Under The Bridge Under The Bridge

Tag: Trolls
Devotionals

So it’s been a little while, hasn’t it? Amazing how life does run away with you. And we’re off again in another couple weeks too. No rest for the iOS programmer, indeed.

To gingerly ease ourselves back into the posting routine, let’s look at a couple of the recent fabrications stamped out of the troll foundries here, shall we? Haven’t done that for a while. And these are indeed somewhat of a divergence from the accustomed trollish oeuvre; they’re actually morally uplifting!

We speak here of a collection of devotionals programmed by your humble troll for publisher Thomas Nelson via the producers Jake Press who as you can see from their projects page we’ve done a good bit of stuff for before. Two are out now and more in the planning.

#1. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young:

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There’s a seven day displaying free sample version for you to check out here:

JesusCalling

#2. Live Loved by Max Lucado:

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And a free sampler for that one as well:

LiveLoved

Yes, indeed, it’s somewhat of a refreshing change to have a hand in developing something that our dear mother approves of. Indeed, it’s very religiously correct, this iOS of ours; in case you missed it, the Pope tweets from his iPad these days. So clearly we are on the cutting edge of modern spirituality here!

50pm – Sports Issue

Ah, we see there’s another troll production out in the wild these days, the followon to the 50pm magazine project from a little while back, and named followoningly enough “50pm – Sports Issue”:

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From our point of view it’s interesting enough to mention because the standard nav bar style interface from issue 1 is replaced with stylish and elegant overlay buttons; full annotation functionality was added; as well as lots of little giblets like Facebook sharing, annotation essays, backgrounder links, and so forth. From your point of view it’s interesting because the pictures are awesome.

WHAT DOES SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING LOOK LIKE FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE POOL?

WHAT IS IT WITH SPORTS AND MAO ZEDONG?

WHY ARE URBAN ATHLETES JUMPING FROM ONE BUILDING TO THE NEXT?

WHAT DOES THE BODY BUILDING SCENE IN THE MIDDLE EAST LOOK LIKE?

If you like photography, sports, stories or all of these, then 50pm’s Sports Issue is the magazine for you.

The magazine has more than eleven(!) photo stories on sports topics, bonus materials and the work of three recent World Press Photo winners included. Clearly some of the best sports photography in the world!

Neat, huh?

SpinImage DV QTVR

So, that Mac App Store thing you’ve probably noted some fuss about the last couple days? Here’s a nifty tip from Daniel Jalkut for some fun with that:

I can’t help myself.

  1. Quit App Store.app
  2. Open Terminal
  3. defaults write com.apple.appstore ShowDebugMenu -bool true
  4. Relaunch App Store

Enjoy it while you can. I’m sure it will be gone in the next update, especially if anybody at Apple sees this post.

Heh. Yes, no doubt it will be, but there’s some fun stuff to play with in the meantime there!

Aaaaaand while you’re checking out the Mac App Store, one of our little troll productions made it in for opening day: a version of the SpinImage DV 3D imaging product,

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which takes video of something rotating and outputs a user-rotatable embeddable QTVR/JavaScript/Flash component.

The strategy that the SpinImage folks decided to approach the App Store with was somewhat interesting: list on the store a QTVR-only version for $19, treating that as a low-cost introduction to the product, which people can then trade in for the rather more highly priced JavaScript/Flash exporting versions direct from the SpinImage website. An interesting approach to work around the no demo restrictions, certainly. Our biggest fear was actually that since QTVR manipulations are not available in QuickTime X and therefore cannot be built into a 64-bit executable, it might fall under “deprecated technologies” these days; but nope, sailed right through review with no quibbles.

Going by the first three days, the strategy seems to be getting off to a decent start — but we need to wait and see whether these App Store version purchases translate into upgrades to non-AppStore premium versions before making any grand pronouncements on its effectiveness. However, even from results to date we can make a tentative presumption that having a feature-limited version for sale on the App Store is significantly better marketing than having a full version time-limited demo available advertised via Google AdWords is, judging by what we’ve been told of how that was going in the pre-App Store days.

Cartographer App Test

Well, happy New Year, Dear Readers; we’ve been out walkies for a bit — see if you can guess whereabouts from this example:

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And if you can’t guess, why you can see almost the same exact picture taken just a little further back on the Wikipedia page for this country’s flag. Without the finger. Accomplished photographers, trolls are not.

Regular blogging should resume shortishly once we get on top of all the accumulated panics, we trust, but in the meantime we have a completely heartfelt recommendation for you; if you’re traveling anywhere that data access is unavailable or ridiculously expensive, you really REALLY want to have on your iPhone the Cartographer app. Check out this shot off Puerto Lempira coming up to the Honduras/Nicaragua border:

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Yes, there’s no service, as we’re on a boat here, but through the magic of OpenStreetMap downloads we’ve got mapping at all resolutions down to street level available nevertheless. And having tested it from Belize and Honduras through Costa Rica down to Bonaire and Colombia and other Central/South American bits and pieces, we can assure you that we found the mapping complete, accurate, and incredibly useful — didn’t pull out a paper map once all trip, actually. First time that’s ever happened!

There’s all sorts of other features too, sharing and notetaking and Google Maps and blahblahblah, but simply having street maps available and dropping placemarks so we can find our way back to the bus station or whatever when we’re in a data-less environment which pretty large bits of Central America are, that’s plenty enough by itself for Cartographer to take way out in front first place on our Must Have Travel Apps list. So we recommend heartily you get it, and go vote for it in the Best App Ever awards too!

50pm

Another piece with a trollish paw in its making debuted on the App Store today; “50pm” — “A monthly collection of fine art photography portfolios with themes that are close to us all!”

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Bit of a winding road this one had to release; it was based on the TT320 project, and the authors found their experiences pretty much in line with our general suspicion that TT320 is more trouble than it’s worth unless you are, in fact, Joe Hewitt. So they went to our oft-referenced tutorial maestro Ray Wenderlich to see about getting the various issues sorted out, and Messr. Wenderlich referred them here because, well, we guess he has a soft spot for people who link to all his blog posts, apparently. So we sorted out the initial issue list … and then added more features … and here it is. If fine art photography is your thing,

Issue 1: Family Matters, comprises the work of four artists who share inside views of their own families. It covers American family life of various social classes and a Japanese family set against a recreation of paradise. Each of these artists has connected with their family to create a beautiful, strong and often touching photo story.

As an inspirational magazine, 50PM: Issue 1: Family Matters is an absolute must have for non-photographers and photography enthusiasts alike. Family is important to us all and we guarantee that you will revisit these beautiful photo stories time and time again to be entertained, moved and inspired!

then you know you want to get it!

BallZOut: Now on appbackr!

So no doubt you remember ten days ago our Ludum Dare October Challenge entry BallZOut went live, and that was rather satisfying and everyone has been very complimentary thank you, but as an investment … well, not the greatest idea. Week and a half later, a total of 101 sales and down to trace daily levels; still just hanging on to the charts in the Puzzle category as of this morning with yesterday’s single sale amazingly enough,

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but as those rankings are on a four-day rolling average (last we heard, anyways) no doubt it’ll descend into complete obscurity in short order.

So while we’d really like add a bunch of stuff to make it more engaging, pretty darn hard to justify setting any more time aside in the near future with that complete lack of traction. Not that one should actually expect to get any without a) excellent marketing or b) being featured by Apple, mind you. So shall we whip out the credit card and start doing some marketing? Weee-eellll, we were kinda toying with that idea, then we read this thread.

Marketing: What else can I do to promote?

That particularly caught our attention as the game discussed, “180”, was actually on our phone — we caught it’s freeappcalendar.com feature day, and hey it’s icon had a cartoon redhead and trolls like redheads — and it’s a puzzle game more or less in the same headspace as BallZOut, except it’s polished to a fine sheen, and as you can see reading through that thread their marketing effort was nothing short of breathtaking. End of June, that thread was; so how’s 180 been doing since? Let us check Applyzer for it’s US rankings …

… it’s #850 paid in Games/Puzzle and off the charts in Games/Arcade their other category. So BallZOut is beating it right now? Oh, dear. Let us take that as acceptably solid evidence that a big marketing investment would be at the very least fraught with peril and more likely completely ill-advised, shall we? Which leaves us with the strategy of continually updating content and features and waiting for lightning to strike in the form of somebody at Apple deciding to feature it someplace as the most rational way forward, we’d say. Which still requires setting time aside. How shall we finance that?

Well, here’s what we’re giving that a shot with. You catch a week ago we posted about this appbackr place for wholesaling your iOS apps? Yep, this evening BallZOut went live on appbackr:

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See that post for full details, but briefly how this is working is that appbackr is making 40,000 future sales available at a wholesale price of 45¢; whenever any of those get sold, we get advanced 35¢, and once they’re sold we get a further 10¢ out of the proceeds, leaving the remaining 25¢ for the wholesale purchaser’s profit and appbackr’s cut for running the marketplace. At the very least an interesting idea, yes?

And not only is it an idea interesting enough to try out just to see what happens, this kicks the whole competition thing up a notch — why yes, there is an appbackr Challenge:

Reach $1,000 dollars in sales on appbackr before November 22nd and WIN!

  • appbackr will back an additional $500 worth of your app
  • The top 5 apps (based on dollars sold on appbackr) will get a FREE iPad

Yep, now that’s really a challenge, indeed it is. Stay tuned to hear how we do with that one!

BallZOut: The First Day

So let’s check the iTunes Connect reports and see what happened the first full day BallZOut was available, with our total “marketing” having been cross-posting to Ludum Dare, a tools post in the cocos2d forums, and a Touch Arcade post

… well look at that, 48 sales for $32.51 income! Woo-hoo! October Challenge WIN! *does the happy troll dance* We’d thank you all by name, but you know who you are. Okay, we’ll thank Pat by name, for providing the most amusing testimonial so far:

It is without doubt, the best app I have bought for iPhone!

(since it’s the only app I have paid for 🙂

Thank you, Pat. Your entry into the App Store economy is duly noted.

Speaking of the App Store economy, examining just where these results place us in it is rather eye-opening. “Shocking” might not be overstating it, in fact. Taking a screenshot here of AppAnnie‘s rankings page as we write this:

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Woah, dude. Thirty bucks and change of total sales actually gets your game on the charts? And into the top 1000 overall in Argentina? Clearly Argentinians (Argentines? Argentineans? Argentinos?) are discerning folk indeed — we’ll tip a bottle of Fuzion to them at our celebratory dinner — but that certainly seems to indicate an surprisingly low amount of overall sales, doesn’t it? Even if we just look at the U.S. where most sales come from, BallZOut was 265 in Puzzle games and 437 in Action games yesterday. And those are the two most heavily populated categories of games, by far. Can’t seem to quickly google up a running count of subcategory splits, but sufficiently enlightening metrics we can quickly get from 148apps.biz for the ‘Games’ overall category:

  • Total active: 40,288
  • Submissions this month: 1,744 ( 83 / day )

Yes, it seems like we can conclude pretty safely that the massively overwhelming majority of iDevice games are just not making any money, if you can be comfortably into the top 500 in your subcategories in the U.S. by pulling in just about enough to go out for lunch with. And unless you have a really killer and massively financed marketing plan, you would be extremely ill-advised indeed to consider writing an iPhone game to be anything other than an amusing hobby. Which, indeed, we did find frenziedly pounding out 1.0 to be; so we have every intention of continuing work on this project as our little playground to experiment with multiplayer Game Center support, features we haven’t tried out yet of the cocos2d engine, and so forth … but we’re certainly not going to shortchange paying projects to do so!

BallZOut

So we’ve almost won the October Challenge now:

  • Make a game — check.
  • Take it to market — check. And no rejection cycles, even!
  • Sell one copy — 11 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes, 53 seconds to go!
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This was a rather enjoyable little frenzy, actually, much more so than we’d expected given our previous history with commercial games programming. Which is actually a fair bit, starting with porting Dark Seed II to the Mac waaaay back in the day right up to little trifles (and some not so little) you can find on the App Store now. But the common thread throughout all of those is that our creative input was for all practical purposes zero; they’re either porting existing code, or implementing somebody else’s specifications. Doing so rather well, it is generally agreed, mind you; as nicely exemplified in what’s still our favorite review ever:

… Overall, Horse Racing Manager is a great port of a good game. It is bugless, it is an almost perfect replica of the PC version, it just isn’t a game that the average gamer would ever want to play.

Hey, it keeps the mortgage paid. But there is a certain lack of creative fulfillment itch there, which over the years every so often we’d consider scratching. But then we’d remember that producing a successful game generally requires a vast array of talents which we pretty much completely lack, from artistic to marketing; and return to our accustomed mercenary pursuits.

Fast forward to September 27th when we stumbled across the October Challenge; and as it so happened, we’d just been moping about losing on October 10th the kinda cool we thought “BallZOut” name that we’d registered with Apple last spring for a project that ended up not happening, now that you can’t squat on App Store names anymore. Plus, we’d been thinking gee it would be a good idea to get some actual experience managing a Game Center enabled app before somebody required that in a project bid. So hey, let’s see if we can indeed achieve a MVP in twelve days flat — a challenge, indeed!

First thing was the game concept. Narrowed it down pretty quickly to a level-based physics puzzler being the only thing of conceivable practicality given a twelve day time frame; and as our name is “BallZOut”, well let’s make it … knocking. ballz. out. Like marbles, or curling. With some obstacles to make it not completely trivial. Yep, that’ll do.

Engine choice given the concept was immediate; as big fans of cocos2d, we’d bought the LevelSVG code referenced here to support the author back when it first came out, and it demonstrates Box2D physics engine integration and Inkscape document parsing for level design. So hey, there’s most of the heavy lifting done already! And yep, that worked out pretty much as well as could be hoped.

So, on to design. Did we mention above that trolls completely lack artistic talent? Why yes, yes we did. So how, you ask, do we address that problem? Why, by frantically mining every clip art/sound collection in our archives and every free clip art/sound site on teh Intertubez, that’s how we address that problem. Plus picking over the discards from our last project that involved a real artist, in return for throwing in a referral screen. Topped off with laying out all our text type stuff with Comic Life Magiq as a substitute for any actual art skillz. We’d like to think that didn’t work out half bad. For lacking completely in both investment and talent, anyways.

Game Center integration went pretty well, although designing in multiplayer somehow wasn’t practical in the timeframe. We’d like to get around to that sometime. As with a vast array of other features. And more levels. We did rather underestimate how long it would take to design levels even vaguely interesting, the last couple days were mostly spent constantly downgrading our expectations of how many and how interestingly designed it would be acceptable to ship with. 20, by the time we’d achieved a state of complete panic a few hours before Lose Your Name Day™. Definitely, we would like to find the time to up that. Significantly.

But under pressure of immediate deadline, we offered it up to the Apple gods just in time, and in the ten days since we did some looking around for easy ways to throw up a support website; settled on Templatic’s iPhone App theme, which worked out pretty well we think to throw up a website in an afternoon. The $99 we paid for that being the only cash investment involved here so far, other than $29 for the newly commercial Zwoptex native version, a handy and highly recommended tool for your sprite sheet creation needs. Add in the probably 80-90 or so hours we spent finding artistic assets and doing the coding, and, hmmm, well, we’d still have to sell a pretty unlikely several thousand to make the exercise remotely worth it compared to doing a couple weeks’ worth of contract hours, actually.

But hey, as we mentioned at the start, it was quite a different experience and surprisingly fun to just full steam ahead weighing nothing but “latest wild idea” vs. “time ticking away” minute to minute. Not news to anybody who does these abbreviated development contests regularly, no doubt; but doing it just for the sake of it, that just doesn’t quite get us revved up. Add the “… and sell one copy”, now the addition of that external validation condition, that suckered us right in. So here we are … waiting to see how that works out!

Qmaster

And as a completely direct contrast to the frantic and minimal and solitary development of the October Challenge game we’re into right now, today we have for you an announcement of our latest completed game project making it to the App Store — the “Big Secret Project” that we’ve been hinting at for a very long time as it stately wound its way through development.

Introducing: Qmaster!

Masters of trivia have moved silently throughout time until now. You feel compelled to play the game. It’s not a choice and it’s a near universal compulsion among fellow Qmasters that they cannot resist – they must duel each other.

Gather online with those who dare to challenge your knowledge of trivia and embark on your journey to becoming the next Qmaster! Knowledge is power, and as each duel takes place, the opportunity for a promotion is at hand. Progressively improve and strengthen your abilities – where the few who remain will battle to the last…

Yes, you’re reading that right, it said “trivia” and “duel” in the description both. We think we’ve actually invented a new genre of game here, “Real Time Trivia”. At least, if there’s ever been any other networked head to head trivia duelling games, we couldn’t find them.

So the deal is, you’ve got a big whack of trivia questions — most of any trivia game in the App Store last anybody checked — and you answer those more or less as you’d expect in any trivia kind of game, aside from the fact that the questions and scoring are all provided by the server instead of on the device,

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and you build up your level in all the various categories of questions, so you’d have a set of scores that look like this:

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which your possible opponents can find as they browse for you on the map. Yes, as they browse for you on the map.

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So we don’t just have a head to head networked trivia game, we have a geolocating head to head networked trivia game. By this time, I trust you’ll agree we’re well into territory which counts as distinctly unusual indeed, and quite likely actually unique.

(Oh, btw, HOT TIP to avoid a rejection cycle: Notice in that last screenshot the lower left “Google” logo isn’t visible because the map extends under the mildly translucent bottom button bar? Uh-uh. No approval for YOU! So be careful with those map view boundaries.)

So there’s quite a bit going on here, indeed. The gameplay and structural design was set out by Charcis Games, the company created new for this game that it’s listed under in the App Store; all the client code was of course pounded out by your humble troll; the server side is a production of Justin Johnson aka FatBird.ca, whom we unreservedly recommend for your hardcore web server development needs; and the pretty artistry is the work of Justin Baker who brought the shiny real good as you can see.

Any-hoo, if that sounds interesting, it’s FREE! to download and build up your first few levels of questions with, and no ads either; the revenue model is that you purchase a subscription to gain levels past the first few, attack more often, reveal the correct answer when you’re wrong (that’s the green highlight in the first screenshot) and so forth. The idea being that there’s no barrier to getting people involved with the game.

[POST-MORTEM: Now withdrawn from store…]

HydroPro

Aaaaand today we have another fine, fine troll production for the handy pocket assisting of those home gardening aficionados in the audience: introducing HydroPro!

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It’s a conversion calculator, it’s a product catalog, and it’s a weekly guide to your cultivation needs:

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Client code by your humble troll; database support by the great folks at Appnovation; overall project under the auspices of Jake Press Agency. The same dynamic triplet that brought you Tap This by Sarah Melody and Touch To Give, and no doubt many more in future. Also it’s notable that they’ve done what’s by far the prettiest app website we’ve seen so far for anything we’ve worked on, and ranking up there with pretty much any of the prettiest you’ve seen as well we trust.

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And hey, it’s free! So all you budding (heh) hydroponicists out there … this one’s for you!

[POST-MORTEM: Now withdrawn from store…]