Pocket God!

6 07 2009

Finally, Apple has approved our last update and we were finally able to submit Flipping the Bird! I think this took another 17 days for Apple to approve the last update. Apple obviously had an huge influx of devs making their apps 3.0 compatible and trying to jockey for a good position on the date sorted lists for the big 3.0 launch. I really think that they are caught up on approvals now, given the fact that they released so many updates last Friday, it seems like they were purposely holding back on releasing updates until they were completely caught up.

I think this latest approval traffic jam is a sign of things to come. Last Christmas, App developers were reporting over 3x the normal amount of sales and apps that managed to slip their updates in right before Christmas Eve managed to get some solid visibility because Apple shut down iTunes connect for the week between Christmas and New Years. This year, I’m sure every developer out there is going to be submitting updates right before Christmas and the resulting traffic jam will make this last one look like a cake walk. If you’re a dev, prepare. You might be seeing 3 week approval times around big holidays.

About this new update, we told ourselves that we didn’t want to overdo it because we are both going on vacations later this week but we kept coming up with ideas and the beta testers were giving us ideas and we ended up putting a ton of functionality into this update. The bird functionality is pretty good, technically, it’s a Dodo even though it flies and my jokey leaderboard entry is called “Choking on Chicken”. This is an 18+ play on words so kids don’t ask and adults don’t tell. The bird flies back and forth and you can make him drop a bird turd by clicking on it, there is a new challenge that counts the number of times you hit a Pygmy with a Turd without missing. You can also cook the bird, (and burn it), the Pygmy can eat the cooked or burnt bird and you can also hit it with lightning. We also built a little more in the underwater area, we have a school of fish, a couple generic shapes floating past (kind of like clouds) and a new WhirlPool effect that is kind of like the Hurricane but only circular instead of a funnel. In the future we will probably add a challenge for spearing Pygmies while they are caught by the whirl pool.

Technically, we are working on CPU optimization. The 3.0 firmware works really horribly on old phones, every now and then it just spikes the cpu and slows everything down. I think this is because of extra background threads that 3.0 uses for things like push alerts. A couple of other games are seeing slow downs so it’s not just us, but we are working hard to do something about it. We made some improvements and changed the way motion is calculated when the frame rate stutters. Unfortunately, we just got through with redoing our animation engine a few updates ago and it might take some time before we find other improvements that will make a big difference. Our engine was never written as a high performance sprite system, when building it, I erred a little more toward flexibility that speed and ideally I would want to rewrite everything from scratch but we just don’t have the time. Not having an update for 17 days shot us down to #14 in the top paid apps list. We don’t want to go for another 2 weeks without an update unless we are forced to by Apple. What I’ll probably end up doing is taking a cleanup pass each update and get rid of code we don’t need and in parallel, start working on highly optimized C++ versions of the primary systems we have in the game.

If any devs have similar issues with 3.0 and have found some ways to make it better outside of just optimizing code, please let me know. One thing that I have found is the cpu issues get worse when you drag your finger on the screen. I even disabled all of our touch code and just sliding your finger causes a drop in frame rate from 50 fps to about 15-20fps. Other info that might be useful to devs. Our render and game logic is in a different thread from the main ui thread so we don’t block out touch events when we go over our frame rate and I did notice that since there is no meaningful processing happening in the main thread, the touch move events get sent at a much higher frame rate than the game. I have no idea of how to slow down the internal touch logic without adding a periodic sleep in the main thread which would be bad.

Coming up this week. We are adding a legitimate mini game, much more than just coconut bounces and hurricane zaps. We were planning on adding friend challenges through Feint but it looks like the Feint part will not be ready until after we want to submit the next update. We will just add it to the update we plan on submitting at the end of this month.

As far as clues to what the next update will be, it will be in the sky.

Oops, forgot to mention that we added Feint Achievements in the Flipping the Bird update, when other people look at your feint profile, they will see whatever you unlock in Pocket God, there are 6 Acheivements and 4 levels for each achievement: Minion, Shaman, Demi-god, and God

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