Kraft NFL Huddle To Fight Hunger Augmented Reality Game Goes Live

The latest project of mine to go live is a cool little "Augmented Reality" game that I coded in conjunction with Total Immersion and Producto studios.  The game uses the Total Immersion Augmented Reality web-cam technology to control the action rather than simply using the mouse.  This means that you become part of the action as your face is plastered behind the game screen as you use a printed page to control the game cursor.

The game requires a web cam and the "Play Book" cover page that is downloadable on the game page.  It is a charity to combat hunger, so be warned that it will probably ask you for a donation.

First it will ask you for the location of your web cam. My iMac iSight worked perfectly in Chrome with the "dv" option. You can see The Total Immersion seamless Augmented Reality technology above. I'm hiding behind the "play book" cover page that is used instead of the mouse to control the game.

There I am again. The game is a little bit like a combination of "Kaboom" and "Guitar Hero". On the first level you need to catch the words to the phrase "Let's Huddle To Fight Hunger" in order. If you do well enough the little people at the bottom get really really excited and will dance and sing and chant.

This is level two. On this level you must catch Kraft food items and hopefully a "Star" icon. If you do well and catch the star, the little people at the bottom will do the "Wave".

At the end of each level, Kool-Aid Man comes out and leads the players in a unique cheer per level.

On the 3rd and final level you must catch footballs that are thrown from the crowd before they pound your little people at the bottom of the game screen. On a side note, I used the Bezier Curve algorithm from Steve's HTML 5 Canvas Physics chapter (in our forthcoming O'Reilly Book)  to create some nasty curves for the footballs.

This was a dream project to work on that included new technology and some of the biggest brands in the world. I can't say enough great things about the Total Immersion team or my Producto partners. It was a blast.


Help me find a good AS3 IDE On The Mac

For the last three years I was very happy using the incredible Flash Develop via Parallels and XP on my Mac. I would use Flash CS3 in OSX to create and edit assets and then tie the whole project together with FlashDevelop in XP. Although Flash Develop is free, I did donate do them and will do so again if I can get it to solve my current problem.

You see, Parallels has become a monster on my system. When it is not running, my Mac works fine, when it is running, I can't do anything on the Mac and XP is pretty slow. It seems like this happens right about the time of a Parallels update (they have a new version I can upgrade to right now). I'm not blaming them, but I assume that maybe Paralleles VMs get bloated and unusable after 9 months (about the Parallels version release cycle). Flash Develop in Parallels also started to have problems with my build folders being shared between the Mac and Windows which is a huge pain in the ass. For the final project I did with Flash Develop I had to have an SVN checkout folder + a local Flash Develop project folder plus a Mac project folder. Keeping all three in-sync was a huge pain in the ass.

A few weeks back I purchased Flash CS5 in OSX and attempted to use it's Project Panel to build an application. It works ok, but it lacking some of the more refined features of Flash Develop - understanding my package structure completely, showing my Static constants as I type and other various little details.

I figured that I should try out Flash Builder and see it if can do everything I want. I Have two projects that I am currently building with Flash Builder and I am not really getting into it. For one, it has the same problems as the Flash IDE project panel - not recognizing my project structure completely and not showing static constants in the current class, but also projects don't seem to be as portable as Flash Develop projects. There certainly are some nice features, but it is still Eclipse and I really dislike the interface and especially the little things like the atrocious "Find and Replace" functions.

I did test FDT for a couple days (4 months ago) but it still is Eclipse based and I want to stay away from that as much as possible. If anyone has used it for a lot of AS3 and can give it a good word I will test it again.

There are some other options put there: IntelliJ looks promising, but I will need time to figure out the build process and AS3 integration.

What I would like is this: Flash Develop on the Mac, and I am willing to pay for it. That might mean I have to upgrade to the latest Parallels, change to a Windows 7 VM and try again. Has anyone out there use Parallels in this manner and been able to share project folders seamlessly? If so, I will try it.

What other good solutions are there? I am willing to pay, so I don't need free tools, I just need good ones.


Adobe Max Day 2: Dave Berzack And Filthy Mouthed Puppets

The Adobe Max day 2 general session was a well produced set of fake TV shows designed to entertain the creative and technical class attending the event.  Most of it went of pretty well, but for me the highlights were:

  • Dave Berzack: Remember Berzack's video "Killa Appz" that came out a couple months back?  Adobe had him create several more Adobe centered videos to highlight products.  While none of them were as inspired as Killa Appz, it was great to see that Adobe recognized his talent.    Using Flash had an identical look to Killa Appz, while Abobe Air was creepily inspired.  There were a few others as well, but Adobe has not posted them yet.
  • Filthy Mouthed Puppets: (Or Muppets):  Adobe had a segment named "Technology Street" where they used a couple muppet-looking-puppets (not sure is they were actual muppets made by the Jim Henson company) to represent the battle between Flash and HTML5. The first couple segments were pretty funny, but the last one, where HTML5 and Flash break out the f-bombs (bleeped) on each other had the audience rolling.  I hope they get that one online soon too.

Anyway, I was also struck by Adobe's defensive stance with HTML5.  They claimed to be embracing it, but it was an obvious sense of "bad-will" all over the place, especially when it came to the Canvas. More on that later.

Update: Except at the sneaks they showed this: Flash-to-HTML5 .  We predicted it.

Also, Paton quest continues.  Must find the guy in the red hat...

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Geo Blaster Basic on the HTML5 Canvas

Steve and I are currently working on an HTML5 Canvas book for O'Reilly (in our spare time). It is giving us a chance to investigate the Canvas in detail and we are applying our game development skills to small and medium sized projects as examples for the book. Geo Blaster Basic is one such example project. It is a very thinly veiled copy of Asteroids (my favorite all-time video game). There are actually quite a few versions of HTML5 Asteroids out on the internet, but I didn't want to consult any of them before I built my own.

(click to play it - it will open a new page)

This gave me a chance to really dive into how the Canvas operates as a display mechanism. For the uninitiated, the HTML5 Canvas is akin to having a single Sprite object in Flash AS3. That's right, you only have one object per Canvas. This means that the developer needs to use all of the tricks in the proverbial book (hopefully our book) to make a game with multiple objects. Luckily, the Canvas architects understood this and added just enough functionality to make Flash-like games a possibility.

Geo Blaster Basic has been built with pure "paths". This means that everything is drawn as vector-like lines onto the Canvas and transformed "on-the-fly" on each frame. I have set the FrameRate to 40 and it seems to run pretty well on my 2.5 year old iMac using Safari, Chrome (some sound delay problems), Firefox, and Opera.

Game sound is a big challenge when working with HTML5 and the Canvas. Steve goes to great lengths in his sound chapter to create a sound management set of code to help alleviate some of these problems. This game features an early version of his code that is used to help sound play pretty well across the listed browsers (we have not tried it in IE 9).

A version of this game using pure tile-sheets is going to be my next project and it will be also be featured in the book. This will help alleviate the calculations necessary for drawing and transforming on each frame and hopefully make the game play better on hand-held devices.

The controls are simple: arrows (left, right, and up for thrust) and Space Top Fire.

Play It Here


Adobe Max Flash Game Update: 3D, Controllers & Terry Paton!

We just got out of the Adobe Max 2010 general session.  There was a lot of information about where Adobe is taking Flash.  They showed Google TV working with Air apps, and some really nice looking e-magazines developed with their HTML tools.  However, we are here because of Flash games, and Adobe did not let us down.

The first interesting news was upcoming support for game controllers.  They showed both joystick and steering Wheels support and hinted at support for many other input devices.  They also showed some upcoming, hardware accelerated 3D support for Flash.   It looked really good, but the best thing was that they described it as an update to the Flash Player, not the IDE.  One hopes this means that they will extend the IDE with 3D support instead of making us upgrade once again.

The coolest thing about the session though, was not the news, but the shout-out to Flash game auteur,  Terry Paton made from the stage.   Not only did they show one of Terry's games, but he got a good mention too.  My quest now:  to find Terry and shake his hand.


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Adobe Max 2010

8bitsteve will be @ Adobe Max next week in L.A., so we will try to report any public news in real-time from the conference.   This year, there is a lot of emphasis on Android, multi-player, and HTML5 tools.   Things are moving fast in our world. We'll try to get all the info as fast as possible.


Atari Haunted House – Wii Contest Winner

We'd like to congratulate Syd Lexia for his winning entry in our "Wii Atari Haunted House  Contest".  We asked readers to describe an Atari 2600 game that they wouls like to see remade in the 21st century by Atari.  Here is Syd's Idea:

Syd Lexia :Without a doubt, Swordquest 2011, with all four of the Atari 2600 cartridges being combined into either one disc or 4 separate pieces of DLC.

Not only was Swordquest overly ambitious for its time, but it was never finished. So not only would this be an upgrade, but it would finally give old school gamers a chance to play the Airworld section.

We agree.  Finishing something the original Atari started but never finished would be awesome.

Syd, please email us @ info@8bitrocket.com to claim your prize.


Mac Steam: A Bonus!

So here is something really cool I just discovered.  I decided to install the Mac version of Steam, so I could look at some downloadable games.  When I got it installed, I logged-in with the Steam account I made nearly 6 years ago when I first bought Half-Life 2 for my PC.    When I logged-in, I found out that the  Mac version was available for me to download...for free!   Now that is cool.  The honored my license, even after I moved to a new OS.  Valve rules!


PBS Kids Dr Seuss Flower Finder Goes Live

The first project of mine (from this new venture) to actually go live is The PBS Kids Dr. Seuss Flower Finder.

No, it is not an arcade game like I am used to, but I was able to complete the entire build with Flash Develop, using the CS5 IDE to prepare assets and such. I completed the code and application design for this project in coordination with the great production staff at Big Bad Tomato and Creative Bottle.

The game is very similar to the 100's of kids games and activities that I worked on for Mattel in last 13 years, so while its not as challenging as trying to blit 10,000 particles to a Canvas at 60FPS, it was a very nice transition to my new consulting gig.

There are quite a lot of assets in a production like this, so the loading times had to be carefully coordinated. The game-play coding was not overly complex, but the script timing and application flow was a little challenging and necessitated some additions to the new EFG framework as well as some additions to the SoundManager for playing random sounds and stringing a list of sounds together. I was able to make use of the built-in AS3 Transition manager class for the Iris out transitions and the wonderful Greensock library for tweens.

Here are some game-play screen shots. You can't see the beautiful View.as class that I created or my new XML parsing routine inside my Model.as, but really who needs to? This is for kids of all ages who love them a little Dr. Suess.

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Intellivision Lives DS (2010): Signed And Numbered for $19.99

Honestly, while I played the Intellivision 100's of times at my friend Eric' Barth's house back in 5th and 6th grade, I've never owned one.  At the same time, most of the retro collections of Intellivision games have not been implemented properly because it is very hard to replicate the keypad/disc controller on modern hardware.

However, the new version of Intellivision Lives for the DS just might be the perfect implementation.  Since the DS has a touch-pad AND a regular screen, the natural control of Intellivsion games can be replicated, and make them play almost like the real thing (in theory anyway, I have not tried this yet).

Right now, The IntellivisionLives web site is offering this new game in a limited edition (200 copies) that includes:

  • A numbered edition signed by original Intellivision game developer Keith Robinson
  • A "Running Man" Intellivision button
  • A $5.00 coupon for other merchandise from IntellivisionLives.com

All this for $19.99!  This is quite deal, especially if retro fans can finally play these games the way they were intended.

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