King Oddball 1.1.0 update and the Diamond Competition

King Oddball, released in September, has been received really nicely. The App Store rating is 4.7! We updated the game last week, adding the ability to replay levels and tweaked a bunch of levels to make the difficulty curve more coherent.

The real story with the update is the Diamond Competition we held. For once we wanted to arrange a competition which was all about skill and skill only. We decided to award a real diamond to the first player to beat the Hall of Diamonds, which is a new and overly challenging game mode we added.

To emphasize the level of challenge, let’s just say the competition expiry date of July 1st, 2013, seemed appropriate. None of us at 10tons has cleared Hall of Diamonds. We verified it’s theoretically doable by using our relentless autoplayer, which plays the game really bad, but at hyperspeed.

We announced the competition on December 12th. We couldn’t have been more surprised when we found a valid winning entry in our email inbox the next morning. But there it was, a perfectly legit screenshot of the completed Hall of Diamonds, with an authentic watermark.

We knew gamers always take developers by surprise with things like this. Gamers are always way more skilled and persistent as developers can imagine. So when creating the competition, we stretched our imaginations. Not enough though!

With permission, here’s a few quotes from the winner, who goes by the Game Center nickname Snooptalian.

”I really thought I was gonna be way behind in finishing the diamond levels. Figured somebody else would have done it first, but went for it anyway.”

”I played the new levels on an off for probably 6 hours, restarting overall probably in the neighborhood of 500-600 times. Was able to get a lot of levels in one go, but some of the later ones had me close to giving up.”

”Some of those levels were down right evil, but I would get on a roll and just kept at it. Next thing I knew I had completed them all and it was 2:00 in the morning.”

”Only side effect is now I got the in game music soundly stuck in my head.”

”Awesome game, and a very cool contest. You can’t beat winning a real diamond for collecting virtual diamonds in a game.”

We’re sure Snooptalian will appreciate the oddness of the situation (which is very much what we we’re going for): Having a loose diamond and needing to figure out what to do with it.

This is the one, by the way:

And since everyone’s dying to get the game after such a heartwarming story, here it is:

Boom Brigade 2 submitted

For the past few weeks, 10tons’ office has been a whirlwind of activity. We’ve launched Puzkend for iOS and the Android version of Azkend 2: The World Beneath, and prepared the move to a larger office space.

Yet the excitement and anticipation has only increased, ever so steadily, as the main event of 10tons’ summer of 2012 has inched closer: The launch of Boom Brigade 2.

You may or may not be familiar with the original Boom Brigade. A short summary: Boom Brigade is a mash-up of line drawing and tower defense. Some players felt real-time strategy and top down shooter vibes, which is just as well. It’s as exciting a formula as it sounds.

Launched back in 2009, Boom Brigade broke into the Top 10 of the US iTunes App Store and did very well overall.

Developing a sequel to a hit game is always a bit nerve-wracking, especially when the environment and market have changed as drastically as the iOS/App Store scene has in the past three years. We take some comfort in that we sort of did this already this year; Azkend 2 is in many ways a traditional sequel to a hit. It’s bigger, more beatiful, more of everything, yet keeping the best loved features of the original. Azkend 2 has been received well by media and fans, so the principle seems as sound as ever.

And so, this is the story of Boom Brigade 2 so far. The gameplay basics are the same and there’s a bunch of familiar content (troopers, weapons, aliens). Then we added a full 30 mission single player campaign, Sniper trooper, weapons and aliens. Then we tweaked a lot of stuff. Test feedback has been positive, and the game feels great on an iPad (the iPad didn’t exist in 2009!)

We just submitted Boom Brigade 2 to Apple, and our hands are tingling. It won’t be long now, less than a month.

We’ll try to tell a bit more about the game and its development in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, take a look at a brand new gameplay video here.

Posted in iOS

Upsides and Downsides of Retinafication

Let’s be honest. I can’t wait to get my hands on the new iPad. The new “Retina Display” looks amazing — as everyone seems to agree. But besides the great visual quality, what does this mean for consumers and developers?

The 2048×1536 resolution is huge. Insanely huge. 4x more pixels. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad Apple is pushing the boundaries, but it does come with a price — and no, not talking about the $499.

Consider this. You’ve got an iPad app with 30MB worth of graphics. Nothing unusual in a game app. Making everything Retina Compatible would in theory increase the size by 4*30MB = 120 MB. That more than doubles the download size! Sure, you can do all sorts of tricks to bring the size down a bit. You can reduce the jpeg quality. You can scale dimensions to 1.5x instead of full 2x and hope nobody will notice. Furthermore, not all images take exactly 4x more space: png images with hand-painted scenes seem to increase only about 3x. But making high quality Universal apps which support all four iOS resolutions (480×320/1024×768, non/retina) will make the app bundles massively large compared to last week.

It’ll be interesting to see if Apple addresses the issue in any way. Or if it’s that big an issue in the first place. They could enable downloading parts of the app on request, but I’m not sure the added complexity is worth it. This is what Google is doing on Android Market Google Play: the maximum app size is ridiculously low 50MB, but you can download extra packages later.

While the extra pixels come with extra download cost, they also require extra work for developers carefully crafting them. Surprisingly, simply scaling up the images in Photoshop doesn’t add in more detail.

iPhone vs. iPad Retina

We’ve been prepared for this for some time now, so updating the latest apps for higher res wasn’t that much work in our case. We’ve already updated 5 of our games to support the new resolution. The lucky games are Ironworm, Swingworm, Joining Hands, Belowscape, and the upcoming Azkend 2 HD. And they do look great. Just take a look at the comparison shot between the original iPhone resolution vs. the new iPad to see the difference in Ironworm. Admittedly you wouldn’t normally compare these two together, but nevertheless the leap in content resolution developers need to produce now vs. then is definitely significant.

There are some additional problems developing for the new iPad. We’re doing most of our development on Windows PCs. We support multiple platforms, even minor ones including webOS, bada, and Symbian^3. We’ve built our development tools so that we can make our apps resolution independent almost automatically. We’ve got our own simulator which we use to test the apps. However, the problem with simulating the new iPad is that we haven’t got an external display with large enough resolution to fit the 2048×1536 pixels on screen. Even the best Apple Cinema Display doesn’t have enough resolution to fit it in!

The otherwise excellent iOS Simulator is not really useful with 2048×1536 sized games. Instead of FPS, we’re measuring SPF. The performance is nowhere near usable. I’m glad the sim exists as otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do anything before the launch, but if a new iMac can’t push that many (simulated) pixels, is it safe to assume the new iPad will be able to handle it? We submit into the unknown.

Now of course, all those problems are mostly minor nuisances that will go away with time. The next iPad after this (the new new iPad?) will most likely have even more horse power much like iPhone 4S had over iPhone 4. The display makers will start selling wallet-friendly high resolution displays. We will all have unlimited amount of lightning-fast bandwidth. And flying cars.

Can’t wait to play our games on the new iPad.

iPad Retina Display Becomes Official

Azkend 2 on iPad 3

Azkend 2 on iPad 3

It seems the rumoured display is official so here’s another screenshot of Azkend 2 running at 2048×1536 on PC. We hope we’ll be able to support the new resolution as soon as possible! Hopefully the A5X packs enough horsepower :) If not, we might have to opt for a drawing resolution somewhere between the 1024×768 and 2048×1536 and upscale it from there. But we’ll see soon, it seems the devices will be available here in Finland on March 23rd.

Check out also the first and the second post for more screenshots.

Azkend 2 High Resolution Musings

Azkend 2 at 2048x1536

Azkend 2 at 2048x1536

Tomorrow we’re going to know if the rumoured “retina display” on the “iPad 3” is a real thing or just a rumour. Be it as it may, we’re prepared to take advantage of the extra pixels now or later. As developers of fancy looking 2D games, we hope that there’s sufficient horsepower behind those pixels in the form of raw fill rate. This simply enables us to push more stuff on top of other stuff on the screen :) You can see the main menu of Azkend 2 running at 2048×1536 in the image.

Posted in iOS

Possible “iPad 3” Retina Display Support Plans

10tons Ltd  will support the possible retina resolution in the theoretical “iPad 3” in several games. The games include Azkend 2, Joining Hands, Ironworm, and Swingworm.

“We have plans to support the possible “retina resolution” if the performance and memory resources permit. If not, we’ll probably use a resolution as high as we can within the performance and memory constraints”, commented Tero Alatalo of 10tons.

Ironworm at 2048x1536

10tons’ recent games include a total resolution independency and therefore supporting higher resolutions with those games will be relatively easy. These games include Joining Hands, Swingworm, Ironworm, and the upcoming Azkend 2. The possible updates will be free of charge. 10tons has already experimented running Ironworm in the 2048×1536 resolution and it looks like the potential updates should be quite painless.

“I have to admit that I’m quite excited about the possibility of a extra high resolution update for Azkend 2. The full screen animated and hand painted sceneries look totally amazing already on the iPad. With four times more pixels they must look so good that you’d want to eat them. The only downside is that the upgraded graphics will make the downloads bigger.”, said Sampo Töyssy of 10tons.