In previous posts I’ve described my desire to do an iPhone app, and finally finding what seemed to be a worthwhile project. All that was left was to take the idea and see how well I could translate it into an app.
I started writing code in mid-January. Sometime in late February the name came to me — The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It’s Mickey Mouse’s most famous role. The ‘Sorcerer’ obviously also ties to the game’s name, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. And it can be shortened to The Sorcerer’s App — “app” works as a shortened form of Apprentice or of Application, and I liked the duality of that. Even though I was a ways off from having an app ready, I went into iTunes Connect (the software that developers use to publish to the App Store) to see if I could reserve the name. It was not yet in use by any other app, so I grabbed it, as well as reserving thesorcerersapp.wordpress.com as a blog name where I would start writing about the app.
Work on the app progressed, and functionality seemed to be falling into some well-defined “buckets”. There is obviously the collecting of the cards used to play the game, and early on it was decided that this would be the focus of the first version of the app. So I put together screens that would track cards the user had and the cards still needed. I designed the database to hold all the card information. Trading was originally going to wait until Version 2, but ultimately I decided there needed to be something in Version 1 — not a full-blown trading system where users can electronically trade with other app users, but at least something where a user standing in line at a game portal can show a list of cards needed and cards to trade to someone and check off the cards to make a trade.
Being able to break down the app into smaller chunks felt crucial to me. For one thing, remembering the experience of seeing other apps beat me to the app store before, I didn’t want to be working on an app for many months, only to have something else appear before I finished. I felt it was important to get a release out there, and then build on it, rather than wait until I had an app with every feature I could think of.
As I read more and more of the blogs online, the crowd-sourcing aspect became less important, and eventually disappeared. It may reappear in a later release (or it may not), but it seems like basic game strategy is understood well enough to encapsulate it in a relatively small set of rules that will be built into the app. (These game play features will be introduced in Version 2 of the app).
Version 1 of the app, the digital checklist for card collectors and the trading manager for casual trading face-to-face, was completed early in March. I recruited some beta testers to try things out, and went through a series of minor revisions. I submitted the app to the app store. The first submittal was rejected — not entirely unexpectedly — because it included pictures of all the cards, which are images copyrighted by Disney. (I rationalized that the card images can be easily found on the web, so Disney appears not to have ordered them taken down — perhaps they wouldn’t object to their use in the app. I never got to find out as Apple red-flagged that and made me pull the images out of the app.)
After pulling the images, I resubmitted the app and then on April 1st, I got notice that the app had been approved for sale. I decided that April Fool’s day was not the day I was going to announce the release — too easy to either be taken as a joke, or simply lost in the flood of bogus announcements coming from various sources. So I waited until April 2nd to start posting updates on Facebook, Twitter, and other sources announcing the app.
An interesting thing about this whole experience, to me, is that I kind of feel I almost missed it. Since I abandoned my first app effort in 2009, it’s always been a goal to find another project and build an app. It’s not something I obsessed over or thought about daily — but it is something that I came back to again and again, considering and rejecting a number of ideas that I either couldn’t come up with a good approach for, or thought were over-done, or required skills I didn’t have. Yet for some reason it took several exposures to the SotMK game for me to make the connection — it seems very obvious in retrospect, but it did not come to me when I played the game in September, or even in January. Only after the trip, reflecting back on it, did I make the connection.
If you have a project you’ve wanted to kick off and are just waiting to find the right inspiration — make sure you haven’t missed it! Do a mental review of things that have recently caught your interest for more than just a passing moment. Is there a connection that needs to be made?
Download the app: https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=607155560
Read the blog: http://thesorcerersapp.wordpress.com/
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