University life – with all its deadlines, societal and sports commitments, and dreaded revision cycles – can be a pretty hectic affair. With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine finding the time to undertake a project of any real scale, let alone the development of a fully-fledged iPad app. Yet that’s exactly what third-year Computer Scientist, Chris Howell, has managed to achieve. I spoke to Chris ahead of the launch of Firework Flare on the App store.
Firework Flare is a game that revolves around linking similarly coloured fireworks together, through means of a well-judged finger-swipe. The title draws on two key stylistic influences: “I took heavily from Fruit Ninja, and also from an old PS2 game: Fantavision. The idea was to blend these two games and put it onto the iPad”.
The parallels are clear to see; Arcade Mode is essentially a remodelling of the Zen Mode found within Fruit Ninja. The lack of a defined goal is something that appeals to Chris: “I like the idea of an open-ended game that has no definitive answer. The goal is simply to attain the highest score”.
The Arcade Mode is bolstered by two additional modes: Sandbox Mode and Flare Factory. “The premise of Sandbox Mode was that I wanted to cover the ground that other firework apps occupy.” Flare Factory is where you’ll be expanding your arsenal of uniquely animated fireworks.
There were plans to include a ‘Stamina Mode’ and GameCenter integration, however this just wasn’t realistic in the self-imposed timeframe: “I had a problem with ‘feature creep’. At my internship, I showed them the game and my plan. They advised me to cut it down to a single core mechanic and to allow the audience to validate the game before I built additional features”.
In terms of the summer internship, Chris is convinced the primary reason he got the placement was by virtue of demonstrating his iPad app: “it was a company in London that develops apps; I think they liked being able to test something I’d designed myself”. It’s certainly a great differentiator in a field inundated with identikit CVs.
There are clearly some real rewards – both on a business and a personal level – to be reaped from embarking on such a daunting project. The experience he has acquired over the last sixteen months has provided an invaluable base of knowledge, which can handily be used to good effect in his final year project.
Ultimately, there’s a definite sense of relief that comes with finalising the code for Firework Flare. Chris is keen to reiterate the fact that simply finishing such a time-intensive venture is immensely satisfying. It’s testament to his dedication that the initial concept has come to fruition – I’m sure there were countless hours spent in a frustrated reverie.
Firework Flare is a fun, well-polished adaptation of an iOS classic. Chris has done all the hard work, so the least we can do is lend a hand in the marketing and, of course, download it. The best part is it’s free, so you have no excuse not to!