In my last post, I talked about the Baseball Scorecard app that never made it to launch. That was in 2009, and ever since then, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that doing an iPhone app was going to happen — I just needed to find the right project.
Maybe “in the back of my mind” isn’t quite right. It was really a bucket list item for me … not something I thought about daily, but something that was more than just an idle thought. I really did plan to act on it, but the ideas just weren’t coming.
As a long-time Disney fan, doing something Disney related certainly had an appeal, so more than once I tried to think of a Disney-related app idea. But there are already various tour guides, line estimating guides, etc. for all the parks — I didn’t really want to do a “me, too” app, I wanted to do something new — or at least something I felt like I could do better than anyone else was doing it. Nothing came to me, but I continued to believe it would eventually.
During a WDW trip in September 2012 for the Tower of Terror race, I first played the game Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (which had launched in February 2012). It’s a neat little game and one which I was sure I’d play again on future visits to the park — but somehow the synapses didn’t fire, nothing connected telling me there was an app there waiting to be written.
When I went back in January 2013 for the half marathon, I played again, and this time I did more than just play — I talked to other players, traded cards, and started to hear that there was more complexity to the game than first meets the eye. The reason this is not readily apparent is because if you play on the “Easy” difficulty (as I was doing), there is really no strategy required to win — it’s just a pleasant diversion and a chance to walk around the park and watch some entertaining videos, and follow along with the story line. But if you play on medium and hard levels — then what you do matters. You can’t just randomly play any cards and hope to defeat the villains trying to take over the Magic Kingdom.
The game strategy has to be discovered, and it’s really something that one person is not likely to figure out on their own. So online communities have developed, both for trading the SotMK (as the game is abbreviated) cards and for sharing strategy tips — what’s the best card combination to beat Cruella de Vil? What cards should you absolutely avoid playing against Maleficient when she appears in dragon form? How can you handle multiple cards at the portal without dropping your Dole Whip?
After playing in the parks during each day of my trip, I was checking on the online forums at night for better strategies to use the next day. Yep, they had hooked me and reeled me in — I needed to beat the game.
It wasn’t until I was home from the trip that the light bulb went on. There were too many card combinations for anyone to ever find the completely optimal strategy working alone. What was needed was a crowdsourced solution. And while this was happening online via blog postings and Facebook groups, the way to really kick that into high gear would be with an iPhone app. I’d discovered the app that needed to be written.
From this idea, I was quickly beginning to mock up what such an app might look like — drawing out the various screens on index cards and pinning them to a cork board to get the flow. It really seemed to hit the sweet spot I was looking for — here was an app with enough to it that it wasn’t trivial or worthless, but not so large and complex that it was more than a one-person job. The app could be compartmentalized nicely, meaning that it didn’t have to be done all at once — I could easily visual several versions of the app, each adding in a few new features. (That was a big downside to the baseball app — you couldn’t do it in pieces. You can’t release a version 1 that only does balls and strikes, and then a version 2 that handles other batter actions, and then a version 3 that handles baserunning — until you can do it all, you don’t have anything usable).
Inspiration had finally come along; the idea was there. Now it was just a mere matter of programming to take the idea and make it a reality.
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