(23rd December 2013)
Finally finished. The first version of teh android port has been published to google play and the websites updated to reflect this. As it's a single activity and small at 394kb we could release it to Blackberry and Amazon.
(10th November 2012)
The app had about 5 sales and then we pulled it from the store because the marketing and promotion never happened. But it's not over yet. There are plans for an Android port of the app, so there's a second coming. Of sorts. This should at least allow us to host the app as well as google play store.
(7th December 2011)
The app store continues to confuse us all now with the way it works regarding releasing the app. The binary was uploaded and approved as "Ready for sale" on the 29th November and was scheduled for release by us on the 5th December. On the 5th the app is no where to be seen on the Books sort by release date category. On the 6th the same thing. It can be found via a search however. Then on the 7th a trawl through the Books sort by release date category reveals our little app amongst the others marked as released on the 29th November, about 7 pages in. And its marked as being released on the 5th December. Confused? Added to this is the difference in listings for the App Store used on the ipod touch. At least now we know there's no chance of getting any sales simply via appearing on the front page of the itunes desktop window, so now it's going to be all about the marketing campaign and launch party, pencilled in for late January, 2012.
(5th December 2011)
It's finally done, the app is now available for sale on the actual app store...
(2nd December 2011)
The iPhone app is still ready for sale despite some things needing to be done for the ABN admin side of it and so apart from that work has now moved onto the promotional aspects. For this the prequel webapp code is being cleaned and tested, plugged into facebook for some insidious connect magic and otherwise readied for this Monday. Its expected that this prequel will get passed around as a URL or from within FB as a FB app to like etc.
(29th November 2011)
The app binary was submitted to Apple on Monday 21st November and today was marked first as "In review", then "Processing for App Store" and now as "Ready for Sale". It's been a long time coming but there it is. Finally. All that's now left to do is sort out the whole ABN, ACN, GST admin stuff and we are good for a launch on the 5th Decemeber, at the price of $0.99, worldwide.
(20th November 2011)
It's been nearly two years since this project started and the day has finally arrived when the application gets compiled into a binary suitable for distribution via iTunes App Store. There are still probable issues regarding the licensing agreements with Apple and its need for ABN/GST documentation for Tier 1 payments, or something. But this can be sorted out later, at the moment we just want the app approved for release... Release date has been scheduled for 5th December 2011.
(22nd October 2011)
The second half of this year was taken up with uni semester for the developer and overseas trips or other work commitments by the authors. So this meant development of the application stalled and no further tests and edits were made. However things are back into action again and the testing resumes with a release schedule about to be confirmed as end of November 2011.
(9th July 2011)
The deadline for story editing looms fast and read-throughs are still being made. This is proving to be a complex task with a multi-threaded narrative and many variables used that can change several aspects of the story at any given time. In light of this there has been a major overhaul of the Author Application that is used for writing, editing and testing the story. The new Application, version 3.0, has an improved layout with a simulator and editing window present on the same screen as well as full control over the variable names, their values and descriptions. The code has been re-organised along Object Oriented guidelines with interfaces to functions implemented. Classes, as well as a few other planned improvements, have not been utilised for this version as it is designed purely to speed the editing of the current story text. When this is done and plans for the next story are discussed there will be a proper OO class implementation of the Author App and better integration of story content to iphone app. There is a screen shot uploaded that shows the main editing window.
(18th June 2011)
The Release (ver 1.0) app gets some final adjustments as the story narrative and copy gets sorted out for a lock on changes to be applied by the end of this week. A new ending page called J1 has been added to allow the writers to have the story flow to a finish in a better manner thats dependant on where the reader has come from, not every ending will be a happy one. A different font (Georgia) is now used for the app as well as the formatting that indents the text and allows a margin of whitespace around the whole of the text to make it appear more book-like as well as being easier to read. A smaller change was to use "guys" instead of "boys" as that sounded a bit creepy at times.
(14th June 2011)
The 2.2RC is closed and all the code has moved into the 1.0 release version today. The main changes in the code are some fixes for the resume function, read again function, newline sentinel function, NPC names view scroll with keyboard function and some app background colour and graphics changes. This should be the last of the code based fixes for release version 1.0 with only the final story edits and the formatting to be completed by the end of this week. A screenshot of the 2.2RC opening page has been added to the Screens page on this site.
(13th June 2011)
Yesterday's Testing Session went well with the two participants providing a lot of feedback of their reading experience as well as pointing some glitches and bugs that will need to be fixed. This bugfix list currently has 38 items for us to look into, with most being grammar, a few localisation issues and a few code fixes to make the app function in a clearer way. The three main changes that will be noticeable to the user are the page lengths, font size and page colour with both of these being adjusted now. the colour will no longer be a light-salmon but instead revert to a more "book page" colour, ie off-white, and the subpages will be shortened to about 3/4 current length and then allow for the font size to be increased. It is hoped that all these changes will be made by this Thursday and the latest compiled version of the app will see a name change to Finally Friday version 1.0 ready for a final read through and then submission to iTunes.
(11th June 2011)
Release Candidate 2.2 is getting ready for tomorrows test session with mainly the story text changes being loaded as well as some minor graphical adjustments to bring it closer to the final state. Other changes to be made are to get the post-story pages ready for publishing, these will have credits and links to the main website.
(10th June 2011)
There has been two weeks of test reading by some copy editors who have been using the ipod tester website to go through various iterations of possible storylines. This complex task is now completed which allows us to plan a reading party session where some friends who have not read the story before can participate with their iDevices for an afternoon of beer and playing. This will take place at the local pub called the Old Colonial Inn. If there are no other glaring errors to fix with the story after this then it can be locked down, imported into the Xcode IDE in preparation for submitting the finished application sometime between the 13th and 17th of June. If this all goes to plan and the app gets passed by iTunes within that week then we should be able to release it to the public sometime in the first half of July. The finallyfriday domain is visible now and will be developed to support the app in time for its release.
(18th May 2011)
We now should be looking at the last two weeks of story proofreading and editing. A new public accessible ipod simulator webpage has been upped to the server to allow several test readers to use for reading only, no write enable (644). It is the intention for this to be used for the next two weeks to get the story finalised and locked ready for importing into the iOS Finally Friday app. This will then be installed on several devices to be used at a demo and testing session that can allow people to interact and play with the app in an informal setting. If all is well after this session then the app can be considered ready for submission to iTunes app store. This is hoped to take place mid June.
(8th May 2011)
A couple of quiet months for ifDev with the writers using the time to get the story text finalised. This weekend will see the updated text taken from the Author App and re-compiled into RC 2.1 so that the ipod can be returned to the writers for more read through testing. There may also be some code checks and additions to advance the version to 2.2 but more on that later. The end of June 2011 is being referred to as the launch window now. Other news is that the web server host is going to be replaced around the end of May and with it a transfer of names from rippllit to finallyfriday.com.au.
(15th February 2011)
More read-throughs are being done on the devices running the updated RC 2.1 and have now included a test with a member of Joe Public that had little or no preconception of the app. This test proved valuable in that the persons gender and sexual orientation brought a different perspective to the text as well as their assumption that there would be graphics and images within the text. More tests will be necessary for the next RC version that will now incorporate not only the changes to the story text but also a better worded app introduction, story introduction, descriptive words for the NPC names required and a different colour scheme for the pages. The word 'game' is to be dropped from the marketing spiel and replaced with a derivative of "text-based interactive fiction". The marketing section of this site has a fuller description of the ideas and changes to be made. It is assumed that the next RC will be compiled and installed to the devices over the coming weekend.
(10th February 2011)
Release Candidate 2.1 has been installed onto the ipod and iphone for testing by the writers after the final page sorting out has finished. This stage is for the final read-throughs and continuity checks on the devices so that a proper feel for the reader experience of the app can be attained. Depending if any and what type of errors are uncovered, the assumption is that it will take approximately a week for this checking stage. The domain name of finallyfriday.com.au has been reserved with the view to set up a web space somewhere for support and promotion. The final function to be added to the RC 2.1 is a simple facebook connect (if it isn't too complicated) so that reading the app will, permisssions allowing, post some info to the player's wall.
(4th February 2011)
The final story checks and continuity checks are being made and are envisaged to wrap up in a week or so making the final story text ready for import into the iphone application for install onto the Ipod and a new iphone for testing and read throughs. This story editing has taken a long time due to the complexity of keeping track of a multiple threaded narrative as well as keeping the text stylistically similar to all the other pages and threads. The thinking now is that we will be ready to submit the application to itunes by mid February for an end of February launch.
(5th January 2011)
The second year of development has just ticked around and we are getting back into the swing of things post christmas and new year. A quick round up has the iphone application functionally ready for upload to itunes but still requiring the latest story version to be copy edited and have narrative logic checks completed. This should only take a week or so, leaving the other main task for the development being the facebook app and the promotional materials to be sorted out all with the second half of january being the launch period.
(1st December 2010)
The final bug fixes have been completed on the main iphone application and the designs have now been finessed to a version suitable for public viewing, The new logo set has been uploaded to the screens section and shows the main splash screen logo and a smaller icon type logo. The smaller one may need more work to get something that is easily recognisable at such a small scale but otherwise this version 03 seems to be heading in the right direction.
Final story flow changes are being made as well to get a consistent story reading experience regardless of where the player ends up taking the narrative. A few more subpages have been added and two new pages have been added as well to enable this. The final version of the story is expected to be readied by the end of next week at which time the finished application will be uploaded to iTunes Connect and work will re-commence on the Facebook app and pages. The main application has now moved out of Prototype stage and is now at Finally Friday 2.1 RC.
(26th November 2010)
The launch date for the application has been postponed until the first half of January next year, with 13th January nominated as the best date. This is due to the problems of testing the story and the flow from one thread page to another and the complexity of the multiple inter-linked subpages. To help this process of story editing an Ipod Simulator has been coded in php that is available in the Author Site to have full parsing of story text, variables, links, button text and allow click-through to the next page. Hopefully this will alleviate the need to have the authors write some changes to the text, have it imported into Xcode, compile to the device and then hand it over for checking again. The authors are confident that the story text will be ready in two weeks at the latest.
(23rd November 2010)
The cutoff date for locking out any changes to the iphone app is getting closer with this Thursday 25th being nominated as the last date to get all assets readied for compiling into a release application for submitting to the App Store. The development iPod Touch has been handed over to the writers so that they may play the book to check story structure, order and logic. A few new pages to the text have been added to fill gaps in narrative structure, one of the types of problems that need to be uncovered and solved in the next few days before submission. There are still a few issues for the code as well with the simulator and device displaying different characteristics at runtime meaning that one of the key areas of resuming the book has been implemented but with less than full confidence in its workings. This, as well as a few other problem areas and the code itself, will be looked at in the simulator of the next few days until its ready to be installed on the device and tested.
On the design front, there is now a draft logo for the book, called Finally Friday, a name that has now been locked. The name of the book will take precedence in all marketing materials and ll applications released, while the name of Rippllit will be in the background purely as the name of the company releasing the book should anyone be interested enough to find out more information about the project. There is a draft logo for rippllit as well. The app colours seem to be locked down too with #b6391b being the hash for the primary red colour, black #333333, white #fdfdfd buttons and the text area colour of #efd4cd. All design elements will be used throughout all assets.
(18th November 2010)
Page length checks and formatting have been completed now allowing all pages to be viewed on the iphone prototype without running over the screen length. Some 40 pages and their associated subpages were adjusted to fit in with the formatting guidelines established at the beginning of the project. This now just leaves final grammar checks and logic checks for the complete story text.
(17th November 2010)
With the main copy editing finished it leaves just the storyline logic and formatting to be completed. This focuses on ensuring that player variables and choices made in the story lead to the correct outcome, as well as the main task of checking the subpage length and that the text does not over run the iphone screen with the font settings as they are presently. More work has been done on the iphone code by importing the updated story files to check the logic and functions as well as tidy the rem'd statements and comments. The last major hurdle remains the story subpage length and this is now the priority for the next few days.
(16th November 2010)
The writers have finished the main copy editing of the story allowing it to be imported into the iphone prototype for testing, reading and error checking. This is the latest major milestone to be passed in this project's lifespan making it possible to plan to submit the iphone application to the App Store in a weeks time. The rippllit website is getting some content and layout changes made in preparation for public viewing as well as the first logo types to be drafted but mainly for the next few days the focus will be on getting Prototype 2.0RC readied for submission with facebook apps to follow.
(15th November 2010)
Planning for the Launch Party continues with the demonstration application being coded and hosted on the rippllit server ready for debugging and testing. This application will be demonstrated at the party using a projector attached to a laptop and an MC to talk the game through for the assembled crowd to participate in. It uses the php engine coded for the fbApp that can either be run locally or called via a network connection from the rippllit site. This would depend on the venue chosen for the launch (Bertha Brown anyone?). A wordpress install has been made on the rippllit server to start allowing content to be uploaded and presented in readiness for the launch date, still pencilled in for the first week of December, 3 weeks from now...
(14th November 2010)
Some more updates and organisation of the two main applications that are being readied for release in the next few weeks with the Facebook app now moving in an RC version with all the logic, layout and design elements in place ready for testing and editing by the writers. A new idea to be implemented in this app that may prove good to port across to the iphone one is an end of game logic compiled sentence that describes with player variables the main decisions they took throughout the game. This is based on the debug line from the fbApp - "George is a boy who likes girls but mainly Mildred" where the idea is to add other phrases that reflect decisions made, hopefully humourous. This could be added to the iphone app depending on the level of facebook integration.
A few new screenshots have been added to show the revised storyboard of Prototype02RC and the design layout with a few discrepencies of button placement between these images and the current working version of the prototype. The code for both apps continue to be cleaned and refined with back-ups regularly made.
(13th November 2010)
After the full server switch its back to the coding of the main iphone application which has now moved onto Release Candidate stage under the name of Prototype 2, FinallyFriday. At this stage the name Finally Friday is being used as a working title but may remain as the release name for the application. The code in this version is being tidied up with proper dealloc calls, code comments and function checks while the design for this version is being drafted towards a full version suitable for release and re-use throughout all materials associated with the application, company and services surrounding it. As well as this the final edits should be finished on the story text very soon so that all that remains is to import the updated story files into the application resources folder in readiness for testing on the ipod touch, recently updated to iOS 4.1.
(10th November 2010)
One month since the last update but things have been busy (as well as finishing the uni year). First up is the name creation for the actual application (not the story) and after a couple of weeks of "mind incubation process" we have come up with the name of "rippllit". A domain has been grabbed and the server set up to start things rolling in this direction. Second, a facebook app has been coded in php and hosted on the new server, it has several player preferences and some choice logic to make it a bit like the full iphone app. It took a bit of time getting the refresh and cookie variables to play nicely but it seems to function well at 14 pages long so far. Coding for the iphone prototype ceased for this last month as these other aspects took precedence but the next stage for it is to lock down the function list.
At the moment there is an idea of integrating facebook api calls into the main iphone app somehow but this may prove pointless. There is also Apple's new GameCenter api to look into as well with all this to try and get some more social gaming into the app where publishing to leaderboards is one way to go. The facebook app is a prequel to the main story and will serve as a free to distribute php and iphone app to promote interest. Porting it to other platforms such as Android, J2ME, Windows Phone 7 and maybe Symbian will be looked into as well.
Launch date target: first half December 2010
(2nd October 2010)
The few last design elements have been placed into the prototype code so that a near fully functioning app can be installed onto the ipod touch for testing. This design is relatively simple and only incorporates a page colour and button design that is used throughout the application. There is a screenshot of the player preferences screen up for an example of how it could look with a minimum of design. Meanwhile, the facebook application is getting closer to being ready to be deployed with the CSS code positioning the graphics and the text necessary to get a little questionaire/poll type application ready for use. All that remains for this is for whatever text andquestion(s) to be written that can advertise the concept and hopefully generate some interest in the iphone app.
(30th September 2010)
Continuing with the current engineering prototype by adding some design elements and finishing up the function todo list. At the moment the design consists of possible elements and how they may look on the app, with the final decision on colours still to be made. The main part of this is to separate the two choice buttons from the main body of text in a clear and hopefully stand-out fashion. There's a screen shot in the screens section that shows the current version. The last main function to code is to get the player name saved as a Player that can be launched at app start so that preferences are automatically loaded but theres a choice as to whether the player starts a new game or continues with existing.
(27th September 2010)
Some last minute coding has been completed to wrap things up on the current Engineering Prototype, MultipleViews, in preparation for the next iteration. Version 1 has now achieved all of its objectives with player preferencesfully enabled including the ability for a player to start the book again but with the same preferences. The resume function is now completed though it requires testing on the device as the simulator can exhibit inconsistent behaviour when the app is shutdown and then restarted. A new idea is to try and get the player name from either the userDefaults or file and set the text of the "same player" button to be it thereby making the first step in the app a bit clearer. The last remaining function to implement in this version is the $borrow code which is currently being tested.
(26th September 2010)
The fb account and connections have been configured to a reasonable extent to allow some proper test code to be developed that can demonstrate how fb can be utilised in the marketing prior to app release launch date. Before that will take place there is some more work necessary on the design front with the look of the app being important in inlfuencing how anything associated with it shall also look, mainly the website, the fb app and any marketing materials published. A design mock-up has been drawn and the result is up on the Screens section of this site to show the first iteration.
(25th September 2010)
Few more updates regarding the marketing side of things with a facebook test being run using the developers account. A fb app has been made which turns out merely to be a php poll that is hosted at this domain and then gets pulled into the fb site via an application page. Much confusion as to what is actually happening here and what can happen. But otherwise, the fb app has its own page and wall and these things are currently updating the intro page of this site. The idea is to get the fb app shared amongst the "social graph" and we just add some interaction in the form of a simple story with a choice at the end that people can vote for. Poll results need to get parsed into the fb stuff but that can come later. A twitter account has also been set up under the name of ifDevApp but it isn't known how much integration can be had here yet. The intro page of this site also has some new links directed to these developments.
(24th September 2010)
The meeting with the writers went well with a lot of discussion taking place that revolved around the concepts and ideas for promoting and marketing the application once it achieved release status. Towards this end, a new page has been added to this site under the title of "market" which will be the place that any and all ideas are documented as we attempt to get the application to release stage and out into the wilds of the iphone app store.
A quick run through with the engineering prototype, MultipleViews, was performed and comments were made regarding the current state of the story text as well as how to design the look of the application. A new prototype will be coded in a few days that will attempt to simplify the codebase from previous iterations as well as allowing for design elements to be incorporated and ultimately including all the bugfixes that have been revealed so far and yet to be implemented functions.
(20th September 2010)
More code fixing today on the MultipleViews prototype with some functions working now that allows the player to resume reading at the correct place after the application has stopped and then restarted. This also allows the player to start again from the beginning with new variables. An additional function may be to ask the player if they wish to keep the same prefs but just start the story from the beginning. As of yet this function is incomplete. A few more code sessions are planned for the next few days and then there will be a meeting with the writers to conduct a demonstration of the current prototype as installed on the ipod touch.
(19th September 2010)
The MultipleViews prototype has been completed with the application being able to load a default preferences file and allow the user to change some of the variables to personalise the story. This player preferences file is then saved to the application Documents folder for use during runtime and for the next time the application starts and the user resumes reading. The writers have finalised those variables to ones needed throughout the reading of the book and this is now reflected in the code. They continue to copy edit and check the narrative.
The next prototype will involve designs that can be utilised by the current, working, MultipleViews app. This will have graphic elements designed for all buttons, the background of the user input screens as well as the story page background. Cleaning up of the code and memory checks will also take place during this phase. Two new screenshots have been added to demonstrate the state of the app views, the first showing the player preferences selection and the second showing the book resuming with player prefs previously set.
The current prototype has been successfully installed on the development Ipod touch, using iOS 3.1.2, and a limited test of its functions has been performed including starting the book for the first time and filling out the player preferences as well as resuming the book and continuing with those same preferences. The resume book from last page hasn't yet been re-enabled. An updated TODO list has been added to the front page of this site to allow tracking of the latest and most pertinent issues needing resolution for the Code, Interface Builder and the Story.
(11th September 2010)
The project status moves closer to a beta application with the purchase via Ebay of an Intel Mac Mini that is running 10.6.x and the latest Xcode. The development Ipod Touch has been linked via an ad-hoc provisioning profile and the MultipleViewsPrototype was installed to the device and run briefly to test the install. The code compiled correctly for the target device with the exception of a few string variables in the NSLog function that needed to be cleaned up. A memory and CPU load test is yet to be completed.
The authors are completing the last of the copy edits to ensure the story is reading correctly and while they do that this website has been revamped with a bit of hand coding. The old Tiddy code was removed and flat html/css replaces it. Some of the image sizes are a bit smaller than before but the images themselves remain at their original size so scaling is easy.
(3rd September 2010)
The first function prototype, called readerPrototype, has been fully completed and tested with all story pages loaded into it and all buttons working as they should with the text changing and the destination changing depending on the readers location within the story as well as all the variables being loaded and parsed correctly. All the player variables are hardcoded for this prototype which is one of the main functions that the next prototype has to address, namely the presenting of a screen that the reader/player can use to add names and preferences that will then be used throughout the story. This represents an important milestone in the project development in that the code to read the book has been written and tested to be working in iOS 3.1.
The next prototype is one offering Multiple Views, where it allows the user to enter their preferences for the book or resume reading from where they left off at last runtime. Currently there is a new screen shot in the Screens section that shows the function of the first player preference screen that asks the player for their name, gender, gender prefs and up to four drink choices. This would then save the information to the application and advance the user to the next screen that will ask them for some character names dependent on the role they play in the story. So far, this function prototype can switch between an about, player prefs and read book screens as well as getting the values inputted by the user. The next iteration of this will have the ability to write these preferences to a file that can be read and parsed by the app during reading. This would then serve as the final function prototype that can be used as a base for the design prototypes and then to code the production application ready for beta testing on a device.
(29th August 2010)
The first iteration of a function prototype (readerPrototype) has been finished. This simply takes the story files as created by the php web based author application and loads the text into the app, displaying it in a UITextView. The associated next link buttons are also functioning in that the correct text is displayed on the correct button on a given story page. The main success has been the ability to evaluate a given string and replace any variables with the correct values, be they hard-coded or player preferences. The code is a bit messy and theres a few more major functions to figure out including parsing the next page titles to the correct button but this prototype is a good proof of concept. A screen shot has been added to the Screen section which shows a basic layout of the app as well as the simulator debugger in the background showing the variables being loaded from either .txt file or .plist into either an NSArray or an NSDictionary.
Hopefully this test using the default text size and font means that there will be lots of scope for designing the layout better with a more interesting font, font size and colours for the background and maybe keywords. The idea is still that all the text for a given page should appear on the iphone screen sized page without the need fro scrolling, we have choice buttons or a single continue button for that.
(28th August 2010)
The project is entering into its final copy editing phase with the story text being analysed for continuity as well as a few new player variables added to further personalise the story. These new variables (drink preferences and a non-player character name) are presented to the player at the beginning of the story as user input fields so that the player can add names and other values that are relevant to them. A further gender based variable was created to allow further differentiation between reader experience dependent on their chosen gender type.
The first design prototype was coded using the default iOS user interface elements and served to demonstrate how boring they can look. Following from this the function prototype is currently being developed and this is proving to be more flexible than first thought in terms of the design possibilities. Form-follows-function notwithstanding, it is going to allow greater scope for designing an interesting interface that can contain and convey the story information that the writers would wish to display on any given page.
The following week will see a lot more work being done on the development of a functioning prototype, with the intention of having an application that can run on the simulator and read the flat files that are produced by the php based authoring program and correctly advance page by page dependent on the buttons correctly displaying the text and location of the next page. Screenshots will follow.
(15th August 2010)
The development of the application is now divided into three aspects, the Design Prototype, Function Prototype and Compile Prototype. Based upon the limitations of the development computer and the level of knowledge for all things Xcode this process following three paths is to allow progress to continue and not get bogged down with technology mishaps. The Design Prototype is a simple UIView with the major elements positioned using their default appearances, currently there is a rough of the main start up page in the Screen section with a simple layout. The Function Prototype is to follow with the first iteration demonstrating the ability to pull text content from a file into a UIView as well as the necessary button links and text. A second and third story page will be accessible via button presses to demonstrate this aspect of the application. A second iteration will have the Questions page will form enabled so that the user can input names and choices that will be written to an in-application file that is accessible throughout the lifetime of the runtime. This feature will then be implemented via the Resume function that would read this file (if it exists) load the values and resume the story from the last place the user had got to.
The Compile Prototype is a separate issue that exists due to the nature of using a PowerPC Emac, 10.5.8, Xcode 3.1.2, iOS 2.2.1 to develop on. The iPod is using 3.1.3 and there are several obvious problems from the onset. The main aim is to get the prototypes onto the iPod so that they can be UI tested so hopefully this can happen using the Emac. Else it will be a case of getting access to an Intel Mac using Snow Leopard and install the latest Xcode SDK. Which would need to happen eventually anyway for the final compile, test and submission to the App Store.
(12th August 2010)
Apart from continuing the process of enabling development via Apple so that test applications can be installed on the ipod touch (more on that next update) the program development is moving along whenever time can be found outside of a busy uni schedule. A basic storyboard has been uploaded to the Screens section that shows the narrative and logical structure of the application at runtime. This layout is to itemise the elements needed to construct the interface that shows specific information at a given time, on a given screen. The navigation is simple and has little scope for change as it isn't necessary when the user is at this stage of the program. None of the elements are drawn to scale nor is there any design for them at this stage, it is just a storyboard demonstrating what goes where.
As to the design, the initial thoughts were to keep things simple and use the default UI elements, colours etc but this has since been revised and it is thought better to make a real interface from scratch basing it on the element positions from the storyboard. Further to that, it is thought that removing the "book" element from the visual design is important as this isn't a book per se, rather its a non-linear story with user choices that direct the story. As such the use of page turning effects etc is out of place. As are page numbers, chapters, chapter headings and bookmarks. Bookmarks will remain as an internal function so that the application can maintain location of the user but these should not be made known to the player. It is hoped that this increases the immersive aspect of the story and that the location of the user in relation to the start and the end is possible only through comprehension of the story as its read so far.
While the coding efforts continue it is also time for the marketing to be thought of. At this early stage it is just a matter of constructing a plan and a perspective for who would want to be reading this story, how to tell them it exists and how to keep them engaged with the concept and idea. But more on this later.
(8th August 2010)
An Ipod Touch 8gb (OS 3.1.x) has been purchased for the purpose of testing development applications and to research the interface options and usability functions. This Ipod is using a later operating system than what the Emac is coding for so this may result in problems when it come to testing developed applications via the Development Provisioning Profile that allows the assigning of a device to the Xcode environment so that it may have applications loaded onto it.
The previous months worth of coding for Mac Cocoa went as well as could be expected, a few trial applications were coded and subsequently shelved. In the light of recent press (re The Guardian newspaper's article on Choose-your-own-adventure style books) it has been decided to shorten the development time and get onto coding for the iOS. Hence the Ipod purchase.
Further submergence into Apple's walled garden has been made by joining the Iphone Developer Program, for the tidy sum of $110 or similar. This has been made at this stage because it appears that it is not possible to load your own applications onto your own device without joining.
As to the actual ifDev timeline, the authors have been making the final edits to the text and checking the continuity and the coding has been advanced to using the iphone OS to grab content and pull it into a simple view. Basic stuff at this stage but the final preparations are being made before the actual coding of a beta application can be started, hopefully within weeks of this post.
(13th July 2010)
Commencement date for coding in Cocoa for mac OSX 10.5.8 environment. The first part of this next stage of development is to commence coding a demonstration application (PlayerTest) in objective-c and for this a desktop application will be created that will mimic the functionality of the iphone app. This step is to ease the transition from the php based Author version to a PlayerTest version with the change in language being the main obstacle. It is envisaged that it will be a smoother transition to go from php to a OSX desktop application first and then progress to the iOS4 version later. This is mainly because the development computer, a hacked eMac, is limited to OSX 10.5.8 and Xcode 3.2.1 because of its PowerPC architecture. From there a fully functioning OSX application can be ported to an Intel Mac running the latest software suitable for coding and converting to iOS4 and then uploading to the Itunes App Store.
More information and specifications will be released later regarding the PlayerTest application but it should suffice for now to know that the application window, appearance and function should be as complete a simulation of the finished iphone app as possible. This will allow a better opportunity to test and refine the application before attempts at distribution are made.
(12th July 2010)
Upgraded to version 2.5, this version has been renamed from Test to Author which signifies that it is getting close to being a Beta version of the web based application to be used in the authoring of ifDev books. The Author application should allow anyone to create the text files necessary for an ifDev book to be created from scratch. This includes the ability to create new thread pages (x1.php, etc), their subpages and the variables needed to be used throughout the book. The variables are currently hard coded on the page called entry.php, this page needs to have a form and display panel similar to the story pages where the author can create new variable fields, set the values and see the resulting reader display as the player would. These variables, as do all form fields, require a robust error and syntax checking function.
A major needed addition to the Author application is a mapping function, this is envisaged to be screen that draws each created page and the links to external pages. The other main addition, or revision, is the way the text files get written and their format. Currently each x1.php page has 5 text files associated to it, these need to be broken up into the subpages where each subpage text file has the complete information contained as per the class diagram class "page.text".
It should be noted here that while it isn't locked down as such it is thought that the x1.php type pages will be used for main threads in a story and the subpages (x1_a) will be used for player decision based variations within those threads.
The player variables such as name, gender and sexual preference have been enabled via the form on the entry.php page. This page serves as the point of entry for the player into the book where questions are asked of the player and the answers are used throughout the text of the story to personalise the narrative.
The bookmarking functioning that the player can use to determine where they are in the narrative is also awaiting coding in the Author application. This function presents a list of pages read by the player using the meta_titles as a mnemonic.
(9th July 2010)
Update to version 2.4 sees what should be the penultimate update of the web based interface for writing and editing the story content. This version has all the original writer pages renamed to a simpler style with just a letter and number (ie A1, D4, etc) and these pages are then divided into subpages of 320x240 scale content (A1_a, D4_c, etc). An new ending page has been created and a secret ending page added to the content as well. The meta titles and next button text have been standardised into a format that fits the screen dimensions and otherwise makes sense grammatically. The other major change in this version is to add readerDisplay.php code that displays a better rendition of the player application window and buttons (see the Screens section for screenshot) to the right of the writer edit windows. This display can parse variables into the correct values which means that the gender and other player controlled choices can now be implemented and demonstrated on screen.
The todo list for the next version is mainly to fully enable the player selection of variables, consistency and use of gender and opposite gender as well as general copy-editing and error checking of the content. It should be noted here that there is a danger of getting bogged down in getting the web authoring version running to a state that is deemed worthy when in actuality the need is to simply get the content and logic tested and ready for the main development phase of coding in Xcode for the iphone application.
(7th June 2010)
The Testing Version has now been upgraded to version 2.3 which implements several major changes including the addition of forms for all the subpage content, they being the page title, meta, body, next buttons and next button links. An ability to add a new subpage has been implemented as well and this provides the basis of a major function goal that is to enable a new story to be written from scratch using just the Writer Interface. A mapping function will need to be coded as well that can create a visual guide as to what pages get linked to where. Password protection has been added to this versions directory so that a bit of access control can be exercised. The additions of form functions leaves the flatfiles open to writing and changes so its best that this access is restricted to the writers only. Every major and minor upgrade also includes a backup of the content.
The next few weeks should see more activity on the development front as the Handheld Device Testing Version is created. This php based version will be designed to show the content as the end user will see it and allow click-throughs. At the moment the design hasn't been finalised but it may operate concurrently to testing Version 2.x so that any changes made through the Writer Interface can then be visualised in a Reader Interface. The Writer Interface is the form enabled version (2.x) that allows changes to be made to the content, it currently is still legacy based where the initial story pages (A4 in length) provide the framework of the content that can be edited and its placement within the mapping structure. The Reader Interface is the final version that displays just a single 320 x 240 px sized block of text and the associated buttons for controlling where the reader goes next in the narrative structure. Both of these are part of the ifDev IDE that produces finished and closed applications suitable for installing on the iphone OS and others, to be determined at a later stage.
(17th May 2010)
Test Version 1 has been implemented and is now closed. The ability to map the page structure was limited to re-writing actual php pages and so was always going to be of use for a short time. Breaking up the main pages into the subpage components has required a substantial update to what is now Test Version 2.2. This version is form enabled to allow the writers to change subpage titles, subpage meta descriptions and the body of text that the user will read. This version represents separating the content from the display pages - following the Model View Controller method, the model is now contained in separate files from the view and control php files. This development path is designed to allow a User Interface to be constructed that will allow the writers a better and more intuitive Writer IDE for use in future stories. An overall tree mapping function will be added so that an overview of the story structure can be obtained that will update with any changes made.
Version 2.x will have a lifespan that ends with all subpages created with their title, meta, body text and links stored separately. Once this is achieved then the third test phase will commence that will have a single screen representing the handheld device (iphone) and will allow click through testing and story narrative testing. Once finalised then a limited public access version will be hosted that can be tested by a selected audience to get feedback on the project/story status.
(2nd April 2010)
First draft of the story has been submitted and is now being converted to html pages for viewing in a browser over a network, probably www. A form of navigation is to be implemented during this First Phase of the Test Application to enable checking and layout tests to be completed by the writers. The First Phase Test Application is being coded in php and will be placed on this server behind a password protected entry page. Release date is expected to be 5th April at the latest.
(11 March 2010)
The writing stage is nearly completed and the writers are enthusiastic about it all, which is a good thing indeed. After the written work is compiled and loaded into the development emac (due 20th March 2010), depending on the format the writers have chosen, each page of text will be saved as a flatfile suitable for reading into a Test Application to be written in Java (probably). The Test Application will be used as a platform to check the logic, design and efficiency of the code as well as being used by the writers (and maybe tester readers) for narrative checking, consistency, structure and story content. This represents the penultimate editing stage. Final stage is coding in Xcode for an iphone os 2.2.x application based upon the Test Application model. This stage also incorporates the final editing and testing phase with the use of an ipod touch (or equivalent) to ensure the application is fit for submission to the itunes application store.
The first meeting takes place at the Lounge on a hot summer's day between the coder and a writer and the writer takes the scant ideas and runs amok with them coming up with lots of great ideas that are actually achievable. The coder get a quick lesson in how a writer could write such a book with talk of "scenarios", "small stakes", "false resolution" etc. Another writer is brought into this plan and the writing and scribbling of notes commences.
An idea is born that it would be good to make an application for the iPhone that is a book, a choose-your-own-adventure type, for adults not kids, that involved social interactions, no dragons and Fantasy elements,that you could choose your gender etc. It has a working title of "It's a Boy / Girl Thing" and has two major narrative streams of the player being a boy or a girl, you can describe yourself, $hair, $eyes etc. Some ideas are jotted down about the possible code with class diagrams and Use Cases drawn up. A Designer application is imagined as well, this is the program that the writer would use to create such a book and is imagined that it would be written in Java. The coder then gets an old emac discarded by the local university and hardware hacks it to run without the CRT and hacks the software to allow Xcode 3.2.1 (see entry 13th July 2010). It is then thought that it would be best to meet up with some real writers. It is also imagined that this will make a nice little summer project that will have an iphone app released quickly. Something suitable to do over the two months of January and February 2010, until the uni semester commences...