GAF Media was created to solve the problem a team of developers was having when converting Flash to a format that could be played on mobile devices. Now, the team works to provide solutions to the development community. Denis Balon, COO and co-founder, talks about their journey.
The story of GAF Media started when a team of game developers decided to expand their popular Facebook game to mobile devices. The main challenge was to convert over a thousand animations from Flash to a format that could be played on all mobile devices at any resolution. Existing tools and approaches didn’t do well with the task or involved a prohibitively large amount of work. So we decided to create the necessary tools ourselves.
Creating a Solution
Founded in 2009, the team located in the US as well as Ukraine first came to market with Pet City, a game on Facebook. The game quickly became popular and is going as strong as ever, three years later. Given the sustained popularity of the game, we decided to port the game to mobile.
There were no turnkey solutions that could convert complex animations into a size-effective format while also supporting high performance playback. The alternative and widely used approach was conversion into frame sequences, which was not an option because full control over animations and the resulting file sizes were far from optimal.
But even more important was the developers’ need for a reliable set of tools to allow them to continue developing animations using Flash CS while targeting various mobile platforms. Hence, the GAF Media team was formed to develop a set of tools that would port Flash animations to various mobile platforms (mainly iOS and Android). We defined a graphic format called Generic Animation Format (GAF) and created a tool to convert Flash animation files into GAF. Libraries were then developed to play the GAF files on any mobile device, enabling game developers to greatly cut down the time to port their Flash animations to mobile devices. The beta version of the tools was launched around the end of 2013. After over 18 months in development, we were able to launch our first product.
Prove It Actually Works
Even though some suggest Flash is dead, that’s far from being the case. Animators and developers still prefer using Flash CS to create animations, as it offers a deep and unmatched set of authoring tools. What remains daunting for many developers however is the task of quickly porting these animations for mobile. To address this need, the GAF Media team decided to offer their enabling set of tools to the game developer community.
We faced major challenges to create a worthy set of tools. The first was to prove the advantages of an automated set of tools that were versatile, but still possessed powerful performance advantages. The team’s mission was to show that the GAF solution packed a full list of features that went far beyond other solutions on the market. The tools had to combine high performance with killer features that would meet the needs of almost every developer and animator.
Privacy was also found to be a major concern by major game companies. They expressed the need to to keep their animation assets a secret until game launch. This compelled the team to develop a standalone version of GAF Converter which would run conversion of Flash animations on one’s computer without the need to upload the animations to the GAF Media SAAS service online.
Developer Community is Key
Throughout the process of commercializing our tool set, we actively sought developer feedback to help implement the right mix of features and performance. Community feedback had a direct impact far before first launch. Besides helping developers to create games faster, it was important to support animation properties that animators needed to add creativity and polish to their animations.
From automation utilities that were created solely for internal use, we ended up developing a tool set to benefit major game companies and indie developers alike, a tool that we hope someday will become as well known as Flash itself! But this is just the beginning for us. We have already started our next major effort: the GAF Converter for UI elements in games.
The GAF Converter, including a free version for download for Mac and Windows, is available at www.gafmedia.com. To welcome GameSauce readers, GAF Media is also doing a special limited offer! Sign up at GAF Media through this link and receive 500 conversion for free!