My First iPhone Game: Outlaw Poker

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This is the story of Outlaw Poker, an iPhone game I just launched that is equal parts Tetris and Poker. It’s a western themed puzzle falling blocks game. The object is to make 5 hand poker hands with the falling cards. The cards can be rotated just like in Tetris-style games so that you can arrange the cards into Poker hands horizontally or vertically. It is available here on the iTunes App store.

I initially had the idea almost a year ago. I wanted to make an iPhone game just to go through the process of making one as well as to have potential for some passive income. For those of you who are not familiar, developers can sell apps in the iTunes App Store and make money. The developer determines the price and whatever you make, Apple keeps 30% for facilitating the transaction and taking care of the distribution, billing, etc. Not a bad deal especially considering there are over 100 million iPhones in the world.

So how did this game come about? I was thinking about games I liked and games people liked in general. If I had to name one game that had mass appeal, it was Tetris, hands down. Another trend that has caught on in the recent years is the popularity of Poker. My thought was to combine the two popular concepts together: a falling cards game where you have to make Poker hands.

There wasn’t anything out there like this and I wanted to play it. People say one way to make a successful product is to scratch your own itch – that is, make something you want and hopefully others will want it too.

Since I wasn’t an iOS developer but designed stuff, I went about looking for a developer who would want to partner with me to develop this game. Initially I had recruited a lead Creative Designer who would lead the charge on the design direction of the game but he was quickly overwhelmed with his own work. I also managed to find an iOS developer who was initially interested but was also too busy to take the project on.

So the project never went anywhere for a good six months. I would design some screens and work out some details every now and then, always keeping an eye out for an iOS developer looking to meet a cofounder and have a game under his/her belt.

One day I went to some developer meetup and met my cofounder Ben Roesch. He was a friend of a friend and worked at Accenture Tech Labs, where I used to work. I was straight up with him. I told him about the concept, showed what screens I had to him and asked if he wanted to work on this app. I basically told him everything. If he decided to decline but run away and take my idea, he had it and I would be screwed. He was game though. Within 2 weeks he had a rough prototype of the game that basically worked but had none of the bells and whistles. It was a very good sign.

Over the next months, we would hash out the missing artwork/screens, tweak the gameplay, find the sound and music. One of the hardest things to come up with was the new company we formed. I love puns and wanted this new game studio to have a witty name. Since it was an game app company, I thought it would be cool to have the word ‘app’ in the name. Unfortunately anything that I came up with like ‘tap that app’ was already taken. I think I finally came up with Appuccino Games because I’m a big coffee drinker and it reflects the fact that coffee helped us make this game. I wanted the logo to reflect the dual nature of the word play (app and cappuccino). Once the name came together though, it was easy to come up with a concept for the logo – an iPhone that looked like a coffee cup.

I wanted to take this moment to thank everyone who had a hand in making it. A big chunk of this goes to Ben who without him, my concept would never have been realized. Thanks Ben. I also owe Matt Jensen a big thanks. He came up with the original art direction. Even though you didn’t have the bandwidth to join us on this, I still want to thank you for all the work you put in. Don, thanks for forming our new company. I look forward to more business with you. I also want to thank all the beta testers who gave us valuable feedback. I won’t remember everyone but here goes: Craig, Ulliott, Sami Rageb, Christian Arca, Joe Dwyer, Christopher Lee, Brad Flora, Ravi Singh, Tal Liron, Nick Aiello, Brandon Leonardo, and more.

I also want to take a moment to thank Steve Jobs. He’s been an inspiration to my career. Without him, this game would not be possible. The platform this game was built on would not have existed. You have enabled me to not only create this game, but to be able to distribute it to the world. Thank you.

Without further ado, our game is here on the App Store. There’s also a free ad-supported version here. The difference is that the free version has ads AND the ad takes up one whole row so you end up with less playing area.

Popularity: 6% [?]

Steve Job: More Than a Man

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Earlier this week, Steve Jobs passed away. I don’t recall the many CEO passings but it was all over the blogosphere and social media on top of being over the regular news channels. Many fans of Apple mourned him including myself. He was many things to many people. To CEOs, he was a visionary leader – able to see trends and industries well before others could. To other business leaders he was an amazing CEO, able to turn around a struggling company. To many he was an inspiration. A baby born out of wedlock, who was adopted, dropped out of college to pursue a dream, built a successful company, got fired from said successful company, start a few more (NeXT and Pixar), and went back to the original company and created wave after wave of hit products. To consumers, he was the guy who they associated with their wonderful Apple products.

What struck me was how many people mourned him. This is a man who runs a company, not a Hollywood celebrity or a rockstar. I doubt many CEOs would have this much impact when their time comes. There are so many products that are much more fundamental to our everyday lives yet we hardly think of them. For example electricity and clean water are essential necessities, but I doubt people care for say Thomas Edison or the CEO of ComEd the way they do Steve Jobs. The other CEO that I can think has this much fame would be Bill Gates who I think mostly people associated with being the richest man in the world at the time. No other person I can think of has been so closely associated with their brand. For example, I know people love their Wii or Xbox, but could they identify the creator? Probably no. People also love their cars and expensive watches, but I also highly doubt those people could identify their makers.

With every product launch Steve Jobs has been at the helm of the presentation giving every keynote until he was no longer able to physically do so. By doing that, he made him and the brand inseparable. When the products and the company became successful because of his absolute focus on quality, design and the whole user experience, he became a pop culture icon. People loved Apple products – Steve’s products, and thus they loved him.

Not only did he represent great products, he symbolized an ideal. His commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 revealed a man who believed in only doing things that mattered because life was short. In his own words, he wanted to make a dent in the universe. He believed in not living someone else’s life. I can’t imagine how this message could not resonate with most people.

Popularity: 3% [?]

Why Google Plus Won’t Kill Facebook

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Just played around with Google Plus, Google’s new “Facebook killer” social network. On the surface it looks almost exactly like Facebook. They have a main stream or feed in the middle. It has navigation on the side like Facebook and even let’s me post different types of content, like photos, videos, and links – just link Facebook. I have to say, they are trying to solve the one problem that Facebook has failed to address really well – that is groups. Right now, with around 2000 friends, my Facebook is like my Twitter feed – a lot of noise. I know there is Facebook Groups, but it’s clunky and I don’t like to use it. Google has built a neat UI to segment people into groups like Friends, Family, and Acquaintances. They may well solve the groups problem and I commend them for that. However, if they think this is what is going to take down Facebook, they are wrong.

What’s going to kill Facebook in the end isn’t necessarily a better social network. It’s going to come out of left field and they won’t know what hit them. Here’s an example. If you were a very popular radio station in the 1940s, you were probably very worried about new radio stations popping up and becoming more popular. What they didn’t realize is that another radio station wasn’t going to be the end of their station. Televisions were just recently introduced at the time. At the end of 1946, only 44,000 homes had a TV set; by the end of 1949,there were 4.2 million TV homes. The reason people weren’t listening to your popular station wasn’t because they had found another popular station where all the cool kids were listening to. It was because they were spending their time watching broadcast television. When video games came out, kids spent less time watching television and more time playing games. When the internet came out, more people spent time online than watching TV and playing games (some people anyways). It’s like the guy who sold horses back in the 1900s worried that people are going to buy better and faster horses from another stable when he should really be worried about this little automotive company called Ford. My point is if Google is really serious about taking down Facebook, they should be thinking about fighting them on their turf on their rules.

There are so many new apps and services now other than Facebook that are all legitimately interesting. I myself have been spending less time on Facebook and more time on services like Instagram where all people can do is post interesting photos. I also spend more time playing with iPhone apps that aren’t necessarily even social. I agree with the Gigaom article that the way to beat Facebook is death by a thousand cuts. I’m sure people spend an unhealthy amount of time playing games like CityVille or Farmville – and even though that’s still within the Facebook ecosystem, those people are spending less time on Facebook proper because of it. There are only so many hours in the day and when the next big fun thing comes out – whatever that may be, that is what’s going to take attention away from Facebook, not another social network.

Popularity: 6% [?]

Designing For iPad

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A couple weeks ago I gave a talk titled ‘Designing for iPad’ at WindyCityGo, a mobile conference in Chicago. It was about my experience designing my iPad app BizTome.

Here’s a video of the talk along with my slides.

Designing for iPad by Pek Pongpaet from ChicagoRuby on Vimeo.

For more presentations from that conference, please go to the WindiCityGo website.

Popularity: 5% [?]

Look mom, I’m in Crain’s Chicago Business

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Just recently ShelfLuv was featured on Crain’s Chicago Business online publication. Reporter Steve Hendershot interviewed me about the genesis of ShelfLuv, where it’s currently at, and where it’s going. Read all about it here.

He even created a very cool video

Popularity: 3% [?]

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