Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ready, Aim, Pop! How My Son Built His First iOS App

A few weeks ago my son, who is 8, figured out what I do for a living.  He discovered that I know how to put an app in the iOS App Store.

So naturally he asked, "If I make a game, could you make it so people could get my game on their phones?"  I said sure.

Thus began our father/son project for the next couple of weeks. We decided to go with the programming environment Game Salad, which had one serious advantage over the many others -- it could actually produce appstore-ready code, without really doing any serious programming.

My son had pitched an idea that went something like this : "What if these colored balls were falling down the screen and you had to tap all of them except the white one?"  I suggested, "What if instead of falling down, it was balloons going up the screen? And same thing, you have to tap them before they get to the top? The tapping could be like popping them."  He liked that idea, and we were off. Somewhere along the line the "don't tap the white ones" rule morphed into "the clouds are going to start getting in your way but if you tap on one you lose points".

He did all the graphics (ok, with a little help from his sisters) and played all versions of the game as we improved it.  Too fast.  Too slow.  Too many balloons, not enough balloons.  Balloons are too big, too small. Finally we got it just right.

Getting into the app store has a bunch of baggage that very much does not keep the attention of an excited 8yr old boy, like writing descriptions and filling out legal disclaimers and making screen shots in exactly the right size (seriously - if you're one pixel off, it won't accept you). Luckily I had experience with that, as noted, and cranked through the boring details while he was sleeping.

Try #1 we got rejected, because I'd clicked the "Made for Kids" option.  After all, I had no reason to think that it's not for kids, there's no violence or anything like that and it was in the 4+ age category.  But I hadn't considered ... the basic version of GameSalad that we're using puts in advertisements, and I do not control those. That's what got us rejected, the content of those ads.

Try #2 I turned off that option and held my breath. It takes about a week every time you submit an app for consideration so we were heading into two weeks since the last thing my son could actually help with, and I was afraid he was getting bored.

But, success! I got the note at maybe 9pm a few days ago, shortly after he'd gone to bed. So I went upstairs with the laptop, nudged him back awake, and said "Hey, read this for me."  He read, "The following app has been approved and the app status has changed to Ready for Sale....we got in? It's on the store?" I confirmed that it was indeed on the store and he immediately rolled into, "How many downloads do we have?"

I told him to be patient and go back to sleep. :)

I hope you get a chance to download the game. He asks me every morning what his numbers are (he calls them likes, and I haven't seen the need to tell him different :)).  If you think it's worth the extra time maybe throw him a rating/review. It's great to see how proud he is of his accomplishment, and I want to do everything I can to make this a positive experience for him. Maybe he'll want to make more!