Last week at GDC, the Grand Prize Winners of Phase 1 of the Perceptual Computing Challenge were announced. One thousand participants from eleven different countries participated in the first round of this Challenge, with over one hundred prototypes submitted for judging. Four distinct categories were up for app submission: Productivity, Perceptual Gaming, Creative User Interface, and Multimodal. Over one hundred prototypes were received for judging within these four categories, and many of these can be viewed at the Intel Perceptual Computing Showcase. The three Grand Prize winners of Phase 1 of the Challenge were announced at GDC 2013, and one of them was UK coder Matthew Hoban with his app “Mystic Blocks”.
This intriguing puzzle game takes a steady hand, quick reactions, and a good memory – it’s quite reminiscent of the classic game of Tetris. Players are presented lock and a key, and must rotate the key with hand gestures until the correct match for the approaching locks are found. The tricky part comes the second time around, since the shapes of the approaching locks are hidden.
AGK – App Game Kit
One of the tools that Matthew used to create this game was the App Game Kit (AGK) by The Game Creators, a game creation suite of tools that enables developers to create one game and port it to as many different platforms as possible:
“AGK was developed out of our own need to create a one stop solution for making game apps for mobile devices. In the past TGC had developed games for one device and then wanted to port them to other platforms. The process of conversion was costly and repetitive. The team wanted to spend more time creating new games and not burdened with laborious conversion work.” – “About AGK”, App Game Kit
Flavors of AGK
There are two “flavors” of AGK:
- Tier 1 - code in BASIC
- Tier 2 - code in C++ and call the library functions in AGK
From Rick Vanner, co-founder of The Game Creators:
“Tier 1 is a fixed language - meaning you have the BASIC commands and that is it. So you can't easily expand it. Tier 2 allows you to incorporate AGK commands into your existing source code projects and add in other SDKs - much like Matty H did (Grand Prize winner of Phase 1: Perceptual Computing Challenge).”
In the BASIC tier, coders can create games in the AGK Windows IDE, and once the compiling is finished, the game can be picked up on other devices like smartphones and tablets. Features of this tier include AGK Magic (the compiler links the interpreter with your game and creates a standalone executable file for you), AGK Book (a book for learning AGK; a free chapter can be downloaded here), and the AGK Player service (free download that allows you to instantly test your apps on various devices).
The second tier of AGK gives developers the ability to code in C++ and call the library functions in AGK, with a C++ library that mimics the BASIC script found on Tier 1; this allows coders to write readable apps that compile to all platforms with virtually no modifications, in addition to easy deployment to five separate platforms simultaneously. Again from Rick Vanner:
“AGK takes care of sprites, music, sounds, box 2D physics and now 3D too! So it takes the headache away from the developer when it comes to knowing how to code graphics and sounds for their project. It's also cross platform (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac and Blackberry 10).”
Get a quick glimpse of how AGK works in this video:
Examples of apps using AGK
In addition to the Grand Prize Winner of Phase 1 of the Perceptual Computing Challenge, there are many other apps that are currently using this suite of tools to “write once, deploy everywhere”, including:
- Hide It Find It - Hidden Objects Game: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/hide-it-find-it-free/id570617033?mt=8
- Squashies World - fun physics game: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/squashies-world-free/id553199530?mt=8
- Theory Test App: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/theory-test-uk-driving-test/id609636705?mt=8
- Hazard Perception App: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/hazard-perception-uk-driving/id609649044?mt=8
The Game Creators have been developing these apps for a UK Publisher using AGK. This has strengthened the engine and means that apps can be ported more easily to different platforms.
Developing PerC apps with AGK
Perceptual computing technology gaining traction, especially with the Intel Perceptual Computing Challenge and the Ultimate Coder Challenge: Going Perceptual. Rick Vanner gives us his thoughts on what AGK could be used for in this exciting field:
“Looking forward, it would be useful to take the Intel Perceptual SDK and create easy to use Tier 1 commands. Then anyone who can code BASIC could code a Perceptual app (assuming they have the camera too!) Imagine commands like:
If g$="LeftSwipe" then...
I'm not saying these will be the actual commands but this is what I would like to see them boiled down to. By making them really easy to use you can then ensure many more developers can make use of the technology.”
Future of AGK
According to Rick Vanner’s post in the AGK forums, AGK is moving forward with new developments:
“We're currently beta testing V1.08 and are now close to completing that work. Following this version we will roll out these new features:
- 3D Animation support (bone based 3D models)
- "AGO" 3D format
- Shader commands
- Faster Compiler
- Improved help files
Once these are in place the product will be considered a stable version and will become a full commercial version costing $99. All existing users will gain all these updates for free.
Building an engine takes a long time (especially when it's cross platform). We have broken the back of this engine but we still have more things to add and improve.”
For more information on the App Game Kit, check out the following resources:
- Main web site: www.appgamekit.com
- Forum: http://forum.thegamecreators.com/?m=forum_read&i=41
- Forum showcase: http://forum.thegamecreators.com/?m=forum_read&i=48