App Game Kit Updates

Some time ago, I’ve posted some information about the App Game Kit, a mobile cross platform development kit that is being developed by The Game Creators. It’s planned to be a 2D engine, allowing developers to create games for iOS, Samsung Bada and Windows on launch time, and more platforms later 2011.

This month on the The Game Creators newsletter, they are providing an extensive Q&A that really helps to clarify the developers questions about it. To make your life easier (and keep you reading my blog), I reproduce here some of the questions from their newsletter:

I assume there will be a built in tile-, layer-, animation- and lightning system, like in the 2D plugin Kit (or something similar)?

  • Our focus primarily is a solid and fast foundation. We are adding features which elevate it from being just another wrapper, but we’re keeping those dark for the moment.

And, I also hope there will still be a significant amount of 3D commands?

  • There will be no 3D commands in the first release. Our aim is a really solid 2D kit to begin with. We may be exposing some nice 3D-esk features like shaders and UV manipulation, but only as far as quads.

I asked if the AGK will use the OpenGL ES system for its rendering?

  • Yes we are using OpenGL ES on devices where OpenGL is not available, but you are protected from this distinction by the language.

Is it just me or does the tier 1 runtime app that loads other apps sound like it’s against Apple’s TOS?

  • It’s a grey area and we have some strategies to overcome this barrier. For those with a Mac, you will always have the option of compiling natively to comply fully with Apple rules.

Bytecode, fine, but why not allow us to distribute ourselves similar to how DBC was done?

  • You can, anyone with a Mac can compile their Tier 1 apps natively for publication on the App
    Store. We plan to offer a service to publish apps for those users who do not have access to an Apple Mac.

Why not offer pre-processing commands where we can have our cake and eat it too?

  • You can. There will be a command in AGK which tells you which device you are running on, just in-case you want to re-arrange your screen, make buttons smaller or present specific themes.

Will it be possible to embed and access external .dll files and AS3 .api files?

  • There are no plans to support third party external plugins or modules in Tier 1. Naturally Tier 2 will allow any number of linkages as it’s plain old C++.

Any TGC splash screens or watermarks?

  • No plans to add anything like that. If you pay for AGK, you should not have to display our logos all over your work.

Why couldn’t I sell games made from Tier 1 without going through TGC?

  • You can, many platforms are not as restrictive as Apple, allowing you to compile your Tier 1 app and distribute it right away. To distribute your own Tier 1 apps on Apple, you will need a Mac to perform the final certificate based compile.

What kinds of support will there be for internationalization and localization? Would we be
building this kind of support ourselves or will there be something built into AGK for multiple languages?

  • Great question. We have been focusing more on speed and universal stability at the moment, with localisation being left to the app author for the moment. There are a number of competing solutions which make localisation a snap, though we have yet to choose one. One simplified solution we have identified is that the app can be exported with the text data separated out, so you can localise without re-compiling the app. We’ll explore this more during the public betas.

I would like to see the ability for us to distribute our works freely. In other words if I want to make some games for free and I don’t want to go through TGC, I should be able to do that?

  • Yes you can do that in Tier 1 and 2. See answers above.

What’s the point of making AGK compile to byte-code in the first place? You could just convert to C++ and compile it yourselves?

  • The choice is about ease versus speed. Tier 1 byte-code is designed to run on every device we ultimately support. If this becomes ten platforms, it means the programmer only has to code and test on one device, knowing they don’t have to buy, build and set-up the nine other platforms to make their app cross-platform. Tier 2 is for those who prefer to compile for each platform personally, ensuring the fastest performance and widest support for device specific features.

Have you guys at TGC done any research into existing languages geared towards games?

  • TGC have been developing and publishing game creation tools for over eleven years, and its employees have been using game making tools ten years before that. We have a natural interest in this field and always keep an eye on the horizon to see what our contemporaries are up to. To date, we’ve not found anything that has convinced us to switch to a third party development tool. As the number of game capable platforms explode, AGK is something we needed in-house, and we’re pleased to be able to share this cool technology with you soon.

Is it possible to use the “easy” tier1 commands in tier2? Or are you restricted to the c++ ish code?

  • Yes you can. In order for you to self-publish a Tier 1 app, you will need a Mac, the iOS SDK and a special build of the Tier 1 interpreter which will allow you to take your Tier 1 app and compile it as a native binary for the App Store. C++ knowledge is not required.

Do you publish all the games we ask you to publish (if they work) or do you publish only the good ones?

  • Good question. We have over two years’ experience specifically in publishing mobile apps to
    various stores, and have learned a thing or two about what makes a good app. Given the cost TGC would incur incubating the app and getting it ready for cross-platform sale, we’d only choose apps that reach a certain standard. Apps that don’t quite make the grade will be given support on how they can be improved. Accepted apps will enjoy cross promotion within our extensive catalogue of apps and constant monitoring to ensure they remain compatible as devices evolve.

I own all of these platforms already, so if you need a beta tester with a multitude of devices and who has been with DB since the very beginning, I’d be happy to oblige?

  • Great to hear we have a small army of brutal testers. As soon as we’re confident, we will
    announce a public beta of AGK in our monthly newsletter. Not quite there yet!

When selling games using Tier 1 will the end user have to first download a player? Does this apply to all supported platforms?

  • Not at all, when you compile your app in Tier 1 the player is included. When you sell your app on the store, the interpreter is part of the final package and no separate Player is required. All devices will operate this way.

Will Tier 1 games be sold through a player app? I assume we can’t sell them through an Appstore directly.

  • Selling through a player is prohibited on most mobile stores, and so we are not using this
    approach. You can sell your app directly through an App Store by building a package that includes the player along with your app code, media and other files.

Since you receive money from every sale of Tier 1 games I assume it will be cheaper to get a Tier 1 license then a Tier 2 license? Will there also be an upgrade price for those who want Tier 2 later?

  • Yes to both questions. Tier 1 is the affordable and easy game making solution, whereas Tier 2 provides additional benefits of device specific support and a C++ environment.

You have support for MP3s, do we need some kind of license to sell games with MP3 music?

  • Not at all, only device and OS manufacturers need to buy such an encode/decode license. As the app uses the native MP3 support of the device, and not an internal decoder, no fee is due.

How hard would it be to make the run-time app (used in tier 1) into a browser plug-in?

  • We are treating browsers as another future platform for us to support. We continue to look at the evolving browser technologies with interest, especially those that promise native performance from the host system.

If I wanted to take advantage of the user’s GPS location, would I need a Tier 2 licence or are these features supported within Tier 1?

  • A. You would need a Tier 2 license, and you would need to learn the platform specific SDK that provides that GPS information.

So, when will we be able to pre-order it and for those of us who do pre-order it will we have to wait until it is officially released to get it or will we be able to get our hands on a beta copy (or pre-release candidate) to start experimenting with?

  • We are not planning to take pre-orders at this time, and warming to the idea of a community
    discount applied to an early adopter version of AGK. As you would be helping us test the product, you would be automatically given a full price license on completion under this scheme. There will also be a public beta to some degree so you can play around with the tool kit and get a feel for the technology.

Is Kindle going to be one of the targeted platforms?

  • No, Kindle will not be supported for some time. Our primary target are popular mobile and
    desktop devices that are capable of playing fast games and apps.

When/If the Android platform is supported – how would I take advantage of the Google maps feature? Would I need a T-2 licence for this?

  • Yes you would need the Tier 2 product, which allows per-device support of specific features not present in the core engine, such as GPS, Maps, Calendar and other features.

The newsletter also shows a simple demo source code, so you can have an idea about the program language used, and the resources available. As you probably know, TGC are the creators of DarkBasic, so it was expected that the AGK would use similar syntax. Using bytecode, or compiling it natively seems to cover all possibilities (like iOS restrictions), but good performance on mobile devices is really something I’d like to see how it is going to be.

There is no beta or actual demo available, but considering their launch schedule, I’d expect something soon.

The TGC website has a community forum, with a specific are to discuss the App Game Kit. If you are interested, I think it is the best place to get information.

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