GameMaker: Studio introduces YoYo Compiler and cross-platform Shader support

Image via YoYo Games

Image via YoYo Games

YoYo Games, maker of the 2D games creation engine GameMaker: Studio, has announced the engine’s largest update since launching in May 2012. The Version 1.2 update brings the YoYo Compiler to developers, allowing projects to run 100x faster across all supported platforms, including mobile devices.

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Disney Interactive launches storytelling app Story for iOS

Disney Story app iconDisney Interactive today launched Story for iOS, a storytelling app that accesses a user’s camera roll of photos and videos on their mobile device and automatically organizes their media into stories, which can be personalized, saved and shared.

Disney senior director of engineering Scott Gerlach told Inside Mobile Apps that “We realized that parents were collecting media on their phones at a rate even greater than the typical smartphone user. They were drowning in this sea of personal media and feeling pressure from their family and friends to share that.”

Gerlach, who works for Disney’s parent-oriented group called Women and Family, explains that although Story is geared toward moms and parents, the app is for everyone.Disney Story screenshot

Story is broken up into two sections — Moments and Stories. Moments are pieces of media from a user’s camera roll that is automatically pulled together based on a piece of media’s time stamp and location tag by Disney’s proprietary algorithm. The developers classified a moment as something that can’t span more than a calendar day, and no piece of media in a series collected within that time span can have a gap of more than a certain amount of time or distance. Once a moment is collected, a user can turn it into a story. Users can drag and drop media around, edit a title, add captions, and give their story a theme, which consists of fonts, colors, backgrounds and photo treatments. Gerlach says Disney will later allow users to add vocal annotations, music and other forms of media, to their stories. (more…)

Ludei adds 3D support to its HTML5 platform

ludei_logo

HTML5 platform provider Ludei today announced it’s adding 3D support to its game development platform, allowing developers to deliver WebGL 3D games to most smartphones and tablets.

Ludei’s platform will support 3D games using the open WebGL standard, a JavaScript API and the browser equivalent of OpenGL, used in triple-A console and PC games.

“Our 3D rendering allows today’s most popular mobile devices to run a 3D HTML5 game with the same great user experience and performance that native gamers are used to.” Ludei CEO Eneko Knorr said.

Developers can use Ludei’s technology to deliver their 3D titles cross-platform to Google Play, the Apple App Store and more. Developers interested in using Ludei’s new 3D technology can get started here.

Ludei is showing off its new product at GDC 2013 in San Francisco. We’ll have more on it on Wednesday when the show floor opens.

We last heard from Ludei when it announced the Ludei Cloud Compiler, which allows developers to build games and web apps as HTML5-based projects and then turn them into native apps that can be easily distributed to the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Comics subscription service Marvel Unlimited releases for iOS

Marvel Unlimited app iconMarvel Entertainment today released Marvel Unlimited on the Apple App Store for iPhone and iPad, a digital comics subscription program.

Marvel Unlimited already exists as a browser-based service, but now its coming to mobile devices, with access to 13,000 back issues as of today and syncs all downloaded comics across all devices. If a user is already paying for a subscription for the web-based version, they can use the same subscription for the mobile app. Marvel Unlimited’s subscription is priced at $10 a month or $60 a year, for a limited time.

Marvel Unlimited isn’t without limitations. At launch, users can only make available six issues for offline reading, according to Gizmodo. Also, the comics available for reading in Marvel Unlimited are at least six months old, from its original printing. Some major titles such as the entire Iron Man collection aren’t available for the service either. Technology-wise, the app is built in HTML5, and not in an native format such as Objective-C for iOS or Java for Android.

Marvel Unlimited will be competing with other comic reading apps available for both iOS and Android such as Comics by Comixology, DC Comics by DC Entertainment and Marvel’s own Marvel Comics.

Marvel Unlimited will be coming to Android soon.

AppGlu platform aims to help mobile app developers and business people with speeding up development time and post-launch operations

AppGlu logoAppGlu today released its new mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) that aims to help mobile app developers and business people with speeding up development time and post-launch operations. AppGlu is a San Francisco-based company, which spun out from ArcTouch, a mobile app developer that makes apps for other companies like the Chatter app for Salesforce, the Star Trek PADD app for CBS and the native mobile app for Walmart.

To help steer an app to success post-launch, the company developed a dashboard for its AppGlu product dubbed Control Center, which has three components to it. First, is the Control Center’s content component, allowing anyone, such as business people who work on a mobile app, to update and publish new content for an app without going through mobile app developers. Content is updated dynamically, meaning the mobile app doesn’t have to be updated in the app store and re-downloaded by consumers in order to make changes. Second, is the engagement component, where business people can see their user engagement metrics via graphs, reports and more to understand how content is performing. For example, in ArcTouch’s Star Trek PADD app, business people can see which captain from each of the Star Trek series is most popular among users. Lastly, the insights component allows business people to segment their app’s user base, so they can target and then send personalized content or push notifications to customers to improve things such as engagement and retention.

“What we found in our experience at ArcTouch is that companies spend a lot of time thinking about the development and the launch phases of their app’s lifecycle, but they don’t spend much time thinking about what happens after they launch it,” says Adam Fingerman, co-founder and CEO of AppGlu. “The post-launch management and maintenance is where apps truly succeed or fail.”

For developers in particular, AppGlu’s Content Sync Engine feature, which is patent-pending, allows developers to speed up development time by creating what AppGlu calls a “connected app.” Basically, developers can sync and integrate their app’s locally stored data — from either Core Data for iOS apps or SQLite for Android apps — to a managed backend database in the cloud run by AppGlu, creating a connected app in the same way a developer would create a non-connected local app.

“The real magic and the heavily lifting is done through the Sync Engine,” Fingerman says. “When you’re building an app, you have a local data model. We’ve mirrored the cloud data model to your local model using the Sync Engine.”

There are competitors to AppGlu that provide the same solutions for mobile app development on an individual basis. Competitors like Flurry, Google Analytics and Mixpanel provide business insights for mobile apps.

“The difference between us and traditional analytics is that we’re not capturing taps and page views,” says Eric Shapiro, co-founder and chief technology officer of AppGlu. “Instead, we are capturing how users are using the content. We call that content analytics. It’s automatic and it’s based on the actual content that’s being delivered through the dynamic content aspect.”

Shapiro says he doesn’t suggest that mobile app developers replace their existing analytics with AppGlu. He adds that AppGlu is a complimentary solution that gives people different and useful information. There’s also competitors to AppGlu in the user engagement space such as Xtify and Urban Airship, which handle push notifications for mobile apps. AppGlu’s differentiator with push notifications is its ability to analyze a particular push notification that’s driving a user to a specific piece of content, and how that all directly relates to the ROI of the push notification. Lastly, there are many cloud-based CMS companies for mobile apps, but none of those companies allow its customers to modify content without the help of a developer, Fingerman says.

Fingerman says AppGlu is meant specifically for content-centric apps — such as product catalog, sales brochure, marketing, HR, event apps and more — for the B2E, B2B or B2C space. Apps already using AppGlu include the previously mentioned Star Trek PADD app.

Developers interested in the service can go here to learn about the service’s cost and to download its lightweight, open-source (under the Apache license) SDKs for iOS, Android or HTML5 apps or pre-written sample apps with full source code.

Mobile apps news roundup: Mobile World Congress 2013 edition

Waze logo

Waze wins ‘Best Overall Mobile App’ award – The GSM Association (GSMA) announced at this week’s Mobile World Conference, which it organizes, in Barcelona that social navigation app Waze took home the Global Mobile Awards “Best Overall Mobile App” award.

firefox

Device manufactures pledge support for Firefox operating system – Device manufactures LG, ZTE, Huawei and TCL (aka Alcatel) all pledged its support to build devices that will run the upcoming open-source Firefox mobile OS, which supports web-based programming languages like HTML5 and JavaScript.

intel

Intel lifts the lid off Atom processor for mobile – Intel lifted the lid off its dual-core Atom processor, which it has developed for mainstream smartphones and Android tablets. The world’s largest chip maker will be throwing its hat in the mobile processor ring, which is already filled with the likes of Qualcomm, Nvidia, Samsung, Marvell and more.

samsung

Samsung sets Galaxy S IV unveiling for March 14 – Although the announcement was made just before the Mobile World Congress event, Samsung announced that it will hold an event in New York City on March 14 to unveil the Galaxy S IV smartphone.

nokia-logo

Nokia and Samsung reveal budget phones – Finnish-based Nokia and Samsung both revealed new budget phones. First, Samsung’s Galaxy Fame budget phone packs a single-core 1GHz processor and runs the latest version of Android Jelly Bean, while the Nokia 520 is a Windows Phone 8 that features a 4-inch screen and five megapixel camera.

samsung

Samsung reveals Galaxy Not 8.0 – Samsung revealed the Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet at the MWC this week. The tablet, which features an 8-inch screen, a 1.6GHz quad-core process and 2GB of RAM, looks to compete with Apple’s iPad Mini tablet for the mid-sized tablet market crown.

Kik Messenger expands functionality with ability to share media via Kik Cards

Kik Interactive announced today a new update to its iOS and Android Kik Messenger app, expanding beyond messaging with the ability to share videos, sketches and images through Kik Cards.

Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston told Inside Mobile Apps that Kik Messenger hasn’t been updated in almost a year and a half since the addition of group messaging, aside from minor updates to make the app faster and cleaner. He added that the company’s slogan for the app is “simple but perfect.”

“It’s what people want in a messenger,” he says. “It’s two buttons and a list of conversations. I’ve seen a lot of other apps start with something very simple and then ruin it over time by adding stuff to it.”

The only difference in the new version is a slide-in and slide-out handle UI on the lefthand side of the app. This is where users can access their Kik Cards. Livingston described Cards as “mini experiences built around a particular piece of content.” The initial three Kik Cards are Image Search (powered by Bing’s image search API), YouTube and Sketches. Users can access Cards by sliding out the handle and tapping “More.” Users will see a list of all available Cards and can pick and choose the Cards they want to add to their Deck. Within every Card, there’s a “Kik” button in the top right of the screen, which sends the piece of content to a Kik friend. If a user is sent message that uses a Card they don’t have, that user will receive the Card automatically. Livingston says the company eventually wants to add tens to hundreds of more Cards, covering such things as restaurant reviews, recipes, events photo albums and more.Kik Cards screenshot

“A use can have a mini experience completely dedicated to Youtube videos, but when they are done, the core Kik experience is identical — clean, simple, two buttons and a list of conversations,” he says.

With only a 20-person team and the ambition to make more Cards, Kik Interactive had to figure out a way to build Cards rapidly and for multiple platforms. Their solution: build the Cards using HTML5. Although Livingston says, “the big problem with HTML5 is it just sucks.” So the team built their own libraries and tools from scratch that use HTML5 as its code base in order to develop HTML5 features that feel indistinguishable from a native app, not something that feels broken or slow.

“We’ve figured out how to add all these features without hurting simplicity, but also how to build these features very quickly because its all web,” he says.Kik YouTube Card message screenshot

The Canadian startup company doesn’t monetize with Kik Messenger. Livingston said the company came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to monetize the core messenger. He used ICQ and Windows Messenger as examples of messaging services that never monetized. Livingston believes Kik Cards could be their avenue to start generating revenue. He said one possibility could be building a Card around a specific type of branded content. He used Converse’s website shoe customizer as an example. The company could develop a Converse shoe customizer Card where a user can send their friend a custom shoe they designed.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based Kik, which was founded in 2009, has reached 30 million registered users to date, with 100,000 new users signing up every day for the past several months.

Kik Interactive received $8 million in Series A in March 2011 led by RRE Ventures, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures.

Appcelerator: developers disappointed with HTML5, Facebook’s mobile strategy

Unsatisfactory experiences are turning mobile app developers off HTML5 and away from Facebook reports Appcelerator.

The mobile app development platform provider polled over 5,000 of its customers for its Q3 2012 Mobile Developer report. According to Appcelerator principle mobile strategist Mike KIng, almost 60 percent of his company’s customers have tried working with HTML5, but technical issues are quickly souring feelings towards the platform.

“We get a lot of our customers come to us after they try and do something in HTML5 and they say they just can’t accomplish the things that they need to do from an application perspective — whether it be UI, security or distribution — with HTML5,” says King.

Appcelerator’s customers ranked themselves as neutral to dissatisfied with HTML5’s performance on seven out of nine standard development platform features. The least popular feature was monetization, with 83.4 percent of developers indicating they were either neutral or dissatisfied with HTML5’s performance, followed by security (81.8 percent either neutral or dissatisfied), then fragmentation (75.4 percent neutral or dissatisfied).

Appcelerator developers were also disappointed with Facebook’s mobile strategy. 66 percent of those polled believe the company — which recently backed away from its HTML5-focused mobile strategy in favor of native app development, likely due to the same problems Appcelerator developers identified with the platform — is at risk of disruption from a mobile-centric social network.

“The majority of developers feel that Facebook has not done a good job at interfacing with them, enabling them or giving them tools,” explains King. “They need to have a much more prescriptive engagement model with developers. They can’t just do what they’ve done in the past, which is say ‘here’s the graph, have at it!’ That doesn’t give developers meaningful ways to interact with the social graph — that’s just a library of APIs.”

According to King, Facebook’s has made a misstep with its mobile strategy so far, which has been centered around making a smaller version of the Facebook website to mobile via an HTML5-based app. “If you think about it, you’re going to access Facebook more frequently on your mobile device than you will on your home computer. If the frequency of interaction is higher, you want to make sure that interaction is rich, compelling and contextual,” he says. Facebook’s earlier decisions to develop its iOS, Android and mobile web apps differently have also negatively impacted developer’s opinions of the company.

Facebook has made strides to improve its mobile experience recently, ditching HTML5 when it upgraded its iOS app to version 5.0 and committing to an accelerated Android app development schedule, but it appears both shareholders and developers are still dubious about the company’s mobile expertise.

Ludei expands HTML5 platform offering to all web apps, brings cloud compiler into open beta

HTML5 platform provider Ludei is expanding its services to include both web app and game development tools. As part of that move, starting today the company’s new HTML5-based cloud compiler is available via a free, open public beta.

The Ludei Cloud Compiler allows developers to build games and web apps as HTML5-based projects and then turn them into native apps that can be easily distributed to the iTunes App Store and Google Play. Ludei reports more than a dozen apps have already been created using the compiler.

The tool is the first in what the company promises will be a new series of cloud service tools designed specifically for HTML5-based games and web apps. Ludei plans to roll out several more HTML5 platform tools between now and the end of the year.

Formed in 2008, Ludei got its start as an HTML5 game developer, releasing titles like iBasket, Slide Soccer and Sumon. Recently however, the company has changed its focus, and is now concentrating on providing HTML5 development tools and platform services.  In July Ludei released an open-source HTML5 game engine called the CAAT that allows developers to use pre-designed pieces of code in order to speed the development process. Those interested in the Ludei Cloud Compiler can learn more by visiting the company’s website.

YoYo Games makes cross-platform development more affordable with GameMaker: Studio

This week, YoYo Games is officially launching GameMaker: Studio, a new development tool designed to let developers create casual and social games for a wide array of platforms.

GameMaker: Studio is the next version of 2D drag-and-drop game development tool GameMaker. Originally created in 1999 by professor Mark Overmars, YoYo Games acquired the license in 2007. This new version of the program provides developers with the options to export native titles to most platforms, including HTML 5, Facebook canvas (as seen with YoYo’s own Grave Maker), Android, iOS, Windows and OS X.

German developer Handy Games has partnered with YoYo Games to use GameMaker: Studio to create a new, as-yet-unnannounced role-playing game, but YoYo Games CEO Sandy Duncan tells us the tool is primarily intended for small companies working on a budget. According to Duncan, creating a cross-platform casual game with GameMaker: Studio can cost less than $10,000 in total. A more labor intensive social game can be done for under $50,000.

In the low-end of the game development market GameMaker: Studio could prove to be serious competition for companies like Unity Technologies and GameSalad. Priced under a modular model the base price for GameMaker: Studio is $99, which allows developers to export to Windows and OS X. HTML 5 is another $99, while iOS and Android cost $199 each. All-in, the entire platform is a one-time purchase of less than $600, compared to $1500 for Unity Pro and GameSalad Pro’s yearly subscription rate of $299.

 

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