Defend the Universe against the invasion of the Polyhegrams


This is a collection of my thoughts that I had along the way and maybe it will be of some interest to people. Read at your own peril :p

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I feel the pain

Posted on February 5, 2015 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Just recently I decided to improve the dictionary that is being used in Polyhegrams. I actually found a really good algorithm, it created a much smaller file and even made finding words 10x faster... awesome!!!

Then I tried adding it to my release version. Worked fine in the emulator, worked when I updloaded it to my phone directly, but then when I finally decided to add it to the marketplace it doesn't work. After many many many attempts I finally figured it out...

Yes... I had to load it as a resource not directly as a file<sigh>

mini Makers Fair

Posted on September 4, 2014 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

This weekend I will be sitting at a booth at the local Makers Fair at the Telus Spark convention center. This will hopefully be a great chance to exhibit Polyhegrams as well as several other games I have been working on.

The Fair sounds really interesting and I hope to be able to visit some of the booths and catch some of the shows( especially the diet-coke/menthos show)

Our booth is located in the big room right next to the Lego exhibit... I'll be in the lego pit!


No good deed goes unpunished

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Finally, after a gratuitous amount of work creating a Windows Phone 8 pure version of Polyhegrams to correct a problem which I can only attribute to the Nokia Lumia Black update I can resume working on the other platforms which have been somewhat neglected in the past month.


But, of course as the title of this entry says, the first review I get back is from a disgruntled player from a non-english speaking country who has complaints that there is no way to turn the game off and that it consumes power even when it is in the background. First off, I should mention that a significant part of the gratuitous work I put into this version had to do with actually getting the game to run in the background(suspended actually) because that happens to be one of the first things that gets tested in order for the app to make it into the store. Apparently on Windows Phone 8 all the 3D graphics info goes bye-bye when you enter a suspended mode and I had to figure out how to regenerate it all efficiently once the user goes back to the game after taking a call or text or whatever. I love that I get punished for doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. The second problem about somehow not being able to shut down?!? EVERY windows phone has a hardware back button which is designed and intended to be used to exit the game and go back to the last page/state. I dont specifically have an 'exit' button in my game because AppCampus hammered it into my head via the multitude of design consultations that there should be no 'back' or 'exit' buttons in the game... use the hardware button for that. <sigh> And of course since this user posted a review instead of feedback I have no idea what model of phone or version of the game they are playing...


I am starting to think that I should inject a mini IQ test into the game that only allows access to the review button if you can successfully answer 3 questions of reasonable difficulty that a 7 year old can answer. </sarcasm>


Other than that frustrating event, there is one other bug reported by a user that actually used the feedback that is built into the game (YAY!). Thanks to that I can actually learn quite a bit about their problem by checking the database to see what level they were on, amount of time they had played it, type of phone and version of the game. THIS is why you use feedback instead of griping on the review board and posting some banal unverifiable comment!!! At least in this situation I have a method of communicating with them to get further information and let them know when I have a fix; and the likelyhood that it will get fixed goes up about a million percent. To the player that sent feedback, if you read this, I am working hard on your problem and hope to be able to reproduce it soon.






3 big fixes

Posted on February 26, 2014 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Well it's been a really productive couple of days. There was a really really big complaint in one of the reviews that popped up recently... I am still not a fan of people using the rating system as some weird software bug tracking system, and would REALLY appreciate if they could actually use the feedback system that I have put in place. At any rate this player was having a very specific problem with a very nasty consequence and fortunately did provide barely adequate amount of information that allowed me to figure it out. Apparently this player ran out of puzzles and I wasn't handling that situation properly... but now I am :)

The next bug I found myself and seems to relate only to Nokia phones... its a sound bug where if you set the hardware volume to zero and a new song starts playing in the game then the volume shoots up really loudly. The fix was almost ludicrous and counterintuitive.

The final bug was found by my daughter while she was playtesting the single player game. The multi-word Polyhegram would very occasionally, and very randomly stop working after 3-10 words had been played.  It turns out that my random generation of the puzzle had a bit of a flaw in it that would cause 1 of the wordsets to be blank.

I am very happy to have found and fixed these problems and I hope that this will make a bunch of people happy with the game. This also means that all the major known bugs are fixed and I can feel comfortable publishing the iOS version once I update it with the new code.

In other news I have created a companion app for Polyhegrams called "Polyhegrams Buddy" which will contain links to a set of tutorial videos as well as any reviews that are on YouTube related to my game. I hope that if players are having problems understanding some of the play mechanics that they will be able to learn from these videos.

Thats all for now.


Latest patch and new development

Posted on February 11, 2014 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (0)

The latest patch is now out and seems to be running very well. Thank you everyone that has rated my game and given me nice feedback! I spent a good deal of time ironing out some pesky bugs that snuck in over the last couple previous releases.

In addition to that I added a couple extras:

  • Now, if you select a level that you have already played in single player mode, you can view the artwork from the planet and also re-do the level provided you aren't in the middle of another level.
  • Tips are provided when you first start up the game instead of a generic greeting.
  • There are new bonuses in multiplayer for words that are spelled the same backwards and forwards, as well as a tweak to the multiplier for runs of words that start with the same letter or have escalating lengths.

The new development I am working on is primarily focused on Head to Head but there are also some more goodies to other areas.

  • Head to head mode has be wildly underplayed and I beleive the reason for that is the inability to meet someone who is also(within the same minute) logged into the head to head lobby. Unless there is massive volume of people playing all the time it becomes a case of ships passing each other in the night. In order to help rectify that problem I am implementing a notification system so that you can go off and play other parts of the game whilst still remaining in the lobby. If someone else logs into the lobby you will get a notification that there are players there and if someone challenges you then you will receive a notification as well. I've left it at simple notifications so that it doesn't interrupt the flow of whatever you are playing at that time and so you still need to go back in to head to head in order to accept the challenge.
  • One of my best players had suggested that I include the victory artwork as well when selecting a level that has already been completed. I think this is a great idea and will be in the next version.
  • I want to reduce the size of the notifications so that they are much less intrusive and yet noticeable. I want to avoid obscuring any active game elements (even though you can still select them)

In addition to all this I am working on a beta version that will include a multiple-language multiplayer option. Essentially you can choose from 1 of 5 languages to play and of course will be only competing against others that have chosen that same language. If anyone would like to participate in the beta for this feature please contact [email protected] and let me know.


As usual ... busy busy busy!


2 Steps forward 1 step back.

Posted on January 21, 2014 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Patches and upgrades are supposed to be good things right? And usually they are... there was alot of good things added in the last update that finally appeared in the marketplace. But lo and behold within a couple of hours I found a critical defect that could cause frustration for the players, especially if they have advanced to some of the higher levels. Even though I found it so quickly, there is no way to recall the update and the only way to remove it is to replace it with a new update. That's fine and I already have created an update with a fix but now I have to wait seemingly an eternity for Microsoft to certify this version and meanwhile people are happily updating their game only to discover that they are stuck or lost progress. All because of 1 lousy number that I missed in the code. gah!

I've already seen 1 review appear complaining about the problem and I am bracing myself for the storm to come. I only hope that people are not quick to update the game and I can slip in the new version before too much damage is done to my reputation.This is the side of programming/testing that can be very stressful.

I think tomorrow I am going to send some feedback to Microsoft with some suggestions for their system:

1) Have the ability for the developer to roll back to a previous release... just 1 release.

2) Improve the ratings page to include an email link to support and put a blurb on there requesting that the player should send feedback first if they are experiencing difficulties( you have no idea how frustrating it is reading requests for help in my reviews... I am helpless in that situation). They could also make it so that the feedback is handled anonymously; I dont ever receive their email address but I can reply to their questions.

3) While you're at it, provide some way for the developer to detect that a rating has actually been given. So that we can actually reward people with goodies if they do something nice for us. I dont need to know what the rating was, just that they actually did it.

4) Provide some way for the developer to respond to a review. It would need to be approved of course but at least then we can answer some of these open ended questions that are left there.

5) Allow the developer to push up changes to the description portion of the marketplace entry without having to update the whole application and wait 3-5 business days.

If I even got 2 of these things added to the Windows Phone Marketplace I think it would make updating an application a much much less stressful proposition.


Roller coaster weekend

Posted on January 13, 2014 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)


After the week of being spotlighted in many countries, along with my AdDuplex ad and giving away the game for free I've had lots and lots of people download and try out the game... more than 30,000 actually. Yay!


Here is a breakdown of the feedback I have received:

The overall majority of people that gave ratings liked the concept and gave it a 4-5 star rating. Thank you!

A few people found some bugs and dropped their rating to a 2-3 star. I'm not sure why they didn't send me feedback instead because I can't get any extra information from them. It's not as if I make it difficult to send feedback?!?

The remainder that gave 1 star, more than the 2-3 star ratings, fell into 2 categories from what I could tell:


1) People with personal issues that should see a therapist or at the very least have their internet connection removed because they lack the self control to behave in a civil manner.


2) Angry people that resent that the game is not offered in their native language and feel that punishing me in the ratings is a good way to inspire me to spend a few hundred hours translating, programming and dreaming up puzzles in a tongue that I dont understand.

It is really difficult to look past those 1 star ratings and comments because I cant fathom the type of person that is that unreasonable... its just not who I am or anywhere close to the type of people that I deal with everyday. You definitely need thick skin in order to "put yourself out there" so to speak. Overall though I seem to be hovering around a 4 star average which is good but I still dont have enough ratings in Canada to do anything with... in fact out of the 30K new users, only 250 came from Canada! What is up with that?


Fixes fixes and more fixes

Posted on January 11, 2014 at 3:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Next patch will have the following fixes:

Level 10 had a confirmed bug where you simply couldnt continue to the next puzzle.

A player reported that the 'tried words' in the single player game were accumulating from puzzle to puzzle

On some windows 7 phones the user name was populated with a bunch of random numbers

You will now be able to change your user name and wont be asked immediately to create one either.

Certain puzzle types were not retaining wether or not they had been used or not.

* There was a request to be able to re-do individual levels

* There was several complaints about difficulty correcting words, I am adding the option to have buttons for doing that rather than gestures

In addition to that there will be a new intro and less text, a bunch more puzzles and some minor changes to the settings.

This next patch will be submitted this weekend and hopefully in stores within 3-4 days.

* due to a number of bugs that came in over the weekend I haven't submitted it yet. If only Microsoft could certify apps faster then I would be more inclined to submit sooner and more frequently.


Back on the wagon

Posted on January 10, 2014 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

So to speak.


It's been awhile since my last post and things are still in a holding pattern. I am in the midst of finalizing the intro to the game to remove some elements that people find boring or non-essential. Basically I am removing the written story component and replacing it with an animated montage that hopefully will describe visually the essence of the story I am trying to portay. Also I have moved the user name entry so you dont have to pick it right away since it is only used in head 2 head or multiplayer. You can now change the name too which will fix another outstanding complaint.


Right now I am fortunate to be in a round of 'Spotlights' with the Windows Phone Store which means for the next few days it is being featured on the front page of the games section in the marketplace. On top of that I changed the pricing for the next while to be free. As a result I am seeing an amazing amount of activity and a ton of downloads... at least for me. Not Angry Birds volume but enough to easily hit 250K downloads in a few months if I can maintain even half the volume.


As a result of this activity I am also receiving quite a few more reviews... those of course come with a few grains of salt. It seems there are some people out there that are VERY upset that Polyhegrams is not written in their native language. Apparently I am some huge software house that can whip out localized versions and provide it all for free. But, that being said there have been some very nice people that have contacted me and offered encouragement and some really good reviews. There are still some elements that I have to work on and there are some things that I can never fix but I will simply have to filter out the negativity for the time being and hope that the 1 star "I hate you English bastards" reviews eventually are overwhelmed by the positive reviews.


All for now





Apple and Xamarin Tag Teamed me today

Posted on December 5, 2013 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

I finally shelled out the chunk of money to upgrade to a "business" license of  Xamarin which was needed if I ever wanted to publish my game with multiplayer. All along I have been having licensing issues with them and so I thought I would follow the instructions on their forum to FINALLY get it out of trial mode and using my actual license that I paid for(I really dont like that 24hr build notification that pops up). After uninstalling/installing/upgrading and rebuilding as they recommended it STILL doesn't acknowledge that I have a proper license. It gives me 2 options... create a new trial license or purchase one. I click purchase with the hope that it will just figure it out, but sadly no it just takes me to their website where it cheerfully displays that I indeed DO have a business license. <sigh>

Not to make it a complete waste of a night I decide to look into how to do a closed or open beta of Polyhegrams on iPhone and what I saw was both shocking and disgusting. What I can simply do with a single click in the Windows Phone development portal seems to require 20+ configuration steps, half of which I am not sure I fully understand. Why does everyone love Apple?!? They sure dont like to give developers tools that they can use to actually produce great software.

Guess I will go fix some bugs on the Windows Phone/Tablet version.


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