iphone server admin startup advice web 2.0

GetClicky sucks: an Analytics service going out of business?

A year or so ago I did a roundup of the major free Web Analytics services. I was interested to see how Google Analytics had affected the market: was there a market left any more?

One of the trials I signed up for I found so useful I carried on using after I’d written the review. GetClicky had a lot less information than some services – including GA – and less detail than the free tools I already run on all my websites (e.g. AWstats). But it was a lot more user-friendly, presenting the most critical information all at once on a single screen.

Today I finally started disabling GetClicky on my sites; the company has forceably blocked my site from their service. Why? Because I had a week of heavy traffic *while I was using the premium version which allows unlimited traffic*. That’s it. I stayed within their requirements, but I was banned anyway. That suggests to me that their company is in trouble…

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So, who’s going to buy Zynga?

(for the three people who haven’t heard yet, EA just bought PlayFish, for circa $400 million)

Three things I have to say on this:

  1. Mainstream games industry people question it’s value
  2. Yes, of course it was worth it
  3. What Would Zynga Do?

Mainstream games industry people question it’s value

I’ve seen a lot of people from the mainstream industry (i.e. consoles, PC games, handheld etc – eerything EXCEPT iPhone and Facebook) incredulous, unconvinced it was worth it. This was the case even with the rumoured $250 million valuation from a month ago (c.f. Nicholas Lovell’s post on that).

There’s also some discussion over at TheChaosEngine (private forum for professionals in the games industry) on the same topic, with similar levels of scepticism about the value.

The main reference points are traditional games companies and their sale prices. That’s where this goes wrong – and it’s symptomatic of something that hampers the games industry: a lack of understanding of the business side of games. For most people in the industry, this doesn’t matter – they’re making games, not selling or funding them. But for the people managing games companies, far too many of them need to get an MBA and learn the essentials of sales, marketing, revenue, and shareholder-value – and how that applies to their own day-jobs.

Yes, of course it was worth it

Reproducing some of what I’ve already written on TCE, since it’s non-public:

There’s three things driving the valuation of PF:

  1. A solid business, in business-terms (c.f. Nicholas Lovell’s “6 reasons why Playfish is a steal at $400m”)
  2. Quality content-producer, in games / media terms
  3. Consistent success, in comparitive terms

Playfish is in the top 3 companies dominating the Social Games sector. They are the ONLY one of those companies that set out to dominate the SG sector – the other two happened purely by accident. PF was architected to take over this sector, and is succeeding at it.

From a game-design perspective, the entire business model for Zynga and SGN has been “keep bailing!”, and they’ve so far bailed faster than they were sinking (where “bailing” means “using marketing and sales ability to make up for severe product deficiency”). That might sound like I’m being derogatory – but compare it to all the “worthy” games companies who bailed *slower* than they were sinking; at the end of the day, who’s the smart one?

But good sales/marketing strategies are easy to dissect and clone, in a way that good content is not.

Part of the demand for PF is that a lot of people look at it and say: this is SGN/Zynga, except they make good games. Yes, they’re not 1st – but any idiot could take PF’s current position, throw $50m of marketing budget at it, and easily surpass Zynga. They will own this market, sooner or later – PF is fundamentally strong where Z is fundamentally fragile. (although Z’s “fragile” is still an order of magnitude stronger than most traditional games companies).

Just to be clear: I have a lot of respect for Zynga and SGN, they’ve achieved a heck of a lot. But they’re sharks. They’ve always been sharks. Comparing to modern standards of game-design, they’ve never had great product. Instead, they’ve been extremely canny, aggressive, vicious, and cash-driven – and they’ve shown how successful and profitable you can be with those things. If someone had asked “how well can you do with a weak content company if you’re exceptional on the business-side?” then these companies boldly step forth and demonstrate that the answer is: “very well indeed”.

But this is a new, novel market. Maybe there’s nothing special about PlayFish?

Well, apart from thriving in a new market against some of the toughest competition in the world, look at the comparitives. Compare PF with – say – Kongregate. That was founded by the ex TD of Pogo after years at Pogo/EA, and was expected to recreate the success of Pogo and expand on it (hundreds of millions of dollars revenue). They’ve fallen a long, long way short. PF was founded years later and is now doing perhaps 20 times the revenue (just guessing based on Kong’s last funding round and how long ago it was).

PF’s success *looks like* it’s “probably” no accident. IIRC (and I haven’t checked, I’m going from memory here, so I might be very wrong) this is the same management team that built and later floated GluMobile. Putting that into perspective:

  1. these guys have ridden the wave of an emerging market to create on of the big successes
  2. these guys started from nothing and ended up with an IPO
  3. these guys then started all over again, from scratch, in a new market … and succeeded AGAIN.
  4. …and they did it very quickly

What Would Zynga Do?

This, then, is the million-dollar question: who’s going to buy Zynga?

Zynga have followed a strategy of buying-or-burying every small competitor who came along. As I noted above, despite being rich, hugely successful, and growing fast, they have some internal fragility that PF has never had. Where PF *could*, in theory, get more aggressive, Zynga is already barrelling along flat-out on that front. Where PF has a good reptuation they can trade on, Zynga has a poor one that’s not worth much now PF is part of EA.

If it had been a smaller company that bought PF, maybe – maybe – Zynga could have afforded to try a reverse-takeover to hoist themselves up, and hold on to their top spot in Social Games.

But EA/PF is too complementary a pairing; together, they’re too effective for Zynga to get away with that. Zynga *might* have hoped, with a different competitor, that acquisition by EA would lead to a breaking-up of the company’s value. EA has done this many a time to other acquisitions: small companies vanish when eaten by big ones. But as I noted above (and as Nicholas referred to when claiming that PF’s team could “turn around the tanker” that is EA), PF’s team have enough experience and personal wealth that it is very unlikely they’d disappear inside EA. They *might* retire (despite the golden handcuffs, many EA acquisitions have lead to de-facto retirement of their founders) – but PF is so young as a company that I doubt they’re tired of it just yet.

Looking back at Zynga, this seems to be a company that sees itself as the Alpha Male. I can’t believe they’d settle for second place. So, Zynga needs to be bought. And, unlike PF, Zynga may actually benefit from being dominated by their acquirer (try and wipe out some of that bad reputation; perhaps fundamentally alter the internals of the business, make it into a good content-generator? Where PF is adding Zynga-esque marketing and sales ability, could Zynga add PF-esque content-creation/content-quality ability?).


I’ve no idea :).

But, looking around, Zynga has greatly underperformed on iPhone. There are a lot of media and consumer giants around that expect to have no problems making lots of money on iPhone. Maybe that would make a good deal, someone already exploring, or set to explore, iPhone, who doesn’t need Zynga, but who could expand Zynga on to iPhone in a huge way. That could even let Zynga save some face in the deal (“there’s nothing about our business approach we wanted to change, it’s just that this was an opportunity to dominate TWO platforms instead of ONE”).


Twitter: redglassesapps

A new twitter account you can use to keep up with all the iPhone stuff I’m doing:

We’ll be posting app releases and iphone-dev links.

iphone programming

How to sort an NSDictionary on iPhone

(because I googled it, and on the first page of hits I couldn’t find any copy/pasteable source for this common problem, here’s an answer with (poor) public domain source code)


How to make an iPhone static library – part 2

UPDATE: Apple changed everything (again) without telling developers (again) and broke everything (again).

Current versions of Xcode (the minimum that Apple allows you to use) will *not* work with the architecture-link part of this blog post.

Instead, see this StackOverflow question I asked (and answered) with an updated technique:


This is NOT a perfect way of doing static libs on iPhone; however, it does work – I’ve used it in iPhone apps that are on the App Store right now – and I’ve been sitting on this post for over a month, improving it, tweaking it. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s better to put it out onto Google than to keep it quiet any longer.

NB: I’m not a Mac developer; the iPhone is relatively new to me. I apologize in advance for any stupid mistakes I make here where I should have known better!

PS: If you don’t read this blog normally, you might be dismayed at the amount of whinging about Apple’s less-than-perfect code and documentation in this post. Sorry. Let me just say that I am *trying* to be even-handed – and that that requires not only praising Apple, but also calling out their bad acts where relevant. I and many of my friends and ex-colleagues have suffered hours and days of wasted time – ON THIS TOPIC ALONE – because of tiny things that Apple staff “forgot to mention” or “didn’t bother testing”. It’s understandable, but it’s also painful.

iphone programming

How to make an iPhone static library – part 1

I’ve now deployed iPhone static libraries in two (live) applications, and numerous updates.

This is a process that is seemingly (*) 90% undocumented by Apple, despite being (IMHO) absolutely essential for any professional iPhone developer.

UPDATE: Apple changed everything (again) without telling developers (again) and broke everything (again).

Current versions of Xcode (the minimum that Apple allows you to use) will *not* work with the architecture-link part of this blog post.

Instead, see this StackOverflow question I asked (and answered) with an updated technique:

[(*) – if there’s docs, then I’ve not found it in over 6 months of googling, searching Xcode doc libraries, and asking everyone I know. I will feel stupid if it’s there and I haven’t found it, but I have honestly tried very hard to find it!]

I have sought help in numerous expert forums and mailing lists – and generally discovered that no-one else is quite sure how to do it either, although I’ve seen some funky ideas and methods that others have come up with.

Through trial and error I’m pretty sure I know how to do it now – but I still have no idea what the “correct” approach is – so I’m writing up my best knowledge here, and I’m going to spread it to as many people as possible to get feedback from the 30,000+ other iPhone developers around the world.

iphone programming

How much do iPhone developers cost (contract)?

(this is off the top of my head, probably some glaring errors; it’s intended to give a general idea rather than be authoritative. How do YOU calculate your hourly rate for contracts?)

It seems there’s an increasing number of people around who have no prior experience of this, and are taking their first steps into freelance/contracting while doing iPhone dev in particular.

There are also an increasing number of clients offering impossibly low daily rates. I’m sure some of these are sharks taking advantage of first-time contractors, BUT … I know from personal experience that some are merely naive. Sometimes, it’s just that they are themselves ignorant of the realities of contracting.

So, to help first-time contractors, and to help clients trying to work out why they’re having trouble getting decent people on their seemingly “sensible” budget, here’s some quick thoughts on the standard practice on contract pricing.

By the way, to answer the titular question: Bad ones – about £250 / $350 a day; good ones – about £750-£1250 / (guess, but I haven’t asked any USA guys recently: circa $1200-$1500?) a day; Really really bad ones who have no idea what they’re doing and are probably teaching themselves programming as they go, on *your* budget – about £200 / $200 a day.

(note: the weak (disappointing, but bearable) and the worst (total waste of your time and money) are duking it out on price at the bottom end of the scale, that’s no coincidence. That’s all they can sell themselves on)

1. Salary is not remuneration

By law, in the UK and throughout Europe, companies *must* provide employees with cash and benefits above and beyond their salary. Whatever your official salary, the govt mandates that your employer pays you X% more than that (X varies from place to place and situation to situation).

X is made up of, among other things: “employer” tax, “employer” pension payments, sick pay, holiday pay (typically around 10% of base salary!), local govt taxes, various kinds of mandatory insurance, etc.

Some people get company bonuses as well, often from 1% to 20%.

Of course, at most companies, you also get a whole load of stuff “for free”. The rule of thumb at many companies is that *every* employee costs approx 10% on top of their base salary – and that any bonuses, benefits, etc, are extra on top.

TOTAL: 120%-150%

Finding work is an unpaid activity

Contractors are required to spend some number of hours every month looking for their next contract. This can start simple – trawling websites – but even when a good match is found, the contractor has to take UNPAID time off work to speak to recruiters/hiring managers, attend interviews, etc.

Assuming everything goes perfectly and it takes you 2-3 days of preparation, search, interviewing, bidding, viewing specs, etc, and you work 2-3 month contracts on average, this is 5% of your working time.

If just one project gets cancelled / doesnt come through, that is immediately doubled. Any slowness on the part of recruiters again increases the cost to the contractor.

TOTAL: 110%-125%

The numbers above are off the top of my head, and are far from complete. When you add it all up, and average over time, the rule of thumb for experienced contractors is that your hourly contract-rate should be at minimum 2 times your hourly employee salary, and as much as 3 times.

This is getting pretty long for an LI post, and I’m sure there’s a lot wrong with it, but hopefully it’s enough to give people an idea of the realities of the situation.

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New free iPhone game…

Last night, I had another game approved for the App Store…


iTunes: click here to open iTunes download page

I started writing this as a real-life demo on how to use the tech for my new company (if any of our early access licensees are reading this, a project ZIP with full source code should appear on your dashboard imminently), but I gave it to a few friends to test, and they liked it so much I thought I’d put it up on the App Store too.

I’ll be updating it over time to add more of the features from our tech. If enough people download it, I might even make a paid version (which would be pretty handy as an example, too :)) with some more features, more powerups, etc.

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Volunteer project: a simple RPG for iPhone – UPDATE

A lot of people asked me to blog as this volunteer project progressed, share some insight into how things were going. I’ve not had enough time until just now, and it’s a mix: Some good news, some bad news.

computer games design dev-process devdiary games design iphone

Dungeon Master Clone for iPhone – Concept GUI

(c.f. my original post here:

I’ve been playing around with GUI setups for DM / EOTB / Wizardry clones on iPhone, and thought I’d post some of the more interesting results here – I’m interested to see what other people think of each of them.

The first three are all assuming a single-character RPG, the fourth is something more like DM / Wizardry (could be 6 chars, could be 3).

Everything is clickable – small maps become full screen map, blue buttons fire spells, character portraits go to the inventory screens.

Screens with no arrow buttons require you to drag your finger forwards/backwards/left/right to move, and allow 360 degree movement. Screens with arrow buttons assume you can only turn 90 degrees at a time (like the original games), although they smoothly animate the rotations (UN-like the original games – because I have access to OpenGL to do the 3D for me).

What do you think?





Uploading iPhone app to App Store fails with CodeSign validation error

I’ll be writing this up in more detail soon, but here’s a bad error message from Apple’s App Store process (summer 2009) that I found zero hits for on a google search, so I thought I’d quickly throw up this page now that I’ve found out what the cause is. Hopefully it will help anyone else who hits the same problem.

If you’re using the new Apple Uploader to send your binary to the App Store (don’t! I’ve discovered it has at least one critical bug where it claims to upload the binary but it actually hasn’t!), you might hit this error before the upload starts:

“Application failed codesign verification. Please see the console log for additional details”

Assuming you know enough about OS X to know how/where to view the Console, at the end of the log you may see something like this pair of entries:

ApplicationLoader[18609] *** Codesign error (please ignore invalid option comments): got requirements(0x805a00, 525)
Executable=/var/folders/0o/0oFmipSKGvqwVZcVZJPOgU+++TI/-Tmp-/ Catcher
Format=bundle with Mach-O thin (armv6)
CodeDirectory v=20001 size=1587 flags=0x0(none) hashes=72+5 location=embedded
Signature size=4274
Authority=iPhone Distribution: Adam Martin
Authority=Apple Worldwide Developer Relations Certification Authority
Authority=Apple Root CA
Signed Time=10 Aug 2009 16:55:51
Info.plist entries=18
Sealed Resources rules=3 files=24
Internal requirements count=0 size=12

Executable=/var/folders/0o/0oFmipSKGvqwVZcVZJPOgU+++TI/-Tmp-/ Catcher
got entitlements(0x805e00, 299)
codesign_wrapper-0.7.3: using Apple CA for profile evaluation
AssertMacros: binary, file: /data/conrad/security/codesign_wrapper/codesign.c, line: 205
AssertMacros: code_signatures, file: /data/conrad/security/codesign_wrapper/codesign_wrapper.c, line: 903

ApplicationLoader[18609] *** Error: /Users/adam/Desktop/ validation failures: (
“Application failed codesign verification. Please see the console log for additional details”

What’s the error message?

Ah, well, despite the second entry claiming that the console log will have an error … the error itself is missing (like so much of Apple’s documentation ;)). With a bit of imagination and “creative interpretation”, I spotted that:

Line 1:

ApplicationLoader[18609] *** Codesign error (please ignore invalid option comments): got requirements(0x805a00, 525)

Line 16:

got entitlements(0x805e00, 299)

and inferred that there was a problem with a checksum, whereby it was expecting something that looked like X, but found something that looked like Y.

(NB: Apple’s appallingly bad lack-of-error-message may mean something completely different, but this guess lead to me trying something that ended up fixing the problem)

Looking carefully at my App, looking for signed things not being what were expected, I realised that my app was importing a static library that had been signed by someone else (partly because the new version of Xcode defaults to signing everything, all the time – which it should do, but I hadn’t got used to that new “feature” yet). With bad code-signing implementations, that can often be a problem (although I naively expected Apple to have a sensible implementation of code-signing, and it had never occurred to me this would be a problem with Xcode. Oops).

Speaking to the person who built that library, I found that the build config they’d used had been set to sign using a Developer provisioning profile. I re-built it using my Distribution provisioning profile, re-added the static lib binary it to my project, re-built my app … and the App Store upload finally succeeded.

Anyway … followup post coming soon on how to make static libraries work on iPhone with iPhone OS 3.0 / Xcode 3.1.3 and above (hint: Apple broke some of the things that used to work, and so sometimes you have to do it differently since OS 3.0 came along)

amusing bitching iphone Web 0.1

Apple: still don’t know how to use “The InterNet … thingy”

I’m trying to download the 3.0 OS update for iPhone…and being denied by Apple’s own software – that cannot even download a single file from a website (!)

It’s a 1GB download that you “must” download via iTunes, because … well … because … um … Apple hates web browsers? I don’t know. Hard to see why it is downloaded via iT at all, really. It is rather strange.

(EDIT: it has now dropped to being a 230 MB download; I have no idea why – it was only a hundred meg or so into the alleged 1 GB download when it crashed, and when I retried it became 230 MB. Odd…)

And yes – it really *is* downloading a website file (that’s all it’s doing):

GET /,2_3.0_7A341_Restore.ipsw HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: iTunes/8.2 (Macintosh; N; Intel)
Connection: close

That’s missing a key line. The line that resumes the download from where it left off. Apple apparently decided to write a “crap” web-browser, and embed it inside iTunes. Why? Why, when they have one of the world’s best web-browsers, do they insist on writing an extra one – and missing out fundamental basic features (like resumable downloads)?

There are occasional latency spikes on my net connection. iTunes is such a terrible “web browser” that when this happens, it arbitrarily (note: no other web browser would do this!) decides to cancel the download. There is no “resume” option and no “retry” option.

Congratulations, Apple! Having 2 copies of the same “core” software, one which works and one which doesn’t, and not allowing the user to use the “good” one when they need to? You’re well on your way to becoming Microsoft :).

amusing iphone

Apple: VAT, fraud, and UK customers…

Clearly stated on every single page on the Apple store (it’s the page footer):

Prices are inclusive of VAT (15%) but exclusive of delivery charges unless otherwise indicated.

In the Apple Store, Apple therefore appears to (maybe…actually does, considering they *clearly state* the above?) over-charge you for VAT. But there’s more to this (obviously – it would be horrifically stupid if that were all: defrauding via VAT makes governments very unhappy indeed).

bitching games industry iphone marketing Web 0.1

Indie developers and gaming sites: stop breaking the web

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been looking at a lot of independent developers’ websites. It’s quite surprising how many of them go out of their way to make their site unusable – clearly thinking that they’re achieving the opposite. But also, today, Wikipedia started actively doing a very minor (but no less irritating) content-block on mobile users. And last week, I found one of the main games-news sites is also actively *hard*-blocking mobile users.

This was annoying (and stupid!) 5 years ago, when sites added the “smartphones” to their content-blocking, even though smartphones could (and happily would) render full-fat webpages perfectly (tabbed browsing worked fine in Opera on Windows Mobile back in 2005 – I used it a lot).

Now, with the iPhone added to the list of clients that these sites are blocking, it’s a bit worse: Apple won’t allow you to purchase any web browser other than their version of Safari, and Safari won’t allow you to lie to the website and tell it you’re not using a cell phone (this was the standard workaround on windows mobile/opera for stupid web design teams: tell Opera to claim your cell phone was a Windows desktop). The iPhone, with a better quality web-browser than many desktops currently run? That’s just insane…

Wikipedia: mobile users, go away

Until/unless they decide to fix it, it’s now too much hassle to read WP pages unless I do it on my laptop. Since I’ve probably just followed a link from google, that would mean emailing myself the link from my iPhone, and going to WP via my desktop. More wasted time. I’ll just stop using wikipedia, thanks.

So far this morning I haven’t been able to access WP short of manually changing the URL to go to a country-specific Wikipedia mirror, switching to a “slow” (non-broadband) internet connection, reloading the page, and hitting the stop button before they redirect me to a “cut down” version, and no link to escape from it. There’s a link for you to “comment” on the new “feature”; my commentary would have been unprintable, so I declined.

Gamespot: we don’t want money, money is for wimps

The other week I noticed that Gamespot – one of the big ad-driven news + reviews/cheats/etc websites for games – is still locking-out all mobile users. That’s probably a fairly substantial load of ad revenue they are literally throwing away every day.

The web, HTTP, and HTML…

Why do people do this? I don’t know. But here’s a few points you should bear in mind:

  • No website should ever block content based on the user’s device
  • No website should ever have a flash-only front page
  • Since the very first versions of HTTP and HTML in the mid-1990’s, the web has been designed to avoid these problems; this shouldn’t be happening

Content Blocking

Gamespot checks your web browser when you fetch any article, review, etc. If it finds you’re coming from an iPhone, then it refuses to let you view the content. Instead, it serves up a custom “news page” that is identical no matter which link you came in on. There is no way for you to see the actual content you tried to view – literally: they do an auto-redirect that wipes it from the URL.

I can see no reason for this other than the bizarre assumption that an iPhone was launched 10 years ago with a tiny black-and-white screen and an inability to scroll and render web pages. I would love to ask the Gamespot web design team: have you ever seen an iPhone? You do realise it has a better web browser than most desktop PCs, yes? So … why are you manually blocking them from your website?

Amazon has for a long time done a similar thing with any mobile device (again, sadly, the stupid bit is that they apply it to devices where it’s completely unnecessary) – except that Amazon has three essential features which Gamespot lacks.

Firstly, they do actually show you some of the content you were trying to view (not all of it. ARGH!)

Secondly, there’s always a link on the page to view the real version of the page. If you click that, it gives you a warning something like: “YOUR MOBILE PHONE MAY NOT RENDER THIS PAGE … ARE YOU SURE!!!!????!”. Of course, this is somewhat inappropritate when applied to most smartphones, especially iPhones. But hey – at least the option is there.

Finally, they have a link something along the lines of: “Do you want to permanently stop seeing the broken, cut-down version of pages on You can re-enable them whenever you want”.

Irritating, patronising, and foolish (the default should be “view the website normally”, not “don’t view the website”) – but at least you only have to fix it once, and you never again get problems. Gamespot et al offer no such option – they just block you, dead.

Flash-only front pages

About 50% of indie studios have decided to put a massive flash on their front page, most of them with *no* link to “skip intro” or “go to website” or any kind of navbar. About 50% of them (in my sampling over the past few weeks) have made that flash NON clickable: you cannot (you are “not allowed to” ?) view the “real” website until the flash has loaded, you have seen the self-promoting advert for the studio embedded in it, and clicked some internal link at the end. This was foolish, unnecessarily slow, and contrary to the spirit and standards that drive the web even 10 years ago when it first started happening.

Games industry companies please take note:

The 1990’s phoned – they want their web-designers back.

(real web companies don’t do this kind of thing any more)

But now, with the iphone, it’s particularly dumb: it is de-facto content blocking – because the iPhone cannot / will not run Flash. If the Flash is clickable, you can at least (if you know what the studio did – which many people won’t guess) access the site anyway. I’m amazed how many sites don’t even give you that small fillip.

If this post persuades JUST ONE web designer, somewhere, to wake up and smell the roses, and spares us yet another self-blocked website, then I shall be happy.

Of course, maybe I should be grateful that we’re even this far “ahead” … I heard from someone the other day that he still has to explain to web design teams that websites don’t need to be hardcoded for rendering at 800×600 any more (i.e. that – OMGWTFBBQ! – everyone has rather larger desktop screen resolutions than that these days; or else so much smaller that hardcoding to 800×600 isn’t going to help at all).

conferences games industry iphone programming

Brighton: 3 free iphone talks + networking, tomorrow

If you’re in Brighton this week for the Develop conference … there’s a few places left at the free networking/talks event we’re doing tomorrow night:

(if you can’t make it, I’ll get all the slides on-line afterwards, so long as the speakers don’t mind)

…although we’re getting very close to capacity. Some people probably will change their minds and not turn up, so it might be worth coming along anyway, even if there’s apparently no space left (and the venue have said they can make room for up to 10 more if they have to, althoguh it’d be a real squeeze, apparently).

PS: the organizers of the Develop Conference manage to be arrogant, rude, ****s for the third year running. They didn’t even deign to respond to my offers to schedule this event at a time that would be least conflicting with their evening schedule for the conference. I am constantly amazed at how many people they manage to piss-off every year, and rather sad, because I suspect it’ll gradually erode more and more of the value of the conference (all the people who refuse to come back, or refuse to speak in future) – and that would be a huge shame, because a summer conference in Brighton is great thing. If they can manage to stop being such ****s and doing their best to screw it up. Sigh.

PPS: FWIW, my reference to “third year running” is based on the things that I know they did / said to friends and colleagues in previous years. I learnt early on to expect nothing but rudeness from them, although I’ve been studiously polite each year, giving them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps foolishly – but I hoped they might, you know, learn some basic courtesy at some point. Not yet.

</rant> ;)

computer games design games design iphone MMOG development programming

Want to help write a simple RPG for iPhone?

Now I’ve recovered from GDC illness, I’ve got a little free time again, and I’m starting one of the iPhone games I wanted to write. This is a “for fun and learning” project, so it’s deliberately chosen to be low maintenance / easy to make a first version / easy to extend later / etc. I need artists, designers, quest-writers, and programmers.

Well, I don’t *need* anyone; I can do this all myself. But I’d rather do it with other people, and I thought there might be some hobbyists reading this who’d like to do something similar.

EDIT: there’s now a googlegroup for people working on this. You *must* contact me first via email (see below) or your request to join will be automatically rejected.


May 2009: Survey of iPhone Developers

There’s 45 million iPhones out there, and tens of thousands of iPhone Apps – we know this, and we know that the top-10 apps make millions of dollars each. But what about the developers, the people *MAKING* these apps – do you have any idea who they are?

There is/was no widely available info on who these people were, how they worked, etc, despite the many companies making strategic decisions on this stuff right now. The small teams, especially, are largely on their own, and even if someone did a big, expensive, report they don’t have the money to pay for it (I include myself in that group).

At the start of May, I created an online survey to find out some more info about “who” the people are that are currently developing for iPhone – from one-man-bands through teams of part-time friends to large development studios.

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5-year predictions (2009 to 2014) for the MMO/Online Games industry

Last week at the LOGIN conference I sat on a panel with three far more smart/successful/famous people than myself entitled “Online Games 2014: Twelve Spoilers for the Future” (I think I was there as “the argumentative one” ;)). The real value of the panel was the four of us arguing^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hdiscussing each other’s predictions, and the audience suggestions afterwards, but the predictions themselves were pretty interesting alone, just to compare and contrast.

I couldn’t liveblog this session (obviously) and it looks like no-one else did, so – until the slides go up on the conference website – here’s what I can remember of the predictions (I may get some of these wrong, apologies!):

  1. There will be tonnes of cheap rackspace; anything that uses Cloud Computing will be very successful thanks to low cost base
  2. iPhone will become the dominant gaming platform
  3. We’re heading into a big recession that may do well for the MMO industry
  4. Browser-based MMOs will disappear in favour of iPhone/SmartPhone-based MMOs
  5. South Korean MMO Publishers will vanish as a major player in the MMO industry, eclipsed and swallowed by Chinese and SEA MMO Operators (“non-publishing” backgrounds)
  6. Europe will get its first successful Europe-wide MMO publisher, and that company will quickly rise to dominance over the more fractured USA MMO publisher market
  7. Advertiser-sponsored Virtual Worlds will be huge in number and variety
  8. A small percentage of advertiser-sponsored VWs will succeed – but will dominate the mainstream MMO market, since for them “profit is optional”
  9. Traditional game developers will be blindsided by the advertiser-sponsored MMOs
  10. Most PC MMOs (IIRC “90% or more”) will become F2P
  11. Console development-studios will become dominant in the MMO market since they are best at “polish” and very high quality user-experiences
  12. …and one more I’ve forgotten (!). Actually, some of the above I suspect I’ve misinterpreted – have to wait for the slides to be posted to check…

I’ve never before engaged in these kinds of generic future predictions, because I have so little confidence in either my own ability to describe them, or in my ability to understand other people’s ones in a useful fashion. I joined this session because the opportunity to argue them against other people was a lot more interesting. As stated above, I think our conversations on the panel were a lot more valuable than the actual predictions themselves.

Of course, when it comes to more narrow, specific predictions, well … if I really knew the answers there, I wouldn’t be telling you, I’d be making billions out of knowing :). And anyway, at that point you’re effectively asking me what the precise strategy is of my current employer (whoever that may be), which I’m generally not going to be able to reveal :).

FYI the speakers on the panel:

  1. David Edery, previously Worldwide Games Portfolio Manager for XBLA
  2. Charlie Stross, author of Halting State, Accelerando, etc
  3. Tarrney Williams, previously General Manager of Relic Entertainment
  4. + me, of course
games industry iphone

Free stats on iPhone developers: who are they?

I’ve been looking around the web and it seems no-one has any good, FREE stats on who the different iPhone developers are, and what they’re doing.

So … I’ve made a 40-question survey (its all yes/no or multiple-choice-answer questions, hopefully it shouldnt take too long to fill out – sorry), and I’ll send the results to everyone who fills out the survey :) (remember to fill in a valid email address if you want a copy!). The idea is to get some aggregate stats on the different developers, how big they are, what they’re doing, etc:

I’m hoping to get at least a few hundred people to fill this out, so we can get some meaningful information (without having to pay market research firms to get it). As well as sending the detailed stats to anyone who replies, I’ll post the main highlights publically, so anyone can see them.

I’ll be posting it in a couple of forums and sites, and hopefully I’ll get a wide range of responses. Feel free to share the link with any other iPhone developers you know!

entrepreneurship games design games industry iphone networking social networking web 2.0

Will iPhone save the (free) Internet?

Wifi and internet at all is a priviledge – but Free Wifi is something that in our modern society, and the society we’re set to become, needs to be treated as a right. When I started writing this, I was looking at the benefits we have yet to see (ubiquitous free wifi); in the week I’ve been offline with jetlag, the preceding benefits we already have that would make them possible – flat rate internet – are being ripped away from us, and . Both are understandable, but … yikes.

Casual, assumed, free internet access is now ubiquitous (even if the access itself isn’t as operationally ubiquitous as services assume). I can’t even access half my music collection any more unless I’ve got a wireless high-bandwidth connection available (Spotify). The other half lives on my MP3 player (iPhone) – but is static, unmeasured, unconnected, and unshareable.

This is a problem. Right now, sitting in San Francisco, the city of a thousand broken, crashing, low-bandwidth, pay-per-minute (min charge 24 hours) wifi connections, next door to Silicon Valley, a world center of innovation that only exists because the right infrastructure here and the wrong mistakes elsewhere allowed it to form, it’s particularly on my mind. SF is a great example of what will push the next Silicon Valley to happen elsewhere. A lot of people ought to be worried by that – and doing a little more about it.

In Brighton, my current (temporary) home city, the first repeated free wifi hotspots were set up – as I understand it – effectively as an act of charitable benevolence by “a couple of guys” ( Russell). They weren’t even rich, or old – just some kids doing something cool, and useful. Anyone could do this. Too few actually do. I’ve heard it suggested again and again (where are the mesh networks that were supposed to be ubiquitous 4 years ago?) by people in the UK – especially in and around Cambridge, in tech the UK’s closest replica of Silicon Valley – but always with excuses about why they aren’t doing it yet, aren’t able to until someone else does something else to make it easier for them. That’s crap. Just do it. Do it this weekend; what better are you doing right now?

Will Apple single-handedly save Wifi? Maybe. It could be the biggest gift of iPhone: that it finally turns the rest of the world on to building bigger, better, and above all FREE, wifi networks. Everywhere. Ironic, considering that’s exactly what will kill the fundamental device that drives the iPhone: the “cell” phone. Does anybody else remember that before we had cell phones we had hotspot phones, back when cells weren’t good enough, and were so expensive to use? So we go full circle, but this time with an ecosystem and a tech interconnection system (API’s, protocols, layers) big enough to support the worldwide rollout of such hotspots (well, and that’s what mesh was supposed to be about, right?)

But why would this happen? It doesn’t make sense … does it?

Skype is a great example. Sadly, it’s also overloaded with additional meaning that clouds the issue – because Skype is an internet app (good) that is mostly about phone calls (bad / confusing the issue).

Skype is now available on iPhone, and it’s a great, highly polished, iPhone App. It *works* (as well as anything can on iPhone – with the current version of iPhone Apple does not allow *anyone* to have their app listen for incoming connections and auto-start, so you can only “receive” Skype calls on your iPhone if you are not using any other app and instead are currently inside the Skype App.

But … the voice part only works over Wifi. This is the concession it took for Skype to be “allowed” on iPhone (NB: Apple allegedly forced the network operators to give away free / flat rate data in return for being “allowed” to sell network-locked iPhones; if Apple had also allowed Skype-on-3G/EDGE/cell network, then they would have caused people to stop paying call charges en masse. Although this is the natural future of cell phones, and everyone knows this, the network operators would probably assassinate Steve Jobs if he tried that today).

So, Skype is – effectively – a “wifi-only” application.

20 million devices cannot be ignored

But wait … there’s more. The iPhone platform has an installed userbase of almost 40 million handsets as of first quarter 2009 (yes, that’s only 20% less than the entire global sales PS3 and 360 combined; the iphone is already one of the top games consoles in the world; Sony (Computer Entertainment) is doomed, and Nintendo’s cash days are numbered, even though they’ll make loads of cash for the next 3 years – the DSi was defunct due to iPhone *before it launched*, so after those few years, the cashflow will drop off / vanish).

But … around half of those are not iPhones, but iPod Touch’s. This is very important to understand: the two devices are compile time identical, and *almost* feature identical. They are more similar than almost any pair of cell phones in the world, even ones from the same manufacturer. And by default all iPhone developers are writing code that runs seamlessly on the iPod Touch – it doesn’t (usually) “break” on iPod Touch if it uses an unsupported iPhone-only feature … rather, that part of the app silently is ignored.

So … nearly all those iPhone developers are actually also iPod Touch developers. Many of them deliberately steer clear of using iPhone-only features. Some of them (myself included) write their apps to cleverly detect whether they’re on an iPod Touch, and work around the limitations (it’s not hard – e.g. if I can’t upload scores to the game server because I’m on a Touch that isnt in wifi range, I save it and upload it next time the phone is online. As a bonus, this makes my games work “better” on iPhone when the iPhone has to go offline, e.g. when it goes on an airplane).

NOT “iphone App”, but “Wifi App”

Back to the point… There aren’t many Wifi-only Apps out there on iPhone … yet.

But there will be. More and more of them. And this summer, when Apple brings out the 3.0 update for iPhone, making ad-hoc discovery much easier (i.e. my phone will be able to auto-detect / find your iphone when they’re in the same room), wifi-local Apps will blossom.

A simple example: real-time fast-action games.

e.g. a Racing Game, that works like this:

  1. I persuade you to download the free version
  2. We each click on the icon on our own phones
  3. The phones magically discover each other, without either of us doing anything, within a couple of seconds
  4. We start playing a high-speed racing game – e.g. Need for Speed, or Midnight Club – over the local wifi network
  5. The net code works beautifully, there’s no lag, everything updates very fast and smoothly
  6. When we finish, the free version you downloaded pops up to say “you played with your friend because he/she had the paid version. If you want to play with different friends, one of you will need to buy the paid version. Click here to buy (one click, instant download)”.

All that is possible, and relatively easy, come summer 2009. You *can* attempt to do it over a 3G network, but it’s hard. But as a wifi-only app it becomes easy. Guess what’s going to happen?

The future of local free wifi

I predicted around 30-40 million iPhone* devices sold by now, and Apple’s 37 million official figure made me look clever (although admittedly it was only a 6 months extrapolation and a 33% error margin I quoted there ;)). I predicted around 75-100 million sold by the same time 2010, and I’ve noticed a lot of other people have come up with the 100 million estimate for 2009 since the official 37 million figure came out.

So, although I think it’s optimistic to expect 100m by the end of the year, I’m confident it’s going to be close. 100m wifi enabled game consoles sitting in cafes, restaurants, bookshops, trains, buses, hotel lobbies, city squares, pubs, etc.

Oh, and don’t forget – that iPod Touch, with no “network contract” to pay for, is a perfect gift for kids. Plenty of people have lined up to tell me that kids can’t afford them; the market research that consistently shows under 18’s as the second largest demographic for iphone* ownership suggest that’s an ill-informed opinion. So there’ll be a lot of those devices sitting in the hands of bored children / used to keep them occupied while parents are doing other things. And we all know how strong a child’s “pestering power” can be.

Monetize local wifi? Screw that; who can be bothered to monetize it when it becomes as essential a driver of custom to your store as having coke/pepsi/coffee on the menu (even though you’re actually, e.g. a bookstore…). Re-think how that affects the “monetization potential” of local wifi (hint: look to the already vast field of *indirectly monetized* Freemium / F2P for inspiration)

So, I’m optimistic. And rather than focus on how “iPhone is going to destroy the cell phone / network operator hegemony, and bring around fair pricing for consumers”, I’m focussing on how it’s going to usher in the long-envisaged era of high-bandwidth, low-latency, high quality console games and apps that focus on the local area. I’m happy with that: I’ve spent almost a decade learning how to make online games for millions of players where the core experience takes place in the local group, so I feel extremely qualified to do well out of this. What about you? What will you be doing with it?