iOS Game Soundtracks

Since I'm out of school for the summer I've had sounds turned on on my phone more often and I've started to notice the sound effects and soundtracks in games I usually only play on silent.  This got me thinking about the usefulness of a soundtrack for a mobile game and how much effort people put into it.  With our new game, Block'd, also close to competition all these new sounds I was hearing started to make me think about weather or not it would make sense for us to add some sound effects or even a little soundtrack to the game, or if its more trouble than it's worth.  

Here are some quick observations I made about soundtracks and sound effects from a few games I've been playing recently.  The first observation I had was about the game Duet, which I picked up as a Starbucks app of the week and have been moderately enjoying the past couple of weeks.  This game, in my opinion has a really, really good soundtrack.  In fact, I try to make a point of playing the game with the sound on because I like the soundtrack so much.  It adds an extra layer to the game which makes it more enjoyable to play.  So it's clear that a good soundtrack can help your game and is worth a the effort.  

A second observation I made was about sound effects and their intermingling (so to speak) with the soundtrack of a game.  While I was playing the game Color Zen I noticed that on their splash screen they have a little icon with headphones which I'm assuming means that they want you to play the game with headphones on because they took time to write a really good soundtrack and want you to hear it at the best quality possible (Duet does the same thing).  However, while I was playing I could not pay attention to the soundtrack because of the over powering sound effects.  Everytime you make a move in the game (which is quite often) a loud glass-like ding alerts you of your move and it really, really distracts from the actual soundtrack.  This is especially disappointing because the soundtrack is very good I would like to listen to it with out the annoying interruptions of the sound effects.  This is made even more disappointing by the fact that you can't turn off just the sound effects.  You can turn off the music and leave the sound effects or turn off all the sounds, but you can't just turn off the sound effects.

The third observation I made was during my time playing the game Threes.  What I noticed was that they had a relatively nice sound track that added to the game but it was very short.  During an average play time of the game I would end up hearing the soundtrack repeat almost three times.  This, in turn, led me to become some what annoyed with the soundtrack which would lead me to then turn the sounds off all together (also the sound effects got a little annoying after a while).

So I guess to sum things up a good sound track can definitely add to a game and if you think you can make a good one it's probably worth the time.  While sound effects can add to a game it's important that they don't overkill the soundtrack and you should have options on what you want to hear.  Finally if you do put the effort into making a soundtrack make sure that it's long enough to cover the entire length of time a person is going to be playing.  (Plus if the sound track is really good you can turn it into an album and sell it on iTunes to make a little extra money)


Anyways.  I hope you enjoyed and as always thanks for reading.


The screen size debate

With the release of the iPhone 6 coming latter this fall the rumor mills have been turning out predictions for what we can expect to see in the new phone.  The most interesting, most talked about, rumor for the iPhone 6 has probably got to be the larger screen size.  The rumors are very strongly pointing to the idea that the iPhone 6 will have a 4.7" screen and they even suspect that there will be a 5.5" screen iPhone model as well.  The 4.7" screen would make the screen about 0.7" larger (along the diagonal) than the current iPhone 5/5s screen or about 18% larger.  The 5.5" screen would be 1.5" larger or about 38% larger.

 Digital mockup of rumored iPhone 6 with 4.7" and 5.5" screens compared to current iPhone 5s with 4" screen

Digital mockup of rumored iPhone 6 with 4.7" and 5.5" screens compared to current iPhone 5s with 4" screen

This is very troubling to me.  In fact, the only thing more troubling is the fact that so many people seem to be happy about these larger screens.

Here's the deal.  A phone needs to be able to be operated with one hand.  That's plain and simple.  What this means is that you should be able to reach the opposite corner of the phone, with your thumb, without straining too much.  For a long time it seemed like Apple understood this concept.  Steve Jobs had repeatedly stated that a 3.5 inch screen was the perfect size for a smartphone often slamming other phones with larger screens.  Even when Apple introduced the iPhone 5 with the larger 4 inch screen they still made a note of making sure that it could be operated with one hand.  But now it seems that they've caved to the pressure of the number war; not wanting to lose customers who only care about the larger number and not how that number actually effects the way you use your phone.

That's really the thing I don't under stand though.  Why do people want a phone they need two hands to use?  I understand that a larger screen can make certain things better, like looking at a picture or watching a movie, but if you really want to watch a movie do it on your television or computer monitor; something that's designed for that specific purpose.  I've never once thought to myself that the screen on my iPhone 5 is too small.  In fact, I occasionally find myself straining and adjusting the phone in my hand to reach the opposite corner of the screen.  I can not, for the life of me, figure out why people want a phone they need to hands to operate, or an extra large pocket to carry.  And don't even get me started on a 5.5" screen.

The short answer to the 5.5" screen is just put a freaking microphone in the iPad mini and call it a phone. If you really want a screen that size just get a freaking tablet.

 Rumored iPhone 6 physical mockup with 4.7" screen compared to Samsung Galaxy s5

Rumored iPhone 6 physical mockup with 4.7" screen compared to Samsung Galaxy s5

The only redeeming fact in all of this is that they are all just rumors.  Even though there are a lot of rumors, and you can find digital and physical mockups, and it seems like the only rumors about the iPhone 6 are about the larger screen, we are still almost three months away from actual announcement of the iPhone 6. These rumors could all prove to be untrue and we could see something completely different for the iPhone 6.


So to sum it all up, the only reason I would buy an iPhone6 with a 4.7" screen would be the fact that I wouldn't be able to buy another new phone with a smaller screen (and I still don't understand why people seem to have the need to carry around a phone that needs to be operated with two hands).  Further more, I don't understand why Apple is caving to the pressure of people thinking they need a larger screen.  Ten years from now we may look back and view this as a major turning point in the Post-Jobs era of Apple.   


Anyways, thanks for reading and if you have any comments feel free to leave them below.



Getting back into the swing of things

Hey people.  What's going on?  How's your life going?


So here's the deal.  School's done so I now have more time to focus on programming and writing blog posts and stuffs.  I know in the past I've said I was going to write more here and then I kinda stopped doing that.  So I understand if you're a little hesitant about believing me, but If you give me a second chance I promise I'll try and make it worth your while.  

As we move forward with more and more momentum on Block'd I'll have more and more to write about here.  Additionally, the quadcopter side project is making some good progress so I'll hopefully have some cool photos and videos to show you.  I'll also try and write about some fun games and I've played and some news involving Apple products and stuff.


So I hope you'll give me a second (or third or fourth) chance and keep checking back here to read some of my stuff.  Anyways.  I hope you enjoyed this



Smash Hit -- Game Review

Smash Hit.png

After all the Flappy Bird knock-offs and the 8 bit graphic games and the "match three" games flooding the App Store recently, Smash Hit is a real breath of fresh air.  When I first started playing this game I was a little less than impressed, but as I kept playing it grew on me more and more.  Now, it's ranking as one of my all time favorite games.

The What

The game play for Smash Hit is really pretty basic.  You're traveling though a corridor with glass obstacles in your way and you have to throw marbles at the obstacles to break them.  But you can't just chuck marbles out willy nilly, once you run out of marbles the game is over.  You can obtain more marbles by hitting special pyramids that give you marbles each time you break them.  And that's all there really is to it.  Oh, if you run into something you loose ten marbles (which is quite a big loss, so try to avoid that)  

There are some other power ups you can use like continuos ball shooter and time slower and explosion balls to help you through your journey.  There are also multi ball power ups you get for hitting 10 marble pyramids in a row.  These stack up so eventually you can end up through five marbles at a time while only depleting one from your inventory (if that makes sense)

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The Good

Basically everything about this game is good, but the thing I think really stood out to me were the graphics.  A lot of games lately have adopted retro 8-bit graphics, which do give games a certain flavor, but I was kinda growing tired of it.  The graphics in Smash Hit are insanely good.  Well maybe not like "holy crap it's like there's not even a screen here and I'm just looking through my iPhone into another dimension" good, but for an iOS game with a simplistic gameplay the graphics are very, very good.  The way the obstacles shatter when struck with marbles gives the game an incredibly realistic look and feel.  In stead of talking more about it just check out these screen grabs from some of my actual game play.

The gameplay is another thing that made this game enjoyable. The simplicity of tapping to throw the marbles make the game easy to pick up, but theres a bit of strategy and some skill development that make the game relatively challenging.  You have to get used to the timing of throwing marbles so you don't end up wasting all of them.  Getting your aim just right so you can hit every marble crystal to get the ultimate five ball multi ball is another skill you'll have to hone over time.

One last thing that I feel like we can't gloss over is the physics engine behind all of the exciting gameplay and smooth-as-glass graphics.  Simply, the physics engine in this game is pretty freaking awesome, and it's probable one of the main reasons the game plays as well as it does.  If the marbles didn't bounce off of obstacles in the right way, or if the obstacles didn't shatter in just the right way, the game wouldn't have the clean, quick, exciting gameplay that makes it so enjoyable.

The Bad

I didn't really find a lot of bad in this game, although there were a couple of things I think could use some improvements.  The first is that it can be a little difficult to tell when you are, and when you aren't, going to run into an obstacle.  Sometimes it will appear that you've made a large enough hole in an obstacle for you to get through but then you run into the left edge and lose ten of your marbles.

I'm not a huge fan of the way the leveling is set up.  In a sense, it's kind of an endless runner game where you have to start over from the very beginning once you run out of marbles.  This can be quite trying when you realize that the average gameplay is about five minutes.  However, if you pay the $1.99 you can pick up from your last check point, making it easier to get to the end of the levels.  I'm not mad about having to pay the $1.99.  There are no ads in the free version and it seems like a very fair price to pay for the game.  I do think it would be better, though, if it was done as a game with levels, as apposed to an endless runner with check points. That's all

The Rate :: 9/10

Overall, I'd probably give this game a solid 9/10.  The gameplay was fun and the graphics were a breath of fresh air.  The game is free to download with no ads.  If you end up wanting to give the hard working developers a little bit of compensation you can get the premium version for $1.99.  This will basically let you start at the last check point you got to, letting you avoid going through the entire first couple of levels every time you die.

The intricate physics engine behind the game make it fun and give you a challenge.  This game has turned out to be one of my favorites and will probably end up with a place on my game's front page on my iPhone.  I would highly recommend you go and get this game. 

How would you like to pay for that?

A little while ago I was reading an article on a Mac rumor website about how Apple is going to start offering full screen video iAds that developers can chose to show.  People seemed less than happy about hearing this.  The entirety of 115 plus comments on the article can be summed up in a few words: "ads suck".  Or maybe, more specifically, "forced ads suck".

For the most part, it seemed that people were only annoyed by the fact that they would be forced into watching an ad.  A few people even said that they didn't mind the current banner iAds, because they could choose to ignore them, but full screen video ads would make them delete the app entirely.  So then why would any developer put in a forced, full screen, video ad in their app if it's just going to get the app deleted?

Well. . . 

After doing a little research I found, from a Wall Street Journal article, that when a banner ad is displayed the developer makes 60 % of $0.01 and when a banner ad is tapped the developer makes 60% of $2.00.  So, on average, a developer isn't making much from the banner ads. One could guess that a forced video ad might make the developer a little more money per view.  Maybe somewhere between $0.25 and $1.00 per view.  If I had to guess, I would assume somewhere around the 25 cents mark.  But that's still 25 times more than the developer was making for the smaller banner adds.  Which seems like pretty good incentive to start showing fullscreen ads on start up or to supplement in-app purchases.

So in the end, the developer can make more money by offering a free app (which will attract more buyers) and then display the full screen ads which will make more money than the simple banner ads.  Because after all, we're all trying to make a living off of this.

Now might be a good time to say that we don't have any plans to start putting in forced full screen video ads into any of our apps.  But banner ads. . . we might start using some of those.  The iAds model is actually a pretty decent model when you think about it.  Everybody likes a free app and more people will download a free app, because hey, it's free, so why not.  If you offer a free app with ads, it gives people the opportunity to try out the app without committing the whole $0.99.  If they like it, they can then spend the money to turn off the ads and get a cleaner app.  If they don't like it, well then they don't feel cheated out of their money.  At the same time the developer can continue to make money even if the buyer doesn't want to directly pay for the app.  So it's a win win for everybody (as long as you don't mind the banner ads).

In the end, developers are just trying to make some money for the hard work, time, and effort they put into designing and developing these apps.  I know from personal experience that even small apps can be very time consuming.  Wether it's because a free app is just more enticing or because you won't have any buyer remorse with a free app, people are more keen to download a free app, then pay a whole dollar or two.  But developers still need to make their money because for most developers (like us) we would love to develop games for a living.  I know it sounds a little greedy, but one way or another, we'd like to get payed for the hard work we put into developing our apps.  So the question just becomes, how do the consumers want to pay for the apps.

Anyways. . . I'd love to hear what you guys think about free vs. paid apps and banner ads vs. full screen ads, so let me know in the comments.


As always, thanks for reading