Still Coding After All These Years

Today is my 40th anniversary of programming a computer.

December 22, 1978: This day marked the first time I walked into a computer store, the first time I played a game on a home computer (or even touched one), and the very first time I wrote a computer program.

Exidy Sourcerer

Of course, that very first program was pretty BASIC. 😉  I learned the concept of programming, line numbers, how to RUN and LIST a program, and (at least) my first two commands, PRINT and GOTO, on that same day.

The very next day, I learned (more) about variables, FOR loops, and number theory (mathematics, not programming), as I helped an MSU student debug his program, and then further experiment with it.  We noticed that abundant numbers are often bounded on each side by primes, but this is not universal.

I urge you to read more about My First Programming Experience.

Computers were awesome!

A few years later, as I was on an airline flight, I took out my pen and paper and started writing a wishlist for the “perfect computer” for me, dreaming about what could be possible in the future.  I envisioned lots of colors, crazy amounts of memory (like 64K!), and larger custom character sets, which idea gave way to (really out there) thoughts of individually addressable pixels at very high resolution (say, 640×400).  At a conference, I saw a display with a “true color” screen image of an apple (fruit) at 1024×1024 and that blew my mind.

In the intervening years, I have had loads of milestones and accomplishments:

  • January 13, 1982: founded Sophisticated Software Systems
  • Summer 1982: had first professional programming job
  • Late summer 1982: purchased very first computer, a Commodore VIC-20
  • 1984: won the ComCon ’84 International Programming Competition
  • 1984: started first full-time programming job with Michigan State University
  • 1988: landed game programming job with Quest Software
  • 1989: published first retail game product, Legacy of the Ancients
  • April 22, 1990: self-published shareware game, Pacmania 1.10
  • February 1, 1993: started as Senior Software Engineer at Spectrum Holobyte
  • 1994: went full-time as an independent game developer
  • 1995: incorporated business as SophSoft, Incorporated
  • 1996: launched Digital Gamecraft for developing independent games
  • 2002: Goodsol Development released Pretty Good MahJongg
  • 2004: served as Chairman for the Association of Software Professionals
  • 2007: created first Mac game, Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition
  • March 27, 2013: A Little Solitaire became the #1 card game for iPad
  • 2013: published first Digital Gamecraft title for iOS, Demolish! Pairs
  • 2016: established and ran Advanced Concepts Group at DAQRI
  • 2018: published an Android version of Demolish! Pairs

These are just a few of the major highlights, but none of these events made as much of a difference in my life as that day I walked into New Dimensions in Computing.  Of course, there are a few personal milestones that really affected things as well, but most of these also happened within this time frame (more than 76% of my lifetime).

Today, I am back doing what I love: programming.  Even when things are tough, I truly enjoy the development process and can get ‘in the zone’.  When people would ask me what my favorite game was, I would often reply something like, “C++”. 🙂

Amazingly, I now have a stable of portable devices, each of which far exceeds my ultimate imagination for my perfect computer, and many of them blow away the visual capabilities of that screen that mesmerized me back in the early 1980s (and I never even considered the possibility of 3D rendering capabilities).  My phone fits in my pocket yet is more powerful than my first PC, and my watch is more powerful than that first computer.

Computers are awesome!


Demolish! Pairs for Android and iOS

Awesome puzzle game now available for almost any mobile device.

On Tuesday, Digital Gamecraft released both Demolish! Pairs 1.0 for Android and Demolish! Pairs 1.2 for iOS.  This pair of releases represents a recommitment to this product that is enjoyed by game players on a daily basis. Demolish! Pairs 1.0 for Android is the first release on the Android platform, after numerous requests, and it runs on 99.7% of Android tablets and phones. Demolish! Pairs 1.2 for iOS is a long-awaited update release that adds support for the latest iOS devices, including the iPhone X, and resolves compatibility issues with iOS 11. The goal of Demolish! Pairs is to remove pairs of adjacent, matching blocks until the entire board is cleared.  Each time a pair of blocks is removed, the blocks above (if any) drop down and empty columns are filled by pushing the remaining columns together.

Release Date

The release date, September 11, is significant, if somewhat coincidental.  (We decided to release the Android version on that date, and the Apple approval of the iOS version just happened to arrive later on the same day.) Demolish! Pairs began life as a secondary project in the early years of Digital Gamecraft.  After many years of discussing the idea, we started actual game design in August 1999, and we completed the first playable (Windows) prototype shortly thereafter.  A couple of years later, we made the decision to proceed with Demolish! (as it was known at the time) as a primary development project, and we were making good progress for a few weeks. The original design theme was an actual building that was being demolished brick by brick, and the gameplay was fun.  However, the events that occurred on that date 17 years ago suddenly made the idea of tearing down a building very disturbing, and it became clear immediately that the game could not continue along the same path.  We initially renamed the project to Diminish, making the destruction as abstract as possible, before finally shelving the whole thing for almost a decade. In early 2011, we picked up the project again, deciding to continue with the abstract design and target mobile devices, but to return to the original name.  We had a number of different play mechanics that we were implementing, but determined that the one with selecting only pairs of blocks was both unique and the most obviously skillful, so we focused on that particular mechanic.  Demolish! Pairs was born. The dramatic history of this game does not end there, but this post does. 😉

AWESOME Solitaire AR

Digital Gamecraft™ is delighted to announce its latest development project, AWESOME Solitaire AR Edition™, shipping in July.

You have known us as the development force behind the award-winning, best-selling, and most numerous Solitaire games, Pretty Good Solitaire, Goodsol Solitaire 101, Most Popular Solitaire, FreeCell Plus, and A Little Solitaire for iPad (to name a few).

Today, we announce the upcoming availability of AWESOME Solitaire AR Edition™, the world’s first augmented reality Solitaire product shipped with its own AR hardware.

Imagine being able to take all your favorite solitaire games with you wherever you go.  Play FreeCell on the wall of a building.  Find your Spider moves spread out over a city block.  Meet people on the street and explain to them that, “The game is called ‘Klondike‘ and, yes, there are many different types of solitaire.”  See the cards right out in front of you, almost as if they could be real, physical objects.

Best of all, AWESOME Solitaire AR Edition will come with premium augmented reality hardware from our friends at DAQRI, which hardware you can also use for, you know, other stuff (when not playing solitaire, of course).

Unique Features

  • includes hundreds of types of solitaire, complete with rules on how to play
  • ability to select virtually any size playing cards and tableaux up to 1 mile wide
  • play multiplayer mode and fight strangers for the cards you need to win
  • choose between two hardware configurations based on quality of neighborhood
  • ships with special “decks” of 52 cards each for low power desktop operation

Prices

Professional system, includes AWESOME Solitaire AR Edition software, DAQRI Smart Glasses, and two decks of standard playing cards – $7495

Even more professional system, includes AWESOME Solitaire AR Edition, DAQRI Smart Helmet, and 4 decks of Poker size playing cards – $call for price

Solitaire gang discount on fleet purchases – call for details

Preorder now!  Due to anticipated overwhelming demand, orders will be shipped on a first-come, first-served basis, so reserve your place in line today.

 

Pretty Good Solitaire ME 3.30

The latest upgrade to our flagship macOS product is available.

Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 3.3Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 3.30, available from Goodsol Development, is the best Solitaire game for Mac computers.  This version of the game can be purchased and immediately downloaded for only $24.95, and it is a free upgrade for customers.

This Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition update adds another 100 games, for a total of 700 games, plus another 90 bonus games not accessible in the trial version (for those who want to try it first).

In addition to the new games, this version 3.30 update addresses several minor requests from customers, fixes all known bugs, and fully supports Apple macOS Sierra.

Fifteen Years with Goodsol

We have been working with Goodsol Development for 15 years now!

Goodsol DevelopmentOn this date back in 2001, SophSoft, Incorporated made our first software delivery to Goodsol Development.  Since that time, we have never stopped working together, producing the best solitaire software ever created.

I posted about this collaboration 5 years ago in my post, 10 Years of the GDcard Library.  We have continued our progress since then, adding an entire line of iOS products and 400 more games to Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition, along with much more.

For fun, I thought that I would take a look at some of the numbers:

To save everybody a little bit of math, this means that, on average, we have delivered a new product version once every 10 days, and we have added a new game of Solitaire every two days, for the entire 15 years.  Amazingly, the number of delivered versions for Pretty Good MahJongg and for Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition are currently exactly the same: 88 of each.  [Spoiler: PGMJ will take the lead with a macOS Sierra bug fix.]

In lieu of anniversary gifts 🙂 , just tell your friends about our excellent products!

PSA: Pretty Good MahJongg and macOS Sierra

Public Service Announcement

Pretty Good MahJongg Mac EditionIf you are currently using Pretty Good MahJongg Mac Edition, whether purchased from the Mac App Store or downloaded directly from Goodsol Development, we recommend waiting for the next update before upgrading to macOS Sierra (10.12).

Do Not Upgrade (yet)

Apple is scheduled to release macOS Sierra, the next version (10.12) of their operating system (formerly: Mac OS X) today [September 20, 2016].  As of the final beta version, there is a change (as yet unidentified) that breaks Pretty Good MahJongg Mac Edition.  We are actively working on a solution, and we will publish an update as soon as a fix is available, but in the meantime, we suggest keeping El Capitan (Mac OS X 10.11).

Thank you.

Pretty Good Solitaire ME 3.10

The next version of our Mac Edition is now available.

Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 3.1Goodsol Development has released Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 3.10.  This is a free upgrade for customers who have already purchased, it is available for immediate purchase for only $24.95, and a trial version is also available.

This version of Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition adds another 25 games, for a total of 575 games, and the full version has 75 bonus games.  The main menu interface was also changed to make the game search/filter box easier to find and use.

The 25 new games in PGSME 3.1 are:

  • Acey and Kingsley
  • Anno Domini
  • Assembly
  • Box Fan
  • Cell 11
  • Crescent Fan
  • Double Aces and Kings
  • Five Stacks
  • Forwards
  • Forwards and Backwards
  • Free Parking
  • Grandmother’s
  • Idle Aces
  • Lucky Thirteen
  • Maze
  • Pyramid Clear
  • Quadruple Russian
  • Racing Aces
  • Red Hand
  • Ripple Fan
  • Solid Square
  • Spaces and Aces
  • Speculation
  • Twin Queens
  • Unusual

Goodsol Community

Along with this release, Goodsol has now created two new places to discuss Solitaire games in social media, to supplement the Goodsol Forum.  The first is the (quite active) Goodsol Solitaire Community on Google+, and the other is the Goodsol Solitaire Group on Facebook.  These are great places to get help with a specific deal number for one of our games, to find a challenging deal number (and maybe help somebody else), to get recommendations for games, or to discuss Solitaire topics in general.

The next version of Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition will contain 600 games, but you can buy now, have fun right away, and still get that version as a free upgrade!

Developer for Hire

You have a game idea.  Let us create it for you.

SophSoft is available for game development now!This week marks 20 years (!) since we first took our company full-time.  In that time, we have developed more than 25 products for a variety of clients.  We have published games for Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS, and we have extensive experience.

Now, we are available immediately for new development contracts.  We have a significant opening in our schedule, which we need to fill soon.  This is your chance to have a world-class game developer working (or consulting) on your project.  If you want to explore this opportunity, please contact me directly at seelhoff@sophsoft.com.

For more information on SophSoft, Incorporated, please visit the web site, and you can also download our brochure [PDF, 2 pages] to find out how we can help you.

All clients get to deal directly with me, and if you are interested in my 25+ years in the game industry, please feel free to look at my résumé [PDF, 4 pages].

Act quickly!  Do not miss this opportunity.  It may not last long!

Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 3.02

We finally finished this extensive technical update.

Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 3.0Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 3.0 has now been released by Goodsol Development.  It is available for immediate download/purchase for only $24.95, and a trial version is also available.

This version of Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition contains 550 games (50 more than the previous version), and the full version provides access to another 75 bonus games.  The interface also contains many user interface improvements.

From a technical perspective, this is a major upgrade, as it represents a complete conversion of the program from Carbon libraries (used since version 1.0) to Cocoa frameworks, an effort imposed by Apple’s diminishing support for the former.  In the process, numerous features were reconsidered and reimplemented, so there are various improvements throughout the program.  One thing that we lost in the process was support for (much) older versions of Mac OS X; the current version requires Snow Leopard (10.6).

What happened to 3.00 and 3.01?

As is often the case with major technical changes, there were a couple of teething problems.  In the first release (3.00), we discovered a race problem with the Cocoa system, where 5-10% of our users had systems that were sending messages to objects that had already been disposed, causing the program to crash when run on these systems.  (Of course, none of the test systems exhibited this problem.)

The second release (3.01), as well as the first, was discovered to have a critical error with menu handling, namely, that card sets could not be switched (properly) using the ‘Preferences->Card Set’ menu.  Unlike the first issue, this one was always reproducible, missed entirely by our testers, and completely my fault.  Oops… 🙂

Once the current version proves stable, we will be adding quite a few (probably 25) more new games and making more interface improvements, including the most requested feature, an ability to sort results and high score tables.  This, of course, will be a free upgrade for all then current PGSME customers, so buy now!

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).