Getting to know the developer of You Don’t Know Jack for iPad

Apr 22, 2011

Fans of the hugely popular game You Don’t Know Jack – and anyone else who appreciates hilarious mischief in the form of a trivia game – can rejoice. A brand spanking new version of the game is now available for $4.99 on the iPad and $2.99 on other iOS devices. As Appolicious Advisor Kathryn Swartz […]

Fans of the hugely popular game You Don’t Know Jack – and anyone else who appreciates hilarious mischief in the form of a trivia game – can rejoice. A brand spanking new version of the game is now available for $4.99 on the iPad and $2.99 on other iOS devices.

As Appolicious Advisor Kathryn Swartz notes in her review of the HD version, “YDKJ is addictive” and “works well on the iPad.”

In this week’s Meet the Makers, we check in with Mike Bilder of YDKJ creator Jellyvision and discuss the process of bringing this 16-year-old franchise to iOS devices, the plans for future updates, and our favorite terms that rhyme with “2-blayer bultiblayer”.

Appolicious: What should longtime fans of You Don’t Know Jack expect from the new iPad edition? Describe what you had to condense to adhere to tablet parameters as well as new opportunities the iPad provides.

Mike Bilder: First of all, they should expect the same clever, twisted trivia game they’ve come to love, with many of the classic question types like DisOrDat and the Jack Attack. And of course, everybody’s favorite YDKJ host will be there, Cookie Masterson, who’s still unable to find a better job. We’re all excited about the release, especially Cookie’s cats, who now get to eat real cat food again.

As for the iPad, it’s a very powerful tablet with high quality audio and video.  Because of this, there weren’t many hurdles to overcome in bringing this game to the iPad.  We redesigned the question layout and interactivity with the touch interface, but beyond that, the graphics, animations, animated question number videos, and audio are true to the way the game’s always been presented. The obvious opportunity that the iPad brings is portability.  Now people can get their fill of YDKJ trivia wherever they go.  In addition, the full version supports Apple Game Center achievements and leaderboards.

Appo: Will future updates accommodate two-player options and fresh trivia questions?

MB: We are definitely planning free updates that will provide both additional gameplay features and plenty of additional episodes, but we’re being intentionally vague on specifics at this time. This allows us to keep an air of mystery, like our idol, Criss Angel. But we promise that the features users want most are at the top of our list, along with, obviously, an ongoing release of brand new question packs. We will say this: one of the iPad updates we’re working on rhymes with “2-blayer bultiblayer.” Stay tuned for further app updates and announcements.

Appo: How did you come to a $4.99 download cost and determine that two rounds of the game was an appropriate amount to giveaway in the lite version?

MB: The app pricing is based on a number of factors – our costs to create and update the game, the pricing of competitive titles in the marketplace, and the content offering to the consumer.  The full game comes with 20 episodes, and there will be future features and new episodes available through regular updates.  Our goal with the Lite version was to provide a true sampling of YDKJ in a manageable download size – two full episodes was the magic number.

Appo: This franchise launched in 1995 – an eternity in tech time. Compare both the process of developing an iPad app in 2011 to 16 years earlier, as well as the expectations and technical fluency of the end user.

MB: Firstly, from an editorial and creative standpoint, much of the process is the same. You do, however, tailor the game to the platform you’re delivering it on. For instance, in 1995 the PC game had longer questions, longer games (21 questions), and just generally a more elaborate set-up to help create the whole TV game show aura. With iPad and iPhone, you’re most likely dealing with a single person with a few minutes to kill. And in today’s world, people tend to have shorter attention spans compared to 1995, when I didn’t even own a car phone yet. So the episodes are a bit shorter, the “world” is a little more confined with fewer interruptions, etc. But overall, the creative aspects of the game are very similar to previous versions.

Now, from a technical standpoint, the difference is huge. Engineering the game was obviously the biggest difference, as we’d never done an iPad game before. Without getting too technical, suffice it to say, there were numerous challenges. But to your point of the expectations and technical fluency of the user, that’s really all Apple. They’ve done the heavy lifting. For instance, the touchscreen. How much simpler can you get when answering a trivia question than just touching the answer? And Game Center allowed us to relatively easily implement a leaderboard and achievement portal. So it was challenging, but the iOS is really enjoyable to work with.

Appo: You Don’t Know Jack currently exists on the iOS device. Are there plans to take this to Android and other platforms/devices?

MB: We’re very pleased with the launch of YDKJ on the iPad and iPhone, and it’s safe to say that YDKJ and future Jellyvision games will appear on other platforms in the mobile and social space. Or will it?!?! See, we still want keep that mysterious thing going a little. It’s not working, is it?

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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