Saturday, November 21, 2009

Perhaps the World's Worst Kept Secret

The paperwork has been signed and I can finally talk publicly about something that I've been hinting about for months: I'm bringing to the iPhone!

Last year, as you may recall, I did an unauthorized implementation of Mü for the Zune. That was something that I did mostly for my own amusement but seeing as the Zune has virtually no third-party application market to speak of, I never bothered to take it any farther. Well, this summer my wife and I both bought iPhones and naturally that changed things.

Late in August I sent Frank Nestel email asking him if he'd be interested in seeing his game available on the iPhone and his response was swift and encouraging. The following months were spent rewriting the game almost from scratch and ironing out the details of a licensing agreement with Frank. If you like card games, I think you're going to love what we've done. Let me tell you about it.

That's the screen you see when you start Mü for the first time. After a few brief screens designed to get you oriented with the bare essentials, you're taken to a menu where you can start the game. From that point on, whenever you start the game you're taken right back to where you were the last time you played. Saving is automatic so you never need to worry about losing progress.

The game supports 4, 5 or 6 player games against several independently configurable computer opponents. There are three bidding aggression settings and five skill settings to choose from. The game also supports linked play over Bluetooth for up to six human players! What's more, the computer plays even better than it did on the Zune. I promise you that winning will be a satisfying feeling.

Here's a screen shot of a game in progress:

The first thing you might notice is that the iPhone's screen is bigger. A lot bigger. The result is a much richer user interface. The touch screen works wonderfully. To play a card, you tap or slide your finger over the card you want, bringing it to the front of your hand, and then you tap on that little round arrow icon above it to confirm your selection. That extra step avoids accidental card play and it works very well.

The game supports the iPhone's accelerometer. Tilt the phone on its left side and you can browse both sides of the summary card from the original game: the one with the bidding and scoring charts. Tilt the phone on its right side and you get a score sheet for the current game that looks like this:

Other features include detailed statistics tracking, Shake-A-Hint™, auto-play, and full in-game documentation. I expect the game to be available in both German and English and I'm also considering other languages if I can find volunteers willing to provide help with translation. (Send me email or post a comment below if you're a native speaker of a language other than English or German and you're interested in helping out. Sorry, but I can't afford to offer payment other than a pre-release copy of the game.)

The game is in final beta testing and it should be ready for release soon. I won't set a formal release date yet other than to say "I'll release it when it's ready" but it shouldn't be too much longer now.

The one thing that I'm still undecided on is the price point. Do I price it very low in the hopes of attracting people who are unfamiliar with the game or do I price it a little higher on the assumption that most people who are likely to pick it up will already be familiar with the card game and therefore be willing to pay a little more? I have my own strong opinions on that but I'm interested in hearing yours. What do you think? How much would you be willing to pay? Please post your opinions in the comments below.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I'm still here.

Life has been a little crazy this year and certain things in my life have suffered a bit as a result. This blog is just one of them. My game playing has been another. Now things are starting to calm down a little bit and I finally almost feel like I'm ready to start another holiday season.

So what's been going on? Oh that's a very long list, my friend. Here are just a few of the things that have been conspiring against me recently:

First off, my dad died of a heart attack in September. That took me out of commission for a couple of weeks while I helped my mom and siblings prepare for the funeral. It was sudden. It was horrible. It's in the past and we're (mostly) over it now.

At about the same time, my wife was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma. We caught it very early and after a round of radiation therapy she's doing well but it's never a fun thing. (Incidentally, she's running in a fundraising half-marathon for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. If you'd like to help, you can go to her fundraising page.)

But not every barrier to my productivity has been such a downer. These days the biggest thing standing in my way of attending our game night (which, by the way, has been moved to Thursday night) is that my 15 year old son is taking driver's ed on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I've needed to help get him to and from (mostly from) class.

And there's one other little project that's been eating up most of the rest of my spare time. I'm not quite ready to talk about that in detail yet but let's just say that it involves the iPhone and a certain popular card game. Papers are being signed. Code is being written. Details will soon be forthcoming.