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More Card Ninja Wildcards revealed

Following up on our post about Blessing and Curse, I am going to dig into the next two wildcards that appear in the game; Assassin and Ajnin.

These cards can have a dramatic impact on your game score, so if you’ve been struggling to get past level 8, reading this post could be the answer to all your worries.

The Assassin wildcard is all about time. As any of you who have been an actual assassins will know, getting the job done quickly and getting the hell out of there, is what it’s all about. One of the Ninja’s primary technique’s was stealth and their ability to do things so quickly that no one even noticed they had been there.

Throwing the Assassin card freezes time for about 8 seconds. In the game this can be a huge factor in progressing because not only does it stop the clock, allowing you to hit your targets calmly without losing those precious time bonuses, but it also freezes the action on the screen. In the rounds where there are moving targets, this bonus is even more powerful.

The powerful Assassin hour glass

The powerful Assassin hourglass

The visuals here were molded by Kevin our graphic designer using a combination of images and cool artwork. The image is of course an ancient sand timer or hourglass. Turn the device over and the sand starts dripping through the enclosure. They were originally invented to time the speed of ships apparently. Of course they have also been used by some intrepid cooks hungry for deliciously gooey egg yolks. I saw my first hourglass in the hands of the wicked witch of the east in the Wizard of Oz and you’ll recognize it more recently from Lord of the Rings, Legend of Zelda and other great games and movies.

As before, I am not going to be explicit about how you make Time machine work, but if you look carefully at the image of the card you’ll see an obvious clue. It follows the same theme as the earlier clues and once you get it, you are set to stealthily climb your way up the Ninja ranks. Feel free to leave your thoughts on what the clue is and how to stop the clock.

Next up is Ajnin. This is definitely a favorite of mine and not only because it was inspired by an idea from my 10 year old son, Max. The card was originally called topsy turvy while we were in development and that basically sums up its effect. Its turns your world upside down. It makes a mockery of your Ninja skills with alarming results when you aren’t ready for it. Starting to get the idea now? Ninja becomes ajniN.

The crazy topsy turvy Ajnin Wildcard

The crazy, topsy turvy, Ajnin Wildcard

The effect is to take all of your flick throws and reverse them. Throw up to the right and the card shoots off down and to the left. Flick down card goes up etc etc. Its one of my favorites because I kind of enjoy the fresh challenge of having to rethink every throw and its kind of fun trying to get the cards right even though you know you are throwing them completely wrong. I also find that its a real mind twister once the effect has timed out. I always get stuck in Ajnin mode throwing reverse for the first couple of cards after its over.

The visual for this card is actually some images Kevin took of his own arms. Not easy to do, but he’s tough and a great photographer to boot, so it was easy for him.

The clue for this card is slightly different than the previous cards but again, if you look closely you’ll see there is an element displayed in this card that is always present on a target when you see the card appear in the deck. Trust me, you’ll want to get this right even though getting it right means turning your world upside down.

Next up the scariest and most dramatic cards in this release of the game: Dragon and Ghost


Not your grandmother’s hockey stick

At around 2:30 this morning the thunderstorms that have been boiling up over Brooklyn of late, made their nightly entrance. Complete calm, small flash of lightning and then a boom that came with such intensity, that even as you cursed being woken up in the middle of the night, you could only wonder at the sheer power of nature.

Would anybody but an Apple fanboy mention the awesome power of geothermal energy in the same breath as discussing the monster that is the Apple marketing machine? I’ll let you decide that, but what I am sure of is that being placed on the front page of the iTunes store is a powerful thing indeed. Free placement on the front page of a tool used by at least 40 million qualified purchasers across 80 something countries.

Last week Card Ninja was having its best week so far. We were ticking along at a low but steady 30 sales a day. More of a hobby than a business at that point if we are honest. We had done some limited test advertising and had received some great reviews and feedback but we were still lacking the exposure to make a meaningful impact.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning. After contacting us with an email that they loved the game, Apple placed Card Ninja on the front page of the App store and boom! we are instant players. I’m not even sure the term hockey stick works to describe the trajectory Card Ninja has taken in the last 24 hours. Maybe we should coin this as a space shuttle kind of ride.

rank trajectory

our hockey stick / space shuttle moment

Card Ninja’s rank went from #1500 overall or so on Monday to #34 in games and #54 overall in the space of 24 hours. Even while I am writing this post we have moved up to #33 in US games. Its 10 am on a weekday morning; Who is even buying games now? We are now the #2 Card game in the US, closing in on Solitaire after overhauling established card games such as Texas Hold’em and Uno.

I’m trying to remain calm and focused knowing this is a special moment that we can’t take for granted for a second.

The thunder clap was followed by one more boom last night and then silence. Not even a drop of rain.

This is huge – Front page of iTunes store

Huge update, my Ninja friends.

Last week we received a mysterious email from Apple. Yes that Apple.

Here’s what it said:

Subject: HOT marketing opportunity (their caps not mine)

“Hi, here at Apple we love your game Card Ninja….”

OK so besides the slightly spam like subject line that totally had us thinking this was a hoax, this is pretty incredible. Apple found our cool game amongst the 50,000 other apps out there and wants to do some free marketing for us!
Think about that for a second – Apple, 50,000 apps, Card Ninja and free marketing all in the same sentence.

We sent them a whole set of graphic materials and while we still aren’t sure exactly what they are planning to do, as of this morning we are displayed on the front page of the US iTunes store in the New and Notable section. We are basically the second app you see once you land on the page. You can see it here: http://bit.ly/5fd0d
Can you put a price on that kind of exposure?

more excitement to come I’m sure.

“Re-Playability thru the roof”

The latest podcast review from theportablegamer.com had some great things to say about Card Ninja.

“Card ninja is deceptively difficult and it really pulled me in…. Since it is easy to play but very tough to master, it’s re-playability is thru the roof.”

You can hear the full podcast here: http://bit.ly/qrhgR

Card Ninja Wild Cards revealed

We’ve been getting quite a bit of mail from all you Ninja flickers asking us for more information on the wild cards that appear in the Card Ninja game. We love hearing from you and are excited that you are as excited about the game as we are.

So to help you out,  I’ll be running a series of posts over the next week discussing the wild cards, what they do to help you succeed and what they can do to hinder your progress. This isn’t intended to be a spoiler posting. So what I won’t do is directly reveal the clues inserted into the cards that help you decide where to flick them. Seeing the cards at a larger size should be help enough I think.

Just like the movies, we’ll look at the cards in order of their appearance, starting today with the Blessing and Curse cards.

Blessing2The Blessing card is the first of the ‘good card’ series and shows up for the first time during level 3. Flicking the blessing card to its correct target gets you a boost of 5 cards added to your total. There is no penalty for getting this card wrong, other than missing out on a nice little bonus of course.

Blessing appears a number of times during the game. After it first shows up and gets you in the swing of how wild cards work, its inserted into rounds where things get a little hairy and we figured you might need some help.

The image we used was crafted by Kevin our crack graphic designer. He blended a bunch of images and worked his photoshop magic to give us a beautiful looking card. Its kind of a Buddha mixed with a china doll colored with Japanese inspired tones. It gives off a very clean, saintly image ideal, I’d say for bestowing a blessing on needy players!

CurseThe Curse card is the direct counterpoint to the Blessing and yes you guessed it, it’s the first of the evil cards to show up.

Its role is to get in your way if things are looking a little easy. If you flick the curse card at the wrong target you get a penalty of 5 cards. Get it right and you avoid that penalty.

Curse shows up for the first time in Level 5 and appears several more times during the game. Curse is really a tough card because you have so many chances to get it wrong. You can’t just guess at this one and hope for the best. Do that and you will be hitting the same wall over and over again.

The image is another blend of multiple images by Kevin. Its inspired by some Kabuki theater masks. The Kabuki theater is an old form of theater from Japan dating back to the 1600’s; Lots of dancing and masks. One of the reasons it inspired us is because the discussion about the origins of Ninja’s is very much intertwined with Kabuki, the puppets they used and how the actors moved around the stage. One theory is that the actors playing assassins and warriors dressed in all black, just like the stagehands, so they could more easily emerge from the shadows and shock the audience. Assassins. All black clothing. Sound familiar????

Looking forward to hearing your comments.

Next post, the Assassin and Ajnin…

Another stellar Card Ninja review

Great review of Card Ninja from the folks at iphonefootprint.

They gave us 41/2 stars out of five and called the game “ultimate ninja fun”

Read the full review and add your input to the rating:  Ninja Game on the iPhone: Card Ninja review 

Origins of an Action Puzzler Superstar: Part 1

So I was flicking cards at my cat one day…

OK. So that’s not exactly true. As a matter of fact, it’s not true at all. But doesn’t it seem like every “I had an idea” story starts with something like that? It sounds cool, and I almost wish that was where it all began with Card Ninja, but it’s just not that simple.

Sadly, it was something much more intentional; I actually sat down one day and analyzed the iPhone in an attempt to get some insight on what makes it unique from most gaming platforms. Of course the touchscreen immediately came to mind as it has most everybody, and from there I started to think about the different touch options of tapping, double-taps, multi-touch, sliding, etc. and about what kind of touch interaction might be both fun and natural for a gamer.

I kept coming back to the sliding motion. Of all of the touch options it feels the most natural to me and it requires zero explanation for the player.

I should clarify what I mean by “natural” as opposed to “intuitive”. To me, if something is intuitive it means that its function is simple to ascertain. For instance, clicking on a desktop folder expands that folder and displays its contents. This is intuitive because it makes the function is easy to understand but it’s not natural because in the real world merely touching a folder does not cause it to open up and reveal the papers inside.

On the other hand, if something is natural it means that it reflects the physics or sensibilities of our own world. For example, in the real world, if you place your finger on a playing card on a table, you can move the card around by slowly dragging it or throw it with a fast flick. A game that simulates this interaction would be BOTH intuitive AND natural.

Hey! Good idea. Somebody should create that game!

I quickly tacked on the notion of matching colors and it did start to resemble a game. I felt like I was onto something so I pitched the basic idea to Jonni and included this modest mocked up image for reference.

Needless to say, he was under-whelmed by the aesthetics of my screen prototype, but intrigued by the gameplay.

From there, we discussed a number of options for game. We started to analyze addictive puzzle games such as Tetris and Bejeweled, hoping to figure out why they are so compelling to play. Two things came to mind:

  1. These games are usually based on a very natural need to organize things. With match 2 and match 3 type games (e.g. Mahjong, Bejeweled) you are organizing virtual objects by symbol or color. With Tetris, you are organizing by shape. This process of putting things in their proper place seems to work as a metaphor for all of the things in your life that are out of control and these games becomes almost therapeutic to play. i.e. If you can’t control your job, bills, kids, etc. at least you can control these little puzzle pieces on a screen!
  2. Because they engage you on a very basic level (therapeutic matching) your animal brain takes over and it never occurs to you to stop playing. Hence, they are addictive.

The final element came from my sensibilities as a player. I’m not a big fan of slow moving puzzle games and thought it would be interesting to create a puzzle game with a frenetic pace.

From there we were able to transform it (with a lot more design work and elbow grease) from light concept into a real game that people actually enjoy playing:

Soon after, ninjas got involved. But that’s a story for another day…

Stay tuned for “Origins of an Action Puzzler Superstar: Part 2“!