By chance I happened to check in on Erica (The iPhone Developer’s Cookbook) Sadun’s iPhone SDK Google Group yesterday when she was trolling for someone with “modest success or struggles” to round out an online chat about iPhone development and the App Store. I don’t check in on the list every day, but I made a silly remark about having lost the struggle and Erica wrote back to invite me onto the panel.

Sometimes I think that I’m overblown in my own self-promotion — although the sales and downloads of Bedeviled might point that I haven’t actually been doing enough — but I certainly missed this opportunity, because I didn’t even think of mentioning the chat anywhere until the hour was almost over.

Anyway, if you’re interested in hearing what several successful developers (and me!) had to say about the current state of iPhone development, you can find the archive through TUAW: The Unofficial Apple Weblog.

Just Blast Me

I wasn’t able to go to the MAX show this year — again — but as I mentioned the other day I was making a recorded appearance there via Phillip Kerman’s burgeoning video sarcasm business. Adobe hired him to produce some pieces, including the segue from the MAX Awards to the Sneak Peeks session (part of which was captured in a series of photos by Kendall Whitehouse on Flickr).

I knew this was going to be the case, but it wasn’t until I was flicking through Kendall’s photos that it was really driven home: My voice-over for Phillip’s video was coming out of the speakers on the LA Convention Center stage right after Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill had been up there, and I absolutely, completely missed it.

[UPDATE] This is what happens when you only get reports second-hand. Phillip’s piece (and my voice!) weren’t played after Mark Hamill was done. The end of this video shows Hamill and Adobe’s Ted Patrick still on the stage in front of the opening screen of the video, as the lights go down after Patrick introduces the “prepared legal statement.”


If Only You Could Vote

Phillip Kerman‘s the go-to guy these days for companies and conferences who want someone to roast the products they produce or used by their attendees. I helped out with some writing and voice work on a few of his pieces, including a couple of pieces for his Flash in the Can award show presentation this spring, and his Simpsons-inspired take on the renaming of SE 39th Avenue. For MAX, I’ve supplied some vocal work for his intro to the Sneak Peeks.

I’ve also entered the contest Phillip is judging — which closes in less than half an hour — for a conference pass to MAX, on the theme: “Is Adobe MAX for developers or designers?”


Mike Downey was asking on Twitter yesterday if anyone could confirm his memory that the FLA and SWF formats were introduced in Flash 2, which was the first version released under the Macromedia imprint (“Flash 1” was just stickers plastered on the box for FutureSplash Animator). I answered late (I remember Peter’s FutureSplash box around the old Alder Street office) but it did prompt a peek into the folder where I keep versions of older applications, since my old dual-PPC desktop Mac will still run OS9, and sometimes I’ve needed to open old source files for one reason or another.

The Macromedia application graveyard

Flash In the Pan

Phillip Kerman hosted the Flash In the Can awards show last weekend in Toronto. I was last there (along with Phillip), speaking at the newMedia ’98 conference. Not the final conference I was ever invited to speak at but it’s been a while.

Phillip got the gig because he’s been producing a lot of geek-funny videos. He bounced ideas off of me for the past couple of months while he was working material up for the show, I helped write and edit a couple of pieces, and did main voiceover on the piece above.

He also got a lot of people to do cameos. Some were quite involved, but he also had a few Flash “personalities” in brief expressions of cluelessness about the conference and the awards show. I take all credit for my portrayal in this video, which didn’t actually stray too far from the truth:

Serial Numbers

I curse the day that I ever let Macromedia sucker me into signing up for DevNet.

I’m trying to install CS3 Studio on a new Mac laptop and I can’t find my printout of the DevNet serial numbers for the individual applications, and Adobe’s customer service is telling me that DevNet isn’t an acceptable upgrade path to CS3, even though the applications available through DevNet were all MX2004 apps, although I somehow managed to get them working on my desktop machine.

A combined 32 years of buying and upgrading Adobe and Macromedia products and it comes down to waiting on hold with some horrible pop tune repeating endlessly in my ear waiting for tech support to probably tell me they can’t help me. [I take that back. It took a while, but I finally managed to convince them that DevNet included access to MX2004 apps and got an unlock code. I’ll probably find that folder tomorrow.]

All the World’s a Game

Spy Trackdown

I went up to Seattle on Saturday to get my copy of Spy Trackdown, a new game from Wild Planet‘s Spy Gear series of toys (I have to get the remote-controlled camera/tank to go with my shocking tanks).

I even got a chance to play it with my friend Jon and his son Dane, and I think a fun time was had by all, despite the fact that I won the game rather handily and that we’re all well above the age range at which the game is targeted. I guess that the hours I spent coding for the prototype engine paid off, and the developers even told me that the programmers who wrote the final version for the chip that runs the game’s electronics used my my original Flash code as their template.

In Spy Trackdown you’re one of up to four agents travelling across the world’s continents (except for Antarctica), going from city to city (referred to as “zones” in the game but associated with city names on the board). Each continent has a number of zones, ranging from about ten down to four for Australia. A “covert agent” is placed in a random zone on each continent; the “enemy mastermind” is placed randomly in an unoccupied zone anywhere in the world. All the players begin in the same randomly-chosen location.

The whole game is controlled by the Spy Phone: a device with a speaker, an ‘X’ and an ‘O’ button, and an ‘Enter’ button. There’s a little cradle on the board that the Spy Phone fits into; it has its own function in controlling how loud the speaker is and also triggers modal changes.

Spy Phone

During setup, players identify which of the four agent colors are playing (by pressing X or O) and player order is randomly assigned. A player turn consists of two code entry sequences: the player enters a four-character sequence of Xs and Os (it’s binary numbers! for kids!) then either confirms the action with the Enter key or puts in a new code to override. Zones have from one to four travel modes available (motorcycle, sports car, helicopter, jet), all to different destinations, and each mode has its own unique four-digit binary sequence, which means that as the codes are entered, the chip can keep track of where each player is.

Most of the time, the Spy Phone is in its cradle and the instructions and information it reads out can be heard by anyone, but when a player ends their turn, the Spy Phone tells them to pick up the phone and press Enter to hear their secret messages. Most of the time, all the player hears is the shortest number of zones separating them from the covert agent on their current continent. By triangulating (and sheer dumb luck) the player can figure out how to end their turn in the covert agent’s zone. The first player to end their turn on a covert agent zone on that continent is entitled to four Covert Action cards; the next player there gets three, and so on. The catch is that they don’t get the cards immediately, they only get cards when they leave the continent.

The Covert Action cards themselves have other codes on them, giving players the ability to set traps (which lets them steal cards from other players), take extra turns, find out how far away the mastermind is, what direction the mastermind is, and to capture the mastermind. Capturing the mastermind wins the game.

All in all, a pretty nice game of logic and luck, based on a great concept by some folks I’d last worked with ten years ago. I wrote a little ActionScript A* path-finding algorithm that ended up getting replaced by lookup tables in the chip version (because the chip didn’t have the processing power to do the path-finding). The prototype had voice fragments that I could string together and generate sentences which the final version does as well. I’m proud of the way the whole project went.

Spy Trackdown

spy trackdown

I was totally unfamiliar with the Spy Gear series of games and toys from Wild Planet, but apparently it’s been around for a decade.

Now, thanks to a long — if very sporadic — association with the wonderful people at Seattle board game developer Forrest-Pruzan Creative, I can claim a very small part of the Spy Gear world, having worked on some prototyping for the new Spy Trackdown game. I can hardly wait to play it.