UA Students Develop Mobile Apps, Games

Four UA computer science students who started out taking an introductory program are now developing apps and games for Apple and Android mobile devices.
March 29, 2011
"Highway King," a new game for the iPad, was designed and developed by a four-member team UA computer science seniors. (Photo courtesy of Objective Coders LLC)
"Highway King," a new game for the iPad, was designed and developed by a four-member team UA computer science seniors. (Photo courtesy of Objective Coders LLC)
The UA group's new app is "Highway King." James Magahern said "Highway King" was loosely modeled after other iPhone games such as "Flight Control" and "Harbor Master" apps. "We thought the additional physical constraints we would provide a series of much more challenging tasks for the player to accomplish." (Photo courtesy of Objective Coders LLC)
The UA group's new app is "Highway King." James Magahern said "Highway King" was loosely modeled after other iPhone games such as "Flight Control" and "Harbor Master" apps. "We thought the additional physical constraints we would provide a series of much more challenging tasks for the player to accomplish." (Photo courtesy of Objective Coders LLC)
Left to right: Cody Jorgensen, James Magahern, Charles Magahern and Tom Smallwood. Charles Magahern said: "I'm drawn to Apple products because there is a distinguishable amount of attention-to-detail that goes into the design of their products." (Photo by Beatriz Verdugo/UANews)
Left to right: Cody Jorgensen, James Magahern, Charles Magahern and Tom Smallwood. Charles Magahern said: "I'm drawn to Apple products because there is a distinguishable amount of attention-to-detail that goes into the design of their products." (Photo by Beatriz Verdugo/UANews)
James Magahern and Tom Smallwood and their collaborators develop their own apps, but they also work for paying clients. (Photo by Beatriz Verdugo/UANews)
James Magahern and Tom Smallwood and their collaborators develop their own apps, but they also work for paying clients. (Photo by Beatriz Verdugo/UANews)

It began as a hobby – an obsession, really – around mobile applications and a desire to create products with strong entertainment appeal and great usability.

During their studies in the University of Arizona's computer science department, twin brothers Charles and James Magahern met UA seniors Thomas Smallwood and Cody Jorgensen, an Honors College student, and set out to develop apps during their down time. 

The four – all computer science majors; each a technology and software development fanatic – have since begun developing games and other apps for the iPad, iPhone, iPod and Android-based mobile products under an established Tucson-based company. 

"Games are the most challenging programming projects a developer can take on, but also one of the most rewarding," said James Magahern, a UA junior along with his brother. 

Last year, Smallwood and Jorgensen launched Objective Coders LLC and have continued to work with the Magaherns develop apps for individual clients while continuing to create their own.

Their most recent addition is "Highway King," an iPhone app recently released with JMJ Mobile Applications and OmegaHern LLC, mobile and software development companies, also in Tucson. 

"For our first game, it's been pretty successful," Smallwood said.

The multi-level game, developed for a client, allows users to drive semi-trailer trucks through a series of obstacles. Users can also compete with other players. 

And since it was uploaded to the Apple App Store in February, the game has been downloaded more than 1,200 times. 

"As a group of individuals who play iPhone games ourselves, the thrill in having complete control over our very own game is fantastic," said James Magahern, who owns an iPhone, iPad and a Palm Pre.

"These days, the best apps are not those with the most features, it's those that are the most polished. User experience is the most important thing," he also said. 

"Most people won't notice small details like the commuter cars in Highway King even if asked, but it's this attention to detail that's focused on all parts of the game that make an app truly "polished," Magahern added.

Also, the Smallwood and Jorgensen have launched FaceBar for the Mac. The application allows users to access their Facebook acounts – and their photos, news feed, inbox, friends and other features – more quickly without having to go through the network's site. 

"It is now by far our most successful app we have had," Smallwood said, noting that the application reached number 56 in the top paid sites in the Apple App Store. "It's an amazing accomplishment for us." 

The team's first app was Twitscape, a location-based app released last year that is still available via Apple's App Store. Through the app, users are able to read what area Twitter users are tweeting about in real time. 

The group also has developed other apps that inform users on how to match their wardrobe to the current weather conditions and also an interactive children's book.

The team also has plans to release improved versions of "Highway King" and have also recently released a number of other apps, including an eBay calculator and another that would enable people visiting local establishments to be able to connect and converse with one another.

"We have a good team," Smallwood said. "We're just getting started though."