My Development Shelf

I am sure I am not the only developer with a bunch of ideas, partially developed apps, or proof of concepts “on the shelf”.  For some reason I seem to have quite a few.

  • I recently played around with a few concepts that I could not roll into a game I wanted to develop.  One was a card game, another was some LiquidFun functions.  They are now on the shelf for a later day.
  • I have a game a started 4 or 5 times over the past 3 years.  I think I have the basic idea worked out, but I am still trying to figure out the finer points.  So, it’s been on the shelf for over a year without looking at it.  I really want to finish this one.
  • My recent project, the rewrite of Space Mission Survival, was recently put on the shelf.  I liked where I was in the development process, but decided a rewrite wasn’t going to be enough to get anyone to play the game on the PC or consoles.  It’s been on the shelf for about 2 weeks, but I recently dusted it off and it’s back as my project Du Jour.
Space Mission Survival Off The Shelf

My latest thought is that the rewrite of Space Mission Survival for consoles and PC will be a more high-intense, fast action game with power-ups, multiple enemy types, and multiplayer action.  This is a bit different than my original thought of developing a straight port, but I think its the way to go.  I still love the game play of the current Space Mission Survival, so I think I am going to add this “classic” mode to the new version.  Two… two… two games in one!

Since taking this project off the shelf, I yet again decided to start over (as I always seem to d0), but kept as much code as I could.  Lots of code was reused, but there were instances where new stuff I learned greatly improved ways to do things, thereby reducing code.  InvokeRepeating is awesome, and taking advantage of Mechanim for simple animations is another time saver.  Going to add some particle effects too!

We’ll See

I was planning on using CoronaSDK to develop a bunch of smaller mobile games this year.  I did release one game in January.  The Unity development of Space Mission Survival may impact the development of some Corona projects, but we’ll see.

One of the reasons why some of my apps go back on the shelf is that I am easily discouraged (due to limited feedback) and quick to change gears (finding something new, exciting, and challenging).  Right now I am into developing Space Mission Survival, but we’ll see.

Maybe I’ll pull one of the other things I mentioned off the shelf as well… we’ll see.

Announcing Space Mission: Survival

I have never released an announcement, video, or screen shot of any of my apps prior to release, but I am going to give it a try now.  I’m actually a bit nervous.

So without any further delay, here is a brief video of my upcoming game, Space Mission: Survival.

Space Mission: Survival is a retro space-themed arcade shooter.  In the game, you have 10 seconds of fuel per level to destroy the alien ships and save your astronauts.  The game is over when either all your ships are destroyed or all the astronauts are lost.

Game features:

  • Retro gameplay… you actually try to score points to get a high score!
  • Retro sounds
  • Arcade-like attract modes
  • Support for different languages
  • Achievements and Leaderboard support
  • Facebook and Twitter bragging

This game will be available soon… please check back for status updates.  Like us on Facebook or Twitter for status updates as well.

The History of Spell Them Out

Here’s a little story on how it took me almost 3 years to release my first game.

I wanted to write a game for years… YEARS!  Perhaps since the 1970s.  I tried a few times over the years and finally decided to dedicate myself to write the game I’ve had in my head for a while.  That game, Spell Them Out, was released in 2012 for various tablets and smartphones, but it took a couple of restarts to finally get it out.

Attempt 1 – Diamond Mine XNA

[photo title = ‘Diamond Mine – XNA Version’ align = ‘right’ size = ‘medium’][/photo]

Back in 2010 I decided to develop a game for Windows using Microsoft XNA Game Studio.  Using C# and the XNA library, I wrote Diamond Mine.  It took about a year to learn XNA and develop a working game.

I never released it.

I thought it was a pretty good game, but there wasn’t enough polish to expect someone to pay for it and play it.  I guess I am my own worst critic, so I kept the game unreleased.  At least I had some experience developing a game under my belt, so the year wasn’t a total waste.  I thought about going back and working on it a bit more, but then I shifted gears to mobile app development.

Second Attempt – Diamond Mine Java

[photo title = ‘Diamond Mine – Android’ align = ‘left’ size = ‘small’][/photo]

I thought that Diamond Mine would make a pretty good mobile app, so I ditched XNA, installed Eclipse, Java, and the Android APIs and went to work on an Android version in late 2011.  I spent about 6 months working on it and I had something running, but I thought there had to be an easier way.  I wanted this game out on iOS devices as well, so the thought of rewriting/porting this in Objective-C after months of Java development was not something I was looking forward to.

Third Time’s the Charm

[photo title = ‘Spell Them Out’ align = ‘right’ size = ‘small’][/photo]

[photo title = ‘Alpha-beta Asteroids’ align = ‘left’ size = ‘small’][/photo]

After a bit of web research, I found Corona SDK, which allows cross-mobile development using Lua.  A bit reluctant to learn a new language, I decided to try it, and I am glad I did.  I started fresh, renamed Diamond Mine to Spell Them Out, and published to the app stores in 3 months!

Shortly After Spell Them Out was published, I started working on a few other game concepts, but in the back of my mind, I knew I could improve the app, so I decided to write a sequel.  Alpha-beta Asteroids was released about 6 months later with improved graphics and game play, as well as an improvement in my Lua coding skills.

Back In The Day – Inflation Calculator


Back In The Day is a quick little app I put together to solve a problem I found interesting.  I am currently reading a book that stated $300,000 was used in 1923 to build a large structure on a site.  Sounds like a lot, but I wondered what $300,000 is worth today?  Knowing that, I could understanding the scope of the project.  After a bit of research, I put together an app that will allow you to see what the value of money is between two years that you select.

Since this is a utility and not a game, I also decided to make it a little more fun by adding the old codger on the About screen.  Tap on the old man icon and see some words of wisdom.

An Experiment

When I published this app, I decided to support it in the following manner:

  • The app is free to use.
  • Any bugs I find, I will fix.
  • Enhancements will be added, provided there is support of this app from the user community.  If you like the app and wish to support it, please click on an ad, visit my web site or blog site, check out my Facebook or Twitter page, download one of my games, or rate the app on the app store.  Believe me, this goes a long way!  I appreciate hearing from people using my apps and it motivates me in making them better.

That’s all there is to it.  I will continue to enhance this app as long as there is an interest in using it.  Adding features takes time away from my other projects, and while I do not mind updating this app, there has to be a request to justify additional features.  Send me an email or a Tweet!


I hope you find this app useful, and I look forward to hearing from you.  Thanks for taking the time to read this post and for checking out Back In The Day!  I also plan on writing a more technical article on the development of Back In The Day for those who are interested.

Oh, and $300,000 in 1923 is over $4,000,000 today!

Old File Formats

Recently, I was looking through some cabinets and drawers which contained a lot of old computer equipment, and I found what is basically my entire 35 years of development work.  With the exception of one program I wrote back in 1981, I have source code of every program I have written.  Text dumps of mainframe code, 5.25 and 3.5 floppy disks for various computer systems popular at the time, CDs, DVDs… all there for me to look at, get nostalgic over, and realize I’ve been around the programming game for awhile.


Why would I keep all of these source files and print-outs?  I’m not really sure, other than I guess it is my body of work, and I need to save it.

So now I have the task of moving all of these files to a single, modern source, and that format is DVD.  Some are easier to move than others.

Anything current (of course) can easily be moved, since that was already on DVD or CD.  This includes my mobile app development, as well as anything in the past 10 or so years.

I was also lucky enough to copy a bunch of diskettes from my days as a “real job” programmer.  I had source files on 3.5 diskettes and moved them to CD years ago, and now I moved the CD files to DVD.

A few items remain, and I am trying to get these files to my PC so I can burn them on a CD or DVD. In my collection of code that I need to copy:

  • My 3.5 diskettes that I recently found.  My current computer no longer has a floppy drive, so I guess I can buy a USB 3.5 drive for about $20 and copy them over.
  • My 5.25 PC diskettes.  I cannot seem to find a USB 5.25 drive, so I am unsure how to copy these files over.  I guess I would need to find a PC that has a 5.25″ drive, as well as either a CD burner or USB port.  No easy task.
  • 5.25 Atari 8-bit diskettes. I do have an Atari 800 here, and I can read the files on the Atari, but I want them moved to my PC.  I’m not even sure if these things will be readable… they are close to 30 years old.  How do I move these source files?  Modem?  USB?  Print, then OCR?  Either way, I need some more hardware.
  • 3.5 Atari ST diskettes.  Same issue… I have an Atari ST, but need to get them over to my PC.

As I mentioned earlier, the only code I no longer have was an early attempt to write a game for the Atari Program Exchange (APX) back in the early 1980s.  That was stored on cassette tape and I am sure I no longer have it.  Looking back now, it was awful, so it is no surprise it was rejected, but I still wish I had the source, as well as the rejection letter.

I would be interested in any ideas to move the older diskettes to my PC… I would love to see some of the code I wrote way back when.

Looking Back on 2013

At this time of year, it seems like everyone is compiling a 2013 retrospective list.  Why not?  So… here’s mine.

There are my personal experiences, and I will be brief on each one.  If there is interest, or if I feel compelled to expand on these thoughts, I can dedicate an entire post to a specific topic.

Alpha-beta Asteroids released

Since the release of my first game, Spell Them Out, I wanted to create a sequel.  I started toying around with ideas late in 2012, but really didn’t start putting Alpha-beta Asteroids together until early January 2013.  On and off, it took about 7 months from development to release.

I probably could of put this together quicker, but there were several factors that delayed the development of this game.  First, I was already working on another game and decided to shelve it for a while.  Putting together the working parts to the game, I still needed a theme.  Lots of trial and error and changes in ideas, and I finally hit on the space theme.  The game play came together once I had the theme, and I feel the results are positive (to me).

Corona SDK keeps getting better

I use Corona SDK as my cross-platform development tool.  The end of this year will mark my second full year using Corona.  Over the past year, there has been so many improvements that make development easier and more fun… Graphics 2.0 being the biggest change this year.  If you are interested in all the improvements, or if you want to read up on Corona, check out this blog post by the Corona team.

Current Developments

I wanted to get 2 games out this year, and it seems I fell short on that goal.

I started my first unreleased game back in July of 2012.  I was sure I would get this released this year, but it’s back on the back-burner for now.  I actually started that one over 5 times, saving what I could from the previous attempts, due to learning new and improved ways of doing things.  I started using physics for collisions, then decided not to use physics to detect collisions.  I started using time-based animation (via Corona transitions), then decided to move to frame-based animation (via “enterFrame” runtime listener).  Each time, performance improved, which is great, but I really want to get this game out.

The second unreleased game is one that I am currently working on.  This one was started in late October, and the game play is pretty well established.  I consider this one a sort of retro-space-shooter, and I am enjoying the development process on this game (most of the time!).  There’s a long way to go, but I hope to release this early next year and then get back to my older game to get that one out as well.


Some successes, some failures, some minor delays, but still moving forward!  Let’s hope for a great 2014!

First Blog Entry!

After about a year of owning a very crappy looking web and blog site, I finally decided to get in gear and clean up a bit.  I am currently in the process of working on the site, but it is already a great improvement.  I hope to get this site up and running very soon.