An intriguing cast of characters
You are the mayor of a village inhabited by unusual residents: Squires, Empaths, Witches, Seers, Robbers, Bodyguards, even a couple Doppelgängers. These powerful inhabitants also attract werewolves, and you need to get rid of them – and do it before the neighboring villages sabotage you with their own werewolf-attracting residents. That’s the challenge of a new card game called Silver, by award-winning board game company Bézier Games. Intrigued? Download the new Silver app, developed for Bézier by One Bad Ant and available for iOS and Android.
I’ve worked with many clients large and small, from individual business consultants to large educational institutions. I’ve designed and developed a wide variety of web sites, from single page sites to dynamic sites serving audiences in the tens of thousands. I’ve developed apps for hiking, motorcycling and a university research project. I’ve even developed and released a maze game app of my own creation. But I had never partnered with a major game company to develop a brand new app for a brand new card game – until now.
To develop an immersive, interactive, addictive app everyone will want to play. Complex doesn’t begin to describe the development challenge. When we started our partnership, Bézier company founder and game creator Ted Alspach was finalizing the rules of the game, which describe special “abilities” (behaviors) for 14 characters and a silver amulet. I analyzed the rules and designed the underlying data structures to support the game play, but I also knew I needed to be flexible in my approach. While the initial analysis is always critical, in every project I expect things will change. So I work to build infrastructure that will accommodate changes so the project stays on track.
The computer player has to be reasonably “smart” so the game is fun to play. A big part of the challenge was setting up the computer’s AI (artificial intelligence) to make the same kinds of reasonably strategic moves a human player would make. Each player also can gain knowledge of the other player’s cards, and remembering that information helps win the game. My years of experience writing business applications helped me code the necessary logic, using Ted’s AI rules, to make the computer player “smart” – but also not able to overstep the capabilities of a human player.
An elegant user experience
As a team we worked hard to create an easy-to-learn and intuitive user interface. We took great care to create animation that augments the game play and adds elegance to the gorgeous illustrations created by talented artist Andrey Gordeev. The musical score by Gagexaadds a dimension of intrigue to the app. The end result is more than a card game, it’s an immersive experience that will bring players back even after they’ve purchased the physical game.
Purpose-built app development tools
The tool I use to build apps, Corona (Solar2d), was conceived specifically for constructing 2-dimensional games. It has physics built-in for operations like locating boundaries and bouncing objects off one another. With a few adaptations, I’ve also had good success using Corona for business-focused projects that address data-centered problems. It develops natively for multiple devices, including iOS and Android, which means I can provide an efficient and cost-effective development process to my clients. And it has great documentation, so I can spend my development time solving the challenge instead of figuring out how the tool works.
It’s not just a game
I’ve always been fascinated by game theory, and it turns out there are many parallels between game play and business systems.
- Both have information that needs to be tracked (cards or data points), and rules for how to manipulate that information (game rules or business rules).
- Both can have numerous allowable inputs, relevant variables, and possible outputs at any one time.
- Tracking the current state (of the game or of the business application) means storing data in a database and keeping it updated at all times.
- Different moves are allowed, or different actions are available, based on what’s happened so far, and the interface must present only valid options at any time. Knowing what moves are allowed means coding a logical decision tree to examine the current state and determine what options are available.
- So my background in developing workflow systems and expert systems gave me the foundational skills needed to build this complex game app.
A partnership with a fabulous company
It has been a pleasure to work with Bézier’s creative, artistic, talented people who are focused on bringing something enjoyable into the world. The team is spread out in locations across the country, so our interactions are at a distance. We all work hard to communicate well –enough, but not too much. I’m thrilled to have had a part to play in their creative endeavor. My thanks and appreciation to Jeremy Maher for his help with the development process, Taylor Bogle for the amazing user interface design work, Bryon Quick and Nathan McKeehan for QA and to all the testers who I probably owe a couple rounds of beer! A special thanks to Ted Alspach for the amazing opportunity to work with the Bézier Games team and develop this amazing app.
Creativity, immersion, and complexity bring rewards
I love being able to immerse myself intellectually in a challenge, and I was inspired by the design, atmosphere, and creativity of this visually stunning game. I also love the challenge and creativity of solving complex problems. Designing and implementing a structure that can support the complexity of this game is very rewarding.
Need to track your werewolves? There's an app for that.
The Silver Scoresheet app is free and can be used to keep score for any two- to four-player physical card game. Enter each player’s scores at the end of each round and let the app total the round and game scores for you.
Tap the “Star” button to reset the scoresheet for the next game. Tap a second time to clear the players’ names.
Name change to protect the innocent. This is a simple app with a somewhat tricky story. The development environment I used to create this cross-platform app was Corona SDK. Corona is an amazing tool. Easy to learn. Easy to use. Compile one set of code to create a native Android or iOS app. Awesome. However, it does have its limitations, especially with how it handles text entry fields and keyboard support.
This limitation became apparent when tabbing between fields on tablets. Android lets you track keyboard use, iOS doesn’t! So, managing and tracking keyboard input to calculate subtotals and to tab over non-enterable fields turned out to be much more difficult than it should have been.
Making matters even more interesting, Corona Labs announced its transition from a business entity to an open source project and changed its name (you can probably guess the reason for the name change). The new open source project is Solar2d. In general I’m a big fan of open source projects, but they rely on the enthusiasm, passion, and hard work of contributors, lead developers, and donators. I sincerely hope Solar2d continues to be adopted and supported by app developers.
Now, go take care of your werewolf issues!
• Silver Scoresheet: https://beziergames.com/collections/silver-1/products/silver-scoresheet-app
• Silver card games: https://beziergames.com/collections/silver-1
Silver Scoresheet, the Silver app and the Silver card games are copyright Bezier Games, Inc.