Creating Alarm Map of Ukraine Using GDevelop

Marcos Codas

Marcos Codas

Today, we talk to community member Jurfix. Aside from using GDevelop to make games, he's using it to make tools and apps. In 2022, he created the Alarm Map of Ukraine, which shows real-time information regarding alarms in the country. We touch upon topics such as: why use GDevelop to make an app, the technical difficulties of external communication with APIs, and more.

Screenshots of the Alarm Map of Ukraine.

Screenshot of the Alarm Map of Ukraine web app.

Can you tell us a bit about who you are, and what made you develop this app?

My name is Yaroslav Nazarenko. Online, I'm also known as "Jurfix". I'm from Ukraine. For over 4 years, I've been involved in software development using GDevelop and beyond. I'm also studying software engineering at university, and I also moderate the Ukrainian and Russian-speaking GDevelop community on Discord and Telegram.

At the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, a service called "DeepState" emerged, known as the "Map of Combat Operations," and this service quickly spread across the network. The media were publishing it every day, and consequently, I saw it almost every day too. At some point, around early March 2022, an idea came to me: "Why not create an Alarm Map?"

So, I came up with the idea of creating the " Alarm map of Ukraine" application to track declared alarms in the territory of Ukraine in real-time. Also, our government, along with a team of developers, created the "Alarm" application to notify the population of danger through smartphones. So, I understood that theoretically, it was possible to create this application, and I immediately began to search for ways to solve the task.

Want to check out the app?
Download the Alarm Map of Ukraine for free on the Play Store.

From a technical point of view, why did you choose GDevelop to make the app? GDevelop is known primarily as a game engine.

Actually, at that moment, all I knew how to use was GDevelop, and I didn't have time to learn anything new. Because I felt that this was a cool idea and it needed to be implemented as soon as possible. Moreover, I already had experience creating an application on GDevelop, namely the " Weather Feels Like".

Through this project, I learned how to develop applications, work with APIs, and properly publish applications. Since before the "Weather Feels Like App", I only made games on GDevelop, of course, I chose GDevelop because I was familiar with it, I knew that development would take little time, and was 100% confident that I could do it.

Reviews of the app from the Play Store.

Reviews of the app from the Play Store.

What were some challenges you had to overcome when creating this app?

The very first and perhaps the main difficulty was finding a centralized source of information about alarms throughout Ukraine.

Before starting work, I immediately began searching for this source. The first thing that came to mind was to email the developers of the "Alarm" application I mentioned earlier, asking them to share the data they had.

In response, I received information that they were soon preparing to release a Telegram channel where all the information I needed would be gathered. A couple of days later, they launched this channel and sent me an invitation link. I thought, "Great, now I'll get everything I need." However, to automatically retrieve data from this channel, I needed to set up my own server - not just a regular web server, but a VPS, and write complex logic for interaction between the server, Telegram bot, and Telegram channel in languages I hadn't worked with before.

Despite the difficulties, I didn't give up and continued seeking help. I reached out to various developers, but kept getting rejections. About a week later, the "Ukrzen Team" developer released a web Air Alarm Map. On one hand, I was disappointed they beat me to it, but on the other, I hoped they would assist. And they did: after I contacted them, they kindly shared access to their own API, and from that moment on, I actively developed on a daily basis.

Another problem arose with the unexpected increase in the number of users after the application's release. At some point, my servers couldn't handle the load and crashed, which I hadn't anticipated, as creating such a project was new to me. I learned about this from angry user reviews stating that the application had stopped working. Quickly, I resolved the issue by setting up a new server. However, another problem emerged: I hadn't accounted for remote server changes for clients. To get everything back up and running, I had to undergo moderation on Google Play, which became the longest process in my life. Nonetheless, I eventually added the ability to remotely change servers, and from that moment on, similar issues did not arise.

When you were making it, did you think it would reach over 26 million sessions? What does it feel like?

At the moment when I first conceived this application, I undoubtedly believed, or even knew, that the app would find its audience, and I hoped it would become popular. During the development phase, I didn't lose hope either. But as the release approached, I noticed that another developer had beaten me to it, and at that point, I had almost given up hope.

There's also a web app version of the Alarm Map of Ukraine.

Screenshots of the Alarm Map of Ukraine.

However, the application was almost ready, so I finished it and released it. As it turned out, it was not in vain. Within a couple of weeks, there were so many users that my servers crashed, as I mentioned earlier. Nonetheless, I never thought it would be in such high demand that people would open it over 20 million times. I'm glad I was able to realize this project, and I'm still shocked by how often it's used (about 300,000 times a week).

What are the reviews like? I presume the feedback regarding a bomb alarm app is very different from the reviews you get in games.

Actually, there aren't many reviews compared to the number of downloads or the number of active users. Moreover, I receive the most reviews when something isn't working, rather than when everything is working well. For instance, during the server crash situation I mentioned earlier, I received about 20 negative reviews stating that nothing was working. I responded to each one, saying, "Sorry, the server crashed, I'm fixing it." But when I add new cool features, like pinch zoom, which many users requested, or add a light theme, also requested by many users, I don't receive any reviews, neither negative nor positive, or this happens extremely rarely.

More great reviews from the Play Store.

More great reviews from the Play Store.

Speaking of differences between reviews for applications and games, I can notice that in positive reviews for applications, almost every one includes words of gratitude specifically to the developer, rather than just to the application. So people write things like: "I use this app every day, thank you so much to the developer for creating this app!" I don't recall receiving such comments in game reviews. In games, people mainly write about whether they like or dislike the game and ask/suggest adding something new.

Has it been difficult to maintain the app up-to-date? The conflict has sadly extended over years now. How do you deal with your sources to make sure they're up-to-date and accurate?

It's not difficult, as I've already mentioned, our government provides up-to-date information about hazards to the population. All I do is display this information. If the data is not current, it's likely that our government has provided outdated information.

Additionally, as I mentioned before, I use APIs from developers who carefully monitor updates and notify us (those who use the API) if something is amiss. This happens extremely rarely and hardly affects the functioning of the application.

I also have a remote configuration system, so I can change the data source or switch to manual mode at any time. However, this occurs very rarely, and 99.9% of the time, everything works fine, and the data remains current.

What other projects have you used GDevelop for?

The latest thing I've done is a paid template for GDevelop called " Weather App", where I implemented an application for tracking weather forecasts worldwide.

A bit earlier, I released the app " Where is Explosion?" It's an absolutely unique application, the only one on the market, through which you can calculate the distance to the source of an explosion based on video where the flash is visible and the sound is heard. For example, this app can be used to calculate the distance to a lightning strike or something similar.

Jurfix has developed many apps and games, which you can see on his developer profile.

Jurfix has developed many apps and games, which you can see on his developer profile.

I also have several games. One is " Submarine" - a game I created for a GDevelop jam on the theme of "construction" within a limited time of 10 days. In this game, you can build your own submarine from "blocks" and fight underwater enemies. The game takes about 10 minutes to play.

My oldest project is " Gearbox", a mechanical gearbox simulator game. It has gathered over 150,000 downloads, and I use it as an example of one of the successful projects I've created. I also have several other games, and I've made a few simple custom applications, but they're not as interesting.

What are you working on next?

Right now, I'm busy developing a large custom application for internal use within the company «Rossvan One Corporation». In addition to using GDevelop, I also utilize Cordova and Android Studio, and I'm setting up the server-side components. This application is designed to facilitate interaction between managers and freight drivers, sending drivers' geolocation (in the background), transmitting orders and statuses, and storing and processing all this information on the server in a database. It's indeed a major project that's providing me with a lot of experience.

The Rossvan One Corporation is a freight company based in the United States.

The Rossvan One Corporation is a freight company based in the United States.

In parallel, I'm working on "Gearbox 2" - the second part of the mechanical gearbox simulator game. Initially, I focused on creating an isometric version of the game, but now I'm considering the possibility of transitioning to 3D, as the 3D functionality in GDevelop has significantly improved recently.

My dream is to create a multiplayer 3D horror game, and I hope to achieve this in GDevelop. Not now, but possibly later. I'm not in a rush and want to finish all my current projects first.


Thank you for your time, Jurfix! And thank you for using GDevelop for your games and apps. Best of success to you!

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