In The Developer’s Incentive to ship, I talk about how at my company, Axosoft, we drive and motivate our software engineers to ship software. Besides the standards of a good work environment, free snacks, drinks and state-of-the-art equipment, we also do something that’s a bit out of the ordinary: After every major release of our flagship software, OnTime, we take 30 days to do fun side projects — preferably ones that are challenging.
So when we released OnTime 2009 in the first week of January, our dev team was anxious to get going on their side projects. In our first side-project meeting, three of our developers decided that they wanted to do iPhone Apps. Now keep in mind that our developers are Windows .NET developers with zero Mac development experience. Prior to my awakening, which I detailed in Every Developer’s Next Machine Should be a Mac, none of our developers had much exposure to Macs or OS X.
As we sat around the conference room trying to figure out how to best learn the awkward XCode IDE and the mind boggling Objective C syntax while at the same time learning the Cocoa framework and the iPhone SDK, we came up with a series of basic projects to help the team learn how to draw on the iPhone or record a touch or multi-touch from the screen. We also wanted to learn how to use the accelerometer for movement and animating objects on the screen. We set a goal of 1 week for having something that could demonstrate these basic fundamentals.
This is where having super-star developers on your team makes a big difference…
Within 24 hours our offices were lit up with discussions and demos of iPhone apps that shot bullets and had flying airplanes dropping bombs. Before long, the guys had freshened up on their math skills, figured out collision detection and were building frameworks for Artificial Intelligence. Within 1 week of our start, we now had the confidence to set some serious goals.
We decided we wanted to have at least one iPhone game in the App Store before the end of our 30-day project.
But, just three weeks into our iPhone app development, we had already submitted two full-fledged games to the App Store. These games are relatively basic, but are super FUN, have multiple levels, lots of scenery, artwork and music. The collection of everything that went into making these games totally blew us away.
Here are some screenshots of the two games:
Slug Bug, our First iPhone Game: iTunes Link ($0.99)
Slug Bug – This is a game where the player can take the familiar Axosoft Ladybug across a busy road, a lawn or a train station to get her to safety. It’s a fun little game, especially for youngsters. My 3-year-old loves it and I have a few friends who are old-school Frogger fans that love this game.
Snakes on a Plain, our Second iPhone Game: iTunes Link ($0.99)
Snakes on a Plain – This is my personal favorite game. It’s like the old snakey games that came on just about all Nokia cell phones for a while there, but the big difference is that there is an enemy snake (or two on Hard levels). Its AI is pretty damn smart and fights for your food. I also love the different patterns and the music in this game.
After releasing two iPhone games in three weeks, we still had a week left for our 30-day side projects, so we decided to have each developer focus on a small game to see what’s possible and use it as an opportunity to learn even more about iPhone development. The three games that came out of that are all available for free from the iPhone App Store:
iScream – iTunes Link (Free)
iScream – This little scare-the-crap-out-of-someone game gets the player to focus on getting a marble from one side of the screen to the other using the iPhone’s (or iPod Touch’s) accelerometer. If the marble falls off the path, the level is restarted. The player is told that after the third level, their mental IQ will be revealed. While the player is focusing on the task at hand, a scary surprise awaits him on the last turn of the third maze. This game has scared a number of my friends and family members — very satisfying! 🙂
Baby Bounce – iTunes Link (Free)
Baby Bounce – In this game, you control a couple of firefighters’ left and right movement with the accelerometer. They are trying to save babies flying out of burning buildings by catching them in their trampoline. Catch 5 in a row and the babies will bounce twice. Catch 10 in a row and their will be multiple babies. Catch 15 in a row, and you guessed it, multiple bouncing babies.
Photo Revenge – iTunes Link (Free)
Photo Revenge – Ever want to throw darts or knives at a picture of your nemesis? Well, with Photo Revenge, you pick the picture and determine the size and location of the target on that picture. Then you aim a knife and throw it by flicking your iPhone. Highly satisfying and no holes in your wall!
One thing you might notice is that these games have pretty decent graphics, music and sound effects. The stars lined up well for us as we involved our graphics and marketing team, who are avid Mac users, to help with the development. With the use of PhotoShop, Flash and GarageBand, we were able to do everything in-house.
So that’s the story of how we shipped five iPhone games in less than 30 days without ever having written a single line of Objective-C or any prior iPhone or Mac development experience. Our only objective was to learn. We never set the expectation for any of these games to make money, but now we know how to write iPhone Apps and that is a huge asset to Axosoft.
Back to work!
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