Interview :: Spilt Milk Studios

 

What is Spilt Milk Studios?

It’s a one-man game development studio based in a shed in the Essex countryside. We make iOS games at the moment, and have our eyes on bigger things in the future.

 

Who are Spilt Milk Studios?

It’s me – Andrew John Smith, game designer – plus anyone foolish/kind enough to help. Or whoever I pay. I outsource a lot! 

 

What are your backgrounds?

I used to work in Dundee, Scoltand for various companies, the most recent of which was Proper Games. I was the designer there on the BAFTA-winning Flock! as well as on Final Fight: Double Impact, Crackdown 2 DLC and their recent iPhone release Moving Day (in a purely pre-production sense).

 

Where did the name Spilt Milk come from? Is there a sour patch of milk in a carpet some where representing a eureka moment?

I spent days and weeks agonising over what to call my studio, and my ex actually came up with it one evening. No real reason for it other than it is memorable and conjures up imagery in people’s heads. It’s certainly memorable!

 

What’s the theme of Spilt Milk Studios?

Essentially we just want to make fun games for people! Sounds silly, but that’s the core aim. Beside that, I believe in creating characters, worlds and stories that resonate with people. My output so far has been mainly concerned with the fun part (and making enough money to survive!) but believe me when I say I’ll get round to the second part as soon as possible.

 

You’ve just launched Hard Lines and it appears to be getting rave reviews from all over the place. How are you finding it’s success?

I’m blown away by the reception we’ve had. Critically the game has performed so well (being featured in a few ‘best mobile games of 2011′ lists, and sitting at 86 on Metacritic!) and we’re still seeing coverage even now, 4 weeks after launch. We were featured by Apple in our second week so that helped sales, and we’re taking a very long term approach to success, with tons of plans for Hard Lines’ future! I need to shout out to Nicoll Hunt (the project’s coder) as he has been instrumental in creating the game, way beyond just coding it. It wouldn’t be the same if it had been made with anyone else.  

 

Where did the idea of Hard Lines come from?

Literally from being disappointed with the official Tron game. Me and Nicoll thought we should just make a simple iOS game, and the fact the official Tron tie in game sucked made us sure we could do better. The rest is history, really!  

 

What was the best moment whilst developing Hard Lines?

Probably the Saturday afternoon we spent jamming on it together – most of the game has been developed remotely; Nicoll in his bedroom in london, and me in my shed in Essex. That Saturday was when we added the very popular ‘quip’ system to the game and it went from being a cool little higscore chasing game to something with charm, personality and humour by the bucketload. As soon as the lines started talking, the game just evolved into something more than the sum of its parts. A very satisfying hour of development, that was :)

 

What was the worst moment? Spill all the beans now as the milks already out of the bag.

Well I think the word moment was when we realised we’d released a patch that crashed the game on startup. For everyone. On the day we got reviews on FHM, Kotaku and Edge. Nearly cried, in all honesty. Total bloody schoolboy error, but it shall never make the mistake again!

 

What do you have next in the pipeline? Anything hugely top secret?

Apart from supporting Hard Lines with a ton of content, I’ve got a project coming up that involves adapting a boardgame onto iOS, as well as potentially a second original game project. Can’t really say much beyond it’ll probably involve Bears in some form! :D


What’s the future plans for Spilt Milk?

As I alluded to earlier, my plans do not rely solely on iOS and mobile games. They’re just the easiest market to break into at this stage. Looking to the future I truly believe the browser games market is the future. Be it Facebook, Unity, HTML5, Flash or Java – every TV sold from next year onwards is likely to have browser tech in it, and that means browser games will have an even bigger reach than they already do.

 

Do you, or would you consider, selling your own (from a cow) milk? In a non spill or drip carton of course.

I’m totally up for making the most of my brand, so if any farmers out there can approach me with a tempting deal, I’d be up for it! :D 

 

The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.

Be sure to check out Hard Lines in the iTunes Store. It’s available now so don’t hold back.

Android C2DM :: Application Server

I recently had a chance to implement Push Notification for Android and I thought I’d share my simplified code with you all. Please note that this is the server side implementation and NOT the Android code. I’m not an Android developer, yet, so I didn’t not have to create that part.

The first thing you will have to do, and have, is log into a Google Account. This can be any account and the same code can be used for any of Google’s services such as Docs, Plus … etc.

Google Auth

Firstly I set up all the constants for the service authentication: 
$url = "https://www.google.com/accounts/ClientLogin";
$accountType = 'GOOGLE'; //Doesn't change for this
$email = '===Google Account=='; //Enter your Google Account email
$password = '==Password==';  //Enter your Google Account password
$source = '==Name for reference=='//Enter a name for this source of the login
$service = 'ac2dm'; //Select which service you want to log into

Once that is all done it’s time to use some cURL to send our request and retrieve the auth token:
$ch = curl_init();
$URL = $url."?accountType=".$accountType."&Email=".$email."&Passwd=".$password."&source=".$source."&service=".$service;


// set URL and other appropriate options

curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, $URL);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true);
$response = curl_exec($ch);


//Divide the response into an array as to find the auth token
$line = explode("n", $response);


// close cURL resource, and free up system resources
curl_close($ch);
unset($ch);
unset($response);


C2DM :: Push Notification

Now that’s all done and we finally have the Google Auth Token, now it’s time to actually send a notification.


$auth_token = str_replace("Auth=", "", $line[2]); //auth token from Google Account Sign In
$registrationId = "===Registration ID generated for the app===";
$messageUrl = "https://android.apis.google.com/c2dm/send";
$collapseKey = "===String used to identify the message===";
$data = array('data.message'=>'This is a message'); //The content of the message


$ch = curl_init();
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, $messageUrl);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true);


$header = array("Authorization: GoogleLogin auth=".$auth_token); //Set the header with the Google Auth Token
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HTTPHEADER, $header);

$postFields = array("registration_id" => $registrationId, "collapse_key" => $collapseKey);
$postData = array_merge($postFields, $data);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_POSTFIELDS, $postData);

$response = curl_exec($ch);
//Print response from C2DM service//
echo $response;

// close cURL resource, and free up system resources
curl_close($ch);

 

This is a very simple implementation of the push notification service for Android. As the registration ID has to be hard coded into this example it is best to create a loop to send messages to registration IDs collected through a web service create for the phone application to call and pass their registration ID to. If you have any questions just let me know.

SOURCE CODE

The Creative Van :: Episode Two

Episode Two Link

 

The Creative Van Episode Two is finally here. After months of hard work, NDAs and contract signings and some government intervention it’s finally out on general release.

This time around I got the non stop, action hero of gaming, Chevy Ray Johnston (@ChevyRay). He talks all about himself, what he does and the many games he’s created so far and they people he’s worked with. Does he give all the juiciest gossip from the indie game development scene? You’ll just have to listen to find out.

He also talks about his recently released game, Fat Wizard. Which he developed with Matt Thorson (@MattThorson) and not to forgot the awesome voice acting provided by Evan Balster.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes of you so happen to use that.

 


Life Without Paper

For the past 4 months I have, with rather great ease, been living without paper. This is in work and in play.

It all started when I started my new job and just realized that there was no reason for me to use paper for anything. I’ve got a computer, just take notes. I’ve got a phone, just take notes. As I said already, it’s been very easy. The only problem I’ve come across is that on my phone I was using some note application and it had no easy way to transfer the stuff to my PC or internet location so I switched to using the Google Docs app.

This new way of life, per se, has come up against some opposition in the form of a new coworker who just has the mantra that he like’s always having something physical to read, at hand, and not on the screen. I can see where he’s coming from but with his desk just piling up with papers, notes, etc I don’t see how he can find anything beyond what ever he just put down.

 

To let you know, there have actually been 2 instances where I have used paper in the last 4 months.

  1. Post-it note: This has become a tradition of mine, to draw a smiley face on a post-it note where I work. It always just makes me smile so I had to.
  2. Drawing paper: A new thing I have started with The Creative Van podcast is having the guests/speakers/talkers/friends draw whilst talking about what ever. I feel this helps new people to podcasting to forget about their voice being recorded and also it’s fun to see what they come up with. I do plan to give the drawings away or something at some stage but for now I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t want a single sheet of the paper I bought to be wasted. All art is good art.

 

My next challenge will be moving my life onto one without a rubbish bin. This will be a hard one as I will have to think about what packaging any product I buy uses and find the best solution. (I already recycle just over half of what I use)

Episode Three

The Creative Van :: Episode Three

Wait what? Episode Three?? No, no, no. Not that Episode Three, though it’s 10 times better than that will ever be. :p

This time round I have Jake Birkett (@GreyAlien) and Alex Vostrov (@AlexVostrov) talking all about being Indie developers. These guys are definitely the ones in the know. Between them they have about 40 years game development experience give or take. They’re also the brains behind Full Indie. (Don’t forget to join and get involved)

Jake talks about how becoming indie has changed him and his family, how he’s the better for it and speaks his mind about “asshole” developers.

Alex talks about his recent release, Infested Planet, and about how he HAD to get the game as a point to himself.

Now get listening!!

 

Again, don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes if you wish.

 

Episode Two

The Creative Van :: Episode Two

Episode Two Link

 

The Creative Van Episode Two is finally here. After months of hard work, NDAs and contract signings and some government intervention it’s finally out on general release.

This time around I got the non stop, action hero of gaming, Chevy Ray Johnston (@ChevyRay). He talks all about himself, what he does and the many games he’s created so far and they people he’s worked with. Does he give all the juiciest gossip from the indie game development scene? You’ll just have to listen to find out.

He also talks about his recently released game, Fat Wizard. Which he developed with Matt Thorson (@MattThorson) and not to forgot the awesome voice acting provided by Evan Balster.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes of you so happen to use that.

 


From Phone

Google+ & Android

I’ve been using Google+ for a few days now thanks to @edenfire_Paul (who also introduced me to Twitter). It’s good and bad. Bad namely because, for the same reason as all other Google products, I can’t change my primary email address. Since I was invited by a close friend, he invited me with my older email address but I still receive those emails into my newer account and so now my Google+ account is associated with old me.

I have also been using the Google+ Android app since then as well. It has been great for easily posting updates, uploading photos and just generally keeping in touch. Good and all, until I noticed something very strange today. I was messing around with the status/link/update section of the home page and noticed the small icon for photos. I clicked this thinking I could use photos I’ve previously uploaded to use in newer posts. Yes the uploads were there, but also photos I took with the normal camera application during my house hunting walk yesterday. These I obviously didn’t upload, or want to upload to Google+ as they were just for reference for me. I don’t know when they were uploaded but since I was popping in and out of the application it could have been anytime. This is honestly the first thing I really do not like about Google+. Privacy FTL.

Interview :: Aarvo

Aarvo, the studio moniker for Irish based Cormac Phelan, has recently made huge waves with his first release, The Patient. Released on 21st April 2011, it has found fans in everyone from electronic music lovers to video game lovers. The influences of Justice, Soulwax, and SebastiAn are noticeable but a even before a full listen through you really get the vibe of the Aarvo sound. I’ve recently had a chance to ask a few questions of Aarvo and here they are:

 

Q: Where did the name Aarvo come from?

A: I’d like to say that the name ‘Aarvo’ is profoundly meaningful, but the reality is that it was an early working title for the project, chosen because the double ‘a’ kept it at the top of an alphabetical list! Practically speaking, my process for writing and recording includes a lot of repeated listening to work-in-progress tracks on an MP3 player, so the alphabetical listing of ‘Aarvo’ meant I didn’t waste time scrolling beyond the first few results! Also, I liked the fact that the name sounded vaguely Scandinavian, maybe even Finnish…..”Aarvo Aarvosson”, maybe!

 

Q. When did you start with music? Have you done previous projects? This is your first project as Aarvo, right?

A. I started writing pathetically low-quality rock stuff a few years before going to college, so that probably means I was around 16 or 17 years old. It was absolute drivel, and I hadn’t even learned how to use a multitracker (I copy-and-pasted audio takes over each other, and hoped that the levels matched up!), so you can imagine how poor the results were. After starting studies in computer science and music in University College Dublin, both the musical material and my technical proficiency began to improve a little…but not by much. At that stage, I wrote a lot of music for student theatre productions, and started a project called ‘Thirteen‘, which was focused on piling entirely too many rock/electronic instruments on top of each other, and the results were patchy at best. An E.P. was released and quickly forgotten about, which was fairly discouraging, and I put the music on hold for a year or so to concentrate on other things. That didn’t last though, mainly because I started listening to incredible ‘slowcore’ bands like Low and Spokane, so the ‘Thirteen’ moniker was wheeled out again, but with a much more balanced and better informed approach to putting together an album. That was in around 2004, and there have been two ‘Thirteen‘ albums since then, both focused on sparse, slow, atmospheric instrumentation for more traditional song structures. They’re still available at thirteen13.bandcamp.com or from www.cormacphelan.com. The ‘Aarvo’ project began around 3 years ago, when I was doing a research MSc in Computer Science, and developing a software synthesizer for the VST platform. Naturally, doing that kind of research leads you to listen to a *lot* of electronic music, but material from bands like Justice, Soulwax, The Chemical Brothers, and SebastiAn (amongst many others) really jumped out as the most high-impact stuff I’d ever heard. Since I’d always messed around with electronic music here and there, I thought it’d be fun to start a proper project, aiming to learn some of the production tricks that make the French-Touch electro stuff so effective. I thought it’d be a doddle, and take only a few months, but I couldn’t have been more wrong, and it actually took more than 2 years to finish the album!

 

Q. Your gaming influences are obvious with a track title such as “Nova Prospekt” (love it btw, song and name), is gaming just a hobby or do you look for inspiration there?

A. Well, I’m a computer programmer by trade, so there’s bound to be a bit of nerd-influence there! In truth, I don’t do a huge amount of gaming any more, apart from anything by Valve. Those guys can’t put a foot wrong, as far as I’m concerned. I recently re-played the Half Life series for the umpteenth time, and just had an inkling that ‘Nova Prospekt‘ would be a cool name for a track. That’s so dorky, I know! Aside from that, there are a load of references throughout the album to older games that I played as a kid (e.g. Doom) or programmer in-jokes. Again, disgracefully nerdy, I know!

 

Q. Is music your bill payer or do you do other work?  

A. Nope, music is purely a hobby, although I spend a good portion of my free time at it.

 

Q. What has the reception to The Patient been like? Any tour, live shows planned?

A. Really, really encouraging. I know that by any professional musician’s standards, my level of exposure is pathetic, but by my standards I’m delighted. Considering there’s been zero promotional backing or label support in the two months since release, I get such a kick out of people getting in touch from parts of the world I’ve never been! In terms of wider circulation, I’m actually speaking to a UK-based record label at the moment, who seem to be a super outfit, so I’m looking forward to doing a few releases with them once everything gets sorted. There’s no tour planned, although I’m working on a way of performing the Aarvo stuff live at the moment, and it’s coming together really well. There will be live rehearsal videos and recordings posted over the coming weeks on the Soundcloud or Twitter sites.

 

Q. What are the future plans for Aarvo? I know you’ve been releasing samples of songs that didn’t make it onto The Patient, are you going to post these as a side album?

A. Future plans are to finalise things with the UK label, and put out a few EP releases with them. On top of that, they seem eager to get me to do some remixes for them, as well as doing some remixes of Aarvo tracks. Outside of official releases, in the coming weeks you can expect the start of a stream of live rehearsal recordings of Aarvo stuff, along with unsanctioned live remixes of other artists….who hopefully won’t sue me for the free promo I’ll be giving them! The unreleased stuff you mention might make it into the live setup, but I don’t think it’s likely to feature on any official releases.

 

You can buy The Patient now at Aarvo.com. Not only that, you can listen to the whole album for free online but don’t forget to support the stuff you love. Be sure to check him out on Twitter & Facebook.