Rubik's Cube for Amazon Fire Phone

 

Client: Magmic Inc.
Role: App Development

 

Technologies:

 
 

The Challenge

Karman was approached by Magmic with a truly unique opportunity to work with pre-release technology. Magmic had a close relationship with Amazon and wanted to deliver a launch title for the yet to be announced Amazon Fire Phone. The new phone featured 4 front facing cameras designed to track head movements in real time, an industry first for mobile phones. In addition, the Amazon Fire Phone provided a set of accelerometer based gestures used to navigate the OS.

Magmic saw the perfect opportunity to turn their Rubik's cube app into a truly unique experience for their players. Karman was challenged with the following tasks:

  • Adapt the existing Rubik's game to work on the Amazon Fire Phone
  • Use the brand new head tracking and gesture APIs to control gameplay and visual effects
  • Implement Amazon Game Circle based leaderboards
  • Have a final build ready to be submitted to the store before the phone launched (~2 week timeframe)
 

What We Delivered

As with any new technology Karman encounters we started off with a deep dive into the documentation and examples provided by Amazon. However there was one problem. Since the Fire Phone hadn't been publicly released we couldn't just walk out to the store and buy one of our own for testing. Magmic had one working device in house so we devised a plan to make the best use of our on device testing time. To start we built out all of the phone specific functionality with easy to adjust parameters to allow quick iteration on the feel of the application. Adjusting tilt thresholds, easing of values, and deadzones were all just a click away.

At the end of each testing session Karman left a build with the team at Magmic documenting the state of the build. This allowed the team to provide feedback early on while we worked the more predictable tasks such as updating UI adapting functionality. Each testing session yielded valuable lessons learned and in turn fed back into the quality of the end experience.

One of the unique pieces of functionality in the app was to have a tilt/parallax like effect on UI elements as the phone was tilted in different direction. Initially, the tilt effect was implemented based on the accelerometer gesture data from the phone but the effect just didn't react as nicely as Amazon's own UI did on the phone's home screen. Upon closer inspection we determined that Amazon was in fact using the data from the head tracking system to achieve the effect. It was a Eureka moment and within an hour we adapted our systems to achieve a similar effect. By the end of the testing session our UI was behaving unmistakably like that of Amazon's own.

Typically, mobile app icons are simple to implement. Specify a few different image sizes, maybe use a specific image format, no problem. With a phone that has yet to launch and uses all 3D icons the process was far from ordinary. Specific software versions, operating systems and a set of rather picky command line tools all complicated the process of preparing the app's icon. Karman worked closely with the 3D team at Magmic to setup the export pipeline and provide compatibility feedback to the artists.

Ultimately, the app was delivered on time and budget ready for the phone's public debut. Working with brand new technology and exploring the unknown is what we live for. At times dealing with technology can get a little daunting but we wouldn't have it any other way.