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.

 

 

Winning Tablet Apps for Adobe AIR App Challenge, Sponsored by Sony, Announced

Today, Adobe and Sony are excited to announce the winners of the ‘Adobe® AIR® App Challenge, Sponsored by Sony’. The contest launched in July to drive the creation of breakthrough Flash based apps powered by Adobe AIR for the Android-based Sony Tablet™ S and Sony Tablet™ P. The winners will receive a cash prize plus premium promotion* of their app for Sony Tablet S and Sony Tablet P via Sony’s Select App, the website with a shortcut icon on the tablets’ home-screen to highlight Sony-recommended Android™ apps.

Hundreds of entries were received from developers in eligible countries, including Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, UK and USA. The winning apps in five categories (excluding ‘MAX Public Favorite’) were selected by a panel of Adobe and Sony judges and industry experts. Submitted apps were judged based on quality and performance on Sony Tablet S and Sony Tablet P, innovation and creativity, and overall user experience. All apps are now live and available for download from Android Market™ – visit the links below. Congrats to the winners and thanks to everyone who submitted an app!

List of Winning Applications by Category

  • Grand Prize ($100,000 US): Tweet Huntby RED Interactive Agency
    • Tweet Hunt is a classic shooting gallery game powered by Twitter.

  • Best Game ($20,000 US): Conveyor, by drMikeyStudios
    • Conveyor is an addictive word game – race the clock to score the most points!

  • Best Entertainment App ($20,000 US): Kidoodle: Pirate Scribblebeard, by Kidoodle Apps
    • Join Oscar, Josephine and Pirate Scribblebeard in this groundbreaking new type of interactive, animated, drawing app for kids.

  • Best Business & Productivity App ($20,000 US): Conqu, by AsFusion
    • Conqu is an easy-to-use yet powerful task management application that will help you conquer your inbox with style.

  • Best Lifestyle & Community App ($20,000 US): Sylvester’s Band, by Uncle Handsalt
    • Sylvester’s Band is Sylvester’s Band an interactive book for children ages 2-7, with 35+ pages and English voiceover.

  • Most Innovative App ($10,000 US): LEVEL, by drMikeyStudios
    • LEVEL is a puzzle-platformer with a twist. Designed specifically for the Sony Tablet P, LEVEL takes specific advantage of the two screen layout.

  • MAX Public Favorite ($10,000 US): Cassandra Stand – News & Clock, by Small Screen Design
    • Transform your tablet into a useful stand with date & clock, weather forecast and top stories from more than 50 countries. (Announced last month at MAX 2011, Adobe’s annual developer and designer conference, based on a public vote from the ten applications selected for the Adobe MAX Showcase prizes).

The Android-powered Sony Tablet S and Sony Tablet P devices combine all of Sony’s innovations rolled into one including unique hardware, content and network services with seamless usability to create a world of engaging networked entertainment experiences.

Sony Tablet devices are distinguished by four key features that set them apart from any other tablets on the market. These include: optimally designed hardware and software, a “swift and smooth” performance, cross-device connectivity and network entertainment services including Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited, PlayStation® Store and Reader™ Store.

Sony Tablet S is optimized for rich media entertainment on its 9.4-inch touchscreen display and its unique asymmetric design allows for hours of comfortable use. With a powerful NVIDIA® Tegra™ 2 mobile processor, the Sony Tablet S lets you enjoy the web as well as your favorite content and applications on its large, high-resolution screen and built-in Wi-Fi® compatibility means Internet connectivity virtually anywhere there’s a hotspot.

Available in 2012 exclusively on AT&T’s mobile broadband network, Sony Tablet P is ideal for mobile communication and entertainment. With its revolutionary folding design and two 5.5-inch displays, it can easily fit into a pocket, purse or backpack. Sony Tablet P is both Wi-Fi and 3G/4G capable allowing users access to digital content including videos, games, and e-mail, while on the go, nearly anytime. Taking advantage of its unprecedented design, Sony Tablet P allows for dual screen functionality  within specific applications, , such as playing games on one screen while using the other as a controller or reading e-mail on one screen while using the other as a software keyboard.

For additional contest details, please visit the ‘Adobe AIR App Challenge, Sponsored by Sony’ website at http://airappchallenge.com. For more information on Adobe AIR, go to www.adobe.com/products/air.html.


* Requires signing a premium promotional agreement with Sony

News from Adobe MAX

- Flash Player 11 and AIR 3 available later today

- Flash-based apps live on Samsung SmartTVs; LG and TiVo latest partners to support AIR on TVs, digital home devices

- Adobe enters into an agreement to acquire Nitobi, creator of PhoneGap

Adobe MAX is in full swing in LA and CTO Kevin Lynch kicked off today’s opening keynote. You can tune into the keynotes on both days live and on-demand through MAX Online. Here’s a rundown of the Flash, AIR, and HTML5 news:

Flash Player 11 and AIR 3 will be available for download tonight at 9:00 p.m. PT for desktops and supported mobile platforms, including Android and the Amazon Marketplace. A production release with support for 3D for mobile platforms is expected to ship in an upcoming release. As we recently announced, dozens of new features allow developers to deliver a new class of gaming and premium video experiences, as well as sophisticated, data-driven apps with back-end systems integration across devices and platforms including Android, Apple iOS (via AIR), BlackBerry Tablet OS, Mac OS, Windows and connected TVs and others. For more specifics on new features like 3D support visit the AIR and Flash Player Team Blog. For more details about amazing 3D apps already available today, visit Adobe’s Gaming Solutions site or check out our demo video (link below)

Demo video of Flash-based apps with 3D graphics and others running on a Samsung Smart TV and other devices:

We are also thrilled to announce that Flash-based entertainment apps are available on Samsung Smart TVs today and that LG and TiVo have become the latest partners to bring Flash based apps to connected TVs and digital home devices. With more than 100 unique digital home devices already certified to support Flash and AIR, we expect rapid growth for Flash based apps across connected TVs. New gaming apps like Frima Studio’s Zombie Tycoon, VH1’s ‘I Love the 80’s’ Trivia or Raider from PlayJam, as well as premium video experiences from SnagFilms, Flingo, EPIX and others are just a few of the apps powered by AIR. Also, check out what some of our partners have announced around Flash Player 11 and AIR 3 including a demo of new 3D apps shown at MAX:

Watch this video to see some examples of how Flash is driving 3D experiences on the web:

We’d also like to congratulate the winners of the “Adobe Flash/AIR” competition in the fourth annual BlackBerry Partners Fund Developer Challenge. Apps were judged based on quality and use of development best practices, level of visual appeal, user experience, and creativity and innovation. Read the announcement and check out these winning apps on the BlackBerry PlayBook from BlackBerry App World.

HTML5

We are also excited to announce an agreement to acquire privately held Nitobi Software, the creator of PhoneGap and PhoneGap Build. PhoneGap is a popular open source platform for easily building fast, cross-platform mobile applications with HTML5 and JavaScript. With PhoneGap, Adobe will offer developers the choice of two powerful solutions for cross-platform development of native mobile apps, using HTML5 and JavaScript with PhoneGap or using Flash with AIR. The acquisition is subject to certain closing conditions and is expected to close by the end of October 2011.

Adobe also released a third public preview of Adobe Edge, the new HTML5 web motion and interaction design tool that is bringing beautiful animation to websites and mobile apps using HTML, JavaScript and CSS capabilities. The new release contains innovative interactivity features and other additions based on feedback from the development community, and helps content creators easily deliver a new level of visual richness to HTML5-only websites and mobile apps.

Follow MAX from Wherever You Are

This is only part of the day one news at Adobe MAX, but things are off to an exciting start! For all the news, visit the Adobe Conversations Blog. You can follow MAX online through the keynote video streams, Facebook, Twitter (#AdobeMAX) and YouTube. There’s even a live radio and podcast stream from the show floor, courtesy of Nerd Radio and CodeBass Radio so tune in. We’ll have more news from MAX this week so check back to the Flash Platform Blog for updates!

[UPDATED: 10/5/11 at 7:15 p.m. PT]

MAX Showcase App Winners for the Adobe AIR App Challenge, Sponsored by Sony, Revealed

We’re very excited to announce the Adobe MAX Showcase App winners, part of the Adobe AIR App Challenge, Sponsored by Sony! These ten individuals submitted working versions of their AIR apps earlier this month, and a number of them have already been submitted via Android Market to run on the new Sony Tablets S (available now) and Sony Tablet P (coming soon). They have also won a full conference pass and paid travel to MAX and qualify for the MAX Public Favorite vote prize of $10,000 plus additional prizes.

Here’s the prologue to a five-episode story called “Two Will,” featuring the new Sony Tablets:

If you happen to be at MAX, be sure to check out their apps at the Adobe AIR App Challenge, Sponsored by Sony booth in the MAX Community Pavilion. The winners themselves will be presenting and demoing their apps in the booth on Mon Oct 3 6:00-8:00pm PST and Tues Oct 4, 12:30-2:00pm PST. And don’t forget to vote for your favorite app to win the MAX Public Favorite prize of $10,000. Cast your vote by 6:00pm PST on October 4 here! And here are your MAX Showcase Apps and developers:

Age of Defender, CUKETA: A multiplayer tower defense game, where you can protect your base and conquer your opponents.

Cassandra Stand – News & Clock, Small Screen Design: An elegant, cross-platform mobile app transforming your tablet into a useful and visually appealing stand with Date & Clock, Weather Forecast and Top Stories from more than 50 countries.

Conqu, AsFusion: An easy-to-use yet powerful task management app that will help you conquer your inbox with style.  

Conveyor, drMikeyStudios: An addictive word game, where you race against the clock to score the most points!

On AIR powered by Last.fm, Patrick Heinzelmann: Browse the latest information about artists, tracks, album or events while listening to your favorite music.

QueueManager, UnitedMindset: Connect, browse, search, manage and watch your Netflix Queue on the go.

SnackJack, Masque Publishing: Take your pigs to county fairs, fatten them up and retire your champion swine in style!

Studiopass, VIEWPARTNERS LIMITED: Real-time, user-friendly cloud based content sharing & collaboration for the visual media professional.

SylvestersBand, Uncle Handsalt (MortenSandholt on Android Market): An interactive book for children ages 2-7, with 35+ pages and English voiceover.  

TweetHunt, RED Interactive Agency: A classic shooting gallery game powered by Twitter.

Don’t worry—it’s not too late to submit for the Adobe AIR App Challenge and win up to $200,000 in total cash prizes plus featured app promotion on the Sony Tablets! To be selected as a finalist, be sure to submit your app or app project by Oct 10. For more information, visit http://www.airappchallenge.com/. Good luck!

Flash Rocks on Facebook – www.Flash-Rocks.com

If you’ve visited our Flash Platform Facebook Page recently, you may have noticed a new addition (in the left navigation) – Adobe Flash Rocks Facebook Tab. This new tab is the destination to showcase and submit amazing multiplatform mobile apps created with Adobe Flash Platform technologies – and give credit to the awesome developers who created them. We’ve aggregated the awesome apps we’ve been sharing on our ‘Flash Rocks Fridays’ so check them out and submit more! You don’t need a Facebook account to use the Tab — simply visit www.flash-rocks.com.

Submitting applications is easy. Simply fill out the form on the tab (i.e., provide your project URL, a brief description, contact details and an image), and it will be submitted to our team. Once approved, your applications might get featured in the ‘Gallery,’ where Fans can vote for their favorite projects using Facebook’s ‘Like’ functionality. The five most ‘Liked’ applications will be given special recognition at the top of the Tab in a section entitled, ‘The Five Most Rockin’, so there’s definitely an opportunity for your app to be highlighted!

What’s more, we’re going to be featuring a few of the submitted apps at MAX this year at the MAX Entertainment Lounge in the Community Pavilion. Swing by, check it out, and submit an app. You could score a 15% discount coupon redeemable at the Adobe.com store if you have a mobile app that is (or will be) available on at least two platforms – Android, iOS and/or BlackBerry Tablet OS!

Also, if you’re attending MAX in LA next week, be sure to stop by our Flash Jeopardy game show on Tuesday, October 4 from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. at the MAX Entertainment Lounge inside the Community Pavilion. We’ll be pitting members in our development community against one another to see who reigns as our Flash expert!

Flash Support on Windows 8 and Metro

We expect Windows desktop to be extremely popular for years to come (including Windows 8 desktop) and that it will support Flash just fine, including rich web based games and premium videos that require Flash. In addition, we expect Flash based apps will come to Metro via Adobe AIR, much the way they are on Android, iOS and BlackBerry Tablet OS today, including the recent number one paid app for the iPad on the Apple App Store, Machinarium, which is built using Flash tools and deployed on the Web using Flash Player and through app stores as a standalone app.

Adobe is about enabling content publishers and developers to deliver the richest experiences for their users, independent of technology, including HTML5 and Flash. We are working closely with Microsoft, Google, Apple and others in the HTML community to drive innovation in HTML5, to make it as rich as possible for delivering world-class content on the open Web and through App Stores.

We are excited about the innovation and opportunities that are available to our customers and Adobe as the web and platforms evolve across devices, including Windows 8 and Metro.

UPDATED: 9/15/11

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.

EPIX and the Adobe Flash Platform Engage Movie Buffs Across Multiple Devices

Today’s technology savvy audiences want to experience content across multiple platforms and devices, and are beginning to move away from passive forms of entertainment—they want to participate and interact with others to shape their experience. EPIX—a multi-platform premium entertainment channel, video-on-demand, and online service– teamed up with Adobe to bring current releases, classics, and original entertainment to all video platforms—linear TV, on demand, online, and mobile—while also encouraging social integration and sharing to reach the broadest audience possible.

With the Adobe Flash Platform, EPIX, a joint venture of Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate, and MGM Studios, was given the necessary tools to create and carry out broadband authentication systems to over 30 million U.S. homes through its distribution partners including Charter Communications, Cox Communications, DISH Network, Mediacom Communications, NCTC, Suddenlink Communications, and Verizon FiOS with little to no development effort.

Using multiple Adobe technologies such as  Adobe Flash Professional, Adobe AIR, Adobe Flash Media Server, Adobe Flex, Adobe Flash Builder, and Adobe Flash Player, EPIX delivers content beyond the Web by building a library of available movie titles, which are encoded for delivery to a specific platform across different devices like Motorola XOOM, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and Boxee Box. One of the notable capabilities in EPIX is “Screening Room: Watch With Friends,” a feature that includes sharing capabilities allowing users to watch movies in a social event, turning the experience into a more into viral, interactive, and engaging gathering. The Screening Room is great for large-scale events like concerts on-demand to bring fans together.

Learn more about how EPIX how it provides premium HD content to its subscribers on devices everywhere here.

Flash Game License and the Adobe Flash Platform Match Game Development with Marketing Savvy

Creating games is the easy part for developers, but finding ways to make money from their games is challenging because of resources and limited marketing experience. Marketers, on the other hand, don’t necessarily have the expertise to develop games, but they need them to drive traffic online for their brands. FlashGameLicense.com (FGL), an online marketplace engineered by the Adobe Flash Platform, brings them together.

Created by two previous independent game developers, FGL offers Adobe Flash game developers a venue to post games and an opportunity for sponsors to shop for games to feature on their sites. Lucrative deals between companies such as ArmorGames, Disney, Kongregate, Microsoft, The Cartoon Network, Viacom (AddictingGames) and Yahoo and tens of thousands of independent developers have been brokered throughout the years.

The Adobe Flash Platform helps both groups reap the benefits. Adobe Flash Player’s reach helps companies and their developer partners ensure the widest reception and best performance across multiple platforms. Mentorship, centralized technical resources, peer review and analytics provided to developers guarantee that the best game possible goes live. The quality of the site and its games are such that 30 percent of FGL users come back and uniquely visit the site monthly.

FGL’s strength is allowing developers to focus on what they do best—creating games. For example, Berzerk Studios created the hit games, “Homerun in Berzerk Land” and “Gunbot,” leaving marketing and monetization to the FGL platform. The games, sponsored by SlixMedia, have received 15 million and 16 million plays respectively. The team’s also excited about future endeavors into multi-screen and multiplatform Flash game development. FGL encouraged former game hobbyist-turned-developer Ben Olding to release “Warlords: Call to Arms,” which has accumulated 121 million plays in less than two years and still enjoys about 50,000 plays a day.

Adobe is also proud to work with FGL to further mobile game development. Last year, Adobe sponsored FGL’s contest, “Cell Your Flash Game,” to encourage more mobile game development. The competition generated 260 submissions either built from scratch or ported to mobile from web, up from its original goal of 150 entries.

To learn more about how FGL works with the Flash Platform to effectively match independent developers and designers with sponsors to not only deliver the best game experiences but also effectively monetize them, visit here.