The Breakroom

Tot’s Got Your Back

January 12, 2022

By Craig Hockenberry

We’re pleased to announce the immediate availability of Tot 1.2.4 on macOS. Besides the normal bug fixes and minor improvements, there’s a feature we hope you never have to use: Automatic Backups.

Tot now makes sure you have a copy of your notes stored on the local disk as well as in iCloud. Backups are performed every hour while you’re using the app and at launch or quit. There’s no configuration, “it just works”.

If your notes ever get accidentally deleted, you can use the File > Show Automatic Backups… to get a list of your changes over the past few days. Each file is JSON text that can be viewed in a text editor and restored using File > Restore Backup…

If you haven’t tried Tot yet, now’s the perfect time. It’s available for FREE on macOS and as a paid download on iOS. You can also learn more about both apps on the Tot website. Enjoy!

Year In Review for 2021

December 21, 2021

By Ged Maheux

Another year has come to a close and it’s time to reflect on our accomplishments over the past fifty-two weeks. Spoiler alert: It’s a lot! The year 2021 was full of major milestones as we crafted a new and exciting chapter in the life of our very first game, celebrated 25 years in business, continued to serve our design clients, and launched a major release to one of our favorite productivity apps.

The Year of Frenzic

Frenzic’s long journey from the simple puzzle game in 2007 to this year’s exciting release of Frenzic: Overtime on Apple Arcade spanned a total of 14 years. Efforts on Overtime actually began in March of 2020 as we worked from our homes during the pandemic, and culminated with the release in June of 2021. 

Creating Frenzic: Overtime was a labor of love for our entire team and we were thrilled to bring this long-awaited sequel to life. The game combines fast-paced play with stunning visuals and sound to create a frenetic, fun experience for Apple Arcade players the world-over.

This title on Apple Arcade was accompanied by super-cool swag like collectible pins and an amazing, original soundtrack available for streaming on Apple Music and Spotify.

We followed up the initial release with Frenzic’s Test Lab Daily Challenge in October. Players flex their fingers and compete to become the top bot each day, participating in unique challenges and special holiday events like Halloween and Christmas. 

If you just can’t get enough Frenzic, fear not! The bots are hard at work assembling the next chapter in the story and promise to deliver new puzzles, strategies, and fun for everyone in 2022. Stay tuned!

Silver Linings

June marked a major milestone in the form of our Silver Pixel Anniversary. The Iconfactory celebrated our 25th year in business getting to do the things we love most – pushing pixels and creating apps.

The Iconfactory’s founders: Ged Maheux, Corey Marion, and Talos Tsui.

When we think back to where it all started, posting tiny 32×32 icons on AOL, and how we grew over the past two and half decades, we have to pinch ourselves. Along the way we’ve had the honor of working alongside some of the most talented developers and designers in the business and for that we are truly grateful.

We’re also proud to have a small sample of our work included in The iOS App Icon Book coming next year from our friend Michael Flareup. It’s wonderful to be honored in print along with so many of our iconic peers, and we hope you’ll check it out.

At Long Last, Linea

We shipped updates to most of our apps during 2021, including a substantial update to Twitterrific, and measured improvements in Tot, Triode, and others.

But Linea was our biggest update and our main focus in the second half of the year.

Linea Sketch 4 brought two major new features that users have been long requesting – support for text in the form of Annotations, and a way to paint and sketch organically with Linea’s new watercolor brush. Customers enjoyed the app’s improvements and continued focus on simplicity that lets them spend their time where it matters most – sketching out ideas.

Our Linea YouTube channel grew by leaps and bounds in 2021, offering new tutorials as well as tips and tricks to get the most out of the app. If you’ve not subscribed head on over and mash that button! There are more great improvements coming in the months ahead, so be sure to follow @Linea_App on Twitter for the latest news and sneak peeks.

One More Thing

Innovation at Apple has always inspired us. Even when it comes in the form of a notch on the latest MacBook Pros.

As we close out the year, we’re happy to have a fun little app that is our gift to Mac users everywhere: Notchmeister. It follows the long tradition of software on the Mac whose only purpose it to make you smile. Like any gift, the less you know about it before downloading, the better!

Snug In Our Beds

Twitterrific’s Ollie perched over Tim Cook’s shoulder during the WWDC 2021 Keynote.

As we take our well-earned holiday break, it’s easy to lose track of all the things we achieved in 2021. We added over 80 new wallpapers for our loyal Patreon subscribers, crafted new and exciting icons, emoji, and interfaces for our design clients, and even appeared in Apple’s WWDC Keynote address. Well, at least Ollie did :-)

Who can say what the new year will hold for us or our loyal customers and fans? We can only strive to continue to create the kind of work you’ve known and loved for the past 25 years. As always, new opportunities will arise, new challenges will present themselves, and hopefully we’ll all stay safe and thrive in 2022. We hope you’ll join us again next year. Happy holidays, everyone!

Notches Gone Wild!

December 17, 2021

By Craig Hockenberry

This holiday season we have a special gift for Mac users everywhere, especially ones with a new MacBook Pro and notch. We’re proud to announce the immediate availability of Notchmeister.

So what does Notchmeister do?

Think of it as a fun way to spruce up your notch. Or as a screen saver for something you can’t see. Or, maybe, just a useless waste of time.

If you’re now even more confused, just download the app and give it a try. It’s a FREE download on the Mac App Store.

And if you’re a developer and wondering how all this nutty stuff works, take a look at the code. Following @Notchmeister is also a good way to keep up with all the latest news.

Happy holidays!

Frenzic: Overtime Gains Accessibility, Speed

December 6, 2021

By Webmaster

We’re pleased to announce that Frenzic: Overtime has been updated with a new Accessibility option in the game’s Settings panel. Players can now choose to play with Frenzic’s default colors or using the new Colorblind Mode. The colorblind mode uses a different set of colors for the chips that should make it easier to play if the originals didn’t work well for you.

In addition, all players will enjoy the improved speed of the 1.1.1 update. The game launches faster, loads levels more quickly, and has a much smaller memory footprint.

The Frenzic corporate office will no doubt be proud. Download the Frenzic: Overtime 1.1.1 update from Apple Arcade today. Have fun, everyone!

Announcing Linea Sketch 4

November 16, 2021

By Ged Maheux

Today we’re pleased to announce a major update to Linea Sketch, our digital sketchbook for iPad and Apple Pencil. Version 4 brings a host of long-requested features that creators are sure to love: editable text annotations, a new watercolor brush, lockable layers, and much more. 

The Text’s The Thing

Linea Sketch 4 brings the ability to add text and labels to your sketches. Tap the new “Aa” icon to enter Annotation mode, then tap anywhere on your drawing to create an annotation. Scribble with an Apple Pencil to edit directly or tap with your finger to invoke the keyboard and type your own text. 

Choose from a wide variety of fonts including Linea Sans, a new custom typeface designed especially for use in sketches. You can easily adjust text formatting, alignment, and colors. Use preset sizes for a uniform appearance, or scale text dynamically with a simple tap and drag. Text can also be merged into a layer, letting you transform and stylize it as needed. The possibilities are endless. 

Water Water Everywhere

With Linea’s new watercolor brush, you can now paint and fill your creations organically. Create rustic and artistic effects by painting with pigment in three different modes:

  • Simple for textured, painterly strokes.
  • Wet for watery strokes with pooled pigment at the edges.
  • Cloud for textured splats that are great for skies, landscapes, or backgrounds.

Linea’s watercolor brush is unique and allows you to apply color in many new ways. We encourage you to experiment with the brush’s various modes to find the one that works best for your creations.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Version 4 also includes a host of important features and improvements designed to reduce friction and save time when drawing in Linea Sketch. Chief among these improvements is the ability to lock layers: when you open the options for any layer, you’ll see a lock icon that prevents changes. Locked layers speed up your work flow, since you don’t need to worry about stray marks, merging, or accidentally modifying part of a layer.

We’ve also added the ability to adjust corner radii on rectangular ZipShapes. After you draw a rough shape and hold at the end, you’ll see four new green drag handles. Drag a handle and all four corners will adjust in unison, or tap & hold on a handle to adjust the corners individually.

There are many more improvements, including the ability to organize custom color chips, larger sizes for drawing tools, and snapping to size or aspect ratio when transforming. The version history has full details.

Introducing Linea Premium

Linea Sketch continues to be a FREE download with features that can be used without payment. Beginning today, new features like Annotations and the Watercolor Brush require a Linea Premium subscription. The good news is that you can sign up for a FREE two week trial and take these new tools for a spin.

If you’d prefer get these features without a subscription, Linea Premium is also available as a one-time purchase that unlocks the new features, as well as ones in the future, without recurring payments.

If you haven’t tried Linea Sketch yet, today’s update is the perfect opportunity to see why so many people call Linea their favorite sketchpad. Visit our YouTube channel to learn all about the app, see helpful tutorials, and get tips and tricks. The version history page has a complete rundown on what’s new, and a download of Linea Sketch is just a tap away. You’ll be creating in no time!

The Test Lab: A Daily Frenzic Challenge

October 15, 2021

By Webmaster

The bots are back! Today we’re announcing the grand opening of Frenzic: Overtime’s Test Lab. Compete against friends and other players worldwide in WhizBot’s exciting daily challenges. Devise unique strategies to earn Squarks and complete bonuses as you fight to earn your place as top bot on the leaderboard.

Report to the Test Lab every day for new levels, bonuses, and endless challenges that build on the skills you’ve already acquired playing Frenzic on Apple Arcade. There are a bunch of fun Game Center achievements to earn, rewards for maintaining daily streaks, and even special holiday events you won’t want to miss.

We’ve also joined forces with the amazing team at Backbone, makers of our favorite handheld controller for iPhone, to bring you something special – a super-cool, Backbone-themed skin for DoBot. Simply plug your iPhone into Backbone while playing Frenzic: Overtime and DoBot’s slick new appearance is revealed. Trust us when we say you’ll be the envy of every other bot on the assembly line.

Today’s Frenzic: Overtime update also contains many visual and gameplay enhancements, bug fixes, and improved localization. We’re also paving the way for new Frenzic goodness in the months ahead: follow Frenzic on Twitter to be the first to know! We can’t wait to see how you stack up in the Test Lab: these challenges won’t beat themselves! 

Pumpkin-Spice-Up Inktober With Linea

September 21, 2021

By Ged Maheux

Header banner with the title "Quickly Import Inktober 2021 Daily Templates Into Linea Sketch (via iCloud)

Started by illustrator and animator Jake Parker in 2014, Inktober encourages artists, amateurs and professionals alike, to express themselves every day during the month of October. Each day people craft a sketch or drawing based on the day’s creative prompt in their favorite artistic mediums, be they analog or digital.

The official prompt list for Inktober 2021 including days like sour, moon, spark and raven.

Back in 2019 and again in 2020, we created a set of handy Inktober templates for our iPad drawing app, Linea Sketch that outlines the prompts for each of the 31 days in Inktober. The prompt list for 2021 is officially out and we’ve updated these free templates to help Linea users stay organized as they sketch, doodle and draw their way through to the end of the month.

These Inktober 2021 templates are broken out by pages and numbered to contain the prompt for that particular day’s drawing. The templates are great for those who like to have a uniform set of drawings for the entire month or who want to stay tight and focused on their daily creations.

Screen shot from Linea Sketch on the iPad showing a grid of sketches from Inktober 2019.

Linea’s Inktober 2021 templates are completely free, easy to set up, and offer a nice way to join in on the inking fun. Speaking of easy, this year we’ve improved the process of importing the templates into Linea Sketch on the iPad. Using the magic of iCloud, users will be able to get up and running with their templates in just a few seconds. If you need a fallback, the manual method of importing each day’s templates still works like a charm.

Lastly, don’t forget to tag your Inktober Twitter and Instagram posts with #LineaSketch – we’ll be re-tweeting and sharing our favorite drawings on Twitter and Instagram. Download those templates and charge those Apple Pencils, October will be here before you know it!

xScope 25% for Iconfactory 25th

August 9, 2021

By Webmaster

xScope product logo

In June we celebrated our silver pixel anniversary, 25 years of serving clients, creating software, and pushing pixels just for you. As part of that celebration we’ve been offering discounts on some of our apps. We’re happy to announce that our helpful screen measurement tool, xScope, is up next!

For the next two weeks, today through August 25th, you will receive 25% off xScope’s retail price when you buy a single user license from our newly-revamped xScope order page. Use the following promo code to get your discount:

ICON25

You can now purchase directly from the Iconfactory using Apple Pay, PayPal, or a credit card. Our new order page handles upgrades for single user licenses, promo codes like the one above, and multi-user discounts for teams of up to 30 people.

It’s never been easier to equip your designers and developers with xScope, the app we like to call our swiss army knife for the screen. Enjoy!

Frenzic: Overtime – The Long Wait Is Over

July 7, 2021

By Craig Hockenberry

Last month’s announcement was a long time coming.

Frenzic on macOS was introduced 14 years ago. For players on iOS, it was a mere 13 year wait.

Our First Wait

The long delay shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise: the development history of Frenzic is full of waiting for the right moment. It started at the beginning of 2007 when we released Frenzic on macOS. Something else happened at the same time: an iPhone announcement.

We loved playing Frenzic, and were very proud of our work on the desktop, but as soon as we held an iPhone in our hands, we all knew that Frenzic was going to be fantastic on a touch screen. And so began our first wait: for a development platform where our ideas could flourish.

Our first prototype used a “sweet solution” with Safari’s web technologies. While it was an excellent way to test out game interactions and to get us even more excited about the iPhone, it just wasn’t enough to do the game justice. In retrospect, it is pretty sweet that you can still play Frenzic 1.0 in a web browser.

A demo reel for the original Frenzic.

While we waited for a native development environment, jailbreaking started during the summer of 2007. With apps like Lucas Newman’s LightsOffTouch, the future of iOS gaming was clear because we were carrying it around in our pockets. Could we be even more excited about bringing Frenzic to the iPhone? No, but yes.

The excitement kept ramping up: first with the announcement of an SDK in October, then the start of native development in March. The wait was worth it because we could finally make the product we wanted.

Several months later we released one of the first hit games on the App Store. It was a showcase of what this new device could do and how gameplay would forever be changed with the introduction of fingers.

Then began the longest wait of all.

The Longest Wait

We all wanted to do a sequel and had both the creative urge and technical ability. The struggle was finding a way to be paid for our work. As with the original game, there were several prototypes, but we couldn’t find a way to keep Frenzic fun in a world where free-to-play dominated. Coins for pie pieces may make sense for your local bakery, but it had no place in Frenzic.

Two prototypes: one for play testing and another experimenting with flat design.
Two prototypes: one for play testing and another experimenting with flat design.

That all changed in March 2019 with the announcement of Apple Arcade. We finally saw a way to make the game we wanted. Thankfully, Apple agreed and everything lined up for the project to start a year later in March 2020.

Wait, What?

Was there something else that happened that month? Oh yeah, a global pandemic.

After waiting over a decade for this opportunity, we weren’t going to let a novel coronavirus mess things up. We locked down and got to work.

In retrospect, Frenzic gave us something wonderful during a difficult time. Our social activities were curtailed, but we still had an outlet for our creativity and a team that supported each other through thick and thin. Like everyone else, we struggled with the “new normal”, but in many ways, what we were working on felt very familiar.

The first few months were spent prototyping (there’s that word again!) and refining new gameplay. One of the first things we did was resurrect the original game to refresh our ten year old memories!

Parallax prototyping shown in three dimensions.

This was our first project in Unity, so there was a learning curve for everyone involved. We also had to grapple with the fact that we were going to localize this product in 17 languages (Dio mio!) Game prototypes were made and discarded and made again; six months later you could earn goals in all levels. We then polished and tested and polished again. And added some Easter Eggs.

(Fun fact: Frenzic’s original creator has a brother who co-founded Unity Technologies.)

Worth the Wait

There were many challenges during the year and a half it took to develop the app, including an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on the day we uploaded our first version for App Review. But we persisted and made something that we’re all extremely proud of.

Many of our beta testers weren’t even born when the first game was released, but the wait has been worth it: we finally got to make the product we wanted. We hope you agree.

And we have lots more planned for the future. But, of course, we all have to wait for that to happen :-)

In the meantime, there’s lots more to learn at frenzic.com. Follow us at @Frenzic for news and information, including help with finding those Easter Eggs!

Making Music for Robots

June 28, 2021

By David Brasgalla

Frenzic: Overtime is the fast-paced sequel to the original game which first debuted thirteen years ago. Everything about this new title has been propelled far beyond the original – including the soundtrack music which is streaming now on Apple Music and Spotify.

When I created the original music for Frenzic, I’d been a casual GarageBand user for several years, and my construction method reflected that: I was mainly working with Apple Loops and one-shot WAV files. This was a perfectly workable solution at the time, but the use of standard libraries of loops and sounds meant I’d have to accept a certain generic flavour to the result. I’d certainly become adept at spotting those familiar loops in other musicians’ music, and I knew they would certainly hear them in mine in turn.

When I sat down to create the music for Frenzic: Overtime, I began with that same technique out of habit, this time using Logic Pro. As soon as I heard the results of my first experimentations, I knew I was going to have to push myself much farther this time. Logic Pro has an impressive array of loops available, but I wanted to find a unique sound for the game this time. I needed to compose!

Next Steps

My main desire was to evoke a lot of the classic synth sounds I grew up with in the 70’s and 80’s – artists like Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, Brian Eno, Depeche Mode, Vangelis, Tomita, and Wendy Carlos. This would be a way to pay tribute to all of them, and I’d probably never get a better opportunity. There was also a definite “kid in a candy store” element at work, as all of today’s great synth tools would have cost a substantial fortune back in the late 70’s/early 80’s, yet I can now obtain nearly anything at very affordable prices, or even free. 

A small peek at what went into just one of the tracks for Frenzic: Overtime

Setting to work, I decided to make the all of the various tracks be variations on my update of the original Frenzic theme music, and to see just how far I could twist and manipulate that theme. I created three pieces of music for each of the three major gameplay modes – one piece for each difficulty level therein. The tempo of each piece corresponds to the difficulty level: Easy/110, Medium/120 and Hard/130 beats per minute, so that the pace increased alongside the game challenge (WhizBot’s Lab is heard outside gameplay, and is intended to be relaxing for the user as they decide how to spend squarks and set up their powerups).

As I was creating the game’s sound effects at the same time, I felt it was important to keep the texture of the music distinct from those FX, so that the user wouldn’t get confused and perhaps think that a sound within the music track was somehow part of the gameplay. Generally, there’s a liberal use of reverbs to give the music a more ambient character, to push them farther away from the listener, while the FX were kept rather “dry” and upfront.

What became the most enjoyable part of the process was the actual performance, playing the parts and creating my own passages (I’d sometimes realise I’d just been playing the keyboard for a while out of inspiration, grooving on the sound and not actually recording anything). Once I had something I really liked, I’d run the piece past the rest of the Frenzic team, and Ged would give me feedback like “Add a touch more mystery…” or “How about a slightly sinister edge?”

Sometimes things went a bit too far  – Hacker Three had actually been inspired by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ amazing soundtrack for Watchmen, and originally ended in a sort of industrial, wailing guitar-like solo, rocking fairly hard. It was fun, but I when I revisited it after a bit, I knew it was wrong for the flavour of the game. I decided to invert that whole section at the end of the piece, which now becomes quite subdued and opens out in a way that better suits the Frenzic: Overtime aesthetic. A trace of those guitars is still left in Primary Two – I just couldn’t let them go completely!

As much fun as it was to have access to all of those classic synth sounds, some of my favourite passages are where I started going off into my own territory. Brian Eno has written that he feels we tend to put about twice as much material into a song as we really need to, and I think in my case that’s probably true. I definitely stuffed a lot into these tracks. However, it was when I started opening things up that the most satisfying results emerged for me. A good example is in Primary Two (right around 1:06) when I scaled everything back and let it all breathe. That’s the kind of point where I managed to move out of being propelled more by homage and pastiche, and it’s just all me. Sabotage One also has a lot of this going on.

The Technical Bits

The first main audio unit I started with was u-he’s excellent (and free!) Tyrell N6 software synthesizer. This wonderful little gem was perfect. It was really fun and inspiring to use, and had exactly the kinds of sounds I was looking for. The Tyrell led me to u-he’s Podolski synth which was just right for many of the prominent basslines, and the Zebralette synth was also pressed into service. Futucrafts’ Kairatune unit provided some playful and quirky additions on several songs.

Immediately realising that using a screen keyboard would not suffice, I rapidly moved through some MIDI keyboards: I began with a tiny Nektar SE25 mini-key that could fit in my backpack, jumped very quickly to a Nektar Impact LX25+, a Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32, and finally an Arturia Keystep to get the Aftertouch feature. I’m sure I’ll keep moving upwards in this department.

Logic Pro also has some excellent drum synths built in, but I ended up creating mostly custom kits using Logic’s Drum Machine Designer. My two main kits were called “Retro” and “H4CKR”, with the latter being quite grainy and blip-like, and they were filled with all kinds of sampled treasure I’ve gathered over the years. I also built a little custom reproduction of the Roland CR-78, which I’ve always had a particular fondness for.

For effects, I made good use of Logic’s built-in Space Designer reverb (mainly for all the great movement effects), but I also can’t say enough good things about Valhalla’s effects plug-in line. I found myself turning to SuperMassive, VintageVerb, Delay and Shimmer extensively – probably too much! Sean, Don and Kristin – you all made my work so much easier with your great software.

That’s a Wrap

The entire musical project ended up taking just under a year to complete. By the time I’d finished the last sections of music, my working process had completely changed, and I had learned so much about recording and mixing that I needed to go back and remix everything in order to unify the soundtrack. It was good to have a deadline, though, or I might still be tinkering with it!

Working on the Frenzic: Overtime soundtrack has been an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable experience from start to finish, and has thoroughly re-awakened my interest in recording music. As I listen back over the finished work, I’m very pleased with how it all came together, and how well the music sits alongside the wonderful work created by the other members of the team. As I had originally hoped, there’s certainly a lot of those iconic 70’s/80’s synth textures and flavours present, but I believe we also managed to forge a new musical identity for Frenzic that is forward-looking and fun. Now it’s time to build some power cores!