Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It is done

I am officially now an iPhone developer. I got my activation code about an hour ago, logged in, typed in the sequence carefully, double-checking every letter as I entered them, and took a deep breath before clicking the "Submit" button.
I held my breath for what seemed an eternity.
Welcome to the iPhone Developer Program appeared on my screen. My breath left my body slowly as the euphoria slowly spread throughout me.
It. Is. Done.

Victory is Mine!

Well, almost, but the Stewie quote was too good to pass up. I FINALLY got the approval completed with Apple! I finally gave up and called them. I spoke to a very nice gentleman and we got everything squared away. He did say "I don't know why you haven't been processed", which led me to believe that something got horked after the last phone call from them. But he completed the processing and I got my email from Apple and then I sent them money for my enrollment. I need to wait for it to get processed and have my account updated, but that should happen in 24 hours (so the website claims). My Dev Center now reads "Activation Required" which is a very good thing. Change is good. :)
Samantha is coming along slowly. I've been working a little bit at it over the past few days, but nothing has been completed yet. I've been tweaking some UI elements lately (which is completely pointless at this stage and I need to stop doing it). I'm going to try to spend my time over the next several days getting all of the page flows working correctly. THEN I'll start working on the content. I've added the basis for character data and that's been going well.
Anyway, it's been a banner day. Thankfully this hell has mostly completed and I should be finished with this thing soon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Time flies...

Wow. Has it really been almost 2 weeks since my last post? I wish I could say that more has happened, but I can't. It's been a rough couple of weeks personally - just lots going on with health issues (Susie sprained her ankle and I got the crud from hell). We had Taekwondo testing (we're all purple belts now - yay!). We had a birthday party and I had to make up work on a Sunday...
Last Saturday (the 18th) I actually took the day off. We had plans to do a lot that day but we got about a foot of snow and decided that we could really use just *one* day to relax and recuperate. I wish it had been more recuperative, but you get what you get.
I've been working on the UI still for Samantha over the past few weeks. It's slowly coming together, but I'm getting bogged down in some details that I didn't want to deal with quite yet. It's been slower than I hoped (or can afford, I fear). I may have to bust a move this weekend or next to get it going. I mean, next week is MAY for goodness sakes. Damn, but time does fly. I still have at LEAST 6 weeks of solid work left before I can call the game a game. I just wish I could devote full-time periods to getting this done. I'm now helping teach some TKD classes (once week and two more times per month), so it's not a huge burden, but it does wear me out mentally and physically. I just need to get some focus on and get this stuff hammered out. The fact that I STILL haven't heard from Apple about the Dev Program is just beginning to piss me off now.
I sent them ANOTHER email tonight asking them what's going with my enrollment. I mean, it's been almost a month since I got a call saying I'd been approved. WTH man? Like I said - it's a VERY good thing that I'm not sitting on a completed app at this point. I've got some small stuff I'm going to test out (just some sample apps and stuff) just to see how the process works, but if I'm not getting my enrollment completed, I can't do any beta stuff, which makes it hard to see how the process works. Grrr. I'm planning on calling on Monday if I don't get anything between now and then. This is starting to go from ridiculous to downright mean-spirited. 
Anyway, I've got an early morning and a late night tomorrow (more TKD), so I'll end it here. Hasta til later.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

IGDA Leadership Forum

I got an email a couple of days ago from the IGDA (Int'l Game Developers Association) about their upcoming Leadership Forum in Nov. They were looking for proposals for sessions, so I thought I'd send in a submission about agile and game development. By the time the session rolls around, I should have two games under my belt and about 10 years of experience with iterative development. :) 
I would have to pay my way out to San Fran, but it might be worth it. I think I have enough United miles to make the flight for free, which would mean that I'd just need to pay for the hotel. That would be a reasonable thing for the benefits of speaking at that event.
I got a confirmation that they received my submission and they'd get back to me in about a month. I'll post up as I find out more. It's not quite as prestigious as, say, GDC, but it's a great start and should open doors to other venues. I spoke to several speakers that made the rounds at the VCDC conferences several years ago and they all advised me to get into it. So I'm only 9 years late to the party... :) With this one perhaps I'll have the opportunity to speak at others and get more and more people as enamored with iterative development as I am. :) That would be cool.
Have a great Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tired of Waiting

I finally got tired of waiting and found a way to contact Apple about my enrollment status. They've made some upgrades to the site over the past couple of months and added some things, apparently. :) Anyway, I've sent in a request to find out what's up as it's now been 15 days since I got the phone call about my approval (and almost 4 weeks since my submission). Wow - this is a bit surprising that it's taking this long. I'm guessing that the email I was supposed to receive from Apple got lost in the ether somewhere.
I'm hoping that we can get this sorted out. It's a good thing I didn't try to do this after I had completed the game - I'd be pulling my hair out. :) Since I'm still in development, it's not a HUGE problem, but I do have a lot to learn about submitting through the App Store and getting beta users hooked up.
So, hopefully more news later.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


STILL no word on the Developer Program. I got the call almost 2 weeks ago and still no information about next steps. Unfortunately, what I've been unable to find is any way to contact them about my account. You submit a request and then they get back to you when they feel like it. I guess it's a bit like getting a green card - don't ask or you go to the back of the queue. :(
Anyway, perhaps by posting I'll have some kind of answer by tomorrow. :) *fingers crossed*

Beginning Gameplay Issues

I was checking out Owen's blog about Dapple and he posted up recently about some feedback he's been getting about the game. In particular, it seems like it's too difficult for some people to grok instantly and they get turned off and don't buy the game. One common thread in the comments was that many games that have been successful (especially the PopCap games) has been that they introduce new concepts slowly. For instance, in Chuzzle, players need to get three Chuzzles co-located so they can be 'captured' (or whatever). Later in the game, they introduce a "lock" Chuzzle that locks both the row and column it's in - you can't move either. This concept is carried through a couple of levels before they introduce other concepts - "rainbow" Chuzzles that count as any color and "bomb" Chuzzles. I've only seen the game played, but it seemed like an interesting little twist on the standard "click two gems to exchange them" paradigm established in Bejeweled.
For Samantha, though, I need to find a way to do this same thing - introduce concepts slowly. How do you do that while allowing players to advance and explore the world? What I'm planning on doing is having a "school" where the player spends the first 4 levels free from harassment by other players. They're able to play around and there's no significant consequence (they won't die). After they complete their "training", though, and are moved out into the real world, it will become a bit more chaotic. I want to try to make that transition as smooth as possible and, in my mind, that's where I will either hook or lose the players. They might be interested when they're in school - when they leave is when they'll love the world we've created or hate it and quit.
Do I think that the school will help the player learning curve? I do. Do I have concerns about the chasm they need to jump from school to the "real" world? You betcha.
I'll post some more later when I think I've found ways to address this. I'm hoping that alpha/beta testing will provide some good feedback about this, but I think that if I can be cognizant of the potential issue I can work to minimize its impact and, as a result, have happier players.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Samantha Changes

So I've been having some really good and constructive conversations with Susie about Samantha as of late. We've been exploring some ideas and decided to make some changes to what I had envisaged for a couple of systems (I think her recommendations are better than my original ideas) and some things we've decided to postpone until later versions. I have to say that I'm pretty stoked about the whole thing - I'm beginning to see the game take shape and I'm liking the way it's coming together.
I'm still in the middle of iteration 1. Things are slowly coming together. I've added in the gemstones that I needed, although I don't like the graphics. A player couldn't possibly tell what they are, but they're different from one level to the next, so that's interesting. And the background graphic for that portion of the character profile is coming together. I did find that the 4th tab element is just wasted space, but Susie (again) pointed out a missing element, so there we go - the 4th tab becomes News. :)
The main concern I have is over the cluttered nature of one of the tabs. There are too many things going on there. I may need to break it out into a couple of tabs to make it manageable. The background image might be too distracting and difficult to interpret. The whole point is to make it easy for a player to know what to click - currently that wouldn't be very feasible.
Anyway, Cathy's up in Laramie this week with the Grandma, so I hope that in between working 4 10's that I can get some extra work done on this. It would be great to end the week with the Rockies opener and the end of Iteration 1. :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Busy weekend = no real work

I worked a little bit on the view management yesterday for Samantha. I had been playing around with Gimp to try to get some background images for my locations, but decided to put that on hold. What I'm thinking I'm going to do for a short-term solution is mock up the locations in Sims 2 and then use those images until I can either get someone to make some images for it or do them myself later. I'm no graphic artist, so ideally I'd have someone else who is make them. :)
The wiki is progressing nicely. I've got a lot of game concepts captured in there and it's coming together nicely. There are many things still to document, but I've managed to document a lot of things that have been rattling around in my head taking up CPU cycles. Now that they're out, I'm able to re-focus on things that need to get done.
The weekend has been busy, though. I went over to my see my lodge brother and get taxes done EARLY on Saturday and then had to bust a move down to Cathy's ballet class. From there I headed over for Taekwondo leadership class and then back home after lunch. I was exhausted from a few days of no sleep and ended up crashing Sat afternoon. I desperately needed the sleep. Cathy was very sweet and brought me a bowl of Raisin Bran for an afternoon snack. :) Today we've got ELPs rehearsal and then a drive to Laramie - Cathy's spending the first week of her spring break in Laramie with her grandma.
I'm hoping I'll have some time this week to work on Samantha and get this first user story done and off my plate. There are several other user stories that need to be done and I'm rapidly running out of time if I'm going to make my "end of June" deadline.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wiki Madness too!

One of the things that I'm loving about the wiki is that I'm able to post up ideas as I have them without having to have a notebook around or anything. I can just head over, type up some concepts/capture some ideas and then close it out. There is so much that will take time to flesh out that it's nice to be able to take a few minutes when my schedule permits to add to it. And because I can add a hyperlink in articles I write to non-existent articles I can quickly find the articles/concepts that I haven't yet documented. It's really helping me figure out what still needs to be worked on and what's mostly complete. And, whatever I work on now becomes the basis for the wiki for players of the game. I have to say that I think it was perhaps the best idea I've had in a while. :)
Now that I'm done preening, it's back to work. ;)

User Story Madness

I've been adding tons of user stories to my wiki, defining the game systems. There are still some systems I need to really flesh out, but I'm hoping I can get some good basic flow established and then test the hell out of it when I get to Alpha. It's been interesting so far, but things are definitely beginning to come together. I've got a bunch of things sorted out philosophically and progress is definitely being made. Yay. I've only got 9 stories, but they are 9 very fleshed-out stories. :)
I've also defined all of the player level titles. As player progress through the levels, their titles change and their abilities expand. They can create in-game items, which is pretty cool, I think, and they get more and more responsibility. Players can also form groups ('guilds' in EQ and WoW parlance) that are fully connected (each player is connected to each other player in the group) and they're limited in size. Other games (iMob, etc) don't have this kind of fully connected group concept, so I think it will distance us from those kinds of games. Being part of one of these groups also helps with combat (it increases the amount of energy you have available to use in combat), which makes it a little more interesting as well.
I'm starting to get combat fully fleshed-out. It's been a long time coming as I've played with a variety of options, tweaking things here and there to see what kind of impact it has. It's been very interesting seeing how small modifications cascade into unusable systems. I've got a basic idea of things now, so it's just a question of getting things into a more finalized form and coding them up in the game.
Speaking of the game, I got the basic tab control flow started last night. I have an idea for navigation where the user is presented with a picture of the topic. For instance, there's a "Profile" tab. When you click it you'd see a picture of a book, let's say, and various hotspots on the book would take you to detailed screens. So you might see a picture of a backpack, let's say, and clicking it would show you your inventory. I like it a lot better than the traditional "click the item in the table view" choices - it just seems a little more organic. The problem I think I'm going to face is that there might be a lot of choices in these main tab areas that could clutter the screen too much.
Finally, I need to sort out money. I've decided to include money only in-game - people can buy/sell items in the game and they get/spend money. I've been debating whether I should use just a standard "Gold Pieces" system or if I should do something with "Pounds/Shillings/Denarii" system (which I think is cool, but it's also confusing to some people). I was looking on Wiki and found an article that described the various Roman currencies and I think, given some of the other thoughts I've had about the back story of the game, that I'll use that. So it would be 1 gold aureus (pl. aurea) = 25 silver denarii (sing. denarius) = 100 bronze sestertii (sing. sestertius). That's pretty reasonable and not nearly as confusing as Pounds/Shillings/Denarii. :) I need to add that now. :)
So, lots of things moving forward. I've really been feeling productive, both on the design side and on the development side. Things are coming together with game systems and user stories and I've been making progress getting things working in the code. I just can't wait to actually get some things implemented and tested out on real iPhones.

And now for something completely different...

So this post has absolutely nothing to do with Otto Von, but it's good personal news. Cathy has decided to join the cheerleading squad, so she will be with the Junior Broncos Cheerleaders this year. Yay! They do 3 home games, so she'll get a chance to actually be on field either during the pre-game or at half-time.
I once played a half-time show when I was in marching band for the New England Patriots. It was really cool being on the field and playing for a crowd of tens of thousands. :) I think Cathy will have a blast!
Anyway, that's all for that now. :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Progress on Samantha

I've been working over the weekend on Trivia primarily, getting things working with XML. I had a good chat with my mom and given the lack of questions that I have and the upcoming deadline for Samantha, I decided to put the Trivia game back on the back-burner and focus on Samantha. I've got a wiki up on my website where I'm putting the user stories. It's interesting working with the wiki instead of my older standby, but I think the wiki is a little better. I get to see modifications over time, I can categorize both by "user story" and by "iteration"... It's not what I'd recommend for organizations looking to integrate agile processes into their development teams, but if you've got a team (read: me) that's as familiar with agile as I am, then it's a reasonable shortcut. Besides, I've been using the wiki for a variety of other things (creating the back story, etc).
So far I've only got about 5 stories in the wiki, but I think I've got a handle on the other stories I need to add. I've done a lot of ruminating on the game and I think I've got the systems down. There's a LOT of back story left to fill in as well as tables and TABLES of things to create (combat stuff, etc). The cool thing is that I've been working on the tab control for navigation and I have an awesome image for one of the tabs. It came out SO nice - I was amazed. I've still got 3 other tabs to get looking similarly excellent, but it was just so cool to see that come out as well as it did. I'll start posting pictures when I get closer to having it together.
In other news, still no word back from Apple on the developer program. It's only Wed and there was a weekend involved, but I had hoped that I would hear something back sooner. I guess even Apple moves at the speed of bureaucracy. :) The website still shows "need company documents" as well. I'm just in a holding pattern right now - when it changes, I'll post.
One major piece of personal news. A few months ago we were talking to my best friend Dan about his daughter and the Denver Broncos Junior Cheerleaders. I thought that since he was a big Broncos fan that it might be cool if his daughter Amy tried to get into the program. I thought they had agreed it would be cool, so I signed Cathy up. Only to find out later that they hadn't signed up Amy. Okay. But now - Cathy's able to join! She's been excited about the prospect of being a cheerleader, so now we need to find out if she's still interested even if Amy's not doing it. We'll see, but it's kind of a big deal for us. We're not huge Broncos fans (I think the last game I went to or really even watched was in 2005), but Cathy's a big cheerleader fan. I'm trying not to post too much about personal stuff in this dev blog, but occasionally exciting things like that will slip in. :)
I guess that's it for now. Tonight we're getting more snow - 2" to 6" - but it's not the amount that's an issue, it's when - rush hour. Yay, joy. :( Oh well. And more snow on Saturday. Maybe I'll get stuck at home and work loads and tons on Samantha. :) Of course, I'm going to need Beta testers... Need to start exploring the options there...