Saturday, 5 August 2017

Disgruntled iPad owner/developer

My iPad is old. In fact, I'm pretty sure Apple considers it to be obsolete now. It's an iPad 3. It isn't allowed to update to iOS 10, let alone the soon-to-be-released iOS 11. But, it works perfectly. I'm sure I'm not the only person in this position where Apple's relentless drive to keep everyone buying new versions of almost the same product is actually getting pretty frustrating.

Thanks to the 'Brexit effect' last year, Apple hiked the price of everything. Despite the pound recovering somewhat against the dollar, that price increase hasn't been softened. So as someone who would love to develop and update my apps for the iPad, I find myself in the position of simply being unable to justify spending £600+ on a new iPad.

Most recently, I've had a notice from Apple that Shelf Life for iOS hasn't been updated in a while. So I'm doing an update for the app so that they deign to allow it to remain available on the App Store. The fact that it works perfectly well, is apparently irrelevant. I'm not one to do frivolous updates for the sake of saying there's an update. If I'm updating something, it's because I see a clear need to do so.

So hopefully they'll accept the (virtually pointless) update in the next couple of weeks - I'm still deliberately targetting older versions of iOS (8.4), because I don't want to have to force people to upgrade to use my apps. I don't want to upgrade my iPad when it still works just fine, so why should I make anyone else? I have removed the spellcheck/autocorrect on the title, author, and genre fields, as they did bug me a bit, and I've also had a little bit of a graphical tidy up around the table gridlines - but other than that, it does everything I want it to do.

As much as I love the Mac and the iPad, the Apple I grew to love when I started doing the app development seems to have lost sight of what attracted people to them in the first place.

I've been working on a Mac version of Plotline over the last month or so. In part it's come about because I've grown so fed up of the iPad. The iOS App Store is horrendous for discovery of content, and the drive to the bottom of the pricing tiers means that there's an even bigger drive towards subscriptions, for things that simply have no business being a subscription.

Anyway, Plotline 2 as it will tentatively be called is looking good so far on the Mac. It's obviously a lot easier to move text content back and forth compared to the iPad, and I've just implemented the all-important Scrivener export. So, I've got that to finish in the next month or so, as well as carrying on with my own writing.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Summer Heat

Currently listening to my cheap-as-chips air-conditioning unit work its magic as I struggle through the abnormal heat in South Wales, I've still been writing every day.

I'm waiting to hear from a few agents about Intertwined, and I've been doing background work on a new novel as well.

Wearing my app-development cap, I've been working on the Mac version of Plotline. Which has also been spurred on by the background work on the novel. It's coming along nicely, and next on the feature list to implement from the iOS version, is the Scrivener export.

So it's all go here, from writing, to development, to actual day-job work, with not much time in between. I did complete Mass Effect: Andromeda though recently - and highly recommend it.

Happy writing!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Mass Effect: Andromeda

I've been playing Mass Effect: Andromeda for the last few weeks. I got it on the day of release (for the PC), and I finished the main storyline a couple of days ago. 102 hours, spread out over 41 days. I absolutely loved it.

What I find hard to reconcile, is the internet rage that accompanied the launch - utter outrage that has now culminated in the plans for future content, and indeed any sequel, being put on hold as EA and BioWare Montreal deal with the fallout.

Let's be clear here. There were problems at launch. Problems that absolutely should have been picked up and dealt with by a Quality Assurance team prior to release. That's probably what's more upsetting about this - almost all of the issues are avoidable.

There were some desperately poor animations - such as Sloane's weird, bending neck at her base in Kadara, along with horrible, dead-looking eyes on most of the human characters. The clunky crafting user interface that meant I barely crafted anything (although I didn't really need to). It didn't help that the game was being sold at such a high price - £50 on console, and £40+ on PC. For that price, people have a right to expect a polished, bug-free experience.

But, you know what, there was an awful lot to like about it too. I've always been into Mass Effect for the story, the combat was always something I had to 'get through' to get to the next story point. But in Andromeda, I actually loved the combat. The jetpack was great. Sniper rifles are wonderful, and the bigger, more open spaces meant I could approach situations from a different angle instead of being funnelled down a corridor.

The Nomad was terrific - and using it on the low-gravity moon is an instant, smile-inducing experience. I hated the original Mako sequences in Mass Effect, but the Nomad is fast, handles well, and can get to hard-to-reach places without making you grind your teeth into dust.

I really liked the supporting cast. A lot's been said about the crew of the Tempest, mostly from people who it seems just wanted to have their old Mass Effect crew back. Well, sadly that was never going to happen. But the new team: Kallo, Suvi, Lexi, Gil, Drack, Liam, Cora, Jaal, Vetra, and Peebee, all get their moments to shine.

A lot of the little moments are things that will only come about if you have a certain pairing with you. For example, go driving around Kadara with Peebee and Jaal, and you'll probably come across the moment where Peebee tries to prove that Jaal's pretending to be asleep by coming onto you - it's unexpected, and it's a wonderful moment.

I think that's what I'll take away from Mass Effect: Andromeda. So many little moments that mean it's actually competing with Mass Effect 2 for me as my favourite of the series.

I find it hard to fathom that a game can have such a negative reaction when I've put over 100 hours into it, and it never felt like a chore. I have a very low tolerance for bad experiences in games. I barely got started with Dragon Age 2 - it never clicked for me. In fact, I've never finished Dragon Age: Inquisition either.

EA and BioWare absolutely need to have a look at what went wrong - but they (and the rest of the game-playing community) also need to have a look at what went right. There's a terrific game in there, and I for one would like to see it continue.

Unfortunately, despite its finale teasing what would have been potential story hooks for a continuation, it doesn't look as if there will be a resolution. There may not even be a sequel. In the rush to condemn the game, people have instead condemned the series to an uncertain future.

Monday, 17 April 2017


I've been working in Unity lately, which is starting to click, although there's a huge amount I don't know. I'm still working on my RPG idea, and have some basic character creation screens up and running - and saving correctly to SQLite, so there are a few tiny milestones being hit here and there.

As an aside, my Macbook is coming up for seven years old, and it's still going strong. The only thing I've changed with it, is an upgrade to 4GB RAM a couple of years ago. It's running whatever the latest macOS is (I miss the cat version numbering, mountains are rubbish) without problem. Xcode does take an age to get going though, so I may have to look at a new machine this year.

The Unity work has made me think about porting my iOS apps to Unity, which would enable some different platform versions (Windows Store, Android for instance). That could be an interesting challenge. I'll have to see how it goes.

Happy writing!

Thursday, 9 March 2017


Crumbs, February's already gone, and next week is mid-March.

I've been doing some Unity development, working on the design for my game. I may try and do it all in Unity instead of native iOS. That will give me a lot more platform options down the line, at the expense of the really nice auto-layout/constraint functionality that iOS provides.

One other benefit of Unity is that it's reasonably straight-forward to integrate with SQLite - and that makes cross-platform much more viable again versus Core Data.

Hopefully when Unity 2017 arrives it will include some features to help organise a project. At the moment it just feels as if a non-trivial program designed in Unity will just be this giant mess of scripts and public GameObjects exposed on the IDE.

I'm also still trying to work out what my next writing project is, and I've finished the edits of the second draft of Eight Minutes.

Happy writing!

Sunday, 29 January 2017


Thankfully it's nearly the end of January. A horrible time where the days are short but feel long, and the nearest bank holiday in the UK is several months away!

I'm currently in the throes of deciding on my next writing project, while editing Eight Minutes. I also started work on the iOS version of my game project, and I hope to share some more information about that soon (even if it's just the hair-wrenching frustration of trying to get Xcode to do auto-layout and size classes properly across multiple iPhone and iPad screen sizes... sigh).

Plans for the year: -
  • Write two new novels
  • See what happens with Intertwined at Gollancz
  • Get Eight Minutes published
  • Build the iOS game
  • Look at the app portfolio and see where improvements can be slotted in

So, there's a lot on the slate. Part of all that work also involves artwork and imagery so there's a huge learning curve as I hopefully improve my art skills as well.

In amongst all of that, the most important thing to me, is to just keep writing.

So, whatever you're doing this year, I hope you enjoy it, and it's something you love doing.

Happy writing!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Happy Christmas

It's end of the year wrap up time again. I don't know about you all, but in general, 2016's been a bit rubbish. From Brexit and the US election, to an awful lot of misery around the world.

I've had a couple of bright spots: -

I finished Intertwined
I wrote a new draft of Eight Minutes
I've written every single day - it's never going to stop now.

I guess the biggest thing for me this year was being the runner-up in the 2016 One Giant Write competition here in the UK, for Intertwined.

Hopefully they'll make a decision soon on publishing Intertwined.

Thanks to everyone who's tried my apps this year. I hope they've helped you towards your own writing goals.

I hope you all have a safe, happy, and creative Christmas and new year. Happy writing!