Version 2.5 of Pixelated

The free version of Pixelated has been updated to version 2.5. This new version improves navigation using the trackpad, and adds support for the BlackBerry PlayBook.

About Pixelated

Pixelated is an addicting puzzle based strategy game that requires a mixture of skill and luck in order to accomplish.

The object of the game is to change the colour of the squares until the entire screen is a single solid colour. Starting with the square in the upper left corner you can change the colour of the blocks in order to match that of the surrounding squares. This is done repeatedly until the entire screen is a single colour.

The object of the game is to clear the screen in as few moves as possible. Under the default settings you must do so in under 21 moves in order to win.

New in version 2.5

Trackpad support has been expanded so that you can also flick up and down in order to scroll through the colour options as well as left and right. Also the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet is now supported, although there are a few issues that will be fixed soon, so it is actually recommended that you wait until version 2.6 is out before adding this game to your PlayBook. If all goes according to plan, version 2.6 of Pixelated will be out this time next week.

Links & Information

Hockey Scores updated to version 2.6

The Hockey Scores BlackBerry application has been updated to version 2.6 improving the quality of the images used for the team logos, as well as expanding the number of keyboard shortcuts that can be used within the application.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are supported within the Hockey Scores application on all full-qwerty devices. Pressing ‘e’ or ‘enter’ expands the currently selected game to show details. Pressing the ‘n’ key moves the selection to the next game, while ‘p’ moves the selection to the previous game. Pressing ‘t’ moves the selection to the top of the screen, while pressing ‘b’ moves the selection to the last game listed.

Device Support

Hockey Scores runs on all BlackBerry devices running OS 4.6.0 or higher. This includes the 8330, 8350i, 8520, 8530, 8900, 8910, 9000, 9100, 9105, 9300, 9330, 9500, 9520, 9530, 9550, 9630, 9650, 9670, 9700, 9780, and 9800.

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RIM’s PlayBook development guide is wrong

I recently found some issues with my apps on the BlackBerry PlayBook. These issues were a direct result of following RIM’s BlackBerry Tablet development guide. They need to fix this and stop making suggestions that simply do not work.

The article wisely recommends that you make sure that the application’s state is saved when it is deactivated and pushed to the background, but recommends a technique that is inconsistent at best. They are recommending that you save data by listening for Event.DEACTIVATE which detects when another application receives focus. However this event is never fired when the application exits (unless you run in Paused mode like the simulators used to). Assuming that you could use this approach to save data upon exiting is at the root of a lot of the problems in the early PlayBook applications.

Instead you can actually detect the application closing by using NativeApplication.nativeApplication.addEventListener(Event.EXITING,saveData) to listen for an exiting event, and saving data then. Until RIM’s development guide on the life cycle of PlayBook applications mentions this, it will just be wrong.

Xploding Boxes updated to version 1.3

Xploding Boxes has been updated to version 1.3 adding 20 new levels, new features, and some bug fixes. This brings the total number of levels up to 150.

About Xploding Boxes

Xploding Boxes (also known as Exploding Boxes) is a strategy game for BlackBerry where the goal of the game is to start a chain reaction that will explode all of the boxes on the screen. Each level gives you a different number of clicks, and requires a different strategy to solve. The first 25 levels are free, while the rest of the levels can be accessed by making an in-application payment.

Xploding Triangles

Introduced in the new levels with this update are xploding triangles that only release a single bullet after they blow up. Like the black boxes introduced earlier this allows for more variety and complexity in the design of the levels.

Fix of 30222 Error

In previous versions some users encountered a 30222 error, after trying to upgrade the app after deleting the and reinstalling it. This problem has been addressed in version 1.3 of Xploding Boxes, but a few users may additionally need to archive the application, and then restore from there in order to be able to access the full version.

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Pixelated Plus on the PlayBook does not save your data

I just wrote yesterday about the problems some applications will have on the PlayBook at launch due to a complete lack of testing. Just a few hours ago RIM finally updated the simulator, and it reveals that under normal situations your game data in my application will not be saved.

As such Black Out will be pulled from AppWorld until it can be updated to version 1.1 and tested on an actual device. Pixelated Plus and the free version of Pixelated will remain for sale in order to not disrupt the many customers using the application on their phones. The free version of Pixelated has not yet been approved in AppWorld, but probably will be later this week.

An update to these applications is (obviously) going to be a top priority and will be released as soon as possible. Until then, however, THE ONLY WAY TO ENSURE THAT YOUR PROGRESS IN THE GAME IS SAVED IS TO OPEN UP THE GAME OPTIONS AND CHANGE THE COLOUR SCHEME. So at least there is a workaround (as bizarre as it may be).

The disappointing thing is that this issue could have been avoided completely had RIM just send out devices to developers a week ago. Although the issue has not yet had time to be fully investigated, a few days notice probably would be enough to have this fixed by the launch of the device. Instead Research in Motion is sending out units to developers a week late, which is just going to delay everyone getting their applications updated even more.

Early PlayBook applications will reflect the shortcomings of the simulator

The BlackBerry PlayBook goes on sale tomorrow, but the applications that will be available for download at the start will reflect the shortcomings of the simulator that they were designed in. Developers have still not received their devices yet (and ironically may be among the last to do so), while the simulator used for developing PlayBook applications is based on a build that is around two months out of date at this point. As a result most of the applications in AppWorld for the PlayBook are very under-tested, and will be for the first few weeks after the PlayBook’s release.

First most of the applications will reflect the limitations of the simulator which didn’t support things like the accelerometer, and multi-touch. As such very few of the initial applications will make use of these features even though they will be available from day one. Additionally there will be very few applications that work in portrait orientation. Related to the lack of accelerometer support, the implementation of this in the simulator was a bit clumsy, and not entirely clear.

The other issue, is that these applications have not yet been tested on version 1.0 software or a real device. As such there are many settings and situations that these applications have not been tested under and developers do not yet know if bugs exist or not.

The Ebscer applications that will be available for the BlackBerry PlayBook this week will be Pixelated, Pixelated Plus, and Black Out. While I hope that these applications are in good shape, they honestly represent the least tested applications that I have ever released. The only evidence that I have of them running on an actual device is a tweet from Alex Kinsella saying that he enjoyed Pixelated Plus. There are rumors among the developers that they way I implemented saving data and displaying the menu may have issues. Expect all of these applications to receive another update in the near future.

As I said about PlayBook battery life

For quite a while now there have been varying reports that the battery life on the BlackBerry PlayBook was going to be disappointing. I have been quick to claim otherwise starting just days after it was announced, and continuing even when some analysts felt the need to say otherwise. So now that the PlayBook reviews are finally coming out how does the PlayBook’s battery actually do?

From Joshua Topolsky the battery lasted nearly 11 hours — an outstanding run for a device of this type and from Jonathan Geller at Boy Genius Report The battery life on the PlayBook has been extremely, extremely good. It lasts for days and I rarely worry about remembering to charge it.

It looks like I was right all along…

ActionScript (Life without threads)

With the release of the BlackBerry PlayBook next week, a good amount of time has been spent coding in ActionScript rather then Java. One of the main differences between ActionScript and most other object oriented languages is that ActionScript does not support threads.

Instead ActionScript is an event driven language. Instead of worrying about a main thread, or which one of many threads are running you instead just respond to events as they happen. Languages like Java are like this in some respects, such as reacting to key presses, but not to the point where you get rid of threads. As such in ActionScript methods doing complex work are never blocking, and you don’t have to create temporary threads for doing things like editing the main UI. Furthermore using the flash.utils.Timer class is a much cleaner way to periodically preform an action then any separate thread and loop system that you would otherwise have to do.

While the lack of threads may be limiting for the few uses that actually need them, for the most part ActionScript instead gives you an alternative for the instances where you were only using threads for lack of a more efficient option. The end result is that ActionScript can result in cleaner and more efficient code that is better for both the developer and the user.

Use of Carrier Billing continues to rise

Since last looked at the usage of carrier billing has continued to rise in the first two months of 2011. Carrier billing now is responsible for 20.1% of all sales on BlackBerry AppWorld. The use of in-application payments will most likely continue to rise as it is being offered on more carriers. These carriers see their users twice as likely to upgrade to paid versions of applications as they otherwise would be.

Black Out game for the BlackBerry PlayBook

In time for the launch of the BlackBerry PlayBook we are releasing the game Black Out. This is a strategy game in which the goal is to black out all of the tiles. This is complicated because whenever you tap to flip a tile, it also flips all of the tiles surrounding it.


How to Play

Black Out is played by touching any of the squares in the grid to switch its colour. This also switches the colours of the surrounding tiles as well. Eventually the goal is to do this enough times in order to ‘black out’ the whole screen.

Options

The game give the option to set the grid size from anywhere from 3×3 tiles to 10×10 tiles. Additionally there are options for changing the colours and showing hints on how to solve the puzzles in case you get stuck. The game also offers achievements and high scores for each grid size.

Links & Information

RIM’s war on pre-OS 5.0 devices

At the recent BlackBerry Developer Day RIM repeatedly pointed out that (as the chart shows) 90% of paid applications were downloaded by users running OS 5.0 or higher. Again and again this point was brought up along with the recommendation that developers not bother coding for the older operating systems.

The question of course is why. The answer being that it allows RIM to get away from the perception that there is a lot of fragmentation in developing for BlackBerry, and that it allows BlackBerry applications to look nicer. Given that BlackBerry has been around a lot longer then iOS or Android many developers view working for BlackBerry as a larger task because of the need to support these legacy devices. RIM in turn is simply telling developers not to bother with the older devices, and figuring that well over a year after release, anyone not going to update to OS 5.0 or higher probably isn’t going to download any applications anyhow. Additionally this can help make BlackBerry applications look nicer as developers will be less afraid of using the newer APIs. If instead a developer decided that they needed to support a lowest common denominator of OS 4.5 they wouldn’t even have the decor APIs available to them, and would look awful.

RIM themselves has been holding true to this minimum of OS 5.0 by requiring this for things like the newest version of BBM, and the upcoming BlackBerry Bridge. Like all other developers RIM too can get more done if they only have to support OS 5.0 and newer devices.

The launch of Twinkle last summer was the first Ebscer application to require a minimum OS of 5.0 and since then Liar’s Dice and Xploiding Boxes have had the same requirement. Meanwhile others like the Call-A-Human application support OS 4.6.0 and higher but work much better when integrated with Universal Search on OS 6.0 devices.

The final message is that if you haven’t updated to OS 5.0 yet you are already missing out. If you haven’t updated to OS 6.0 yet you soon will be.