Couplett 2 of 3: Development and Submission (and Rejection)

(read part 1)As late summer rolled on, we finally began to give Couplett the love it so desperately needed.

Early in development we faced our first big question. We knew we could build the photo taking functionality (we’d already done so with the prototype) and we knew that we could further optimize it. But what to do with these two photos? Through the design process, we came up with two distinct options:

  • simple yet limited
  • complex yet complicated

When going through the initial design phase of a project, it’s always good to throw as much against the wall as possible to see what might stick. Did we want Couplett to be an app that let you do anything you could possibly think of with two photos or did we want it to be something that let you do a couple things really fast, and really well?

We explored some options, built some prototypes and started to get a feel for what would make for a fun experience. What we settled on eventually was the concept of “Themes”. We took as inspiration what you see in iMovie or iPhoto - A single thing to select that brings with it all the options you would need for the composition. Instead of choosing a mask, a border, a color, a filter, a crop level and whatever else separately, you select a single theme and we design the themes to have all those things preselected for you. We then offer a few simple options (like position and size of the inner picture) and you’re all done.

It was around this time that we found Terrena, a full time graphics guru. What we realized we needed for Couplett was themes that were truly designed, and Brittney was already otherwise occupied with Uncle Slam. It was also around this time that we came up with the model for Couplett - Tokens.

You've seen "tokens", "gold" or "coins" in lots of popular games. You earn them in the game for performing various actions but, more importantly to us, you can skip all that and just buy them. When done correctly, you have something like Jetpack Joyride where you can just skip ahead a bit if you're frustrated. When done poorly, you have a Smurfberry situation.

Our goal was to incentivize the sharing of Coupletts (and hence, the sharing of the app itself). For every sharing action, you would earn tokens. Facebook, Twitter and Flickr sharing would earn more (since you were sharing with a larger audience) and sharing via email slightly less. This would then be the mechanism to unlock new themes, and as with many of the games out there, we would also offer the ability to purchase tokens in bulk if you just wanted the themes and didn't much care about sharing.

Development proceeded at quite a clip once Roben joined the team and there was even some friendly competition with the Uncle Slam team to see who might ship first. Uncle Slam won that contest by about a week but both came together so closely that it made the most sense toe schedule their releases together. December 16th would be the day. We submitted the final build and settled in to wait.

4 days later, we received the email you never want to get-

Your app Couplett has been reviewed, but we are unable to post this version. For details, or to directly contact the App Review team, visit the Resolution Center in iTunes Connect. Do not reply to this email.


App Review

Translation: REJECTED.

(read part 3)

Couplett 1 of 3: Conception and Planning (and delays)

Couplett is finally coming out tomorrow, February 8th. For those that are interested, I thought I'd give a little insight into the year-long process that has brought Couplett to the App Store. A whole year, you say? Indeed. So how does such a simple concept take a year to come to fruition? Read on to find out.In January, 2011, I was having lunch with my daughter. We were having one of our favorites, Panera mac and cheese, while taking a break from some errands. I find that my favorite times with my children are when I get to spend time with them individually. My daughter had requested “the mac and cheese restaurant” and I was happy to oblige.

Being the age of cell phone cameras, I was taken by an impulse we all seem to have from time to time, “I want to capture this moment”. So there she was, across the table from me and I began the typical dance:

  • Launch camera app
  • lean over the table
  • extend arm
  • realise that I’m not sure the framing
  • weigh the option of using the front facing camera despite it’s lower quality...

Wait a second.

Why am I switching cameras? This device has 2 cameras, if I could just drop the phone in between us and use both cameras, that would be so much simpler!

Thus began an App Store search and I found that there wasn’t much available (or my search skills weren’t up to the task). I filed the idea away and set a RE.minder to talk to John about it on Monday.

After relaying the idea, John started playing around with the camera system and we made some interesting discoveries, the most important of which is that, on the iPhone 4, there is no way to have both cameras active at the same time. No matter how we sliced it, the best we could hope for was two images, captured one immediately after the other. We took this prototype with us to WWDC 2011 and confirmed this with Apple. Barring a redesign of the underlying camera system (or a significant change deep within the OS), we could not have both cameras active at once.

Armed with this knowledge, it was time to dive into active development. Oh if only.

After WWDC in June, we were knee deep in the development of Uncle Slam. In addition, we now had a bright and shiny  (if borderline alpha) new iOS version to content with. But as we all know, Apple is never exactly forthcoming with projected release dates. Could Couplett be iOS5 only? Should we shift Uncle Slam's focus to iOS 5? Decisions, decisions.

(read part 2 and part 3)

Post Pax Pix Pax Post

What an amazing weekend!  Thanks to everyone who tried out GAME.minder and a special thanks to those who played Presidential Pugilism and gave us feedback.  Time to set your sites on PAX Prime in late August for another look at a (hopefully finished) Presidential Pugilism!Until then, here's some pics from PAXEAST 2011

And finally, some shots of playing the presidents:

Thanks for a great PAX East and we'll see you in August for PAX Prime!!