Saturday, June 27, 2009

Developed to entertain!

Just because an application is popular doesn’t automatically mean it is anything special or particularly clever in any respects. Even the Fart game was one of the most downloaded games for a while, until everyone realized it was just a digital whoopee cushion. What makes a game or application great is one that keeps people returning to it, to beat a previous score or because of its usefulness.

Paper Toss, a free iPhone app, appears to be a simple game of throwing a crumpled up piece of paper into a trash bucket. There is a fan placed on either side blowing at different speeds. The greater the wind from the fan, the more the piece of paper will drift to one side. Sometimes the piece of paper has to be aimed well to the side, towards the fan, for it to curve in the air and land in the bucket. The goal is to see how many you can get in a row. For the first while I was averaging about 1. Then I somehow got 3 in a row. It took a while to beat that but one day I played a game where I, Magic Johnson, got an amazing score of 14. The fact was, the game kept me going back. I was hooked!

Flight control is currently one of the most popular paid iPhone applications. The goal of this game is to land as many large and small aircraft and helicopters as possible, without letting any of them hit each other. Using a finger, you draw the route the airplanes should follow to the runway. The game gets more difficult as you play until eventually two of them bang into each other. As with most games, there is a steep learning curve where you quickly improve your score. Again, this keeps people returning to the game and actually makes the time spent downloading, and the $0.99, worth it.

As simple as these games may appear, the programming required to make them work is actually quite complex. How do the programmers make an object turn, change speed, appear to go further away and even rotate about its axis? A combination of Physics and Math! A programmer with ActionScript 3.0 experience, and a healthy dose of trigonometry and physics knowledge, can design a program to do just about anything. They can manipulate digital speed variables, x and y, and change the size of an object to make a 2 dimensional image do anything in a 3 dimensional fashion.

Time for me to practice throwing a crumpled up piece of paper in a garbage bucket!

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