MAS Preparation, Part 3

Data and Resource guidelines

In the previous installment of Preparing for Mac App Store Submission, I detailed changes to the information property list that are necessary (or recommended) for a Mac OS X game project being converted to one suitable for MAS submission.

This third part deals with practical implications of guidelines for project data and resources, in particular, artwork and help files.  These points are necessarily somewhat specific to the manner in which we implemented our products, but they should give you some idea of items to look out for, and as always, comments on your experiences are encouraged.

Now, please review all of the artwork and other (non-code) resources in your project with these points in mind…

1. Include a 512×512 image in the application icon

The Mac App Store requires a 512×512 image in the application icon file.  Although this is generally overkill for an application, it is necessary for MAS submissions, where that image size is (presumably) used for presenting your product to users.

We actually produce our Macintosh (.icns) icons under Windows using Axialis IconWorkshop, which handles the required sizes without problem; we recommend this tool for processing icons for multiple platforms.  (We have no affiliation with Axialis, except as a satisfied customer.)

2. Update branding artwork

Although it seems (and truly is) silly, you need to review your branding artwork and update anything that even hints that there is another way to obtain software than through the Mac App Store.

Herein lies a theme: Apple hates downloads; Apple hates external sales.  Any suggestion that a customer may download or purchase anything outside of MAS will result in the rejection of your submission.  (Trust me, we had this thrown in our face, via rejection, more than once.)

In our case, we had a static bitmap used as a splash screen.  It included the (innocuous) line, “Download the latest version of Pretty Good Solitaire from http://goodsol.com“; it was hardly noticeable, and the web address was not even a hot link.  Rejection.  We had to remove that text before resubmitting (and we also removed the line with our support email address, just in case).

3. Add any extra product data desired

Continuing with the theme, you will need to add any extra product data that you may want customers to have, especially any data previously available via download.  In our case, we have (20) extra card sets that are available for Pretty Good Solitaire customers to download (and, likewise, extra tile sets and custom layouts for Pretty Good MahJongg), so these needed to be added to the main bundle to avoid Apple’s allergy to downloading.

The one minor advantage of this, of course, is that Apple has to bear the full download bandwidth burden.  (Card set artwork is not small.)

4. Remove trial version resources from the project

If appropriate, remove any resources used only in trial versions of your product.  In our case, we have an exit screen for trial users, as well as a separate interface (nib) file with all dialogs displayed (only) in the trial version, so we removed these.  (There is no sense including unused files, especially if they could give Apple more places to find reasons to reject.)

Similarly, if you have an install bitmap in your bundle, as I recommended in Making Mac Disk Images Pretty, you may as well remove that, too (since there is no disk image packaging to be done).

5. Remove any ‘How to Order’ section from help files

Review your help files and remove any pages that discuss verboten topics, such as downloading, registering, or (especially) purchasing the product.  We have an entire section called “How to Order”, dealing with all of those topics, that is just removed wholesale for the MAS submission (but remains in our downloadable versions); it was the cause for a rejection.

Note that Apple does not reject for simple web links back to a product site, which itself may have loads of sales and download information, but you will want to be careful about the surrounding text.

6. Remove text referring to downloading or sales

Building from the previous guideline, after removing entire pages about problematic topics, check other help topics and remove any text referring to downloads or sales, even indirectly.

In our case, we have rule pages for our bonus games, which are provided in the full (purchased) version, and we removed the line, “Note: This game is only available in the full version of Pretty Good Solitaire.”  Elsewhere, we also replaced “the full version” with “this version”.

Conclusion

Using the above guidelines, you should be able to make sure that your project does not include any content that Apple may find “objectionable”, giving them cause to reject the submission.  In the next installment, Part 4: Source code modifications, I will discuss the numerous (small) changes that may be necessary in your project source code.

Ten Little Images (or so), Part 2

Making sense of launch image requirements for iOS universal applications.

When developing a “universal” application for iOS, an app that will run on all (current) iOS devices, one of the first things you have to consider are the initial branding graphics for your game. These include the launch images for each device (and orientation), in addition to the application icons.

The first part of this article dealt with application icons for a universal iOS app.  This part concerns the launch images, which are static full-screen graphics displayed by iOS itself while the app is loaded and initializes itself, before it has any opportunity to show other graphics.

On an iPad, your application could start in any of four different orientations, two vertical (portrait) and two horizontal (landscape), so you will want one portrait (iPad) launch image and one landscape launch image.  (Technically, you can specify a different launch image for each of the four orientations, but it seldom, if ever, makes a difference beyond portrait or landscape.)  On an iPhone or iPod touch, an application only launches in a portrait orientation, with the home button at the bottom, but these smaller devices may (or may not) have a Retina display, so you need to provide both a normal portrait launch image and a high resolution version.

The purpose of launch images is to provide immediate visual feedback to the user when an application icon is tapped.  Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines document, which is very good in many respects, recommends that the launch image be identical to the first screen of the application, or even simpler, omitting information that is not guaranteed static.  For a game, however, ignore this advice; the launch image is a defacto splash screen, so rather than being simple and unobtrusive, launch images for a game application should be eye-catching.  (We actually do create a “first screen” that replicates the launch image, but can smoothly add information such as version number and build/release date.)

Again, the assumptions here are that you are creating a “universal” application, supporting iOS 3.2 (the minimum version for iPad), and want to be sure to have your branding artwork shown in the best light on all three types of devices. If you are supporting only iPad (no small screens or Retina displays) or only iOS 4+ (no backwards compatibility), then there are fewer conflicts and caveats, but this article should still be helpful.

Launch Image Artwork Specifications

All launch images (and icons) must be in PNG format (24-bit), with no transparency.  The naming conventions for launch images, specifying which graphics to display on each device and supported orientation, are more restrictive than for icons.  In fact, the default launch image base name is (unimaginatively) “Default”.  For somewhat more descriptive naming, we use the project name (“DemolishPairs” herein) as the base name, though the modifiers are mostly fixed (and somewhat ugly).

For a complete set of launch images, we have the following (4) launch image files:

  1. DemolishPairs-Portrait.png [768×1004] – This is the launch image for portrait orientations on the iPad.
  2. DemolishPairs-Landscape.png [1024×748] – This is the launch image for landscape orientations on the iPad.
  3. DemolishPairs~iphone.png [320×480] – This is the (portrait) launch image for the older iPhone and iPod touch.
  4. DemolishPairs@2x~iphone.png [640×960] – This is the (portrait) launch image for newer iPhone and iPod touch devices with a Retina display.  (It is also the ugliest required filename, but at least it is better than ‘Default@2x~iphone.png‘.)

Note that the portrait restriction for non-iPad devices is limited only to launch images; universal applications can (and usually should) support all four orientations, portrait and landscape, on iPhone and iPod touch devices.  For other background graphics, there are usually six different images: portrait and landscape each for iPad, iPhone, and iPhone (Retina) devices.

Project Configuration for Launch Images

Once you have the launch image artwork, it is necessary to include all of these files in the Xcode project, so they will be copied to the compiled bundle.  If you choose to use the ‘Default’ naming, this is all that is required.  However, we chose to use a different base file name, so we have to add a ‘Launch image‘ (UILaunchImageFile) string entry, with the value “DemolishPairs“, to the project’s ‘Info.plist‘ file.

Caveat #1: Xcode 4 allows you to drag launch image files to the ‘Summary’ page of a target’s configuration, and it will automatically add these files to the project.  Unfortunately, Xcode only understands the ‘Default’ naming, so it will name the iPad launch images ‘Default-Portrait~ipad.png’ and ‘Default-Landscape~ipad.png’.  These names are invalid on iOS 3.2, which does not recognize the ‘~ipad’ modifier for launch images, so if you use this shortcut and default naming, you still need to remove the “~ipad” part of each filename for backwards compatibility.

Corollary: Choosing not to use the default base file name for launch images (i.e., adding a valid UILaunchImageFile entry) causes Xcode to become confused and show no launch images on the ‘Summary’ page.  Our recommendation is to edit directly on the ‘Info’ page and ignore the ‘Summary’ page altogether.  (Xcode also has trouble with the “pretty” property values if the .plist file ends with anything other than “Info.plist“.)

More observant readers may have noticed that the two iPad launch images allow 20 pixels for the status bar (on the top), while the iPhone/iPod touch do not.  In order for those launch images not to lose 20 points (20 pixels for non-Retina, 40 pixels for Retina displays) hidden underneath a status bar, you need to hide the status bar on launch.  This is done by adding a ‘Status bar is initially hidden‘ (UIStatusBarHidden) boolean entry set to YES.  (Of course, you could compensate with the artwork, too, I suppose.)

Caveat #2: Hiding the status bar works fine for iPads running iOS 3, which (correctly) just turns the reserved status bar area black, displaying the launch image correctly regardless.  Unfortunately, iOS 4 ill-advisedly attempts to use the entire screen when the status bar is hidden, thus invalidating all of the Apple recommendations for launch image size.  The result is a stretched launch image which, because aspect ratio is preserved, extends off the right edge of the screen.  The only way to make launch images behave the same on all iPads is to not hide the status bar.  Fortunately, this can be done without invalidating the previous change by adding an iPad specific version of the property, UIStatusBarHidden~ipad, and set its (boolean) value to NO.  (Xcode itself does not understand the setting, so it has no “pretty” name, but iOS handles it just fine.)

Caveat #3: When entering property names for the Info.plist, especially for those specific to iPad (or iPhone), note that the names are case-sensitive.  In particular, the modifier is “~ipad” (or “~iphone“); if you capitalize the ‘P’ out of habit, the entire property will be ignored (on any device).

Technical notes:  The above information has been thoroughly tested using Xcode 4.0, specially created launch images, and both the iOS Simulator and a variety of physical devices.  The launch images were designed to be distinguishable from each other, with single pixel borders for detecting stretching and clipping.  Results were confirmed for iOS 4 on the simulator for all three types of devices: “iPad”, “iPhone”, and “iPhone (Retina)”, as well as on an original iPad (iOS 3.2), a second generation iPod touch (iOS 4.2.1), an iPhone 4 (iOS 4.2.6), and an iPad 2 (iOS 4.3.5).  [Editor’s note: We have no plans to upgrade any device to iOS 5.x in the immediate future.]

Making sure that your application icons and launch images look great is an early step in creating a compelling game experience, and I hope that both parts of this article help you develop a universal iOS application without falling victim to one of the potential iOS pitfalls with your branding graphics.  As always, questions and comments are happily accepted.

Ten Little Images (or so), Part 1

Making sense of icon image requirements for iOS universal applications.

If you are developing (or considering) a “universal” application for iOS, an app that will run on all (current) iOS devices, one of the first things you have to consider are the initial branding graphics for your game.  These include the icons, in various sizes, and the launch images for each device.

The icons, of course, are displayed on the home screen of the device to represent the game, but they can also be shown (in different sizes) on the search page (as well as in Settings, if appropriate).  The launch images are stand-in graphics that are displayed in a static fashion while the app is loaded and initializes itself.  On an iPad, there need to be launch images for each orientation (portrait and landscape), while the iPhone and iPod Touch only launch in portrait orientation.  For more variety, though, the iPhone 4 and 4th generation iPod Touch have the Retina displays, with higher resolution, requiring still more images.

The assumptions here are that you are creating a “universal” application, supporting iOS 3.2 (the minimum version for iPad), and want to be sure to have your branding artwork shown in the best light on all three types of devices.  If you are supporting only iPad (no small screens or Retina displays) or only iOS 4+ (no backwards compatibility), then there are fewer conflicts and caveats, but this article should still be helpful.

Icon Artwork Specifications

All icon (and launch) images must be in PNG format (24-bit), with no transparency.  Although there are naming conventions for automatically loading different files according to the device type, arbitrary (descriptive) file names for icons are preferred and more reliable.  In our case, we use the project name (“DemolishPairs” herein) as a base name, with “ipad”, “iphone”, and “retina” used as modifiers.

For complete icon coverage, with no scaling performed by iOS, we have the following (8) icon files:

  1. DemolishPairs.png [512×512] – This is the largest (current) icon size for iOS applications; generally, the artwork should begin at this size (or larger) and be scaled down to the other sizes.
  2. DemolishPairs_ipad.png [72×72] – This is the application icon for the iPad, as shown on the home screen.
  3. DemolishPairs_ipad_small.png [50×50] – This is the application icon for iPad, displayed in search results.
  4. DemolishPairs_iphone.png [57×57] – This is the application icon for the older (non-Retina) iPhone and iPod touch.
  5. DemolishPairs_iphone_small.png [29×29] – This is the search results icon for the older iPhone and iPod touch.
  6. DemolishPairs_retina.png [114×114] – This is the application icon for the newer (Retina) iPhone and iPod touch.
  7. DemolishPairs_retina_small.png [58×58] – This is the search results icon for iPhone/iPod touch with Retina displays.
  8. iTunesArtwork [512×512] – This is (in our case) a copy of ‘DemolishPairs.png‘ with a very specific filename (note: no file extension, not even ‘.png’) for ad-hoc distribution and/or submission to the App Store.

Note that most games will not have Settings packages, but those that do can use the 29×29 icon [5] for all older displays, including iPad, and the 58×58 icon [7] for all Retina displays.  (Document icons have different requirements but are generally unnecessary for games, so they are not covered here.)

Project Configuration for Icons

Once you have the icon artwork, it is necessary to include all of the icon files in the Xcode project, so they will be copied to the compiled bundle, and then modify the project’s ‘Info.plist‘ file (by whichever name) to indicate the icon image filenames.  There are two possible entries that indicate icons, and since we are specifying multiple image files (and by Apple recommendation), we will add an ‘Icon files‘ (CFBundleIconFiles) array with six entries:

  • DemolishPairs_ipad.png
  • DemolishPairs_ipad_small.png
  • DemolishPairs_iphone.png
  • DemolishPairs_iphone_small.png
  • DemolishPairs_retina.png
  • DemolishPairs_retina_small.png

Caveat:  ‘DemolishPairs_ipad_small.png‘ must appear before ‘DemolishPairs_iphone.png‘ in the list; otherwise, iOS 3.2 (iPad) will incorrectly select the 57×57 icon instead of the 50×50 icon when displaying search results.

Although the CFBundleIconFiles array takes precedence, there is still a minor reason to add the (singular) ‘Icon file‘ (CFBundleIconFile) string, with “DemolishPairs.png” as the value.  Xcode 4 uses this image file as the default icon for the target application in the project; if it is missing or empty, the last entry in the array is used.  This (currently) has no practical impact on the application itself, but supplying a reference (512×512) icon within the bundle is not a bad thing.

Of course, if one is building an application for only iPad devices, the number of icons necessary is reduced, but I would still recommend getting a complete set of the above icon sizes from your artist anyway (just in case).  On the other hand, if one is building an application for only iPhone devices, shame on you; there is no excuse for not supporting the iPad nowadays.

Technical notes:  The above information has been thoroughly tested using Xcode 4.0, specially created test icons, and both the iOS Simulator and a variety of physical devices.  The icon images were designed to be distinguishable from each other, with single pixel borders for detecting stretching and clipping.  Results were confirmed for iOS 4 on the simulator for all three types of devices: “iPad”, “iPhone”, and “iPhone (Retina)”, as well as on an original iPad (iOS 3.2), a second generation iPod touch (iOS 4.2.1), an iPhone 4 (iOS 4.2.6), and an iPad 2 (iOS 4.3.5).  [Editor’s note: We have no plans to upgrade any device to iOS 5.x in the immediate future.]

In our next installment, Ten Little Images (or so), Part 2, I discuss the requirements and caveats of launch images in universal iOS applications.