Frogatto & Friends

Frogatto sprite

Frogatto & Friends is an action-adventure platformer game, starring a certain quixotic frog.
We're an open-source community project, and welcome contributions!
We also have a very flexible editor and engine you can use to make your own creations.

iPhone Controls & Auto-saving

August 5th, 2010 by Ben

Since Frogatto started selling on the App Store, we’ve had mostly really positive feedback (which has been great!), but there’s also been a lot of complaints about the controls; ranging from “needs some work” all the way to “horrible!”. At first our reaction was along the lines of “well that’s too bad, but there’s not a whole lot we can do about it…”. A few days later though, I was looking at the code, and discovered that the active areas for the controls were not at all what we thought they were.

When a finger is touching the screen, the iPhone only tells your program about the center point of it; nothing about the area of the touch. Because of this, you generally want to make the actual active area of buttons on the screen bigger than the image that’s displayed for them (because people expect a button to work even if just the edge of their finger is touching it). We thought that we had done this, but what I discovered was that not only were the active areas of our controls not bigger than the images representing them, they were significantly smaller! Here’s a screenshot showing the control buttons, with their active areas overlaid on top (also note the much improved arrow graphics):

Frogatto 1.0 control rects

One person said it seemed like we hadn’t even tried the game before submitting it to the App Store, but in fact, the opposite is true: we tested it so much that we all got used to it and thought it was fine. Another person said that it seemed like we got lazy near the end of development, which is almost true, but not quite – we didn’t get lazy, we just rushed it a bit. It had been over 2 years, and we just really wanted to get the game out there. We fully intended to release updates after 1.0 though, and that’s what we’ve done; last Friday (July 29th) we submitted a minor update, 1.0.1, which Apple will hopefully approve soon.

Frogatto 1.0.1 control rects

As you can see, the active areas in 1.0.1 are much bigger, which should make them a whole lot easier to use. The water controls have also been improved a lot. They look the same, but the active area of the circle is now 2.4x the size of the circle you see, and once you put your thumb down inside it, it will work until you lift it up again, no matter where you move it to (suggested by howiedeano on the Touch Arcade forum).

Besides the controls, a lot of people complained about lack of auto-saving. We did actually make auto-saving (we agree, it’s important!), but none of us have a device new enough to support iOS4’s multi-tasking, and it turns out it didn’t work with multi-tasking. This should be fixed in 1.0.1 as well (by simply disabling multi-tasking for Frogatto), along with a bunch of other less significant bugs. Hopefully this will fix all the significant technical issues, and we can get back to improving the rest of the game!

Update (08/06/2010): 1.0.1 is on the App Store now!


13 responses to “iPhone Controls & Auto-saving”

  1. Forrest says:

    Your game was already one of the best in the app-store. Thanks for taking the time to correct those control issues!

  2. Zerovirus says:

    Hm. I’m almost afraid the right arrow will be too big…

    Also, what about the water controls? Have you guys taken a look at that either?

  3. Zerovirus says:

    Oh whoops didn’t read it fully. Never mind I’m an idiot 😛

  4. Ben says:

    The right arrow is indeed a bit ridiculous – but there isn’t really any disadvantage, I don’t think, since there are no other buttons there. It also helps after using water controls – I found that most of the time it’s really easy (or even effortless) to transition from water controls to regular now.

  5. Megagun says:

    Heh. It would appear that this is a good example of why you should make people unaffiliated with the project test your stuff: they often provide the best feedback. Friends and relatives should mostly be avoided, too, as they often fear giving criticizm.

  6. Ben says:

    That is very true. However, we did get some testers, and a few of them complained about the controls, but we thought we’d already made the rects bigger and so there wasn’t much we could do. Not sure how no one thought to draw the rects on the screen though!

    We had a lot of testers on our list for Ad-hoc builds, but most of them didn’t actually test it (much). I have a suspicion that the main reason for that is that Apple makes the process fairly convoluted, and the people I did talk to directly usually had problems getting the app onto their device (and even more so, updating it once it’s already there).

  7. commenter says:

    Hey, I’m the guy that said you didn’t test the game before publishing in App Store comments. Thanks for modifying the controls, they actually work great now, larger active areas are definitely the way to go – glass screens are just not the same as proper buttons.

    Quick question though, I used to have 4 hearts before the update, but now I have 3 and the third one is smaller and has a red border, is this just a new health display system? Also it would be nice to have a way to skip dialogue, I’m stuck at the cat lieutenant fight and tapping the screen a dozen times every time you die gets old very quickly.

  8. 1.0.1 uses “half-hearts”, that is, every heart capsule adds a new healthpoints unit that can be either full, or half-full, thus working as if you had twice the amount of HP per each heart.

    (Not sure if I wrote the above in an understandable manner.)

  9. Ben says:

    Cool, glad you like the new controls!

    As shadowmaster said, there’s half-hearts now, so for most enemies each heart is actually two. Although come to think of it, if you’re loading a save from 1.0, you’ll only have half the number of full hearts as you had before. This is a bit of an upgrading bug, but it would not have been easy to handle it better – and we really wanted to get this update out asap!

    We definitely want to make the dialogs skippable, but it’s not nearly as important as having good controls, and it’s not nearly as easy to do either. So, we do plan on fixing that, but it’ll have to wait for another update.

  10. commenter says:

    Got it, the new heart system makes sense. I just started over because I’d like to get more health and the controls are definitely much much better, especially underwater controls. Great work! This is one of the few games in app store that’s worth the asking price.

  11. Ben says:

    Wonderful! Thanks for updating your App Store review!

  12. CJ Hanson says:

    The game is really fun. I’m an app developer myself and I just wanted to say it’s great you are releasing the source code. I also wanted to let you know about the open source dpad/analog stick code that is available here:
    and a more advanced version:

  13. Shinkz says:

    Awesome update. I couldn’t be happier. One of the great platformers on the iDevices. Proud to have it sitting next to Soosiz on my iphone.