Solitaire

I come by my love of Solitaire honestly.

It is fair to say that I am one of the leading experts in the type of card game known as Solitaire (in the US), or Patience (in the UK and elsewhere).  I have been working with Thomas Warfield at Goodsol Development for more than a dozen years, and in that capacity I have implemented literally hundreds of different Solitaire games on various platforms, including Windows, Mac OS X, and iPad.

However, one would be very mistaken to assume that I had to learn about Solitaire back then, or even that these were my first Solitaire software products.  In fact, I have been a Solitaire enthusiast for more than 40 years (easily predating my first access to a computer), and I have been writing programs for playing Solitaire for 30 years.  That is why it was such a good match when Thomas and I started working together; he is also a renown expert, with a very successful Solitaire game, Pretty Good Solitaire, and there is not another company on the planet with more Solitaire expertise from which to draw.

I first learned to play Solitaire from my father when I was about 5 years old.  He taught me a traditional form of Klondike (which many people just call, “Solitaire”), and I clearly remember the first time he watched me deal out the tableau on the stone hearth in front of our fireplace.  I played that a lot over the years, as well as a few other games I picked up.  My neighbor taught me Pyramid, which I really liked, and “Clock” (PGS: Travellers Clock), which had an appeal due to the elegance of play and the physicality of the the cards, but got boring quickly because of the lack of choice.  My mother taught me “Idiot’s Delight” (a name used to describe many different Solitaire games), which in this case was a purely mechanical version of Aces Up.  When I was sick, rather than comic books, I just wanted a couple decks of playing cards and, perhaps, some word search puzzles. 🙂

In the early years of elementary school, I had a couple of friends with whom I had discussions (and disagreements) about the rules of Klondike.  We spent time debating whether one should be able to build Aces to the tableau and, if so, whether Kings could be built on Aces, whether one was allowed to pull cards from the foundations (which I now know is called “winnowing back”), how many cards were dealt from stock to waste, and if there was a limit to redeals.  These are the same kind of game design discussions I still have now as we implement more games.

I also spent a great deal of time working on designing my own solitaire games, the rules of which, alas, were never written down and have been lost forever.  I recall that much of my focus was on small tableau games, those which could be played, ideally, with just one or two piles, making them easier to play in a car.  I also recall at least one with a unique mechanic, based on Go Fish, where the player would declare a selected card, and the play proceeded based on whether (or where?) the nominated rank appeared.  Of course, it is fair to assume that none of my inventions were as compelling as the traditional Solitaire games; otherwise, I probably would still be playing them.

During middle school, an acquaintance (friend of a parent) taught me an unnamed Solitaire game, which had two mechanics I had never seen before: movement of card groups regardless of order (as seen in Yukon) and a “hand” of up to 4 arbitrary cards (like the 4 cells in FreeCell).  This game had a greater degree of calculation and planning, and was less reliant on the luck of the deal, so it was very appealing to me.  Around the same time, I also learned how to do a “bridge” shuffle, so I tried to wear out my hands practicing the two together.  A variant of this game is implemented in PGS as Scorpion Head.

By this time, I was already programming computer games, and the idea of playing Solitaire on a computer was never far away.  My first proper (read: finished 🙂 ) implementation was a text version of Aces Up on my Commodore VIC-20.  The program would shuffle and deal the cards, and one would play with simple keypresses for activating a column (i.e., discarding the top card or moving it into an empty space).  As I recall, my friend and I were the only two who ever actually played this game, but we started wondering about the chances of victory with the implemented rules, so I wrote a computer player that would play a hand using a specific heuristic (n.b., not a comprehensive solution search).  Once debugged, I ran the program overnight and the consistent result was that victory was achieved in just about 5% of the games.  (Clearly, a search would have done better… and taken much longer.)

Many other computer implementations followed.  Our friends showed us a game they called “Canasta Solitaire” (similar to Thirteen Packs, which has nothing in common with Canasta), and at their request, I wrote a version of that for the IBM PC (which, incidentally, became the scene of my biggest computer crash disaster 🙁 ).  I wrote very nice DOS (EGA) versions of Pyramid and other games around 1990, and I was working on the Windows/DirectX versions of the these near the end of that decade, when I also worked (in a non-Solitaire capacity) with MVP Software on some other card game packages.

In 2001 (one suit of years ago), the Goodsol Development years began.  My first project was implementing a comprehensive display library, allowing the original Pretty Good Solitaire [for Windows] more options, including more than 2 decks per game.  The second project was Pretty Good MahJongg, which includes 55 original Solitaire games played with MahJongg tiles, followed by Action Solitaire, including (now) 75 Solitaire games played against the clock, and Most Popular Solitaire, my interpretation on the most popular games in PGS, as well as one (Crazy Quilt) that was the first Goodsol version of that game.  Add Mac and iPad versions of Pretty Good Solitaire and Most Popular Solitaire and a Mac version of Pretty Good MahJongg, as well as other products: Goodsol Solitaire 101 (Windows/Mac/iPad), FreeCell Plus (Windows/Mac/iPad), and A Little Solitaire (iPad).

Counting only Goodsol products (not different SKUs) on each platform (including bonus games), it appears that I have implemented 2639 Solitaire games!  More is definitely yet to come, as Thomas is already up to 840 and counting (with PGS), so I am still trailing by 290 games (on Mac and iPad, as well as an internal Windows project).

Of course, with the implementation of so many games, there is a focus on rules.  Due to my love of Solitaire (and games in general), I began collecting books of Solitaire rules.  The first game I learned from a book and really loved was La Belle Lucie, which I played with the merci (draw) rule, implemented in PGS as Three Shuffles and a Draw.  Since high school, I have amassed around two hundred books of traditional game rules, dozens of which have Solitaire games.  An informal survey of my current bookshelves shows 20 books dedicated solely to Solitaire, dating back as far as 1883 (because my copy of Lady Cadogan’s Illustrated Games of Patience is a reprint of the original 1875 book).

So, while Solitaire may be a simple pastime to most, keep in mind that a few of us really know (and appreciate) these games inside and out.  When you want to buy a computer Solitaire program lovingly crafted by the leading experts in the field…

Pretty Good Solitaire Touch Edition 1.20

The BEST iPad Solitaire game has been improved even more.

Pretty Good Solitaire Touch Edition 1.20Pretty Good Solitaire for iPad has been updated to version 1.20, which is now available from the App Store for the incredibly low price of only $9.99 US!

Pretty Good Solitaire Touch Edition now contains 550 games, hundreds more than any other iPad product available.  These are the games you have come to know and love on Windows and/or the Mac, playable from the comfort of your recliner.  Act now and you will receive an extra 75 bonus games, a total of 625 games, as well as free future upgrades.

In addition to the 50 new solitaire games since the initial release, this upgrade also includes easily selectable favorites, position snapshots, a third card set (Tropical Card Set), and a number of bug fixes to make this app as robust as possible.

Too much honesty…

Just for the readers of my blog, let me lay a little bit of truth on you.  The fact is that developing an extensive app like this for the iPad is very time consuming.  Additionally, the price on the iPad ($9.99 US) is quite low for such a large collection of solitaire games, and Apple does absolutely nothing to promote updates, even ones like this which add major new features and games.  All of these factors are working in combination to jeopardize future work on this project.  As much as we LOVE solitaire, we cannot afford to indefinitely invest time and money into a product that does not provide some positive return.

What can you do?  In order make sure that PGSTE remains viable, you can help us by spreading the word, linking to this post, following Goodsol on Facebook and sharing posts with your friends, and most of all rating and reviewing the app on the App Store.  We have a very loyal core of iPad customers, but if we cannot reach critical mass soon, then we may have no choice but to disappoint them and discontinue the project. 🙁

My favorite game in the latest batch is Lower 48, similar to Forty Thieves, which is almost always winnable, but usually quite challenging.  I have won all of the first 100 deals (so far).

Pretty Good Solitaire Touch Edition 1.0

Our iPad Solitaire game with 500 games is now available.

Pretty Good Solitaire for iPadPretty Good Solitaire for iPad is now available in the App Store for the low price of only $9.99 US.  That is less than 2 pennies per game!

Pretty Good Solitaire Touch Edition contains 500(!) games, which gives you more different ways to play Solitaire on your iPad than any other app.  Just to sweeten the pot, we have included another 70 bonus games, which are variations on included games providing slightly or significantly different challenges.

This is the best iPad Solitaire game, bar none.

There are many nice, new features and, of course, lots of games, which are detailed on the PGSTE web page.  While visiting, you can also check out the new website design at Goodsol.com, which also includes all of our Windows Games and Mac Games.

This Pretty Good Solitaire release is the culmination of years of development effort on the Goodsol Solitaire Engine.  Of course, this does not mean that we are done…  Oh, no!  We have already started beta testing for the second development phase (first updates) on our iPad games, and now the cross pollination among Windows, Mac, and iPad continues, with popular iPad features being added to the engine for Mac and Windows, and the core GSE product for Windows rapidly approaching the 810 games in the flagship game.

When I am not developing games, or playing Demolish! Pairs, I am frequently enjoying Pretty Good Solitaire on my iPad.  Really.

Goodsol Solitaire 101 Touch Edition 1.0

Our latest iPad Solitaire game is now available in the App Store.

Goodsol Solitaire 101 for iPadGoodsol Solitaire 101 was approved, last week, by Apple, so it is now available in the App Store for only $5.99!

Goodsol Solitaire 101 Touch Edition includes (not surprisingly) the same 101 Solitaire games as the Windows and Mac Editions.  Additionally, this version includes 34 bonus game variants, as well as all of your favorites from Most Popular Solitaire Touch Edition and A Little Solitaire.

So far, all of our reviews are 5 stars, including:

  • “Without a doubt, this is the best solitaire app on the market.”
  • “A great variety of games, some challenging, some soothing but all well presented and easy to work with. And fun.”

Aside from extra games, Goodsol Solitaire 101 Touch Edition adds new features not available in any other Goodsol product.  The deal selection has been adjusted to allow players to select any of more than 2.1 billion deals, which are compatible with Windows and Mac products, but a player can also select to replay a game, and the new result replaces the older one.  Additionally, a player can arbitrarily delete individual results, which is a capability often requested by customers.  Both of these two features can be expected to make appearances in Windows and Mac OS X products at some point.

Before that, though…  Pretty Good Solitaire Touch Edition is on its way!

Most Popular Solitaire Touch Edition 1.0

We have another Solitaire game for iPad in the App Store.

Most Popular Solitaire for iPadApple approved Most Popular Solitaire, our third Solitaire game for iPad, yesterday; it is now available in the App Store for only $3.99!

Most Popular Solitaire is a collection of 30 of the most popular Solitaire games, exactly as the title implies.  These games include Klondike (a.k.a., “Solitaire”), FreeCell, and Spider, as well as more unusual forms of patience such as Crazy Quilt.  There are games of many different types, including Pyramid, Forty Thieves, Aces Up, Canfield, Golf, La Belle Lucie, Cruel, Scorpion, and Yukon, plus 17 more games, and “if you act now” you will also receive 13 bonus variations of these games.

The initial release of this latest app has the same basic features as A Little Solitaire Touch Edition and FreeCell Plus Touch Edition, albeit with many more games.  The next two Solitaire apps from the Goodsol Solitaire for iPad page will add some additional features, based on customer feedback from the earlier releases.

What our customers are saying:

  • “Awesome.  Best solitaire anywhere.  Am looking forward to all the new fun you’ve planned for updates.”
  • “This is an excellent group of Solitaire games.  I enjoy the ‘touch’ autojump feature.  Graphics are excellent on the iPad.”
  • “I have been playing both their solitaire and mahjongg PC games for years.  Love their products.  [The iPad games] they’ve loaded are excellent.”

Get your copy from the App Store today!