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Tim and I continue to be astounded by the success of Ramps for iPhone and iPod Touch. Tens of thousands of players have spent over a combined decade playing the game. As happy as we are with that audience, our inbox shows that there are many more players on other platforms waiting for their chance to play.
We’ve received hundreds of emails suggesting a Ramps port for just about every smartphone platform. Android and Windows Phone 7 have been particularly popular requests but, going on email volume alone, one suggestion dramatically outperformed all others.
That’s why Tim and I are elated to announce that Ramps will soon be available for the Nokia N-Gage QD handheld!
We knew it would be painful for N-Gage users to go Ramps-less as long as they did, but we think you’ll find it worth the wait; the N-Gage QD is truly the perfect platform for this title. Even if you’ve already purchased and enjoyed Ramps for iOS, we think you’ll find a lot to love in the N-Gage version.
The first thing you’ll notice is that Ramps for N-Gage features 100% more tangible controls than its iOS predecessor. Solving puzzles is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
Use the d-pad to move the cursor to the editable ramp point you’d like to manipulate.
Press 5 to select the point, then use the d-pad to make your adjustment.
If you’d like to adjust other editable points, press 5 again to exit editing mode for the current selection. Otherwise, press 7 to dispense the ball!
We’ve cut the width of Ramps levels down 50% to accommodate the N-Gage’s unique 208 x 176 pixel display (retina if played from a distance of 48 inches or greater). Shorter levels means faster play, which means you’ll have more time for work, school and leisure activities.
Essa’s catchy soundtrack has never sounded clearer than in crisp 16kHz mono, and with the N-Gage’s built-in Bluetooth radio, you can easily transfer bitmap images of your achievements to a PC to share with friends on MySpace or your favorite newsgroup!
Shortly after ESRB finishes rating the game’s content, Ramps will debut in your local Electronics Boutique or Cingular Wireless outlet for the low price of $34.99. We think it will be regarded as the quintessential version of our little app.
Oftentimes, the smallest details present the largest design challenges. For example, the “World Map” icon in Ramps, which underwent six revisions before a solution was decided upon.
The first version of the icon was created early on, and used for much of the development process. I’d grown so used to this symbol in Angry Birds that I incorrectly assumed the rest of the world would make the same association. During the beta for Ramps, I witnessed some confusion among players in deciphering its meaning, which kicked off the redesign process.
Sometimes it helps to borrow design conventions the player may already be familiar with just from using the device itself. I noticed that iPhones and iPod Touches often used text-based buttons like “Back” to return to a previous screen, and click-wheel iPods use the word “Menu” in lieu of iconography. While this made sense in my head, in practice the result is far too sterile, and it stuck out like a sore thumb next to the other icons.
I wanted to avoid using any sort of globe or planet icon because of the association with networking and web browsing, which I thought would hinder the player’s ability to decipher the meaning. Instead, I chose a symbol even more weighted with contradictory meaning (oh, the irony!). This felt too much like you’d be returning to the main menu instead of the world map, so I scrapped it quickly.
After realizing the error of my ways with the house symbol, I admitted defeat and tried out a globe. I thought it was cute, but the aforementioned concerns over its implied meaning remained.
A friend suggested I use a loopy line similar to the shape of the water on the world map, which was a great idea, but it just didn’t translate when the shape was small and monochromatic. Still, I thought there might be something to the idea of a literal “map,” which led me to this option. It still relies far too much on verbiage, and it doesn’t look friendly enough.
I returned to the globe, but wanted to see if I could differentiate it from networking icons with some extra details. Although I like the result, ultimately those details are superfluous; they don’t make it any more understandable in the context of the game.
I tried out nearly all of these variations on family and friends, but ran into a problem. For every person who disliked a particular solution, there was always an equal amount of people who preferred it! It was a draw every time.
The icon we included in the final game is the simpler globe (the fourth variation above). Aside from feeling it meshed stylistically with the rest of the game (which is, as you may have noticed, heavy on circles), I also liked that it depicted a “world,” which is the term we use to refer to each map of levels.
That said, I always reserve the right to change my mind later on. What do you think? Did we make the right decision?
Even outside of Backabit, Tim and I work at the same company.
The afternoon of January 20, he came by my cube and said “check out the app store today.” Our coworker (and awesome artist/designer) Calvin Ross Carl captured my surprise (appropriately, with his iPhone 4).
Wow, what a wild ride this has been! Between getting featured by Apple in New and Noteworthy the last two weeks, and working with the press to get their unbiased take (and by the way, they LOVE Ramps!), it’s nice to finally dive back in to working on the game without any reservations.
I’m so excited that we now have our own blog! Make sure you give some mad props to Tyler for doing a fantastic job with all of our web work. I’m blown away with how spectacular this thing looks. If you haven’t seen the Ramps website yet, check that out too. Make sure you use Chrome or Safari also, as there’s little surprises for you to discover there as well.
We’ve been hard at work on version 1.1, which is going to be our first major update to Ramps. I don’t want to spoil any surprises just get, but I will say that it’s going to have a TON of new content, and some new gameplay elements that are going to make it seem like you’re playing an entirely new game! So when do you get it? Well, sooner than you think! But in the meantime, make sure you’ve completed both Worlds 1 and 2. You’re going to have to earn this awesome new stuff!
But while we’re working on that, we’ve also been working on making improvements to the game as it stands now. Some users on older devices have had some crashes. Not very many of you, but we want to make Ramps fun and playable for everyone. We’ve submitted an update to Apple this evening (1.0.2) that should help those of you on older devices that are getting some crashes. See, the whole reason it happens is those devices don’t have as much memory, and we’re using really high resolution artwork so we’re really trying to push the graphical limits of even the newer hardware.
If you get a weird crashing issue, reboot your device. It will fix it. Seriously.
This works for other games and apps too, not just ours. So in the future of stuff is wigging out for you on your phone or iPod Touch, just give that guy a fresh reboot and chances are your crashing problem will be fixed.
I’m not satisfied with that as a solution though, as I know most people who play Ramps aren’t going to read this post, so in our new update, we’ve reduced the amount of memory Ramps uses on older devices by 20%. That should make this problem a lot more tolerable, and maybe even get rid of it altogether.
We’ve made a number of other improvements to Ramps also in 1.0.2 that I give a sneak-peek of in the video. Here’s the full release notes in-case you’re interested. We’ve addressed some things that a lot of people brought to our attention.
We’re waiting for Apple to approve this update, so hopefully you will all see it drop sometime next week.
NEW IN 1.0.2:
0) Improved memory utilization for older devices. This means less crashes! We’re constantly fine-tuning our little app to make it the best we can. If you get a crash, don’t panic! Send us an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you out. Promise!
1) You spoke, and we listened! When you complete a level, the screen now fades to gray instead of white. Now you can play Ramps without going blind!
2) You can now drag a ramp to the edge of the screen to scroll a level. If you drag a Ramp to the edge of the screen (within 25% of the edge) while in a level that is scrollable, the level will scroll until you either move the ramp away from the *hot* region, or let go of the ramp.
3) You can now tap to skip the pre-roll when a level starts (GO! text, animated arrow, letterboxing with scrolling).
4) You can now use your own music from the iPod app or other apps via multitasking.
5) We’re now supporting landscape left orientation, so flip that bad boy around and play Ramps like a Backabat!
BORING BUG FIXES
0) If a ball had touched a Ramp, the Ramp would always remember the ball had touched it, even if a ball died. (until you restarted a level or started a new one). This made it kinda hard to beat the challenge where you beat a level without using every Ramp.
We love our game and we love that you guys all enjoy playing it as much as we do. We’re going to keep working to make Ramps better and adding more content as long as you guys keep playing it and telling us how we should improve it. Stay tuned, we have lots more cool stuff to share with you. Not just with updates to Ramps, but with our marketing learnings as well!