Upcoming Industry Events

There are a couple of important happenings in the next few days.

This evening will be the monthly chapter meeting of the Southern Michigan IGDA (International Game Developers Association). This October meeting is an Education Roundtable which will feature several area game/multimedia professors, including Dr. Bruce Maxim of UofM – Dearborn, Brian Winn of Michigan State University, Kim Callery of IADT Detroit, and Jacob Pollak of Schoolcraft College.

For those who are close enough to attend, the meeting will take place on the University of Michigan – Dearborn campus (4901 Evergreen Road, Dearborn, MI). It will start at 6:00pm, running until perhaps 9:00pm, in auditorium room 1011 of the IAVS (Borg Warner) building. (No, I am not exactly sure where that is, either, but here is a campus map.)

Starting tomorrow will be the Bloomington Schmooze 2007, the latest installment of the Fall Shareware Schmooze, this time hosted by Eric Isaacson of Eric Isaacson Software, makers of ZIPKEY. This schmooze will run Thursday through Sunday, with home base at the Abe Martin Lodge within Indiana’s Brown County State Park, near Nashville (Indiana, not Tennessee).

A shareware schmooze is a unique networking (and socializing) event in which people who, for the most part, work online gather in one location to meet in person. There is no fixed agenda, so the activities can vary from simply sitting in comfortable chairs drinking and snacking all weekend, to opening laptops and working on technical software issues, to visiting local points of interest, to discussing business, politics, sports, the weather, or nothing at all. For more information, visit the official shareware schmooze page.

If you are in the area and have an interest in either building the game industry in Michigan or in the education of our next generation of game developers, stop by the IGDA chapter meeting. If you are involved in development of games and/or independent software of any kind, I urge you to come to the Shareware Schmooze, if even for just part of a day, to meet others who are making a living in the industry.

Sorry for the late notice.

New platform: Mac OS X

We are getting prepared to release a Macintosh game next week.

As mentioned in several previous posts, including New development platform, most of my recent development has been on “another” platform (read: not Windows), and I can now confirm here that we are almost ready to release a solitaire game for Mac OS X.

The title was developed using Xcode, the development environment that ships (“free“) with every Apple computer, written entirely in C++ (Gnu) and using Carbon. Our decision to use Carbon, as opposed to Cocoa, was made when Apple still openly spoke of both frameworks being “first class citizens” on OS X and even recommended Carbon for cross-platform code. We were almost into beta when Apple revealed, in classic bombshell fashion, that Carbon had been demoted and would not be fully supported in 64-bit versions of the operating system, starting with the next release.

That next release (a.k.a, the next big cat) is Leopard, OS X 10.5, which is going to be released this coming Friday. Ironically, that is just a single day after our originally planned release date, so we will be releasing a little bit later to properly test on this latest Apple operating system. (That is my story and I am sticking to it; the slight schedule slippage on this product was only coincidental.)

Although much of the underlying source code is derived from, or (in some cases) identical to, code used under Windows, the game is not a simple port, as nearly the entire user interface was rewritten to conform with the Apple Human Interface Guidelines and to be “Mac native“. Everything we have heard and read suggests that straight ports that do not look like Mac products (especially those which look like Windows applications) are rejected by Apple users. This should definitely not be an issue with our new title.

This long development process has been quite a learning experience, and there are lots of areas in which OS X excels over Windows, and vice versa. I will detail some of these once the game finally goes gold. In the meantime, it should not take too much investigation and deduction for the interested to figure out the name of this latest project.

Windows Solitaire Trivia

This week’s episode of Cash Cab: After Dark had a solitaire question.

For the unfamiliar, the Discovery Channel airs a unique trivia show, Cash Cab, along with its new variant, Cash Cab: After Dark, in which people climb into a New York City taxicab and unexpectedly become contestants on a game show, winning money for each correct answer en route to their destination. The catch is that wrong answers earn a strike and “three strikes and you’re out”, literally: kicked out of the cab on the spot with no (extra) money.

The most recent episode of Cash Cab: After Dark, aired originally on Wednesday night, featured a question about solitaire on Windows, an area in which I have some degree of expertise.

Question: A blessing for bored PC users, what specific variety of solitaire has come with Microsoft Windows since 1995?

The correct answer, of course, is FreeCell, which shipped with Windows 95. (As an aside, I was in attendance at the Win95 release event on the Microsoft Campus. Big doin’s.) However, FreeCell was actually available with Win32s (for 16-bit Windows) and as part of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack products prior to this.

The FreeCell implementations in both Most Popular Solitaire and Pretty Good Solitaire are deal compatible with the Windows version. Additionally, our upcoming title, on another platform, also contains a version that produces the same deals (up to deal #1000000). More details to follow…

One possible incorrect answer would be Klondike, which is the proper name for the type of solitaire (or patience) that is simply called Solitaire in Windows. The word “specific” could lead one to that response, but that game started shipping with Windows 3.0 in 1990. (The aforementioned games all include Klondike.)

Another possible incorrect answer could be Spider [Solitaire], which started shipping with Windows me (but don’t tell Wikipedia that), but was previously available with Microsoft 98 Plus! Having beta tested the latter product, I can say that the shipping version was a vast improvement on the first version I saw. (Spider is also included in all of the aforementioned Goodsol Development titles as well, including the Spider One Suit and Spider Two Suits variants.)

Too much solitaire information? I have lots more.

Happy Birthday, PGMJ!

Pretty Good MahJongg is now five (plus) years old.

Last Friday was the 5th anniversary of the first public release of Pretty Good MahJongg. On October 12, 2002, Pretty Good MahJongg 1.0 was released.

Of course, the program had been in development for quite a while (let’s say 9 months, or 40 weeks) before that. This was the second product, and first actual game title, developed during our continuing collaboration with Goodsol Development. We started working together six years ago (this month, I believe), first producing a support library, PGScard (now GDcard), which provides some fundamental features of Pretty Good Solitaire.

Back in 2003, Thomas Warfield made a blog post, How Long Does Great Shareware Take?, in which he refers to Pretty Good MahJongg as “still an infant”, and it is an interesting article to read in retrospect, especially given the fact that we recently won our first software award (even before version 3.0). Even if Joel Spolsky is correct is his article, Good Software Takes Ten Years, we are certainly well on our way.

In lieu of gifts, our game has requested that everybody vote for PGMJ to receive the 2007 Epsilon Award.

Chairman of the Board, Take 2

I have been appointed to lead the ASP Board of Directors, again.

On Saturday, the Directors of the ASP (Association of Shareware Professionals), excluding myself, of course, named me as the interim Chairman of the Board, to serve through the end of the year (or more accurately, until the 2008 Board of Directors fills the position).

This is my second stint as ASP Chairman of the Board, the first being back in 2004, when I served from early February until the end of that year (when my term as Director expired). This time, I am succeeding Mitchell Vincent, who had been in the position since the beginning of 2006. He runs K Software, which develops and publishes billing software (among other things), and also works with e-commerce provider Plimus; he resigned from ASP leadership due to (understandable) time constraints.

The general meeting is coming up in December, when members will have the opportunity to choose, or be chosen as, Directors of the organization. If you have not done so, I encourage you to join the Association of Shareware Professionals, and if you are already a member, please seriously consider nominating yourself for a Director seat (details are in the cover article of the October ASPects).

I guess that it is now time to roll up my sleeves…