks, help your team and build up your ammunition arsenal. More than four million people worldwide immerse themselves in this virtual battlefield.

AlternativaPlatform, a Russian based company that creates multiplayer browser games, created Tanki 2, the follow up to the popular Tanki Online,  with Flash Player 11, Adobe Creative Suite 5 Master Collection components and Adobe Flash Builder, to create the 3D geometry and animation for the game. AternativaPlatform used Stage 3D to deliver Tanki Online as a cutting edge 3D experience for gamers. Stage 3D allowed AlternativaPlatform to create accelerated graphics and animation development, and create more realistic and smooth gameplay for Tanki Online.

To learn more about how Alternativa Platform used Adobe technologies for the best multiplayer, battlefield experience, read more here.

 

PolitiFact Brings Political Truth to Mobile with the Adobe Flash Platform

There is no question that today’s political rhetoric can get heated on both side of the aisle. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, people want the truth from their politicians and pundits.  Since 2007, the St. Petersburg Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact.com has provided insight into the American politics. It helps users find the truth in politics by examining statements by members of Congress, the president, cabinet secretaries, lobbyists, people who testify before Congress and other Washington D.C. gadflies. Then, it rates the accuracy on the Truth-O-Meter – True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True, False and the lowest rating, Pants on Fire. 

Using multiple Adobe technologies including Adobe Flash Builder 4.5.1, Flex 4.5.1 and Adobe Illustrator, PolitiFact has gone mobile. Now, the truth can go anywhere you go with the new PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter mobile application, available for download on the Android Market, BlackBerry App World and iTunes.  Unique to the mobile application is the Truth Index that provides the ups and downs of Truth-O-Meter ratings across the entire American political scene in real-time on a daily basis.

Using Flash Builder, the PolitiFact team created the app within three weeks. Flash Builder and the Flex framework made it possible to develop in just one code base and quickly leverage content from the existing PolitiFact website. By developing the application with one code base with Adobe technologies, the development team i saved time and money by not having to build and test a separate native application for each individual device. The app has really taken off and was the number one news app in iTunes when it launched!

To learn more about how PolitiFact used Adobe technologies to bring the politics to mobile, read more here.

Client Outlook and the Adobe Flash Platform’s Picture of Health

At Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, nearly 16 to 18 million medical images are captured over the course of 300,000 exams a year. The challenge that Sunnybrook and similar other hospitals face is getting these diagnostic images to clinical staff so that they can make informed, quick decisions about patient care anytime and anywhere.

Working with the Adobe Flash Platform, eUnity, a medical imaging platform developed by IT health solutions provider Client Outlook, bridges the time, location and technology gap between access to medical images and clinicians and their patients. The solution mitigates two needs—eUnity interoperates among a variety of different Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS) networks within multifacility medical facilities, and it’s simply easy for busy doctors to learn and use.

Key to eUnity’s success is delivering these diagnostic-quality images across devices so that doctors can diagnose at the point-of-care. Using Adobe Flash Builder’s extensive tooling features such as testing code and debugging across multiple screens, Client Outlook is able to extend eUnity to not only the desktop, but also to major device platforms like Android and iOS. Developers also found that working with eUnity is easily 30 percent faster than using other technology.

Before eUnity, Sunnybrook experienced a bottleneck of hundreds of images in the system, which impeded patient care. Now thousands of doctors and technicians from the multifacility medical enterprise are able to capture and view images such as X-rays, CT, MRI, ultrasound and angiography pictures anywhere and anytime.

In the near future, Client Outlook is planning to extend eUnity to an even more robust platform, leveraging the Adobe Digital Enterprise Platform and Flash Media Interactive Server. They anticipate incorporating new features like automated workflows and secured permissions.

Read more about Client Outlook and Sunnybrook’s story here.

Archi-Tech Systems and the Adobe Flash Platform Turn Raw Pharma Data into Meaningful Insights

We all know that it’s hard to make sense of complicated data. Archi-Tech Systems has been provided pharmaceutical companies with the ability to turn that information into customized, convenient systems for the past 20 years. They wanted to create something new and innovative that would work for the entire pharmaceutical sales organization, from the vice president of sales down to the field rep and managed care sales force. Archi-Tech used the Adobe Flash Platform to develop and launch InView Plus, a web-based dashboard for point-and-click data visualization.

Built with Flex and Adobe Flash Builder, this data-rich solution helps sales and marketing teams to track activities, goals, and results in real time. Both products equip Archi-Tech’s development team with scalability, flexibility, and standardization, streamlining development and simplified maintenance that resulted in significant cost savings for them and their clients.

Flex also added to the performance and consistent uptime, presenting Archi-Tech’s clients with a more intuitive interface and rich, visually engaging experiences.

One of Archi-Tech’s client’s, Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, a world leader in the global household, health and personal care sectors, successfully uses InView Plus to empower its own healthcare sales organization, which resulted in more targeted sales plans, increased productivity and better insight into market share and sales opportunities.

Archi-Tech plans on using the Adobe Flash Platform to push InView Plus to mobile devices and tablets. Read more about InView Plus and how they collaborated with Adobe technologies here.

 

The Adobe Flash Platform Helps Tell Woven Interactive’s Big Fish Story

Woven Interactive, an Atlanta-based digital marketing agency with a client roster that includes BP, Disney, Lifetime Channel, Lucent Alcatel, NASCAR.com, TNT, Turner Broadcasting and Reader’s Digest, has always been known to stay on top of new technologies and digital experiences. The company and president and co-founder, Charlie Schulze, knew that development agility, performance and the ability to deliver content across multiple devices would be vital to the success of its newest mobile and tablet game about an adventurous fish, Comb Over Charlie. The company turned to the Adobe Flash Platform to make this a reality.

Built using Adobe AIR and ActionScript with Adobe Flash Builder 4.5 and Adobe Flash Professional, Schulze was able to create a fast-paced game that could be delivered seamlessly across devices, running with native performance.  More specifically, the Flash Platform made it possible for the app to be developed once and published across multiple platforms using the same code base in minimal time, even several hours!

Woven Interactive also used Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Web Premium to develop and promote the game, Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended to help with the creation of characters and other elements for the app, and Adobe Dreamweaver CS5.5 to develop the promo site.

Initially created for Android, Comb Over Charlie is now available for download across more platforms, including BlackBerry Tablet OS and Apple iOS. Charlie and his team are excited about bringing this app to other websites, social media sites like Facebook and future devices using this streamlined workflow. 

Be sure to download the game for Android (free trial version), BlackBerry Tablet OS and iOS! To find out more about the integration between Adobe technologies or to download the Comb Over Charlie app for yourself go here.

 

See the Flash Platform in Action

Companies often turn to the Adobe Flash Platform to solve business problems. From data visualization to customer self service, here are some great rich Internet applications (RIAs) developed by Universal Mind that executed business ideas to make them a reality. Built with Adobe Flash Platform technologies like AIR and Flash Builder and integrating Creative Suite tools, check these RIAs from Kodak, SpatialKey and SchoolVIEW to see what’s possible and learn about the ease of cross-platform app development!

Watch how Universal Mind used Adobe Flash Platform technologies to build the Photo Book app for Kodak, helping them offer a profitable online service allowing customers to easily create their own Photo Books to share “Kodak Moments.”

 

See how SpatialKey uses Adobe Flash Platform technologies to create a flexible tool for enterprises that rely on large location-based data to better present timely information for better decision making.

 

Learn how SchoolVIEW by Universal Mind used Adobe Flash Platform technologies to enable the Colorado Department of Education to present student and school achievement data to help administrators, parents and government funders make better decisions regarding education, creating a uniform approach to student educational achievement.

Live Talkback and the Flash Platform Bring a Live Studio Audience to You

As loud as we may shout at the TV watching sports or offer our own advice during a talk show, the people on the tube never hear our insights—until now. U.K. based interactive content developer, Live Talkback, used the Adobe Flash Platform  and Adobe Creative Suite  to engage U.K. audiences during broadcasts with live polling, allowing them to use their PCs and mobile devices to vote during live broadcasts.  Live Talkback displays those voting results in real-time, keeping viewers on top of the buzz before, during and after these live events. Live Talkback applications include a “Clapometer,” which uses PC and mobile phone microphones to measure audience noise during a show.

An Adobe MAX 2010 award finalist, Live Talkback uses Adobe Flash Builder, Adobe Flash Player and the Flex framework because the technologies provide a flexible development environment and an easy integration process, allowing Live Talkback to create the polling tools in a fraction of the time and cost. Popular U.K. morning show, “This Morning,” and top soccer club, Liverpool FC, have used Live Talkback to engage with its audiences. “This Morning” received more than 57,000 live votes in a recent live broadcast segment. The company is looking forward to emerging in other markets, namely in the U.S.

To learn more about Live Talkback and how it used Adobe technologies to enhance audience engagement with live broadcasts, read more here and check out the video below.