My pet project – ChessJam – live online chess with a fun attitude

For the past eight months, I’ve been working with two friends, Todd Williams and Sean Carey, on a little side project called ChessJam.  This project started in February, 2009 when Sean and I decided to play a game of online chess with each other to finally resolve who was the better player.  We explored several online chess sites and to our surprise, we found all of them disappointing.  This led to a discussion about what we could potentially build ourselves.  We knew that UI design would be key, so we rounded out our team with Todd, artist, UI designer and ninja Flex developer.  All three of us have demanding day jobs so the journey has been a bit slow, but we are finally ready to show the world what we’ve built.

ChessJam is a desktop application that you can use to play live chess with other people via the Internet.  You will quickly notice that ChessJam is a bit different than the other online chess sites.  Our goal from day one was to create a user interface that is both functional and fun.

Features

  • Rich graphics and sound
  • Simple interface – pick a tower, pick a room, sit at a table and play on a 3D or 2D board
  • Multiple game parameters available (60 minutes, 30 minutes, 10 minutes and speed chess.  More coming soon)
  • Full disconnect/reconnect capabilities
  • Tracking of wins, losses and draws
  • Player to player chat
  • Watch any game in progress
  • Much more coming soon!

The Technology

The front end of ChessJam was built with Flex and deployed as an AIR application so it will run on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.  The back end is ColdFusion and LiveCycle Data Services.  I am already working on a new blog post titled, The making of ChessJam where I will share why we chose this particular combination of technologies and the challenges we faced.  You might be surprised so stay tuned!

How We Monetize ChessJam

We knew from the start that we would need to charge something for ChessJam to offset the operating cost, but that’s only half the reason.  If you have tried any of the free online chess sites, you know that they are filled with many people that really aren’t there to play chess.  From my personal experience, I was only able to play a decent game about one out of four attempts!  Many users leave in-progress games without warning (especially when they start losing!).  Other users tried to get me to click a link to see their webcam and other garbage.  It was not the fun atmosphere that I had hoped for!  By charging a small fee, we hope to eliminate a lot of this noise.

The ChessJam application is free for 14 days.  After the 14 day trial, there is a one-time $15 charge for the application.  There are no recurring fees.  Basically, you pay $15 and you can play chess using ChessJam forever.

UPDATE 10/24/2009:  ChessJam is now free – see http://chessjam.blogspot.com/2009/10/big-changes-at-chessjam-app-now-free.html for details!

October Promotion

We realize that it’s very important to grow a good community of users, so to encourage people to use ChessJam during these early days, we are going to give away a free copy of ChessJam to the 20 people that play the most games between now and October 31, 2009.

Dates and times are subject to change based on my work/travel schedule.  In other words, be flexible and work with me.

If you are interested in challenging me to a game of chess, email chessjam@gmail.com with one or two preferred dates.  I’ll update this blog post as the timeslots are assigned.

If you beat me, you get a free copy of the app.  If I beat you, you have to pay triple for it and blog about how great it is! (just kidding 🙂 )

Links

Video demo (view in HD on Youtube for best viewing)

My next blog post on ChessJam will provide a tour of the stack, and I think you will find that this is an excellent use case for Flex, AIR, ColdFusion and LCDS.

~ by gregorywilson on October 15, 2009.

15 Responses to “My pet project – ChessJam – live online chess with a fun attitude”

  1. Sweet, good work guys, I’m not a chess fan really, but I love to see good examples of air and flex at work.

  2. Which version of CF and LCDS did you use?

    • We are using ColdFusion 8 with the version of LCDS that ships with it (2.61 I think).

      We might move it to ColdFusion 9 soon, but like I said in the article, we started this little project back in February.

      More details shortly in my blog.

      Thanks!

      Greg

  3. I love boardgaming, but hate Chess, so this isn’t my thing. But as a Flex developer, you guys are living my dream. I’ve always wanted to create a Flex gaming engine, but you guys blow me away. That is some major talent displayed right there. Your artist and Flex front-end developer are fantastic.

  4. Awesome work – one quick question though…
    I saw from your screen capture that you’re tracking wins and losses – will you also have player ratings (like 1360 for example)?

  5. […] Wilson has been busy working on a pet project with some friends that shows off nearly the full range of the Flash Platform. I got to see some […]

  6. Far better for monetizing is change your software and create chess client for FICS.

  7. […] Beginning: A (Friendly) Rivalry Several months ago my buddy Greg Wilson and I were playing chess online to, as he puts it, “finally resolve who was the better player.” […]

  8. […] and Robots – A.I. saves the day A few days ago, I blogged about the roll-out of ChessJam, an online chess app built on Flex/AIR, ColdFusion and LiveCycle Data Services.  The roll-out has […]

  9. This is sweet! I am interested in creating a game but not quite sure where to start. I have been working as a full time ColdFusion programmer for the last 8 years but I never did any solid work on flex/flash. Do you recommend any books to read?

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