New Article - being a successful failure with Crabitron, by John Millard

Wonderful article. Some good tips too.

Heh - “successful failure”, my aunt tillie; I was a beta tester, and ended up buying it, because it was fun. And I am way cheap, so that really actually says a lot.

My one big criticism - and it’s not of iOS, or the game, or anything, other than perhaps touch controls in general - is that my hands get in the way. I picture (daydream, to be brutally honest) about some sort of exo-hand, nintendo-powerglove type controller, so I can do the pincers offscreen. (my daughers and I compromise by each taking an arm - we don’t do any better, but it’s ‘funner’)

I do wonder what would have happened if it was a buck at launch; $4.99, while “worth it”, is beyond many people’s impulse buy. I think (with zero actual evidence to back it up, of course) that reducing the cost 5x to a buck would perhaps have (during it’s opening days) increased hits by an order of magnitude. But - no way to say for sure, of course.

@Bortels - I agree, I wasn’t very good at this game. In my own work, I’ve tried using the camera so you can wave your hands about as a controller, but this is very noisy, because your arms and face (and maybe your clothes and background) are the same texture as your hand. Perhaps Apple will develop some standard gesture APIs. One can only hope!

I think there’s a lot of luck in being successful. John alludes to that when mentioning that similar games launched at the same time. Also, going viral is something no-one knows how to do, it kind of just happens. I was just reading how even Dreamworks, with all its resources, has just had some disappointing movies. I guess us humans are pretty unpredictable…

“I think there’s a lot of luck in being successful.”

I know there is - you hit that on the head. Having something good is just the first step. It always amuses me when successful people (or, frankly, companies I’ve worked for) attribute their success to skill, or talent; it may be present, but oftentimes the key factor is just dumb luck (or, to be fair, timing). I worked for Quarterdeck in the olden days, and they were so proud to have come up with QEMM-386 - and the reality of the situation was, that wasn’t the product they thought would be the big seller (QEMM was a “DESQview companion”, it wasn’t intended to be standalone), and they just happened to be in the right place at the right time. The people in charge ground the company into the ground after that, because they believed it was their brilliance that led to the success they had achieved, rather than good fortune.

The camera made a light go on in my head, so to speak - I’d be totally cool, conceptually, with putting loops of reflective tape (or maybe simply some color you could key on) on my thumbs and index fingers - then holding them a couple of feet above the screen. Then the pinch gesture might work (and be less noisy, as the contrast should be increased quite a bit), and not block the screen. It’s a hell of a lot simpler than what I was thinking of - to use the camera never occurred to me there.

I LOVED DESQView back in about 1990, until Windows buried it. It was such a great product. I still remember flicking back and forwards on my (orange) laptop screen.

In my experiments with the camera, I tried getting the user to initially cover an area of screen with an indicative colour, and then use this colour as the target from then on, but it’s quite tricky, and camera tracking does hit FPS. I do think it’s feasible, though. I used the average of all the points identified as targets, and this worked well as long as there weren’t too many stray pixels with the same colour, around the screen.

I think it is all a matter of the time of publish the game, sometimes you have luck and the game is well received by the masses…I dont know how to explain it but, if they change something and re-publish the game, I think it could probably work better, I’m talking about other platforms. Since it is made in Cocos2D ( correct me if I’m wrong), they could make some little adjustment and export to Android → Mojo, GameStick, OUYA, G.Play, Amazon, to adapt the controls use the joysticks and L1, R1 to close them, some of these consoles use a touchpad ,even a mouse :slight_smile:

Just a thought

Yeah, great article and massive credit to TTL for sharing their insights and being open and honest about their sales.

I’m with @Bortals that I think the initial price was too high for the market. I gladly paid full price plus the in app upgrade as a means of supporting TLL’s ongoing development of Codea as requested by @Simeon ( but would not normally pay that high a price for any iPad game.

Having said that I loved the concept and the execution of the game and sad that it looks a long way off hitting the projected milestones as it deserves to be doing much better than the numbers say it is.

@ignatz i coded something very similar to your idea. FPS was a big issue so u have to use some smart algorithms to get around it. I have a working demo of a presentation app that let’s u use gestures to control slides ( e.g. Swipe your handin air to flip slides! ), the idea being hands-free / clicker-free presentation might have a market. Let me know if u wanna work on this together.

Great article. Thought it was a nice honest assessment of why it hadn’t done as well financially - bit like a critically acclaimed cult film, rather than a Hollywood blockbuster.
Fantastic game none the less.

@John, I’m still a bit perplexed by Apples ‘New and Noteworthy’ coverage for Crabitron and whether you got a heads-up prior to them covering it? Maybe this could have been used a bit more to your advantage as it does seem like a great PR opportunity as so few Apps seem to ever get this far.

Apple doesn’t tell you in advance if they are going to feature you for New and Noteworthy, it just pops up and you need to be vigilant. They do send requests for artwork when it comes to bigger promotions like App of the Week or Editor’s Choice. We’ve gotten requests for those for many apps but sadly never got featured like that. It’s more of a “Just in case” sort of thing that they do.

Codea and crabitron are in new and noteworthy India right now. But how is codea new, how does apple decide what comes in new and noteworhty?

@Saurabh - By “New”, it also means “Updated recently”.