“Simply Chess” – now free to play on Steam!

Our fourth game, “Simply Chess” is now available on Steam!
Chess on Steam

It’s just what it sounds like: Chess! We wanted to stick to the basics, but to provide a ton of play modes: local multiplayer, pass-n-play, 100 Levels of AI powered by the Stockfish engine, online play, and async play (correspondence chess) w/Steam Notifications. We are also striving to make it widely accessible, so we’ve released on Windows, Mac, and Linux simultaneously and we support keyboard/mouse/gamepad interchangeably at any time.

We launched it just less than a week ago and were immediately surprised by the amount of traffic it got. In one day, it had doubled the number of downloads that our previous best-selling game has gotten in 1.5 years!

With this army of 10’s of thousands of testers, the community was able to find a ton of bugs and feature-improvements so we’ve been pushing a bunch of updates nonstop! Steam handles the upgrade-process so new versions only require downloading about as many bytes as you download when you hit a website… so we’re releasing quite often.

The way this game works: all features are totally free! After you’ve played a couple of games, you’ll get a 7 second cross-promotion before each new match. The cross-promotions are just ads for one of the other three digital tabletop games that BlueLine has released on Steam. If you’d rather not see the cross-promotions or want to send us a couple of bucks as a thank-you for the game: you can upgrade to Premium for $4.99 and you won’t see the cross promotion again.

Also, as a special thanks to our loyal fans… if you own all three of our other games, we will be updating the game so that you don’t see ads (basically: you get Premium for free).

We just want to say thank you to everyone who’s been playing & who has given us feedback on the game! It’s been a wild week and we’re expecting to cross the 100,000 downloads mark today!

Introducing “BlueZebra” a GPL command-line Reversi AI

blueZebra
Today, we’re releasing some Open Source freeware! As part of creating our next game (Reversi for PC, Mac, and Linux on Steam), we wanted to make use of some of the great AI that’s already been written for Reversi over the years.

One of the most respected Reversi AI programs is WZebra by Gunnar Andersson. WZebra hasn’t been updated since around 2005, but it was released under GPL and included a command-line tool for solving the end of a bunch of games (scrZebra) as well as some other analysis tasks. What it didn’t include, was a way to access WZebra’s AI via command-line to easily get the best move for a specific board layout. That’s exactly what BlueZebra is: BlueLine’s customization to allow command-line access to WZebra AI.

Here is a zip of the project: download BlueZebra*. Since it is based on a GPL project, it is itself released under a GPL license. To make changes, use the Visual Studio solution and recompile. We also updated the Makefile to work with modern systems (it was made when everything was 32 bit) and made the Makefile compile on OSX, not just Linux.

Run “blueZebra.exe ?” to get help info for each of the parameters, but to give you an idea of how you can pass everything in & get back a move from the AI, here is example usage:

prompt> blueZebra.exe -cli -b 1 -e 0 -line 2 -scores 0 -depth 24 26 28 -board -----X------X------XOX-----OO-----OXO------X-------------------- -turn O
c6

“c6” is the move that the AI returned for White to play.

*: hashes of the zip file…
md5: af7733545b7bb21aed9399c5f3f08f6d
sha1: 30b7d0379f318c6974460d066944a11fcc3215fe

Our next game: Reversi!

Reversi
About a month and a half ago, we released Khet 2.0 on Steam. After a few updates (fixes & new features) then last weeks release of the ‘Eye of Horus’ Beam Splitter expansion… we’re spending part of our time on our next game: Reversi!

It will be on Steam and we plan to support PC, Mac, and Linux at launch & we currently have no plans for any DLC.

If you’ve been following along on our @BlueLineGames twitter account, this might not be a huge surprise to you. We were tweeting a picture of our passing unit-tests in mid-summer. Yup, while we were ironing out the details of the licensing on Khet, we did about a month of work on Reversi! So we’re off to a great head-start.

As an indie-dev, releasing a game in the middle of the holiday season seems a bit quixotic, so we’re not going to rush it. In parallel, we’ll be doing upgrades to add new features to our engine – which will benefit Reversi as well as our already-released games Hive and Khet 2.0.

Some may be wondering about why we’re going with the classic “Reversi” name rather than the more modern licensed name. Honestly, we like the newer name & the community that’s been built around it. We spent months chasing after that license and we want to (and think we may) get it one day. In the meantime… Reversi! 🙂

Hive is coming to Steam! Pre-order now for 30% off!

We are downright giddy to announce… Hive is coming to Steam! It’ll be the same great game as on Xbox, but will have a few extra bonuses:

  • Game will track over 40 stats on Steam and you can earn 30+ Steam Achievements.
  • There will be 2 new levels of AI. Since even low-end PCs are typically a lot more powerful than Xbox 360s (because those are now quite old) this gives an opportunity to have the AI make much, much better moves in the same amount of thinking-time.
  • Seamlessly switch between using your mouse/keyboard or playing with a gamepad.

The first release will be on PC, but we hope to release it on both Mac and Linux soon afterward. Buying the game means you’ll get a Steam key once the game is released. This will allow you to play on any/all of the platforms once each platform is available (eg: if you buy now, you can play on PC as soon as that’s released and you do not have to re-buy it to play on Mac when the Mac version comes out).

To give a better deal to our loyal fans, we’re offering a 30% discount on pre-orders! Get it below using the Humble Widget (powered by the “Humble Bundle” team):

If you can’t see the widget above, you can click this link to pre-order Hive. Have an old computer? If you’re worried about compatibility, please check the minimum requirements on the Steam Store page (scroll down a bit or search for ‘System Requirements’).

UPDATE: You can now buy this game on Steam ‘Early Access’ which will let you play the incomplete beta immediately, and you will automatically be upgraded to the full version once it is released. Please click ‘add to card’ on the Hive page on Steam.

Like being kept in the loop? Join the mailing list to keep up with our announcements:

Join our mailing list to receive announcements
E-mail address:
 

Buy the Hive Pillbug expansion and get the Xbox 360 version free!

PillbugThere’s been a lot of excitement around the upcoming release of the Pillbug expansion for Hive.

We have great news: if you buy the Pillbug expansion when it comes out, the package will have a code on it which will let you unlock the Pillbug in the Xbox version of Hive!

While this is a pretty big update… we have even better news coming up soon. Join the mailing list to keep up with our announcements:

Join our mailing list to receive announcements
(we have some big things coming up)!
E-mail address:
 

“Burndown for Trello” now has a Pro version

About a year ago, we started building a scrum-like burndown tool for Trello to help us manage our own projects. After a few months of work, we made it so that anyone could sign up for the free burndown charts for Trello.

dat exponential growth

Burndown for Trello – exponential user growth

We thought that a decent number of people would find it useful, but we didn’t count on it growing as fast as it did! We started getting a lot of requests for additional features. Since we were busy releasing Hive for Xbox 360, it was hard to find time to add new things. Our solution was to create a paid account, so we can spend more time on this project which it seems there is a huge demand for.

We want to do-right by our existing free users, so here are the basics:

  • The free account will remain free and will have all of the features it has today.
  • Anyone who signed up before the paid account was created is an “Early Adopter” and is eligible for a perpetual discount on the paid version (look for Early Adopter in the dropdown that lets you pick a plan).

At some point since the last blog-post, we added the average-velocity line which was requested by users.

At some point since the last blog-post, we added the average-velocity line which was requested by users.

There were some other changes that we made in the process of creating this paid account:

  • The name is now “Burndown for Trello”. We were told by someone at Trello that ‘Trello Burndown’ might create trademark issues.
  • The app is no longer just in a folder on BlueLine’s site… it’s at its own domain now: http://BurndownForTrello.com
  • All requests are now sent over https, so your company’s data is always encrypted.

We’ll be adding more and more to the paid account, but here are the main reasons to upgrade:

  1. Support us! More paid accounts == more time for us to make new features!
  2. Automatic daily updates of stats – even if you don’t visit the site in a given day, if you have a paid account we’ll pull the data from the Trello API for each board and store the stats. Until now, if you didn’t view a board in a specific day, then the next time you view that board, we just extrapolated (averaged) the data across all of the missing days.
  3. All new features will be added to the paid accounts. Free users get the app as it is now (with only minor upgrades, like site redesigns, bug fixes and global changes like adding https). All of the big stuff coming up is paid-only.
  4. MORE SOON! – We’ve had a ton of suggestions, and we’re hoping to add many cool features. Next up, we’re hoping to let you put your estimates in the titles of Trello cards, so you don’t have to visit Burndown for Trello to update your estimates.
  5. Update: March 8th, 2013 – we just finished & rolled out integration with the “Scrum for Trello” Chrome extension. This means that you can put estimates in the titles of the cards in parentheses like this: (2) whether you have the extension or not. If you do this, Burndown for Trello will automatically pull in the estimate. This was hands-down our most requested feature up to this point.

If you want to get all of the new features as we add them, head over to Burndown for Trello and click on the upgrade button!

Announcing our next game: Khet 2.0 for Xbox 360!

Khet 2.0
Keeping up with the exciting pace of this year so far… we have an awesome announcement to make:

BlueLine Game Studios has been given an exclusive license to bring the extremely popular Khet 2.0 board game to Xbox!

Khet 2.0 is an Egyptian-themed two-player game with real lasers. It has been growing in popularity world-wide, and has a successful iPhone/iPad version.

The game is already well into development, and we are using the same board game engine that we wrote while making Hive for Xbox. The Xbox version of Khet 2.0 is planned to have single-player (against AI), local multiplayer, pass-n-play (if you only have one controller), online multiplayer, full 3D graphics & camera-control, a global highscores list… and frickin’ lasers!

If you want to be notified when the game goes into Alpha/Beta testing or for the final release, please sign up for the BlueLine Games “Release Announcements” mailing list.

New game: Hive for Xbox 360!

After more than 15 months of work, many nights of play-testing by our devoted Alpha team, and close to a kiddie-pool worth of Mountain Dew… it’s finally here!

Hive for Xbox 360!

Hive screenshot

When you think you’re starting to get good, add me on Xbox Live – “SeanColombo” – and I’ll gladly play a round with you!

If you have any questions, suggestions, or feedback… please leave them in the comments below!

Trello Burndown is open source!

Recently, we made one of our internal tools publicly available: Burndown charts for Trello. It’s been surprisingly successful: all we did was blog about it and there are about 100 users who have logged in already!

Since the little app seems to be gaining popularity, we figured that now would be a good time to open up the source-code so that others can either help improve it, or just use it to learn about the Trello API.

Here are the important links:

If you have improvements to contribute, please let us know! 🙂

Free app: Trello Burndown

BlueLine Games is a small team and we NEED to move fast (time is money!). Because of this we need awesome (and lightweight) project managment solutions.

Thanks to recommendations from Vicky Carlsson we found the tools Toggl and Trello. Toggl is a simple tool for time-tracking (might blog more about that later).

Trello is a lightweight project management tool for tracking tasks on cards (somewhat Kanban style if you want it to be). It’s relatively new, and one of the few drawbacks I found to it is that there isn’t a clear way to estimates tasks so it’s hard to figure out how long an entire project will take.

Since I couldn’t find a good solution, I built one: Trello Burndown. To use it, just connect with your Trello account (the API uses OAuth so we never see your password). There is a place next to each task for a time-estimate. Just fill that out (and update it if your estimate changes). Each day that you log in, the app will store the total of your estimates & chart your burndown. In addition, it will estimate your completion date. The more days you login, the more accurate the total will become.

We’ve recently switched to using Scrum-like sprints, and have found that the Burndown charts are working pretty well for that. This will also be driving us to have more scrum-like features for the app in the near-future (like setting a sprint-duration and comparing your burndown to expected velocity, etc.).

Let us know in the comments if you found it helpful or if you have any questions!

Trello Burndown Chart2012-05-23 Update: Tonight I’ve released an upgrade to switch from the old Google Image Charts API (which is deprecated now and will disappear in 11 months) to the new Google Charts API. In simple english: the charts now look better, they have mouse-over info on every point, and they have two lines (“Hours Elapsed” and “Hours Completed”).