embrace the platform

Shaun Inman recently posted a treatise on touch, where he describes some issues and considerations for a touch control scheme for platform games.

On screen buttons are a stop gap for supporting yesterday’s control scheme on today’s platform, and Shaun is going easy on them when he says they “are not the way forward.” The truth is they are unworkable at best, and they tend to skew towards abominable.

Each platform has strengths, and successful games play to those strengths. Shaun should be applauded that The Last Rocket feels perfectly at home on the iPhone. Few games manage to do this.

The biggest revolution of iOS is getting the computer out of the way of the software. You do that by making the interactions transparent and obvious. Instead of making the platform suit the games, the games must suit the platform. That might mean you shouldn’t port your last popular title, or you may need to think again before building that remake. The way forward for game developers is building titles that embrace the platform.

who is apple’s next taste-maker?

Steve Jobs is a man with impeccable taste, like a Vignelli with a bent for technology. The minutiae of Apple’s pipeline, products, and services have been subject to his stamp of approval for years. There is something cohesive about Apple across all levels of the company. That DNA is a reflection of Jobs’ personal style.

The impression I get is that Tim Cook doesn’t fulfill this role. My main concern for Apple is that they might not be able to keep up the current momentum without that singular, brilliant taste-maker. It is rather well established that matters of style are not well suited to board rooms.

windows 8 ribbon explorer

Because Windows Explorer doesn’t have enough buttons, checkboxes, and drop down menus. (via Ben Brooks)

the big apple

Silicon Valley capitalism had arguably delivered what the Soviets had dreamed of and failed, modernism for the masses. An iPhone really is the best phone you can buy at any price. To paraphrase Andy Warhol: Lady Gaga uses an iPhone, and just think, you can have an iPhone too. An iPhone is an iPhone and no amount of money can get you a better phone. This was what American modernism was about.

(via kottke)

tools & toys

A man buys something for two reasons: a good reason and the real reason.

Shawn Blanc has introduced a new website where he curates a fine list of gadgets and trinkets for the modern geek.

21 kilometer apple logo

As a tribute to Steve Jobs, Joseph Tame took a 21km run around Tokyo in the shape of an Apple logo. Now that’s a dedicated fan.


In relaying his thoughts about Steve Jobs resignation, John Gruber writes the most poignant description of Apple’s corporate culture, and what I believe remains key to much of their success.

Apple’s products are replete with Apple-like features and details, embedded in Apple-like apps, running on Apple-like devices, which come packaged in Apple-like boxes, are promoted in Apple-like ads, and sold in Apple-like stores. The company is a fractal design. Simplicity, elegance, beauty, cleverness, humility. Directness. Truth. Zoom out enough and you can see that the same things that define Apple’s products apply to Apple as a whole. The company itself is Apple-like.

ben’s ideas for hire

The concept is simple: ask Ben to write something for you, and when he does, pay him whatever you’d like. He has a proclivity for the written word, and while he may not have an English degree, he does have a rather impressive résumé. I recommend reading every word on his site; it’s all highly entertaining.

Here’s a little taste, where Ben presents his desire to follow the voice in his head:

This is what made Kevin Costner’s character in “Field of Dreams” seem like a crazy person, because he listened to that creepy, whispery voice he heard while working on his farm. But it turned out alright for him, I guess. He got to have a catch with his ghost father and played baseball in a corn field, and then all the headlights appeared at the end as the camera panned out so that you knew the farm was saved. I suppose success looks different for each of us.

Ben is trying to broaden his experiences, and add value to the lives of people along the way. Go ahead, ask him to write something for you. You have nothing to lose.

Also, Ben is my brother, but you shouldn’t hold that against him.

hp and reality

Unless your source for tech news is your local suburban newspaper, you’ve undoubtedly heard about some big changes happening at Hewlett-Packard: considering spinning off their PC business, cancelling the webOS devices they’ve been hyping the past few months, and buying an enterprise company that nobody has heard of for 10 billion dollars, give or take.

On the surface these moves seem irrational and abrupt. But maybe, HP is just the only company with the guts to read the writing on the wall. Quoting from the recent Personal Systems Group press release:

The personal computing market is quickly evolving with new form factors and application ecosystems.

The PC industry is in a free fall, because the iPad and App Store are what consumers want.

Given these realities, HP believes it is in the best interests of the company and its shareholders to explore ways for PSG to position itself to address these rapid changes and maintain its technological and market leadership positions.

Because our initial efforts to keep up have failed, we think it’s best to find a place to put the PSG out to pasture where no one will even notice when it breathes its last.

Even with a minority of market share, Apple’s cut of PC industry profits is unprecedented. Their integrated approach has paid off, and they have the cash pile to prove it. Slow growth and incremental improvement got them to where they are, and that game plan won’t be successfully implemented by anyone else in short order.

It’s disappointing that the vision behind webOS seems completely lost on the executive team of HP. It almost feels as though their corporate structure is incapable of supporting innovation. We can cross our fingers that webOS will fall into capable hands at some point, but for now it seems that HP is just the first player to admit they were in over their head.


Luminance from Subsplash is ‘whoa!’ awesome. (via Sean)

elements 2.0

Second gear has released version 2.0 of Elements, their popular text editor for iOS. It’s a beautiful looking app, and I had been looking forward to checking out this latest release.

The new icon is much preferable over the previous one (always a big deal in my book). Generally, it’s a much sharper release, but it has one glaring problem for me — the iPad.

Elements is still utilizing the extra space on the iPad by stretching out list views, and making lines of text span the entire width of the display. It’s almost a completely naive up-scaling of the iPhone version, almost as though coming up with a more usable interface would just be too hard, so they didn’t even try.

If you’re an iPhone only user, or keen on Markdown support, this could definitely be worth a look. However, if you’re spending any amount of time with your editor on iPad, I’d find this hard to recommend. It seems like it wouldn’t take much to make Elements the front runner in the text editor game, but for now I’m sticking with PlainText.

the patent system isn’t broken – we are

For those of us who aren’t well educated about the US patent system, Nilay Patel lays it out nicely. He also includes some plausible directions for reform. It’s the most thorough and thoughtful piece on the subject I’ve seen recently.

the last rocket, a review

The Last Rocket is a new action puzzler for iOS by Shaun Inman. For those of you who haven’t heard of Shaun, he’s a designer/developer with a penchant for fine tuned pixel graphics and 8-bit music. He put his soft spot for retro gaming to good use, making The Last Rocket a fresh experience that emanates nostalgic vibes for any veteran of the Nintendo Entertainment System.

You assume the role of Flip, the last rocket to come off the assembly line as an intergalactic war comes to a close. A fun intro cinematic brings you up to speed. You are in a race to escape your starship, which is under threat of a solar flare. Along the way, you’ll collect whatever gears you come across in an attempt to salvage what you can from the ill-fated vessel.

The core mechanic of the game consists of launching your rocket with a tap, and landing on the opposite wall. You fly around avoiding spikes and other traps as you make your way toward the exit where you complete the level. It’s easy to draw some trivial comparisons to the recent platformer VVVVVV, but rather than strictly a platform game, The Last Rocket is more established by its puzzle elements. It brings a collection of new mechanics to the table, and there is constant variety and interest in the design.

Each level is set with a uniquely shaped layout, fitting within (but generally not filling) a single screen. This solution nicely eludes the problem of displaying the same levels on both the iPhone and iPad where the aspect ratios don’t match, and it makes for some really clever designs. Speaking of the iPad, The Last Rocket plays as well or better on its large screen. With plenty of spare room to make the tap and swipe gestures that control Flip’s movement, it’s a great experience.

As a one man show, Shaun has ultimate creative control, and can follow a singular vision in a way hard to match by large development teams. Not only has he brought his pixel magic to bear with colorful, animated sprites, but he has an equal gift for composing music. In fact, as I write this, I’m listening to the game’s soundtrack using another of Shaun’s creations, NoiseES, a chiptunes player for the iPhone. The music he’s crafted for The Last Rocket is on par with some of the best of the NES generation. There is a healthy mix of both lighthearted and intense tracks, rekindling memories of Kid Icarus and Mega Man 2.

I managed to complete my first play through in just over 86 minutes, though, mileages are likely to vary. Levels have a pretty smooth ramp up in difficulty as you progress through the game. And going for 100% completion by collecting all the gears certainly increases the challenge quite a bit in some later levels.

All in all, this polished retro experience is worth well more than the sticker price. Go buy it. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we will continue to see delightful projects like this coming from Shaun down the road.

blog, blecch

When I tell people about this website, I still hesitate whenever referring to it as my blog. The thing is, I really hate that word. ‘Blog’ incites visions of the nearly endless wasteland of garbage.blogspot.com sites that were started in March of 2004 and fell into disrepair a half-dozen posts and two pageviews later. It was a trendy term back in its heyday, but now it’s blanketed over far too many types of websites.

If it isn’t obvious, I spend a fair bit of time keeping up technochocolate, hopefully more than your average blogspot.com offering. It’s a place where I can write, think, share, and exercise my creative muscles. Even more than my site, it makes me cringe whenever I refer to the site of someone who writes professionally online as a ‘blog’. Some responses to an offhanded post I made on Twitter suggest I’m not the only one who disdains the term.

When I try to boil down the broader category of websites that technochocolate falls into outside of the context of the Internet, they could be pretty accurately described as self-published, editorial columns. Wouldn’t that be a mouthful. But hey, column isn’t bad. Is that too misleading? How about webcolumn?

Upon further reflection, this is how many people treat these websites already. Many of us don’t read magazines, but we’re assembling them ourselves all the time. By combining things like RSS, Twitter lists, and other social networks with tools like Reeder, Instapaper, and Flipboard we stand as editors over our own content stream all the time. John Gruber is a columnist for my magazine, so is Shawn Blanc, Ben Brooks, and many others. I get more value from the columnists I read than loads of people with journalism degrees.

I’m certainly not the first person to use the term webcolumn, but I’m going to try it on for size. If you like it, you should run with it too.

Welcome to technochocolate, a webcolumn about chocolatey smooth technology and other stuff by Chuck Skoda.

hello twitter

Meet @technochocolate. He’s a new way to follow along with the posts here. Hat tip to Ben Brooks for pointing me to Twitter Tools and this hack that lets my twitter feed post links without a lame prefix.

the one rule

This quote that Gruber excerpts exactly sums up how I feel about Mission Control.

It might not seem like a lot of change, but after religiously trying Exposé and Spaces for years, Mission Control finally feels like my desktop and not a set of sexy but poorly integrated tools that were fun to demo but hard to use.

when patents attack android

But Android’s success has yielded something else: a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.

Give me a break. Poor, helpless Google, whatever will they do?

@skoda on App.net @technochocolate on App.net