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Stories Behind the Apps

Stories Behind the Apps – QuickWord

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Tell us about QuickWord and how your app different from similar games? QuickWord is a word game that is available on the iOS App Store for the iPhone, iPad and iPod. As a concept I came up with the idea many years ago with inspiration from the board game 'Scrabble' and TV programme 'CountDown'.  It involves the user selecting 9 letters (with different values assigned to each letter) then trying to make up the highest scoring word they can within a 40 second time limit.  There are 10 rounds in each game, some rounds have letter or word multipliers to make it more interesting, keeping players thinking and allowing them to make some big word scores.  There is a single player mode where you can attempt to beat your own high scores, a versus computer mode where you can challenge the computer (with 7 different difficulty levels) and a 2 Player Pass-and-Play mode so you can play against a friend.

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QuickWord is different from many games in that we don't ask the user to log in and connect to the internet. The reason behind this is that when I developed the app I was commuting by train to Glasgow on a daily basis to do my full time job.  To relieve boredom on the train I would play games on my phone.  However, as the train went underground my phone signal would always be lost.  Most of the games I had on my phone were unplayable without an internet connection which became frustrating.  QuickWord is a game that you can play anytime and anywhere no matter whether you have a phone signal or not.  I also hate that some games only allow you to play them a few times before having to wait a while (or pay) so in QuickWord we allow people to play whenever they want with no restrictions whatsoever.

iTunesArtwork@2xWhat went into the design and UI? The app icon and user interface buttons were designed using Art Text 2 Lite (a free Mac graphics design app).  I chose a blue background for the App Icon to match the blue background within the game, adding a gradient to make it stand out more on the App Store.  The graphics on the icon are representations of the letter tiles in the game, with 'Q' and 'W' on them as an abbreviation of the game name.  The User Interface was initially designed for the user to tap the letters to select or deselect them.  However, I later changed this to the drag and drop option as it is more intuitive for users.

What tools or resources did you use in building the app? QuickWord was built using the standard Apple development software (XCode).  The 'Stack Overflow' website/community and Ray Wenderlich’s tutorials were a great help as I was completely new to XCode/iOS development.  Whenever I got stuck I found that on most occasions someone had previously had the same problem so there was a similar question on Stack Overflow.  Without this help QuickWord would possibly not have existed or certainly have taken a lot longer to develop.  In terms of learning the basics and how to implement some features, Ray Wenderlich's tutorials were invaluable.

What lessons did you learn creating the game?  It's important to try to do things for yourself before asking for help.  The people on Stack Overflow are generally very helpful, especially if you have tried your best to find a solution and are genuinely stuck.  Also, when you find example code of what you are trying to do on the internet it is important to fully understand the code before using it or you can inherit faults, such as memory issues.

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What went right and wrong with the release? Development generally went pretty well.  It took six months in total to design and develop part-time (not too bad considering I was new to iOS development).  I got stuck now and again but with resources like Stack Overflow I was able to overcome these problems relatively quickly.  One major issue I did have was something I only fully understood when I began developing my second game, 'Name the Animal'.  The problem was around the memory usage.  As users played the game over and over I wasn't clearing up all the memory properly so it ended up with the game slowing down and eventually crashing.  This could have been prevented by learning more about XCode and the memory debugging tools prior to releasing the app.  The release went well in terms of initial downloads and I regularly update it which helps to get it noticed on the App Store.  Perhaps some more effort could have been put into marketing before release to build up a fan base rather than relying on people finding it through the App Store.  Marketing was really left until the last minute and as an independent developer with limited funding it is difficult to get your app noticed in what is a very competitive market place.  Also, some of the players hated the initial 'Vs Computer' game mode. They didn't like that the computer used some obscure words.  This was fixed in a later release by limiting the computer 'vocabulary' to more common words making it more like a human opponent.

We have had a lot of ideas during the development and it is certainly difficult at times to decide out of all the features we want to put in, which ones has to be in the first version and which ones can wait.

Who is on the team and what are your roles?  Ultima Testing is a one man team at the moment. I do everything including the Design, Development, Testing, Releases and Marketing.  My background is development/testing so it is quite a challenge taking on all of the other responsibilities.

IMG_0174What were you doing prior to creating QuickWordwas (and still am) a full time software tester. I do contract work for various clients.  I would like to be able to fully concentrate my efforts on game development, however, my contract work takes priority at the moment as it pays the bills.  I only get the opportunity to work on apps during contract breaks or evenings and weekends.  Though when I started designing/developing QuickWord I was working for a client on a contract where I wasn't particularly busy, and quite bored, so a lot of the research/design was done in their time (during the day) and I'd develop in the evening and at weekends.

What other apps inspire you? I don't think there are any apps that I can't live without, I tend to spend more time playing the PS4 than using apps.  'Flappy Bird' inspires me in that it is such a simple game to develop yet was insanely successful.  'Strung Along' is one of my favourite apps at the moment.  This app inspires me as it was developed by a very small team.  It is really innovative and a great little app developed in Unity3D.  I am considering using Unity3D for future developments and it shows you that it is possible to create great little games with limited resources and budget.

Head over to iTunes to download QuickWord!

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