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Stories Behind the Apps

Stories Behind the Apps – Slash Chord


Tell us about your app! Slash Chord was born from my lifelong love of playing music and being fascinated by music theory. Not only that, but I’ve played bass in about a dozen bands over a 20 year span and I’ve always been intrigued by the musician’s I’ve met who just play by ear and never learned theory. Imagine guys who can shred your face off on guitar but cannot play a ‘G Major’ scale if I asked them to. Even though there is no shortage of music educational materials that are easily accessible to anyone, it seemed there was still this big barrier for many musicians to learn theory. 

I was mulling this over and kicking around the idea of creating a music theory website, then it hit me that maybe if music theory was more fun, more people would take to it. And what’s more fun then a video game! It was when I decided that a game was the best format, I decided a mobile app was the right delivery system.


How is it different from similar apps or competitors? Slash Chord is a video game in the style of Fruit Ninja that teaches you music theory using popular rock songs as examples. Think music notes instead of watermelons. Build the chord progressions of your favorite rocks songs by slashing the notes that make up the chords with your finger. Slash Chord is different from competitors because is actually teaches you lessons, but in a fun way. 

The music education apps currently in the marketplace can be grouped into 4 categories:

  1. Flash cards – these are dry, educational apps that are heavy on information but are not fun
  2. Kids games – these are cutesy games with animals that teach very simple concepts aimed at kids under 10
  3. Videos / tabs – these are highly instructional and might contain video clips hosted on youtube, these feel like a guitar website that migrated to an app
  4. Flashing lights – These are interesting because they are probably the most popular music apps but they don’t actually teach you anything. In these you might touch glowing lights that fly toward you or strum a virtual guitar, but ultimately these games lack educational value. 


We feel that Slash Chord fills the void of a fun, educational game for adults. 

What went into the design and UI?  The app icon had a lot of iterations, there were a couple elements we knew we wanted represented, a lightning bolt-esque slash and a guitar head, but then it took us a dozen or more attempts to get it right. The background color, the type of slash, the angle of the guitar, where exactly the slash would break the guitar neck, I’m sure I drove my graphic designer crazy.

icon_128The user interface was a collaboration between myself and my graphic designer, we originally had a more complex interface but then when we started running into code complexity and file size issues, we started to cut out the fat and make the interface as simple as possible. We don’t want to distract users from the gameplay so we removed lots of elements from the gameplay screen, in order to help keep the user focused. 

What tools or resources did you use in building the app? The primary SDK we used turned out to be a bad choice, it has a ton of limitations, including it’s compatibility with other SDKs used for social and monetization. I attended Casual Connect San Francisco 2014 and met some great people there who gave me a ton of feedback and tips when I showed them my demo. The next 2 weeks after Casual Connect, I spent reinventing the app, or ‘pivoting’, for fans of HBO’s Silicon Valley.

What lessons did you learn using these resources?  Being that this is my first app, I didn’t know any better, but if I could turn back the clock I’d use the Unity SDK instead, and maybe Cocos2d for some of the physics. In attending Casual Connect I learned there is no shortage of companies to help you analyze, monetize and promote your app, for the right price of course.  


What went right and wrong with the release? In short nothing went right and everything went wrong, lol. We encountered every development problem you can think of, we had audio problems, graphics problems, code problems, even the problems had problems. I think that’s pretty typical when it’s the first app for most of the team members, but I sure hope the sailing is smoother next time. We are currently beta testing Slash Chord and have not released it, but we will soft launch launch it in Canada soon for iPad and then launch in the U.S. for iPad and iPhone  thereafter. 

Who is on the team and what are your roles?  Ian Monat – Slash Chord is my vision and I formed the team, created the game content, designed and recorded the sound and manage the marketing. Chris Watson – Graphic designer and built the corresponding website. Bobby Steele – (since left the company) Backend developer. Zac Reitz – Programming intern. Hidden Brains – India-based development firm that was contracted to finish development.


What were you doing prior to creating Slash ChordAside from being a lifelong musician I come from a corporate marketing background and run my own ecommerce business in the auto part industry. Chris is a Creative Director at a large hospital chain, Bobby teaches game design and Zach was a game design student.

What other appscan't you live without or inspire you? I see these as two very different questions, some of the apps that inspired me to create Slash Chord are Smule’s Magic Piano and Guitar!, as well as Ovelin’s Guitar Bots, and of course Fruit Ninja. The only other game I’ll play with any regularity is Angry Birds, I love the Star Wars version, and back in the console days, I played a lot of Guitar Hero and RockBand. The apps I can’t live without are more practical, like Facebook, Podcasts and from April to October, MLB.com. et.

Head over to iTunes to download Slash Chord!

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

Stories Behind the Apps – QuickWord

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 1.10.55 PM

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.


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.


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.


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.


Stories Behind the Apps – Trivios


Tell us about being triVios! triVios can be summed up very simply; It’s a real-time trivia game that allows players to win awesome prizes by playing one of four unique trivia game modes.  Players can also engage socially via their profile, live and offline messaging, and competing with or against each other!  Rather than giving out worthless XP points for playing a game, we are providing our players with a fun and engaging challenge that rewards them for their skill and participation.

screen568x568How is your app different from similar apps?  triVios is a real-time trivia game that allows players to compete for great prizes. There are four different game modes you can play.  Our personal favorite is Tournament mode where you can enter as many times as you want and compete for set prizes.  We even have local tournaments so you can battle friends in your area.

Last week, our players competed in tournaments and won a Vizio flat-screen LED TV, Michael Kors watch, Bose Bluetooth SoundDock, tickets to NFL games, and tons of gift cards!  Our current featured tournament prize is an Xbox One.

You can also play Single player on your own and rack up Gator Bucks incognito style, or play against other triVios players and win Gator Bucks with each victory.  Then there’s Team Battle, where you can team up with a friend and compete against another two-player team (in real-time of course) and win Gator Bucks.  Rather than winning worthless XP points like every other game, players redeem their Gator Bucks in our Prize Store for prizes like headphones, TV’s, jewelry, and Amazon, Lululemon, and Nordstrom gift cards just to name a few.

triVios truly is a unique app.  When you take a look at our competitors – other games as a whole, and specifically trivia games – no other game or app rewards their players with real prizes simply for playing.  Everybody can truly win in triVios!  QuizUp and Trivia Crack, which are widely regarded as the biggest trivia games in the world, only have one game mode – Versus mode – while we give our players the option to play individually, play against others, team up with others, and play against many people at once in tournaments.

Our trivia question database contains over 3 million questions ranging from history to sports to education.  No other trivia game in the world has even close to this many questions.  Players can test their math skills or play word games in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese.

Another great and unique feature of triVios is our local/regionalized games.  We offer tournaments that are only available to certain areas to offer local prizes and provide an exciting social aspect for players to compete against others from their same area.

Although triVios is free, we still do not have any advertisements in the game because we want our users to have the best experience possible when playing.  Rather than having to worry about being spammed with annoying ads, triVios players can simply enjoy playing trivia while winning great prizes.

Lastly, triVios is a true real-time game.  If you’re matched with another user, the game is taking place at that exact moment for both users.  QuizUp is in real-time for some of its games, however, not all games are actually played in real-time.  

iTunesArtwork@2xWhat went into the design and UI? When creating the triVios user interface, we started off with competitor research in the space to learn what others were doing well and not so well.  We then broke our app down into a wireframe and established the focus of what we believed was most important.  By offering four game modes, it's one of the features that makes us more unique, as most games have only one mode.  For this reason, our home screen emphasizes these various types of game play in a colorful, simple, and easy to understand layout.  Of course, being the first and, as far as we know, only app to offer the ability to win prizes, we wanted to highlight that.  Our prize store is modeled after some of the most successful mobile shopping apps, providing the user with only information that is most relevant for a streamlined user experience.  Removing unnecessary product information allows for a minimalist appearance while providing an engaging experience so the user can focus on what is most important, winning the prize!  Our app icon attempts to encompass these two main ideas as simply as possible, play our game and claim your victory with a prize. The arms in our icon depict a player who just won their game, and is expressing a joyous victory pose with his arms in the air, just like when Rocky makes it to the top of those famous steps. Last, our icon’s purple aesthetic is inherited from the apps background design and our company’s sacred royal color, Purple. The tools used in the creation of triVios include: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe After Effects, Final Cut Pro X, and Rhinoceros.

trivios-10201-1-s-307x512What tools did you use in building the app? The main tool that helped us develop triVios was StackOverflow.  It’s a great resource and community to turn to when stuck on a problem or looking for a good way to approach something you haven’t done before.  Other than that, we really relied on ourselves to work through the challenging issues.  There’s something to be said for grinding it out and figuring out what needs to be done without giving up right away and looking elsewhere for a solution.  We also attempted to use some third party plugins and frameworks but that was fairly short lived.

What lessons did you learn during this process? We especially learned that relying on third parties is not a good idea in the long run.  While it may seem like a good solution early on, it usually ends up coming back to bite you.  It’s important to work the issues you face on your own, even if that means it’ll take a little big longer to get done.  In the end, it’s worth putting the extra time and effort to build your own tools.  While this isn’t always the case, it certainly was for us.

What went right and wrong with the release? Early on in the development cycle, we were struggling to come up with a solution for architecting a massively scalable, real-time backend.  We brought in someone to help us solve the issue and ended up building a system only to find out it didn’t work at all.  This was a great learning experience for us because realized that we needed to test better before moving forward with a plan.  It also was the best thing that ever happened to us, because we ended up figuring out a way to architect our own proprietary system that works beautifully rather than rely on a third party.  With our release, thing went smoothly and we didn’t have any major issues on launch, which we can attribute to a two month beta testing phase that helped us work out all issues – at least for the time being).

teamWho is on the team and what are your roles? Andrew Nadhir: CEO & Founder, James Bell: CTO & Co-Founder, Yiyang Yang: Lead Developer & Co-Founder, Sam Zoll: UI/UX Designer, Josh Xu: Intern this past summer and now part-time intern while in school, Henry Spindell: Intern this past summer.

My role has me bouncing around a lot of different areas.  In many regards, I am a ‘project manager’ working with everyone on what needs to be done and how we should approach it.  I also carry the responsibilities of Purple Gator’s finances, accounting, marketing, networking, customer support, and many other odds and ends.

James and Yiyang worked together early on to build our backend from scratch.  After they solved the complexities of creating a secure, massively scalable, real-time backend, Yiyang took over building the front end while James remained working on the backend.

Sam came on board right as we were beginning to start working on the front end.  He worked with Yiyang to create a beautiful design and layout for the game that evolved as we progressed forward and ultimately decided on a final design during our beta stage.  Sam is also helping me with the marketing and promotion aspect of triVios as his design role is currently not as demanding at this time.

Josh worked in a hybrid role working on the front end with Yiyang and the backend with James.  He also created some amazing database management tools from scratch to make my life much easier.

Henry worked primarily on the front end with Yiyang and the triVios website.

interior_officeWhat were you doing prior to creating trivios Andrew Nadhir: I graduated from Northwestern in 2010 with an economics degree but remained in school through 2011 to continue wrestling.  I became an All-American my senior year, taking 6th in the country, and then had the opportunity to see different parts of the world for a couple months before starting a job as a proprietary trader.  It was at this job that I met James Bell, our future CTO.  After getting out of the trading industry, I searched for a different job in finance for a couple months, but in September 2013, I came up with the idea for triVios (there was no name for the game back then) and ran with it.

James Bell: James graduated from Washington University with a degree in Electrical Engineering, spent some time in the Air Force, and then worked as a proprietary trader for a short period in Chicago.  He was working on his own projects when I approached him and convinced him to join the Purple Gator team.

Yiyang Yang: Yiyang was ruling China before coming to US in 2012 to get his Masters in Computer Science from Northwestern.  When he wasn’t ruling in China, he was getting his degree in Electrical Engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.  After finishing his Masters program, he joined Purple Gator.

Sam Zoll: Sam graduated from University of Michigan in 2014 with a degree in Architecture.  He moved back to Chicago after school and we were lucky enough to come across his resume.  Although he didn’t have prior experience in UI/UX design, he was clearly the best man for the job.

What other apps inspire you?  A few apps I can’t live without are Google Maps, Spotify, and Flipboard.  I’m good at directions, but I trust Google Maps way more than myself, not to mention it’d be that much harder to find restaurant phone numbers and order food.  Spotify is just amazing.  In the past, I would spend hours organizing my music and playlist (and I’m a bit OCD about that so it was miserable keeping everything in order).  Now I just rely on Spotify to do all the hard work for me.  I even pay the $10 for premium service.  Flipboard is another one of my favorites because it makes it really easy for me to catch up on news I’ve missed in different categories.  I love reading the technology section every night before I go to bed.  Keeps me on the up in case I miss something important throughout the day. .

Head over to iTunes or Google Play to download triVios

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