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Monthly Archives: June 2007

As per the previous post, the Subsume game site has been updated with a more iPhone-friendly interface. It basically amounted to making a few calls as soon as possible instead of waiting for the mouse to hover over a square before doing validation. There are also a few little bug fixes. Give it a try and let us know what you think or if we missed anything. The next major update, by next Friday or that weekend, should finally allow network play. It’s still unlikely it will be tested on an actual iPhone before release.


It hasn’t escaped our attention that the Subsume alpha makes somewhat heavy use of “onmouse” events and cursor changes, just like many pages use them along with CSS a:hover styles. The iPhone challenges those particular Web 2.0 conventions, though, because it is a device that not only adds support for another pointer, but at the same time eliminates them as interface objects. That means we not only have to revamp our game interface a bit, but you should fully expect to see many other regular sites reduce the prevalence of navigation that relies on the movement of a single mouse (assuming the iPhone takes off at all, of course).

The initial misstep on our part is easy to explain, since we’re initially just developing Subsume as a regular web page. In that environment it is easy to get caught up in thinking how great it would be to make a sound and highlight when a valid square gets the user’s attention. But the user doesn’t get to express their attention with the iPhone (or any of the upcoming multi-touch technology, it seems). They only get to express their immediate action. That means we either don’t squeak at all for valid moves, or we have to proactively show them as click targets. Since the game rules are probably new to most people, we’ve decided that showing is better than not showing at this stage.

I find it rather interesting that with all the hype surrounding the iPhone that no other people are talking about these sorts of things. It’s great that it comes with an able browser, but the iPhone also challenges some basic assumptions about what Web 2.0 can do. It is rather disappointing that all the techno-pundits are missing some of the real meaning behind the bullet point of multi-touch. Just another value-added insight you get by caring about our silly little game. 🙂

Update: It looks like this entry got a link in from Slashdot, and the discussion is a bit surreal! It’s probably there, for better or worse, because of all the iPhone hype, but I find it hard to see anything pro-iPhone about what I wrote above or what was in that Slashdot story. What I wrote was just a note that there is an intersection of somewhat discordant technologies at this particular point in time. No, touch screens aren’t new, but the iPhone (which was just a timely announcement that drove our interest in developing a game) represents one of the first mass market devices that use it for browsing the “regular” web at a time when the web is seeing an explosion of interactive apps, and especially when Jobs said that Web 2.0 was the way to write iPhone apps. It may be a bit of a non-story, but those of you who do or will use touch screens will have no control over how a site implements that interactivity. Maybe it’s just that we’re not very bright, but even we missed it at the beginning despite trying to target the iPhone. It seems reasonable to wonder what kind of impact that will have on the iPhone browsing experience, and touch-based browsing in general.

It was back at the start of April when we wrote about how the iPhone was going to be open to developers whether Apple wanted it or not. In the WWDC keynote (jump to the 1:14:00 mark if you don’t want to see all the Leopard goodies), Steve Jobs publicly acknowledged that the way to the iPhone was through the web. This isn’t the first time Apple has seemingly run with an idea of ours, but we inexplicably continue to chalk it up to coincidence.

As demoed, it was a little lackluster because it appeared to present the apps as regular web pages. The problem being, as anyone who has checked out our alpha release knows, we really want to be able to take advantage of the entire screen if possible. Having a total of 320×480 to work with is cramped enough, but it is both developer and user unfriendly to further block off big chunks for the address bar at the top and the navigation bar at the bottom, both of which aren’t necessary for the app interface. We can do a little squeezing, but there is a limit on how small we want to make a target and it goes without saying that the capture of clicks for scrolling and zooming is not welcome when playing a game.

Still, it’s good to know we won’t be completely shut out as we move forward. There’s a lot of work to do here and not many resources to do it. Exactly what parts of Subsume we will have ready by June 29th still depends in no small measure to feedback we receive. The roadmap right now calls for at least networking two players and a widget interface. Let us know what more you’d like to see by then.

I finally saw fit to adding the rules for Subsume to the site. Hopefully that should give everyone a much better sense of what to do and how the game will grow. It’s a transcription of the design documentation, so let us know if the online client plays differently; odds are it’s a bug in the software, and we would appreciate hearing about them sooner rather than later. We’d also like to hear about any parts of the documentation that are unclear or seem out of order. It’s sometimes tough to know you’ve gotten enough written down for other people to know what’s on your mind!

Anyone who wondered what a game called Subsume might end up being didn’t need to look much farther than the Subsume Technologies trademark or the resulting screen saver. The deep mathematical roots of the initial design pay off once again by leading directly to this game.

Yes, it’s a very rough cut at this point, but the foundations are there to turn this into the first Massively Multiplayer Online Board Game. As such, it will be able to go places that a regular MMOG can’t. It is non-violent, so your kids can play it. It exercises the mind, so your parents can play it. It doesn’t require constant attention, so you can play it at work! I could go into all the ways we’ve planned to grow Subsume, but that is really best left to be part of the upcoming documentation.

No, the purpose of this site is for me to hear what you like and, most importantly, don’t like about Subsume. I really don’t expect a lot of feedback in these pre-iPhone alpha stages, so I will be extra appreciative about any that I get. Feel free to use this as a starting point for any comments you have on Subsume and I’ll either reply as fast as I can, or start a new topic to address any big issues. Thanks for your interest!