Friday, August 21, 2009

New Apple Store Display

Another Apple Store display featuring the FTP on the Go logo!

This time, the logo is blurred enough so that it is nearly unrecognizable. But it's there.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Top App Charts

Check out our new website:
http://www.topappcharts.com/

Should be cool for both iPhone developers and customers alike to see trends and what is new, cool, or on the move in the AppStore.

Anytime you see a new iPhone commercial, check "big jumps" and you will probably find all the apps featured in the commercial. (See below)

Developers can bookmark your company list to quickly see how all your Apps are doing each day without needing to click through dozens of category lists in iTunes.

Check it out! Pass it on! Enjoy!


Here's an example:

To the right is today's chart (August 14, 2009) for the Postman app. This was featured on the 'what to do in Paris' commercial about a week and a half ago. You can see that the day of the commercial, the app was moved from "Social Networking" to "Travel" category. It then rocketed up to the top of the Travel category. It also entered the "Top Apps" list as a result of the commercial, and over the course of a week got up to about #50 in the overall apps! When the commercial ends its run, the App will probably drop down... Pretty cool what being featured on an Apple commercial can get you.

We had a similar response (but no chart to show) when our iCatchall:tools app was selected as a "Staff Pick" in the AppStore in March of 2009. It was the #1 Business app for a week or so.

PS: New versions of Heads Up: Hold'em, Heads Up: Hold'em Free, FTP on the Go, and WiFi Disk should be arriving in the AppStore soon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Some new Heads Up App Stuff

We may do a minor update (soon?) with a few new things in Heads Up: Hold'em.

I made a deck of cards designed just for 1-player games which are not reversible but allow for bigger pictures. (Shown below) This screenshot also shows the "Devious Deb" card protector. Unlike the real-life Deb who is a very solid & straightforward poker player, this AI-player will be erratic--betting very small or large amounts, and slowplaying & bluffing a high percentage of the time.




We are also (finally) including the option to use a 4-color deck. This was one of the first requests from real-life "Luckbox Larry" when he and I played the cards-only version with real chips during the development before the initial release. Incidentally, he won $10 (2*$5) off me in that game, plus I bought him lunch.

Another professional poker player has requested to be included, he's mostly a PLO player--including a WSOP final table a few years ago, so I'm hoping to add a pot-limit (holdem) option and his AI would only play pot-limit. :-) No guarantees on this yet...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Good Times in Vegas

Lots of fun times during the week in Vegas:
For starters, the FTP on the Go icon is on the wall at the Apple Store in Caesars Palace! I'm guessing it is also on the walls of most other Apple Stores in the country.

It is also shown on the video introducing the new iPhone 3GS. NICE!

video



Next, Vanessa Rousso Played "Heads Up: Hold'em" and liked it! Here she is (it's a cell phone picture, sorry) next to the real-life "Luckbox Larry." We all had lunch together before she went to play day 2 of the $10k pot-limit Hold'em event at the WSOP. She placed 15th and won $43,000 in that event.
Lastly, although I was unsuccessful in any tournaments (Wynn twice, Caesars once, Planet Hollywood once) I scored a nice big $755 win playing $2-5nl cash games at the Rio. ($200 buy in, $955 cash out.) The big win came on my first day in town and really helped cover me for all the tournament losses.

Friday, June 12, 2009

iPhone Piracy

Ok, so our latest app, Poker vs. Girls was recently released. It's based on Heads Up:Hold'em with sexy pictures added. Marketing genius, I know.

It also includes an 'update check' which we will use to notify people when an update is released. From a technical standpoint, it's similar to the advertising shown in the free version of Heads Up: Hold'em except we aren't using it to show ads because it is a paid app and not a free app.

However, one of the bits of information given to our server tells us if the copy is legitimate or pirated.

On the first day of release, about 30% of the update checks came from pirated copies of the game. I thought that was shocking.

However, that wasn't nearly as shocking as the fact that on the second day of release, pirated copies of the software accounted for 95% of the update checks.

That's right:
For every copy of the game that is sold, 19 - 20 copies are stolen!

Chew on that for a while...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jury Duty & Verdict

(June 4, 2009)
I'm going to take a break from posts about iPhone poker apps to let the world know that I was on jury duty this week. We just had the verdict today, and I can now legally blab about it. And that is exactly what I am going to do.

The charge was possession of crack cocaine. The defendant had been arrested by the anti-narcotics team doing surveillance in Occidental Park in Pioneer Square in Seattle. Those of you who know Seattle will not be at all surprised that there are many and frequent drug arrests made in this park.
Anyway, the surveillance officer watched the suspect from the 2nd floor of a building across the park using big binoculars. He saw the defendant make three 'transactions' where something small was taken out of one pocket, handed to the customer who inspected it, then paid cash which was put in his other pocket. He then called in the 'arrest team' which arrived about 30 seconds later. During those 30 seconds, a 4th transaction was made.
The suspect was arrested along with at least one other person in the park. This other person resisted and so the arresting officer for our defendant had to go help once our defendant was handcuffed. He was found to have just over $100 in the pocket where the surveillance officer saw him putting the money from the transactions.
However, when they got to the station, all they found was drug residue in the other pocket where he had been removing the drugs--not vials or bags with crack.

I believe this is why he was only charged with possession and not dealing; which is undoubtedly what the police were hoping for.

Two police officers testified (the surveillance guy and the primary arresting officer) their testimony differed somewhat, but I believed that the differences were the result of their different vantage points and also that they were describing events that happened very fast. The surveillance officer testified the he never lost sight of the defendant from the time he supposedly made the transactions to the time he was arrested.

The prosecution also had testimony from the lab technician who tested the residue and found it to be cocaine.

The defense tried to argue that the police were confused and arrested the wrong guy, but we were not convinced. The defense made this assertion using the (slightly) conflicting police reports, supposedly vague description given by the surveillance officer and that it was a dark night in a crowded park.

The defense then offered two stories to explain the unknown and unwitting source of the cocaine residue in the defendant's pocket.
The first was that nearly every dollar bill in circulation has very minute traces of cocaine on it. This is true. The bills in the pockets or purses of everyone reading this probably have trace amounts of cocaine on them. However, we did not believe that this amount rubbed off of money (micrograms) was enough to account for the (still very small) amount found in his pocket.

The second theory was that the defendant often traded clothes with his brothers, who live with him, and he may have been wearing a pair of his pants belonging to someone else and did not know there was cocaine residue in his pocket.
No brother was produced to testify about this. And the defendant said he could not remember if the pants were his own or not. It seemed to us that if someone innocently borrowed an article of clothing and was later arrested for felony possession of drugs found in that borrowed clothing that person would remember who loaned it to them!

The defendant also said that he had just been paid and withdrew the $160-$200 from an ATM and that accounted for the money in his pocket. No receipt or bank statement was shown to corroborate this. If the defense had produced a bank statement showing an ATM withdrawal in the week leading up the arrest, I believe we would have had a much harder time deliberating.
The same would have been true if either one of his brothers that he was supposedly meeting to go bar hopping with had testified to that.

The defense also had an expert witness testify who had tested the substance and had also found it to be cocaine. She tried to testify that she believed the amount in his pocket could have gotten there by rubbing off contaminated money, but the prosecution's cross examination really cut into her credibility and we rejected most of her testimony. While she seemed to be a credible scientist and evidence tester, her actual knowledge about transmission of drugs from dollar bills to fabric seemed to be little more than reading a Wikipedia page about it.
The scientist for the prosecution who had tested the residue initially seemed much more credible and knowledgeable.

What was troubling for all of us on the jury was how small the residue in his possession was. It looked like about 10 grains of salt or sugar.
However, we generally believed that he was dealing drugs and thus either had more and dumped them without the police seeing or there was some problem making them inadmissible. Or he had someone else holding his big stash of drugs and he just took a few at a time to sell, and had (luckily for him) just sold the last rock on him when the cops pulled up.

I tried not to let this effect me, but the prosecution was much more organized and prepared than the defense. I guess it is possible that the defense was using a scattered and confused approach in order to try and make things seem more confusing than they really were. If that's the case; she needs to work on her shtick. If that's not the case; she needs to work on her public speaking and organization skills.

One note to either side (not sure which) is that if the actual money was still in evidence, the jury would have liked to see it. $100 obtained from several crack sales would probably look very different than $100 fresh out of an ATM. Whichever it was in this case, the money would have helped one side's arguments and that side should have admitted it, if possible.

Again, the difficulty in the case was that he was being tried for possession of such a small amount of drugs. There had to be much more to the story that we were not told.

Also, many on the jury (including me) believe that the drug laws in this country are ill-conceived and should be changed. But that was not at issue. We were to uphold the law as it IS, not as it SHOULD BE.

We found him guilty of possession of crack cocaine.

I looked at the defendant right as the word "guilty" was read by the clerk. His reaction was not that of an innocent person who had just been wrongly convicted. It was that of a guy who thought maybe he could beat the charge and didn't.

We would have liked to offer suggestion for a lenient sentence and our sincere hope that the defendant could get his life together and get away from drugs and dealing. But, contrary to what is often shown on TV, juries don't get to do that.

And now, back to iPhone apps & playing poker.
Can't wait to go to Vegas on June 22-26!!

-Pete

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Heads Up: Hold'em version 2.1 Submitted to Apple

Version 2.1 was submitted to Apple today (5/26/09).

EDIT: AND APPROVED TODAY (6/2/09).

What's in it? I'm glad you asked:

  • Saves the game-states for each type of game separately. So you can suspend a 1-player game in order to play a 2-player game and then return to it later. Or vice-versa.
  • New AI player: Chameleon. Takes on personality traits of the other players, and switches between them without notice. Thus "changing gears" while playing and making this player very difficult to read. This may prove to be the hardest AI to play against...
  • AI Improvements. Several tweaks and adjustments to the AI and a few new and improved strategies added.
  • Getting Started Screen Overlays with basic game information will appear the first time the program is run and on the game/hand after pressing the 'help' button.
  • Fixed the top chip color bug in 2-player games.
  • Several other bug fixes.
In other news: the (very limited) FREE version of the game is released and currently bouncing between #9 - #11 on the "Free Card Games" and "Free Casino Games" lists on iTunes.

In other other news: a 'sexy' version of the game is looking really good (pun intended) and should be submitted to Apple soon...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Heads Up: Hold'em version 2.1

Here are some updates about what will be happening in the immediate future for version 2.1.
It will be late May or early June so we can catch any other bugs and things that come up in the next week or two.
(This will not have any of the Bluetooth or WiFi stuff mentioned before. This will be bug fixes and smaller things.)

Switch between each type of game without ending/losing another one.
This is already done. Each of the three types of games will save their progress separately. So switching from a 1-player to 2-player to cards-only and back again will not effect your other games.
The menu screens will work a bit differently to accommodate this. The options to "Resume, Increase Blinds, or Start a New Game" will be a pop-up window when you select your game type from the main screen.

Top player card-protector color problem.
Fixed.

Deck isn't drawn for 1st in-progress hand after closing the app and returning.
Fixed. (Or soon to be fixed.)

New AI personalities. (Names TBD)
In Progress.
Math or Statistical player who will play by game theory (as best we can) and very strict bet-sizing rules. (3x preflop, 3/4 pot postflop with minimal deviation.)
Super-Maniac who bets big and bets often. (Watching Durrr on High Stakes Poker for inspiration.)
Chameleon who will switch between personalities (change gears) during the game.

AI improvements
In Progress.
Some changes won't necessarily be improvements from a game play standpoint, but will allow some personalities to play more 'emotionally' like going on tilt, etc.
We're keeping most of this info secret. :-)

Yesterday morning (5/12/09) we were #80 in "Paid Card Games" and #68 in "Paid Casino Games." This morning (5/13/09) we were #31 in Cards and #26 in Casino! NICE!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Heads Up: Hold'em version 2 IS AVAILABLE!!


Version 2 of Heads Up: Hold'em is in the AppStore now!
GET IT (iTunes link)

I really hope everyone enjoys it.
If you do like it, please write us a review on iTunes. Version 1 got panned a bit for not having chips and the 1-player game. We've 'fixed' those things now, but people rarely go back to re-review...

What's next:
  • More (and better) AI personalities.
  • Hopefully bluetooth (and WiFi) support when OS-3 is out to allow play on 2 iPhones.
  • Maybe some kind of online leader board. (?)
  • More ideas that we're keeping to ourselves for now. :-)

I also hope everyone following this blog for poker software updates enjoyed my tourist pictures from England...
For what it's worth, I won £175 playing £1-£1 at the Grosvenor Victoria (Old Vic) Casino.
On my very first hand of poker in England, I was dealt A-A. The flop came A-K-7, and was bet into enough to put me all-in. The turn was another king to give me A-A-A-K-K. Welcome to the country! (Sadly, I'd only bought-in for the minimum in order to get a feel for the table. I could have won a lot more on this hand...)
I also sold a copy of
iCatchall to one of my friends there. Does that make it a business trip?

PS: The picture is from the plane home. A nice "REALLY??? I flop a full-house and then THIS happens" moment.

Friday, May 8, 2009

London Tourist, continued...

Facebook has a much better picture-upload system than Blogger does.... So look at more pictures there.

LONDON, & ENGLAND GALLERY ON FACEBOOK

Monday, May 4, 2009

London Tourist, Days 1 & 2

These pictures are not in order. But I'm on vacation, so this is close enough..

Big Ben and the houses of Parliament. View from the London Eye. Our personal Egg.
Us in our personal egg. Did I mention we got a personal egg. That's unusual, apparently. Normally they cram 30 people in these things. But we got it all to ourselves.
Me and my hill. This is near St. Paul's. We stopped in to St. Paul's but the gallery and crypt was close, so we are going back either tomorrow.


Alice wearing St. Paul's as a hat. This is on the Millennium Bridge.



Cool walkway balconies. This is in the newly-gentrified Southwark (pronounced suthuk if you know what you're saying and South-whark if you don't.)

The Tower Bridge. (NOT London Bridge). We walked across Tower Bridge to Southwark.
(did you pronounce it right?) In the Tower of London.


Henry VIII thought well of himself. At one of the exhibits, I overheard a young kid say (strong British accent here) "Look, 'e 'had an enormous cock." Why yes, yes he did.

Alice & Dahn at Traitors Gate, Tower of London.

Tower Bridge from Tower of London. Those old-timey Brits liked their towers.


Me in a guard house.


The Tower of London. Trebuchet. (Probably spelled wrong.)

Cricket. In Wimbledon.


John Innes park in Wimbledon. We took a long walk through the park to fight jet lag on the first day.

Alice & Dahn.
More pictures soon.
As I'm typing this, I'm enjoying a gin & tonic at John & Dahn's house. We're watching trashy British Tele, which far surpasses trashy American TV. We'll likely pop off to a pub for a pint (and dinner) soon.
Yesterday, the plane landed at about 10:30 am, and Alice and I set a goal to stay awake until 9:00pm. We succeeded with only a few minor dozes-off between. Which did a great job of kicking the jet lag, but then we slept for about 12 hours (9 to 9) and then we set out for all the central-London sightseeing shown above.
More soon.














Monday, April 27, 2009

Heads Up: Hold'em version 2 (very close...)


So very close...

The AI player is playing quite well. Well enough, in fact, that we will need to add some personality options to dumb it down a bit if people want that.

A lot of our testing is done with the cards exposed and I sometimes laugh when it seems to make an exceptionally good play.
One hand that comes to mind, the AI flopped Aces-up and just checked it to me. I checked behind with my Queen high. The turn was a blank and the AI checked again. I decided that in a 'real' game I would take a stab here, so I did expecting the AI to check-raise me so I could fold (I tried to play as if I would without seeing his cards). Nope, he just called. The river was a queen and the AI threw out about a 2/3 pot sized bet. Wow, it let me catch up enough that I would pay off the bet in a real game. NICE!
I've also seen it bluff-raise me with nothing on scary scary boards. It will look foolish when it fails, but will work a high percentage of the time. Nice!

The current To do list is:
  • AI Personalities. (Pro, Amateur, & Tourist will likely be the ones in this next version. But unconfirmed...)
  • Add different blind levels and starting stack size options.
  • Add (optional) blind increases
  • Save the game when exiting the program.
  • Fix a few bugs. (Fewer and fewer of these...)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Heads Up: Hold'em version 2

Let's start calling this thing "Version 2" instead of Version 1.1. There are some big (VERY BIG) changes here.

The game you know (and hopefully love) from version 1 is still intact. Essentially unchanged. No worries there.

COOL NEW THING #1: CHIPS

The 'with chips' version of the game is looking fabulous. This is pictured here. The elegance of the original is maintained. The only item added which looks more like a UI feature from software instead of just the cards and chips is the 'spinner' which is used to set bet amounts. I even made this look like a poker chip a little bit to keep the theme.
While this should be clear from the picture, set the bet amount with the spinner and then push the stack of chips into the betting circle to commit it. Simple, nice, as close to a real game as we could simulate.

The "stack" graphics (shown in the draft picture on my previous post) were cut for simplicity and screen size limitations. It also means that every chip shown on screen is currently 'in play.' And it matches the online poker clients which don't try to show a player's chips graphically and just give a number.

COOL NEW THING #2: PLAY VS. THE IPHONE

Remember when I said there would not be a computer player?
I believe it went something like
There have also been requests for a single-player version. I don't think this will happen.
...
Seriously, people: POKER IS A GAME TO BE PLAYED AGAINST OTHER PEOPLE NOT AGAINST A COMPUTER!
He he he... Oh, those were good times...

Well, I was wrong. there WILL BE a computer player that you can play against. We are currently working on the AI to make it play some reasonably decent poker. It's close.

Finished:
  • 2-player game with chips.
  • mechanics of single-player game vs. iPhone or iPod.
  • Pretty good AI player.
Current development:
  • Tweak and refine AI player.
To-do:
  • Configuration for blind levels and starting stacks.
  • Increasing blinds for tournaments. Blinds will increase per number of hands rather than on a timer. 10-100 hands per level (in increments of 10) will be configurable.
    (note: There will also be a 'manual' blind change setting if using a timer.)
  • Possibly add configuration or several defined 'personalities' for the AI.
And there you have it!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Heads Up: Hold'em version 1.1(a)

The concept progresses...

We changed from a Slider (like on PokerStars, Full Tilt, & all online poker sites) to a "Spinner" which we think will work better on the iPhone. It allows for both fast swipes to throw in lots of chips and also a lot of precision even with very deep stacks.

When the spinner stops for some TBD fraction of a second; the chips between the 'bet pile' and the 'stack' will adjust themselves. Then you push the bet pile in to place the bet.

Dealing in this version of the game will happen automatically when the last bet is called or when it is checked through.

The dealer button may get cut (or cropped off the side of the screen), because there isn't a lot of room for everything. The deck itself can indicate the dealer--as in the current version.

NOTE: This will essentially become two games in one. The current version (without chips--to be used with real-world betting) will remain pretty much as-is. With this being basically a 2nd game that looks similar.

Current development (3/26/09):
  • The spinner is in place, but not tied in to betting yet.
  • Rudimentary betting (using the old slider) is working to a point; but needs refining and is now just numbers with no chips attached.
  • Turns and automatic dealing works, but not for preflop peculiarities yet.

Friday, March 20, 2009

San Francisco - Fitness Conference and Fun

Spent the week in San Francisco at a fitness conference. I was there representing www.GymToolz.com which is a joint-project between Mike, Dan Maxwell, and myself. It was kind of strange since I don't really know much about the fitness industry. Dan is the one who knows fitness and Mike & I know software. It's a combination that works really well for our company, but when talking to fitness people; I mostly pointed them toward Dan. Also worked well since Dan is also the (much) better salesman.

Anyway, there are some crazy fitness fads out there. One company was essentially selling nylon tie-down straps with handles sewn on the ends for $300 a set.

There were any number of pieces of equipment that seemed like little more than a pillow on a stool similar random thingamabob.

Several companies were claiming that doing squats on a vibrating platform would make you work harder. Dan didn't think so, although a nice foot massage while working out probably feels good.

The hand-operated bike (spinning) things seemed like the big new fad that I hadn't seen before. When I first saw the machine on a big banner I asked Dan if it rotated down or if it was an inverted exercise bike. He thought it was for people in rehab who couldn't work their lower body (Broken leg, for example.) But it was a big thing all around, once we got inside...

The Stripper-pole workout system was a lot of fun to watch. It's difficult to imagine a gym installing a line of stripper poles next to their StairMasters. I'm not saying they shouldn't!

Anyway; it was a good time, and SF is always great! I'm right now sitting in Starbucks waiting for Alice to arrive from the airport. Then we get to spend a fun weekend on the town. Catch ya later!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Heads Up: Hold'em Version 1.1


After the release there was an immediate demand for virtual chips.

Frankly, the initial demand arose before most anyone would have had a chance to try the thing out the way it was intended--unless they were playing poker with friends the morning of release day.

Seriously, TRY IT ONCE with real chips.  It's great!  Really, it is!

In any case, I started playing around with concepts for adding chips to the program...  Here is the first draft concept image of this... 

This will be optional.  I want ot keep the current "real-world chips" option available, becuase that is the way I would want to play if at all possible.

But I can also see that in a car or on a plane, having virtual chips could be an easier option...

Part of what I love about the program (without chips) is the simplicity and style of it.  this is going to take some of that away.  But I tried to come up with a way of handling chips that would keep with the simplicity and design of what was there as much as possible.

The thinking is that it WOULD track turns now.  The center board would slide back and forth to handle the 2-sided design.  The Chip slider would set the bet ammount and then you would push the stack of chips forward to place the bet.

I will try to allow for Limit, Pot-Limit & No-Limit.  Pot limit would just say "Pot" where "all-in" is now.  Limit may just have a "Call" and "Raise" slider.

Again, this is a concept drawing so whatever the final ends up being may look quite different. 

I'm not sure how this will work for showdowns yet...  The software may award the pot based on normal poker rules.  Which also means building in a hand-reading system.  Currently, the software doesn't determine poker hands, it just puts the cards out there and lets you determine them yourself.

What adding chips will delay most is the Omaha version!  As Omaha has so many more rules for calculating the winning hand.  And it would require built-in High/Low support!  You'll just have to wait, my fellow Omaha fans.

Single Player:
There have also been requests for a single-player version.  I don't think this will happen.  If it does, that will be an entirely different App--since the underlying program would need to change completely.
If you want to play poker against your iPhone, Apple has written an App to do that.  The artificial intelligence on Apple's app sucks!  I'm not sure if we could do better or not.  We'll see if we ever attempt it...
Anyone know of an open-source poker AI program?
Seriously, people:  POKER IS A GAME TO BE PLAYED AGAINST OTHER PEOPLE NOT AGAINST A COMPUTER!

To be continued...

PS:  I placed 3rd at the Tulalip Casino Tournament March 12 for  $1100.  My first 4-digit poker win ever.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Six Days from Idea to App

I really love working on iPhone Applications. The speed with which Mike & I can crank out new products is amazing. This one amazed even me!

This is the story of how Heads Up: Hold'em came into existence.

The story begins with another one of our apps, iCatchall.
We had just added a Dice mini-app to the program. (At the time of this writing, the dice mini-app has not yet been released.)

Mike and I were very happy with how the dice mini-app had turned out. It looked good.

I started thinking about card-based mini-apps for iCatchall. I came up with essentially a video poker machine. My idea for iCatchall was that the video poker game wouldn't even keep score. It would just deal 5 cards. Let you hold any of them you want. Then draw new ones and show you the hand. I presume that mini-app or something similar WILL be included in iCatchall soon.

I then pictured two people using this mini-app to play a version of 5-card draw against each other on two separate iPhones. (The 'version' being that the two iPhones would be playing with separate decks, so it would be possible for the same card to appear in each hand.)

I then thought that Mike certainly had the networking know-how to devise a client-server system so that each player could be playing from the same deck. I then pictured multiple iPhones connected over a WiFi playing Hold'em. But that all started to sound incredibly complicated... Incredibly COOL, yes. But also incredibly complicated...

I then thought that a 2-player 'heads up' game could be played pretty easily on a singe iPhone. AHA!!! My mind began to race and I began (literally) to run in circles through the house thinking as fast as I could.

I then took some inspiration from both a chessboard and the old 'cocktail arcade cabinets.' Players would sit on opposite sides of a table, facing each other, and see the game from opposite sides. Just as they would if playing chess on a real board or poker with real cards. One player would view the board/table/screen upside down, but that was OK because playing cards are already designed to be viewed upside down. Each player would shield the screen with his or her hand when looking at their own cards--just as would be done with real cards. Or the iPhone could be picked up to block the opponent's view...

I scrambled onto istockphoto.com and grabbed proofs of some playing-card artwork. Jumped into photoshop and made up a 'concept screen' to show to Mike. Here is that screen:

Concept-1

The above image is timestamped as being created at 3:40pm on Feb. 26, 2009.
Here is my exact email sent with this image to Mike:

from
to
Peter Burford
Michael Burford
dateThu, Feb 26, 2009 at 3:47 PM
subjectPoker game concept...

OK.... I'm kind of excited about this...

Gambling, keeping turns, etc would be done using real chips on the side. Possibly have Dealer button that bounces back and forth each hand.

Imagine the iphone placed between two players (like a chessboard). Each player holds one hand in the center to block the other view then slides their finger across their cards will reveal them.

The cards flip back instantly when your finger is removed.

If a player folds (maybe a double-click to prevent bumping) Then a new hand is dealt.

Both players must 'highlight' their Deal buttons to deal the next round.

After the River, "Deal" changes to "SHOW" (And would only show that player's cards)

The game doesn't even need to tell who wins. That's up to the players.

An Omaha option would just deal 4 cards to each player instead of 2.

I think this could be cool....!!!!!!!!



Concept-2
was created at 8:45pm that same night.

Most of the changes from concept-1 involved my attempts to make the community cards legible. The first working-draft used the cards shown as A and 3 of spades (with the numbers on the reverse corner, of course). When face card pictures replaced the suit in the center, it was found that the side-pips were too small to be seen easily. But I'm getting ahead of myself...


What could be called concept-2a only exists in a sample splash screen I made to 9:08pm the same day. At this point I had added the 'chip-slide' idea for peeking at cards, but still hadn't figured out that the buttons were unnecessary.
I was already aware of the unique and unusual aspect that the 'game' we were making was not a stand-alone game, but rather, it was one piece of a larger game played outside the iPhone. Throughout the tutorials and the website we have pictures of poker chips sitting next to an iPhone to convey this concept.

Concept-3
Nailed it!

Time stamped 11:16pm, Feb 26, 2009.
This was the last image I saved that night.

At this point, the pieces were pretty much in place conceptually. It just needed some polish. Oh, and to be programmed!

Concept-4
7:59am the following morning (Feb 27).
We now recognized that 'Interface tips' would be needed to get people going. As you can see, we hadn't quite gotten the gestures right yet...


Concept-4a
8:11am. Just 12 minutes after Concept-4.
A better version of the tips, and we'd pretty much gotten things figured out. Except that you fold 'cards' not a 'chip' but we'd get there.
This got us to the notion that the Usage tips should be "ICON--ARROW--WORD." And they still are for everything except for "Next Hand" which needed two words.

This is the last 'Concept' image that I made.

At this point, everything was in place. It just took some polishing.
On the evening of Saturday, Feb 28, just TWO DAYS after the initial concept was thought up. My poker group had a game and we showed off a working prototype.

Before the 'real' tournament began, Mike and I played a somewhat-ceremonial "first match" against each other. We put up $1 each and I won. I probably should have taken a screen shot of my winning hand, but I didn't.

For the normal tournament (It was an 8-player Sit-and-go with $10 buyin and $5 rebuys/addon.) when it got down to heads up, Mike and I each pitched another $5 into the prize pool for our friends to finish the game using our software. It was between Dan & Marilyn.

This testing gave us some valuable real-world information.
  • The community card suits were difficult to read on that version of the graphics. In part because the players were at a large table and so were viewing the community cards from more distance than normal for an iPhone. (fixed)
  • It was difficult for players to activate their cards under the chip to fold or show. (fixed)
  • Using a hand to 'shield' while looking at cards could mess up the touch screen. (fixed)
  • Both players doing things simultaneously could mess things up. (fixed)
  • If people began a game using real cards, they were going to finish it with real cards. What could sell this game is the ability to play poker easily and quickly when you were NOT at a normal poker night. (learned)
  • For some reason, people have a harder time remembering virtual cards than real ones. (this one we could not address in our software.)
These were all addressed and fixed before submission to Apple. We joked that Mike and I could write off the $5 each as a business expense. In reality, that was a very well spent $10 which produced a much stronger initial release.

Polish
The community cards went through 3 (actually 4) versions before settling on the two options available on the software. The version shown here with the smallest side-pips was the initial version and too difficult to determine the suit of face cards between Clubs and Spades. The other two versions shown here are both available in the finished software, and either one can be selected by the players. The "Asymmetrical" one was the 2nd attempt in which I moved the face to one side and increased the single PIP to fill the empty space. This gave more space for the face picture. Some people we showed this to liked it a lot, and others didn't think it looked like 'normal' playing cards.
The third option with the narrowly cropped face image and the bigger side-pips ended up being the 'default' version in the software. This 3rd card also does less anti-aliasing around the edges so I could cram as many usable pixels as possible into the 60px width that was necessary to fit 5 cards on the screen.

Touch Screen
These improvements were all Mike. I don't know what he did, but holding your cards out with one hand and frantically tapping the screen with the other now causes no problems.

Animation
Again, all Mike. Look closely to see some nice subtle touches.
  • For starters, the whole ballet of movement when a new hand is dealt--gathering cards, sliding the deck to the opposite corner, getting the chips out of the way, dealing, capping the cards to get the chips back into place. Beautiful. All Mike.
  • The fade & shrink when cards are folded.
  • Even just sliding the 'deal' card in various directions and it going from wherever that is to the board when it goes.
  • Also notice that the board is dealt from the point of view of the current dealer. In both direction (left-to-right) and card orientation.

Sound
The sound effects were added last--going in the day before (and a few day-of) submitting the program to Apple. Last-minute does not, however, mean rushed. I think the sounds are simple but effective. I hope other people agree. (they are, after all, just shuffling and simple card sounds.)

The Icon
I'm also very proud of the icon.
The finished icon (shown here from the splash screen) is pretty much the idea I had in mind from the start. I called it "Face-off Jacks." When I came up with the Idea I didn't actually know it would be the one-eyed-jacks which would be perfect for the image. I just wanted two face-cards in a face-off. Jack vs. King, whatever.

This image didn't appear out of nowhere. Below are some rejected versions...










The king one was more of a joke than anything else. I knew the jacks were right pretty much as soon as I looked through the card graphics. It just took me a couple tries to get it.



And that's it.
The first version of the program was submitted to Apple on March 4, 2009. Six days after I made the first concept drawing.
I think the program is very cool and will be fun to play poker on airplanes, coffee shops, and other strange places when opportunities present themselves. The program itself is really quite simple--it's just a virtual deck of cards which are dealt and flipped as indicated. But that's all a real deck of cards is. The game is whatever you make of the deck of cards.

I hope people who use this software will understand that. We were not trying to create an online poker client for the iPhone--we were trying to create a virtual deck of cards so people can challenge each other to a new type of hybrid-poker: part virtual, part real.

Enjoy our virtual deck of cards!

-Pete

UPDATE: A minor bug was found. (Involving one player's ability to show his cards after the other player had folded--it would not have effected the outcomes of hands. Just a player's ability to rub it in when he won.) So we pulled the submission and resubmitted a day later. So it was 7 days. Whatever...

UPDATE2: Another bug was found to push back the approval process. This one would have never effected 'real' play but if a player used the 'undo' button repeatedly (30 or more times) on a single hand then strange things could happen. The bug would only have ever come up when re-dealing to yourself over and over to make a royal flush or 4 of a kind. We both fixed the bug and limited players to 2 "undos" per hand.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My iPhone Apps

Wow, Mike and I really do have a lot of stuff on iTunes. We have been showing advertising in one of our free apps: iHourglass Free and recently switched from showing regular advertising from an ad-network to showing our own advertising system which currently just shows our other software. It would be easy (if it isn't already done) to convert this into an advertising system which other developers could either buy for their own use, or subscribe to. Not to shabby... But since everyone loves advertising. Here's what we have:


Our first, and our strongest app. An FTP client with a built-in text editor so web developers can make changes to their sites from anywhere. For some people this is the iPhone's killer app.
FTP On The Go in AppStore
FTP On The Go Website


A grab-bag of 20 apps in one. It seemed like a better way to doing 'small & silly' apps rather than selling them separately. Includes lite versions of some of our other things.
We think this one has the best chance of being featured by Apple and really taking off! (Strange to aspire to the Koi Pond app...)
iCatchall in AppStore
iCatchall Website


Began life as a feature in FTP On The Go, and was so cool it became its own app.
Wireless Storage. Uses a web-based access, so you don't need install any software on the computer(s) you are connecting with. It also works great for single-use media that you don't want to have to roll through iTunes and the sync process. Like if you want to hear a single podcast show without subscribing. Or watch a video for a plane ride and then delete it.
Wifi Disk in AppStore
WiFi Disk Website


Ever since the beta, my poker group has used this for our home tournaments. Easy to use, very versatile, and stylish. If you play home poker tournaments, get this!
Five-Deuce Poker Tournament Timer in AppStore
Five-Deuce Poker Tournament Timer Website


Began as a feature in iCatchall and grew into its own app. A very simple but fun and addictive game. Which gets very hard once you score about 700 points...
Kitchen Sink in AppStore
Kitchen Sink Website


The business version of iCatchall. It includes all the useful stuff, and removes the silly novelty stuff.
iCatchall Tools in AppStore
iCatchall Tools Website


This one also began as a function of FTP On The Go.
Lets you instantly upload pictures you take with your iPhone.
FTP Picture Upload in AppStore


This one should be much more popular than it is! It lets you share contact information from your iPhone's address book over a WiFi network with someone else's iPhone contacts.
ContactClone Pro in AppStore
ContactClone Free in AppStore
ContactClone Website


An alternate version of WiFi Disk with a sillier name.
AirFloppy in AppStore


Not pictured...
iHourglass
An Hourglass Timer

iHourglass Free
The free version of iHourglass.
Ironically, this is (BY FAR) our most-downloaded software. The power of being free...

iGiftWrap
Let's you 'hide' a picture and text until a certain date (like a birthday).
This one never really caught on much. This was also one of our earliest Apps, so if we go back for an update, it will be MUCH improved...

There you have it! Not bad for a couple guys working from home.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Retro-1980s-Arcade-Machine Part 2: Up the Ante

It arrived!
The glorious TankStick! And it is even more wonderful than I had imagined...

Bask in its glory for a minute:
(Click the picture to see it full-size.)


(Did you click the picture to see it full-size? You haven't basked in its glory until you've done that!)

However, this presents me with a problem. Several problems, in fact:
  1. The laptop's screen is smaller than the gray screen on the side of the above picture. That is not going to be big enough! The 24-inch 'big monitor' in the above picture seems adequate--if just barely.
  2. The old laptop itself will work fine for any game released in the 1980s, but I know I'm going to want more. I imagine I'm going to want to play some of the cool fighting games, and the 10-year-old laptop probably just isn't up to the task.
  3. The laptop isn't recognizing the trackball for some reason. (that reason being that it's a PoS (Point of Sale??) or, rather, XP is doing to it what Vista is doing to my current desktop!) The trackball works like a mouse when in Windows, but once a game starts...nothing. Probably a driver or setting issue, but that's annoying.
The pretty-good news is that all the above problems can be solved at very reasonable prices at Re-PC. Or I just revert to my idea of using my current desktop (reverted to XP or older OS or Linux) as the base machine for the arcade system when I upgrade to a better one. (Soon, I hope!)

But I digress... Remember how I mentioned that the laptop screen was too small? This one seems about right. But I can't build it into a cabinet. Hmmm, what to do...







What to do? Have some fun while I decide what to do!