Go Hack Yourself

Table Data

In our latest game dev adventure, we were looking for a way to use our sticker app as a level editor for our upcoming puzzle app that uses the same set of assets.

A little backstory…

Our latest app allows users to pull an image from a tray at the top of the screen and resize it, rotate it, flip it and place it onto a background to build a scene. It’s basically a sticker book, or for those of you over 30, it’s like Colorforms.

Our next app is a jigsaw puzzle that, upon completion, is filled with interactive characters. It also just happens to use the same backgrounds and stickers from the aforementioned project.

…so, as I was saying, we needed an editor that would allow us to place the characters in the puzzle (to avoid painstakingly positioning them a pixel at a time.)

THE HACK

Since the sticker app saves each scene you build in a file called stickerData.txt, and the touchscreen controls work much better on an actual device than our mouse-and-keyboard app simulator, we hacked the app so that we could tap a button on the options menu to email out the stickerData.txt file from the device.

Now I can position the characters anyway I want on the iPad and email that data to my partner without even touching my computer. Here’s to creative solutions *clink!

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Student Questions

coders coding
Recently, a student interviewed me for a game development project so I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the more interesting segments. There are so many budding game developers out there; maybe you’ll find this helpful or inspiring.

Also, I’m a total narcissist!

Q: How long have your worked for your organization?

My partner and I started Eggroll Games in October of 2011. I started working for Eggroll Games full time in 2013.

Q: What are your major duties and responsibilities?

I just tell people I do “whatever is necessary” haha. We are currently working on a puzzle game template that we can release with many different themes. I conceived of the visual design and control, and made mockups and documentation. I designed the UI and created the UI assets that will be used in the game. I picked the music and sound effects. I will probably create the description in the various app stores and its promotional screenshots. I’ll be sharing it on social media too. Although I’ve only tweaked code and made suggestions on this particular app, I definitely still program too. Here’s a game I programmed 95% of that we released last year as a fun diversion. It’s our only non-kids app to date: bit.ly/rocketvalet

Q: Who is your immediate supervisor? What is his/her title?

We never established titles here haha. My partner and I both own exactly half of the company so I’m my own boss, he’s my boss and I’m his boss haha. I call myself a developer/producer. It’s intentionally vague because I do whatever has to be done, but I put developer first because I love to create.

Q: What do you perceive to be the major rewards of your job?

Wow, I get to do anything I want anytime I want haha. The job itself is the same thing I’ve done since I was a kid. Dream up games, doodle them, research stuff that could inform me to make the game better, create mockups, art, design documents, etc. I would be doing this in my spare time even if it wasn’t my job.

Q: What do you like most about your work?

My favorite part of the job is when I have a blank slate and I get to create a new experience from scratch. I am always trying to finish up all the projects on my plate so I can get to the next one!

Q: What are the major frustrations in this job?

The tedium of creating hundreds of art assets in different sizes to accommodate all the different screen sizes out there. Also, the waiting. Examples: Waiting for a bug to get fixed so I can keep working on a game, waiting for an app to get approved or waiting to get art back from an artist. Technical changes in the platforms and stores we support. OS changes that break things. We just updated some of our apps on Google Play to fix the IAPs. Our code stopped working because of a change Google made on their end. iOS 8 made one of our app’s text disappear and has thrown off the position of some of the piece slots in some of our puzzle apps. We still haven’t fixed them all haha.

Q: What are the most frequently recurring problems in your position?

Our wall that we have struggled to break through for the past few years is scaling up. We have established a successful business model. We are still trying to get away from working on one project at a time and doing the work ourselves. Our goal is to have teams of people working on several projects at a time.

Q: Is your job better or worse now than it was a few years ago? Why?

No, it’s awesome. There’s more pressure to diversify. The market is changing and we can’t rely on one single platform or store. We used to be on iOS exclusively but we are now on Google Play, Amazon, Samsung and even Ouya! We make a point to support new platforms too-like Fire TV. We want to get on Steam, the Apple Mac store and possibly Windows phone next. In the future we’d like to be in browsers and on Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo’s platforms too.

Q: What job in the organization would you prefer above your own?

None. I have the best job in the world.

Q: Do you have any long-term goals?

To scale up the company and diversify where people can find our games. I’d like to remove myself from the day to day projects so I can concentrate on my personal masterpieces.

Q: How did you become interested in this career?

I played Donkey Kong at the beach a million years ago and haven’t stopped dreaming about games as a medium ever since. I was probably 5 or 6 years old.

Q: How did you prepare yourself for this job? How did your education help?

I prepared mostly by obsessing over gameplay and design my whole life haha. Learning to program so I could actually turn my ideas into reality was definitely a turning point. I taught myself a lot but school helped me devote time and focus on turning it into a career. Your drive is more important than your education. It takes drive turn information into something-it doesn’t happen automatically just because you sat through a lecture. It doesnt matter if you teach yourself or if you learn in a classroom. If you are driven and it’s the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think of at night, then you will figure out how to make it happen one way or another.

Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in this career?

Forget what everyone else has done and what people say online, just make a game. There is no wrong way to do it. If you can finish a game (even a simple 2D one), you are better than 95% of the “developers” out there.

Puzzle UI Work In Progress

Puzzle Options

I’m working on a new puzzle game for touchscreen devices!

The screen above is a mockup of the latest puzzle options screen. This UI will slide out over your selected puzzle image (chosen on the previous “puzzle select” screen.) Here’s how it works:

The Background tile is touchable and will toggle between showing or hiding the pattern background.

  • When the pattern is turned off, the player will be able to see the puzzle image underneath the piece slots. This makes the game much easier.
  • When the pattern is turned on, the puzzle is hidden (you cannot see the puzzle under the piece slots) so you must rely on shape recognition or memory to figure out where each piece goes.

The Outline tile toggles between showing or hiding an outline of the piece slots.

  • If turned on, the player can see an outline of each piece in the puzzle, making it easier to identify and match the piece to its slot.
  • When off, there are no outlines for slots-more difficult.

The pieces slider lets you choose more or less pieces for the puzzle. By default, it’s set to 6 pieces (for kids.) It can be decreased to 4 and increased to 24.

The play button starts the puzzle!

The back button in the upper left takes you back to the puzzle select screen where you can choose a different puzzle.

This is the current project. If you’re interested in this or our other kids apps, like Eggroll Games on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for updates.

App Machine

App Machine Part 1

I had a fellow developer ask me how we had put out so many apps in such a short time and thought I would share my particular experience in creating our pipeline.

Make engines, not apps
We started this with our third app, Coloring Farm Touch To Color. The engine allowed us to change artwork in an image folder and content of an xml file to create a brand new app. We created a farm, safari and princess coloring app with this engine that are very popular. The original code took a few months to create and we added little features as we released new titles. We followed the same process for our puzzle apps, Puzzle Farm, Princess Fairy Tale and Animal World.

Reuse everything
We have accumulated a great library of sounds that we reuse frequently and try to reuse code for animations, particle effects, etc. Coloring Farm, Puzzle Farm and Animal World all used the same artwork and they were delivered to us from the artist in vector format with everything separated in easy to manage layers. This allowed us to take parts and rearrange, resize, etc. to build new landscapes, game assets and games.

Delegate
You have to delegate tasks to free yourself up for new responsibilities. Look for talent and start building relationships with people you can trust to carry on the work you’ve started. We owe our recent successes to Amanda Linn and Matthew Taylor, a brilliant developer and sound designer respectively. We are currently looking for more talented developers who can maintain our standards and vision.

I will continue this series when I am inspired to do so. That’s it for now. I have to get back to work.

Numbers Memory Match Submitted

Numbers Memory Match, the latest app from my team at Eggroll Games, was just submitted to the App Store.

This video features a build about three generations previous to the final. It was created, as all our apps have been, with the Corona SDK. It uses the engine from our last app for menus, options and aesthetic but has completely new gameplay. My goal was to make the best memory matching gameplay on the App Store. I think we’ve accomplished that with the caveat that it is aimed at parents of children learning numbers and counting. We are planning on using this matching engine in a future title aimed at general audiences.