Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Congrats, Microsoft

For a long time, it seemed Microsoft was doing things to compete in the world as it used to be, or in the world they wished it was.

But in the past week or so that changed.  Office for iPad, and now $0 for Windows on phones and small tablets.

Great ways to attack the world of today!  I'm sure are all a credit to the new CEO.

One interesting thing to see how it pans out:  Android makers have had to pay a license for various patents to Microsoft, $5 per phone or something like that.  I assume that's not happening with the new $0 Windows license.  Suddenly, it's cheaper to make a Windows phone than an Android one.  Smart move.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

bloc'd. Tower Defense + Match 3

Grr, blogger deleted the post I'd been adding to over the course of a year+ as these various prototypes happened.  Thankfully the screenshots were still around.  

What became bloc'd started because I was thinking about Tower Defense games, and why I didn't like them that much.  Place the thing in the right spot for the incoming monsters, wait, tap to pickup coins, repeat.

The first test was as a potential new game mode in our game Pawn'd.  We've still not added it, but I think it would work nicely there too.  As the dragon came across, you could attack it by matching pieces with the color it is next to.  So below, the purple and blue (Pawn and Knight) can attack the little dragon below them.  Keep the dragons from getting all the way across!

That got into a lot of prototypes, starting in January 2013.  (So the final product came out a bit over a year after the first test ideas.)

We weren't sure what sort of game or theme it might be.  Below might be hordes of little red square Orcs attacking towers in the center of the circles.  Each tower has a type of ammo (arrows, magic, stones), which you would use to attack by matching the colors in connected lines.  They could shoot Orcs in the range of their circle.  The extra white color could be coins to collect to upgrade the tower or repair damage.

I think there's a good game in that...but seemed like the graphic art requirements would be high--lots of little animated monsters.

I think this one was similar but with different sized units.

It evolved into a "big" enemy that dropped small ones.  The 91 orbited the center of the green, and dropped small white units--each drop is minus 1.  Matching a color when the big one passes through its range reduces the big enemy too.

It orbited in something like 10 seconds, so there was a big timing aspect.  Can you make a big match in Red while the big enemy is passing through.  Match quickly to keep the little ones from attacking your tower too.  One little one in range destroyed by each tile matched.

If we'd have finished it, an alien-invasion theme was the likely direction.  Same gameplay as above, but a different skin (just a mockup Shawn did.)

Again, I think there's a good game with this variation too.  Much lower graphic art needs.  A nice computer console type look....  (which I may get to in a later post :)

There were various months long lulls between all those prototypes above.  Do some new idea in an afternoon, then marinate on it for months as other things were happening.

What finally became bloc'd came in August 2013.  This prototype had too many incoming things, but it got the right mechanic with little shapes you had to match.

It again sat for months, until I was showing off some in-progress things at an NSCoder Night in Seattle.  It seemed close so I revisited it while on vacation in Feb 2014 a few weeks later.  It mostly got done on that trip, typing away in the evenings :)

It only needed a few graphics, Pete did a little texturing so the squares weren't simply solid squares (my programmer art.)

And that's it!  The name was about the last thing we came up with before submitting.  The basic mechanic of matching shapes seems like it can work with more game trying some of our ideas to add into updates!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Minus Apple.

What if, instead of bringing Apple back from the brink in 1996, something different had happened? Bringing Steve Jobs back too late, or any of a number of other choices and Apple failed back in the late 1990s.

What would have happened?  Sorry Microsoft, "Windows or Nothing" really dead-ended your technological progress.  You'd had the ideas, but 10 years of shoehorning Windows onto tablet and phone type devices hadn't worked as well as Apple did it on their first try*.

Even being shown the way with the iPad and iPhone, and having a Metro UI that (to me) seems best designed for Tablets out of all devices, you still couldn't make Surface work.  Nobody at the top could tell the Office team to "make Office work on this tablet, damn it"?  Office makes money, but isn't exciting** so doesn't sell tablets to people at home.

No Apple means no iPod, no iPhone, no iPad.  We'd have nice tiny little cell phones that lasted a month on a charge.  That seems like what cell phone companies were competing on before the iPhone--size and battery life; but like the older ones with a tiny screen and hardware keyboard or number pad.

Could anyone else gotten something like iTunes launched--and been friendly to people with 99¢ songs?

Tablets would have stayed as weird niche devices that ran bastard versions of Windows.

No Macbook Air and we'd be stuck with monstrous yet plastic and flimsy laptops.

Who could have developed those without Apple to show the way?

I'd bet that the company to finally pull things off would have been Amazon.  The first Kindle came out in late 2007 so must have been in development before the iPhone was announced in early 2007.  Amazon started selling books, so an e-reader device made sense.

For them, moving to something like the Kindle Fire type tablet that did books as well as video would be the next step.  (Though without Apple it might have had a decent size screen with a hardware keyboard under it like the first few versions of the Kindle did.  Looking back, the design of the first Kindle was crazy and weird.)

We'd have gotten tablets, but even more oriented as entertainment consumption.  Would there have been apps?

Thankfully, Apple didn't die.


* Apple surely had 100s of tries too, but all internal things that nobody else saw.  

** Lots of money, so far.  But that won't last.  People use Office because they have to for work.  I'm sure the new versions are a bit more advanced than the nearly 20 year old(!) versions for Windows 95.  But they do the same thing.  Most people would still be happy with that years old version.  I've been happy with Google Docs for the few times a year I needed printed documents, but the new iCloud ones look great so I've been using them too.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Flying Brick!

We had no plans to make any sort of Flappy Bird clone, until I read about the FlappyJam :)  80% was done sitting in a hospital waiting room, so it was a nice break and distraction from that.

Two main ideas for our variation.

1) First was to have something that doesn't fly well, so takes a LOT of tapping*.  A brick was the first thought.

2) And I had a crazy idea for monetization.  Let people pay to buy "Cheats" kinda like a point doubler in many games.  But taken to extremes.  $0.99 for a simple point doubler (2 points per tunnel), all the way up to $99 for a thousand points per tunnel.  

For awhile, it was $999 for the thousand pointer, but we decided that might be too crazy to start--but if people buy the $99 one, we'll add it in an update as a Million or Billion pointer!  Even in testing mode, with a test iTunes account that has no credit card, it gave me butterflies to click to buy that $999 one.

Spend $99 and you'll pretty much be guaranteed to set one of the top scores :)

News came out as it was in progress, that "Flappy" in the name was getting rejected.  So it is "Flying Brick" (Somebody else had squatted on Flappy Brick in iTunes anyway, so just as well we had to change it.)

All the graphics from WORLD 1-1 made it easy, Shawn drew a cute face to add to a simple red brick.  A couple days from start to finish :)

* One of the game testing/evaluating things my brother Pete thought of a year or two ago:  How many taps or actions you do in the first minute of gameplay.  It led to a couple games getting put on the back burner, since as action games, they didn't get to the action quick enough.

That's something that the original Flappy Bird nailed.

Flying Brick passes that test with flying colors too.  I counted 12 taps in about the first 2 seconds of gameplay, getting to the first obstacle.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Flushing $9.5 Billion.

"I bet it would take longer to literally flush $9.5 billion in cash down a toilet than it took for Google to do so figuratively on the Motorola acquisition." - DaringFireball

My toilet is ready to flush again after 30 seconds.  That gives 2,880 flushes a day.

I'd say 20 bills at a time is the max before my toilet would start to get clogged (and that's being generous...and I'm not going to test this number.)

Going with the smallest bill, flushing single dollars, that's only $57,600 a day.  You're flushing for 166,666 days or 456 years.

Google is rich, so say they're flushing $100 bills.  That's $5,760,000 a day.  Flushing for 1,666 days or 4.5 years.

The days between buying and selling really was 617.  Huh, according to Wikipedia, the US no longer makes bills bigger than $100.  So, no, with a standard toilet, and readily available US currency, you could not flush it fast enough.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Apple's Big Number problem.

To please Wall Street and Analysts, Apple has to keep the numbers growing.  Which they did, but not enough.

From here (embedded below), about 57% of Apple's revenue is from the iPhone.
~57% of their $57.6 Billion in revenues last quarter is $32.8 Billion.
~20% is iPad, for $11.5 Billion.
~12% is Mac, for $6.9 Billion.

In the most recent quarter, Microsoft had revenue of $24.5 Billion. And a recent quarter had Google at $14.9 Billion.

So to really grow more, Apple really has to invent a product or product category the size of a Microsoft or a Google.

Easier said than done...but they might :)  Or they can just keep printing money...

Monday, January 20, 2014


A cool app that will never see the light of day.

It let you use your iPhone or iPad to make a GIF from a YouTube video.  (With a hard limit of 7 seconds at most.)  

Browse to the video you want, then hold the button to record as it plays.  The options for setting the speed/looping work exactly like our camera app Giffish, so you can see all but the YouTube recording part in that app.

A nice cool icon too.

And of course we made a couple GIFs to show off how it worked...browse to your video & tap the Record button.

Then hold the red button to record.

We thought it would fall into the same Fair Use area that YouTube itself fits.  But Apple said that YouTube would say "No" so it was rejected.  Sorry Internets!

Interested?  Maybe I'll sell the source code or something so you could put it on your own devices...