Announcing Bird Bounce iPhone Game

Over winter break, I put together a small game for the iPhone and iPad called Bird Bounce. It’s an infinite runner game of the Temple Run variety that replaces running with flight, which I’ve conveniently dubbed an ‘infinite flyer’ for lack of a better name. You fly through 3D worlds as a penguin, jumping across platforms, collecting coins, and unlocking levels. If you’d like to try it, here’s the link to Bird Bounce and a short promo video.



I thought I might briefly describe the process of developing and releasing a small game. It was definitely different from what I expected.


The idea started when I realized everyone around me seemed to be talking about 3D games. From our school’s computer science club to an English professor who wanted to make one, 3D games were the thing. I’d always thought that 3D games were impossible to make quickly, but I’d heard recently that there were some new tools that simplified things a lot. So I realized that after years of dabbling in 3D design I should finally bite the bullet and try to learn how to develop a game. After hours spent trying to make a simple prototype, I came up with what seemed like an utter failure. I had a strange black and white bird that bounced instead of flew… infinitely.


I showed it to a few testers for fun and they immediately thought I’d made some sort of infinite penguin flying game. I couldn’t argue with that, so I began developing it further until I had a passable penguin and some working flight controls. Things were coming together serendipitously from the seeds of what I thought was a mockery of a mockup. Then came…


It was then that it dawned on me what I had really gotten myself into. I should have seen from the start that 3D design might require some artistic ability, but it hit me a few weeks in that most of this process would require artistic skill. And if there’s one thing I can do, it isn’t visual art.


But I got over this hurdle somehow with the help of software that makes art possible even for those truly not inclined. My brother saved the day, too, by making my game icon and several of the scenic elements, and he is, in contrast, artistically inclined. Thanks, Steve, for saving the day!

And Music

I was finally back in my comfort zone when it came to composing the game music… music’s something I’m at least familiar with. After a few hours of culling together and orchestrating loose ends of songs I’d tinkered with and liked but never been able to package into anything, and composing a few new pieces as well, I had a basic score ready for all the game levels.

And Settling Score

Of course, when it comes down to the deadline, it’s the little things that you don’t anticipate. My goal was to finish the app by the end of winter break since I’d be on to new projects after that. Making mountains, snow, programming movement all paled in comparison to the amount of work involved in formatting the score text so that it was just close enough to the edge of the screen without being slightly out of view, or diagnosing a bizarre new bug that hadn’t existed moments before that made penguins fly backward. As the clocked ticked toward my final deadline, I eventually had to make a few compromises (that’s not a bug, it’s a feature!), but I had something that I could call final. Better than that, I had built a 3D game, and now I could respond to those wanting to build their own 3D games knowing a little bit more than I did before.

Want More?

While you’re at it, you can check out Bird Bounce and my other iPhone app, Circle Draw at my site

Bit by Bit Putting it Together

For the first time in a long time, Thanksgiving break offered an uninterrupted half week of free time. I used a lot of it to revisit some musicals I hadn’t worked on in a while. I submitted my first musical, a couple years old now, to a festival and will hear back about it during winter break. But I also made progress on a short musical now almost three years in the making.

For a bit of background, I composed a ninety-minute musical in high school with my brother, which I was lucky enough to see performed as a staged reading. We started collaborating on another musical after that which was going to be full length but we trimmed it to a short, basically sung-through musical in keeping with my brother’s one-act play on which it is based.

I wrote many of the songs my freshman year of college and continued to add and tweak them basically until now. To perform it, the show would have to be scored or recorded somehow, and I didn’t have time to assemble another full piano vocal score like I did for the first one (while certainly an experience, it is extremely time consuming). So this time, I decided to look into some digital recording, which would not only handle a lot of the scoring for me but would also allow me to quickly orchestrate the piece for more than just piano.

I’d forgotten how entertaining digital recording is. In fact, I got so wrapped up in marveling at what my computer instruments could do that I quickly went  too far and produced some very complicated orchestrations. They say less is more with most orchestrations, but each song was a tad fast and a tad too dramatic, especially compared to most other arrangements I’ve heard. Of course, the anecdotal feedback I’ve received on my music is that my songs are already very energetic pieces and I need some mellower ones. What can I say – I’m a sucker for drama.

In any case, they made for some rather entertaining demo tracks, and since they’re just song demos, I’ll have plenty of time to polish them. At least I have started recording my second show. And even though I hadn’t composed anything new in a while, I was quickly getting accustomed to the formerly mysterious world of computer orchestration.

Then, just as I thought I had no more song ideas, a flurry came to me out of nowhere. That’s not entirely true – I’d been working on a ten-minute musical but hadn’t figured out how to put it together, and finally I came up with an outline for several different songs and an opening number. I guess hearing some new instruments and sounds was enough to get back into the swing of composing again.

Major Decisions: Can The Sciences and Humanities Go Together?

As a computer science/English double major, even I didn’t think I’d find a way to unify such an odd couple. In fact, I never expected to study these subjects before I came to Puget Sound. It was Puget Sound and its combination of professors, liberal arts courses, extracurricular opportunities, and classes in subjects that sounded compelling but that I never imagined studying until college that somehow edged me toward the two disparate disciplines. And it’s largely Puget Sound that’s ultimately done the work of bringing together this odd couple for me.

And as my junior year passes by faster than I could ever imagine and the prospects of internship and job searches loom increasingly close, I’m finally starting to see the connections between English and computer science that only a school like Puget Sound could help bring to light in the first place. This October, I was lucky enough to receive an internship as a feature editor at XRDS, the national flagship undergraduate magazine of the Association for Computing Machinery, a linguo-technophile’s dream come true, where I look forward to applying my interests in technology and writing to the publication. You can check out the magazine here:

I’m also in the process of developing a web app for Pearson’s first ever Student Coding Contest. The academic publisher sought out proposals for apps that integrate with their online learning module, and I was fortunate enough to have mine accepted. I won’t spill the details yet, but the app is designed to help bring the writing process online. The app’s due at the end of the month, and the ever-too-brief hours of furiously coding have commenced.

I’m a writing advisor, and I’ve also recently started working with some fellow writing advisors at the Center for Writing, Learning, & Teaching to contribute to a writing center blog and vlog, both of which are coming soon! Watch for them at It’s been another exciting chance to fuse my interests in technology and writing with many others who are equally passionate about writing. I also recently had a paper presented at a conference of writing center pedagogy. Another student from the writing center and I presented on interdisciplinary studies in the writing center, and the experience offered yet another chance to learn about how very different subjects can (and often do) collide and enrich each other. (For an interesting take on the humanities/sciences crossover and the ways the humanities and sciences overlap, see:

So, I must admit that I was skeptical at first about finding ways to pursue both of my interests in computer science and English. Puget Sound is fairly unique, I think, in encouraging students to pursue such unusual combinations. International Political Economy; Science, Technology, and Society are interdisciplinary mainstays, while a new interdisciplinary biophysics program is developing, and I know countless people pursuing and loving a huge variety of double majors. Puget Sound is also unique in offering highly focused programs so that students don’t ever have to sacrifice depth.