Tutorial: SpriteIlluminator

I was recently selected to be able to beta test SpriteIlluminator by CodeAndWeb. SpriteIlluminator helps you add dynamic lighting to your mobile games by helping you create a normal map to add to your sprite.

Since the majority of my mobile games are created using Corona SDK, I’m going to cover how to get started integrating SpriteIlluminator into that.

The first thing you’ll do is import a sprite into SpriteIlluminator. Here I just quickly drew a guy for this demo.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 10.09.32 AM

Next you can add the various effects, such as bevel and embossing.

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You can drag the light source around and see how your sprites will look in real-time, which is very helpful. You can also use the lasso tool to select certain portions of the sprite and add effects just to that part.

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When you’re finished, you can publish out the project and it will create your normal map file.

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In this example, I beveled the sprite and then raised the shirt sleeve, nose, and eyes to make them stand out. Then in SublimeText, I created a main.lua file and did a composite of both the sprite and its normal map. Here you can see how a light source reacts to the sprite.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 10.18.54 AM

If you set the attenuationFactor to 0, you can see the portions are the image that I beveled and raised in SpriteIlluminator.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 10.19.06 AM

And if you reverse the order of the sprite and its normal map, you can see the beveled image.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 10.19.28 AM

SpriteIlluminator is a very easy-to-use and powerful tool to help add some nice dynamic lighting effects to your games. This is obviously a very basic example of what it can do, but hopefully it’s enough to get you started in integrating it in your Corona SDK apps.

Bob’s Burgers: BurgerBoss Fan Game

I’m a huge fan of the cartoon series, Bob’s Burgers. I’ve been following H. Jon Benjamin’s and Loren Bouchard’s work since the debut of Home Movies in 1999. My sister-in-law even got to interview H. Jon Benjamin last year.

In season 2, episode 4 of Bob’s Burgers, Bob becomes obsessed with playing a fictional game called “BurgerBoss.” I thought the 80’s-style artwork was cool, so I figured I’d make a fan game based off of it.

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My gameplay is different than in the show and I’ve only completed level 1 (probably with a few bugs in it), but it’s only taken a few hours so far and it’s been fun to make. They don’t show a ton of gameplay throughout the show, but I tried to get the same basic idea out of it while including some jokes from the show like “BOB SUX”.

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Periodically check the game out to see if/when I’ve added more levels and enemies: http://gpanimations.com/burgerboss.html

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Maddie Bear in Space

It’s been quite awhile since I last released a game for myself. The other night, I decided I would try to push out a game in 3 hours or less. The result is Maddie Bear in Space.

It’s available for iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, Android and Android TV and requires a simple touch or button tap interface. You collect as many moons as you can and avoid the spikes to gain a high score.

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amazonGoogle_Playandroid-tv

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Construct 2: Space Pinball Tutorial

I’m very pleased to announce that my new video course, Create a Space Pinball Game in Construct 2, is now live on Udemy!

It’s priced at $59, but I want to offer it to my loyal blog followers at a special discounted price of $20. The first 50 readers to use promo code BLOGFOLLOWERS or click this link will save $39 off the normal price.

Thank you for continuing to read my blog and have fun making the pinball game!

Sketch 3

I was recently commissioned by Stone River E-Learning to create a video tutorial series on Sketch 3 software. If you need a lightweight software package to quickly mock-up websites or mobile apps, Sketch 3 is very useful. The learning curve is very small and there’s even a website devoted to templates and artwork specifically for Sketch 3 that you can use.

I didn’t want the tutorials to be a typical “this is how you use the oval drawing tool” course, so the very first lesson is creating an actual Facebook app clone. I figured it’d be more exciting to create working examples and the students would learn how to use all of the tools by actually making something.

If you don’t already own a copy of Sketch 3, get the 30 day free trial here and check out the course here.

https://placeit.net/#!/stages/girl-using-iphone-6-and-imac-at-office

PlaceIt.net

Last year, I wrote a tutorial about creating screenshots for app stores for RayWenderlich.com. In the tutorial, I mentioned using a website called PlaceIt.net because they have a great variety of options and pricing to fit every budget (yes, even Free). Today, I want to take you through step-by-step on how to fully utilize their site to create amazing promotional material for your apps and games.

placeit

PlaceIt.net lets you upload app screenshots, images, URLs, videos, or screen captures (using RecordIt) into beautiful photographs and videos to help advertise and promote your product or brand.

Still Images

You can sort by devices, interactive video, still shots, video, multistage, etc. and then it will list the require resolution needed to fill the stage. You can choose to drag and drop an image, upload it, or even just provide the URL to the image you’d like to insert. If your image doesn’t fit perfectly, you can adjust the cropping to completely fill the area.

https://placeit.net/#!/stages/girl-using-iphone-6-and-imac-at-office
https://placeit.net/#!/stages/girl-using-iphone-6-and-imac-at-office

Once you’re happy with the result, you can choose to Add Effects or Download. When you click download, you’re given the options for the Small Free Version, the High-Res Commercial, or Super High-Res Extended Commercial versions.

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Depending on your desired use, you’ll have to determine which version you’d like. If you’re unsure of the differences, you can click the “Not sure which license is the best for you?” link and it will explain each license in detail.

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Videos

There is where PlaceIt.net really shines. Sorting by Video, I chose a panning video that would show my children’s book app, Maddie Bear’s Birthday, running on an iPad. I didn’t have a pre-recorded video handy, so I clicked on the Record Your Screen option. This allowed me to download RecordIt, and record the iOS Simulator running on my computer.

https://placeit.net/#!/stages/ipad-on-wooden-kitchen-table?background=192_vi&f_types=video
https://placeit.net/#!/stages/ipad-on-wooden-kitchen-table?background=192_vi&f_types=video

Once complete, the video uploaded and I was able to view and download it. Here you see the free version that I downloaded, which has a watermark on it. Paid downloads do not contain watermarks.

Pricing

Pricing on PlaceIt.net varies depending on the type of media, license, and if you choose a subscription plan or single purchase. Still images range from Free to $59 USD for single purchases and videos range from Free to $189 USD for single purchases. If you you know you’re going to need to download a few pieces of media, it’s worth signing up for a subscription plan. Plans range from $12 a month to $299 a month depending on how many you’re going to need on a monthly basis.

Since they have pricing ranging from free for casual users through $299 a month for corporate users, it really feels like PlaceIt.net is trying to accommodate every user and every budget.

Overview

The sheer number of images, interactive videos, and videos along with flexible pricing, makes PlaceIt.net unparalleled to any other service I’ve tried. In the past, Promotee software was my go-to when I needed a quick promo image of my apps, but it is very limited in the devices you can show, and there’s no option for video. I can’t recommend PlaceIt.net enough for promos and advertising your products.

Tutorial: Android TV App Development

I recently got my Maddie Bear’sSnack Time game published for the Android TV console. Since I was one of (if not the) first person to do this with Corona SDK, they asked me to write a tutorial about it.

mbstTV

Check out the tutorial here: http://coronalabs.com/blog/2015/01/13/tutorial-creating-android-tv-apps/ and you can go through step-by-step with a working example of how to get your app on the Android TV.

Amazon Kindle Fire Kid’s Edition Review

One of my clients, who I’m developing an app version of their children’s book for, sent me a Kindle Fire Kid’s Edition for device testing. I’m going to give a brief overview and review of the device from a consumer, developer, and parent point of view.

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Opening the Box: Inside the box is the Kindle Fire Kid’s Edition, MicroUSB charging cable, wall plug, and rubber case. I was pleasantly surprised to see a MicroUSB cable in there, as my first-generation Kindle Fire didn’t come with one and I’ve had to use one from a Palm Pre for development. I’m pretty sure this is just Amazon’s Fire HD 6″ tablet with a rubber case, an extra 1 year warranty tacked on, and FreeTime pre-installed at an extra $50-$90, depending on their current sales.

Interface: The interface has improved since the first-generation Kindle Fire, which is nice. The graphics are a lot more crisp and the speed is much faster. Just the speed upgrade alone might be worth it if your only other Kindle Fire device is a first-generation like mine.

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Size Comparison: In relation to the first-generation Kindle, the kid’s version is lighter, but also has a smaller screen size. Once you insert it into the rubber case that helps protect it from kids dropping it, it actually ends up a little wider than the first Kindle.

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Software: The main difference between the Kid’s Edition and regular Kindle Fires is FreeTime. This provides your child unlimited access to pre-approved books, games, and TV shows on the device. However, it does feel like the added FreeTime, parental controls, and profiles bog it down a bit. The device often freezes or has issues, which requires a reboot.

Developer Review: In comparison to the first generation Kindle Fire, you need special software to transfer .apk files to this device. Whereas my old Kindle Fire would instantly appear on my MacBook for me to drag and drop files, the Kid’s Edition requires Android software. However, with the Kid’s Edition, you can just close the software and unhook the device from your computer, you no longer have to eject the media. I’m not sure how you get your apps on Amazon’s Pre-Approved FreeTime listings, they may have to contact you if they deem it worthy. I was unable to find any of my children’s books and apps while logged into my daughter’s FreeTime account. Like every device after the first-generation, this one doesn’t have the 20 pixel tall menu bar hardcoded onto the screen, so that’s something to consider when developing apps for it.

Consumer Review: At the time, the Kid’s Edition was $150 USD, but now I see it’s gone up to about $190, which seems pretty steep. As I said, it’s really just a $100 Fire HD with a rubber case, FreeTime, and an extra 1 year added to the warranty. You can get FreeTime on your Fire TV, a rubber case for $3 on eBay, and just try not to break a $100 Fire HD after a year, and essentially save yourself quite a bit of money. Also, the bloatware of having FreeTime slows down the device and causes freezing. It’s much nicer than the first-generation Kindle Fire, but at this day and age, those random $40 Android tablets found in bargain bins are faster than the first Kindle Fires.

Parent Review: My daughter loves the Kid’s Edition Kindle. At only 2 years old, she immediately knew how to navigate the interface, download books and games, watch TV shows, and switch between apps without me showing how to do it. The rubber case makes it easy for her to hold and protects it against drops. The limited access makes it easy for me to hand to her and not have to worry about her downloading or buying something she shouldn’t be. However, while using the device in the car, I tried to switch from my account to my daughter’s and it wouldn’t let me without a wi-fi connection to verify my password. This is a terrible feature that Amazon needs to address.

Overall: At $150 or less, the Kid’s Edition is a great deal for parents. At $190, you’re probably better off with something else or just buying a cheaper tablet and getting a rubber case for it. The software can bog down and the fact that I couldn’t switch accounts without wi-fi is pretty bad. That being said, it’s still a nice device for younger kids and knowing it can be replaced for 2 years if it breaks is nice.

Tutorial: Affinity Designer

I recently recorded a complete video tutorial series on Affinity Designer for Stone River e-Learning. You can check out the entire lesson here. The course teaches everything from illustration, logo design, user interface mock-ups, and exporting for web and mobile devices. However, if you’re just wondering how Affinity Designer can help you mock up mobile user interfaces, here is a tutorial.

You can download the entire step-by-step tutorial and the resource files. You are free to use the artwork provided for personal or commercial use. However you cannot sell or distribute the tutorial.

Download the tutorial here.

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