My iPhone App’s final Report Card…or is this just an end of semester essay.

So my app is done, Zombie Air Strike . And now its time for some answers to your questions, like… Why is it about zombies? Was it done in Flash or XCode? What about us Droid users? You spent that long on THAT?

Actually that last question I’ve just been asking myself. So here comes a mega article and hopefully I can sum up this small adventure of actually accomplishing something I wanted to try. Was it a success, failure, or both??  I’m both a teacher and a student, so I can be as brutally honest with myself as possible and then decide whether or not to walk out of the classroom with my head held high or shluff out kicking a wad of trash that is…

My Own Final Report Card

"Oh Bender, you've drunk too much, or not enough, I can't remember which it is with you robots"


For Justin, all the good…

  1. Can learn new things: A
  2. Solves problems well: A+
  3. Project completed: B+

Yeah I can learn new stuff. I proved it once again. And if nothing else, this has been a huge boost to what I know. Wait, did I just write “if nothing else”. That would suck if nothing else comes of this but some brain grease. I want fortune and glory!… No really, this will go down in Justin History as another obsession driven learning experience. And probably little more.

I tried way more than a year ago to learn Objective C / XCode and failed big time because I never started a real project. I need project goals, tasks, little notes and checksheets to really push me try to learn something new. There’s gotta be an uphill battle, which book training doesn’t provide (but keep buying video training, video training is great!). The books you see above rarely lead to failure.

A lot has been written about failing to succeed. Lincoln, Wired Magazine this month, etc. And failing to learn is part of that optimistic view. I definitely hit plenty of road blocks in this app and that forced me to spend 2 or 3 days learning new stuff, or sometimes relearning how I was doing something wrong that I thought was right. And sometimes you just gotta say “aw, screw this, I’ll just NOT do what I wanted”, which I think is a fine last resort too.

I give myself a B+ for getting this done. I rarely feel like anything I do is ever perfect, and when a project gets close to being done, I get that ants in my pants feeling like “ok, I’m starting to get really sick of this not being finished”. Which is probably the only real feeling of a deadline I ever give myself. So anyway, I think I rushed a few things toward the end, but had I spent another week or month developing this app, it probably would be 99% the same.

For Justin, all the bad.

  1. Multi-tasks well: D-
  2. Meets deadlines: F
  3. Project completed as directed: C+

I read a study once that concluded people who brag that they are good multi-taskers are actually really bad multi-taskers.  Now I know I’m a bad multi-tasker, so that must make me really really bad. I’m terrible at juggling a lot at once. And fortunately I work alone with no boss, and no real deadlines to rein me in when I get too single-minded. Wait, thats a bad thing!!

I can go on a work bender and arise from this basement smelling and looking like the Swamp Thing. But 99% of that time goes to the one ultra-task, and everything else piles up. Like 30…40…50 unread emails. Actually unread means, unresponded to. I read them all. When I am a great “representative” of CartoonSmart is when I’m on vacation, and I have a laptop and no real capability to work on something major. Which isn’t to say I’m always on a mega-project here at home, but giving nothing else to do, I’ll check email like crazy, hit the forums,  get into completely unnecessary conversations with strangers, basically do tons of free consulting, and have a good ol’ time at it. And thats the bad part of The Large Project Obsession, the communal aspect of what I do here takes a back seat.

I’ll give myself a C+ for completing this project as directed.  I wanted to make an app that blew up stuff using the iPhones location services. That was finished back in November probably. After that the tangents started. The “what ifs”. What if I could switch bombs, add little perks, or switch cities while playing, and then eventually I realized I was making a game, not just a call-in-an-air strike app. Thats where the word “Zombie” got added. Actually I think that will be one of the better stumble-upons during development that I added the word “zombie” .  Yes,  there are 100,000 apps and growing, but there’s not an absurdly long list of zombie related apps. And boys love zombies. Boys love blowing up stuff. Boys love free apps. So that could be a good long term way of finding new users.

For the Project Itself: Good, bad, or just the app with the gun.

I think the app came out very well. Hey its no Tetris. But what is.  Almost every game on the App store calls itself “addicting.” There’s been like maybe 5 games ever that I’d say are addicting: Tetris, Solitaire, Phantasy Star 2, and Modern Warefare 1&2. Okay thats 6. But only two in that list are on the iPhone.  But fortunately for me, I don’t have to rely on my own opinion of the game to measure its worth. ITunes has a star-review system in place, so anytime I want to see how great or how sucky my app measures up, I can look at the stars. And possibly cry a little.

Good news though, raw data wise,  in 3 or 4 days of being in the store, its gotten at least 3000 downloads (its free, thats not sales folks, don’t hold me hostage) and I think thats pretty good. Maybe in a month that will be down to 1 download a day though. But if so, I’ll enjoy knowing I’ve partially amused that one person for as long as they decide to not uninstall that app.

All the rest.

So I did get a question yesterday asking if this was made in Flash CS5 Beta or XCode. I definitely did not make it in Flash. Despite all the psychic messages I’ve been directing toward Adobe HQ, no one there has picked up yet that I’d love to try the Beta. So no. And while I’d love to be proven wrong on this, I think XCode will always be superior to Flash for creating iPhone apps. Apple’s got home-field advantage here. Their tools, their device. And early on in this project I was constantly crashing the app trying to do stuff I thought was relatively process un-intensive. So I can imagine the frustration of adding a couple simple animated movieclips to the stage that crash the device over and over again.

But yesterday I did go and look up again what API’s Adobe is including to get Actionscript working with some of the cool stuff  the iPhone does and one of them is the Geo-coder. Which in Zombie Air Strike is the fun part to me, that you can use location services or any map as a game background. So it seems like you could do that with a Flash made app too. And if Flash CS5 does publish out a perfect Apple-friendly app, I could definitely see myself just saying “aww screw it, I’ll build this one in Flash.”  Although at the moment, my Actionscript 3 is probably rustier than my Obj C. Thank god for all these great CartoonSmart Flash tutorials. Shameless linking, I know.

Yesterday someone posted a comment asking “what about us Droid folks”. Oh boy. Another SDK to learn!? I don’t think I could handle that for a while. I do agree that there’s plenty of potential there. But I know I”ll stick with the iPhone for a lot longer. There is something really, really exciting about developing an app for such a slick device.  I’m not at all amazed anymore by what my desktop computer can do. For example,  playing Zombie Air Strike in the iPhone Simulator on my computer isn’t that great,  but messing around with it on my phone is awesome. Oh and plus I’m not buying another phone either. Sorry Google.

And speaking of the Simulator, for the iPhone-less other there…

Here’s is the game in action.

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12 thoughts on “My iPhone App’s final Report Card…or is this just an end of semester essay.

  1. I have a few questions!

    What is with this iphone stuff anyway?:) This means that you will start making tutorials for iphone and leave flash behind.

    Is there a rsone for this, I mean do you think flash is to be outdone by other technology or something.

    Sorry for my bad English.

  2. Inspiration, by definition is something we don’t have control of, besides, professionals posses reliable. work tools, to survive in business. You may consider a better laptop.

    Congrats on the game, I don’t have an I phone… yet.

  3. Tylor Skory says:

    I REALLY want to see some iPhone tutorials from YOU. Also, can you recommend which books you found helpful in learning Object C and iPhone Development in general?

  4. Looks pretty cool, too bad I don’t have an iPhone. Trying to get my boss to remember to download it on his iPod Touch though so we can check it out. The only thing that would be cooler is if it were for Palm OS or Web OS haha.

    I’m surprised you mentioned that there’s not a lot of iPhone applications involving zombies. I wanted to start a web-series about zombies and just about every title I could think of has already been taken on the web. I finally decided to make a page about a zombie named Ned and bought the domain name and everything then realized that there’s a very famous XBox game that contains those words. So AdWords would never show my site unless I paid millions.

    You seem to do very well at AdWords and PPC so I noticed google shows your game right away, well done. Nice blog as well, I like to hear about the behind-the-scenes of how software and apps are developed.

  5. Actually Greg if you type in “zombies” into Google, no one is placing adwords ads on that term. So you could advertise for a penny a click and be the top ad. Also you could definitely advertise on their Content network for a penny a click. I’d recommend image ads, so even if you only get an impression ( which is free) you’re getting the name out there.

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