Escape Theory Gaming For Life… views are mine, and not affiliated with The White Agency or Nomad


Goodbye Coinland

We are saying ‘farewell’ to my proudest video game project. After four years, Coinland has closed.

Most Australians at my age would have fond memories of Commonwealth Bank initiatives that were offered to them in primary school (elementary school) such as a free ‘Dollarmites’ savings account that encouraged making small, weekly deposits during class. For four years Coinland has taken this to the next level, teaching children the importance of saving (virtual) money, earning interest, finding jobs, using ATM cards and even donating money for a selfless cause - all through a browser based video game.

For over 160,000 Aussie children, Coinland was almost certainly their first MMORPG experience, and our support team receives streams of fan-mail from parents praising Coinland, and from children who are having a ball.

When Coinland was announced to close, we received offers from parents who believed that their children have learnt so much from Coinland, that they were willing to pay a fee to keep the free game running. A child sent us an email saying how upset they were about Coinland’s closure, and how it was cruelly coinciding with their sister’s Coinland-themed birthday party.

Coinland was a winner of several Australian industry awards at launch, and just before the decision to axe Coinland, a port of the game for iOS and Android was ready for submission, which I’m certain would have been a hugely successful evolution of the game.

I’m proud to have been part of Coinland, and I wish that you could have experienced it too.

See Coinland being played by an expert here!



Moving from ActionScript to Lua

So I've finally started to build my next game with Corona SDK. I don't develop on Mac very often, but since I positively need the next game to play on iOS, there's little choice!

First impressions of Lua are kinda meh - I think AS3's strict typing has turned me into an ECMA Script Nazi. In the first few tutorials, I keep finding myself trying to typeset my variables.

Listeners are taking a little effort to get used to, and no semi-colons after each line? This will take a little time!

I blame most of my problems on the lacklustre features of TextMate + Lua bundle, compared with FlashBuilder. There's just no replacement for drop-menu code hints. Huh... that's right, maybe I should download Eclipse and find a Lua plugin instead.

Will post more about my new quest!

UPDATE: got Eclipse running with LUA plugin, but no Corona specific hinting...




first published on whitelabs

Are you ready to go BONKERS?

I'm proud to launch Bonkers the Clown for Android!

Using the same addictive formula we know and love from Zombie Ninjas, our talented Scotty Nolan has reskinned the entire game with his Clown-ification of the game, which I must admit is very fitting!

Making his musical debut is Paul Fiore, and he kinda helped out with some copy too... even though the game was not available on his iPhone.

It's free! Download it (and 5-star it!) if you have an Android phone!


RIA, Animation and Industry Processes

This week I presented a guest lecture for the firstyear students at the UNSW school of media. It was a pleasant trip down memory lane as I visited the same school I graduated a few years back.

Brigid Costello, my lecturer, generously allowed me to set the students' Flash assessment task, so I look forward to seeing the result of their work.

Unlike the previous years, a much smaller group of the students were actually looking to pursue a career in animation or web development. In fact, the majority of the students turned out to be journalism majors, so I did my best to tailor my presentation for the writers in the room.

After working in the industry for almost 5 years, the process of design, development, approval and deployment had been drummed into my approach to work, so it took some time to put myself into the shoes of a uni student once again.

The life of students are jam packed with parties, drinks and the occasional assessment, so I did my best to emphasise the importance of actually planning out projects before diving into them. Secondly, I kept bringing up the importance of open communication to the client and getting consistent feedback. Of course, the theme was not just applicable to Flash or digital advertising, but to everything in general.

Judging from the oohs and aahs when I showcased some of our work, I think I got at least some attention to the importance of approaching work in a structured manner, but I think the real test would be to see the quality of the Flash assessments created by a class of journalism majors in 2 weeks' time.

Will post updates!


Flash vs HTML5 (vs Silverlight, vs AJAX…)

People who want HTML5 to replace Flash have no heart.

People who want to get rid of Flash have no brain.

As little as two years ago, very few people would have questioned the dominance of Flash as a solution to rich user experiences. In fact, it had an adoption rate so far ahead of its perceived competitor Silverlight, and had an entry level so much lower than its predecessor Java that Adobe could be forgiven for feeling pretty good about their platform.

That was until Apple declared war on Adobe. HTML 5 has now replaced Silverlight in its challenge against Flash, and circles everywhere see this as a showdown between two technologies that appear to do similar things.

Apple has banned Flash on its mobile platforms, claiming that it's a memory-hog, and that Flash is unsuitable for mobile browsing. Instead, Apple is banking on HTML5 - the next incarnation of HTML that, with the help of Javascript, will be able to create animations, rich user experiences and other previously Flash-exclusive content. Considering that Apple has become a leader in the smartphone market - this has caused more than a little bit of panic among Flash developers.

Adobe has long suggested that they will create mobile-friendly Flash environment, but sadly this looks like a broken promise.

The only catch with HTML 5 is it will not become a W3C recommendation for years to come. To put this into perspective, all this talk about HTML5 becoming a new standard won't be standard until at least we've gone through several 2-year  iPhone contracts. In fact, the existing HTML 5 showcases on the Apple website can only be viewed with the latest version of Safari (which has a very un-standard user penetration rate of around 3.4%), so if you created a fully-featured HTML 5 site, you would be shutting out more users than you gain from Apple's iPhone and iPad products.

As a developer who uses Flash as my favoured platform, I don't feel that HTML 5 will affect our work any time soon, but it doesn't mean that Flash will stay around forever - after all, it is only natural for newer, better technologies to come and go. This is a fact of our industry and completely investing yourself in one technology is close-minded and risky.

Where I work at The White Agency, there are no 'Flash developers', but we are known as Rich Internet Application (RIA) developers. The team understands that though Flash has its benefits today, tomorrow things may change and we shouldn't try to shoe-horn projects into the Flash platform if it could be done better in HTML 5 (or Silverlight, or AJAX).

The smart developer would realise that actively adapting to, or at least understanding new technologies is the key to having a long and prosperous career, while those who are stubbornly holding onto any technology are setting themselves up for a very nasty surprise at the end.