Get Slammed! Tournament Pics from #PAX

If you played Uncle Slam on Friday, you had the opportunity to enter the Get Slammed! Tournament with prizes ranging from Handelabra swag all the way up to a brand new iPod Touch or iPad. Check out the pics below to see all the action and click here to watch the final round between Nick K and Chris S.

Chris S took second place and won himself an iPod Touch and our grand prize winner was Nick K who took the unsung hero Millard Fillmore all the way. He went home from PAX with a brand spankin new 16 GB iPad! Congrats guys!

[gallery link="file" columns="2" orderby="title"] and the countdown to #PAX

Uncle Slamidential SealWell folks, it's Friday, August 19th. That puts us 1 week away from Uncle Slam's coming out party.We know you have questions-

  • Who is Uncle Slam?
  • Why should I care?
  • Where can I play?
  • When can I play?
  • Is it true you are giving away an iPad and an iPod Touch?

To answer these questions in reverse order -

YES - To celebrate the first public display of Uncle Slam we will be giving away an iPod Touch and an iPad at PAX Prime. How can you win? Stay tuned for more info this coming week.

August 26th-28th in Seattle - Those are the dates of the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. Whether you are there for just one day, or the whole weekend, come find us!

Booth #6014 on the 6th floor (you can see it here) - Head up to the tippy top floor and look for the oval office in a boxing ring. No, seriously. That's what you're looking for.

Because you, like us, have always wanted to box a President - Uncle Slam is a boxing game for iPad (and also for iPod and iPhone but at PAX we're just showing off the iPad version). And c'mon, who hasn't wanted to punch a politician in the face?

So who is Uncle Slam? That is a question that is going to take a little extra effort. To get a feel for who Uncle Slam really is, you can start by following him on twitter. Maybe like his Facebook page too. And if that's still not enough, just visit to get the full backstory. And don't forget to follow Uncle Slam in GAME.minder so you're notified when it's coming out.

Just 7 days left!

We'll see you all in Seattle.

Uncle Slam: the road to PAX

It's been quite a while since I last posted about Uncle Slam -- the game has a new name and everything now!After we got a good response to our impromptu demos at PAX East, we decided to go full bore on the game. So this summer we've been working hard to get the game built and ready for a real showing at PAX Prime. We're setting up an awesome booth where people can try out Uncle Slam, compete in tournaments, and talk to the developers and artists who put the game together.

Here's what you can look forward to at PAX, by the numbers:

  • 9 Presidents of the United States, including but not limited to: George Washington, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Abraham Lincoln
  • 5 stages, including the White House, Mount Rushmore, and some other surprises..
  • 7 Handelabra representatives, including developers and artists, to chat with about Uncle Slam and our other projects
  • 3 big screens showing all the action and keeping track of the Presidential Standings

Now this is still a Developer's Corner post, so I'll mention some of the technical bits.. we've come a long way since our prototype we had at PAX East. This is our first game at Handelabra, so it's been a learning experience setting up a pipeline for art process, scripting and packaging game assets, integrating with game engines and other technologies, and so on. I'm hoping to get some posts up after PAX Prime talking in more detail about how the project has been going. Uncle Slam has benefited hugely from open source libraries like cocos2d, Box2D, and RestKit, as well as useful tools like PhysicsEditor, TexturePacker, and Particle Designer.

How about some screen shots?

Uncle Slam is due out later this year, so keep an eye on this space. Better yet, set a RE.minder in GAME.minder! Even better yet, visit us at PAX Prime from August 26-28 -- we'll be in booth #6014.

GAME.minder on twitter and facebook

What's this?  Super Mario was just added?  With a link and everything?What on earth is going on?

If you've a keen eye, you may have noticed something popping up on the GAME.minder facebook wall ( or in the GAME.minder tweet stream (@GAMEminder) today.

We've had a lot of requests to give some sort of notice regarding when games get added to the system.  Sending a push to EVERY device for EVERY game would be doable but probably a bit obnoxious.  So rather than an opt-out, push-based solution, we've decided to give you an opt-in, follow-based solution.  Just "like" GAME.minder on facebook or follow @GAMEminder on twitter and you'll be able to see every new game, as soon as it's added to our system.

But wait a tick - what are these links all about?

Put simply, they are your fast-track for setting new RE.minders.  We used the custom URL feature of iOS to allow us to give you 2-tap RE.minder setting, right from facebook or twitter!  When you see a game you want to remember pop up on the wall or in the stream, just:

  1. Tap the link
  2. Tap the platform you want to set
  3. There is no step 3

GAME.minder 2 will open up and set the RE.minder for you.

There's only one thing to remember: this super-cool and infinitely nifty feature requires GAME.minder 2 which is coming out next Friday, March 11th, aka -"GAME.minder day", aka "The first day of PAX East", aka "iPad 2 day" (grumble, grumble, Apple trying to steal our spotlight).

So get your downloadin' finger ready and we'll see you next Friday!

Every App is Multi-touch (even if it's not)

Back then…

In the mid to late 90's, there was something spreading across the internet like herpes. It promised freedom from the tyranny of table-based layouts, rich animations, vector graphics that could scale to any size and pixel perfect reproduction on any machine, regardless of browser, OS or platform.

That infection was (and is) Flash (Now Adobe, then Macromedia, previously FutureSplash).

What made this technology so appealing to designers was the promise that they could have complete and utter control over the presentation of their designs. No more worrying about how IE4 would render that table vs Netscape 3.2. No more sticking with Arial, Times New Roman and Comic Sans. Build your flash file at 400x600 and everything will always be exactly where you want it. But more than that, you are free to completely re-imagine the entire concept of web navigation. Forget about that back button, forget about users deep-linking to a specific page, your website is now a black box within which you, the designer, are god - usability be damned. In the immortal words of Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, "We were so busy figuring out if we could, we didn't stop to think about whether we SHOULD".

As with most new technologies, it took some time for people to learn what flash was good at and what it wasn't, when to use it and when it was over kill, and probably most importantly, WHY to use flash (some are still fighting to learn this lesson). Flash brought a bunch of new functionality to interface design. For instance, JavaScript offered rollovers but now flash could give you animated rollovers with dynamic hit areas. What this meant to the overall goal of usable interfaces is still up for debate but one thing that DIDN'T change through this r/evolution was the method of interaction - onscreen cursor, driven by a mouse.


With the growing ubiquity of touch-based interfaces, we're seeing the first real paradigm shift in user-interface since Steve Jobs visited Xerox PARC back in 1979. While Flash helped us to learn that interfaces could be fluid, living and changing things, touch is teaching us new lessons.

What makes touch such an interesting development is where it's being used primarily - mobile devices. In the mouse and cursor world, the interface can do anything, as long as it can be manipulated with a single point traveling across the screen. Those who maintain this thinking moving into the touch world do so at their peril. Sure, there will always be software that just needs a series of clicks (now taps) to function, but in the mobile world, those too are multi-touch apps.

Why? Because possibly more important than simply incorporating more than one finger on the screen is remembering a touch point that many seem to forget - the hand holding the device. On smartphone handsets, where it's possible to effectively hold the device in one hand and operate it with the thumb of that same hand, this is less of an issue than it is with the new, larger devices like the iPad and Galaxy Tab. On these devices, it's non-trivial to plan for how users will hold it in physical space.

The quintessential multi-touch experience for the iPad is Uzu, a particle/acid trip generator that can track all 10 fingers simultaneously. Obviously, if you are using this app by yourself, the only way to do so is to lay it on your lap or a table. Once you do so, its two-handed nature is a wonder to behold. Yet as fun as it is to play with, it can be awkward if there's no convenient place to lay it down. This becomes even more apparent if you try to thumb-type while holding an iPad in landscape orientation.

Then look at a game like Snood, a game that has historically used interfaces from controllers to mice and keyboards. The touch and drag mechanic works for aiming but the firing mechanic requires you to tap directly on the cannon. During development, it was probably assumed that most people would hold the device with one hand and manipulate the game with the other hand. But in practice, I have found that firing with an index finger is far less accurate than a thumb. Why? Because when held as you see in the second photo below, the thumb is anchored to the device. An index finger is essentially floating over the device. As you then move in to tap, your aim can shift and you tap (or even tap and drag) in a way you didn't intend. Most attribute this to some sort of "fat finger syndrome". Another way to say this is that touch interfaces have no state. When you stop moving a mouse, the cursor stays where you left it. When you finish a tap, the cursor disappears (if it ever existed in the first place).

I often play simple games like snood while I "watch" TV and I can tell you, holding the device like this for an hour leads to quite the cramp in my "firing hand". The designers of snood probably don't think of that game as "multi-touch" and that is why it's a game I can only play in short bursts. They've forgotten (or failed to learn) than in the world of mobile devices, EVERY app is a multi-touch app.

Congratulations - you are now a hardware designer

What this all means for the future of software interface design is that the lines between software and hardware are going to become VERY blurry. The world of flash began to teach us that just because you CAN put the navigation in a spiral around the center of the screen, that doesn't mean you should. Similarly, the touch world is beginning to teach us that EVERY piece of software is multi-touch, even if it's just a series of single taps because the hand holding the device is just another touch point.

This is why it's so awkward to do full typing on the iPad. Apple (paragons of usability though they may sometimes be) completely failed to plan for MOBILE typing on their MOBILE device. When it came time to tackle typing, maybe in an effort to avoid the "big iPod touch" moniker, maybe because it just didn't occur to them, they completely threw out everything they learned about thumb typing from the iPhone and instead, tried to build a touch-based laptop keyboard. If you are in portrait and need to type something on your iPad, your options are simple: double the length of your thumbs, find a table, or contort you body in to the "iPad crunch" as I call it (Knees together, back hunched. See below)

In a world where the software designer has planned for the hardware, you instead get something like this (click for a larger version) :

As we move into 2011, there will undoubtedly be a number of cool innovations in the multi-touch space. But the most important innovation has already happened, and it's simply time for everyone involved in interface design to remember -

Every App is Multi-Touch.

Better Clock now available for iPhone - iPad soon

Handelabra Studio is happy to announce the release of Better Clock v1.0!When we heard that iOS 4.2 was going to finally bring Multi-tasking, local notifications and background audio to iPad, we set out to create a great nightstand alarm clock using the latest iOS technologies.  Is it the best clock? Maybe.  But it's definitely better.

Some of the great things that Better Clock can do:

  • Using background audio, our sleep timer lets you fall asleep to ANY app that supports playing in the background.  Like the Pandora station you created?  Start it up and set the sleep timer in Better Clock.  We'll handle the rest.
  • If you have a white noise app you like to use, the magic of background audio helps you there to.  Rather than try to build our own white noise function, we decided to just get out of the way and let you use the one you like.
  • We made Better Clock to be a nightstand clock for those of us who charge our iDevices at night but you can use it anywhere.  And if you forget to come back to Better Clock, we can still play alarms in the background.

Better Clock is available on the App Store as a universal binary for just 99¢.  You can start using it today on iPhone and iPod Touch and if you download it now, it will sitting in iTunes waiting patiently to take iOS 4.2 out for a drive on your iPad once it is released (whenever that may be).

We hope you like it!