16 November 2009

Jigami History

At long last, I wrapped up my first iPhone application, Jigami!

Looking at my notebook, the earliest record of it I can find is from 10 December 1991. I had apparently done a Mac prototype by February 1992, and continued to refine it (the next version I saved is from February 1993).

I took about 3 days to port it to NewtonScript in August 1993, and then Scott Shwarts and I polished it. As near as I can tell, we finished it in December 1993. Apple briefly published it as Jigsaw Strategy Game, but then decided they didn’t want to be in the game business, and we got the rights back and distributed it ourselves for a while.

The game was always intended for a handheld device, and in October 2008 I started an iPhone version. I got it working, but the UI wasn’t quite right. The original Newton version used a stylus, so you simply touched a piece and moved it directly. But doing the same thing with your finger meant you couldn’t see the piece you were moving. This is pretty important, since you need to see the shape and symbols. It took me a while to finally accept that the piece had to be moved out from under your finger. Suddenly the game became fun again.

I thought it would be cool to rotate with a gesture, and managed to get this working. But it nobody liked it, even though you could rotate by any amount (±270°). So I implemented a second tap. Everyone preferred this, even though rotating could now take up to 3 taps.

Autorotation was suggested by someone at the Casual Connect conference (sorry, I don’t remember who to credit).

The game was now better than the Newton version, but it still needed a lot more polish. I put in two more AI levels and a bunch of animation. Finally, I got Dalton Webb to do professional artwork. (You can see some of the art progress at the A Sharp Facebook page.)

The original game was available in English, French, German, and Japanese. Unfortunately, I couldn’t just use the original text, because minor things had changed. I didn’t get all of those in the first release, but Laurent Aillet gave me a French translation, and I hope to get more.

I actually submitted the game to the App Store last night, but one of my testers just sent me a crash log and I was able to figure out that it was not the crash I had fixed. Although it seemed to happen only on 2.2 devices (which are a definite minority), I thought it was worth getting right. So I rejected the binary, fixed the bug, and resubmitted it.

That puts me back at the end of the queue, but the silver lining is that I was able to submit French keywords (I had forgotten to get them localized). This is one piece of metadata that Apple doesn’t let you change at will.

Hopefully I’ll have the end of the story in a few days: release. Well, really it will be a new beginning, since I have a number of updates planned…

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