Inspiration

Digital comics for mobile devices is a major component for the billion dollar comic book industry. I feel that virtual reality is the next frontier for digital comics. There aren't any major players for digital comics in virtual reality so I see an opportunity to develop ComX VR.

What it does

ComX VR is the first of its kind that allows Android and iPhone users to read and collect digital comics immersed in a 360-degree environment, rather than being confined to the resolution of a mobile device.

ComX VR works with any Cardboard-compatible mobile VR headset and does not need to use any other external controllers because the app is developed with Gaze-input controls to allow for simple hands-free navigation and interactivity.

No sign up is required for ComX VR. If users choose to create a free account, they have the ability to access and transfer their content across different devices.

How I built it

I built it using Unity 3D with C# programming; the backend was developed with PHP and Mysql. I used Google api such as Google VR and Google Admob.

To create a iOS version, I ported the Unity build into Xcode and used Apple's in-app purchasing api.

I purchased open-sourced and royalty free 3D art assets.

The comics are licensed from eigoMANGA comic book company.

Challenges I ran into

This is my first app. I never developed anything with Unity. I never developed anything for iOS or Android. I didn't know anything about VR. I learned everything as I went along. I took an online class on how to create VR within Unity 3D, I joined Unity's online community and learned coding techniques from their message board. I learned how to work with Google and Apple's development program by researching and attending various App Development meetups.

In early builds, I had to deal with phone overheating issues. To overcome it, I had to learn how to code with efficiency by reducing frame-rates, optimizing graphics, adjusting screen resolutions, using better coroutines, and anything I could do to reduce graphics processing unit for all types of phones. I also decided to develop on old 2009 era Mac Mini, an old version of Unity (Unity 5), use old versions of Google api, and use older phones (iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy s4) to make sure that the app will work on all types of phones). ComX VR now works on over 2500 Android devices on all iPhones 4 and beyond.

I released the .apk file prematurely and people from other countries where trying to hack ComX VR and make their own versions. So I learned to develop obfuscation to make it harder for people to hack my work.

Dealing with Google Play review process was challenging. They took my app down because they thought that I didn't have the rights to use the comics. I had to present them proof by turning in all of the licensing contracts and file ComX VR as a registered trademark. They accepted the proof and now ComX VR is on the Google Play Store.

I had trouble getting Apple to accept my app. ComX VR passed technical tests but Apple wanted to make sure that people could access the app without an account. And if I needed to create user accounts, it had to be after the user made an in-app purchase. Once the user made an in-app purchase, I gave them an option to create an account because they couldn't use their in-app item within the ComX VR without an account. I worked with the Apple Review people and they accepted it. Now ComX VR is available on the Apple App Store.

Getting good feedback from users and beta-testers was a challenge. I overcame it by going to various comic book conventions (such as San Diego Comic-Con); I had people test my app and got great feedback by having an exhibition booth at these events and hosting speaking panels about comics in virtual reality. Getting feedback from actual comic book readers helped me figure out what I needed to improve for ComX VR.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

Seeing my app accessible in the Google Play and Apple App Store! Building a first-time app from scratch and it's at a technical compliant level to be approved by both Google and App scrutinous review process!

Again, I had very little to no experience in app development, I just saw an opportunity to disrupt digital comics, I learned what I needed to learn and wouldn't give up. Now I have a finished app and it's on Google Play and Apple App Store! Just dreaming this and seeing it as a reality is a great accomplishment for me.

What I learned

I learned how to code in C#, Unity, and PHP. I know how to develop apps for the Google Play Store and Apple App store. I have the skill and confidence to build new apps in the future.

What's next for ComX VR - Read Comics In Virtual Reality

I hope to reach out to big publishers like DC, Marvel, Image (etc.) to get their comics on ComX VR. And I plan on adding new features on the app.

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