Four years of Pixelated

Capture15_25_44Four years ago today I sold my first three copies of Pixelated Plus. Since then the game has been written from the ground up five different times in four different languages. The game The game has gone from just supporting the Storm to supporting every BlackBerry phone that ran OS 4.6 and everything newer including the PlayBook, and BlackBerry 10, and even to other platforms such as the Nook Color and Windows 8. The result is over six million downloads and enough income for this to be my full time job for the past two and a half years.

I hate when people ask me where I see myself in the next five years, because five years ago I certainly did not see this…

Another 10 levels for Xploding Boxes

IMG_00000017Xploding Boxes has been updated to version 4.5 with an additional 10 levels. This brings the total number of levels in the game up to 390. This update also brings a few other improvements to the app as well. On Android devices (including the Nook) improvements were made to the fonts used in various parts of the app. On Windows the live tile for the game was improved, while the active frame on the Q10 also got an overhaul.

About Xploding Boxes

Xploding Boxes is a strategy game for BlackBerry, Android, Nook, Windows 8, and BlackBerry 10 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 touches, and requires a different strategy to solve.

The game itself, and the first 25 levels are available for free, while an in-app purchase can be used to access the rest of the levels for just $2.99 while maintaining your progress from the free levels.

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Newer BBOS versions continue to see small gains


The use of BlackBerry OS 7.0+ and 6.0+ increased a bit for the second straight month in April. The use of OS 7.0+ is now up to 36.9% while the use of OS 6.0+ is now up to 65.8% of BlackBerry OS users. While these statistics become less important as users (and developers) start to migrate over to the BlackBerry 10 platform, it is still good to see more users on the newer versions of the operating system.

This data was taken from downloads of the free BlackBerry strategy game Pixelated. Data shown on the chart is from the beginning of April 2012 through the end of April 2013, and does not include BlackBerry 10 or PlayBook devices.

Presenting today at BlackBerry Live

ShapeItLevel2 - CopyI am presenting session JAM42 today with Brian Scheirer today at 1pm. The topic of our talk is on creating games in Cascades, where we will shows off some of the details (and code!) for a game we have created especially for this event, as well as talk about our experiences creating games like Pixelated, Visual Connection, and Starbeams.

The source code for the sample app can be found at github. An early version of the slides can be found at on my site.

Expectations for BlackBerry Live

IMG-20120501-00063I have written once or twice before about my expectations for upcoming BlackBerry events. My track record is actually fairly poor, but that isn’t going to stop me from trying again.

So here are my expectations for BlackBerry Live.

Headless apps

Probably coming as part of OS 10.2 (in late August?) this is pretty much confirmed to be a topic this week. For developers this will be by far the most important announcement. Along with the invocation framework this will give BlackBerry the best multi-tasking of any OS.

The PlayBook will be ignored

While BlackBerry has yet to say that they won’t be delivering on the previous promise of offering OS 10 on the PlayBook, don’t expect to hear too much about tablets in the coming week. In fact, I think that it will be possible to watch the entirety of the two hour keynote without realizing that BlackBerry has ever sold a tablet.

Much of the keynote will be about future fluff

2018For years now BlackBerry has shown off a car that users their technology without giving consumers a way to buy it, or developers a way to offer apps for it. I expect more of the same this year. Lately BlackBerry has been indicating that they will be talking a bit about their plans for 2018. Given that five years ago I didn’t even own a smartphone, this is mostly just irrelevant fluff.

The on-stage partners will be boring

Every keynote, BlackBerry is always quick to bring on some trivial partners who fail to do (or say) anything interesting at all. There is no reason to expect that to change any this year. I have never been interested in what any of these other companies have had to say.

No new phones

While there are the beginnings of rumors of a (curve-like) R10 and a (galaxy note-like) A10, I don’t actually expect to see either of these phones until October or November, and therefore have no reason to expect BlackBerry to acknowledge them next week.

The best session will be Wednesday at 1 PM

The word is that there is going to be a very interesting session on Wednesday about Game Development in Cascades. I will certainly be there, and hope to see you there as well.

Pixelated updated to version 3.4 for Windows 8 and Windows Phone

GameInProgressPixelated has been updated to version 3.4 for Windows Phone and for Windows 8. The changes in this update mostly relate to supporting better screen transitions in the Windows Phone version of the app, and supporting more languages in the Windows 8 version of the app.

About Pixelated

Pixelated is an addictive 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 22 moves in order to win. The game is controlled by the large colored blocks on the side of the screen.

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Minor update for Stuff I Need app

IMG_00000092The Stuff I Need checklist app has been updated to version 1.2 in BlackBerry World and the Windows Phone store. This new version includes some additional optimizations for the Q10, as well as adding the ability to delete all checked items from the options page.

About the app

Originally conceived as a grocery list app, this minimalistic checklist can be used to keep track of the stuff you need to get, or the stuff that you need to do. Items on the list can be edited (or deleted) by giving them a long press.

Links & Information


Last year’s BlackBerry World Conference

This has been reposted from Gadget Masters

A year ago this week, BlackBerry (then still Research in Motion) was presenting at BlackBerry World showing off their plans for the launch of BlackBerry 10. Now that it has been a year later and BlackBerry 10 is actually on store shelves, I thought that it would be interesting to see how the announcements at last year’s BlackBerry 10 have played out.

Time-shift Camera

IMG-20120501-00068-CropNot only has the time shift camera been working wonderfully on all BlackBerry 10 phones since the launch of the Dev Alpha B, all of the critics who assume that Apple and others would copied the feature before BlackBerry 10 launched proved to be wrong. A year later this remains one of the highlight features of the new BlackBerry phones.

BlackBerry Balance

This has been a well accepted feature, but due to the fact that BES 10 hasn’t yet been launched, it isn’t actually available to anyone yet. To be fair, BES 10 is widely expected to formally launch next week at BlackBerry Live, but it would have been nicer if this feature had been available on BlackBerry 10 from day one.

App Demos

During the keynote BlackBerry showed off a number of app demos including apps like Pacemaker, Galaxy on Fire, Citrix, Occipital. These apps have all since been released on BlackBerry 10. However, a year later this seems like a very odd list of apps for BlackBerry to have shown off. With the exception of the Pacemaker DJ app, none of the rest of these are exclusive to BlackBerry. Furthermore a quick visit to the websites for Galaxy on Fire and Occipital reveal that they have actually excluded the BlackBerry World store from their list of places to download their apps.

QNX in Cars

For a few years now BlackBerry takes a moment in their keynotes to put forth the possibility of having their QNX platform running apps in cars. Despite re-announcing this idea every few months BlackBerry still appears to be no closer to offering an API or app store for cars, and as such it all seems a bit irrelevant. Expect the pattern to repeat again next week at BlackBerry Live.

Alec Saunders’ First Music Video

Last year at BlackBerry World Alec Saunders preformed a (modified) rendition of Tom Petty’s “The Waiting”. Unlike the next two music video, this one never made it to YouTube and most people still don’t know about it. A year later the joke has been played out, and Saunders’ has announced that the band is done with.

Dev Alpha Program

BlackBerry World was also the start of the widely successful Dev Alpha program that gave developers actual hardware to test their apps on many months prior to the release of BlackBerry 10. This is a big part of the reason why BlackBerry 10 was able to launch with so many apps already available on day one. While (post-launch) the program is now wrapping up, BlackBerry recently offered Developers the DevAlpha C to test out apps prior to the launch of the Q10.

Trade-in program

As an add on to the Dev Alpha program, BlackBerry offered the option to turn in the developer units for actual hardware once BlackBerry 10 launched. Despite being well intentioned, this program has pretty much been a disaster. Developers were first told that instead of being able to get devices right away that they would have to wait 6-8 weeks instead. And now 14 weeks later many developers (including myself) are still waiting for BlackBerry to make good on their offer. The delay has gotten so bad that many developers would have been better off if BlackBerry had never promised anything to begin with.

$10,000 Guarantee

While at first glance this guarantee seemed as if it would benefit developers, once the program actually went into practice it seems unlikely that this offer has actually been made to more than 20 devs. Through a combination of terms and conditions, and tying the offer to the very broken Built for BlackBerry program, the number of developers to actually be helped by this guarantee is extremely minimal. Unfortunately despite the actual conditions, the stigma that BlackBerry has to pay out cash in order to get any developers still endures.

BlackBerry Keyboard

BlackBerry also used their event last year to offer a preview of the new flick typing that is possible on the BlackBerry 10 keyboard. Now that the keyboard has actually been released, it has received very positive reviews and is generally considered to be one of the better virtual keyboards available. At the time however, many noted that the keynote included no mention of a physical keyboard and felt as if a device like the Q10 would never be released. Of course that phone has now been released in almost every country (except for the one it was announced in).

First update for Starbeams

Level21The strategy game Starbeams now sits at version 1.1 after its first update. The update (available for both BlackBerry 10 and Windows 8) adds ten new levels as well as better support for the app in its minimized state.

About Starbeams

The object of the game is to assign colors to each star in order to ensure that none of the stars are connected to another star of the same color. The game starts off easy, but quickly gets more complex, adding more colors and seven pointed stars that can not be changed.

New in Version 1.1

IMG_00000001In addition to the ten new levels that this version brings, most of the other new features revolve around how the app handles itself when it is minimized. On Windows 8 the app now uses a live tile in both the wide and square versions of the icon that shows the number of levels that have been beaten so far. The BlackBerry 10 version of the game does the same thing with an Active Frame when it is minimized, showing an icon, and an update on your game progress rather than just a shrunken view of the current screen.

Links & Information


10 days with The Old Reader

For the past few years Google Reader has been my homepage, and my most used website. So when the news came out that Google was shutting it down, it obviously came as a bit of a blow to me. So for a bit over a week, I have instead been using The Old Reader.

The Old Reader has some disadvantages (and also some advantages) over Google Reader, but despite the differences I now plan on continuing to use the site full time as my primary RSS application.


For the most part The Old Reader works the same as Google Reader did (at least for my use cases). I have a centralized listing of all my RSS feeds at (which is set as my homepage). I can then freely scroll through the expanded feeds with each one automatically getting marked as read.

There is one neat features that Google Reader did not have. You can opt to view your feeds in a “Reverse” view which instead shows the earliest feeds first, instead of the most recent. I find this useful especially when blogs post a reaction to another blog in my feed, so that the order in which I read the news actually makes logical sense.

There are also some downsides to The Old Reader as well. For one there is no way to minimize the menu on the left side. I almost never adjust anything here, and would rather devote more screen space to the actual content of the feeds. The persistence of this menu also makes using this site less then ideal on phones (although tablets are fine). Currently there is not an API available, but should that change there is a high probability of me writing apps for BlackBerry 10 and Windows 8.

The other issue that I have run into is that the feeds don’t always seem to refresh as quickly as they did with Google Reader.

Still, the team is continuing to work on this site, and improving it all the time. The site has seen tremendous growth the past few months, and is likely to see even more this summer when Reader gets shut down for good. Seeing as the team is actually dedicated to improving the project, there is hope that these issues will be addressed in the future. Meanwhile the future for Google Reader has already been written.