September 9, 2010
This is the first article of what will hopefully become a series on using Google App Engine (GAE) for iPhone applications. Office Combat took two of us about a year to complete. During much of that time, I worried about how to handle the synchronization of turns across two devices.
Office Combat is a two player turn based strategy game with support for taking turns offline (play by mail, essentially). I needed a way to transfer one players turn to the second players device. I really wanted to go with an email based solution like Laser Squad Nemesis, but Apple doesn’t allow that kind of access to email attachments. I also looked into Open Feint, Plus, and several platforms, but I couldn’t find a solution that would work. In the end I decided to use GAE, and I’m really glad I did.
First of all, it’s been very interesting learning about writing scalable cloud applications. I’ve learned a lot about memcache, text search, and efficient storage of data. I hope to cover many of those topics in future postings. Secondly, GAE also provided a very slick platform for determining when to send out notifications. In particular, it’s possible to cache notifications for a bit so that the user doesn’t receive too many notifications back to back. Finally, GAE provides a great place for tracking in app purchases, subscriptions, etc.
On top of all that, GAE is very cheap. The free quotas are very generous and provide more than enough computing power for most iPhone app needs. In addition, exceeding a quota results in an incremental charge, so going over by a little isn’t a big deal.
In my next posting I will provide some code snippets for getting the iPhone and GAE talking.
March 17, 2010
I put together a quick guide to Office Combat in pdf form. You can find it here. The manual goes over some of the basics and then delves into each of the units and what they do.
Version 1.1 is almost ready for release. There are some exciting new features including match scores and a player ranking system.
At the end of each match your score is uploaded to the server. Points are awarded for killing units and for a win, loss, or tie. Your cumulative score is used for the ranking. In addition to viewing the top 20 ranked players, you can also view the 10 players on either side of you rank.
If you are looking for a match, consider using the ranking interface to send out challenges!
March 5, 2010
I think the Office Combat icon is pretty cool, but the version on the iPhone is sooo small! Here’s a larger version that does the art justice.
March 5, 2010
There are now two YouTube videos for Office Combat that should help with getting up to speed on the game. The first video is a great place to start for people who don’t want to spend a lot of time watching a video. It quickly goes through all the UI elements in the game, how to deploy units, and how to switch between the offensive and defensive playfields. It’s only 3 minutes long so give this a shot if you just want to start playing.
For those who think they might need a bit more help, check out this second video. It covers everything in the first video but also goes into the pros/cons of each of the units, and also shows the turn play out.
Post ideas for additional videos in the comments!
December 14, 2009
On the first launch of Rapid Photo, enter your Facebook username and password to verify your account. Facebook will then present a dialog asking for additional permissions. Accepting this dialog will cause uploaded photos to become immediately posted. Declining the dialog will still allow uploading of the photos, but they will need to be approved before they can be viewed by anyone else. These two dialogs are only shown on the first run or upon logging out of the Facebook account (the button at the bottom of the screen).
The app can be configured by going to the iPhone OS Settings application. Scroll down to the application settings and select Rapid Photo. Both the delay between photos and the total number of photos to take can be configured in this interface. For the delay, a delay of less than 3 seconds may cause the camera to drop some photos. This happens as the hardware cannot keep up with the requests. In testing on an iPhone 3GS, dropped photos were rare when using a delay of 2 seconds and capturing 8 photos. Additionally, for the first photo taken the delay is always 3 seconds.
Exiting the Application
In order to ensure successful upload of all photos, wait until the pinwheel in the top right corner of the screen stops spinning before closing the app.
February 2, 2009
I have had several friends comment that Party Pal is similar to the boardgame ImaginIff. I’m never sure what to say as I’ve never played the game. The basis for Party Pal is a game I used to play called the Made Up Game. The name came from the process of making up 5-10 questions each before starting to play. Party Pal is the same game, but with pre-canned questions.
In talking with friends more, it sounds like the ImaginIff questions all take the form “ImaginIff <blank> was a type of candy.” While Party Pal does contain a lot of those kinds of questions, it also has many that take the form “Who would make the best car salesperson?” This works in Party Pal because it is electronic and all the players names can be entered before playing.
In the end, both games are only as good as their questions, though some good funny friends can make any slightly embarassing question hilarious.
January 12, 2009
Party Pal does not have an end game. Questions will continue to be semi-randomly chosen until the group is done playing. Here at Tall & Stout we generally play until we get bored, and really don’t care about the score. For us it’s all about what answers people give and telling stories to support our answers. However, it would not be hard to end the game when one person gets to 20 points. They would be declared the “winner” and the game would go back to the home screen. This changes the game a bit as competition encourages people to choose what they think will be the winnning answer. Maybe it would be best to include an option to select “competitive” or “friendly” game types. What do you think? Leave us feedback.
December 15, 2008
Party Pal – Standard edition is now available for purchase on . To find out more about the game, please click on the iTunes link. The iTunes store has a description of the game along with some screenshots. Party Pal is a lot of fun to play with a group of friends and family. Give it a shot when you get together for Christmas.
If you download the game, please leave a comment on iTunes!
December 8, 2008
Party Pal – Kids Edition will be coming out shortly after Christmas! This edition will contain all of the kid friendly questions from the standard edition and many more questions designed exclusively for kids.
December 4, 2008
Rob and I are hard at work getting the standard edition of Party Pal ready. We’d like to have it up on iTunes well before Christmas. That means we need to have everything ready to go by Tuesday. Rob will be on vacation come Thursday, and I’m going up to San Jose on the 16th. I’m a bit nervous as I won’t have an intel mac to develop on while I’m up there. That means there’s no room for bugs in this first release!
It’ll be really nice to have a little time away from the game over Christmas. When we get back, the plan is to get the Family and Party versions of Party Pal ready for iTunes.