Open source devices for the disabled

In one of my mobile games I had used music from Eric Skiff, and I heard he is starting a new company which makes open source devices for the disabled. So I thought I would give a link for everyone to check out if you are interested.

Here is the video which talks about their aims. Pretty cool stuff!

They have a Kickstarter campaign as well in case you are interested in helping out.


Japanese podcast about games: “Game chomp chomp”(ゲームモゴモゴ)

Recently I discovered an awesome podcast that discusses a variety of games, and one of the hosts actually works the business of developing them.

While you’ll need to know at least some Japanese to appreciate this, if you do it’s a great way to study up on Japanese as well as the art of game making.

You can more details about this podcast in my post here (on my blog about Japanese study).

Update: Failed prototype and competing hobbies

I haven’t posed to this blog in a while so I thought I would give a quick update.

The prototype I was working on for several weeks (traffic-related mobile game) didn’t turn out to be as fun as I’d expected. I still have this idea in my head about how cool and interesting it would be, but having trouble translating that into actual gameplay. If the game isn’t fun to me, then it likely won’t be fun to anyone else, so I’ve shelved that project for now. At some point I should probably think about what elements were good about it and what weren’t, and make a write up about it.

The other reason I had taken a break from the prototype-work was that I had went on a trip to Japan, and since I came back I’d spent much time writing up all my experiences and thoughts about that trip. You can see them here in case you are interested.

I actually have a new project that is bouncing around in my head, similar to a previous one in that it involves a card game. But I’ll save that for another post.

A great tool for late-night working developers (or anyone else)

Rather that talking about something directly related to mobile software development, in today’s post I’d like to discuss a useful tool I’ve been using that happens to help me with my hobby development.

For several years now, research has known that short wavelength, or “blue” light can suppress melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s sleep and wake cycles. This means using a typical blue-light emitting monitor or other screen before bedtime can cause problems with sleep, and even potentially increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other medical problems.

Staring at a computer screen right up until sleep is pretty common for those of us trying to find time for hobby development or gaming in a tight daily schedule. I’m one of these people, but have ignored the rule that says you should avoid using a screen for an hour or two before going to bed.

Recently when researching computer glasses (which are supposed to reduce eye strain among other things), I stumbled across a little free program called f.lux which plays a neat trick – it changes the color on your monitor to reduce the blue light component before bed, thereby reducing the negative effects of melatonin suppression. It does this in a rather intelligent way, by asking you to describe what time you go to sleep, and combining that information with your time zone to gradually dim the blue component before bedtime. It supports Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and even iPad/iPhone, though I’ve only used it on Mac OS X.

I haven’t done a scientific study on this and cannot rule out the placebo effect, but since I’ve started using this program a few weeks ago I feel my quality of sleep has gradually gotten better. Since the color change to orange (which is what happens when you remove blue) is so gradual, you may not even notice it.

The only main drawback to this tool is if you are doing anything art or graphics-related, certain colors can’t be seen properly and you may have to temporarily disable f.lux. Also, there is a bug whereby the color filtering goes haywire briefly, causing a white flash. This is pretty annoying, but fortunately only happened for me a few times.

It looks like this tool has been around for a few years (to my surprise I see it was even alluded to in the above article about the harmful effects of blue light before sleep), but for some reason I hadn’t heard about it until just recently. Since it is free with no ads or other catches (as far as I can tell), you might want to check it out.

As a side point, I realized that the place I discovered about f.lux is a good example of intelligent advertising. The program was posted as a response to an article about computer glasses, which you can see here. Posting a link on a forum or as a comment to an article can be interpreted as spam and piss people off if done incorrectly, but in this case the target audience was perfect since people who are interested in computer glasses are likely to also have an interest in f.lux. I don’t know if it was someone associated with the program who did the posting, but either way it’s a good example of smart advertising for software.


Play The Field – Apple Watch version (ok, not quite yet…)

I’ve been excited about Apple Watch for some time now, and today I got my first look at one in person. It was surprisingly light, with great physical design and eye-catching UI. After playing with it for a few minutes, though the interface had some quirks overall, it felt responsive and easy to use.

I’m already thinking about how awesome it would be to create a version of Play The Field for this new device, though it will probably be months before I can get my hands on one of these. An even bigger issue is how to adjust the game to accommodate the smaller screen size and battery requirements, but I have some ideas related to that already.

Personally, I haven’t worn a watch in over a decade and find them annoying. And yet the idea of a completely new platform for gaming, and apps in general, is quite refreshing as well as challenging. Judging from the fact there is already over 3,500 3rd-party apps for the Apple Watch, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Though there have been competing watches, from the little bit I’ve researched on these they don’t seem as good or functional as the Apple Watch. Having said that, there are still many limitations on the version version of the watch, for example apps cannot be created which work stand-alone on the watch. Instead it just acts as a controller, and most of the real processing happens on the iPhone. Fortunately, much of this is due to purposeful limitations on the SDK, which Apple is rumored to (at least partially) lift in the next few months.

At the same time, I’m still open to some of the competitors, such as Pebble, to improve to the point where it is worthwhile to develop on those platforms. While I do enjoy Apple devices, I try to stay away from devotion to any platform, and will always consider other options for any future development.