One of the finest things about app development is how it opens things up to more than just major studios keen to develop an idea. In increasingly dicey times for those reliant upon others for employment, it’s a particular boon to see and some great ideas can come out of tricky times.
One such game is the recently reviewed Glyph Quest, with its developer, industry veteran and one time lead designer at Bullfrog Alex Trowers, letting me know the background to its development. In his own words, “Leanne [Bayley] (the artist), was working in Plymouth, me in Brighton. We decided to move in together and she’d find a new job up this way. Then we found out she was pregnant and had become completely unemployable. Then I lost my job. Instead of finding a new one, we decided we’d try and make a game ourselves. Could we do it before Sproglet arrived? How hard is it for an 8-month pregnant lady to go through [development] crunch [time]?”
More is explained on Leanne’s blog but Alex was also kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions.
148Apps: How did the idea for Glyph Quest come about? Alex Trowers (AT):Glyph Quest was originally a side project for us to tinker about at home while Leanne was out of work. I was a big fan of Dungeon Raid‘s tactile dragging interface (and, more recently, Puzzle & Dragons). Also, I enjoyed the RPG-esque trappings of 10000000. So we kinda threw the rest together. We’re both firm believers in emergent and evolutionary gameplay rather than designing something up front and just implementing it, so a lot of the features we added were very much developed on the fly.
148Apps: How different did you find it going from working as part of a team to a much smaller operation? AT: The amount of freedom afforded to you as part of a tiny team is fantastic. We put whatever we wanted in to the game as there were no people further up the chain with the power of veto. That’s why you’ll find plenty of references to all sorts of things scattered throughout and it’s those little touches that i think help us to stand out. In addition we really didn’t take ourselves or the genre too seriously. Of course the downside is the lack of resources. Glyph Quest was nowhere near as polished as it could have been come launch and things like our lack of config test or thorough QA were easy to call out. Another thing to consider is that while it’s great to have all of that power and control, it does rather mean that the buck stops with you and if it all goes horribly wrong, there’s no-one else to blame. It’s exciting stuff really.
148Apps: What challenges did you come across? AT: Our main challenge was logistics to do with the pregnancy as well as all of the other things that went wrong in real life. For example, it’s not the easiest thing in the world for a heavily pregnant woman to sit at a desk all day. We also had many sleepless nights – either Sproglet would kick Leanne awake or this wisdom tooth (that I’m still waiting to get fixed) would decide that I wouldn’t be allowed to sleep. Then there was the roof falling off in the storms and the landlord serving us notice. And we had to have it all done and dusted before Sproglet was born.
148apps: You’ve written extensively about issues with the iTunes submission process [as well as the development process]. How would you improve it? AT: The iTunes side of things was always pretty simple. Convoluted in places, I guess – particularly when it came to IAPs – but the level of documentation and support available went a long way to mitigating that. The main place where things fell over were with XCode and my own complete lack of knowledge about it. Knowing which menu to find the relevant option to enable or disable some game-breaking feature was an exercise in the arcane. A friend and old Bullfrog buddy of mine postulated that you need this barrier to entry in order to ensure that the platform is secure and I kinda agree with him.
148Apps: What do you plan to do next? Besides enjoy fatherhood! AT: Next? Well, the success of Glyph Quest has taken us completely by surprise so we’re coming under increasing pressure to ‘fix’ issues with the first one or perhaps start looking in to a sequel. The plan was always to make Glyph Quest in order to fund a Kickstarter campaign for something much bigger. I’d still very much like to do that, but another Glyph Quest game makes an awful lot of sense. Then again, Sproglet was born at midday today, so I guess all bets are off and the thing I’d like to do next is sleep.
Huge thanks to Alex for taking the time to answer my questions and congratulations to him and Leanne on the arrival of their baby. Proving to be quite the inspiration given how much they’ve overcome in recent times, it’s the ideal time to try out Glyph Quest, available now on the App Store.
As its latest title comes with the unique proposition of helping a children’s charity, we thought it time to learn more about Polish iOS developer, Shortbreak Studios.
Who is Shortbreak Studios?
Part of Techland, one of the biggest Polish game developers out there thanks to its work on titles such as the Call of Juarez games, Shortbreak Studios is made up of a core team of 9 passionate developers. A mixture of programmers, designers, level designers, artists and a producer, the company benefits from relying on Techland to work out the finances and allowing the team to focus on the creative side of things. As explained by producer, Pawel Rohleder, it means the combination of “the flexibility and creativity of a small independent development studio with the experience and knowledge of an established player in the gaming industry!”
Why should I remember the Shortbreak Studios name?
There are a couple of good reasons, so far. First of all, they made Sugar High, a game that perhaps owed a little too much to Tiny Wings but still proved to be great fun. More importantly, Shortbreak Studios has worked in conjunction with the Cape of Hope Foundation in order to create oncology clinic for children with Cancer.
How did Heal Them All come about?
Pawel Rohleder explains, “We have been supporting Cape of Hope for some time and it was our mutual idea to create a game about defending the organisms for mobile devices. We thought that fighting microbes inside the human body would be [a] very nice setting for a tower defense game as this genre is very popular on mobile patforms. Another idea was the freemium business model as we wanted to reach as many users as possible by offering a part of our game for free.” Notably, Heal Them All is entirely free to try out with the full campaign unlocked for $1.99.
What’s next on the horizon?
The team has lofty plans, with Pawel happily declaring the ambition that many hold, “Our main goal is to conquer the whole world with our mobile games!” At the moment, though, the firm is mostly working on two different projects that they aren’t able to discuss just yet, as well as porting to other devices. Possible updates for their current titles are also in the works and currently being brainstormed.
Anything else I should know about Shortbreak Studios?
Pawel was all too keen to tell us just what he and the rest of the team love about iOS development.
Pawel: Everything! We enjoy every aspect of mobile game development and we put a lot of effort and passion into every step of [the] production process. We believe this is the only way to make high quality games. One of the most important…[parts] in efficient mobile development is rapid prototyping. Each prototype must convince us that this could be a GREAT game. We cancel the project if we do not believe in its playable demo. And the sooner, the better. The development process itself is also very interesting because of tons of small decisions that the team needs to make in [terms] of hard negotiations or just [our] gut feeling . Personally, I love the final stage of the development where all individual assets turn into a working product and our vision materializes into a real game. This…shows us that it was all worth the effort but…it always makes us come up with a lot of new ideas and changes that we could make to improve the final quality.
Last time we took a look at the history behind Firemint and its popular Real Racing series. In this post we are going to go into a bit more detail on just how these games came about: design troubles, device compatibility considerations, gameplay mechanics, and ideas that help to define a developer and its products. Enjoy!
Everything To Everyone
A whole lot of iOS gamers are familiar with the Real Racing series. It’s well known (and rightly so) both as an example of the ever-increasing visual prowess of mobile gaming platforms and because it’s just plain fun. But creating something with so much quality and depth takes plenty of effort, especially considering that there are several possible generations of hardware to play it on. It’s quite the list, really, ranging from the original iPhone through the 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S, and now the 5. And let’s not forget the iPad, iPad 2, 3rd Generation, 4th Gen, and the adorable iPad mini. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the iPod Touch 1-5, either. So that’s, what, like 16 different iOS devices total, right? Each of them with their own limit on supported operating systems. Even ignoring the hardware side of things, that’s still at least five different OS platforms to check for compatibility.
The original Real Racing was developed in 2009: the middle of the iPhone 3G’s life cycle. Since the 3G was built around the earlier generations of iPhone, compatibility wasn’t too much of an issue. Real Racing 2, however, pushed things quite a bit further and gave the team a little difficulty when making it compatible with older devices. The game hit the App Store when the 3GS was still going strong and the iPhone 4 had only recently become available. According to Real Racing 3’s Development Director, Kynan Woodman, “Real Racing 2 was the first game where challenges with legacy hardware arose, but we managed to support everything back to the first iPhone on Real Racing 2.”
Even with a still comparably small list of devices and iOS software to worry about, things were starting to get more complicated. Firemint even went so far as to develop two separate base sets of code for its follow-up racing game: one designed to take full advantage of the iPhone 4 and fourth generation iPod touch’s specs, and one for everything that came before it. The different codes were then tailored to make the best use of their intended devices as possible by way of including different art assets, using higher framerates, etc.
Real Racing 3, on the other hand, will most likely break with that tradition of near-universal iOS compatibility. A number of older devices are incompatible with iOS 6, and many of them also lack the processing power to manage more demanding games. Compatible devices haven’t been officially announced yet but Real Racing 3 is “… using Open GL ES 2.0 and relies on this for the advanced lighting,” said Woodman. “Everything prior to the iPhone 3GS only supported OpenGL 1.0.” Given the specificity of that statement, it’s looking like support for anything predating the 3GS is off the table. It’s amazing to think that the lighting is what’s primarily responsible for the game’s hardware compatibility. Of course, iOS hardware upgrades are always an option and with each new release, prior versions become even more affordable.
What’s really interesting and even downright commendable about Firemonkey’s approach to Real Racing 3’s development, which began mid-2011, is the way it didn’t let hardware limitations dictate the design. “When we started developing Real Racing 3,” Woodman said, “we started out with a core question: ‘What could we achieve, if we imagine, even just for a moment, that we have no limitations whatsoever.’” It was a question meant to steer (no pun intended) people away from worrying about whether or not their ideas would be feasible on any particular iOS device and get them thinking much more freely.
In other words, they tossed all preconceived limits out the window and let their imaginations run wild. So they got to work creating the racing game they wanted to create, with no consideration as to whether or not the hardware could handle any of it. “We went into this project anticipating hardware as powerful as the iPhone 5,” Woodman said, “so when the iPhone 5 did come along, we were ready.”
The idea was to design the game first, then worry about hardware specs later. It gave the team at Firemonkeys more of a chance to explore their ideas, and to play around with any concepts they could dream up and give them a real shot before deciding if they would work in Real Racing 3 or not.
So they worked backwards; developing Real Racing 3 as they saw fit, then hoping they could find a way to put it on Apple’s current and at the time future hardware. Ideas were given time to be fleshed-out rather than getting the axe early on thanks to the “no limits” approach. This led to the inclusion of an honest-to-goodness rearview mirror to help keep an eye on everyone currently eating your dust, a larger number of racers on the track (22 instead of the previous 16), new events that have never been used in a Real Racing game before that also sadly haven’t been specifically named, and real world racetracks like Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Silverstone.
Incorporating these tracks into Real Racing 3 is something that Firemonkeys is understandably excited about, especially considering all the work that went into the process. Each raceway needed to be thoroughly documented and multiple reference photos had to be taken. Once that step was finished it was time to research each track’s elevation data and use it to create a close digital approximation. It’s not a simple process, but the results are well worth it.
Of course, there’s also the Time Shifted Multiplayer everybody’s been talking about that allows players to race against friends and foes anytime, anywhere. “We didn’t start out with Time Shifted Multiplayer,” Woodman said, “we started out by putting real names on the cars and pretending that we had the ultimate multiplayer mode. It felt great and we worked our way back from there to Time Shifted Multiplayer.” It’s a method that’s resulted in some impressive new software technology that’s garnered a fair amount of attention since its announcement. It may not have ever come into being without such an open approach to design.
We’re still a ways off from Real Racing 3’s February release date, but that hasn’t kept people from talking about it. Not just the pretty graphics or the smooth controls, but also the unexpected surprises such as the Time Shifted Multiplayer which we’ll be taking a look at in the next post in this series. Even so, Firemonkeys is still holding a few of its cards close to its vest. It’s exciting to take a moment to consider just what it is we haven’t been told yet.
We love to find out more about apps that are not only fun to use but provide a great benefit to their users’ lives. So, when I heard about AutisMate, a new app aimed at helping those with autism develop their communication and behavioral skills, I jumped at the chance to find out just how it came to be.
The History Behind It
AutisMate has quite an interesting history, as it was created by Jonathan Izak, who was motivated by wanting to help his 10 year old brother, Oriel, who has autism.
“As with many on the spectrum, my brother was often frustrated by the inability to express himself and understand what others expected from him. I recognized that those on the autism spectrum generally have stronger visual learning abilities and that there was a huge need for a solution that could help my brother and others connect with the world around them,” he explained.
“AutisMate does this by taking well-researched visual therapy interventions such as video modeling, visual schedules, and visual stories and making them interactive and easily personalized.” Jonathan pointed out that while assistive speech technology is already available for some, it’s “limited to sentence building.”
“This starting point was too advanced for my brother. For this reason, AutisMate uses visual scenes as a starting point for communication and progresses to the more demanding sentence building. Research shows that visual scenes are more intuitive to the early communicator.”
Researching How AutisMate Could Help
Jonathan’s initial experiences with autism came from his brother, but he appreciated that while making AutisMate, it was “important to partner with a wide variety of parents, therapists, teachers and other autism professionals.” As anyone with experience with autism knows, every person on the spectrum is unique and has their own different challenges, and that’s without taking into account the different needs of caregivers and professionals working alongside the autistic person.
Jonathan worked to create a “flexible platform…designed in such a way that it can be personalized to each autistic child and caters to the needs of whoever is using it.” While he explains that he wanted to help Oriel, he also wanted to “build a solution that would help him and the many other children like him who are challenged by the wide variety of developmental issues associated with autism.”
Taking a year and a half to develop, Jonathan started by testing early builds of the app in local schools and private practices. “Along the way we built a network of over 300 industry experts, researchers, clinicians, educators and even parents,” he said, “who provided a 360 degree view of the wide variety of needs and strategies to promote communication and behavioral development for individuals with autism. We also formed an autism advisory board that is made up of some of the leading industry experts and researchers.”
Reaping The Benefits
Always wanting to create a new approach to overcoming the issues that many with autism suffer from, Jonathan was still stunned by the positive response. “It’s unbelievably rewarding to get to experience how something you are working towards is impacting the lives of so many families.”
He recounted to me examples of how a child was able to overcome a fear of elevators by “[using] a visual story to prepare him for what will happen.” and he’s appreciated the many “heartwarming emails” from educators and caregivers, “describing how their child is communicating for the first time.”
It’s been good news for Oriel, too. “Beyond the apparent increase in spontaneous speech, it has also helped my brother with daily activities like tying his shoes, behaving when going to a restaurant or doctor’s office, and learning how to interact with others.”
AutisMate is currently available solely for the iPad, but Jonathan informed us that besides numerous updates, they are also currently busy working on expanding to both the iPhone and Android platforms. Additional products are also in the pipeline, so things are looking very promising for those after a solution for various special needs.
Thanks to Jonathan Izak for taking the time to answer our questions.
AutisMate is available now, priced at $149.99. To learn more about it, check out the AutisMate website.
Hex codes and RGB values might sound like another language to many but they’re vital tools of the trade for designers and developers. Every color has its own hex code and RGB value which in turn can be used to re-use the color elsewhere such as on a webpage or when programming a new app or game.
Finding out the codes is not always as easy as it should be though.
Enter Color Matcher, an app that takes out all the trouble. Simply run an image from the photo library or directly from the camera, and take a look. Colors can then be put into palettes to be easily organized and a recent history section makes it easy to consult earlier color entries.
It’s the kind of tool that will instantly become a firm favorite with designers and developers alike thanks to its simple yet effective layout that works just perfectly.
Color Matcher is freely available for all iOS devices now.
I get a lot of e-mails daily, most of them the usual snore-worthy PR mailshots from the App Store big boys .. and of course (well, at least most of the time), these are about upcoming games and apps for the iPhone itself. So, it was refreshing this morning to receive the heads up on a new completely open-source project from iPhone development studios Edovia and FutureTap.
Originally a Canadian-German co-production between both firms, InAppSettingsKit is an open-source project which allows iPhone developers to place settings in-app, as opposed to hiding them away in the iPhone OS Settings.app.
Edovia and FutureTap admit there has been extensivediscussion among the iPhone community about which option is better. Do you oust your app’s settings to Settings.app and hope the user finds them successfully, or do you opt for the in-app route and risk cluttering your once streamline app with a bunch of settings most would only use on the rare occasion? According to Edovia and FutureTap, there are quite a few reasons in-app settings should be considered.
- Settings.app becomes a total mess with longer load times
- If only in Settings.app most users simply don’t understand the mechanism and miss the settings
- A context switch is needed to switch between settings and the app. If on the 16th screen, this involves quite some tapping and flicking.
- In-App settings can instantly change the behavior of the app
Sure, in-app settings are popular. After all, What’s better than to be able to edit the global settings of an app, without having to leave the actual app? We’ve seen a slurry of the big name apps take this approach. Including the likes of Twitterrific, AIM and more recently, Tweetie 2 .. among others.
What’s interesting about this project is, as a developer, instead of having to choose one route and ultimately having to accept the consequences via user feedback, it proposes a new outlook on settings for iPhone OS. Dubbed ‘Hybrid Settings’ the settings are place in Settings.app sure, but they’re also available in-app too, providing the best of both worlds – and don’t worry about visual consistency of your settings either, using the kit your in-app settings will look just like as if they were pulled straight from Settings.app.
“We’re proposing a second approach that we call “hybrid settings”. In this model, the user has the choice: the settings are available in Settings.app. But they’re placed in-app as well. That way, every user can decide where to edit the settings. The in-app settings are a 100% clone of the Settings.app style.”
Developers can find out more about the project at InAppSettingsKit.com – and if you have an app and you’ve recently added the InAppSettingsKit to it, the guys at Edovia and FutureTap want to know. Add yourself to the list at: inappsettingskit.com/apps.
At 148Apps, we pride ourselves at providing the best coverage of the App Store through our reviews, news, and editorial pieces. We’re here to give you the information you need about an app before you make a purchase and to keep you up to date on the latest happenings in the iPhone community. But there are two sides to the iPhone community that we could be assisting instead of just treating it as one single entity.
There are over 11,700 iPhone app publishers in the market right now, all vying for the chance to make their app the next big success. Each publisher could represent one individual making their own app, or a full team working on a string of applications. Beyond development, there’s also the marketing, financing, and customer support aspects that all need to be addressed by the developers. And that’s the beauty of the App Store, anyone can wear those hats as long as they’ve got the drive to do so.
But where do they get their information? Who do they learn from? What resources are made available to those willing to enter into the App Store? For $99 Apple will give you the tools and access to make an app, we want to give you the tools to make a business out of it. After all, everyone benefits from a stronger community.
Where 148Apps.com is more tailored toward consumers looking for apps for their own device, 148Apps.biz is a resource for everyone connected with the creation of iPhone apps. And to truly make 148Apps.biz a community resource, we’ve invited all reaches of the iPhone community to contribute to our site, to make it the strongest and most robust iPhone business resource available. 148Apps.biz is for the community, by the community.
On top of providing that outlet for those well versed in their area of the iPhone app process to speak their mind and provide valuable insight, we’ll also be providing the most accurate App Store Metrics available anywhere on the web. In depth info on what is in the app store, invaluable intelligence for iPhone app development.
If you’re involved in iPhone app development and interested in sharing your knowledge and resources with the rest of the community, we invite you to check out our Submit An Article page over at 148Apps.biz. We’re looking to you to help make the community a stronger, better place, where those new to the scene and those already experienced have access to the tools and knowledge that will help them make the best apps possible.
So take a look at 148Apps.biz and let us know what you think. After all, it is your site!
When thinking of the word flurry, one could imagine a gust of floating snow, but there is nothing cold or wet about Flurry Analytics.
Flurry Analytics is a leading cross-platform mobile application analytics provider for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Java ME developers. With the intention of helping developers make better applications by providing consumer behavior and application performance analytics, Flurry announced the release of two ground-breaking extensions to its analytic services: User Path Tracking and Dynamic Parameters.
The User Path Tracking will monitor the sequence of actions completed in mobile applications by consumers and the Dynamic Parameters will analyze user-generated content and other user action data within mobile applications.
“Flurry is committed to dramatically raising the standard of iPhone and Android Analytics for its customers,” said Flurry CEO, Simon Khalaf. “Building the ability to track user flows and event parameters was technically challenging but exactly what our customers needed to better understand their consumers, increase retention and grow their active user base.”
The User Path Tracking gives developers the chance to track the sequence of actions that consumers complete in their applications from the time of launch, thus giving the option of using the collected data to increase user satisfaction and retention by improving the design of an application and discovery of key features.
In addition to the ability to track when end-users perform key actions, developers can now “describe” and understand how that action was completed in richer detail with Dynamic Parameters.
The 360|iDev conference has just wrapped up, and it’s been a great one. The three day conference which had ticket prices as low as $200 (a steal!), was attended by roughly 150 developers. Talks were divided roughly into 4 different tracks including business, game development, non-game development, and hands-on. Everyone attending the conference we talked to were very impressed with both the organization of the conference and the quality of the speakers.
360|iDev has a sense of community much more so than most developer conferences. The community feel puts everyone at ease and allows greater participation than a larger conference like WWDC. 360|iDev is put on by a duo of part-time conference organizers, they’ve done a fantastic job, we’re already looking forward to the next one.
“Some of the best and brightest iPhone and Apple development community in one conference. It’s fantastic. I’m looking forward to the next one.” said Keith Shepherd from Imangi Studios, developer of Imangi and Little Red Sled.
The organizers are looking to have another 360iDev conference in about 6 months, this time on the other side of the Mississippi river. I’d suggest following them on Twitter to keep informed of the next one.
March is loaded with conferences related to iPhone development. There are three major conferences going on in the San Francisco bay area alone. Let us know if you are headed to any of these, I’ll be at all three and would love to meet up.
First up is the 360iDev conference. This conference is a little looser than that most, but it’s 100% iPhone specific. Some great sessions are already scheduled. Topics include everything from development specifics, business aspects, even a session on iTunes Connect. On top of that, it’s an amazingly cheap conference considering the 3+ days length.
The pricing of the tickets is tiered based on when the tickets are sold. The first 100 tickets at $200, then 200 tickets at $350 and the 100 tickets at $499. Some of the $200 tickets are still available, grab them now while you still can.
The iGames Summit promises to be a very interesting, though short conference. This 1/2 conference in San Francisco has some real heavy hitters lined up to speak. Scheduled to speak include Neil Young from ngmoco, Andrew Lacy from Tapulous, Ge Wang from smule, Mike Pagano from EA Mobile, and many more. Check out the site for the full lineup.
Tickets are still available for this conference, earlybird tickets are $299 until February 19th. You can save 15% on General Admission Tickets when they go on sale (after 2/19) if you use the code 148APPS at checkout.
Game Developers Conference / GDC
March 23-27, 2009 – San Francisco, CA
More info: http://gdconf.com
The grand daddy of all game developer conferences. This one is huge. While not iPhone centric, game developer centric, there will undoubtedly be plenty of iPhone discussion going on. This 5 day conference is the place to learn about the latest technologies in game development. It includes multiple courses from Business, Audio, Game Design, Production, Programming, and Visual Arts.
I’m going to be at all of these conferences. If you are going to be there and would like to meet up, maybe to show me what you are working on, send me a message via Twitter @148Apps or an email at review dot monkey (at) 148apps dot com. Looking forward to meeting more of the great iPhone developers.