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!

My OUYA!

In an attempt to blog more, I am going to keep it short and simple (the less work, the easier-right?) Disclaimer: forgive my errors and poor grammar.

OUYA-Console-set-h (1)

When Ouya happened I was excited. It was new, it was a market disruptor, and it was another opportunity for me make games that used a controller just like the games that have influenced me over the years (my company focuses mostly on touchscreen devices.)

…and then Ouya became a popular target to slam, slander, make fun of, poo poo and spit upon.

This didn’t deter me. I’m just busy-and I never bought one. However, a month or so ago, I saw an Ouya on the shelf at Target and I got excited all over again.

The reasons were two-fold (keywords: “two-fold” check,) It’s on the shelf at Target-a major retail store-cool! That almost guarantees a certain number of users-possibly enough to sustain a teeny indie game community of players and makers. The second reason? Corona SDK, my game development platform of choice supports Ouya development.

I bought it on sale for $69.99 (thank you Father Christmas!)

Getting to point one, the controller is great. No latency issues in my opinion-and I’m a latency snob. The selection is so, so, so, so indie. It’s crazy. There is no platform out there that has a more indie vibe. Within two days I had enough fun to validate the purchase. So now what?

Hey! I’m an indie dev! Why not put a game in the Ouya store? There’s a kids section and everything (with no actual apps made for kids that I can see.)

Point two: A weekend later, we were ready to submit. The folks at Ouya were more than happy to feature it on the console and post about it across their social networks. They were so easy to reach and SO easy to talk to. True indies.

I started a thread about it in an Indie Game Dev Facebook group. It went crazy.

The game went live for $2.99 on November 25th and has sold 12 copies so far. We are porting all the apps in the same series (educational preschool and math games) to Ouya. I’m proud to say that we broke new ground on Ouya by offering the first educational game designed specifically for kids in that store.

I just submitted an update for that lets players press “A” to exit levels and press “Y” to replay the current challenge instructions.

We are submitting our next title today. It’s called 123 Animal Preschool Games for Kids. If I’m a good blogger, I’ll keep you posted.

Tappy Lander Dev Diary #4: Control

I love the mechanics of lander games and the fun, to me, is maneuvering your rocket through a series of subtle movements into a good position and a soft landing. It’s difficult but rewarding.

Traditionally these types of games had a variety of buttons: rotate, left, rotate right, thrust, etc.

Image

However, on the target devices I have one button, the touch screen; and I refuse to clutter the screen with complex controls just so it plays exactly like the originals (see my last post about UI.)

In order to simplify, I ask my favorite question: “What makes it fun?” and my cat looks at me like “Who are you talking to?!”

What I came up with…

  • Gravity – yes, still fun after all these years!
  • Rotating – a little frustrating to manage and even time consuming
  • Thrusting – absolutely, compensating for a force like gravity or your last thrust, in order to change direction, is fun.
  • Managing fuel – no way, maybe its just me, but I don’t like time limits. I don’t want to tell a player “You know this fun little playground I made?, well you can only play here for THIS long.”
  • Avoiding an obstacle or flying to collect an object – yes! an opportunity to test your flying skill.
  • Landing – yes, slow down and center yourself over the target for a soft, safe landing.

The Redesign

I immediately wanted to remove the fuel consumption issue. This is in essence, a time limit. It makes sense for quarter munching coin-ops, but doesn’t in a free mobile game. The gameplay is not made more fun by adding a time limit and removing it allows you to focus on manuvering even if you need to take your time.

Most classic gravity and lander games allow you to rotate your ship so that you can thrust in any direction. Again, this is something that I felt I could remove. With a simple up, left or right control scheme, I can move in any direction by timing my taps (except down, and gravity takes care of that.)

A Prototype

The prototype allowed me full control over my ship and maintained the fun of using your skill and instinct to manage the physics of flying through space. It was fun but simple; easier for general audiences to pick up and play but very challenging at the same time.

…and so I moved ahead with development! The next post will be about game physics.

Thanks for reading and be sure to like and follow Tappy Lander on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.

 

Tappy Lander Dev Diary #1: The Name

After deciding to try something new, I have named our new game Tappy Lander!

Tappy Lander!

Tappy Lander!

I went with Tappy Lander! because it sounds fun to me and it’s descriptive of the game’s content without being boring. In the game you will tap the controls to land your rocket on the target (trying not to explode in the process.) The name is actually informative in that tapping is a better strategy than holding the buttons because of the precision of the physics-but I’ll talk about that in another post.

Other factors that went into naming the game:

  • We are targeting phones as the primary game platform. I’m very particular about little details and it bugs me when the words under the icon on my phone have a “…” appended to the text. Best case scenario, the title in its entirety is completely visible and “Tappy Lander” as well as “Tappy Lander!”  fits.
  • This game falls under the “lander” genre of games, the first of which is Lunar Lander (1979 Atari coin-op)
  • If I’m being completely honest, “Tappy” was inspired by “Flappy”. It was Flappy Bird that inspired us to try quick, simple projects and  I’m having so much fun developing this game. No apologies!

The next post will probably be about influences.

Thanks for reading and be sure to like and follow Tappy Lander on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.

 

 

Trying Something New

Mike and I have been making kids apps as Eggroll Games since November of 2011. But this year, inspired by the success of a certain Flappy game, we both decided to make a quick, simple project.

I told Mike the day we made this decision that I had always wanted to make a lander game, so…

This is the first sketch I drew of the lander game.

Concept Sketch

This is the first sketch I drew of the lander game. It shows the control panel (which hasn’t changed much) and a rocket landing on an elevated platform with jagged, outer-space mountains in the background.

Thanks for reading and be sure to like and follow Tappy Lander on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.

 

The Right Way

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Cheesy clip art rules.

I just read an article about the difference between wireframe, prototypes and mockups in app design. My response to the poster was this:

Although it is important to have a common language with the people you need to communicate with, there is no one right way to develop any idea into a finished product. In my opinion, articles like this can intimidate developers and prevent them from finishing a project because they are too worried about not doing something “the right way.”

Many projects never get past pre-production. Many developers never make a game because they are afraid of how their peers will judge them when they don’t seem savy enough. Many programmers never finish a project because they are intimidated by the complexities of doing things “the right way.”

I’ve met with many developers and toured game studios. The truth is, there is no right way to do anything, there is only what works for you at the time.

Popular terminology, programming languages, coding techniques and hardware platforms change but the goal never does: Reach the finish line however you can.

…and never let someone stop you because you’re not doing it “the right way.”