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Archive for November, 2011

Animal Trackers - Foxy breathing

This past week or so I’ve been animating the title screen, breathing life into each and every member of Team Tracker and Team Quarry. That’s 15 animals in all!

In place of the static image that was there before, each member of Team Tracker now sits patiently in the foreground, breathing and blinking, waiting for you to press play and take them on a quest for glory.

Meanwhile, each member of Team Quarry sits, stands, or squats in the background, breathing and blinking in anticipation of the competition ahead.

Ideally, I’d like the animals to do a whole lot of shenanigans, but that would involve a lot of work which I don’t have time for now. All the images in Animal Trackers are ‘hand drawn’ in Inkscape, so every new animation has to be drawn frame by frame.
 

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Protected by Copyscape Online Plagiarism Finder

 

Hopefully, it didn’t escape your attention that there’s a brightly coloured image at the head of this article which reads, ‘PROTECTED BY COPYSCAPE DO NOT COPY’.

It’s a new addition that I’ve added to the animaltracker.wordpress.com blog in light of an experience I had the other day. (If you’re reading this article on another site, they have stolen it without permission. Please let me know at animaltracker.wordpress.com/support/.)

I did a search on Twitter for the term ‘animal trackers’ and was surprised to see that someone had tweeted a link about my ‘Incremental Unlocking’ article. So, I clicked on the link expecting to arrive here at the animaltracker.wordpress.com blog only to find myself at some other site.

Okay, that’s good, I thought… someone’s liked my article enough to post a snippet of it on their site with a… hang on a minute! It’s not a snippet… it’s the whole flaming article!

Granted, the article’s title was ‘Incremental unlocking « Animal Trackers (iPhone Game) Blog’ and right at the end was a non-obvious link back to my blog, but the fact that the article was stolen wholesale meant that no-one needed to (or did) click that link back to my site.

It’s possible that the article was scraped automatically by a bot, as the thief’s whole site seemed to be purely about filching other people’s articles and copying them wholesale. However, I’m not entirely sure that no human was involved, as my ‘Woohoo!’ at the end of the original article was left out in the copy.

So, why should wholesale (or even any) copying be a problem? Isn’t Animal Trackers getting extra publicity?

Well, those people who had read the article on that site and tweeted it had inadvertantly advertised the thief’s site instead of mine, and any advertising revenue that I may have been relying on by visitors to my site would have been lost. (I don’t have any adverts on here, besides promoting Animal Trackers itself, of course, but that’s beside the point.)

It takes time an effort writing articles and original works are automatically protected by copyright. Copying and pasting more than a snippet of an article without permission, even if the original is mentioned, is in breach of copyright and is illegal.

I don’t mind up to THREE paragraphs being quoted if a link is provided back to this blog so readers can continue reading the article here, but any more than that is just plain theft and is in breach of copyright.

So, it just remains to be seen how effective these copyright images really are.

 

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Protected by Copyscape Online Plagiarism Finder

 

It seems a shame that a developer would spend a lot of time designing, implementing and testing a lot of levels for their game, only for the later levels never to be seen by a potentially large number of players because they got stuck on level 17.

So, in Animal Trackers I’ve implemented a feature that I’m calling ‘incremental unlocking’. I don’t know if it’s been done before, but I haven’t seen it elsewhere.

Basically, when you first play Animal Trackers the only level that is unlocked and available to play is level one. It’s nice and easy and you’ll have completed it in no time; this successful completion of a level unlocks the next one, level two. And at this point things are no different from thousands of other games out there.

But say you’ve got to a level that you just can’t complete, say level 17. You’ve played it and played it and played it some more, but no matter what you do, you just can’t beat the level. Eventually, you’re going to give up and will never get to see the remaining 33 levels.

One way that some games try to get round that is to give you, say, three free passes, where you can skip up to three levels if you get stuck. But what happens if you’ve used up all your passes and you’re still stuck? You’re now stuck at level 20, with 30 unplayed levels, and you’re not much better off than you were before.

Enter ‘incremental unlocking’.

Each locked level has, say, 1000 points which are needed to unlock it. If you successfully complete the previous level, you earn the full 1000 points and the next level is unlocked.

But if you fail to complete the previous level and only complete, say 50% or more of it, then that would chip, say, 50 points off the next level’s unlock points, leaving 950. If you had another go and only got 10% of the way, only another 10 points would come off, leaving 940.

This way, you would try and try and try some more, and hopefully you would succeed. But in the event that you’ll never be able to finish it, you know that eventually that 1000 points will become 0 points and the next level will be unlocked.

For purists, this feature could be turned off in the options, but for everyone else, they’d finally be able to try and try and try some more and eventually play every level of the game.

Woohoo!

 

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Twitter

Animal Trackers is now on Twitter!

I’d been meaning to get a Twitter account for some time, but was putting it off until as late as possible so that I could concentrate on developing the game without distraction. However, since Animal Trackers is nearing completion, it makes sense to create an account now and start publicising the game in the run up to launch.

A big thanks to ‘burn’ on the Touch Arcade forums for giving me the nudge I needed to actually go ahead and make the account and also for making me aware of @Doomfan who follows indie developers.

Oh, and here are the all-important buttons! 🙂

 

Follow AnimalTrackers on Twitter            Tweet

 

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Game Center

When you’re playing a game it’s nice to be able to see how well you’ve done.

Animal Trackers keeps track of the best scores for each level and also any achievements that you’ve been awarded, but these are local to the device that they’re played on. If you don’t have any friends or if you’re not competitive in nature, this may be sufficient for you.

But what if you do have some friends (who also own a device running Animal Trackers), how do you know who’s the best Tracker, the fastest Speedster or the greatest Eggspert? You need a way of comparing the scores and achievements between different players and this is where Game Center comes in.

Game Center is Apple’s leaderboard and achievement hub that keeps track of your scores and achievements for each supported game. It was fairly late to the party, though, so it’s only available on iPad / iPhone 3GS or later / iPod touch 2nd Gen or later running iOS 4.1 or later.

So, as of this week, I’m pleased to anounce that Animal Trackers now supports Game Center. It has six leaderboards, one for each tracker (Foxy, Pumi, Bearny, Coyli and Sidey) plus one for the grand total across all levels, and it also has 32 achievements (8 categories each with four grades).

I’d have liked to have had a leaderboard for each of the 50 levels, but since Game Center only allows a maximum of 25 per game, that wasn’t possible. This will actually better reflect the skill of the players, though, as a single lucky high score on one level will not artificially shoot a generally not-so-good player up the standings.

Here are a few screenshots.

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A few years ago, before the iPhone existed, I tried my hand at writing a mobile game in a language called J2ME (aka JavaME / Java Mobile Edition). The promise was ‘write once, run anywhere’, which was an attractive draw since every mobile phone was different from every other one. Differing screen sizes and resolutions, number of onscreen colours, RAM available, processor speeds… they all conspired to make writing a game that would run well on lots of devices a nightmarish task!

In practice, though, there were still a variety of quirks that each JavaME handset had which meant that you couldn’t be sure that your game would run properly on each of the hundreds of devices out there. So, you either had to buy each of the devices you wanted to sell it on or pay a company to test it on your behalf. Either way, you would have to pay out thousands of pounds / dollars before you even got to release your game, and that’s assuming you could find a publisher who would take it on.

Fast forward a few years and Apple brings out the iPhone and the AppStore and changes the whole mobile gaming ecosystem. Now, a single person working at home could write a game for the iPhone and publish it and know that having tested it on their iPhone it would be guaranteed to run on every other iPhone out there.

But, no operating system is bug free and complete, so newer versions of iOS (or iPhoneOS as it was known back then) came out. So now, not every iPhone owner had the same hardware/software combination as every other. This meant that a developer could no longer be sure that his or her game would be running in the same evironment that it was tested on.

For small iOS updates, it shouldn’t be much of a problem, but once you start adding more and more devices and iOS versions, things become less certain. Today, there are numerous iDevices: iPhone 2G, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad 1, iPad 2 (plus the iPod touches which use the same internals as contemporary iPhones).

Between them, there are three different screen resolutions, seven different CPU/speed combinations, three different amounts of RAM, and numerous versions of iOS, which I think safely qualifies as ‘device fragmentation’. It’s nowhere near as bad as the multiple vendor JavaMe situation and it never will be, but it still means that as a developer, you can’t test your game on just one device and be sure that it will work okay on all the others.

So, where does that leave me and my testing of Animal Trackers?

Well, I’m fortunate in that I used to work at a place that recycles mobile phones and as a result, I’ve been allowed to borrow various iDevices to test Animal Trackers on. And, it’s already paid dividends, because I discovered a difference between how the iPod touch 1G that I develop on and the iPhone 3GS renders OpenGLES content. A few tweaks later, however, and everything is how it should be.

Currently, I’ve tested Animal Trackers on an iPod touch 1G iOS 3.0, iPhone 3G iOS 4.2.1, iPhone 3GS iOS 4.3.2 and an iPhone 4 iOS 4.3.2. I’ll also be testing it on an iPod touch 4G iOS 5.0 and an iPad 1 and iPad 2, and if one becomes available, an iPhone 4S.

So, hopefully between that lot, I’ll have discovered the more obvious differences between them and thus been able to make any necessary changes.

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