Category Archives: WirelessGames

SecondLife on Mobile

Congratulation to Vollee, who displayed for the first time some videos of what they are doing secretely since several years: a great technology to easily deploy any desktop game to mobile, using video streaming.
As you can see, it’s not only a direct transcoding of the desktop stream to a mobile screen, as the content would have been totally unuseable ( too small, too many information, etc…) but something much more smarter. And of course, this works for any game, not only SecondLife.
We were doing some experimentation in this area two years ago at MobileScope, bascially using streamed GoogleEarth picture as a background of a game. I’ll do a post some day if I can find some video of these experiments.
But here is the Vollee example:

Now, there are some key question still to be answered: is there a market for this? Does the bandwidth cost worth the value of this?
But anyway, congrat to Vollee team and to Julian for these great achievement.

Two extraordinay iPhone apps…

Just played with these two great apps, showing the potential of the iPhone and especially the multitouch screen and the accelerators.
The first one is in fact a multi touch demo, quite simple, from cedsoft: it allows to play with a satellite picture and zoom it, move it and rotate it. You could say that GoogleMap is already doing it on the iPhone, but the rotation add a lot of novelty. It pave the way to more complex application, like photo editing tools, or productivity tools with a different UI.

To install it, use the http://prog.cedsoft.free.fr/ repository

The second one is iPhysics (a port of CrayonPhysics). It’s a very simple idea, but hard to describe. The objective is to push a ball to a certain place, but based on physics interaction. You can not move the ball directly, but you can create object by just drawing them on screen, and then these object interacts with the world. Very addictive and innovative
.

To add it, just add this repository in the installer: http://iphone.r4m0n.net/repos

Some remarks:

  • Hopefully the iPhone has been unlocked, and will be soon officially. Without this, I think that such app would have been really hard to exist
  • Sometime, it’s good to exit from the “Ajax” reign. It would have been if not impossible quite difficult to create these app with a browser only.
  • The development chain for iPhone is -in my view- way too complicated! So I give full respect to these early pionner, but I would like to see an easy way to develop complex app for iPHone. I think that Java would have been the best candidate for this. I am dreaming of an Androïd port for iPhone…

There is a lot of potential for iPhone games, thanks to the combination of nice things:

  • multi touch screen
  • portable device
  • High surface screen
  • Connectivity
  • Sensor
  • Camera

For instance, I am dreaming (or hoping that people will port it) some of this games:

  • Catapult , a game originally created for the Gizmondo, a cool augmented reality game
  • Some nice billard game
  • A marble madness port with acclerometer


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Lua, Java and a little bit of history

Browsing the web I’ve discovered that LUA reached a popularity of 15 in tiobe rank. This is incredible, but also very interesting. Lua is a very simple but smart language that was designed to extend existing applications. Typically, to add scripting capacities in existing programs. This is a not a new idea, and a lot of technologies where available at that time, but most of them where not easy to implement.

The key differentiator of LUA was the integration simplicity. LUA is now very popular, but when I’ve first discovered it, it was not the case. I’ll do an “historical post” of what happened in the early days of In-Fusio regarding LUA, mobile, and Java.

In 1999, when we started In-Fusio, I’ve created the first connected game embedded in Mitsubishi device. At that time, the most advanced mobile game was snake (V1!) and we were delivering console quality game on mobile, but even more, we introduced connectivity with SMS. User was able to download new game levels each week through SMS….These games (BrainDrain, Push, Crazy Pet) also contained some hidden part, but obviously very hidden as not so many found them: there was the first 3D real time demo on a mobile phone, done using Vector Ball, a reminder of my early Amiga days


Some snapshots of Push, a Sokoban clone, embedded in Mitsubishi phones

But the issue was that the game where embedded, and not downloaded. User was not able to change his game. We started then to think to a way to download games.
Technically, it seems that it was possible, even with limited resources of the phone. We could expect around 16 to 32kb of available writeable flash memory for game. But due to security reasons and cross platform issues we needed to find either a scripting language, or a VM based engine.

So I started to evaluate the various technical solutions for this: from Python, Tcl/Tk, Java, JavaScript and of course Lua. Even Perl! I also looked at some alternative solution, mainly used in SetTopBox.

Rapidly , it appears that Python, Tcl/TK, JavaScript where really too heavy in terms of code size to fit into a mobile. Perl…no, definitvely not Perl for game!

So the remaining two where Java, and Lua. Remember, it was in 99 and MIDP was not yet even discussed. I’ve evaluated a couple of the “light java “implementation, like Waba, and another one that has been used in some lego engine.
But Lua looked great also, and was compliant with our requirement:

  • small footprint
  • easy integration
  • simple to understand and to use

I made a prototype of an integration with a “kind of” R-Type game on a Mitshubishi phone that worked well.But my godfeeling was that Java will be here for long time, and strategically speaking, it was better to follow the Java path. The KVM on Palm was also presented in JavaOne’99, the first JavaOne I’ve attended!
So we look deeper on the Java side, and found a nice JavaCard implementation by Schlumberger. It was really an amazing implementation, tailored for highly constrained JavaCard, so it could feet easily in mobile.
At that time we also discussed with Sun about Java licensing, but fee were really beyond expectations (Sun started by talking of a 10$ per handset license!). We decided to choose the VM implementation, a clean room implementation so no fee for Sun as long as we did not put any Java logo on the mobile. So we decided to use Java instead of LUA.

The first implementation took some time, but when we had the first real handsets, we had a big surprise: it was ssoooooo slow, and unusable for games! Was hard to go beyond a simple minesweeper game. So we decided two things:

  • improve the speed of the VM, by working with Schlumberger
  • create high level game API

So we created Sprite, Layer component, animation, etc…to speed up things, a complete game api. We also added a raycast engine that could be used to create 3D effects with processing power of mobile of that time. In fact, all the rendering and the animation was done natively, while Java was used more as a scripting engine. And that’s where the MIDP2 game API came. Here are a few snapshot of the first black and white created for the platform:


Some of the early Exen games….

The first prototype was demonstrated in September 2000. Even internally, the game developer team was not convinced with the ability to create arcade quality game on mobile. But the first game produced externally on this platform, by Kalisto, “Tinies Farter” (yes!) was a great and really playable arcade games, and gave us confidence in the ability to create more cool games.

With a launch early 2001 with D2 in Germany, closely followed by Orange in France, and more operators later on.
Since day one, the system has been conceived with an ecosystem for game developer, operators, and us, so we started to make revenue from day1, while it took years for J2me to reach maturity. We thought that we had a 6 to 12 month windows of opportunity with Exen, but it appears that the window was more 24 to 36 months, with a total deployment of more than 50 millions of handsets….Not bad for a small window of opportunity.

The story is not yet ended, but we will write this another time….
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Maximum overload reached! (but still some action…)

You’ve noticed that the update frequency of the blog have slowdown by the past two weeks. I am literally overloaded with many things, and too few times to catch up with the blog for now.

But there are some interesting news:

The first one, is that I am leaving In-Fusio/Mobilescope. The In-Fusio times were great for me and we have created some extraordinary things, but after many years as CTO of In-Fusio, then MobileScope it’s time for me to move on and explore new areas….
if you follow this blog, you probably now my two hot topics: Mobile Widgets, and Geolocalisation.
I will move to Mobease with a CTO role. It’s quite certain that 2007 will be good for mobile widgets, so it will be a perfect year for the Mobease product launch: mobidgets . We did not communicate a lot, but there are great things hapenning behind the scene.

For the Geolocalisation topic, there are some on-going movements around J2memap that will be disclosed in the near future.

I will be also at the 3Gsm, in Barcelona, so let’s meet there if you think that we have some common topics! (and even if not!)
I also have a few post about some interesting project that we were working on at MobileScope that I’ll publish before the end of the week.

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J2me porting to brew

JavaGround announced today that they were providing a solution to port J2me to Brew…

“We founded Javaground on the concept of enabling developers to quickly
create and port high-quality games for the J2ME platform,” said Alexandre
Kral, chief executive officer of Javaground. “Now, our team has mastered
the technology to allow the mobile game industry to streamline the
development of video games for other types of mobile platforms. In essence,
programmers can develop their games in Java and port it to the BREW
solution.”

Challenging statment….

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Nokia talk at GDC

Unfortunatly, I was not at the GDC this year. However, Nokia put online some of the GDC talk on their developer site. Check this presentation about the future of the NGage, especially in the community area…

Check the video on Nokia site.
There is a demo of the upcoming N-Gage deck:


One interesting indea, is the “NGP”, no too far from a loyalty point approach. In the demo, the first time the player plays snake, he is asked to put his nickname If he does this, he is award 20 points of NGP….

What is clearely great is the deep link between the game and the platform, the NGP points are awarded and displayed DURING the game, and not outside the game….


The profile of course can be customized. In the demo, the guy is taking a picture of himself to modify his gamer profile….


And of course, the UI is very smooth and clean, with nice transition, etc……

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WebToWireless game

The 3gsm will happens this week. I usually do not speak a lot about what we are doing here, at MobileScope or In-Fusio, especially in my team, the “advanced technology” one. I am doing an exception, as this will be publicly presented to the 3gsm. We will demonstrate our “ProjectX” technology.

ProjectX is a game and platform prototype, exploring three topics:

  • WebToWireless
  • Accelerated 3D on mobile
  • UMTS/3G data connections



The demo will show a racing car game, with a “Capture The Flag” concept; that can be played both from a Web Browser, from a mobile with a 2D version, or from a mobile with an accelerated 3D version.

The challenges are numerous: how to provide a reasonable consistent playability with both 3D and a 2D version. It helped us also to understand the expected latency with GPRS and UMTS on real networks. Finally, we started also to work on these new 3D accelerated chipset. Unfortunately, on this last topic, there is still some work to do…

So if you are interested, just come and see me at the 3Gsm, Hall2. I will be here mostly in the morning.

Also, thanks to Stephane De Luca, who was behind most of the achievement of this demo

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Another fragment in the puzzle?

This recent announce (see Games elite tackles fragmentation – thanks Ajit - ) is another (and new) effort to deal with fragmentation:

Fourteen of the industry’s biggest hitters have joined forces to address mobile gaming’s handset fragmentation nightmare.

The group, which includes EA, Digital Chocolate, Nokia, Texas Instruments
and Microsoft, has defined an open gaming architecture for native
mobile games for phones. The big idea? To make development quicker and
ultimately cheaper while providing a rich gaming experience for the
consumer.

Seems related but no similar to the OpenKod initiative, except that not all the participant are the same in both group. Well, sounds great on one hand (who could be against fragmentation reduction), but on the other hand, it create another fragmentation. We already had Java and his numerous JSRs, we had Brew, Symbian, Windows Mobile, than came FlashLite, and now another effort to “de-fragment”…. I love this space! So much fun in so little space!

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XBox GamerCard MobileWidget

Just for fun, I have developped a small Widget to access to the XBoxLive Gamer Card. You can download the app, it contains the full Widget framework but with just this card, so not really optimized…

You can download it here, but notice…jsut tested it on K700, no guaranty about portability!
XBoxLive.jad
XBoxLive.jar

The widget is code around 45 lines, thanks to the rest of the framework….

Usage: start it, and select “Configuration” from the menu and put your tag, or a friends tag, and press ok….

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Fun with GoogleMap

I’ve found this nace racing application just recently: it’s a small javascript that simulate a racing game on top of GoogleMap. As it’s in Japaneese, I’ve just grab the script to and make it run on top of SF, one of my favorite spot! ;-). Of course, there is no collision detection with “walls”, but this could be probably implemented using a specific client…If i have time, I would like once do it using my J2meMap framework (or if anybody interested by this?)….
But it’s an interesting example of one of the numerous game that game be done using google map API. I did not see a lot yet, there is this one, a Golf game (nice idea, but bad interface)….

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Electronic Arts to buy Jamdat in $680 mln deal

Important news for our industry, mobile gaming: EA, the biggest game publisher, just acquired Jamdat, the biggest (for now! ;-) ) player in this space….

Jamdat Mobile (JMDT:Nasdaq – commentary – research – Cramer’s Take) surged in after-hours trading Thursday following news that Electronic Arts (ERTS:Nasdaq – commentary – research – Cramer’s Take) agreed to buy the cellphone-game publisher at a 19% premium to its close. Electronic Arts will pay $27 a share for Jamdat and assume outstanding stock options, for a total deal value of $680 million. The deal is expected to close during Electronic Arts’ fourth quarter. Shares of Jamdat were up $4.23 to $27 in after-hours trading, while shares of Electronic Arts fell $1.51, or 2.7%, to $54.24.

The deal value Jamdat at 680$ million…At this price, a very good deal for Jamdat…. A few comments:

“EA overpaid by $200 (million),” Piper Jaffray analyst Anthony Gikas said in a client note, adding the amount was not material

“We’re not sure why the company would spend so much to get into the mobile market when it appears that they could have leveraged their content on their own for less money,” Wallace said in a note. He added that EA will probably spend more than $750 million this year on research and development.

“That’s a lot of console games that could have been developed (or bought),” he said.

Still, analysts liked the deal, saying that Jamdat and EA are each better off together.

EA “has had some fits and starts trying to build its wireless division” and adjusting to a “buy” strategy resolves investor qualms about the company’s relative lack of presence in that market, said Paul-Jon McNealy, video game analyst at American Technology Research.

JBenchmark on mobile


SPMark now available on mobile… Not sure is it’s a great thing, but you can check by your self. I’ve downloaded the “high end” version, a jar file of around 500kb! I even did not know that it was possible to do such big app! ;-) The application by itself is not yet as impressive at it should be, and others benchmakrs (like www.jbenchmark.com/ ) are already doing some good job.
And this one need to improve. It reported that my phone did not head the bluetooth API, which seems to bo obviously wrong (see below…)