Archive for the ‘iPhone Development’ Category

Word Search Party

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

I have something very exciting to tell you all about today… my new game! :) Now, I know what you’re thinking, there’s not been a lot of beta testing going on over here, and I have been a bit quiet recently… but there’s been a good reason for that – I’ve been working like a crazy fiend to get Word Search Party finished before “real work” tried to get in the way! ;)

Before you all go “Ugh, another word search game” I would urge you to consider one important feature… that last word, party, and what it might mean. Does it mean an app full of balloons? Alas no, despite Chris’ repeated requests. Does it mean disco balls and wine cocktails? Again, I’m afraid not (though I think a disco ball would be good!) What it does, in fact, mean, is multi player competitive word searching! :D

How does multi player word searching work? Well, you can connect up to four devices together (using Game Center, two if you’re using Bluetooth) and are all presented with the same letter grid and word list. When someone finds a word it is marked as found on all the devices playing. To win the game you need to find the words faster than your opponents :) If you do win, you get to brag on Facebook about it too ;o)

Getting auto matches on Game Center can be a little slow, so when you go and download it (which of course you all will!) and want to try out the multi-player, just add me as a Game Center friend (StarlitSkies) and invite me to a game! :D

Word Search Party also features user generated content :) Within the app you can purchase the creator add-on and then you are able to make your own word lists about whatever takes your fancy! Today I added one all about Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to celebrate the date :) Obviously all the content gets checked by Chris or I to make sure there’s nothing inappropriate being shared… you can write filthy word lists if you want, we just won’t add them to the library ;)

To coincide with the app we also have the Word Search Party website which allows you to create word lists and generate word searches to print and play offline :) The library is shared between the website and the app which means it’s getting bigger and bigger every day! :)

The game is a universal binary and it even includes gorgeous retina display graphics for those of you lucky enough to have an iPhone 4 or 4th gen iPod touch, so it will look beautiful whatever your chosen device! :) Game Center obviously only works on iPhone/iPod touch at present but will be coming to iPad mid-late November so the functionality is there waiting for Apple to let you play :)

So obviously the link you’re all eager to click after all that build up…. Download Word Search Party in iTunes AppStore
It’s a free download with the hope that the adverts will annoy you enough to make you give us 59p ;) Plus, maybe even pay the extra for full library access or the creator add-on :)

If you do go and grab a copy (which I know you will) then please do come back here and comment to tell me what you think, what needs improving, what extra features it might benefit from. You know I’ll read your comments and will always do my best to make users happy :D

Why I’m Loving iPhone Development

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Since leaving Astraware I have been doing a lot of iPhone development and have been gaining an increasing love of it. Which is just strange since I put off starting as long as possible thanks to a dislike of all things Apple. I promise I haven’t become an Apple fangirl… Nothing so dramatic… But I am really loving iPhone development, and here’s why:

Speed of Prototyping & Development
Working with interface builder and the UIKit it is very easy to put together a quick prototype without too much time or effort. It all falls quickly into place, and I’m getting even faster as I become more adept with the various controls. This week I started doing more subclassing of the standard controls which gave lovely results without a huge amount of effort. I also worked out how to control the auto-resizing/movement on rotate so my new iPad app can work in all orientations without argument… Mostly thanks to clicking a few carefully chosen buttons!

To start with, xcode annoyed me. All the keyboard shortcuts were different to what I was used to in Visual Studio, I couldn’t find the debugging tools, and, me being me, I seemed to manage to crash it all the time. As time has progressed things have changed – I’ve learnt the shortcuts, the IDE has been updated, and we’re finally getting along. It’s ability to autocomplete makes typing very fast. All its various tools make debugging and leak hunting a lot easier. Plus the simulator is very good, so long as you don’t want to test camera or phone functionality! Apple have really improved it over the time I’ve been using it and I actually quite enjoy using it now!

App Store
As much as I want my app to instantly appear as soon as I have finished it’s creation the app store is a wonderful thing. Being a windows mobile user, I’m used to hunting the internet for new and interesting software. There has never been just one place to go looking which had such a large choice. When I did find an interesting app, there was no guarantee it would run well, or even run at all on my specific device. I know there’s the new market place, but it’s offerings are sparse (or at least, they were thee last time I looked!) and the quality is often still lacking.
The app store gives people, general users who’d never dare download random content from the Internet, instant acces to hundreds of apps. Every app has been checked so they feel confident giving everything a try, even things they might not usually use/play.
So whilst I sit here anxiously waiting for Apple to look at my new game (oh yes, it is a new iPad game I’ve been making!) I can console myself that once it is reviewed, people will trust that it’s safe to play and hopefully some of them will buy it :)

One thing I’ve not had before is use of the internet as a resource for programming. Instead of struggling away with problems on my own, or hassling other team members, I can now just ask the Internet. Any time I get stuck with a bizarre error message, a warning in the console, or just a ui element not behaving how I expect I can just ask Google and since Google knows all, the answer inevitably appears. Stack overflow has saved me from numerous head scratching problems, and various other forums helped when I was trying to do interesting things with multi-touch.

The Devices
I hated the iPhone when it came out. I hated the screen for being touch sensitive rather than pressure sensitive. I wanted a stylus (though I do now have one for my iPad!) and I wanted my accuracy back. I also hated the need for iTunes, but that hasn’t changed! The screen I have become used to, I can be accurate now I’ve learnt to use it, and I can even type! This was mostly written on my iPad!
Apple are putting new technology into the hands of many, those who would never have considered a smart phone before. I find myself recommending the iPhone to those looking to upgrade because of the array of apps out there, knowing that they’ll be happy with the interface (once used to the keyboard) and there’ll be much less tech support for me to do!

So there we go… five reasons why I’m really loving iPhone development. Something I never thought I would say, and the reason why Worcle has been left behind for a while. Maybe I’ll knock up a quick version just for iPhone/iPad instead, I have a feeling it would be a much faster way to get it released than Airplay right now… or maybe my enjoyment will wane soon and allow me back to it. For now, I’m happy with iPhone work and eager to show you my new game (those of you who’ve given my iPad UDID’s should be getting a demo soon if Chris will let me!) :)

What do you love/hate about iPhone development? Are there similar experiences for other platforms which I’m missing out on? I would love to hear your thoughts! :)

First Release – Aidan J Reed iPhone App

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Friday was an exciting day for me, which involved a lot of happy dancing! :) You might have noticed an extra link at the top of the page… or perhaps the title of this post gives it away ;)

Apple approved my first ever solo iPhone app! Barring the pretty pictures from Kaweb it was all my own work. And Apple approved it first time! :) Oh the relief!! :D

Okay, I’ll admit it’s not the most exciting thing I’ve ever created, and unless you live in or are planning to move to Leicestershire then it’s not going to be of much use to you. However, it was a very interesting project and I learnt a lot about the whole app development process.

Being without the Astraware framework is odd for me. Most of my C++ was learnt in amongst their framework and I didn’t really know anything else. Then I started learning the Airplay SDK which was similar, but different. So I was jumping in the deep end with a switch to Objective C and learning Cocoa Touch, plus all the other things I’d never considered. From the simple (how to re-skin a button) to the more complex (slow-loading images) it was a wonderful learning experience. Lucky for me, the internet is a wonderful resource and my Google Fu is strong, so when I found myself struggling with something, a quick check of a few sites usually yielded the answer (I don’t think I would have coped without Stack Overflow!!)

The app lets you search for properties based on a number of criteria (you are only given a location choice and sale/let/student choice on the title screen, but you can refine your search as you would expect). You can save your searches so you can get back to them quickly. You can also email links to your friends, and contact one of the branches. You can view the property location on a map, zoom into images, view floorplans. All the kind of things you would expect from an estate agent app really :)

You can read the proper blurb about the app over on Aidan J Reed‘s website which includes a nice link to the app store.

I learnt all sorts of important things about how to work on an iPhone. I discovered not having an actual iPhone is a bit of a pain (I have an iPod Touch, but testing things like location awareness is hard, and I can’t test things like call functionality!) I also learnt that dealing with people can be frustrating… trying to find a balance by being nice and letting them change their mind a little without letting them just keep adding features and going completely outside the original contract. Also, people are slow to approve things… I spent much longer waiting for client approval than waiting for Apple approval! I discovered that only the “Team Leader” can create distribution builds, which led to some need for password sharing :?

Most of all, I discovered that it’s rather exciting to have built something from scratch all by myself and for it to be download by people all over :) I can’t wait to get some more things ready for release! :D

Apologies for Silence

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Well, I feel like I’ve been gone a while… sorry about that! The release of OddBloB marked the end of my employment with Astraware and life has been a little busy since then. On the personal side, my best friends are getting married this weekend and so I’ve been busy being prodded with pins and baking cakes. On the work side, I’ve been working on my first contract developing an iPhone app. Yes, you heard that right, app, not game! :(

On the bright side, app development is very different and so has been keeping me interested because there’s been a steep learning curve and lots of new tech to get to grips with. It’s been interesting learning how to write contracts, trying to stick to the original agreed specification when the people I’m working for aren’t actually the end client, and keeping myself disciplined to do 7.5hrs work a day without ending up working 10. When I get engrossed I tend to forget everything else, like food or sleep. Luckily I have Bryan dragging me out of my office every evening so I’ve been doing okay!

The most exciting part of the new work was that I didn’t actually have a Mac… in fact, I still don’t! Thanks to a few friends and some cunning, I have Snow Leopard running in VMWare. So my shiny new Windows 7 laptop has a Mac running in a window! Look….

My Office Setup

Mac on the right, Windows 7 on the left, with my Windows XP box under the desk which I’m remote desktopping into for email checking purposes! There’s also a Windows 98 machine under the desk on the right, for game playing purposes! Plus some pretty daffodils :) Although, they’re looking a little droopy now as that photo is a few days old!

I haven’t forgotten my games, and I certainly haven’t forgotten Worcle! I am desperate to get back to it… but I haven’t even had time to get the required software installed on this new laptop yet. It literally only arrived the day before I had to start work, and I was rather focused on getting everything set up for iPhone development. I will get back to it soon, promise :) I have ideas I want to implement, and mostly I just want you all to get to play the game that’s in my head, rather than the rough prototype you’re stuck with!
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