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Before starting development of the game the 1st thing one should decide is: “What engine should I use?”

In this article I would like to present a brief overview of the 3 the most powerful engines, in order to clarify their key differences, advantages and disadvantages.

Nowadays Unreal Engine 4, Unity and Cry ENGINE are rightfully considered to be the most popular and powerful among game engines.

Unreal Engine 4:                 

Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) is the brand new engine developed by Epic Games (its predecessor is Unreal Development Kit, or UDK the free edition of the Unreal Engine3. It was used in a huge amount of AAA games including Gears of War).

UE4 possesses amazing graphical capabilities including:

  • photorealistic graphics;
  • advanced dynamic lighting;
  • innovative particle system (handles up to a million particles in a scene at ones).

The Unreal Engine 4 got some changes and differs from UDK, so you will have to get used to them if you have had an experience in UDK. Still the ease of the UE4 makes it quite appealing for the new game developers who will do justice to such notable changes as:

  • UnrealScript is completely replaced by C++;
  • Kismet is replaced by the more intuitive Blueprint.

Unreal engine 4 could be used for development games for PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Nevertheless, it is impossible to make a previous generation consolee game on UE4.  

UE4 is available for the developers at $19 per with a 5% royalty. Furthermore Epic Games gave free access to the engine for schools and universities as well as to the source code.

Unity:

Unity is the game engine with an extensive range of features, comfortable and user-friendly interface. Its cross-platform integration makes it prior while choosing software for mobile games development. Unity allows to port games quickly and easily onto iOS, Android, Win Phone, Blackberry. In addition the engine could be used for PS3, Xbox360, and Nintendo Wii U games development.

This engine could be easily integrated with any 3D-editor (like 3ds Max, Maya, Softimage, CINEMA 4D, Blender, etc.). It also has capabilities for the 2D game development, supporting sprites and 2D physics.  That makes Unity great for development of both 3D and 2D games.

Still, its own inside editor can perform a limited set of operations.  It has no modeling or building features outside of a few primitive shapes, so everything has to be created in a third party 3D application.  Nevertheless it has a huge asset library, which could be either downloaded or purchased.

For the developers 2 versions of Unity are available: free and Pro. Annually Pro version costs $1,500 or $75 for monthly subscription, also it is possible to download 30-days trial.

Pro version greatly differs from the free:

  • global lightning;
  • render-to-texture;
  • custom splash screen;
  • IK Rigs, etc.

Also, the developers at Unity are preparing to enter the new generation with the release of their Unity 5 and continue the race with UE4 and CryEngine.

CryEngine:

CryEngine is an extremely powerful tool, developed by Crythek Company. Firstly it was presented in the 1st Far Cry game. This engine allows creating games for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. It obviously surpasses Unity in graphical capabilities:

  • state-of-the-art lightning;
  • realistic physics;
  • advanced animation, etc.

CryEngine is quite intuitive and possesses powerful level design features and could be put on the same level with UE4.

Still, it could be quite challenging and take a while to get used to it and start using the engine efficiently in case you’ve never dealt with game engines before. So, if you do not require your game graphics to compete with games like Crysis 3 you’d better choose a more user-friendly engine.

For developers CryEngine is available at $9,90 per month with no royalty commitments. Also it offers commercial developers full source licensing for larger and longer term projects that benefit from a real partnership with Crythek. Platinum support is also available, with dedicated support staff, increased on-site presence and even co-development of features.

Thus, Unreal Engine 4 is a good match for games with photorealistic graphics, Unity is better for development of 2D, 3D games and CryEngine has amazing graphics capabilities along with the most appealing pricing. Still, I suppose that one should try each engine in order to define, which one suits his purposes in the best way.

To sum it all up I would like to notice that all these 3 engines are extremely powerful tools for the game development. Still, I suppose that one should try each engine in order to define, which one suits your purposes in the best way.

And what do you think? To what engine would you give your preference?

Look forward to your comments!

Tatyana Ogneva Tatyana Ogneva
tatyana.ogneva@altabel.com 
Skype ID: ognewatatyana
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

The mobile world is continuing its rapid growth while we are becoming more and more reliant on our mobile devices in everyday life.

By 2016, it’s expected that there will be more than 10 billion mobile Internet devices in use, so the mobile application industry will grow tremendously to match the demand and keep up with ever evolving technologies.

Let’s have a look at obvious technologies trends continuing to influence the mobile world nowadays.

Three main platforms and architectures

In a short period of time a majority of big companies will need a special set of development tools to support three key platforms – iOS, Android, Windows and three application architectures – native, hybrid and mobile Web. Tool selection won’t be that easy, rising up technical issues and nontechnical ones such as productivity versus vendor stability. Undoubtedly most big organizations will need several tools to deliver to the architectures and platforms they require.

HTML5

Being fragmented, immature and thus possessing many implementation and security risks, HTML5 won’t be a simple solution for mobile application portability. However as it matures, the mobile Web and hybrid applications will become more and more popular. So despite many challenges HTML5 faces, we could expect that it will be rather essential for organizations delivering applications across multiple platforms.

Advanced mobile user experience design

A vast majority of new techniques and methodologies such as motivational design, “quiet” design and “playful” interfaces contribute to exceptional user experiences most leading mobile apps have. Designers are also creating apps that can accommodate mobile challenges, such as partial user attention and interruption, or that can exploit technologies with novel features or “wow” factors, such as augmented reality. Leading consumer apps are setting high standards for user interface design, and all organizations must master new skills and work with new partners to meet growing user expectations.

High-precision location sensing

Knowing the location of a person to within a few meters is a key factor in the delivery of highly relevant contextual information and services. Applications that use the precise indoor location currently exploit such technologies Wi-Fi, imaging, ultrasonic beacons and geomagnetics. Such technologies as smart lighting will also become important. Precise indoor location sensing  in combination with mobile applications will create a new generation of highly personalized services and information.

Mobile phone as a universal remote

Some time ago we had to stay in front of TV in order to turn channels. Later remote controls were sold with every TV and stereo on the market. Nowadays, our homes have become smarter and many people manage their homes with the help of a smart phone. In 2015, mobile applications are expected to move to the next level, becoming a universal remote control for your life. Air conditioner controls and alarm systems are heading the list with cars and door locks to go behind soon. With all the different data including financial, electronic, home and automotive deeply embedded in your phone, the general remote seems to be a usual extension.

Apps will start thinking for you

Artificial intelligence is going to influence mobile applications in 2015, initially with smarter apps that think for you. The ability of apps to forecast behavior and lessen manual work is amazing. In the year 2015, apps will begin to foresee where you are going, what thoughts you are having and the types of information you might require. Imagine future applications less of a tool and more of an associate.

Wearable Devices

The smartphone will become the center of personal-computer network consisting of wearable devices such as on-body healthcare sensors, smart jewelry, smart watches, display devices such as Google Glass and different sensors embedded in clothing and shoes. These gadgets will communicate with mobile applications to deliver information in new ways and include a wide range of products and services in such areas as sports, fitness, fashion, hobbies and health.

What are your predictions on mobile technologies trends for the upcoming time? Eager to hear your thoughts :)

Yuliya Tolkach

Yuliya Tolkach
Yulia.Tolkach@altabel.com
Skype ID: yuliya_tolkach
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

There has been a lot of talk about the dirge sounding for the Firefox browser. With a marked nosedive in market share (roughly 15%), the one-time king of the browse war has now fallen into third place (behind Internet Explorer and Chrome). As most pundits are scratching their heads, I’m fairly certain that there’s a clear reason for this change:

Google.

The 15% market share applies only to desktop browsers. Once you move to mobile… all bets are off. But why? What has shifted to cause Firefox to drop so sharply? Is it a bad product? Honestly, to the majority of users (I’m talking “average user” here), a browser is a browser is a browser. The biggest difference to the average user is the use of “Favorites” over “Bookmarks.” Since most users wouldn’t even know Firefox from Internet Explorer, how could this change have happened?

Again, I say… Google.

Actually, I should be more specific and say Chrome — or even better, Chrome OS and Android.

From November 2013 to the end of the year, a reported 21% of all laptops sold were Chromebooks. Worldwide, Android takes nearly 81% of the mobile market share. That’s a LOT of Google-based browsers out there. I don’t think it’s a huge leap of logic to assume a vast percentage of those users would have been, otherwise, using Firefox.

Let me present myself a case in point. For the longest time, I was a devout Firefox user. But then I discovered a few of the Chrome apps/extensions (such as Tweetdeck) and added Chrome to my Linux desktop. Then I adopted a Chromebook as a laptop. Since I really only do two things on a laptop (write and browse), it made perfect sense. Add to this the fact that my smartphone platform has been Android for what seems like forever, plus the mobile version of Firefox is dreadful, and you have the makings for a typical migration from Firefox to Chrome.

Let’s be honest — as long as the browser gets the job done, it doesn’t matter which browser you use.

  • Unless you’re on a Chromebook
  • Or on Android
  • Or you depend on Google Apps

You can see the pattern here, right? It’s like third-party politics in the United States. Many people don’t vote for third parties because it takes away votes from the party they once championed. In this case — every person using Chrome is one less person using Firefox. Why?

Caution: generalization coming…

Most people who use Internet Explorer simply don’t know that the product they’re using is inferior to every other product of its kind (either that or they depend on a site that was written ONLY for IE). So, there’s little to no chance they’ll jump ship to either Firefox or Chrome.

So, what is Mozilla to do? Well, they’re busy focusing on the Firefox OS, which is akin to Ubuntu focusing on the Ubuntu Phone — it’s detracting from what they’ve always done really well in exchange for jumping into a ring with two of the heaviest hitters in the history of the game — Android and iOS.

And then there’s that advertising deal with Google that’s about to expire. The majority of Mozilla’s income is from that deal, and Google has less reason to continue on with that search agreement. Google no longer needs the advertising real estate from a browser suffering from a possible slow death. Should Google pull this, Mozilla will have to pull off a miracle to stay in the fight.

However, there’s good news. You can’t forget that Firefox is an open-source browser. That means, even if Firefox were to die, another batch of forks would appear. So, even if Google Chrome were to knock Firefox out of the ring, more contenders will appear to take up the gloves. But even a horde of forks are not likely to pull Firefox from the slow Chrome burn. Google isn’t going anywhere but up. As Chromebooks and Android continue to take over the mobile planet (and users become less tethered to their desks), Firefox will continue to suffer.

Firefox is still a quality product. But like Internet Explorer, it’s facing a foe that’s stronger, faster, and more agile. That new opponent is poised to take over nearly everything it touches. Fortunately (for users, not the competition), that new foe offers a stellar product on every platform (Linux, Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, Android, and iOS). Chrome is the only browser on the planet that can make that claim (as Chrome is the only browser that will run on Chrome OS) – a claim that’s becoming ever more important in a world gone mad for mobile.

I don’t have a prediction for Firefox. Will it die? Will it become an “arm” of Google? Will it get a second wind and, thus, a second life? No one really knows at this point. If I had to make a guess, I’d say both Firefox and IE will fall to Chrome. The difference is that IE is embedded into the psyche of many users, so it won’t suffer as much as Firefox.

The gloves are off and Chrome is set to rumble. How do you think this fight will end? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

Kristina Kozlova

Kristina Kozlova
Kristina.Kozlova@altabel.com
Skype ID: kristinakozlova
Marketing Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development 

There exist a lot of mobile app development frameworks. Cross-platform tools reduce barriers to entry and democratise app development, by allowing developers from any language (HTML, Java, C++), any background (hobbyist, pros, agencies, corporates) and any skill level (visual designer to hard-core developer) to build mobile apps. Just imagine that by using a cross-platform tool and covering just two platforms such as Android and iOS, you will cover 91% of the whole smartphone market. Sounds appealing:)

PhoneGap and Sencha are the most widespread: they are used by 32% and 30% of cross-platform developers, irrespective of their primary tools. I`m suggesting to have a closer look at PhoneGap which turns to be the most popular tool.

How it works

The cross-platform capabilities of PhoneGap are reached this way: a native project is generated, distinctive for each platform, which includes a browser (a native webView component) as the main component. This browser is able to display HTML/JavaScript code as a usual web page. The file system of this project acts the part of a file server, which gives access to the page. Also there is an object that allows PhoneGap to standardize the access to native features of mobile devices running the supported operating systems, such as camera, compass, accelerometer, contacts etc.

Good moments

-The most obvious one is cross-platform capabilities. Currently PhoneGap supports the following platforms: iOS, Android, webOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Symbian OS, Tizen.

-PhoneGap app is written upon HTML, JavaScript and CSS, with the opportunities of using numerous external libraries;

-Adjustments can be performed via browser; remote adjustments can be performed on a mobile device via “weinre”.

A blot on the landscape:)

-Many users complain of the irresponsiveness of PhoneGap apps. Here I`m talking about one of the specifics of the PhoneGap development: the 300 millisecond lag between touch and click event on touchscreens. The solution to this problem can be easily found around the Internet. There are several JavaScript libraries, and their work principle is the same – tracking such events as TouchStart and TouchEnd – and at the moment when the latter is done, runs a click event.

– Users feel uncomfortable when touching a button and it doesn`t work. This is one of the most widespread bugs in PhoneGap apps. This bug appears due to improperly created interface, and it raises the problem of touching. The fact is that we look at the touchscreen at an angle and the visual contact area between the finger and the screen differs from the real contact area. This can be corrected quite simply – proper layout of the app page. For example, the area of response can be made bigger than the button itself.

– On average, an app has 5 to 15 pages. But unfortunately, JavaScript apps have no mechanism to store and transmit data between the pages. One of the simplest ways to solve this problem is using one-page apps. These are apps that display the same page, which has changing content. This approach however causes lags in the app.

-Nevertheless this is a cross-platform tool, UI should be optimized for different platforms. But it’s much faster, than creating another native app from scratch;

As you can see, these drawbacks are not quite ‘drawbacks’ in their nature, but rather technical conditions of PhoneGap, which you should consider, like in a usual development process for any other platform.

Certainly, PhoneGap is not a “miracle cure” but can be a good way out if wisely used. And what are your thoughts on PhoneGap?

 

Anna Kozik

Anna Kozik
Anna.Kozik@altabel.com 
Skype ID: kozik_anna
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development 

 

iOS7 has been the greatest change to Apple`s iOS almost since its introduction. And iOS 7 differs quite a lot from its previous version. It`s easier, brighter, bolder and flows better than its predecessors. It has not only the updated user interface but also it`s packed with a great deal of new features.Let`s take a look at iOS7 and compare its major changes to iOS6.

Lock screen: One of the nicest features of iOS 7 is parallax effect: when you move the phone, wallpaper appears to move as well. iOS 7 gets rid of the black bars and becomes lighter. At first this may seem unusual but you get used to it quickly and won`t move back to the old look and feel. Also iOS 7 has four swipeable bits: unlocking, Camera, swiping down from the top of the screen to see notifications, and swiping up from the bottom to bring up Control Center.

Control Center: iOS users have been waiting for it for agesJ now there is no need to jump through endless Settings screen. Control Center is the answer: it provides quick access to the most important key features: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, Rotation Lock and Do Not Disturb. It also provides media playback controls, Airdrop file sharing, and quick access to the phone’s LED light and the Clock, Calculator and Camera apps.

Notification Center:  Last year iOS 6 introduced the Notification Centre – offering little gobbets of information from your email, or stocks, or Twitter, or games. It was pretty basic. Now it’s split into three elements – Today (a calendar and weather update), All (the things you used to find in the old Notifications) and Missed (appointments, calls). The calendar element is like Windows Phone, though more useful (you get a day view). You can decide what is visible in the lock screen – it won’t show all your notifications if you don’t want.

AirDrop: Thanks to AirDrop it became easier to share files from iOS devices. Now a “sharing” icon in an app lets you send your data to those willing to receive it. You choose AirDrop and you get a list of people in the vicinity. Press their icon, and it’s done. Nice, isn`t it?

If you don’t plan to use this feature in iOS 7 then turn it off to safe battery life.

Camera and Photos : Have also experienced great changes. Camera app now four kinds of shooting: video, photo, square (for Instagram-style shots) and Pano (for panoramas) and a number of pleasant new features.. As for Photos app, it`s became easier to search for photos as they are organized into collections. Your photos can be sorted by date or by location (when using GPS)

Safari/Search: It has also been updated: interface became simpler : it disappears completely when scrolling through pages, and the interface for switching tabs became more visual.

Mail: Mail application got some great new features: mail management became easier. There appeared gesture control for messages and smart mailboxes

Multitasking:  Now you can double-click the home button in iOS to get you to a number of recently used apps. What is more iOS 7  learns when you like to use your apps and can update your content before you launch them. So if you tend to check your favorite social app at 9:00 every morning, your feed will be ready and waiting for you.

That was an overview of the main updates  that experienced iOS7. Many things have changed and many users that updated to iOS 7 say that they will never return to iOS 6 :)

And what about you: have you already updated to iOS 7 and can share your experience?

Interesting to know your thoughts.

Anna Kozik

Anna Kozik
Anna.Kozik@altabel.com 
Skype ID: kozik_anna
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

The Web as we know it have been born and matured on computers, but as it turns out now, computers no longer have dominance in it. According to a recent report by analyst Mary Meeker, mobile devices running iOS and Android now account for 45 percent of browsing, compared to just 35 percent for Windows machines. Moreover, Android and iOS have essentially achieved their share in just five years and their share is getting tremendously larger.

According to some forecasts their worldwide number of mobile devices users should overtake the worldwide number of PC users next year. If forecasts come true, this shift will not only continue, but accelerate. Based on data from Morgan Stanley, Meeker estimates roughly 2.9 billion people around the world will be using smartphones and tablets by 2015.

What does it mean now that more people are accessing the Web through tablets and smartphones rather than laptops and desktops? And is it really a big deal? Anyway, Internet is intended to be accessed from anywhere and thus from any device. Well, it is quite a change at least in terms most people consider the Web and how it gradually adapts to be used on mobile devices.

Apps-like sites
As mobile devices take over, the use of today’s desktop browsers like Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari will decline. Mobile browsers are already very capable and will increasingly adopt HTML5 and leading-edge Web technologies. As mobile devices naturally have less screen area, the sites need to function more like mobile apps and less like collections of links. So the sites are likely to look like apps.

Apps may rule
Native apps for smartphones and tablets almost always surpass websites designed for mobile devices because they can tap into devices’ native capabilities for a more responsive and seamless experience. This is most likely to change in the nearest future – most experts agree HTML5 is eventually the way of the future. This is already the status quo in social gaming: for example Angry Birds and Words with Friends. Some services won’t be available at all to traditional PCs — they won’t be worth developers’ time.

Less information at once
Web sites and publishers will no longer be able to display everything new for users and hoping something will catch the user’s eye. Smaller screens and lower information density means sites will need to adjust to user preferences and profiles to customize the information they present. Increasingly, the Internet will become unusable unless sites believe they know who you are. Some services will handle these tasks themselves, but the most likely contenders for supplying digital identity credentials are Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Twitter, and mobile carriers.

Sharing by default
In a mobile-focused Internet, anonymity becomes rare. Virtually every mobile device can be definitively associated with a single person (or small group of people). Defaults to share information and experiences with social circles and followers will be increasingly common, along with increasing reliance on disclosure of personal information (like location, status, and activities, and social connections) to drive key functionality. As the Internet re-orients around mobile, opting out of sharing will increasingly mean opting out of the Internet.

Emphasis on destination
Internet-based sites and services will increasingly function as a combination of content and functionality reluctant to link out to other sites or drive traffic (and potential advertising revenue) elsewhere. These have long been factors in many sites’ designs but mobile devices amplify these considerations by making traditional Web navigation awkward and difficult. Still URLs are not going to die – people will still send links to their friends and Web search will remain most users primary means of finding information online.

Going light weight
As people rely on mobile, cloud, and broadband services, the necessity to do things like commute, store large volumes of records or media, or patronize physical businesses will decline. Businesses won’t need to save years of invoices, statements, and paperwork in file boxes and storage facilities – cloud storage comes as their rescue. Banks will become purely virtual institutions consumers deal with online via their phones. Distance learning and collaborative tools will let students take their coursework with them anywhere — and eliminate the need to worry about reselling enormous textbooks.

Going mobile is an obvious trend today. Experts envisage that nearly every service, business, and person who wants to use the Internet will be thinking mobile first and PC second, if they think about PCs at all. Do you agree? And what other related changes can you imagine?

Many thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

Aliona Kavalevich

Aliona Kavalevich
Aliona.Kavalevich@altabel.com
Skype ID: aliona_kavalevich
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development


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