Friday, December 16, 2016

Making Snappy Word

Snappy Word just relaunched exclusively on the App Store.
You can get it here!

I originally made Snappy Word at Right Pedal Studios as a launch title for the Apple Watch. When Right Pedal wrapped up the game was removed from the App Store. However Steve Baxter (visionary investor, awesome guy and a great boss) was kind enough to let me have the game IP.

I planned to relaunch the game as at it was but Apple had released some cool new stuff with Swift 3, WatchOS 3 and the new iMessages app ability. So I decided to do a major overhaul.

I rewrote a lot of the code to be in Swift 3. I updated the WatchOS version to use WatchOS3 and run as a seperate app without the need of an iPhone. I added an iMessage app extension so the game could be played within iMessage against friends.

The original version had a multiplayer element that used Game Center. This never worked well as Snappy Word is a very niche game and the multiplayer required you to find someone online at the same time also looking for a match. Finding someone to play against was like trying to find a needle in a haystack, so moving the multiplayer element into iMessages and making the game turn based was a no brainer.

The original art had an angular look to it to help it stand out from other tile based word games. This art was done by the talented Rupert Lewis Jones:

The original main menu screen with angled tiles.

The Watch version actually had rounded tiles so I decided to embrace that look in the iPhone version to maintain consistency. I also converted a number of options from words into icons. Most mobile game players understand the iconography of leaderboards, settings and play images.

The new look main menu screen with rounded tiles and icons.
I also updated the game screen to use the rounded tiles.

Original Snappy Word game screen.
New Snappy Word game screen.
In the original game I used interstitial pop up ads that appeared after every 3 play sessions. These were invasive and broke the game flow. So with this update I added an AdMob banner to the top of the screen and removed the interstitials.

I felt this was a good compromise to keep the game free and have some monetisation while not being in the players face. If they really hates ads then they have the option to spend 99c to remove them.

I did some minor rejigging of the Watch graphics, but the biggest improvement came in terms of a speed boost from switching to WatchOS3. The game responds really well to the button presses, something that was a little slow in the previous WatchOS version. I also included GameKit so it didn't need to rely on the iPhone to get and set high scores.

There were a few things I would love to have spent more time on, but the reality is that this sort of game won't set the world on fire in terms of sales so there was a practical limit on the time I could  spend on it. As it was I spent more time than I had planned as learning Swift3, WatchOS3 and the iMessage framework took a lot of effort.

I used swipe controls to select letters on the iPhone version but relied on button presses for the iMessage and Watch versions. To get swipe working in these would have required a few major changes that I couldn't justify in terms of time. It is a little jarring to have two different input styles, and as a designer I know it should be all the same - but given the constraints and my belief that people will probably only play on one platform, ie. iMessage only, or Watch only, I don't think it's too big an issue. If people demand it, I will fix it in a later update :-)

The awesome tutorials from Ray Wenderlich were invaluable in helping me learn the skills necessary to make this game.

My main resources from Ray Wenderlich were:

iOS 10 by Tutorials - Helped me build the iMessage app extension
WatchOS by Tutorials - Got me up to speed with WatchOS3
2D Apple Games by Tutorials - Helped me with Swift3 and SpriteKit

The game has done well on launch and has been featured in the app and iMessage games sections of the App Store around the world.
Featured in New Games We Love

So far it's been featured in over 97 App Stores which is not bad for a game that is targeted at English speaking players.

Also featured in the iMessages App Store
Now, with Snappy Word done it's full steam ahead on my next game, the 3D action racing game called Billy Carts that I'm making with the awesome Pete Mullins. This is an Aussie game featuring outback landscapes, Aussie animals and lots of destruction! 

I'll be blogging about it's development over the coming months so please check back with me to see how it progresses.