Friday, September 2, 2011

Pocket Boy 1.1 is out!

So, the update to version 1.1 of Pocket Boy has just landed on the App Store, but what a week!
The story behind this update has its own fair share of small twists and turns, including rejecting our own update, before it got reviewed and a few days after submitting it. There was a problem with memory not being properly released when the app would transition from one page to another. We did not feel that giving it the chance to reach into people's hands was the right thing to do, so we pulled the binary before the review even took place and risked waiting more days as we lost our spot in the review queue. The problem has been fixed and we were able to add a few more improvements while cooking up the new update too :).

There are several areas that were touched upon in this update: some are clearly user visible changes and some other are under the hood changes which, in turn, have some consequences on the user experience, but are not limited to that (not all of them :)). As we already posted, the iPhone/iPod Touch (normal and retina) version are indeed coming!
Physics are now screen resolution independent, readjusting the points:meters ratio dynamically at runtime. This allows physics playing back at the same speed on all supported platforms.
The size of the app has been reduced to 29.6 MB, which is nice, but still 9.6 MB more than the limit for over the air downloads. So, WiFi and iTunes downloads only. We want this to become a Universal app and not release separate versions of the app, iPhone and iPad versions as separate packages), but this works against the 20 MB limit.
I now wanted take some time to touch upon the main user visible changes in this new version of Pocket Boy and offer an update on our ongoing performance boosting effort:
  • The app is now available in Spanish and the iTunes store front should now be localized in all supported languages too.
  • An index has been implemented as an horizontal scrolling menu with page thumbnails. Going back and forth in the book is now much easier. You can quickly activate it by double tapping on the main button icon on the bottom of each page. In the effort to create this new index, the whole menu system has been revamped and rewritten almost from scratch. Some physics cleanup and initializations issues have been uncovered thanks to the new index menu. With a new Physics management singleton object together with a change in the pages' transition system, we found an interesting way to fix those issues and cleanup resources without impacting the transition between pages.
  • There is a new graphical instructions overlay which can be quickly pulled up by pressing the new "gears" icon on the bottom right of each page. It will show up when you tap the main button icon.
  • New "credits" page with the new official AddictiveColors logo and a link to the official blog for you to browse directly from your device.
  • We are transitioning the art assets pipeline towards PVR textures. There are several options, each with its own set of pluses and minuses. Uncompressed PVR textures, 16 bits with alpha (RGBA4444) or not (RGB565), are great for single large resources such as backgrounds, but suffer from color banding artifacts with some of our art assets. They load very quickly although they eat a bit more disk space than PNG's. PVRTC, compressed, textures are not very suitable for the current art style, but zipped PVR textures (PVZ) could offer both load speed and storage space savings when used for resources such as texture atlases (sprite sheets). The 1.1 update already contains a lot of resources transitioned to PVR format and should feel snappier to use, but there is much more coming up. We are not done optimizing the memory footprint of our app yet :).

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