Tricky Bridge: A New Bridge-Playing App
© Alex J. Coyne For Great Bridge Links
Tricky Bridge is a new bridge playing app by Forklift Studios with an upcoming release date scheduled for September, 2020 although it’s now in PlayTesting phase.
Features include 37 bridge lessons, online bridge against robot players, a unique AI powered by Rodney Ludwig’s ‘Meadowlark’ bot and competitive online tournaments, collectible in-game decks – and colorful bridge bots interacting in New York City.
Great Bridge Links caught up with Scott Hoffer for more details about the launch and mechanics of Tricky Bridge, one of the most exciting apps of the year.
- 37 bridge lessons for beginners
- 80 in-game card decks to collect
- Duplicate bridge with 3 x robot players
- Online tournaments, solo bridge and competitive play
Q&A with Forklift Studios
• GBL: Who is Forklift Studios?
Scott Hoffer: Forklift is the company I formed to make Tricky Bridge. We have four engineers and an art director/illustrator, plus occasional artist and animator contractors. The team is spread out — USA, Sweden, Ukraine, and Armenia, so we spend a lot of time on Skype. Most of the team members work part-time, which is why it has taken almost three years to get this game off the ground.
• I see the game has (a few) talking mascots. Can you tell us more?
I wanted the lessons to have a narrative frame that would make the learning experience more fun. Since you’re playing Tricky Bridge with 3 robots, it made sense to have those be the main characters, each with their own personalities and backgrounds, and with New York City as the setting (the exterior of the main bridge club is based on my apartment under the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn).
Over the course of the lessons, you’ll meet additional robot and human characters that start out as your adversaries and later become your friends after you’ve humbled them in competition.
• When is the estimated release date?
September 2020 is the planned global launch month — the soft launch beta is currently live in Australia and Scandinavia, with a partial list of lessons available. We have to finish the lessons, do a lot of quality assurance testing, and polish everything so it works great on all supported devices for launch. We’ve just completed the back-end for the Tournament modes.
• What made you choose Rodney Ludwig’s bridge AI?
Rod is a great guy and a lot of fun to work with, and his engine is a former World Computer Bridge Champion. He had recently returned to working on Meadowlark, his bridge AI, when I first contacted him. He was happy to help us by rewriting and adapting the engine to meet our needs for Tricky Bridge, including make it work while your mobile device is offline.
• Could you say something about the ACBL Educational Foundation link and how you connected for this to create 37 lessons?
We needed the Ed Foundation’s support to get from 12 implemented lessons to our target of 37 and to acquire beta play-testers. I presented the project to them, and they turned around a grant very quickly. Since then, I’ve sent them periodic progress reports, but they’ve really trusted us to get the job done. Which, thankfully, we’re doing (almost) exactly on time.
I think Tricky Bridge is just the kind of initiative that the Ed Foundation exists to support: a free, fun, appealing way into bridge, designed to expand bridge’s young audience and push the game a little further back into mainstream consciousness. My goals for the project aligned closely with theirs. We both want audience scale, high production quality, an intuitive on-boarding experience, and an overall great digital representation of bridge to the young public.
Tricky Bridge is now in PlayTesting phase. To playtest, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell us what email address(es) to send an invite to. You will need an iPhone or iPad to play. Android version is coming later.
Who are you?
I’m a veteran iPhone game designer and publisher who thinks bridge is the best game and wants to contribute to preventing its extinction. There is an international team of game developers (experienced mobile programmers and artists/animators, plus a former World Computer Bridge champion) working on the app.
How much will the app cost?
The lessons will be totally free for beginners (with no pop-up ads), and it’s a free download. There’s no other way to do this if we want a lot of beginners. Only the duplicate players are hit up for money eventually, after they’ve played dozens of deals to try it out first. The idea is for the advanced players who like Tricky Bridge to subsidize the free education of the beginners. We’ll use any revenue we generate from duplicate to keep the app going and produce more free educational content for beginners.
Can I win Masterpoints in this app?
Not yet. We’ll see if our players care enough about that for us to pursue federation sanctioning in the future. For now, we have our own tournaments and skill tier system, which is designed to be more dynamic than Masterpoints (bad results lower your rating; great players can top the global leaderboards without playing for years).
Can I play with friends?
Social play is the first feature we plan to implement after we launch.