Abstract Puzzle Logo – Iteration / Evolution

Today I uploaded a new version of the abstract puzzle logo to abstractpuzzle.com.

Here’s a compare and contrast:


I actually added the white cut-out lines around the text a few iterations back, but just hadn’t updated the website with that new look. But what’s gotten me really excited is the clarity and smoothness of the background puzzle/chessboard. In case it’s not abundantly clear, here’s a corner, zoomed in:


This is all thanks to my brother John. He came over a few nights ago, and we got to talking about my logo, and he’d actually done a new version of it for me! I’ve talked a bit before about the logo (and name) on this blog, and said then that I wasn’t happy with the quality. I think I must have mentioned that to John at some point also. Anyway, he sent me this new cleaned up version, and for that I’m extremely grateful. Thanks John!

For posterity, and because I think it’s fun, here are two the other versions of the logo that I did, the splash screen for Oppo-Citrus, and ActionChess 1.5.


Customizing iOS UI: Fonts, Controls, and Color

I had the opportunity to present at the local iDev Meetup last month, and am only just now getting around to posting the slide deck for the talk, which I called creatively, Customizing iOS UI: Fonts, Controls, and Color. You should be able to view the slides below.

The source code for the talk is also available, and on most of the slides, you’ll see some text along the lines of demo-1, demo-2, etc. Those are the git tags that I used to fast forward my code to the relevant part of the talk. (Thought that needed explaining.)


Global Game Jam 2013 – Introducing “Heart Burn”

Here is my submission for this year’s global game jam: Heart Burn. Much like last year’s Global Game Jam, I wasn’t in attendance for all that much of the weekend after Friday night. But while I was there on Friday night, I made up a quick 25 card deck using colored post-it notes and a calligraphy pen. There were five colors and five “symbols”. You can see them in this image.


Already August, (who I collaborated with for the first time on last year’s game jam game Eat Thyself), has come up with some better looking artwork, and he and I are planning on working together to polish up the app’s look and feel, and possibly publish it to the app store.

The concept and rules are quite simple: An iPhone app (code created during the game jam is up on bitbucket) will tell the players both whose turn it is to play, and what cards they can play. The game uses the “No cheating (please)” diversifier, which means that you’re basically on your honor not to cheat and play when it isn’t your turn or not to play the wrong cards. And it needs that diversifier, because, at least as it plays right now, the game is far too fast-paced to pay attention to anyone else’s cards!

About halfway through the weekend, I decided I should make the game playable without the custom cards, so I spent most of my time on Sunday making it work with a standard Euchre deck. If we release the app, it’ll have a setting to play it either way.

Here’s a clip on youtube of the game being played at the gamejam.

Announcing Ketchup the iOS app

I have been pretty quiet on here about what I’ve been up to lately. I’m not sure why, but I’ve been reluctant to announce my next project. I think part of it is that it’s a very simple game, and it’s that age-old fear that someone else is going to make it before you do. Sure, there may be some valid precedent for that, but it’s a silly thing to get hung up about.

So anyway, my next project is an iOS version of Ketchup, a very simple (deceptively simple) abstract board game created by Nick Bentley. Ketchup is already playable in a few different places on the web (more about that later), but I think at least a couple of the planned features will give folks who already play it somewhere else a reason to pick it up for their phones or iPads. Those reasons are a very strong AI (in development by Tysen Streib, who worked on For The Win with me), and asynchronous multiplayer via GameCenter. The AI is already TOO good, (a problem we also had on For The Win) and one of the challenges we have yet to tackle is how best to make it interesting to play against at all levels of difficulty. Ideally, I want to have some kind of automatic scaling of difficulty so that it attempts to play at or just above your level, always giving you a challenge, but not making it impossible for you to win. I’m not yet sure the best way to do this, so there is probably a lot of work left in that department.

Another area that is still pretty undeveloped is the user interface. The game is totally playable right now (and as of last week, asynchronously as well), but the interface needs a lot of love. These two items combined mean there is probably another few weeks worth of work left on the game’s development. (As with my previous personal projects, I’m balancing this with freelance work too.)

Recently, someone posted on reddit about another web-based version of Ketchup they’d created. (The other playable versions are on Mindsports and igGameCenter.) Part of my motivation for writing this post is because there was a mention of interest on Reddit in a mobile version, and I wanted to reply to that. (So if you’re coming from Reddit, hello!)

Promo Codes for Oppo-Citrus

I have some promo codes for my latest game, Oppo-Citrus that I’d like to give away to anyone who reads this.

Just leave a comment on this post, (and maybe double check to make sure your email is correct), and I’ll email you a promo code. If you’d rather not comment, that’s fine too, just send an email to promocodes [at] abstractpuzzle dot com, and I’ll reply with a code as soon as I get it.

UPDATE: promo codes are gone. Thanks.

Puzzle Up, async tetromino action

I spent some time this morning writing up some feedback for a relatively new game in the app store that seemed at first like it would definitely be right up my alley. It’s called Puzzle Up, and is essentially an async version of a game where you fit a given set of tetrominos into an empty bunch of squares on the gameboard. I’ve played a few different versions of this type of game over the years, I think Zentomino was the first one I played (it hit the app store in August 2010, and was by the makers of a very popular Tangrams app at the time, TanZen), followed shortly thereafter by Doodle Fit. (Which must have done well, because they eventually made a Doodle Fit 2.)

Anyway, here’s what I wrote in a TouchArcade forum post about Puzzle Up:

I don’t feel like I have a good enough sense of what is transpiring on the other end of the game. I would like some kind of replay of their fumbling through the puzzle I sent them. (Ideally sped up, so I don’t have to sit through a seven minute animation if they took the whole time.) I know this would be difficult, but it would really help, IMO. At the very least, I think there should be an intersticial view before I start the puzzle they sent me that tells me how they did in the puzzle I sent them. There may be this screen already, but it doesn’t include the puzzle I sent, (I don’t think), and only includes their time.

Another thing is that, after a game ends, it seems like we just start another game right away, which is super confusing, and leaves me with the impression that this thing just goes on forever, and why would I continue to play it? At the very least, the app should definitely ask you if you want a rematch with the other player, maybe giving you some stats on that screen about your plays against that player. (Check out the game over screen in Lost Cities for an incredibly well done example of this.)

I’m always a big fan of stats in games, so I’d love to see more of them in general. The gamecenter leaderboard for number of victories is a good start.

In general, I think this could be a really fun game with a bit more polish. It’s like an async version of Zentomino or Doodle Fit.

I hope that wasn’t too harsh. The developer was looking for feedback. I do think showing your opponent’s turn is an important part of any asynchronous game experience, and you even see it ignored in some pass and play game modes (if there’s no hidden information, this may be excusable, because everyone could be looking on while you take your turns, but I’ve seen this problem in games with hidden information too).

As I said, Puzzle Up does have potential, but it feels like slapping asynchronous single player onto a game that pretty much already exists. Incidentally, this is pretty much what Zinga did with their recent release Gems With Friends. (Essentially, it’s an async version of TripleTown.) Puzzle Up even has some similarities to Gems With Friends in that the game is split into 3 “turns”, with each turn resulting in a score. You sum total of all three turns is your score for the game, and whoever has the highest score at the end wins.

There’s one other game that deserves a repeat mention here, and that’s Dawn of Play’s fabulous Dream of Pixels. Dream of Pixels also has a game mode similar to this style of gameplay, (it’s called puzzle mode), but the difference is that you’re still constrained by Dream of Pixel’s primary game mechanics, (which are out of scope for this rant, so I’ll let it suffice to say that you should check it out if you haven’t already). This is so much more satisfying to me, because it doesn’t feel like a game I’ve played before.

I’m neck-deep in Apple’s GameKit code to support turn-based asyncronous play in my next game, so all of this thinking is definitely relevant to what I’m doing these days.