Archive for the 'Startups' Category

Zurp 1.0 Postmortem

December 15th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Last September I wrote a blog post introducing Invader Zurp which revealed a little of the back story on how I came upon this new game idea after it’s first 2 months in development. Fast forward to 3 months later and Invader Zurp had just hit the App Store! I thought it would be useful to sit down and review the last 5 months of development, kind of plan out where I want to go from here and go over the events and insights that I thought were most influential during development.

The Story So Far…

So to recap the original blog post a bit, it was the middle of the summer (2011) and I had been working my brains out on Cannonade for the previous 6 months. I was a little discouraged at that point because progress wasn’t coming quite as quickly as I had hoped. Reception from my testers (just friends and family at that point) hadn’t been as positive as I had wanted either. I still had a very clear vision of what I wanted Cannonade to be and still believed that there is a ton of untapped potential for multiplayer-only games on iOS. But there was only so much I that could do as a one-man team and testing a multiplayer game can be quite time consuming. I took the family on vacation in early July and was able to step away from things for a while. It was then that I got an idea for a single player experience that distilled the core gameplay mechanic of Cannonade down to it’s essence. Thus Invader Zurp was born. Within two weeks I had modularized the Cannonade game engine, re-written the graphics sub-system in OpenGL ES 2.0 and had a working prototype. And it was fun! I found myself on very long “testing” sessions playing even after I had verified my fixes. I seeded the first alpha version in early September and wrote the introductory blog post. Then began the journey of finishing the game and kicking the darn thing out the door. (more…)

Invader Zurp is on the App Store!

December 15th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Aright it’s here! Invader Zurp, the project I have worked so hard on for the last 5 months is now for sale on the App Store! I want to thank all my wonderful testers for all their time they put into playing it and even more for the thoughtful and productive feedback that they so lavishly furnished on me. I couldn’t have done it without you!

Check out the gameplay trailer here:

Now Go Get It!

Startup Grind.app 1.3 (October Update)

October 18th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

The Startup Grind is expanding! You may or may not have heard that we have recently opened up a Los Angeles chapter of the Startup Grind and to coincide with that we have added multiple chapter support to the Startup Grind.app! Now if you are a member of the Startup Grind LA your upcoming and past events should be visible when you log into the Startup Grind.app with your Meetup account. If you are a member of multiple chapters then you will be presented with a top level pane allowing you to switch between them at will.

As we open up more chapters of the Startup Grind you will be able to access all the information and interactive elements for the events for every new meetup that we get going. More awesome features are in the works so stay tuned!

Language Aid: A Postmortem

August 27th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Language Aid is a system-wide text lookup tool I developed and sold for the past couple of years. I recently decided to make it free and release the source code. This is the story behind it.

Rewind to 2006, I was just winding down active development of Vision, my OpenGL Window Sever/UI Framework. I had started work on Vision in college 3 years earlier and had been churning on it full-time for the previous 2 years. I had decided that it was finally time to get a job and so I interviewed around and accepted a position at Apple. I had two weeks until my start date and I wanted to do some programming for fun that was completely different from what I had been doing.

Iron Coder[0]

It was during that two week period of not yet working for Apple that Wolf Rentzsch started the (now defunct) Iron Coder contest. The way it worked was that the organizer announces an API that each of the contestants must use somehow in their entry and then 24 hours later a theme is announced that entries must also somehow incorporate. I thought it was just what I needed. A fun, small-scoped project with a little bit of competition. So the day of the very first Iron Coder arrived and the contest API was announced: The Accessibility API. Accessibility API? What’s that? Until that moment I had not been aware of it but it was actually just what I had been looking for to solve a different problem I had. I started researching it and immediately there were portions of it that were very interesting to me. Specifically, the ability for programs to inspect and copy data (like displayed text) out of other running applications was of particular interest to me.

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Language Aid 1.2

August 27th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Language Aid version 1.2 is out! The big feature of this release is that it is free and open source! This will also be the last release supported by Aoren Software. Development has pretty much wound all the way down at this point and the source has experienced some code rot as Core Foundation has progressively become more and more obsolete and Mac OS X has marched forward.

So it occurred to me that the time has come to set Language Aid free. Anyone care to take the code and modernize it? Maybe even release it on the Mac App Store? Let me know and I can work with you to make that happen. Be sure to check out my tell all Language Aid postmortem.

Startup Grind.app 1.2 (August Update)

August 19th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

The Startup Grind.app version 1.2 has been approved and is live on the App Store! This update features some substantial re-design and refinement. The biggest change has been a complete re-design of the “Questions” pane. Now you can down-vote questions that you don’t like, redundant questions or non-questions. If a question gets to a value of -2 or lower (the equivalent of three negative votes and one positive vote) then the question will no longer be displayed. Remember, you can submit questions to the speaker far in advance of the actual event if you want.

Try it out and let us know what you think of the changes.

Startup Grind.app 1.1 (July Update)

July 20th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

The Startup Grind.app version 1.1 has been approved and is live on the App Store! There are some cool new features in this update! Try them out and let us know what you think.

Info Pane

First, we have condensed a lot of information into a new “Info” pane:

  • The complete details about the speaker and event.
  • A map of where the event is being held (touch it to go look it up in the Maps application).
  • A sponsor banner so you know who to thank for your free pizza that night (Wanna be a sponsor? Email Us).

This pane is the new hub of every event and is the pane that you now start in.

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Startup Grind. The app.

June 15th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

So my friend Derek and I have this really cool event that we run called the Startup Grind. It has been great to watch it blossom into a vibrant, well attended meetup over the past couple of months. The other day we sat down and talked about ways that we could add even more value to what we think is the best free startup event in silicon valley. One thing we wanted to try out was to see if there was some sort of technology solution that we could come up with to make the networking at our event even easier and more valuable. Thus the concept of the Startup Grind app was born. First concept to App Store submission was exactly three weeks to the day. Now that you can get it in your hands, let me give you a tour of it’s main features.

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iPod Touch Server

June 11th, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter


Top-down view of the Aoren Software datacenter in the living room corner.

Why, you might ask? In my case the answer is simply because it is my only alternative. In development of my game Cannonade there quickly arose a need to be able to replay my user’s completed games and validate the results with exactness. In order to obtain that level of exactness, my games must execute with complete determinism. Unfortunately the implementation of floating-point match according to IEEE754 can actually vary somewhat between x86 and ARM processors. This means that if I replayed a game that two of my users played using iOS devices on an x86-based server, the results of the replay would very quickly diverge. Thus I am left with no choice but to set up a dedicated iOS device to wait for notifications of the matches that it needs to replay and validate (a process I call judging). An iOS server you might say.

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Introduction to Cannonade

April 2nd, 2011
Spencer Nielsen Follow snielsen42 on Twitter

Even though many of you already know about my current project (I have also written a few blog posts about it) it is time to officially announce it and give it a quick introduction. The first project that I have chosen to work on since going indie again is an iOS game called “Cannonade”. It is a turn-based physics game with an emphasis on multiplayer and creativity. So far I have the core engine up and running. I have chosen to use the Bullet3D engine for physics simulation because of it’s general support and stability, iOS support and iOS performance. The rendering and effects engine, UI, networking engine and everything else I am writing from scratch myself. I am basing enough crucial functionality on iOS specific components (like UIKit and Game Center) that I can say with good confidence that it is going to be an iOS exclusive (although some parts of the engine may make it to other platforms). It is currently in early Alpha and there is a lot of game design and asset creation left to do. Things are still very malleable and everything is still placeholder (please keep that in mind when playing test versions and viewing screenshots ;) ). I have a comprehensive testing plan, work schedule and timetable which I am hoping will ensure that Cannonade becomes a polished, high quality product by the time it hits the App Store.

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