Thursday, July 26, 2007

We're in quadruple digits - can SMS get us further?

That's right we've had over 1000 games played using the new version of Cotopia. 1000 games in about 10 days is not too bad, considering that so far we have been treating the system as a bit of a 'beta run'. The time is coming to throw the full power of our 'marketing department' (aka Tomas Zeman) behind this project and start some serious gaming. According to our biz plan we need to host something like a billion games every minute to start hitting black numbers :) (and all the sudden 100 games a day doesn't seem as such a large number)

As far as the current traffic is concerned we have some pretty good players that keep the server buzzing. Some even take the time and send us feedback which is much appreciated, consider that the next update of Cotopia will be based mostly on the feedback we've received. So keep the suggestions coming - they do make a difference. Namely we're bringing back private games and adding dates to message posts.

Another feature that is being considered is sending SMS game invites. There are two parts to this particular feature:

Make it possible for a player to invite a friend who doesn't yet have a Cotopia account by SMSing them a link to download a Cotopia game. This would simply mean that each player is given an option from the main menu of any Cotopia game to send a formated SMS to their friend which will include wap link for a free download. The only cost is the same as sending a regular SMS and is paid by the player sending the invite.

Make it possible for players who already have Cotopia accounts to SMS each other when they wish to meet up on the server and play. This is a little more tricky :) Firstly it means that the costs of SMSs are paid by Cotopia, since we cannot allow players to send SMSs directly to each other for privacy reasons.
Secondly it means that our games will have to include some additional management functionality to make sure that each player can block unwanted messages. Lastly, this will only work for players who are willing to share their mobile number with us.

I personally believe that both SMS related features would be great if we can push them out and I hope that once we do - the community will embraced them.

Friday, July 20, 2007

First article - Mobile Entertainment

Mobile Entertainment has published article about our relaunch as the first. Thanks a lot ME! We plan to email our press release to more mobile magazines and blogs. If you want to inform your readers about our new version, your welcomed.
Feel free to put our link on your mobile site too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why I use NetBeans Mobility Pack to write Cotopia

In my previous post I've mentioned that I 'forgive' Tomas for using Eclipse. So let me take this blog entry to justify my attitude and explain why NetBeans is without a doubt the superior tool for Mobile Java development :)

Reason #1: Built in preprocessor
When you develop mobile apps you often need to cater to different devices (phones) because one can be oh-so different from the next. In code you often want to say something like:

if screenSize is 128x128
then do this and show this image...
do this and show some other image...

NetBeans Mobility Pack includes a build in preprocessor that lets you specify which code you want to include for which target device and you don't even have to mess around with preprocessor directives too much - tons of the functionality is integrated with the Java code editor.

Reason #2: Emulator integration
As I write code I can just click and see how my game runs in an emulator or even run the emulator in debug mode to find bugs. With SonyEricsson phones I can even use on-device-debugging so that my code is running on an actual phone as I step through breakpoints.

Reason #3: Build system and deployment
If you have ever written a serious Mobile Java app you'll know that without proper tool you are stuck writing nearly as much Ant xml as you are writing Java. This is a serious waste of time if someone else can do it for you. With NetBeans Mobility Pack pretty much all the hard work is done for you. With a click of the mouse I can either build my application and execute it in in an emulator or build binaries for all target devices and upload them to our deployment server.

Reason #4: Fast prototyping
NetBeans Mobility comes with a tool called Visual Designer which allows me to throw together an application very rapidly from designing screen-flow to individual screen design. I can literally create a working app prototype in a few minutes while keeping manual code to minimum.

Reason #5: It's alive
Looking at the preview releases of NetBeans 6.0 I know that there is tons of development going on and Mobility Pack is going to stay on top. I am talking about SVG support, Game Builder, better Visual Designer, Web Services integration and tons and tons of cool features that will make my life easier.

In all fairness there are a few competing projects out there but none comes even close in terms of functionality. There is the Eclipse MTJ and some Mobile Java support in IntelliJ but neither offers as much as 10% of the functionality.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Technology we love

I feel it's important that we give a mention to the excellent technologies we use in developing Cotopia. It's fair because we use open-source software which is free (as in beer) and reliable which helps us keep costs down.

So without further delay here is THE LIST:

Linux out server runs on RedHat and my development box runs Suse - both most excellent Linux distributions
Java 1.6
GlassFish a.k.a. Sun Java System Application Server 9.1
NetBeans 5.5.1 for Mobile game development - and I can't wait to switch to 6.0 as it will feature my most excellent GameBuilder ;)
NetBeans 6.0 for Server development
Eclipse I used eclipse in the initial stages of development (couple of years ago) together with Antenna but I soon switched to NetBeans with MobilityPack, Tomas still uses it but he's not quite as Java savvy so I forgive him :)

There are a number of other software packages we use daily, most of them are GNU licensed.

So just let me conclude by saying:
Open source WE LOVE YOU, You make it possible for us to do what we do!

Updated games out

We've put up an upgraded version of Cotopia games.

Firstly that means updated Java games with a few small added features and bug fixes - so go on and get the new games :)

Secondly that means we've updated the server part of our game system. To the players this change means that the computer chess player a.k.a. 'robot' is back and meaner than ever :) It also means that players now have to take turns when posting to game forums (this was mainly added so that a single player doesn't hi-jack the forum) and the News forum has been locked for announcements from Tom or myself only. It will give us the opportunity to communicate with out community without any added chatter.

I feel that if this upgrade proves stable we'll be ready to start promoting Cotopia at large to build a bigger community. I am really looking forward to this since it will benefit me as a player as it will become easier to find that darn human opponent instead of getting my butt kicked by the robot all the time :)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Platform schema picture

This is an old picture which shows how our system works. It's simple, Cotopia platform is independent on mobile operators. So, if your friend has another mobile operator then you, you two can still play together.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Remote device testing

We use Device Anywhere to test our games as we are short of mobile phones. Their tool is ideal for testing our midlets. We don't need fast graphics and their remote phones has SIM cards, so we can test even the network latency. Nokia remote testing is nice too, but the phones has no SIM cards and sometimes its problematic to configure networking. They supports only the newest phones too. Device Anywhere supports different phone types, even some old phones.

Pity our test period of Device Anywhere will end soon.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

iPhone and Java MIDP

My friend Jack had sent me a screenshot from his new iPhone. Its pity, that Apple's new gadget doesn't support Sun's Java MIDP.

I can see, that Apple wants to have feature of mobile web full of Ajax widgets, but I still think that they could support MIDP. Our games could be easy played with one finger.
At least, wurfl detects iPhone. It's quite a surprise, because there are still some small bugs in wurfl, when it detects older devices. But we are happy with wurfl. I will write more about how we use it later.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Beta - Major BUG #1

As the lead developer of Cotopia back-end I am responsible for the game server. This is usually a pleasant duty since we went through quite a bit of testing before launching this Beta. However every once in a while you run into an issue that the tests didn't cover.

This major bug was caused by a MySQL (a most excellent database) setting which closes unused database connections after a few hours. The database connection pool on our server (GlassFish) wasn't configured to check for closed connections and thus a bug was born. This caused us a few hours downtime earlier today.

Sorry about the inconvenience this caused but we're back, so game on! :)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Your feedback needed!

We would like to ask you, if you could please send us you feedback!

You can send us any comments or suggestions about our new web site or mobile site or of course the games themselves.

Please send comments to my email or leave it here as comment. Any comments are welcomed.

As we are still testing the Cotopia, improving and bug fixing, all your comments are important for us.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

New version up and running...

Finally - we're back :)

After literally years of quiet, we have released a brand new version of Cotopia. We've reset all user accounts and scores to give everyone a fresh start - love us or hate us for it.

Although we're opening up with only 4 out of the previously available 7 games, the rest of the games are coming soon and I think that the new features make up for the wait:

  1. Avatars on your mobile and on the web
  2. New redesigned web site
  3. Implemented Elo rating system for all games
  4. Better graphics for all games
  5. More responsive chat
these are just some of the features, while many more are in the pipeline.