Preston and I Release Berserk Elves

My son, Preston and I developed Berserk Elves after I returned from a iOS Dev Camp last August. I had been planning on working on a different app using Cocos 2d for iPhone when Preston asked me what it takes to developed a game for iPhone. Rather than just talk about making a game, I decided to make one with him.

Two months later, we were happy with our game, but knew that the we wanted to update graphics and sound. That is when we began crowdsourcing to polish the game.

I submitted a design brief to and received over 86 entries from 5 different graphic designers. The winner won because his animation of the elf being hit by a snowball. My other son Aiden, who is 5, wanted to watch the animation of the elf being hit by a snowball over-and-over.

With the virtual team in place we integrated the graphics, debugged the game and submitted to Apple.  You can download Berserk Elves from the App Store on iTunes and try to save Christmas.

iTunes Link:

There is also more information on my previous post.

13 Ghosts iPhone App

My 7 year old son, Preston asked, “How do you make a iPhone game?”

“Well, it’s hard to describe. How about we make one?” was my answer. With that we began to work on a new iPhone game together.

Step 1: Brainstorm Ideas

* Like Field Runners
* 1st person point of view
* Use photographs [I didn't want to make a 3D game]
* Ghost instead of runners

Step 2: Refine and Articulate Ideas

It was now time to get something in writing. A couple of days later we worked on the game some more and wrote down the following for the game.

1, 2, 3, Levels. Easy, Medium, and Hard.
Life Bar - 100% to 0%. Loose at 0%. "Game Over"
Ghost appear to move slowly on level 1. Fastest on hard level.
There will be a shop between levels to buy better guns & to heal self.
Each Ghost is worth some currency
Experience should be scared [for a 7 year old]

Step 3: Gather Some Assets & Start Programming

The next step was to visit a graveyard, forest and our courtyard to take pictures and make ghost graphic. Using vector ghost it was easy to add a little animation. Then I wrote some code.

Here is what the background of the graveyard looked like before making it fit and adding some spookiness to it. We choose not to do 360 degres, since the photo does not align.

The resulting background for the level is

Graveyard Level Background

After demoing the results, Preston, a little disappointed stated, “There needs to be more ghost [There was only 1] and how do I shoot it?” He proceeded to quickly close the App.

Step 4: Write More Code & Developing the Story

Adding more ghost is straightforward, just put more on the screen. Then to shoot we need to develop some type of projectile.

Another test run. Preston taps to shoot, “Nice….” The projectile sails right past the ghost. “But how do I kill the ghost?”

“Oh. I was going to work on that next. But before I do, why is the player trying to shoot the ghost?”

Preston responded that, “They took your stuff.”

“What stuff?” I asked

“The stuff from your attic. That’s why you have to shoot the ghost,” answered Preston.

The Story

Last Halloween some guest arrived at the vacant house next door. The family of 13 ghost began to haunt the neighborhood.

Every night I lay in bed peering into the darkness, and listening. Sometimes I hear a grating noise overhead, like the dragging of heavy furniture across the floor. Other nights stealthy footsteps creeping in and out of bedrooms, and up and down the stairs.

Following instructions I found online, I made a goo zapper that will temporarily stun the ghost. Tonight when I hear the rustling of garments, I’ll jump out of bed and confront the apparition.

I wait a long time, then I hear mysterious whisperings in the hallway. I jump out of bed and open my door. The hall is empty. The pale glow from the open attic made me pause in terror. I regained my wits when 2 floating bodies swept by me like a cool breeze. The pair had some toys that had been stashed in my attic. What else had the ghost taken? I slowly climb the stairs to the attic and discover that heirlooms my Grandmother had given me and other random stuff was missing from my attic.

Armed with the goo zapper I was determined to confront the ghost and get back the stuff missing from my attic.

–Find the missing stuff from your attic. Zap the ghost before they cause you to loose your wits.–

Step 5: Write More Code

With the story finished, it was time to make the projectiles (goo) hit the ghost. When goo hit the ghost it would increase the player’s score and the ghosts would appear somewhere else. After 30 or so ghost another level would start. Missing the ghost would decrease your wits.

Another test run. Preston taps to shoot, “Nice….” The projectile hits the ghost, the ghost disappears. “Nice! Nice!”

The game still needs polish before it can be released (an icon, integration with game center, etc…) but it finally feels like a game.

Soundtrack for video is Welcome to Carnevil by croonstreet. More information at

Evolution of a Game: from concept to iPhone App

Royal Flush: Poker Dice began in July 2007. What would happen if dice had suits? I created 6 dice using blank dice and labels and started designing a game. The initial game was a multi-player game: each player had to roll a better hand than the previous player’s hand or pay a fee. At the time the game used chips instead of points.

I tried it solo several times and it was fun! Then when I had players, players that to calculate odds, try the game. The game played too slow for the type of game it was, which is mostly luck driven. It was a player that looked at each sides of two dice to determine the optimal die to re-roll that made me determine it was time to put it on the shelf for another time.

About a year later, the iPhone SDK was released. I wrote a quick dice app. Since there were hundreds of these dice app on the App Store, I choose not to release it.

I felt the iPhone would be a good platform to develop one of my boardgame designs. So it was time to take the Royal Flush Poker Dice off the shelf and dust it off. The rules were revised — It was made into a solitaire game and the scoring was changed.

The first version had “home brewed” graphics. It was ugly but functional. Also, it barely utilized touch as each die was a toggle button.

I then started the next app with a co-worker, a holiday snow globe. The snow globe sold really well and I decided to use the money for a graphic design for the Poker Dice game.

I put a job description on e-lance to hire a graphic artist and revamped the graphics. Making the graphical updates also improved the code by making the game model independent from the user interface.

Finally, I decided to release a free version to help better market the game. At this time the ability to save your game while in progress was added, so the user could visit the advertisement and return where they left off.

Available on the App Store

2008 Holiday Snow Globe

The 2008 Holiday Snow Globe is no longer available.

Gaze into a crystal globe and watch the snow fall softly to the ground. Twist the globe, and the snow changes direction. Tilt the globe, and the snow changes speed. With a quick shake the snow swirls around the globe, the music resumes playing, and the snow falls softly once again.

Is it time for a change in scenery? Swipe your finger horizontally, vertically or diagonally and the snowman changes to santa clause to mountain cabin to a christmas tree. The object and scene can be changed independently creating 100s of different variations. When you find a scene you like, take a screen shot and use it as wallpaper for your iPhone or iPod Touch.

Free Wallpaper

The following screen shots of the application may be used as wallpaper. To save the image as wallpaper visit this page using Safari on your iPhone or iPod Touch. Then touch and hold the image until prompted to Save the Image. Touch the Save the Image Button and then follow the directions bellow for Setting Wallpaper (starting at step 2).

Creating and Setting Wallpaper

To create screen shot that can be used as wallpaper follow these directions

Setting Wallpaper

1. Press the home button and sleep button simultaneously. The screen will turn white and there will be an audible shutter sound. The screen shot is now in the photo library.
2. Press the home button to exit the application
3. Choose the Photos application
4. Choose the Camera Roll Photo Album
5. Select the screen shot from step 1.
6. Select more option icon (lower left)
7. Touch the Use as Wallpaper Button
8. Touch the Set Wallpaper button


Software: Jonathan Hager
Graphics: Ben Jones
Music: Kevin MacLeod (

2012 Edition

Would you like to see your image added to the 2012 edition? Send your own work to the support All artwork for background and figures should be vector based or able to scale to larger devices. Each submission accepted will be awarded a small prize.