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Stories Behind the Apps

CopQuest: Bob’s First Day

Editors Note:  From August 14-20, 1971, a team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University conducted the Stanford prison experiment (SPE) which was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard.  The experiment was conducted at Stanford University. The results of the experiment favor situational attribution of behavior rather than dispositional attribution (a result caused by internal characteristics). In other words, it seemed that the situation, rather than their individual personalities, caused the participants’ behavior.

When first learning of CopQuest: Bob’s First Day, and hearing the story of the insipiration behind it, the messaging around its social importance was clear.  More importantly, it placed the player in the role of Officer Bob.  Games are a great medium as they place the player in the role of Officer Bob.  The intent is to help the player understand the decisionmaking process that Officer Bob goes through and how those decisions lead to various outcomes.  The team, Verge of Brilliance, is currently finalizing a Kickstarter to complete the game.  We urge you to check it out here.

In this Edition of Stories behind the Apps, we are speaking with Evie Powell of Verge of Brilliance LLC regarding their new app:  CopQuest: Bob’s First Day.  Hi Evie, please tell us about your app!

“The shooting of Walter Scott became available on YouTube the day before our scheduled game jam… We pulled up the video and watched it and, of course, there were many emotions that erupted in the office that day. We were ranting: outraged and baffled. We laughed. You know, laughing that incredulous laughter that really doesn’t indicate humor as much as it indicates confusion and despair. We laughed at how overwhelming evidence had to be on the side of law enforcement before any kind of justice or accountability could be seen. We were then given the theme of our game jam event: social change.” –Evie Powell

CopQuest is a game about police brutality in America. Its game narrative is based on real incidents reported in current events.  It’s lighthearted where you wish it wasn’t. Conflict resolution is almost always heavy handed. It’s unendingly apologetic, sympathetic, and lenient to a system that is desperately in need of reform. No matter how many mishaps, things never change for the better.

Please describe what your app is and why it’s different from similar apps or competitors.

From a technology standpoint the game is novel in that it features a language understanding model trained by many players/testers.  We often describe it as a text-based adventure game with a modern twist but more informal than text-based adventures in years past. The players act as Officer Bob’s conscious and suggest actions for him to take. The player can type these actions in natural written language – so a player does not have to subscribe to a set format.

The game has been featured as a museum exhibit in Seattle. The game did well at the exhibit and feedback stated that many people would like to see the game in more places. As it exists today, the game is too short. We want to make a bigger, better, more polished version to release on many platforms.

Could you describe how you designed your app icon and user interface?

The app icon features Officer Bob in a defensive stance. We are still working on the specifics to make the icon as snappy and telling as possible

CopQuest is a text-based adventure game where the player makes use of an advanced text-parsing engine to interact with the observed game elements on screen. The player controls the protagonist by commanding him to interact with his environment, for example, “try looking at the desk” or “speak with the chief”. The player assumes the role of Officer Bob Allegedly, a rookie learning the ropes on his first day as a police officer. The UI is pretty simple and we have plans to make it even simpler with a “Speak to Bob” option, where the player presses a single button and verbally suggest actions for Officer Bob to perform.

What software development tools, people, or communities particularly helped you in creating the App?

Unity Game Engine Assembla (Project Management Tool) YouTube (for research) Loggly (Data Collection / Analysis tool) Adobe Creative Suite (Art and Design) Slack (Team Communication tool) Our backers on Kickstarter Original writer and advocate: PinkTreeLeaf Friends and family Historian – Daniela Hansen Musicians – Tom Miller and Evan Witt Ending Theme Musicians – C.O.R.N. Gang

What lessons did you learn in using these resources?

It takes a community to get a message like this out to people. It’s when people truly believe in a project and what it stands for that you get to see the best in people. I hope we can continue to build a game that inspires caring and positive change.

What would you say went right and wrong with development and release?

So far the kickstarter has been a challenge. We learned that prior to launching a kickstarter the majority of your funding sources should be secure.

Also, that UI is something that needs to be evaluated across many different player demographics when making a game that is socially conscious. Harder interactions or more old school interactions are fine for the “gamer” population but non-gamers really want to get behind the message as well. We are currently investigating more ways of making the game accessible to all.

Who is on the team and what are your roles?

Evie Powell, Ph.D. – Programmer / Designer / Writer
Havilah Farnsworth – Designer / Artist / Writer
Tom Miller – Music
C.O.R.N. Gang – Ending Theme Music
Vida Powell – Biz Ops
PinkTreeLeaf – Original Writer (now just a supporter)
Evan Witt – Original Musician (now just a supporter)

What was the team doing in life and work before you started building the app?

We were working on contracts and another internal project: Mebols. Mebols is a social game that features Pod Play, where people are using several mobile devices to form one big play space. The primary contributors of CopQuest form a development studio called Verge of Brilliance LLC.  We are all about making games that create meaningful experiences.

What are some apps you can’t live without or that inspire you?

Game Dev Story – a mobile game about being a game designer. Its inspirational; Facebook; Spotify – a music app AND social network; and Alpaca Evolution – a game that captures the heart of being and indie game developer.

What platforms are you publishing your app on?

iOS, Android, Web (via WebGL). Hopefully also Ouya, Xbox, and Playstation

What is the current status of your app?

iOS – The app is currently in development on iOS and there is no link available. Go to our website to monitor its status.

Android – Ask for special preview link for Android build which is not yet available on Google Play Store. 

You can currently play the demo on a non-mobile web device here.  

 

Carcapp – Carcassonne Scoreboard

Editors Note:  Carcassonne is a board game where players lay tiles to determine layout and develop many variants for unique game play.  It is set in the southern French city of Carcassonne which is famous for its unique Roman and Medieval fortifications. The players develop the area around Carcassonne and deploy their followers on the roads, in the cities, in the cloisters, and in the fields. The skill of the players to develop the area will determine who is victorious.

In this Edition of Stories Behind the Apps, we are speaking with Ben Goevaerts regarding their new app, Carcapp.  Hi Ben, please tell us about your app, Carcapp! 

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Carcapp is a very simple app to guide you while playing the classic board game Carcassonne. The game includes a complicated scoring system.  Scoring is a  challenge in that you need to manually count and track the points you receive, it detracts from gameplay.  This is where Carcapp comes in.  It's a simple scoring system where you can select a color, enter the names of the players and add points whenever needed. We're currently planning to expand Carcapp with more features that work great with Carcassonne expansions.

Please describe what Carcapp is and why it’s different from similar apps or competitors?

Other app’s use the standard iOS design which was not intended for Board Games.  Carcapp has a custom design that matches perfectly with the original game style.

Where did the inspiration for the design of the Carcapp icon and user interface come from?

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The inspiration for design and the app icon came from the box of the board game and manual, while the real inspiration for Carcapp was Carcassonne itself.  Personally, I enjoy the game very much because it’s played with many variations and aspects. The tactics used when playing with two people are very different than when playing with three to six people. There is one way to play the game, as can use different tactics with different players.  It gets really fun when you are playing with a new player – you need to get to know him as a player and then adapt your own tactics. You have the option of adding many different expansions and the game can be played with many more players.  The ability to expand the game and play with many people makes it impossible to get boring! I always try new expansions with friends, which is why we will soon update the app to support more of those expansions.

What software development tools were particularly helpful in creating Carcapp?

Photoshop for the design work and Xcode for coding.

Did you learn any lessons while using them?

The development tools worked great! We had no issues.

Was there anything that went right or wrong with development and release?

Carcapp is a very basic app so everything went quite well. First we completed the design, and then we did the development work.  We submitted it to iTunes and Apple released it. It is a paid app, (USD $0.99), and very quickly we had about 150 people who have downloaded it.  We are already planning updates as some of our users are already requesting them!

Who is on the team and what are your roles?

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Ben Goevaerts

We are a small team.  Currently, there are two of us, Pieter Baeyens, who is our Designer and myself, Ben Goevaerts – iOS developer, idea guy and marketer.

What were you and Pieter doing before you doing in life and work before you started building Carcapp?

Pieter is a student studying graphic design.  I have been doing freelance iOS development work.  In my spare time I love to make apps for myself.

What are some apps you can’t live without or that inspire you?

The actual Carcassonne App where you actually play the game is amazing. It's design, gameplay and UX is perfect. I wish every app were like that.

Carcassonne is currently available in iOS only – (sorry Android fans), it is currently available in iTunes, available for download.

If you love Carcassonne and want to simplify scoring for you game play, check it out and download it from iTunes.

Stories Behind the Apps – QuickWord

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Tell us about QuickWord and how your app different from similar games? QuickWord is a word game that is available on the iOS App Store for the iPhone, iPad and iPod. As a concept I came up with the idea many years ago with inspiration from the board game 'Scrabble' and TV programme 'CountDown'.  It involves the user selecting 9 letters (with different values assigned to each letter) then trying to make up the highest scoring word they can within a 40 second time limit.  There are 10 rounds in each game, some rounds have letter or word multipliers to make it more interesting, keeping players thinking and allowing them to make some big word scores.  There is a single player mode where you can attempt to beat your own high scores, a versus computer mode where you can challenge the computer (with 7 different difficulty levels) and a 2 Player Pass-and-Play mode so you can play against a friend.

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QuickWord is different from many games in that we don't ask the user to log in and connect to the internet. The reason behind this is that when I developed the app I was commuting by train to Glasgow on a daily basis to do my full time job.  To relieve boredom on the train I would play games on my phone.  However, as the train went underground my phone signal would always be lost.  Most of the games I had on my phone were unplayable without an internet connection which became frustrating.  QuickWord is a game that you can play anytime and anywhere no matter whether you have a phone signal or not.  I also hate that some games only allow you to play them a few times before having to wait a while (or pay) so in QuickWord we allow people to play whenever they want with no restrictions whatsoever.

iTunesArtwork@2xWhat went into the design and UI? The app icon and user interface buttons were designed using Art Text 2 Lite (a free Mac graphics design app).  I chose a blue background for the App Icon to match the blue background within the game, adding a gradient to make it stand out more on the App Store.  The graphics on the icon are representations of the letter tiles in the game, with 'Q' and 'W' on them as an abbreviation of the game name.  The User Interface was initially designed for the user to tap the letters to select or deselect them.  However, I later changed this to the drag and drop option as it is more intuitive for users.

What tools or resources did you use in building the app? QuickWord was built using the standard Apple development software (XCode).  The 'Stack Overflow' website/community and Ray Wenderlich’s tutorials were a great help as I was completely new to XCode/iOS development.  Whenever I got stuck I found that on most occasions someone had previously had the same problem so there was a similar question on Stack Overflow.  Without this help QuickWord would possibly not have existed or certainly have taken a lot longer to develop.  In terms of learning the basics and how to implement some features, Ray Wenderlich's tutorials were invaluable.

What lessons did you learn creating the game?  It's important to try to do things for yourself before asking for help.  The people on Stack Overflow are generally very helpful, especially if you have tried your best to find a solution and are genuinely stuck.  Also, when you find example code of what you are trying to do on the internet it is important to fully understand the code before using it or you can inherit faults, such as memory issues.

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What went right and wrong with the release? Development generally went pretty well.  It took six months in total to design and develop part-time (not too bad considering I was new to iOS development).  I got stuck now and again but with resources like Stack Overflow I was able to overcome these problems relatively quickly.  One major issue I did have was something I only fully understood when I began developing my second game, 'Name the Animal'.  The problem was around the memory usage.  As users played the game over and over I wasn't clearing up all the memory properly so it ended up with the game slowing down and eventually crashing.  This could have been prevented by learning more about XCode and the memory debugging tools prior to releasing the app.  The release went well in terms of initial downloads and I regularly update it which helps to get it noticed on the App Store.  Perhaps some more effort could have been put into marketing before release to build up a fan base rather than relying on people finding it through the App Store.  Marketing was really left until the last minute and as an independent developer with limited funding it is difficult to get your app noticed in what is a very competitive market place.  Also, some of the players hated the initial 'Vs Computer' game mode. They didn't like that the computer used some obscure words.  This was fixed in a later release by limiting the computer 'vocabulary' to more common words making it more like a human opponent.

We have had a lot of ideas during the development and it is certainly difficult at times to decide out of all the features we want to put in, which ones has to be in the first version and which ones can wait.

Who is on the team and what are your roles?  Ultima Testing is a one man team at the moment. I do everything including the Design, Development, Testing, Releases and Marketing.  My background is development/testing so it is quite a challenge taking on all of the other responsibilities.

IMG_0174What were you doing prior to creating QuickWordwas (and still am) a full time software tester. I do contract work for various clients.  I would like to be able to fully concentrate my efforts on game development, however, my contract work takes priority at the moment as it pays the bills.  I only get the opportunity to work on apps during contract breaks or evenings and weekends.  Though when I started designing/developing QuickWord I was working for a client on a contract where I wasn't particularly busy, and quite bored, so a lot of the research/design was done in their time (during the day) and I'd develop in the evening and at weekends.

What other apps inspire you? I don't think there are any apps that I can't live without, I tend to spend more time playing the PS4 than using apps.  'Flappy Bird' inspires me in that it is such a simple game to develop yet was insanely successful.  'Strung Along' is one of my favourite apps at the moment.  This app inspires me as it was developed by a very small team.  It is really innovative and a great little app developed in Unity3D.  I am considering using Unity3D for future developments and it shows you that it is possible to create great little games with limited resources and budget.

Head over to iTunes to download QuickWord!

Hey app devs!  Wanna be featured like our friends at QuickWordClick Here.

Stories Behind the Apps – Botpocalypse

Botpocalypse Logo4Tell us about your app! Botpocalypse is a fast-paced, survival-style arcade game where gamers can compete against friends for the highest score or longest survival time, acquire new characters, and unlock achievements.

Inspired by both Crackpot from the Atari 2600 and the legendary arcade game Galaga, Botpocalypse features original characters from the robotic world of Billionaires Apparel. All of the characters and gameplay were inspired by the series of bots we’ve designed over time for our clothing line. We also pay homage to our hometown, Charlotte (NC), with a destroyed cityscape in the background of the game.

promo1How is your app different from similar apps?In terms of gameplay we have yet to really come across any current apps that are similar, which is one of the main reasons we decided to jump in and create it. As mentioned previously though, it falls somewhere along the lines of arcade classics like Galaga or Crackpot. As a whole the game is styled similarly to a variety of retro, arcade-style games.

The biggest difference between us and our competitors is that Billionaires as a brand offers a broader scope of products & services than most gaming companies. For instance, we’re launching with game-inspired merchandise out the gate, something most game developers are not able to do. This stems from our clothing line and the ability to print our products on demand. We also have a digital record label that we plan to tie in with music for future updates & games.

Botpocalypse Bomb Icon Blue BrickWhat went into the design and UI? We wanted a simple, yet familiar UI experience. Something that is intuitive to the user. We researched how other apps implemented their UI and worked to blend what we saw as a great interface with our own unique style. For the icon, we really wanted to create something that was simple and easily recognizable as the Botpocalypse brand grows. We decided the best representation was to use the nuke special item from within the game.

What tools did you use in building the app? We use GameMaker: Studio Master Edition in order to create and maintain Botpocalypse. The Game Maker Community (https://gmc.yoyogames.com) is a really great starting point for anyone seeking how to develop their own games. The community is really friendly as a whole and is always willing to help out.

What lessons did you learn building the app? The biggest lesson learned was how to properly use and optimize GameMaker to its full potential.

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What went right and wrong with the release? The biggest hurdle we faced was when Apple released iOS8 in September, which pushed our release date back a few months. Unfortunately we hadn’t anticipated the new iOS, which caused issues with the game. Also (full disclosure), our lead developer may have gotten hooked on Destiny when it was released a few months back. 🙂

Overall, we really had a great team that was willing and dedicated to put the time in to make a unique game.

Who is on the team and what are your roles? Producer, Art Director, Business & Legal – Drew Burdick, Producer, Game Design & Development – Alex Fernandez, Pixel Art – Glint Games (glintgames.itch.io),Music – Steven Berliner (Menu), Robbie Dooley (In-Game), QA Lead – Denis Higgins.

Drew BurdickWhat were you doing prior to creating Botpocalypse Alex is a family man and works full-time at company in Charlotte, NC called Red Ventures as a Senior Front-End Developer. Drew is also a family man and works full-time running Billionaires’ various sub-brands. A little over a year ago we met through our wives and hit it off. After a few months, the idea came up to build a game together and thus, Billionaires Gaming and the idea for Botpocalypse was born.

What other apps inspire you?  Oceanhorn – Reminiscent of playing Zelda on Nintendo consoles growing up, Plex – Great overall functionality with a sleek UI, Instagram – User friendly and to the point, 1Password – Without this, we would literally have no idea what password or login was used for all of our social media accounts, developer accounts, emails, and more. Must have, Mailbox – So intuitive and makes managing our emails a breeze, and lastly Botpocalypse – I mean, come on, we had to right? Seriously though. It's addicting. In all honesty, Alex lost a lot of development hours playing it. 🙂

Head over to iTunes or Google Play to download Botpocalypse

Hey app devs!  Wanna be featured like our friends at BotpocalypseClick Here.