Category Archives: Idea

New game idea: 1D asci sim city game with influences of Spore and The Wire

In order to improve my programming skills I have started a new pet project.

The experience

I’m going for a quality like book reading. Where the order of the letters gives shape to a world constructed in your mind.  The patterns you learn provide a new perspective of the world you live in.  Perhaps making you see it a bit clearer.

This is what the latest version looks like:

” ” R C I ~ ~ ß ” ” ” ß ~ ~ ¶ * * ~ ~

The language of the game

The game communicates in symbols and plain text. Since graphics might distract from the meaning of the game and it makes it a lot easier for me to develop. In other words, it’s a text based simulation game. Where you read a one dimensional string of characters in order to understand how the world develops you manipulate.

It’s not so mystical once you know what the symbols mean.

 ”   is grass
~   is water
*   is rock
R   is a medium size residential building
C   is a medium size commercial building
I   is a medium size industrial building
ß   is a large residential building
¶  is a power plant

More symbols like that can reflect the state of the small city.

In order to make the game not too abstract, you’ll get feedback on the current status of the world with on you HUD (Heads Up Display) like this.

================== August 1950 ================
║         Cred:6  |  Pop:12 » r8 c2 i2 |  Pow:12/20!                     ║

It shows the number of credits, the population (» residential 8, commercial 2, industrial 2) and the power used/provided.

How to play
You play it like a text adventure, by writing a word or letter. At the moment these are the options:

b – Build
z – Zone
d – Demolish
h – Help
e – End turn
q – Quit the game

Current status

As for now, it’s a mildly interesting simple game. It’s easy to grow the city. But it does provide for the first part of the ambition: Where the order of the letters gives shape to a world constructed in your mind.

The game fundamentals

At the moment I can imagine it’s the most simplistic version of Sim City in the world. So how about that next part of my introduction: the patterns you learn provide a new perspective of the world you live in?

Remember the promise of the game Spore? You start by creating a one celled creature and develop it until you are a galactic warlord of sorts. The game consists of different stages, where each stage provides unique game play. It was an inspirational ambition. There are two qualities that I want to take with me for my pet project.

  1. It was an ode by Will Wright to the games he loved
  2. It was about building a history. Each stage built on the stage before it.

My pet project is also an ode to work I love, but not just games. It’s a mix of Sim City and the series The Wire (IMDB rating of 9.4).

The Wire as a blue print for how to communicate complexity

The Wire is about the city of Baltimore as a whole. By providing a mix of personal perspectives you slowly get a feeling of how the city operates (and often malfunctions). It has a neat structure in that every season highlights a different part of the city:

  1. Police & gangs
  2. The harbor
  3. The politics
  4. The school
  5. The press

The series comes down to, as Bodie says, “The game is rigged“. For every one perspective you can see most of the characters just try to make the best of their own situation. If possible they play fair and try to be nice to others, but if needed they’re harsh and defend their own.

After seeing the series you get a feeling, and actual understanding, of how complex the problems of a city can be. I believe it’s brilliant because it doesn’t really provide you with moral guidance, it just shows you the effects of how different institutions operate and how they relate to each other. It does so in quite the opposite of the abstract way I’m describing them right now. Just by telling the stories of the people living inside those institutions.

The moral guidance is not needed, because there is no real misunderstanding of morality. It’s easy to understand if someone is treated fair or unfairly if we truly understand their situation.

How to build the game on this blue print

Because in games like Sim City, time runs so much faster, it’s much easier to see patterns that in daily life are hard to notice. Since you can play these games over and over, it provides you with multiple perspectives on what in essence is quite a complex system.

So these are the ingredients for the game:

  • Like Spore, it’s a game built out of different stages that are ‘stacked’ on each other.
  • One of those stages is the ‘Sim City’ stage where you build a city.
  • Other stages should help you understand the relation between politics, multinationals / banks, press, education.
  • There probably needs to be at least one stage before the Sim City state in order to help understand how the interface of he game works and to start out from a simple and personal perspective.

The fundamental components to put the spotlight on

For me Sim City and The Wire helped me understand the world. Now I’m a bit older I have some grasp of how the world operates, I want to share this knowledge.

There are three major components that I think deserve our attention.

  1. Multinationals are more powerful than most countries.
  2. The operations of our financial institutions has become so complex that most people have no idea how to asses the risk they are taking by the choices they make.
  3. How capitalism works.  A good understanding of its core, the transaction (buy & sell),  is needed.
    1. There are conditions when a transaction is not conform the capitalistic rules. For instance, the upside of capitalism doesn’t work if one of the parties involved is not free to decline a transaction.
    2. A fundamental limitation of capitalism is that it only deals with the people doing the transaction. It has no opinion on the effects of the transaction on others. If you pay me money to get rid of your garbage and I throw it in the garden of my neighbor. Than that’s a transaction that added value to all parties involved in the transaction.

These components do not inherently make for an unjust world, but it requires us to understand how these components work and how they relate to each other to prevent such a world.

As you can see, there is some work left to do on this game :). It’s okay if it takes a couple of years. For now I’ll just chip away at it and learn how to write some python along the way.

Update: Article January 2016 on the added ambition to make this game a Slack app.





Working on adding audio feature to My Picture Books

I’m working on adding audio to My Picture Books app for creating and reading children books, based on your own photos.

Route 1: using an intent to record audio

My first attempt was to use Android systems of ‘intents’. An intent in android is something that is used to communicate with other apps. For instance for editting images, the app uses a certain intent, the user is asked to pick an app to edit the image. After the editting is done, my app receives the editted image from the other app.

Intents work like this, the app shoulds the name of the specific intent, and then Android gives back all the apps that say they can do something with that intent. And I was happy to learn there is an intent for connecting with an app that record audio. The intent is as follows:

When testing on my mobile phone everything went great. After completing the update of my app, I wanted to do a little test on my tablet and then put the udpate live that evening. The test revealed a bit of a setback. It appears that not all phones and tablets have apps that can deal with this intent. So for some user it would not be possible to record audio.

Route 2: Still use the intent, but advice users to download a specific app for audio recording. 

As a first update, testing out if people would appreciate an audio feature, I thought it might be good enough to just advice people to download app X to record audio. So I started to look for apps that could receive the RECORD_SOUND_ACTION.

Finding a valuable answer to this question using Google is hard. Too hard. Try searching something like “android app for recording audio receiving intent record_sound_action”. You get results like this on StackOverflow that don’t include an answer to my problem.

Since Googling failed me, I downloaded a whole bunch of audio recording apps. Only one of them accepted the intent, but it had annoying ads and I was not comfortable with recommending people this app.

Route 3: Code a simple audio recorder myself

So now I’m back to the coding board, coding my own audio recorder. It’s not super difficult, but still it requires learning some new code, creating a new interface and doing extra tests. It’s probably about 8 hours of extra work for me, while I was hoping to put the update live at the beginning of this week. On the other hand, I’m learning new stuff, and that’s sort of the whole idea of these pet project; creating tools and learning new stuff :).

A new goal emerged

After testing a number of audio recording apps, it struck me that there are quite a lot of recorders with advanced features, but they are paid apps or have ads. But it’s not easy to find a super simple audio recorder that only does record, stop, play, save. So I’d like to fill this void, and I can combine it with my ambition to learn how to implement material design. This can be my next little pet project. A super simple, but good looking one screen app to record audio quickly. And it would accept the RECORD_SOUND_ACTION intent :).

In case you are wondering, learning these new skills like dealing with images, audio and material design, are all part of the bigger plan to do a major update on Idea Growr. More on that later.

Future self goals tracking tool

To get some experience with StackMob I’m going to create another android app.


Stackmob can take care of the whole back-end side of an app and is supposed to be easy to implement and save developers a lot of time. Also I’m curious how easy/difficult it would be for me to create another appand if this new app can do better than Idea Growr.

Here are some wireframes for the new app.Wireframes future self tracking

Like Idea Growr it is a simple personal tool. I have got about all the screens in wireframes. For the rest of this week I’ll focus on setting up the project and creating the front-end interfaces and next week I’ll start to delve into StackMob.

I will also keep working on Idea Growr. Mostly on the marketing experiments I wrote here.

Sugar Salt Fat

Last week I wrote a tweet about an idea for an app that would help people better understand food labels.

Sugar Fat Salt on Twitter

To find out about the potential of this idea, I felt I had to make a mini plan.
Something to discuss with people and get feedback on. So here it is.

Stimulate better eating patterns, by improving the understanding of what we eat.

Obesity is getting more and more of a problem.
This is a health risk for them and expensive for society.

Continue reading

Imagine anything

Where evernote is a tool with the slogan “remember everything”, it would be cool to develop something that has the slogan “imagine anything”. The tool should focus on what can be your future, and guide you to towards it.

As my first pet project, and a first baby step towards that goal, I’m working on an android app that keeps track of the ideas I have.