When the founders of Second Gear Games, Sergei Lapin and Melanie Dompierre, began developing mobile apps in 2009, they consciously decided to work with multiple platforms, in particular BlackBerry® and Android™. While a handful of Second Gear’s games began as BlackBerry apps, most were built for Android first. Regardless, applications needed to be transferable to each platform and the games coding process needed to be as efficient as possible. Sergei’s solution was to develop apps with a touch screen-only version first, and then add support for keyboard and trackball/trackpad afterward. Still, seamless integration was not always easy and in many cases it took significant time and effort.
This, however, all changed with the addition of BlackBerry® Runtime for Android apps on the new BlackBerry® PlayBook™ OS 2.0. The process of porting Android apps has now become a few simple clicks.
Sergei talked to us about BlackBerry Runtime for Android apps, the benefit of working with the BlackBerry® Java® Plug-in for Eclipse™, and why it has always been important for Second Gear Games to run apps on BlackBerry devices.
How has the BlackBerry Runtime for Android apps made it easier for you to run Android apps on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet?
In the past, when we would build an Android app and then port it to the BlackBerry OS, the porting process would take us anywhere from a week to a month depending on the complexity of the game. Despite the fact that the app’s code remained in Java, there were still a number of differences between the platforms and functionalities that needed to be translated from one operating system to the other.
With BlackBerry Runtime for Android, porting apps is effortless and there is nothing we need to change in the coding of our games to make it run on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. The games compile, upload, and scale themselves to the tablet in absolutely no time at all. It’s amazing what a difference it makes: it took us less than an hour to put the Android version of Shopper’s Paradise HD on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.
There is no noticeable performance penalty when running an Android app on the device and all we really needed to get started was a BlackBerry App World™ vendor account and a BlackBerry PlayBook tablet running the latest BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 beta.
How useful is the BlackBerry Java Plug-in for Eclipse?
It’s a huge benefit to be able to use the BlackBerry Java Plug-in for Eclipse. It allows developers to use the same integrated development environment (IDE) and maintain one project on two platforms. Software isn’t perfect, minor bugs will need to be fixed regardless of how much you test it. If you’ve split your code into multiple copies to support multiple platforms, then you have to go and edit all those copies, apply the changes, and fix the bugs. But one major benefit of the common code base is that you can change only one set of files and then build for multiple targets, which is a huge timesaver.
Why is it important for you to run games on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet?
There are a couple main reasons. First of all, the uptake of paid apps has always been really good on BlackBerry devices. When we began developing in 2009 on the respective Android and BlackBerry platforms, our BlackBerry games were generating more revenue than our Android games, even though the Android market wasn’t as crowded back then. Now, Android is so over-populated and there is so much free content available that selling apps is even more of a challenge.
With BlackBerry it’s always been easier – we have a very receptive customer base that we communicate with on a regular basis, exchanging ideas and responding to any technical issues that customers might have. This relationship makes it even more enjoyable to build and publish on the BlackBerry platform.
I’m also really impressed by the device itself. I’ve tested a lot of different tablets, and to be honest, I like the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet more than any of them. It’s a really pleasant device, from its responsiveness to its user interface to its screen size – quite frankly, I like everything about it.
Thanks very much for your time today, Sergei!