Last Saturday I participated in the first Corona SDK Hackathon, sponsored by Ansca Mobile, InMobi, and PapayaMobile. It was an event in San Francisco with about 130 on location, and 200 people remotely around the globe, all working on Corona SDK projects, either games or apps.
You may have heard I won a prize, but that’s NOT the “biggest win” I mentioned in the headline for this post. I’ll get to that in a minute.
The day started with presentations by InMobi and PapayaMobile on how to monetize your apps. And then people started hacking! Some folks were solo, but there were several teams represented, both locally and globally.
Hetal, from Ansca Mobile, did a great job keeping everyone on the remote side of things feeling as if we were right there. He kept their UStream feed going most of the time and even carried the camera around the place so we could see what was going on.
Here in Alaska I started working on an app (my first non-game project using Corona SDK) called NapKeeper. I thought of it one day in the recent past when I saw (again) a message on Twitter from someone, “Just finished a 5.2 mile run with RunKeeper!”
My mind immediately replied with, “I just finished a 27-minute nap with NapKeeper!”
And it hit me — “Hmmmm… There may be something there!” 🙂
So that’s what I worked on during the Hackathon — my first non-game app with Corona SDK (okay, it’s kind of a joke app (with some useful purpose), but still a real app).
Main Thing I Did Wrong
Researching: There’s nothing wrong with research, but when you’re on a deadline you want to do more development than research. While the new “widgets” in Corona SDK make non-game projects easier, there’s still a learning curve.
Other than running the demo when it was first released I hadn’t done any previous coding with the widgets so I spent a couple hours Saturday trying to get up to speed. Since the widgets are so new there’s not a lot of sample code to refer to, but with a little bit of poking it all came together.
Main Thing I Did Right
Planning: You couldn’t start coding before the Hackathon started, but making notes and thinking about your project was fine. So in the days leading up to the Hackathon I drew out the app the way I thought it should work. That way when the “starting gun” was fired I could start working without too many trips down the wrong path.
Many of my projects start with an idea and nothing more, but the projects that go more smoothly are those with at least *some* planning ahead of time. Even drawing out the screens for your game or app will give you a big advantage when you start coding.
At the end of the day, everyone who had created a project sent it to the Hackathon HQ and the judges picked a Grand Prize winner, a runner-up from the games track and one from the apps track, and two honorable mentions. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I was the runner-up in the app category, winning some cash and a 1-year extension to my Corona SDK Pro subscription. Woot! 🙂
The Biggest Win
Okay, the money is nice (thanks, Ansca!) but an even bigger win for me is that I now have first-hand experience in creating a non-game app with the new widgets. I’ve seen it’s as easy to create a “business-type” app with Corona SDK as it is to create a game.
And while games are (for the most part) more fun to work on, there are a lot of ideas for non-game apps rolling around in my head and now I see there’s a cool way to create them.
Corona SDK is now a great way to create games — and every other kind of app, too. That’s the biggest win of all.
Thank you Jay for participating all the way from Alaska. Am sure your Russian neighbors, which you can probably see from your house deck will like to have that app too for their power naps.
Thank you and congratulations being part of the winners circle.
You’re right Jay, good planning before coding is a big win which should reduce overall development time. Problem is it’s so easy to jump straight in and start coding once you get an idea 🙂 I find getting away from the computer to a completely different room is best way of doing this – reduce temptation! 🙂
On using Corona SDK for apps rather than games I’ve been thinking there’s an opportunity here for some crossover. A boring business app that does some cool particle candy stuff when you press the buttons? …I’ll leave that one with you 😉
Congrats Jay on your app. I wanted to participate in hackathon, however, our first baby was born on Aug 24th 2011, and I was at hospital, with some late nights of no sleep, no sleep, for days on in.
You know how that goes having kids of your own! Anyway, congrats man you are a very talented person.
Cool news, Nick! Congratulations on creating your own one-of-a-kind “app.” 🙂
Both my kids are teenagers now so I can tell you from experience that the late nights with no sleep don’t ever go away. But they do become more rare as time goes on. 😉