AirConsole Global Game Jam

The Global Game Jam 2016 is only a few days away and what better time for a game developer to try something entirely new than the GGJ? We're embracing this idea and welcome all developers to try out AirConsole.

For those of you who haven’t heard of us before: AirConsole is a completely free platform for local multiplayer and party games played in the browser, controlled by smartphones. If you haven't yet, check out our store to get an impression.

We are constantly on the lookout for new additions to our store and these 48 hours of GGJ prototyping are a perfect opportunity for devs to experiment with our API.

Our game developer, Alice Ruppert will personally be at the GGJ site in Zurich ("Dock 18"), participating in the Jam and doing her best to support all interested developers in person and via email (alice@n-dream.com).

Besides our local presence at Dock 18, we'd like to welcome developers in all corners of the world to create a local multiplayer game using our API.

During the weekend, our team will be available for support and real-time submission approvals. Feel free to reach us out if you need assistance on hello@n-dream.com. Also, during the Global Game Jam, AirConsole will create a special store view on AirConsole.com for GGJ games that we'll share with everyone we can.

You can work with UnityConstruct2 or plain HTML5. In any case, be sure to have a look at our API and our Best Practices Guide.

If you decide to put some work into polishing your prototype after GGJ, you also have a chance of getting added to our regular web store, which you see when you go to AirConsole. We have currently 20 games, which means lots of exposure for your game when it is released.

In case you need additional motivation: The GGJ16 "diversifiers", described as "a free-for-all voluntary list of secondary constraints" on the GGJ page contain the following:
Take Control  
Instead of the usual keyboard and console controllers, your game must use a custom controller
- Design, Accessibility

Is that a perfect fit or not? 

We look forward to seeing what all you wonderful people will come up with this weekend!

AirConsole Nominee Most Innovative App at GLOMO Awards 2016We are thrilled to announce that AirConsole is nominated as Most Innovative Mobile App in the Category 4: Best Mobile Apps at the Global Mobile Awards 2016
"The Glomo Awards" will be presented at the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona this February.

We are honored to receive this nomination and look forward to improving AirConsole further! Our team will be attending both Mobile World Congress and Awards. Feel free to reach out to schedule a meeting during the event.



Connect your smartphone to play party games on AirConsole

This article was originally featured in the Making Games magazine in January 2016 under the title "AirConsole: Local Multiplayer Reinvented".

The writer, Alice Ruppert is a game developer for N-Dream AG, the newly founded company behind the AirConsole platform and some of its games. She started working for N-Dream in late June 2015 right after graduating from Zurich University in Arts in Game Design. In the roughly two months between starting work and the AirConsole’s launch day, she made a game called ‘HitParade’ with her colleague Martina Hugentobler, with whom she’d previously worked on Panakeia, their Bachelor graduation project at Zurich University of the Arts.

The Basics: What is AirConsole?

AirConsole is a virtual console - a completely free, completely web-based gaming environment, where smartphones are used as controllers while a PC, tablet or TV serves as the screen.To connect their smartphones to a big screen, players go to www.airconsole.com in their browser on both devices and enter a code they see on the big screen into a number pad on their smartphone.

AirConsole is free for players and developers. We’re currently focusing on growing our user base and providing the best local multiplayer experience. Eventually, the platform will be monetized by ads shown between game sessions. The platform itself and the games we currently have are developed at N-Dream AG in Zurich. The majority of our team has started working on it in June 2015.

People playing AirConsole
Locally Social
We here at N-Dream see AirConsole’s main potential in local multiplayer games - thousands of smartphones can easily be connected to one screen at a time. This multi-screen gaming experience encourages and sometimes requires people to interact with others sitting right beside them.

Local Multiplayer has been steadily disappearing from the big consoles for years - although there are exceptions of course. Games that support more than two players on one couch are already rare, whereas games for more than four players in the past five years can probably be counted on one or two hands.

Accessibility: Software

Connecting to AirConsole is kept as simple as possible
It is of great importance to us that AirConsole and its games are as easily accessible as possible. As such, we focused a lot of our efforts on the first few seconds within the player’s arrival on our site.

All players need to do before they can play is go to airconsole.com on their PC and smartphone and enter a short code on the latter. This process takes less than half a minute. A Smartphone App does exist for comfort, but to try out the platform, no downloads, plugins or registrations are required.

Ideally, our games will share this philosophy and are easy for the player to get into quickly - even if some may be hard to master.

The fact that nothing needs to be downloaded happens to be an advantage not only for players but also for developers, who then don’t have to worry about players using outdated versions of a game.


Accessibility: Hardware

Be it on a PC or console: one of the main bottlenecks that keep people from playing local multiplayer with more than one or two friends is the high acquisition cost of additional controllers: Playing a game with 8 people on an Xbox One for instance, means about 400$ worth of controllers, not counting the one that came with the console. That’s not the sort of money most people can or want to spend on a quick game.

AirConsole doesn’t share this problem: In Western and Northern Europe for example, between 60 and 90 percent of the population between 18 and 24 years of age owns a smartphone. For us, that means almost everyone in our target group already has the required hardware and carries it around all the time. As for the ‘big screen’ device: For most AirConsole games, an average laptop or even tablet will suffice, no expensive gaming rig is needed.

Input

A reaction to the general concept of AirConsole that we’ve gotten a couple of times is something along the lines of: “Why would you want to use a smartphone as a controller? Pressing buttons without haptic feedback suck!” Yes, it does. It works with one or two large buttons, but having to press several small buttons in a game where timing has any importance at all is terrible on a touchscreen. Thankfully, that is not what we have to rely on. The AirConsole controllers don’t have to directly compete with a regular gamepad.

One option would be to remove the ‘timing’ factor: card games or turn based RPGs would all work perfectly fine with buttons on a touchscreen, because you don’t have to press the buttons blindly, but can instead take the time to look down at your controller and aim your finger at the pixels you want to press.

But since working without timing greatly limits your game design options, let’s consider the alternative: Don’t use more buttons. Smartphones offer a variety of inputs that most gamepads don’t: swipes, shakes, and tilts for instance. Keep in mind a smartphone also has one or two cameras and a microphone which we can technically make use of for AirConsole development.

Content

In the AirConsole store overview players can choose what to play next

On our launch day in the first week of September, the AirConsole store had six games, plus a NES emulator. We got a lot of comments along the lines of “This is super cool, but you need more games”. Well, yes we do. Our team of six people is working hard to create more awesome content, but to eventually have a full library of great and diverse games, we are working with third-party developers and are trying to give them the best possible tools to develop for our platform: AirConsole has a public API and offers plugins for Construct 2 and Unity3D.

In addition, we decided to launch a competition for game developers. To keep the competition and our platform as accessible as possible, we allow ports as well as original games, and offer support for interested game designers.

Our First Game

My colleague Martina and I were hired as a team and knew we would continue to work together as a duo within the bigger AirConsole team. That had the advantage that we have pretty well established knowledge of each other's skills and competences and generally get along really well.

For Hit Parade, our first game with AirConsole - and really our first multiplayer game together in general - we wanted to keep it simple. We knew we only had roughly nine weeks until release. In these nine weeks our team of two was to not only make a mini game from scratch, but also to get familiar with AirConsole first, to get to know WebGL along with its advantages and disadvantages, to learn how to properly optimize a game for Web, to develop a visual style to use for this and future games, to create 8 different characters (respectively character skins) and make the game playable for 1-8 people. In short: we had a ton of stuff to do in very little time.

We did release a version at launch, but it took us four more weeks of development until we were comfortable calling the game ‘done’ - for now.


Getting to know AirConsole

HitParade Controller PreviewBecause I lack proficiency in HTML5, JavaScript and any development of online components, really, a freelancing developer and former University colleague was hired to create a Unity Plugin for AirConsole. After a week or two of making prototypes controlled by keyboard, I was able to start using the newly developed plugin.

For our first AirConsole game, I wanted to keep the inputs as simple as I could: no need to complicate things by working with smartphone inputs I had absolutely no experience with, right? Especially because until this spring I had only ever developed standalone games for PC/Mac, controlled by mouse and keyboard. I didn’t know any JavaScript and had never made a game for mobile devices.

To compensate for this lack of knowledge and to keep it manageable, we planned to use two buttons, each taking up half the controller’s screen. While that did work out for the game’s first version, I ended up using swipes for navigation in the launch version nonetheless and implemented shake controls within two weeks of initial release.

I didn’t write those myself, but implementing JavaScript libraries into my controller.html’s proved relatively simple once a colleague showed me how.

The concept of HitParade

Play HitParade on AirConsole
HitParede Screenshot
To give a brief overview of the game we ended up making: HitParade is a minigame for 1-8 players. Players move on an elliptic path, its size depending on the number of players. Next to the path the players move on, there are thorny fruits that appear small and green, grow to yellow and orange and eventually explode red. Every player carries a large hammer and taps their screen to smash the thorny fruit while they’re small to get the most points.

When a player hits at the wrong time, they fall off the path and are vulnerable to be hit by other players and thus have their points stolen. To get back on the path, the player now shakes his or her smartphone for a moment. The first player to win a specific number of points wins the round.
My skill and lack thereof

Working at N-Dream is my first job after graduating from Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK). At ZHdK I did learn what I know about coding, but I would still hesitate to call myself a ‘programmer’ - even though programming is about 80% of what I’m doing at the moment.

Panakeia Art Work
Panakeia
The AirConsole product HitParade and our graduation game Panakeia are two very different projects - one is a visually intense roguelike shooter using around 12 different keys for input, the other is a cute-looking one-button casual party mini-game for 1-8 players. Safe to say, there were quite a few new challenges for us.

The only ‘Multiplayer’ Game I’d made before HitParade was TypeFight - a fighting game for two players on one computer. Making a multiplayer game for players with separate devices, or making anything with an online component to be precise, was something that I’d always considered too complicated for a relative beginner like myself. Thankfully, my job at N-Dream doesn’t require me to handle servers and connections.
Developing for AirConsole

For most of the time, when working on the basic mechanics, making a Unity game for AirConsole is pretty much the same as making a standalone game. There are however, plenty of things to be considered, especially on the technical side.

Game Design

While nothing really keeps anyone from bringing a single player game to AirConsole, it’s strength and appeal definitely lies in quickly accessible local multiplayer games, or ‘party games’.

Controller/Screen Communication

The AirConsole API lets you send messages from screen to controller and back. For example: each time a button is pressed on the smartphone, the controller script sends a message to the screen containing an identifier and in some cases a timestamp. The screen - that means one of my C# scripts in which I listen for AirConsole events - then decides what to do with that input, such as calling the Hit() function on the player script belonging to the device from which the message came.

The messages I send from screen to controller include things such as what to display on the controller right now, or which character image to use for this specific player. Some messages that concern all controllers are broadcast, others sent to a specific device only.

I try to put as much of my code as possible into my C# scripts and avoid doing any calculations on the controllers themselves - partially because I like to have it all in one place, but mostly because I still lack JavaScript proficiency.

Latency

The question of latency is often the first one addressed when developers hear about the concept of AirConsole. Yes, there is a certain delay between the tap on your controller and the moment that the message is received in your screen script. Thanks to AirConsole using Google Cloud infrastructure, we are able to keep the latency at a minimum however: We usually have delays of around 80 milliseconds.

HitParade Gameplay on AirConsole A tenth of a second isn’t a lot of time, but depending on the pace and design of your game, that can be very noticeable already. If the devices that are part of a game support WebRTC, the AirConsole API automatically uses that, which reduces latency drastically. Unfortunately, WebRTC isn’t supported by all browsers yet (e.g. iOS Safari) and therefore we can’t rely on it in our game design.

For our game HitParade, we sneakily hide the latency within an animation: The nasty thing about latency is that it’s never exactly the same. With the same internet connection and the same devices, the latency will still fluctuate. In a game based on timing - which applies to HitParade - this can quickly lead to frustration for the player, because there is no way for them to accurately assess the right time to tap the button.
HitParade animation

The solution for us was to make sure that the time between the player’s tap and the caused effect - meaning the point of impact of the character’s hammer - would always be exactly the same, regardless of latency.

The AirConsole API has a synchronized clock. When the player taps their controller, I send a message to the screen containing not only the type of input (“hit”), but also a globally synced timestamp of when the message was sent. As soon as the screen receives this message, I can measure how much time has passed since said timestamp and receive the exact latency. I calculate how long the ‘Hitting’ animation has to be in order for animation + latency to equal my standard value of 0.5 seconds and modify the animation playing speed accordingly.

Thus, with the entire action always taking precisely half a second, the player can time their hit input accordingly and can learn to get a feeling for the game. This is of course a specific solution for this particular game, but similar measures can be taken for timing-based games to work despite varying latencies.

Optimization

Making our first AirConsole game run smoothly was one of my main focal points during development. For previous projects, I’d always been glad as soon as something worked at all and I mostly neglected making things work very efficiently. Since I am now developing for WebGL, I can’t afford to ignore performance anymore.

Even though the Unity3D forum and documentation is a valuable resource in matters of optimization, I probably learnt the most about it in a roughly two-hour crash course by Goran Saric, a co-graduate who not only has ten years of programming experience on me, but also happened to have just finished his BA project with a special focus on optimization in Unity - a mobile casual Game called ‘Panda lost in Space’, which is currently still in further development.

Now, these may be old news to experienced devs, but they were some of the most valuable tips for me: Don’t regularly instantiate or destroy GameObjects. If possible at all, Instantiate them in the beginning and then hide their Mesh Renderers (and Colliders, if you’re using them) while you don’t need them. This is called Object Pooling - creating a pool of objects and then reuse them. One very fitting application would be the bullets in a shooter: a lot of performance can be saved by hiding, replacing and then showing objects again instead of instantiating and destroying.
In HitParade, no object gets destroyed, everything is reused: From smashable fruit to particle systems Cache variables. Don’t declare new variables in loops. Declaring variables takes up performance, referring to them less so. In most of my scripts, all variables used are declared at the top of the script.

Do as little as possible in the Update() Function. Put things into the FixedUpdate instead, where you know how many times a second it is executed - and you can modify the Fixed Timestep value to call the function only as often as is necessary. If anything can be done 10 times a second instead of 50, don’t put it in an Update.

Incidentally, I ended up having a lot of fun with optimization and now laugh at my old, inefficient code. I’m even enjoying diving back into Panakeia’s code and optimizing the crap out of it.

HitParade’s mechanics were designed from the very beginning to be light on performance. For instance: We do not use any collisions or physics whatsoever. Additionally, basically all regular calculations are not done in 3D really, but instead on a one-dimensional path, which makes the core gameplay very light on performance.

Limitations

Even with a lot of effort put into optimization, there are certain limits to what type of game makes sense for AirConsole. With one of our core foci being accessibility, we want AirConsole games to run on all sorts of machines, not just powerful gaming PCs. AirConsole can be run on tablets and old laptops and its games should run with acceptable frame rates on devices that are a couple years old.

HTML, CSS, JS

As I’ve mentioned, my programming experience so far has been limited to Unity3D and C#. Now, the biggest part of game development still happens inside the engine with AirConsole, but not all of it. On the smartphone controller, we aren’t running a Unity Build, we merely display a HTML page and make it look nice with CSS. The implementation of special Input methods is handled in JavaScript.

This may be obvious and no issue to a web developer, but still: For anyone who hasn’t done any web development, that’s three new syntaxes to learn and work with. Thankfully there are a ton of JavaScript Libraries and scripts which are openly available and thus greatly facilitate the implementation of smartphone-specific inputs like Swipes and Shakes.

WebGL

The ability to build to WebGL / HTML5 with Unity3D is still a relatively new feature and is still under development. Unity’s documentation itself states that their WebGL builds are currently a “early-access preview release”. As such, the exact features of WebGL can change drastically with every Unity update. Here, it’s important to have an eye out for patch releases and read changelogs thoroughly.

Device Handling

The AirConsole API and Unity Plugin take a lot of complicated stuff off my hands where the handling of controllers and inter-device communication is concerned. There are still various things to be considered. AirConsole assigns a device ID to each connected controller. Assigning a player number or other identifier to said device is the ‘game’s’ job, however. I had at first used device-ids as player numbers which quickly bit me in the backside once devices connected in different orders, or disconnected and reconnected.

Visuals

For visual design, we also took a couple of drastic steps to improve performance: Early on, my colleague tested various shaders and decided on using an unlit toon shader, which made it possible not to use a single Light in the entire game. The downside of this is that a slight change in camera angle will change the fake shades and highlights on models, which isn’t always fitting. Since we were planning to work with a static camera anyway, it worked for this game however. In the Unity documentation, there are tons of additional optimization tips to be found, of course.

Lessons Learned: Game

We had thought that we had a pretty simple and straightforward concept on our hands with HitParade: You walk in a circle, you hit things when you’re next to them. As it turned out, a lot of people have more problems getting the mechanics of the game than we’d anticipated. Especially people who don’t play a lot of video games need a better explanation than the pictographic tutorial screen we currently have in the game.

Tutorial screen for AirConsole HitParade party game
Tutorial for HitParade
We have also noticed that HitParade gets chosen less often than our other games on AirConsole, which led us to redo our cover art.
HitParade Cover Art

Keeping an eye on our analytics, we quickly noticed that the most popular games in the AirConsole store were the NES emulator and Tic Tac Boom, which functions similarly to Bomberman. To test a new platform, people seem to like playing games they are already familiar with.

For our second game, we have therefore decided to go with more established mechanics that the player doesn’t have to learn from scratch.

Conclusion

We’ve been able to draw some valuable conclusions from HitParade and our audience’s reactions to it, and are of course looking forward to see if and how the game’s reception will change as AirConsole grows. Our team is working on four new games and we already see prototypes by third party developers pop up here and there.

Hit Parade is the first game which I worked on that has actually been released. I’ve worked on countless concepts and ideas and on several prototypes which I gladly show around and let people download, but this is the first time one of “my” games is completely out in public. I consider that a sort of milestone for me personally, if nothing else.

In a way, our firstling has been a bit of a ‘learning by doing’ thing for the new platform - I made a lot of mistakes and learned even more from them. While this process is incredibly interesting and eventually rewarding, I am now looking forward to starting the second project with a somewhat better understanding of what I’m working with - and to finding new mistakes to make and things to learn.

Play HitParade on AirConsole now.

AirConsole image

We’ve been asked quite a few times why we made AirConsole this way and what are the real advantages of a web-based consoles such as AirConsole in comparison to traditional consoles. AirConsole is not better or worse than any gaming platform available; it’s simply different.

Local multiplayer games and party games are becoming hard to find on traditional consoles. You only have to look at the gaming industry for a second to realize that large developers are laser-focused on hyper-realistic graphics and single player narratives that stretch for dozens of hours. These gaming experiences are immersive, and often a spectacle to behold--but at the end of the day, modern gaming has become lonely.

With AirConsole, we try to bring back that social casual gaming experience. Less than a decade ago, playing games was a normal part of many homes and social life. Casual games were also a great social instrument in university campuses and clubs. Later on, the expansion of personal electronics curtailed game nights. Console and computer games held more entertainment value, and once traditional console companies introduced online social networks to gaming, the last unique aspect of casual gaming was lost.

Party games for friends on AirConsole


There’s no price for fun

Modern consoles are expensive, and it’s an issue when someone brings over a console, and often only one person can play at a time. Most of the time, this party game experience has only a couple of people playing a game while others drift off to eat snacks and forget about the game. Also, to play on traditional consoles, users must invest a considerable amount of money only for the hardware, excluding games. A $50 controller for every additional player whenever you want to play local multiplayer games.

Playing AirConsole is free and only requires a smartphone as a controller, which almost everybody already owns. Since you can access AirConsole inside a mobile internet browser, it’s really easy to load up the console from a variety of different smartphones. AirConsole works both on iPhone and Android devices with Windows Phone (10) support coming soon.

Game Accessibility

In the last decades, video games have been gaining momentum and now that the gaming market has opened up (even in China), more people are interested in playing games. The problem is that many people get intimidated by games that aren’t very easy to learn. Sometimes games are so complex that new gamers who might grow to love a game are turned off and chose more passive means of entertainment instead - like watching movies and TV shows on Netflix. Many new gamers have trouble handling a complex controller or even navigating a keyboard.

We tried to design AirConsole in a way that everyone can jump in and play. Your smartphone is the controller, and getting into AirConsole is as simple as entering a code then diving into the game selection. With our growing game selection and the addition of third party games, we try to offer a variety of games that suits most types of casual gamers.

New party games on AirConsole

Title Selection

You’d be hard pressed to find a console specifically designed for local multiplayer gaming. Even some of the newer takes on gaming consoles like the new Apple TV only have a few multiplayer games--and most of these games only provide a shallow multiplayer experience. AirConsole is the first online cloud-based console system that is specifically made for local multiplayer gaming. Our current library feature games such as QuickMinds (Trivia), Silly Run Valley, YouTube Jukebox Party App, Tower of Babel, Cards Against Humanity and many more.

We hope you’ll find use of AirConsole on your next gaming party or get together. Feel free to let us know your thoughts on the comments below.
Dear Investors, AirConsole Users and Tech-Lovers
First of all "Happy New Year" from the AirConsole team!
At the beginning of 2015 AirConsole was born. Time to look back and see what we achieved in the last couple of months.

First Quarter 2015

From idea to prototype

The idea was simple: Your smartphone is the gamepad, your browser is the console. In the first Quarter of 2015 the first prototype of AirConsole was created. Everything is web based, no hardware or download required.

AirConsole is an instant entertainment system for friends that want to have an unforgettable social experience - right now.

At the start it was just a Nintendo NES emulator which could be controlled with the smartphone. Great proof of concept for the technology, but quite hard to play the games from 1980s with the smartphone as the controller.


The first prototype early 2015  - Codename PadFiesta


Spring 2015

Fundraising with a prototype

​We found great investors that saw the potential of AirConsole. We were able to raise CHF 1.35 mio by May which allowed us to start working full-time on AirConsole. The next steps were clear: Building a team and getting an office.

Summer 2015

Building a Team

Building a balanced top notch team is a very important challenge for a Start-Up. The team is the biggest success factor of a Start-Up.

We spent a lot of time scouting in spring even before we had successfully finished the fund raising. By July we had built an awesome team. The team's expertise in technology, design, game development, community management and marketing is impressive. Everyone is thrilled to be part of AirConsole and one can really feel the passion within the team.

The team in order of employment:

  • Andrin von Rechenberg, a former Google TechLead with previous Start-Up experience. Andrin is the founder and responsible for the scalable AirConsole infrastructure (frontends, backends, gameservers) and creates games once in a while. 
  • Francois Weber, our web-development guru with Start-Up experience. Francois is responsible for the AirConsole API, Developer Tools and creates cutting HTML5 games. 
  • Martina Hugentobler, our fantastic 3D artist. Martina joined us straight from ZHDK. She is our lead designer in the team, creates our iconic 3d characters and advises 3rd party game developers in design questions. 
  • Alice Rupert, our lead Unity Developer. Alice also joined us straight from ZHDK. Together with Martina she creates our flagship Unity3d games. She is also the maintainer of the AirConsole Unity Plugin and provides advice to 3rd party Unity game developers. 
  • Rafael Morgan, our product manager with experience in a Gaming Start-Up. Rafa is our main link to the outside world. He talks to the medias, strikes up great partnerships, manages the community, talks at conferences, but most importantly manages our beloved product. 
In addition we enjoyed the great help from freelancers, including Chin-Ho Kwong (our favorite pixel artist), Goran Saric (Unity Plugin), Andreas Bissig and Michel Barengo (Sound design) and many more.

Getting an Office

The serious part of the office where the work gets done
In July we opened our Office in the heart of Zurich. It is full of whiteboards that were full in no time (2.4 square meters per employee!), Screens, Laptops and of course all game consoles from the last 30 years. To adjust the office to our needs we only had to build in an IKEA kitchen and a few glass walls. We really love working from here, except in July when it was 35°C / 95°F in the office. Note the fans in the above picture.

Redesign & Rebranding early on



With the team and the office ready, we wanted to take the prototype to the next level. We did a complete redesign and rebranding of the product in July. The platform was renamed to AirConsole. We were able to buy the domain second-hand and started registering the Trademark. The redesign immediately made the product feel much more intuitive and major. Nothing was launched externally yet, because we still only had the NES Emulator ready for gaming.

First batch of in-house developed games

The core platform was ready. It was clear to us: We now had to provide content for the platform and so during Summer 2015 we created 6 Games. We knew that the launch of AirConsole would allow us to understand what people will like and the do's and don'ts of multiscreen game development.



Tic-Tac-Boom was created by Francois and Chin who joined us for the project as a pixel artist. We still used a classic gamepad controller but improved the implementation a lot so it would feel much more natural with swipe and touch support at the same time. This is one of our favorite childhood game genres and it was fantastic to see it coming to life on AirConsole.



HitParade, our first 3D game, was created by Alice and Martina. It was the first game that got the controller right. Just one button to swing your hammer at fruits and shake your phone to get up if you missed a fruit. This game was implemented in Unity. With the help of Goran Saric we created a plugin to connect Unity and AirConsole. We reused this plugin in many games that we launched later on.



AirShields is a small game that Andrin created early on mostly for testing purposes, but it turned out to be so much fun that we decided to include it in the upcoming launch. It is also a one button game.The goal is to complete a circle by adding segments without hitting already added segments.



PolyRacer was developed by Andrin and later turned out to be the most successful game. It was interesting for us to see that such a simple game with which was made in two weeks would become the #1 hit on AirConsole, it definitely was a surprise to us.



Quick Minds is a quiz developed by Andrin with licensed content from two retired US quiz writers. The smartphone has four buttons to select an answer. Because the buttons are placed in the corner of the smartphone screen this controller works really well. Yet another learning in the process of creating the best controllers for a smartphone.



Texas Holdem Poker was the first game on AirConsole that used the smartphones screen to show secret information to the players: Their cards. In most action loaded games we do not want the user to look at their smartphone when they play, but in a turn based game like Poker, it is perfect to have a rich controller showing secret information.

Fall 2015

The Platform is ready, the first 6 Games are built and we started to spread the word. We are ready to launch.

The Launch

It was Friday morning September 4th. We had already launched AirConsole locally in Switzerland the day before and had some press in the local news papers and were on ProductHunt with an early access link. Now AirConsole was finally live across the globe. We were all extremely excited and watched the Google Analytics Real-Time Statistics. We were also looking out for tickets and bug reports on our help page and in social media. Users slowly started to trickle in, everything was smooth and we were pleased. So we left for lunch. The Google Analytics Real-Time Statistics still open in the browser tab.

We went to a nearby restaurant ate and then got some stuff for the Launch Party that was scheduled to take place in the evening. Then we got back to our desks. And there it was. "Guys it is happening!" The Real-Time counter started to climb and climb and climb. Everybody was just staring at it. New gameservers were automatically spanned in the background while our jaws were wide open. Traffic really started to pump through the system. "Guys we're on the frontpage of HackerNews! Position 29! No wait, 28!". Francois' F5 key started to being punched. And punched and punched until we were in the top 10 of HackerNews. The Next Web wrote "Airconsole beat Apple to making great multiplayer mobile games"! The office was full of energy.

Journalists of TheNextWeb playing AirConsole on launch day
On the first day over twenty thousand unique devices were used on AirConsole from 131 different countries. Yes, the launch party on the eve of September 4th was a true party.

Post-Launch

Tons of articles were written in the following days and we knew that once the initial press excitement would be over, we would have less traffic and so we continued the hard work right away. TechCrunch wrote in a good article that the number of games was pretty limited on AirConsole, and they were absolutely right. We wanted to launch an MVP as early as possible. We were hungry for data so we could stop basing our decisions just on gut feelings and start basing them on real play statistics (as already mentioned we didn't expect PolyRacer to become the #1 game in AirConsole). The number one goal now was more content for AirConsole.

Game Contest for 3rd party developers

We knew that we were not able to create all the content we wanted ourselves. AirConsole was designed from the beginning in a way that makes it really easy for 3rd party developers to create games on top of it. We wanted 3rd parties to start using our API and get some feedback from them. Francois created an outstanding documentation for the AirConsole API, Rafa talked at many game developer conferences about AirConsole, Martina and Alice got the students from ZHDK's game developer program excited and Andrin started to build a system for 3rd parties to manage and upload new games to our infrastructure. And then we launched a contest for 3rd party developers: The best 4 games would get a total price money of $5'500. The deadline was in December, about 3 month away.

Second batch of in-house developed games

At the same time, we started the second batch of in-house developed games right away. This time we said that we are only going to create games with familiar game mechanics.




SillyRunValley was developed by Alice and Martina. We all love games like TempleRun. So we decided to do a multiplayer version with up to eight players at the same time. The characters are controlled by swipe or shake gestures. The game was already so much fun during development, that we had to clear a few whiteboards to keep track of internal SillyRunValley high-scores.




BrickWars was developed by Francois and designed by Martina. A classic arcade game for up to four players with a twist: You can play in teams against each other. Our first team enabled game! We first created our own generic game engine for this game and then switched to the Phaser javascript library which we really liked and can recommend. The game has a two button controller.




DarkHumor is an implementation of "Cards against Humanity", the best-selling card game on Amazon even though it is quite controversial. We took the open-source card deck database and implemented the complete game within four days, including the voice of Norton the beloved game host. It is at present the most played game on AirConsole!




YouTube Jukebox was developed by Andrin and is not a game, but the first app for AirConsole. It lets you watch YouTube videos together on the big screen. Everybody can vote what should be played next. No more fighting over the laptop at a party that is powered by YouTube music videos.

Partnerships and Landmines

Rafa was able to establish a couple of great partnerships in Fall 2015. Most notably the one with OnePlus: We launched "Silly Run Valley", "BrickWars" and "Remon&Honey" (a game developed by Chin Kwong as a freelancer) exclusively for the OnePlus fan base for two weeks. OnePlus launched a great marketing campaign around this and drove great traffic to us.

In fall 2015 we also stepped on several landmines: Huge sudden spikes in user traffic. All Start-Ups absolutely love these. On one occasion in October we got on the frontpage of Reddit! We tried to submit AirConsole a couple of times ourselves before, but a post from one of our fans got huge traction with over 4500 upvotes. This got us a lot of great feedback and we continued to learn how people use AirConsole. It also confirmed that we are on the right track. There is a great interview with Rafael about this.

Scalable server infrastructure

We knew from the beginning, that when AirConsole becomes a success, we will need to be ready and have a scalable server infrastructure. We decided to go with a Google Cloud solution (AppEngine & Cloud Compute). Spending time on building this system was really worth it and the Google Cloud is amazing. The system never went down due to overload, even during the big spikes when we were on the front page of Reddit, the system scaled smoothly.

Winners of the Game Contest

The deadline for the game contest we started ended on December 15. We received 21 submissions! We were very impressed and had a lot fun testing them all. Most of the games will be launched in the beginning of 2016. We will announce the winners of the contest at the Ludicious game festival. Here are the finalists in alphabetical order:



"Grannies and Planes" was submitted by Philipp Stern & Sonja Boeckler. In this game you control an airplane by just tilting your phone! This is an amazing showcase for AirConsole.




"Mocking Birds" was submitted by Max Striebel. It is as simple and addictive as Flappy Bird, but multiplayer and very competitive!




"Simoria" was submitted by Dabco, a game studio from the US. It is similar to the world-famous Werewolf role playing game. We had tons of deceptions and laughter while play testing it.




"Tower of Babel" was submitted by DNAStudios, a game studio from Switzerland. A beautifully polished game where everybody builds a tower together in a non-cooperative way!

Platform development

It is important that we keep up with the latest technology here at AirConsole. We have introduced WebRTC technology this fall to further reduce the latency between the smartphone and the screen. In this industry experts article we were listed as one of six unique use-cases of this new technology.

Google also decided to switch of webcam support for non-https websites in December, so we started the move towards https, because we want to be able to use webcams in the future in our games. We are looking forward to all the new technologies 2016 will bring and will embrace them!


Christmas 2015

Ending the year with the Christmas launch

After building the whole platform and our first launch of AirConsole this year, our goal was more content for AirConsole by the end of 2015. We are proud that by Christmas we had 20 Games ready to be played over the holidays. The reception was great and we got more landmines from Reddit and other places. We celebrated all of this properly with a fantastic Christmas team dinner.

Growth

The public Alexa Rank shows that AirConsole is one of the top 150k websites globally.



There are about 300 mio registered domains world wide, which means that we are already one of the top 0.05% websites on the internet four months after our initial launch.

We are super happy how we finished 2015. We are ready for 2016 with more games, new technologies and tons of passion.

Everyone of us is very proud to be part of AirConsole.
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