Archive | May, 2010

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Fruit Ninja

Posted on 31 May 2010 by Todd

*****2votes

Halfbrick Studios
App Store: Fruit Ninja $0.99

Fruit Ninja is one of those must have games that is entirely too addictive for your own good! The goal of the game is to slash as many fruits in half as possible and to beat your best high score. This is simply one of the best casual games out for the iPhone!

There are two game modes currently: classic and zen mode. The goal in classic mode is to slash as many fruits as possible without slashing any bombs or allowing 3 fruits to drop off of the screen untouched. Zen mode is a more relaxing mode that does not have any bombs, untouched fruits that drop off of the screen do nothing, and you have two minutes to slash as much fruit as possible. You can gain extra points by slashing 3+ fruits to ear special bonus points and then there is a random critical strike that gives you an extra 10 points!

There are OpenFeint achievements and leaderboards to keep you challenged. The in-game achievement notifications are by far the best looking customized notifications that I have seen in any OpenFeint game. The developers are Halfbrick Studios really made sure that everything about this game was perfect.

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This is a very polished game that is really a blast to play. When I first saw this game released I thought to myself that this would be a flop, but playing it completely changed my mind and it is well worth giving a try!

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Cross Fingers

Posted on 24 May 2010 by Todd

*****1vote

Mobigame
App Store: Cross Fingers $1.99

The creators of Edge have created a very interesting and unique puzzle game that is very well polished. Cross Fingers is a game where you create a tangram out of several smaller shapes. You move the shapes around by simply dragging to the desired location. There are sometimes fixed and movable obstacles in your way that make moving the shapes into place much more challenging. The puzzles are broken into 4 difficulties: easy, normal, hard, and pro. I found the puzzles to start getting more challenging once you reach the hard levels.

The game includes 120 levels and then you can also unlock an arcade mode where you really have to think quickly as more and more shapes are added to the board and you have to solve a tangram to remove shapes from the board. The normal game mode has a very relaxing feeling while the arcade mode is for those that really want to keep their brain in motion! The artwork and sound fit the game very well and Cross Fingers is a typical Mobigame that is very well polished.

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There is a ton of reply value in Cross Fingers and this app is top quality! There is not much that would make this game better, so I would recommend checking it and all of the other Mobigames out.

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Newton’s Dice 3D

Posted on 22 May 2010 by Todd

*****2votes

Mark Hessburg
App Store: Newton’s Dice 3D $0.99

Newton’s Dice 3D by Mark Hessburg is a dice app that also offers two different dice games. The graphics are beautiful with a 3D environment that fits very well with this type of game. You can either choose to use this app in place of physical dice or play one of the two games that it offers: Dice 10000 and Shut the Box. You role the dice by shaking the iDevice and then they will be thrown out of a cup onto the table.

I am a little old school, so I am not sure that I would ever use an app to replace physical dice, but the two included dice games were a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the 10,000 game mode and thought the scoring and AI were well done. There is also a mode that will allow you to play with up to 4 other players locally (i.e. pass-n-play). This game might benefit from adding a wager aspect to keep things interesting, or an online mode that would let you play against your friends in a Words With Friends manner. Very nice dice game worth checking out and it is currently 80% off.

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Indie Interview: Dogs Playing Poker

Posted on 21 May 2010 by Todd

*****2votes

Today we bring you an indie interview with Kevin O’Neil, the creator of Dogs Playing Poker!

Company: Candywriter
App Store: Dogs Playing Poker $1.99

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
I started Candywriter by developing Mac software in 2006 and instantly became enamored with the Mac community. When Apple announced it was opening up the iPhone to third party developers, we began prototyping immediately and had our first app, Imagine Poker Touch, available on the App Store’s launch day in July 2008. Since then we’ve gradually expanded our interests in the platform and, as of May 2010, have shipped 1.2 million copies of our games via the App Store.

How long did it take you to develop Dogs Playing Poker and how many people were involved?
Dogs Playing Poker piggybacks heavily on our Texas Hold ’em engine from Imagine Poker 2. From a programming perspective, I took the fundamentals out of Imagine and created Dogs Playing Poker in about two months. Our graphics team worked on it for a little while longer. Overall, Dogs Playing Poker was the result of one developer (myself), four artists, one sound guy, one lawyer, and three inspirational dogs!

How did you come up with the idea for Dogs Playing Poker?
My dog, Butkus, is a little thuggish and one day I was lying around looking at him and I thought he epitomized a blue collar poker dog from the infamous C.M. Coolidge paintings. Today his face adorns the Dogs Playing Poker icon!

What inspired you for Dogs Playing Poker from initial concept to formalized game?
We’re an exceptionally creative and humorous group of people are are constantly thinking of new ideas for games. If an idea sticks around long enough for us to start prototyping, it means that we’re really into it and excited for its chances. Dogs Playing Poker was a particularly promising idea as it is self-explanatory, offers built-in curb appeal, and stars man’s best friend!

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
We’re inspired by our search for the perfect game; I feel like we’re getting a little closer each time and continually learning about how to improve our users’ experience. We’re spending more and more time on the little things, whether its custom UI elements or clever little features like “Every Dog has its Day” – its these creative nuances that keep our interest fresh.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
Without a doubt the most difficult aspect of life as an indie developer is the marketing. Its a community of established players, indie cliques, garage developers, moonlighters, and big money investors and the key to each of these parties’ success is the exposure. Its tough to stand out amidst the intense competition.

Can you describe your development process?
We use a rapid application development (RAD) model and start with loose designs and then iterate. We’re able to pull this off because we’re extremely agile, efficient, and motivated.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
Its actually pretty unstructured. We do mockups and discuss extensively but we know that our best ideas come as a result of iterating.

Did you do any pre-marketing before Dogs Playing Poker was released?
We released a very high quality teaser trailer about a month before the Dogs Playing Poker launch and it was noticed and covered by a number of review sites and blogs. We also updated our other apps (user base > 500k) and, in the update blurbs, let people know about our upcoming hit. This strategy ended up paying dividends when Dogs Playing Poker finally hit the App Store.

What are you working on now?
We’re huge believers in the Mac and are hard at work on a Mac version of Dogs Playing Poker. We’re also busy with a sequel to our smash hit word game, Word Solitaire.

Any plans for updates to Dogs Playing Poker?
Absolutely. The reception to Dogs Playing Poker has been amazing but there’s still work to be done. I can’t say enough good things about our loyal users – their iTunes reviews are where we look to figure out where DPP must go next.

What was your most frustrating task while developing Dogs Playing Poker?
There’s only one thing that frustrates me about developing anything on the iPhone and that’s testing on an original (2G/Edge) iPhone! I use an iPhone 3GS and a third gen iPod touch as primary development devices and I’m such a speed fiend that my hands fill with sweat when I think about testing on an older device and watching everything slow down. I recognize that its stuff most people will never notice but the little animation lags drive me bananas (B-A-N-A-N-A-S). I can’t wait for the day when everyone is running speedier hardware.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market Dogs Playing Poker?
The innate curb appeal of an idea like Dogs Playing Poker sells itself. Cross-promotion and getting some attention from the review sites helps but even if the Pope himself tattooed your app’s name across his forehead, it wouldn’t compare to a feature from Apple. We were lucky enough to catch Apple’s eye with Dogs Playing Poker and doing so made the game an overnight success, literally.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
User feedback is huge. We have ideas of our own but once you see two or more users make the same criticism on iTunes, you know you’re missing something important.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
We write games for ourselves because life is short and the self-fulfillment associated with publishing our own ideas is unparalleled. Thankfully, enough people appreciate our visions to keep us in business!

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
Creative block is fortunately not a problem for us.

Since its release what you do differently looking back?
I am in the rare and admittedly enviable position to say that I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Dogs Playing Poker is on the top of the Card and Casino categories and among the highest charting card games since the App Store opened.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
Like brains fuel zombies, trance fuels Candywriter. Podcasts like Dance Department, Gareth Emery.

What was a must have during the development process of Dogs Playing Poker?
Patience, attention to detail, and a love for dogs!

What games influenced you in your decision to make Dogs Playing Poker?
The success of our own Imagine Poker gave us the confidence to invest in Dogs Playing Poker. In Imagine Poker, instead of dogs you face off against characters from history like Napoleon, Cleopatra, and Genghis Khan. I thought we could make a “mainstream” version of that game.

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
In all honesty, it came out nicer than we imagined.

Before the release of Dogs Playing Poker were there any huge last minute changes?
Not really.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
The art was huge. We pride ourselves on pixel-perfect graphics and the more you add to the game, the more excited you become to show the world.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
Xcode, Photoshop, TextWrangler, SoundStudio, Springy, Skype, Fetch, Snapz Pro

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
I think TextEdit could have helped Robinson Crusoe.

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Thanks for taking the time to find out a little more about Candywriter!

We want to thank Kevin for his time and the great work that he and his team are doing!

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Indie Interview: Edge

Posted on 14 May 2010 by Todd

*****1vote

Today we bring you an indie interview with David Papazian, the creator of Edge!

Company: Mobigame
App Store: Edge $0.99

How long have you been developing for the iPhone/iPod touch? What did you do before you started developing for the iPhone/iPod touch?
We develop for the iPhone OS since September 2008. Before that we were working for other mobile handsets. Me (David) and my associate Matthieu Malot met at Gameloft in 2002.

How long did it take you to develop Edge and how many people were involved?
At first, Edge was made for J2ME handsets. We started it at the beginning of 2007. One year later it was working for around 100 different handsets (Sony Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia, etc.) and we signed a distribution deal with an English company: Connect2Media. It took again 6 months to make it work with all J2ME handsets, and 3 more month only for the iPhone version, which was really improved from the J2ME version and we publish this version on our own. So it took 2 years to develop Edge for Matthieu (as Game Designer and Graphist) and me (as Developer). 4 musicians helped us to make the music, and Ninomojo (Romain Gauthier) made the sound design and some amazing tunes (http://ninomojo.blogspot.com/)

How did you come up with the idea for Edge?
Matthieu had the idea a long time ago. He was looking for something very simple, something intuitive, and one of the core idea is that everyone played with a cube when he/she was a kid.

What inspired you for Edge from initial concept to formalized game?
The initial concept was a cube moving on its edge with a kind of analogic control. We thought a lot about the level design, the atmosphere, the graphics, the difficulty curve. Matthieu wanted something very pure, very polish. Some ideas like the mini cube come from the game Kid Dynamite, and one name came very often in our discussions: Tron. I guess you know this movie, if you don’t you must watch it!

What inspires you? And is it different for each game?
We make the games we want to play. For now, Matthieu and I made 2 games: Edge and Cross Fingers. Both ideas come from Matthieu, and for the next games I am more involved in the game design. We share our ideas and we try to keep only the best ones. Matthieu is a Sega fan, and I am a Nintendo boy.

What have you found most difficult about being an indie developer?
You are dependent on the distribution channel, and you don’t have anything to say. For example, we had a legal issue with our game Edge last year. This year EA had exactly the same issue, but Apple did not react the same way with them. Indies are very dependent to the big companies, we have to follow and take opportunities. In a way it is great, but we have no security. Big companies do not share their secret about the future of the industry with us.

Can you describe your development process?
It is very simple. When we have an idea we make a prototype. If we like it we push it further, we add news ideas, we keep only the best ones. We can call this iterative game design. It is pretty long, and you don’t have the full game design at the beginning, but at the end you may have a great game.

What does the creative process look like during the initial stages?
Our team is very small. We were only 2 on Edge, and today we are 5. I mean, with a small team everyone give his ideas. When everyone is enthusiastic we try it. Sometimes we play old games which could answer to some questions more quickly, but in the general case we try all ideas. The initial stage is very exciting, everything is still possible. But for us the most important is the gameplay. Everything in the creation process must help to improve the initial gameplay.

Did you do any pre-marketing before Edge was released?
Not really. We released a video on YouTube one week before the release, and I sent an email to some journalists when the game was released.

What are you working on now?
We have just finished a new game. It is a very fun old school racing game for the iPhone. Now we are finishing another game, a very ambitious one. it is 3D game with lighting effects and physics and a very innovative gameplay, still for the iPhone. We are also porting Edge for the PSP and we are working with another company to bring Edge on the Ds, Wii and PC.

Any plans for updates to Edge?
There are many options, we want to do more levels, but we also want to add new gameplay elements. We also want to improve the graphics. Should we do a HD version for the iPad with more levels? or should we do a sequel with a lot of new stuffs? Anyway, we have a lot of idea and we will continue to work on Edge.

What was your most frustrating task while developing Edge?
We worked with iterative game design. But at some point, you cannot add new ideas easily, because it will need too many changes in the engine, or because you have to release it soon. At this point you start to think “ok let keep this for Edge 2”, and you hope there will be an Edge 2. The final stage was the most frustrating.

What have you found to be the most successful way to market Edge?
The awards, or the video. I mean, the game won some awards before its release, it was announced as a triple IGF finalist when it was released so I am sure that helped. Also the video, Ninomojo made an amazing soundtrack for the video (Kakkoi) and the trailer has been seen more than 100,000 times in the first 2 weeks, that’s pretty good, but this video is unique, the game is innovative and the music is great, it is not something easy to reproduce, and Apple promoted the game on the store.

How much does user feedback affect your planning of updates and also future projects?
A lot! We answer to all our customers’ emails, we do our best to make our games better. For example, we add 2 controls types to Edge because our customers asked for them, and we add 20 levels since the initial release! I think it was a good move, some companies prefer to make a sequel, but making a free update create a special link with our fans. For future projects we are looking at where the market goes, what people want, and what we want to do, and we try to fit everything together. But we also want to surprise our customers, one of our next game is something never seen before on the iPhone, we don’t know how people will react, but we have a lot of fun with it. We try to have a good mix between artistic and commercial games.

Do you write games for yourself or for others? And why?
It is a hard one. We write games that we want to play, but we write them for others, because we want to share what we like. I will give an example, When Matthieu makes a new level for Edge, I am the first tester. And Matthieu look at me when I play it, sometimes I laugh when I die in a trap, or sometimes I feel it’s too hard. It was the same with the sound design. Each one of us make his partition to share it with the team, and the team make the game to share it with the world. I hope it makes sense.

What process do you go through to overcome creative block?
We have no secret for that, we take our time, we stay away from the game and we wait until the solution find its way through our minds.

Since its release what you do differently looking back?
We would do everything the same way.

What was the development atmosphere like? What kind of music did you listen to?
The atmosphere was pretty cool. Sometimes we were really excited about what we were doing, and sometimes we were afraid of what the people would think about the game. We listened to very different musics, I like to code with Ennio Morricone, Pink Floyd, Archive, Led Zeppelin, Placebo, etc. One track that Matthieu and I listened to a lot is Planisphere by Justice, this track is amazing, if you want to give it a try you can download it here: http://www.zmemusic.com/other-genres/electronic-music/download-justice-planisphere/

What was a must have during the development process of Edge?
Rubik’s Cube, and not only one! You need a minimum of two of them to simulate all mechanics. And you can also use it to relax, yes solving a Rubik’s Cube when you know the algorithms is very relaxing, for me at least.

What games influenced you in your decision to make Edge?
None. And that’s probably why Edge is unique. During the creation process we thought to some games, we also find out some other games featuring cubes, like Cube on PSP which was released after we started working on Edge. But no game influenced our decision to make Edge.

How close was the end product to your initial conceptualization?
The end product is really really better. The gameplay goes really further, especially with the “Edge Time” which was not present in the initial concept (it is when you hang on the Edge of a moving block to cross a gap). We are also very happy with the esthetic, the shade of grey of the levels with the colorful cube. At the beginning the cube was only blue, the levels were made of white and grey blocks, and the background was white. But one thing did not change, the cube and the way it moves.

Before the release of Edge were there any huge last minute changes?
Not really, we took 2 years to make it, and we released it only when we were happy with it. We polished it until the last minute. There was no deadline, so no hurry at the end.

How did you keep yourself motivated?
We trust in our potential, we believe we are doing good games and that’s enough to keep motivated. It is easier when you are not alone. When Matthieu make a great design, or when the musician make a great tune, or when I add a great feature in the game, everyone else is more motivated than ever.

How much did the art drive the game? The vision of what it was to look like how much of that was the driving force?
It was really important. Some people does not understand it, they said we should have added a blue sky, grass on the ground and this kind of stuff to make it more casual like a Popcap game. But Edge is a piece of art, it has his own esthetic, and I can say that because I am not the designer. Matthieu had a vision and it is exactly what you can see and listen to in the game, there was no compromise.

What tools of the trade are a must have for you when it comes to programming, art and music?
The code was made with Emacs (a free and powerfull text editor) and Xcode. The art were made with Promotion 6 (I highly recommend it for pixel graphics). The music were made with different tools, Cubase, Fruity loop, etc. For the levels and other tools we made our own software with Visual Studio.

If you were stuck on an island with a laptop and no internet access what apps would you have loaded?
If I could take a game, I would play Heroes of Might & Magic 3, it is one of my favorite game of all time. And if you give me a C++ compiler and Promotion, I will probably code a lot of strange games or effects, that’s my demomaker side.

Is there anything else that you would like to say?
Our industry is changing. Indies are becoming more important, and we need some people who will help to connect developers, together we are still indies, but we have a voice that our industry’s leaders will listen to. When we add all our legal trouble last year, The Chaos Engine and IndieVision helped us a lot, and we discovered that developers were a kind of family. That’s important to me, and that’s why I really thank you for what you are doing here at IndieAppolis.

We want to thank David for his time and the great work that he and his team are doing!

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Dogs Playing Poker

Posted on 11 May 2010 by Todd

*****3votes

Candywriter
App Store: Dogs Playing Poker $0.99

The name of the game says it all: Dogs Playing Poker! You are a dog playing Texas Hold ’em against four other dogs. The graphics, sounds, and gameplay are absolutely excellent! The concept of the other players being dogs really gives life to what would have otherwise been another card game.

You start off the game playing a tutorial round, which is one of the better tutorials that I have seen in any game in awhile. You are even given an option to bail from the tutorial once you have learned the basics or stick around for some more advanced instructions. The game offers everything you would expect for a game of Texas Hold ’em, but the dogs are a really great twist. Each dog has it’s own tell, so pay attention and learn each tell. There are quite a few different locations and also unlockable dog breeds.

The game has really good AI that can adapt to your playing. There are online leaderboards and various ways to brag about your poker skills. This is simply a great game that is a steal at the current price of $0.99. The various dog personalities and the great gameplay make this a game that will be worth playing for a long time!

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Red Conquest

Posted on 10 May 2010 by Todd

*****1vote

Cat in a Box Games
App Store: Red Conquest $1.99

Red Conquest is a real-time strategy game that is chalk full of story, features, and fun! The game is easily worth $3.99 and now includes both Episode 1 and Episode 2. This is simply the best RTS game for the iPhone! You need to invest some time to really grasp all that this game has to offer.

The game was actually a bit confusing to me at the beginning and the tutorial felt more like an advanced level. I was still trying to grasp the story, controls, and such while the tutorial level made me feel like I had fallen behind in class a bit. I kept with the game and actually after the first 3 levels I really started to enjoy the game. I do not typically like the space setting for RTS games, but I really got into this game. There are interesting cut scenes between levels and they are a little hard to follow at first, until you get a better grasp for the story.

The controls are really great, once you get the hang of them. There are a good number of unit types and learning how to properly control and filter the different types of units is key to success. Make sure you take the time to visit all of the different “Tutorial Screens”.

There are three modes of gameplay: Campaign, Challenge, and Local Multiplayer. This game would be a blast in a little LAN setting! The graphics and sound are well done. I would recommend this game to anyone that is a fan of RTS games. You should give the game a try now while it is on sale for 50% off the normal price!

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