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Friday, June 15, 2012

Inspired Design for Apple Apps

Its nice to see that thatgamecompany is going to provide its games like Flower and Journey on platforms beyond the PS/3.

A while back I purchased a PS/3 console so that I could better understand the "gaming" user interface (UI) model.  Prior to working on the Synthodeon products most of my work involved the software engines "under the covers" rather than the UI.  Certainly at Lexigraph we've built web sites, worked on client art work, and so on so we understand graphics and visual display issues, but until Synthodeon I really never worked on integrating the art and programming aspects together into a single "platform."

(I sort of missed the "gaming" thing - I am probably a little bit too old and I was also heavily involved in game hardware in the mid 1970's - both in design and repair.  We worked on hardware games that looked like this:

I worked on a similar game - the difference was that the "race track" was vertical and there were multiple cars.  The game was Midway Game's "Wheels" I think.

These games were implemented with in 7400 series logic chips on a multi-layer circuit board probably 12" x 18".  It generated video that was sent directly to the TV portion.

The display resolution on the screen is probably about one square inch worth of iPhone display - and the iPhone is in full color - these games were black and white.

The boards were built and tested by hand.)

So in my lifetime things have changed quite a bit in this industry.  For example, all the computing power on earth in the mid 1970's is probably encompassed in a PS/3 or in an apartment building full of kiddie PS/3 users.

Games by thatgamingcompany include Flower, which I posted about here before in "Flower" and Journey.

The Synthodeon UI splash screen for MIDIProbe looks like this

While not the same I think that perhaps there is a shared design "inspiration."

(Of course, the notion of not "stealing" someone else's design is always present as well.  While you can be a fan you don't want to be to much of a fan.  The soon-to-be released Mac version of MIDIProbe looks like this:

Note that the app does not look like an iPhone or iPad - though I tried to capture the feel of both.  I also chose a different, game-inspired paradigm for the close and hide window elements.  But this has yet to get past Apple...  and that's another story in and of itself.)

Now MIDIProbe is more or less a tool and not a game - but Journey provided a lot of inspiration for "clean" and "simple" during the UI design phase.

I think that one thing that leading edge gaming design (which I think thatgamingcompany does) is driving is the notion of simplicity and beauty in an "everyday" think.  (I am not into things like "God of War" where you have a beautiful UI where you rip off peoples heads or pull out their guts.)

My father was an architect and as a child I was exposed to things like Bauhaus - a German design school ("arts and crafts" in the design of buildings) he was interested in.

Bauhaus produced furniture and interiors along these lines:

So you not only have to write software that performs a given function but you have to think about it like a design-school project as well; making the job more complicated.

In any case the point of this is that my trusty PS/3 is helping me move along into the future by giving me ideas about how to display what I need to have my apps do and inspiring my artistic side.

As an interesting aside living in a space like the one above was not so easy.  As you can see leaving anything lying around on the floor or a chair disrupts things - so you have to clean up all the time.  Similarly there are limits to what kind of furniture you can have, i.e., its not likely anyone will be putting a "comfy" couch in this room.

Similarly the bed above is not for those who like "soft" for sleeping.

One of Apple "big things" for Apps is outstanding graphics, i.e., they want your app to not only function but to also look exceptional.  Sadly today, especially with 650,000 or so apps this is not the case.  It seems clear that most were not created by trained designers and they mostly appear "cartoonish" is nature.

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