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Right fourth time?

Blog posted by Ste Pickford on Tue, 08 Feb 2011
Subject: Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint

Ste Pickford

We're still putting the finishing touches to our first iOS game - Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint - with most of the work we're doing at the moment being changes and UI tweaks made in response to watching people actually play the game in the flesh.

The mantra these days is to "release early and often" (meaning release your product as soon it's working, not necessarily finished, then fix and update your released product regularly), and while John and I nod our heads to this wisdom, we are finding it difficult to shake off years of console game development training, where you only get one shot at release and have to make damn sure your product is perfect.

The App Store seems like an ideal environment to apply the "release early and often" method, with frequent updates not only possible, but positively encouraged, and we do have a roadmap of updates and extra features planned that won't be in the initial release, but we still can't shake the urgent need to get the look and feel of the UI as close to perfect as we can before sending it out into the world.

One side effect of this approach has been me having the opportunity to redraw graphics that I've not been happy with, in some cases over and over again.

The icon for the app has been one such graphic, and finally, this morning, I think I've come up with a version I'm actually happy with. For now at least.

You can see the first three versions of the icon in the image, which were all variations on the same theme; the in-game blueprint background with the in-game ball graphic over the top. A little snap-shot of the game itself. I think it actually worked OK in terms of a button to press on the touch screen of the iOS device, telling you clearly which app this was, and easy to spot on a page full of icons fighting for your attention.

I was only thinking in terms of the icon being something you press on the touch screen though, and I think that was a mistake.

Although we've still not released a single app on the App Store yet, reading the experiences of other devs suggests that the design of the icon is very important in terms of promotion of the app itself. It's the first thing people will see when browsing the App Store, and a massive version of the icon design dominates the 'buy' page on the App Store.

I was thinking about it all wrong. The function of the icon is primarily as an advert for the app, and its use as an identifier on the iOS device touch screen is secondary.

The kicker was when I put together a sample layout of what our App Store page would look like, by overlaying our screenshots and icon design over a screen grab of another game's App Store page, and my missus walked in the room and instantly pointed out how rubbish the icon looked in that context.

So, back to the drawing board this morning, and this is what I came up with. The rainbow stripes in the background are actually a screen grab of one of the special effects in-game, and the blueprint drawing is some concept art drawn for the PC version, which may still make it into the iOS game.

Hope it works!


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