Welcome to the official blog of My Owl Software, creator of the excellent Apple Jack games!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Screenshot Bonanza-thon!

As promised, a mountain of new Apple Jack 2 screens await your eyes below. I've added a bit of text beneath each one to explain them, since if you haven't played the first game they might be a bit confusing:


This level is called 'The Panda Factory'. Apple Jack stumbles across a perpetual motion machine where pandas fall on to and then are nudged off of a series of moving platforms. He must DESTROY THEM ALL to progress.

RUN! AJ has to run like heck away from this massive panda.

The game includes a combo system - destroy enemies in quick succesion to multiply the amount of fruit they drop. Things can quickly get out of hand, as you can see.

The Pain Turbine - The huge saw blade relentlessly forces our hero to circle this small level, picking off enemies as he goes.

Bit of a boring screen, this one, but it shows that you can push large blocks around, even if enemies are walking around on them.

Coloured enemies can only be destroyed by picking up and throwing like-colours at each other. Otherwise they bounce off harmlessly.

These eyeballs are trapped at the moment and can only watch as AJ passes beneath. Later in the level they will be released and will seek a terrible vengence.

Unlike the first game, this one has boss fights.

 More combo madness.

 This level wobbles around, threatening to crush the player.

 Fatal Frame - AJ is forced through this level inside a moving chequered frame of death.

Friday, 2 December 2011


Since last I wrote, I've done a lot of boring but nesessary stuff to the game, such as menus, particle effects, a new HUD and other bits and bobs. Expect it early next year. I'll post some more screenshots before long too.

Also, I've followed the advice of Neil the intro guy and the chap in the comments below, among others, and properly started a My Owl Twitter account. If you're into that sort of thing you can find it at:


Wednesday, 19 October 2011


I have finally finished designing all the levels! There are 61 in total (so I can cleverly put 'over 60' in the item description), including three boss encounters.

Now that's all done I can finally get around to redrawing some of the blocks, getting the checkpointing fixed and the other million things that have to be done before I can release the game, probably in the space year 2025.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The new game should have been finished and released by now, but I've still got a couple of levels to finish, and god knows how much stuff to do after that. Given that the game is built on a modified version of the first game's code, it really has taken an age.

Going forward after this game, I've got three options:

i) Keep going as I am, taking over a year to make games with a lot of content, and hope the quality is good enough for it to get noticed outside of the Xbox Indie games service (ie. Steam.)

ii) Find someone to do all the graphics for me, which would speed things up a bit but give me less control and a smaller percentage of the profits.

iii) Scale things back to focus on games which will only take 3-6 months to finish. Soumething like 'The Impossible Game" on XBLIG would be an example of such a game.

Regardless of what I do in the long term, I'll probably try and knock something out in a couple of months after this game, just to see if I can.

PS. Congratualtions to Steve W (full name withheld) for being the only entrant and therefore winner of the competition below. If he had an apple for a head he says he would hide in a tub of water during halloween and terrify the participants of an apple-bobbing competition. Well done Steve! (Although frankly you could have said anything and still won). I'll probably do something similar when the new game is coming out and hopefully get a few more entrants.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Competition time!

This is quite a long shot, but are you a fan of this blog who doesn't own the original Apple Jack on Xbox?

Perhaps you love slightly wonky platform games but don't have the funds required to play it?

Or maybe you bought it a while ago and your house burned down, killing your entire family and melting your Xbox. And then when you bought another console you forgot your Gamertag and lost all of your downloads.

Well in either case, TODAY IS YOUR LUCKY DAY!!

My Owl Software is giving one lucky person the chance to win a code which will let you download the popular Indie platformer Apple Jack ABSOLUTELY FREE! That's an astonishing saving of 65 new pence!!

Interested? All you have to do is email me explaining how you would spend your time if your head was replaced by a giant apple. I think the My Owl email address is on the right hand side of the page somewhere.

In the unlikely event that I get more than one reply, the winner will be the one I find most entertaining. And please don't bother entering if you have the game already, as it would be pointless.

Good luck, Apple heads!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

For an idea of what games COULD and SHOULD look like, have a browse through this blog:


It brings home the incredible diversity of visual art, of which videogames exploit only a tiny fraction.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Hello! I've finished designing all the forest levels and now I've got the final beach environment to finish. There will be 60 levels in total (16 left to do), and while this isn't as many as the first game had, most of the levels are larger this time around.

Every level in AJ1 was laid out on a [50 x 50] tile grid, since I wanted to make something akin to Bubble Bobble, with lots of small, short levels. In practice, this led to many of them feeling a bit cramped, so I made sure to give myself enough room for the sequel.

So now we have a [350 x 30] tile level,  followed by a small [40 x 55], then a [27 x 350] level which has AJ dropping all the way down through the clouds, weaving through spikes as he falls.

I think the next one will have AJ trapped in a maze of blocks that he has to push his way out of, a bit like a Professor Layton puzzle, but with pandas and owls patrolling in little pockets of enemy resistance [80 x 80].

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Ooh! What's this I spy on page 110 of the latest issue of the Official Xbox magazine?

(The text on the left says 'Best of the indie games, five hidden gems we loved')

Good eh! Well yes, but I'd have preferred it if they'd bothered to get the name right. Has anyone here heard of a game called "Apple Jack's"? I spent two bloody hours carving that apple for the box cover, and this is the thanks I get.

Still,  the last laugh is mine: I actually cancelled my subscription to the magazine two months ago but Future publishing doesn't seem to have noticed and have been sending it to me for free! Ha ha!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Still designing levels...Blah blah...Taking a long time...Yadda yadda...lots still to do...etcetera.

In other news, the first game has done quite well this month with over 500 sales. I certainly didn't expect it to be shifting decent numbers 15 months from release, but it's very welcome. 500 is quite a lot of people when you think about it, isn't it?

In otherer news, I had a good idea for a new game in the bath today; a 2D shooter with a real sense of scale and more fruit. Once I've finished AJ2 I'll probably get cracking on it. Possible title: SPACE ORANGE.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Here is a frame from the Apple Jack's Great Escape intro, currently being worked on by a nice chap called Neil, who's a copywriter and who recently got married. Wave to Neil everyone!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Hmm, not much to report except that designing the levels for this game is taking longer than for the first Apple Jack, for these two reasons:

1)  Most of them are larger.
2)  They are now full of moving objects and often the speed and position of these blocks/ platforms/ switches/ saws has to be worked out using trial and error; changing something in the level editor and then playing the level to see if it works.

On the upside, having gotten everything working, some of the levels are, if I say so myself, very clever and unique. Since level 20 I've started adding switches which 'turn off' blocks of scenery as long as something is pressing them down, be that a block, an enemy, or Jack himself. I'm almost spoilt for choice, which probably isn't helping in terms of a speedy release.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Rather than name the levels after UK towns and villages as in the first game, I'm going to make up names for this one. Scribbled down so far are:

- The Pain Engine
- The Dawn of the Naked Eye
- The Bacon Exchange
- The Sky is Filled with Astronauts
- The Panda Factory

and so on.

I'm taking plenty of inspiration from short stories and chapter headings in J G Ballard books - I really love their pulpy surreal-ness.

PS- To answer Chris Mingay's question in the comment section below, I did set up a My Owl Twitter account but I never used it and I no longer even know where it is or what my password was! Perhaps I'll set another one up nearer the game's release.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Quick update:

I've designed a number of levels now and things are going well. There should be a great deal of variety from level to level, more so than in the first game, and most of the difficult-to-program 'objects' I've added seem to be behaving themselves. Little alterations to the code here and there as I go along helps keep everything else honest (pigs were literally flying during the last level!).

Just being able to set the size and shape of the level multiplies the possibilities many-fold. So for example I can have a vertically scrolling, block pushing puzzle fest followed by a forced horizontally scrolling saw and spike dodging level, with a free roaming enemy chuck-fest after that. Ideas are coming thick and fast and I hope I can do the game justice.

There should be some stuff in the game that even seasoned platform veterans haven't seen before.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


This shows the third and final environment, set amongst rolling farmland, which confusingly will probably be the first used in-game, with the forest second and beach last. Unless I end up using forest first and this one second. I'm not sure yet. To add variety each environment has three time periods - day, night and sunset, and the sky, lighting and ambient sounds will change accordingly.

You'll no doubt also have noticed the big circular saw blades to the left and right of Jack. When the game's eventually released you may want to avoid touching these.

Right! Time to design some levels!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

In lieu of any new Apple Jack related announcements (work continues apace), I thought I'd mention this amazing animation, one of the very few perfect things on the planet.

'Hedgehog in the fog' was made in 1975 by Russian animator Yuri Norstein, and concerns the adventures of the titular yozhik as he (I think it's a he) is drawn down into thick fog by the vision of a beautiful white horse. He meets various creatures in the fog; some scary, some mysterious, some helpful.

It only lasts 10 minutes but a lot is packed in, and you suspect that everything has some kind of deeper meaning beyond the simple adventures of a lost hedgehog. But who knows? It's all very Zen.

Norstein has won all sorts of animation awards (HITF has been named the best animated film of all time) and since the eighties has been working on an adaption of Gogol's 'The Overcoat'. But his productivity has shrunk to the point that he is now known as 'The Golden Snail' in his native Russia.

Let's hope that he eventually comes out with something amazing!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The hardest thing about programming the first Apple Jack was that enemies could be picked up and thrown anywhere, even into parts of the level that no sane designer would think to place them. This meant that I had to spend a lot of time tuning each type of enemy to work everywhere and not get stuck in a corner, or walk through a wall, or escape the play area altogether and crash the game, the little sods.

Now let's add pushable, stackable blocks to the above scenario.

Done that? Now add moving platforms that can ferry the player, the blocks and the enemies around the level in different directions and speeds.

Now add switches that can make the moving blocks suddenly disappear when pushed on by the player, enemy or another block.

And now factor in the fact that I'm a complete idiot who doesn't plan ahead and just adds stuff in willy nilly while adjusting older code in the vain hope of making it all somehow work.

My next game after this is going to be a text adventure or something, I swear.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

As a personal service to my one follower, uramyx, the following screenshot of the forthcoming Apple Jack sequel MAY ONLY BE VIEWED BY HIM.

If you aren't uramyx you must under no circumstances look at this shot of Apple Jack at the seaside, or imagine the clouds slowly drifting across the screen, casting shadows on the water which itself laps at the beach while the blades of the wind turbines revolve:

 Everyone else, move along...

Sunday, 1 May 2011

And hot on the heels of my first post comes this second one, only six months later! Why mister ambassador, with your two posts a year average you are really spoiling us!

My Owl Software is proud to present this first screenshot of what is currently called 'Apple Jack's Great Escape' but may end up being called something else:

 Here we see Jack trying to push some stacked blocks to use as stepping stones to clear a tree stump, while a huge panda stomps towards him in a forest.

While I'm not going to give you a full feature list right now, rest assured that all the moves from the first game will be present and correct, alongside lots of new features. Please look forward to it, as they say in the orient.

Much is left still to do, but I'm currently cracking on with the drawing and soon, after a bit of code-tightening (alright, a lot of code-tightening), I'll be on to designing the levels which is the most enjoyable bit for me.

More screens soon. Au revoir!