Monday, November 23, 2015

The Fun Part of Development

Particle Effect Trail
  We are putting some of the final touches on our latest game and it is very satisfying to add in each of the final pieces.   The pages are pretty locked down so all we have left is help dialogs, final game sounds, animation effects for playing/winning the game, and some User settings for the eventual upgrades, etc.
  The nice thing about these finishing touches is that the infrastructure is in place and it is much easier to tweak a special effect, color or sound to show the overall effect to any potential testers.  Everyone wants to see how it would look as implemented, despite how well I draw or describe the desired change.  I have even taken the step of building a page just for tweaking the various colors and styles without having to open the code and rebuild.  I just changes some settings on the Option screen and run it by the family to see their reaction to the visual changes shown in the game.   Gather feedback, examine the possibilities, tweak the options again and repeat.  Much easier when you have the change possibilities baked right into the App.
   The goal is to complete the game this month, but I would have liked to finish it this week.  It is not going to happen this week, but with the Thanksgiving holidays coming up, it will be a good time to get some final feedback from my extended family.  Hopefully, this will determine the final product changes next week.   Until then I get to use this half-week to add in extra animations, sounds and potential effects.   Hopefully, these changes will make the 'cut', but we shall see.
    Until then, it is always fun to play with sounds and animation!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Can moving icons be far away?

  During the testing of Apps for the i(Whatever) devices, I do look at the icons a lot.  The App icon, the little image of the screen of your iPad, is one your best advertisements to your user.  Once the App is installed on your device, that App icon will be your way of seeing and using the program.  It helps to have a good looking App icon that does not get lost in the mix of other App icons.
  Of course we have to create our own icons and most of our artwork, but it doesn't hurt to look at how the other guy is doing it.  Good contrast, recognizable images that match the function of the App, interesting art work, there are a lot of great examples out there.  Some can really catch your eye or just work real well.  Others, not so much.  I notice that even Apple will switch around their classic App icons when the mood fits them or a new Operating System demands it.  (Looking at you OS X)
  So the App icon is important.  Everyone wants a recogizable icon that catches your attention.

  Why not have moving icons?

  I am wondering how long before the App device folks add the means for a developer to add multiple images to your icon?  The device knows when it is moved, so why not have the icons move a bit too? They already do this a bit with static images, but it seems pretty simple to add additional images to be 'flickered' through when a movement is detected.  More of the 'Harry Potter' portrait look to your icons when you move the device.  
   We already see a lot of moving GIF images on webpages.  These are just images lined up to display in sequence like a mini movie.  ( Or that flip-book corner page drawings we did as kids.  You didn't?  Well, it was before Atari. )  The 5-10 images are tiny and cycle through real fast to make the ball appear to bounch or the cookie to walk.

Now imagine how cool (and annoying) if some of your icons had some kind of animation effect when you moved your device.  Maybe the icon man runs a bit or the treasure chest gets a nice gold sheen flickered across it.  The knife chops the carrot.  The guitar chord vibrates a bit.  

That would catch some eyes.   I suspect Marketing is interested, at the very least.

Geek Note - As a developer, I already am creating multiple single images of the same icon for each release.  Every version seems to add/reduce the number of images depending on the iOS of the year.  I am not looking forward to adding even more images to the mix, but Marketing never listens to IT anyway....

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rebecca: Health Benefits

When Ben decided to start his own venture, I knew our mental health would improve.  The stress of balancing our home life with our careers was taking a toll…a toll on our contentment as well as the happiness of our family.

The unexpected benefit is the improvement in our physical health.  About 4 years ago, Ben’s doctor told him he had high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and abnormal liver enzymes.  He had gained about 15 pounds above his ideal weight, and he felt out of shape. 

While he was still working at his corporate gig, he started running with an office colleague.  She got Ben started on a much needed exercise regimen (Thank you Aimee for kick starting the physical activity and for the Score Genie idea).  Since Ben started Zenerdgy, he has the time and flexibility to exercise 5-6 times/week.

Because Ben cares for the kids before and after school and handles many of the household duties, I have extra time to exercise.  Like most moms, I still carry the baby weight of two pregnancies. (Yes, both kids are older than 10, but I still call the extra weight “baby weight”.  It is easier to admit.)  The more consistent exercise helps my weight, reduces my stress, and improves my attitude.

To keep us both motivated, we compete.  We compete on who exercises the most in a month, who eats the healthiest, and who resists the most temptations (sweets, fatty foods, wine, and yes, beer). 

At Ben’s most recent yearly physical, Ben’s doctor shared that his cholesterol is normal and does not require medication.  Ben does take blood pressure medication, but his BP is great.  And it is the only medication he takes.  His liver enzymes have also normalized, and he has lost about 20 pounds. 

As for me, I still have some of the baby weight; but I feel great.  I love the friendly competition with Ben, and I love that we feel healthy.  When we play with the kiddos, they have to keep up with us. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Moonlighting on the Job

  After Rebecca's latest blog entry, I felt I should respond.  She is right on so many things, including our inability to finish up this latest project.  The normal excuses apply: the Summer with the kids did not help, and it has only really been about 9 months since we started this project, but truthfully, it just needs a bit more concentrated time from me.  I am planning to release the new game this month, but we still have a few items to complete.  (Things like sound selection, improving our word lists, User settings, etc...)  Still doable for this month.

  So whats the problem?

  I started tinkering with Apples latest programming language, Swift, again.  Apple releases updates to its development tools every year and this usually brings a lot of good features that everyone would like to try out.  (Ok, everyone who programs Apple devices.)  As the current project has stumbled, I have found myself drifting over to the new language to try out new concepts for later Apps and games.  Not long, usually in the evenings, but I do keep picking up the new Swift project and tinkering.  Probably to alleviate the frustration with the latest bug or roadblock in the real project.
  No pressure.  See if that concept works.  Get excited about the possibilities and wonder what else can the new stuff do?

  I am Moonlighting on my regular Zenerdgy job.

  In the IT world we need to stay at least current on our existing job's technology.  Hopefully, we keep an eye on the possible future developments that will affect our job too.  Study all the time, but don't let it get in the way of your current job.  Its a balance.  A balance that I need to tip in the current App's favor.
  Lately the work has really picked up. (Aside from me breaking my project for about 1.5 weeks.)  I like to think Rebecca getting us back to blogging helped.  Reading or writing the blog helps me to refocus on my regular job.

  The moonlight job will have to wait.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Rebecca: Inertia

Ben started working on a "simple" game idea about 7 or 8 months ago.  The concept really is simple; but as every software engineer knows, nothing is simple in the programming world (this is also becoming painfully clear to me).  We agonize over how many screens the game should have, how will people personalize the game, how many buttons should appear on a screen, how much direction should we give players, how should we monetize the game...and the list goes on and on.  

After almost a year, we are in a slump.  Ben was almost done with the game, but it had a "thousand" little things still to-do.  To make matters worse, Ben accidentally deleted some files.  If I recall correctly (he has explained this several times, but I am lost after files and trash), he deleted files he did not think he needed.  Since I really do not understand what happened, I try not to get upset that he deleted files.  But who deletes files?  He is a programmer...isn't there a safety switch. 

Ben is almost finished with the game.  He recovered much of the "lost" work, and he is making progress fixing the bugs.  We still have content to finish, and we need to finalize some graphics.  But it is so hard to finish.  I understand why great novels are left unpublished.  They are easy to start, but very hard to complete.  

The game is 80% done, and it is the last 20% that seems impossible. It is easy to get distracted by kids' activities, household projects, work, and holidays.  We have lost momentum.  

But Ben, yes you, must fight the inertia.  We must finish this game.  We need to publish this game before Christmas.  No more final push before the holidays.  Oh wait, dinner is burning...