One week in
We got a couple of new backers the last few days, thanks a lot for backing! There was also a great article about AnimalAlbum on Indiegames.com written by Lena LeRay. That may have had something to do with it :)
I'm working on trying to get more articles out there but the videogame press seems swamped already with the Electronic Entertainment Expo that will take place in Los Angeles next month. Not giving up though.
A new companion app
Down to business. As promised I have a little goodie for you that will extend the main game once it's done. It's an extra app you can load on your phone, so that, by taking a walk with the phone in your pocket, you'll automatically encounter animals and can reach beyond levels that you might've gotten stuck on in the game. If you've ever heard of the Pokewalker, this is version 2.0.
Of course it's not finished yet but you can try out an early test version right now. The app will come free with the game for all backers.
Currently I have an Android version running only because I'd need an IPhone & Mac to build and test the app for IOS. That might be happening but at the moment I don't own multiple phones. But, I've also made a flash version available so that everybody can at least take a look at what the app will be like (obviously it's without the step-detection though).
How does it work?
As you can see you're simply standing on the map, which you may have already seen before by finding one of the exits in the demo of the main game.
With the app you can't actually go into the levels. Instead what you do is select a route to walk on by tapping/clicking on a starting point and a destination point. And from there your phone will count the steps you take and the robot will walk simultaneously.
During this walk, encounters happen automatically and the animals you encountered are added to your album. You can tap/click the screen at any time to see if you have encountered any already, which ones that might be, or choose to stop walking altogether.
In this test version of the app the animals are the same as those in the general areas of the demo and they don't make a lot of sense yet. You might encounter an orca while walking on land for instance. That will all be fixed of course, and the idea is that you can find some animals easier by going for a stroll than by looking for them in the main game.
Also, once you reach your destination you can move on from there and create a path between other levels. And then when you exchange the data between the app and the main game, you can reach those levels in the main game as well. So should you ever get stuck in a level, just go for a walk (literally) and you can continue on.
I should point out though, that if you go and explore the map completely, it might spoil some of the discovery for you. I've set the number of steps really low, just for testing purposes, and in the flash version you don't even need to walk to explore the map. It's likely there will be changes to the map during development but still, don't spoil too much if you don't want to.
To install the APK file on your phone, simply copy the file to your phone using USB or Bluetooth. Then go to the file on your phone and select it, it should offer an install option from there. Please make sure your phone has an accelerometer (measures phone rotation and general movement), Android version 2.2 or higher, and that in your settings you allow for installation of non-Market applications (unknown sources).
The app asks for a couple of permissions which don't do anything strange:
- It asks for access to the vibration mode to make the phone buzz once you've reached a destination.
- While running, the app disables the automatic sleep mode of your phone, because a number of phones stop updating movement data once it sleeps. And I need that to measure the steps you take.
- It asks for permission to save a file to your phone which contains the animals you encountered during your walk and the levels you've walked to.
Some technical notes
- This is a really early version. I've only tested this on a couple of phones. And it might not work on yours yet.
- I'm also not sure how great the step detection is, it is pretty accurate for me, but I'll make sure to build in a sensitivity slider.
- Battery consumption is pretty high. I haven't looked at optimization at all yet. Obviously you'd want the phone to go into sleep mode when you have it in your pocket, but on some phones that means I wouldn't be able to count steps anymore. I'll figure out a solution but here you can find a rough list of phones in case you want an example of how phones handle sleep mode in combination with acceleration data: http://www.saltwebsites.com/2012/android-accelerometers-screen-off
- Exchanging the data between the app and the main game is something I hope to do from within the game and app itself, but that might be difficult to achieve. At worst you'll have to copy the save game manually.
I will of course work on these issues. The most important thing was to get something up and running and show that it could be done. Getting everything functioning smoothly takes time and is part of what I'll be working on the coming months.
Something to ponder
I haven't actually decided on a name for the app yet. Something as descriptive as the AnimalAlbum companion app seems practical. Wanderer, walker, strider or stroller might be some other vague names. But none of them seem very satisfactory yet. Anybody got a suggestion?