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July 14, 2015

Paul Cutsinger

As a part of building our concept game “Planet Destroyer” we’re talking to a series of industry experts and mentors to help us think through everything it takes to make a game. In this episode, our guest is Starr Long, Executive Producer of “Shroud of the Avatar” the director of the original Ultima Online. We discuss the fundamentals of making a game while deeply engaging with players, how to focus intensely to preserve the uniqueness of a game, and marketing an indie game.

The central idea of our concept game Planet Destroyer is that it’s focused on the relationship between a Twitch broadcaster and their viewers. It has to be highly interactive and social to succeed. With this in mind we spoke to Starr about how we can use analytics to measure and optimize the social aspects of our game to increase engagement and revenue.

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July 08, 2015

Paul Cutsinger

As a part of building our concept game “Planet Destroyer” we’re talking to a series of industry experts and mentors to help us think through everything it takes to make a game. In this episode, our guest is Dmitri Williams, CEO of NinjaMetrics and we zero in on the social aspects of our game.

The central idea of our concept game Planet Destroyer is that it’s focused on the relationship between a Twitch broadcaster and their viewers. It has to be highly interactive and social to succeed. With this in mind we spoke to Dmitri about how we can use analytics to measure and optimize the social aspects of our game to increase engagement and revenue.

What We Discussed on the Show

full video

  1. Measure how social behavior impacts engagement and revenue – What is “Social Value”          
  2. Let’s put this in terms of revenue
  3. Tying this into your product’s features
  4. Importance of the Community Manager and how to attribute revenue to that role         
  5. Instrument Social Signals to enable optimization      
  6. Closing the loop on user acquisition costs and return on investment
  7. Preserving an authentic social graph
  8. The full impact of social on Free to Play games
  9. Helping to focus your community management efforts        
  10. The Fruit Basket Analogy
  11. Determine the downstream effects of your community engagement. Objective Virality  
  12. How to add NinjaMetrics to your app  
  13. Dmitri’s thoughts on our game Planet Destroyer      

Please join the conversation live on http://twitch.tv/PaulCutsinger each Tuesday through Friday morning (PST). And follow @PaulCutsinger on Twitter for the latest.  

-Paul

 

July 08, 2015

Paul Cutsinger

On Wednesday’s installment of our live dev show we welcome Luke Burtis, Production Director from tinyBuild the indie game developer and publisher.  He’ll be sharing his perspective on our concept game “Planet Destroyer” and talking about success factors for indie devs. 

Please join the conversation on Wednesday July 8 at 11:00 am PST at http://www.twitch.tv/paulcutsinger.

For background, we’ve been talking a lot about how to get more game developers over the app poverty line and sharing best practices for building quality games and healthy businesses on the blog and at conferences.

Now, we’re doing something a bit different.

We’ve started a reality show called “Planet Destroyer: Concept to Greenlight” where @PeterDotGames and @PaulCutsinger are building a game live on Twitch and just, like any reality show, it’ll end with a panel of judges that will critique the game and will give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. Along the way, we’re broadcasting the entire journey live on Twitch. We really want that thumbs up so, to help us and all the game devs that watch, we’re bringing in experts from around the industry to mentor us on every aspect of building a game – game design, architecture, music, story, business models, crowd funding, publishing, user acquisition, art, front end coding, back end scale, marketing… Everything you actually need to have a successful game launch.

 

July 07, 2015

Karen Wilder Huaulme

Today, we are introducing new features to improve device targeting for your Amazon Appstore apps and games on Android devices. Previously, targeting non-Amazon Android devices was done through compatibility settings in the binary’s AndroidManifest.xml file. Now, in addition to supporting industry standards for manifest-based device filtering, developers can use the Developer Portal to target the most popular Android devices including the Nexus 5, 7, 10, HTC One, Shield Tablet, Galaxy Nexus, Sony Experia Z, and the Motorola Droid Razr HD to name just a few. Developers can now look at the list of supported, excluded and unsupported devices to quickly see which devices are compatible with their app, and if their app manifest settings have filtered out any devices.

Implementing Device Targeting Is Easy

To begin, log in to the Amazon Appstore developer portal and choose your application. From there, under the Binary File(s) tab, click the Edit button at the bottom of the screen to navigate to the device support options

The Device Support summary shows the total number of devices that are Supported (compatible), Excluded (manually de-selected) and Unsupported (incompatible based on your manifest settings). To change your device support settings, click the Edit device support link to open the Device Support dialog.

Navigation Tips: the device summary drop-down at the top of the screen provides an overview of current device support. Clicking any of the links will filter the UI to show only the devices in the selected category. This is a quick and easy way of reviewing and editing your device support options.

You can also use the Find a device search box to quickly find devices by manufacturer or model. If you need to find a specific device by name, the search function will highlight devices that match your text. Simply start typing, and the dialog lists matching devices. You can choose to exclude or target devices directly from the search results.

We have included a few extra controls for developer targeting convenience. At the top of the Device Support dialog, you will find the setting Enable non-Amazon devices. If you want to limit your app’s availability to only a handful of non-Amazon devices, you can toggle-off this setting to initially exclude all devices before manually selecting devices for inclusion in to your compatibility list.

In the example below, you can see that a device has already been excluded based on the binary’s manifest. You can further limit the devices with known compatibility issues by manually de-selecting them in the Device Support dialog.

At the bottom of the Device Support dialog, there is a setting for All other Android devices. This control is enabled by default. It allows your app to be distributed to any other compatible Android devices not explicitly listed. It also allows your app to be made available for newly released (future) Android devices that are compatible with your manifest. Turning this setting off causes your app to only be distributed to selected devices.

Conclusion

With the introduction of manifest-based device targeting we are making it even simpler for developers to publish their apps in the Amazon Appstore. Developers can now reach more customers on compatible devices, and take steps to avoid delivering a poor customer experience on incompatible or poorly performing devices.

Links To Additional Resources

July 06, 2015

Paul Cutsinger

On Tuesday’s installment of our live dev show we welcome Starr Long, the executive producer of Shroud of the Avatar and director of Ultima Online. He’ll be sharing his perspective on our concept game “Planet Destroyer” and talking about MMO fundamentals, crowd funding and the power of connecting early with your fan base. 

Please join the conversation on Tuesday July 7 at 9:00 am PST at http://www.twitch.tv/paulcutsinger

For background, we’ve been talking a lot about how to get more game developers over the app poverty line and sharing best practices for building quality games and healthy businesses on the blog and at conferences.

Now, we’re doing something a bit different.

We’ve started a reality show called “Planet Destroyer: Concept to Greenlight” where @PeterDotGames and @PaulCutsinger are building a game live on Twitch and just, like any reality show, it’ll end with a panel of judges that will critique the game and will give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. Along the way, we’re broadcasting the entire journey live on Twitch. We really want that thumbs up so, to help us and all the game devs that watch, we’re bringing in experts from around the industry to mentor us on every aspect of building a game – game design, architecture, music, story, business models, crowd funding, publishing, user acquisition, art, front end coding, back end scale, marketing… Everything you actually need to have a successful game launch.

 

July 01, 2015

Paul Cutsinger

We’ve been talking a lot about how to get more game developers over the app poverty line and sharing best practices for building quality games and healthy businesses on the blog and at conferences.

Now, we’re doing something a bit different.

We’ve started a reality show called “Planet Destroyer: Concept to Greenlight” where @PeterDotGames and @PaulCutsinger are building a game live on Twitch and just, like any reality show, it’ll end with a panel of judges that will critique the game and will give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. Along the way, we’re broadcasting the entire journey live on Twitch. We really want that thumbs up so, to help us and all the game devs that watch, we’re bringing in experts from around the industry to mentor us on every aspect of building a game – game design, architecture, music, story, business models, crowd funding, publishing, user acquisition, art, front end coding, back end scale, marketing… Everything you actually need to have a successful game launch.

This week, we’re excited to have Luke Burtis from Tiny Build and Dmitri Williams from Ninja Metrics come on the show. Luke is going to share his perspective as an indie game developer that ran a successful kickstarter and Steam Greenlight and as an indie publisher that is looking for great games to publish. Dmitri’s brings a perspective on social analytics that is going is core to our game design. He’ll help us understand how to refine our conceptual ideas make them real and actionable.

 

June 30, 2015

Corey Badcock

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June 23, 2015

Jesse Freeman

When it comes to choosing the right framework to building your game with it’s not always an easy decision to make. If you are just getting started, knowing the long term viability and support is also difficult to predict. Over the past few years I’ve been making my own games in HTML5 and Unity. While both are very good platforms, picking which one is best for you isn’t always black and white. To help you out, I’ll be doing a special talk at our newly opened AWS Pop-Up Loft in New York City on June 29th at 12pm.

During this talk I am going to go over one of my own games, Flappy Jetroid, that I’ve built in HTML5 using the popular Phaser game framework and Unity.

Phaser version of Flappy Jetroid

Unity version of Flappy Jetroid

We’ll dig deep into the code of each game, how they differ as well as the advantages/disadvantages of each. We'll also discuss publishing options for both platforms and how to create truly cross platform games from a single codebase.

You can register for the talk on the AWS Pop-Up Loft website or directly here.

Looking to learn more about making games in HTML5 or Unity for Amazon Appstore? Check out the following resources:

- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)

 

June 17, 2015

Jesse Freeman

Over the past 3 months I have been working on a number of game for the Amazon Appstore and streaming their development live on Twitch. While most people know Twitch as a place to watch people play games, it’s also one of the best places to see game developers make them as well. Twitch now has a dedicated Game Development channel and I’d love to invite you all to come watch me, and my co-workers Paul and Peter, build games for the Amazon Appstore.

Early Learnings from Streaming

I started streaming on Twitch shortly before GDC and figured this was the best time to give it a try as I built out the demos for my talk. I ended up porting over an older HTML5 game of my called Super Paper Monster Smasher to Unity as a way of testing out best practices for optimizing Unity games on Fire devices. It wasn’t easy to start live coding but after a few weeks it became more natural and here are a few things I learned along the way:

  • Just act natural. Most people who have bigger followings on twitch let their personality shine through. You don’t have to be over the top to be entertaining, you simply need to be clear, walk through what you are doing so others can follow, and try to focus on parts of your game development that show well on streams.
  • Don’t debug for hours on a stream. I ended up learning this the hard way. When you make a game, it takes a long time to get to first playable and also track down bugs along the way to releasing. While some of this is interesting, not everyone likes to watch marathon-streaming session of you in the debugger lost with no idea how to fix a problem. Save that for off stream coding.
  • Set a consistent schedule for streaming. I found that my best following happens around 9am – 12pm Eastern. Your times may vary but once you find the ones that work for you, try to stick to them. Eventually you’ll build a good fan base of people who come back each day to see your progress.

Building Community

The goal of your stream is to build up a community around your game. This is one of Twitch’s strong suits. I found that the people who come in to watch my stream usually come back. They ask questions, they engage others in chat and they have valuable input into how you should fix issues or features you should add to your game. I’ve learned a lot about how to work in Unity better and community suggestions have helped make my latest game, Cigar Smuggler, a lot better too.

Once you build up a following, interact with them and don’t ignore them on chat. It’s a delicate balance between doing your work and taking part in the chat conversation but once you find your rhythm, stick to it and bring them into the process.

Keeping Your Personal Life off the Stream

I also learned early on that I wanted my streaming setup to be self-contained. If you dev on your personal or work computer make sure you have a clear separation between what you show on the stream and your own stuff. I am constantly being bombarded by emails, phone calls, and IMs all day long while I stream. To keep this out of the videos I work on a VM. I’ve configured a perfect setup just for my streaming development with all the tools I need to get my games running.

What’s also great about the VM is that you can back it up and if anything goes wrong it’s easy to restore. I’ve also copied it to my laptop so I have the two in sync allowing me to stream from my laptop when I travel. If you can’t use a VM at the very least I would suggest making a separate user account on your computer and logging into that when you go on Twitch. It also goes without saying to make sure you can easily mute your microphone at a moments notice too.

Hardware and Software

Outside of using a VM, I have a decent USB gaming headset with a built in microphone that I use for audio in and out.  I also use a USB capture card for showing off Fire TV builds during my stream too. On the software side of things I’m running Open Broadcaster with the following settings:

 

As you can see I am streaming from a larger resolution of 2560 x 1440 so I scale it down to 720p. One thing to note is that for people to be able to read the code, I usually bump up the font size in all my editors. I also have a watermark graphic that I use during my streams.

I don’t like to keep my web cam on so I use this graphic to simply let people know who I am and if they find a highlight video on YouTube they know where the main stream came from.

Cut Up Highlights

A big part of the Twitch process is to make sure after you record a stream, to cut up highlights. I don’t do this for every stream but on important ones I’ll make clips out of them to feature on my profile page.

You can also push these you YouTube to cast a wider net for new followers. People who are interested in your work may not always be able to catch you doing it live. So make sure you get the videos of your steams out to the most places possible. You can check out my own highlights here.

Watch My Stream Daily

If you want to see some of my game development, learn more about the Amazon Appstore and Fire Devices or just say hi please check out my Twitch channel at http://twitch.tv/jessefreeman. I stream almost daily at 9am – 12pm Eastern and randomly at nights and on the weekend. If you want to learn more about streaming on Twitch, check out the following links:

- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)

Want the latest app and game news delivered to your inbox? Stay in the loop on the latest industry best practices, Amazon promotions, and new launches by subscribing to our weekly blog summary here.

 

June 15, 2015

Chris Phillips

Cross Platform Engines have become critical tools for developers to build applications once and deploy their apps across the Google, Apple, and Amazon ecosystems to reach the greatest number of consumers.  Amazon has developed a number of plugins for cross platform tools to allow developers to utilize Amazon Services without the need to write boilerplate code to bridge cross platform code with native language Amazon APIs.  Amazon has released new plugins for Apache Cordova, Unity, Adobe Air, and Xamarin to allow developers to monetize their cross platform apps using Amazon In-App Purchasing.  The In-App Purchasing (IAP) API makes it easy to offer digital content and subscriptions for purchase within your app.  The newly released plugins enable cross platform developers to quickly get up and running, and give millions of Amazon customers the ability to purchase engaging digital content using Amazon 1-Click settings.  To learn more about IAP and pick up the latest plugin, check out the Amazon In-App Purchasing site.

Build Once and Deploy Across Multiple Platforms

Before you can use a plugin in an app, you need to include the plugin in the cross platform tool for use. Each tool has its own specific set of steps, and we have created a page to guide you through this process for Unity, Xamarin, Cordova, and Adobe Air

If you have never monetized an app or are new to Amazon IAP, it would be good to familiarize yourself with what In-App purchasing is here.  There were plugins built for Unity and Adobe Air for IAP v1.  If you are migrating your current app to the new IAP v2 plugin, now would be a good time to review what is new and the IAP v1 to IAP v2 migration guide.  And finally, if your current app uses Google Play In-App Billing (IAB), review the Amazon migration guide for Google Play developers for guidance on migrating your app to Amazon IAP.

During development, it’s a good idea to verify purchasing works in your app and you are able to handle successful purchases and error scenarios.  To test your app, you should download and install the Amazon App Tester.  The Amazon App Tester is a mobile app that is available in the Amazon Appstore.  You will need to download the Amazon Appstore to purchase and download the tester app to your test device.  Review the IAP Testing guide to unit test IAP purchases in your app.

Easily Add In-App Purchasing To Your App or Game

The IAP cross platform plugins are part of a single Amazon In-App Purchasing SDK (which you can download here) that also provides access to other Amazon mobile services and additional free plugins such as the plugin for GameCircle. 

To use the IAP plugins in your cross platform tool, first download the SDK and extract the zip file to the appropriate location on your development machine. Here’s what the Unity plugin part of the SDK folder looks like on my machine.  The plugins can be found off the root directory inside the zip file by their respective cross-platform tool name, AIR, Unity, Cordova, or Xamarin.

Each plugin makes similar sets of calls to the native IAP Java SDK, but making calls through the plugin differs based on the cross platform tool and language semantics.  There are code samples for each plugin type and I would suggest playing with the code samples in a test app.  Check out the code samples in your cross platform user’s guide below.

How to Get Started

Plugins make it easier than ever to integrate Amazon IAP, and other Amazon services into your mobile app.  You can now monetize your cross platform app without the need to write your own plugin or boilerplate code to integrate the native Java SDK and focus instead on building great apps and reach millions of Amazon Appstore customers.  Once you have used the plugin to integrate the Amazon IAP API, you will get paid for any In-App purchases your customers make in your app.

Here are some additional useful links to Amazon’s Cross Platform Engine support and Amazon In-App purchasing:

Want Amazon Developer blogs delivered to your inbox? Stay in the loop on the latest industry best practices, Amazon promotions, and new launches by subscribing to our weekly blog summary here.

 

 

June 09, 2015

Jesse Freeman

In part one we covered techniques for getting started with a new project. In this post we’ll go over staying motivated to finish the game.

Knowing When to Take a Break

We all hit that wall when it comes from pushing ourselves a little too hard, setting unrealistic goals. When this happens it’s best to just walk away and take a break. How long is up to you. I find that sometimes I’ll work on two games at the same time, switching between them when things start to feel like they are dragging or I am losing interest. If you plan the games correctly you can build one off the other and end up with reusable code to can be shared between both.

Sometimes a difficult issue that needs to be solved is so complex you lose interest all together. You’d be surprised how much a short break, even for a few days, will clear up your head. One thing I suggest, especially if you are like me who puts stuff aside to work on at a later date, is to comment your code as much as possible. You may find it annoying at first but there is nothing worst than coming back to a project after a month and have no idea where you left off.

The Ever Growing Task List

I am a list maker. Everything I need to do in my game goes into a task list. It’s an old habit from my enterprise development and SCRUM days where I would create a two-week plan and fill in a backlog of tasks. The same technique can apply to game development too.

I like OneNote since it lets me mix and match task items with checkbox as well as text and pictures. I’ll save everything about the project into a single task list with references so I don’t forget why I made that task. Over time I check off what I’ve done and move it to the bottom of the list. On slow days I can reorganize the list to help me find things to work on. On crazy days where the list is too long I’ll simply focus on the top five items and see what I can go from there.

In the end, the list allows me to block out my workday. I can see how much I have left to do, track ideas I want to add to the game over time, and help motivate me to keep going. Also completing a checklist gives you a real sense of completion. I sleep better at night after seeing the progress made on the list at the end of each long day. I also like to plan out the next day the night before and make sure my most critical issues are always at the top when I get back to my project.

Share Your Project With Others

One of the biggest motivations techniques I have is to share the project with others. While it’s always a challenge getting feedback, it helps to see what others think about your game. The sooner you have a playable copy the better. Getting early feedback and doing player testing is critical to build the game others want to play. It's important to not box yourself into features only you find interesting.

I leverage social networks like Twitter and Twitch as much as possible. These places are also helpful if you are not ready to let people play the game on their own. It may feel silly but be sure to include special hash tags when tweeting out updated to your game. The best one to use is #gamedev. Also take part in #screenshotsaturday by sharing updates of your game’s progress each Saturday. I’ve been picked up a few times by indie game magazines because of this.

Right now, Twitch is not as far reaching for game development updates as Twitter. The power of Twitch is that once you build up a dedicated following it can creates a community around your game way before it even launches. Also, I've found that some of the best advice both technical and on my game play comes from the live chat during my stream. Find ways to include viewers in the conversation. You'll see the quality of the comments will go up the more engaging you and your game are during the stream. Twitch even has a dedicated game development channel. Check out one of the highlights I captured from a stream where I Skyped in Mike Geig from Unity to figure out how to handle abstracting controller input in my game.

Real Artist Ship

The final stages of shipping a game are more than just fixing bugs. It involves perseverance, determination and vision. While all of these techniques work well for me I've had years of experience to fine-tune them for my own workflow. The hope is that you find your own ways to motivate and reinforce these traits for finishing your next game from this talk. In the words of Steve Jobs, "real artists ship!"

If you missed part one, make sure to check it out as well as the following links covering game design for beginners:

Part 1 - Picking a Framework

Part 2 - Game Design 101

Part 3 - Creating Artwork and Sounds

Part 4 - Polishing Your Game

Part 5 - Publishing and Marketing Your Game

 

-Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)

June 05, 2015

Jesse Freeman

We recently released a new version of our In-App Purchase SDK for Unity Developers. The Amazon In-App Purchasing (IAP) API makes it easy for you to offer digital content and subscriptions for purchase within your app, such as in-game currency, expansion packs, upgrades, consumables, and more on Fire OS and Android devices. The latest version, IAP v2.0, leverages new features to better support Android OS 5.0 (Lollipop), work with our newer App Tester and better integration with the Amazon Appstore. If you have already been using the SDK in Unity, or looking to add it for the first time, it’s also straight forward to implement.

To get started, you need to download the package from our Unity plugins page here.

Once you have downloaded it, you’ll be ready to get started.

Step 1: Importing the Package

After downloading the Apps-SDK, open your Unity project and click on the Assets menu, then select Import Package -> Custom Package from the drop-down.


Navigate to where you downloaded the AmazonIAP.unitypackage, which you can find inside of the Unity folder of the Apps-sdk folder and select it. You’ll then be presented with the import window.


From here you can install all of the files and it will setup your project to include the Unity classes as well as the native Android code you’ll need to run on an actual device.

Step 2: Set Up Your Game on the Developer Portal

If you have not already registered your game, you’ll need to log into the Amazon Developer Portal and add your game. Click “Add a New App” to begin the process of submitting it to the Amazon Appstore or select your existing game.


Step 3: Create New In-App Purchasable Items

Before you can leverage any IAP calls in your game, you’ll need to create new purchasable items in our portal. You can follow this walkthrough, which will guide you through the process.


After you have created a few items, you can leverage the IAP v2 plug-in methods and events here in Unity directly or check out the sample project.

Step 4 (Optional): Set Up Test Environment

At this point you are ready to begin using IAP in your Unity game. In order to make sure everything is configured correctly, you’ll want to download Tester Tool.


Once you have the Tester Tool. You can follow these steps to learn more about the IAP testing process and configuring your testing environment.

Step 5: Submit Your App

It’s free to be a developer on the Amazon Appstore. Once your game is ready, simply push it live and reach millions of Android customers in 236 countries and territories worldwide across Amazon Fire and Android devices.

Conclusion

In-App purchases are a great way to not only monetize your game but also offer additional content to players in order to extend replay and engagement. We are working hard to make sure the process is seamless for Unity developers looking to take advantages of the features offered by the Amazon In-App Purchase V2 API. For more information on the IAP v2 check out the following links:

- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)

 

June 04, 2015

Corey Badcock

In April, Amazon introduced Amazon Fire TV, and it quickly became the most wished for item by Prime members in 2014.  Amazon Fire TV, made it easier for customers to watch Netflix, Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus, WatchESPN, and more on their big-screen TV, and brought photos, music, and games to the living room.  In October, we brought the same experience customers love about Amazon Fire TV—ease of use, great performance, and vast selection—to a smaller and even more affordable device - Fire TV Stick, which is the fastest-selling Amazon device ever.

This week, we announced that Amazon Fire TV has the fastest growing selection of any streaming media device. In just the last 3 months, Amazon has added over 600 channels, apps and games to the Amazon Fire TV platform—more than Roku and Apple TV in the same timeframe. Popular new titles include Popcornflix, Funny Or Die, GameFly, Candy Crush Saga, and Fox News. 

For developers, one of the most exciting prospects of publishing your game on Amazon Fire TV is that you can run Android games directly on the TV. If you are already building games for Android, you can use the same codebase you currently have, and make that game playable on Amazon Fire TV.

How to Optimize Your App or Game for Fire TV

While you may be familiar with targeting Android tablets and phones, there are a few things you need to consider for your app to run correctly on Amazon Fire TV.  Below is a quick round-up of some of the great content we’ve created since the device launched to help make the transition easy.

Responsive Game Design: Making Games that Scale Across Desktop, Mobile & TV

Gone are the days where you can make a game and publish it to a single platform and expect to be successful. Like any business that sells consumer products, you need to go where the people are. That means the games you make should run on a multitude of different platforms and accept any number of different input types. With that in mind I have outlined what I call “responsive game design,” which is modeled loosely after some of the core concepts of responsive web design. It’s also a framework that will help you think about enabling your games to scale across multiple platforms.  Click here to learn more.

10 Tips for Remote & Controller

If you’re porting an existing Android app to Fire TV, you have to add support for user input from the Amazon Fire TV remote and maybe the Amazon Fire game controller. Luckily, basic controller support is already built into Android.  You can leverage the Android input device APIs and the game controller API from the Amazon Fire TV SDK to get your game ready to publish in no time. Here are the top ten things you should do in order to get your game ready for Amazon Fire TV customers.

Tips for Getting Your Android Apps Looking Good on Fire TV

While you may be familiar with targeting Android tablets and phones, there are a few things you need to consider for your app to run correctly on Amazon Fire TV. This includes understanding the layout, dimensions and orientation of Amazon Fire TV views, changes to the user experience when interacting with a TV (10’ away on average), UI and navigation patterns, as well as some other TV-specific gotchas such as overscan and color reproduction.  Here are some practical tips to help you get your Android apps looking good on Fire TV.

Building Apps & Casual Games for Fire TV Stick

Fire TV Stick is one of the most affordable devices on the market for creating apps and casual games intended for the big screen. The best part is if you are already building for Android, Fire TV stick is another great platform to help grow your audience.  In this post we cover how to get started, optimizing for Fire TV Stick as well as the hardware/software differences between the Fire TV Stick and Fire TV to help make your apps and games run great on both devices.

Reaching New Android Customers with Xamarin & Amazon Fire TV

Xamarin is a cross platform development environment that leverages the power of the C# programming language and takes full advantage of native hardware acceleration. Xamarin includes a suite of tools that allow you to test, build, and analyze your apps across all of the major mobile platforms. Utilizing Xamarin you can now publish your own apps and games to all Amazon Fire devices. This includes Amazon Fire tablets, Amazon Fire phone, Amazon Fire TV and the recently announced Amazon Fire TV Stick.  Click here to learn how to get your app or game running on Fire TV using Xamarin.

Introducing the Web App Starter Kit for Fire TV

Fire TV and Fire TV Stick both support HTML5 web apps. The Web App Starter Kit for Fire TV is a new open source project intended to help developers get up to speed quickly creating a simple media-oriented app for this exciting new web platform. Features of the project include an example user interface designed for the 10-foot user experience, support for the Fire TV remote control, and sample components to create and customize a media app. You can learn more about the Web App Starter Kit for Fire TV here.

 

June 03, 2015

Jesse Freeman

We've all been there; the last part of any project can be the hardest part. Tom Cargill said "The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time". When making games it can sometimes feel like your project will take super human strength to complete. While the last 10% of your project can be a struggle, it doesn't always have to be. In this post I'll cover some of my own strategies to stay motivated, focused and ship a game on time.

Starting From Scratch

Before we talk about the end of a project, let's talk a little bit about starting one from scratch. When I used to paint I found the hardest part was just getting started. I would look at a blank canvas for hours waiting until it to told me what to do. It never did. That’s why it’s up to you to motivate yourself when you start a new project. It’s important to have a plan before you build any game. Just like you wouldn’t build a house without a blue print you should have some details on what you are going to build.

To get started, I suggest creating a GDD (Game Design Document). If you are a sole developer, a GDD doesn't have to be pages upon pages of intricate detail about the game.  It's ok to be fluid in your design, just make sure you have some description of what you actually plan on building. That's why I suggest going with something a little simpler like Javi Cepa’s (@JaviCepa) 1 page GDD. It’s a great way to sketch out a simple game idea and remove the anxiety of the blank canvas to help you find direction.

Be Creative Every Day With 30 Minute Code Warm-Ups

Even if you have your game started, or you are just getting started, you’ll need a way to stay motivated. Going back to my years of fine art training I remember my mentor always made me do 30 minutes of drawing before I even touched a canvas. It was a great time to clear my mind and wake it up. I’ve used the same technique for coding over the years and call it Code Warm Up.

The basic idea of a Code Warm Up is to spend at least 30 minutes of the beginning of your day just coding. It doesn’t have to be anything you plan on keeping or incorporating into your own game. It could simply be an idea you had the night before or a particular game mechanic you’ve always wanted to try building. What ever you create during this time is temporary and in the moment. When you finish you can go back and clean it up or just scrap it. I keep all my experiments in a folder to go back to for inspiration when I am having trouble finding it.

The Pomodoro Technique

The day to day management of staying focused during a long project can be especially daunting. I’ve tried several techniques over the years to work with the ups and downs of my focus. It's also critical for me quickly motivate myself to code in the short windows of time I have between meetings, travel and family. For the past few years I’ve been having great success with the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique focuses on setting a timer for 25 minute with a 5 minute break in-between. You can alter this to your own liking as well. I like to also take longer 15-minute break every 3 breaks. These short breaks force me to get out of my chair and stretch as well as pressure me to come up with a quick solution to a problem as I see the counter getting close to break time. I am even using this technique to write this post. I use it throughout the day to block off my time into more focused tasks which are not as much fun as making the game itself.

To Be Continued

In part two we’ll talk about when to take breaks from your game, keeping track of tasks and sharing your project with others to stay motivated and focused.

Looking for more resources on game design? Check out the following posts:

Part 1 - Picking a Framework

Part 2 - Game Design 101

Part 3 - Creating Artwork and Sounds

Part 4 - Polishing Your Game

Part 5 - Publishing and Marketing Your Game

-Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)

 

May 27, 2015

Emily Roberts

Today, we announced a new Amazon Fire TV web app kit for Brightcove, a company that offers cloud services for delivering and monetizing video across connected devices. Brightcove has over 5,500 customers in over 70 countries. Read the full press release here.

The Brightcove-specific web app kit for Amazon Fire TV is a new HTML5 template available to Brightcove Video Cloud customers that optimizes the delivery of Brightcove Video Cloud customers' content directly to Amazon Fire TV. The kit enables content owners to leverage their existing Brightcove-based workflows for Amazon Fire TV. For Brightcove customers, the template provides a way to seamlessly pull in content that’s hosted and organized in Video Cloud and use the Brightcove Player. Because of the integration with the Brightcove Player, customers can run ads against their content on Amazon Fire TV using the Google IMA3 advertising plugin and also capture analytics about video consumption on Amazon Fire TV in Video Cloud. Learn more about Brightcove and Amazon Fire TV.

RLJ Entertainment is an example of a Brightcove customer that is eager to leverage the new template across its multiple properties. Titus Bicknell, Chief Digital Officer at RLJ Entertainment said:

"We're excited about the reach and high-quality experience we'll be able to provide our audience on Amazon Fire TV. As we look to launch our Acorn TV (British TV), UMC (Urban Movie Channel), and AcaciaTV (Fitness) apps, the new template will greatly simplify the release of our current and future niche channels.”

Quickly Publish a Fire TV App

It’s easy for Brightcove customers to get started using the sample project on GitHub. The Brightcove example is in the src/projects/brightcove directory. You can quickly get this project up and running on Fire TV by creating a zip package with the sample Brightcove app that can be found in out/brightcove/ directory. This is just a standard zip, but the index.html must be at the top level of the zip directory - so that there if you unzip the package there is no folder.

Once you’re up and running, you can test your app on Fire TV or in a browser, customize your project, and add additional features. Read the Brightcove documentation on GitHub here.

Ready to get started?

Download the Fire TV web app starter kit GitHub project and learn how to support Brightcove.

 

 

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