Hello, it’s me…

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Hey there, it’s been a while.  Sorry to be out of touch for so long; last June, I accepted a full time position at Google doing iOS development (perhaps they were impressed by World of RoboFarmCraft…?!)  It’s a pretty nice place to work, but the learning curve is amazingly steep, and I’ve spent the past 6 months with my brain completely full and overflowing, leaving little time for WoRFC.  Things are finally starting to settle-in over there, and I hope to spend Q1 of this year developing a strategy that allows me to spend more time updating the game.

Ok, where was I…?

Oh cripes, Messaging!!!  Well, that didn’t ship when intended; sorry!  Hmmm, looks like I’ll need to re-evaluate what are the important things to do next.  I suppose first I’ll need to dig out all the old code & documentation and make sure everything’s in order.


A thing that you can do to help out is to let your friends know about WoRFC (App-Store link).  We had a burst of new users over the holidays and the more users we have, the more feedback we get, the more cool stuff we develop — so sign them up!  (Also, you get crew bonuses for connecting-up that way!)

In the mean time, I mostly just wanted to check-in and let y’all know where things are at.  I’ll try to stay more in touch, going forward.

Oh yeah, in other news: I finally made my 1st (2nd owned, 1st crafted) robot in my “real” (not test-bed or super-user) farm.  Woot!



Hello, operator?

I’ve been working on Crew Messaging — a sort of pared-down “chat” system — but the QA group keeps distracting me with bugs they want fixed.


As it turns out, messaging isn’t terribly complicated, technically; users post a message to the crew, which is saved in the database, then any crew member can get the most-recent X-number of crew-messages, and scroll back through the conversation, if desired.  The tricky bits all have to do with the UX — how many messages to load at a time, what the user-experience is if they’ve scrolled back through the conversation when new messages arrive, etc.

For now, I’m thinking that the messaging system will get fairly light use, so we’re doing 20 at a time, though that number is a simple constant that can be adjusted, as needed.  Because WoRFC crews are probably not interacting in real time, I’m anticipating that the messaging system’s most common use-case will be to leave tweet-sized messages — virtual “sticky-notes” — for other members of the guild.  Perhaps suggestions for which crew-bonuses to buy using the crew treasury, or similar.

Anyway, it’s coming along.  Again, it’s not technically difficult, I just have to sort out all the UX, plus fixing all the bugs.


Speaking of bugs, one kind of cool thing I’ve noticed lately is that the bugs we’re seeing are a lot more esoteric.  According to analytics, the shipping game rarely crashes (months between, though the dev version sometimes interrupts the streak), and the bugs we’re finding are difficult to reproduce, rare, obscure items that are hardly ever seen, don’t damage the farm/user-data, and have simple workarounds.

While I’d love to get to where things are bug-free, the current state makes me pretty happy.  🙂

Ok, I better get back to it.  Message you soon!

Robo Sim-Craft

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I’ve been playing some Factorio lately; it’s pretty fun.  If you’re not familiar, it’s another “build robots to do the work for you” game; the visuals are a bit like Warcraft2 or the early Sim-City-s and the play-mechanic is a bit like Mincraft crossed with WoRFC.  (The developers cite the BuildCraft and IndustrialCraft Minecraft mods as influences.)

In addition to being a great source of ideas for future updates of WoRFC, it also serves as an inspirational tale of a small team of independents making a go at developing their dream game.  It’s been around since 2012 and is developing into quite a mature product.  The game wiki is amazingly thorough, which I have taken as an inspiration to spend more time working on the WoRFC wiki.

I submitted v1.12 to Apple for review yesterday.  It was mostly a hodge-podge of wish-list items, bug fixes and minor tweaks, but one of the big new features was the addition of background music.


There are only a few “songs” for now — really just combinations of looping tracks — but I wanted to get the music-player tested and delivered.  Now that that’s out, it will be easy to add additional tracks/loops/songs as they become available.

Bah, fooey — bugs!

Grr, mutter, grumble!

Sorry — my users are the ones who should be <Grr, mutter, grumble>-ing — that was on their behalf.


In v1.9, one of the really cool updates was a re-work of the inventory view which, prior to that release, was a bit clumsy.  v1.9 still wasn’t perfect as, for some unknown reason, I decided to make the view modal, rather than floating, but that got fixed in v1.10

What I didn’t notice until _after_ v1.10 hit the App Store was that v1.9 broke the early-on tutorials-mission chain, making one of the missions not-complete-able, so you got stuck early in the tutorial and couldn’t progress.

(You can still play every aspect of the game, you just can’t do the tutorial missions that teach you about how the game works.  “Early user experience” has been an area of focus for a while and I thought I had it pretty solid.)

Anyway, I’ve submitted v1.10.1 with the fix, but I’m bummed that I missed this and have to wait another week or so for the Apple review process.  Maybe I’ll luck-out and it’ll only be a few days.

The bug has to do with the fact that one of the goals in the Nodes & Power  mission is to open the gates inventory view and select a Node from it, and the “Mission goal complete: open gates view” code is in the old-style gates drawer, not the new all-in-one inventory view.  Again, fixed in v1.10.1.

<sigh…>  Sorry about that!  It was a strange set of unexpected consequences due to the data-driven nature of the app.




In more positive news, v1.11 is coming along, and will have more cooler bonuses, treasure & loot, including VIP levels.  🙂


Better with friends.

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Heh.  So, when WoRFC was young (you know: just a few months ago 😉 ), I had this pattern of adding some new thing, then submitting it, then blogging about it, and that kept the blog pretty active.  That’s been basic pattern lately, too, except now I’m doing things that take a little longer to finish, so the blog updates are less frequent.

I guess I’ll update the pattern, to keep things moving along.


One thing that I’ve noticed about WoRFC’s analytics is: new users largely fall into one of two groups.  Either (i) They download the game, launch it, play for a few minutes, then never launch it again or (ii) They play fairly regularly for a long-long time.


From this, I have deduced that people are either into WoRFC or they’re not.  There doesn’t seem to be much “played regularly for a week, then stopped”-type behaviour.  Obviously, it’d be great to evolve the game to where everyone loves it but, before we go there, it seems that we should be focusing on how to reach as many people as possible who already like the game, as-is.

That was the main driving force behind adding the Share On Facebook/Twitter buttons to the Achievement and Daily Loyalty Bonus views.  I figured that, if someone was the kind of person who liked the game, then it stands to reason that some of their friends might like it, too.  WoRFC players sharing on social media might raise awareness among our target audience.  That’s also why I have the little blurb at the top about sharing these blog entries.

Plus, having players help with the marketing fits our budget nicely.  🙂



And THAT line of thinking led to the current development release — v1.10, which is taking a bit longer than anticipated (due to several factors, including a week of being knocked-out with a killer cold) — the main feature of which is Crews.

A Crew is like what some games call a guild, party, faction, etc.  I picked “Crew” because it fits the farm theme (“work crew”), and also because it seems more in keeping with the asynchronous nature of a non-MMO game.

The way it works (coming soon!) is: Anyone can start (“found”) a Crew, and you can belong to 1 Crew in addition to the one you founded.  As you are active in-game (determined TBD but, for now it’s: if your robot is doing some sort of automated work), you accumulate “Crew points”.  Your Crew points are contributed to your selected Crew — either the one you founded, or the one you joined — and the founder can then exchange the collected crew points for various bonuses, i.e., loot.


Bonuses might be something like a % increase in some stat for a specified period of time.  Example: Perhaps your guild-founder would select a 5% increase in study-credits for the next 8 days.  Or maybe a 2% chance for a given harvest to give an extra drop for the next 16 days.  (My current thinking is that % bonuses will be available to run for 8, 16 or 32 days.) These % increases would apply to everyone in the Crew.

Or maybe one of the bonuses might be for everyone in the Crew to get an extra spin on the Daily Loyalty Bonus spinner.  There are lots of possibilities!  For v1.10, there will probably only be a few bonus options, as I’ll want to see how Crew points accumulate and make sure the bonuses are “priced” reasonably.  However, over the next several updates, I’ll be expanding the list of available bonuses, adjusting the costs, etc.

As a player, that’s probably the part you care about: Phat Lootz!  🙂

As a developer, the part that I care about is: I want to encourage players to think about which of their friends might enjoy WoRFC, and encourage them to download the game, join their Crew and be an active contributor of Crew Points.

Actually, it’s even a bit fancier than that.  Crews will initially be limited to 32 members, so as to avoid runaway Crew-point accumulation.  However, once everything has been in for a while and the Crew-point economy appears stable, I’ll be implementing bonuses for your crew’s downline.  (Term borrowed from AmWay, Tupperware and similar multi-level marketing organizations.)  The way downline bonuses work is: while you get direct points from your Crew, you also get a slight percentage of points boosted by any crew started by a member of your crew.  (NOTE: these bonus-boost points will not be deducted from the downline crew, it’s just extra points that you get as founder of the “parent Crew”).

The idea here is to offer a reward that encourages players who have good, active Crews to encourage their Crew-members to start good, active Crews of their own!

On the one hand, it has a bit of a “pyramid scheme” feel to it; on the other hand, I’m trying to set things up so that the benefits to the players are real, tangible and worthwhile.  It’s not like I’m “skimming off the top” or anything — I’m just trying to arrange thank-you gifts (the Crew bonuses) for players who spread the love and help others discover World of RoboFarmCraft.

think I’m going about it the right way.  I’ll certainly be on the lookout to make sure that none of my implementation is something that I’d find annoying as a player.  So far, so good; the main tricky bit is wrapping a decent UI around this whole thing.  For v1.10, the UI is likely to be pretty stark — “functional, not necessarily pretty”.  I’ll polish it up over the coming releases as we see it it plays out.  (I welcome your thoughts in the comments!)

(Aside: the change to a “panel” style of inventory view — from the old drawers prior to v1.8 — was a HUGE improvement!  In v1.10, the new inventory-view becomes modeless; I have no idea what possessed me to make it modal.  Actually, I do: I had technology handy that presented it in a modal fashion, and I didn’t think about the repercussions.  At any rate: Fixed in v1.10!  🙂 )

I’m going to try to wrap up Crews and v1.10 this week and get it submitted, so you guys can play with it.





“Good Enough!”

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Overall, we’re pretty happy with World of RoboFarmCraft.  It is, in my not-so-humble opinion, a pretty darned good game.

That said, is has its weak spots.  One of the weakest has always been the “new user getting started experience” — it’s always been one of those things where either you get it right away or it’s very difficult to get started, and a lot of people don’t stick with it through the first 15 minutes.  (In general, it seems that people who find it interesting for 15-30 minutes find it interesting for a long-long time, so that acts as a market-validation of the game idea, overall.  The big issue has been getting people over the initial “hump.”)

Today, I submitted v1.8 to Apple for review (so, hopefully, it’ll be out in about a week).  Over the course of v1.0 through v1.7, we’ve tackled a lot of the weaknesses, and that has led us to the current state of a fairly solid game.

Importantly, there’s still lots of room for improvement.  There are ways the existing features can be made better and there are ways the game can be made better through new or modified features.  That’s pretty-much always going to be true, into eternity…


…However, the thing that got me writing this blog post today is the new user experience in v1.8.  It’s always been a major weakness in the game and this week’s update, v1.7.5 (currently available), contains about 85% of the improvements thatI wanted on this first pass and, with the submission of v1.8, I think that the new user experience has now reached the point of “good enough”.

Not that it can’t be further improved — there are dozens of ways it could be better! — but at least now it’s not embarrassingly awful and, when I show it to people, I don’t immediately fill several pages of my notebook with things that “must be fixed immediately”.  It has finally gotten to the state of “ok, this is no longer an emergency, now I just have to put ideas for improvement on the list and schedule them as they fit into future releases”.

So, anyway, that’s kind of exciting, for me; a sort of “whew!  I’m glad that mess is over with!” moment.

Btw, if you’re interested in what’s coming down the pike, each update’s release notes (which are in the forums) has a list of planned upcoming releases at the bottom.

It’s the soldering-view, stupid!

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In World of RoboFarmCraft, you spend a lot of time in the soldering-view — either making connections inside the robot or deeper inside one of the chips.  Since the beginning, the UI has been fairly simple, copied largely from Robot Odyssey (which also provided inspiration for many other parts of the game).

This is great when you’re just starting, because simple soldering tools for simple circuits makes the early-game experience nice and easy.  The thing is: after you’ve been playing for a while, your circuits can become quite advanced, and the simple tools don’t really deal with large, complex circuits very well.  Things can be done, but they’re often difficult and sometimes annoying; this has been a known weak spot in the game for a long time.


Today I submitted update v1.7 to Apple for review — hopefully, it will hit the streets in a week or so.  I’m very excited about the introduction of the new soldering tools menu, which goes a long way toward making the soldering experience what it should be.  While there’s still room for improvement, this is a major leap forward in solder-view user experience.

To keep the starting-experience simple, the new solder menu isn’t available right away.  It’s a feature-unlocked item after you’ve made a bunch of solder connections (old timers can unlock it by viewing the tutorial).  Once unlocked, you have access to:

  • Wire-Flip tool: a simple tool to reverse the orientation of a wire, for circuit-neatness.
  • Wire-color tool: again, for circuit-readability, this makes the selected- and all future-laid-wires the chosen color.
  • Wire-routing tool: The powerhouse of the new tools, this allows the user to lay a wire-route to make the wires trace any desired path, rather than just the default 1-bend wire.

Here’s an example of a simple circuit with colored wires — magenta for bumpers, cyan for motivators, green for “misc” — and a routed wire (the routing is silly, just done as a test):

new tools-b.png

Again, there’s always “more to come”, but I think this will make a big difference.  I’m pretty jazzed about it; I hope the players will be, too.


World of RoboFarmCraft is a game for the iPad, available in the iTunes App Store.

Optimizations and More Loot!

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v1.6 just hit the app store and, within the next few days I’m planning to submit v1.6.5, which includes stuff that I intended for v1.6 but was taking too long.

The big new thing in 1.6.5 that most players will care about is:





We’re introducing new, craft-able power-saws — saws which produce much more material (wood, ironwood, beachwood, gates, etc.), faster, at the expense of creating fewer seeds.

In addition, there are seed-strippers — different kinds that specialize in different types of seeds — that can be used to maximize seed-output (at the expense of material).

So you’ll have better control over your farming output, which is nice.

1.6.5 also introduces optimizations, purchasable upgrades that make hoeing, planting and sawing more efficient (faster).

But the big item — the Super Fat Lootz! item — is the Daily Loyalty Bonus.  Login and play each day*, and take a spin on the Payout-O-Matic.  I’ve been testing with this for a while — it’s almost ready to send to QA — and I have to say: it’s pretty cool!  For the first few days, the payouts are small-ish — a few wood, some charcoal, etc — but, after a few days, you get a chance at some advanced materials, some circuitry, doublers & triple-ers… all the way up to the chance to win an additional robot!



I’m pretty jazzed to get it out into the world.  I hope y’all like it!

Ok, I better get back to work, so I can submit this next update!  🙂



*  The “play each day” mechanism is based on logging-in (or auto-save, which happens every 10 min of play) on a different in-a-row calendar day, “server-time”, which is Pacific.

I, for one…

Welcome our new robotic overlords!  🙂

v1.5 is out (Dec 8, 2015), and it comes with an entirely updated first-few-minutes user experience about which we’re really excited.


This looks like some good, fertile farmland…


Russ is an old, “leftover” robot who has some decent technology that we use to demonstrate how things work.  You can’t really modify Russ except in very basic, tutorial ways but, once we demonstrate how to get things started, your “real” robot appears and the “old” set of tutorials start there.

Some things that I really like about Russ (a friend’s idea — thanks, Mikey!) are:

  • He does a nice job of demonstrating how various parts of the robot work.
  • He provides a convenient platform from which to give the new player “rewards” of additional logic gates as progress is made, without having to clutter the new user experience with potentially confusing items.
  • He provides templates of different circuits that the user can copy, if desired.
  • The “Russ-based tutorials”, which advance through some fairly technical ideas, are on a separate, parallel track to the “regular” missions, meaning you can take them at your own pace, and still continue with the main mission track.
  • After completing all of the Russ-tutorials, you get to salvage Russ for a big reward-bounty.

I’m a little worried that the Russ missions might still be too much “telling” and not enough “showing”, but I think they’re a good start, a massive improvement over the previous startup experience, and it should be simple to evolve them toward excellence as we get more user feedback.

The other big thing that happened in v1.5 is that a lot of BitBuck prices were reduced, some quite substantially, so that’s nice.  🙂

Happy Holidays!