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JumpDuck Lessons

JumpDuck Lessons

Over the past month or so I have been seriously working on JumpDuck. I thought that I would document my lessons learnt (which are obvious but need to be remembered when working on projects).

I have kept on a tradition from Softwire which is weekly status emails. But working alone this means I needed to find someone else. Fortunately my friend Justine Solomons (used to be the head of Sales for Softwire) has just started her own company and is in a similar situation working alone. Her business is primarily to do with literature, having experience in the digital publishing world, she is also creating networking events for small time writers to meet big publishers. Her company is called ByteTheBook and their website contains many book reviews as well as short stories and events, networking and book clubs. Anyway, despite having completely different areas we can still bounce ideas off each other and ask sensible managerial questions to make sure the other is on track. (e.g. who do you need to speak to for X and how are you going to acheive Y?). I have found this process extremely useful to make sure I am doing things correctly and I hope Justine feels the same way!

As part of my weekly status email I list what tasks I expect to complete on each day (roughly) and plan out each week’s work and goals in detail. I also include a section about personal reflection to understand how my motivation is affected by different events and to analyse how productive I was and why.

Below is an extract that has been kept in this email each week to make sure I keep it in mind:

I am currently very motivated to get my stuff working. I really want to show people what I can accomplish myself. I need to keep the memory of this motivation to keep me working as hard as I want to. I need to keep this balance in my life of fun things as well as the work I want to complete as well. (kept for motivation).

Structuring and planning everything in detail is a great way to not get in a muddle. I need to make sure I do this for EVERYTHING! (e.g. new projects, consultancy, networking)

My motivation is quite high as I really want to release this game, and move on to and work on other projects so I can show them off also.

I have also learnt that the time spent planning things is almost definitely always paid back further down the line. It would be great if I could plan things whilst bouncing ideas off other people – so getting a desk in Softwire might be sensible (of course not taking up Softwire time anywhere).

Also estimates are incredibly difficult. I have been way out (both under and over estimating tasks) even when breaking things down to the hour level. E.g. a three hour task once took 2 days, and a 4-8 hour task took just 20 minutes. I can only assume that estimating will get better later, but it seems to just be picking things out of a hat right now. Planning in more detail should hopefully get rid of some of this uncertainty.

Top down design is probably the best approach as you stub out methods and understand how things work on a whole and then do the simple implementation later.

Planning out daily tasks is actually a really good way to keep focussed, especially when you have a goal of work to be completed in a week and so can be a bit more flexible with working hours – e.g. go for a bike ride down to Greenwich on a Thursday morning!

In terms of game development, it is harder than it looks. Simple things (you would have thought) like an online leaderboard are actually quite difficult. Making it secure can take a lot of planning and work and actually allow you to show absolutely nothing from it!

However, like all software, understanding exactly how the game will work is best to plan out in advance, otherwise you get to hacking things together which just isn’t really that nice!

Having done two rounds of testing I notice that graphics is definitely not my strong point (go figure!) and making things easier is definitely something that needs to go into mass market games.

I don’t really want to spend too much more time on this game as hopefully it will be the first of many and I want to get on with some new projects so hopefully I am going to submit to Apple by the end of this Jubilee weekend. Therefore learning the limit of finished and perfected is something that needs to be weighed up on a case by case basis.

I would really like to develop some more games for the iPhone as I think I can take the lessons learnt from JumpDuck and make better games in the future.

App update

App update

So over the past few months I have been working at Northern and Shell publishing group designing iPhone apps. They don’t have a technical team there so I have been working alone on small projects and have released an app and am very close to releasing another this week.

Northern and Shell
Northern and Shell logo

I wanted to share the link of the free app I made, which is a small game of memory that took me about 2 week to get the main functionality there and a further week (3 weeks in total) to polish off and release since I didn’t know how to develop at all.

OK! Match Screenshot
OK! Match Screenshot

OK! Match is for promotion mainly but also serves some AdMob ads in version 1.1 soon to be released to the public as I was having problems with Apple’s iAd service which was no longer serving ads and didn’t work with older versions of iphone OS. Therefore I have made my app backwards compatible to version 2.0 of the iphone OS and so that it can also work on the older software on the ipad.

The support page for OK! Match is also hosted on Dezco.

Please download and let me know what you think – contact info should be somewhere on this website…

MagicSolver

MagicSolver

Oliver Lamming and Emanuel Carraud were at Cambridge as CompScis and Business students respectively. They started up (with a third ComputerScientist who is now at Google) a year ago with a SuDoku application for the iPhone which allows you to take a picture of a sudoku from a paper and it will do some clever ocr stuff and alignment and image processing etc… and automatically solve it for you!

http://www.magicsolver.com/

I was looking to work with them over the summer in Cambridge but because of their limitations with pay and revenue share I decided to move back to London and develop at home.

Now I am working for my own company (Dezco) to develop these apps; however I am also consulting Northern and Shell on all things technical which includes iPhone and iPad apps, websites etc… The apps that I will be developing will be a 50:50 revenue split with this company and so we both have incentives to work towards it.

Currently I do not have the correct version of Mac OS X and so am waiting for an upgrade and hence planning my projects for the future!

I move to SoftWire in Kentish Town in October to work as a software developer there.

iPhone development

iPhone development

So I am starting to do some iPhone development and would like to share some links for a project that I am working on.

http://adamcohenrose.blogspot.com/2009/11/apple-iphone-tech-talk-london-2009_3888.html

http://www.iphonedevsdk.com/forum/iphone-sdk-development/40710-gamekit-api.html

http://developer.apple.com/iphone/library/codinghowtos/AudioAndVideo/index.html#STREAMING

http://www.devx.com/wireless/Article/43502

I have also been looking at the Stanford iPhone app development lecture series on the iTunes U store which are proving very interesting.