02
Jul
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One of the things I’ve always loved about Flash Professional and ActionScript is just how easy it is to knock together a quick web game. Flash’s design-develop workflow always made such things a breeze. But what about HTML5? Could I use Adobe Animate CC (formerly Flash Pro) and JavaScript to create a game just as easily? Well it turns out you can, and the workflow isn’t really that much different. I spent a few weekends building a Flappy Bird clone that you can try below.

If you’d like to know more, I’m currently writing a tutorial series for Adobe’s official Animate CC blog. The first two parts will take you through the steps required to create the game’s artwork, while the remaining parts will show you how to code the game and add the audio. Part one has just gone live so please take a look and let me know what you think.

Also, if you can’t wait, then feel free to head on over to GitHub and grab the game’s source code and .fla file.

25
Jun
stored in: General and tagged: ,
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Recently I had the pleasure of spending the day with George Berkowski, the founder of IceCream and author of How to Build a Billion Dollar App. Most of the time was spent discussing app design and, in particular, what features would make first release for the latest app the team was working on.

At some point the term “minimum viable product” (MVP) started getting banded around as we struggled to decide which features to keep and which to drop. George however was very quick to interrupt. In his experience it was a dangerous term to be using and would only foster a mindset that would inevitably result in the production of a very poor product.

Instead, George insisted on the team thinking in terms of a “minimum lovable product” (MLP): What were the minimum features required for first release to make users fall in love with our product?

I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of the phrase “minimum lovable product” before but it really struck a chord with me. George was right. Almost all of us had worked on projects in the past where MVP had been the mantra. In fact, I’ve worked on several projects in the past where management even moved away from the term MVP and instead started asking for “the thinnest mint”.

All of these projects started life as very good ideas but ended up being stripped of almost everything that would make them engaging or fun for the users. I’ve seen amazingly talented people become completely demotivated churning out MVP after MVP, knowing that what they were being asked to deliver was never going to resonate with the end user. Many of you may ask, isn’t MVP and MLP the same thing? I guess in many ways it is, but more often than not, people take Minimum too literally and end up sacrificing the design and scope of a product.

Software development can be challenging. There are delivery deadlines and budget constraints to meet. For small development studios this ultimately means that it’s not going to be possible to deliver every feature they’d like for first release. But rather than build something a large number of users might like, it’s much better to build something that a small number of users will love. An MLP is more likely to gain a following and generate enough revenue to help you grow the product over time. From my own experience, an MVP almost never will.

It was really great working with George and I learned a lot from him. If you’ve got the time, spend some time watching the video from his TEDx talk above. I think you’ll learn something too. Also, if you’d like to know more about MLP then take a read of this article.

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Yeah you read the title of this post correctly. At the tail end of last year I received an urgent holographic transmission* from screenwriter and best selling novelist Ernie Cline looking for some help with his latest project. Both Ernie and his brother Eric are proud owners of DeLorean DMC-12′s (that’s right, the car from Back to the Future) and were in the process of converting one into the very first Star Wars Time Machine complete with R2-D2. How awesome is that!

So where do I fit into this? Well their Star Wars DeLorean was pretty close to perfect but the guys felt there was one thing missing. That’s right, a targeting computer. Ernie somehow found out about my X-wing Targeting Computer app and thought he’d get in touch to see if there was any way I could help out. The app isn’t available in the App Store but I was able to get a build put together for him to install on his iPhone. So now both Ernie and Eric can drive around in the coolest car in the universe knowing they can take on the Empire any time.

Check out the videos above. The first shows my targeting computer hooked up to the DeLorean while the second shows R2-D2 chirping and beeping away in the back. A huge thank you to both Ernie and Eric for letting me be a small part of their amazing project. Thanks to them my app has finally found a home.

You can find more detail about the Star Wars car on its official blog. May the Force be with you. Always.

* may be an exaggeration on my part.
07
May
stored in: Croc & Dare, General and tagged: ,
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If you’ve been following this blog from the beginning then you may remember a game I started working on called Croc & Dare. It was a collaborative effort between myself and talented illustrator, Steve Koren. Unfortunately neither of us could find the time to get it beyond the early concept stages and as the years have passed it has been largely forgotten by us both.

My brother however always thought that the game’s little monkey hero was a pretty cool character and decided to make his own indie game inspired by Dare. He’s actually been working on his game for approximately a year now and recently started a blog to document the remainder of the development process. The game itself has changed radically from the original concept and Dare himself has also changed quite a bit.

My brother’s a professional 3D modeller and animator, and his mad skills have enabled him to build a visually stunning world for Dare and the game’s other inhabitants. Take a look at the video above to see how one of the game’s earlier levels looks. He’s using Buildbox to actually build the game and I must admit I’m amazed by the actual mileage he’s getting out of this game maker tool.

He’s planning to release Dare the Monkey on iOS initially and is aiming to submit it to the App Store later this year. If you want to know more about Dare the Monkey then please check out his blog. He also Tweets as @darethemonkey where you can follow the game’s development.

It’s great to see something come out of the original game idea. Can’t wait for it’s release!

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The nice folk at Packt publishing sent me over a couple of iOS books recently to have a look over so I thought I’d write a review of each one for you guys. Today I’ll cover the first of the two books that I read: Object-Oriented Programming with Swift 2 by Gaston C Hillar.

oo-programming-swift-2-cover

The book isn’t aimed at newcomers to programming. You’ll need to know at least one other object-oriented language in order to get the most from it. That can be just about any language such as Objective-C, C++, Java, or ActionScript. Oddly however, Gaston does spend a decent amount of time explaining the basic principles and concepts of object-oriented programming, which most developers will already know. However, for reasons of completeness, it’s probably a necessary step.

As for the quality of the material, it’s mostly excellent. The majority of the chapters will have you using the Xcode Playground to work with code rather than muddy the water by having you try to write an actual app. The Playground is an ideal way to learn and will ensure that you are focussed on the Swift language at this point.

Everything you’d expect the author to cover is there plus a little bit more. One of the later chapters delves into Swift’s functional programming features, while the final chapter has you build a very simple native app to help introduce you to iOS development with Xcode. There was also a very good chapter covering generics and the book also does a good job of explaining protocols to those who aren’t familiar with them.

While I’d already consider myself more than comfortable with Swift I did pick up the occasional trick or two from the author. If you’re already an experienced Objective-C programmer and you want to learn Swift then this book is ideal. It’s also perfect for most people who know another object-oriented programming language and want to familiarise themselves with Swift.

While it’s certainly not as comprehensive as Apple’s own Swift 2 Language Guide, Object-Oriented Programming with Swift 2 does provide some focus allowing most developers to get to grips with the majority of the language relatively quickly.

A well written and enjoyable book.

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I wrote a new post for Adobe’s official Animate CC blog recently. It covers a few new features that can be found in Animate surrounding screen resolution, high-definition video export, and how to rotate the stage to make like easier when drawing.

figure-1
Export your animations to multiple screen resolutions.

While most stuff I write is about code, this one’s really more focused on things for animators and designers. But you know, it’s good to step out of your comfort zone now and again and try something a little different. Hopefully you guys will find it useful.

So if you’d like to find out more, head on over to Working across Multiple Resolutions with Adobe Animate CC on the new Adobe Animate Team Blog.

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There seems to be quite a lot of excitement surrounding the rebranding of Flash Professional CC to Adobe Animate CC. It’s also extremely pleasing to see Adobe actively promote Animate CC and also to see so much positivity from the animation and design community in general.

One thing that’s been lost somewhat in the noise of the new release is the fact that Animate CC still offers the same great development features that were provided by Flash Professional. This includes Adobe’s push towards WebGL with Animate CC’s WebGL Runtime API.

Target mobile browsers with Animate CC’s WebGL Runtime.

I’m delighted to announce that I wrote a tutorial for Adobe that takes you through the process of writing a simple WebGL beat-em up game using Adobe Animate CC. It shows how easy it is for even those with no programming experience to create simple scripts that can be used to add interactivity to a project and then export that project to the modern web without the need for a plugin.

So if you want to know how to create ‘Flash’ content that runs in a mobile web browser (yup even on iOS) then take a look at Creating Interactive WebGL Content with Adobe Animate CC on the new Adobe Animate Team Blog.

16
Feb
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Flash Professional is now Adobe Animate CC. The rebranding seems to have been met very positively by the community and it’s also extremely pleasing to see that Adobe are putting their full weight behind Animate CC. The first release of Animate CC also sees a raft of brand new features, many of which are described in the video below. I’m also delighted to say that you’ll find some WebGL content that I worked on showcased in the video too.

adobe-animate-video

It’ll be interesting to see if this brings new people to the product (it should) and it’ll also be interesting to see if AIR & ActionScript will get some much needed love at some point too. It’s great to see focus on the design and animation tools at the moment since that’s where Flash’s roots are, but as a developer I know Adobe’s platform continues to hold bags of potential in other areas too.

Looking forward to seeing what people produce with Animate CC.

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You guys been to see The Force Awakens yet? Isn’t Kylo Ren an awesome bad guy? I thought so too but it’s clear the dude isn’t very good at catching lightsabers. So I thought I’d write a little app to help Kylo complete his training. Sure, I know Supreme Leader Snoke is suppose to be helping with all that but if you wanna be a bad-ass Sith then you really need to be training even when you’re at home and lazing on the sofa. And that’s where my awesome “Kylo Ren: Force Training” app comes in handy.

I’d been wanting to tinker with Apple’s new ‘force touch’ feature for a while now but was struggling to come up with an idea that could take advantage of it. Until I saw the new Star Wars movie that is. The other thing that was stopping me was my complete lack of artist abilities. Thankfully the awesome guys at RetroStyle Games very kindly offered their amazing talents to the project.

In the app you play the role of Kylo Ren and must use the force to complete a series of tasks. Simply apply pressure to the screen in order to lift and throw objects. The more you press your finger down on the screen, the more force you’re actually applying to the target object. After a little delicate coaxing, you’ll soon have Luke’s lightsaber sticking out from the snow. Then after a little haptic feedback from the device, just apply a bit more force and watch in amazement as the lightsaber shoots out of the ground and hurtles towards you. Easy peasy!

Catch that lightsaber.

Actually, come to think of it, it’s not easy. It’s actually pretty damn hard but I guess mastering the force isn’t supposed to be easy or everyone would be doing it. I actually had Flappy Birds in mind when I was coding it up. I was wanting the app to have a slightly hardcore nature combined with that ‘just one more go’ feel. It was also important to me that there was a real sense of achievement when you finally manage to lift something off the ground or complete a task. Imagine how Luke must have felt when he was starting to get to grips with his powers!

The app’s difficulty is also a good way of measuring if someone is more inclined towards the darkness or the light. My brother is definitely in danger of being seduced by the dark side. He could only manage a high score of 2 points and threatened on more than one occasion to smash my iPhone up. I, on the other hand, am really quite good at it. My bro said it’s because I “coded the damn thing” but the truth is, I actually have real force powers.

Anyway, take a look at the video of me playing the app and let me know what you think. For those who are interested, I coded the app using Swift 2.0 and used Apple’s Sprite Kit for the graphics and game physics. The whole thing was hacked together in about a week, with a few additional weekends to get the sound dropped into it.

Destroy that BB unit.

Once again, a huge thanks to RetroStyle Games who helped make this project possible. If you like what you see in the video then please visit their site and take a look at their portfolio of amazing work. I also need to give a huge shout out to Pixel That whose excellent pixel art lightsabers I used as a reference for Luke’s lightsaber.

Oh and before anyone asks. Just like my X-wing Targeting Computer app, this new app is just a personal project and won’t be released anywhere. Sorry about that but it’s very unlikely I’ll ever be able to convince Disney to release it. Jedi mind tricks don’t seem to work on them :-)

Anyway, hope you enjoy watching the video and may the force be with you, always.

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Good news everyone! My book, Flash iOS Apps Cookbook, is available for $5 until the 8th of January. So if you’d like to learn how to build apps using Adobe AIR or simply brush up on your AIR & ActionScript skills then why not head over to Packt Publishing’s official site and grab yourself a copy.

In fact, the generous folk at Packt have actually made all their eBooks and video courses available for only $5, so even if AIR isn’t your cup of tea then I’m sure you’ll find something that will interest you.

packt-banner

If you do pick up a copy of my book then drop me a line and let me know what you think.