Apple leaks Sensitive Developer Data

Posted by Chris Noble September - 7 - 2010 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

On September 4, 2010, we received our monthly financial reports from Apple. These reports include the number of apps sold, the amount of money to be paid to us and so on.

While going over the reports we noticed three apps that did not belong to us. After a quick bit of research, we found that we received the financial reports of two other companies. Our reporting tool, Appfigures, had imported the new apps. Clearly something was wrong. Later that day, we received an email from AppFigures pointing to their blog post with more information, indicating that it was a widespread problem. Apple removed the reports from their portal that evening.

Apple’s silence on this issue is worrying. The reports we received were from smaller devs like ourselves, but what if we had instead seen reports from large public companies like EA? How should we react to the possibility of our financial records being leaked to our competitors?

We believe that a full disclosure of the incident should be made available to all of the developers affected. We would like to see Apple do the right thing and come clean on exactly what happened, along with assurances that it will not happen again in the future.

We would love to hear your comments.

Run, Jump, Fall. (Get Back Up)

Posted by andrew May - 12 - 2010 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

Run, Jump, Fall icon

Our new running game is in the iTunes store now, Run, Jump, Fall. (Get Back Up), and I wanted to take a moment to talk about our design for the game.

The game has a top-down view of a road that you run along. We decided early on that a man in a sombrero was a fun idea for the player character: When he runs all you see are his hands moving back and forth underneath the giant hat. The top-down view ended up inspiring the game’s design in a way we didn’t anticipate.

I threw together a prototype of the game featuring running and turning along a road, and shared it with Chris Noble to see what his thoughts were. The whole time I had been playing the game I held the iPhone vertically, so that the player-character ran up. When I handed it to Chris, he immediately turned the iPhone sideways so that our little Charro was running to the right. This was a eureka moment for us, as we both realized the game worked just as well in any orientation of the phone, since there was nothing on-screen prompting the user to hold the phone in a specific way and the near-symmetrical design of the player and road looked just as interesting vertically or horizontally.

Run, Jump, Fall game orientations

Since we had the idea early on in the game’s development, we decided to design the rest of the game to work in the same ‘orientation-agnostic’ way. Nothing on-screen during gameplay contains critical text or any other elements that suggest a way to hold the phone while playing. The score-meter and pause button are both symmetrical and placed in a corner of the screen. We consciously avoided other options such as an actual number which would have suggested a screen orientation to the user. This made the game playable while holding the phone any which way, but gameplay was only part of the puzzle. There were still menus, death screens, help screens, options screens…how were we ever going to be able to carry forward this orientation-agnostic idea to the entire game presentation?

Run, Jump, Fall death screen orientations

For any spot in the game that had text (including the pause menu, options menu, etc) we decided to create a single window that would fit on the screen in any orientation. As the user rotates their phone, we spin the window around so that the text is always readable. To design this window we had to look at the iPhone’s screen size.

The iPhone’s screen is 320 pixels wide and 480 pixels high. If you want to create a window on the iPhone’s screen that fits both horizontally and vertically, it can be at most 320×320 pixels: Any wider, and it will go off the screen when held vertically; any taller and it will go off the screen when held horizontally. We added OpenFeint integration as well as advertisements on the menus and pause screens (it’s a free game, don’t hate us for the ads! They never show up during gameplay, we promise). OpenFeint notifications take 50 pixels from the top of the screen, and ads take 50 pixels from the bottom. The size of our window was set, then, at 220×220 pixels to leave enough room for OF & ads.

Run, Jump, Fall main menu orientations

This left us with the main menu. I had the idea that we could create an ambiguous image of the Charro: If viewed vertically, it appears he is leaning against a wall; if viewed horizontally, it appears that he is lying on the ground. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what to do with this ambiguous image idea. I talked it over with Kendrick, who did all the art for the game and has a very good head for art & design, and he suggested the design that would become the main menu: The ambiguous Charro image at the bottom/left of the screen, with a rotating main background and buttons. We added some fancy animations so that the menu looks interesting when you rotate the phone, with the Charro sliding out of the screen and back in while the background rotates in place.

The only downside of designing our game to work well from any orientation is that the phone is usually held in a vertical orientation unless the user is given a reason to rotate it. We mentioned in the store description and the game’s help that the game can be rotated and comfortably played however the user wants to hold it, but it’s hard to overcome that ‘default’ way of holding the phone without actually forcing the user to rotate it.

Our ultimate goal with the game’s orientation-agnostic design is that some users will pick up the game and play it in a specific orientation that we never played at (the Charro running to the left, really?) and think that the game was designed to work that way all along. We’ve already seen some people who playtested the game immediately rotate the phone without thinking about it. If the game is comfortable for the average user, and seen as an interesting design by a few others who look at it from all angles, then we will be confident that our design was successful.

iPhone Survives 2 Months of Being Frozen

Posted by Chris Noble February - 26 - 2010 - Friday 12 COMMENTS

miracleiphoneShortly before our submission of iTouch My Friends, Andrew and I were out ice fishing (very Canadian thing to do). On our way home I discovered that my precious iPhone was missing from my pocket. In a confused state, I quickly checked the truck. After not finding it, I went back to our ice fishing spot (not really that good of a spot, no fish were caught that night) and looked frantically for the iPhone. No luck. I was in panic mode when I got home. I went back to the spot later on that night, but to no avail. My iPhone was officially gone.

I borrowed an old phone from a friend that I think they may have inherited from their great-grandfather. It did it’s job as a phone, but not much more. Texting was a pain (what the hell is T9?), and the phone had absolutely no apps. Anyhow, I got used the fact that I was a lesser human being.

Last night, my luck changed. After moving my ice hut, I looked down and saw my precious iPhone. It was there in the snow, frozen since I lost it two months prior. I quickly threw it into a bag of rice and placed it under a lamp to defrost. Three hours later I plugged it in. I wasn’t expecting much. I mean, really, it had been frozen in snow for the last two months! To my surprise, the phone displayed the low battery message. I thought, “This can’t be right. Something isn’t going to work.” Then the Apple logo popped up. I was pumped! I put in the SIM card and voila, my iPhone was back!!!! My apps, my contacts, my music and more importantly my life were back.

This poor iPhone has been through the dumps: It has fallen into a cup of coffee, it decided to take a swim in the toilet, and now it has survived a Canadian winter outside. Really what other phone has been through that much pain and suffering?

Now we know where our app is . . .

Posted by andrew February - 23 - 2010 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

It’s in the store!readyforsale

We posted yesterday about iTouch My Friends and its time in Apple’s review process. Then later on that very day Apple got in touch with us and gave us some clear directions about how to fix our problems. This morning they got back in touch and let us know that they were working on pushing us through the review process, and just like that iTouch My Friends showed up in the app store!

There has been a lot of coverage about Apple’s app reviews recently, but we sincerely feel that they’ve done right by us here at Toga Pit. We wish they could have gotten in touch with us sooner, but when they did get to us they worked fast and gave us good instructions to get us into the store as soon as possible. The representative we spoke to on the phone yesterday & today was very helpful and willing to work with us to get things done.

But enough talk, we’ve got videos to make!

Where is your app?

Posted by andrew February - 22 - 2010 - Monday 4 COMMENTS

rejected

The question “where is your app?” is one that we’ve had to answer many times over the past month.  Like a lot of other iPhone developers, we are currently stuck inside of Apple’s nebulous app review process. Unlike most others, we have been rejected by Apple without any reason or explanation. As family, friends, members of the press, and even some interested fans have asked us where iTouch My Friends is, our answer has slowly changed from a confident “on its way” to a resigned “we don’t know.”

iTouch My Friends was designed as an application to make fun videos of your friends and share them over social networking sites. With over half a year’s development time, the app allows you to turn pictures of your friends into animated characters on your iPhone’s screen and then upload the resulting video to Facebook, Youtube or Twitter. You can add props, animated on-screen effects and sound effects to your videos to make them more entertaining. We also offer a number of pre-made videos that make it quick & easy to turn pictures of your friends into Youtube sensations.

We completed the app early this year and submitted it to Apple’s approval process on January 18. In ITMF’s second week in review, Eli Milchman of Cult of Mac found a video we had uploaded to Youtube and contacted us for more information. We sent him a preview build of the app and he wrote a glowing preview praising ITMF that appeared on the Cult of Mac site on February 1.

The day Eli’s preview was published on the site, Apple phoned us after two weeks of silence to tell us that iTouch My Friends contained what they considered to be ‘objectionable content.’ Despite repeated questioning, their representative maintained that they could not tell us exactly what part of our app was objectionable. We finally managed to pry out of him that ‘anything featuring consumption of alcohol, violence or sexual content’ when a ‘realistic human avatar’ was on screen was a no-no. We had designed the app around what our friends thought would make funny videos and had admittedly made a few ‘racy’ themes that were probably a little inappropriate.

We never offered sexual content as part of the iTouch My Friends experience, so we set to work stripping all content from the app that was violent or referenced alcohol. We removed a number of props, effects and movies (including bottles of beer, samurai swords and the vomit effect) that seemed to be against the policy. We added replacement props and movies featuring dances and superhero themes, and resubmitted the application on February 2.

After resubmitting, another Apple representative informed us that there was a bug in their submission system, and held our application out of review. Finally, after contacting them many times in an attempt to resolve the issue, iTouch My Friends was put back into review on February 9. Again we anxiously began preparing for the launch of our application.

Last Thursday, February 18, exactly one month after our initial submission to Apple, iTouch My Friends was again rejected. This time, Apple has not contacted us or given a reason for the rejection, the app has simply appeared in the rejected state on Apple’s submission tool. We have tried contacting Apple on all official channels for an explanation. So far we have not gotten anything out of them except for the red icon telling us our app is not going to see the store any time soon.

At this point we are unsure how we should proceed.  As far as we know iTouch My Friends does not violate any of the rules of Apple’s store.  It is a large and complex app, so it’s possible we overlooked or missed some detail that Apple does not like. Like we did with the objectionable content, we are willing and eager to bring the app to a conforming state, but without knowing what we are doing wrong it is impossible for us to know what we need to fix.

Where is our app? It’s now a question that we have been asking Apple for days, and we have not even received the courtesy of a “we don’t know.”

Update: Gizmodo has picked up on our story
Another Update: Apple has gotten back to us! After all that, it was just a few concerns about the video upload process. We have hopefully resolved them and iTouch My Friends is resubmitted and back into review!

Update on iTouch My Friends

Posted by andrew February - 1 - 2010 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

iTouch My Friends is entering its second week in Apple’s app approval, and we’re anxiously waiting for their e-mail telling us it is ready to go in the store.

In the meantime, people are starting to take notice!  We sent out a preview build to Eli Milchman from Cult of Mac and he was very impressed with what he saw.

Up and running . . .

Posted by andrew May - 20 - 2009 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

Toga Pit is here!

Watch this space in the coming weeks and months for announcements about our upcoming iPhone apps and information & thoughts about the business and technical sides of making games.