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Piloteer Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on June 25th, 2015
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: FLY LIKE A BEAGLE
Piloteer is like trying to teach an octopus with an inner ear problem how to fly a helicopter, and I absolutely love it.
Read The Full Review »

Piloteer is Awkwardly Crashing onto the App Store Later This Month

Posted by Rob Rich on June 12th, 2015

It's been a long time coming - or at least it feels that way because I've been anxiously waiting for it to come out since GDC in March - but Whitaker Trebella's Piloteer finally has a release date.

Carter vs. the Developer: Pivvot

Posted by Carter Dotson on November 8th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: SWING AROUND! :: Read Review »

I have a reputation for being able to go toe-to-toe with developers at their own games, beating their best times and high scores. This is Carter vs. the Developer.

This episode does things a little backwards. It turns out Whitaker Trebella, creator of Pivvot, isn't the best at Berserk mode in his own game. I have a higher time than he does! So, after trying to beat his score on video almost instantaneously, we decided to flip the script. Trebella takes the helm and tries to beat my record time in what should be rightfully called Developer vs. the Carter.

Pivvot - Players Can Now Enjoy Its Pivoting Gameplay For Free

Posted by Andrew Stevens on September 12th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: SWING AROUND! :: Read Review »

Pivvot, the strategic game that tests your quickness, goes free for a limited time only. In our review, Carter Dotson said, "Pivvot is a game of strategic avoidance that takes the frantic challenge of Super Hexagon and makes it just a bit more cerebral."

It's free and looks like crazy fun. Check it out!

Pivvot Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on August 1st, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: SWING AROUND!
Pivvot is a game of strategic avoidance that takes the frantic challenge of Super Hexagon and makes it just a bit more cerebral.
Read The Full Review »

Whitaker Trebella's Long Voyage to Completing His Second Game, Pivvot

Posted by Carter Dotson on August 1st, 2013

Whitaker Trebella, now operating under the company name of Fixpoint Productions for his game and music work, is releasing his second full-fledged game, Pivvot. The development of the game was quite like how it plays: a long and winding path that was fraught with obstacles, but with success waiting at the end.

It makes sense because he definitely doesn't take the easy path through life: he's a music teacher who also does music for a wide variety of iOS games, becoming one of the most prominent composers on the platform. He was self-started, too - music submissions for Tilt to Live eventually turned into greater attention and more work to start making music for games. Then, he decided to learn how to program in order to make his own games, and he created Polymer, which didn't make him rich but made significant income for him, was extremely successful for a first release, and was a critical success to boot. He even got married to the love of his life, changing his last name from Blackall to Trebella, a combination combined from his and his wife Dana's last names. So, what comes next?

That was the one thing he just couldn't figure out.

A screenshot from the final version of Pivvot. It took a while to get to this point, though.
Trebella says that "I struggled for quite awhile with what kind of game I would like to make next. I probably had at least 20 totally different ideas running around in my head, fighting for attention. I sketched out a bunch on paper, prototyped a few on the device, and showed various people a couple of the ideas I had. I really didn't know what I wanted to do for a long time after releasing Polymer."

There was one idea that he worked sporadically on at the time, he just never felt all that motivated to work on it because he was struggling to make it work. A talk that Rami Ismail gave, one that wound up influencing fellow Chicago developers such as Dan FitzGerald and Lisa Bromeil of Dog Sled Saga, only helped to sway him toward ditching his idea when he got up to ask about it. His question about whether he should keep pushing with his idea (one he still might pursue in the future) was long-winded, and not exuding much confidence that the idea had a future. "I thought it had potential but it just never struck me. I never had that drive to finish it that I had with Polymer. And because it was a complex idea, it wasn't even fun to play in the early stages. Eventually, I just scrapped it altogether."

So it was back to the drawing board. After scrapping his original idea for his second game, he says "I started making a bunch of prototypes. Out of the many prototypes, I decided on one that eventually led to the creation of Pivvot."

A screen from an early version of the game.
Terry Cavanagh's Super Hexagon "very much so" influenced Pivvot during its creation. "I just really love the simplistic nature of Super Hexagon's gameplay. While it is a VERY hard game, it is VERY easy to understand what to do and how to do it. I wanted to get that same sort of feeling with Pivvot. Someone said to me recently that they enjoyed Pivvot because they knew what to do right away without even playing it. It's back-to-basics gameplay. I was tempted a number of times to add bells and whistles but I kept thinking back to how awesome Super Hexagon is and how it focuses strictly on that one fun mechanic." He even has talked to Terry Cavanagh and says "He seemed to think the idea was cool!" when he showed a version of the game to him a couple of months ago.

But curiously, it was also the core technology at work with Pivvot that helped convince him that this was the right idea."I'm working in Unity with the Futile framework. It took me a long time to really understand how to make cool-looking shapes and objects in Futile. Once I figured that out though, it opened up a ton of options. I was able to create cool-looking obstacles, and maybe even more importantly, I was able to create the winding, pulsating path that is the centerpiece of Pivvot's gameplay. Once I had a winding path with some obstacles and some basic collision detection, I was able to play the game and actually have fun."

"Once I was having fun with the prototype, I knew it had potential."

He felt like he had nailed the core idea of pivoting around a point traveling along a winding path avoiding obstacles all the while, but making it fun was the biggest challenge. "It took an incredible amount of playtesting on my end. I would create an obstacle, then play the game over and over and over with just that obstacle until I either felt really happy with it or found something that annoyed me about it. For example, if I kept dying on one specific part of an obstacle and it started to feel unfair, I would make that part a bit easier; if a certain part of an obstacle pattern was just way too easy, I would tweak it to make it harder; if an obstacle played well but just didn't look very cool, I would think about how to make it look better."

Everything with the game's art is actually generated through code. Pivvot has a very minimalistic look, consisting mostly of lines and geometric shapes. This wasn't always the case, though: "the obstacles used to have outlines and other details on them. At first, I thought it looked very cool, but the more I played it, the more I realized the extra details really distracted from the minimalistic look of the game. Having said that, I needed to make sure it looked 'artfully minimalistic' rather than just 'flat.' "

The Portable Podcast, Episode 179

Posted by Carter Dotson on March 19th, 2013

Heavily edited for your enjoyment.

On This Episode:

  • Carter talks to NoodleCake Games and musician Whitaker Trebella about their work on Super Stickman Golf 2, including the musician asking the programmers about elements of the game, and the programmers learning something about how the music for their game was created.
  • Carter and John Dunbar talk about his new game Plasma Sky, along with discussing how this side effort fits in with his day job at Runic Games, known for Torchlight.

Episode Cast:


How to Listen:

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Apps From This Episode:

Danger Boat Review

Posted by Carter Dotson on March 15th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Developer: Pixelocity Software
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Playtime: Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar


Danger Boat is Pixelocity Software's second title after the asynchronous turn-based racing game Disc Drivin' which I still play from time to time. This time, they have an endless boating game. Yes, boating. That could be anticipated from the title, but it's not usually something featured in gaming. Players drive a speedboat that goes headfirst into danger, whether that be waves that risk crashing the boat into rocks, whirlpools that send the boat flying, or random missiles that come at the boat, this is no time for cowardice! Boat onward, comrades!

Wait, missiles? The "Danger" in Danger Boat is never really spelled out, nor is the reason why the captain of the eponymous boat of danger can't just take their time boating through the hazardous waters, but things get really dangerous. Thankfully there's powerups like lasers, danger-eliminating helicopters and an old-fashioned turbo boost to help tackle the danger.

The game is free-to-play, and it appears to do a good job at balancing the two tricky elements of free-to-play titles: it's possible to play and enjoy for free, but it's also built so that money can be made off of the game as upgrades and new boats do take a while to unlock just through normal gameplay. They can definitely help with high scores and can make the player look cooler, but the core game is still perfectly playable.

There is a permanent score multiplier system that increases as new objectives are completed, which helps out with high scores tremendously. However, the objectives feel far too often like they're about failure, like dying at a certain point, or dying by certain methods x number of times. These objectives are occasionally fine, but when they feel like they're popping up constantly, they can be a hindrance to actually having fun with the game.

The music by Whitaker Trebella fits the game like a glove: it sounds like a mix of surfer music with Harry Mancini's "Peter Gunn" theme. While the premise of endless boating stands out, it does control identically to many other vertical endless games, by tilting left and right to move. The waves physics represent the biggest original element that challenges players. Otherwise, it's not speed that kills, it's the difficulty of navigating the sudden hazards with the fixed ones like rocks.

I felt like the other big issue with the game was satisfaction. For some reason, getting high scores just never really clicked with me. The game doesn't make a big deal about them and the Game Center leaderboards button is kind of tucked away. Seeing and passing up friends' high scores in-game would help with engagement. While I think the game is solid, and not a bad free download, it's missing that magical element that makes the great endless games so sticky.

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Polymer is Now on iPad With New Game Modes and iCloud Support

Posted by Carter Dotson on July 20th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: IT ALL FITS :: Read Review »

Whitaker Trebella’s Polymer has gotten its first big update since its release back in May. The game is now universal for the iPad, supporitng retina resolutions, to go along with its new icon. Content unlocks will sync across devices using iCloud, ensuring no lost progress when installing on new devices. The developer recommends launching the game on the original device first and letting it sit for a couple of minutes to ensure data is properly uploaded, then it may take a few seconds for progress to synchronize on the new device, but it is confirmed as working.

Several changes and additions have been made to gameplay. Game Center online multiplayer has been added, where two players compete on the same board to try and make the biggest polymer in 2 minutes. The Two Minutes mode is now available in 5 and 10 minute increments, configurable from options, with individual Game Center leaderboards for each mode. A stress-free endless mode has been added. Want to see how much a polymer is worth before detonating it? Just long-press on it to see its point value. The free universal update is available now.

The Portable Podcast, Episode 135

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 1st, 2012

Cats and abstract shapes!

On This Episode:

  • Carter discusses Whitaker Trebella's App Store debut, Polymer, talking about what went into the creation of the game.
  • Carter talks about Cannon Cat with developers Loqheart, discussing how they tried to make a game for touchscreens, and what they did to try and make the game appeal to players.

  • Episode Cast:

  • Host: Carter Dotson
  • Guest: Whitaker Trebella
  • Guests: David Ngo & Don-Duong Quach, Loqheart
  • Music:

  • "Beatnes7 (Theme to The Portable Podcast)" by The Eternal - Download on iTunes here:

  • "Nanocarp" by The Eternal

  • How to Listen:

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  • Listen Here: [powerpress]
  • Apps Featured On This Episode:

    Polymer Review

    + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
    By Carter Dotson on April 26th, 2012
    Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: IT ALL FITS
    Polymer is a puzzle game where players must slide pieces around a board to form large connected shapes, across 3 different game modes.
    Read The Full Review »