iPad Pro 9.7" First Impressions

So having recently bought the new iPad Pro 9.7", I have given myself a weekend of use before writing up my first impressions. For those that don't know, the new iPad Pro is basically the iPad Air 2, with Read more

iOS Dev Podcasts you should check out!

I've just got a new iPhone 6 and decided while restoring all my old apps that I would start syncing my podcasts to it too. I typically had a few comedy and generic tech podcasts on there but after Read more

GamesCom 2014

Hey guys. So I recently took a trip to Cologne in Germany for Gamescom 2014. I also wrote a wee bit about my experience over on CalmDownTom! Go check it out Read more

Scottish Game Jam 2014

I may be a little late writing up this blog post. But hey, better late than never right!? I recently went along to the annual Scottish Game Jam, which is hosted at my old university. I had previously written Read more

iPad Pro 9.7″ First Impressions

So having recently bought the new iPad Pro 9.7″, I have given myself a weekend of use before writing up my first impressions. For those that don’t know, the new iPad Pro is basically the iPad Air 2, with the features of the larger 12 inch pro released late last year.

This includes support for the smart connector keyboard, and the Apple Pencil. It should be noted however that this iPad only has 2GB of RAM, the same as the iPad Air 2. The processor is the same, however slightly under clocked. The reason for this under clocking is that iPads dissipate heat through their case, and with a smaller form factor comes less heat dissipation. Over all though the iPad is still a very significant power upgrade over the air 2. Geekbench gave me the following results against other iOS devices:

So from these results you can see that it is only slightly less powerful than the larger iPad Pro.

The screen in the newest iPad also features a larger range of colours, 25% more according to Apple. The real killer feature o the screen however is the true tone colour. This takes the ambient light from sensors around the case, and tints the screen to reflect this. I have really noticed this when using it at night, along with the night shift feature of iOS 9.3 that shifts all the colours towards the red end of the colour spectrum at night to reduce eye strain. When compared with my iPad Air, the difference is incredible.

You can see from the image on the left that the colour are slightly warmer, whereas the one on the right is a lot more blue. This photo was taken during the day, so the colour differences are even more noticeable at night.

The better cameras on the iPad Pro might seem like a silly feature that could have been better spent elsewhere, but as an iOS developer that works on iPads primarily for the past 3 years in corporate environments, the camera on the iPad is actually a surprisingly useful feature. It makes reading barcodes, QR Codes or even scanning documents a breeze with the larger megapixel count. However this isn’t something the average user would notice.

While not exactly new feautres, it is my first experience of living with an iPad with an attached keyboard and Apple Pencil. These have both been covered online so I’ll keep it brief. The pencil is great for writing notes, and drawing. I really suggest dropping by an Apple Store and trying it for yourself. I didn’t quite believe it could feel as responsive as it does. The texture still doesn’t quite feel like you’re writing on paper, but it is very close. The screen won’t detect your palm at all while using the pencil but you can still use your other hands finger tips to place rulers and similar drawing tools. It’s really intuitive too, my girlfriend Amy doesn’t particularly like graphics tablets, but after 5 minutes with the Apple Pencil this was the result:

The keyboard also has proper tactile feedback on the keys, allowing for a good typing experience. In fact, I am writing this entire blog post from my iPad with the keyboard. I’d say it doesn’t feel quite as good as the keyboards on the surface pro tablets, however it is vastly lighter and more portable.

Overall I really am glad I forked out on the new iPad Pro. I went for the new 256gb version as I’m a bit of an app addict. Even with my 458 apps downloaded and lots of Spotify playlists synced, I still have over 100gb of free space. Apple seems to be beginning to target desktop and laptop users with the iPad Pro. I think this is quite a bold statement to be making. The iPad is definitely a capable machine, and with the pencil, keyboard, and new USB adaptor that allows cameras, microphones, USB Hubs, Ethernet ports and more to be attached, I think it’s gearing towards tablets being the primary computer in the coming years. Is it really now though? I don’t think so. The glaring lack of access to the file system really hurts when trying to get your files between applications. There’s also no support for Xcode or many other development tools, so developers still have to carry about their MacBook if they want to be really productive.

Posted on by Biggs in Technology Leave a comment

iOS Dev Podcasts you should check out!

I’ve just got a new iPhone 6 and decided while restoring all my old apps that I would start syncing my podcasts to it too. I typically had a few comedy and generic tech podcasts on there but after a few recommendations from fellow iOS developers, I’ve subscribed to a few new dev ones.

I thought I would share them here! Check them out if you’re an iOS developer or looking to thinking of starting iOS development.


iPhreaks - A podcast with a very experienced host. The guy has been doing podcasts since the very beginning and has been running this iOS one for a couple of years now.

Developing PerspectiveRun by a developer called David Smith, this podcast covers iOS app development and also some Apple news that is relevant to devs.

iDeveloper PodcastA weekly podcast covering a lot of great niche subjects in iOS, of particular note is their recent podcast on XCTest and TestFlight.

Ray Wenderlich PodcastRay Wenderlich runs a website that posts iOS tutorials in both text and video format. The site has helped me a lot over the years and I’ve even purchased a few of his iOS books. I highly recommend checking it out. He’s written books for totally new iOS developers right through to advanced topics not for the feint of heart while making it all simple and concise.

NSBriefFrom their site: “A podcast for Cocoa developers talking about interesting, developer-y topics.”

Core IntuitionThis podcast is run by a couple of indie devs with great experience, talking about software related stuff on all Apple platforms including the Mac.

Edge CasesEdge Cases covers more general development, but more often than not it is iOS/OSX related.

SpringboardSpringboard has sadly ended it’s run, however I really do advise checking the old episodes out.

Posted on by Biggs in Programming, Technology, Tutorials Leave a comment

GamesCom 2014

Me and the Payday crew

Me and the Payday crew at GamesCom 2014

Hey guys. So I recently took a trip to Cologne in Germany for Gamescom 2014. I also wrote a wee bit about my experience over on CalmDownTom!

Go check it out here.

Posted on by Biggs in Games, Random Stuff Leave a comment

Scottish Game Jam 2014

I've always wanted the title 'Creator of worlds'!

I’ve always wanted the title ‘Creator of worlds’!

I may be a little late writing up this blog post. But hey, better late than never right!? I recently went along to the annual Scottish Game Jam, which is hosted at my old university. I had previously written up some tips for those taking part in the jam here , although this time I wasn’t taking part.I was there as a mentor/judge for the weekend, and it was nice getting a different perspective on it. At first I was itching to code something up, and was quite regretful that I wasn’t in a team taking part. I really love the atmosphere for innovation that game jam inspires, I have never come away from one without learning something. This year I had a lot more time to take things in, so that’s what I did! I’m going to talk a bit about what I got up to while everyone else was making games, primarily stuffing my face and chatting to the other judges / organisers. I have an even greater appreciation of all the organisation that goes into it, so thanks Romana & Brian for being awesome hosts!

The venue is perfect for a hackathon

The venue is perfect for a hackathon

I spent the first night there  catching up with old faces and mingling with everyone, the attendance this year was fantastic. It grows every year, in the first year I attended there were around 50 people there. This year there were around 160. For the past two years there’s actually been other sites set up in Scotland because the attendances have been growing at such a steady pace. It’s nice to see some of the same faces over the years there too. This year the balance was around 40% students, so there is a good mix of skill levels and disciplines too.



This year everyone was treated to not just pizza, but cake too! While the rows of pizza as far as the eye can see is a tradition at the annual jams, cake is a new addition. It seemed to go down well too! In fact I think it got finished faster than the pizza did. I may or may not have been a contributing factor to that…

Pizza! Moar Pizza!

Pizza! Moar Pizza!

There was tons more going on this year than normal. There were the usual game tournaments running on the side, but there was also a podcast from Glitch Free Gaming  going on over in the corner which was new. Or maybe I’m too busy in the code mines to notice normally! The guys were interviewing participants from a few of the teams and I actually spent a few minutes talking to them too. It’s well worth a listen, and look, you don’t even have to go find it!

I’m on from around 57 minutes onwards, but the whole thing is well worth a listen!

As well as the podcast, there was also the guys of the SAE institute Glasgow making a video of the weekend which I was lucky enough to say a few words with. I think I’m probably better leaving it to the guys to summarise the weekend in their video below.

PS: Check out calmdowntoms coverage of the jam here for more coverage on the games that were made during the event!

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My top tips for taking part in a Game Jam

I’ve taken part in quite a few Game Jams in the past few years. If you don’t know what a Game Jam is then I’ve got myself a hold of a video that explains it perfectly with some translation if you don’t happen to understand Scots:

So then, if you happen to be taking part in this years Scottish Game Jam, or any others for that matter, I have some tips that may come in handy.

5 – Eat and drink as healthy as possible

I see this every year, hell I even tried it during my first game jam. People buy multipacks of red bull or similar and guzzle it right from the off. The problem with energy drinks that I find is that they don’t actually stop you feeling tired. They just stop you being able to sleep. You’ll find yourself trying to get to sleep for a long time when you really just want a couple of hours for a power nap and if you drink excessive amounts of it, you’ll just upset your stomach.

As far as food goes, then try and stay away from too much sugars which will just make you crash and feel even more tired when coupled with the lack of sleep you’ll surely have.

4 – Have a plan B, C and D

One of the worst things that can happen in a Game Jam is being half way through, something going wrong, and having to start again from scratch. When I participate I usually make sure to have a backup plan or 3. It may be the case that you can cut a few major features from the game you’re making to speed up development time and make the deadline – or it may even be that you re-use some assets and code to make a similar game. Either way I definitely suggest having a back up in mind should things go pear shaped.

3 – Learn something new

Game Jams are a great place to push yourself to learn that something you’ve always fancied but never seem to make time for. One year I made an android game with action script. I had never used an android never mind developed for one, and action script was reasonably new to me too. It’s a great experience and gives you an opportunity to add a new skill to your CV.

2 – Allocate your time wisely

Now this doesn’t just mean split it into “sleep” and “develop” time. It’s a good idea to scope out at least a few hours for play testing your game and refining it. You really don’t want the judges to find a bug you didn’t know existed when they come round to play.

When I take part I typically don’t even start coding till after midnight on the first night. You want a few hours for planning – class diagrams, allocating work, making backup plans etc. You also want development chunks of a few hours then regroup with your team, have a meeting and talk things through. If you feel you can’t quite code something in time, bring it up, and offer a solution or alternative if you can’t get it finished. Then have the time at the end for the polishing.

1 – Have fun!

This is easily the most important one. Don’t get carried away with competition because you’ll be missing out on the great community that the Game Jam has. If you plan on taking part annually you’ll find that a lot of the same faces are around each year too, and you could be working with them on a game in the future. Game Jams are also a great place to network and show people what you can do. You could be that PHP or C++ guy that impresses someone at these and gets the occasional call asking if you’re looking for work because someone has recommended you.

The mass of people

There’s lots of people to get to know at the game jam


Posted on by Biggs in Games, Programming, Technology 1 Comment

Top Mobile Games of 2013

XCOM on an iPad

XCOM on an iPad

I had been quite out of touch with the mobile gaming scene until recently. I was locked in a contract with a Windows Phone 7 and there wasn’t much choice for games on there (or anything really). Although towards the end of last year I bought myself an iPad Air and iPhone 5s and discovered that the quality of mobile games have vastly improved in the year or so I’ve been gone!

So here’s my top 10 mobile games of last year:


10 – Badland

Badland is a sidescrolling platformer with great visuals. Apple selected it for its “Best of 2013″ apps towards the end of last year and it’s easy to see why. The game mainly revolves around picking up items to make yourself bigger or smaller in order to navigate around the ever changing landscape. The game is worth the price just for those visuals alone!


9 – Stealth Inc

Stealth Inc is another fantastic platformer. The name may be a little bit misleading. This plays more like super meat boy than a typical stealth platformer. It is a little unforgiving and definitely satisfying when you beat a level that has taken you ages to master. The graphics on this game are great but it is the soundtrack that really stands out for me.


8 – Tiny Thief

Published by Rovio (the Angry Bird guys) this title definitely lives up to the hype. In this game you play a Robin Hood-esque character stealing from the greedy and corrupt. The control system is a point and click type scheme which works really well on mobile devices. I’m glad they didn’t decide to go down the virtual joystick route. The main attraction of this game is the humour that is prevalent throughout.


7 – Call of Duty: Strike Team

You may be put off because it bears the Call of Duty name. Their recent console titles haven’t been anything spectacular in my opinion. This game however is fantastic. The game revolves around a squad that you command with gameplay switching between an overhead drone and traditional Call of Duty FPS. I think the aspect of controlling your squad by drone was great and it’s this that really makes the game stick out for me. You can upgrade your soldiers with perks and all different weapons for each mission too which is always fun. I’m dying to try this game with a new iOS bluetooth controller for the FPS parts though as it unfortunately relies on virtual buttons.


6 – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

KOTOR was fantastic on the PC and Xbox back in my teenage years. When I heard it had came out for iOS it was one of the first purchases I made on my new iPad Air. I don’t regret it for one minute. It runs smooth and definitely brings back the nostalgia of the original. This game provided me with hours of entertainment and is well worth it whether you’re a fan of the lasersword-swinging franchise or not.


5 – Gran Theft Auto: San Andreas

I’ve put another remake at number 5 on my list. San Andreas is easily in my top 5 games of all time on any platform. The story is simply fantastic. They apparently updated the graphics from the original too but I can’t really see much of a difference, although they didn’t have to change anything about the game for it to be great, all the had to do was keep it as it was. Definitely one to use a joystick for though as it too uses a virtual joystick.


4 – Anomaly 2

Do you love Tower Defence games? This is a tower defence game in reverse – a Tower Offence game if you will. The graphics of this are spectacular and thus probably won’t run too well on older devices. You can pause the game and plan a route through the map taking out towers as you go. Powerups and boosts are salvaged from destroyed towers and you can re-arrange the order of your convoy too. Much like all the other games in this franchise, it is well worth the money.


3 – Breach and Clear

This game puts you in charge of a special forces unit in an overview type capacity. In a similar manner to Call of Duty – squad members can be upgraded and given specialisations. As the name suggests, the main theme of this game is breaching rooms fast and clearing them before taking any casualties and I found the missions quite addictive – I always wanted to play “just one more”.


2 – Kingdom Rush: Frontiers

If you’ve played the flash version of Kingdom Rush you’ll know how great it is. This version is actually better. Tower Defence is just one of those genres that really works on a touch screen device. This sequel doesn’t change much from the original, but then it doesn’t have to. I’m glad they didn’t tinker too much with a winning formula and this game certainly doesn’t disappoint.


1 – XCOM: Enemy Unknown

£15 for an iOS game may seem quite steep, but trust me, this game is really worth it. I’d go as far as to say it plays better than the console version with its touch screen controls. Just like all of the XCOM games, it is brutal and unforgiving. One wrong move and you can quite easily lose the entire campaign. The only bad thing I can find to say about this game is the fact that the expansion pack content isn’t yet available on the iOS version.

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Gathering The Voices Game Jam

So many who know me, know that I take part in Game Jam’s quite often. For those that don’t know what a game jam is. It’s a games event where people of all different disciplines with a common passion for creating games get together, usually on a Friday. They are given a brief containing constraints the games have to follow and set loose like the wild geeks they are to create something in less than 48 hours. As you can guess, there isn’t much room for sleep at these things.

I recently attended my fourth in the Saltire at Caledonian University. The location is perfect for a jam, there is plenty of space, toilets, a cafe during the normal hours and it’s right in the centre of Glasgow. Although this jam was a bit different.


The latest jam was set up by the people over at GatheringTheVoices on quite a challenging subject: Jewish survivors of the holocaust. Naturally the subject had to be handled with respect and tact and coming up with a game that shed a positive light on this tough period of history is no small feat. The other thing that sets Jams like this apart from the “mainstream” global jams in January is the amount of people. While the global game jam attracts around 250+ people to the Saltire centre. While the space is great and can accommodate this, it becomes a challenge to find a good place to sleep.

hard at work.

My team for this jam was also a lot smaller, consisting of just myself and Adam (whom I have worked with on a few of these now). Adam is a great artist, he specialises in animation, although none of our game this year would have any character animation. That’s another thing about these jams, it is a great opportunity to learn new things. I would say that I learned more doing these things than I did during my time at university. That’s not to mean my university didn’t teach well, it’s just that I’ve learned so many things that are difficult to put in a curriculum at jams: Time management, communication, close knit teamwork and trying things you think would be impossible. 

Adam and I set about creating an app that could be used for kids at school on day trips. We wanted to tap into the phone’s GPS system and tie it in with the testimonies of the Jewish people that found their new homes in Glasgow after fleeing from Nazi dominated Europe. We noticed immediately that most of these stories were not about how dark and depressing the experiences were, but about how integrating in to society in Glasgow was actually an enjoyable experience. We focused on these points in our game. So with that idea in mind we set out designing a story we could play out in the game: You have recently arrived in Glasgow after the war, as your sister moved here as part of a mass evacuation of children from Poland in 1938 called the Kindertransport. You had to find your way around the city centre, finding a place to stay, somewhere to eat, post a letter back home and meet up with your sister.

We managed to get this all implemented brilliantly, with a working inventory system, dialogues that unlocked new parts of the map and also the GPS unlocking key NPCs as you physically walked around Glasgow (although this feature was taken out to let the judges judge the game without walking around for an hour. Not only that, we managed to log the order of major events in the game and create fake diaries from your characters POV and post them to a web database which you can then share the link to with your facebook and twitter friends. Impressive for 2 people in one weekend huh? Well then Adam went ahead and made a second app that was a new way of navigating through snippets of all the testimonies based on keywords, which made it really intuitive to navigate through the testimonies.

Some screenshots for our game for those interested:

iOS Simulator Screen shot 9 Aug 2013 20.25.05 iOS Simulator Screen shot 9 Aug 2013 20.26.04 iOS Simulator Screen shot 9 Aug 2013 20.25.46 iOS Simulator Screen shot 9 Aug 2013 20.25.27

Our game was the 2nd of the two games that the judges thought stood out. With the other being a ridiculously amazing sounding interactive museum in 3D created by a guy called Mark. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see any of the other games personally as I was too busy working down in the code mines with bare minimum sleep for the entirety of the jam.

All in all a good weekend!
PS: The web database containing all of the diaries was being stored on a free host. We’re in the process of polishing up the game for putting on the app store and finding a permanent home for it.


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Celebrating App Store’s Birthday: Free Apps!


To celebrate the app store’s 5th Birthday, a ton of great apps have been released for free on the app store. The list I have so far is:

Tiny Wings (iPhone / iPad)
Badland (iPhone / iPad)
Sword & Sworcery (iPhone / iPad)
Infinity Blade 2 (iPhone / iPad)
Where’s My Water (iPhone / iPad)
Groove Coaster Zero (Universal)
The Idiot Test 3 (iPhone)
Pig Shot (Universal)
Glow Puzzle (iPhone)
Real Steel (Universal)
Sentinel 2 : Earth Defense (iPhone)
Sentinel 3 : Home World (Universal)
War of Reproduction (iPhone)
Liquid Sketch (iPad)
Day One Journal (iPhone / iPad)
Traktor DJ (iPhone / iPad)
Over (iPhone / iPad)
Barefoot World Atlas (Universal)
How to cook everything (Universal)

I particularly love the Where’s My Water and Tiny Wigs games. You guys should really try them out!


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What is Trello? And why you need it in your life!


This is taco the husky. Why is he so awesome? Well minus the fact that he is a husky, he is also the mascot of the organisation tool Trello. This article covers what it is and how it can help you collaborate, organise and plan all aspects of everything with this incredibly flexible cloud tool.

I’m usually quite forgetful  a lot forgetful. I am always writing little to-do lists and reminders on sticky notes on my mac to help me remember things. The problem with that? I have to constantly check all my different devices when I have that awful “I’m sure I’ve forgotten something” feeling.

I know, I know. There are tons of solutions to this. In my Windows days I used OneNote to keep track of a lot of things and quite liked it. I’ve tried Evernote, even using iCloud to back up my notes across my phone/iPad and Mac. None of them quite stuck with me as I wanted some form of light project management capabilities too. Then I was introduced to Trello. Originally I used it exclusively for work, which it is robust enough for. You create a board, of which you can share with others to collaborate on.agilecards

It takes the very simple concept of physical cards with tasks on them in the agile software development manifesto (sticky notes, sticky notes everywhere!)and turns it into a virtual card organising system that you can work on with other people. Cards are sorted into lists. The default lists on a board are “To Do”, “Doing” and “Done” but you can rename these and add other lists as you wish. Cards can be assigned to certain team members, they can contain all forms of media, checklists, code snippets, you can leave comments on cards, and also implement many, many more features that I haven’t touched here.

Trello Screenshot

Trello obviously shines for agile project management but what I quickly picked up on is that I could leave the to-do lists at home and start organising day to day things on my Trello account too. It also has apps for iPhone, iPad, Windows 8 and Android to avoid relying on a browser experience on your mobile devices which can be bothersome.  I have boards for my shopping, my TV shows, my PC Backups, personal projects, collaborative projects. All sorts! The possibilities are endless and I can safely say it is a joy to use. Best of all? It’s free!

You should check it out at: www.trello.com



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Formatting Code in Your WordPress Posts

So since a major this part of this Blog post will be to post tutorials and code snippets, I looked into how I could get proper code formatting in my posts and found this little gem: http://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-syntax/installation/

It supports TONS of languages like Objective C, Java, PHP, CSS and so on and lets me write my code in a more readable way.

screenshot-1 screenshot-3 screenshot-2

You install the theme by unzipping the wp-syntax.zip into your wp-themes folder on your WordPress directory via FTP or however else your browse your files.
Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 20.29.21

Then switching to the “text” editor in the WordPress post edit page and wrapping your code in tags like this: <pre lang=”objc” line=”1″>. Remember to substitute “objc” for the language you want to use and switch the “1″ to “0″ if you don’t want line numbering on.

It then switches your code to a more readable:

int i = 4;
[self giveYouUp];
[self letYouDown];
Posted on by Biggs in Programming, Random Stuff, Tutorials Leave a comment