Archive for January, 2012

Q&A with esDot Studio’s Shawn Blais

We recently caught up with esDot Studio’s owner Shawn Blais to learn about some of his recent projects using Flash and AIR for game and app development. Check out the Q&A below to see what Shawn is creating, monetizing and having fun doing what  loves. Enjoy!

What is your name, company, title?

Shawn Blais, owner/coder/marketer of esDot Studio, Inc. esDot is a company I started for the sole purpose of developing cool, polished AIR apps to mobile platforms. I started serious mobile development in late 2010, since then I’ve created 5 apps and am hard at work on the 6th. I code primarily on evenings and weekends, by day I’m lucky enough to work with a fantastic team at gskinner.com here in Edmonton. Without the experience and opportunities gained there I certainly would not be where I am today.

Where are you located?

Edmonton, AB.

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

Two reasons really, efficiency and reach. Flash is so incredibly efficient at churning out high quality interactive apps, that you can literally code entire apps in a matter of 2 or 3 weeks, for me this is huge. I can use my skillset, and existing workflow to literally just fly through these apps.

In terms of reach, AIR allows me to take those 2 or 3 week apps, and deploy them to iOS, Android, BlackBerry PlayBook, Amazon Appstore and NOOK Color. That’s pretty crazy. And since there are two new markets opening up next year, Windows Metro and BlackBerry10, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to deliver my apps to those, too.

Diversifying my income across all these different app stores has really been a key part of my success. It’s been interesting to watch how different apps sell in different markets, SnowBomber for example took off pretty big on BlackBerry PlayBook, and Amazon Appstore, but was quiet everywhere else. TouchUp on the other hand, sells best on iOS. So it’s always different depending on the market, and it’s hard to predict, so it pays to just be in them all.

I looked hard at options like Corona, and Appcelerator, but I couldn’t get over the lack of strong typing in the languages, and the hit to my overall efficiency would have been massive. Also, the hard truth about HTML apps is that testing costs are massive, you really need to test on devices, on different versions of OS etc, and debugging is pretty hard, so it ends up being this monumental time drain. With AIR testing on a new device is usually just a couple hours, or even no time at all, and you get live debugging with breakpoints, so it’s usually pretty easy. That’s not to say there isn’t the odd issue that will drive you nuts, but it’s fairly rare!

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

Signing up for the various portals, and passing approval is a pretty tedious process, but once you’re all setup it’s really a breeze. The fact I can build and install an iOS app, using a Windows box, is pretty awesome. Most other development paths would force me to buy a Mac to code on (I actually did end up buying a cheap mac for $500 off eBay, in order to do the final upload to iTunes).

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

Currently I’m monetizing ColorUp Pro, TouchUp Pro, SkyTunes, SnowBomber and RedditSolitaire across various markets. Most of my apps have free and paid versions, and TouchUp Pro and SnowBomber also have In App Purchase support on iOS, using an ANE.

Adding In App Purchase, and releasing a free version TouchUp Pro was a great experiment. It nearly doubled my sales on iOS, and I now get an even split between In App Purchase, and Paid Installs.

How many people are currently using the app?

With TouchUp Pro, there are about 12,000 daily users across all platforms. SnowBomber sees about 3000-4000 players a day, most of those on PlayBook or Kindle [is this Kindle Fire?]. Across all my apps, I see about 5,000-10,000 installs a day, with around 5% of those being paid.

What drives you to create these apps/games?

Primarily it was financial, new baby, new house, so something had to give and I saw this as the road to success. Plus, I’m just a complete gadget freak, so I was incredibly passionate about mobile devices, and bringing cool new UI’s to them.

Do you have anything else up your sleeve?

I have a new Photo Editor coming out very soon which will be stunning, it’s running at 60fps and the graphics are based on Android 4.0 UI. Then it looks like we might be teaming up with the awesome artists over at Cherry Sauce (http://cherrysauce.squarespace.com/contact/) to do some fun stuff. Stay tuned!

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

Well, if you haven’t tried it lately, go for it. The performance is really great these days and the workflow is solid, it’s really improved a lot over the earlier AIR 2.7 SDK.

In terms of making money, from my experience the money is in productivity apps. Just make something really nice, really simple, that everyone needs, and you’ll do well. It doesn’t really matter if there’s good competitors in the space, because users love having choices. As long as that space is not completely oversaturated … the most saturated markets seem to be Games and Music, so maybe look elsewhere…

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Check out my blog for some tips and tricks on how to achieve fast rendering in AIR for mobile: http://esdot.ca/site/category/blog

 

 

Introducing Flash Player 11.2 and AIR 3.2 beta4

A few months ago, we shipped Flash Player 11 and AIR 3 with Stage3D support, since we shipped we have seen great response from the developers and amazing content being developed. From Zombie Tycoon, the first Stage3D game available online, we have seen tanks and zombies destroying cities, cars doing rallysBen Franklin fighting the Dead Coats. Beyond games, we’ve also seen an amazing car configurator for Nissan, and tons of creative experimentations like the Evo Particles Engine. More recently, the famous birds have also been migrated to Stage3D. So far, we have been talking with a lot of companies actually developing Stage3D content, leveraging Flash Player’s penetration, and by the end of 2011, we anticipated that over 80% had Flash Player 11 installed.

How they’re doing it is they’re developing their games for Stage3D software fallback. And then they’re using progressive enhancement to add more complex models, textures, particle effects, etc. when they detect HW-accelerated Stage3D is available. With this kind of progressive experience, you can use Stage3D to deliver the best experience to the most users (even with only software fallback) and provide the best experience for users with hardware acceleration. In addition, we’re working with framework vendors to improve performance of frameworks built on Stage3D, which benefits all Stage3D users. There are a lot of optimizations that can be done on these layers above Stage3D. For example, the latest build of the open source Starling 2D GPU framework is 400% faster than it was just a few weeks ago. You guys can take advantage of these performance enhancements immediately, without waiting for a new release of Flash Player and AIR. Recently, Ville Koskela from Rovio, shared his excitement regarding Starling and its performance boost.
Today, over 50% of users with Flash Player 11 will enjoy full hardware acceleration for Stage3D content. This is based on actual site visit data and data we have collected from partners which also corroborates our penetration models based on data we have directly from OS vendors.
But there has been a lot of discussions regarding Stage3D hardware support and the reach that Stage3D gives you today when it comes to hardware acceleration. The current Flash Player available today (11.1 – shipped in November 2011) still uses a conservative gating model to ensure best stability. We took that decision when we saw how bad some drivers could be, with some horrible inconsistencies, some could basically reboot your computer when browsing a website. We just cannot allow that. If you want more details about the drivers and chipsets we do not support, you can check this technote.I want you guys to know that we are actively making changes to Flash Player and AIR to enable HW-acceleration for always more people. Specifically, with each release we are working with graphics card partners to test and identify compatible older drivers that are currently blacklisted. Upcoming quarterly releases of Flash Player will relax the blacklisting, we are lowering the restriction from drivers older than 1/1/2009 to 1/1/2008 with Flash Player 11.2 that we are about to release in the next months.The Flash Player 11.2/AIR 3.2 beta4 we are making available today introduces this change, you should check it out. This release does not have any changes from the previous betas related to Alchemy. However, as we’ve mentioned, we are working on a solution to address some of the concerns from the Flash community and will have more to share soon.

We also want to be more aggressive and lower this even more with the next release depending on the feedback you guys will provide during the public beta.

Note that Flash Player 11.2 ships with silent auto update on Windows, meaning that future versions adoption will happen even faster. Mac support for silent auto-update will be introduced in the next release. On a side note, we are already seeing games running at 60fps on the upcoming version of AIR for mobile with Stage3D support, we are excited to share more about this very soon! ;)

2012: The Year of Gaming

Happy New Year! We’re excited to start 2012, and the holidays have brought a bushel of new games and apps, including the first version of those famously Angry Birds using Flash Player 11 and Stage3D. If you’re all revved up and looking to build something new in the coming year, see how you can publish a car visualizer to Flash in 90 seconds with Flare3D Studio Workflow.

As we announced last year, we are investing in our Flash technologies to support the kind of innovative 3D and 2D games that developers and publishers want to deliver both in browsers and through mobile apps. To give developers access to high-performance C/C++ code, we told you we’re creating an improved, paid, fully supported release of Alchemy for production development. This new addition will be available later this year and will allow developers to publish content leveraging Alchemy technology in Flash Player 11 or AIR 3 and beyond. Meanwhile, a few months ago we introduced full GPU-accelerated graphics rendering with Stage3D, which provides 1000x faster rendering performance over the previous versions of Flash Player and AIR on the desktop. Stage3D in Flash Player already enables fluid, hardware accelerated graphics for more people in more browsers than any other web technology. And we’re now seeing exciting previews of Stage3D hardware acceleration coming for mobile devices like iPhone, iPad, and Android smartphones and tablets.

See for yourself what’s happening with the latest updates to Flash Player and AIR for gaming, and jump in on the fun by checking out the beta release of Flash Player 11.2 and AIR 3.2!