Monday, January 15, 2018


Another lifetime ago in the App Store in 2010, I had an idea for a game.  It still isn't done, but is likely what I will do next.  It is a matching game, but is far from what DragonBreak turned out to be.

I worked on it a bit, and really liked it, but decided the graphic drawing requirements were too high, so put it aside.  I kept going back to it over the years.

Eventually, again years ago in 2014, when SpriteKit came out, I updated the game prototype to use Apple's new-at-the-time API.  I added some new ideas to it like the physics so for the "rubble" that fell as you made matches.  (Years of working on it, I still get a kick out of how the bits fall and bounce and sometimes blast back up by the falling tiles.)

Trying variations on it, something clicked.


Another idea for another game in 2012.  DragonBreak.  This one got farther along, but ran into both the whole "fuck we all have to get jobs" and being a Breakout style game, the difficulty was very hard to adjust.
Either too slow and easy, or impossibly fast--with little room in the middle.

This picture is probably all that anyone but Pete, Shawn and I will ever see of it.  It got pretty far along, and looked very cool.
  • Little bouncing dragon egg with the knight as the paddle.  
  • Bricks and chests got pushed around with physics as the ball bounced.  
  • Moved continuously.  It would slow at an obstacle like this, but still crept forward.  Getting the dragon past would scroll ahead to the next obstacle.
  • There were a lot of obstacles made, spiders and doors and more...and nobody will see it.

So I'll surely never finish that, but I really liked the DragonBreak name.

Combined with a re-themed branch of that earlier idea, it could work.


So I took what I had started as the other game, branched it to SKDragonBreak (SpriteKit DragonBreak) and went from there.

I knew I could do the programming, but needed graphics.

I made a video in 2015 of the game at that point, to send to a couple graphic designers I found in game forums.  Placeholder cartoon images and pieces from the other DragonBreak.

I had each of them do a set of tiles.  Not bad, the 2 different styles below.  But either would take a lot more graphics for the rest of the game with dragons and backgrounds everything else.  I decided to draw them myself.  

It is all code-based drawing using PaintCode.  

This lets it automatically generate images of different sizes as needed for different devices. 

Dragon wings can be very random.  As I did each I would figure the range that control points could move and still look good, so a huge variety with dragon wings.  New wing designs are just setting the color or image to use for the wing texture.  (With a few exceptions like speckled that draw so they are random too.)

Shawn did do a head for the earlier DragonBreak dragons, the the old breakout game didn't use it while playing, but they would appear when clearing a level.  Drawing heads is harder, so I stuck to just wings :)  

Eggs have random dots.

Gives me enough confidence that with the right style I can go back and finish that original game idea too...

Blah, blah, blah.  

That's where it started.  There is lots of work in the middle.

  • Simple level designer.
  • AI so I can make a level and let the AI play it a hundred+ times to figure out the correct number of moves.
  • All those other pages, "you won." "you lost." "you are out of eggs."
  • Endless tweaking.  Picking just the right colors, just the right bounce, just the right animation.

In the meantime, I have worked at Microsoft for 3 1/2 years on various of their iPhone apps.  But evenings and weekends I would find a bit of time and slowly go work on my game.

Today, January 15, 2018 I submitted DragonBreak to the App Store.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Social Networking & Tragedy

2009: I'm still debating ever posting this, or just writing to get these thoughts down.  
2013: Its now been 4 years since he died.  Rereading still brings tears...not posting this year.
2016: I have re-read this every year.  Litsa, his long-time partner wrote a book about this that you should buy.   

October 2009:
As Facebook and all the other social network sites become more and more a part of our lives, they sometimes then become part of deaths.

I'd only met TJ "Bear Attack Guy" Langley a few times. He had been in several plays my brother directed. But really, how can you forget the guy who literally survived a bear attack with the scars to prove it.

So he was in several friend-of-a-friend connections.

I first heard something was wrong through Facebook on a Thursday as his long-time girlfriend and best friend was posting information that he was missing. He'd gone on a solo hike in the Cascade mountains in Washington State and was 48 hours overdue. I would check throughout the day, seeing as more little bits of information came in; search and rescue starting their actions; finding his car at the trailhead.

By Thursday night, getting dark and I knew searches would stop; it was more and more worrying. More of the same all through Friday, people exchanging hopes and prayers that there would be a happy ending and the search increasing.

By Friday night and Saturday morning, my wife and I were really scared. Being realistic, even a small accident that prevented him from walking out would have been Tuesday, and with the ever colder fall weather and not sure how many days of supplies he'd have it was scarier and scarier.

Finally Saturday evening we saw the news--this time via the newspaper websites instead of Facebook--that his body had been found. Everybody stopped posting at that point, none of the "RIP TJ" posts appearing until the next day.

Thanks to Facebook, I did know what was going on...I might not have heard anything otherwise.

My two complaints: "Facebook, 'like' isn't the only choice for commenting on a status update."
* Took long enough, but there are more choices now than Like.

And it was heartbreaking as my wife (fairly new to Facebook herself at the time) was confirmed as a friend of Litsa's after we'd heard the tragic news--and in the "suggested friends" list TJ was listed as another suggested friend.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

iPhone 7 guesses

OK, a prediction I haven't seen elsewhere:

iPhone 6/6s has had the same "@2x Retina" screen quality that first came out in the iPhone 4 with 326 pixels per inch.

The 6 Plus and 6s Plus upped that with a "@3x Retina" screen with 401 pixels per inch.

Not sure if the bigger 7 Plus will go up to a 4x Retina and 535 pixels per inch, but I'm predicting the 7 will bump up its screen to a "@3x Retina" with 489 pixels per inch.*  Better screen, faster, better camera are always good enough reasons for people to upgrade.

(And that's on top of what others have guessed with be a Higher Color Range screen.)

* Exactly how it does the 6 Plus screen does scaling is a little different, that's why its 3x and iPhone 6's potential 3x aren't the same.

UPDATE!  Nope.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Apple Watch 2 Guesses

Yeah, the usual thinner and more powerful...

The watch really does notifications best.  Those are a tiny amount of actual content with nice graphical wrappers and animations.  

My wife and I often communicate in single letters and emoji.  "U"  "K"  "👐"

I predict the Watch 2 will have a very custom Cell Phone chip to do notifications.  Super low power, and optimized for receiving small amounts of data -- sent via either Apple's push notification service or text message and that's it.  According to ancient FAQs, old school Pagers had very long battery life, measured in weeks or months on a AAA battery.    

Hopefully Apple has the clout to either have it included in your cell phone plan, or baked into the cost of the watch so there's no monthly fee.

* Highly compressed voice for Siri is the biggest possible thing it might send.  Looking a few minutes at the compression Siri uses, 10 seconds of audio could be about 5K to send, so very small too.  Definitely something Apple could do.

UPDATE!  Nope.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Force Touch

When I checked out one of the new MacBooks, I knew that pressing the trackpad wasn't really clicking physically, but simulating it.  But my fingers couldn't tell the difference.

The Apple Watch does other interesting touch "feelings".  Taps when you get a message.  Try to scroll beyond the end of a list with the crown and there's a bouncy feel as it snaps back.

It's pretty positive that will be added to the new iPhones next week.  I think everyone is thinking about the "Force" part of it, missing the "Touch" part when it comes to iPhones.

Buttons that have a "click" feel when you press.
Lists that bounce back when you drag them too far.
Photos that give a "stretchy" feedback as you zoom in.

Games get interesting too, pieces that "click" into place as you drag them.

Hopefully the "taptic" hardware can simulate all sorts of interesting feedbacks.

UPDATE:  Nope.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Playing the App Store lottery

There are so many existing apps, plus all the new ones, that writing apps really is like playing the lottery these days.

A new game has an nearly 100% chance of only ever making enough money for a cup of coffee.  It has a small chance of making enough to buy a car.  And a tiny chance of making enough to buy a house, or even a small island.  (There are 1 million apps, top 100 least are the house or island category--1 in 10,000 odds.  The top few are in the by a "large island" category.)

I saw a report (and promptly forgot where) that about 12,000 new games come out each month.

That's 3,000 a week.  

Apple features some of those new games each week.  And that's really all that matters.  Unless you have a lot of money to spend on ads, get very lucky, or do shady things like buying downloads, being one of those featured games is the only path to success.

Right now, Apple features about 15.  And they do want to mix it up so it is not all the same type: some action games, some puzzles, some driving ones, etc.  So you don't have to be in the top 15 out of all 3,000 to get featured, its more like the top one or two out of the style of game you make, so say the top 2 out of 500.

2 in 500 aren't great odds.  But the potential payoff if you get that winning ticket is immense.

So I'll keep playing the app game...

Thursday, May 7, 2015


A few years ago, checking your phone while at dinner with someone would've been considered pretty rude.  But not so much any more.

There's really a formula to it, the more people in the group, the less rude it is to check your phone.  It drops quickly to "normal behavior" once the group has 3 or 4 members.

Now, checking your watch (Apple Watch) sends the message you have somewhere else to be.  But I bet that changes too, as more and more people have watches and devices that show their messages and emails.  Glancing at the screen, then getting out the iPhone only if it's something more important than the people you're with.