Review next to a fountain

The little things that we tend to ignore are the ones that bring us most joy in our day to day life. As Paulo Coelho said in in a blog post “We may think at times that the only thing life offers us tomorrow, is to repeat everything we did today. But if we pay close attention, we will see that no two days are alike.“. The perfect way to experience this is by getting away from the mundane life, from that daily routine we know, love and hate. I finally managed to take a few weeks off from work, my first stop being at my parent’s place, back in my home town! The peace, quiet and lack of people actually frustrated me at start, and instead of relaxing for the first time in months, I started packing, wanting to return to my home. It wasn’t until I took a walk through a park, with an old dear friend, that I realized why I chose to spend a few days away from the city. Launching NOVA 3 meant accomplishing a huge milestone for my career, so huge that, two weeks later, the work and effort put into it still had an impact on me. I actually forgot what It means to take a brake and relax! No wonder @Mazai and a few other collegues (@Radu_Chivu included) joked about me being a workaholic. I always wondered how they manage to appear sane after a project. Still, after spending a week here I feel reborn. And with this newly found strength, I look forward to the other challenges life decides to throw my way.

My desk for now

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A rant about DRM services

Let me start this post by saying that I love steam, I’ve got most of my entire game collection on steam and I buy most of them through it! I’ve been using it for the past 3 years and I had little to no problem with it! It’s a great platform, but, mix it up with something else… let’s say Games for Windows life and you have a recipe from disaster!

Note that some of my opinions from this post are largely influenced by a bit of anger that, right now, keeps boiling and boiling! I’ve bought Red Faction Guerrilla a few months ago, but didn’t get to play it much till now (played it a few minutes from work one weekend) ! So, while browsing, looking up some new projects on scriptlance, I decided I needed to play something instead of hitting the F5 key, waiting for something interesting to appear on that site! So I opened up Steam and decided to download RF:G! The entire process went smooth, and it about 40 minutes I had the game installed, just waiting for me to push the “Play” button. Before the game started, steam informed me that I “might need” to use the game’s key somewhere, so it should be a good idea to write it down, which I did! What came next, brought me two steps closer to that mind stated know by some of us as: “The baby puncher mode”!
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Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance 3

It’s done, it’s finally done! My first, big huge, project as a professional Game Designer has been finished! It all started one year ago, when I finally joined the ranks of a Game Designer at Gameloft! And boy what a year! When I first started, I never knew I could learn so many things in so little time, yet, here I am, happy, with a gold project that has my name on it! I’m talking about NOVA 3, Gameloft’s newest block buster, a game that I worked on. I will not go into details about the game (NDA and all that), but I can say that once released, it will out-shine all other games on the AppStore!

Here’s a taste of what to expect once this gem of a game hits the stores, later this month:

And the announcement trailer:

That is all! Expect it, adore it, and check the credits!

The wonder of AGK: Making Android, iOS and Meego apps

I’ll start this post by admitting that I’m a mediocre coder. I get things done fast and easy, but I rarely go deep when it comes to low-level coding. Instead I rely on other SDK’s and Libraries to get the job done for me. In the past few years I worked on my own DirectX based framework, which I used for a good amount of time. I had everything I need from Image and Sprite manipulation to loading and using 3D Meshes up to collision detection and physics. Yet, I had to drop the entire framework once I decided to try out mobile app developing. Instead of writing a new framework to I came across a wonderful SDK that offered me the features I needed In order to proceed with my passion. This marvelous tool is called AGK, the App Game Kit, developed by the same company that got me into programming, The Game Creators.

What is the App Game Kit?

The Game Creators describe AGK as being “a one stop solution for making game apps for mobile devices“. I would describe it as a “lazy-man’s” way of getting things done. The simplicity of it all with the combined support offered by the TGC community makes AGK a must-have tool for anyone who wants to develop their own games and applications for Android, iOS, Meego, Samsung Bada and even Windows. It takes care of any low-level nuissances one may encounter, while giving you a green light to do what you want, especially if you go for Tier 2 (C++).

AGK is a great tool for beginners and advanced users, as it comes in two flavors:

Tier 1: It is used to develop games in a basic-like environment, allowing the users to broadcast their apps from the IDE to their Smartphones and Tablets. The only downside of T1 is that you are limited to the set of commands (although they are many) that AGK gives you as you cannot use (yet) any other external libraries or SDK’s.

Tier 2: Now, Tier 2 (sometimes referred to as “Native”) allows users to code their games and apps using any modern C/C++ compiler. It removes any restriction T1 might have, allowing the coder to use any library/SDK he would want, along side AGK. For example, I’m using T2 and OpenCV in order to replicate the functionality of the “Power-level scouter” from the “Dragon Ball Z” series.

How useful is AGK for a Designer?

I work as a Game Designer at Gameloft Romania and even though I do not use AGK at work, I use daily when prototyping games. The simplicity of it’s commands allows me to get a game from paper to my android device in a matter of hours, sometimes even less. For example, I got Unstable Battlefield working on my HTC Cha Cha in just 3 hours after posting the concept on my blog. I find this tool extremely useful hence It allows me to focus allot more on the design process rather the spending time trying to get it functional. It’s not magic, but it’s as close as you can get to, right now at least.

The App Game Kit is constantly updated with new features and platforms. When I first got it, Android was in the works, AGK allowing users to deploy only on Windows, iOS and Mac. Just a few months later I can now deploy to those platforms, as well as Android, Samsung Bada and Meego. But it doesn’t stop here, the wonderful guys behind The Game Creators, the company that develops AGK, promise to support Windows Phone 7, as well as deploying any AGK apps in the browser. Would I use AGK to develop a commercial iOS/Android app? Yes, I would. Many others did, as you can see here.

It’s time to end this post about AGK here, but not before promising that I will continue to post updates regarding it. So keep an eye on this blog as I’ll treturn with more information and how-to’s, as well as many games and examples.