iOS Projects We’re Working On

Here are some of our recent iOS projects…

* YourTeacher.com – We continue to be the iOS app development arm for yourteacher.com. They have over thirty titles in the Apple App store – majority of which have 4.5+ average ratings with literally hundreds of thousands of downloads per app.

Algebra, ASVAB, or Math are some examples of the work we’ve done for them.

* Just Picture It – created in partnership with the Mason Software Company. It evolves a mobile photo sharing into a word game with friends and family. In a turn-based game you can play in single and multiplayer mode.

Just Picture It uses the Parse.com api extensively for user authentication, push notifications, and storage of games and messages.

Using Parse to login via Facebook and retrieve Profile and Friends

I’m using parse.com to handle user authentication, either via Facebook or custom user type with email and password.

If a user signs up via Facebook we want to request access to their profile and friend list and use that information to find FB friends who are already playing our game (Just Picture It).

This example doesn’t include a lot of the prerequisite steps to get your parse app working with Facebook – see the parse.com docs for more details on that.

An example of an initial call to parse to login to Facebook with a specific set of permissions.

NSArray *permissionsArray = [NSArray arrayWithObjects:@"user_about_me",
@"user_relationships",@"user_birthday",@"user_location",
@"offline_access", @"email", @"publish_stream", nil];

[PFFacebookUtils logInWithPermissions:permissionsArray block:^(PFUser *user, NSError *error) {

if (!user) {
   NSLog(@"Uh oh. The user cancelled the Facebook login.");

   [self doFacebookUserHasCanceled];

   } else {

     [self performSelector:@selector(doFaceBookUserHasLoggedIn) withObject:nil afterDelay:0.1];
     }
}];

A successful login and permission request approval by the user to Facebook sends us to the function doFaceBookUserHasLoggedIn.

NSString *requestPath = @"me/?fields=name,location,gender,birthday,relationship_status,picture,email,id";

PF_FBRequest *request = [[PF_FBRequest alloc] initWithSession:[PFFacebookUtils session] graphPath:requestPath];

[request startWithCompletionHandler:^(PF_FBRequestConnection *connection, id result, NSError *error) {
    if (!error) {
       NSDictionary *userData = (NSDictionary *)result; // The result is a dictionary

       NSString *name = [userData objectForKey:@"name"];

       NSString *email = [userData objectForKey:@"email"];

       NSString *sID = [userData objectForKey:@"id"];

       // get the FB user's profile image
       NSDictionary *dicFacebookPicture = [userData objectForKey:@"picture"];   
       NSDictionary *dicFacebookData = [dicFacebookPicture objectForKey:@"data"];       
       NSString *sUrlPic= [dicFacebookData objectForKey:@"url"];
       UIImage* imgProfile = [UIImage imageWithData:
                                [NSData dataWithContentsOfURL:
                                 [NSURL URLWithString: sUrlPic]]];

       //do something interesting with this data...

       //...

       // now request FB friend list
       PF_FBRequest *request = [[PF_FBRequest alloc] initWithSession:[PFFacebookUtils session] graphPath:@"me/friends"];

       [request startWithCompletionHandler:^(PF_FBRequestConnection *connection, id result, NSError *error) {
          if (!error) {
             NSArray *data = [result objectForKey:@"data"];

             if (data) {
                //we now have an array of NSDictionary entries contating friend data
                for (NSMutableDictionary *friendData in data) {
                    // do something interesting with the friend data...

                    }
                }

             }
          }];
   }
}];

 

New iOS social game ‘Just Picture It’ launched in the App Store

Image

The social image sharing game that we developed in partnership with Mason Software Company has just been launched in the Apple App Store – it is called Just Picture It.

The iOS game uses Parse.com and Amazon AWS as the primary back-end components for storing data and sharing images.

It is free and quite a bit of fun to play with friends – please download and give it a try…

Initial Impressions of Unity3D

After evaluating 3d engines for iOS development I’ve decided we’re going to go with Unity3D.

I would prefer a native Objective-C engine but the ability to deliver for multiple platforms is very attractive (Unity can deploy to Android, iOS, Mac, Linux, XBox 360, and the Wii).

Unity development so far has been straight forward – scripts can be in c# or javascript – I’ve created several 3d scenes, used the extensive resources from the forum and Unity Answers to create a ship that uses realistic physics to move in orbit. The Unity Asset store has thousands of additional resources for Unity3D dev. Initially I’m using atmospheric planets and vectrosity for line drawing.

Unity3d scene

We play tested the game as turn based and real time multi-player – I was initially planning on a turn based approach using Apple’s Game Center for iOS but the game plays much better in real time. We evaluated several multi-player network solutions and are going to go with Photon Cloud  – very well integrated with Unity, a great price, and should be able to scale.

3D engines for iOS Development

I’m evaluating several different 3d engines for our planned iOS space combat game Torchships.

I found good overviews at Never Read Passively, Open Source iPhone game engine comparison, and The Commercial iPhone Game Engine Comparison (3D and 2D).

This week I’m digging more into Unity and cocos3d to get a better understanding of the pros and cons. Unity looks very nice but I’m not sure I want to go with a non-iOS-native solution.

Here is the list of 3D engines I’ve looked at so far…

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UDK – Unreal Development Kit for iOS – PC & iOS

The same toolset used to make Gears of War and Infinity Blade.

+ Beautiful graphics

+ Industry Standard, high performance

+ Completely integrated development system

– Development on PC only

– proprietary scripting

Unity 3D – web, flash, iOS, Android, PC & Mac, Wii, PS3, xBox 360

Very popular 3d engine that supports a large number of platforms.

+Large developer base and very active community

+Very nice 3d Graphics, physics, and particle effects.

+Integrated editor and asset pipeline

+Largest number of platforms available

+Javascript or C#

+Mac native development

-Not a native iOS app, all new iOS features may not be available right away

Marmalade

Engine to create of richer apps and games on iOS, Android and other platforms.

+based on c++

-based on c++ 🙂

Shiva3d

3D game engine with a graphical editor to create applications and games for Windows, MacOS, Linux, iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry QNX, WebOS, Marmalade and Wii

SIO2

An OpenGLES based cross-platform 2D and 3D game engine for iOS, Android, MacOS and Windows

cocos3d

An extension to cocos2d. A sophisticated 3D application development framework for the iOS platform.

+open source

+based on and can integrate with the very powerful and popular cocos2d library

+native iOS

ISGL 3D

iSGL3D (iOS Scene Graph Library) is a 3D framework for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch written in Objective-C, enabling the creativity of developers to flourish in a 3D world without the complexities of OpenGL.

+based on OpenGL

+iOS native

-author is not actively supporting, looking for new contributors

Using Parse to add a backend to your iOS app

We’ve had to write over a dozen server back ends for iOS applications. There is a lot of manual work involved, no matter what platform you choose (we’ve used Google App engine or custom php solutions based on Joomla). There is the code and database development on the server side, plus a lot of code on the iOS side to handle the calls to the server, error handling, etc. It’s a royal pain and something we’d like to avoid in the future if possible.

Parse is a new service that simplifies back end development for iOS immensely – it can take literally minutes to add a simple server side component to your iOS app.

Pricing is free in Beta and looks very reasonable going forward as well.

We recently used Parse to add server functionality to an iOS Math application for YourTeacher.com. The app stores user preferences to a simple Parse object. Adding Parse to our project, testing, and deploying took less than an hour. Performance is good – besides being able to save and retrieve standard dictionary objects you can use Parse to store and manipulate remote files and geo location objects.

They have a very good overview of the integration process for iOS, plus the API is available as a REST service and for the Android as well.

Highly Recommended