Category Archives: iOS Development

Backyard Brat Teaser Video

byb_video_imageI’m hard at work on my latest application, Backyard Brat, an all-ages flying game for iPhone, iPad, PC and Mac.  I truly hope to deliver this to you by mid-January.  The initial release will have 25 levels, with more to be added later.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Backyard Brat is an experiment.  If it is well received, there will be more such games!  Enjoy!

Fun and Games

My next mobile app, “Backyard Brat”,  is in development for a January release.  As much as I love building air traffic control games, it’s important that I continually experiment with new game ideas.  And splashdespite the app store already being chock-full of silly games, I plan to submit some of mine anyway.  However, I am most certainly not planning to ever stop making air traffic control games.

Backyard Brat is an experiment.  It is the first of what will hopefully be a series of fun flying games.  If the experiment goes well, you will definitely see more.  The concept stems from an older idea I’d wanted to develop, which was an actual flight simulation.   I’ve been playing with flight simulators such as Microsoft Flight Simulator and XPlane for years, but I’ve been thinking about everything that is wrong with them.  And here it is:  computer flight simulation is boring.  And after 25 years of creating flight simulations, Microsoft has figured this out.  That’s why they have changed their name Flight Simulator to, simply, Flight.  Oh, and they have tossed in some challenges and missions for us.   The problem is, these challenges and missions lack fun.  Find the daily aerocache?  What the heck is an aerocache?  I can’t find the definition online anywhere.

msfsIt’s really hard for beginners to fly these things, too.  I think most people just want to be entertained by their games, not dazzled by how real they seem.  I am a seasoned real-world pilot  and I have a heck of a time landing Microsoft’s RV6 aircraft at Hana Airport in Maui.  It is very dependent on how good your joystick is, and what kind of video card you have under the hood.  If you have a laptop like I do, attempting a landing is a truly brutal experience.  Why even make a game like this?  We should all give up trying to make a computer feel like a real airplane.  It’s never going to happen.  Concentrate on the experience itself.  Leave control realism out of it.  Even my real-world pilot friends don’t give a duck about control realism in their computer simulations.

What users want is entertainment.  These companies should make flight handling a no-brainer, but intensify the challenges.    Why make a game about how one must attempt to land on a very small runway?  That’s dull.  Make a game about how one must land on a small dirt field, in an aircraft that’s loaded with illegal cargo, while being chased by a pair of Military Black Hawks.  I’d pay money for that.  When you add a little story to the flight experience, it becomes a fun game.

Most flight simulators lack story.  There is no fun in these games.  And fun must be baked in, not bolted on afterwards.  Simulators are difficult for most people to play, so the market is small.  Plus, they require a great deal of time and money to make, due to the requirement for 3D rendering.

gtaI envision the ultimate flight simulation as having a little ‘Grand Theft Auto’ to it.  It needs attitude.  It needs story.  You don’t just fly your helicopter through the friendly skies.  No. You bust your friend out of prison with it.  You fly an illegal midnight cross-border cargo run.  You rescue helpless children from the apocalypse.  I have fifty more of these ideas that I’m dying to create for you.

So we must first make our craft a helicopter, not a traditional aircraft.  Flying a traditional aircraft on a computer is boring.  You takeoff, then float around aimlessly, without any further ground interaction. Helicopters, on the other hand, can land on anything.  They can land anywhere.  A chopper opens up the possibilities for fun.

I want to make an easy-to-fly machine, with the wildest challenges you can imagine.  I’m totally giving up on the thought of 3D rendered graphics, and will make mine a classic side-scroller.  Development is faster, and game play is easier.  Backyard Brat is a simple side-scroller helicopter game that’s innocent fun, for everyone.  Hopefully it will find it’s market, and I can further develop these ideas.


AMTM for iOS

amtm_ios_iconI am pleased to offer you Airport Madness: Time Machine for iPad.  This will be coming to Android devices soon, hopefully.  One thing I’ve learned about mobile game development – make everything huge, especially buttons.  This game doesn’t fit on smaller devices, such as the iPhone, unfortunately.  The game has a lot of tiny details, and after testing it thoroughly on an iPhone 5, I just couldn’t bring myself to sell that to customers. This game does, however, look stunning on all versions of iPad.

One tricky thing about selling on different markets is choosing a price.   I remember paying $30 – $40 for a decent PC game 10 years ago.  Nowadays, it’s hard to charge over $10.  And on the app store, you are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of games, all just 99 cents – or even free.  So how do I choose my prices?  I sell niche games.  There are not a great deal of ATC apps out there.  They are difficult to sell, as not everyone has an interest in aviation.  So I generally charge a bit more than one might expect to pay for a basic game.  Obviously, it needs to be worth my time to make these apps or I would have stopped long ago.  AMTM was one year of development, roughly 700 hours of coding, plus the cost of art, music, software and a decent web server.

I owe my loyal customers a huge thank you for their continued interest and support over these past five years.  I hope to keep doing this!


Sky Madness Update Now Available

144Four years ago, in an attempt to offer something really simple and straightforward for all audiences, we developed Sky Madness.  It was sort of an “Airport Madness takes to the skies” concept.  The game is extremely simple to grasp, just drag the airplanes to their correct color-coded flight levels, while avoiding other objects.  The first few levels are pretty easy, but the game gets challenging once you get into the double digit levels.

The first version’s graphics were pretty bad, I’ll admit.  Four years ago, I was still a one-man band.  It’s hard to be a one-man band.  You have to play a steady drum beat, while holding a trumpet in your right hand and a tamborine in your left.  Or in my case, you have to know how to write game code, create art, manage a website, and be 24/7 customer support.  I now have lots of help.  The new Sky Madness art was not done by me, but somebody far more qualified.

The game play has also changed dramatically.  I basically modeled it after Angry Birds.  I figure the folks at Rovio have this game dev thing all figured out, so I borrowed a page from their book and set up a structure of unlockable levels.  I think it’s a good fit, and I plan to add this design to future versions of Airport Madness.

Oh, and I also added some cool game logic that detects how good of a player you are.  If you are failing miserably it gets easier.  If you are a rock star, the difficulty increases.  I also plan to add this to Airport Madness 5, due this spring.

Sky Madness can be played on PC and Mac computers, or if you have an iPhone or iPad, get the app!  Enjoy!

Porting Games to iOS: Part 3

Our Airport Madness series exists on the iOS App Store as Airport Madness Challenge, developed in cooperation with Fluik Entertainment.  Airport Madness Challenge is very different from the PC/Mac version on our website.  It redesigns the Airport Madness concept from scratch, to fit smaller touchscreen devices.  However, we hope to port our other games over to iPad directly, in the same format as the PC/Mac versions you see on our website.

A few months ago, we began this lengthy process.  We hit one major roadblock that involved obtaining a special business number, in order to do business with Apple.  We got through that, and eventually earned our Apple Developer status.  Last week, for the first time, we successfully played Radar Chaos on the iPad.  As cool as it was to see our PC game on the iPad, there were several features that needed improvement.  For example, in the PC version of Radar Chaos, closing an aircraft’s control panel is automated.  As soon as you ‘mouse away’, the panel closes.  But since iPad users don’t have a mouse (only fingers) this had to be fixed.  We also took for granted the accuracy that a mouse offers, when clicking tiny buttons and dragging little arrows and other control items.  We’ve tweaked Radar Chaos to function properly on the iPad, and the end result is a fun radar game that is fairly easy to play with just your fingers.

Radar Chaos was written in Actionscript 3.0 and built with Adobe Creative Suite software.  Converting the game for iOS devices was easy – just select iOS as your platform.  However, it gets complicated after that.  Although our game code required absolutely no modifications, something called a development certificate and provisioning profile are required.  Apple does a good job of providing the tools to obtain these, but the process requires some learning.  For starters, you need a Mac to generate these two items. Technically, a PC is capable of the process, but it is terribly lengthy, and cumbersome.  A PC cannot generate a development certificate or a provisioning profile, the same way that an octopus cannot ride a bike; it has enough arms to reach the pedals and handlebars but the result will rarely be a successful journey from A to B.  Even with a Mac, you do need to know what you are doing.

After successfully creating the app, there is a great deal of legal matter to get through, before you are allowed to actually sell your product in the App Store.  Bank information and tax information are required.  Numerous images and screenshots are needed.  We finally ‘submitted’ our app this morning, and are queued for review by Apple.

I wish it was just this simple.  But Apple has a responsibility to keep their App Store clean of junk games.  Games with bugs, suggestive content, and poor graphics would otherwise clutter the App Store, which isn’t fair to developers of quality games who deserve to be found by willing buyers.  So more than likely, we are up for at least one or two ‘rejections’, before finally getting our game up.  This is very common.  Every game gets reviewed, and this usually takes about two weeks.

So that’s where we are with iOS development.  We have our fingers crossed.  We are realistic that it might hit the store before Christmas.  And if all goes well, expect to see more games such as Sky Madness in the App Store very soon!