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iTunes Match: Your subscription will expire in 24 hours.

October 11th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Apple, iPad, iPhone, Mac Hardware, Software, UX

itunes match expiring email screenshot

I’m not much of a review kinda guy. I guess I’m the unthankful, ungrateful user of all products, especially when they work. But for some services & products I think it’s a good idea to write one. I guess these products are controversial in some sense. So is iTunes Match annual subscription which will set you back around $25. Mine was about to expire a couple of days ago and I was in quite a dilemma to renew it. While part of me loves this little service, the same amount of moments spent in anger and frustration come to mind.

The good
It’s an amazing service and an amazing idea. Think about it. We don’t need physical computers or external harddrives or ipods or cd’s of inferior quality mp3 cd’s/dvd’s. We need our music to be available on any device anywhere in the world. You buy it once and sync it. You can listen to your favorite playlist on your computer, iphone, ipad, apple TV and now even a watch.
Actually, when I’m writing this article, I’m watching a slideshow of my night photograpy and listen to Sleepy Sun, my late favorite music, on my Apple TV. And all this syncs quite automatically… or does it?

The bad
While the premise is awesome, Apple really is not a cloud company. While it’s meant to keep you sync, it really does not. Any time I add a tune to it, I have to especially sync to my cloud. This ofcourse if you haven’t bought the tune from iTunes Store. This really sucks for the cd’s I’ve bought long time ago, or music that I’ve made myself.
Also it’s agonizing if you’re on your mobile, and you really need a tune you know is in a playlist, but all you have is a 3G connection and it starts to download and stream songs simultaneously. Then it’s almost impossible to get either done and you’re left in a state of ‘almost hanging’ music.
When you subscribe you become addicted to technologically. Half of your music library is in the cloud. Half is downloaded. You’re not exactly sure if all of your library is in a place you can access it after subscription ends. And it’s a lot of pain to start to use the old way of cable-syncing devices and have access to only limited part of your library.

Anyways. Obviously there’s a lot of good and bad about this service. I have a love-hate relationship with it, but I decided to renew it this time. Let’s see. Maybe new hardware will save me from my miseries. I just really love to have, even a theoretical, access to my whole music library. You never know what mood I might be tomorrow at 6PM.

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OddSpotter 1.0.4

February 17th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in apps, iPad, iPhone, Marketing, OddSpotter, Titanium

It’s a huge update. It’s totally recoded from ground up. It’s new UI. An universal build. With three new artists. This version will make the previous versions obsolete. Strange I named the version only as a 0.0.1 upgrade, when it would deserve a +1. Well that’s how we learn. Next time I’ll try to keep an eye on version numbers. It just happened.
Anyways. I planned to do this for long time now. I knew the initial version was a mess. Also I know that having a good product is like having a great movie script or a novel – it needs to be rewritten constantly. So it was a bout time. 10 months after initial release it’s done now and I’m working on marketing. Bought a domain. Reading a lot of app marketing books. Shooting an app promotional video. Getting ready for the launch.
During this 10 month period I actually tried to get support from local business support authority. This institution shares EU money to startups. I failed miserably. These people don’t want to gamble like this. They are conservative people, even if they’re playing with someone elses’ money. This effort actually took a lot of time. Much more than it should have taken. All the paperwork and project description and the business plan. Painful things when I really should have just done it. There is nobody out there handing you easy money.
But for the game itself…
This time I have a really good feeling about this. This version turned out quite well. Code is clean and logical. The data structure and relational data should be a bit better systemized, but it’s not too bad.
There are a lot of improvements/features to build, but all in all it’s a great game now. Let’s see how it’ll go against the true market. I’ll try to keep you posted.
Right now I’m tweaking home site.

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New levels for OddSpotter

November 6th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Apple, apps, iPad, OddSpotter, Titanium

I see some of the people are searching for new levels for OddSpotter. This post is to let you know that I’m working on it. The first version also has a lot of bugs so I’m planning to get a better working version up too. The current version does not work too well on iPad 3.
I know it has been long but I have not forgot about all of you who are enjoying art as much as I do.

For more up to date information like OddSpotter on Facebook.

OddSpotter is a mobile art appreciation game available for free via AppStore.


OddSpotter development

May 20th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Apple, apps, iPad, iPhone, Titanium

In this post I would like to share details with you how my first mobile game OddSpotter came about. OddSpotter for iPad is live on AppStore now and you can download it for free here.

I’ve been developing commercial apps for iOS mostly for a while now. Mostly for large companies and some for startups. Most of the apps are to support the existing business models of a company and couple (like Alcometer and Airtumble) are a technical innovations themselves.

But, lately I’ve felt a bit dry developing for commecial clients and I need a personal project of my own.

I’ve always been fascinated by games and I play quite a lot myself. So on a weekend on March 2012 I started  to develop my first mobile game OddSpotter.

It’s ‘spot the difference’ type of game, where player will see two images side by side and they will have to spot the differences between those two.

There are three reasons why I chose this game to be my first birdie.
1. The concept itself comes from my friend Strange (strange name right) who I had a pleasure to study together with in Odense Denmark. Strange visited Shanghai, china and said people loved a game called ‘find the difference’. He said people were paying money in China to play this game.
2. I’m a hobby photographer so I have no problems with content for such a game.
3. This kind of game is relatively easy to build (especially coming from commercial apps background). So I take it as a study into in-app-purchases and game center etc. Before I move on to my next game idea.

I started with a little market research. There was some apps like this in AppStore, so I could evaluate the overall quality that is needed. I found out that to succeed I needed to have two important features: pinch&zoom for gameplay and free app with in-app-purchases as a pricing model. First would make my game to stand out among others, and other would give me a chance spread the game and to maybe earn something.

This is the first view after the splash screen

Convinced that it is worth it, the next thing in the list was to start developing. I started from the core functionality as a proof of concept. Took a photo and built the hotspots, and worked on pinch&zoom functionality. There were bugs in the gameplay, but as soon as I saw I can do it well and it is playable, I continued with everything around the game.

I was surprised that the game core is actually not the part of the game that takes the most amount of work. It’s rather everything around it. The worlds, the leveling system and their UI’s, score keeping, timing etc. Once I nailed the UI for the levels and made it functional I started to build content. That meant a lot of photo editing. I took all the photos from my showcase http://sandbox.teemusk.com/nightshots2 and used clone stamp tool in Photoshop to make them different.

Then I built a custom Adobe Air app where I could mark out the difference spots on each of these photos, and which would turn the spots to data readable by OddSpotter. Once I had my database files filled with data about the photos and their Odd Spots I included them into the app.

Note that at this point I had no clear idea how would the selling be done. Should I sell a pro version of the app? Maybe sell levels or worlds as in-app-purchases.

Anyways, although the UI was not polished I decided to show the game to a friend during lunch break. He liked it, but found it too difficult (I guess the stamp tool radius was too small making odd spots rather small too). So he was asking for hints all of the time from me. “Around where is the next spot?”, was something that I heard a lot. I ended up zooming the view to a place where an odd spot was and he was trying to find it. This worked. So he gave me a superb idea. I will sell hints via in-app-purchases. Game will come with 5 hints and when you spend them all you can buy more for real money. All levels will be free. Genial. Perfect.

Next thing I built the hints functionality and started testing in-app-purchases. The latter was a nightmare. I pulled my hair out for two days wondering what am I doing wrong, only to find out Apple’s sandbox server for in-app-purchases was down. I can honestly say that was the most difficult and stressful part of the whole development.

I waited for another two days until apple IAP sandbox came up again and was all set.

At this point I had a ready built app with my own photos as content. I was ready for more testing on real people. I took my iPad with me everywhere and let people play the game telling them the story behind it and asking questions about the gameplay. Most of the people were my friends and ofcourse they said they like the game, but also gave me a lot of insights what should be done better. As the first friend it was obvious that the levels should be easier than they were.

Also, though nobody really told me, I realized that people don’t really want to look at photography that much. The photos were all night shots and looked too much the same. Then my girlfriend came up with an awesome idea to use paintings as content and not photos. Everybody loves art. After googling around for legal stuff and good data sources I found out that I can use Public Domain art as content for free. That was settled then. I dumped all the photos as a content (lots of time wasted there) and started again with paintings.

Lots of photoshopping followed, but after couple of days I managed to make the app fully functional again with paintings as content. And I must say this really worked. It’s so much more fun and educational to look for art from famous painters and find odd spots on the artwork.

But. My struggles did not end there. I had one major problem, app ksize. The app with all the levels/paintings inside would weigh more than 40 mb. That’s way too much. A good app won’t have more than 20mb as initial download. If an app is more than 20 mb then AppStore won’t let users download the app on a 3G connection, but wifi has to be used. That means many potential clients would be turned away after “INSTALL” click.

So I had a plan. I added first 20 levels into initial app download and developed a whole new system so I can dynamically add more levels over time. The system goes shortly as follows. App will check for updates after being 10seconds active, if an update is found it will download new levels as a zip package. After download it will unpack the zip and add them to level selection notifying the user about new levels.

That was also quite a lot of work, but I pulled it off over a long weekend.

Promo screenshot which shows tutorial and gameplay basics

After giving the game final touches (like tutorials for first level of the first world), I was ready for submission.

I learned quite a lot from developing the game, but the main points I should remember are as follows:

  • It is much more work than you think it’ll be.
  • It’ll take longer than you think it’ll take.
  • The game engine is a little percentage of the overall work. A lot of work is around the engine itself.
  • Test the game on real people as early as possible and modify it if necessary.
  • Try to get to acceptable build asap and submit it. You can make updates later
  • Try to think about marketing as early in the game as possible.
  • You can figure out/modify the monetizing ideas later.

OddSpotter for iPad was released 1st of May 2012.

I might write about initial sales and marketing efforts soon if there’s enough interest.








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Apple Design Award Winners 2011

June 27th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Apple, apps, iPad, iPhone

Apple has awarded the coolest iOS apps with it’s Apple Design Awards for 2011.

I have tried couple of the awarded and can comment the prizes as follows.

infinity blade icon

1. Infinity Blade

Quite nice iOS game with really awesome graphics. The only problem with the game is the story. It’s a bit repetitive. You always get to the final monster but you can never beat him. At least not before you’ve gained many many levels. And to gain levels you follow the same path again with slightly different level monsters. No offence. The game is really great. And the graphics are astounding for such limited hardware. So this software has really earned it.

Cut the rope icon

2. Cut the rope

This is the best game I’ve seen on iOS so far. It is the best in everything. It’s playful, it has really cool story. It has really nice graphics with totally awesome animation. And it has puzzles that will crack your head. Oh and did I mention the physics. Just awesome. Well done and well earned it’s name on the list.

3. Pulse

This is a feedreader. You can add your favorite feeds and read them in a really nicely designed interface. It got the award for Student Developer Showcase. If it’s done by a student then sure. It’s a really nicely done app and the design is awesome. 
But with all this in mind I don’t see why Apple did not give an award to FlipBoard? While pulse is great reader, FlipBoard is great plus really innovative.

Anyway. It’s really cool that Apple does such a thing and I hope that someday my own apps are gonna be on that list.

Link to Apple Design Awards

My favorite iPad Apps to date

November 14th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in apps, iPad

The following are my favorite apps for iPad:

1. Evernote.

The best notes app. Syncs into a cloud and has apps for your iPhone and desktop as well. covers all my note taking needs.

FREE | iTunes Link

2. Flipboard

This app will display news, facebook feeds, twitter feeds etc. in a really really nice way. You’ll love reading the news after you get it.

FREE | iTunes Link

3. Twitter

This app is for tweeting. Very well done. With a nice design and great usability.

FREE | iTunes Link

4. Angry Birds

Really cool puzzle game where you have to smash stuff by slinging birds. Very good physics engine. Great fun. plus this game has an awesome backstory.

4.99$ | iTunes Link

5. Cut The Rope

Another awesome genial puzzle game where you’ll have to feed a frog a candy. Great physics and a lot of fun for hours. Nice backstory as well.

1.99$ | iTunes Link

6. Vacation Mogul

Really nice strategy game. A lot like build-a-lot. Levels are really well done. this game will keep you entertained for hours. The story sucks but the game is well worth the price.

6.99$ | iTunes Link

7. SketchBook pro

Drawing app. The best one. really intuitive and nice to use.

7.99$ | iTunes Link

8. Dungeon Hunter

Really great role-playing game for iPad. Intuitive, with a great story and well done graphics.

4.99$ | iTunes Link

There is much more cool apps out there and in my iPad as well, but these 8 are really the cream for me so far.

If you have great recommendation for good apps then please let me know in the comments and I’ll check them out.


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