How Placescore became the first app I built in Sketch.

We just released Placescore to the public. Not a big deal, just one and a half years of work suddenly in the hands of a few thousand people. Oh my god, hold me.

I had the idea for Placescore a long time ago. Remember Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on the original Playstation? I loved that game, it made me buy a skateboard. Not that I ever tried to drive it, it just stood there for a couple of years. However, THPS 2 didn’t only have a great soundtrack (AND I’M TNT! DYNAMITE!), no, it had one of the best multiplayer modes I ever encountered: Graffiti. It was easy: Two players land tricks on ramps, every ramp gets a highscore. The player with the highest score owns the ramp and it gets the player’s color.

I needed forever to get this into something that was actually usable on mobile devices. I thought about maps and colored circles above them. Urban districts tinted in a color of your choice. Some kind of color gang wars where you reduce the highscore of the other team and many other stupid ideas that didn’t really work out.

Until I ditched everything and decided a list of places would suffice. A few rough sketches later it was relatively clear what Placescore needed to be: As pure as possible. A list of locations and some kind of finite mechanism that creates a score.

The first version of Placescore’s design was built in Photoshop and with iOS 6 in mind. iOS 7 was a long time away and nobody was really thinking about it. Here’s how it looked. Quite similar to the version you find in the App Store but at the same time a lot different:

However. We slacked for about half a year and Apple released iOS 7 without asking us if we’re fine with what they have planned. It became clear that our previous design wasn’t suitable anymore and I decided to built a new one. This time with the help of Sketch.

I never used Sketch seriously before. Photoshop is my tool of choice, there is a reason I write the HTNSAP series here on the blog but I wanted to take a closer look at the new kid on the block and decided Placescore would be the right project for it.

Let’s say it like it is: I get why everyone is so amazed by Sketch and sure, you can do whole projects in it already and yes, there definitely are features Photoshop lacks (Artboards are awesome. Aweboards?). But I somehow… didn’t like it as much? Everything feels slow, the app feels sluggish because all you need to do happens in that abominable sidebar on the right side of the app. It slides open and closes and everything you need is only one hundred clicks away. No idea how one could ever like to work with that thing. Choosing fonts, font colors and font sizes feels slow enough to justify a whole task on your to-do list that reads “Change font size to 22”. That would be one thousand story points. Yeah, I just made a joke based on Scrum. Good grief.

Another thing that bothered me was the highly advertised export feature. I know, Photoshop’s Generator is pretty new and the absolutely amazing Slicy is third party software and somehow all friends of Sketch don’t like third party software in combination with Photoshop, but:

Sketch’s export function is a huge mess. I draw rectangles around elements then choose from a huge dropdown which layers are supposed to be included and after that press a button to save everything on my hard drive. The whole process feels slow, imprecice and like something Sisyphus would LOVE to do in his spare time.

One more thing: Sketch Mirror? Great idea! At least if you have never used xScope’s Mirror feature before. The latter actually works most of the time and for a period of time that’s longer than five minutes.

I don’t know, guys. I guess I need to write a longer and more detailed post about my feelings towards Sketch. It’s a great software, sure, but it’s just not the redeemer some of you are trying to proclaim.

Now to something more interesting: I decided to share my Placescore_v1.sketch file with you. I didn’t optimise it in any way, it’s the real deal. The file is the one we used to build the version that’s on the App Store right now. I thought that could be interesting for some of you. Here you go:

Placescore 1.0 .sketch file (.sketch, 8,3 mb)

Oh and while we’re at it: Go download Placescore from the App Store. I’m kind of proud of it and am very much looking forward to your thoughts about it.